Maradu flats: SC directs demolition to be completed in 138 days

The Supreme Court on Friday directed that demolition of flats built on the coastal zone of Kochi’s Maradu be completed in 138 days, in accordance with the time schedule provided by the Kerala government.

The apex court also directed payment of R 25 lakh as interim compensation by the state government to each flat owner within four weeks.

The top court also ordered setting up of a one-member committee of retired high court judge to oversee demolition and assess total compensation.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat directed freezing of assets of builders and promoters who were involved in the construction of illegal buildings in the coastal zone areas of Kochi.

The bench further said the government may consider recovering the interim compensation amount from builders and promoters.

Supreme Court disposes plea challenging Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim CBI chief.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday disposed of a plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said no further interference is required as the relief has already been granted with the appointment of a full time CBI Director.

The verdict came on a plea of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Common Cause, which had challenged the appointment of Rao as interim CBI director.

In a previous hearing on February 1, the top court had said that it was “averse” to the arrangement of an interim CBI Director and the Centre should “immediately” appoint a regular chief of the probe agency.

The bench had said the agency was not functioning properly and the officers were fighting and levelling corruption allegations against each other which was wholly unbecoming of them.

The court had also said that the new CBI director who would be appointed must “trace the movements of files” during the period when former CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma was reinstated to the post for two days.

Three judges of the apex court — Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices A K Sikri and N V Ramana had recused themselves from hearing the matter.

In its petition in the apex court, the NGO had sought specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

The plea had alleged that the October 23 last year order of the government appointing Rao as interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the Centre “acted in a completely malafide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

On January 10, Rao, additional director in CBI, was made interim chief till the appointment of a new director, after the removal of Verma.

On February 4, Rishi Kumar Shukla, a 1983-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, took charge of the probe agency as a full-fledged director.

Supreme Court expresses displeasure at non-appointment of regular CBI director

The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre why it has not appointed a regular CBI director and said it was “averse” to the appointment of an interim chief for the agency for a long period.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha said the post of CBI director was sensitive and the government should have appointed a regular director by now.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the court that a high-powered committee, headed by the prime minister, will hold a meeting on Friday to select a new CBI director.

He also told the court that the Centre had taken the approval of the high-powered committee before appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director.

Taking account of the attorney general’s submissions that the committee will hold a meeting on Friday, the apex court posted the matter for hearing on February 6.

The bench was hearing a petition of NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI Director.

During the hearing the bench said the process of appointing a CBI director should have been over by now as it was known that the earlier CBI chief was going to retire in January.

The court also told the attorney general that the new CBI director who would be appointed must “trace the movements of files” during the period when former CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma was reinstated to the post for two days.

The attorney general placed before the bench in a sealed cover the minutes of the meeting of the high-powered committee held earlier.

The last meeting of the committee took place on January 24 but it remained “inconclusive”.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO, told the bench that the apex court must also look into the aspect of transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

“You want an immediate appointment. Let us stop there. Let the appointment be made first.If you have any grievance that the process is not followed and transparency was not there then you can challenge it later,” the bench told Bhushan.

The top court on Thursday had set up a fresh bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to hear a petition challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint Rao as interim CBI director after Justice N V Ramana had recused himself from hearing it citing social reasons.

Justice Ramana had expressed his disinclination to hear the matter saying he belongs to Andhra Pradesh, from where Rao hails, and had attended the wedding of the IPS officer’s daughter who is married to an advocate known to him.

He became the third judge of the apex court to recuse himself from hearing the matter after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge in the top court Justice A K Sikri. Both had recused themselves earlier from adjudicating the case.

In its petition in the apex court, the NGO has sought specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

It has alleged that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

The plea has alleged that the October 23 last year order of the government appointing Rao as interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the Centre “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

It has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith.

The plea has also sought immediate direction to the government to ensure that “all records” of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the CBI director be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act.

Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Sanjiv Khanna sworn-in as SC judges

Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna were sworn-in as Supreme Court judges on Friday.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi administered the oath of office to justices Maheshwari and Khanna during the swearing-in ceremony held in court number 1 of the apex court.

The sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court is 31. With the swearing-in of justices Maheshwari and Khanna, the strength has now gone up to 28.

While Justice Maheshwari was the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Khanna was a judge in the Delhi High Court.

The government had on Wednesday notified the appointment of justices Maheshwari and Khanna as judges of the apex court.

The five-member Supreme Court Collegium, comprising CJI Gogoi and justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Arun Mishra, had on January 10 recommended the names of justices Maheshwari and Khanna for elevation as apex court judges.

The names of the chief justices of the Rajasthan and Delhi high courts, justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon respectively, were considered by the collegium on December 12, 2018 for elevation, but the deliberation remained inconclusive and one of the members of the collegium, Justice M B Lokur, retired on December 30, 2018.

