Judge threatens Madras HC chief justice with contempt

Justice C S Karnan of Madras high court has plunged the HC into a huge crisis by threatening contempt of court proceedings against Chief Justice Sanjay K Kaul accusing him of interfering in his judicial work and seeking a CBI probe into alleged forged educational qualification of another Judge of the HC.

Apart from contempt of court action, Justice Karnan also threatened to direct National SC/ST Commission to initiate a detailed inquiry against the HC chief justice for harassing him, a member of the dalit community, and also slapping a case against the CJ under stringent provisions of SC/ST Attrocities (Prevention) Act.

A beleaguered high court through its registrar general has rushed to the Supreme Court accusing Justice Karnan of judicial indiscipline, challenging the authority of the HC Chief Justice, passing order without jurisdiction and lacking in self-restraint. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu on Monday will hear the petition seeking a stay of Justice Karnan’s orders.

It all started with the CJ constituting the recruitment committee comprising Justices V Dhanapalan, R Sudhakar, D Hariparanthaman, N Kirubakaran and R Mala to interview candidates for selection as civil judges. The Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission chairman and other officers were to be part of the selection committee and it was scheduled to start oral interview of candidates form April 15 till April 21.

On April 16, Justice Karnan initiated suo motu proceedings and passed a judicial order questioning Justice Dhanapalan’s inclusion in the committee. He alleged that latter had produced “bogus educational qualifications” about his bachelor and masters degree in law, he had no locus-standi to conduct interview.

He also alleged that inclusion of Justices Sudhakar and Hariparanthaman, who hailed from the same community besides being relatives, would send a wrong signal about the fairness of selection. He went on to stay the CJ’s administrative order and restrained the public service commission chairman from conducting the interview of candidates for civil judge posts.

“In order to control the mal-administration of My Lord Chief Justice, I am passing this suo-motu judicial order in the interest of justice invoking Article 226 of the Constitution to restore the confidence in the Madras high court and confidence with the general public,” he said and ordered that two judges must be from minorities communities – one from Muslim community and another from Christian community – to give a fair representation to all communities in the recruitment committee.

On April 17, Justice Karnana’s suo motu order was placed before a division bench of Justices S Tamilvanan and C T Selvam, which stayed the April 16 order.

Despite the division bench order, Justice Karnan directed the Registry to place the matter before him on judicial side on April 30. On that day, he reiterated his earlier order and threatened the Chief Justice with contempt of court proceedings.

“This court requests My Lord the Chief Justice to extend his cooperation without any interference with my court’s proceedings and its judicial power in order to maintain decorum of the court and avoid an unhealthy practice of judiciary in the interest of the general public. My deep request to the Chief Justice is to avoid ego and stop acting in an autocratic manner to protect democracy,” Justice Karnan said in his order.

Ordering status quo on interviews to be conducted by the public service commission, Justice Karnan also threw in his dalit card.

He said: “My deep request to the Chief Justice is that you should not interfere in my judicial process in the instant case, failing which, this court will initiate contempt of court proceedings against you and also give direction to the chairman, National SC/ST Commission to initiate proceedings to conduct a detailed enquiry regarding your harassment of me being a dalit judge to make you perforce to book you under the SC/ST atrocities Act.”

CJI refuses to be part of panel to select NJAC members : SC

dattuIn a new twist, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has refused to participate in a three-member panel for selecting two eminent persons in the six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on whose validity a constitution bench began hearings today.

The five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, which is hearing the issue of constitutional validity of the new law on appointment of judges to higher judiciary, was told by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that Dattu has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he would not participate in the meeting of the panel till the matter is decided by the apex court.

The three-member panel comprises Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, who are authorised to select and appoint two eminent persons in the six-member NJAC for appointment of judges to higher judiciary.

When it was brought to the notice of the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, it heard the views of various senior advocates on how to proceed with the matter taking into account that in the immediate future there would be the eventuality of appointment of existing additional judges of the high courts whose tenures are coming to an end.After taking note of their views, the judges retired to their chambers and assembled after 15 minutes.

Justice Khehar said that the bench has decided to continue with the hearing on the merits of the case and if needed it will pass an interim order.

