SC to check whether there should be total ban on firecrackers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said it would examine whether there should be a total ban on use of firecrackers as it noted that air pollution reached hazardous proportions during Diwali.

It said around 20-25 per cent of children in the city suffer from respiratory problems due to abnormally high levels of pollution during the festival.

“Are we supposed to take a holistic approach and ban everything that contributes to pollution or take an ad-hoc approach and simply ban firecrackers?” a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked.

The court also noted that air pollution posed a major threat to infants and the toxicity of the air increased exponentially after burning of crackers.
Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for a firecracker manufacturer, argued that according to studies, the effect of ban on crackers on air pollution has been meagre and that there should be a scientific study on the issue.

The matter was listed for hearing on August 8.
The top court had last year banned the sale of firecrackers for a limited period while hearing a plea filed by three minors through their guardian.
The court had refused to relax its October 9 order banning the sale of firecrackers while dismissing a plea by traders who had sought its permission to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali on October 19, 2017.
It had said that its ban order during Diwali that year was an experiment to examine its effect on the pollution level in the region.

1000 standard-floor cluster buses will be fitted with hydraulic lifts, says Delhi govt to SC

New Delhi: The Delhi government today told the Supreme Court that it will install hydraulic lifts in 1,000 standard-floor buses to be procured under the cluster scheme on its own cost to make them accessible for differently-abled persons, especially those on wheel chair.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has challenged an order of the Delhi High Court by which it had barred them from procuring 2,000 standard-floor buses.
The top court, had yesterday asked the government to explain by today, whether it intends to make these cluster buses friendly to differently-abled persons by fitting them with hydraulic lifts.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was told that a meeting was held by Delhi’s Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot on the issue of wheelchair friendly/accessible buses on June 19, after the High Court had on June 1 restrained it from going ahead with the tendering process for purchasing buses.

“Pursuant to the said meeting, the government of NCT of Delhi is agreeable to have these mechanical lifts fitted on all the buses proposed to be acquired under the Cluster scheme by the L1 bidders,” the Delhi government said through an affidavit.
It further said, “The mechanical lifts will be installed by the Vehicle Manufacturers as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). The fitment of hydraulic lifts is also envisaged under the harmonised guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.”
The government said in the meeting it was decided that the cost of this additional fitment (hydraulic lifts), which was not mentioned in the original tender specification, has been agreed to be borne by the government of Delhi in principle.

Justifying the move, the AAP government said this decision has been taken by it considering the dire need to augment the existing bus fleet, particularly on the rural routes identified for the purpose and the urgency of doing so in larger public interest and also specifically the need for disabled friendly public transport.

“The decision will address the issue of accessible public buses to passengers with locomotor disability,” it said, adding that the decision was also taken to avoid any further delay in the acquisition of buses for public transport as a fresh tender may delay the entire process by more than a year.

The bench took the affidavit on record and posted the matter for further hearing next week.
The apex court had yesterday asked probing questions to the AAP government and the DTC over their intention to purchase 2,000 standard-floor cluster buses, which are not friendly to differently-abled persons.
The government had later during the hearing had informed the court that a tender floated on March 16 by the DTC for procurement of 1,000 standard-floor buses is most likely to be scrapped as only one bidder has come forward.

It had said that fitting of hydraulic lifts to make the buses friendly for differently-abled persons, would entail a total cost of around Rs 80-90 crores.
The government counsel had said that after talking to Gahlot, he was informed that a decision has been taken to procure additional 500 low-floor buses, which will be friendly to differently abled persons.
He had said that this decision of procuring additional 500 buses will be soon placed before the cabinet, as the government intends to increase the fleet of public transport buses.

The high court had on June 1, pulled up the AAP government for “not taking a single step for ensuring accessible transport” for disabled persons in the national capital and restrained it from procuring standard-floor buses as it impedes their mobility.
It had said that the government is bent upon “treating the disabled as non-existent, or, in any case not having any rights”.

