Seeking nod to prosecute official in coalscam: CBI

CBI today told a special court that it has sent the necessary records of a coalscam case to the authority concerned for considering grant of sanction to prosecute a Ministry of Coal (MoC) official for his alleged role in the matter.  The agency’s move came after the court on January 30 had said that former Minister of State for Coal Santosh Bagrodia, ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta and MoC official L S Janoti had allegedly committed criminal misconduct and facilitated AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd to unlawfully obtain a coal block.

“It is submitted by the senior public prosecutor that the necessary relevant records have been sent to the authority for considering according sanction to prosecute public servant involved. Accordingly, put up for March 31,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.

CBI had earlier apprised the court that administrative approval was obtained for sending records to the competent authority for considering grant of sanction to prosecute the public servant for his alleged role in the case.

The court, in its January 30 order, had asked CBI to further investigate the case in which the agency has already chargesheeted Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, his son Devendra Darda, Director of AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd Manoj Jayaswal and the firm, as accused.

It had noted that Bagrodia, Gupta and Janoti had allegedly entered into a conspiracy with private parties in the allocation of Bander coal block in Maharashtra to AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd.

The court had also said that out of these three persons, only Janoti was still in active government service and prior sanction of the competent authority was required to prosecute him for offence punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act.

Pachauri granted interim protection from arrest till Feb. 26

PachauriTERI Director-General R.K. Pachauri, facing sexual harassment allegations from a woman employee, was on Monday granted interim protection from arrest till February 26 by a Delhi court.Ruling on his anticipatory bail plea, Additional Sessions Judge Raj Kumar Tripathi also issued notice to investigating officer of the case and sought his response on Dr. Pachauri’s application.

“Notice to IO for submission of report on the illness of the applicant (Pachauri). Verification of the document submitted in regard to the illness of applicant. Put up for next date of hearing on February 26. Accused be not arrested till then,” the court said.

Appearing for Dr. Pachauri, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra said that he is seeking anticipatory bail for his client on the ground of the merit of the case as well as of his illness.

To this, the court asked what kind of illness does Dr. Pachauri have? Mr. Luthra said, “We have submitted all the medical records regarding his illness, which include cardiac issues and UTI.”

He informed the court that Delhi High Court had granted relief to Dr. Pachauri from February 19 till Monday and for that reason he was moving the anticipatory bail plea.

However, advocate Prashant Mendiratta, appearing for the complainant, asked the court to put up the matter for hearing tomorrow.

“IO can respond by tomorrow and the medical record could be verified very easily. The allegations against the accused are very serious in nature which include groping and physical assault on the complainant,” Mr. Mendiratta said.

Court penalises pvt firm in tax evasion case

A private firm has been penalised with a fine of Rs eight lakh in a tax evasion case by a Delhi court which noted that increasing cases of tax evasion by firms has been causing huge loss to the state exchequer and needed to be curbed with a firm hand.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Devendra Kumar Sharma held the firm, Radiant Polymers Pvt Ltd, guilty of not depositing the deducted amount of TDS with the Income Tax Department within stipulated time.

The court imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on the firm for the financial year 2008-09 being first time offence.

Apart from this, the court also imposed a fine of Rs 3 lakh each for the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11 on the firm being subsequent offence committed after commission of the first one.

“Evasion of tax by companies/persons in one form or the other by not depositing TDS or other taxes within prescribed time by a company, is rising day-by-day which causes huge loss to government exchequer and such practice should be curbed with a firm hand.

“In this case, admittedly the convict (firm) was under obligation to deposit the TDS amount within stipulated period from the date of deduction but same was not deposited and there was a delay,” the court said, adding that the delay was unexplained.

According to the Income Tax Department, the firm had deducted TDS amount of Rs 29.1 lakh, Rs 24.8 lakh and Rs 24.6 lakh for the financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively from salaries of its employees.

It said despite having knowledge of deducting TDS and to deposit in within stipulated time as per the Income Tax Act, the company showed “ignorance and deliberately diversified funds” for other purposes.

