The Supreme Court on Friday decided to put on hold the elections for the local bodies on TN.

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to put on hold the elections for the local bodies in nine new districts, carved out of four existing ones, in Tamil Nadu for complying with legal formalities such as delimitation and reservation in four months.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde considered the suggestion put forward by the Tamil Nadu government that it was willing to put on hold the local body polls in the nine districts for complying with legal formalities such as a fresh delimitation exercise and for deciding the issue of reservation for women and SC/ST candidates.

The bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said, “There shall be no legal impediment in holding the elections in the rest nine districts of Tamil Nadu.”

It directed the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission to conduct the delimitation exercise and other formalities afresh and conclude them in four months.

The nine reconstituted districts, where the polls will not be held, are Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Thirupatthur, Ranipeti, Villupuram, Kallakuruchi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.

The bench also said the local body elections in the remaining districts of the southern state will be held as per the earlier schedule.

The state election commission had on Monday announced that the local body polls in Tamil Nadu will be held in two phases — on December 27 and 30 — without complying with the formalities.

The apex court bench had given the state government two options and asked it to either agree to keep the bifurcation of the districts in abeyance or not hold the local body polls for the nine new districts.

The counsel for the state government had subsequently informed the court that it was willing to put on hold the polls in the nine districts and the process will continue in the local bodies of the other districts.

The top court’s order came on a plea moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), seeking a direction to the state authorities to “carry out delimitation, reservation and rotation process and fulfil all other legal requirements before issuing any election notifications and conducting elections” for the local bodies in the state.

The counsel for the state government had, on Thursday, referred to various court verdicts and said once the poll process, even an imperfect one, was set in motion, no court could or should delay or postpone it.

However, the court had said the law on delimitation needed to be followed after the bifurcation or trifurcation of four districts into nine, even if it involved postponement of elections.

“You delay the process by bifurcating the districts and then say proper follow-up procedure (delimitation) should not be followed. The law must be followed and if it involves the postponement of polls, so be it,” the bench had said.

There are three processes — commission delimitation of each ward of all the local bodies, reservation of the office of chairman or mayor in a town panchayat, municipality or corporation and the rotation policy, which are to be carried out by the state government and the Tamil Nadu Delimitation Commission, which is then to be implemented by the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, the DMK had said in the plea.

The party had alleged that the Tamil Nadu government was dragging its feet on conducting the polls and had not carried out the delimitation activity for the nine new districts and claimed that in many districts, even the preliminary delimitation exercise was not conducted.

The plea said: “The basic legal requirement of publishing draft delimitation proposal/order has not been carried out and in the absence of such publication, neither any objections have been invited or received, nor any hearing has been conducted.

“The delimitation authority has also not carried out rotation and reservation of seats, exercise subsequent to publication of draft delimitation order. Hence, the state election commission has so far not carried out and completed basic legal formalities and therefore, cannot be permitted to hold local body polls in a manner which would not be fair and free and would also be contrary to the mandatory legal requirements.

ACB exonerates Ajit Pawar in Vidarbha irrigation scam.

Maharashtra’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has given a clean chit to NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore Vidarbha irrigation scam.

The ACB, in its affidavit submitted in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, has ruled out Pawar’s involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in approval and commissioning of irrigation projects in the state.

The affidavit was submitted on November 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena -NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on November 28.

The court had asked the ACB to clarify its stand on the role of Pawar, a former Water Resources Development Minister, in these cases.

Pawar, the NCP MLA from Baramati in Pune district, was Water Resources Development Minister during 1999-2009 when the Congress-NCP combine was in power in Maharashtra.

Pawar had also served as chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which had cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.

The affidavit said there were lapses on the part of executing agencies of the tender work – that is engineers, divisional accountants and respective contractors of these projects.

“However, the VIDC chairman/Minister of Water Resource Department (WRD) cannot be made responsible for the acts of the executing agencies as there is no legal duty on his part,” it stated.

The ACB is inquiring into a total of 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of VIDC as per two PILs filed in 2012 before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

On November 25, the anti-graft agency had said it has closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects, but clarified none of them was linked to Pawar.

“These enquiries were closed as no criminal offence was made out after enquiry against anyone. None of these nine enquiries was in respect to Ajit Pawar, the then chairman of VIDC,” the ACB had said.

