Supreme Court directs political parties to furnish receipts of electoral bonds and donors’ identity details to EC

The Supreme Court Friday directed all political parties to furnish receipts of political funding received through electoral bonds and details of identity of donors in a sealed cover to the Election Commission.

In an interim order, the apex court also directed all political parties to provide details of the amount of the bond and bank account of donors by May 30 to the poll panel.

The apex court said it would examine in detail changes made in Income Tax law, electoral law and banking laws to make them in consonance with the electoral bond scheme and ensure balance does not tilt in favour of any political party.

It also directed the Finance Ministry to reduce the window of purchasing electoral bonds from 10 days to five days in April-May and said it would fix a date later for final disposal of the petition filed by an NGO.

The NGO has challenged the validity of the scheme and sought that either the issuance of electoral bonds be stayed or names of donors be made public to ensure transparency in the poll process.

The order was pronounced by a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

The government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 on January 2, 2018.

As per provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.

A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.

Only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one per cent of votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive electoral bonds.

As per the notification, electoral bonds shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a bank account with an authorised bank.

The Centre and the Election Commission had taken contrary stands in the Supreme Court on Wednesday over political funding with the government wanting to maintain anonymity of donors of electoral bonds and the poll panel batting for revealing names of donors for transparency.

The bench on Thursday had reserved the order, saying if the identity of the purchasers of electoral bonds meant for transparent political funding was not known, then efforts of the government to curtail black money in elections would be “futile”.

The Centre, through Attorney General K K Venugopal, had vehemently supported the scheme saying the purpose behind it is to eliminate the use of black money in elections and asked the court not to interfere with it at this stage and examine whether it has worked or not only after the elections.

However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR)’, had said the scheme has nothing to do with the effort to curb black money and it opens the banking means also to donate by remaining anonymous.

During in an earlier hearing, Bhushan had claimed that the party in power was the major beneficiary of the scheme.

The EC, represented by senior lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi, had opposed Centre’s submissions and said secrecy allowed in the electoral bonds scheme “legalises anonymity”.

The bench had also observed, “If the identity of purchasers of bonds is not known then there will be greater ramification on the Income Tax law and all your (government’s) efforts to curtail black money will be futile”.

Venugopal had also said the anonymity of donors of electoral bonds is to be maintained for various reasons such as fear of repercussions on a firm or an individual if the other political party or group wins.

The Attorney General had also said: “Historically, black money is used in elections. This is a reformatory steps. The scheme can be examined after the elections.”

In its affidavit, the Centre had said electoral bonds “attempt at bringing greater transparency, ensuring KYC compliance and keeping an audit trail in comparison to the earlier opaque system of cash donations.

Nobody for opaqueness, but judiciary can’t be destroyed in name of transparency: SC

Nobody wants a “system of opaqueness” but in the name of transparency the judiciary cannot be destroyed, the Supreme Court said Thursday, while hearing the appeals of its registry against the Delhi High Court order that the CJI’s office falls under the ambit of RTI Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict on three appeals filed in 2010 by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court against the High Court and the CIC’s orders after lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General K K Venugopal concluded submissions.

“Nobody is for a system of opaqueness. Nobody wants to remain in the state of darkness or keep anybody in the state of darkness. The question is drawing a line. In the name of transparency, you can’t destroy the institution,” said the bench which also comprised Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

At the outset, Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist S C Agrawal, said though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it is hearing the appeals due to “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer termed as “unfortunate” and “disturbing” the reluctance of judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act and asked, “Do judges inhabit different universe?”

He said the apex court has always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State but it develops cold feet when its own issues require attention.

Referring to RTI provisions, he said they also deal with exemptions and information which cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always “outweigh” personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office.

Dealing with “judicial independence”, he said the National Judicial Accountability commission Act was struck down for protecting judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from “public scrutiny”.

“This is not the independence from accountability. Independence of judiciary means it has to be independent from the executive and not independent from common public. People are entitled to know as to what public authorities are doing,” he said.

The deliberations of Collegium in appointing and overlooking judges or lawyers should be made public and information can be parted with under RTI on case-to-case basis keeping in mind the larger public interest, he said.

The bench said people, of late, are opting out and do not want to become judges because of the fear of negative publicity.

“Of late, we are experiencing good people, who have opted to become judges, withdrawing their consent. On interaction, the reason appears to be the possibility of the negative observations, whether rightly or wrongly, being brought into the public domain,” it said.

In such a case, besides losing judgeship, reputation, professional life and family life of the person are all adversely affected, it said.

It said it has brought about changes in the functioning of the collegium system and said now collegium members have started interacting with prospective candidates.

