Gujarat High Court Advocates Association Protests Against Delay In Notifying Appointment Of Justice Kureshi As Chief Justice Of MP HC

The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association has passed a resolution protesting the delay in notifying the appointment of Justice A Kureshi as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, which was recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on May 10. Referring to the fact that another proposal made by the Collegium on the same day – that of Justice D N Patel’s appointment as Delhi High Court Chief Justice – has been notified by the Centre, the Association has stated that “purposefully holding back clearance of the file of Hon’ble Justice Kureshi is unconstitutional and lacks in bona fide”.

Justice Patel’s proposal was acted upon by the Centre within two weeks, and he took charge as Delhi High Court CJ last Friday. The Association has expressed “shock” at the Centre’s appointment of Justice Ravi Shankar Jha as the Acting CJ of MP HC following the retirement of Justice S K Seth as CJ, overlooking the pending proposal of Justice Kureshi.

Justice Kureshi, a senior judge of Gujarat High Court, was transferred to Bombay High Court last October, amidst protests from the bar. The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association had moved a resolution protesting Justice Kureshi’s transfer as motivated by ‘extraneous considerations’. Senior Advocate Yatin Oza, the President of the GHCAA, had announced the decision of the bar to resort to indefinite strike over the transfer of Justice Kureshi. This was later withdrawn after CJI Ranjan Gogoi met the representatives of Association.

The Association has resolved yesterday to submit a representation before the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for immediate notification of Justice Kureshi’s appointment and has constituted a committee of 10 advocates under the leadership of Yatin Oza to make the representation. “If nothing turns out positively after meeting with the Hon’ble Law Minister of India, the Bar will be left with no option but to abstain from work for a day and also to file writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the subject”, added the Resolution.

Controversial judgments by Justice Kureshi Many bar members share the belief that Justice Kureshi is being sidelined due to the adverse order passed by him against the ruling dispensation. In 2010, Justice Kureshi gave custodial remand of Amit Shah to CBI in the Shorabuddin case by setting aside the order passed by a Magistrate which rejected CBI’s plea for remand. He also rejected the defence plea for videography of Shah’s questioning during the CBI custody. His 2012 order in the case concerning appointment of Justice R A Mehta as Gujarat LokAyukta had caused huge embarrassment to the Gujarat Government. The Government opposed the Lok Ayukta appointment made by the Governor Kamla Beniwal on ground that it was made without the concurrence of Government. Justice Kureshi held that Governor was acting as an independent statutory authority under the Lok Ayukta Act, and therefore there was no requirement of seeking concurrence of Government. His colleague in the bench, Justice Sonia Gokani, dissented. Due to the split verdict, the matter was referred to a third judge- Justice V M Sahai- who concurred with the view expressed by Justice Kureshi.

Taking the matter as a prestige issue, the Gujarat Government appealed before the Supreme Court, but met with no success as the top court upheld the majority judgment of High Court. In 2016, there was an attempt to cause his recusal from hearing the appeal against the conviction of Maya Kodnani(who was a minster in the Modi government in Gujarat) and few others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, when a senior lawyer related to Justice Kureshi entered appearance for one of the parties in the last minute and sought his recusal. “When the appearance is made by the senior advocate at late a stage, we wonder would it not have been better if the advocate had recused rather than to request the court to do so”, Justice Kureshi stated in the order of recusal. He expressed his anguish at the episode by saying “It is very painful.

We will not say anything but it tarnishes the image of the institution and confidence of people… this should not have happened.” Recently, in May 2018, a bench headed by him upheld the conviction of 19 Accused persons in the post-Godhra riots in Oad, where 23 people including women and children were burnt alive by a mob in March 2002. These phenomena which we often describe as communal frenzy turn perfectly normal human beings momentarily into murderous monsters leaving nothing but trail of death and destruction for the victims and his own family alike”, Justice Kureshi stated in his judgment.

Gujarat High Court terminates BJP MLA’s election over defective nomination

 The Gujarat High Court Friday invalidated the election of BJP MLA Pabubha Manek from Dwarka for submitting a defective nomination form.
BJP MLA Pabubha Manek’s victory from the Dwarka Assembly constituency in 2017 was challenged in the Gujarat High Court by his opponent and Congress candidate Meraman Ahir.

Ahir, in his petition, has said Manek’s election should be set aside as he had submitted a defective nomination form.

Admitting the contention raised by Ahir, Justice Paresh Upadhyay Friday cancelled the election held for the Dwarka seat in December 2017.

Though Ahir also sought to declare himself as the winner, the court has not accepted that prayer and only ordered the cancellation of the election.

