Coronavirus: SC seeks status report from Centre on steps taken to prevent migration of workers.

 The Supreme Court on Monday sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken in view of the large-scale migration of labourers from cities to their native villages amid the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent lockdown across the country.

The top court observed that the migration of labourers out of panic and fear is becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus.

It said the court would not create more confusion by issuing directions on measures that the government is already taking to deal with the issue.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, which took up two separate PILs filed by advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal on the issue of migration of labourers through video-conferencing, said before passing any direction, it would like to wait for the status report from the Centre.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the migration of labourers needs to be stopped to prevent the spread of the virus and the Centre as well as the states concerned have taken the requisite steps to deal with it.

The bench posted the matters for hearing on Tuesday.

Koregaon-Bhima commission summons NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

The commission conducting inquiry into the 2018 Koregaon Bhima violence in Maharashtra’s Pune district has summoned NCP chief Sharad Pawar as a witness on April 4, the panel’s lawyer Ashish Satpute said here on Wednesday.

Pawar will have to appear in Mumbai, he said.

The NCP chief had filed an affidavit before the commission, headed by former Bombay High Court Chief Justice J N Patel, on October 8, 2018.

Bar Council objects to inclusion of ‘Lawyers’ under the Consumer Protection Act 2019

On Sunday, Bar Council of Delhi wrote a letter to the Consumers Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan showing dissent towards the contemplation of the Ministry to include the lawyers within the definition of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act as “The legal Profession is an integral part of justice delivery system and is not a commercial or trade activity and the legal professional cannot be included for any purpose under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 or the Rules as being contemplated.”

Sanjay Rathi, Co-Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi stated that,”This all started with the case Indian Medical Association v. VP Shanta, where the court declared the medical partitioners were subject to the rules and mechanisms of CPA which rose the question, ‘if doctors can be made liable under the CPA, why not lawyers?’

He further states that,”A Lawyer, unlike other professionals, is placed in a very peculiar position while rendering legal services. An architect or a doctor is purely ‘client servicing’ while on the other hand, it is not possible to term the ‘job profile’ of a lawyer as client servicing because lawyers are nothing but the officers of the Hon’ble Court who have a duty to assist the court and not to act as a mouthpiece of the client. The lawyer renders his assistances to his client and nothing more, whereas the doctor-patient relationship is one to one. This places an onerous obligation on the lawyers; on the one hand he has to represent his client to the best of his abilities, and on the other, he has to maintain a far greater degree of detachment than other profession”.

KC Mittal, Chairman, Bar Counicl of Delhi in his letter has stated that,”The legal profession is integral part of justice delivery system and is not a commercial or trade activity and the legal professions cannot be included for any purpose under the Consumer Protection Act,2019 or the rules as is being contemplated”.

Supreme Court refuses to hear plea seeking proper mechanism to deal with alleged misuse of sedition law.

On Friday, Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking framing of a proper mechanism to deal with alleged misuse of the sedition law by the government machinery.

Supreme  Court Bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar dismissed the petition which was filed by a social activist.

Bench stated that it was open for the petitioner to approach the appropriate authority.

SC Bench told advocate Utsav Singh Bains, appearing for the petitioner, that he could not seek quashing of an FIR in a sedition case filed against the management of a Karnataka school for allegedly allowing students to stage an anti-CAA and anti-NRC drama.

Advocate submitted before the Bench that he was not pressing for a prayer of FIR quashing and that the petitioner has sought a direction for framing of a proper mechanism to deal with the alleged misuse of the sedition law.

While refusing to hear the plea, Bench stated that,”Let the affected party come and we will hear them. Why it should be done at your instance”.

Suits With Basic Relief Of Challenging Decree Passed By DRT Not Maintainable: SC

The Supreme Court has observed that the suits with the basic relief of challenging the decree passed by the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) are not maintainable.

In this case, the suits were filed challenging the decree passed by the DRT. The Bank filed applications to reject the plaints in exercise of powers under Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure on the ground that considering the provisions of Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, more particularly Sections 18, 19 and 20 of the Act, the suits are not maintainable. The Trial Court and later the High Court dismissed the applications.

Therefore, the issue considered by the Apex Court bench in the appeal filed by the bank was whether the suits filed by the plaintiffs were liable to be rejected in exercise of powers under Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the CPC or not?

