SC seeks EC reply on plea by 21 opposition leaders for verification of 50 pc VVPAT slips

The Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear the plea of 21 opposition leaders, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking that VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent of voting machines in each assembly constituency be checked randomly in the Lok Sabha elections.

The leaders from six national and 15 regional parties, claiming to represent 70-75 per cent of the population, have also sought the setting aside of the Election Commission of India (EC) guideline on random verification of one assembly seat.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that notice be issued to the EC, and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) should depute an officer to assist the court in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, posted the matter for further hearing on March 25 and asked the ECI to file its reply in two weeks.

The parties include the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI (Marxist), CPI, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

“The petitioners are presidents/ leaders of 21 different national and regional political parties (six out of seven national parties and 15 regional parties) across the country electorally representing about 70-75 percent of the people of India,” the plea said.

It has sought quashing of the EC guideline which provides that random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips shall be conducted in one polling stations in case of assembly election and in each assembly segment in case of Lok Sabha election.

The plea also sought, “a further direction to the election commission for random verification of at least 50 per cent electronic voting machines (EVM) using the VVPAT per assembly segment/ assembly constituency”.

The plea referred to the 1975 verdict of apex court in the case of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which held that free and fair elections are part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

It also referred to the 2013 verdict of Supreme court in the case of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy where it was held that paper trail for EVM are an “indispensable requirement” for free and fair elections.

“The impugned guideline issued by Respondent No.2 (Election Commission of India) hits at the basic structure of the Constitution by making VVPAT completely ineffective and merely ornamental in nature as it translates to an actual check on less than 0.44 per cent of EVMs in the country.

“The said Guideline, therefore, defeats the entire purpose of introducing VVPAT and renders the judgment and directions passed by this court completely otiose,” it said.

The plea further stated that the guideline amounts to taking away from the left hand what was given by the right and reduce the safeguards and substantive essence of the judgments of this Court to a nullity.

“The petitioners submit that a procedural or executive instruction in the form of guidelines cannot render the main substantive safeguard nugatory, more so where the latter traces itself back not only to a Constitutional provision but, indeed, to the basic structure of the Constitution,” it said.

The plea further stated that the directions are being sought for giving effect to the judgment of this court declaring VVPAT as “integral and intrinsic to free and fair elections which, in turn are part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India”.

Naidu, the lead petitioner, had declared in February that the parties will be moving the apex court against the use of EVMs.

The move comes after the leaders of the opposition parties met at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence.

The parties had raised apprehensions in a meeting with the EC in February about the credibility of EVMs, although the poll panel has denied allegations of machines being tampered with.

The EC, while announcing the Lok Sabha election schedule, had said that mandatory checking of EVMs and VVPAT will be done on the basis of one polling station for each Lok Sabha constituency.

Earlier, Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot last year had approached the apex court for conducting VVPAT verification at least 10 per cent of randomly selected polling booths in each assembly constituency to ensure free and fair elections in MP and Rajasthan last year.

However, the apex court, which was dealing with other poll issues ahead of the assembly polls in MP and Rajasthan had refused to go into the VVPAT issue in its judgement delivered on October 12, 2018 saying these issues were dealt by the apex court in earlier petitions and orders have been passed.

Subramanian Swamy moves SC for urgent listing of plea seeking fundamental right to pray at Ayodhya

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy Monday moved the Supreme Court for urgent listing of his plea seeking enforcement of his fundamental right to worship at the disputed Ram Temple site at Ayodhya.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna asked Swamy to remain present in the court on Tuesday when the main Ayodhya matter will be taken up for hearing.

Swamy, while mentioning the matter for urgent listing, told the bench that his plea should be heard separately.

However, the CJI said, “You be present here tomorrow. We will see.”The apex court had last year disallowed Swamy from intervening in the Ayodhya land dispute case and made it clear that only the parties to original lawsuits would be allowed contest.

