Supreme Court declares National Tax Tribunal law as unconstitutional

The Supreme Court today declared as unconstitutional the National Tax Tribunal Act under which a tribunal was set up to decide tax-related cases by taking away jurisdiction of high courts in such matters.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said that the Act passed by Parliament in 2005 is “unconstitutional” as the National Tax Tribunal (NTT) encroaches upon the power of higher judiciary, which can only decide issues involving substantial laws and not a tribunal.

The apex court passed the order on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of NTT contending that there was a grave danger that judiciary will be substituted by a host of quasi-judicial tribunals which function as departments of various ministries.

The first petition on the issue was filed in 2006 when the Madras Bar Association had challenged the setting up of NTT and later many other lawyers bodies followed suit.

The NDA government had justified the creation of NTT, saying that the idea of creating tribunals was to unclog the backlog of cases in the high courts.

CBI won’t file any coal scam chargesheet: SC

The Supreme Court Friday restrained the CBI from filing any chargesheet or closure report in coal scam cases till it decides whether the investigating agency deputed director Ranjit Sinha to deal with the probe and prosecution for coal block allocation scam.
The apex court bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph initially directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to not file any closure report till it decides on an application by NGO Common Cause.
The bench subsequently restrained the CBI from filing the chargesheet in any case as it ordered status quo.

SC allows ailing Italian Marine to go home

The Supreme Court on Friday permitted one of the two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off Kerala coast, to return home for medical treatment for four months.

But SC made the relief conditional on the accused and the Italian government giving a clear undertaking on dates of departure and return.

“Undertaking should be plain, simple, unambiguous and unequivocal by the accused and the Republic of Italy. The order comes into operation only after they give such an undertaking,” a bench ofMassimiliano Latorresaid while asking the lawyers for Italian ambassador and the accused marine to withdraw eight paras from their previous undertaking which raised objections of territorial jurisdiction.

SC also took into account the Centre’s stand where it said “in principle” it had no objection to the plea by marine Massimiliano Latorre, who suffered a brain stroke on August 31. It said Centre will facilitate his passage from India to Italy and back.

Latorre and fellow marine Salvatore Girone are accused of killing two Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012. They allegedly fired while on board ship ‘Enrica Lexie” off Kerala coast.
On behalf of the Italian government its ambassador Daniele Mancini furnished an undertaking assuring SC that the ailing marine would abide by all terms and conditions set for his travel to his native country. Taking it on record SC said condition for the relief granted to Latorre would be same as set by the apex court on February 22 2013 when the two marines were allowed to travel to Italy under the control and custody of the Ambassador of Italy in India, to cast their ballot in the elections.

Latorre and the ambassador through senior counsels Soli Sorabji and KTS Tulsi prayed before SC to allow him to return to Italy for his “more rapid and complete recovery”. The victim, Freddy, who is also a complainant in the case, had pleaded before the apex court for constitution of a medical board of AIIMS doctors for medical examination of Latorre. Owner of the fishing boat ‘St Antony’, in which two Indian fishermen were murdered when the marines allegedly fired at them, Freddy had opposed the relief earlier.

SC had last year directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the case against the marines and directed the Centre to set up a special court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis after transferring the case from a court in Kerala to national capital. The accused Italian marines had moved the apex court challenging the jurisdiction of NIA to prosecute and probe the case.

Coal scam: SC refuses to hear pleas of companies

A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha turned down the pleas of power generating companies that they should be re-heard in case the Apex Court decides to cancel the allotments.

The bench has already reserved its order on the fate of 218 coal blocks allocations which were declared by it as illegal and arbitrary.

The Apex Court had on September 9 reserved its order after the Centre advocated their cancellation while the allotees blamed the government for irregularities and demanded setting up of a committee to go into each of the allocations.

The Coal Producers Association, Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association and Independent Power Producers Association of India and some private entities had opposed the stand of the government for not favouring the constitution of any committee to look into consequences of the August 25 judgement of Apex Court.

They had deprecated the Centre’s stand that “cancellation of coal block allocation is a natural consequence of the judgement” by saying that it would lead to total disaster and ultimate suffering for the man on street and rural population, already facing power crisis.

The bench had, however, said, “Government is only articulating its position” and it would “not be a fair way” of dealing with the matter as “screening committee meetings speak for themselves that no procedure was followed”.

Coalgate: SC refuses to hear plea of power producers seeking re-hearing

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to give any further hearing on the pleas of companies which were allocated coal blocks by the government by a process that the court has deemed illegal.

A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha turned down the pleas of power generating companies that they should be re-heard in case the apex court decides to cancel the allotments.

The bench has already reserved its order on the fate of 218 coal blocks allocations which were declared by it as illegal and arbitrary.

