HC to AAP: Don’t insist on documents like Aadhaar to give benefits of maternity schemes

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today said there was no legal basis for the AAP government to insist on documents like Aadhaar and bank passbooks, to provide maternity scheme benefits to pregnant and lactating women in the city.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Delhi government not to insist on such documents for providing benefits to those eligible under maternity schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY).
The court also directed the government to widely publicise the benefits of such schemes and the requirements for registration as many women appeared unaware about them.

“No such requirement (for Aadhaar) is set out in the scheme (JSY),” it said and added “there is no legal basis for respondent (Delhi government) to insist on the documents mentioned above for availing benefits of JSY”.

The directions by the bench came while hearing a woman’s PIL, filed through advocate Sija Nair Pal, challenging the Delhi government’s decision to insist on documents like Aadhaar to provide cashless facility under the JSY.
Pal placed an affidavit before the bench indicating a list of 22 poor women who were ignorant about the benefits of JSY and were not registered under the scheme.
Most of them did not have bank accounts or Aadhaar cards, the court noted and said that it indicated an “unfortunate state of affairs”.

The court said a lot needs to be done, including giving wide publicity to the schemes, to ensure women entitled to benefits under the JSY can avail the same.
In another matter pertaining maternity scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), the court was told that women earlier eligible under it have been disentitled from availing the benefits after its name was changed.
The PMMVY was earlier known as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) which was run on a pilot basis in 53 districts of the country and the monetary benefit under it was Rs 6,000, the court was told.
After being changed to PMMVY, the monetary benefit was reduced to Rs 5,000 and earlier beneficiaries were disentitled, the court was also told.
Taking note of the situation, the bench said that any scheme for marginalised women has to be implemented so that all the targeted persons can enjoy the benefits.

“Rechristening of the scheme cannot lead to denial of its benefits to women who were determined eligible under the earlier scheme,” it said.
“They cannot be disentitled subsequently as their eligibility has already been established,” the court added.

With the above directions and observations the court disposed of both the PILs and directed the Delhi government to ensure that wide publicity is given to all maternity health schemes.

HC seeks Centre’s response on plea to use Aadhaar details of missing persons

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today sought the Centre’s response on a PIL seeking direction to utilise biometric and Aadhaar details of missing persons, including children, aged and mentally challenged, so that they can be re-united with their families.

Notice issued to the Ministry of Home Affairs by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar on the plea which also sought direction to the authorities to spread awareness in this regard to track the pre-existed biometrics and Aadhaar details for re-uniting missing persons with their families across country.
The bench asked the ministry to file an action taken report on the representation made by petitioner advocate Amit Sahni to the authorities and listed the matter for further hearing on November 13.

The petition said the Centre be directed to issue appropriate and mandatory directions to the authorities for utilising biometric/Aadhaar of missing children, old aged persons and mentally challenged persons immediately for the purpose of tracing and re-uniting them with their families as and when they are rescued by any department.
It said the petitioner was not challenging any question of law, which is already pending adjudication before the Supreme Court, that is, the constitutional validity of Aadhaar.
“There have been many debates regarding Aadhaar and the issue of its constitutional validity is pending before the Supreme Court of India but the same is very useful for tracing missing persons, if the Aadhaar of such missing persons is pre-existed,” it said.

The plea referred to the statistics of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2016 as per which the total missing persons are 5,49,008 and untraced ones are 3,19,627 .

Sahni also referred to a judicial order in which by the intervention of a trial court, a 31-year-old mentally challenged woman was re-united with her family in Rajasthan through Aadhaar.
In that case, a mentally challenged woman was rescued by Delhi Police and produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Abhilash Malhotra, who directed the authorities to help the victim to undergo the process of Aadhaar, which revealed that her biometric records pre-existed in the Aadhaar database.

The police obtained her details from the Unique Identification Authority of India after which she the woman was re-united with her family.

HC dismisses PIL seeking deregistration of CPI(M)

New Delhi: .The Delhi High Court today dismissed a PIL seeking deregistration of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), after it was told that the petitioner had suppressed his political affiliation.

“You (petitioner) are guilty of suppression of material facts. You failed to disclose your political affiliation. You should have disclosed it and said that despite your affiliation, you want to place the issue before the court. You should meet your case head-on,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.

