Ayodhya case: Muslim party objects hearing on all days of week, says it can’t be ‘rushed through’

A Muslim party on Friday objected in the Supreme Court five-days-a-week hearing of the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya, saying it will “not be able to assist” the court if the hearing is “rushed through”.

The submission was made by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for a Muslim party, when the Supreme Court commenced hearing on the fourth day in the case.

Breaking with the tradition, the apex court decided to hear the sensitive case on Friday which is kept kept fresh cases only, along with Monday. As per the apex court’s procedures, on Mondays and Fridays, the registry lists before the benches fresh and miscellaneous cases after notice cases.

As the counsel for deity ‘Ram Lalla Virajmaan’ started advancing its submissions before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Dhavan got up and interjected the proceedings.

“It is not possible to assist the court if it is heard on all days of the week. This is the first appeal and the hearing cannot be rushed in this manner and I am put to torture,” he told the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

He said the apex court was hearing first appeals after the Allahabad High Court delivered the verdict in the case and the hearing as such cannot be rushed through.

Being a first appeal, documentary evidences have to be studied. Many documents are in Urdu and Sanskrit, which have to be translated, Dhavan said.

The senior lawyer alleged that “perhaps, except Justice Chandrachud, other judges might not have read the judgment (Allahabad High Court’s)”.

He said that if the court has taken a decision to hear the case on all five days of the week then he might have to leave the case.

“We have taken note of your submissions. We will revert back to you soon,” CJI Gogoi said and proceeded with the hearing.

The bench has now started hearing the submissions of senior advocate K Parasaran on behalf of deity Ram Lalla Virajmaan.

The apex court had on Thursday asked the counsel for the deity, which itself has been made a party to the case, as to how the ‘Janmasthanam’ (birth place of deity) can be regarded as a “juristic person” having stakes as a litigant in the case.

The apex court had said on the third day of the hearing that so far as Hindu deities were concerned, they have been legally treated as juristic person which can hold properties and institute, defend and intervene in lawsuits.

The bench, however, had asked Parasaran as to how ‘Janamsthanam’ can file the case in the land dispute as a party.

The law suit filed by the deity in the Ayodhya case has also made the birth place of Lord Ram as co-petitioner and has sought claim over the entire 2.77 acre of disputed land at Ayodhya where the structure was razed on December 6, 1992.

Supreme Court orders live telecast of floor test at K’taka Assembly

The Supreme Court today ordered live telecast of the floor test in the Karnataka Assembly where Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has to prove his majority.

The floor test is scheduled for 4 pm.

“Live broadcast of floor test will be the best possible way to ensure transparency in the proceedings,” a bench comprising justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan said.

The bench also made it clear that no other item in the agenda shall be taken up during the trust vote.

The bench said secretary of the Legislative Assembly will record the proceedings of the House.

It said that several local channels will be provided the live feed of the proceedings so that they can also be in a position to telecast simultaneously.

The bench termed as “fair” the suggestion of Karnataka governor’s counsel that the floor test be telecast live.

The bench passed the order after recording the statement of Ad

ditional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Karnataka government and Governor Vajubhai Vala.

After the ASG’s statement, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Congress-JD(S) combine, which had last night filed a petition challenging the appointment of BJP MLA K G Bopaiah as pro tem speaker by the governor for conducting the floor test, did not press for the prayers.

In the order, the bench said, “Though a number of prayers have been made in the application, it was not necessary to go into all the prayers in view of the statement made by Mehta that there will be live telecast of the proceedings.

“We may place on record that statement of Mehta is that there would be live telecast of the proceedings of the legislative assembly in respect of the floor test,” the order said.

During the hearing, which commenced at 10:30 am, the bench termed as “fair” suggestion of the Karnataka governor’s counsel that floor test be telecast live.

Opening the arguments, Sibal said as per convention the senior-most MLA should be appointed pro tem speaker.

He said the governor has very limited discretionary power in appointing pro tem speaker and “we would have no objection if pro tem speaker only had to administer oath to the MLAs, the problem is here he is also holding the floor test”.

The senior lawyer said appointing the senior-most lawmaker as pro tem speaker has been a practice in place in commonwealth countries.

