Disqualification of lawmakers : SC asks Parliament to rethink powers of Speaker in deciding pleas.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Parliament to ponder over the power of the Speaker in deciding petitions seeking disqualification of lawmakers, observing that he also belong to a political party.

The suggestion for devising an independent mechanism to deal with disqualification pleas against lawmakers came in a judgment by which the top court asked the Manipur Assembly Speaker to decide within four weeks the plea of a Congress leader seeking disqualification of BJP lawmaker and Manipur Forest Minister Th Shyamkumar.

A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman had granted liberty to Congress MLA Fajur Rahim and K Meghachandra to approach it again if the Assembly Speaker fails to take a decision within four weeks on their plea seeking disqualification of the BJP minister.The BJP minister had won the assembly election on a Congress ticket and later joined the BJP and became a minister. This led to filing of the plea seeking his disqualification.
The apex court said Parliament should rethink whether the Speaker should decide such disqualification pleas keeping in mind the fact that he also belongs to a particular political party.

Centre agrees in SC to revisit its 2017 proposal of taking over Unitech management

The Centre, however, said it would not infuse any funds for completion of pending projects of the company.

In a major development, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that it is agreeable to revisit its 2017 proposal to take over the management control of embattled realty firm Unitech Ltd and complete its stalled projects to bring relief to around 12,000 hassled home buyers. The Centre, in its six-page note submitted to a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, said it is prepared to revisit its proposal of December 2017, to remove the existing management of Unitech Ltd and appoint ten nominee directors of the government.

The Centre, however, said it would not infuse any funds for completion of pending projects of the company. It said the court, while ensuring a period of calm should direct a moratorium for 12 months.

For the proposed board, the government also suggested the name of retired Haryana cadre IAS officer Yudvir Singh Malik, as chairman and managing director of the board and names of members including A K Mittal, ex-CMD of National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), Renu Sud Karnad, Chairman of HDFC Credila Finance Service Pvt Ltd, Jitu Virwani, CMD of Embassy Group, Niranjan Hiranandani , MD of Mumbai-based Hiranandani Group.

It said the court may appoint a retired judge of the Supreme Court for supervising the resolution framework finalised by the proposed board of directors.

“That this court may allow the proposed board of directors to appoint key managerial persons, professionals (legal, insolvency, financial advisors, real estate professionals, etc) for assisting the government appointed board and payment of requisite professional fees including the legal fees, thereof from the company accounts,” the Centre’s note said.

It also sought directions to the promoters, the present management of the company, forensic auditors, asset reconstruction companies, banks and financial institutions and state governments to extend cooperation to the proposed board of directors.

“That this court may issue directions to restrain the promoters from alienating, mortgaging, creating charge or lien or interest in the movable and immovable properties owned by them,” the government said, adding, services of the committee headed by Justice S N Dhingra, appointed to sell the company’s assets, be put on rest.

The government also sought immunity for the proposed directors in respect of the numerous litigations pending across the country, involving the company, management and its promoters.

It also sought permission for the proposed board of directors to raise funds due from the home buyers, sell the unsold inventory, monetising the unencumbered assets for completion of the stalled projects.

“That this court recognizes and directs that without any prejudice to any order, the government has the right to refer the company to liquidation or Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), like resolution outside the framework of IBC, in case the assigned takeover is not viable in the absence of requisite resources,” the government said.

On December 18, last year, the top court had asked the Centre if it was agreeable to revisit its 2017 proposal as there is urgent need for the projects of Unitech Ltd. to be taken up by a specialised agency, so as to ensure completion in a time bound schedule in the interest of the home buyers.

The top court had said, “Since the Union of India withdrew the application which it had submitted before the NCLT only for the reason that this Court was seized of the present proceedings, we are of the view that the Union of India should revisit the original proposal in the interests of home buyers and consider appointing independent Directors for the takeover of the management of Unitech Limited”.

It had said that these deliberations may be conducted at the highest level and Attorney General K K Venugopal should apprise the court by January 15, about the modalities which have been worked out.

In 2017, the Centre had moved the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) seeking suspension of the current directors and an order of restraint on the alienation of assets by Unitech Ltd.

The NCLT in its order December 8, 2017, issued interim directions for suspension of directors of Unitech Ltd and restrained them from alienating, mortgaging, creating charge or lien or interest in the properties owned by them personally or that of the company till the conclusion of investigation.

