SC rejects Romila Thapar’s review plea for release of activists

The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea filed by historian Romila Thapar seeking a review of the September 28 majority verdict by which the apex court had refused immediate release of five rights activists held in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud dismissed the plea on Friday.

The order, however, was uploaded on Saturday.

“We have perused the review petition as well as the grounds in support thereof. In our opinion, no case for review of judgment dated September 28, 2018 is made out. The review petition is accordingly dismissed,” the bench said.

On September 28, the court rejected a plea for immediate release of the five rights activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha arrested by the Maharashtra police on August 28.

The activists were arrested in connection with an FIR filed following a conclave ‘Elgaar Parishad’ held on December 31 last year that had allegedly triggered violence later at Koregaon-Bhima village in Maharashtra.

They were put under house arrest on August 29.

On September 28, the court said the accused will remain under house arrest for four more weeks. By a majority verdict of 2:1, it had also refused to appoint an SIT to probe their arrest.

Supreme Court extends house arrest of rights activists in Koregaon-Bhima violence till Sep 17

 The Supreme Court Wednesday extended the house arrest of five rights activists who were arrested in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case till September 17.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud adjourned the hearing on the plea filed by historian Romila Thapar and four others to September 17 after it was submitted that senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing the petitioners, was busy in another court.

Earlier, Singhvi appeared before the bench and submitted that the hearing on Thapar’s plea be conducted after 12 pm as he has to appear in another matter.

The court was hearing the plea filed against the arrest of the rights activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — in the case.

The Maharashtra police had arrested the five activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ — held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village. 

On August 29, the apex court ordered the house arrest of the activists, saying “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”.

SC dismisses plea to ban book ‘Meesha’, says craftsmanship of writer deserves to be respected

The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a plea seeking to ban the book ‘Meesha’ for allegedly depicting Hindu women visiting temples in derogatory light, saying “craftsmanship of a writer deserves to be respected”.

A bench headed by Chief justice Dipak Misra said a book must not be read in a “fragmented manner” but as a whole.

“Subjective perception about a book should not be allowed to enter legal arena with regard to censorship,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

The bench also said that the writer should be allowed to play with words like a painter who plays with colour.

The apex court’s order came on a plea by Delhi resident N Radhakrishnan, who had sought to omit excerpts from the Malayalam novel ‘Meesha’ (moustache) written by S Hareesh.

Sabarimala temple case: Kerala govt to SC ‘ban on women unconstitutional’

New Delhi: The Kerala government today told the Supreme Court that the custom of barring entry of women between the age group of 10 to 50 years into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala is not permissible under the Constitution.

It said that celibate status of deity cannot be a ground for barring entry of women as it is a Hindu temple and not a temple of a particular denomination.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the ban on entry of females between the age group of 10 to 50 years into the 800-year-old shrine after hearing the matter for eight days.

“We will pass orders. Judgment reserved. Hearing concluded. Advocate on Record of both the sides will collect written submissions and compile it and submit before the court in seven days,” the bench also comprising justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said.
Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Kerala government, said that the custom of barring women between the age group of 10 to 50 years is not permissible under the Constitution.

“Sabarimala temple cannot claim to be a distinct denomination to claim a custom which bars entry of women of 10-50 year age group to temple. It is not a temple of a particular denomination but a Hindu temple,” he said.

Gupta, referring to the arguments of the petitioners who had challenge the ban on entry of women into the temple, said that they pointed out that Kerala high court had held that it is a denominational temple.

“It is my submissions, that it is not a denominational temple and the religious rights are not protected”, he said.

Citing an example of Lord Jagannath Puri temple, Gupta said that it is also not a temple of particular denomination while on the other hand temple of Ramakrishna Paramhans is of a particular denomination as he is being worshipped by a particular sect.
He said that even Dakshineswar temple in Kolkata, where Shri Ramakrishna Paramhans himself worshipped, is not a temple of any particular denomination.

SC allows transgender, to amend plea, denied job as cabin crew in Air India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today allowed a transgender, who had undergone sex change in 2014, to amend her plea challenging Air India’s decision to deny her a job as a cabin crew to assail the grounds of conducting personality test for third gender candidates by the national carrier.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud allowed senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the petitioner, to file the amendment which raised some additional issues.

“Let the matter be listed after two weeks,” the bench said.
The top court had earlier issued notice and sought responses from Air India and the Civil Aviation Ministry on the plea of the transgender, who claimed that to pursue her dreams, she had worked for 13 months in Sutherland Global Services in the airline sector and even at Air India’s customer support, both domestic and international, at Chennai.

