Bombay High Court stays execution of convicts in Pune BPO Rape and Murder case

The Bombay High Court on Friday stayed the execution of two convicts in the 2007 Pune BPO rape and murder case. The convicts were to be executed on June 24 at Yerawada Central Prison.

A BPO employee was raped and murdered by her company’s cab driver Purshottam Borate and his friend, Pradeep Kokade in 2007.

On the ground of inordinate delay of around two years, the convicts had challenged the rejection of mercy plea by the President of India.

The two convicts also claimed that there was an undue and avoidable delay of 1,509 days in the execution of the death sentence, and that they underwent solitary confinement lasting more than seven years.

The Bombay High Court had confirmed the death penalty in the Pune BPO rape and murder case in September 2012. In May 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court judgment. The President rejected the convicts’ mercy petition in June 2017.

The convicts urged the High Court to strike down the execution warrants and to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay.

In its affidavit, the State of Maharashtra had denied the petitioners’ claim of inordinate delay and the prolonged solitary confinement they underwent. It further said that there has not been any delay on the part of state government, either in intimating or in forwarding the documents to Government of India.

Affidavits in reply to the plea were filed by the Superintendent of the Yerawada Prison; Deputy Secretary, State Home Department (prisons); and the Deputy Secretary (Judicial), Ministry of Home Affairs.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the Court on Thursday that a mere delay cannot be a reason for commuting the death sentence of the petitioners but it has to be “inordinate and unexplained”.

Yug Chaudhary, advocate for the two convicts, said that a delay of two years between rejection of the mercy petition by the President and the date of execution is unprecedented in India.

Moreover, Chaudhary had also contented that the sessions court order was prejudiced as it had a remark, “If these people are not hanged, it’ll affect the social conscience of the society.”

Had this remark been part of the documents given to the President and the Governor, they might have taken a different view, Chaudhary claimed

A Division Bench of Justices BP Dharmadhikari and Swapna Joshi heard the plea today.

Chaudhary has been asked to file a response by Tuesday, June 25, on which date the Court will hear further arguments.

Both the petitioners and the state government are expected to move the Supreme Court in case the Bombay High Court ultimately decides against them.

Bombay High Court directs police to file case against Munde in illegal land purchase case

The Bombay High Court Tuesday directed police to file a case against Dhananjay Munde, the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, in connection with alleged illegal purchase of government land in Beed district.

A division bench of Justices T V Nalawade and K K Sonawane gave the directions on the petition filed by one Rajabhau Phad.

According to the petition, the land at Pus village in Ambajogai tehsil of Beed belongs to the government and was given to the Belkhandi Math in Beed as gift when Ranit Wyanka Giri was its mahant.

However, as per law, the land cannot be transferred without the government’s permission.

But after the death of Giri, his heirs transferred the land in their names and claimed that they are its owners and the government was not informed about it.

The land was later bought by Munde on the basis of a general power of attorney in 2012. Munde applied for non-agricultural status (NA) of the land and got it, the petition alleged.

Phad had approached the Bardapur police station in Beed seeking a criminal case to be lodged against Munde, his wife and others.

However, when the police failed to initiate a probe, Phad approached the high court claiming that the land originally belonged to the government and hence, cannot be sold to anyone.

He sought an FIR be lodged under IPC Sections 420 (cheating), 467, 468 and 471 (forgery) against Munde, his wife and 15 others.

Munde’s lawyer Siddheshwar Thombre said there was a dispute between the then Math mahant and priest of the trust on this land.

He said the matter was taken to court and on the basis of decree, another person became the owner of the land, adding that in 2012, Munde bought the land from that person by adhering to all legal procedures.

It was not mentioned anywhere that the land belonged to the government, Munde’s lawyer said while asserting that the entire process was legal.

The Aurangabad bench of the high court, however, said prima facie it appears the government land was usurped and hence, directed the Bardapur police to file a case against Munde and others and probe the allegations.

