Madras High Court quashes .defamation cases against two leading Tamil dailies.

The Madras High Court has quashed the criminal defamation cases filed by the Tamil Nadu government against a leading English Daily and a Tamil newspaper for publishing an interview of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on late J Jayalalithaa, in 2014.

Justice M Dhandapani had recently quashed the government orders issued in 2014, for prosecuting the publisher of a Tamil daily and Resident Editor of an English newspaper for publishing the interview of Swamy, in which he had made a mention of his letter to the Prime Minister.

Allowing the petitions by the newspapers against the G.Os, the judge held that the state government’s action in initiating prosecution against the petitioners for carrying the interview of Swamy was a “direct invasion” into the right of freedom of speech and expression that cannot be curtailed by invocation of Section 499 IPC.

While it was the duty of the Court to safeguard the interests of those persons holding public office from being defamed for discharging their public functions, equally, the citizens should also be safeguarded from the governmental machinery against malicious prosecution, he added.

The judge also noted that the ingredients for filing a complaint by the public prosecutor in the present case as enumerated under section 199(2) Cr Pc. itself has not been fulfilled.

The defamation should be in respect of the conduct of the public servant in the discharge of his or her public functions, which is not the case on hand, he pointed out.

The statements carried by the petitioners in print, by no stretch of imagination, could be said to be defamatory ones made with a view to harm the reputation of the Chief Minister’s office in respect to her conduct in the discharge of her public functions, the court said.

“Therefore, the initiation of the prosecution for defamation u/s 199 (2) Cr.P.C. is not sustainable for the offence alleged to have been committed under section 499, 500 and 501 IPC,” it said.

The BJP leader had alleged that then chief minister Jayalalithaa saw his success as threatening her political position in the Assembly polls.

In his letter to Modi, Swamy had criticised late Jayalalithaa for appropriating his (Swamy) achievements, his hard work on issues pertaining to Mullaperiyar dam, installation of the Thevar statue in Parliament and the 2G spectrum scam.

Subsequently, the city public prosecutor had filed the defamation cases against the two newspapers for carrying the interview.

Supreme Court directs Centre to grant permanent commission to women officers in Army within 3 months.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months and said there will not be any absolute bar on giving them command postings.

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud rejected the Centre’s argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them permanent commission and command postings, saying it is disturbing and against the concept of equality.

The bench said women officers in the past have brought laurels to the country and change of mindset is required on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in armed forces.

The top court said despite there being no stay on the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict allowing grant of permanent commission to women officers, the Centre showed scant regard in implementing the directive in past one decade.

Maha: Court rejects bail plea of man held in cheating case.

A court here in Maharashtra has rejected the bail application of a 35-year-old man arrested for cheating a businessman to the tune of Rs 26 lakh.

Additional Sessions Judge R V Tamhanekar on Saturday said the accused, Jayakumar Gopal Immanuel, took the money from the businessman while promising to sell him flood-damaged cars, but he neither delivered the vehicles nor returned the money. Hence, he does not deserve bail at this stage.

According to the prosecution, the accused was arrested by Thane Police last month under Indian Penal Code Sections 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention). His two associates, Shaquib Shaikh and Rashid, who are also accused in the case, are yet to be arrested.

Immanuel promised to sell cars damaged in the 2018 Kerala floods to a glass merchant in Thane city. The accused and his aides allegedly took Rs 26 lakh from the businessman, but did not deliver the cars to him, the prosecution said.

Additional Public Prosecutor Ujjwala Moholkar opposed Immanuel’s plea, saying he did not cooperate during probe due to which the amount and vehicles could not be recovered.

She also contended that before arrest, the accused allegedly tried to commit suicide by consuming sleeping pills.

She submitted that the accused may threaten the prosecution witnesses and informants in the case, and if released on bail, he may cheat other persons also.

Moholkar further said that since the accused is a resident of another state, there are chances he may not come back to face trial.

However, the accused cited several reasons for seeking bail, including his ailments and that of his father.

The defence counsel said the present case is related to business transaction of civil nature. Hence, the police machinery cannot be used for the recovery of money.

