SC to hear I-T dept plea against quashing of black money case involving Chidambaram’s family

The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear the Income Tax department’s appeal challenging the Madras High Court order which quashed criminal prosecution against senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s family members under the black money law.

The top court, however, refused to stay the order of the high court.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to Chidambaram’s wife Nalini and their son Karti, who is contesting Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.

The bench also sought reply from Karti’s wife Srinidhi and others in the case.

The high court had quashed criminal prosecution initiated by the I-T department under the Black Money Act against the three.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the I-T department, sought stay of the high court order of November 2, 2018 on various grounds including that it can be used by other accused to avoid criminal prosecution in cases related to black money.

To this, the bench said that granting stay at this stage without hearing the other side would amount to allowing the appeal of the I-T department.

The Solicitor general further said that if the stay is not granted then other high courts may quash the criminal prosecution against similarly placed accused under the black money law and urged that the November order of the high court should not be treated as a precedent.

The bench said that it will not be treated as a precedent as the high court would be cognizant of the fact that the apex court is seized of the matter and is scrutinizing the Madras High Court order.

The issue relates to alleged non-disclosure of overseas assets and bank accounts held by the trio.

According to the I-T Department, the three had not disclosed a property they jointly owned in Cambridge in the UK worth Rs 5.37 crore in their returns which amounted to an offence under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) Act and Imposition of Tax Act.

It also alleged that Karti did not disclose an overseas bank account he holds with Metro Bank in the UK and investments he had made in Nano Holdings LLC, USA.

He had also “failed” to disclose investments made by Chess Global Advisory, a company co-owned by him, which amounted to committing an offence under the Black Money Act, the department had said in its complaint in the special court in May last year.

On the issue, Karti’s spokesperson said the I-T department had alleged that a house property was not disclosed in the I-T returns of Karti Chidambaram and his family members.

“The I-T department’s complaint was challenged in the Madras High Court. The High Court quashed the complaint as baseless and illegal,” he said, adding that Karti and others will appear in due course and contest the case.

Supreme Court to hear after 2 weeks a plea for proper probe in Muzaffarpur shelter home case

The Supreme Court Monday said it would hear after two weeks the fresh plea alleging that CBI tried to “shield the real perpetrators” in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case by not conducting proper probe on “crucial leads” which are available on record.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said an advance notice has been circulated in the matter by the other side seeking deferment of the hearing on the plea.

The fresh interim plea has been filed in a pending PIL of Nivedita Jha in which the apex court had directed CBI to probe the shelter home sexual assault cases.

The plea, filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, has sought a direction to the CBI to carry out a thorough, proper and scientific probe into the case.

Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home at Muzaffarpur in Bihar and the issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The probe into the case was transferred to CBI and the agency has chargesheeted 21 people, including prime accused Brajesh Thakur.

“It is evident from the statement of victims that a large scale prostitution racket was being run by prime accused Brajesh Thakur.

“From the perusal of the charge sheet, it is apparent that CBI is trying to shield the real perpetrators and has intentionally avoided to investigate the leads given by the victims about the outsiders and alleged friends of Thakur who were involved in the offence,” the plea said.

It also claimed that victims have stated in their statement to CBI that they were sent to hotels and were also raped by outsiders and friends of Thakur who visited the shelter home.

It further alleged that despite statement of the victims which disclosed grave and serious cognisable offences like rape, murder, gang rapes, prostitution racket and trafficking, the CBI has not chargesheeted the accused under the relevant penal provisions.

The plea sought identification of accused as per law on the basis of statements of victim and further probe to establish identity of Thakur’s “guests, uncles and friends”, who had visited the shelter home.

It also urged the court to direct CBI to carry out further investigation on the issues highlighted by the apex court in its September 20 last year order regarding Thakur’s connections and antecedents and also about culpability of Bihar social welfare department, if any, in the case.

“No effort was made by the CBI to look into the antecedents, connections and influence of Thakur,” the plea said.

“The charge sheet does not disclose that any investigation has been conducted to ascertain whether the social welfare department of the Bihar government was aware of criminal activities being carried out in the shelter home and that may have bene the reason for transfer of the victim girls”, it said.

The apex court had in February transferred the case from Bihar to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Saket District Court complex in Delhi.

On November 28 last year, the top court had directed the CBI to conduct probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates in 16 other shelter homes in Bihar which were flagged in the TISS report.

“You Will Never Let This Country Remain In Peace,” Says SC Rejects Plea For Worship At Ayodhya Site.