Thombre later told reporters that they would move the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the court order, Munde asserted that the land for the Jagmitra Sugar Mills was purchased “as per rules and without hoodwinking anyone”.

He accused Phad of filing the complaint against him out of “political vendetta”. Phad is the son-in-law of businessman Ratnakar Gutte, whom Munde had previously accused of securing loan in the name of farmers.

Munde also said he would approach the apex court against the high court’s order.

The NCP leader had last year alleged that Gutte got loans of over Rs 5,400 crore on the basis of fake documents made in the name of farmers.

Munde then also alleged that Gutte, the promoter of Gangakhed Sugar and Energy Limited in the state’s Parbhani district, had transferred bank loans obtained by various firms into different accounts.

“The land meant for the mill was purchased as per rules, without hoodwinking any organisation, individual or the government. The ruling was obtained from the honourable high court through Phad out of political vendetta, as I had raised a matter relating to Gutte,” Munde said in a statement.

He said documents relating to the mill support his position that there was nothing wrong in the purchase of land and exuded confidence that the Supreme Court will give him relief in the case.

“I raise voice on the issues of public concern and that’s why such conspiracy is devised against me ahead of each session of the legislature. I will keep raising voice against the government no matter how many personal attacks are directed at me,” Munde added.

High Court seeks govt’s response on pleas of two death row convicts

New Delhi : The Bombay High Court Thursday sought responses from the Centre and the Maharashtra government on petitions filed by two convicts on death row to halt their execution scheduled on June 24.

The petitions filed last week by Purushottam Borate and Pradeep Kokate, convicted in the 2007 gangrape and murder of a woman Wipro BPO employee, have claimed that the “inordinate delay” in their execution has violated their fundamental rights.

In their pleas, the duo, currently lodged at the Yerawada prison in Pune, have urged the high court to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.

A division bench headed by Justice B P Dharmadhikari Thursday issued notices to the Union and the state government and sought their responses to the petitions.

The matter has been posted for hearing on June 14.

The two convicts have exhausted their appeals, and their mercy petitions were turned down by the President in 2017.

A sessions court in Pune had on April 10 issued warrants setting June 24 as the date of execution.

In March 2012, the duo was convicted and awarded death penalty by a Pune sessions court for kidnapping, raping and murdering the BPO employee in Pune.

The victim got into a regular cab contracted by the company to report for her night duty on November 1, 2007, in a Pune suburb.

The cab driver, Borate, accompanied by his friend Kokate, changed the route and took her to a remote place, where she was raped by the two, and strangled with her dupatta.They also disfigured her face, to conceal her identity.

In September 2012, the high court confirmed the punishment and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2015.

The Governor of Maharashtra had rejected their mercy petitions in April 2016 and the President of India in May 2017.

“Excessive and unexplained delay of over four years (1,509 days) in execution of the sentence of death causes unnecessary and unavoidable pain, suffering and mental torment that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violative of Article 21 (right to life),” the duo said in the petitions filed in the HC last week.

The petitions cited the Supreme Court judgments that said mercy petitions should be decided within three months.

In the pleas, the convicts said the delay in execution made them believe that the government intended to grant them mercy and let them live.

The petitions sought the court to stay the execution of the death penalty and consider the inordinate delay and seek an explanation from the authorities.

Bombay High Court refuses to vacate stay imposed on BMC’s Tree Authority

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused the BMC’s plea to vacate a stay imposed on the working of Mumbai civic body’s Tree Authority that has the power to approve cutting of trees for development projects or repair and upgradation work.

A vacation bench of justices A S Gadkari and N J Jamadar, however, refused to restrain the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from cutting trees in Aarey area for the proposed Metro car shed and some allied works.

The bench was hearing applications filed by the Mumbai Metro Corporation Limited, the BMC, and environmental activist Zoru Bhatena, seeking various reliefs related to the Tree Authority.

On October 24, 2018, a regular bench of the high court restrained the Tree Authority from taking any decision on the application to cut trees until it had independent experts as nominated members.

Till then, the municipal commissioner would tackle emergent situations, the court said.

