SC lifts ban on rallies, dharnas at Jantar Mantar, Boat Club

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today lifted a blanket ban on rallies, dharnas or sit-ins at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas, saying there could not be an “absolute” ban on protests in such localities.

The top court also asked the Centre to frame guidelines within two months for according sanctions to such events.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said, “There is a need to strike a balance between conflicting rights such as the right to protest and the right of citizens to live peacefully.”

“There cannot be a complete or absolute ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near India Gate),” the bench added, while directing the Centre to frame guidelines on the matter.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including one filed by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an NGO, challenging the decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to ban all kinds of protests at the said places.

The top court had earlier observed, “When, during elections, politicians can go among the public to seek votes, why can’t people come near their offices after the polls to protest.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO and other petitioners, had contended that the Centre had completely banned protests or assembly of people in whole of central Delhi and imposed section 144, CrPC permanently in the guise of avoiding traffic obstruction.
He had said the authorities had asked the protesters to go to the Ramlila Maidan to stage agitations, while there were several court verdicts that recognised the “people’s right to protest”.
“The protests have to be near the seat of power, so that the people can make their voices heard,” Bhushan had submitted, while referring to a Delhi High Court verdict, recognising the people’s right to protest at the gate of a factory, so long it did not affect the traffic.

Earlier, the Centre had justified the continuous imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144, CrPC in central Delhi, which houses most of the government offices and VIP residences.
The Centre’s counsel had told the apex court that this was an era of “professional protesters”, who liked to protest outside Parliament or the president’s or prime minister’s house to make their voices heard.
He had added that the government had to take holistic steps while dealing with such protests, rallies and dharnas to ensure that peace and harmony prevailed in an area.

The Centre, while justifying the permanent imposition of prohibitory orders in its affidavit, had referred to over a dozen instances when protests had turned violent and the police had to use teargas shells and water cannons to control the mobs at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas.

The plea moved by the NGO had challenged the complete ban on assemblies and protests in the central and New Delhi areas imposed by the NGT.

It had claimed that there could not be a continuous imposition of prohibitory orders in entire central Delhi, which was an emergency provision to be used when there was an apprehension of violence or law-and-order problems.

It had said it would have been understandable if the government’s decision to impose prohibitory orders was based on a specific intelligence input or apprehension of a protest turning violent.
The NGT had, on October 5 last year, banned all protests and dharnas around the historic Jantar Mantar here, which had been a hotspot of many agitations over the past decades, saying such activities violated environmental laws.
The green panel had said the State had totally failed to protect the right of a citizen to enjoy a pollution-free environment at the Jantar Mantar Road area, which was located close to Connaught Place at the heart of the national capital.
It had added that it was the duty of the State to ensure that the right of the people to live a peaceful and comfortable life was not infringed by those who created noise pollution in the name of their right to freedom of speech and expression, which could never be unlimited.
The tribunal had directed the authorities to shift the protesters to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate “forthwith”.

It had also said those participating in protests and raising slogans through loudspeakers had no right to compel the people living in the area to tolerate it day and night.

Kamala Mills owner says it’s illegal detention in Supreme Court.

The owner of Mumbai’s Kamala Mills today moved the Supreme Court challenging his arrest in connection with a fire that claimed 14 lives in December last year.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked Ravi Bhandari to serve a copy of his petition to the Maharashtra government.

The top court listed the matter for further hearing on March 27.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Bhandari, said his arrest is illegal detention and he can’t be booked for the offence of culpable homicide.

He said the apex court has already held in the Bhopal gas tragedy and Uphaar cinema hall fire case that they are cases of negligence, which is a bailable offence.

The Bombay High Court had recently dismissed Bhandari’s bail application.

Bhandari was arrested in January along with fire officer Rajendra Patil and Utkarsh Pandey, who supplied hookahs to the pubs Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above where the fire started. All three are in judicial custody.

Fourteen persons were killed and several others injured when a fire broke out at the two pubs in the Kamala Mills compound in central Mumbai on December 29, 2017.

