Elgar Parishad case: Navlakha moves Pune court for anticipatory bail

 Activist Gautam Navlakha, accused of Maoist links in connection with the Elgar Parishad caste violence case, on Tuesday approached the Pune sessions court for anticipatory bail.

The court will hear his plea on November 7.

The Bombay High Court had on Monday asked Navlakha to approach the sessions court here for anticipatory bail.

Navlakha’s plea for anticipatory bail came up for hearing on Monday before a single bench of Justice P D Naik, who dismissed it and asked the Delhi-based activist to first approach the sessions court in Pune for relief.

Navlakha had filed the application in the high court which had, in September, declined to quash a police case lodged against him in January last year, after which he had moved the Supreme Court.

The apex court had granted him interim protection from arrest and said he could seek anticipatory bail from the court concerned.

According to the police, “inflammatory” speeches and “provocative” statements at the Elgar Parishad conclave held on December 31, 2017, had triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima on 1st January, 2018.

The police have alleged that the event, held at a fort, was backed by people with Maoist links.

Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the relevant provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Besides Navlakha, eight others, including Telugu poet Varavara Rao and Left-wing activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.

Bombay High Court dismisses petitions on Aarey Colony, says ‘greens have failed’

“The greens (environmentalists) have failed,” the Bombay High Court said on Friday, while refusing to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declining to quash the BMC tree authority’s decision allowing felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro carshed.

The court imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who opposed the approval given by the BMC tree authority, of which he is a member, for hacking trees in the green belt.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and environmental activists on issues related to Aarey Colony in Goregaon, a major green lung of the metropolis.

The court termed all the petitioners as “Davids” taking on the industrial “Goliaths”, apparently suggesting that they were fighting an unequal battle.

One of the pleas moved by city-based NGO Vanshakti had sought that Aarey Colony be declared a forest and an ecologically sensitive zone, while another petition filed by green activist Zoru Bathena had pleaded that the area be given the status of a floodplain.

Two separate petitions were filed by Bathena and Jadhav, challenging the decision of the BMC tree authority permitting the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to cut 2,656 trees to construct a metro carshed in Aarey Colony.

Dismissing the petition filed by Vanshakti, the court, in its judgment, noted that the issue was already decided by an earlier bench of the high court and the matter was presently pending before the Supreme Court.

“The greens (environmentalists) fail in the instant petition because they have lost touch with the procedure to be followed as per law. The clock cannot be put back. We do not make any comments thereon as the petitioner has to now swim or sink before the Supreme Court,” the court said.

Dismissing the petitions filed by Bathena and Jadhav, the bench said the greens had failed on merit.

“The tree authority’s decision-making process was fair, transparent and based on reason. The greens fail not on account of sailing their boats in the wrong channel but on merits,” the court said.

The bench imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on Jadhav.

“It (Jadhav’s plea) is sans any material and bereft of concise statements and details concerning the meeting of the tree authority held on August 29, 2019,” the court said.

It noted that there was no variation in the opinion of the members of the tree authority on whether the trees could be transplanted or had to be cut.

“There are good reasons for taking the view that the trees would not survive if transplanted and that it would be futile to spend good money to transplant the trees, which ultimately would by and large die,” the bench said.

The court also took note of the submission made by MMRCL counsel Ashutosh Kumbhakoni that the authority had already planted 20,900 trees in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

“This establishes that about seven times the number of trees to be felled have been replaced by planting of saplings,” the court said.

It termed all the petitioners as “Davids” taking on the industrial “Goliaths”.

“Relationship with nature and love for environment alone is true and all other relationships are unreal and temporary, is their (environmentalists’) belief. Their hearts are a temple of devotion to flora and fauna,” the court said.

“In the instant case, the Davids (environmentalists) row their boat with faith, courage and devotion in the storm of development but directionless,” the bench said in its judgment, dismissing the plea filed by Vanshakti.

It also refused to accept the contentions raised by Bathena and Jadhav in their pleas that the tree authority had granted approval in haste and without considering opposing views.

“We highlight that the deliberation by the tree authority members was not only at the meeting held on August 29, 2019. They had discussed the issue at site visits held on August 10 and 20, 2019. What was discussed at the site has been neatly presented as a bonsai in the report prepared by the tree officers,” the court said.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had given the tree-hacking approval on August 29, triggering protests by green activists and common citizens, who had launched a “Save Aarey” campaign.

Vanshakti, in its plea, had said Aarey Colony, measuring 1,287 hectares, had several exotic flora and fauna.

