Ayodhya case: Muslim party objects hearing on all days of week, says it can’t be ‘rushed through’

A Muslim party on Friday objected in the Supreme Court five-days-a-week hearing of the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya, saying it will “not be able to assist” the court if the hearing is “rushed through”.

The submission was made by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for a Muslim party, when the Supreme Court commenced hearing on the fourth day in the case.

Breaking with the tradition, the apex court decided to hear the sensitive case on Friday which is kept kept fresh cases only, along with Monday. As per the apex court’s procedures, on Mondays and Fridays, the registry lists before the benches fresh and miscellaneous cases after notice cases.

As the counsel for deity ‘Ram Lalla Virajmaan’ started advancing its submissions before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Dhavan got up and interjected the proceedings.

“It is not possible to assist the court if it is heard on all days of the week. This is the first appeal and the hearing cannot be rushed in this manner and I am put to torture,” he told the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

He said the apex court was hearing first appeals after the Allahabad High Court delivered the verdict in the case and the hearing as such cannot be rushed through.

Being a first appeal, documentary evidences have to be studied. Many documents are in Urdu and Sanskrit, which have to be translated, Dhavan said.

The senior lawyer alleged that “perhaps, except Justice Chandrachud, other judges might not have read the judgment (Allahabad High Court’s)”.

He said that if the court has taken a decision to hear the case on all five days of the week then he might have to leave the case.

“We have taken note of your submissions. We will revert back to you soon,” CJI Gogoi said and proceeded with the hearing.

The bench has now started hearing the submissions of senior advocate K Parasaran on behalf of deity Ram Lalla Virajmaan.

The apex court had on Thursday asked the counsel for the deity, which itself has been made a party to the case, as to how the ‘Janmasthanam’ (birth place of deity) can be regarded as a “juristic person” having stakes as a litigant in the case.

The apex court had said on the third day of the hearing that so far as Hindu deities were concerned, they have been legally treated as juristic person which can hold properties and institute, defend and intervene in lawsuits.

The bench, however, had asked Parasaran as to how ‘Janamsthanam’ can file the case in the land dispute as a party.

The law suit filed by the deity in the Ayodhya case has also made the birth place of Lord Ram as co-petitioner and has sought claim over the entire 2.77 acre of disputed land at Ayodhya where the structure was razed on December 6, 1992.

AG informs SC as Centre withdraws social media hub policy

New Delhi: The Centre today told the Supreme Court it will undertake a complete review of its social media policy and has withdrawn its notification proposing a social media hub, which some alleged could become a tool to monitor online activity of citizens.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the submission of Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, that the notification was being withdrawn, and disposed of petitions challenging it.

Venugopal also told the bench, comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, that the social media policy would be reviewed completely by the government.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by TMC MLA Mahua Moitra alleging that the Centre’s social media hub policy was to be used as a tool to monitor social media activities of the citizens and should be quashed.

On July 13, the apex court had asked the government whether its move to create such a hub was to tap people’s WhatsApp messages, and observed that it will be like creating a “surveillance state”.

The Trinamool Congress legislator from West Bengal had asked whether the government wants to tap citizens’ messages on WhatsApp or other social media platforms.

Moitra had said the government had issued a Request For Proposal (RFP). The tender will be opened on August 20 for a software which would do 360 degree monitoring on all social media platforms such WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram and track e-mail contents, she said.

SC agrees for urgent listing of pleas against ‘nikah-halala’, polygamy

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to consider listing of a batch of petitions challenging the practices of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submissions of senior advocate V Shekhar that the petitions be listed before a five-judge constitution bench for final adjudication.

“We will look into it,” the bench said.

Shekhar and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, appearing for one of the Delhi-based petitioners Sameena Begum, alleged that she was threatened and asked to withdraw her petition challenging ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among Muslims.

The bench, meanwhile, allowed Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to file a response to the petition on the issue.

Nikah-halala is a practice intended to curb the incidence of divorce under which a man cannot remarry his former wife without her having to go through the process of marrying someone else, consummating it, getting divorced and observing a separation period called ‘Iddat’ before coming back to him.

The petition, filed by the Delhi-based woman, has said that by virtue of the Muslim Personal Law and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) was rendered inapplicable to Muslims and no married woman from the community has the avenue of filing a complaint against her husband for the offence of bigamy.

Supreme Court to examine plea seeking prosecution of UP CM in Gorakhpur riot case

The Supreme Court today agreed to examine a plea challenging an Allahabad High Court order dismissing a petition seeking prosecution of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in a hate speech case of 2007.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked petitioner Rasheed Khan to serve the copy to all the parties who were before the High Court.