The apex court had on September 9 reserved its order after the Centre advocated their cancellation while the allotees blamed the government for irregularities and demanded setting up of a committee to go into each of the allocations.

The Coal Producers Association, Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association and Independent Power Producers Association of India and some private entities had opposed the stand of the government for not favouring the constitution of any committee to look into consequences of the August 25 judgement of apex court.

They had deprecated the Centre’s stand that “cancellation of coal block allocation is a natural consequence of the judgement” by saying that it would lead to total disaster and ultimate suffering for the man on street and rural population, who are already facing a power crisis.

The bench had, however, said, “Government is only articulating its position” and it would “not be a fair way” of dealing with the matter as “screening committee meetings speak for themselves that no procedure was followed”.

SC reserves order to decide fate of 218 coal blocks

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order to decide the fate of 218 coal block allocations held as illegal by it with the Centre advocating their cancellation while allocatees blamed the government for irregularities and demanded setting up of a committee to go into each of the allocation.

The Coal Producers Association, Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association and Independent Power Producers Association of India and some private entities opposed the stand of the Government for not favouring the constitution of any committee to look into consequences of the August 25 judgement.
They deprecated the Centre’s stand that “cancellation of coal block allocation is a natural consequence of the judgement” by saying that it would lead to total disaster and ultimate suffering for man on street and rural population, already facing power crisis.
Senior advocates K K Venuogopal, Harish Salve and others submitted that the Centre was projecting itself as an innocent party which itself has misled the apex court on the contentious issue.

However, a bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said “Government is only articulating its position” and it would “not be a fair way” of dealing with the matter as “screening committee meetings speak for themselves that no procedure was followed”.

“The fact of the matter is they (Govt) want to proceed with a clean slate,” the bench, also comprising justices M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph said and referred to the submission of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that cancellation of 218 coal block allocations was the natural consequence of the judgement but retention of 40 coal producing blocks and six ready for operation should be considered.

“Government understands all aspects. Government understands about the darkness. It looks at every corner of the country. Everything is visible to the government. They have full confidence,” the bench said before reserving the order.

The final submission of the day-long hearing came from Rohatgi who said, “we have applied our mind to all types of situation and according to us when there is a mass irregularity the impact would be on everybody and I am not here to say who is wrong and who is not.”

“I am for cancellation but only pocket that can be saved is 40 productional blocks and six which are ready for production,” he said after which the bench concluded the hearing.

However, before concluding the arguments, the bench said, “it has not examined the decision of allocation but the decision-making process”.

“We are not concerned whether You (govt) have done wrong or not by we are concerned with the wrong process,” it said adding that “we are not forcing the executive to take a particular line”.

Respond to Italian marine’s plea : SC

The Supreme Court Monday asked the central government to respond to Italian marine Massimiliano Latorry’s plea seeking to go back to his country for two months following brain stroke suffered by him recently.

The apex court bench headed by Italian marine, while asking the central government to respond, set the next date of hearing Sep 12.

Meanwhile, the court has relaxed its order mandating both the Italian marines to report to the Chanakyapuri police station once a week, permitting Latorry exemption for two weeks starting from Aug 31.

Two Italian marines are facing charges of murder for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast, suspecting them to be sea pirates in 2012.

Release undertrial prisoners in jail for half their likely term: SC

undertrial prisonersThe Supreme Court Friday said those undertrial prisoners, who have already spent in jail half the period of the sentence they would have got if convicted for the offences they have been charged with, would now be released.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said judicial officers of districts will visit the jails under their jurisdiction once a week to look into such cases and pass appropriate orders to free such prisoners.

It said the judicial officers shall identify such prisoners who have completed “half of the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the said offence” and after complying with the procedure under section 436-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, pass an appropriate order in jail itself for release of such prisoners, who fulfil the requirement, for their release immediately.

Passing the order, Chief Justice Lodha said: “Having given our thoughtful consideration to the legislative policy engrafted in section 436A and large number of undertrial prisoners housed in the prisons, we are of the considered view that some order deserves to be passed by us so that the under-trial prisoners do not continue to be detained in prison beyond the maximum period provided under section 436A.”

Section 436-A provides that an undertrial prisoner who is accused of an offence, other than one attracting death penalty, would be entitled to be released on personal bond with or without sureties if he had already been in detention for a period that is half of the maximum sentence he would have to undergo if convicted for the offences he has been charged with.

The court directed that the jurisdictional magistrate/chief judicial magistrate/sessions judge shall hold one sitting in a week in each jail/prison for two months from Oct 1 for this purpose and directed the jail superintendent concerned to provide all necessary facilities.

Directing the matter’s next hearing Dec 8, the court said on the completion of the two-month exercise, the registrar generals of the high courts will send a report and undertrial prisoners released to the secretary general of the apex court.