About the November 27 affidavit, a senior ACB official said the court had asked the agency to submit a ‘status report’ on the VIDC scam before November 28.

“We have not closed inquiry into the VIDC cases. In some cases we have filed chargesheets and investigation is also going on. Similarly, investigation into FIRs related to these cases are also going on.

“We have submitted the status report on investigation going on into tenders that were issued (by VIDC),” he said.

He said the HC had asked the ACB to submit a report on the PIL filed by one Atul Jagtap concerning award of tenders for an irrigation project in Amravati. Pawar was named a respondent in this PIL.

“Concerning this we had, in our previous affidavit, written that we have referred this matter to the government for opinion.

“Now, we have got opinion from the government that Ajit Pawar was not involved in it (the scam) and this we have communicated to the court a few days back.

“Besides, Ajit Pawar was never an accused in any of our cases and investigation into Vidarbha irrigation tender cases are still on,” the ACB official said.

The November 27 affidavit said, “There are two allegations against the (then) chairman of VIDC (Pawar) – (A)regarding grant of sanction to the liability of the tender cost including that of updated cost and (B)grant of mobilisation advance to the contractor despite there was no mention of the same in the tender booklet.”

“Detailed enquiries/investigations have been conducted in this regard and opinion of the expert committee members appointed by the government for advise in the course of enquiry on technical issues have been obtained. Similarly, queries were referred to government also,” it said.

The ACB said reports of several committees were also also taken into account.

“Opinion given by the above authorities and the clarifications given by the ex-chairman officio of VIDC were taken into consideration along with other evidence collected during the enquiry.

“Also, the reports of the Nandkumar Vadnere committee, the HT Mendhegiri and the Dr Madhavrao Chitale committee are referred for the allegations in the PILs,” it said.

The affidavit stated that nothing adverse regarding money trail linkages has been noticed so far. Also, neither documentary nor oral evidence could be gathered during probe till now.

“There are some procedural lapses, departmental irregularities such as sending some files and proposals by the executive director to the chairman without routing those through the managing director/ principal secretary of WRD.”

There were also instances of lapses in the payment of EMD (Earnest Money Deposit) amount by successful bidders in some cases,issuing of tender booklets to some non-eligible bidders and JV firms without following preconditions of tenders, the anti-graft agency said.

The affidavit has asked for disposal of PILs.

The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, related to alleged corruption, cost escalations and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.

The allegations on Pawar included claims that he awarded projects at inflated prices.

Last month, Pawar had rebelled and joined hands with the BJP to form a short-lived government in Maharashtra where he was deputy chief minister for just three days. He later resigned and returned to the NCP fold.

Sacked from Ayodhya case, says Muslim parties’ lawyer Rajeev Dhavan

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for Muslim parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case, on Tuesday said he has been sacked from the matter on the ‘nonsensical’ ground that he is unwell.

Dhavan, who posted the information on Facebook, said he is no longer involved in either the review or the case.

“Just been sacked from the Babri case by AOR (Advocate on Record) Ejaz Maqbool who was representing the Jamiat. Have sent formal letter accepting the ‘sacking’ without demur. No longer involved in the review or the case,” he wrote.

“I have been informed that Mr Madani has indicated that I was removed from the case because I was unwell. This is total nonsense. He has a right to instruct his lawyer AOR Ejaz Maqbool to sack me which he did on instructions. But the reason being floated is malicious and untrue,” Dhavan added on the social networking site.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, headed by Maulana Arshad Madani, on Monday filed a review petition challenging the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict.

Dhavan later said he didn’t want to divide the Muslim parties.

“I have argued the case for all the Muslim parties in a united manner and would like the same way. The Muslim parties should sort out their differences first,” Dhavan told PTI.

He said he expressed his opinion on Facebook only after Maqbool went public about him being sacked because he is unwell.

“If I am unwell, then how come I am appearing in courts in other cases,” Dhavan said.

“I am committed to the cause and to the Muslim parties but making such a statement is completely wrong,” he said.

In a separate December 2 letter addressed to Maqbool, the AOR in the review petition, Dhavan narrated the sequence of events related to drafting of the review plea in the case.