On the Vanshakti petition, the court said, “The remedy is before the Supreme Court or the National Green Tribunal. We have applied the principle of commonality and not decided on merit.”

The Maharashtra government had claimed that Aarey Colony could not be termed a forest and that the issue was already decided by another high court bench.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state earlier, had said an appeal against the high court order refusing to declare Aarey a forest was currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Bathena, in his plea, had challenged the decision taken by the tree authority granting permission to fell trees.

The proposed carshed, part of the metro-3 project, will occupy 33 hectares in the southern part of Aarey Colony.

The authority has approved felling of 2,185 trees and transplanting (uprooting from the original spot and replanting them at an alternate spot) 461 trees from the area.

The authority’s approval is mandatory for felling more than 20 trees at a time at any place in the city.

Bombay High Court junks pleas seeking forest tag for Aarey colony.

In a setback to environmental activists, the Bombay High Court on Friday refused to declare Aarey colony a forest and also declined to quash the BMC tree authority’s decision allowing felling of over 2,600 trees in the suburban green zone to pave way for a metro carshed.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and environmental activists on issues related to Aarey colony in Goregaon, a major green lung of the metropolis.

One of the pleas filed by the city-based NGO Vanshakti sought that Aarey be declared a forest and ecologically sensitive zone, while another petition by green activist Zoru Bathena pleaded the area be given the status of a floodplain.

Two separate petitions were filed by Bathena and Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav, challenging the decision of the BMC tree authority permitting the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to cut 2,656 trees to construct a metro carshed in Aarey colony.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had given the tree hacking approval on August 29, 2019, triggering protests by green activists and common citizens who launched a “Save Aarey” campaign.

On the Vanshakti petition, the court said, “The remedy is before the Supreme Court or the National Green Tribunal. We have applied the principle of commonality and not decided on merit.”

The HC said it was also dismissing the petitions filed by Bathena and Jadhav against the approval for cutting trees.

The bench imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Jadhav, a member of the BMC tree authority, a body whose approval is mandatory for cutting any tree in the city for infrastructure or other projects.

“We gave you (Jadhav) a choice to withdraw the petition but you chose to pursue it,” the court said.

Vanshakti, in its plea, claimed Aarey colony, measuring 1,287 hectares, had several exotic flora and fauna.

The Maharashtra government has claimed Aarey colony cannot be termed a forest and that the issue has been already decided by another HC bench.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state earlier, had said an appeal against the HC order refusing to declare Aarey a forest is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Bathena, in his plea, challenged the decision taken by the tree authority granting permission to cut trees. The proposed carshed, part of the metro 3 project, will occupy 33 hectares in the southern part of Aarey colony.

The authority has approved felling of 2,185 trees and transplanting (uprooting from the original spot and replanting them at an alternate spot) 461 trees from the area.

The authority’s approval is mandatory for felling of more than 20 trees at a time at any place in the city.

Bathena’s counsel Janak Dwarkadas had argued earlier that the authority’s decision was taken in “haste and without proper application of mind”.

The MMRCL and the BMC, in their affidavits in response to Bathena’s plea, said the petition was stalling a public transport project which is in larger public interest and a vital public infrastructure.

The affidavits claimed that the metro project was environment-friendly and needs to be completed expeditiously.

“The metro project is expected to wean people away from using cars, taxis and two-wheelers and hence will result in sharp reduction in atmospheric pollution and environmental hazards caused by automobile exhaust gas,” the MMRCL and BMC affidavits said.

The MMRCL, in its affidavit, said Aarey is not a pristine area of land or has a dense tree cover or a naturally forested area as claimed by the petitioner.

It said the delay in construction of the carshed will cause a Rs 4.23-crore loss per day to the company and the state government.

Staying near refineries can pose health & security risks: Bombay High Court

 The Bombay High Court on Monday said making people stay in the heavily air polluted Mahul area of Mumbai may not only pose health risks, but also increase security concerns on refineries located in the vicinity.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said the Maharashtra government cannot force any person to stay at such a residential colony in Mahul.

The bench was hearing applications of a group of people displaced following demolition of their unauthorised houses on the Tansa pipeline that runs across several parts of the city.

Relying on an April 2019 order passed by another bench of the high court, the bench led by Chief Justice Nandrajog on Monday said the government will have to either accommodate the displaced persons elsewhere, or give them Rs 15,000 each month as rent so that they can find their own accommodation.

Around 15,000 families were displaced after their “unauthorised” houses near the Tansa pipeline were ordered to be demolished by the high court last year.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had shifted the displaced people to a housing colony in Mahul, a polluted area where refineries and chemical units are located.

