Delhi High Court bids Farewell to Justice G.S. Sistani.

The Delhi HC on Friday bid farewell to Justice G.S. Sistani, the 2nd senior most judge, whose retirement brings down the total number of judges in the court to 33 as against the sanctioned strength of 60.

The HC organised a farewell for Justice Sistani, who will retire on Mar 10, on Friday owing to the Holi break on Mar 9 & 10.

Once Justice Subramonium Prasad, transferred to New Delhi from the Madras HC, takes charge as an additional judge, the strength would go up to 34.

Earlier in the day, when Justice Sistani was part of a Bench headed by Chief Justice D.N. Patel, as is the practice on the last day of a judge before he retires, lawyers in the courtroom expressed their gratitude & respect for him.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya & Central govt standing counsel Anil Soni said even adverse orders against them “did not pinch” because of the smile on Justice Sistani’s face.

The same view was echoed by others present in the courtroom. In response to it, Justice Sistani said nobody ever shouted in his court so he never had to shout back either.

A farewell was also organised for him by the Delhi High Court Bar Association where large number of lawyers gathered to bid him goodbye.

Justice Sistani enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1982 & he was appointed as an additional judge of the Delhi HC with effect from May 29, 2006, & was confirmed as a permanent judge a year later on Aug 29, 2007.

 

SC castigates government over construction workers welfare law

 Taking the government to task for not implementing a law meant for the welfare of construction workers, an exasperated Supreme Court today asked it to formally state that the orders passed by the top court in the matter are “thrown in the dustbin”.

The apex court questioned the Centre’s attitude on the issue and said it was clear that the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, cannot be implemented at all.

Maintaining that it was “a completely helpless situation”, it said “if the government is not serious, tell us. What you are doing is that you are collecting money but not giving it to those (construction workers) for whom the money has been collected.”

Over Rs 37,000 crore has been collected as cess under the 1996 Act. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had earlier in an affidavit told the court that funds meant for construction workers’ welfare were being spent to buy laptops and washing machines.

“Why can’t you be fair, tell us. You file an affidavit that orders passed by the Supreme Court in this matter are meaningless and they are thrown in the dustbin, so do not pass any orders now,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta today told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, who was representing the government.

The observations were made during the hearing of a PIL which has alleged that the statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was not being utilised properly as there was no mechanism to identify the beneficiaries to extend the benefits.

When the ASG informed the bench about a recent meeting of the monitoring committee consisting of labour secretaries of all states and union territories, the court said, “attitude of the government is reflected by the minutes of the meeting”.

The ASG told the court that implementation of the Act has to be centralised since the states have their own views.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner NGO National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, said the recent meeting to discuss these issues was over in less than two hours and nothing substantial was done.

The bench then referred to the prayer in the petition and told Gonsalves, “From the meeting and the minutes, it is clear that the Act cannot be implemented.”

The court thereafter heard arguments in the matter which would continue tomorrow.

During the arguments, the ASG told the bench that the Act meant for welfare of construction workers has to work with the aim with which it has been enacted.

The apex court had earlier stressed the need for involving civil society to effectively manage the laws for welfare of construction workers and asked the Centre to take assistance from NGOs concerned with their welfare.

The Secretary of Ministry of Labour and Employment had apprised the court that a national portal for the benefit of construction workers was being set up which could be used by NGOs for this purpose.

“The collection of cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 has increased from about Rs 25,477 crore to about Rs 37,482 crore,” the secretary had told the court.

Source : PTI

Not averse to ordering CBI probe in Haryana univ rape case: SC

Not averse to ordering CBI probe in Haryana univ rape case: SC
Not averse to ordering CBI probe in Haryana univ rape case: SC

The Supreme Court today said it was not averse to ordering a CBI probe into the alleged rape of an MBA student of a private university in Haryana but wanted to see the progress made by state police in the probe before taking a decision.

“We are not against the CBI investigation. But, we want to the know their (police) version. We want to know the progress made by police. If necessary, we will certainly transfer it (to CBI),” a vacation bench of justices Prafulla C Pant and Amitava Roy said.