“As promised, I am responding to your call at 10.14 AM today when I was at the doctors, informing me that I have been sacked from further involvement in the Babri case on behalf of your client. We were in agreement that the correct term was ‘sacked’ and you explained you had no choice in the matter. With humility and respect and the norms of my profession, I accept the sacking without demur,” Dhavan said in his letter.

The senior lawyer also wished Maqbool the best for his future endeavour and said, “The cause is bigger than all of us.”

A five-judge Constitution bench on November 9 unanimously cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.

A plea seeking review of the verdict was filed in the apex court on Monday by Maulana Syed Ashhad Rashidi, legal heir of original litigant M Siddiq, and the Uttar Pradesh president of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind. It stated that “complete justice” could only be done by directing reconstruction of the Babri Masjid.

SC to hear after four weeks PIL seeking greater autonomy for ECI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear after four weeks a PIL seeking that the chief election commissioner and election commissioners be appointed by a three-member collegium.

The collegium will comprise the prime minister, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant took note of submissions that the plea needed an urgent hearing.

“We will list it for hearing after four weeks,” the bench said.

BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay has filed the PIL seeking to ensure more autonomy for the chief election commissioner’s (CEC) office and election commissioners.

The plea has also sought an independent secretariat for the Election Commission of India (ECI) and that it should also be given the power to make rules.

Muslim party seeks review of Ayodhya verdict, says Babri be rebuilt for complete justice

A plea seeking review of the verdict which cleared the way for construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday stating that “complete justice” could only be done by directing reconstruction of Babri Masjid.

A 5-judge bench, headed by the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had in a unanimous verdict on November 9 decreed the entire 2.77 acre disputed land in favour of deity ‘Ram Lalla’ and also directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque in Ayodhya.

While key litigant, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, decided against challenging the verdict, Maulana Syed Ashhad Rashidi, legal heir of original litigant M Siddiq and UP President of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, sought review of the verdict on 14 counts.

The litigant, in review plea filed through lawyer Ejaz Maqbool, has also sought an interim stay on operation of the verdict in which it had directed the Centre that a trust be formed within three months for construction of the temple at the site.

Rashidi also questioned the direction asking the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to allot 5 acre land for construction of a mosque at a prominent place in Ayodhya, saying that such a prayer was never made by the Muslim parties.

It was also submitted that despite acknowledging several illegalities committed by the Hindu parties, including the destruction of the mosque at the disputed site, the apex court condoned them and granted the land to them.

“By virtue of the impugned judgment, this court has effectively granted a mandamus to destroy Babri Masjid and to construct a temple of Lord Ram in the said place,” the plea said.

It further stated that though in the impugned judgment this court has acknowledged few of the several illegalities committed by the Hindu Parties, particularly in 1934 (damaging the domes of the Babri Masjid), 1949 (desecrating the Babri Masjid) and 1992 (demolition of the Babri Masjid), it has “proceeded to condone those very illegal acts and has awarded the disputed site to the very party which based its claims on nothing but a series of illegal acts”.

However, Rashidi submitted he was not seeking review of the entire judgement and several findings, and was limiting the plea to apparent errors on the face of records such as the title in favour of Hindus “virtually amounts to a mandamus to destroy the Babri Masjid” and “no person can derive benefit out of an illegality while granting title to Hindu parties”.

It said the judgement erred in disregarding the settled principle of law that a “tainted cause of action cannot be sustained or decreed in a civil suit”.

“This court erred in wrongly applying Article 142 of the Constitution as doing complete justice or restituting the illegality could only be done by directing the reconstruction of the Babri Masjid,” said the review plea, running into 93-pages.

Rashidi said he was conscious of the sensitive nature of the case and understood the need to put a “quietus to the dispute” to maintain peace and harmony, but there “can be no peace without justice”.

“Further, this court has, in an attempt to balance the reliefs between the parties, while condoning illegalities of the Hindu parties, has allotted alternate land ad-measuring five acres to Muslim parties, which was neither pleaded nor prayed for by the Muslim parties,” it said.

The verdict disregarded the settled legal principle and supported “a party which based its cause of action upon an illegal act”, it said.

The top court “committed an error apparent by elevating a mere look at the central dome by the Hindu parties to a claim of possessory title”, it said.

The fact that Babri mosque was a waqf property was wrongly not accepted, it said and alleged uneven appreciation of evidence.