His place in the collegium was taken by Justice Arun Mishra.

The new collegium had, on January 10, ignored the prospect of elevation of justices Nandrajog and Menon as apex court judges.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) had, on Wednesday, protested the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Khanna by superseding several other judges and termed the decision as “whimsical and arbitrary”.

Before the BCI made a statement protesting the collegium’s decision, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Supreme Court also wrote a note to the CJI and other members of the collegium for ignoring the seniority of justices Nandrajog and Menon.

Sources said Justice Kaul was of the view that a wrong signal would go out if the two chief justices, who were above Justice Khanna in the seniority list, were not elevated as apex court judges.

SC asks for attachment of bank accounts, movable properties of Amrapali Group firms

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed displeasure on Amrapali Group of companies for playing “fraud” and “dirty games” with the court and ordered attachment of all bank accounts and movable properties of 40 firms of the real estate major.

The apex court also directed Amrapali Group of companies, which are yet to hand over possession of flats to around 42,000 hassled home buyers, to place before it details of all its bank accounts from 2008 till today and ordered freezing of bank accounts of all the directors of its 40 firms besides attaching their personal properties.

While taking note of alleged diversion of Rs 2,765 crore funds collected from the investors by the group, a bench of justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit said it prima facie amounted to criminal breach of trust and it would deal with the issue after hearing the parties.
The court said that the group companies shall not be entitled to deal with either the bank accounts or the movable properties in any manner whatsoever without its permission.
The bench also took umbrage as to how the National Buildings Construction Corporation (India) Ltd has issued advertisement inviting co-developers for doing the work related to Amrapali group without taking approval of the apex court.
The apex court summoned the chairman of NBCC (India) Ltd and the secretary of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for tomorrow to explain their stand on the issue observing that the “unfair” move by the corporation was apparently to “scuttle” the court’s order.

It directed Amrapali Group to place before it the names of chartered accountants (CAs), both external and internal, who were handling the accounts of these 40 firms.

SC dismisses plea challenging appointment of CVC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today dismissed a plea challenging the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chaudhary and Vigilance Commissioner (VC) T M Bhasin.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said there were no grounds to quash the appointments of Chaudhary and Bhasin.

The court was hearing a plea challenging the appointment of incumbent CVC Chaudhary and VC Bhasin.

The plea alleged that they did not have a “clean record” and a non-transparent procedure was followed while appointing them.

SC to medical college: Pay Rs 20L penalty to each of 19 students for denying admission

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed a Maharashtra-based medical college to pay Rs 20 lakh as penalty to each of the 19 meritorious students who were “illegally” and “wrongly” denied admission by it six years ago.
The apex court asked the college to deposit the money in three months with the Pravesh Niyantran Samiti (PNS), a body constituted by the state government to oversee and regulate admissions in medical colleges.
The 19 students were “illegally” and “wrongly” denied admissions to MBBS and BDS courses in the 2012-13 academic year.

A bench of justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit spared the Dr. Ulhas Patil Medical College and Hospital, Jalgaon, in Maharashtra from de-recognition and set aside the direction of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court as the institution agreed to pay the penalty to the students.

“As the college has shown the gesture of making payment of penalty to the 19 students, who were deprived of admission, considering the fact that several years have passed and a large number of students have passed out and are undertaking instructions in the college, it would not be appropriate in the facts of the case that once monetary penalty has been imposed to withdraw the recognition… And to dis-affiliate the appellant college,” the bench said.

Supreme Court seeks details from real estate major Amrapali Group on money collected and invested.

In a bid to ascertain whether there was any “siphoning” of funds, the Supreme Court today asked real estate major Amrapali Group to provide details of the money it had collected from the homebuyers and how much it had invested in its housing projects.

The Supreme Court also asked the group to apprise it on whether there was any outstanding amount which was to be paid by the homebuyers to it and how much more fund was required to complete the projects.

A bench comprising, observed that these details were needed so that it could pass an effective order in the matter.

“We want to know if there is siphoning of money and we also want to know if there is liability of the buyers,” the bench said.

Amrapali Group had earlier given the details of its ongoing housing projects, stages of work and the likely time to complete construction.

During the hearing today, one of the advocates appearing for the homebuyers referred to the status of some of the projects of the group in Noida and Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

He said in the Amrapali Sapphire project, out of a total of 1,030 units, possession was given for 950 flats and 80 units were yet to be handed over.

Similarly, in the Amrapali Zodiac project, out of total of 2,217 flats, possession was given for 1,650 flats, while that for 567 units was yet to be given.

He said that in the Amrapali Eden Park project, there was a total of 316 units and possession was given for all the flats, while in Amrapali Silicon City I project, out of 2,464 units, possession for 375 flats remained to be given.