Allowing the appeal, the bench comprising of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice MR Shah noted the judgment in Punjab National Bank v. O.C. Krishnan and others, (2001) 6 SCC 569. Which had held that, without exhaustion of the remedies under the RDDBFI Act, the High Court ought not to have exercised its jurisdiction under Article 227. It observed:

” without exhausting the remedy of appeal provided under the RDDBFI Act, the suits with the basic relief of challenging the decree passed by the DRT were liable to be dismissed, as observed and held by this Court in the case of O.C. Krishnan and others (supra).”
The bench observed that since the plaints are vexatious, frivolous, meritless and nothing but an abuse of process of law and court, it s is a fit case to exercise the powers under Order 7 Rule 11 (d) of the CPC. It added:

“Be that as it may, considering the pleadings/averments in the suits and the allegations of fraud, we are of the opinion that the allegations of fraud are illusory and only with a view to get out of the judgment and decree passed by the DRT. We are of the opinion that therefore the suits are vexatious and are filed with a mala fide intention to get out of the judgment and decree passed by the DRT.”

Boycott Of Courts Can’t Be Justified As Freedom Of Speech & Expression : SC On Lawyers’ Strikes

The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the advocates in the districts of Dehradun, Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar in the State of Uttarakhand for holding strike by boycotting courts.

The SC also noted that despite directions in precedents such as Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal v. Union of India, lawyers’ strikes were happening. In this backdrop, suo moto notices were issued to the Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers.

A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah categorically held that boycott of courts by advocates was illegal, and cannot be justified as an exercise of right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

“To go on strike/boycott courts cannot be justified under the guise of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Nobody has the right to go on strike/boycott courts. Even, such a right, if any, cannot affect the rights of others and more particularly, the right of Speedy Justice guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution”, the Court observed.

The Court was considering an appeal filed by the District Bar Association, Dehradun against the judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court delivered on September 25 last year which held such strikes to be illegal. The HC had noted that the lawyers had been boycotting courts on Saturdays for past 35 years.The HC had also directed action against advocates for abstaining from work on court days.

Before the SC, the Association submitted that the strike is a mode of peaceful representation to express the grievances by the lawyers’ community in the absence of other forum for the same.

Rejecting this submission, the SC observed that the every month on 3-4 Saturdays, the Advocates were on strike on one pretext or the other. The data relied on by the HC showed that in Dehradun district, the Advocates were on strike for 455 days (on an average 91 days per year) and in Haridwar district it is 515 days (about 103 days per year). This was termed as “shocking” by the top court.

“In spite of the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions, this Court time and again deprecated the lawyers to go on strikes, the strikes were continued unabated”, the bench observed.

It was further said :

“If the lawyers would have worked on those days, it would have been in the larger interest and it would have achieved the ultimate goal of speedy justice, which is now recognized as a fundamental right under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. It would have helped in early disposal of the criminal trials and therefore it would have been in the interest of those who are languishing in the jail and waiting for their trial to conclude. When the Institution is facing a serious problem of arrears and delay in disposal of cases, how the Institution as a whole can afford such four days strike in a month”.

Direction to BCI and State Bar Council

The Court observed that in spite of the decisions in the cases of Ex-Capt Harish Uppal, Common Cause, A Registered Society, and Krishnakant Namrakar and despite the warnings by the courts time and again, lawyers strikes continued to happen.

“It appears that despite the strong words used by this Court in the aforesaid decisions, criticizing the conduct on the part of the lawyers to go on strikes, it appears that the message has not reached. Even despite the resolution of the Bar Council of India dated 29.09.2002, thereafter, no further concrete steps are taken even by the Bar Council of India and/or other Bar Councils of the States.

A day has now come for the Bar Council of India and the Bar Councils of the States to step in and to take concrete steps. It is the duty of the Bar Councils to ensure that there is no unprofessional and unbecoming conduct by any lawyer”.

Therefore, it was ordered in the end as follows :

“..taking a serious note of the fact that despite the aforesaid decisions of this Court, still the lawyers/Bar Associations go on strikes, we take suo moto cognizance and issue notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils to suggest the further course of action and to give concrete suggestions to deal with the problem of strikes/abstaining the work by the lawyers. The Notices may be made returnable within six weeks from today. The Registry is directed to issue the notices to the Bar Council of India and all the State Bar Councils accordingly”.

Transfer of Justice Muralidhar done on recommendation of SC collegium: Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said Delhi High Court judge S Muralidhar was transferred following the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium, asserting that a “well-settled process” was followed.

The minister’s reaction came after the Congress alleged that Justice Muralidhar was transferred by the government to save BJP leaders in the Delhi violence case.

“Transfer of Hon’ble Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to the recommendation dated February 12 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India,” Prasad wrote on Twitter.

He said while transferring a judge, his or her consent is taken. “The well-settled process have been followed,” Prasad added.

President Ram Nath Kovind hails judiciary for pursuing cherished goal of gender justice.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday hailed the efforts of the Indian judiciary in pursuing the “cherished goal of gender justice” and said that the Supreme Court has always been “pro-active and progressive”.