However, the bench shot back “there have been earlier instances where senior-most MLA has not been appointed as pro tem speaker”.

“If you (Sibal) are casting aspersions on the pro tem speaker then we will have to issue notice to him and postpone the floor test,” the bench said during the hearing and added “How can we direct governor to appoint pro tem speaker.

Supreme Court refuses to stay Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in : Karnataka tussle

The Supreme Court today refused to stay BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in as Karnataka Chief Minister after a rare pre-dawn hearing which saw the Congress-JD (S) combine making a last-ditch attempt to stall the saffron party’s surge in the southern state.

The apex court, which commenced the hearing at 2.11 AM and ended at 5.28 AM, however made it clear that the swearing-in and the government formation in the state would be subject to the final outcome of the case before it.

A special bench comprising Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan directed the Centre to place before it two communications, sent by Yeddyurappa to Governor Vajubhai Vala in which he had staked claim to form the government, saying their perusal was necessary to decide the case.

The top court also issued notices to Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa seeking their replies on the plea filed by Congress-JD (S) combine and posted the matter for hearing tomorrow.

“This Court is not passing any order staying the oath taking ceremony of B S Yeddyurappa. In case, he is given oath in the meantime, that shall be subject to further orders of this court and final outcome of the writ petition,” the bench said.

While senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Congress-JD (S) combine, persisted with his arguments that the swearing-in ceremony should be stayed or deferred, the bench said, “we are not staying the oath taking ceremony”.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing three BJP MLAs Govind M Karjol, C M Udasi and Basavaraj Bommai, opposed the arguments to defer or stay the swearing-in ceremony, which was scheduled yesterday for today morning.

“We do not know what transpired in the meeting between the BJP leader (Yeddyurappa) and the Governor. I do not think B S Yeddyurappa is served or represented here. The whole thing is in a grey area and in a realm of speculation,” Venugopal said.

Rohatgi also questioned the manner in which the petition was filed in the midnight and said, “Heavens will not fall if somebody is sworn-in. This is not a matter of life or death or as if someone is going to be hanged”.

He said that constitutional obligation of the Governor was to invite a party to form a new government and his action could always be judicially reviewed and the court may order for restoration of status-quo ante also as was done in the case of Arunachal Pradesh.

“Courts should not stop a constitutional functionary (Governor) from discharging his constitutional duty. In this country, action will be amenable but office of the Governor cannot be injuncted,” Rohatgi said.

At the outset, Singhvi referred to the number of seats won by the BJP, Congress and JD (S) and said the Congress-JD (S) combine has the majority in the house with 117 MLAs while the BJP had only 104 seats which was below the majority mark of 112 at present.

He also questioned the Governor’s decision to give 15 days time to Yeddyurppa to prove majority in the house and claimed that this might lead to “horse trading” and “poaching” of MLAs.

Singhvi said that they were not sure how much time Yeddyurppa himself had sought from the Governor to prove the majority but as per their information, the BJP leader had sought seven days time.

He urged the court to defer the swearing-in, scheduled to be held at 9.30 AM today, till 4.30 PM and said the Centre or BJP should be asked to place before the bench the letters sent by Yeddyurppa to the Governor.

However, the Attorney General told the bench, “We really do not know what was the basis of which the Governor invited him (Yeddyurppa)”.

He said that swearing-in should not be deferred or stayed as it was for a constitutional office and no purpose would be served by stopping it since it was “purely a reversable situation”.

“Let this matter be heard. Let floor test take place. No irreversible damage will be done,” Venugopal said.

“Here, there are three major parties. BJP is the single largest party, Congress is second and JD (S) is third. Now, the Congress-JD (S) combine outweigh the BJP. Then, in this situation, on what basis he (Yeddyurppa) has staked claim to form the government? We do not have those letters. It’s only on surmises. The arithmetic is such that defies on what basis it was done,” the bench observed.

To this, Venugopal raised a doubt on the authenticity of the signatures of MLAs submitted by Congress-JD (S) combine leader H D Kumaraswamy and said, “They may have given signed letter which may not be genuine”.

Singhvi, while contending that “humongous things are happening in terms of money”, expressed gratitude that three judges of the apex court were hearing the matter at 2 AM.