SC slams govt over non-compliance of verdict on making public institutions disabled-friendly

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today slammed the Centre over non-compliance of its last year verdict of making public institutions disabled-friendly and said the government had to follow the law and order.
The top court also expressed annoyance over the states not complying with its order and warned that respective chief secretaries will be called to explain the delay.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit within four weeks giving details of the steps taken so far and the timeline for completing the work as given in its December 15, 2017 verdict.
“We have not said anything new in our verdict of December 15, 2017. It was your (Centre) law and we just asked you to comply with it. We are not running the government. It’s you who has to follow the law and the order,” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said she will file an affidavit in this regard in four weeks, adding that a lot of work has been done in pursuance to the court’s direction.
The bench, however, said that the Centre should file a detailed affidavit.
The apex court, in a fresh petition seeking to make judiciary disabled-friendly, especially for visually impaired people, issued notices to the registrar generals of all high courts and the secretary general of the Supreme Court.
The top court had on December 15, 2017 passed 11 directions which include making public institutions, transport and educational institutions disabled-friendly.
It said it was imperative to provide proper and safe access to roads, transport, buildings and public places to differently-abled people so that they could enjoy a meaningful life and contribute to the progress of the nation.
The top court said the right to dignity, which is ensured in the constitutional set up for every citizen, applies with much more vigour in cases of persons suffering from disability and it was duty of the State and public authorities to lay down proper norms in this regard.

The top court passed a slew of directions, including that all government buildings providing any services to the public be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June 2019 as per provision of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

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.

SC dismisses CBI probe into WB BJP workers death

New Delhi:The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the recent killing of two BJP workers in Purulia district of West Bengal after panchayat polls.

A vacation bench of Justices A K Goel and Ashok Bhushan asked the petitioners to approach the Calcutta High Court for the relief.

Advocate Gaurav Bhatia, appearing for petitioners, said that it is a serious matter as the killing of BJP workers have taken place after the panchayat polls in Purulia district.

On May 30, 18-year-old Tirlochan Mahato, a BJP worker from Balrampur village of Purulia district was found hanging from a tree with a poster written in Bengali struck on his back, saying he was killed for canvassing for the BJP during panchayat election.

Another death of one Dulal Kumar, also a BJP worker, had taken place on June 2 in a similar manner in the same district.

The petition was filed by the father of Kumar, who sought a CBI probe into the killings.

SC seeks reply from UP govt in Convict’s appeal against death penalty

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has sought the Uttar Pradesh government’s response on a plea by a death-row convict challenging the Allahabad High Court’s judgement upholding the capital punishment awarded to him for burning alive his son and two brothers.

A vacation bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Ashok Bhushan issued notice to the state on the appeal and called for the original records of the case.

The counsel representing convict Irfan requested the apex court to stay the execution of sentence.

“When the appeal is pending before us, nobody is going to be executed,” the bench observed.

“Intimation of this matter be sent to the concerned jail authority,” the bench noted in its order.

Irfan challenged the April 25 verdict of the high court which had upheld the death penalty awarded to him by a trial court in Bijnor district.

Fifty-year-old Irfan was convicted by the trial court for offences under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including murder.

According to the police, Irfan had set the room, in which his son and two brothers were sleeping, on fire by pouring inflammable substance and bolted the door from outside on the intervening night of August 5-6, 2014.

It had said that injured persons — Irshad, Naushad and Islamuddin — were rushed to a hospital in Delhi where they died during the treatment.

The police had also said Islamuddin opposed his father’s second marriage leaving Irfan annoyed.

Irfan had assaulted his son two days prior to the incident and Irshad and Naushad had mediated between them, the police said.

Following the incident, a complaint was lodged by Irfan’s father-in-law.

During the trial, Irfan alleged that he was falsely implicated in the case by some of his relatives so as to deny a share in their ancestral property.

Government not debarred from reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees: Supreme Court

In a major relief to the Centre, the Supreme Court today allowed it to go ahead with reservation in promotion for employees belonging to the SC and ST category in “accordance with law”.

The top court took into account the Centre’s submissions that entire process of promotion has come to a “standstill” due to the orders passed by various high courts and the apex court had also ordered for “status quo” in a similar matter in 2015.

A vacation bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Ashok Bhushan said that the Centre was not “debarred” from making promotions in accordance with law in the matter.

“It is made clear that the Union of India is not debarred from making promotions in accordance with law, subject to further orders, pending further consideration of the matter,” the bench said.