Speaking at the International Judicial Conference 2020 – ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’, the president said the Supreme court has led “progressive social transformation” and referred to the over two decades old Vishaka guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of women at workplace.

“In pursuing the cherished goal of gender justice, to mention one example, the Supreme Court of India has always been pro-active and progressive,” Kovind said.

“From issuing guidelines on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace two decades ago to providing directives for granting equal status to women in the Army this month, the Supreme Court of India has led progressive social transformation,” he said.

Centre and TN govt oppose Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Nalini’s plea.

The Centre has reaffirmed in the Madras High Court its stand that the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts cannot be set free without its consent and said the Tamil Nadu cabinet recommendation for their premature release would have ‘zero’ effect.

The oral submission was made on Thursday by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) G Rajagopalan before a bench of Justices R Subbiah and R Pongiappan during the hearing of a petition by Nalini, one of the seven life convicts, seeking to declare her detention as illegal.

Nalini has moved the court contending that since the Tamil Nadu Governor had failed to order her release based on the September 9, 2018 recommendation of the state cabinet, she was in illegal detention.

The bench, which heard arguments from all parties, reserved its orders on her petition.

Opposing the plea of Nalini, the ASG cited a Supreme Court order and said unless there was an order in the name of the Governor, it was not an illegal detention.

He said the resolution passed by the state Council of Ministers was not an order (for release).

Referring to an earlier litigation by Nalini in the Supreme Court, he said then the question raised was whether the state government has the power to release the convicts without the consent or consultation of the Central government under CrPC provisions.

The apex court had held that the Centre’s consent or concurrence was necessary because the case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Rajagopalan said.

Already the central government had refused to release these convicts. Besides, as per the Supreme Court orders, life sentence means imprisonment till death, he said.

Intervening, the bench asked the ASG then what will be the effect of the state cabinet’s decision recommending premature release of the seven convicts (under Article 161 of the Constitution), which is pending before the Governor.

To this, the the Centre’s counsel said the effect of the resolution passed by the cabinet was Zero.

In its counter affidavit filed earlier this month, the Centre had said the Tamil Nadu Governor has the discretion under powers conferred by the Constitution, to decide on the pending mercy petition of Perarivalan, another life convict in the case.

State Public Prosecutor A Natarajan, in his arguments on Thursday submitted that some of the offences committed by the accused come under the Central Act and therefore, for the purpose of commutation or remission, the state government has to get consent from the central government.

The Cabinet passed a resolution requesting the Governor to release all the seven convicts. It can only recommend or request the Governor to consider their release and cannot demand or ask him to set them free, he said adding it was for the Governor to decide.

Unless an order was passed, there was no question of illegal detention of Nalini, he added.

Radhakrishnan, counsel for Nalini, contended the resolution passed by the Council of Ministers was binding on the governor.

Since the cabinet advised the Governor on September 9, 2018 to release the petitioner, the order to the effect should have been issued the very next day itself by the government, he maintained.

As per the ruling of the Supreme Court in Maru Rams case, the Governor’s signature was not necessary for the purpose of releasing the petitioner, he claimed.

All the seven were convicted by a special TADA court for their role in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 by an LTTE suicide bomber during an election rally at nearby Sriperumbudur.

They were sentenced to death, but later it was commuted to life imprisonment.

Besides Nalini, the other life convicts are her husband Murugan, A G Perarivalan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Ravichandran and Robert Pyas.

Defamation case: Delhi court imposes Rs 5000 cost on Tharoor for not appearing before it

A Delhi court on Saturday imposed a cost of Rs 5,000 on Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for not appearing in hearing on a criminal defamation complaint filed against him for his alleged “scorpion” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja imposed the cost on the Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram noting that he had failed to appear before him despite the court’s earlier direction.

The court was hearing the complaint filed by Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar, who claimed that his religious sentiments were hurt.

“I am a devotee of Lord Shiva… However, the accused (Tharoor) completely disregarded the sentiments of crores of Shiva devotees, made the statement which hurt the sentiments of all the Lord Shiva devotees, both in India and outside the country,” the complaint said.

“The complainant’s religious sentiments were hurt and accused deliberately did this malicious act, intending to outrage religious feeling of Lord Shiva devotees by insulting their religious believes,” it said.

The complaint, filed through advocate Neeraj, termed the statement as an “intolerable abuse” and “absolute vilification” of the faith of millions of people.

The complaint was filed under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code relating to defamation.

Tharoor had claimed that an unnamed RSS leader had compared Modi to “a scorpion sitting on a Shivling”.