SC sets aside notification for common medical test

The Supreme Court Thursday set aside a Medical Council of India (MCI) notification mandating a common National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses in government and private institutions.

In a majority judgment, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen said: “We also have no hesitation in holding that the Medical Council of India is not empowered under the 1956 Act to actually conduct the NEET.”

“…we have no hesitation in holding that the ‘Regulations on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) 2010 (Part II)’ and the ‘Post Graduate Medical Education (Amendment) Regulation, 2010 (Part II)’, whereby the Medical Council of India introduced the single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test and the corresponding amendments in the Dentists Act, 1948, are ultra vires the provisions of Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26(a), 29(1) and 30(1) of the Constitution,…”, the majority judgment said.

Addressing the practical aspect of holding a single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, Chief Justice Kabir, pronouncing the judgment, said, “In a single window competition, the disparity in educational standards in different parts of the country cannot ensure a level playing field.”

The court said that there was “no controversy that the standard of education all over the country was not the same and each state has its own system and pattern of education, including the medium of instruction”.

“It cannot also be disputed that children in the metropolitan areas enjoy greater privileges than their counterparts in most of the rural areas as far as education is concerned, and the decision of the central government to support a single entrance examination would perpetuate such divide in the name of giving credit to merit,” the judgment said.

“The desire to give due recognition to merit is laudable, but the pragmatic realities on the ground relating to health care, especially in the rural and tribal areas where a large section of the Indian population resides, have also to be kept in mind when policy decisions are taken in matters such as this”, the court said finding holes in the practical dimension of holding NEET.

Addressing the ground realities, the court said, ” While the country certainly needs brilliant doctors and surgeons and specialists and other connected with health care, who are equal to any in other parts of the world, considering ground realities, the country also has need for ‘barefoot doctors’, who are committed and are available to provide medical services and health care facilities in different areas as part of their mission in becoming doctors”.

However, in a dissenting judgment, Justice Anil R. Dave said: “It cannot be said that introduction of the NEET would either violate any of the fundamental or legal rights of the petitioners or even adversely affect the medical profession.”

“In my opinion, introduction of the NEET would ensure more transparency and less hardship to the students eager to join the medical profession,” he ruledd wondering how the autonomy of the said institutions would be adversely affected because of the NEET.

Holding that except for some institutions having some oblique motive behind selecting students who could not prove their mettle at the common examination, Justice Dave said that NEET would give private and minority institutions better students to select from and even give the benefit of the weightage to the religion, caste, etc in the selection of students.

(Source: IANS)

SC upholds law on reformist treatment to delinquent minors

The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the Juvenile Justice Act providing for a special reformist approach towards a minor irrespective of the nature of crime committed by him or her, saying that the law aimed to save children in conflict with law from becoming hardened criminals.

“The essence of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the rules framed thereunder in 2007, is restorative and not retributive, providing for rehabilitation and re-integration of children in conflict with law into the mainstream of society,” said an apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.S. Nijjar.

Chief Justice Kabir said: “There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age group of 16-18 may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be re-integrated into mainstream society, but such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any change in thinking…”

“…It is probably better to try and re-integrate children with criminal propensities into mainstream society, rather than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future,” the court said.

The age of 18 has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, the court said.

The court said this while declining petitions seeking the loweing of the age in the act from 18 to 16 years for juveniles and demanding that those involved in heinous crimes should not be treated differently from other offenders.

The petitioners, including author Salil Bali, lawyers and other individuals, had sought that the punishment for heinous crimes committed by a minor should not be decided by the Juvenile Justice Board.

The petition was filed in the context of a minor who was among those who were arrested for the gangrape, brutal assault and torture of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi Dec 16 last year. She later died in a Singapore hospital Dec 29.

Addressing the general perception that a juvenile was free to go, even if he had committed a heinous crime, when he ceases to be a juvenile, the court referred to the amendment to the law saying “that even if a juvenile attains the age of 18 years within a period of one year he would still have to undergo a sentence of three years, which could spill beyond the period of one year when he attained majority”.

The court said that there was yet another consideration which appears to have weighed with the worldwide community, including India, to retain 18 as the upper limit to which persons could be treated as children that was to “provide for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and for the adjudication of certain matters relating to and disposition of delinquent juveniles”.

(Source: IANS)

SC urged to direct re-evaluation of CIL’s worth

A PIL Monday urged the Supreme Court to order re-evaluation of Coal India Ltd’s worth and sought the cancellation of its shares issued through an IPO in October 2010 on account of their “gross undervaluation” which caused a Rs.175,000 crore loss to public exchequer.

The PIL petitioner, Ehsan Khalid, told the court that though the initial public offering (IPO) garnered Rs.15,100 crore when viewed at proportionate asset value of coal – the benefit of which the investors would reap forever, but the country got only Rs.23.33 per ton of coal as at point of time CIL had coal reserve of 64 billion tonnes.

This price, which the government got with the disinvestment of its 10 percent equity, has further dipped to Rs.12.45 per ton as additional 57 billion tonnes of coal reserves have been added to the worth of CIL, he contended.

