SC Judge recuses from hearing Vijay Mallya’s plea against Karnataka HC order for payment of Rs 3,101 Cr.

Supreme Court judge Justice R F Nariman January 20 recused himself from hearing a plea of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya against a Karnataka High Court directing him to pay Rs 3,101 crore to a consortium of banks. A bench of Justices Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat observed that Mallya has not deposited a single penny to the banks so far.

Justice Nariman however refused to hear the matter and directed that it be listed before another bench of the apex court.

Senior advocate S Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing for Mallya, said at the outset that other petitions filed by him were coming up for consideration before another bench.

“Let the matter be listed before a Bench of which one of us (Justice RF Nariman) is not a Member,” the bench said in its order
Mallya challenged Karnataka High Court orders, of October 5, 2018 and September 13, 2019, before the apex court. The orders had upheld the decision of the Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT), Bangalore to deposit Rs 3,101 crore as a precondition to hearing his appeal against a Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) order.

The DRT Bangalore had on January 19, 2017 directed Mallya to pay Rs 6,203 crore with interest to a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India, who had lent money for now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Mallya challenged the order before the DRAT in 2018, which dismissed the appeal for want of appearance and non-compliance of objections.

He again moved DRAT and filed an application seeking restoration of his appeal.

The DRAT, on March 28, 2018, directed Mallya to deposit Rs 3,101 crore on or before April 25, 2018 and observed that in case of failure in compliance, the appeal will be liable to be dismissed automatically.

Mallya then challenged the March 28, 2018 order before the High Court, which dismissed his appeal on October 5, 2018 and subsequently he knocked the door of apex court.

Behmai massacre : Case diary disappears, judge postpones verdict pronouncement

The case diary of Behmai massacre, in which 20 people were killed allegedly by bandit Phoolan Devi’s gang nearly four decades ago, was found missing on Saturday when a special court was to pronounce its verdict, prompting the judge to postpone the matter to January 24.

Special judge (UP dacoity-affected area) Sudhir Kumar pulled up the court official for the absence of the case diary at the time of delivering the verdict and asked him to place it before the court on January 24.

The court is likely to give its verdict on the role of the four surviving accused — Posha, Bhikha, Vishwanath and Shyambabu. While Posha is still in jail, the rest are out on bail. Three other dacoits, including Man Singh, are absconding.

The judge postponed pronouncement of the verdict after finding out that the original case diary was missing from court record, district government counsel (criminal) Rajeev Porwal told PTI.

The court has now listed the case on January 24, asking its staff to trace the missing case diary and place it before it on the next date, Porwal said.

“The court decided to fix another date for pronouncing the judgement only after the original case diary is located,” he said.

The court also issued a notice to the sessions clerk concerned for the case diary going missing, Porwal said, adding strict instructions have been issued to find it.

Though the disappearance of the case diary came to light only recently, Porwal denied any conspiracy behind it.

An advocate of the complainant later said that the Allahabad High Court will be moved in view of “undue delay in pronouncement of judgement” in the case and “mysterious disappearance” of the original case diary.

The special court for hearing dacoity-related cases was expected to deliver the verdict in the 1981 Behmai massacre case on January 6, but it allowed the defence counsel to submit written arguments by January 16, Porwal said.

Defence counsel Girish Narain Dubey had appeared before the court on January 6, seeking more time to submit written arguments and was granted 10 more days, the government counsel said.

“Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi, who later entered politics, along with her gang members were accused of killing the 20 people belonging to the Thakur community at Behmai village in Kanpur Dehat on February 14, 1981.

The non-descript Behmai village, that drew national attention after the killings, is 170 km from state capital Lucknow and over 400 km from national capital New Delhi.

Phoolan Devi had stormed into Behmai in what was described as an attack to avenge her alleged rape there by two other bandits — Lala Ram and Sri Ram — both Thakurs, a dominant caste in the village.

Two years after the incident, she had surrendered to the Madhya Pradesh police in 1983. She then went on to become a Lok Sabha member from Mirzapur for the first time in 1996 and then in 1999 on Samajwadi Party ticket.

Initially, 35 people, including Phoolan Devi, were named as accused in the case. Eight of them were reportedly killed by police in separate encounters. Three others were reportedly absconding.

The prosecution had produced as many as 15 witnesses and seven of them were material witnesses. The process of prosecution producing evidence was closed in 2014.

