The Delhi High Court today stayed a trial court order imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakh on a Kolkata-based iron and steel company in connection with a coal scam case.
Justice Anu Malhotra put on the hold till January 22, the next date of hearing, the special CBI court’s order to deposit the fine.
The high court’s interim order came on the appeal of the company, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd’s (VISUL), which has sought waiver of the costs.
The high court also sought response of the CBI on the company’s plea seeking setting aside of the trial court’s December 16 order convicting it in the coal scam case.
“The trial court order is stayed on parity with the other convict’s appeal,” the court said.
The company, in its plea, has said that the special court had wrongly found them guilty of the alleged scam.
The high court on December 20 had sought response of the CBI on an appeal by former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s close aide Vijay Joshi against the trial court’s order awarding him three years jail term in the case.
While admitting his appeal against conviction and jail term, the court had suspended the sentence of Joshi till the pendency of his appeal and had granted him bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs one lakh and a surety of the like amount.
Koda, ex-coal secretary H C Gupta, A K Basu, former Jharkhand chief secretary, and Joshi were awarded jail terms of three years for indulging in corrupt practices and hatching a criminal conspiracy in the allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to the Kolkata-based company.
While confirming his bail, the high court had directed Joshi not to leave the country during the entire pendency of his appeal.
It had also stayed till January 22, the next date of hearing, the payment of the Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on Joshi by the special court.
The trial court had directed the convict to deposit by January 3 the fine amount and had suspended his sentence till February 18 to enable him to appeal before the superior court.
Advocate Tarannum Cheema, appearing for the CBI, gave a list of orders in the coal cases where the convicts were directed to deposit the fine and said the time to deposit the money was not extended.
While sentencing the convicts, the special court had said “white collar crimes” were more “dangerous” to the society than ordinary crimes.
It had imposed fines of Rs 50 lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 1 lakh on VISUL, Koda and Gupta respectively in the UPA-era coal scam. Rs one lakh fine was also imposed on Basu.
The convicts were granted statutory bail for a period of two months to enable them to file appeals in the Delhi High Court.
So far, four out of 30 coal block allocation scam cases have been decided by the special court, including this order, and 12 people and four companies have been held guilty.
The convicts were tried for offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
While the offence of cheating carries a maximum punishment of seven years jail term, criminal breach of trust by public servants entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The CBI had said that the firm had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007.
It had said that although the Jharkhand government and the steel ministry did not recommend VISUL’s case for coal block allocation, the 36th Screening Committee recommended the block to the accused firm.
The CBI had said that Gupta, who was chairman of the screening committee, had concealed facts from then prime minister Manmohan Singh, who at that time headed the coal ministry too, that Jharkhand had not recommended VISUL for allocation of a coal block.
The Delhi High Court today directed the CBI to trace the whereabouts of the founder and spiritual head of a north Delhi-based ashram, being probed by the agency for allegedly confining women and girls like “animals in a cage”.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said Virender Dev Dixit, the founder of the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya in North Delhi’s Rohini area, to be present before it on January 4, the next date of hearing.
The bench also issued a show-cause notice to a woman staying at the ashram, asking why contempt action would not be initiated against her for assaulting the court-appointed committee when it went there to inspect the place.
The court directed the CBI to proceed in accordance with law and ensure that the truth comes out.
It asked the Delhi Police and the AAP government to extend their full cooperation and render every assistance and logistics required by the CBI’s special investigative team (SIT) which is investigating the allegations against the ashram and its founder.
The bench also asked the committee appointed by it to inspect eight other similar centres being run by Dixit in the national capital after the existence of these places was brought to the court’s attention.
It directed that the committee, comprising Delhi Commission for Women Swati Maliwal and advocates Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, be provided protection by the police and ordered the people running the centres to cooperate and not obstruct the inspection.
The court also sought a report from the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on the age verification tests it will carry out on 41 girls “rescued” from the ashram in Rohini yesterday.
During the hearing, the court also questioned the spirituality imparted at the ashram and the claim of its lawyer that the women and girls were there on their own free will.
“It is a strange setup where hundreds are lodged in closed confines. Where is the concept of free consent or spirit when you are not allowed to meet family or friends or wear what you want to or cannot go out when you want to?
“What kind of spirituality is it when people are kept confined as animals in cages? We do not understand it,” it said.
The bench also noted that the ashram or vidyalaya, which it claimed to be, did not appear to have any legal status as it is neither a registered society as per the law nor a trust or company.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, which informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the “spiritual university” here and were not allowed to meet their parents.
Taking note of the “seriousness and the sensitivity of the matter”, the bench had asked the CBI director to forthwith constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to take charge of all the records and documents pertaining to the case.
The SIT will also investigate the FIRs lodged against the ashram and its founder as well as various allegations against them, the court earlier said.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today deferred to January 11 its hearing on the bail plea of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala, who had been booked for stalking and attempting to abduct a woman.
