Several pleas filed in SC challenging Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019

Several petitions, including those by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, were filed in the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.

According to the amended Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Thursday night, turning it into an Act.

Several other petitioners including All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.

Moitra’s plea was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and her counsel urged that the petition be heard during the day or on December 16.

“Today? Nothing today. You go to the mentioning officer,” the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, told Moitra’s counsel.

While Ramesh has said that the Act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats “equals as unequal”, Moitra has said that “patent unconstitutionality” of the law “destroys the plural, multi-religious and egalitarian basis of India’s secular fabric, and replaces it with a constitutionally unsustainable religion centric substance.”

In his petition, Ramesh said that substantial questions of law, including whether religion can be a factor to either acquire or deny citizenship in India, arises for consideration of the court as it is a “patently unconstitutional” amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.

“The impugned Act creates two classifications, viz, classification on basis of religion and the classification on the basis of geography and both the classifications are completely unreasonable and share no rational nexus to the object of the impugned Act i.e., to provide shelter, safety and citizenship to communities who in their native country are facing persecution on grounds of religion,” the plea said.

Moitra has said in her plea that the Act is a “divisive, exclusionary and discriminatory piece of legislation that is bound to rend the secular fabric irreparably, and allow illegal migrants of particular religions to acquire citizenship immediately upon its passage.”

She has also sought top court’s direction to suspend the operation of the Act and all actions under it pending disposal of her plea.

In their plea, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, have said that the Act is “discriminatory and manifestly arbitrary” and violates the fundamental rights, including that of equality before law, and basic structure of the Constitution.

“The amendment is manifestly arbitrary inasmuch it is capricious, irrational, not transparent, biased with favouritsm or nepotism, without adequate determining principle, and contrary to the public interest,” the plea, filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, said.

In his petition, Ramesh has sought a declaration that the Act is “ultra vires” the Assam Accord of 1985, the Constitution and violates the international law and obligation approved and agreed by India under international covenants.

The plea by Ramesh, which is settled by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Devadatt Kamat, has sought quashing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as “unconstitutional, null and void and ultra vires” Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

“The impugned Act suffers from manifest arbitrariness, as it arbitrarily groups only 3 countries along with only 6 religions and expressly excludes specific religions and regions from availing the benefits of the Citizenship Amendments,” it said.

Similarly, one of the pleas said the Act “purportedly seeks to provide benefits to victims of persecution. However, the impugned Act goes on to create a division between the persecuted, on the basis of faith and nationality of origin.”

On Thursday, another plea challenging the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was filed by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which said that it violates fundamental right to equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion.

IUML has said in its plea that the bill was against the basic structure of Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as it extends benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

No SC relief for ‘slander’ lawyer in BBC rape documentary

advocate M L SharmaThe Supreme Court on Monday turned down a plea by a Delhi lawyer, accused of making derogatory remarks against women in a BBC rape documentary on the December 16 gangrape, to let him “settle” the matter with the women lawyers who want him barred from the court premises.
A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and C Nagappan asked advocate M L Sharma, who represents two convicts in the case, to file his written reply even as the lawyer claimed innocence and sought an oral hearing.

Citing a shloka in Sanskrit, Sharma told the bench that he respects women and that he was willing to “mediate” or “settle” with the representatives of the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA). Sharma also denied giving controversial statements to the documentary-makers but the court directed him to file his written response.

The women lawyers had filed a petition through advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, seeking a ban on the entry of Sharma and another advocate, A P Singh, into the apex court premises. The petition had said that their remarks in the documentary India’s Daughter were “inhumane, scandalous, unjustifiable, biased, outrageous…ill-minded”.

Delhi HC rejects PIL for CBI probe into alleged land deals of Vadra

The Delhi High Court today dismissed a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI probe into various land deals allegedly entered into by Robert Vadra’s firms.

“The petition is dismissed,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw said.

Earlier, the bench had reserved its order on the PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma in his personal capacity.

To satisfy the bench on the issue of jurisdiction of this court, the lawyer had said that the cause of action partially had arisen in Delhi as various offices and constitutional bodies such as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and Ministry of Urban development are located here.

Sharma had told the court that he had already given a representation to CBI, but it neither registered an FIR nor lodged even a preliminary enquiry in the case “which relates to huge loss caused to the exchequer during 2005 to 2012”.

He had also submitted a copy of a Supreme Court judgement which has directed police authorities to register an FIR “mandatorily” if the allegations disclose the commission of a cognisable offence.

The plea had also sought a probe into grant of licences to change land use of agricultural plots purchased by Vadra’s companies in Gurgaon.

