Chief Justice of India S A Bobde on Thursday observed that the country is going through difficult times and there is so much violence going on as the Supreme Court refused urgent hearing on a plea seeking to declare the Citizenship Amendment Act as constitutional.
A bench headed by CJI Bobde expressed surprise over the petition and said this is the first time that someone is seeking that an Act be declared as constitutional.
“There is so much of violence going on. The country is going through difficult times and the endeavour should be for peace… This court’s job is to determine validity of a law and not declare it as constitutional,” the CJI said.
The bench also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said it will hear the petitions challenging validity of CAA when the violence stops.
The observation came after advocate Vineet Dhanda sought urgent listing of his plea to declare CAA as constitutional and a direction to all states for implementation of the Act.
The plea has also sought action against activists, students and media houses for “spreading rumours”.
On December 18, the apex court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the CAA, but refused to stay its operation.
The newly amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde had fixed a batch of 59 petitions, including those filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, for hearing on January 22.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Act including by RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
Several other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.
The Supreme Court on Friday decided to put on hold the elections for the local bodies in nine new districts, carved out of four existing ones, in Tamil Nadu for complying with legal formalities such as delimitation and reservation in four months.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde considered the suggestion put forward by the Tamil Nadu government that it was willing to put on hold the local body polls in the nine districts for complying with legal formalities such as a fresh delimitation exercise and for deciding the issue of reservation for women and SC/ST candidates.
The bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said, “There shall be no legal impediment in holding the elections in the rest nine districts of Tamil Nadu.”
It directed the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission to conduct the delimitation exercise and other formalities afresh and conclude them in four months.
The nine reconstituted districts, where the polls will not be held, are Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Thirupatthur, Ranipeti, Villupuram, Kallakuruchi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.
The bench also said the local body elections in the remaining districts of the southern state will be held as per the earlier schedule.
The state election commission had on Monday announced that the local body polls in Tamil Nadu will be held in two phases — on December 27 and 30 — without complying with the formalities.
The apex court bench had given the state government two options and asked it to either agree to keep the bifurcation of the districts in abeyance or not hold the local body polls for the nine new districts.
The counsel for the state government had subsequently informed the court that it was willing to put on hold the polls in the nine districts and the process will continue in the local bodies of the other districts.
The top court’s order came on a plea moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), seeking a direction to the state authorities to “carry out delimitation, reservation and rotation process and fulfil all other legal requirements before issuing any election notifications and conducting elections” for the local bodies in the state.
The counsel for the state government had, on Thursday, referred to various court verdicts and said once the poll process, even an imperfect one, was set in motion, no court could or should delay or postpone it.
However, the court had said the law on delimitation needed to be followed after the bifurcation or trifurcation of four districts into nine, even if it involved postponement of elections.
“You delay the process by bifurcating the districts and then say proper follow-up procedure (delimitation) should not be followed. The law must be followed and if it involves the postponement of polls, so be it,” the bench had said.
There are three processes — commission delimitation of each ward of all the local bodies, reservation of the office of chairman or mayor in a town panchayat, municipality or corporation and the rotation policy, which are to be carried out by the state government and the Tamil Nadu Delimitation Commission, which is then to be implemented by the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, the DMK had said in the plea.
The party had alleged that the Tamil Nadu government was dragging its feet on conducting the polls and had not carried out the delimitation activity for the nine new districts and claimed that in many districts, even the preliminary delimitation exercise was not conducted.
The plea said: “The basic legal requirement of publishing draft delimitation proposal/order has not been carried out and in the absence of such publication, neither any objections have been invited or received, nor any hearing has been conducted.
“The delimitation authority has also not carried out rotation and reservation of seats, exercise subsequent to publication of draft delimitation order. Hence, the state election commission has so far not carried out and completed basic legal formalities and therefore, cannot be permitted to hold local body polls in a manner which would not be fair and free and would also be contrary to the mandatory legal requirements.
Newly-appointed Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde on Monday sat on the dais in a courtroom with Chief Justice of Jamaica Bryan Sykes and senior-most Judge of Bhutan’s Supreme Court, Justice Kuenlay Tshering, a first for the head of the Indian apex court.
Justice Bobde, 63, was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.
He was congratulated by Bar leaders on being appointed as the 47th head of the Indian judiciary.