The Behmai killings had led to a political fallout, with then UP chief minister V P Singh, who later became the country’s prime minister, resigning owning moral responsibility for the massacre.

As per the terms of her surrender under an amnesty scheme, then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh agreed to keep her in the Gwalior prison, rather than being sent to a prison in Uttar Pradesh as a result of which the summons and non-bailable warrants issued by a Kanpur court were returned unserved.

She spent 11 years in Gwalior and Jabalpur jails in Madhya Pradesh and was released in 1994 without facing trial as she kept fighting a legal battle against the UP police and the Kanpur court’s orders.

Charges against the four surviving accused were framed only in 2012.

Phoolan Devi’s release was facilitated by the withdrawal of 55 cases by then UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government in “public interest”.

Yadav’s decision, however, was set aside by the Kanpur court, with the Allahabad High Court upholding the trial court’s decision.

Even the Supreme Court had rejected her plea for dismissal of all cases against her in December 1996.

Phoolan Devi, however, evaded arrest and waged a legal battle against it in 2001.

The apex court directed her that if she wanted relief in the cases against her, she first needed to surrender to the trial court in Kanpur.

But, that was not to be as on July 25, 2001, she was killed outside her official residence in New Delhi.

Her story was told on the big screen by noted film director Shekhar Kapoor in his movie “Bandit Queen” based on the book “India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi” by author Mala Sen, starring Seema Biswas as the title character who won the National Film Award for Best Actress.

SC agrees to hear pleas against land acquisition process for bullet train project.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a batch of pleas filed by farmers against the Gujarat High Court verdict which had dismissed their petitions challenging the process of land acquisition for the ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.

The bullet train project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017.

The train will run at a speed of 320-350 kmph, and will have 12 stations across its 508-km stretch from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose issued notices to the Centre, Gujarat government and others on a batch of appeals challenging September 19 last year verdict of the high court.

As an interim relief, the plea has sought to restrain the Gujarat government from proceeding ahead with the process of land acquisition for the purpose of the bullet train project.

“Issue notice on the SLPs (special leave petitions) as well as on the application for stay, returnable on March 20, 2020,” the bench said.

“Notice to be served on the standing counsel for the state of Gujarat. Reply may be filed within four weeks. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter,” the apex court said in its order.

In its verdict, the high court had upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act amended by the Gujarat government in 2016 and subsequently approved by the president.

The high court had turned down the farmers’ claim that the Gujarat government did not have powers to issue a notification for land acquisition, since the project was divided between the two states — Gujarat and Maharashtra.

It had said that issuance of a notification declaring the commencement of land acquisition without undertaking social impact assessment is also valid.

In one of the appeals filed in the apex court, the petitioner said that the high court had upheld the validity of the 2016 state amendment brought by the Gujarat government into The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

It said acquisition of land “has to be done for the purpose of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project which is being executed and implemented by the National High Speed Railway Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), a special purpose vehicle incorporated under the Companies Act 2013” and as per the provision of the 2013 Act, the Centre is the ‘appropriate government’ for this.

It said that the process of land acquisition could only be triggered on the request made by NHSRCL and, although there is a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Gujarat government and NHSRCL, there is no request or requisition by the corporation which has been placed on record.

“As such the central government being the appropriate government, except that a document is issued post-facto, there cannot be any request or requisition by NHSRCL requisitioning the land to government of Gujarat, therefore, the initiation of proceedings for the acquisition of land for the bullet train project at the very outset is void,” the plea said.

It alleged that proceedings for land acquisition has been “illegally initiated” by the state government in contravention of the provisions of 2013 Act and it would “deprive the farmers of their property and only source of livelihood, in the absence of valid law, which is unjust, unfair and arbitrary.”

“They said illegal action would create an irreversible situation, causing not only grave injustice but also irreparable injury to them,” the plea said.

Before the high court, the farmers had claimed that the process of land acquisition could not be started before revising the prices of their land, as mandated under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

They had claimed that compensation was being offered to them on the market rates decided way back in 2011.

The high court, in its verdict, had said the issue of higher compensation was still “open” and farmers could approach the authorities concerned to seek more money against their land.

Country going through difficult times : Supreme Court

Chief Justice of India S A Bobde on Thursday observed that the country is going through difficult times and there is so much violence going on as the Supreme Court refused urgent hearing on a plea seeking to declare the Citizenship Amendment Act as constitutional.