“A consensus has emerged that we will continue with the merits of the case and when it is necessary we will pass an interim order,” the bench said.

The AG submitted that it is mandatory for the CJI to be the part of the panel in selection and appointment of eminent persons in the six-member commission.He said a direction should be passed for the CJI to participate in the meeting.

However, his view was not shared by senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who is appearing for Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), said that if the CJI is not participating, the bench can direct others to meet and participate.

The apex court also sought the view of senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who said, that the bench has to see if prima facie, a case for staying the operation of NJAC Act is made out or not.
However, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Haryana government and supporting the new law, submitted that the bench can continue with the hearing as the question of additional judges of high courts will arise only on May 20 and in the meantime if the hearing goes on the judges will get the grasp of what is going to be the prima facie view.
Salve further said that the bench has to, on one hand, consider the sensitivity of the head of the judicial family that is the CJI, and the will of the Parliament which led to the constitution of the NJAC, on the other.
He also said let the matter be heard for seven-eight days and then a view can be taken on the entire issue.
“Today we are at the very initial stage,” Salve said, adding that staying the amendment at this stage will not be the right thing to do.
On April 23, the apex court had said that NJAC will only deal with appointment of existing additional judges of High Courts, whose tenures are ending during pendency of the controversy, after it was assured by the AG that commission will not appoint judges to the higher judiciary and will move the court in such an eventuality.
Earlier, the bench had asked Rohatgi to take instruction from competent authority about the additional judges in high courts whose tenure is coming to an end in the immediate future when the matter will be pending before the court.
The AG had said that barring four-five cases, all recommendations of erstwhile collegium have been accepted.
On the issue of re-appointment or extension of additional HC judges, Rohatgi had said that tenures of two or three judges of Assam High Court, seven to eight in the Bombay High Court are ending in June and hence, the issue be “kept open” till May 11 as the NJAC is likely to be constituted by May 4.
The process to appoint two eminent persons in the six- member NJAC “will commence shortly” and the panel is “likely to commence working on May 4”, he had said.
The bench had said that the NJAC Act has to implemented as it has neither been stayed nor set aside.
Rohatgi had refuted the submission of Nariman that two eminent citizens, who would become part of the NJAC, will be embarrassed if the Act is set aside and said that they would be knowing that a litigation is pending.

CJI and CJs of HCs deliberate on critical problems of judiciary

Top judges from across the country led by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu today began brainstorming to find solutions to critical problems like ensuring speedy trials to tackle over three crore pending cases and lack of infrastructure in courts.

Besides the CJI, two senior-most apex courtsupreme courtand 24 Chief Justices of High Courts are learnt to have begun deliberations on how to resolve these major issues which have remained unsolved in spite of raising the strength of the benches in courts all over the country.

Another important issue to be reviewed would be the selection process of judges “at all levels”.

They are also understood to have taken up the problems of lack of facilities in the courts for judges and other judicial officers.

The two-day judges’ conference is a close-door affair and is not open to media, an Additional Registrar of the Supreme Court said.

The list of business for the crucial meet also includes the assessment of progress made in implementation of the resolutions passed at the previous conference held in 2013.

On agenda is also the issue of continuation of “morning/ evening courts” in lower judiciary for expeditious disposal of the growing pendency of cases, which is estimated to be around three crore.

While there are 2.64 crore undecided cases in the subordinate courts, about 42 lakh more cases are pending in the High Courts, according to official estimates.

Issues of salaries, emoluments of HC judges, augmentation of post-retirement benefits of judges and computerisation of courts would be taken up during the conference, the agenda said, adding that questions like whether the HCs can be given financial independence also figures in the list.

Innovative methods like “promoting e-filing and video- conferencing” to smoothen the judicial process and implementation of the National Court Management System (NCMS) are also some of the issues to be discussed at the meet.

Filling up of vacancies in High Courts and lower courts and adoption of uniform procedures for

appointing district judges through Judicial Service Commission would be discussed, the list said.

 

CMs and CJs of HCs to discuss judicial reforms and pendency of cases

Judicial reforms to tackle over 2.6 crore cases pending in courts and ensure speedy trial would be among critical issues to be debated upon at a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts beginning here tomorrow.