As petitioner told the court that he had got all these details from the annual report of the CIL, the bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Fakir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen asked him to serve the copies of his petition on the coal ministry and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and then it (apex court) would to consider his plea.

The petitioner has sought the re-evaluation of CIL’s worth based on the coal reserves as it enjoyed near monopoly in India.

He said this was necessary and “a matter of utmost national importance” as the government was intending to further disinvest 10 percent equity of CIL by way of IPO.

“Private investors are enjoying the benefit of over 12 billion tons of coal vested with CIL, on payment of only Rs.12 per ton which is literally a broad daylight robbery of common Indian”, the petitioner said.

The court directed the listing of the matter after two weeks.

(Source: IANS)


SC tells petitioners to move high court on CAG appointment

The Supreme Court Monday asked the former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami to move the Delhi High Court as it declined to entertain his petition challenging the appointment of former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma as the CAG of India.

“Go to high court,” said the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir as senior counsel Fali Nariman raised the plea before the court.

Gopalaswami and several other former senior officers of the government have contested the appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the ground that the procedure for the appointment of the CAG was bereft of transparency and was opaque.

The petitioners have contended that the incumbent CAG was placed in a position of conflict of interest as he would be examining some of the controversial defence deals that were concluded during his tenure in the defence ministry and as the defence secretary as well.

(Source: IANS)

SC issues notice on PIL seeking end to diesel subsidy

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government on a PIL seeking an end to the subsidy on diesel and enforcement of Euro-V emission norms for all vehicles running on diesel.

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Fakir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice on the plea seeking a market-determined price mechanism for the diesel used in commercial enterprises including private and commercial vehicles.

Petitioner Arvind Gupta, who described diesel as the dirtiest of all fuels in the world, has sought the impounding of all the vehicles that do not conform to Euro-IV and Euro-V emission norms and cancellation of their licences and registration.

Seeking the discontinuation of supply of subsidised diesel to “undeserving sections of society” particularly owners of luxury cars, telecommunication towers of private sector, malls, supermarkets, and 5-star hotels and resorts, the petitioner demanded that they be given diesel at a market-determined price.

The PIL has also sought the creation of an environmental police department to be equipped with dynamometer smoke-testing equipment for testing vehicular emissions on the roads and levying stiff penalties for violating smoke-emission norms for the vehicles.

Referring to the WHO report which had said that about two million people die world over every year on account of breathing in tiny particles present in polluted air, Gupta has also urged the court to direct levying of an appropriate cess to compensate the loss suffered by the exchequer on account of supply of subsidised diesel.

The petition said WHO in its air quality guidelines 2005 had listed New Delhi, Karachi, Beijing and Kathmandu as Asian cities having a very high level of air pollution.

On the question of compensating the farmers and the people living below poverty line, the petition suggested that they could be compensated for the loss of the subsidy by giving them direct cash subsidies through the AADHAR card.

In responses to another PIL by Sanjay Kulshreshtra seeking the modernization of road infrastructure and traffic reforms in the wake of exponential increase in number of vehicles, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Monday told the court that there was no policy decision to fix the age limit of the vehicles.

However, at the time of the renewal of the registration certificate of vehicles, the NHAI said the vehicles owner had to obtain fitness certificate from the authorised testing centre.

“The vehicles can ply on the Indian roads, as long as it satisfies the prescribed norms and standards mentioned in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules,” the NHAI told the court.

Defending its track record on the maintenance and repairs of the existing highways, the NHAI said the allocation available annually for this purpose is about 40 percent of the actual requirements, and this gap “has results in thin spreading of resources on large stretches of NHs and consequent difficulty in maintaining entire NH network in traffic-worthy condition”.

“This leads to compulsion on our part to resort to reactive maintenance and that too within the available fund constraints” and in the absence of timely maintenance of NHs results into the need for premature rehabilitation at much higher level of maintenance, NHAI said.

(Source: ISBN)

SC to hear P J Thomas’ plea after vacation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday decided to hear after summer vacation the plea of retired IAS officer P J Thomas seeking quashing of a 22-year-old pending corruption case against him due to which his appointment as Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) was held illegal.

“For the last 22 years, I (Thomas) am suffering,” Thomas’ counsel Will Mathew told a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and justices Vikramajit Sen and S A Bobde.

The retired bureaucrat had sought early hearing of his petition but it could not be taken up after the notice was issued on February 22.

He had moved the apex court after the Kerala High Court dismissed his plea for quashing the corruption case pertaining to the import of palmolein oil from a Singapore firm, which was allegedly done at prices higher than the international rate during his tenure as Food Secretary in the state government.

The import of oil allegedly caused a loss of Rs 2.32 crore to the state exchequer.

Thomas, in his petition, submitted that there is nothing on record to show that he committed any offence and he was only executing a cabinet decision as a dutyful civil servant.