The CJI, who headed the bench comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, started holding the court at 11.30 am and was first congratulated by Rakesh Khanna, the senor advocate and the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
“We wish a fruitful and successful tenure to CJI Bobde,” the SCBA President said in the packed courtroom where his relatives and friends were also present.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal mentioned the bail plea of jailed Congress leader P Chidambaram as the first case before the CJI who said he will look into the plea for urgent hearing.
Bobde will have a tenure of over 17 months as the CJI and is due to retire on April 23, 2021.
He was part of the recent historic Ayodhya verdict and the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court that had held unanimously in August 2017 that the Right to Privacy was a constitutionally protected fundamental right in India.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is likely to have a meeting with Uttar Pradesh chief secretary and director general of police on Friday to assess the law and order arrangement in the state ahead of the verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute case to be pronounced next week, sources said.
The CJI has called UP Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and DGP Om Prakash Singh and will have the meeting in his chamber, they said.
The judgement on the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute was reserved on October 16 after a marathon hearing of 40 days. The judgement is likely to be pronounced before November 17 as Justice Gogoi’s tenure as the CJI comes to end on that day.
CPI leader D Raja, part of the opposition led by Congress which moved the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India, today said the concerned parties would have to examine the grounds on which the notice has been rejected by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
“Concerned parties will have to examine the grounds on which the motion has been rejected by the Vice President. We will have to consult among us, especially who moved the motion,” Raja said, adding the Left and other parties which have submitted the motion would hold consultations to decide the future course.
“We have to share our views and decide on the future course of action. We will consult among left parties and all other parties,” the CPI National Secretary said.
Naidu today rejected the impeachment motion moved against the CJI saying it lacked substantial merit. The rejection of the notice came a day after he held the consultations to determine the maintainability of the motion.
Seven opposition parties, including the CPI, had last week moved a notice before Naidu for impeachment of the CJI on five grounds of “misbehaviour”.
The Supreme Court today directed the listing of a case of a news portal’s scribes, who are facing criminal defamation complaint filed by BJP President Amit Shah’s son, before an appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18.
An supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said since it was seized of hearing important cases pending before a constitution bench, there was paucity of time to hear this matter.
It said the petitions, which have challenged the Gujarat High Court’s order refusing to quash summons issued against them by a trial court in a defamation complaint filed by Shah’s son Jay Shah, be listed before an appropriate bench.
“Let the matters be listed before the appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18. The interim order passed on the earlier occasion to continue till the next date of hearing,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
On March 15, the CJI-led bench had heard the pleas filed by news portal ‘The Wire’ and some of its scribes against the Gujarat High Court order. It had also asked the Gujarat trial court not to proceed with the complaint till today.
The high court had on January 8 rejected a plea filed by the portal, seeking quashing of the defamation complaint filed against it by Jay over an article related to his company.
On the last date of hearing before the apex court, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the portal and the scribes, had said that the article contained details from records which were in “public domain electronically”.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI and comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is currently hearing the crucial matter relating to the validity of the Aadhaar Act.
The same bench is also scheduled to hear several other matters, including the one related to its 2013 judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults and ban on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article published by the news portal claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.
The complaint was filed against the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.
Jay has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. He has also rejected the charges made in the article, insisting that the story was “false, derogatory and defamatory”.
Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the master of roster and for laying down the principles and procedure to be followed in preparing it for allocation of cases.
He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan who wrote a letter to the supreme court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes the CJI.
In the letter, Prashant also said that it would be appropriate that the petition be listed before three senior-most judges of the top court for allocating it before an appropriate bench.
In the petition, CJI Dipak Misra has been named as one of the respondents along with the registrar of the Supreme Court.
The senior advocate has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.
The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion.”
It said that such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncement of this court.
This petition assumes significance as on January 12 this year four senior most judges- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph- of the Supreme Court had called a press conference and said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.
The four judges had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before junior judges of the supreme court.
There can be no compromise on a citizen’s fundamental rights, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said today while responding to the assertion of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that governance “must remain” with those elected to govern.
On Prasad’s remark that “PILs cannot become a substitute for governance”, the CJI said the Supreme Court believed in and practised “constitutional sovereignty”.
“The fundamental rights are in the core value and the bedrock of the Constitution. An independent judiciary with the power of judicial review has been conferred with the power of the ultimate guardian of the Constitution to strike a balance … to ensure that respective governments are functioning as provided by the law within their respective domains,” he said.