A bench headed by CJI Bobde expressed surprise over the petition and said this is the first time that someone is seeking that an Act be declared as constitutional.

“There is so much of violence going on. The country is going through difficult times and the endeavour should be for peace… This court’s job is to determine validity of a law and not declare it as constitutional,” the CJI said.

The bench also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said it will hear the petitions challenging validity of CAA when the violence stops.

The observation came after advocate Vineet Dhanda sought urgent listing of his plea to declare CAA as constitutional and a direction to all states for implementation of the Act.

The plea has also sought action against activists, students and media houses for “spreading rumours”.

On December 18, the apex court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the CAA, but refused to stay its operation.

The newly amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde had fixed a batch of 59 petitions, including those filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, for hearing on January 22.

Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Act including by RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

Several other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.

US House to vote on preventing Trump from Iran war

The Democratic-led US House of Representatives will vote Thursday to prevent President Donald Trump from waging war with Iran after he ordered the killing of a top general, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Pelosi said that the Democrats will move forward because their concerns were not addressed in a closed-door briefing to lawmakers Wednesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials.

“The president has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve de-escalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Our concerns were not addressed by the president’s insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the administration’s briefing today,” she said.

Under the 1973 War Powers Act, the administration needs to notify Congress on major military actions but Trump, unusually, has kept classified his rationale for a strike that killed powerful Iranian general Qasem Soleimani while he was in Iraq.

Pelosi said that the House would therefore vote, under the 1973 act, to limit Trump’s ability to wage war against Iran.

She said that the House may also soon consider revoking the authorisation of force approved after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Three successive administrations have cited that authorization as legal justification for an array of military actions across the Islamic world.

Notice to Centre and ECI on plea against use of plastic especially banners and hoardings during polls : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from the Centre and the Election Commission of India on a plea against use of plastic, especially banners and hoardings, during elections.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the poll panel while seeking their response within four weeks.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by one W Edwin Wilson against the National Green Tribunal’s order asking the Election Commission of India and the Chief Electoral Officers of all states and Union Territories to monitor the compliance of advisories against the use of plastic.

The plea in apex court said that NGT did not pass effective order on the main issue of ban on PVC banners use in elections which are a huge menace.

Wilson had claimed that campaigning material made of plastic is used during elections and later discarded as waste, which was detrimental to the environment.

UAPA Tribunal upholds ban on pro-Khalistan group Sikhs for Justice

The Centre’s ban on pro-Khalistan group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has been upheld by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act tribunal headed by Delhi High Court Chief Justice D N Patel.

The tribunal has held that it was clear from the evidence on record that activities of the group were “unlawful”, “disruptive” and “threaten the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of India”.

Justice Patel also said that the evidence proves that SFJ was “working in collusion with anti-India entities and forces”.

“Thus, the Central Government had sufficient cause to take action under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for declaring Sikhs For Justice as an unlawful association.

“The notification dated July 10, 2019 issued by the Union of India under the Act declaring Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to be an unlawful association is hereby confirmed. The reference is answered in the affirmative,” the tribunal said.

The Centre by its July 10, 2019 notification had declared SFJ as an unlawful association and had banned it for five years, saying the group’s primary objective was to establish an “independent and sovereign country” in Punjab and it openly espouses the cause of Khalistan and in that process, challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

Thereafter, in August a tribunal was set up for adjudicating whether there was sufficient cause to declare SFJ as an unlawful association.

Nirbhaya case: Death row convict Vinay Kumar Sharma moves curative plea in SC

 In a last ditch effort to escape the noose, Vinay Kumar Sharma, one of the four men sentenced to death in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

A curative petition is the last legal remedy available to a convict.

On Tuesday, a Delhi court issued death warrants against Mukesh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and said they will be hanged on January 22 at 7 am in Tihar jail.

In his curative plea, Vinay said his young age has been erroneously rejected as a mitigating circumstance.

“The petitioner’s socio-economic circumstances, number of family dependants including ailing parents, good conduct in jail and probability of reformation have not been adequately considered leading to gross miscarriage of justice,” the plea said.

It said the court’s judgment has relied on factors such as “collective conscience of society” and “public opinion” in deciding the sentence to be imposed on him and others.

“The impugned judgment is bad in law as subsequent judgments of apex court have definitely changed the law on death sentence in India allowing several convicts similarly placed as him to have their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment,” the plea said.

It further said that after pronouncement of the apex court’s judgment in 2017 there have been as many as 17 cases involving rape and murder in which various three-judge benches of the top court have commuted the death sentence.

