Why no order yet to prohibit political ads on social media: The Bombay High Court


The Bombay High Court Thursday asked the Election Commission of India why it was hesitant to issue specific directions to prohibit political advertisements on social media 48 hours before election day.

A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar posed the question after the poll panel submitted that it was deliberating on bringing in such a direction, and currently, consulting experts and stakeholders.

“But, how long will the deliberations go on? Why don’t you take a decision, say yes, we are going to issue specific orders (to the above effect)?” the bench said.

It was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer, Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

The PIL had also urged the court to direct the ECI to prohibit all persons, whether politicians or private individuals, from posting advertisements related to politics or the elections, or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, 48 hours before election day.

During the previous hearing, social media platform Facebook had told the court that it had introduced a strict “pre-verification processes” for all political ads and paid content of “national interest” on their websites in India ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The new system ensures that only bona fide individuals, who are citizens of India, and political organisations based in the country can place political ads.

Twitter and YouTube told the bench Thursday that they only permitted such political ads that had been verified by the ECI.

The social media sites, however, told the court that they could not voluntarily impose a 48-hour ban as sought by the petitioner.

The counsels for Facebook, Google, and YouTube said they could prohibit display of political ads on their websites 48 hours before polling day, if they are directed by the ECI to do so.

The Representation of the People Act already prohibits political campaigning 48 hours before polling day and a notification of the ECI regulating ads on TV and print media prohibits publication of political ads 48 hours before the polling day.

The court, therefore, asked why the ECI could not formulate a similar direction for political ads on social media.

Madras High Court says fishermen should get maximum subsidy for transponders

The Madras High Court Monday passed an order stating that the Tamil Nadu government should give fishermen the maximum subsidy for transponders.

A PIL was filed before a division bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad by Fisherman Care, an NGO, seeking direction to the Centre to refer all cases of violation of human rights of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka to the International Court of Justice.

Based on the PIL, the bench, in its order, said that considering the safety and security of the fishermen who land in problems day in and day out, it is the desire of the court that the government extend its maximum subsidy to the fishermen and submit a report by February 20.

The order was passed after the bench went through the report of the director of Fisheries, Tamil Nadu government, and the copy of the letter sent by the Ministry of External Affairs submitted by Assistant Solicitor General G Karthikeyan.

The court was informed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that it had no plans to provide satellite phones to fishermen.

The ministry, in its letter to the assistant solicitor general, said that based on the directive of the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security, it had undertaken a proof of concept (PoC) pilot study to evaluate the transponder technology developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

In this regard, the ISRO has informed that 1,050 MSS-based transponder terminals were being installed in 20-metre fishing vessels in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat (500 terminals each) and Puducherry(50 terminals).

It further said that transponders are wireless satellite-based communication devices considered for fitment on the fishing vessels by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the ISRO.

The Ahmedabad Earth Station hub (capable of handling upto 4,000 terminals) is supporting the PoC terminals.

Subsequently, the operations would be migrated to the Delhi Earth Station.

Stating further that presently 819 PoC are installed in the field in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and Gujarat, the ministry has informed that the Home Affairs Ministry has conveyed that it has no plans to provide satellite phones to fishermen.

The MEA also informed that the transponders fitted in the mechanised boats were still in trial stage and their efficacy was being monitored by the ISRO.

Further, the development of transponder hardware and the required back-end user utility software components were also in the trial stage.

The fishermen have informed that the battery connected to the transponders drains out within 30 minutes after switching on.

Further, the fishermen have said the system was not switching on due to interference between I-Com and transponders.

Hence, it was suggested to conduct a field study at the Chennai Fishing Harbour to solve the issues.

Recording this, the bench posted the matter for further hearing to February 20

Bombay High Court asks BEST workers’ union to decide on withdrawal of strike

The Bombay High Court has directed the BEST workers’ union to take a final decision on the withdrawal of its ongoing strike by Tuesday evening and inform the court on Wednesday.

The direction came after the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar that it was willing to implement the redressal measure suggested by a high-powered committee on granting an interim pay hike to its employees.

The counsel for BEST, M P Rao, told the bench that the corporation was “open to implementing a 10-step increment” for its employees with effect from February this year.

The increase, however, will be implemented subject to the fact that the strike was called off this (Tuesday) evening, Rao told the bench.