SC sets aside HC order on strictures against judicial officer

 The Supreme Court has set aside an order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court by which action was recommended against a judicial officer for granting bail to an accused within four days of rejection of his pre-arrest bail by a higher court.

The high court had termed the action of the magistrate as “judicial impropriety” and “gross indiscipline” and recommended the chief justice to take appropriate action on the administrative side.

It had set aside the order of magistrate and cancelled the bail plea of an accused, arrested for allegedly giving fake educational degrees to students for money.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said the approach of the high court was “erroneous in law” and set aside the order of single judge of the high court.

“Merely, because an application for anticipatory bail preferred by the appellant was rejected, it could not be said that thereafter the magistrate was precluded from even considering the application for grant of regular bail,” the bench said.

The top court said, “The grounds for grant of anticipatory bail are altogether different from that of regular bail.”

“No doubt, anticipatory bail was rejected on August 26, 2016 and within four days thereafter regular bail was granted.

However, the high court could not have cancelled the bail, only on the ground that the anticipatory bail was rejected,” it said.

It said that the high court was also wrong in observing that in the circumstances the only remedy for the accused was to approach the high court alone “as if he was precluded from filing an application for regular bail before the magistrate”.

Advocate D K Thakur, appearing for the Himachal Pradesh government, claimed that the accused had threatened the complainant immediately after coming out on bail.

The top court said it was an event that occurred after the accused came out on bail and could be a ground which could be raised by the complainant before a trial court for cancellation of bail.

An FIR was lodged at Dharamshala police station of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh. The accused Chander Kant was charged with the offences of forgery, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and other sections of IPC.

After registration of the FIR and when the probe was pending, the accused had moved high court seeking anticipatory bail, which was dismissed on August 26, 2016.

Thereafter, the accused was arrested and taken into police custody. After his police remand got over, he moved a regular bail application, which the judicial officer allowed and enlarged him on bail on August 30, 2016.

The complainant challenged the order of magistrate granting bail to the accused before the high court, which on June 2, 2017, after seeking explanation, passed various strictures against the judicial officer.

The judicial officer in her explanation to the high court had said there were “direct or indirect directions to grant bail liberally. Taking into consideration that anticipatory bail has been rejected but now as the accused remanded to custody and opportunity was given to police for custodial interrogation and recovery, I considered it to be a changed circumstance”.

However, the single judge in his order said, “To my mind, the action of the magistrate is clearly subversive to judicial discipline and amounts to gross impropriety because so long the order passed by this court was in force, the magistrate could not have entertained the application for bail much less granted the bail.”

The high court said, “Judicial discipline requires decorum known to law which warrants that the appellate directions should be followed in the hierarchical system by the court which exists in this country.”

“It is necessary for each lower tier to accept loyally the decisions of the higher tier. The judicial system only works if someone is allowed to have the last word and if that last word, once spoken, is loyally accepted,” the bench had said.

It had said that once the judgement rendered by the high court was absolutely clear and the bail granted to the accused had been rejected by a detailed order, then judicial comity, discipline, concomitance, pragmatism, poignantly point, per force to observe constitutional propriety and adhere to the decision, so rendered by the high court.

Source : PTI

Prohibiting dubbed serial on TV violates Competition Act: SC

Prohibition on exhibition of dubbed serial on television hinders competition in the market and such an act amounts to violation of the Competition Act, 2002, the Supreme Court has said.

The apex court said such prohibition prevents competing parties in pursuing their commercial activities and amounts to “creating barriers” to the entry of new content in a dubbed TV serial.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Abhay Manohar Sapre said this while allowing an appeal of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against an order of the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT).

“One can clearly view that prohibition on the exhibition of dubbed serial on the television prevented the competing parties in pursuing their commercial activities. Thus, the CCI rightly observed that protection in the name of the language goes against the interest of the competition, depriving the consumers of exercising their choice,” it said.

“It also hindered competition in the market by barring dubbed TV serials from exhibition on TV channels in the state of West Bengal. It amounted to creating barriers to the entry of new content in the said dubbed TV serial.

