The Chhattisgarh High Court Tuesday granted anticipatory bail to former chief minister Raman Singh’s son-in-law Dr Puneet Gupta, former minister Rajesh Munat and BJP leader Maturam Pawar in connection with the alleged 2014 Antagarh bypoll fixing.
All three accused had filed separate pleas seeking pre-arrest bail. The hearing was going on before Justice Goutam Bhaduri.
Raipur police had lodged a case against Gupta, Munat and Pawar on February 3 in response to a complaint by Congress leader Kiranmayee Nayak, Additional Advocate General Satishchandra Verma said.
The petitioners’ lawyers argued that the FIR was lodged four years after the incident on the basis of weak evidence and it was political vendetta.
After hearing the arguments, the court granted them anticipatory bail.
In 2015-16, an audio CD came to surface. The conversations recorded in the CD suggested that there was a deal to make Maturam Pawar, Congress candidate in the 2014 Antagarh Assembly by-election, withdraw at the last minute to help the BJP nominee win.
The by-election was won by BJP’s Bhojraj Nag.
Pawar, who had pulled out of the race a day before the last date for withdrawal, was expelled from the Congress.
The CD suggested that his withdrawal was at the behest of the BJP and was facilitated by former chief minister Ajit Jogi.
It contained conversations purportedly between Ajit Jogi, his son Amit, Gupta, Pawar and few others.
“It is difficult to draw an inference that the appellants had committed the crime.”
In yet another judgment delivered on Tuesday, the Supreme Court acquitted two men whose death sentence was confirmed by the Chhattisgarh High Court.
The bench comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah, acquitted Digamber Vaishnav and Girdhari Vaishnav who were accused of robbery and murder of five women.
Perusing the evidence on record, the bench noted that the case of prosecution mainly relied on the deposition made by the child witness. The court said that it is clear from the testimony of the child witness that she was not an eyewitness to the incident and that her evidence is fraught with inconsistencies. The bench said:
“This Court has consistently held that evidence of a child witness must be evaluated carefully as the child may be swayed by what others tell him and he is an easy prey to tutoring. Therefore, the evidence of a child witness must find adequate corroboration before it can be relied upon. It is more a rule of practical wisdom than law.”
The court also observed that there was an unexplained delay in reporting the crime. The examination of expert is crucial especially if reliance is placed on the finger print report to suspect the guilt of the accused, the bench said as it noted that the person who took the sample finger prints was not examined by the prosecution.
The court also noted that, even in FIR, there is no averment of any article or money being stolen or lost. Therefore, when the money allegedly recovered is being sought to be relied upon as stolen from the house of the deceased, the same is unreliable when there is nothing on record to support the claim of theft or robbery from the scene of crime, the court added.
On ‘last seen together’ aspect, the bench said that, to constitute the last seen together factor as an incriminating circumstance, there must be close proximity between the time of seeing and recovery of dead body.
Holding that it is difficult to draw an inference that the accused had committed the crime, the bench acquitted them and ordered their release.
Former Chhattisgarh High Court judge Ishrat Masroor Quddusi has “deep roots in the society” and cannot tamper with evidence, a Delhi court today said while granting him bail in connection with an alleged medical college corruption case.
It, however, directed the 67-year-old former judicial officer to surrender his passport to the CBI within two days and not leave the country without its permission.
“This court is cognisant of the fact that Quddusi has been a judge of High Court for 17 years, though at the same time, no special concession can be showered on him solely due to this fact.
“Nonetheless, it also goes on to demonstrate that he has deep roots in the society and the apprehension of CBI that he would flee away or influence the witnesses or tamper with evidence, remain in the realm of apprehension only which seems unfounded and unsubstantiated,” Special Judge Manoj Jain said.
The court gave the relief to Quddusi on a personal bond of Rs one lakh and a surety of a like amount considering that he had cooperated with CBI probe and was not required to be kept in jail any further.
“Keeping in mind the overall facts and circumstances of the case and without making any comment with respect to merits or demerits of the case, I find it to be a fit case where no useful purpose would be served by permitting Quddusi to remain behind bars at this juncture,” the judge said while allowing his bail plea filed through advocate Vijay Aggarwal.
Opposing the bail plea, CBI senior public prosecutor Vivek Saxena argued that the scam in question was of a very serious magnitude and the former judicial officer’s role was “crucial and pivotal as he used his contacts to help co- accused run the medical college”.
