SC dismisses CBI probe into WB BJP workers death

New Delhi:The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the recent killing of two BJP workers in Purulia district of West Bengal after panchayat polls.

A vacation bench of Justices A K Goel and Ashok Bhushan asked the petitioners to approach the Calcutta High Court for the relief.

Advocate Gaurav Bhatia, appearing for petitioners, said that it is a serious matter as the killing of BJP workers have taken place after the panchayat polls in Purulia district.

On May 30, 18-year-old Tirlochan Mahato, a BJP worker from Balrampur village of Purulia district was found hanging from a tree with a poster written in Bengali struck on his back, saying he was killed for canvassing for the BJP during panchayat election.

Another death of one Dulal Kumar, also a BJP worker, had taken place on June 2 in a similar manner in the same district.

The petition was filed by the father of Kumar, who sought a CBI probe into the killings.

Supreme Court orders status quo in Reliance Communication’s sale of assets to R-Jio

 The Supreme Court today ordered that status quo be maintained on Reliance Communication’s sale of assets to R-Jio on pleas by a consortium of banks.

The apex court bench, comprising Justices A K Goel, R F Nariman and U U Lalit, refused to lift the stay ordered by Bombay High Court on R-Com asset sale.

The top court will hear pleas from the consortium of banks and RCom against stay of assets sale by HC on April 5.

The State Bank of India had yesterday moved the apex court challenging a tribunal’s order, which was upheld by the Bombay High Court, allowing Ericsson to stake a claim on RCom Consolidated’s assets.

RCom owes Indian lenders Rs 42,000 crore.

RCom Consolidated incorporates the Anil Ambani-led group’s Reliance Communications, Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom.

Apart from SBI, 24 other Indian lenders constitute the Joint Lenders Fora, including BoB, BoI, Canara Bank, Central Bank of India, PNB, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, IOB, Dena Bank, Corporation Bank, Union Bank, United Bank, LIC and Barclays Bank.

They had initiated sale through a bidding of RCom Consolidated’s assets. Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) had agreed to buy spectrum, cell towers and other infrastructure, including 1.78 lakh km of fibre optics line, of distressed RCom Consolidated for Rs 17,300 crore.

Apart from monetisation of secured assets, two properties of RCom Consolidated in Delhi and Chennai were proposed to be sold to third parties for Rs 800 crore.

However, when Jio’s bid was finalised, Ericsson moved the arbitral tribunal and sought to restrain the sale of RCom Consolidated’s assets on the ground that it had a claim of Rs 1,150 crore on the debt-ridden private telecom firm.

On March 5, the tribunal gave an order in favour of Ericsson. On March 8, the high court dismissed RCom’s appeal against it.

SBI has total dues of Rs 4,027 crore against RCom Consolidated. In its appeal, filed through advocate Sanjay Kapur, it challenged the high court decision and said an unsecured creditor (Ericsson) could not steal a march over secured creditors like SBI.

Supreme Court asks Centre to consider suggestions on safety and emission standards of small four-wheeler vehicles and Quadricycles

The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to give “due consideration” to suggestions made on the issue of safety and emission standards of small four-wheeler vehicles and quadricycles.

Quadricycles are a new category of cycle-like four-wheelers which are now allowed to ply on the roads. The issue before the apex court also related to the sale of small four-wheelers with a mass of up to 1500 kg.

In its order, a bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit noted that the government’s draft notification of June 2017 regarding safety standards for quadricycles was handed over to the counsel representing the petitioners. It also took note of the notification of November 24 last year regarding the emission standards of such vehicles.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand today told the bench that matters were at the final stage of the consideration by the Ministry of Road Transport.

“Having regard to the nature of the issue, we permit the parties before this court to file their suggestions, if any, to the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport, within a period of two weeks from today. The same be given due consideration and the matter may thereafter be finalised expeditiously,” the bench said.

“It is made clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the rival contentions and are disposing of all these matters with the direction that the suggestions of the petitioners instead of being considered by this court, be considered by the concerned authority of the central government,” the bench said in its order.

A batch of petitions was filed in the apex court saying that safety and emission standards must be laid down first before these vehicles are introduced in the market and without this, it might endanger the safety of people. The pleas had challenged the amendments made to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules to allow these new vehicles to ply on the roads.

The Centre had earlier constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Dinesh Tyagi, director of the International Centre for Automotive Technology, for the purpose of framing rules and regulations for these new category of vehicles.

NGO plea for probing chopper deal of Chhattisgarh govt dismissed by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition by an NGO seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the purchase of an AgustaWestland chopper by the Chhattisgarh government for VIP use in 2006-07.

A bench of justices A K Goel and U U Lalit dismissed the plea by non-governmental organisation Swaraj Abhiyan and others seeking probe into the purchase of the helicopter.

“We do not find any grounds to accept the prayer for probe. The petition is dismissed,” the bench said.

The Supreme court had on January 31 posed searching questions to the Chhattisgarh government on the purchase of an AgustaWestland helicopter for VIP use in 2006-07 and asked what was the “interest” of Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son, Abhishek Singh, in this.

The petitioners have alleged that in July 2008, a bank account in the name of ‘Abhishak Singh’ was opened in the British Virgin Islands, and on August 1, 2008, one of the firms purportedly involved in the deal wound up operations.

They have alleged that there’s a “strong possibility” that money paid as commission in the deal ultimately reached the bank account.

The NGO had said that a proposal of the state in December 2006 said that helicopters firms should be invited to make their representations, but later, no company was called and a tender was issued only for one AgustaWestland chopper.

The court had said it was only concerned as to whether any “fraud or hanky-panky” was committed in securing the deal, and made it clear that it was not questioning the choice of the helicopter.