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It then referred to a case of a Madras District Judge who was not elevated as the High Court judge and moreover, he was allowed to retire at the age of 58 years.

“All his colleagues who were not even in the zone of consideration for the High Court got the extension, but not only did he not become a High Court judge, he retired at 58”, the CJI said, adding that all the decisions of collegium cannot be “painted” with the same brush.

“Let us not assume any judge has an animus against anybody, let alone the Chief Justice. Otherwise, the institution will dissolve…,” the bench said.

Bhushan then referred to the case of a HC lawyer whose name was recommended and reiterated by the High Court Collegium twice and still the government did not accept and said that people are entitled to know the reasons.

Dealing with the aspect of personal information which can be shared, Bhushan gave an illustration and said suppose a homosexual lawyer’s elevation as a judge is objected to by the government on this ground alone, then this personal information can be disclosed in public interest as people have the right to know.

Justice Chandrachud said certain things may vary from case to case.

He said suppose a judge wanted transfer because of certain kind of illness of his spouse then the nature of disease cannot be disclosed as this is a “personal information”.

The bench said that there cannot be a “blanket” ban on disclosure and it has to be examined on a case-to-case basis.

Justice Gupta said a person himself does not want a disclosure as to his sexuality, then a line would have to be drawn, otherwise it would be “very dangerous”.

The best test would be to ask the person himself if he wanted the reasons for non-elevation or non-appointment to be placed in public domain, the bench said.

Contempt plea against Prashant Bhushan : Activists move Supreme Court in his support

Ten social activists have come out in support of lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court, contending that the contempt proceedings initiated against him appears to be an assault on freedom of speech and expression.

The activists have filed an application to intervene in the contempt plea filed by Attorney General K K Venugopal against Bhushan for his tweets in which he had said that the government appeared to have misled the top court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of meeting of the high-powered selection committee headed by the prime minister, in the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director.

The activists, including Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy and Shailesh Gandhi, have said in their application that they were “concerned” about initiation of the contempt proceeding against Bhushan for exercising his ‘freedom of speech’ without fear.

Besides, a separate application has also been filed in the top court by five senior journalists, including former union minister Arun Shourie, seeking to intervene in the case.

Shourie and four others have said in their application that the court, while issuing notice to Bhushan on February 6 on the contempt plea, had said it would examine whether in sub-judice matters, advocates and litigants briefing the media would amount to an interference in course of administration of justice.

During the hearing earlier, the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had said that court was not averse to media reporting of cases but lawyers appearing in sub-judice matters should restrain themselves from making public statements.

The court had issued notice to Bhushan and had asked him to respond to the contempt pleas within three weeks.

In their application, the 10 social activists have said, “It appears that the initiation of present contempt proceedings are an assault on the freedom of speech and expression of the citizen of this country and an attempt to stifle this right by using the power of contempt.”

Besides Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy and Shailesh Gandhi, the other applicants who have sought to intervene in the matter are Wajahat Habibullah, Harsh Mander, Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik, Indu Prakash Singh, Bezwada Wilson and Nikhil Dey.

They have said Bhushan’s tweets “merely pointed to the discrepancy” between publicly available letter of a member of the high powered committee and the claim of government and the tweets “in no way made any disparaging remarks against the AG (Attorney General) or his conduct”.

“The notice issued in this case by the court to Prashant Bhushan indicates that the court wants to deal with the larger issue of lawyers and litigants commenting publicly about pending court proceedings and whether any restraint should be put on lawyers and litigants comments on pending court proceedings,” the application, filed through advocate Kamini Jaiswal, said.

It said any restraint on lawyers and litigants on commenting on pending court proceedings in matters of public interest would have a “seriously deleterious impact” on not merely the freedom of speech of lawyers and litigants but also on right of people and civil society to be informed about it.

In separate application seeking to intervene in the matter has been filed by Shourie and four other senior scribes — Mrinal Pande, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Manoj Mitta and N Ram.

They have said in their application that any restraint on lawyers and litigants from commenting on matters pending in court would also amount to restraints on media from carrying those comments and any such order by the court would have “serious consequences on the freedom of the press, its rights under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and its ability to inform the people about important public interest issues pending in the courts”.

They have said that barring media or anybody through the media from writing or commenting about pending court proceedings would have the effect of depriving the people of information which they are entitled to know.

Referring to several orders passed by the top court earlier, the application said that a consistent view has been taken and media or any other commentators cannot be barred from commenting or reporting on pending court proceedings involving matters of public interest.

Supreme Court issues notice to lawyer Prashant Bhushan on contempt plea by AG and Centre

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan on contempt pleas by Attorney General K K Venugopal and the Centre for his tweets allegedly criticising the court over the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director.