The three-day conference, to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, is likely to discuss ways to lessen pendency in courts and development of infrastructure besides ensuring expeditious trial.

“A comprehensive agenda has been drawn up for the Conference. With 2.64 crore undecided cases in the subordinate courts and 42 lakh cases in the High Courts, expeditious disposal of cases is the key issue to be discussed.

“To address this issue, the agenda includes discussion on development of infrastructure, undertaking judicial reforms, ICT enablement of courts and specific steps required for reduction of arrears and ensuring speedy trial,” a release said.

While Chief Justice of India H L Dattu would preside over the conference, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda would also address the gathering, it said.

The conference of the Chief Justices would discuss the issues such as “developing a National Vision and Mission Plan for the justice sector for 2015-20, salaries and emoluments of sitting and retired judges, promotion and service conditions of judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary and greater financial autonomy for the Indian judiciary.”

Strengthening of legal aid services, alternate dispute settlement mechanism, judicial academies and juvenile justice system would also come up for discussion, the release said.

The conference, which is being held periodically to address “pressing issues relating to the administration of justice”, was last held in April, 2013.

It further said the 14th Finance Commission has endorsed a number of activities aimed at improving the justice delivery system at an estimated cost of Rs 9,749 crore over the next five years.

The Conference is “expected to come up with definite outcomes in the form of resolutions for implementation by the judiciary and the Central & State governments,” it said.

Justice is not a commodity to be sold to highest bidder: Dattu

Chief Justice of India H L Dattu today voiced concern over rising cost of litigation and pendency of cases in courts, saying steps should be taken to ensure that people get “real access to justice.”

He praised the role played by Lok Adalats in disposing of cases swiftly.

“Disposal of 1.25 crore cases in Lok adalat, a figure more than double than the first one, is a clear indicator that there are so many citizens desperate for justice,” he said while addressing a convocation at National Law University (NLU) here.

Litigation, rather than the plight of the litigants, is the harsh reality of today’s legal system, Justice Dattu said, adding,”I believe that most amicable and effective way to solve a dispute is to end it before it reaches the courts, which should be the last resort.”

Unless the entire judges and lawyers of the nation come together, the legal system of the country would be crushed under the burden of pendency, he said.

He also drew attention towards the rising cost of fighting or even defending a case and said “real access to justice” has to be addressed.

“Justice is not a commodity to be sold or auctioned to the highest bidder with the aim of making profits,” Dattu said.

The Chief Justice said that the delay in disposal of cases and their “huge pile up” in courts is plaguing the legal fraternity.

“Now it is a perception of the common man that the cases linger on for years and years,” he said.

Dattu today awarded law degrees to 199 NLU pass-out from three consecutive sessions– 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Advocating use of law as an instrument of social engineering, Justice Dattu said, “the law can introduce a smoothness in the act of change, prevent upheavals and eliminate jolts in the onward march of the society.

Supreme Court disallows Italian marines’ plea

In a blow to Italy’s efforts, the Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre permission to stay back in his country for two more months for heart surgery and his fellow marine Salvattore Girone permission to travel to Italy for Christmas.

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said, “The Indian victims also have rights.”

The court said the probe into the 2012 killing of Indian fishermen off Kerala is not over and that “yardstick should be the same for everyone” and “the system should work”.

In September 2014, the Bench led by Justice Dattu had taken a “humanitarian” view of Mr. Latorre’s medical condition after he suffered a brain stroke and agreed to let him travel to Italy for four months. He was scheduled to return on January 16.

Senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, counsel for the marine, submitted that he was due for a heart surgery on January 8 and wanted an extension of two to three months.

“No. Please ask him to come back,” the Chief Justice told Mr. Sorabjee.

The CJI orally observed that it wss on Mr. Latorre’s instance that the probe and trial in the case has been stopped. When Mr. Sorabjee pleaded that no one is going to be prejudiced by a gap of just two months, the CJI responded that this was not a question of prejudice but that of “applying the same yardstick for everybody”.

“As you have a right, the victims too have a right. The investigation is not complete. Charge sheet is not filed. Sorry,” the CJI said.