However, the bench had considered Swamy’s submission that he had not sought to intervene in the matter but had filed a separate writ petition seeking enforcement of his fundamental right to worship at the birth place of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.

“I had filed a writ petition saying that I have a fundamental right to worship and this is a superior right than property right,” Swamy had said.

“As we are not inclined to permit the intervention application, the writ petition filed by the applicant (Swamy) shall stand revived and it shall be dealt with by the appropriate bench in accordance with law,” the bench had said.

On Monday, Swamy sought urgent listing of his plea for the enforcement of fundamental right to worship.

The top court will hear the politically sensitive Ayodhya’s Ram-Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid land dispute matter on February 26.

It will be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The five-judge bench was re-constituted on January 25 as Justice U U Lalit, who was a member of the original bench, had recused himself from hearing the matter.

Tharoor moves court for anticipatory bail in Sunanda Pushkar death

New Delhi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today moved a Delhi court seeking anticipatory bail in the case related to the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar.
Tharoor has already been summoned as an accused in the case.
The politician’s plea was filed before Special Judge Arvind Kumar who sought Delhi Police’s response and kept it for hearing tomorrow.

Tharoor was earlier summoned as an accused by a magisterial court for the alleged offences of abetment of suicide and committing cruelty towards Pushkar.

In his plea filed through advocate Vikas Pahwa, Tharoor said the charge sheet has been filed without arrest and the SIT (special investigation team) has categorically stated that investigation has been concluded and no custodial interrogation is required.

“The law is very clear that if the charge sheet is filed without arrest the bail is inevitable. We have only requested for protection so that we appear in the court on July 7,” Pahwa said.

The matter will be heard tomorrow at 10 am as the prosecutor was not present in court today, he said.
On June 5, a court summoned Tharoor as accused, asking him to appear before it on July 7 and saying there were sufficient grounds to proceed against him.
Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel room on the night of January 17, 2014.
Tharoor has been charged under Sections 498 A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
After a magisterial court had taken cognisance of the offences against Tharoor, his counsel had termed the prosecution’s case “absurd and preposterous”.

On May 14, Delhi Police accused Tharoor, Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, of abetting Pushkar’s suicide and told a city court that he should be summoned as an accused in the four-and-half year-old case, claiming there was sufficient evidence against him.

In a nearly 3,000-page charge sheet, police named Tharoor as the only accused while also alleging that he had subjected his wife to cruelty.

The couple’s domestic servant, Narayan Singh, has been named one of the key witnesses in the case.

Under Section 498A, the maximum punishment is up to three years of imprisonment, while jail term up to 10 years is prescribed under Section 306.

An FIR was registered by Delhi Police on January 1, 2015 against unknown persons under IPC section 302 (murder).
According to prosecution sources, the charge sheet mentions that Pushkar was allegedly subjected to mental as well as physical cruelty.
Tharoor has not been arrested in the case.
On July 7, the court is also likely to hear BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s application seeking its nod to allow him to assist the prosecution in the case and a direction to the police to produce the report of a vigilance inquiry conducted earlier in the matter.

Govt free to probe charges against ED officer probing Aircel-Maxis case: SC

New Delhi: No officer should be under a “cloud” and blanket clean chit cannot be given to anybody, the Supreme Court observed today, as it told the government that it was free to look into the “serious” allegations against ED officer Rajeshwar Singh, who is probing the “highly sensitive” 2G spectrum case and the Aircel-Maxis deal.

A vacation bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, which was of the view that the sensitive matter involved national security, said the allegations against Singh were required to be looked into and the government should take a call whether he would have any role to play in the further probe.

Modifying its interim order granting Singh protection against an inquiry, the court referred to the Centre’s affidavit which stated that it did not intend to protect anybody, including the high or the mighty, and observed that it was nobody’s case that government was “seeking to thwart the investigation”.

The bench said it was “troubled” with the Centre’s response as documents placed before it in a sealed cover contained “startling” facts.