The single bench of Justice Lisa Gill also directed the cellular operator to provide to the trial court, on January 4, the call details between the complainant, 29-year-old Varnika Kundu and her IAS father VS Kundu, as sought by Barala’s counsel.
The high court also directed the trial court to complete the cross-examination of Varnika Kundu before January 11 when the bail plea will be considered, said Barala’s counsel Vinod Ghai.
Barala’s counsel had sought a regular bail from the court, submitting his client has been behind the bars for nearly four months and should be granted bail.
Barala had moved the high court last month after a local court denied him bail for the fourth time.
Charges have been framed against Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar in connection with the stalking of Varnika Kundu.
The woman had accused Vikas Barala (23) and his friend Kumar (27) of stalking and attempting to abduct her.
The two men were arrested on the intervening night of August 4-5 following the woman’s complaint, but were released on bail as they were booked under bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Motor Vehicles Act.
They were arrested again on August 9 after they joined the investigation and were charged with attempted abduction under sections 365 and 511 of the IPC.
The High Court of Bombay at Goa today dismissed a petition filed by Tehelka’s former editor- in-chief Tarun Tejpal seeking the quashing of rape and other charges levelled against him by a former woman colleague.
Justice Nutan Sardesai dismissed the petition filed by Tejpal, who is accused of raping the woman during an event in Goa in 2013.
The detailed order is expected to be pronounced later in the day.
The district court in Mapusa town had earlier framed charges against Tejpal under IPC sections 354-A (sexual harassment), 376 (rape) and 376(2)(k) (rape of a woman by a person being in tge position of control or dominance over the woman), and initiated a trial last month.
The crime branch later added to the case IPC sections 341 (wrongful restraint) and 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (2) (f) (person in the position of trust or authority over women, committing rape of such women), 376 C (sexual intercourse by person in authority) and 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty).
“The detailed copy of the order, by which our petition has been dismissed, is not with us so we are not able to know on which ground it was rejected,” lawyer Pramodkumar Dubey, who represented Tejpal in the high court, told PTI.
Senior lawyer Aman Lekhi, who argued on behalf of Tejpal in the HC on December 12, had then presented before it CCTV footage of the area outside the lift of a five-star hotel, where he is alleged to have sexually assaulted the woman.
Public prosecutor Saresh Lotlikar earlier said the trial court (district court) had come to the conclusion that a “primary case” had been made out as charges had been framed.
He said the charges against the accused should not be dismissed without a trial in the case.
A CBI court here today heard the deposition of a scientific expert from the US via a video link in connection with the 2011 killing of journalist J Dey.
“Edward Burns, an expert, deposed before the court. He had compared the actual image of the bike used in the killing with its CCTV footage, and he told the court that both carried resemblance,” special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said.
The image-comparison technology was being used for the first time to corroborate evidence, he added.
The prosecution today completed the examination of its witnesses. It examined a total of 154 witnesses.
Dey, a veteran crime journalist, was shot dead in suburban Powai on June 11, 2011, while he was on his way home.
The CBI court framed charges against gangster Chhota Rajan in the case last year.
The agency claimed that Rajan had the veteran crime reporter killed because he was miffed with some articles written by Dey, and also because a planned book of Dey portrayed Rajan as a ‘chindi’ (petty) criminal.
Rajan was arrested at the Bali airport in Indonesia on October 25, 2015, and was later deported to India.
The Orissa High Court today granted bail to Prashant Dash, CMD of Seashore Group of Companies, in three chit fund related cases.
The bench of Justice C R Dash granted conditional bail to Prashant in the cases registered in Jajpur, Nawarangpur and Titlagarh police stations. He was earlier granted bail in three cases registered in Koraput and one in Ganjam.
The CBI had arrested him in December, 2013, from Mumbai for allegedly duping investors, who had invested Rs 500 crore in his companies, expecting heavy returns. Prashant is at present lodged in a Bhubaneswar jail.
The high court had in May and August this year granted him bail in four other similar cases.
After getting bail in three cases today, Prashant has now been granted bail in all the seven chit fund cases registered against him in different police stations of the state.
He is likely to walk free from jail soon, informed his counsel Sushant Tripathy.
Prashant’s younger brother Pravat, who was also one of the directors of the tainted company and arrested by the CBI in the chit fund cases, is now out of jail after being granted bail by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Similarly, realtor Subhankar Nayak, also arrested by the CBI for allegedly being in close nexus with the directors of Seashore Group of Companies and several government officials, was granted bail by the HC in August this year.
The Delhi High Court today formed a temporary Internal Complaint Committee (TICC) in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to proceed with 31 pending complaints of sexual harassment.
The court’s direction came on a plea filed by a group of teachers and students of JNU opposing the office order disbanding the Gender Sensitisation Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) committee and replacing it by an ICC.
They also opposed a registrar’s circular putting on hold the election of students’ representatives to the dissolved body.