However, several families refused to move to Mahul, claiming that the air quality there was very poor and posed health risks.

“It is evident that residential premises in the vicinity of such refineries can pose multi-faceted risks, which are not only restricted to the health of residents nearby, but also security risk by way of a terrorist attack using these refineries as targets,” the bench said on Monday.

Such a terrorist attack would lead to colossal destruction within Mumbai city, it said.

The bench relied on an order passed by the National Green Tribunal in December 2015, stating that the presence of volatile organic compounds in Mahul makes the air pollution in the region harmful for human health.

“We have perused reports prepared by three government agencies – the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Central Pollution Control Board and NEERI – which show that the air pollution in Mahul continues to be disturbingly high and to this day, poses threat to human life,” the court said.

Around 200 of the 15,000 affected families have shifted to Mahul so far.

The court, in its order, said the government and the BMC shall not shift any more displaced persons to Mahul and shall also inform those persons who have been already shifted there that they can opt to leave the place.

After the bench passed its order, the BMC sought a stay so on it that it could approach the Supreme Court.

The bench, however, refused to grant the stay.

War and Peace: High court didn’t refer to Tolstoy’s book but that of Biswajit Roy

On Thursday, the Bombay High Court said that during the trial of Bhima Koregaon violence case accused Vernon Gonsalves on Wednesday, it did not refer to the literary classic ‘War & Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy but a book called ‘War & Peace in Junglemahal’ by Biswajit Roy, a Kolkata-based journalist.
The Court said that it was “shocked & hurt” to learn about the media reports stating that it has raised a question over Tolstoy’s book ‘War & Peace.’
It was widely reported on Wednesday that the single judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal of Bombay HC had observed that “how can the accused in Bhima Koregaon violence Gonsalves can have a book like ‘War & Peace’ at his home.”
During the proceedings in the Court on Thursday, lawyer Yug Chaudhary, who was appearing for Sudha Bhardwaj, another accused in Bhima Koregaon case, brought this online criticism to the court’s notice & informed the judge that his observations have been misquoted.
Chaudhary told the Court that according to him those observations were not for Tolstoy’s book but for another book of the almost similar name “WAR & PEACE IN JUNGLEMAHAL: PEOPLE, STATE & MAOISTS,” which was in the seizure ‘punchnama’ of the articles seized from Gonsalves’ residence during the raids of Pune Police.
Chaudhary said that he brought this matter to the Court in Thursday’s proceedings.
“I brought this matter to the Court’s notice today as it was completely misquoted & Justice Sarang was hurt. It was clear from the list of seized items recorded in the ‘punchnama’ that which book was referred to by the judge yesterday. This should have been reported responsibly,” he said.

High Court to Govt: Why did you transfer Accounts of Police Officials from State Bank of India to Pvt. Bank

State Bank of India On Thursday, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court asked the State Govt. to study the case papers in a petition challenging the alleged transfer of Police staff & beneficiaries accounts from nationalised banks to Axis Bank.
A Division bench of Justices PN Deshmukh & Pushpa Ganediwala gave two weeks time to the State Govt. to study the case papers to assist the court on the issuance of notices.
The petition contended that the Maharashtra Govt. had in the year 2017 transferred the accounts of Police staff & beneficiaries of various schemes from nationalised banks to Axis Bank, in which Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s wife Amruta D Fadnavis was a senior position.
Advocate Harshal S Burapatre had filed the petition in the court on behalf of social worker Mohanish Jabalpure.
The Court also allowed the petitioner to remove the name of Amruta D Fadnavis from the petition.
The petitioner had requested to remove her name from the petition since she is no longer holding the office in Axis Bank.
The petition sought the court’s direction to the State Bank of India to estimate the how many accounts of Police officials have been transferred from the bank to Axis Bank & how much loss it has incurred on the government bank.
It also challenged the action of the state government of issuing a circular for passing a Govt. circular & entering into a contract with Axis bank with interest to help Amruta D Fadnavis, wife of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Maharashtra Police, today, also released a clarification saying the accounts of Police officials have had accounts in Axis Bank & other private banks since the year 2003.

Elgar Parishad case: CD title with Gonsalves suggests something anti-State, says high court

The Bombay High Court hearing a bail plea of Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves on Wednesday questioned his motive behind keeping copies of some books and CDs whose titles prima facie indicated they contained material against the State.


The books and CDs the high court referred to included copies of Marxist Archives, a CD titled ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ released by Kabir Kala Manch, and Leo Tolstoy’s literary classic ‘War and Peace’ among others.