“You will never let this country remain in peace,” the Supreme Court said Friday while dismissing a plea seeking permission to carry out religious activities in nine ancient temples situated on the undisputed acquired land adjacent to Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya. “There will always be something,” said a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna. The bench was hearing an appeal filed against the January 10 order of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which had dismissed the plea seeking its nod to offer prayer in the nine temples there and had also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on the petitioner.

The apex court, while hearing the appeal, told petitioner Pandit Amar Nath Misra to “stop poking” around with the issue. Misra, who is a social activist, had claimed before the high court that authorities have turned a “blind eye” to the initiation of religious activities in ancient temples which are situated on the acquired but undisputed land in Ayodhya since last 25 years.

The apex court recently appointed a panel of mediators headed by former top court judge Justice F M I Kalifulla for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement to the vexatious land dispute. Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living Foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are the other two members of the panel of mediators.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished. Religious tolerance has been one of the great traditions of the people of India, HC had said Pandit Amar Nath Misra had approached the High Court seeking permission to carry out religious activity in nine old/ancient temples housing the idols of various Gods and Goddesses situated on the undisputed acquired land adjacent to the Ram Janam Bhoomi Complex.

The bench noted that this case is undoubtedly one of the most sensitive case and known to persons of all faiths across the country. It noted in its order: “Even otherwise any citizen in his own house or over his own property can define his place of worship but such a right cannot be acknowledged as a right to be asserted at a public place which has been established to be utilized by every member of the public at large for a particular purpose. Thus, the land which has been acquired by the Central Government in the interest of the public at large, cannot be claimed to be a place of worship as a matter of fundamental right.”

The bench had also observed that religious tolerance has been one of the great traditions of the people of India.

It had said: “The people of different religions and sects have been living together since ages and contributing in the development of the country. This is a message for all the communities to show full faith and credit to the Constitution and judiciary for maintaining the rule of law and communal harmony. A tolerant society must be nurtured for our growth as a country.”


Enron-Dabhol power project: Supreme Court closes case of alleged corruption

The Supreme Court Thursday closed the case of alleged corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats and corporates in the Enron-Dabhol power project, taking note of the inordinate delay in the case that was filed in 1997.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna allowed the plea of Maharashtra government to close the case.

The USD 3 billion mega power project was set up in Maharashtra by US-based Enron and its associates Dabhol Power Corporation in 1996 after signing of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) in 1993.

The apex Court had in 1997 admitted the petition of the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) challenging a Bombay High Court order upholding the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and issued notice to MSEB on the role of government and its officials in the signing of the PPA.

Nobody for opaqueness, but judiciary can’t be destroyed in name of transparency: SC

Nobody wants a “system of opaqueness” but in the name of transparency the judiciary cannot be destroyed, the Supreme Court said Thursday, while hearing the appeals of its registry against the Delhi High Court order that the CJI’s office falls under the ambit of RTI Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict on three appeals filed in 2010 by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court against the High Court and the CIC’s orders after lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General K K Venugopal concluded submissions.

“Nobody is for a system of opaqueness. Nobody wants to remain in the state of darkness or keep anybody in the state of darkness. The question is drawing a line. In the name of transparency, you can’t destroy the institution,” said the bench which also comprised Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

At the outset, Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist S C Agrawal, said though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it is hearing the appeals due to “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer termed as “unfortunate” and “disturbing” the reluctance of judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act and asked, “Do judges inhabit different universe?”

He said the apex court has always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State but it develops cold feet when its own issues require attention.

Referring to RTI provisions, he said they also deal with exemptions and information which cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always “outweigh” personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office.

Dealing with “judicial independence”, he said the National Judicial Accountability commission Act was struck down for protecting judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from “public scrutiny”.

“This is not the independence from accountability. Independence of judiciary means it has to be independent from the executive and not independent from common public. People are entitled to know as to what public authorities are doing,” he said.

The deliberations of Collegium in appointing and overlooking judges or lawyers should be made public and information can be parted with under RTI on case-to-case basis keeping in mind the larger public interest, he said.

The bench said people, of late, are opting out and do not want to become judges because of the fear of negative publicity.

“Of late, we are experiencing good people, who have opted to become judges, withdrawing their consent. On interaction, the reason appears to be the possibility of the negative observations, whether rightly or wrongly, being brought into the public domain,” it said.

In such a case, besides losing judgeship, reputation, professional life and family life of the person are all adversely affected, it said.

It said it has brought about changes in the functioning of the collegium system and said now collegium members have started interacting with prospective candidates.


It then referred to a case of a Madras District Judge who was not elevated as the High Court judge and moreover, he was allowed to retire at the age of 58 years.