A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Pratibha Singh said the three-member TICC will consist of one member each of the present ICC and erstwhile GSCASH and the third member would be nominated by them from an NGO or an association committed to the cause of women.
While nominating the third member, a list of NGOs and associations, prepared by the GSCASH or JNU administration, would be taken into consideration, the bench said.
It added that the directions were passed to ensure there is no tampering of records and breach of confidentiality.
The bench listed the matter for February 22, next year for final hearing and disposal of the petition challenging the varsity administration’s decision on disbanding the GSCASH and forming the ICC instead.
During the hearing, advocate Ginny J Rautray, appearing for JNU, handed over to the bench the list of pending matters by suppressing the names of victims, accused and witnesses and said there are 31 pending complaints which were filed between January 5 last year to July 27 this year.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for petitioner teachers and students, argued that the composition of ICC is in dispute and the complainants have confidence in GSCASH and not in ICC.
She claimed that the complainants have written to GSCASH members that they do not wish to pursue the complaints if this panel does not continue.
To this, the bench said the complainants do not have a choice in the matter and a complainant has the right to seek recusal of a member of the committee but with a valid reason.
It said these 31 cases should not be stalled as the issue relating to constitutional validity of the concerned UGC regulations is pending consideration.
The bench modified the stay order regarding the pending cases and formed the three-member temporary ICC to deal with these 31 matters.
It said that the records of these pending cases be made available to the temporary ICC and in case the two members of TICC do not reach any consensus in nominating the third member, they shall approach the court.
The court had earlier asked the JNU to maintain status quo on the sealing of the office of GSCASH committee which was superseded by the ICC.
The JNU administration had in its 269th Executive Council meeting held on September 18 ordered the dissolution of the independent body GSCASH.
As an interim relief, the petitioners had sought a stay on the operation of the order to disband GSCASH and a direction to JNU to preserve all records of GSCASH from 1999 till date in consultation with GSCASH.
The petition was filed by three teachers and three students Prof Madhu Sahni, Prof Rajat Dutta, Prof Hemant Adlakha, Ritika Kar, Rituraj Sharma and Sonam Goyal.
The Madras High Court today stayed till January 29 criminal proceedings against absconding film financier G N Anbuchezhian in a case relating to the alleged suicide of a producer.
Justice MS Ramesh passed the interim order on a petition by Anbuchezhian who went into hiding after a case of abetment of suicide and charging exorbitant interest was registered against him.
Ashok Kumar, relative of noted filmmaker M Sasikumar, had allegedly committed suicide here last month and a purported suicide note recovered from the spot blamed Anbuchezhian for pushing him to take the extreme step.
Kumar reportedly had accused the financier of charging exorbitant interest on some loans obtained by him, and harassing him for the same.
Contending that director Sasikumar had lodged a complaint against him with an intention to prevent him from taking steps to recover the money due, the petitioner sought to quash the criminal charges against him.
Sasikumar had borrowed money for the production of his film but cleverly suppressed the fact and he also failed to state that the deceased, Ashok Kumar, had not borrowed any money, he alleged.
The petitioner also denied the allegation that he had demanded an exorbitant interest from Ashok Kumar and submitted that the deceased had nothing to do with the loan and it was only Sasikumar who had actually borrowed the money.
Hence, Anbuchezhian prayed the court to quash the criminal proceedings pending with the central crime branch, Chennai.
The alleged suicide of Ashok Kumar had shocked the Tamil film industry.
The Bombay High Court today dismissed petitions filed by Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit and Sameer Kulkarni, accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, challenging the sanction for prosecution granted by the Maharashtra government under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The petitions said that under the UAPA, the state law and judiciary department, the sanctioning authority, has to seek a report from an appropriate authority.
“In this case, the sanction was given in January 2009 but the authority was appointed only in October 2010. Hence the sanction order stands vitiated,” Purohit’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade had argued.
NIA counsel Sandesh Patil, however, questioned the maintainability of the petitions. Purohit and Kulkarni had raised these contentions in the trial court in discharge pleas, and that court has reserved its order till December 21, Patil pointed out.
“The issue of sanction was raised by Purohit when his bail plea was being argued in the high court. In its order, the high court has extensively observed that the issue of sanction cannot be looked into at this stage and can be considered by the trial court,” advocate Patil said.
Even the Supreme Court made the same observations in its order, though it granted bail to Purohit, he said.
The high court today accepted the NIA lawyer’s arguments and dismissed the petitions.
“The question is should we hear the petitions in the light of the observations made by the Supreme Court and the high court,” Justice Patil said.
Six persons were killed and nearly 100 injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in Malegaon town in Nashik district of Maharashtra on September 29, 2008.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Purohit were arrested in the same year with nine others for the blast conspiracy.
The NIA, which took over the probe from the Maharashtra ATS, gave a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya. The agency had, however, opposed Purohit’s bail plea.