As per the previous submissions made by the BEST workers’ union and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the court, a ‘one-step’ increase in pay for BEST workers amounts to around Rs 330 per person per month.

In compliance with the court’s previous orders, the state government through Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, submitted a list of measures recommended by the committee to address the demands raised by the workers’ union.

The committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, was constituted by the state last week.

The committee in its report, has recommended among other things, that subject to the strike being called off, as an interim measure, workers be granted a ’10-step increase’ in salary for about 15,000 employees in a time-bound manner.

This amount of increment, however, will be subsumed in the final agreement.

It also recommended that upgradation and modernisation measures be implemented within the BEST, but no existing employees should be retrenched.

The bench has been hearing since last week a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Datta Mane, urging the court to pass interim orders directing the BEST workers to call off the strike immediately.

Around 38,000 BEST employees have been on strike since the last eight days now.

Some of their demands include a pay hike, revision of pay grade for junior level employees, and the merger of BEST’s budget with that of the BMC.

HC asks Centre, Delhi govt about steps taken on financial assistance to lawyers’ clerks

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Centre and the AAP government as to what steps they have taken to put in place schemes for providing financial assistance and funds to the clerks of lawyers working in various courts of the national capital.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao asked them to inform the court about the monetary and welfare schemes that can be made available to the clerks.

The court said it will take care of the issue of providing a designated room and other facilities for the clerks in the high court, and asked the Centre and Delhi government to give details of “the financial assistance and funds that can be made available to lawyers’ clerks”. 

With the direction, the court listed the matter for hearing on January 18, 2019.

The bench had earlier observed that clerks played an “important” role in the legal system.

The court was hearing a PIL moved by an association representing lawyers’ clerks seeking social security and welfare measures for them.

The petition, by the Delhi High Court Bar Clerks Association, has sought enforcement of several welfare measures like providing for provident fund, pensions and group insurance policies.

It has claimed that several states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh have already enacted a law to promote the welfare of clerks who have to depend on charity and donation of the advocates employing them.

The association, which represents over 20,000 lawyers’ clerks working in the various courts of the national capital, has contended that its members have been deprived of their fundamental rights, including right to medical benefits to a workman.

In its petition, the association has urged the court to direct the authorities to promote, safeguard and implement the clerks’ fundamental rights to social security and welfare measures.

PIL in HC for implementation in Delhi law regulating clinical establishments

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has sought response of the Center and the AAP government on a public interest litigation claiming that the law for registration and regulation of all clinical establishments has not been implemented in the city despite coming into force in 2012.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao sought the stand of the two governments on the plea which has sought implementation of the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act of 2010.

The petition, by a Delhi based woman, has said that the Act prescribes the minimum standard of facilities and services to be provided to patients.

“The Act makes it mandatory for registration of all clinical establishments, including diagnostic centres and single-doctor clinics, across all recognised systems of medicine both in the public and the private sector except those run by the armed forces,” the plea, filed through advocates Sija Nair Pal and Deepak Kumar Singh, has said.

It has claimed that non-implementation of the law has led to instances of “gross medical negligence, malpractices and negligent attitude” of clinical establishments in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.

The petition has said that the Act has presently been enforced only in four states — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram — and in all the Union Territories except Delhi from March 1, 2012. 

“States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam have also adopted this Act,” it has said.

The petition has further said that the Delhi government drafted the Delhi Health Bill in 2015 for the registration and regulation of clinical establishments in the national capital, but it has not yet been approved by the state legislature.

It has sought directions to the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to either implement the Clinical Establishment Act or bring into the effect the Delhi Health Bill to ensure “transparency and accountability in health care”.

Rakesh Asthana case: Middleman moves HC seeking bail

New Delhi: An accused, arrested in connection with bribery allegations involving CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, approached the Delhi High Court on Monday seeking bail in the case.

The plea has been listed for hearing tomorrow before Justice Najmi Waziri.

Alleged middleman Manoj Prasad filed the bail plea in the high court following dismissal of his similar application by a trial court here on November 3.

The trial court had denied bail to Prasad saying it was not a fit stage to grant him the relief.

Prasad, who was arrested by the CBI on October 17, is currently in judicial custody.

He, Asthana and CBI’s Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar have also filed separate petitions in the high court seeking quashing of the FIR against them which are listed for hearing on Wednesday.

In his bail plea before the trial court, Prasad had claimed that he was not required for the custodial interrogation and no purpose will be served by keeping him in further custody.