There can be no compromise with the citizen’s fundamental rights, he said at a function organised by the apex court to celebrate Constitution Day.
“The citizens’ rights have to be at the pinnacle,” Justice Misra asserted.
Calling the Constitution a “lucid” and “living” document, he said, “The Supreme Court of India today believed that we are only under Constitutional sovereignty and we shall practise it”.
Though no right was absolute, there should be no fetters which “destroy the central dogma of the constitution”, the CJI said at the function, inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Justice Misra said the focus of the judiciary should be on reducing pending cases, rejecting frivolous litigations and stressing on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to settle cases.
Speaking at the function, the Law Minister said though PILs served the purpose in dispensing justice to the poor, they should not be used as a substitute for governance and the law-making powers of the executive and the legislature.
“PILs should not become a substitute of governance and the government because the founding fathers gave this right to those elected to govern,” Prasad said.
He said law-making must be left to the realm of those elected to make the law.
“The founding fathers clearly meant that governance must remain in the realm of those elected to govern by the people of India and accountable to the people of India.” he said.
While independence of the judiciary was “important”, judicial accountability, probity and propriety were “equally” necessary, he said.
“In the case of the judiciary, the accountability is latent… Independence (of judiciary) is most important, but probity and propriety are equally important,” he said, while adding that “reckless allegations” should not be made or paid heed to.
Attorney General K K Venugopal termed a “boon” the evolution of the public interest litigation by the Supreme Court and said it had served poor citizens of the country.
He referred to a judgement in a PIL that had led to the mass release of undertrial prisoners who had served the maximum jail terms prescribed for offences during the trial itself.
The top law officer, however, had a word of caution for the judiciary and said the question was if the purpose sought to be achieved by PILs had been attained.
“It is one thing to deliver a judgement in a PIL but to implement it and to achieve results is a totally different thing. Therefore… there has to be collaborative effort,” he said.
“The government has to be given the opportunity to consider the various pro and cons (of an issue). The government has to come forward with solutions. The government has to be heard … what their budget allows…,” he said.
He suggested that one or two special benches hear PILs and said there should be adequate guidelines to deal with the pleas.
Moreover, there should be “collaborative efforts” on the part of the judiciary and the executive to ensure that the judgements are implemented keeping in mind the limited resources.
Referring to the humble background of President Kovind, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and senior advocate R S Suri said it was the power of democracy and the Constitution that a person from a poor section of society had reached the very top.
The Bar head then raised the issue of delays in appointment in the judiciary and suggested that lawyers practising in the apex court and retired judges be considered and appointed judges in the highest judiciary as mandated under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court today imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh each on two persons for filing a “motivated” petition challenging the practise of recommending to the President, the name of successor by the incumbent Chief Justice of India.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said that imposition of exemplary cost on Swami Om and Mukesh Jain was needed to send across a message to similarly placed people to deter them from filing such pleas.
The petitioners, who did not allege anything in their plea against the CJI designate, referred to the constitutional scheme on the appointment of CJI and the Chief Justices of the High Courts and said that the process of recommending the name of successor by the incumbent CJI is against the spirit of Constitution.
The bench in its order noted that Article 124A, amended by the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, has already been set aside by a constitution bench.
Article 124 of the Constitution deals with the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, while Article 124A provides for the composition of the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
The apex court asked the petitioners to deposit the fine within a period of one month from today and said that the amount should be sent to the Prime Minister Relief Fund.
The bench ordered re-listing of the matter after a month if the petitioners fail to deposit the cost imposed.
Chief Justice of India J S Khehar today said India is becoming a hub of international arbitration and the government’s initiative to work towards zero interference in the process will promote confidence among foreign traders.
Justice Khehar said that potential for international arbitration is increasing due to foreign investment.
Speaking at a two-day seminar ‘Engaging Asia Arbitration Summit’, the CJI said government’s ‘Make in India’ scheme will make the country a favoured market among the emerging ones.
“At the highest level of planning in Indian government, efforts are on that neither the government nor its agencies will have interference in international arbitration process.
The zero interference by the government will give room for foreign traders in India that the process here is neutral…
“In my view, it will promote further confidence of traders in arbitration in the country,” he said.
Justice Khehar noted that India has a talent pool of lawyers and arbitrators and the future of international commercial arbitration in Asia must commence from India.