The firm submitted that entire TDS and penalty/interest has been deposited with the IT department.

The firm’s counsel said the delay in depositing the amount was due to financial crunch and it had to first clear the dues of salary of 300 employees.

DD can share feed of WC matches with pvt cable: SC

In good news for lakhs of cricket lovers dependent on cable TV, the Supreme Court today gave a go-ahead to public broadcaster Doordarshan to continue sharing live feed of World Cup cricket matches with private cable operators.

The apex court continued its stay on the Delhi High Court verdict that had allowed the plea of Star India Ltd, which holds the exclusive telecast rights of the Cricket World Cup, and had asked Prasar Bharati not to share the live feed of the matches with private cable operators.

The top court said the High Court order will remain suspended until further orders and posted the matter for final hearing in the month of July, much after the World Cup comes to an end.

“We are of the view that the interim order passed earlier to the effect that the impugned order dated February 4, 2015 of the High Court shall remain suspended should continue until further orders. We order accordingly,” a bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Prafulla C Pant said.

The court, in its interim order, fixed the appeal of Prasar Bharti against the High Court order for final hearing in the month of July.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre and Prasar Bharati, had told the court that it was mandatory for a private channel under the Sports Act and the Cable TV Network Act to share the feeds of matches of “national importance” with Prasar Bharati for providing it on DD’s free-to-air terrestrial channels.

Prasar Bharati had moved the Supreme Court challenging the February 4 Delhi High Court judgement which was passed on the plea of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ESPN and Star. They had contended that cable operators were getting live feed free through DD channels, resulting in loss of revenue for them.

Delhi HC junks plea to allow political posters on pvt property

Delhi High Court today dismissed a plea challenging the city government’s move prior to 2013 assembly polls to remove political posters from houses of people who were willing to put them up on their premises.

The petition had been filed after Delhi Police, ahead of the 2013 Delhi Assembly polls, had removed posters from private properties of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters and threatened them with action under the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2007.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw while dismissing the plea also said that a person “can only put up posters with prior permission of the concerned authorities”, which already exist under the law.

The bench, in its judgement on the plea of Anil Bhatia, also upheld the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2007.

Bhatia, in his plea, had said that the move to prohibit putting up of political posters from private residences amounted to “denial of right to freedom of speech of the citizen and the restriction should be immediately set aside.”

The petitioner had also sought a declaration from the court that “Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2007, does not prohibit putting up of posters or banners on one’s own house or any other building with the consent of their owners”.

The petition had also alleged that the said process of removal was a clear violation of the fundamental right and freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed to every citizen of India under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Activist Teesta Setalvad and her Husband Will Not Be Arrested : Supreme Court

Activist Teesta Setalvad, accused of embezzling funds meant for a museum for riot victims, will not be arrested, the Supreme Court told the Gujarat police today. “The value of freedom cannot even be compared to the stars in the sky,” the court said as it questioned the need to arrest her.

The Gujarat government had said that Ms Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand must be arrested to enable an investigation into allegations that they misused money that they raised for a “Museum of Resistance” at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, where over 60 people were killed during the 2002 riots.

“Who the petitioner is, that’s absolutely irrelevant, the question is whether liberty can be put on ventilator or stay in intensive care unit,” the court said, adding, “This isn’t a case of any scam which needs custodial interrogation. This is a case of misuse of funds of NGOs.”

The Gujarat police allege that Ms Setalvad raised Rs. 9.75 crore between 2008 and 2012 through her NGO and used Rs. 3.75 crore for branded clothes, shoes, and foreign travel.

A complaint was filed against her by 12 residents of the Gulbarg society after the museum project was reportedly shelved.

The state government told the court that the couple had not been cooperative and were trying to influence witnesses. “We have no personal bias against them,” said counsel for Gujarat today.

Rejecting their argument, the court said Ms Setalvad would be asked to cooperate and submit all documents for the investigation.

A new bench of the Supreme Court is hearing Ms Setalvad’s petition for protection from arrest;  the previous bench recused itself.