The verdict gave “precedence to oral testimonies of the Hindu parties vis-a-vis the contemporary documentary evidence of the Muslim parties, which resulted in incorrect application of doctrine of preponderance of probabilities”, it said.

“This apex court committed an error apparent by not appreciating that the structure in question had always been a mosque and had been in exclusive possession of Muslims,” it said, adding that the principle of presumption under the Evidence Act on the issue of offering of namaz at the site between 1528 to 1856 was disregarded.

“This court committed grave error by elevating the mere prescriptive rights of the Hindu parties, which were settled as far back as in 1886, to those of possessory title,” it said.

The lawsuit of the deity should not have been entertained by the court as it was based “on mere impatience” which can never be a valid cause of action for any litigation, it said.

“This court erred in relying on travellers’ accounts and archaeological findings in order to decide issues of title, despite noting that travellers accounts were not conclusive and archaeological findings could not be the basis of deciding a title dispute.

“Further, despite noting that only the facts after the annexation of Oudh in 1856 were to be considered for adjudicating the present dispute, this court proceeded to rely upon the facts prior to 1856,” the review plea said.

The plea, however, said it was not assailing certain findings of the court such as Nirmohi Akhara’s lawsuit was barred by limitation and the birth place was not a juristic entity.

The plea also did seek review of SC’s findings that “deity is not a perpetual minor for the purposes of limitation”.

NGT asks authorities to ensure no illegal sand mining is carried out in UP’s Shamli district

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed authorities in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district to ensure that no illegal sand mining is carried out in the area.

The orders came after the Shamli District Magistrate told the tribunal that the illegal mining activity being carried out by a private lease holder has already been stopped and the temporary bridge made by him has also been removed.

The green panel said that since illegal sand mining by project proponent has been suspended, it may be ensured that no illegal mining is done by anyone else in the district.

The green panel also noted that a cumulative environmental compensation of Rs 20.45 lakh has been assessed to be imposed on the sand miner for non-compliance of environment clearance conditions and for not seeking required consent from the state pollution control board under the notified provisions.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel also sought a report in this regard by the Principal Secretary, Environment, UP after coordination with the concerned authorities within two months.

Noting the submissions, the tribunal directed that further action should be taken in accordance with law after considering the viewpoint of the project proponent.

“It will be open to the authorities to asses and recover further compensation in accordance with law. The basis of compensation may be indicated in the report.

“Since, we are informed that mining by project proponent has been suspended, it may be ensured that no illegal mining is done by anyone else which may be ensured by the District Magistrate, Shamli, SEIAA, UP and state pollution control board,” the tribunal said in a recent order.

The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Sandeep Kharb against the illegal sand mining in the district in violation of Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016 issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The petitioner also referred to tribunal’s direction to Haryana and Uttar Pradesh that no mechanical mining be permitted on the river beds at any place.

Delhi court grants bail to Ratul Puri in AgustaWestland money laundering case

A Delhi court Monday granted bail to businessman Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in AgustaWestland money laundering case.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar granted bail to Puri on a personal bond of Rs 5 lakh and two sureties of like amount.

Puri will however remain in jail as he was also arrested in another case — the one related to bank fraud.

In his bail plea, Puri had said that he was not required for further investigation and no purpose will be served by keeping him in custody.

The Enforcement Directorate had recently filed a supplementary Prosecution Complaint against Puri and Jaspreet Ahuja in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

In January 2014, India had scrapped a contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary, AgustaWestland, for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks worth Rs 423 crore being paid to secure the deal.

Shahjahanpur law student granted bail in extortion money from Swami Chinmayanand.

The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday granted bail to the law student charged with trying to extort money from Swami Chinmayanand, the BJP leader whom she has accused of rape.

Chinmayanand, whose trust runs the Shahjahanpur law college where the woman studied, was arrested under section 376-C of the IPC and continues to be in judicial custody.

But, in a related case, the 23-year-old woman and her three friends were also booked on Chinmayanand’s complaint that they had demanded Rs 5 crore from him.

The former Union minister alleged that they had threatened to make public video clips that showed him getting massages from the student.

Allowing the student’s bail application, Justice S D Singh observed that the police had already completed the investigation and filed a charge sheet.

He said no reasonable apprehension had been cited by the state that her release on bail will delay the trial. Hence, there is no need to detain her further, the court added.