The probe agency had opposed his plea saying that the accused was an influential person and if released on bail, he may tamper with the ongoing probe and flee from justice.

Kumar, who was arrested on October 23, was granted bail by the trial court on October 31.

While hearing Prasad’s plea challenging the FIR, the high court had earlier observed that his case was on a different footing from that of Asthana and Kumar.

It had said Prasad was a private person while Asthana and Kumar were public servants and nothing stops CBI from probing a private individual.

Prasad, a resident of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, has also sought a stay on the investigation by the agency till the disposal of the petition.

The CBI had registered the case against Asthana on the basis of a complaint from Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Sana, facing probe in the 2017 case allegedly involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

Sana alleged that the officer had helped him get a clean chit.

The agency had arrested Prasad in the case, when he returned from Dubai. It was alleged by Sana that Prasad and his brother Somesh had taken Rs 2 crore to arrange clean chit to him.

Organizer of event where celebratory firing takes place would also be responsible for any mishap: HC

New Delhi: Organizers of events like weddings where celebratory firing takes place would also be held responsible for any mishap that may occur due to discharge of firearms, the Delhi High Court has said.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the person organising the event has to ensure that his or her guests do not discharge firearms and ought to inform the police if celebratory firing takes place.

The court said that if the government has not formulated guidelines on the issue, then till such norms come, “we need to fix responsibility on the person who organised the event”.

“Something should be done by the person organising the event. If you are conducting a ceremony where celebratory firing takes place, you will be held responsible. You cannot say that you did not ask them (guests) to bring the guns,” the court said.

It was hearing a plea moved by the father of a teenage girl, who died as a result of celebratory firing during a wedding near her house in April 2016. He has sought Rs 50 lakh compensation from the groom’s family for the death of his daughter. 

An equal amount of compensation has been sought by him jointly from the Centre, Delhi government and the police. 

The groom and his family have claimed that they were unaware about any celebratory firing by the guests in the wedding procession and that they had no control over use of firearms by others. The court did not accept the contention.

“You (groom and his father) held the event and celebratory firing took place there. These two facts are sufficient to hold you also responsible,” the court said.

It also asked the Centre, Delhi government and the police to examine the issue of who would be responsible for compensation in such incidents and listed the matter for further hearing on January 16, 2019.

According to the petition of Shyam Sunder Kaushal, his daughter died due to alleged “carelessness and negligence” of the groom and his family in checking the activity of one of their guests who had fired his gun in the air, leading to the tragic incident.

He has said in his plea that his daughter was standing in the second floor balcony of their house watching the marriage procession go by, when one of the guests fired his gun in the air and the bullet hit her. She succumbed to r injuries at a hospital three days later on April 19, 2016, the plea said.

The petitioner has urged the court to impose strict liability and consequently, make the people, who are organisers of such events and who fail to control such instances of celebratory firing by their guests, to pay the compensation in such cases.

By refusing to stop their guest from brandishing his firearm in public and causing threat to the life of others, the organiser of the event is failing to discharge his duty properly and is guilty of gross negligence, the petition has claimed.

Prisoners claim not paid for work done for outside agency: HC seeks prison stand

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has sought to know the stand of the Mandoli prison authorities on a letter sent by some inmates lodged there alleging they were not paid wages for work they did for an electronics firm that came to the jail to hire workers.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao asked the Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan to seek instructions on the issue raised by the inmates and inform the court by the next date of hearing on January 28, 2019.

The court also issued notice to the firm, M/s Lord Krishna, and sought its response to the communication sent by six inmates from Central Jail No.14, Mandoli, Delhi.

The inmates have claimed in their letter to the high court that they were hired by the firm for cutting LED diffusers and housing for wages of 50 paise per piece.

They have alleged in their letter that together they had cut 30,000 pieces for which they were to receive Rs 15,000, but it was not paid to them.

The court on its own took up the communication as a public interest litigation (PIL).

Apart from seeking payment of the wages due to them for the work carried out, the inmates have also urged the court to order lodging of a cheating case against the electronics firm.

HC directs e-commerce site to ensure products for sale on portal are not counterfeits

New Delhi:In a step towards ensuring counterfeits of popular branded products are not sold on online marketplaces, the Delhi High Court has directed an e-commerce platform to make sure that each item put up for sale on its site is genuine.

