Supreme Court sets up panel to look into allegations of conspiracy framing CJI

 The Supreme Court Thursday constituted a one-man panel of former apex court judge Justice A K Patnaik to hold inquiry into the allegations of larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogi and fixing of benches in the top court.

The apex court asked the Directors of CBI and IB as also the Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with Justice (Retd) Patnaik as and when sought by him during the inquiry.

The top court said however that the inquiry by will not deal with the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI.

It said the outcome of the inquiry will not affect the in-house committee which is dealing with the complaint against the CJI.

The apex court said that on the completion of inquiry, Justice (Retd) Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again.

SC reserves order on spot-fixing probe panel

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its order on setting up a panel to probe allegations of spot-fixing and betting against some of the cricketers playing the Indian Premier League (IPL) and inaction by BCCI president N. Srinivasan. A bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla reserved the order after it was told that Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal has consented to head the panel to investigate these allegations.

When Srinivasan’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi contended that his position should be restored if the court was entrusting the investigation to an outside agency, the court, not inclined to budge from its position to have an independent investigation, asked: “Do you think till investigations are over he (Srinivasan) should stay (as the head of the cricketing body?” “Since BCCI itself is not probing (the allegations) then the management of the cricketing body should be restored with a rider that he (Srinivasan) will not interfere into the probe,” he said.

As Rohtagi said there was no finding in the report against Srinivasan, Justice Patnaik said: “It is all in your interest and Srinivasan that we should not read it (allegation given to the court in sealed cover by Mudgal Committee) out in the open court.”
“I have not spoken to the secretary general (of the apex court). What you say may not be entirely correct,” he said as Rohtagi told the court that audio recording of the Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni, Srinivasan and IPL’s chief operating officer Sunder Raman’s interaction with Mudgal Inquiry Committee nowhere recorded their having described Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan as a “cricket enthusiast”.

“To find out what you are saying is right or what the probe committee (has said) then we will have to go to the video room to see,” Justice Patnaik said. Rohtagi said the court was hearing the plea by the Cricket Association of Bihar which is not even affiliated to BCCI but was allegedly a front for A.C. Muthiah and (Lalit) Modi. “Which Modi you are talking about,” Justice Patnaik asked and Rohtagi clarified he meant Lalit Modi, who headed the IPL initially and not BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The court felt that the ongoing hearings could be postponed till September by which time, the probe panel will submit its findings.

At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for Mudgal Committee, told the court that Justice Mudgal, while agreeing to undertake the probe, said he would like to be assisted by former CBI special director M.L. Sharma and three police officers, one each from Delhi Police, Mumbai police and Chennai police, not below the rank of assistant commissioners of police. Subramaniam told the court that the probe panel would also require the assistance of a former cricketer of “repute and integrity”.

In a six-point note given to the court, he said the probe panel and the investigating officers and those assisting it would have investigating powers and could take assistance of police of states where it would undertake investigation as well as that of Sports Integrity Authority and CBI’s Anti-Corruption Unit and any other agency or department of the central or state governments.

The Supreme Court, during the last hearing of the matter, asked whether Justice Mudgal is inclined to preside over the probe panel. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) resisted the probe panel, saying that the allegations against the cricketers and Srinivasan are based on an inquiry conducted by Justice Mudgal himself, and investigation into those allegations should be undertaken by a different person.

“Let this material (allegations) be looked into by a fresh face or a committee because Mudgal Inquiry Committee has given the report on the basis of views expressed before it,” said senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, who appeared for BCCI. He sought time till Wednesday so that he could know the views of the BCCI on investigation being handed over to Mudgal panel. Apparently unimpressed by the submission, Justice Patnaik said the court will pass a judicial order and reserved it.