“We direct that the government is free to look into the materials against respondent number 3 (Rajeshwar Singh) and the same can be looked into,” the bench ordered.

“… It will be the call of the government whether Singh will have any role to play in the matter,” it said, referring that a charge sheet has already been filed in the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

During the arguments, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the Centre, said the government was willing to probe the charges that Singh had amassed disproportionate assets, as he handed over a communication in a sealed cover to the bench.

“Of course, the Supreme Court’s order (granting protection to Singh against inquiry) comes in our way,” the ASG said.

After perusing the document, the bench observed, “As a matter of fact, when there is an allegation, whether right or wrong, against you (Singh), it has to be looked into”.

“The other issue is that you should not be victimised. The third point is whether it would be appropriate for you to investigate when you are under a cloud and under investigation,” the bench said, adding “the things which have come before us are startling”.

“You are simply an officer. You can’t be given a blanket clean chit. Everybody is accountable. You must be accountable for any action. We need to ensure that you are accountable. We don’t want to damage you or comment against you. There are very serious allegations against you,” it told the officer. It also made it clear that it has not commented against anybody.

The bench noted that the government had assured that the probe in these cases would be done as per the time schedule fixed by the top court which, on March 12, had given a deadline of six months to the CBI and ED to complete the probe.

Senior advocate R S Suri, appearing for Singh, told the bench that there was a serious issue of maintainability of the plea filed by Rajneesh Kapur, who claims to be an investigative journalist who is seeking a probe against Singh for allegedly amassing assets which are disproportionate to his known source of income.

To this, the bench said, “We had given six months time (to CBI and ED to complete the ongoing investigation) and protection was granted (to Singh). This matter is highly sensitive from the country’s point of view. We cannot just divulge the content of this (communication in sealed cover) to anybody. It may prejudice your client (Singh) also. It is not advisable that it goes into public domain.”

“It is highly sensitive. Issues of nation’s security are involved. These are serious issues. We cannot shut our eyes to it,” the bench observed.

“The sensitive issue is the government’s response which has troubled us. Something very serious is there. We cannot say that ‘leave the matter’ or tie the hands of the government,” it said.

“Let there be a fair investigation and person, who is investigating, according to my opinion, should not have a cloud over him,” Justice Mishra observed.

At the outset, Kapur’s counsel claimed that after filing the plea, Kapur has been “gravely threatened” and sought protection for him. He also claimed that Singh has the “clout” and the top court’s earlier order says no action can be taken against this officer.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had filed a plea seeking to be impleaded as a party in Kapur’s plea, said Singh was promoted to the post of Joint Director in ED and full evaluation was done for it around two years ago.

To this, the bench said the issue of promotion of an officer was a personal thing.

Swamy, however, alleged that a top officer was “inimical” to Singh due to what had happened in the Nirav Modi’s case and he was willing to put it on an affidavit.

When the bench ordered that no personal insinuations should be made, Swamy said, “I am withdrawing it”.

He said that allegations were levelled against Singh but the probe agencies had given him a clean chit. “You could always call for a report from CBI, ED or any other agency and then come to a conclusion whether it is motivated or has some substance,” Swamy said.

The court disposed of the petitions filed by Kapur, Swamy and Singh, who had filed a separate plea seeking contempt action against Kapur.

Aircel-Maxis case: SC recuses from hearing Swamy’s plea

New Delhi: A Supreme Court judge today recused herself from hearing a plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking to implead himself as a party in a case related to probe into alleged disproportionate assets of an ED officer investigating the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

Swamy said the petition filed by Rajneesh Kapur seeking investigation of assets of ED officer Rajeshwar Singh, in which the top court had on June 5 sought assistance of Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, was an attempt to delay the ongoing probe in the Aircel-Maxis case.