In his petition, Ahir claimed that Manek forgot to write the name of the constituency in the form, a lapse which calls for cancellation of his election

Gujarat HC grants anticipatory bail to Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand.

The Gujarat High Court Friday granted anticipatory bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in the Rs 1.4 crore alleged fund embezzlement case related to their NGO Sabrang Trust.

While allowing their anticipatory bail plea, Justice J B Pardiwala directed Setalvad and Anand to cooperate with the probe and appear before the investigating agency, the city crime branch, on February 15.

In a word of caution, the judge said the state government can approach the court to get their bail cancelled if the couple does not cooperate in the investigation.

The activist couple had moved the high court in May last year after a lower court rejected their anticipatory bail plea in the alleged fund embezzlement case.

The duo had moved the lower court following an FIR lodged against them on March 30 last year by the complainant Raees Khan Pathan, a former aide of Setalvad.

Pathan had lodged a complaint against the duo and some unidentified officials of the HRD Ministry, following which they had been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

It is alleged that both the accused had misused the funds to pay witnesses to make false deposition in some of the post-Godhra riot cases of 2002.

In its earlier submissions, the Gujarat Police had said that the HRD Ministry had granted Rs 1.4 crore between 2010 and 2013 to their NGO for a scheme under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

According to police, the couple had misused the funds, meant for education, for their “personal and political cause”.

Elevated rail corridor can save Gir lions : Gujarat High Court

A lawyer told the Gujarat High Court on Thursday that an elevated rail corridor was the best solution to save lions from getting run over by trains passing close to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

Taking into consideration various other suggestions, a bench of justices S R Brahmbhatt and A G Uraizee ordered the formation of a committee to identify the problems and bottlenecks in the way of conservation of lions in the sanctuary.

The bench was suo motu (on its own) hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), which was admitted by the court in March last year, over the issue of high death rate of lions in Gir due to various reasons like train and road accidents, falling into wells and electrocution.

During the Thursday hearing, advocate Anand Yagnik, who does not represent any party in the case but was allowed by the court to share his views on the issue, told the bench that the maximum number of lions were getting killed after being run over by trains.

He said the big cats could be saved from being hit by trains if the railway tracks were laid on an elevated corridor, like the metro tracks or those of the upcoming bullet train project.

Yagnik added that such elevated corridors were built in three major national parks — Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand), Sundarbans (West Bengal) and Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) — to save the wildlife from being run over by trains.

“If elevated rail corridors were constructed in these three national parks, then why not in Gir?,” he asked.

The counsel representing the Indian Railways told the bench that he would convey the suggestion to the Railway Board.

Prior to Yagnik’s submissions, Gujarat’s Assistant Advocate General P K Jani informed the court about the steps taken by the state government to prevent lions from falling into open wells near the forest area.

Jani told the court that since there was no law to compel locals to construct walls around their wells, the authorities could only persuade them or give them incentives to erect such structures.

Taking into consideration these submissions, the bench said a committee was needed to identify all the problems and bottlenecks, which were posing a hindrance in the conservation of lions.

The bench asked all the stakeholders, including the collectors of the three districts over which the sanctuary was spread, the railways, the locals and the forest officials, to form a joint committee for the purpose.

The next hearing in the case will be held on February 27.

According to the 2015 census, there were 523 lions in the Gir forest, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

The Gujarat government had last year claimed that the number had gone over 600.

Gujarat High Court says SIT probe had shortfalls: Naroda Patiya riots

Coming down heavily on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which probed the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot cases, the Gujarat High Court said there were several “shortfalls” in its probe.

A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia also said the investigation carried out by the SIT, which was constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court in 2008, did not “inspire much confidence”.

The high court had yesterday acquitted former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, along with 17 others, and upheld the conviction of 13 people, including ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. It also convicted three others who were acquitted by the trial court.

“It is during the course of investigation by the SIT that the name of …Mayaben Kodnani was revealed. From the evidence of the witnesses who have named Mayaben Kodnani, it emerges that many of them have referred to her having come in a white Maruti car. However, no efforts have been made to ascertain as to whether the said accused owned any white Maruti car at the relevant time,” the court said.

“No investigation has been conducted to establish whether (Kodnani) used to travel in a white Maruti car, nor has any exercise been undertaken to establish that accused No.62 Kirpalsingh Chhabra was her P.A.”

“There are several other shortfalls in the investigation conducted by the SIT, reference to which has been made at the particular stage in the judgement,” it said.

The high court, while acquitting Kodnani, who was first made an accused by the SIT in 2008, said discarding investigations carried out by agencies before the SIT, or giving it less weightage, did not arise.