(Source: IANS)

Prior sanction needed for action against officials? SC reserves verdict

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Thursday reserved verdict on the validity of a legal provision that mandates the CBI to seek the government’s prior sanction before proceeding against an officer of the rank of joint secretary or above on charges of corruption.
However, the six-bench constitution bench said that if it had to invalidate section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act merely on the grounds of its being arbitrary, then the measure would be referred to a still larger constitution bench of seven judges as there were conflicting judgments on this count.
The constitution bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla was hearing a 2005 reference by a three judge bench on the validity of section 6A.
Making the reference to the constitution bench, the court in 2005 had said: “In short, the moot question is whether arbitrariness and unreasonableness or manifest arbitrariness and unreasonableness, being facets of article 14 of the Constitution of India are available or not as grounds to invalidate a legislation”.
Reference to the larger bench was made on a petition by politician Subramanian Swamy. The government has resisted the plea seeking to invalidate the section, contending that it needed to protect its senior ranking officers who were involved in crucial decision-making process and they could not be exposed to undue harassment and exercise of police powers by the CBI.
Holding that section 6A, far from frustrating the rule of law in fact furthers the rule of law, the central government has contended that the legislative provision can’t be negated by the courts on the grounds of arbitrariness or unreasonableness unless it violated any of the fundamental rights.
Seeking to demolish the government’s position, counsel Prashant Bhushan asked the court how could the government decide whether the sanction could be given or not when it is itself or its subordinate officers are under cloud.
He wondered why a private citizen could not lodge a complaint against a government officer under the Prevention of Corruption Act as it violated the citizen’s rights and principles under article 21. “Whether approval by the Lokpal and CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) would be sufficient in this matter,” the court inquired as Bhushan said why the government should decide and not the CVC or the Lokpal.

(Source: IANS)

Indian courts settle over 35 lakh cases in a single day

National Lok AdalatA National Lok Adalat, held simultaneously in the Supreme Court and courts across the country, Saturday settled over 35 lakh of the 39 lakh pending cases concerning accident claims, matrimonial disputes, dud cheques and traffic fines, among others.

The mammoth exercise was undertaken in the day-long Adalat, inaugurated by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, to deal with pending cases relating to motor accident claims, matrimonial disputes, labour disputes, dud cheques, bank recovery cases, civil suits and traffic tickets.

This was the first time that cases were taken up simultaneously all over the country for settlement.

Organised by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the Lok Adalats took place in the apex court, all 24 high courts and all the district and sub-district courts of the country.

As many as 35,10,390 cases had been settled, according to figures from the apex court.

In the Supreme Court, out of the 107 cases that were taken up for amicable settlement by three courts, 51 cases were settled.

Inaugurating the National Lok Adalat, Chief Justice Sathasivam had said that the main object of the adalat was to ensure speedy justice to litigants and make sure that there were no further appeals.

He described the resolution of disputes through the Lok Adalat as cost-effective, and also providing easy access to justice.

The chief justice urged the presiding judges to ensure that parties to the settlement of the cases are not intimidated or compromised while arriving at a settlement. He cautioned that Lok Adalats should not be allowed to be used by unscrupulous elements, who defraud people.

Of the 39 lakh cases that were taken up by different Lok Adalats all over the country, 7,94,484 were in Madhya Pradesh, 5,66,102 in Maharashtra, and about four lakh cases each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Three lakh cases were before the courts in Delhi, of which 273,000 were related to dud cheques.

NALSA chairman Justice G.S. Singhvi, who had initiated the move for the convening of the National Lok Adalat, said: “Lok Adalats or mediation is one of the most powerful instruments in speedy justice, which conforms to the goals of the preamble of the constitution.”

Justice Singhvi, who took over as NALSA’s executive chairman in September, has also expressed the need for nurturing awareness of the benefits of amicable resolution of disputes through forums like Lok Adalats or mediation.

He had expressed hope that about 20 lakh cases would be settled Saturday.

Pointing to the need for efficient justice delivery, he said the award of enhanced insurance compensation or settlement of a matrimonial dispute after litigation spanning a decade or more is meaningless. He wondered what the value of the money was, if enhanced compensation was decided after 15 years.

Justice Singhvi favoured early resolution of matrimonial disputes either way, so that people could start their lives afresh.