Bhushan was given three weeks to reply.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha said it would deal with the larger question of whether it is open for lawyers or any other person to criticise the court in a sub judice matter which would lead to influencing public opinion.

Criticising the court may also lead to interference in the course of justice, the bench added.

“This issue required to be heard in length, notice issued,” it said, listing the matter for further hearing on March 7.

Bhushan, in his tweets, alleged that the Centre, represented by Venugopal, misled the apex court on the issue of Rao’s appointment.

On Tuesday, the Centre moved the apex court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets and said they amounted to making false statement in a pending case. This was days after Venugopal’s contempt petition against Bhushan.

Venugopal, in his contempt plea, referred to the extracts of the minutes of the meeting of the high powered selection committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice A K Sikri and leader of the largest opposition party Mallikarjun Kharge.

The Centre’s plea also referred to the contents of Venugopal’s petition and submitted that they be also read as part of its plea.

Venugopal’s petition referred to Bhushan’s February 1 tweets in which he alleged that the government appeared to have misled the apex court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the meeting of the high-powered selection committee.

Through his tweets, Venugopal said, Bhushan appeared to have deliberately intended to cast aspersions on the “integrity and honesty” of the attorney general who had placed the minutes of the meeting before the apex court during the February 1 hearing.

On February 1, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint Rao, an IPS officer, as interim CBI director.

Venugopal said in his petition that Bhushan’s tweets “scandalise or tend to scandalise and lower or tend to lower the authority of this court”.

He said during the hearing on February 1, he had handed over to the bench the minutes of meeting of the high-powered committee held on January 9 and January 10.

According to the petition, signatures of all the three members of the committee — were affixed in the decision taken by the panel.

Venugopal said Bhushan, in one of his tweets on February 1, had said, “I have just confirmed personally from the leader of opposition Mr Kharge that no discussion or decision in HPC meet was taken re-appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim Director of CBI. The govt appears to have misled the court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the HPC meeting.”

The attorney general said the statement/confirmation attributed to Kharge could never have been made by him for the simple reason that he himself had signed the minutes of the meeting which also contained the final decisions of the high-powered committee.

“If the minutes of the meeting were to be fabricated, the members of the high powered committee who constituted the majority would have to be parties to such fabrication as their signatures are contained on the very same page on which the decision is recorded in the minutes,” the plea had said.

Supreme Court expresses displeasure at non-appointment of regular CBI director

The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre why it has not appointed a regular CBI director and said it was “averse” to the appointment of an interim chief for the agency for a long period.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha said the post of CBI director was sensitive and the government should have appointed a regular director by now.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the court that a high-powered committee, headed by the prime minister, will hold a meeting on Friday to select a new CBI director.

He also told the court that the Centre had taken the approval of the high-powered committee before appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director.

Taking account of the attorney general’s submissions that the committee will hold a meeting on Friday, the apex court posted the matter for hearing on February 6.

The bench was hearing a petition of NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI Director.

During the hearing the bench said the process of appointing a CBI director should have been over by now as it was known that the earlier CBI chief was going to retire in January.

The court also told the attorney general that the new CBI director who would be appointed must “trace the movements of files” during the period when former CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma was reinstated to the post for two days.

The attorney general placed before the bench in a sealed cover the minutes of the meeting of the high-powered committee held earlier.

The last meeting of the committee took place on January 24 but it remained “inconclusive”.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO, told the bench that the apex court must also look into the aspect of transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

“You want an immediate appointment. Let us stop there. Let the appointment be made first.If you have any grievance that the process is not followed and transparency was not there then you can challenge it later,” the bench told Bhushan.

The top court on Thursday had set up a fresh bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to hear a petition challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint Rao as interim CBI director after Justice N V Ramana had recused himself from hearing it citing social reasons.

Justice Ramana had expressed his disinclination to hear the matter saying he belongs to Andhra Pradesh, from where Rao hails, and had attended the wedding of the IPS officer’s daughter who is married to an advocate known to him.

He became the third judge of the apex court to recuse himself from hearing the matter after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge in the top court Justice A K Sikri. Both had recused themselves earlier from adjudicating the case.

In its petition in the apex court, the NGO has sought specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

It has alleged that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

The plea has alleged that the October 23 last year order of the government appointing Rao as interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the Centre “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

It has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith.

The plea has also sought immediate direction to the government to ensure that “all records” of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the CBI director be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act.

Rafale deal: SC seeks pricing details of 36 fighter jets from Center in sealed cover

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Center to place before it in a sealed cover within 10 days the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also said that details, including the steps in the decision making process for the procurement of jets, which could “legitimately” be brought into public domain, be made available to the parties who have filed petitions before it in the matter.