“If a Governor passes an order (inviting Yeddyurppa to form government) at 9.30 PM and the oath taking ceremony is at 9.30 AM, I have no option but to make your night black. I am extremely grateful that three judges of the Supreme Court are sitting in the court at 2 AM to hear the matter. It is a victory of democracy irrespective of what is the outcome. The democracy has won,” he told the bench.

In the May 12 polls, BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 members, while Congress secured 78, the JD(S) 37 and others three.

 

Supreme Court on Karnataka tussle: Trend of past judgments not to restrain Guv

With the Karnataka power tussle turning into a midnight courtroom battle, the Supreme Court said the general trend of its past judgments was not to restrain the governor, as it heard a plea by the Congress-JD(S) combine against the governor’s decision to invite BJP’s B S Yeddyurappa to form the government.

The apex court also asked can it restrain the governor from inviting a party to form the government, to which senior lawyer and Congress leader A M Singhvi said the Supreme Court had done so in the past.

The court said was it not a convention that the single largest party gets invited by governor to form government and prove majority.

The three-judge bench, comprising justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, said they are wondering whether the Supreme Court can restrain the governor that might lead to constitutional vacuum in the state.

The court also observed that the general trend of its past judgements was not to issue injunction or restrain the governor.

With Singhvi arguing that the Constitution gives immunity to governor only for discharge of duties, the bench asked whether he wanted the court to scrutinise discretion of the governor when it does not have the letter given to Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala that was the basis for inviting the BJP to form the government.

Arguing on behalf of the Congress and JD(S), Singhvi told the bench, constituted by Chief Justice Dipak Misra to hear the matter, that the governor has negated democracy by not calling the alliance commanding majority in Karnataka.

“It is the biggest license to poaching if the governor gives 15 days to BJP to prove majority as in earlier such cases 48 hours were given by SC,” Singhvi said.

He said the BJP has 104 MLAs and Governor invited B S Yeddyurappa to form govt in “unconstitutional manner”, even as JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy along with the Congress has 116 MLAs supporting him.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing BJP and B S Yeddyurappa, said no injunction can be issued to the governor.

The bench commenced hearing on the matter at 2:11 AM. Attorney General K K Venugopal and ASG Maninder Singh were also in court on behalf of the Centre.

Hours after the Congress-JD(S) appraoched the CJI for an urgent hearing, the Supreme Court decided to hear the late night petition filed by the Congress and the JD(S) challenging Governor Vala’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government in the southern state.

The joint petition by the KPCC president G Parameshwara and H D Kumaraswamy sought a stay on the oath-taking ceremony, as communicated by the governor to the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa.

In its midnight legal push, the Congress and JD (S) approached the Supreme Court seeking an immediate intervention by the chief justice to stay the move, which it termed as an “encounter of the Constitution”.

The Congress urged Chief Justice Misra to hold an urgent hearing tonight itself since Yeddyurappa is slated to take oath as chief minister at 9 am tomorrow.

Singhvi said the party sought hearing on its petition challenging the governor’s decision tonight itself.

The Congress termed the governor’s decision as “murder of democracy and trampling of Constitution”.

Earlier in the evening, Vala invited Yeddyurappa to form the government and take oath as chief minister tomorrow. He also asked Yeddyurappa to seek a vote of confidence within 15 days of assuming office.

Singhvi, who has been assigned the task to lead Congress’ legal challenge against Vala’s decision, had met the Supreme Court registrar to take forward the process to hear the “urgent petition”.

The Congress has termed the move to form a BJP government in Karnataka as “illegal and against the law and Constitution.”

The petition prepared by advocate Dev Dutt Kamath contended that despite presenting the list of 116 MLAs, governor Vala has invited the BJP which has 104 MLAs to form the government and has given relatively longer time of 15 days to prove the majority on the floor of the House.

Kamath and other advocates earlier met the registrar for putting the petition before CJI Misra for constituting the bench.

The Congress has also said that granting 15 days’ time to Yeddyurappa to prove majority on the floor of the House will promote horse trading, alleging that BJP will resort to poaching of MLAs of Congress and JD(S).