“All his colleagues who were not even in the zone of consideration for the High Court got the extension, but not only did he not become a High Court judge, he retired at 58”, the CJI said, adding that all the decisions of collegium cannot be “painted” with the same brush.

“Let us not assume any judge has an animus against anybody, let alone the Chief Justice. Otherwise, the institution will dissolve…,” the bench said.

Bhushan then referred to the case of a HC lawyer whose name was recommended and reiterated by the High Court Collegium twice and still the government did not accept and said that people are entitled to know the reasons.

Dealing with the aspect of personal information which can be shared, Bhushan gave an illustration and said suppose a homosexual lawyer’s elevation as a judge is objected to by the government on this ground alone, then this personal information can be disclosed in public interest as people have the right to know.

Justice Chandrachud said certain things may vary from case to case.

He said suppose a judge wanted transfer because of certain kind of illness of his spouse then the nature of disease cannot be disclosed as this is a “personal information”.

The bench said that there cannot be a “blanket” ban on disclosure and it has to be examined on a case-to-case basis.

Justice Gupta said a person himself does not want a disclosure as to his sexuality, then a line would have to be drawn, otherwise it would be “very dangerous”.

The best test would be to ask the person himself if he wanted the reasons for non-elevation or non-appointment to be placed in public domain, the bench said.

Supreme Court stays Delhi HC decision asking AJL to vacate National Herald House building

The Supreme Court Friday stayed the Delhi High Court order asking the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) to vacate the National Herald House building here.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre’s Land and Development Office (L&DO) on the plea of AJL, publisher of the National Herald.

Earlier AJL had moved the apex court against the high court order dismissing its plea to restrain the Centre from taking any “coercive steps” to vacate its premises at Herald House in ITO area in the heart of the national capital.

Detention of foreigners: Supreme Court directs Assam chief secretary to appear before it on Apr 8

The Supreme Court Monday voiced unhappiness over the inaction in a case relating to detention of foreigners in Assam and directed the state Chief Secretary to appear before it on April 8

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi termed the affidavit filed by the Assam government as an “exercise in futility” and wanted to know as to how many persons, who have been declared foreigners by the tribunal, have amalgamated with the local population.

“What is the number of declared foreigners who have amalgamated with the local population. This is why we wanted your Chief Secretary to remain present,” the bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said while expressing displeasure over the non-appearance of officials.

The apex court then directed the chief secretary to appear before it and posted the PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander on the issue for April 8.

The bench was hearing a plea on the condition of detention centres in Assam and the prolonged detention of foreigners there.

Earlier the apex court had asked the central government to apprise it on several issues including as to how many functional detention centres are there in the state.

Will Judicial Declaration Of A Person As A Foreigner Stand Superseded If His Name Is Included In NRC? SC Commences Hearing.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was faced with the question whether judicial determination of a person being a foreigner would stand superseded if the name of the same person is included in the draft/final NRC. The question was being considered by a Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna. During the hearing, the State of Assam and the Centre submitted that the judicial verdict would prevail, notwithstanding the executive exercise of the preparation of the NRC list. They relied on the provisions of paragraph 3(2) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

However, Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, asserted that if the name of a person included in the NRC is deleted on the ground that he was a foreigner or an illegal migrant, he would have a right of appeal or right to approach the appropriate forum, as the case may be, against the exclusion/dropping of his name from the NRC.

Mr. Sibal added that though the statute may not have provided a remedy of appeal against such exclusion, the remedy may be carved out by the Supreme Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The arguments on the issue will continue at 3 pm on March 28. Notably, another matter relating to NRC has been listed for March 28. The question posed before the Apex Court in that petition concerns the fate of people whose names appear in the electoral roll but are not included in the final NRC.


Pressure cooker symbol : Supreme Court refuses to acknowledge TTV Dhinakaran outfit’s claim

The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to acknowledge the claim of the TTV Dhinakaran-led outfit over ‘pressure cooker’ as common election symbol.

The Supreme Court, however, directed the Election Commission (EC) to consider granting common free election symbol to the candidates of the Dhinakaran-led outfit for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and assembly by-elections in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also made it clear that its order asking the EC to consider granting common election symbol would not amount to granting recognition to his outfit as a political group and its candidates would be treated as Independents for all practical purposes.

The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said that it was the duty and the rights of the Election Commission only to consider granting registration to Dhinakaran’s outfit as a political party and it will be done in due course by the poll panel.

The bench said that its directions to EC to consider granting common free symbol to the list of 59 candidates furnished before it by the outfit was passed to ensure level-playing field and free and fair elections.