After the court dictated the order, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that pricing details of these jets were not even shared with Parliament.

The bench, which also comprised Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, told the Attorney General that if the pricing detail was “exclusive” and it could not be shared with the court then the Centre should file an affidavit in this regard and say so.

“If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” the bench told Venugopal in its oral observations.

The bench made it clear that at this stage, details which might be considered to be “strategic and confidential” by the government be placed before the court and might not be given to the advocates appearing for the petitioners.

The court noted in its order that pursuant to its October 10 direction, the government has placed before it in a sealed cover a note giving the “details of the steps in the decision making process leading to the award of 36 Rafale jet-fighters/fighter aircrafts”.

“At this stage, we would not like to record any finding or views with regard to the contents of the said report. Rather, we are of the opinion that such of the core information conveyed to the court in the aforesaid confidential report which can legitimately be brought into the public domain be made available to the counsels for the petitioners in all the cases, as well as, the petitioners-in-person,” the bench said.

It said further details that could legitimately come in public domain with regard to induction of Indian offset partner, if any, be also furnished to the petitioners.

“Such of the details in this regard which may be considered to be strategic and confidential may, at this stage, be placed before the court and may not be furnished to the counsels for the parties or the petitioners-in-person,” the court said.

“The court would also like to be apprised of the details with regard to the pricing/cost, particularly, the advantage thereof, if any, which again will be submitted to the court in a sealed cover,” the bench said in its order.

When Venugopal told the bench that report which the Centre has already placed before the court was covered under the Official Secrets Act and could not be shared, the bench made it clear that confidential and strategic information need not be shared.

The apex court also observed that in none of the public interest litigations (PILs) filed before it in the matter, the “suitability” of Rafale fighter jets and its “utility” to the Indian Air Force have been questioned.

“What has been questioned is the bona fides of the decision making process and the price/cost of the equipment at which the same is to be procured,” it said.

The bench said that necessary details be communicated to the advocates for the parties before it and the petitioners-in-person.

It also said that “the rest of the details in terms of the present order be submitted to the court in a sealed cover in the next ten days. The parties may file their response to the information that would be conveyed”.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on November 14.

During the brief hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who along with former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha has filed a petition in the matter, said they were seeking a court-monitored CBI probe into the Rafale jets deal.

“That you will have to wait,” the CJI said, adding, “Let CBI put its house in order first.” 

Shourie was present in the court during the hearing of the four PILs filed by lawyers M L Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, one by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan and another by AAP leader Sanjay Singh. 

Advocate Dheeraj Kumar Singh, appearing for AAP MP Sanjay Singh, said he has also filed a plea seeking setting up of an special investigation team under the court’s supervision to probe the Rafale deal.

“What is his (Sanjay Singh) interest? We do not have to entertain so many petitions,” the bench said and asked the counsel if the petitioner was aware of the pricing.

When the lawyer said Sanjay Singh knows the price, the bench said, “You keep it to yourself. You are one of the fortunate who know the price”.

Advocate M L Sharma, also a petitioner, said he has filed an application seeking hearing on his plea after upcoming assembly elections in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Telangana.

“Which elections?,” the bench asked, adding, “Business of this court cannot be stopped for elections”.

When Sharma again referred to the elections, the bench said, “How are you concerned with elections?”.

The bench then told Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, “We are proposing to pass some order. Please listen to it very carefully”.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of the Indian Air Force equipment. 

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

SC: No coercive action against anyone on basis of draft NRC of Assam

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said there will be no coercive action by authorities against over 40 lakh people, whose names do not figure in Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), observing that it was merely a draft.

The top court asked the Centre to formulate modalities and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) including timelines for deciding claims and objections arising out of the publication of the draft NRC.
A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman asked the Centre to submit the modalities and SOPs before it for approval within August 16.

“This court would like to observe that what has been published is only a complete draft NRC, which naturally being a draft cannot be a basis for any coercive action by any authority,” the bench said.
It said that the modalities and SOPs prepared by ministry concerned of government of India should be “fair and giving reasonable opportunity to everyone”.

The bench said under the rules, the local registrar is first required to issue notice to file claim and objections to the draft NRC and then give a reasonable hearing after providing equal opportunity to all.

At the outset, NRC Assam coordinator Prateek Hajela placed before the court its status report giving details of publication of the draft NRC yesterday.
The report said that out of 3.29 crore people, names of 2.89 crore have been included in the draft NRC. It further said that names of 40,70,707 people do not figure in the list. Of the these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold.
To this, the bench asked Hajela, what was the future course of action after the publication of draft NRC.
He informed the court that the claims and objections regarding inclusion and exclusion in the NRC could be filed from August 30 to September 28.