The BJP has emerged as the single largest party in the southern state winning 104 seats, but is short of a simple majority.

On the other hand, the Congress and JD(S), which have already announced post-poll tie-up, have won 78 and 37 seats respectively and claimed before Vala to have numbers to form government in the state.

Supreme Court: Parliamentary panel reports can be relied upon in courts

The report of a parliamentary committee can be relied upon in courts for interpretation of statutory provisions wherever necessary, the Supreme Court today said while making it clear that its findings cannot be questioned or challenged in a court of law.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that courts can take notice of parliamentary standing committee reports, which are admissible under the Evidence Act.

“Parliamentary Standing Committee report can be taken aid of for the purpose of interpretation of a statutory provision wherever it is so necessary and also it can be taken note of as existence of a historical fact. Judicial notice can be taken of the Parliamentary Standing Committee report under Section 57(4) of the Evidence Act and it is admissible under Section 74 of the said Act.

“In a litigation filed either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution, this Court can take on record the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, the report cannot be impinged or challenged in a court of law,” the bench also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan said.

The 338-page verdict was delivered on the PILs which had initially raised the issue of untimely death of some young girls in 2008 in Andhra Pradesh due to alleged administration of cervical cancer vaccines and the grant of compensation to their families.

The petitioners, seeking compensation for the victims’ families, had relied on the 81st Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee of December 22, 2014, which had allegedly indicted some pharma firms for conducting trials of the controversial Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.

The matter was later referred to a five-judge constitution bench to determine whether a parliamentary standing committee’s report can be relied upon during the judicial proceeding and can its veracity be questioned.

Giving its findings on the matter, the five-judge bench held that the admission of parliamentary standing committee reports as evidence does not amount to breach of parliamentary privilege.

“All references to parliamentary proceedings and materials do not amount to breach of privilege to invite contempt of Parliament. When a party relies on any fact stated in the report as the matter of noticing an event or history, no exception can be taken on reliance on such report.

“However, no party can be allowed to ‘question’ or ‘impeach’ a report of Parliamentary Committee. The parliamentary privilege that it shall not be impeached or questioned outside Parliament shall equally apply both to a party who files claim in the court and the other who objects to it. Both parties cannot impeach or question the report,” the bench said.

With these observations, the bench referred the PILs on the vaccine, filed by Kalpana Mehta and Sama-Resource Group for Women and Health, seeking compensation over the issue of untimely death of the girls, to the two-judge bench hearing the original plea.

While the two judge bench referred the matter to a larger bench on April 5 last year, the top court had said it “might be crossing the boundary of federal structure” if it acted on the basis of a parliamentary committee report in a PIL.

In three separate but concurrent judgments, the bench unanimously held that it has to strike a delicate balance between the legislature and the judiciary by deciding a controversy without allowing anyone to challenge the parliamentary reports.

“A party can always establish his case on the materials on record and the Court can independently adjudicate the controversy without allowing a challenge to Parliamentary Standing Committee report. We think so as the Court has a constitutional duty to strike a delicate balance between the legislature and judiciary,” it said.

Noting that reports of parliamentary committees become part of the published record of the State, it said there was no reason to exclude them from the purview of court proceedings.

“As a matter of principle, there is no reason or justification to exclude them from the purview of the judicial process, for purposes such as understanding the historical background of a law, the nature of the problem, the causes of a social evil and the remedies which may provide answers to intractable problems of governance,” the bench said.

Noting that a parliamentary committee report was a published document, the bench said there was no need to get prior permission of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

“Parliament has already adopted a report of ‘privilege committee’, that for those documents which are public documents within the meaning of Indian Evidence Act, there is no requirement of any permission of Speaker of Lok Sabha for producing such documents as evidence in Court.

“Mere fact that the document is admissible in evidence whether a public or private document does not lead to draw any presumption that the contents of the documents are also true and correct,” the constitution bench said while directing that the PILs be sent to the two-judge bench, which was initially hearing the vaccine matter.

