2002 riots : Gujarat HC rejects Jafri’s plea on larger conspiracy charge

2002 riots : Gujarat HC rejects Jafri's plea on larger conspiracy charge
2002 riots : Gujarat HC rejects Jafri’s plea on larger conspiracy charge

The Gujarat High Court today rejected Zakia Jafri’s plea challenging a lower court order upholding SIT’s clean chit to then chief minister Narendra Modi and others on the allegation of larger conspiracy in connection with the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

Justice Sonia Gokani rejected the larger conspiracy charge, saying that it was not accepted by the Supreme court.

“It (larger conspiracy) was already discussed by the Supreme Court in Sanjiv Bhatt’s matter and dismissed by it. I do not want to go into that, therefore I reject this plea for larger conspiracy,” Justice Gokani said.

However, she said that the petitioner can approach a higher court for further investigation in the case.

“The magistrate was not right in saying that it had limited power with regards to further investigation,” Justice Gokani said.

The hearing in the case had concluded on July 3.

Zakia, the wife of slain former MP Ehsan Jafri, and activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace had moved the criminal review petition against a magistrate’s order upholding the clean chit given by the special investigation team (SIT) to Modi and others regarding the allegations of a “larger criminal conspiracy” behind the riots.

The petition demanded that Modi and 59 others — including senior police officers and bureaucrats — be made accused for allegedly being part of a conspiracy which facilitated the riots.

It had also sought the high court’s direction for fresh investigation into the matter.

Ehsan Jafri, a Congress leader, was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society here when a mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident which set off riots in the state.

In December 2013, a metropolitan court had rejected Jafri’s plea to book Modi and others for criminal conspiracy, after which she moved the high court in 2014.

The SIT had on February 8, 2012 filed a closure report and given clean chit to Modi and others in the case.

The SIT had earlier submitted before the high court that its probe was conducted under the Supreme Court’s watchful eye, and that its report was largely accepted by all.

The lower court looked into all aspects of allegations to conclude that there was no further need to investigate the matter from the angle of “larger conspiracy”, the SIT argued.

Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai earlier argued in the HC that the magistrate, while accepting the SIT’s closure report, did not even consider other options such as rejecting the report or ordering a fresh probe.

The lower court ignored the Supreme Court’s guidelines and did not consider the signed statements of witnesses which suggested that there was a conspiracy, he had argued.

( Source – PTI )

SC quashes HC order on repair of shrines damaged in 2002 riots

SC quashes HC order on repair of shrines damaged in 2002 riots
SC quashes HC order on repair of shrines damaged in 2002 riots

The Supreme Court today set aside the Gujarat High Court’s 2012 verdict asking the state government to grant compensation for restoration of religious places damaged during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

The court accepted the scheme formulated by the state government to provide “ex gratia assistance” of up to Rs 50,000 to all religious places, including mosques and temples, which were damaged or destroyed during the communal riots, on par with the relief granted for destruction of houses.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant referred to apex court verdicts and Article 27 of the Constitution (freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of a particular religion) and said that substantial part of tax payers’ money cannot be granted for repairing religious structures.

“The said scheme has to be appreciated on the anvil of the directions issued in the Prafull Goradia and Archbishop Raphael Cheenath S.V.D cases (earlier judgements).

“In the first case, the two-judge bench has opined that object of Article 27 is to maintain secularism and the said Article would be violated if the substantial part of entire income tax collected in India, or a substantial part of the entire central excise or the customs duties or sales tax, or a substantial part of any other tax collected in India, were to be utilised for promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination…,” CJI Misra, writing the judgement, said.

The Gujarat government, in its scheme, had proposed to pay ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 for repair of damaged religious structures on the lines of its policy to pay for the houses damaged during riots and put certain conditions like such temples or mosques should not be unauthorised ones.

The policy also said that no ex-gratia assistance would be sanctioned to religious places, located in the middle of the public road or at any unauthorised place, and there should be a prior FIR with regard to the damages caused.

“The person/persons claiming such ex-gratia assistance shall have to satisfy the District Collector of the District in which such religious place is situated about the ownership and/or administration rights of religious places concerned so as to ensure that any person unconnected with a religious place may not claim and receive ex-gratia financial assistance under the Scheme. The decision of the District Collector in this behalf shall be final,” the policy said.

Approving the government’s scheme, the bench said, “we have noticed that the government has fixed the maximum amount under the caption of ex-gratia assistance and also conferred the power on the District Collector of the Districts where religious places are situated to determine about the ownership or administration rights of religious places concerned.