Justice A.K.Patnaik, chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority, said the poor litigants, who cannot afford lengthy and expensive litigation, could get relief in Lok Adalats.

R.S.Gujral, secretary in the department of expenditure and NALSA member, said that the ratio of judges per million population in India, compared to developed countries, was very poor, and needed improvement.

He stressed that mutual settlement of cases was the only way to reduce the pendency of cases.


SC seeks states’ response on trials of influential people

Supreme_courtThe Supreme Court Tuesday asked the states to respond to a plea seeking fast track investigation and trial in cases involving influential people, including politicians, which otherwise keep on dragging for decades.

The apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V. Gopala Gowda issued notice on the plea by Virendra Kumar Ohri, who has given suggestions to the court for laying down guidelines for speedy investigation and trial in cases involving important public functionaries.

The court said it will pass orders on the plea only after hearing the state government. The Centre is already a respondent in the petition by Ohri.

The court said that apart from the central government, “we would also like to hear all the state governments” on the issue. It directed the listing of the matter in January 2014.

Giving the suggestion, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that in the past, influential people had succeeded in defeating justice by thwarting the process of law.

In the context, the plea referred to cases against former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren and former union railway minister Lalu Prasad which kept on dragging for years.

In the case of Soren, the petitioner said he was declared proclaimed offender and he avoided the process of law with the connivance of police.

Even though he attended parliament and election meetings in his constituency and became minister, police did not act against him, the petitioner said.

The court was told that the Law Commission too has submitted a report recommending fast tracking the trials of influential people.

The Law Commission gave its recommendation after the apex court asked it to look into the matter.


SC declines plea for CBI probe into Asaram case

The Supreme Court Monday declined to hear a petition that sought a court-monitored CBI probe into the alleged rape of a minor by Asaram Bapu in Rajasthan.

Asking petitioner and Chennai-based lawyer D. Irudayanathan to approach the Rajasthan High Court, the apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice J.S. Khehar allowed him to withdraw his petition.

The petitioner had sought the effective enforcement of the laws to protect juveniles saying the main reason for his moving the apex court was the stigmatisation and character assassination of the alleged rape victim by the spiritual leaders supporters.

He said that the swift and sensitive investigation in the case could only be done by the “positive intervention” by the apex court in such matters.

The petitioner also sought the scientific determination of the age of the minor victim.

The alleged sexual assault on the 16-year-old girl took place at Asaram’s ashram near Jodhpur Aug 15.

Asaram has been booked under various sections of the Protectio.

(Source: IANS)

SC issues notice over enforcing Disaster Management Act

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government, disaster relief agencies, the meteorological department and some states on a PIL seeking implementation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in “letter and spirit”.

The states that have been issued notice include Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar. Besides these states, the National Disaster Management Authority, National Disaster Response Force, and the India Meteorological Department were also issued notice.

The apex court bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik issued notice and tagged the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with another pending matter, after counsel Ravi Mehrotra told the court that laws enacted by parliament should be implemented.

The non-government organisation Foundation For Restoration Of National Values, in its PIL, said: “Woeful and alarming situation and ground realities in respect of disaster management brought to the fore by the recent unfortunate and tragic event in Uttarakhand, are mirrored by the almost complete negation of the intention and avowed objectives, as envisaged by parliament, behind the enactment of the Disaster Management Act….”

 The failure to put in place “the necessary infrastructure and manpower, mobilisation and utilisation of technology, as also the all-important coordination among various stakeholders and agencies” reflects on the ineffectiveness of the National Disaster Management Authority and State Disaster Management Authorit.

(Source: IANS)

Natural resources are also for future generations: SC

The Supreme Court Wednesday said the right to life belongs not only to the present generation but also the future generations when it comes to the exploitation of natural resources.

“It is not just right to life of present generation but also of the future generations,” said the apex court green bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice F.M.I Kalifulla as it was told of the rampant iron ore mining that had taken place in Goa.