UP Lokyukta’s appointment on hold as SC queries UP government

Virendra singhThe appointment of former judge of Allahabad High Court Justice Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta was today put on hold after the Supreme Court held a special sitting on a holiday and posed embarrassing questions to SP government, which was accused of concealing facts and “playing fraud”.

Hearing a fresh petition challenging the appointment, a bench comprising justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked Uttar Pradesh government as to how the name of Justice Singh was placed before the bench concerned, which decided on Singh’s appointment, when the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice D Y Chandrachud, had specifically made some objections to his name.

UP’s Advocate General (AAG) Gaurav Bhatia gave an undertaking in court that the Lokayukta’s swearing-in ceremony will not be held tomorrow and the state government would wait for the outcome of the fresh petition on the issue and respond to averments made in it when the court would hear the matter on January 4.

Later in the evening, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik deferred the oath taking of the new Lokayukta. State Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan had sought the Governor’s approval for keeping the swearing in abeyance, a Raj Bhawan release said in Lucknow.

In an unusual order, apex court had, on December 16, exercised its constitutional power and appointed Justice Singh as Lokayukta by recording failures of the panel, comprising the Chief Minister, the leader of Opposition and the HC Chief Justice, in selecting the chief of ombudsman despite orders.

The bench today took note of the fresh petition filed by UP resident Sachidanand Gupta that immediately after the appointment, the Chief Justice of the High Court had written a letter to Governor Ram Naik expressing his displeasure against the state government for not disclosing the true facts that he had some reservations on Singh’s name.

After hearing submissions of advocate Kamini Jaiswal, the bench put some searching questions to AAG Gaurav Bhatia asking that why there has been no denial of stated position taken by the Chief Justice and widely reported in the media.

Bhatia was given an opportunity to seek instruction and respond to the queries of the Bench which re-assembled after a break of ten minutes. The AAG then gave the undertaking.

The fresh plea seeks a direction to quash a December 18 order of the government appointing Justice Singh as Lokayukta.

SC sets aside order of punitive damages against General Motors

The Supreme Court has set aside consumer order directing multinational automobile firm General Motors to pay punitive damages of Rs 25 lakh for selling Chevrolet Forester car to consumers by claiming it to be an SUV.

The apex court held that although the company had resorted to unfair trade practice it is not enough for imposing award for damages unless causing of loss is established.

A bench of justices V Gopala Gowda and A K Goel, however, upheld the Commission order directing the company to refund the money and get back the vehicle from one of its 260 odd buyers of the car who had filed the case against it.

“The National Commission has gone much beyond its jurisdiction in awarding the relief which was neither sought in the complaint nor before the State Commission. We are thus, of the view that to this extent(regarding puniive damages) the order of the National Commission cannot be sustained,” the bench said.

It said, “We also make it clear that this order will not stand in the way of any aggrieved party raising a claim before an appropriate forum in accordance with law”.

“The concurrent finding recorded by the District Forum, the State Commission and the National Commission to the effect that unfair trade practice was committed by the appellant which is based on adequate material on record, does not call for any interference by this Court and the same is affirmed,” it said.

Chevrolet Forester, which is not now being manufactured by the company, was a car but was projected as “an SUV to end all SUVs”.

SC to hear Lt.Gen. Dastane’s plea on pension

Lt.Gen. Ravi DastaneThe Supreme Court Monday said that it would look into the plea of Lt.Gen. Ravi Dastane (retd.), who had challenged the appointment of present army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as eastern command chief before his elevation, but only as far as monetary benefits were concerned.

A bench of Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Goel and Justice R. Banumathi said that the hearing into the plea of Lt. Gen. Dastane – who retired Sep 30 – would be restricted to “other issues of pay, pension and other monetary benefits” as it had July 7 refused to suspend the appointment of Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as next army chief which was sought to stayed by Lt. Gen. Dastane who contended that he had a better claim.

Lt.Gen. Dastane, who retired Sep 30, had challenged the selection process resulting in denial of his being promoted as eastern command chief, thereby rocking his chances of becoming army chief himself.

Gen. Suhag succeeded Gen. Bikram Singh as the army chief Aug 1.

At the outset of the hearing Monday, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said that nothing survives in the petition of Lt.Gen. Dastane as he had already retired on Sep 30.

The government has consistently maintained that the appointment of then Lt.Gen, Suhag as eastern command chief was based on his being the senior-most for the consideration for the post, and the the second senior most – Lt.Gen. Sanjiv Chachra – was appointed as the western command chief.

In July 7 hearing, Rohtagi had told the court that Lt. Gen. Dastane was third in the list of seniority and wanted to dislodge Lt. Gen. Suhag from the first position so that he could graduate to the second position and get eligible for consideration as chief of the eastern or western command and eventually for army chief.

The government had also justified the appointment Gen. Suhag as army chief saying that there was nothing in the allegations levelled by Lt. Gen. Dastane, and that Suhag fulfilled all the criteria for the post and was at the top in the seniority list.

The government had had told the court when the names of Lt.Gen. Suhag and Lt.Gen. Chachra were sent to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, there was no administrative, disciplinary or vigilance proceedings against the former.

However, while their names were being considered, a disciplinary vigilance (DV) ban was imposed on him by the then army chief Gen. V.K.Singh and it was communicated to the cabinet secretariat. This resulted in putting on hold his appointment, but it was cleared after the Gen. Bikram Singh reversed the ban after going through the response by Lt. Gen. Suhag to the show cause notice.

Lt.Gen. Dastane had contended that if he had been appointed as eastern command chief then, “he would have definitely been considered for the post of chief of army staff as he had more than four years to serve when he was empanelled for the post of corps commander”.

He had alleged favouratism to favour Gen. Suhag and had moved the apex court challenging the armed forces tribunal’s Sep 6, 2013, verdict rejecting his plea.