“There are certain conditions precedent for claiming the amount. The terms and conditions which are incorporated in the scheme are quite reasonable. It is also worthy to note that while fixing the maximum limit, the government has equated the same with houses which have been given the assistance…”.

Setting aside the High Court verdict, the apex court, in its 49-page verdict, asked the claimants to approach the authorities within eight weeks and directed that “the authorities shall determine the same within three months from the receipt of the claims.”

The apex court dealt with various aspects and judgements and said, “we find the case hinges on its own facts regarding grant of compensation. The power of the court of judicial review to grant compensation in public law is limited. There cannot be any quarrel about the said proposition of law.”

It referred to Article 27 which said that no person shall be compelled to pay any taxes for “promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination” and said that State cannot grant substantial part of tax-payers’ money for such purposes.

The State is obliged under the Constitution to “treat persons belonging to all faiths and religions with equality.

The individual has his freedom to practice the religion as he desires and it is totally immaterial from the perspective of the State,” it said, adding “the protection of property and places of worship is an essential part of secularism.”

However, the apex court agreed to the contention that the State cannot be commanded to repair places of worships as this act “will create a dent in the secular fabric and further the expenditure from the state exchequer is impermissible in view of the language employed in the Article 27”.

The state government, represented by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, challenged the High Court verdict on various grounds including that the State, being a secular entity, cannot be asked to spend substantial amount of tax payers’ money on repair of religious structures.

The High Court, while dealing with the PIL filed by NGO Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCJ), had passed a slew of directions including the order asking the state government “to give compensation in favour of the persons in charge of all the religious places including those of worship, which were damaged during the communal riot of the year 2002 for restoration to the original position, as those existed on the date of destruction.

( Source – PTI )

Swine flu claims 297 lives in Guj, govt tells HC disease no longer pandemic

Swine flu claims 297 lives in Guj, govt tells HC disease no longer pandemic
Swine flu claims 297 lives in Guj, govt tells HC disease no longer pandemic

Swine flu has claimed 297 lives in Gujarat since January this year, the government said today even as it informed the high court it is treating the infection as “seasonal influenza” which is no longer pandemic but no efforts are being spared to check its spread.

In an affidavit filed before a bench of Justices M R Shah and B N Karia, the government said the mortality rate due to H1N1 virus has fallen to 10 per cent this year against 16.8 per cent in 2009.

A government bulletin issued today, meanwhile, said the death toll due to swine flu infection since January this year has reached 297.

“At present, influenza H1N1 is being treated as a seasonal influenza, meaning…H1N1 virus has ceased to be a pandemic. The mortality rate has also been substantially reduced to 10 per cent from 16.8 per cent in 2009,” the government told the HC.

As many as 1,075 beds and 200 ventilators have been provided in isolation wards across hospitals in the state where swine flu patients are being treated, the affidavit said.

More than 2,000 health-care workers and doctors are treating the patients, while 17,000 health workers are carrying out house-to-house rapid surveillance, covering three crore people in the first phase and two crore in the second, it said.

Top officials are monitoring the situation through video conference and visits to hospitals, with chief minister himself visiting hospitals in four cities, it said.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Mensavi Thapar, which alleged that the state does not have adequate infrastructure to deal with the situation.

While the first swine flu case was detected in the state in 2009, the government has set up laboratories for its diagnosis only in nine cities, when a laboratory should be set up in every district, the PIL said.

Out of 1,228 community health centres, 1,120 have no doctors, while the post of health officer of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is lying vacant for two years, it claimed.

( Source – PTI )

Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign

Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign
Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign

Two senior Gujarat Police officers, N K Amin and T A Barot, who have been accused in encounter killing cases, today undertook before the Supreme Court that they will demit their posts during the day.

Amin, who retired in August last year as Superintendent of Police (SP), has been re-appointed as SP of Mahisagar district of Gujarat on contractual basis for one year. He faced trial in the Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing cases

Barot has been re-inducted in October last year as Deputy Superintendent of Police with Western Railways at Vadodara for one year after his retirement. He was accused in the Ishrat Jahan and the Sadiq Jamal encounter cases.

A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud considered the statement of the lawyer appearing for the two police officers and asked them to “step down” from their posts during the day itself.

The bench then disposed of a plea filed by former IPS officer Rahul Sharma against re-induction of the two officers.

The ex-IPS officer, in his plea filed through advocate Varinder Kumar Sharma, has referred to the apex court’s order allowing the Gujarat government to accept the offer of state’s top cop P P Pandey to relinquish posts of director general and inspector general of police.