“The title of the CD ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ itself suggests it has something against the State while ‘War and Peace’ is about a war in another country. Why were you (Gonsalves) having these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” said a single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal.

The judge made these observations while hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves, an academic, and other accused persons.

Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after raids at residences and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

The police had claimed provocative speeches made at the Parishad on December 31, 2017 were responsible for the caste violence around Bhima-Korgaon village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person was killed and others were injured in the violence.

Police are probing the alleged naxal links in organising the Parishad, which was held at historic Shaniwarwada in Pune.

Other arrested accused in the case include activists and academics Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha.

Gonsalves’ counsel Mihir Desai told the high court that the Pune police had based the entire case against him on the basis of some e-mails and letters recovered from the computers of other people.

“None of these letters or emails were written by Gonsalves, or were addressed to him. Therefore,in the absence of any cogent incriminating evidence against him, Gonsalves shouldn’t be denied bail,” Desai argued.

Opposing the bail application, advocate Aruna Pai, who is representing Pune Police, said the investigators are yet to find anything incriminating against Gonsalves in the computer and the hard disk recovered from his house a year ago.

She said a search conducted at Gonsalves’ house had yielded “incriminating evidence” in the form of “books and CDs with objectionable titles including the books and CDs mentioned above”.

Desai countered the prosecution argument saying “mere possession” of such books and CDs “did not make Gonsalves a terrorist, or a member of any banned Maoist group”.

Agreeing with defence that mere possession of such material does not make anyone a terrorist, Justice Kotwal, however, said Gonsalves will have to explain why he kept such material at his home.

The judge also said the Pune police too have to do “much explaining” to convince the court that the material found on such CDs and in the books is incriminatory against Gonsalves.

“So far, the police have failed to provide details of what was on the CDs or in the books and pamphlets recovered that linked Gonsalves to the case. Merely stating that they have objectionable titles is not enough. Have you tested these CDs? What if they turn out to be blank inside?” the judge asked.

“If you (prosecution) do not place on record the content and details of such material, the court will have to ignore them,” said Justice Kotwal.

The bench also directed police to provide details of the source of the e-mails and letters, and their authors and recipients.

The arguments are likely to continue on Thursday.

Dalits celebrate the anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle every year as they believe that the Army of the British comprising ‘Mahars’ or scheduled caste soldiers had defeated the forces of the Brahmin Peshwas.

Bombay High Court summons P Chidambaram, 2 IAS officers in Rs 10,000 crore damage suit by 63 moons

The Bombay High Court has summoned former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and top serving bureaucrats, K.P. Krishnan and Ramesh Abhishek, in connection with Rs 10,000 crore damage suits filed by 63 moons technologies, formerly known as Financial Technologies Ltd (FTIL), and their role in engineering the NSEL payment default crisis.
The Bombay High Court has asked the three to remain present in the court on October 15.
“You are hereby required to file in this Hon’ble Court an appearance in person and a written statement for your defence and serve a copy of the written statement on the plaintiff within 12 weeks from the service of this summons on you,” said the Bombay High Court order, dated July 24.

63 moons filed a Rs 10,000 crore damage suit against Chidambaram, Krishnan, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development, and Ramesh Abhishek, then Chairman of Forward Market Commission (FMC), and now the outgoing Secretary, Department for Industrial Policy and Promotion (DPIIT), stating that the company has been facing continuous targeted and mala fide actions in the wake of an engineered payment default crisis at one of its subsidiaries, the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL).
According to the lawsuits, there is no money trail traced to NSEL, 63 moons and its founder Jignesh Shah by multiple investigative agencies. However, the group has been singularly targeted as part of a conspiracy by Chidambaram, Krishnan and Abhishek who wanted to protect the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in which they had vested interests. These malicious actions perpetrated against 63 moons caused a damage of Rs 10,000 crore to its shareholders.
During his presentation to the media on the NSEL saga in February this year, 63 moons mentor Jignesh Shah had said Abhishek, as FMC Chairman, played a proactive role in perpetrating the NSEL crisis, destroying the exchange eco-system created by 63 moons to favour NSE, resulting in a huge damage to the shareholders of 63 moons, loss of employment and incomes in the economy.

As a result, 63 moons had filed the damage suits of Rs 10,000 crore against Chidambaram, Krishnan and Abhishek, in their individual capacities for taking mala fide actions against it by abusing their powers. Notably, the company has also filed criminal complaints against these three individuals with the CBI along with supporting material.
The legal filings noted that the sequence of events and the evidence that surfaced so far also showed that the then Finance Minister Chidambaram and Krishnan played a dubious role in destroying the ecosystem created by 63 moons technologies to favour the competitor NSE.