“Such act and conduct also limited the supply of serial dubbed in Bangla, which amounts to violation of the provision of section 3(3)(b) of the Act,” the bench said.

The court was dealing with a matter in which the CCI had challenged the COMPAT’s order in a case relating to exhibition of dubbed version of famous Hindi serial ‘Mahabharat’ in Bangla language which was to be shown in West Bengal.

Mumbai-based M/s BRTV, the producer of Mahabharat, had entrusted the sole and exclusive rights of the serial to M/s Magnum TV serials to dub the Hindi version in Bangla language.

Thereafter, Magnum TV had appointed M/s Hart Video as the sub-assigner to dub the serial in Bangla language after which two TV channels bagged the rights for telecasting the serial.

However, an association of certain producers in eastern India — Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA) and Committee of Artistes and Technicians of West Bengal Film and Television Investors — opposed it on the ground that in would adversely affect the artistes and technicians working there.

Coal scam: SC-appointed team seeks former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s visitors’ diary

The Supreme court had on September 14, entrusted M L Sharma with the power to summon any person in his inquiry against Sinha, accused of ranjitscuttling probe in the coal block scam as the agency’s chief.

The apex court-appointed probe team led by ex-CBI Special Director M L Sharma today moved the Supreme Court seeking a copy of original visitors’ diary having names of persons who had visited the official residence of Ranjit Sinha, the then Director of CBI.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, which has been hearing matters related to coal blocks allocation scam, said “we realise that this document is important.”

The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, referred the plea of the special probe team to another bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu on the ground that the visitors diary, submitted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, has been kept in a sealed cover in pursuance of the order of that court.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has been monitoring cases relating to the 2G scam and had earlier ordered that the visitors diary, given by Bhushan on behalf of NGO Common Cause, be kept in a sealed cover.

Now the plea filed by the special probe team would be heard by the CJI’s bench on Monday.

The diary allegedly contains names of persons, including those who are facing court cases in the 2G and coalgate scams, who had visited official residence of Ranjit Sinha during his tenure as the CBI Director.

The apex court had on September 14, entrusted M L Sharma with the power to summon any person in his inquiry against Sinha, accused of scuttling probe in the coal block scam as the agency’s chief.

It had also ordered that Sharma will have access to all documents required by him for his probe and asked him to submit the report of inquiry in three months.

Sharma, who had emerged as the first choice of the apex court, had given his consent to assist the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in its probe against Sinha.

The court had on September 7 said the scope of inquiry was limited to recording the statements of persons accused in the coal allocation scam to draw an inference whether the probe into the cases were in any way influenced or interfered with, as suggested by the CVC.


SC asks Bagrodia to appear before special court in coal block case

The Supreme Court on Monday asked former union minister Santosh Bagrodia to appear before a special CBI court here on September 8 in coal block allocation case.

A bench of Justice M.B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K. Sikri said it will examine Bagrodia’s plea soon while declining him relief.

Bagrodia, a minister of state for coal in the Manmohan Singh ministry and summoned as accused by the special court in a case concerning allocation of Maharashtra’s Bander coal block to AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd, had sought staying of the summons in the case on parity with the relief granted to Manmohan Singh in April this year.

bagrodiaThe bench’s order came after hearing arguments of senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Bagrodia, claiming that he was innocent and sought parity with the relief granted to Manmohan Singh in another coal block case.

The apex court on April 2 had stayed the trial court order summoning the former prime minister as accused in a case pertaining to grant of Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005 to Aditya Birla group company Hindalco.

Meanwhile, the apex court brushed aside the Central Bureau of Investigation’s claim that unaccounted cash worth Rs.25 crore seized from Hindalco’s corporate office had no connection with the coal block allocation case.

It asked the CBI to inform it about the status of the probe into the incriminating documents and a diary which was also seized from the company’s Delhi office in October 15, 2013.

The CBI and Enforcement Directorate to inform the court by September 21 the status of the investigations in the Birla diary case.