Sharma had challenged the Gujarat High Court’s decision dismissing his plea against re-induction of the two officers.

The plea alleged that Amin had been charge-sheeted by the CBI in the two encounter cases and has already spent “close to eight years in judicial custody” and was immediately re-instated as the SP after getting released.

“Moreover, Tarun Barot is also a charge-sheeted accused in two different cases of abduction and murder of various persons. He too was arrested in the afore mentioned cases and spent close to 3 years in judicial custody.

“The respondent state has preferred to re-appoint Barot immediately after his release as DySP, (Head Quarters), Western Railways at Vadodara,” it had said.

Appointments have been made despite “bearing in mind the questionable track record of the two officers” and these are in violation of guidelines of the Supreme Court and in violation of “the doctrine of public trust”, the plea had said.

“In fact, the said appointments are even de hors to the circulars referred to by the respondent state itself as these circulars prescribe that re-appointments/extensions shall be preferred only in cases where the officer being preferred for re-appointment/extension has outstanding merit and in cases where no suitable replacement is found for the seat being vacated provided that the state establishes that it has carried out the exercise to find a suitable replacement,” the plea had said.

The Supreme Court had yesterday directed the Gujarat government to take a call by today on the re-induction of Amin as superintendent of police after his retirement, observing he had serious charges against him and had spent eight years in jail.

( Source – PTI )

Gujarat HC raps RBI for giving directions to NCLT

Gujarat HC raps RBI for giving directions to NCLT
Gujarat HC raps RBI for giving directions to NCLT

The Gujarat High Court today rebuked the Reserve Bank of India for asking the National Company Law Tribunal in its June 13 directive to give priority to the insolvency proceedings against companies with huge debts.

It also questioned the functioning of the central bank.

The bench of Justice S G Shah came down heavily on the RBI for stating in its press release dated June 13, 2017 that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) proceedings against companies with outstanding dues of more than Rs 5,000 crore “will be accorded priority by NCLT.”

Essar Steel had moved the high court challenging the RBI order to banks.

The court also questioned the “functioning” of the RBI for its decision to issue the press release in which it had directed banks to initiate insolvency proceedings against defaulting companies.

“The RBI has to be careful while issuing press releases, it must be in consonance with the Constitutional mandates, based upon sound principles of law, but in any case should not be in the form of advise, guidelines or directions to judicial or quasi-judicial authorities in any manner what so ever,” the court said in its order.

Further reacting to the central bank’s submission that it has no document on record based on which the decision to issue press release was taken, the court said, “This goes to show the manner in which the RBI is functioning, in as much as there is a press release even without a decision at certain level that press release is to be published and what should be included in such press release.”

“This is also an equally serious issue. It has been conveyed to the respondents that on such disclosure that there is no other document, pursuant to such disclosure, now, they would be debarred from relying upon any such document, if any,” it added.

The court interpreted RBI’s statement in its press release that “such cases (for insolvency proceedings) will be accorded priority by the NCLT” that the tribunal “has to give priority to cases filed by the directives of RBI against the cases, which are filed by other creditors or petitioners before the NCLT.”

The RBI even tendered an apology to the court saying that the statement was made due to “poor drafting” of the press release, and even issued corrigendum on July 8, to delete the line.

Through in a press release dated June 13, the RBI had directed banks to launch IBC proceedings against companies with outstanding dues of more than Rs 5,000 crore, and for other NPAs, banks should finalise resolution plans in the next six months.

During its submissions, the central bank had apologised from the court for issuing that statement in the press.

Essar Steel had moved the high court seeking the court’s direction to quash the RBI’s direction to the banks to initiate insolvency proceedings against it.

( Source – PTI )

Act regulating fees valid legislation: Guj govt to Gujarat HC

Act regulating fees valid legislation: Guj govt to Gujarat HC
Act regulating fees valid legislation: Guj govt to Gujarat HC

The state government today defended before the Gujarat High Court an act regulating fees of self-financed schools saying it a “valid piece of legislation” to prevent “commercialisation of education”.

The government said this in an affidavit filed before a division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi.

The bench was hearing a set of petitions filed by schools — including CBSE affiliated and minority schools — opposing the Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act, 2017.

“The act is a valid piece of regulation and the rules are not in any manner arbitrary, unguided, unconstitutional and interfering in the administration of the SFIs,” the government said in its affidavit.

“The objective of the act is to see that no capitation fee is charged and also the fee fixed and collected in the SFIs is not exorbitant and is not amounting to profiteering and commercialisation of education,” it said.