The bench asked Haryana police, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Patwalia, to file a fresh status report within 15 days giving details of investigation carried so far and fixed the plea of the alleged victim for hearing in July.

At the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the girl, alleged that the probe has not moved “even an inch” and moreover, the police has not invoked the provisions of the Information Technology Act.

“The nude pictures of the victim were taken and were shared on WhatsApp. It is a cyber crime,” she said, alleging that initially, the accused were allowed to leave police station with their mobile phones.

When the ASG said the victim was not coming forward to record a supplementary statement before the judicial magistrate, the bench asked Jaising to ask her client to cooperate with the police and said it will decide the issue of CBI probe only after perusing the status report from the state police.

The ASG also said a Special Investigating Team (SIT) has been constituted and the state police has taken the probe with all seriousness.

He further said the police had sent notices to the girl asking her to record the supplementary statement, but so far, she has not come forward to record it.

HC verdict on anti-rape protestors’ plea tomorrow

The Delhi High Court will tomorrow give its verdict on two separate pleas seeking quashing of the FIR and transfer of probe from city police to CBI in the case lodged for various offences, including rioting and death of constable Subhash Tomar during anti-rape protests here.
Justice G P Mittal, who had reserved the order on March 20, will pronouce the verdict at 2.15pm tomorrow.

The court had heard arguments from the Additional Solicitor General(ASG) for police as well as the eight accused in the case.

“So far as the petition (of eight accused) seeking quashing of the FIR is concerned, this court should not quash the FIR just for the sake of quashing as the FIR. Besides, the unfortunate death of constable Tomar also relates to destruction of public properties, stopping public servants from performing their duties and breach of (prohibitory) order passed under section 144 of CrPC,” the judge had said.

The other plea, filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, seeking a CBI probe into the case, cannot be entertained as he is not “connected” either as a complainant or as an accused or as a witness and moreover, newspaper reports, on their own, cannot form the basis for filing a case like this, he said.

 

PTI

Will make guidelines to regulate sale of junk food – Centre to Delhi HC

Union Government has been informed by the Delhi High court that guidelines on  regulating junk food and aerated drinks to be sold in and around schools will be soon be completed and will be out by July-end this year.

Appearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Jayant Nath, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Rajeeve Mehra said private firm AC Nielsen QRG-MARG Pvt Ltd is in the process of framing of guidelines to regulate the sale of foods and carbonated drinks within a vicinity of 500 yards of the school area.

Mr Mehra said the draft guidelines will be completed by July 21 and will be placed before the court. The work of framing guidelines to regulate the prohibition of junk food will involve a major question as to what is the definition of junk food, therefore the food processing companies will have to be consulted before the final draft is prepared, the ASG said.

The Delhi Government counsel told that the Lt Governor will issue directions to the vendors and other junk food sellers only once the guidelines on this issue are finalised.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on July 22. The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Rakesh Prabhakar, a lawyer for NGO Uday Foundation, seeking to ban junk food and aerated drinks in and around the schools as it poses health problems.

The HC had last year granted six months’ time to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) asking them to frame guidelines on banning the sale of junk food in and around the schools and other educational institutions.

The court had directed FSSAI to consult the All India Food Processors’ Association (AIFPA) and restaurant associations for framing the guidelines.

AIFPA, in its application, had said it deals with processing of fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, milk and milk products and also the manufacturers of biscuits and confectionery products. The AIFPA also said a special category defining as to what comes under the junk food category will have to be made.

Statistics on pending mercy pleas disturbing: SC

“Disturbing” is how the Supreme Court termed the statistics which showed that 17 mercy pleas filed between 1999 and 2011 remained pending for periods ranging from one year to 13 years.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya also noted that the figures “give an impression” that the Centre and the President’s Secretariat “have not dealt with these petitions with requisite seriousness”.

“Before parting with the judgement, we consider it necessary to take cognizance of a rather disturbing phenomena. The statistics produced by the learned Additional Solicitor General show that between 1950 and 2009, over 300 mercy petitions were filed of which 214 were accepted by the President and the sentence of death was commuted into life imprisonment.