Ms Setalvad, who has for years taken on the Gujarat government while fighting for riot victims, claims the allegations against her are politically motivated.

Her bail petition has been rejected by two other courts. Last week, as the police arrived at their Mumbai home, the couple won a last minute reprieve when the Supreme Court agreed to hear their case

Centre opposes in SC guidelines to regulate its advertisements

Government on Tuesday opposed in Supreme Court the framing of guidelines on regulating its advertisements, saying this did not fall under the ambit of judicial purview as an elected dispensation was answerable to Parliament.

The government also asked as to how would the court decide which of the advertisement has been issued to gain political mileage.

A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra, which reserved its verdict on various pleas on the issue, said it would consider submissions of all parties concerned including the central government.

Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said, “these are matters which should be left to the government and are outside the purview of the courts. The government communicates to the public at large through these advertisements on policy and other matters.”

He was opposing to the submission of Prashant Bhushan, who was representing an NGO, that there should be an ombudsman to regulate misuse of public money by the government of the day by giving advertisements to gain political mileage.

“The government expenditure is subject to whole lot of parliamentary procedures and each penny is accounted for and is subject to the audit of the CAG. This is not a case akin to the Visakha case where the courts can step in,” the AG said.

Giving several instances, he said it would amount to “pre-censorship” as it is difficult to judge which of the advertisement is being given to gain political mileage.

“Today, we have the swine flu campaign going on across the country. Do we suggest that these advertisements should not contain the pictures of the health minister or health secretary etc. It cannot be said this (advertisement) is given with malafide intention,” he said, adding that every government department was entitled by Parliament to spend a particular amount under a particular head.

“On what basis, you will decide that it is malafide and is being given to gain political mileage. Ultimately, the government is answerable to Parliament,” he said.

At the outset, Bhushan endorsed as “salutary” the recommendations of the court-appointed committee and said that they should be issued by the court to ensure that their non-adherence invite consequences.

Employee can’t be kept under suspension for over 3 months: Supreme Court

Supreme Court has prescribed that a government employee cannot be kept under suspension for over 90 days in the absence of a chargesheet against him as such persons “suffer the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of their Department”.

Observing that “protracted period of suspension of delinquent government employee has become a norm”, a bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and C Nagappan said suspension, specially preceding formulation of charges, was essentially

transitory or temporary in nature and must be of short duration.

“If it is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal is not based on sound reasoning contemporaneously available on the record, this would render it punitive in nature,” it said.

Dwelling on the issue, the bench observed that “the suspended person suffering the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of his Department, has to endure this excruciation even before he is formally charged with some misdemeanour, indiscretion or offence.

“His torment is his knowledge that if and when charged, it will inexorably take an inordinate time for the inquisition or inquiry to come to its culmination, that is to determine his innocence or iniquity.

“Much too often this has now become an accompaniment to retirement. Indubitably the sophist will nimbly counter that our Constitution does not explicitly guarantee either the right to a speedy trial even to the incarcerated,

or assume the presumption of innocence to the accused,” the bench said.

Accordingly, it directed that “the currency of a suspension order should not extend beyond three months if within this period the Memorandum of Charges/ Chargesheet is not served on delinquent officer/employee; if Memorandum of Charges/Chargesheet is served a reasoned order must be passed for the extension of the suspension.”

The apex court’s judgement came on a petition by defence estate officer   Ajay Kumar Choudhary, who was suspended in 2011 for allegedly issuing wrong no-objection certificates for the use of approximately four acres of land in Kashmir.

Based on the findings given in the verdict, it said the officer can challenge his continued suspension.

“So far as the facts of the present case are concerned, the Appellant has now been served with a Chargesheet and therefore, these directions may not be relevant to him any longer.