The order followed Bhatena’s plea pointing that the Tree Authority for Mumbai comprised municipal councillors and no independent expert.

On Wednesday, the BMC submitted that it had chosen four independent experts to be part of the Tree Authority.

It, therefore, requested the court to permit the Tree Authority to start functioning.

The civic body said it had several pending projects pertaining to felling of trees ahead of the monsoon, but they were being delayed due to the stay imposed by the court in October last year.

Bhatena opposed the BMC’s arguments, saying the present Tree Authority had 15 councillors or corporators and just four expert members.

He argued that the BMC must include an equal number of experts as councillors to ensure permissions for felling trees were not granted indiscriminately.

The high court is likely to hear the matter in detail on May 20.

Bombay High Court asks Maharashtra government about steps taken to tackle drought

The Bombay High Court has sought to know from the Maharashtra government what measures it proposes to tackle “serious” issues like drought in the state.

A vacation bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and N J Jamadar was hearing a petition filed by activist Sanjay Lakhe Patil, seeking setting up of independent disaster management committees in each district of the state.

Patil sought for implementation of the 2016 disaster management guidelines which listed several measures to be undertaken by the state government to tackle natural calamities and disasters, including drought.

When the petition was heard on Monday, Patil produced records before the court to show that water levels in dams and other resources had gone down in the state’s Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.

“The issue is serious. We want some lawyer from the state government to inform us what measures the government proposes to take (to tackle the issue),” the court said.

The bench then posted the petition for further hearing on May 20.

Bombay High Court seeks response from BJP leaders over hoardings in Mumbai

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought response from BJP MP Poonam Mahajan, party MLA Ashish Shelar and corporator Alka Kelkar over allegations that hoardings and posters carrying their pictures were put up in the city without requisite permissions.

A bench of justices A S Oka and M S Karnik was hearing a petition filed by activist Zoru Bathena, who alleged that several illegal hoardings, banners and posters were put up by the BJP in Khar and Bandra areas of Mumbai.

As per the plea, the posters and hoardings had pictures of Mahajan, Shelar and Kelkar.

The bench directed Mahajan, Shelar and Kelkar to file their affidavits in response to the petition.

“The three respondents – Ashish Shelar, Poonam Mahajan and Alka Kelkar – shall file their affidavits stating if the municipal corporation’s permission was taken before putting up the hoardings and banners,” Justice Oka said.

The bench posted the petition for further hearing on May 2.

Mahajan is the BJP’s candidate from Mumbai-North Central Lok Sabha seat, where she is pitted against Congress’ former MP Priya Dutt.

Polling in Mumbai will be held in the fourth phase on April 29.

Every direction by EC will be followed during polls : Bombay High Court

The Nagpur collector-cum-returning officer Sunday assured the Bombay High Court that every direction and guideline issued by the Election Commission (EC) will be followed during the elections and post-poll arrangements.

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court was hearing a petition filed by Nana Patole, Congress’ Nagpur Lok Sabha candidate.

Patole had filed the petition on Saturday, seeking, among other things, an order to the authorities to ensure that CCTV cameras installed outside two strongrooms in the city, where electronic voting machines are kept, function properly.

A division bench of justices R K Deshpande and S M Modak had sought a reply from the authorities concerned on Sunday.

The petitioner’s first grievance was that representatives of the candidate were not permitted to put 1,000 strokes on selected EVMs during a mock trial as per the guidelines of the Election Commission.

To this, Returning Officer Ashwin Mudgal told the court that it is the officer who would do this in the presence of the representatives of the candidate.

The court then specifically asked the returning officer as to who shall be permitted to put the 1,000 strokes on the EVMs. Mudgal replied that there should be no problem in permitting the representatives of all candidates to do so.

To another grievance that only one representative of each candidate is permitted to attend the mock trial of the EVMs, the returning officer replied that two representatives of each candidate are permitted to attend the trial. One more representative could be allowed as per discretion, he said.