However, the top court on December 13, 2017, stayed the NCLT’s December 8, 2017 order and later the Centre agreed to withdraw its application from the tribunal.

In 2018, the apex court had directed a forensic audit of Unitech Ltd and its sister concerns and subsidiaries by Samir Paranjpe, Partner, Forensic and Investigation Services in M/s Grant Thornton India.

The forensic auditors have also submitted their report which said that Unitech Ltd received around Rs 14,270 crores from 29,800 home buyers mostly between 2006-2014 and around Rs 1,805 crores from six financial institutions for the construction of 74 projects.

The audit revealed that around Rs 5,063 crore of home buyers money and around Rs 763 crores of fund received from financial institutions were not utilized by the company and high value investments were made off-shore tax-haven countries between 2007-2010.

The top court ordered investigation into the omission and commission of promoters of Unitech Ltd under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay Chandra are currently lodged in Tihar jail for allegedly siphoning off homebuyers’ money.

SC allows Karti Chidambaram to withdraw Rs 20 Cr deposited for travelling abroad.

 The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Congress MP Karti Chidambaram to withdraw the Rs 20 crore which was deposited with the apex court registry as a condition for allowing him to travel abroad.

The apex court in January and May 2019 had granted Karti Chidambaram permission to travel to foreign countries after depositing Rs 10 crore each respectively with the registry.

When the matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there was no objection from the Enforcement Directorate to the plea seeking withdrawal of the amount since he has returned.

Taking note of the submission, the bench also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said Karti can withdraw the said amount since he has already returned.

The condition was imposed by the apex court after the ED had opposed his plea for travel abroad.

On May 7, the top court had allowed Karti to travel to the United Kingdom, the US, France, Germany and Spain in May and June this year.

Karti has been facing ED cases in INX media and Aircel maxis matters.

Muzaffarpur case: Court seeks CBI response on Brajesh Thakur’s plea claiming witnesses not reliable.

A Delhi court on Tuesday sought response of the CBI on a plea filed by Brajesh Thakur, prime accused in a case of alleged sexual and physical assault of several girls in a Muzaffarpur shelter home, claiming that testimonies of witnesses in the case were not reliable.

Additional Sessions Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha directed the CBI to file its reply within two days and deferred for the third time pronouncement of judgement in the case till November 20.

The plea filed through advocate P K Dubey said the prosecution witnesses were not of sterling quality.

The plea was filed as the probe agency had given a statement in the Supreme Court that the girls, who were thought to be allegedly murdered, were alive, said advocate Dheeraj Kumar, representing some of the accused in the case.

The court had earlier deferred the order till January 14 as the judge was on leave and prior to it, the judgment was deferred by a month as 20 accused, who are currently lodged in Tihar central jail, could not be brought to court premises due to lawyers’ strike in all six district courts in the national capital.

The court had on March 20, 2018, framed charges against the accused, including Thakur, for offences of criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors.

The accused included eight women and 12 men.

The Court had held trial for the offences of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, drugging of minors, criminal intimidation among other charges.

Thakur and employees of his shelter home, as well as Bihar department of social welfare officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, neglect of duty and failure to report assault on the girls.

The charges also included offence of cruelty to child under their authority, punishable under the Juvenile Justice Act.

All the accused, who appeared before the court, pleaded innocence and claimed trial.

The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

The court had reserved order on September 30 after final arguments by the CBI counsel and 20 accused in the case in which former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma also faced flak as allegations surfaced that Thakur had links with her husband.

She had resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.

The CBI had told a special court that there was enough evidence against all the accused in the case.

However, those accused have claimed that the CBI had not conduct a “fair investigation” into the case, which has been registered under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and entails life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.

Additional Sessions Judge Kulshreshtha, during the in-camera trial, concluded the arguments in the case.

The case was transferred on February 7 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the Supreme Court’s directions.

During the trial, counsel for the CBI told the court that the statements of minor girls, who were allegedly sexually assaulted, point to the fact that there was enough evidence against all the accused and they should be convicted.

The matter had come to light after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government on May 26, 2018, highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home for the first time.