Born in Tamil Nadu in 1989, she said she graduated in engineering in 2010. She underwent the gender surgery to turn into a woman in April 2014 and this information was published in the state government gazette.
She said she had learnt about an advertisement on July 10 last year by Air India for the post of a female cabin crew for its Northern Region office in Delhi on a fixed term engagement basis for an initial period of five years.
She applied in the female category as she had undergone a successful sexual reassignment surgery in Bangkok.

She said she got the call letter, appeared for GD and PAT tests and undertook four attempts, “but unfortunately she has not been short-listed for the post in question even though she fared well in the tests conducted”.

In her petition, she said she could not get shortlisted as she was a transgender and the vacancies in the cabin crew were earmarked only for women.

She said that representations were made to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but there was no redressal. She had sought direction to Air India and the ministry for consideration of her candidature.
“The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 prohibits discrimination. It is clear that no person shall discriminate against a transgender person in relation to employment or occupation…”, her plea said.

Citing the top court verdict of 2014, she said the apex court has given certain directions for protection of the rights of the transgenders by including a third category in documents like election card, passport, driving license and ration card, and for admission in educational institutions, hospitals, among others.

“By recognising diverse gender identities, the court has busted the dual gender structure of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ which is recognised by the society,” she said in her plea.

“The right to chose one’s gender identity is an essential part to lead a life with dignity, which again falls under the ambit of Article 21. Determining the right to personal freedom and self-determination, the court observed that the gender to which a person belongs is to be determined by the person concerned.
“The court has given the people of India the right to gender identity. Further, they cannot be discriminated against on the ground of gender as it is violative of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 21,” the plea said.

SC: Liquidation of Jaypee group firm would serve no purpose

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said Liquidation of real estate firm Jaypee Infratech Ltd (JIL) would not “serve” the purpose of either home buyers, financial institutions or the promoters.

The apex court also reserved its order on “interim reliefs” prayed by various stakeholders including the home buyers of JIL, Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL) which is the holding company of JIL, banks and financial institutions and the Insolvency Resolution Professional (IRP).
“The Committee of Creditors has rejected the proposal. The liquidation (of JIL) will not serve anybody’s purpose,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said when senior advocate F S Nariman, appearing for real estate firm JAL, listed out the legal options left to revive the firm.

The bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, was told by Nariman that in the interest of justice, “an independent person or persons may be appointed to evaluate financial capability of JAL/JIL to continue executing the ongoing existing projects, should be accepted and then if it is stated by an expert body that JAL/JIL do not have the financial capability, consider what future steps to be taken”.

The senior lawyer said that 21,532 home buyers, who constituted 92 per cent of total home buyers, have expressed faith in JIL as they did not opt for the refund and the court should keep in mind their interest while passing orders.

The apex court can pass an order under Article 142 of the Constitution to ensure that JIL does not undergo the liquidation in view of the fact that statutory period of 270 days meant for approving the resolution plan of the firm by the Committee of Creditors has already expired on May 12, the lawyer said.

IDBI bank had moved the Corporate Insolvency Resolution application before the NCLT against the debt-ridden realty firm, JIL, after it allegedly defaulted in paying back Rs 526 crore loan.

The top court also heard Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta and a battery of senior lawyers including C A Sundaram, Parag Tripathi, Jayant Bhushan, V Giri, Anand Grover, Siddharth Luthra and Gopal Jain who represented various stake holders in the case.

The ASG said as per the amended Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, now the home buyers are the financial creditors in a firm and hence, the committee of creditors, which usually included the banks and FIs, will have to consider the views of the home buyers while deciding the resolution plan of a company.

He, however, said that the apex court may do away with the 270 days statutory time period, which has expired in the case of JIL, for deciding the fate of the firm while keeping in mind the interest of the home buyers.

“But, this should not be made the norm and a parallel court should not be created,” Mehta said.

Tripathi, appearing for Interim Resolution Professional (IRP), said now the only option of liquidation of JIL was left as the resolution plans for the firm has not been approved by the Committee of Creditors (CoC) within the mandatory time period.

The home buyers had moved the apex court stating that around 32,000 people had booked flats and were now paying instalments.

SC refuses to stay new amended rules on health warning for tobacco products

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today refused to stay the operation of new amended rules of the Union Health Ministry directing the manufacturers to have graphic warning images on packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products and helpline numbers for those who wanted to quit the habit.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud refused to grant interim stay on Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Second Amendment Rules, 2018, which would come into effect from September 1.