The 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya, was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 in a moving bus in south Delhi by six people before being thrown out on the road.

She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

On July 9, 2018 , the apex court had dismissed the review pleas filed by the other three convicts in the case, saying no grounds have been made out by them for review of the 2017 verdict.

One of the six accused in the case, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail here.

A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board and was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.

The top court in its 2017 verdict had upheld the capital punishment awarded to them by the Delhi High Court and the trial court.

CJI headed 9-judge SC bench to hear issue of women’s entry in Sabarimala temple

The Supreme Court on Tuesday formed a nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde to hear from January 13 the issue of allowing women and girls of all ages to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, along with the other contentious issues of alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.

The other judges on the bench are Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

The nine-judge bench has been set up after a five-judge bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, by a 3:2 majority verdict, referred the matter to a seven-judge bench while examining the review petition filed against the historic September 28, 2018 judgement which had allowed women of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple.

Besdies Justice Gogoi, Justices A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra (the lone woman judge on the bench) were in majority while Justices R F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud had penned a minority verdict on November 14, 2019.

On the nine-judge bench, which will hear the matter from January 13, there are no judges from the previous benches.

The top court had on Monday issued a notice informing about listing of the petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association seeking review of the 2018 judgement.

However, the names of the judges were announced today.

While referring the matter to a larger bench, the five-judge bench had however said that the debate about the constitutional validity of religious practices like bar on entry of women and girls into a place of worship was not limited to the Sabarimala case.

The top court said such restrictions are there with regard to entry of Muslim women into mosques and ‘dargahs’ and Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, being barred from the holy fire place of an Agyari.

It said it was time for the apex court to evolve a judicial policy to do “substantial and complete justice”.

A person is senior by virtue of seniority and deserves to be respected: Delhi High Court

A person is a senior by virtue of his seniority and should be respected even if he has less academic qualification than juniors, the Delhi High Court has observed.

The high court said insubordination is misconduct and refused to interfere with the orders of a special executive magistrate (SEM) and a trial court directing a junior AIIMS doctor, who had an argument with his senior, to maintain peace in the South Delhi area.

“Senior is by virtue of his seniority, may be having less academic degrees than juniors, still he or she should be respected and maintain the subordination,” Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said.

The issue relates to an argument between the doctor and the head of department (HoD) of Rheumatology in March 2017, following which the senior woman doctor had complained to the police against the subordinate.

The court was dealing with the plea of an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) doctor challenging the SEM’s August 3, 2018 order holding that it was established that he used to talk to the complainant, who is the head of department, in a loud voice and his behaviour was improbable, undesirable and uncalled for on two occasions, that is, at the OPD and the doctor’s chamber.

The SEM had also bound down the doctor to maintain peace in jurisdiction of South Delhi district for a period of one year in sum of Rs 10,000.

The high court said, “As of now, more than one year has already been passed. Thus, nothing remains in the present petition to interfere with the orders passed by the SEM and the additional sessions judge.”

Before the high court, the doctor claimed that he was not properly advised on the issue of filing the appeal against the order passed by the SEM by his previous lawyers and the trial court also proceeded to dismiss his appeal only on the ground of limitation.

Justice Kait said the petitioner was a qualified MBBS doctor and the plea taken by him that he was ill advised by his previous counsel not to challenge the SEM’s order saying that the same is not of much consequence, does not stand to reason as the impugned order was so clear to be understandable even by a lay man.

The high court said it does not lie in the mouth of the doctor to say that he was not aware of the consequences of that order on his career or service record.

“The petitioner (doctor) is an educated person and it cannot be believed that he was not aware of the import of the impugned order or the repercussions of said order on his career or service record,” it said.

The court noted that the doctor was selected and appointed assistant professor in 2016 and claimed to be highly qualified, while the complainant was the head of department of Rheumatology.

“Thus, whatsoever academic qualification the petitioner has, he cannot compare with respondent no.2 (complainant HOD) who has very vast experience and presently HOD where the petitioner just started his career in AIIMS only in the year 2016 and present incident is dated March 22, 2017,” the high court said.

“Thus, it seems the petitioner has attitude because of his so-called educational qualification but forgetting that insubordination is misconduct,” it said.

The court said the complainant is a woman and HoD, thus, petitioner was not supposed to create ruckus in her chamber and threat her for dire consequences.