Uphaar tragedy: SC dismisses curative plea by victims; no further jail term for Ansal brothers.

uphaar tragedy
uphaar tragedy

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the curative petition filed by an association of the victims of the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case, sparing the Ansal brothers further jail term.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, and justices N V Ramana and Arun Mishra considered the curative plea by the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) in-chamber and dismissed it.

“We have gone through the curative petitions and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out…. Hence, the curative petition is dismissed,” the bench said in its order.

On February 9, 2017, the apex court had by a 2:1 majority verdict given relief to 78-year-old Sushil Ansal considering his “advanced age-related complications” by awarding him the jail term which he had already served.

It had, however, asked his younger sibling Gopal Ansal to serve the remaining one year jail term in the case.

The AVUT, through its president Neelam Krishnamoorthy, had sought reconsideration of the verdict by filing the curative plea.

The apex court had in August 2015 allowed the Ansals to walk free and asked them to pay a fine of Rs 30 crore each.

On June 13, 1997, halfway through the screening of Hindi film “Border”, a fire broke out in Uphaar Cinema, situated in Green Park area here. Fifty-nine people had died of asphyxia, while over 100 others were injured in the ensuing stampede.

Supreme Court refuses to accept Vodafone’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 cr by today.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to accept telecom firm Vodafone’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by today and Rs 1,000 crore by Friday against adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues and that no coercive action be taken against it.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra declined to accept the proposal given by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone, after he mentioned the matter.

Rohatgi said they are willing to pay Rs 2,500 crore today and another Rs 1,000 crore by Friday but no coercive action be taken against the company.

He said the bank guarantee deposited with the government by Vodafone should also not be encashed.

Live streaming of court proceedings: Matter to be dealt with by CJI on administrative side

The Supreme Court Tuesday said the issue related to implementation of its 2018 verdict allowing live streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional and national importance would be dealt with by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on the administrative side.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it would not pass any judicial order in the matter and it would be appropriate for the CJI to deal with the matter as the administrative head.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the apex court has already started the process of installing infrastructure for live-streaming of court proceedings.

“There cannot be any command to the administrative side of the Supreme Court. The CJI has to take a call on the administrative side on this issue,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Vineet Saran and M R Shah.

“Can we issue a command to the parliament to frame this or that law? Let the matter be examined on the administrative side by the CJI,” the bench said, adding that there can not be any judicial command on this and the Secretary General of the apex court would place the matter before the CJI.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Secretary General of the apex court, informed the bench that the process of implementing the 2018 verdict has already started.

The bench was hearing an application filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising who has sought implementation of the 2018 verdict.

The top court had on September 26, 2018 delivered a verdict allowing the live-streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional and national importance, saying this openness would be like “sunlight” which is the “best disinfectant”.

It said that as a pilot project, only a specified category of cases, which are of constitutional or national importance and are being argued before a constitution bench, should be allowed for live-streaming.

During the arguments on Tuesday, Jaising told the bench that broad guidelines for implementing the directives were set out in the verdict itself.

“Should it be by a judicial order or should we not leave it to the discretion of the Chief Justice of India? Let the CJI take a call on this on the administrative side,” the bench said.

Jaising told the bench that she had written to the Secretary General of the apex court to know about the progress made in pursuance to the directives given in the verdict.

Referring to the verdict, she contended that the top court had said that live streaming of court proceedings is part of the right to access of justice.

“Where is the room for us to direct any further on this now?,” the bench said, adding, “For this, we will have to experiment (pilot project) first”.

When the bench said that it would not give any judicial command on the issue, the Attorney General said, “Then the full court should decide this. You can ask the full court to take it up”.

To this, the bench said, “Can we direct this? The CJI can take a call on this. He (CJI) is the administrative head”.

“It will be better if CJI will take a call on this. It is not appropriate for us to issue command on judicial side,” the bench said.

The apex court had said in the 2018 verdict that sensitive cases such as those of matrimonial disputes or sexual assaults should not be live-streamed.

It said that for live-streaming of proceedings, the permission of concerned court will have to be sought in writing, in advance, in conformity with the prescribed procedure.

It further said, “The concerned court would retain its power to revoke the permission at any stage of the proceedings suo motu (on its own) or on an application filed by any party to the proceeding, if the situation so warrants.”

It also said that till a full-fledged module and mechanism for live-streaming of the court proceedings of the apex court over the internet is evolved, the first phase of live streaming would start from designated areas in the top court.

SC partially lifts ban on construction activities in Delhi-NCR, allows it from 6 am to 6 pm

The Supreme Court Monday allowed construction activity in the Delhi-NCR region between 6 am and 6 pm, partially lifting its complete ban on it.

The apex court perused the report filed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which said that construction activities should not be allowed between 6 pm to 6 am.

A bench, comprising justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, was informed by Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni that the Centre has constituted a high-level committee following the apex court’s direction to examine the feasibility of using technology like smog towers to combat air pollution.

The bench also directed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to furnish before it the updated report on stubble burning up to December 11.

The top court said it would hear the pollution related matters on December 16.

The court had on November 25 directed the Centre to constitute a high-level committee within three days to consider and work out modalities regarding other technologies to help combat pollution, and said that a report be filed before it within three weeks on this issue.

It had asked the Delhi government to apprise it of the steps taken with regard to anti-smog gun which sprays atomized water 50 metres in the air to bring down pollutants and had said CPCB should be associated on the issue of anti-smog guns.

The court had asked all the states to explain within six weeks as to why they should not be made liable to pay compensation to persons affected by bad air quality saying it is their bounden duty to provide basic civic amenities, clean air and drinking water to citizens.

It had also issued notices to all states seeking various details, including on air quality index (AQI), managing air quality and disposing of garbage.

The court had asked the Centre and the Delhi government to sit together and take decision within 10 days with regard to installation of smog towers in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) which would help in combating air pollution.

It had said that “right to life of human is being endangered” by the bad air quality and water pollution and the states have to deal with the situation as “life span is being shortened” due to this.

The apex court also took exception that states and Centre were indulging in “blame game” over crucial issue of air and water pollution and asked them to work in tandem for welfare of the people.

It said despite various orders being passed by the top court from time to time in the pollution matter, the situation has worsened over the years and authorities have to be blamed as they have not performed their duties.

It had termed as “alarming” the situation of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and said despite its order prohibiting it, burning of crop residues in these states have increased.

The bench pulled up the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for their failure to prevent instance of stubble burning despite the apex court’s order.

“Can you treat people like this and permit them to die due to pollution,” the court had asked and said life span of millions of citizens has shortened and people are “suffocating” due to pollution in Delhi-NCR.

The top court had highlighted the problem of “dreaded diseases” like cancer which a large section of people are suffering from due to bad air and water quality.

Only policy making to deal with pollution is not required, the real issue needed was implementation at the ground level, it had said.

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.