The High Court had earlier this year upheld a sessions court order which had quashed a magistrate’s order taking cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the police in 2009.

While dismissing the petition, the high court had said the sessions court was right in holding that there was no prosecution sanction to initiate trial against the BJP leader and others in the case.

The Sessions Court at Gorakhpur district had on January 28, 2017, quashed the magisterial court’s cognisance order saying there was no sanction to prosecute the accused including the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and others.

On January 27, 2007, several incidents of violence were reported in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh and Khan had lodged the FIR under various sections of IPC.

Supreme Court to hear Kathua witnesses plea alleging police harassment on May 16

The Supreme Court will hear the plea of three witnesses in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, alleging that they are being harassed by the state police, on May 16.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud today agreed to hear on Wednesday the plea of Sahil Sharma and two others, who are college friends of the juvenile accused in the case.

According to their plea, they had already recorded their statements before the police and the magistrate.

The three witnesses had in their statement before the magistrate said they gave their statement to the police under coercion.

The petition today alleged that the state police was now asking them to re-appear and re-record their statements and exerting pressure in their families.

The apex court had on May 7 transferred the trial in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab, but refrained from handing over the probe to CBI saying there was no need as the investigation has been conducted and the chargesheet filed.

The victim, from a minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in a village close to Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The state police has filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate chargesheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.

Supreme Court dismisses Muthalik’s plea against Congress manifesto in Karnataka

The Supreme Court today dismissed Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief Pramod Muthalik’s plea alleging that the Congress party was seeking votes in the name of religion in its election manifesto in Karnataka.

There were a plethora of apex court judgments which say that once the poll process begins, no court shall interfere with it, said a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

The bench also said that assuring minority communities about elevating them from social and economic backwardness did not amount to seeking votes on the ground of religion and this has been held by the constitution bench judgment.

The court, however, said Muthalik can take a statutory remedy after the poll process is over.

The Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief had sought directions to the Election Commission to delete the Congress party’s alleged appeal in its manifesto.

The plea had alleged that the appeal to vote on religious basis was made in pages 36 and 37 of the manifesto in the section headlined ‘Social justice-strengthening the social fabric for smooth progress’.

Under the sub-head ‘ensure right to equality’ in the manifesto released on April 27, the Congress proposes to improve social and economic status of minorities by allocating more budget for their welfare programmes.

Besides a proposal to establish Madrasa Board, it talks about Christian development board to manage the affairs of Christian community. It also proposes to construct 1,000 Maulana Azad schools in the state.

In the relevant pages, the Congress promises an insurance scheme for health and children’s education of minority auto and taxi drivers in the manifesto. It also speaks of upgrading Morarji Desai Schools with hostels for girls, under the sub-heading of the ‘ensure right to equality’ of the Congress manifesto.

Muthalik’s petition sought disqualification of Congress candidates and derecognition of the Congress as a national party.

The Assembly election in Karnataka is slated for May 12 and the results are scheduled to be announced on May 15.

Supreme Court to hear state poll panel’s plea at 2 pm: WB panchayat polls

The Supreme Court will hear the West Bengal State Election Commission’s plea, challenging the Calcutta High Court order directing it to accept the nominations of candidates who have filed their papers electronically within the stipulated time for the panchayat elections, at 2 pm today.

The State Election Commission (SEC), which approached the apex court today, has sought a stay of the operation of yesterday’s order, saying it would suffer “irreparable loss and injury” that cannot be compensated.

Anticipating the SEC’s move, the state’s main opposition CPI(M) and BJP have filed a caveat before the top court saying that no ex-parte orders should be passed.

Caveat is a legal notice to a court or public officer that certain actions may not be taken without informing the person who gave the notice.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was told by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for BJP’s West Bengal unit, that the copy of the SEC’s petition be supplied to them and the court may list the matter for hearing on May 11.

Supreme Court: Parliamentary panel reports can be relied upon in courts

The report of a parliamentary committee can be relied upon in courts for interpretation of statutory provisions wherever necessary, the Supreme Court today said while making it clear that its findings cannot be questioned or challenged in a court of law.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that courts can take notice of parliamentary standing committee reports, which are admissible under the Evidence Act.

“Parliamentary Standing Committee report can be taken aid of for the purpose of interpretation of a statutory provision wherever it is so necessary and also it can be taken note of as existence of a historical fact. Judicial notice can be taken of the Parliamentary Standing Committee report under Section 57(4) of the Evidence Act and it is admissible under Section 74 of the said Act.