Quddusi, who has also served as a judge in Orissa High Court, was arrested along with Lucknow-based Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences’ chairman B P Yadav, his son Palash Yadav and three others, for allegedly trying to settle a matter relating to the medical college debarred from admitting new students.
Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences is one of the 46 colleges debarred by the Medical Council of India (MCI).
The court also granted one week’s interim bail to Bhawana Pandey, the lone woman accused in the case, for treatment of her four-year-old son suffering from autism.
It kept the bail pleas of Yadav and his son pending for decision next month.
The other accused in the case are alleged hawala operator Ram Dev Saraswat and one middleman Viswanath Aggarwala.
While granting bail to Quddusi, the court accepted the argument of his counsel that he had an unblemished track record as a high court judge for 17 years and there was no question of his non-cooperation with the probe agency.
It also noted the submission of the CBI that Quddusi had voluntarily given his voice samples for probe relating to call records, which “suggested he had cooperated with the CBI”.
“The most clinching piece of evidence is already in possession of CBI in the shape of recorded conversation and therefore, it is hard to believe that Quddusi would be in any position to tamper with the evidence,” it said.
The CBI claimed Quddusi might tamper with evidence and influence important witnesses in the case.
According to the CBI, the arrests were made on September 20 after search operations at eight locations, including the residence of Quddusi in Greater Kailash area of South Delhi, as also in Bhubaneswar and Lucknow.
It had said that a case was registered against them for allegedly trying to settle an ongoing matter relating to a medical college barred from admitting new students.
The court had on the last date of hearing sent Quddusi to Tihar Jail here while rejecting CBI’s plea to interrogate him in custody. It had sent all the other accused to judicial custody as well.
The CBI had alleged they were not cooperating in the probe and had to be quizzed regarding similar cases involving 46 medical colleges debarred by the government from admitting students due to sub-standard facilities.
The probe agency has alleged that Quddusi had obtained an instalment of gratification from B P Yadav and it needed to investigate how it was paid.
It has alleged that Rs 1.86 crore were recovered and “a larger nexus needed to be considered as 46 colleges were debarred”.
Eleven judges to three high courts have been appointed.
The fresh appointments — six in the Madras High Court and two each in the high courts of Chhattisgarh and Punjab and Haryana– come at a time when the government and the judiciary continue to have differences over a key document which guides nomination of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had recently said that appointment of judges will continue despite non finalisation of memorandum of procedure.
As on May 1, the 24 high courts have 450 vacancies. While the sanctioned strength is 1,079, the working strength is 629 judges.
Surrendered Naxal Podiyam Panda today informed the Chhattisgarh High Court that he was not coerced by the police to surrender.
Panda was produced before the high court here in response to a habeas corpus petition (plea to produce the person) filed by his wife, Muiye, last week, Additional Advocate General Prafull Bharat said.
He informed the division bench of Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Sanjay Agrawal that he voluntarily surrendered and wanted to stay in police protection fearing threat to his life from Maoists, the AAG said.
The court dismissed the petition observing that it was not the matter of illegal detention, he said.
Panda is a former sarpanch of Chintagufa village in state’s Sukma district, while his wife is the incumbent sarpanch of the same village.
Muiye had filed the petition in the HC, alleging that her husband was illegally kept in custody by the Sukma Police.
The petitioner also contended that neither she was provided any information regarding her husband, nor she was allowed to meet him, he said.
While hearing the petition on Thursday, the police maintained that Panda was not arrested rather he voluntarily surrendered before them, he said.
The court had ordered the police to produce Panda before it today.
Meanwhile, Panda was also given time to meet his wife and children in the court where they had a conversation for around 10 minutes in their local dialect, he said.
Notably, Sukma Superintendent of Police had presented Panda before media on May 17 saying that he had surrendered before police on May 9.
Panda is an accused in several cases of Maoists incidents, including the attack on CRPF personnel in Burkapal area of Sukma last month and the massacre of 76 troopers at Tadmetla (then Dantewada district) in 2010.
Nearly 18 new judges are likely to be appointed by next week, days after five judges were elevated as chief justices.
Sources said files relating to fresh appointments have been cleared at the highest level and may reach Rashtrapati Bhawan in the coming days.
While most of the fresh appointments relate to Madras High Court, some others belong to Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh high courts.
There are nearly 74 recommendations of the collegium under process at the government’s end. Most of the recommendations are likely to fructify into appointments by the end of September, barring “a few” cases where the executive and the judiciary have “difference of opinion,” they said.
Usually, the process of appointing judges takes between 60 to 75 days.