Replying to a demand of making CCTV footage available, Mudgal said the cameras installed in the two strongrooms were functioning and surveillance was going on.

The CCTV cameras were inoperative for some time but everything is being video-graphed and a record is preserved and available, he said.

The returning officer assured the court that as far as possible, efforts would be made to meticulously comply with each and every direction or guideline of the Election Commission.

Will curb un-verified political ads on social media: Election Commission to Bombay High Court.

The Election Commission (EC) Monday told the Bombay High Court that it will issue directions prohibiting all social media platforms from displaying political advertisements not pre-verified by it.

The EC, through its counsel Pradeep Rajagopal, told the high court that a meeting between the commission and all social media intermediaries was scheduled for Tuesday.

Following the same, its new directions imposing several prohibitions on political advertisements, and other ads concerned with “national interest”, will be finalised and implemented.

Rajagopal made the submissions before a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar.

The bench has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the EC to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

In compliance with the court’s previous orders, the commission submitted an affidavit on Monday, informing the HC of the proposed pre-verification rules for political ads.

In its affidavit, the EC said it will also “evolve a notification mechanism” for identifying and flagging such political ads that have not received its pre-verification, but have been posted on social media platforms.

“The intermediaries will also have to expeditiously remove any advertisement or information already posted without the verification certificate from the commission,” the affidavit said.

“A code of conduct is being evolved in consultation with the Internet and Mobile Association of India and the social media intermediaries to incorporate the above measures and any other direction issued by this court,” it said.

On previous hearing, social networking portal Facebook told the HC that it had introduced a strict “verification processes” for all political ads and paid content of “national interest” in India ahead of the general election.

The new system ensures that only bonafide individuals, who are citizens of India, and political organisations based in the country can place political ads.

Twitter and YouTube had told the bench that they permitted only such political ads which were verified by the EC.

Embryologist accused of importing human embryos gets Bombay High Court relief

The Bombay High Court Monday ordered the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to not take any coercive steps against a 51-year-old embryologist accused of importing human embryos from Malaysia.

A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre also directed embryologist Dr Goral Gandhi to appear before the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to record her statement.

According to her plea, Gandhi runs an IVF clinic in suburban Bandra.

“The petitioner does not import embryos as part of her business,” Gandhi’s lawyer Sujoy Kantawalla said.

According to the plea, on the night of March 16, certain people claiming to be DRI officials conducted a search at her clinic and seized certain documents.

The officials handed over summons to the petitioner directing her to appear before the investigating officer concerned of the DRI for further probe.

DRI’s lawyer Rebecca Gonsalves told the court that on March 16, a person was intercepted at the city’s international airport.

“During search of his luggage, a canister was seized and DRI officials found a human embryo inside it,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves added that upon questioning, the man told the officials that the canister was to be delivered to the petitioner’s clinic.

“Human embryos cannot be imported unless the person has obtained a permit to do so from the Indian Council of Medical Research,” Gonsalves argued.

The bench directed the DRI to file its affidavit in response to the petition and posted the matter for hearing on April 3.

The court said the petitioner should appear before the officer concerned on March 22 to record her statement.

“No coercive action shall be taken till further hearing,” it said.

Bombay High Court to hear plea on condition of foot overbridges in Mumbai

The Bombay High Court Friday said it would take up for hearing on March 22 a petition on the issue of “poor” condition of foot overbridges in the metropolis.

One of the petitioners Pradeep Bhalekar’s advocate Nitin Satpute approached the high court Friday seeking urgent hearing of the plea a day after a foot overbridge near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in south Mumbai collapsed killing six people and injuring 31 others.

A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre agreed to hear the matter on March 22.

Bhalekar had filed the petition in September 2017 after a stampede on a congested foot overbridges in Elphinstone Road suburban railway station (now renamed Prabhadevi) claimed 31 lives.

In his plea, Bhalekar had sought a direction to the authorities concerned to constitute a special committee to conduct survey of all foot overbridges in the city and carry out repair works if they are found in dilapidated or dangerous condition.