He said till August 7, the draft NRC will be displayed or made available to them through seva kendras.
“From August 8, 2018, onwards the people who have been left out of the second draft can approach the local registrar or the NRC seva kendra to find out the reasons for their non-inclusion,” he said.

The bench then asked Hajela about the local registrars and of which level these officers are.
He said that these local registrars are gazetted officers taken from different departments for NRC works.

“You should place before court, how do you propose to do the exercise of claims and objections as it has to be a fair procedure and the persons aggrieved should be given fair opportunity,” the bench said.

Hajela replied that he will hold discussions with Registrar General of India and would work out the modalities and it will be placed before the court for approval.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said that the ministry concerned is willing to formulate modalities and the SOP to deal with the process of claims and objections and that courts should assure or direct that no coercive action shall be taken against anyone till equal opportunity is given to all.

SC shows dissatisfaction over Centre’s response on Lokpal matter

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre’s response on appointment of search committee members for a Lokpal.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit giving relevant details of the search committee.
During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal submitted an affidavit and said a meeting of the selection committee was held but the names for the search committee were not finalised.

He said another meeting would be held soon for appointing members of the search committee, keeping in mind the provisions of law for such appointments.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, said the Centre has not specified the date of the next meeting and they are actually delaying the appointment of a Lokpal despite passage of a law nearly five years ago.
He said contempt action should be initiated against the concerned authorities or the court may proceed ahead for appointing the Lokpal by exercising its power under Article 142 of the Constitution (enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court).

The bench, in its order, said it’s unsatisfied with the Centre’s reply and sought a fresh affidavit in four weeks giving all necessary details.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court the Lokpal selection committee, headed by the prime minister, was scheduled to meet to set up a search panel for recommending a panel of names for the appointment of the anti-graft ombudsman and its members.
The government had said the search panel would lay down its procedures, following which the selection committee would fix the time frame within which the names for selecting the chairman and members of the Lokpal would be recommended.
The committee comprises the prime minister, the chief justice of India, Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by the NGO which has raised the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the apex court’s judgement of April 27 last year.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, had said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

SC says No stopping sealing, demolition of unauthorised constructions in Delhi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said there would be “no stopping of sealing or demolition” of unauthorised constructions in Delhi.

The apex court’s direction came after the Centre told a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that it had not given any instructions to authorities in Delhi to stop their sealing drive against illegal constructions.

The bench also directed that construction activity be stopped with immediate effect wherever any unauthorised construction is noticed or booked by authorities.
The apex court said adequate police protection should be given to officials when they are carrying out a sealing drive against unauthorised constructions.
Besides, the bench asked the Centre to contemplate blacklisting of builders, contractors and architects found responsible for unauthorised constructions.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the Delhi Development Authority had launched a mobile application on July 9 where citizens can complain about illegal constructions and encroachments in the city.
So far, 431 complaints have been received in the mobile application and action taken on 138 such complaints, he said.
The bench directed that adequate publicity be given to the mobile application so citizens of Delhi are aware of it.
The top court is dealing with the issue of validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.

SC asks AG to assist on poor facilities in jails

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today took note of lack of facilities in jails, leading to delayed trials and prolonged incarceration of under-trial prisoners, in the country and sought assistance of the Attorney General in issuing directions to deal with the situation.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, on its own, initiated the judicial proceedings after taking note of reports on deficiencies at the Faridabad jail in Haryana and expanded the scope of the case to the entire country.
Placing reliance on a report of the District and Sessions judge of Faridabad, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said there were several infrastructural and operational deficiencies like lack of video conferencing and transportation facilities in prison.

“A report has been submitted by the District and Sessions judge of Faridabad and the judge has mentioned various causes for delayed trials and long incarceration of under trial prisoners in jail,” it said.

“Having perused the report, we are of the view that such a situation cannot be confined to the jail at Faridabad,” the bench said, adding lack of facilities have been posing impediments in speedy trial.
The bench then asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist the court in the matter and said that making all the states and union territories (UTs) parties to the case would cause delay in passing directions.
The court appointed advocate Gaurav Aggarwal as an amicus curiae, friend of the court, and asked him to help the Attorney General deal with the case.
The bench considered the note on the prevailing situation at Faridabad jail of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, since retired, who had visited the prison on June 3 this year.

It also considered the orders passed by the Bombay and the Rajsathan High Courts on the lack of facilities in prisons in Maharashtra and Rajashtan before taking cognizance of the matter on its own.