During the bail hearing, the woman’s counsel argued that she is a victim of sexual harassment and claimed that all allegations against her are fabricated.

The counsel alleged that the student was raped by Chinmayanand over a long period of time.

Chinmayanand’s lawyer opposed the bail application and said the student had used a spy camera for recording the video clips.

The BJP leader was arrested on September 20 by a special investigation team (SIT), formed by Uttar Pradesh Police following directions from the Supreme Court.

He was booked under section 376-C, a charge short of rape. It is applied when someone in authority takes advantage of his official position and induces or seduces a woman to have sex with him.

Apart from the rape allegation, the 23-year-old student said she was often called for giving massages to Chinmayanand, and used a concealed camera to record video clips as evidence.

But Chinmayanand said the clips were recorded to blackmail him. She and her friends had asked him to shell out Rs 5 crore, he alleged.

Last month, the woman was taken from the jail in Shahjahanpur to Bareilly so that she could take an exam at a college there.

She was given admission at the Bareilly college on the Supreme Court’s directions so that she could continue her education.

SC grants bail to Chidambaram in INX Media money laundering case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to Congress leader P Chidambaram in a money laundering case related to INX Media and directed that he could not leave the country without its prior permission nor speak to the media.

Chidambaram, who has been in custody for 105 days, should neither try to influence witnesses nor tamper with evidence, the court said while setting aside the Delhi High Court November 15 verdict denying the former Union finance minister bail

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, granted the relief to the 74-year-old Congress leader on a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties of the like amount

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, restrained Chidambaram from giving any press interview or making any statements with regard to the case

The top court, which observed that economic offences are grave in nature, said “grant of bail is rule and refusal is exception”

Chidambaram has been custody since August 21 when he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the INX Media corruption case. On October 16, the Enforcement Directorate arrested him in the money-laundering case. Six days later, on October 22, the apex court granted him bail in the case lodged by the CBI.

The bench said its order would not have any bearing on other accused in the case and Chidambaram would have to join further investigations if asked by the probe agency

Holding that the high court was justified in considering the gravity of offence while denying Chidambaram bail, the apex court disapproved of the manner in which the high court had made observations with regard to merits of the case

It said the gravity of the offences are to be examined by the court on the basis of facts and circumstances of each and every case

The bench said it was initially not inclined to open the sealed cover material placed before it by the ED. But since the high court had perused the material, it was imperative for the top court to go through the documents, it said

After pronouncing the verdict, it directed the apex court registry to return the sealed cover material back to the ED

The apex court made it clear that its order would not be construed to be the findings on merits of the case

The court said the alleged complicity of Chidambaram in the case would be examined during the trial

The apex court passed the judgement on the appeal filed by Chidambaram challenging the November 15 Delhi High Court verdict

During arguments in the top court, the ED claimed that Chidambaram continued to wield “substantial influence” on crucial witnesses in the case even while in custody. The Congress leader said the agency cannot “destroy” his career and reputation by making baseless allegations

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, said economic offences like money laundering are grave in nature as they not only affect the nation’s economy but also shake people’s faith in the system, especially when it is committed by people in power

Representing Chidambaram, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi countered Mehta’s submissions and said there was neither any evidence linking Chidambaram directly or indirectly with the alleged offence nor any material to show that he had influenced witnesses or tampered with any evidence

The CBI had registered its case on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister

The ED lodged a money laundering case after that.

The Delhi High Court permits bar elections at Tis Hazari and Karkardooma district courts on Dec 13

The Delhi High Court on Friday allowed elections of the bar associations at Tis Hazari and Karkardooma district courts here to be held on December 13.The elections of the bar associations at Tis Hazari and Karkardooma courts were earlier scheduled to be held on November 5 and 7 respectively. However, they were stayed by the high court following the November 2 clash between lawyers and police here.

A bench of Justices G S Sistani and Anup Jairam Bhambhani said the elections shall be monitored by retired Justice Kailash Gambhir at Tis Hazari court and by retired Justice Vinod Goel at Karkardooma courts.

The high court had on November 4 postponed the elections till further orders.

Lawyers and police had clashed at the Tis Hazari court complex here on November 2 during which at least 20 police personnel and several lawyers were injured while many vehicles vandalised or set on fire, according to officials