As per the list given by the Dhinakaran group, they have named 40 candidates for parliamentary elections in Tamil Nadu (39) and Puducherry (one).

The Dhinakaran outfit has also given a list of 19 candidates for the Assembly by-elections on 19 seats in Tamil Nadu (18) and Puducherry (one).

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the EC told the court that a common symbol of pressure cooker cannot be given to the Dhinakaran-led group since they were not a registered political party.

The EC had on Monday told the apex court that it can allot a common symbol of “pressure cooker” to an individual but not to an unregistered group.

Dhinakaran had told the top court that the EC’s stand would force the candidates of his Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on different symbols.

The bench had asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Dhinakaran, as to when is the last date of filing nominations for Lok Sabha polls.

Sibal had replied that the last date of filing of nomination was Tuesday and if the party was not allotted the symbol, its candidates would have to contest on different symbols.

He had said that candidates of rival parties will win by default if a common symbol of ‘pressure cooker’ was not given to them.

The bench then asked the EC official to apprise it as to why a common symbol was not given to the AMMK.

The EC official had apprised the court that as per the rules a common symbol cannot be given to the AMMK, which was not a registered political party.

He had said the election process has already started and it would be difficult to allot a common symbol.

The bench, which asked for a detailed reply, was told by the official that the poll panel was not asked to file a response.

The bench, which was visibly unsatisfied with the reply of poll panel official, perused its March 15 order and said that court has issued notice to the EC.

On March 15, the apex court had agreed to hear a plea of Dhinakaran and V K Sasikala challenging a Delhi High Court order granting the ‘two leaves’ symbol to the AIADMK faction led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.

The court had issued notice to the EC on the limited plea of Dhinakaran that they be allowed to use ‘pressure cooker’ as a common symbol.

The Dhinakaran group had claimed that EC was not giving them a common symbol despite a direction from the apex court to allot “pressure cooker’ as a common symbol to the party.

On February 28, the high court had dismissed the pleas of Dhinakaran and Sasikala challenging the EC order granting the ‘AIADMK’ name and the ‘two leaves’ symbol to the faction led by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, saying the figures showed the Palaniswami-led group “enjoyed a clear majority”.

It had upheld the EC decision of November 23, 2017, saying none of the grounds of challenge raised by the Dhinakaran-Sasikala group were made out and there was “no infirmity” in the poll panel’s order allotting the party name and symbol to the group led by Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam.

After the high court order was pronounced, Dhinakaran and Sasikala had urged the court to direct the EC not to allot the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to anyone during the next 15 days so that they have time to move the apex court and seek an appropriate relief from there.

The EC, thereafter, had agreed not to allot the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to anyone for next 15 days in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Dhinakaran had floated Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam after he and Sasikala were expelled from the Palaniswami-led AIADMK.

Supreme Court asks Tamil Nadu government to ensure political parties do not disfigure public places

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that public places, including hilly areas, are not defaced by slogans and advertisements by political parties.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta expressed dissatisfaction over the reply filed by the state government in the matter and said it has not acted in a “responsible manner”.

“As the state has failed to act…we direct the state government to ensure that there is no disfigurement of public places,” the bench said.

It directed authorities to ensure that political parties do not disfigure such public places by pasting photographs of leaders and by writing slogans.

Senior advocate V Giri, appearing for the state government, submitted that PIL petitioner, a charitable trust ‘In Defence of Environment and Animals’, can approach a committee formed by the Madras High Court and put forth its grievances to it.

Earlier also, the apex court had told the Tamil Nadu government that defacement of public places cannot be allowed by political parties with advertisements and slogans.

It had asked the state government to inform about the steps taken regarding prevention of defacement of natural resources like hills, mountains, rocks and public places.

The apex court had on January 11 issued notice to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government on the plea seeking to restrain political parties from erecting digital banners on roadside across the state.

The court had asked as to why the plea should not be kept open, enabling the Madras High Court to monitor the developments in the case.

The plea sought preventing encroachments via religious symbols and political graffiti, advertisements by private parties on natural resources like mountains, hills, hillocks, avenue trees and on national and state highways.

The Madras High Court had on December 19 last year issued an interim order restraining political parties from putting up digital banners on roadside unless the state government and local bodies came out with a clear undertaking that the rules and various orders passed by the court would be strictly implemented and no violation would take place.

The court while passing the orders had said such banners distracted the road users, especially two-wheeler riders, and obstructed pedestrians.

The high court had expressed displeasure over the unjustified reasons given by authorities in the past five years for failing to implement court orders regarding unauthorised banners.