A vacation bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra asked Swamy to mention the matter on June 25 before another bench as Justice Malhotra recused herself from hearing in the matter without assigning any reason.
“You mention the matter on next Monday (June 25). The bench will be sitting in different combination at that time,” the bench said.
During a brief hearing, Swamy said that the apex court had earlier this year directed for completion of investigation in the Aircel-Maxis deal case within six months.

Herald case: Court asks Sonia, Rahul to reply on Swamy’s plea

A Delhi court today granted three weeks’ time to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, its vice president Rahul Gandhi and four others to respond on a plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking certain documents from the party in the National Herald case.

Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen gave time till July 22 to them after their counsel submitted that they have not received a copy of the application of Swamy, who has filed a private criminal complaint.

The court considered the plea of the Congress leaders and directed Swamy to hand them over a copy of the application.

Swamy, in his complaint, has accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs 50 lakh through which the Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YI) obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that the Associate Journals Limited (AJL) owed to the Congress.

The Gandhis and the other accused — AICC members Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda — have denied the allegations levelled against them.

Swamy has sought documents from the AJL including a copy of the bank statement filed with the registrar of companies (ROC), the minutes of the meeting in which decision to convert the loan into share capital was taken, the balance sheet, the profit and loss account with the auditor’s report in the year in which the loan was granted.

The documents sought from the Congress party include the minutes of the meeting of the Congress Working Committee authorising the loan waiver from the AJL to the YI and a copy of the loan agreement between the Congress and the AJL.

The court had summoned the accused persons, besides the YI on June 26, 2014.

On December 19, 2015, it had granted bail to Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to summonses. Pitroda was granted bail on February 20, 2016 when he had appeared in the court.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC treasurer), Fernandes (AICC general secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned for the alleged offences of dishonest misappropriation of property, criminal breach of trust and cheating, read with criminal conspiracy of the IPC.

Ayodhya title dispute; SC allows Swamy to intervene

Ayodhya title dispute; SC allows Swamy to intervene
Ayodhya title dispute; SC allows Swamy to intervene

The Supreme Court today allowed BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to intervene in the pending matters relating to the Ayodhya title dispute with his plea seeking construction of Ram temple at the site of demolished disputed structure.

A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, while tagging Swamy’s fresh plea with pending civil appeals, said that it cannot separately hear the petition seeking direction to allow construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site where the disputed structure was demolished in 1992 as a matter of fundamental right.

“Tag this matter with the pending civil appeals. Let parties be served with the copies,” it said.

Swamy argued that the Government already given an affidavit that it would pave way for construction of the temple if there are evidence and moreover, there are findings of Archaeological Survey of India to this effect.

At the outset, the bench said that it cannot entertain the “writ petition” when the civil appeals are pending before it and Swamy should either move the High Court for enforcement of his fundamental rights or seek impleadment as a party in the pending civil appeals here.

Swamy had earlier moved the plea for a direction to allow construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site and had mentioned it before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur for urgent hearing.

Swamy in his petition claimed that under the practices prevalent in Islamic countries, a mosque could be shifted to any other place for public purposes like constructing road etc, whereas a temple once constructed cannot be touched.

“A temple and a masjid cannot be considered on par as far as sacredness is concerned. A masjid is not an essential part of Islam religion, according to the above majority judgment of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, whereas according to the House of Lords, U K (1991), the temple is always a temple even if in disuse or ruins.

“Thus, the fundamental truth is that the Ram temple on Ram Janmabhoomi has an overriding claim to the site than any mosque,” Swamy claimed in his plea.
Swamy has also sought directions to expedite the disposal

of several petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict of three-way division of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya on September 30, 2010.

While ordering status quo at the site, which means that prayers at Ram Lalla’s make-shift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya would go on as usual, the apex court had restrained any kind of religious activity on the adjacent 67 acres of land which had been taken over by the Centre.