After hearing both the sides, the judge said, “It is true that when there is transaction of civil nature, police machinery cannot be used for recovery. But, this is a clear case of cheating.”

“The ground regarding the accused being resident of another state cannot be entertained for rejecting bail, but in the present case active investigation is going on. Till today, nothing has been recovered out of the cheating amount and the co-accused are yet not arrested. So, the accused cannot be released on bail at this preliminary stage,” the judge said.

Supreme Court refuses to accept Vodafone’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 cr by today.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to accept telecom firm Vodafone’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by today and Rs 1,000 crore by Friday against adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues and that no coercive action be taken against it.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra declined to accept the proposal given by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone, after he mentioned the matter.

Rohatgi said they are willing to pay Rs 2,500 crore today and another Rs 1,000 crore by Friday but no coercive action be taken against the company.

He said the bank guarantee deposited with the government by Vodafone should also not be encashed.

What procedure is followed on pleas seeking ban on outfits?

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday sought to know from the Union government what procedure is followed before deciding a representation seeking ban on an outfit for alleged unlawful activities.

A division bench of Justices R V More and S P Tavade was hearing a petition filed by one Arshad Ali Ansari, seeking a direction to the Maharashtra government and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to ban activities of the right wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha.

Ansari in his petition claimed he filed a representation before the state and the central government in September 2018, seeking that ban be imposed on the group under section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

However, till date there has not been any response.

On Wednesday, the state government informed the bench that the competent authority to decide was the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Union government, however, told the court that the state government will have to first send a report on its findings on the outfit, after which the MHA will look into the issue.

“What is the procedure that is normally followed? Show us that procedure,” the court said and posted the petition for further hearing on March 4.

As per Ansari’s plea, filed by advocate Rajesh Khobragade, the Sanatan Sanstha’s name cropped up in some bmob blast cases in Maharashtra and in the killings of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and activist Govind Pansare.

“Members of the Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested for allegedly planting bombs in auditoriums at Thane and Vashi,” the plea said.

The petition has sought a direction to the state and the Centre to decide Ansari’s representation at the earliest and ban the Sanatan Sanstha.

HC dismisses plea seeking voting rights for prisoners.

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a PIL seeking voting rights for prisoners, saying the facility was provided under the law and it can be taken away by law.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said the Supreme Court has held that the right to cast vote was neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and was only provided by a statute.

The bench noted the right to vote provided under the statute Representation of the People Act was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast vote from jails.

The high court said in view of the apex court rulings and the statutory position, it saw no reason to entertain the plea, and dismissed it.

The decision came on a plea by three law students Praveen Kumar Chaudhary, Atul Kumar Dubey and Prerna Singh seeking voting rights for all persons lodged in jails across the country.

The petition challenged the constitutionality of Section 62(5) of the RP Act, which deprives prisoners of their right to vote.

The Election Commission opposed the plea, saying prisoners do not have voting rights under the Act and it has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The panel told the court the right to vote is a statutory right under Section 62 of the RP Act and “being a statutory right (it) is subject to restrictions prescribed in the RP Act”.

The panel referred to a 1997 judgment of the Supreme Court, which held that the effect of sub-section (5) of Section 62 of the Act is that any person confined in prison while serving a sentence or is in lawful confinement in a prison or in a police custody for any reason is not entitled to vote in an election.

But this restriction does not apply to a person subjected to any kind of preventive detention, the apex court judgment said.

Man convicted of harassing wife for dowry.

A court in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district has sentenced a police sub-inspector and his parents to two years imprisonment for harassing his wife for dowry.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Raj Magal Singh Yadav has also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the convicts.

Rekha was being harassed for dowry demands for many years, her lawyer said. The couple got married in 2007.

SC refuses to entertain plea on Gargi College incident.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged molestation of students during a cultural festival at the all-woman Gargi College here last week.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked lawyer M L Sharma, who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing, to move the Delhi High Court with his plea.

“Why don’t you go to the Delhi HC. If they dismiss the petition then you come here,” the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said.