On May 29 last year, the state government shifted the girls from the shelter home to other protection homes. In May 31, 2018, an FIR was lodged against the 11 accused in the case.

The top court had on August 2 taken cognisance of the alleged sexual assault of about 30 minor girls in Muzaffarpur’s shelter home and transferred the probe to the CBI on November 28.

Delhi HC directs police to look into traffic restrictions on Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the city police to look into traffic restrictions on Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which has been closed for nearly a month due to protests against the amended Citizenship Act, while keeping in mind the larger public interest.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the police to look into the issue while also keeping in mind maintenance of law and order.

The court passed the order while disposing of a PIL filed by advocate and social activist Amit Sahni seeking a direction to the Delhi Police Commissioner to lift restrictions on Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh Stretch and Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15, 2019 for ongoing protests against CAA and National Register of Citizen (NRC).

It was a temporary measure but has been extended from time to time.

The Kalindi Kunj stretch is vital as it connects Delhi, Faridabad (Haryana) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh) and commuters are forced to take the Delhi-Noida-Delhi (DND) Expressway and Ashram, which is causing hours of traffic jams and wastage of time and fuel, it said.

GST Council to set up grievance redressal mechanism for taxpayers

The GST Council will set up a grievance redressal mechanism for taxpayers.

The decision was taken at the 38th meeting of the GST Council held on December 18.

It has decided that a structured grievance redressal mechanism should be established for the taxpayers under GST to tackle grievances on GST-related issues of specific and general nature, an official statement said on Wednesday.

The council will set up the Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) at zonal and state levels consisting of both central tax and state tax officers, representatives of trade and industry and other goods and services tax (GST) stakeholders.

The committee will be constituted for a period of 2 years and the term of each member will be for likewise, said the statement.

If any member of the panel would be absent for three consecutive meetings, without adequate reasons, the member will be replaced with a fresh nomination by the principal chief commissioner/chief commissioner of central tax in consultation with the chief commissioner/ commissioner of state tax.

Functions of the committee include examining and resolving all the grievances and issues being faced by the taxpayers, including procedural difficulties and IT-related issues pertaining to GST, both of specific and general nature.

The committee will meet once every quarter or more frequently as decided by the co-chairs.

“For time-bound handling of grievances and accountability, GSTN shall develop a portal for recording all such grievances (including their scanned images) and their disposal.

“It shall be the responsibility of the co-chairs of the grievance redressal committees to ensure timely entry of the grievances and updating the status of their disposal on the portal,” the statement said.

The details of action taken on all issues will be displayed on the portal, which shall be available for viewing to all stakeholders to check the status of the resolution, it added.

Anti-CAA stir: Army chief says leadership does not mean leading people to violence.

It is not leadership if leaders guide masses, comprising university and college students, to carry out arson and violence in our cities, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said on Thursday while commenting on protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Leaders emerge from crowds but are not those who lead people in “inappropriate directions”, added the Army chief while addressing a gathering at a health summit here.

He said leaders are those who lead people in the right direction.

Since both houses of Parliament approved amendments to the citizenship law earlier this month, protests – sometimes violent – have taken place across the country. Multiple protestors have been injured and have died in these protests, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

“What is so complex about leadership, if it is all about leading. Because when you move forward, everybody follows. It is not that simple. It appears simple, but it is a complex phenomenon,” Rawat said in his speech.

“Even amongst the crowd you find that the leaders emerge. But leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions,” he added.

Alliance will form govt in Jharkhand, Hemant Soren will be CM: Congress

As the JMM-led alliance appeared set to cross the majority mark in the Jharkhand Assembly polls on Monday, the Congress exuded confidence that the alliance will form the government with Hemant Soren as chief minister.

All India Congress Committee in-charge for Jharkhand, RPN Singh said, “We will form the government as we fought the elections for the people of the state by raising issues that affect their lives and livelihoods. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah tried to divert the attention of the people away from fundamental issues but the people did not get swayed.”

Reiterating that Hemant Soren of the JMM will be the chief minister as declared earlier, Singh said the Jharkhand results are a defeat of BJP’s “arrogance and diversionary tactics”.

Congress coordinator for Jharkhand polls Ajay Sharma said this is the defeat of BJP’s corruption and its arrogance.

BJP gave tickets to corrupt candidates whom the people rejected. The Congress kept the focus on people’s issues and articulated common man’s problems which the BJP failed to solve, Sharma said.