“69 petitions were rejected by the President. The result of one petition is obscure. However, about 18 (including Afzal Guru) petitions filed between 1999 and 2011 remained pending for a period ranging from 1 year to 13 years.

“The particulars contained in the judgement give an impression that the Government and the President’s Secretariat have not dealt with these petitions with requisite seriousness. We hope and trust that in future such petitions will be disposed of without unreasonable delay,” according to it.

The apex court made the observation while rejecting Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commuting his death penalty on delay in deciding his mercy plea, saying that in view of the peculiar facts of the case “we are convinced there is no valid ground to interfere with the decision taken by the President”.

The court also noted that delay in deciding his petition for clemency was due to the “unending spate of petitions” filed on his behalf by various persons.

“We can take judicial notice of the fact that substantial portion of the delay can well-nigh be attributed to unending spate of petitions on behalf of the petitioner by various persons,” According to the bench.
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Agency handling Centre’s litigation ‘callous’

The Central agency handling government litigation at the Supreme Court came under attack from a former senior law officer who alleged it worked in a “shockingly callous” manner jeopardising Centre”s interest in sensitive cases having large revenue implications.

Senior advocate Bishwajit Bhattacharyya, who demitted office as Additional Solicitor General (ASG) on November 10 after a three-year tenure, gave a glimpse of what happens behind the scene before a crucial case is assigned to a government lawyer and argued in the court.

Bhattacharyya said, “I found in crucial cases some important pages were invariably found missing or that the full brief was not given or that for Friday”s case, briefs were delivered invariably late on Thursday night leaving little or no time to read the briefs”

Bhattacharyya in his book “My Experience with the Office of ASG of India”, alleged that the effort of entire machinery might be only to score some side goals and to give handle to the private litigant and even the Attorney General did not intervene to keep the house in order in the agency.

“Such was the shockingly callous state of affairs. My protests obviously fell into deaf ears. No one bothered whether the government”s interest was jeopardised or not was the least of all concerns of persons who mattered” the book said, adding, “In my perception, there has always been total anarchy in the Central Agency without any accountability. This I witnessed for almost three years.”
According to him, “I was hoping that the Attorney General would call a meeting of all the Law Officers. I was hoping that in the said meetings I would vent my feelings in the best interest of the government. But not one single meeting was called by the the AG during my tenure. I think it is only in order to escape from being asked uncomfortable questions that such meetings were never held”

High Court of Delhi seeks report on steps taken to prevent dengue

The Delhi High Court sought a report from the central government on a petition seeking implementation of a long-term action plan to control outbreak of dangerous or epidemic diseases like dengue in the capital city.

A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw sought reply within three weeks from the health ministry and posted the matter for Dec 12.

Appearing for the central government, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Rajeev Mehra submitted that the officials are taking steps on the issue and report on this would be filed soon.

Accepting the submissions of the ASG, the court granted the government three weeks’ time.

The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal asking the court to set up an independent committee to monitor implementation of a long-term action plan to combat the mosquito menace in the city.

The plea said: “Direct the respondents to constitute an independent committee to effectively monitor the implementation of the long-term action plan issued by the Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.”

“It is the duty of the respondents to effectively and properly implement the long-term action plan issued by the respondent No. 1 (central government) in a time-bound manner so that the dengue menace come to an end,” it said.

Citing the data on dengue cases in the city between the period 2007-2012, the petitioner said that the number of cases has gone up drastically this year as compared to previous years.

The plea also mentioned the widespread media reports on the increasing number of dengue cases, accusing the civic authorities and the health ministry of failing to act in time to prevent a dengue outbreak, and claimed that they wake up only after there is an acute shortage of blood and medicines in hospitals.

The PIL sought the court’s intervention and demanded a list of steps taken till now by the Delhi government, the municipal corporations, the New Delhi Municipal Council and the health department.

“There is a lack of coordination among the officials of the central, state government and the officials of the municipal authorities which results into the non-implementation of the long-term action plan issued”

 

By PTI

Court reserves order on Kanda’s anticipatory bail plea

The Delhi High Court Tuesday reserved its order on the anticipatory bail plea of former Haryana minister Gopal Goyal Kanda, wanted in connection with the suicide of former flight attendant Geetika Sharma.