HC dismisses plea against ordinance on convicted lawmakers

delhi-high-courtThe Delhi High Court Thursday dismissed a plea seeking quashing of the government’s decision to bring an ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers from being unseated. A division bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Manmohan, giving relief to jailed legislators and parliamentarians, said if an individual’s the right to stand for an election if jailed is curtailed, it would leave the door open for “vendetta politics”.

“Extending curtailment of the right to vote of a person in prison to the right to stand in election would, in our opinion, leave the door for practice of ‘vendetta politics’ by ruling parties,” the bench said in its order. “All that a politician/ruling party-in-power would need to do to prevent rivals from contesting an election is to ask the police to file a case and to arrest the rival,” it added.
A public interest litigation filed by advocate M. L. Sharma claiming that the amendment to the Representation of the People Act made by parliament in September last year was unconstitutional and for the sole benefit of the political parties. The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2013, allows convicted legislators and parliamentarians to continue in office if their appeal is admitted by a higher court within 90 days and the conviction stayed. It also allows persons in jail to remain electors and cast their vote while in detention.
(Source: IANS)

Won’t let PIL be used for cheap publicity : SC

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Monday said that public interest litigation route could not be taken to target and bring down the reputation of any one person and for gaining cheap publicity.

 

The apex court bench of Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said this while dismissing as withdrawn a PIL by advocate M.L. Sharma who sought probe in the allocation of land to United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. by the Haryana government.

 

“You choose one person. On what basis? We will not allow you to destroy the name of a person by using PIL,” said Justice Dattu.

 

Merely because they are related to politicians, you cannot call them sinners, the court told Sharma.

 

Permitting Sharma to withdraw the PIL, Justice Dattu said: “You have done a good job. Don’t destroy it by your cheap publicity.”

(Source:IANS)

SC seeks UP’s response on riot relief

The Supreme Court Thursday sought the Uttar Pradesh government’s response on a plea seeking a CBI probe over a sting suggesting alleged discrimination in giving relief material to the Muzaffarnagar riot victims.

The sting also hinted at the alleged interference in the district administration’s response to the violence by some people present in Lucknow.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice R.P. Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi sought the response from the state on a petition filed by the NGO Common Cause and another petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma.

Seeking the response from the state government, the court said that the issue raised in the two petitions were “serious” and it would look into them. “We have seen them, we can’t take them lightly. That is why we are seeking your response,” the court told the state government.

The court also said that it would take “action” on the report that some advocates who had gone to a riot-affected village impersonated as members of a committee set up by the apex court. The court said that it would look into all the pleas, as one of the counsel sought a court monitored probe by a special investigation team.

“When we have transferred proceedings from Allahabad High court to ourself, do you think we will leave it like that,” Chief Justice Sathasivam told the counsel. Meanwhile, the central government in its update on the steps taken after the violence said the home secretary Sep 25 sought an update from the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary and asked any help was required from the health or food ministries.

The state government in its affidavit told the court that it had taken several steps for the relief and rehabilitation of those affected by the violence that started Aug 27 and were living in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamili. The court was told that 41 such camps were in Muzaffarnagar and 17 in Shamli.

The state government said in Muzaffarnagar district 32 people had died during the riots and two of the dead were still to be identified. The government said it had also paid compensation to the families of those killed in the violence. The court would next hear the matter Oct 17.

(Source: IANS)

SC moved over ordinance on convicted lawmakers

The Supreme Court was moved by a petitioner Wednesday seeking the quashing of the government’s decision to bring in an ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers from being unseated in the wake of the court’s July 10 verdict.

Petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma urged the court to declare the ordinance as “arbitrary and malafide” and against the basic structure of the constitution.

He also raised the issue whether an ordinance could be brought in to nullify an apex court judgment.

The apex court July 10 declared as unconstitutional the provision of the Representation of the People Act (subsection 4 of Section 8) that allowed elected representatives to continue as members of the elected bodies even after conviction in criminal cases provided they got stay of their conviction and sentencing within three months of being pronounced guilty.

Sharma questioned whether a bill that was before parliament could be made into a law by promulgation of an ordinance.

The reason political parties do not want to stop criminals from entering parliament and State assemblies is because they want to use them to win more seats, the petition said.

(Source: IANS)

SC seeks details on power to allocate coal blocks

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Wednesday asked the central government to clarify as to who had the power to allocate coal blocks – the centre or the states – and sought details about a committee that vetted applications for the allocation of blocks.
The poser came from a bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph when it was told that coal mines that were not mentioned in the scheduled list of the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973 and those that surfaced thereafter were under the control of the states.

