COVID-19 pandemic: SC takes suo moto cognisance of overcrowding of prisons.

The Supreme Court on Monday took suo moto cognisance of overcrowding and infrastructure of prisons across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and L N Rao issued a notice to the Director General, Prison, and chief secretary of all states and union territories seeking their response by March 20 on steps taken for prevention of COVID-19.

The court also asked all states and union territories to depute an officer on March 23 who could assist the court in the matter.

The bench also took suo moto cognisance of conditions in remand homes where juveniles in conflict with law are lodged.

It observed that some states have taken steps for the pandemic but there are some states which have not taken appropriate measures.

The court also cautioned that mass gathering is a big problem and it can become a centre for the spread of coronavirus.

The court also said it will issue reasons on why it has taken suo moto cognisance of the matter.

“We need to formulate some guidelines, and directions should be issued with respect to overcrowding of prisons in wake of coronavirus,” the bench said.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 110 on Sunday, with Maharashtra reporting the highest followed by Kerala.

According to the Union Health Ministry, there are 110 cases in India so far, including two people who died in Delhi and Karnataka and 17 foreigners. Ten patients have been discharged.

Delhi violence : SC to hear on Mar 4 plea for lodging FIRs over hate speeches.

The Supreme court on Monday decided to hear on March 4 a plea seeking registration of FIRs against politicians for hate speeches which allegedly led to violence in the national capital.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde agreed to hear the plea filed by riots victims.

The petition was mentioned for urgent listing by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the riots victims.

Gonsalves said that the Delhi High Court has deferred for four weeks the matters related to riots in the national capital despite the fact that people are still dying due to the recent violence.

SC asks estranged wife of industrialist Jaidev Shroff to look for house of her choice on rent in Mumbai.

 The Supreme Court Wednesday asked Poonam Jaidev Shroff, socialite estranged wife of industrialist Jaidev Shroff, to search for a house of her “choice” in Mumbai in a week’s time or it will direct the Bombay High Court registry to do the needful which will be binding on her.

The top court, which had earlier asked her to locate a premises of her choice as her husband agreed to pay the rent till final disposal of their divorce plea by a family court at Bandra, got irked when told that so far no suitable premises has been found for her stay.

“Do you want a house or not? You look for a house and come back next week. There are all kind of people living in Mumbai and for all kind of people, there there are houses,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.

“We will treat it as lack of bona fide on your part if you do not get a house. You select a house, he (her estranged husband) will pay the rent… Otherwise, we will ask the Registrar General of Bombay HC to select an architect who will find a house for you and you will have to be satisfied with that,” said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the woman in the high-profile matrimonial dispute, said instead of she being asked to look for a house on rent, the offer be monetised and she be paid Rs 25 lakh per month on account of rent, besides Rs 75 lakh annually for other expenses.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, representing the husband, opposed the plea and reiterated his offer that he would pay the rent.

The bench has now fixed the matter for hearing on March 6 and made clear that it would not hear parties at length.

The bench had earlier ordered that “Poonam Jaidev Shroff will locate rented premises of her choice which shall be equivalent to the residence…Pali Hill, Bandra… for her residence…

“A M Singhvi, counsel appearing for appellant Jaidev Rajnikant Shroff, states that the appellant will pay the rent for the said premises. It is understood that this arrangement will at the moment continue till the disposal of the pending divorce petition.”

The counsel for the woman had then sought time till today to intimate the bench about her views on the offer.

Prior to this, the Bombay High court had permitted the woman to enter their “shared household”, a bungalow at tony Pali Hill in Bandra.

Singhvi had said that Shroff, the husband, had lodged an FIR against his wife for allegedly trying to administer drugs through orange juice with the help of a ‘Bengali Baba’ and even the charge sheet has been filed in that case.

The other side vehemently denied the allegations.

Singhvi had said he had offered Rs 90 crore towards full and final settlement of the divorce dispute, but it was not agreed upon.

SC to consider hearing plea against bail granted to Chinmayanand.

The Supreme Court Thursday said it would consider hearing next week a plea against the bail granted to former BJP lawmaker Swami Chinmayanand by the Allahabad High Court in a rape case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was told by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves that the plea challenged the Allahabad HC order granting bail to Chinmayanand earlier this month.

The bench said it may consider listing the plea of the victim next week.

Chinmayanand, whose trust runs the Shahjahanpur law college where the woman who has alleged rape by him studied, was arrested on September 20 last year.

The apex court had stepped in after the 23-year-old law student went missing for a few days in August last year after posting a video clip on social media, alleging sexual abuse.

A special investigation team of the Uttar Pradesh Police, formed on the directions of the apex court, arrested Chinmayanand.

The Allahabad High Court had on February 3 granted bail to him.

The SIT had also arrested the student after a complaint that she and her friends had allegedly tried to extort Rs 5 crore from Chinmayanand, threatening to make public videos showing her giving massages to the former minister.

SC : Can transport minister come to explain govt proposal for introducing EVs.

The Supreme Court Wednesday expressed desire to interact with the Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on the proposal for gradual conversion of all public transport and government vehicles into electric vehicles (EVs) to curb air pollution.

The apex court, however, did not seek presence of the minister after Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni raised objection.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, enquired from Nadkarni as to whether the minister can come over for an interaction to assist this court.

“Can the minister come to Supreme Court and explain proposal to introduce non-polluting vehicles run on electricity/hydrogen,” the bench asked the law officer.

The bench noted that the minister has been talking about use of alternative fuels in private and public transport, so the court would like to interact with him.

“Your minister talks about it. We would like to hear him. Somebody responsible should come,” it said.