The JMM-Congress-RJD alliance in Jharkhand is leading in 42 out of the 81 seats of state Assembly till 12 noon on Monday, while the ruling BJP is ahead in 28 seats.

CAA: Around 100 lawyers protest outside Jamia varsity

Over 100 lawyers gathered outside the Jamia Milia Islamia on Saturday to lodge their protest against the amended citizenship act and the National Register of Citizens for India (NRC).

The lawyers gathered outside the varsity with posters that said ‘We advocates condemn brutal attack on students’, ‘Stop dividing India, boycott CAA & NRC’, ‘NRC narak (hell)’, ‘Uphold the Constitution’.

The advocates gathered near Gate no 7 of the varsity where the main protests were held by the students.

Advocate Syed Asif Iqbal said, “We are around 100 advocates who have decided to express our solidarity with the students of this country. We are marching at the main gate and we will read the preamble of the Constitution to make everyone know that we are a country for all.”

The advocates were later joined by the students who shouted slogans and demanded justice for those who were allegedly thrashed by Delhi police last week.

Advocate Tariq Siddique told PTI, “The students and the young who protested against this law have given us the inspiration to protest. JMI is a university that was born out of the freedom movement. It is full of ‘Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb’ and essence of freedom fighters’ movement. The CAA divides the nation on religion and this government is dividing the country on basis of religion.”

Senior Advocate S Wasim Qadri said, “This is not a protest of Muslims. Whosoever is open minded and doesn’t belong to or believe in ‘rightism’ is aggrieved by this. When the Constitution was made and this proposal was made, it was rejected. After 70 years they want to bring in the rejected law.”

He said that if there was a law against refugees, it should be accepted with a stroke of the pen, but selecting people on the basis of religion or caste and asking them to prove their genealogy it is wrong.

“You are openly saying you will not accept Aadhaar card, voter ID, then what document will you accept for NRC? Is it fair to treat a chunk of people who were a part of the fabric of the country like this,” Qadri asked.

Former secretary of the Delhi Bar Council, Advocate Virendra Kasana said, “This act is discriminatory and it should not continue in this country. If you allow certain classes and disallow others, it is not accepted. They are allowing classes that suits them and not allowing that doesn’t. (They are) only bringing in polarisation in the country.”

The lawyers were joined in by the students of university at the protest.

Waseem Khan, a law student form Jamia said, “The fact that lawyers are marching at a protest shows how flawed the CAA is. Lawyer of all communities are here and their presence has encouraged us more. They are even helping us fight this battle legally.”

The lawyers also helped the students to set up a legal desk outside the varsity to aide all those who were affected in last week’s violence.

Sharjeel Ahmed, one the volunteers at the legal desk told PTI, “The students who were beaten up, attacked, injured due to police action, women harassed and all who experienced violence and atrocities have been asked to give in their complaints.”

The legal desk has developed a standard complaint format for three crimes, harassment/outraging modesty of women, hurt, assault, violence of any kind that brought injuries and criminal intimidation under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code to lodge the complaints.

Seventy students submitted their complaints to the legal desk on November 20 and thirty more students on November 21, Ahmed said.

After the legal desk receives a number of complaints, they will be shared with the advocates representing the students in court to fight a legal battle against the violence, the students added.

Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district : Four sentenced to 30 years for raping minor.

A court in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district sentenced four men to 30 years’ imprisonment for repeatedly raping a 14-year-old girl.

Third additional district and sessions judge Sanjeev Kumar Tamak on Friday convicted Charan Singh (30), Ishwar Dhurv (31), Nageshwar Rajak (26) and Manoj Wadekar (35), the victim’s lawyer Priyanka Shukla said.

The court sentenced the accused to 30 years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs 21,000 on Singh, and Rs 50,000 each on the other three convicts, she said.

On February 20, 2017, the victim, a resident of Torwa here, had lodged a complaint against the accused for allegedly raping her repeatedly since 2015, Shukla said.

The accused, who are residents of Devrikhurd area, had recorded an obscene video of the victim and sexually assaulted her after threatening to make the video public, she said.

The accused were allegedly involved in the illegal sale of liquor in the area, she added.

The Torwa police had registered a case against the accused under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, she added.