The apex court said it would like to have advantage of Delhi HC’s view on this matter.

Sharma expressed apprehension that electronic evidence related to the case might be destroyed.

On this, the top court said, “Delhi High Court can also pass order like the Telangana High Court in the police encounter case to preserve electronic evidence”.

SC directs parties to upload on website details of pending criminal cases against candidates.

 The Supreme Court on Thursday directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics.

The apex court said political parties will also have to upload reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases on their website.

The court passed orders on a contempt plea which raised the issue of criminalisation of politics claiming that directions given by the apex court in its September 2018 verdict relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates are not being followed.

A bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman also directed that political parties will publish these details on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and in one local vernacular and one national newspaper.

The top court said political parties will have to submit a compliance report in this regard to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them.

It directed that the EC shall bring it to the notice of the apex court in case of failure of political parties to comply with its directions.

While pronouncing the order, the bench said it appears that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics in the last four general elections

SC slaps fine of Rs 5 lakh on states for failing to file reply on PIL for community kitchen.

Irked over repeated failures of the states to file their replies, the Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily and imposed cost of Rs five lakh on them for not complying with its directions to file their affidavits on a PIL seeking setting up of community kitchens across the country.

A bench of Justice N V Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and V Ramasubramanian, during hearing in the morning, said if the Union of India and the states file their affidavit in the next 24 hours then they will have to pay only Rs one-lakh fine, whereas those who still fail to submit it by then will have to pay Rs 5-lakh fine.

The top court said that five states — Punjab, Nagaland, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand — and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar, who have filed their responses on the PIL filed by Arun Dhawan, will not pay any fine.

Advocate Ashima Mandla, appearing for the petitioner said that five months have passed since the apex court had issued notice and except for five states and one union territory, no other states and UTs have filed their response.

She said that 69 per cent of children under the age of five who have lost their lives are due to malnutrition and it is high time that States take steps to set up community kitchens.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre sought some more time to file response to the PIL.

The bench, however, posted the matter for further hearing on February 17 and asked the Centre and state to file their responses at the earliest with the cost.

The apex court had on October 18 favoured setting up of community kitchens, saying the country needs this kind of system to tackle the problem of hunger.

It had issued notices to the Centre and all states seeking their responses on a PIL seeking directions to all the states and union territories (UTs) to formulate a scheme for community kitchens to combat hunger and malnutrition.

The plea had claimed that many children, under the age of five, die every day due to hunger and malnutrition and this condition was violative of various fundamental rights, including the right to food and life of citizens.

The PIL, filed by social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, had also sought a direction to the Centre for creating a national food grid for people falling outside the purview of the public distribution scheme.

It had also sought issuance of an order to the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) for formulating a scheme to mitigate hunger-related deaths.

The plea referred to the state-funded community kitchens being run in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi that serve meals at subsidised rates in hygienic conditions.

The plea also referred to the concepts of soup kitchen, meal centre, food kitchen or community kitchen, in other countries, where food is offered to the hungry usually for free or sometimes at below-market price.

The petition, filed through advocates Ashima Mandla and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, had said that the Centre and its various ministries have initiated and implemented various schemes to combat hunger, malnutrition and the resulting starvation, although in reality, effective implementation of the schemes was “unclear and fairly limited”.

The statistics on starvation deaths in the country are unavailable and starvation as the cause of death can only be ascertained upon autopsy after death, the plea said, adding that global agencies report that more than three lakh children die every year in India because of hunger, whereas 38 per cent below the age of five are stunted.

“Implementation of community kitchens funded by state or in association with corporate social responsibility by a public-private partnership (PPP) may be implemented to complement the existing schemes,” it said.

The petition also said that a 2010 report by the World Food Programme on the state of food insecurity in India indicates that increasing urban inequality, significant under-investment in urban health and nutrition infrastructure, workforce in casual or contract employment or even less remunerative self-employment, growth of slums and slum population lacking in most basic health and hygiene infrastructure has resulted in a permanent food and nutrition emergency.