As the court ordered relief, Chief Justice Lodha said fast-tracking of criminal cases required multi-pronged strategy involving the creation of infrastructure, court complex, appointment of judicial officers to man the subordinate courts, and most importantly the financial backup.

“The whole problem is of finance. They (states) want the expenditure of judiciary be met by the centre. It can’t be done by the chief justice of the high courts. The problem (facing) the judiciary can’t be addressed without finance. This is an area where you have to take lead,” the court told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

“We are trying (to deal) at the judicial side and the administrative side. Our hands are tied. We can’t do anything more,” the CJI said, asking Rohatgi to give a “road map” for fast tracking the criminal justice system.

The court granted Rohatgi three months’ time sought by him to place before the court the road map.

Addressing the court’s queries, the attorney general told the court that “it can’t be done by the centre alone” and the states will have to chip in too.

The court during the last hearing of the matter Aug 1 had asked Rohatgi whether the central government was contemplating fast-tracking criminal justice and, if so, whether any policy has been framed and steps taken in this regard

Hold states’ meet on undertrial prisoners:SC toCentre

gggTerming as “serious” the issue of undertrials languishing in jails, the Supreme Court today asked the Centre to convene a meeting of home secretaries of all the states to find a solution to the problem.

“This is a very serious matter. There are over 31,000 Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) undertrial prisoners. This is the obligation of states and every state has to take care of undertrial prisoners,” a bench comprising Chief Justice R M Lodha and justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman said.

The bench asked the Centre not to remain a “mute spectator” and rather act as a nodal agency. “You (Centre) act as a nodal agency. Talk to the states. You cannot remain as a mute spectator,” it said.

The bench then recorded the statement of Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre and directed that a meeting of home secretaries be held within six weeks for considering the issue of undertrial prisoners, including those from SC and ST communities.

“After the meeting, a report be filed within two weeks thereafter. It shall contain the status of undertrial prisoners as on March 31, 2014,” it said.

The bench, which has made all state government as parties, was hearing the PIL filed by Jinendra Jain on behalf of society ‘Fight For Human Rights’ alleging that thousands of tribals were languishing in various central jails without any trial in Naxal-affected states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Advocate K R Chitra, appearing for the society, had said the Centre and the states be asked to respond as the issue was related to the fundamental rights of the underprivileged sections.

Adivasi undertrials are languishing in various jails for a very long period without any trial and as a result, unrest and hostilities are prevailing in tribal areas of the country, she had said.

“Often, the undertrials are not informed about the grounds of their arrests,” the PIL said. They are not even duly represented by lawyers of their choice as there are very few interpretors available in courts who can speak Adivasi languages like ‘Gondi’ and ‘Halbi’, it said.

The PIL said, “Adivasi undertrials speak only Adivasi language and there are no sufficient number of interpreters/translators available in courts, hence they are deprived of their fundamental right of fair trials as they are unable to explain the real facts and circumstances to the judicial officers.”

The undertrials, arrested mostly in Naxal-violence related cases, are lodged in distant central jails and hence deprived of “their rights to meet their relatives”, it said.

The PIL also sought a direction to the Centre and the states to “initiate urgent concrete action and also appoint a special commission of eminent jurists” to oversee dedicated fast track courts to hear their cases.

(Source: PTI)

Criminalisation of politics is anathema to democracy

ggggggCriminalisation of politics creates a dent in the marrows of the nation which must be curbed, the Supreme Court today said while asking the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers not to induct tainted people in their ministry.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, said criminalisation of politics is an “anathema” to the sacredness of democracy and it required to be handled with extreme care and circumspection.

“A democratic polity, as understood in its quintessential purity, is conceptually abhorrent to corruption and, especially corruption at high places, and repulsive to the idea of criminalization of politics as it corrodes the legitimacy of the collective ethos, frustrates the hopes and aspirations of the citizens and has the potentiality to obstruct, if not derail, the rule of law,” Justice Dipak Misra, who wrote the judgement, said.

It said systemic corruption and sponsored criminalization can corrode the fundamental core of elective democracy and, consequently, the constitutional governance.

“Criminality and corruption go hand in hand. From the date the Constitution was adopted, i.e., 26th January, 1950, a Red Letter Day in the history of India, the nation stood as a silent witness to corruption at high places. Corruption erodes the fundamental tenets of the rule of law,” it said.

Describing corruption as a “formidable enemy” of the nation, Justice Misra said corruption has the potential to destroy many a progressive aspect of the country.

“A democratic republic polity hopes and aspires to be governed by a Government which is run by the elected representatives who do not have any involvement in serious criminal offences or offences relating to corruption, casteism, societal problems, affecting the sovereignty of the nation and many other offences,” he said.

(Source: PTI)