SC gives Sahara 18 months to pay up Rs.36,000 crore

SC gives Sahara 18 months to pay up Rs.36,000 crore
SC gives Sahara 18 months to pay up Rs.36,000 crore

While approving the manner in which Sahara would furnish its bank guarantee, the Supreme Court on Friday directed that the group will have to pay the remaining liability it owes to the market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), within 18 months from the time its chief Subrata Roy is released.

Accepting the format of the bank guarantee brings Sahara a step closer to paying Roy’s bail.
Roy and two Sahara directors, in judicial custody since 4 March, need to deposit Rs.10,000 crore, half in cash and the rest in a bank guarantee.
A bench of justices T.S.Thakur, Anil R. Dave and A. K. Sikri enumerated conditions for the payment of the remaining liability of Rs.36,000 crore by Sahara within 18 months in nine instalments.
The first instalment has to be paid within two months of Roy’s release.
The court said that Roy would have to go back to jail if Sahara failed to pay any three instalments. Further, the Rs.5,000 crore bank guarantee would be liable to be encashed by Sebi if Sahara failed to pay any two instalments.
The court also asked the three Sahara officials to deposit their passports and seek the court’s permission before leaving the country.
The group can seek the court’s permission to sell any of its properties frozen by the court earlier.
While Roy’s release from Tihar jail is one of the primary focus of these hearings at present, the court has time and again emphasized that Sahara has to make payments, apart from the Rs.10,000 crore deposit.
Lawyer Kapil Sibal had in May sought the conditional release of Roy for six weeks in order to draw up a scheme for future payments.
In May, Sebi had told the court that Sahara has to refund nearly Rs.39,000 crore to it. Sahara has consistently disputed this sum. Sahara claims that it has refunded Rs.17,000 crore to about 30 million depositors directly.
Sahara has already deposited Rs.3,827 crore in cash with the Sebi Sahara Refund Account.
On 23 March, the apex court gave Sahara three months to raise Rs.10,000 crore, failing which it would arrange for selling off Sahara’s assets.
Sahara has filed a defamation case in a Patna court against Mint’s editor and some reporters over the newspaper’s coverage of the company’s dispute with Sebi. Mint is contesting the case.

Graft allegations against Bhujbal; SC rejects plea against HC

The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea filed against a Bombay High Court decision ordering a SIT probe into graft allegations against formerMaharashtra PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal and others in connection with contracts awarded to some private firms.

“No. We will not entertain it,” a bench comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri said.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by Iram T Shaikh against the December 18 order of the High Court on a PIL filed by Aam Aadmi Party there.

Senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for Shaikh, said that the high court entertained a PIL filed by a party (AAP) which wanted to gain political mileage out of judicial proceedings.

The high court had ordered a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the allegations of money laundering against NCP leader and former minister Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer in connection with certain contracts awarded to private firms.

It had said that the SIT will conduct an “open inquiry” into the allegations and the probe should be over by February 28.

The high court had also said that if the probe is not completed by February 28 then an interim report be filed before it.

SIT will comprise officers of Enforcement Directorate and the state anti-corruption bureau, it had said.

AAP, in its petition, had alleged that as PWD minister in the previous Congress-NCP government, Bhujbal had awarded contracts to certain private firms and in return, kickbacks were paid to his institute, Mumbai Education Trust.

Recently, Maharashtra Government had given a nod to an ACB probe into allegations against the NCP leader with regard to construction of New Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.

SC likely to pronounce verdict tomorrow on pleas of Mittal & Ruia in spectrum case

The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce tomorrow its verdict on pleas of Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia against a trial court order summoning them as accused in a corruption case related to allocation of additional spectrum during NDA rule in 2002.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and justices Madan B Lokur and A K Sikri had reserved the verdict on December 4, last year after hearing counsel for corporate honchos and the CBI.

The verdict would be pronounced by Justice Sikri.

Concluding the arguments, senior advocate F S Nariman, appearing for Mittal, had said that the trial court erred in summoning his client despite the fact that the CMD was not named as accused in the charge sheet by the CBI.