Nadkarni raised objection, saying the appearance of the minister can be misused for political purposes.

He added however that there was nothing wrong in politicians appearing before the court.

“We understand that Mr Prashant Bhushan is a political person but he is not going to argue with the minister,” the bench said.

Without seeking the presence of the transport minister, the top court further said: “We consider it appropriate that all the issues be considered simultaneously with the assistance of authority empowered to take decision.”

It then put up the matter for hearing after four weeks.

During the hearing, Bhushan, appearing for NGO – CPIL, said that as per the National E-Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), 2020 EVs were to be procured by the government.

The authorities were also required to provide charging points for electric vehicles at public places like malls and petrol pumps.

Bhushan also said that under the scheme the authorities were required to promote sale of EVs by providing subsidies.

The bench adjourned the hearing for four weeks and ordered that in the meantime all issues relating to EVs be considered by the government with the assistance of an authority empowered to take decisions.

Uphaar tragedy: SC dismisses curative plea by victims; no further jail term for Ansal brothers.

uphaar tragedy
uphaar tragedy

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the curative petition filed by an association of the victims of the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case, sparing the Ansal brothers further jail term.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, and justices N V Ramana and Arun Mishra considered the curative plea by the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) in-chamber and dismissed it.

“We have gone through the curative petitions and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out…. Hence, the curative petition is dismissed,” the bench said in its order.

On February 9, 2017, the apex court had by a 2:1 majority verdict given relief to 78-year-old Sushil Ansal considering his “advanced age-related complications” by awarding him the jail term which he had already served.

It had, however, asked his younger sibling Gopal Ansal to serve the remaining one year jail term in the case.

The AVUT, through its president Neelam Krishnamoorthy, had sought reconsideration of the verdict by filing the curative plea.

The apex court had in August 2015 allowed the Ansals to walk free and asked them to pay a fine of Rs 30 crore each.

On June 13, 1997, halfway through the screening of Hindi film “Border”, a fire broke out in Uphaar Cinema, situated in Green Park area here. Fifty-nine people had died of asphyxia, while over 100 others were injured in the ensuing stampede.

SC refuses to entertain plea on Gargi College incident.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged molestation of students during a cultural festival at the all-woman Gargi College here last week.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked lawyer M L Sharma, who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing, to move the Delhi High Court with his plea.

“Why don’t you go to the Delhi HC. If they dismiss the petition then you come here,” the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said.

The apex court said it would like to have advantage of Delhi HC’s view on this matter.

Sharma expressed apprehension that electronic evidence related to the case might be destroyed.

On this, the top court said, “Delhi High Court can also pass order like the Telangana High Court in the police encounter case to preserve electronic evidence”.

Sabarimala case: SC holds it refer questions of law to larger bench

The Supreme Court on Monday held that its five-judge bench can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its limited power under review jurisdiction in the Sabarimala case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde framed seven questions to be heard by a nine-judge Constitutional bench on issues relating to freedom of religion under the Constitution and faith.

The court proposes to hear on a day-to-day basis from February 17 questions framed on scope of religious freedom in various religions.

The seven questions framed by the bench include those on scope and ambit of religious freedom, and interplay between religious freedom and freedom of beliefs of religious denominations.

The bench said its nine-judge bench will deal with the right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution and its interplay with the right of various religious denominations.

It will also deal with the extent of judicial review with regard to religious practices and the meaning of “sections of Hindus” occurring in article 25 (2)(b) of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court will also deal with the power of a person, who does not belong to a particular religion or sect of a religion, to question the religious beliefs of that religion by filling a PIL.

The apex court asked the lawyers representing various parties to give information as to who they are representing and the bench then would allot time to them for advancing arguments.

It said that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, would open the arguments followed by senior advocate K Parasaran on February 17.

The bench also comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant would hear the issues which were referred by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi (since retired) on November 14, 2019.

Besides the Sabarimala case, the verdict had also referred issues of entry of Muslim women into mosques and dargahs and of Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, being barred from the holy fire place of an Agiary, to the larger bench.

A five-judge bench, by a majority of 3:2 on November 14 last year, had referred to a larger bench the issue of discrimination against women at various religions’ places of worship.

It said the larger bench will have to evolve a judicial policy to do “substantial and complete justice” in matters of freedom of religion, such as restrictions on the entry of Muslim and Parsi women into their respective places of worship.

A majority verdict by the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra decided to keep the pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding entry of women into the shrine pending and said restrictions on women at religious places were not limited to Sabarimala alone and were prevalent in other religions also.

By a 4:1 majority verdict, the apex court had in September 2018 lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 years from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala and held that the centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

SC seeks Rajasthan govt’s response on plea for probe into death of over 100 infants at Kota hospital.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Rajasthan government on a plea seeking probe into the death of over 100 infants at a hospital in Kota recently.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant issued a notice to the state government on a plea filed by noted doctor K K Aggarwal and social worker B Mishra seeking probe into the death of new-born babies due to lack of equipment at a government hospital in Kota.

Over 100 infants had died in the Kota hospital recently.

SC begins hearing to decide if it can refer question of law to larger bench in review jurisdiction.

A nine-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court Thursday began deliberations on the legal issue of whether the top court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction.

This question arose during the hearing in the Sabarimala case which relates to religious discrimination against women at religious places.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde is hearing the issues relating to discriminations against women at various places of worship including the Sabarimala temple.

The other members of the bench are Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

Many senior lawyers including Fali S Nariman, Kapil Sibal, Shyam Divan, Rajeev Dhavan and Rakesh Dwivedi argued on February 3 that while exercising review jurisdiction, the Supreme Court does not have the power to refer a question of law to a larger bench.