However, the lawyer said there were certain deficiencies in these projects with regard to fire-fighting, lifts, water supply, sewage, power backup, parking, CCTVs and others.

At this, the bench observed, “few facts are still missing. How much money remains to be paid project-wise? Please give a chart. How much money has been invested in projects, how much was collected, how much money is required.”

“Let the builder also submit it. Only then we can pass effective order,” the bench said.

The counsel for the homebuyers told the court that there was a delay of years in handing over the possession of flats to the buyers due to which they have suffered a lot.

“We understand your rights,” the bench said.

The counsel appearing for the group told the court that they had earlier too given details of the expenses incurred by them in these projects. He said there were some unsold units also.

When the bench asked the group about its roadmap to complete the projects, the counsel said, “the court had asked us to complete tower by tower and project by project. We cannot do it in one go unless cash flow is there”.

However, the counsel for the buyers said there were three categories of projects — one where people were residing and possession of several units have been handed over, the other was where builder was saying that construction work would be completed within a year and third category was where construction was at a nascent stage.

At the fag end of the hearing, the bench asked the group if the unsold units in projects, where possession could be handed over, be given to the buyers who have put their money in those projects which has not taken off the ground.

The counsel representing the group said they were willing to do this but there were objections from the buyers about change of location, size of the flats and others.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on April 17.

The company, which is facing insolvency proceedings initiated by the creditor bank for not repaying the loans, had earlier told the top court in an affidavit that it was not in a position to complete the projects and hand over possession of flats to over 42,000 home-buyers in a time-bound manner.

It had also said the properties were needed to be developed with the help of co-developers.

Our concern limited to protection of Mahakaleshwar’s ‘lingam’: Supreme Court

It is not for a court to decide how worship is to be performed in a temple, the Supreme Court said today stressing that its concern was only about the protection of the ‘lingam’ at the ancient Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit observed that it would not go into the issue of what religious rituals should be followed and how worship should be performed there. It was for the temple management and the concerned stakeholders to discuss and decide.

“We are only concerned about the ‘lingam’,” the bench observed and reserved it order on the issue of protection of the deteriorating condition of the ‘Jyotirlingam’, a phallus symbolising Shiva.

The apex court has been dealing with the issue of protecting the ‘lingam’. It had earlier taken strong exception over some display boards set up at the temple which had attributed new worshipping norms as directions of the top court.

It had said the court had never given any direction to implement the new norms of worship, which were actually submitted by Mahakaleshwar Mandir Management Committee in consultation with an expert committee set up by the court.

It had directed the temple management committee to immediately remove these display boards and even asked the media to report the issue with caution.

As per the new norms, the devotees was permitted a fixed amount of water measuring 500 ml in an appropriate small pot per person for ‘Jalabhishek’ (worshipping by offering water).

The water for ‘Jalabhishek’ should be taken from the Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine installed during the religious congregation of Simhastha in 2016, for which a connection was to be provided near the sanctum sanctorum.

On August 25 last year, the apex court had constituted an expert committee to survey and analyse the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlingam and prepare a report stating the rate at which the deterioration in its size was taking place and the measures to prevent it.

The committee was also directed to study other structures and the temple and submit recommendations on steps for overall improvement of entire premises and its preservation.

Supreme Court questions maintainability of Subramanian Swamy’s plea in Sunanda case

The Supreme Court today asked BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to satisfy it on the aspect of maintainability of his plea seeking an SIT probe into the death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar in 2014.

Pushkar was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a suite of a five-star hotel in Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014.

Swamy has moved the apex court after the Delhi High Court had in October last year dismissed his plea seeking a probe by a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) into Pushkar’s death.

During the hearing today, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy told Swamy that he has to first satisfy the court on whether his plea was maintainable.

“Before going into merits, we need to be satisfied on maintainability,” the bench told Swamy who said that it is a matter of public interest.

He claimed that it took nearly one year for the Delhi Police to lodge FIR in the case and the post-mortem report said that Pushkar had died an unnatural death.

The bench, however, asked him to argue on the issue of maintainability and and posted the matter for hearing after three weeks.

The Delhi High Court had on October 26, last year, rejected Swamy’s plea for a court-monitored SIT probe into Pushkar’s death and termed his PIL as a “textbook example of a political interest litigation”.

Swamy, in his plea before the high court, had alleged that the police had “botched up” the probe and accused Tharoor of “interfering” in the investigation now and even earlier when he was a minister in the UPA regime.

When the high court questioned the source based on which he had made the allegations, the BJP leader and his lawyer, who is a co-petitioner, had said that they would file affidavits to reply to the court’s query.

However, the bench had rejected their offer, saying it appeared that they had concealed information pertinent to the case, which they ought to have disclosed when they had filed the petition.

The high court had also said that Swamy ought to have mentioned his political affiliation as well as that of Tharoor in his petition as these facts were important to the adjudication of the case.