“The Assistant Legal Adviser (CBI) said that only public servants be made accused. It was then CBI Director A P Singh who said that the companies can also be made accused,” he had said, adding that the trial judge went further and summoned Mittal as accused.

Nariman had told the bench that there was “nothing unusual” in the alleged assertion that Mittal had meetings with then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan and then Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh.

Earlier, CBI, which had not charged Mittal and Ruia, had defended the decision of a Special CBI judge to summon them as accused.

The court was hearing petitions seeking setting aside of an order of the Special CBI Judge by which Ruia and Mittal, whose name did not figure in CBI’s charge sheet as accused, were summoned on March 19, last year.

The lower court had said that there was “enough material” to proceed against them in the case.

Earlier, Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia had said that he was not connected with the day-to-day affairs of the accused company Sterling Cellular Ltd and he was wrongly summoned in the case.

Besides Mittal and Ruia, the lower court had also summoned Asim Ghosh, the then Managing Director of accused firm Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd. Ghosh was also not named as accused in the charge sheet.

The trial court had said that Mittal, Ghosh and Ruia used to chair board meetings and “were/are prima facie in control of affairs of the respective companies” and “they are/were ‘alter-ego’ of their respective companies”.

CBI had filed the charge sheet against former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd).

Later, the lower court, while taking cognisance of the charge sheet, issued summons to Mittal, Ruia and Asim Ghosh also saying they were “prima facie” in “control of affairs” of their companies named in the charge sheet by CBI in the case.

CBI had booked Shyamal Ghosh and the three telecom firms for the offences of criminal conspiracy (120-B) under IPC and under Prevention of Corruption Act.

The probe agency said the three accused telecom companies were allocated additional spectrum resulting in an alleged loss of Rs 846 crore to the exchequer.

Regarding Ghosh, CBI had said that in conspiracy with the then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan and the accused telecom firms, he had allegedly abused his official position to show undue favour to the firms causing a loss of Rs 846.44 crore to the exchequer.

SC rejects plea challenging Coal Ordinance

The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a plea challenging the ordinance on coal blocks, providing for retrospective recovery of a levy of Rs. 295 per metric tonne of extracted coal and linking its payment as a qualification to participate in the cancelled coal.

The Coal Mines (Special Provision) Ordinance, 2014, was promulgated for the allocation of coal blocks by auction route.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K.Sikri rejected the plea by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. (CESC), which contended that because of the levy, it has been saddled with a liability of Rs. 990 crores which it was in no position to pay.

Appearing fpr the CESC, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium told the court that the case of his client company was decided by the screening committee but it was not vitiated by vice of arbitrariness or anything.

He said that CESC should be counted in the exception carved out for the ultra mega power projects by the apex court by its Sep 24 order as it was already operating a captive mine for producing power that was being supplied to 24 lakh consumers at regulated prices.

Subramanium told the court that the status of CSEC as using coal for from the captive mine for the production and transmission of power at regulated price gave it a locus standi to challenge the ordinance and demand the provision which excluded the companies from the bidding process for failing to pay the levy must go.

Opposing the plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that CESC is a case of taint of screening committee procedure and the wrath of the court, for paying the levy, must fall on it.

Another petitioner Electrosteel Castings Limited who had also challenged the ordinance withdrew its plea which was dismissed as withdrawn after senior counsel K.V.Vishwanathan, appearing for the firm, so requested.

Earlier the court had turned down the plea of another coal mining company seeking to be excluded from the category of companies whose coal blocks allocations were cancelled.

Addressing the various applications challenging the ordinance, and seeking to be exempted from the court’s judgment cancelling the allocations and imposing the levy, Rohatgi told the court that all these applications are to “delay the effect of ordinance, delay the auction and delay the economy”.

The apex court by its Sep 24 verdict had cancelled 214 coal blocks allocated from 1993 to 2011, except four vested with the NTPC, SAIL and Sasan Ultra mega power projects and imposed an additional levy per metric ton of coal extracted from exempted or operational mines.