Some 35 files related to elevation of judges as chief justices of high courts and those related to fresh appointments are pending in the “advanced stages” with the government.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had on Wednesday last told the Supreme Court that “there is progress in the appointments… We will see more progress”.
Judiciary and executive have seen at variance over appointment of judges in the recent past.
A married daughter is eligible to get government job of her deceased’s father on compassionate grounds, the Chhattisgarh High Court has observed.
Justice Sanjay K Agrawal made the observation yesterday while hearing a petition filed by Sarojani Bhoi (28) who had challenged the state government on the ground that she was not given the job of her father who passed away in 2011.
The HC cited that “policy of compassionate appointment excluding married daughters for consideration is a retrograde policy of the welfare state, and violative of Article 16 (2) (no discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex etc) of the Constitution.”
Father of Sarojani, Jaldev Pradhan who was working as Amin Patwari in the water resources department of the state’s Mahasamund district, died on January 6, 2011.
He left behind his wife Hemkanti and two married daughters Sarojani and Sanyukta, he said.
The petitioner made an application for compassionate appointment pleading that after the death of her father she is maintaining her family including her mother as she has no other source of income.
The state government had rejected her application holding that as per clause 3 (1)(c) of the policy dated 10/06/2003, the married daughter of the deceased government servant is not entitled to compassionate appointment.
Thereafter, Sarojani filed the writ petition challenging the legality and validity of the clause.
Contending that the state policy is “unconstitutional” Sarojani said a married daughter holds equal rights as that of a married son to get her deceased father’s government job.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Justice Agrawal observed that prohibiting the consideration of the married daughter from seeking compassionate appointment merely on the ground of marriage is plainly arbitrary and violative of constitutional guarantee envisaged in Article 14, (equality before law) 15 (no discrmination on grounds of religion, caste and sex etc) and 16 (2) of the Constitution of India, he said.
The court further held the state government’s policy of 2003 in this regard was “void and inoperative” and ordered the state government to reconsider the claim of the petitioner within 45 days.
The resolution of election disputes in this country takes unacceptably long periods in most cases, which “reduces the adjudicatory process into a mockery of justice”, the Supreme Court today said while advocating setting up of benches in high courts to exclusively deal with election petitions.
“We are sad to state that invariably the resolution of election disputes in this country takes unacceptably long periods in most of the cases. Very rarely an election dispute gets resolved during the tenure of the declared candidate reducing the adjudicatory process into a mockery of justice.
“Such delay, coupled with a right of appeal to this Court, makes the whole process of adjudication a task in a good number of cases,” a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Rohinton Fali Nariman said adding that it was desirable that in each High Court dedicated benches are created by the Chief Justice to deal with the election petitions exclusively.
“Those judges assigned with the adjudication of election petitions preferably may not be burdened with any other work until the adjudication of the election petitions is completed.
“An exercise which may not be difficult especially the class of litigation occurs only once in 5 or 6 years and the number of cases would be very limited. We are conscious of the fact that it is not possible for laying down any absolute rules in this regard.
“Essentially it is for a Chief Justice of the High Court to run administration and devise ways and means for expeditiously disposing of the cases brought before the High Court.
“We only gently remind that the kind of delay in the adjudication of election disputes exposes the High Court’s unpleasant criticism damaging the credibility of the institution, a situation which is certainly required to be avoided at any cost,” the bench said.
The observations came while hearing an appeal of Mohd Akbar who had approached the apex court against repeated adjournments in the Chhattisgarh High Court.
Akbar had challenged the election of one Ashok Sahu in 72-Kawardha Legislative Assembly Constituency on various grounds including the commission of certain corrupt practices.
The decks for the state government’s ‘Kamal Vihar’ integrated township development project by dismissing all 23 petitions filed by land owners and farmers challenging land acquisition policy and its environmental clearance has been cleared by the Chhattisgarh High court.
Delivering the verdict, Justice Prasant Mishra dismissed all the pleas on the ground of merit thus paving the way for Raipur Development Authority (RDA) to resume construction of the mega township project proposed to be developed over an area of 1,600 acres at Dunga near here at an estimated cost of Rs 927 crore.
Welcoming the court verdict, Chief Minister Raman Singh said that work on the Kamal Vihar township project would be expedited. He also announced that similar integrated township projects would be developed in other cities across the state.
Housing and Environment Minister Rajesh Munat and RDA Chairman Sunil Soni also welcomed the court verdict asserting speedy completion of the government’s dream township project, which would have all the amenities of a modern city.