The court was told that all the coal mines discovered after the 1973 act belonged to the states and were covered under the Mines and Minerals Development (Regulation) Act and the recommendation for their allocation should come from the concerned States.

The court asked Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to inform it who had the power to allocate coal blocks and what procedure the government had followed.

The judges said that it was on the “decision making process” and it has to be tested on constitutional provision.
Details related to the constitution and powers of the screening committee which vetted the applications for the allocation of coal blocks and made recommendations were also sought by the court.

As petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma concluded his arguments, the court asked Prashant Bhushan, representing a petitioner NGO, to address the court on the inter-play between Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act and the Mines and Minerals Development (Regulation) Act.

Bhushan was also asked to address the court on the scope of Section 34 of the Coal Mines Nationalizations’ Act.

Besides other aspects, Section 34 of Coal Mines (Nationalizations) Act provides for the “manner in which the coal mine shall be managed by a government company or a custodian”.

The court said this in the course of the hearing of two public interest litigations – one by Sharma and other by NGO Common Cause – seeking the cancellation of coal blocks which were allocated in an allegedly irregular manner.

Earlier in his four and half hour long submissions, Sharma told the court that the coal that could be extracted from the blocks allocated to the private companies was far in excess of the total requirements of these companies over a period of 30 years.

It is “substantial” and clearly shows that “there is no application of mind”, Justice Lodha said pointing to Sharma’s submission that the allocation of excess capacity of coal blocks was “unfair, unreasonable and unjustified”.

Sharma cited several instance of coal blocks being allocated to State Electricity Boards were passed on to private players in joint venture agreement.

(Source: IANS )

SC seeks details on NGOs, their accounts

The Supreme Court Monday asked the CBI to file an affidavit stating whether NGOs receiving financial assistance from the government and other aid agencies were filing the statement of their accounts on the funds received by them and how these were spent.

A bench of Justice H.L.Dattu and Justice M.Y. Eqbal also asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to furnish the details on the number of registered NGOs operating in the country and whether they were filing their statement of accounts every financial year.

The court’s order came in the course of the hearing of a PIL by advocate M.L.Sharma who alleged irregularities in utilisation of funds provided to an NGO with which anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare is associated.

Petitioner’s advocate said that Hazare’s Hind Swaraj Trust (HST) based in his village Ralegan Siddhi was set up on Feb 8, 1995, and applied for registration with a capital of Rs.500 only on Feb 21, 1995. It said it was registered on April 4, 1995.

However, the petitioner has alleged that Hazare’s HST received a cheque of Rs.45 lakh from the central government on March 31, 1995, to meet the expanses of the trust for the financial year 1994-95. Similarly, it was given Rs.65.85 lakh by the Maharashtra government for the year 1995-96.

The petition relating to 2011 has questioned how could a trust which was not even born and having funds no more than Rs.500 as capital for registration spent Rs.45 lakh for the period of 1994-95 prior to its establishment.

The court has given the CBI eight weeks’ time to file its affidavit.

(Source: IANS)

SC dismisses PIL seeking quashing of food security Ordinance

imagesThe Supreme Court Monday dismissed a PIL seeking the quashing of the National Food Security Ordinance on the grounds that it wasUPA government’s politically inspired pre-election propaganda camouflaged as a scheme to feed the hungry mouths.

“What is your problem if under the scheme some poor people are benefitted,” observed a bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Vikramajit Sen as it dismissed the petition as withdrawn.

The court asked the petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma in what way his fundamental rights were violated by the implementation of the ordinance.

Sharma had moved the apex court under Article 32 of the constitution under which people living in India could move the apex court seeking the enforcement of their fundamental rights.

As Sharma sought to highlight the political dimension of the ordinance, the court asked him to move the appropriate high court as under Article 226 of the constitution, it had wider powers.

The apex court under Article 32 has limited powers, the court told the PIL petitioner. Article 226 provides wide power to high courts to issue certain writs.

The PIL petitioner had described the government move as “malafide” as the ordinance will be misused by ruling party for their pre-election propaganda and political considerations.

Describing the promulgation of ordinance as “unconstitutional”, Sharma in his PIL had said: “Can a bill that had been introduced in parliament but not even debated for the fear of its being defeated on the floor of the parliament be made into a law by taking the ordinance route.”

The PIL had contended that Article 123 of the constitution empowers the president to promulgate ordinances during recess of parliament but only to deal with a situation requiring emergent legislations.

The Bill to enact food security law was introduced in parliament in the first week of May but it was not pushed as the government did not except to to be passed, Sharma had contended in his petition.

(Source: IANS)