The act is only a regulatory measure and does not take away the powers of the education institutions to fix their own fee, the government said, while also defending its regulatory powers over CBSE affiliated schools saying even CBSE is of the view that many schools are profiteering in the guise of imparting education, and CBSE bye-laws requiring schools to submit fee proposals are “in tandem with the Act”.

It called “figment of imagination” submissions made by petitioner schools that section 13 providing for maintenance of accounts by schools as unreasonable interference with day to day administration of the school.

The government said out of 15,927 schools to be regulated under the act, 11,174 charge lower fees than what has been determined by the government, 841 have sought for determination of fees by the committee, 2,363 have not filed any affidavit nor submitted any proposal before the committee, while 2,385 have challenged it before the high court.

The court had extended May 25 deadline of the government for schools to submit affidavit before the committee to those who challenged the Act before the court, till June 15.

The petitioners have challenged the Act saying that CBSE and state government may differently assess their proposals regarding determination of fees, and therefore, it may be conflicting.

The group of minority schools affiliated to CBSE also argued against the act, submitting that they are protected under Article 30 of the Constitution which determines rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, and the Act should not apply to them.

As per the rules, all private schools that charge fees more than what it has been prescribed in the Act, need to submit their proposal with the Fee Regulatory Committee, the deadline for this year being May 25.

The Act provides for setting up of four such committees in four zones, having their headquarters at Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot.

The annual fee structure prescribed in the act for primary, secondary and higher secondary schools are Rs 15,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 27,000, respectively.

( Source – PTI )

Gujarat HC asks Kodnani if her plea to summon witnesses is necessary

Gujarat HC asks Kodnani if her plea to summon witnesses is necessary
Gujarat HC asks Kodnani if her plea to summon witnesses is necessary

The Gujarat High Court today asked former state minister Maya Kodnani to explain if her plea for summoning additional witnesses, including BJP president Amit Shah, in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case is necessary.

Kodnani was convicted by the trial court in the Naroda Patiya case relating to massacre of 96 persons during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The high court is hearing appeals in the case.

Division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya today asked Kodnani’s lawyer Harshad Dave to reconsider the application seeking to summon eight persons, including BJP president Shah, as defence witnesses, and reply tomorrow.

During the arguments, Kodnani’s lawyers did not press for appearance of Shah and two others as witnesses.

The high court said its order on the application will have some bearing on the Naroda Gam riot case, which has Kodnani as an accused and which is currently being heard by a special court.

Asking Kodnani’s lawyer to consider if the application was necessary, the court adjourned the hearing to tomorrow.

The Special Investigation Team which probed the riot cases has opposed Kodnani’s application.

The special court hearing Naroda Gam case had allowed Kodnani recently to summon 14 witnesses including Amit Shah.

Her application contended that she needed to examine these witnesses to prove her `alibi’ (she was not present at the spot when crime took place but was elsewhere).

( Source – PTI )

Replace Naroda Gam massacre case judge: victim writes to HC

Replace Naroda Gam massacre case judge: victim writes to HC
Replace Naroda Gam massacre case judge: victim writes to HC

A 2002 Naroda Gam massacre case victim wrote to the Gujarat High Court today seeking replacement of the special SIT judge hearing the matter with an “impartial” one.

Sharif Malek, whose house was looted and relatives killed on February 28, 2002 during the Naroda Gam massacre, also demanded cancellation of bail to Naroda Patiya convict and former BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, who is an accused in this case also.

Malek is also a witness in the Naroda Gam massacre case.

In his letter to the high court, he sought cancellation of the bails to Kodnani and others facing trial in the Naroda Gam case.

Malek said after the judge recently allowed Kodnani’s plea to summon BJP national president Amit Shah and 13 others, the families of victims and witnesses like him suspect that the proceedings are being delayed deliberately.

He alleged the SIT court has also not followed the Supreme Court’s September 9 order to conclude the trial in the case in six months.

“We, the victims and witnesses of the Naroda Gam case request for cancellation of bail given to Kodnani, sentenced to 28-year in jail following her conviction in the Naroda Patiya case, on the basis of fabricated health certificate,” he said.

“We also request the cancellation of bail of all the other accused in the Naroda Gam case, appointment of an impartial judge and shifting of the case to another state, as also initiating independent judicial inquiry into it,” he said.

“Special Judge P B Desai is the same who rejected conspiracy angle in Gulberg Society case, and we fear this judge can do the same in this case as well. Kindly replace him with an impartial judge,” he said.