Holding that mining activities should be “legal, in accordance with the rule of law and in conformity with the constitution”, the court observed that inter-generational equity has been spoken of many a time by the apex court but its parameters have not been spelt out.

The court’s observation came in the course of the hearing of a petition filed by NGO Goa Foundation which has sought that the mining leases should not be renewed in the state till a cumulative environment impact assessment was done by an expert group.

Appearing for the NGO, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the court that 97 percent of the iron ore mined from Goa was not used for domestic consumption. Comparing the mining companies with vultures, Bhushan told the court that these companies had not only destroyed the forest, water bodies, agriculture and bio-diversity but also harmed tribals.

Bhushan told the court that all that the state government got by way of royalty was Rs.61 for a tonne of legally mined iron ore. “It does not add to the revenue of the state. If it substantially adds to the revenue of the state, then it can be used in the social sector,” Justice Patnaik said.

Bhushan said the miners were involved in multiple violations of leases. The lease holders were issued notice by the Goa government a year back but no follow up action was taken.

Bhushan said that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parikar as the then leader of opposition and head of the state legislature’s Public Accounts Committee gave a very strong report but now as the chief minister he was singing a different tune.

“If you are on this side (opposition), you oppose, if you are in government you govern. This is all in democracy,” remarked Justice Patnaik.

(Source: IANS)

SC to examine if right to vote distinct from right to contest

The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would examine if right to vote was distinct from right to contest an election.

The court also issued notice on the central government’s plea seeking the recall of its verdict holding that jail birds could not contest elections as they lost their right to vote during incarceration.

While issuing notice, the apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Sudhanshu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya said that the government’s contention that right to vote was distinct from right to contest was not argued at length when it pronounced the verdict barring jail birds from contesting elections.

After the submission by Additional Solicitor General L. Nageshwar Rao, Justice Patnaik observed: “Your legislature has created all this confusion and it does not want to admit and when we interpret then they say we have encroached upon their domain.” “It is very clumsily drafted,” observed Justice Patnaik.

“If we don’t undertake the constitutional mandate of interpreting the laws, we are told that we are not exercising our jurisdiction and when we do, we are (accused) of exceeding the jurisdiction,” said Justice Mukhopadhaya.

“What kind of nonsense it is (distinguishing) elector and voter,” Justice Mukhopadhaya said, asking “whether voter and elector are synonymous and if not then what is the definition of voter”.

Noting that the elections to state assemblies of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Mizoram were scheduled around November, the court directed the listing of the review petition for final hearing Oct 23.

(Source: IANS)

SC rejects plea against unseating convicted lawmakers

The Supreme Court Wednesday threw out the central government’s plea to recall its order that held as void a provision of the Representation of the People Act that shielded elected representatives from being unseated after being convicted for criminal offences.

The apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya told Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad, “You have no case. It is a well considered judgment” and parliament has accepted it.

“We have heard the additional solicitor general. We don’t find any error of law apparent in our judgment” holding void Sub-section 4 of Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, the court said.

The court July 10 held as unconstitutional the Sub-section 4 of Section 8 of the Act.

“Our judgment continues…even without (proposed) amendment…”, said Justice Patnaik.

The apex court in July declared as unconstitutional the provision of the Representation of the People Act (Sub-section 4 of Section 8) that allowed elected representatives to continue as members of the elected bodies even after conviction in criminal cases.

The apex court by its judgment, now being sought to be reviewed, also held “…parliament thus does not have the power under Articles 102(1)(e) and 191(1)(e) of the Constitution to make different laws for a person to be disqualified for being chosen as a member and for a person to be disqualified for continuing as a member of Parliament or the State Legislature.”

“You have done a good job,” Justice Patnaik said, pointing to the bill piloted by the government to undo the impact of the apex court judgment directing the forthwith unseating of elected representatives upon their conviction for criminal offences.

“We have not interpreted the Constitution but merely read down the provision of the Representation of People Act,” Justice Mukhopadhaya said.

(Source: IANS)