The new rules stipulated that two images depicting the manifestation of cancer, as a specified health warning, would appear on the package consecutively during the rotation period with an interregnum period of 12 months.
During the hearing, the bench and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the manufacturers, entered into a debate on the matter.

When Rohtagi said the people should have the right to choice and the new rules violated that right, the bench responded saying the “people also have the right to informed choice.” It added that if the pictorial warnings provided the information, then there was no harm.

Assailing the new rules, Rohatgi again said “If one eats chocolates, they run the risk of becoming diabetic which may lead to glaucoma.”
To this, the bench said “eating chocolates does not create diabetes. The analysis is wrong. If you have diabetes, then you should abstain from chocolate.”
The tobacco firms, represented by Rohatgi, have approached the court against the recent Health Ministry rules.

SC asks Parliament to consider enacting new law to deal with mob lynching

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today asked Parliament to consider enacting a new law to effectively deal with incidents of mob lynching, saying “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become a new norm.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also passed a slew of directions to provide “preventive, remedial and punitive measures” to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.

The bench, which also comprised justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said it was the duty of state governments to ensue law and order in society, besides ensuring that the rule of law prevailed.

“Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves,” the bench said.
“Horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be allowed to become a new norm and has to be curbed with iron hands,” it said, adding that states cannot turn a deaf ear to such incidents.

The bench asked the legislature to consider enacting a new penal provision to deal with offences of mob violence and provide deterrent punishment to such offenders.
The top court passed the order on a plea seeking formulation of guidelines to curb such violent incidents in the country.
The bench has now posted the PIL filed by persons like Tushar Gandhi and Tehseen Poonawalla for further hearing on August 28 and asked the Centre and state governments to take steps to deal with such offences in pursuance of its directions.
The CJI, who pronounced the verdict in a packed courtroom, did not read out measures directed by the court to deal with such offences.

SC asks AG to assist on poor facilities in jails

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today took note of lack of facilities in jails, leading to delayed trials and prolonged incarceration of under-trial prisoners, in the country and sought assistance of the Attorney General in issuing directions to deal with the situation.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, on its own, initiated the judicial proceedings after taking note of reports on deficiencies at the Faridabad jail in Haryana and expanded the scope of the case to the entire country.
Placing reliance on a report of the District and Sessions judge of Faridabad, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said there were several infrastructural and operational deficiencies like lack of video conferencing and transportation facilities in prison.

“A report has been submitted by the District and Sessions judge of Faridabad and the judge has mentioned various causes for delayed trials and long incarceration of under trial prisoners in jail,” it said.

“Having perused the report, we are of the view that such a situation cannot be confined to the jail at Faridabad,” the bench said, adding lack of facilities have been posing impediments in speedy trial.
The bench then asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist the court in the matter and said that making all the states and union territories (UTs) parties to the case would cause delay in passing directions.
The court appointed advocate Gaurav Aggarwal as an amicus curiae, friend of the court, and asked him to help the Attorney General deal with the case.
The bench considered the note on the prevailing situation at Faridabad jail of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, since retired, who had visited the prison on June 3 this year.

It also considered the orders passed by the Bombay and the Rajsathan High Courts on the lack of facilities in prisons in Maharashtra and Rajashtan before taking cognizance of the matter on its own.

SC seeks response on Ahmed Patel’s plea to stay proceedings in Guj High Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today sought the response of a BJP leader on a plea by Ahmed Patel seeking a stay of proceedings in the Gujarat High Court which is hearing a petition challenging the senior Congress leader’s election to the Rajya Sabha.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, allowed the Gujarat High Court to frame the issues to be decided by it on the petition filed by BJP leader Balwantsinh Rajput challenging Patel’s election to the Upper House. Rajput had lost the election to Patel.

The bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, made it clear that the high court will not proceed in the matter thereafter.

The bench then posted the matter after four weeks and asked both the parties to complete their pleadings by filing replies and rejoinder affidavits in the mean time.
In his plea, Patel has said that the election petition filed by his rival BJP nominee Rajput in the high court was not maintainable and needed to be dismissed.
Patel was elected to the Rajya Sabha last year after defeating Rajput, who had resigned from the Congress to join the BJP which had nominated him as its candidate.
Immediately after Patel got elected, Rajput had filed a petition in the high court challenging the poll panel’s decision to invalidate the votes of two rebel MLAs.