“A case in point is the note of K. P. Krishnan approved by P. Chidambaram forcing other co-promoters of NCDEX to sell their stake to make NSE a lead promoter clearly revealing their mala fide interference in the competition within the exchange industry. This hounding of 63 moons technologies group has not only caused serious loss to its investors but has done irreversible damage to the entire exchange eco-system, the existing jobs and creation of new jobs,” it added.
In his media briefing early this year, 63 moons Chairman Venkat Chary had pointed out that the FMC was aware of the role of certain big brokers and HNI traders. However, it acted in a partisan manner only against the NSEL and its parent, 63 moons.
For example, the FMC was mandated under the law to communicate information relating to illegal forward trading to police authorities. However, no such information was forwarded by the FMC against the brokers and the traders. Thus, there was a clear dereliction of duty and misuse of official position on the part of the then FMC chairman, Abhishek, in selectively targeting the parent company of NSEL, despite no money trail to them.

Jignesh Shah has said it was not a crisis but a conspiracy to decimate the FTIL Group. The Rs 5,600 crore payment crisis at NSEL came into light in July 2013.

Coastal road work: Supreme Court dismisses contempt plea against Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation

The Supreme Court (SC) recently dismissed a contempt petition which alleged that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had carried out new construction work for the coastal road project in violation of its previous order.

On May 6, the Apex court had modified a status quo order of the Bombay high court (HC), allowing work to continue on the project across the existing locations only.

The SC had, however, denied construction work in any new areas.

The 29.2-km coastal road aims to reduce travel time between south Mumbai & the western suburbs by 70%.

On Monday, the SC bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta, & Justice Aniruddha Bose was hearing a contempt petition filed by Shweta Wagh from the Society for Improvement, Greenery & Nature (SIGN) alleging that additional construction activity was undertaken by BMC in new areas for the project.

In its order, published on the SC website on Wednesday, the bench dismissed the petition, claiming that solicitor general Tushar Mehta had stated that “it was incorrect that construction in any new area or additional works had been undertaken in violation of the Apex court’s order [May 6, 2019]”.

Mehta also submitted that the Bombay HC had heard the issue & final judgment was awaited in the matter, the SC bench noted.

“In this view of the matter, we do not consider it appropriate to entertain this petition. The contempt petition is dismissed,” the order read.

Wagh was not available for a comment.

However, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust, Debi Goenka, who has also filed a petition against the project, alleging adverse effect on marine life, said: “Unfortunately, the HC did not go into the matter at all because it was an order by the SC. In this case, the SC has said they will not intervene in the HC’s final judgment,” said Goenka.

Supreme Court judge recuses herself from hearing pleas against Bombay High Court order on laws on beef

Supreme Court judge Justice Indu Malhotra Monday recused herself from hearing a batch of appeals and cross-appeals challenging a Bombay High Court verdict which held that mere possession of beef of animals slaughtered outside the state cannot invite criminal action.

A bench headed by Justice A M Sapre said that Justice Malhotra was recusing herself from the hearing as she had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the case.

Now the petitions would be listed before an “appropriate bench” by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The apex court, on August 17, 2016, had sought the response of the Maharashtra government on the plea of ‘Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh’ against the high court order. Later, as many as 33 petitions were filed in the apex court by different individuals and organisations.

The high court, on May 6, 2016, had said that the provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised possession of beef, was an infringement on the right to privacy of citizens and unconstitutional.

The high court had also upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra while striking down two sections of the state act which criminalised possession of beef.

Striking down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the act which criminalised and imposed punishment for possession of beef of animals slaughtered in the state or outside, the high court had held that the state cannot control what a citizen does in his house, which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something contrary to the law.

“Sections 5(d) which provides that no person shall have in his possession flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra is unconstitutional and infringes upon a citizen’s right to privacy,” the high court had said.

The court had also modified section 5(c) of the act, which makes possession of beef of animal slaughtered in the state an offence, and had said only “conscious possession” of such meat will be held as an offence.

The high court’s order had come on a bunch of petitions challenging the provision of the law which had said that mere possession of beef in any place in the state is a crime.

In February 2015, the president had granted sanction to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While the act had banned slaughter of cows way back in 1976, the recent amendments prohibited slaughter of bulls and bullocks, possession and consumption of their meat.

As per the act, slaughter attracts a five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine and possession of meat of bull or bullock attracts one-year jail and Rs 2,000 fine.