“The petitioner is facing trial, despite the fact that he has not committed any offence according to the law of the land, and as such there is nothing in the record to be termed as offence to be tried in the eyes of law against him and the continuance of the trial amounts to violation of fundamental rights,” the petition said



UP seeks SC nod for beautification of Taj Mahal

A notice to the Centre and Archaeological Survey of India has issued by the Supreme Court of India seeking their responses to Uttar Pradesh government’s plea for its permission for beautification of areas near the Taj Mahal.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir also sought a response from central pollution control board on the state government’s plea.

Two applications were filed by the state government seeking permission from the apex court to develop Taj Nature Walk and Taj Heritage Corridor Area (Mumtaj Eco Park) near the white marble mausoleum located. Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Earlier, the Mayawati government had also planned beautification of areas near the Taj through Taj Corridor Project but it was mired in corruption charges and a CBI inquiry was directed into it by the apex court.

SC refuses to issue contempt notice on delay in FIR

Initiate contempt action has been declined by the Supreme court which was against Delhi Police for alleged delay in lodging FIR for missing child in the case of rape of a five-year-old girl but took serious exception that money was offered to the family members to keep quiet.

The court was not impressed with the submission that the concerned constable, who had offered Rs 2000 to the family, has been suspended and said he must not have been acting on his own.

“He must have been acting on some instruction. Do you think he was acting on his own? Why should a constable go himself and offer money. Somebody must have been responsible,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and justices Vikramajit Sen and Sharad Arvind Bobde said.

The remarks were made after Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra said the constable has been suspended and the police had acted swiftly on receiving the complaint about the missing girl child.

The bench said though it was not proceeding to issue notice on the contempt plea filed by an NGO, it was necessary to seek a short affidavit from the Delhi Police on the steps taken by it relating to the rape of the girl in east Delhi.

“We are not issuing Rule or notice but only asking the Delhi Police to file a short affidavit,” the bench said adding “since the ASG is present he is directed to file an affidavit relating to the matter”.

The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on May 6, was, however, annoyed that all sorts of people are filing petitions and applications on the issue.

“The problem is that everybody has started filing applications and it is difficult to find out which is a genuine,” according to the bench which was mentioned at the beginning of the hearing.

SC to Censor: Review classification of ‘Sadda Haq’

New Delhi, Apr 26: The Supreme Court today asked the Censor Board to consider whether the “U” certificate granted to Punjabi film “Sadda Haq” that allegedly glorifies extremism era can be changed to “A” following recommendation of a court appointed panel which did not favour suspending its screening.

After perusing the report of the four-member committee, which watched the movie today, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said that the Central Board of Film Certification which is the statutory authority will re-consider its decision on Monday after which the film can be released across the country.

The order was passed on a plea challenging the ban on screening of the film in Delhi, Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.
The report by the committee comprising senior advocates Fali Nariman, Rajiv Dhavan, Indira Jaising (Additional Solicitor General) and Rebecca John said the Board when it looks into the final version of the film, may “seriously re-consider whether the film present classification as ‘U’ (under section 5A of the Cinematograph Act, 1952) is at all appropriate or whether the film should be only certified as ‘A’ film”.

The committee dismissed the apprehension of governments of Delhi, Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh that the screening of the film is likely to cause breach of law and order.

“We are of the considered view that suspending the screening of the film on the ground that it is likely to cause a breach of peace calling for pre-emptive action by state authorities is totally inappropriate since it is the duty of the state to maintain law and order and prevent any apprehended breach of peace.

“This view is consistent with the law already laid down by this court, in particular, in the judgement in the Union of India Vs K M Shankarappa,” the note given by the panel to the court said.

The bench, also comprising justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen, had yesterday appointed the committee to watch the film.
On April 11, the court issued notices to Delhi and Punjab governments and the Union Territory of Chandigarh and sought their responses on the plea challenging the ban.

“There has been no ban on the screening of the film in other states. Why ban has been imposed only in Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh”? the court had earlier asked.

Delhi government had said the ban was only in these three states as the screening of the film could affect a section of population belonging to a particular community, which is quite sizable, and there could have been consequential fallouts on peace and tranquillity. It had also said ground realities have been taken into account by the government before banning the film, the story line of which also covers incidents of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Punjab militancy and alleged brutalities.

The screening of the film was stayed on April 4, a day before its release on April 5.

The court was hearing the plea of Vital Media, producer of the film, which assailed the ban imposed on the movie even after it was allowed screening by the Central Board of Film Certification. 



NIA to probe Italian marines’ case, trial on daily basis: SC

NIA has been allowed by the by the Supreme court of India here in Delhi to probe the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen and asked the special court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis after the charge sheet is filed.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir clarified that the special court, set up by the Centre for this case, will not take up any other matter and complete the trial as soon as possible,  IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

The bench also comprising Justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen said that the two marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will remain in the custody of the apex court till the completion of the trial.

The Italian government had raised objection over the case being handed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), saying that the agency has no jurisdiction and pleaded that the case be probed by CBI.

The Italian government had approached the apex court, saying that the charges which have been slapped on the marines are not covered by the NIA Act.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government, had submitted that NIA can probe the case only if charges under Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, are also slapped against the marines and the same cannot be done in view of apex court verdict to prosecute them only under IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The two marines were on board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’ when they had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year.