Justice P.K. Bhasin reserved the order after counsel appearing for Kanda and Delhi Police concluded their arguments.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sidharth Luthra, appearing for police, sought Kanda’s custodial interrogation to find out the conspiracy between him and co-accused Aruna Chaddha, senior executive in Kanda’s group now under arrest.

Senior advocate K.T.S. Tusli, who represented Kanda, sought anticipatory bail for him and said suicide notes left behind by Geetika could not be taken as gospel truth.

“Suicide letters are written in anger and so any allegations can be levelled out of anger,” he said.

Luthra said Kanda’s questioning was needed to access his computers and laptops which were missingfrom his office.

Opposing Kanda’s anticipatory bail plea, the ASG said: “The conduct of not joining the investigation, removal of all electronic items, including his laptop and his computers from office, is a case for refusal of anticipatory bail.”

“We have a problem in investigation. When we went to Kanda’s office, there were no computers,” police counsel told the court.

The ASG urged the court to dismiss the anticipatory bail plea of Kanda as he had been absconding despite a notice served upon him to join the investigation.

He said that the investigation was at a preliminary stage and custodial interrogation was necessary.

Seeking anticipatory bail for Kanda, Tulsi said that some other evidence was required to hold Kanda responsible for Geetika’s suicide.

“I may be fond of her, she may be fond of me but that does not mean I incite her to commit suicide,” Kanda’s counsel said.

“The reasons given by the trial court while dismissing anticipatory bail were that there was misuse of power by me, I have given preferential treatment to Geetika and I exploited her, but these are not offences under offence of abetment for commission of suicide,” Tulsi said.

Geetika, who worked in Kanda’s group, was found hanging from the ceiling of her house here on the night of Aug 4-5.

She left behind two suicide notes, blaming Kanda and Chaddha for her suicide.

Kanda’s anticipatory bail plea was dismissed Aug 9 by a sessions court that said allegations against him were grave and serious and his bail plea had no merit.

The former Haryana minister was booked for abetment to Geetika’s suicide and criminal intimidation. He is yet to appear before Delhi Police for questioning.

How was BPL percentage calculated, asks Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Wednesday slammed the Planning Commission, asking it to explain how the percentage of people below poverty line (BPL) was fixed at 36 percent and how their purchasing power has remained unchanged since 1991.

Judges Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma asked Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to file within a week an affidavit explaining the Planning Commission’s position.

The apex court bench asked the Planning Commission if it knew what the purchasing power of the people was in 2011 and what it was in 1991.

The court said several states, including Congress-ruled ones, have disputed the 36 percent figure and argued that people living below the poverty line were much more in numbers.

The court said that states have said that their own figures were based on the parameters set by the Planning Commission.

“We have affidavits of all the states which have said that BPL figures were much larger than 36 percent even on the basis of the parameters set by the Planning Commission,” the court said.

Calling it very disturbing, the court asked the Planning Commission to clarify how it divides the population on the basis of BPL and APL (Above Poverty Line) and how it has fixed a cap of 36 percent.

“It is astonishing how you fix that 36 percent population is in BPL category.”

The court asked how could it be justified that people in BPL category could survive on Rs.20 per head a day in urban areas and on Rs.11 in rural areas.

The court said that while India was “a powerful economy, yet starvation deaths are taking place in many parts of the country. What a stark contradiction in our approach? How can there be two Indias?”

The court’s observation came in the wake of a petition by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties which contended that adequate foodgrain were not being given to the people living below the poverty line. It also challenged the Planning Commission estimates of the BPL families.

The court declined to accept the plea by Additional Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran that malnutrition was decreasing in the country.

The court said: We are very much concerned about malnutrition. Malnutrition has increased in large parts of the country including Maharashtra, Bihar and Orissa.

It further asked Prasaran to examine the causes of malnutrition among children. You say that they (malnourished children) are coming down. That is not the answer. It had to be eliminated.

The court asked if the central government, as a one time measure, could allocate additional food grains for 150 poorest districts in the country to eradicate malnutrition.