“However, if the Appellant is so advised he may challenge his continued suspension in any manner known to law, and this action of the Respondents will be subject to judicial review,” the bench said

HC bars CM from announcing decisions with financial implications

Patna High Court restrained manjhifrom taking any policy decisions which have financial and major administrative implications

A division bench of the court comprising Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Samarendra Pratap Singh passed the order while hearing a petition filed by JDU MLC Neeraj Kumar, a Nitish Kumar loyalist.

 

On February 13, Neeraj filed a PIL in the high court to keep in abeyance all cabinet decisions taken by the Manjhi government after February 7, the day the JDU legislature party named Nitish as its leader.

 

The petitioner said in his PIL that since Manjhi had lost support of the JDU legislators, the decisions taken by him after February 7 should be stayed. Manjhi has since been expelled from the JDU and is at present an unattached member of the Assembly.

 

Neeraj said those decisions were “illegal” and would create administrative and financial chaos. Neeraj also said in his PIL that at present the chief minister was not a member of any political party in the House as he had been expelled from the primary membership of the JDU.

 

Hearing the petition, the high court directed Manjhi not to take any policy decision till it proves its majority in the House on February 20. However, the court remained silent on the petitioner’s plea on decisions taken by the Manjhi government since February 7. P.K. Shahi, the advocate for the petitioner, said the matter would be taken up in the next hearing on February 19.

 

Shahi, quoting the division bench, said: “The government has been restrained from taking any policy decisions, administrative or financial, in which financial implications are involved.”

 

Shahi said the court observed that as the Manjhi government had “lost support” in the House, so being a minority government it has lost moral authority and was therefore not entitled to take any policy decisions. It (government) would, however, carry out routine work, the court said.

 

Since February 7, the government has taken quite a few decisions, which have wider financial implications. Several of them are “politically inconvenient” for Nitish if he returns to power. The government had on February 10 provided reservation to contractors belonging to the SC and ST categories while the cabinet gave its nod to cover destitutes and widows up to 45 years of age under the targeted public distribution system.

 

On February 15, the government brought the Paswan caste under the umbrella of Mahadalits and also approved in principle the appointment of Vikas Mitras among the Scheduled Tribe families to speed up welfare of the STs in numerous programmes. The government also announced free electricity for small farmers owning up to five acres of land for agriculture purposes.

 

In his petition, Neeraj had requested the court to intervene and direct the principal secretary to the governor to ask Manjhi to seek a trust vote before February 20 when the budget session begins.

 

The argument forwarded by Neeraj was that since the Manjhi government is in a minority, it would not be proper for the governor to read his speech before it seeks a trust vote in House. Shahi said this issue, too, would be taken up on February 19.

Sahara moves SC for extension of facilities to Roy in jail

Court on Tuesday expressed concern over how Sahara Group would raise money to secure its chief Subrata Roy’s release, as the group sought extension of facilities inside Tihar jail premises by four to six weeks to enable him negotiate deals with prospective buyers.

The apex court expressed concern about the payment of money to be made by Roy to secure his release from jail. “You are struggling to pay Rs 10,000 crore. How will you pay Rs 30,000 crore after coming out,” the bench asked.

A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur also asked the counsel for Sahara group to file an appropriate application in regard to its request.

Earlier in a new turn of events in the case, RBI had moved the apex court seeking to implead itself as a party in the company’s tussle with SEBI and sought to stop one of its firms from disposing off assets for securing Roy’s release.

In an application, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) urged the apex court to restrain Sahara India Financial Corporation Ltd (SIFCL) from utilising any of its assets, including securities, for paying dues to SEBI on the ground that SIFCL is Residuary Non—Banking Financial Firm and fell under its (RBI) regulatory control.

Prior to this, the Sahara group had informed the apex court that the proposed transactions for a loan of around US dollar 1,050 million from abroad for raising Rs 10,000 crore to ensure Roy’s release from jail had failed.

The apex court, on January 9, had allowed Sahara Group to go ahead with its proposed transactions with some conditions including the approval of RBI for the transfer to India of the funds raised in the US to meet the requirement set for release of Roy, who is lodged in Tihar jail since March 4 last year for non—refund of over Rs 20,000 crore with interest to depositors.