Naroda Gam massacre is one of the nine major riot cases investigated by the SIT. Eleven persons of the minority community were killed in Naroda Gam in 2002 riots during a shutdown call given to protest the Godhra train carnage.

A total of 82 persons are facing trial in the case. The Supreme Court had in September last year given the special court six months time to conclude the trial.

Kodnani was a state minister for women and child development in former Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

( Source – PTI )

Gujarat HC dismisses Mehsana Dairy Union’s plea against special audit

Gujarat HC dismisses Mehsana Dairy Union's plea against special audit
Gujarat HC dismisses Mehsana Dairy Union’s plea against special audit

The Gujarat High Court today dismissed a petition moved by Mehsana District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd seeking quashing of an order of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies to conduct special audit of the union.

The court of Justice S G Shah dismissed the petition while allowing the Registrar to conduct a special audit under the provisions of the Section 84 (5A) of the Gujarat Co-Operative Societies Act, 1961.

When Vipul Chaudhary was the chairman of Mehsana dairy, also known as Doodhsagar Dairy, it was alleged to have indulged in a fraud to the tune of over Rs 707 crore.

Chaudhary was removed from the post in April 2015 on the charges of fraud, and was barred from contesting any election for three years.

The union had moved a petition seeking quashing and setting aside of the order of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies dated May 22, 2015, to conduct special audit to find out the wrongdoings in the union.

In its order passed Friday last week and made available today, the court said, “It seems that total scam or fraud may be quite more than Rs 717 crore and therefore there is certainly a need for special audit of the petitioner union to find out that whether there is actually any scam and if it is so then to what extent and how and who is responsible.”

The court then dismissed the petition.

The union is alleged to having committed several irregularities, including sale of milk powder at lower rate, purchasing sugar at higher rate, expenses without tendering, scam by setting up new huge plant at Dharuhera (in Haryana) without actual need and without tender process, paying Rs 128 crore less to milk producers, among others.

The union challenged the order by submitting before the court that instead of audit, the registrar should conduct inquiry against persons responsible.

It said the registrar’s order has been passed with malafide intention in disturbing the management of the union due to political rivalry.

Chaudhary, a Congress member, who later joined BJP, but was again seen cosying up with Congress, was removed from the post of chairman of Mehsana dairy following charges of irregularities for six years.

He fought a legal battle against his removal but the high court in its order in January 2016 had allowed him to contest elections after three years.

( Source – PTI )

SC upholds life term for 3 for killing Gujarat Shiv Sena leader

The Supreme Court has upheld the life term awarded to three persons for killing a Shiv Sena leader in Gujarat whose younger brother had married a woman from a minority community.

A bench of Justices P C Ghose and Ashok Bhushan said the homicidal death has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt with the recovery of the weapon which was a “sharp knife” and the high court order did not call for any interference.

“The fact that the accused had been identified and recovery made from accused no.1 has left no room for doubt that all the appellants were involved in the commission of the murder with the common object to do away the deceased…

“We are of the view that the present appeal is devoid of merits and we, therefore, do not find any reason to interfere with the order of the high court. Hence, the appeal is dismissed,” the bench said.

On July 4, 2009, five persons had barged into the house of Rameshbhai Prajapti, a taluka president of Shiv Sena when he was sleeping with his wife and children, and had assaulted him with the knife inflicting grievous injuries in his neck.

The whole incident was witnessed by Prajapati’s wife as she woke up after hearing the noise and saw the men escape from the spot.

The trial court in 2010 convicted four persons including Soyebbhai Yusufbhai Bharania who had led the group and awarded them life sentence while holding them guilty for murder and rioting. It has said that the younger brother of the victim had got married to a woman hailing from a particular community despite protest by the men.

The trial court, however, had given benefit of doubt to Umarbhai, one of the five men, and acquitted him.

The four convicts had challenged the verdict of the trial court in the Gujarat High Court which had upheld the life sentence given to three persons and acquitted one of them.

The apex court, while dismissing the appeals, said that in furtherance of the common intention to kill Prajapati, the men had entered his house and they were seen by his wife.

It said that since out of the five men, two were acquitted by the trial court and the high court respectively, the charge of unlawful assembly does not meet the pre-requisite condition of a minimum of five persons.

“In our view, albeit the murder is proved but the ingredients of the unlawful assembly remained elusive, as pre-requisite condition for an unlawful assembly i.e., minimum five persons, has not been met. Nevertheless, the common object has been proved by the prosecution,” it said

Source: PTI