“Considering the overall evidence which has come on record as well as the investigation carried out by the SIT, which too, does not inspire much confidence …the court is of the view that the prior investigation …cannot be discarded and ignored while considering the credibility of a witness,” it said.

The order of the trial court had relied upon the SIT findings over findings of earlier agencies, which the high court said “has no legal basis.”

“It is settled legal position that it is the first version which comes on record which is most significant,” it said, while observing that the apex court ordered for an SIT to carry out “further investigation” and not “reinvestigation.”

The SIT had verified statements of several witnesses and also recorded statements of new witnesses as part of its investigation.

The high court also criticised the investigating officer of the SIT, saying that witnesses’ statements were recorded “in blatant breach” of the provisions of section 161 and 162 of the CrPC as he obtained signatures of the witnesses and police officers on their statements.

“One wonders whether the Investigating Officer (SIT) and such high ranking officers were not aware of these basic provisions of law,” it said.

While upholding the conviction of former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and two others — Prakash Rathod and Richard Chhara — who were also charged with criminal conspiracy, the court considered the oral evidence of journalist Ashish Khetan, who later joined politics.

Khetan had carried out a “sting operation” on the three convicts. The court said that “extra judicial confessions” made by Bajrangi and two others in the sting operation were established by Khetan’s oral statement.

“The documentary evidence, which is in the nature of electronic recording, would therefore be in the nature of corroborative evidence to support the testimony of the witness,” it said.

It also pulled up the special public prosecutor of the SIT for “not understanding that information/sting in the DVDs and CDs is in the nature of documentary evidence and has to be proved in accordance with section 65B of the Evidence Act.”

The court said this observing that the SPP tried to focus Khetan’s cross examination on aspects of “inducement, and the fact that the witness had carried out the sting under an assumed identity by using a fabricated identity card.

Supreme Court asks Jay Shah, web portal to try to settle defamation case

The Supreme Court today asked Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah and ‘The Wire’ and its scribes, to try to amicably settle the criminal defamation case lodged by the former against the news portal and others.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also extended its interim order that had asked the Gujarat trial court not to proceed with the defamation case against the portal and its journalists, including Rohini Singh who had authored the story which was alleged to be defamatory in nature.

“Without opening the file, we want to ask senior counsel of both sides to sit together and try to sort it out,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.

“Let these matters be listed in the first week of July for final disposal. Interim order to continue, in the meantime,” the bench recorded in its order.

On April 12, the CJI-led bench had said it did not have time to hear and decide the case and ordered its listing before an appropriate bench for final disposal. However, the case was again listed today before the bench led by the CJI.

Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article published by the website claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.

The complaint was filed against Rohini Singh, the author, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.

The matter travelled to the apex court after the local court and the Gujarat High Court refused to quash the defamation complaint.

Earlier, the court had heard the pleas filed by news portal ‘The Wire’ and some of its scribes against the Gujarat High Court order and also asked the Gujarat trial court not to proceed with the complaint till April 12. Today, the interim order was extended.

The high court had on January 8 rejected a plea filed by the portal, seeking quashing of the defamation complaint filed against it by Jay over an article related to his company.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the portal and the scribes, had said that the article contained details from records which were in “public domain electronically”.

Jay has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. He also rejected the charges made in the article, insisting that the story was “false, derogatory and defamatory”.

Chief Justice of India-led orders listing of a case relating to BJP chief’s son

The Supreme Court today directed the listing of a case of a news portal’s scribes, who are facing criminal defamation complaint filed by BJP President Amit Shah’s son, before an appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18.

An supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said since it was seized of hearing important cases pending before a constitution bench, there was paucity of time to hear this matter.

It said the petitions, which have challenged the Gujarat High Court’s order refusing to quash summons issued against them by a trial court in a defamation complaint filed by Shah’s son Jay Shah, be listed before an appropriate bench.

“Let the matters be listed before the appropriate bench for final disposal on April 18. The interim order passed on the earlier occasion to continue till the next date of hearing,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.

On March 15, the CJI-led bench had heard the pleas filed by news portal ‘The Wire’ and some of its scribes against the Gujarat High Court order. It had also asked the Gujarat trial court not to proceed with the complaint till today.

The high court had on January 8 rejected a plea filed by the portal, seeking quashing of the defamation complaint filed against it by Jay over an article related to his company.

On the last date of hearing before the apex court, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the portal and the scribes, had said that the article contained details from records which were in “public domain electronically”.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI and comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is currently hearing the crucial matter relating to the validity of the Aadhaar Act.