( Source – PTI )

Hate speech: SC stays execution of NBW issued against Swamy

Hate speech: SC stays execution of NBW issued against Swamy
Hate speech: SC stays execution of NBW issued against Swamy

In a relief to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the execution of a non-bailable warrant issued against him by an Assam court for allegedly delivering a hate speech at a university there.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and MY Eqbal also issued notice to the Centre on the plea challenging constitutional validity of certain penal provisions pertaining to offences of rioting and hate speech.

At the outset, senior advocate TR Andhyarujina, appearing for Swamy, said, “this man has been subjected to incredible harassment for giving lecture in a University.”

The bench, which decided to hear arguments on the constitutional validity of certain IPC provisions, asked Swamy to move to the high court or a competent court with his individual case of issuance of warrant for allegedly delivering hate speech.

“We are issuing notice confined to prayer one and two (issues related to constitutional validity of certain penal provisions),” the bench said.

Later, the bench stayed the execution of the non-bailable warrant (NBW) for six weeks and allowed Swamy to move a competent court within that period.

Swamy had approached the apex court against the order of a trial court in Karimganj in Assam, issuing a NBW against him for failing to appear before it in a case of alleged hate speech.

The local court had issued summons to Swamy on March 19 on a complaint accusing him of allegedly delivering an inflammatory speech on March 15 at Kaziranga University.

The Karimganj court had ordered that the arrest warrant be complied with on or before June 30.

On May 21, a judge of the apex court had recused from hearing his plea challenging the validity of some penal provisions relating to “hate speech”.

The BJP leader had also sought a stay on the order of Additional Judicial Magistrate, Karimganj, summoning him as an accused for the speech.

No relief for Asaram Bapu, Court rejects bail plea again

No relief for Asaram Bapu, Court rejects bail plea again
No relief for Asaram Bapu, Court rejects bail plea again

Self-styled ‘godman’ Asaram Bapu, who is in jail since September 2013 for allegedly raping a minor, was on Saturday denied bail by a court in Jodhpur, the sixth time his plea for relief has been turned down.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Manoj Kumar Vyas rejected the bail application of 73-year-old Asaram, stating that an accused in a crime of such nature does not deserve bail.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had on Friday argued on Asaram’s behalf. He had contended that the entire case had been fabricated and Asaram deserved to be released on bail.

The court had reserved its order for today.

Opposing the bail plea, prosecution counsel P.C. Solanki had said that the court must look into the circumstances of the alleged crime, including the age of the victim, before coming to a decision.

Earlier, two bail petitions of Asaram were turned down by lower court. He had twice unsuccessfully approached the High Court and was also denied relief by the Supreme Court.

Asaram is lodged in a jail here following his arrest in September 2013 for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor girl in one of his ashrams.

Political party can write off or assign loans: Sonia to HC

sonia gandhiCongress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday opposed in the Delhi High Court the private criminal complaint against her and the summons issued by a trial court in the National Herald case saying a political party is within its right to “write-off” or “assign” a loan.

“The issuance of process in this case is shocking and out of order, to say the least, and no illegality can be found either on the facts or on the law,” former Law Minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Congress President, told a bench of Justice V K Vaish.

The trial court had issued summons to various Congress leaders on the complaint of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who has alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of the now-defunct daily National Herald by Young Indian (YI).

Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Party Treasurer Moti Lal Vora are among the directors of YI, who have been summoned.

Seeking setting aside of Swamy’s complaint, Gandhi said the Associated Journals Limited (AJL), which had been publishing newspapers ‘National Herald’ in English, “Navjivan” in Hindi and “Quami Awaz” in Urdu, had taken loans to the tune of Rs 90 crores from the Congress Party.

The loan, given to AJL, was assigned to YI by the Congress party and then a process of conversion of Rs 90 crores loan was taken by AJL which then issued fresh equities in favour of charitable firm YI.

Congress Party for a monetary consideration of Rs 50 lakhs had decided to assign Rs 90 crores loan to YI, she maintained.

(Source: PTI)