The court said the suppression of his political affiliation by the petitioner, who claimed to be a social worker, was sufficient to “non-suit” him and dismiss his petition.
The order came after the lawyer appearing for the CPI(M) told the court that the petitioner was affiliated to BJP and had suppressed the fact when filing the petition.
The lawyer said the petitioner, Jojo Jose, was using the matter for gaining political mileage.

The petitioner, in his plea, had sought quashing of the Election Commission’s September 1989 order granting registration to the CPI(M).
The petitioner had sought deregistration of CPI(M) on the ground that the party’s constitution allegedly did not contain the provision of true allegiance to Constitution as mandated by the law.
He had alleged that the main objective of the CPI(M) was unconstitutional and it was formed for an unlawful purpose.

Delhi High Court asks Delhi government and others to inspect shoe factory premises.

 The Delhi High Court today asked the Delhi government, police and municipal corporation to inspect the premises of an illegal shoe factory, located in a residential area in Sultanpuri, where a fire left four people, including two minors, dead.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, which initiated the proceedings on its own on basis of news articles, issued notices to the authorities and asked them file their status reports after conducting an inspection.

It also asked the North MCD to ensure medical treatment to the injured and listed the matter for further hearing on April 24.

Four workers, including two minors, had died in the fire at the shoe-manufacturing unit in Delhi’s Sultanpuri early morning on April 9.

The Delhi Fire Services had received a call around 6:30 am about the blaze in Rajapuri area of Sultanpuri and over two dozen workers were sleeping in the first and second floors of the three-storey building when the blaze started.

The court said it was concerned with the rights of labours and right to life.

At least 10 fire tenders rushed to the spot, but the narrow alleys posed a great challenge before they could reach the site, police had said.

The fire fighters had struggled for a couple of hours to douse the fire. The factory was running without permission in the residential area, they had said.

Police had taken the injured to a hospital where they were declared dead. The deceased were identified as Razi Mohammad (20), Shan Mohammad(17), Ayub (17) and Mehboob (18). They all belonged to Asmada village in Uttar Pradesh Hardoi district. Ayub and Mehboob were siblings.

The unit was run by a person named Veeresh Gupta, who lived in the same locality. The building was used for manufacturing shoes and housed around 25-30 workers, they had said, adding that a case has been registered.

Recruiting married persons into JAG expensive: Delhi High Court

 Recruitment of married men and women into the Indian Army’s legal branch, JAG, will be expensive for the Centre as it will have to incur “heavy expenditure” to find replacements for such recruits when they are absent from training due to their marital obligations, the government has claimed in the Delhi High Court.

The submission by the central government has been made in an affidavit filed before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar which is hearing a lawyer’s PIL that alleged “institutionalised discrimination” against married women by not inducting them into the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department.

After the petition by lawyer Kush Kalra was filed in May 2016, the Army had come out with a corrigendum in August last year which had said that even married men are barred from recruitment into the JAG service.

The reason behind the Army’s decision, according to the affidavit, was that “if the bar of marriage is removed, it will lead to huge practical difficulties as a result of which very heavy expenditure would have to be incurred by the respondents (Centre and Army) to make arrangements for substitutes of the trainees during their absence for a period necessitated by domestic needs resulting from marriage.”

On why married men were being recruited into JAG (till the PIL was filed), the Army has taken the stand that its recruitment norms were of 1960-70 when young men married early and preventing them from applying would have reduced eligible candidates by half.

“It is further respectfully submitted that Army instructions governing the entry of male candidates are of 60/70s vintage. At the time when these Army instructions were formulated, the socio-economic realities in the country were such, wherein, at the age group of 20-25 years, a large number of males are married.

“Under such circumstances, not permitting married males would have reduced the eligible candidates to less than half,” the government has said in its affidavit in which it has also stated that from 1992, women were being inducted in the Army as the socio-economic realities had changed and both sexes were opting for careers before settling down.

“Thus, there was no dearth of eligible candidates, both male and female, for commission into the Indian Army,” it has said.

The government has also said that there is no bar on male and female officers getting married after being commissioned into the service. The prohibition is there only during the training period and first year of service.