The same bench is also scheduled to hear several other matters, including the one related to its 2013 judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults and ban on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article published by the news portal claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.

The complaint was filed against the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.

Jay has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. He has also rejected the charges made in the article, insisting that the story was “false, derogatory and defamatory”.

Gujarat HC reserves order on The Wire plea against lower court gag

Gujarat HC reserves order on The Wire plea against lower court gag
Gujarat HC reserves order on The Wire plea against lower court gag

The Gujarat High Court today reserved its order on a petition filed by online news portal ‘The Wire’ challenging a gag order passed by a lower court in a civil defamation case filed by BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah.

Jay Shah submitted his affidavit before the high court judge Paresh Upadhyay today.

In the affidavit, Shah said the appeal against the ex- parte interim order was “not maintainable” and “deserves to be dismissed”.

He also said the applicant has not given “any justification” behind the plea.

The petition was filed by the portal’s management, the Foundation for Independent Journalism, challenging the gag order passed by a civil court on October 12 on a story carried by it (The Wire) titled “The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah”.

The petitioner had told the high court that the order passed by a civil court had not shown how the story had affected Shah’s reputation.

The high court, however, had not given interim relief to the petitioner saying that it first wanted to hear the respondent.

The Wire had maintained that the story about the surge of revenue of Shah’s company Temple Enterprise Private Ltd was factually correct and based on the documents obtained from a government office.

The lower court had issued the gag order against The Wire in response to a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore filed by Shah against the reporters, editors and the company over the article which claimed that his company’s turnover rose 16,000 times in one year after the NDA came to power.

The company saw a huge rise in its turnover after the BJP came to power in 2014, and its revenue rose from Rs 50,000 to over Rs 80 crore in one year, the article claimed.

It triggered a political firestorm, with the Congress demanding an inquiry into the matter, while the BJP termed it as “slanderous”.

Shah has also filed a criminal defamation suit against the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism.

In his suit, Shah termed the article as “scandalous, frivolous, misleading, derogatory, libelous and consisting of several defamatory statements.

( Source – PTI )

GCCI moves HC against EC’s power to appoint surveillance teams

GCCI moves HC against EC's power to appoint surveillance teams
GCCI moves HC against EC’s power to appoint surveillance teams

The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) today moved a PIL in the high court challenging the Election Commission’s power to appoint surveillance teams, stating that they infringed upon a citizen’s fundamental rights.

In the petition, the GCCI said the EC’s power to appoint static/flying surveillance teams, which in turn is entitled to search any car or individual on the road, is against the fundamental right of a citizen.

A lawyer representing the Election Commission appeared before the division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi and sought time to seek instructions from the EC over the matter.

The high court, in its 2012 order on a similar petition by the industry body, GCCI, had held that random and indiscriminate search and seizure is against the fundamental right of a citizen.

The EC had moved the Supreme Court against the order but the apex court did not grant any stay.

“Even as the matter is being heard, the EC issued these new standard operating procedures in the 2017 Assembly elections, which are scheduled to be held in two phases on December 9 and December 14,” the GCCI said in the petition.

EC’s lawyer told the court that since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court, he needed to take instruction from the EC. The court granted time and the matter will be heard on Monday next week.

If cash of Rs 50,000 or more is found by the surveillance team, it can search and seize the cash or any valuables on the basis of suspicion and initiate action.

“The EC does not have the power to issue any instructions which would violate the fundamental rights of privacy of any citizens…The EC cannot trouble the common citizen in the guise of curbing the use of cash by political parties,” the GCCI petition said.

( Source – PTI )

Godhra train burning case: Guj HC likely to pronounce verdict tomorrow

Godhra train burning case: Guj HC likely to pronounce verdict tomorrow
Godhra train burning case: Guj HC likely to pronounce verdict tomorrow

The Gujarat High Court is likely to pronounce its verdict on a set of appeals challenging convictions and acquittals by a special SIT court in the 2002 Godhra train coach burning case.

Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly ‘kar sevaks’ returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was burnt on February 27, 2002 at the Godhra station, triggering riots in the state.

The special SIT court had on March 1, 2011 convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 in the case. While 11 people were sentenced to death, 20 were given life in jail.

Later, several appeals were filed in the High Court challenging the conviction, while the state government had questioned the acquittal of 63 people.

The court had convicted 31 people while accepting the prosecution’s contention that there was a conspiracy behind the incident.

All the 31 were convicted under IPC sections related to murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.

Those acquitted included the prime accused, Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra Municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh.

The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, had concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach was not an accident, but it was set ablaze.

( Source – PTI )