Justice Pratibha M Singh issued the direction, saying in the world of e-commerce, trademark owners face challenging times as sellers of infringing products seek shelter behind the platform’s legitimacy and added that those sites which “actively conspire, abet or aide, or induce” commission of unlawful acts, like sale of counterfeits, “cannot go scot-free”.

“In the world of e-commerce, intellectual property (IP) owners face challenging times. This is because sellers of counterfeit or infringing products seek shelter behind the platform’s legitimacy.

“Moreover, if the sellers themselves are located on foreign shores and the trade mark owner cannot exercise any remedy against the seller who is selling counterfeits on the e-commerce platform, then the trade mark owner cannot be left remediless,” the court said. 

“Needless to add, e-commerce websites and online marketplaces ought to operate with caution if they wish to enjoy the immunity provided to intermediaries,” it said.

Intermediaries, according to the Information Technology (IT) Act, includes e-commerce sites as it is providing services to customers on behalf of another person, the seller.

Under the IT Act, while inactive intermediaries have protection against infringing activities of the sellers “those e-commerce platforms which actively conspire, abet or aide, or induce commission of unlawful acts on their website cannot go scot free”, the court added.

It said that if the counterfeits do not turn out to be up to the mark, it is trademark owner’s equity and customer base that is diluted or lost and the seller of such products does not suffer.

The observations by the bench came on a suit of trademark infringement by women’s luxury shoe brand — Christian Louboutin — which claimed that India-based e-commerce site Darveys.com was selling “impaired or counterfeit” goods in the name of the firm.

The firm is named after its founder, Christian Louboutin, who was a famous designer of high-end luxury products, its plea had said and added that his name and image was being used as a meta-tag by the e-commerce to attract consumer traffic to its site.

Taking note of the contentions of the plaintiff firm, the court issued a slew of directions, including that of Darveys.com shall disclose on its site the complete details of its sellers and their contact details.

Apart from that, the site was also directed to obtain a certificate from its sellers that goods they sell on the platform are genuine.

If seller not located in India, then Darveys.com has to notify the brand owner (Christian Louboutin) and obtain its concurrence before offering the product for sale on its platform, the court said in the 59-page judgement.

It also said that if the sellers were in India, then Darveys.com shall enter into a proper agreement with them on guaranteeing authenticity and genuineness of the products as well as consequences of violation of the terms of such contract.

The court also directed removal of the meta-tags and further ordered that if the website was informed by the plaintiff about any counterfeit product being sold on its platform “it shall notify the seller and if the seller is unable to provide any evidence that the product is genuine, it shall take down the said listing and notify the plaintiff of the same”.

It also said that the website “shall also seek a guarantee from the sellers that the product has not be impaired in any manner and that all the warranties and guarantees of the plaintiff are applicable and shall be honoured by the seller. Products of any sellers who are unable to provide such a guarantee would not be, shall not be offered on the platform”.

With the directions, the court disposed of the plea moved by Christian Louboutin.

HC directs two litigants to plant 100 trees in Delhi

New Delhi:In an unusual verdict, the Delhi High Court has directed two men, who decided to withdraw cases against each other, to plant 100 trees in the capital as a “gesture of goodwill to society”.

While quashing criminal proceedings against them, Justice Najmi Waziri said the trees should be of deciduous indigenous variety and three years old or have a height of at least six feet.

The court’s order came while allowing the pleas of two men, who had filed cross cases against each other, to quash the FIRs against them as they have amicably settled the issue.

“As a gesture of goodwill to the society, the petitioners in both the cases undertake to do some social work,” the court said.

“Accordingly, they are directed to plant 50 trees each in Delhi and for this purpose they are directed to report before the Director (Horticulture), Delhi Development Authority on September 26 at 11.00 am, who shall assign them duties of planting 50 trees each at the District Park, Vikas Puri, Delhi,” it added.

The two cross FIRs were registered against the two men at Vikas Puri Police Station in West Delhi for various alleged offences including voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint and negligent conduct with respect to animals under the IPC.

The court said it was of the view that since the case has been amicably settled, nothing survives in these cases and any further proceedings emanating therefrom would be an exercise in futility.

It said that an affidavit of compliance should be filed by October 31 along with photographs of the plantations by the two men, failing which the case shall be listed for directions in November.

Follow up report of the plantation along with photographs be filed after six months, on or before September 25, 2019, it added.