“In a litigation filed either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution, this Court can take on record the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, the report cannot be impinged or challenged in a court of law,” the bench also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan said.

The 338-page verdict was delivered on the PILs which had initially raised the issue of untimely death of some young girls in 2008 in Andhra Pradesh due to alleged administration of cervical cancer vaccines and the grant of compensation to their families.

The petitioners, seeking compensation for the victims’ families, had relied on the 81st Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee of December 22, 2014, which had allegedly indicted some pharma firms for conducting trials of the controversial Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.

The matter was later referred to a five-judge constitution bench to determine whether a parliamentary standing committee’s report can be relied upon during the judicial proceeding and can its veracity be questioned.

Giving its findings on the matter, the five-judge bench held that the admission of parliamentary standing committee reports as evidence does not amount to breach of parliamentary privilege.

“All references to parliamentary proceedings and materials do not amount to breach of privilege to invite contempt of Parliament. When a party relies on any fact stated in the report as the matter of noticing an event or history, no exception can be taken on reliance on such report.

“However, no party can be allowed to ‘question’ or ‘impeach’ a report of Parliamentary Committee. The parliamentary privilege that it shall not be impeached or questioned outside Parliament shall equally apply both to a party who files claim in the court and the other who objects to it. Both parties cannot impeach or question the report,” the bench said.

With these observations, the bench referred the PILs on the vaccine, filed by Kalpana Mehta and Sama-Resource Group for Women and Health, seeking compensation over the issue of untimely death of the girls, to the two-judge bench hearing the original plea.

While the two judge bench referred the matter to a larger bench on April 5 last year, the top court had said it “might be crossing the boundary of federal structure” if it acted on the basis of a parliamentary committee report in a PIL.

In three separate but concurrent judgments, the bench unanimously held that it has to strike a delicate balance between the legislature and the judiciary by deciding a controversy without allowing anyone to challenge the parliamentary reports.

“A party can always establish his case on the materials on record and the Court can independently adjudicate the controversy without allowing a challenge to Parliamentary Standing Committee report. We think so as the Court has a constitutional duty to strike a delicate balance between the legislature and judiciary,” it said.

Noting that reports of parliamentary committees become part of the published record of the State, it said there was no reason to exclude them from the purview of court proceedings.

“As a matter of principle, there is no reason or justification to exclude them from the purview of the judicial process, for purposes such as understanding the historical background of a law, the nature of the problem, the causes of a social evil and the remedies which may provide answers to intractable problems of governance,” the bench said.

Noting that a parliamentary committee report was a published document, the bench said there was no need to get prior permission of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

“Parliament has already adopted a report of ‘privilege committee’, that for those documents which are public documents within the meaning of Indian Evidence Act, there is no requirement of any permission of Speaker of Lok Sabha for producing such documents as evidence in Court.

“Mere fact that the document is admissible in evidence whether a public or private document does not lead to draw any presumption that the contents of the documents are also true and correct,” the constitution bench said while directing that the PILs be sent to the two-judge bench, which was initially hearing the vaccine matter.

Supreme Court asks Water Resources Secy to bring draft Cauvery management scheme

The Supreme Court today directed the Secretary of the Union Water Resources Ministry to personally appear before it on May 14 with a draft of the Cauvery management scheme for implementation of its verdict on water sharing between four states including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra told the Centre that once the judgment has been delivered on the issue, it has to be implemented.

“We do not want to come back to square one. Once the judgment has been delivered, it has to be implemented,” the bench also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

Attorney General K K Venugopal said the Centre was seeking time in view of the fact that the Union Cabinet has not met due to the ongoing campaigning for the assembly polls in Karnataka.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade , appearing for Tamil Nadu, opposed the plea and said “this is the fit case for contempt. Somebody has to be sent to jail”.

The bench then fixed the matter for further hearing in May 14.

The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to formulate a scheme to ensure compliance of its judgement on the decades-old Cauvery dispute.

It had modified the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) award of 2007 and made it clear that it will not be extending time for this on any ground.

The top court had on February 16 raised the 270 tmcft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share, while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a “higher pedestal”.

Supreme Court notice to Centre on plea against criminalisation of homosexuality

The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on a plea filed by hotelier Kesav Suri challenging the criminalisation of gay sex between two consenting adults.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the Centre to file the response within a week on the plea.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said the petition will be heard along with other pleas on the same matter which is being heard by the Constitution bench.

Owing to Section 377 of the IPC continuing on the statute book, various adult and consenting members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Queer) community continue to face the threat of a false prosecution and some are actually facing it, Suri’s plea said.