The reason for this is — non-eligibility of officers, up to the age of 25 years, for married accommodation.

The PIL is expected to come up for hearing on May 21, 2018.

The high court had earlier asked the Army how it could object to the recruitment of married women in JAG after the display by women fighter pilots and the BSF all-women bikers’ contingent on the Republic Day.

The JAG, responsible for dispensation of justice, handles varied legal issues of the force, including disciplinary and litigation cases.

1984 riots accused Sajjan Kumar confessed to presence at incident site.

 The Delhi High Court today sought a reply from Congress leader Sajjan Kumar on a letter written to it alleging that the accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case have confessed to being present at the spot where the violent incidents had occurred.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra also directed the CBI to file its stand on the letter, purportedly written by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) seeking action against the accused for their alleged involvement in the crime.

As per Kumar’s advocate Anil Sharma, a letter and CDs of DSGMC were tagged to the file of one of the convicts in a case relating to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and two others were held guilty in the case. Kumar was acquitted in the case by the trial court.

The letter and the CDs were placed before the bench during the hearing of the CBI’s appeal against Kumar’s acquittal in the murder of five Sikhs in the Raj Nagar area.

It, however, separated the DSGMC letter and CDs and turned it into a PIL on which it issued notice to the CBI and the Congress leader and sought their responses before the next date of hearing, April 12.

Kumar’s lawyer opposed the notice and the complaint and said they should be given the same. He also questioned its maintainability.

The bench, however, said that all the parties should reply to it and the court will accordingly decide at an appropriate stage, whether the letter and CDs would be treated as an evidence in the appeals pending consideration before it. It also said that a copy of the letter and CDs would be provided to all the parties in the PIL.

The trial court had awarded life term in May 2013 to Khokhar, Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal and three-year jail term to two others -former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. The convicts have challenged their conviction and jails terms awarded by the trial court.

The CBI too has filed an appeal seeking enhancement of sentence of the convicts and the acquittal of Kumar, alleging that all of them were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.

The high court had on March 29 last year issued show cause notice to 11 accused, including Khokhar and Yadav, in five other 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases in which they had been acquitted by the trial court.

The accused, who were acquitted of the charges, were asked why should the court not order reinvestigation and retrial against them as they faced allegations of “horrifying crimes against humanity”.

The bench had issued notice on the complaints filed regarding the violent incidents on November 1 and 2, 1984 in Delhi Cantonment area.

Delhi High Court asks DGCA to file affidavit on airworthiness of A320 Neos

The Delhi High Court today directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to file an affidavit as required under the Aircraft Rules on the safety and airworthiness of the A320 Neo planes flying in India.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the affidavit would be signed by an officer not below the rank of joint director of the DGCA and listed the matter for further hearing on April 6.

The order by the bench came after the petitioner, Yashwant Shenoy, told the court that there have been 100 engine failures in connection with the A 320 Neos. These planes are not allowed in US and European airspace in accordance with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) directives, he claimed.

On March 16, the court had refused to grant Shenoy’s main prayer to ground all the A320 Neo aircraft, which are operated by low cost carriers Indigo and GoAir.

Today, it said his petition be treated as an application and issued notice to the DGCA seeking its affidavit according to the Aircraft Rules.

While issuing the direction, the bench observed that it was a matter of public knowledge that several A320 Neos were grounded, one as recent as March 18.

“Let DGCA say they are safe,” the court said.

DGCA told the court that there were engine failure problems in the modified A320 Neos, which numbered 14 and were grounded.

The remaining were not modified and therefore a conscious decision was taken to not ground them.

Practical test for vehicle licence to be videographed: Delhi High Court

The AAP government has decided to videograph the practical test for motor vehicle licences to bring more transparency in the process of issuing driving permits, the Delhi High Court was informed today.

The Delhi government told a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar that the entire exercise has been put into operation, starting today, in all the 13 zonal offices of the transport department, and an agency has been appointed to record the video.

The transport department also apprised the high court that the video of driving tests would be uploaded on its website.

Noting the submissions, the court said the step would bring in more transparency in the entire mechanism and would go a long way in allaying apprehensions of corruption.

It directed the Delhi government to file a compliance status report in eight weeks and posted the matter for next hearing on May 22.