Supreme Court to hear in July plea to restrain MPs making statements on judges removal

The Supreme Court today said that it would hear in the third week of July a plea seeking to restrain members of Parliament (MPs) from making public statements on removal of a judge of higher judiciary without there being any such notice in Parliament.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, while saying that there was no urgency in hearing the matter now, observed that Rajya Sabha Rules also prohibits such statements by Parliamentarians without there being any such notice in the House.

“We don’t have to frame any guideline,” the bench said and observed that the question was whether there should be such discussions outside Parliament.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by an NGO ‘In Pursuit of Justice’ which sought laying down of guidelines or modalities regulating procedure to be followed by MPs, desirous of initiating proceedings for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court or a high court, prior to initiating a motion under Article 124(4) and (5) and 217(1)(b) of the Constitution.

Article 124(4) and (5) deal with the procedure to be followed for removal of an apex court judge.

The petitioner has said the cause of action arose in the matter when a draft motion for removal of the CJI was released to the press on March 27 which had an effect of intimidating the judiciary.

The plea also referred to various media reports carrying the statements of MPs and politicians in this regard and said no law was made by Parliament which permits the circulation of draft notice of motion to the press.

Supreme Court to Centre: Form panel to disburse medical claim under CGHS

In a bid to protect retired public servants from “unnecessary harassment” in claiming reimbursements under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to “expeditiously” set up a high-powered committee to disburse claims in a month.

A bench of justices R K Agrawal and Ashok Bhushan also directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to form the panel within seven days.

It would comprise special directorate general, directorate general, two additional directors and one specialist in the field and shall ensure timely and hassle- free disposal of the claims to the pensioners, it directed.

“With regard to the slow and tardy pace of disposal of Medical Reimbursement Claims (MRC) by the CGHS in case of pensioner beneficiaries and the unnecessary harassment meted out to pensioners who are senior citizens, affecting them mentally, physically and financially, we are of the opinion that all such claims shall be attended by a secretary-level high powered committee in the ministry concerned which shall meet every month for quick disposal of such cases,” the bench said.

The directions came on a plea of a retired government servant who was denied medical claim under the CGHS in 2014 for his treatment at Fortis Escorts Hospital in Delhi and Jaslok hospital in Mumbai due to the non-empanelment of the hospitals under the scheme.

The bench, which directed the ministry to give the petitioner Rs 4,99,555 spent by him on his treatment, also observed that the CGHS officials responsible for clearing medical claims took a “very inhuman approach” by denying him the full cost of his treatment.

“Can it be said that taking treatment in speciality hospital by itself would deprive a person to claim reimbursement solely on the ground that the said hospital is not included in the government order.

“The right to medical claim cannot be denied merely because the name of the hospital is not included in the government order. The real test must be the factum of treatment…,” it said.

It observed that authorities must be responsive and ensure medical care to senior citizens after retirement.

“The relevant authorities are required to be more responsive and cannot in a mechanical manner deprive an employee of his legitimate reimbursement. The CGHS was propounded with a purpose of providing health facility scheme to the central government employees so that they are not left without medical care after retirement,” it said.

The apex court, while directing the ministry to form the panel expeditiously, said there shall be a time-frame for finalisation and disbursement of the claim amounts of pensioners.

“In this view, we are of the opinion that after submitting the relevant papers for claim by a pensioner, the same shall be reimbursed within a period of one month,” it said.

The court was hearing the petition filed by Shiva Kant Jha, seeking reimbursement on account of his treatment done in November, 2013 for Rs 9,86,343 for his cardiac ailment involving the implant of CRT-D device and two sets of bill amounting to Rs 3,98,097 for his treatment at Mumbai for cerebral stroke and paralytic attack.

He had claimed that he was denied the amount of Rs 4.99 lakh out of the entire amount on the ground that he did not seek approval of authorities for the device implant.

The court, taking note of the facts, said “the law does not require that prior permission has to be taken in such situation where the survival of the person is the prime consideration.”

The bench said that the CGHS is responsible for taking care of healthcare needs and well-being of the central government employees and pensioners.

“In the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of opinion that the treatment of the petitioner in non-empanelled hospital was genuine because there was no option left with him at the relevant time. We, therefore, direct the state to pay the balance amount of Rs 4,99,555 to the petitioner. We also make it clear that the said decision is confined to this case only,” it said.