Sources in the government said the instructions from the Ministry for External Affairs was to oppose Mr. Girone’s application, but let the court take a call on Mr. Latorre’s plea for extension of time.

The marines were similarly given permission to travel for Christmas in 2013, but had failed to return. It was only after the Supreme Court made stern observations against Ambassador Daniel Mancini that they be returned, counsel for Kerala Ramesh Babu told the media after the hearing.

SC quashes Centre’s press note on former woman RAW officer

The Supreme Court today quashed a 2008 press note, posted on the Press Information Bureau website, that a woman lawyer and former RAW officer had some mental problems saying she had already been acquitted of the charge of attempting to commit suicide outside the PMO here.

“We quash the press note issued on August 19, 2008,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said.

Nisha Priya Bhatia, a former RAW officer, had moved the court seeking various reliefs including a direction to the Centre to “forth with” take back the press note as it is “defamatory” and “false”.

“It has been creating social trouble for my daughters. I have two daughters. Who will marry them?” she had said.

Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to file its reply within three weeks.

The former intelligence officer had recently been in controversy for filing a PIL against the Chief Justice of India H L Dattu. The plea was dismissed by the High Court.

Bhatia was compulsorily retired from service for security reasons after her identity became public in 2009.

She was in news for her alleged attempt to commit suicide before the PMO after alleging sexual harassment by her senior officers in 2008 and due to the disclosure of her identity as a RAW officer.

The former officer has been fighting various court cases.

Women Can’t be Secured by Curbing Their Freedom : CJI

Chief Justice of India H.L.Dattu Wednesday said security of women, in the wake of spate of cases of sexual assaults, could not be secured by curbing their freedom as is being advocated in some quarters.

“Safety of the women could not be achieved by curbing their freedom” and we have to find ways of dealing with the problem, he said in his address at a function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association on National Law Day.

In a reference to government acquiring more powers in the fight against terrorism with lesser accountability, the Chief Justice said: “We see similar trends in the discourse on protection of women against sexual violence. When I say ‘similar trends’, I mean that we seem to have a rather worrying affinity to ensure the physical safety of women by curbing their freedom.”

“As far as I am concerned, I would like to emphatically state in no uncertain terms, that the security of women achieved by curbing their freedom and liberty is no security at all. We have to find systemic responses to the problem of sexual violence and not resort to measures that have an adverse impact on the agency of women,” he said.

In his inaugural address, he touched on several issues including the urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system, erosion of the constitutional protection by the government in its response to the external and internal extremism, and realising the essential needs of the vulnerable sections of the society in the wake of globalisation of economy and trade.

“The problem of internal and external extremist violence has plagued India for more than two decades now. Much of the world is also increasingly familiar with such threats to national security but the response of governments has been a cause of concern,” Chief Justice Dattu said.

Post-9/11, Chief Justice Dattu said, there has been seen a tremendous rise in anti-terror laws across the world that seek to give more power to the executive, especially law enforcement agencies.

“The trend more or less has been that our attempt to achieve national security has come coupled with a trend towards lesser accountability and transparency. Surely we need to secure the life and liberty of persons within our borders but we cannot do so by eroding protections contained within our constitution,” he said.

He said that the this “extension of executive powers is at its extreme when it comes to matters of technology-based surveillance. A significant outcome of the Edward Snowden leaks has been to bring the national security-privacy debate into sharp focus”.

Referring to the country’s involvement in global economic arrangements, Chief Justice Dattu said that the focus should be ensuring that the poor people are provided with food, nutrition, health facilities and employment. He said that it was unfortunate that “we have not been able to realise the these basic necessities of the people”.

In his address on the occasion, Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said that judiciary has played an important role in in promoting the rule of law, enforcing the rights of the people and protecting the environment.

Saying that both the government and judiciary will have to take initiatives to reduce the pendency of the cases, he said that taking recourse to alternate dispute redressal mechanism was the one answer for settling cases outside the courts.

Gowda said to reduce the number of cases reaching the subordinate courts, the Negotiable Instrument Act, the Motor Vehicle Act and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act were being amended.

Describing the constitution as a living document which has retained its basic shape despite a large number of amendments, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi called for a national debate on the judiciary involving all the stake holders including all sections of people