The government had earlier told the high court that it has taken steps to control the issuance of fake licences and has also revoked the licences which were improperly granted.

The transport department had displayed the list of such revoked licences on its website and has taken steps to ensure compliance of provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act, it said.

The high court was hearing a PIL filed by activist Pawan Kumar, who has alleged that some corrupt officials of the state transport department were issuing driving licences to untrained and unskilled people after taking hefty bribes.

There has been a spike in number of road accidents leading to death of innocent persons due to issuance of direct heavy transport vehicle driving licences to unskilled persons, the plea had said.

The petitioner had contended that this practice has been going on since 1997 and sought a CBI probe into it so that erring officials can be dealt with in accordance with law.

Delhi High Court agrees to hear today plea of Delhi CS Anshu Prakash challenging breach of privilege notice

The Delhi High Court today agreed to hear Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash’s plea challenging a breach of privilege notice issued to him for allegedly skipping a meeting called by the panel.

The matter was mentioned before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar which directed that it be listed before an appropriate bench for hearing today itself.

Advocate Vivek Chib, appearing for the chief secretary, sought quashing of the notice and submitted that Prakash was summoned to appear before the privilege committee for inquiry without being provided any copy of the complaint or opportunity to respond to the same .

The panel had on February 21 recommended privilege proceedings against the chief secretary (CS) for contempt of the House after he skipped the meeting called by the committee.

A committee of the Delhi Assembly yesterday accused Prakash of “lying” before the High Court with regard to the breach of privilege notice.

Members of the Question and Reference Committee said that they would also initiate “forgery proceedings” against Prakash for misinforming the court.

An AAP MLA had yesterday said, “We have learnt that the CS has moved the High Court challenging the breach of privilege notice served to him by accusing us of arm-twisting him in a matter related to alleged attack on him, but he is hiding the fact that the meeting was related to rising NPAs.”

“The committee members challenge the CS to stick to the contents of his affidavit and not alter these contents. The chief secretary is clearly trying to shield those involved in the multi-crore scam, which appears to be on the lines of the Punjab National Bank scam,” the committee had said in a statement.

Don’t procure standard floor buses : Delhi High Court

 The Delhi High Court today asked the AAP government not to go ahead with its tender to purchase standard floor buses for the national capital, saying it would not allow the procurement as it would lead to violation of the fundamental rights of disabled persons who would find it difficult to access such vehicles.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar made it clear it was “not going to permit tender for standard floor buses to go through” and asked the Delhi government to “stay its hands”.

The bench was hearing a PIL by Nipun Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability and has challenged the Delhi government’s move to procure 2,000 standard-floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.

Advocate Jai Dehadrai, appearing for the petitioner, urged the bench to stay the tender floated for procurement of the standard floor buses.

The court, however, did not give a direction to this effect, as additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghosh, representing the Delhi government in the matter, was not available today owing to a medical emergency in his family.

The court, meanwhile, directed the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to design a module for training and sensitising its staff, especially drivers, towards the needs of persons with disabilities.

It issued the direction after noting that DTC drivers often stop or park the buses in the middle of the road, preventing disabled persons from accessing the vehicles.

With this direction, the court listed the matter for further hearing on March 19.

The court also gave the Delhi government time to file the minutes of the meetings held by the Chief Secretary with other high-level officials on formulating an action plan on the nature of parking spaces, their design and the time line within which the construction would be completed and their location.

The lawyer who was appearing for Delhi government told the bench that the Chief Secretary was unable to finalise the minutes of meeting due to some “ongoing issues”.

The bench also allowed an orthopaedic surgeon to intervene in the matter to assist the court on the difficulties faced by differently-abled persons with regard to mobility and travelling.

The court had on February 7 threatened to stay the Delhi government’s move to procure 1,000 low-floor electric buses instead of standard-floor CNG buses, if it did not have an action plan to provide parking space for the vehicles.

“Will these 1,000 buses fly in air,” the bench had asked the Delhi government and the Delhi Transport Corporation, after noting that purchase orders were issued without finalising a plan for parking space.

The court had said it wanted the action plan by today (February 28) and failure to do so would result in a stay on the tender as well as the initiation of contempt action against the officials concerned.