The government said there were separate verdicts by the high courts of Delhi, Bombay and Punjab and Haryana on the issue of reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees and the apex court had also passed different orders on appeals filed against those judgement.

“We will say you (Centre) can go ahead with promotion in accordance with law,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, representing the Centre.

During the hearing, the ASG cited the case laws on the issue of quota in promotion in government jobs and stated that the apex court’s 2006 judgement in M Nagaraj case would be applicable.

The M Nagaraj verdict had said that creamy layer concept cannot be applied to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for promotions in government jobs like two earlier verdicts of 1992 Indra Sawhney and others versus Union of India (popularly called Mandal Commission verdict) and 2005 E V Chinnaiah versus State of Andhra Pradesh, which dealt with creamy layer in Other Backward Classes category.

Singh said the petition before the bench was the Centre’s challenge to the Delhi High Court’s August 23 last year verdict quashing government’s order extending reservation in promotion to employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes beyond five years from November 16, 1992.

At the outset, the ASG referred to orders passed by the apex court earlier, including a reference made to a five-judge constitution bench, and contended that one of the orders says there would be “status quo” as far as reservation in promotion to SC/SC employees was concerned.

He referred to a May 17 order passed by a bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph in a similar matter in which it was said that pendency of petition before it shall not stand in the way of the Centre taking steps for the purpose of promotion.

“How the promotion is taking place as of now,” the bench asked.

Responding to the query, the ASG said, “They are not. It is all standstill. This is the problem.”

“I am the government and I want to give promotion as per constitutional mandate,” he told the bench and urged that he was seeking a similar order as passed on May 17.

He said that another bench of the apex court had earlier said that a five-judge constitution bench would examine the issue as to whether the M Nagaraj judgement, which dealt with the issue of application of the ‘creamy layer’ for reservation to SC and ST categories in promotion in government jobs, was required to be re-looked at or not.

He also referred to Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution, which enables state to provide for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST which in its opinion were not adequately represented in the services.

“That is the enabling provision,” the bench observed.

It said that according to Article 16 (4A), state would have to make out a case for providing reservation in promotion to SC/ST based on quantifiable data.

The provision also says that the data should be based on factors like backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall efficiency.

The bench has tagged the Centre’s appeal with pending matters.

Earlier on November 15 last year, a three-judge bench of the apex court had agreed to consider whether its 11-year-old judgement in M Nagaraj case was needed to be re-visited.

The top court had referred the matter to a constitution bench while it was hearing a batch of petition which arose from a Bombay High Court verdict quashing two state government notifications terming them as ultra vires to Article 16(4A) of the Constitution.

The Delhi High Court, in its August 23, 2017 verdict, had set aside an August 1997 office memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on the issue of reservation in promotion to the employees belonging to SC/ST.

The high court had also restrained the Centre from granting reservation in promotion without first collecting the data on inadequate representation.

The nine-judge bench of Supreme Court had, in the Indira Sawhney case in 1992, permitted reservation for the SCs and STs in promotion to continue for a period of five years from November 16, 1992.

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.

Supreme Court rejects GJM leader Bimal Gurung’s plea seeking protection from arrest

The Supreme Court today dismissed former GJM leader Bimal Gurung’s plea seeking protection from arrest in several cases lodged against him in West Bengal and for an independent probe into the alleged killings of Gorkhaland supporters in the state.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan rejected the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s plea saying it was not a fit case for relief.

“It cannot be said to be a case of individual persecution by the state,” the bench said while pronouncing the order.

The apex court had on November 20 restrained the West Bengal police from taking any coercive steps against Gurung.

The GJM leader had claimed in the top court that he was being politically persecuted by the West Bengal government.

However, the Mamata Banerjee government had submitted a list of 53 FIRs lodged against Gurung and said he was facing trial in another 24 cases as well.

The GJM central committee had recently suspended Gurung for six months and appointed Binay Tamang as the party’s new president.

The police had earlier claimed that Gurung and some of his aides were absconding after being booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the violence in Darjeeling hills during the recent agitation for a separate Gorkhaland.

Gurung has approached the apex court seeking an independent probe into the alleged killings of Gorkhaland supporters during the protests.

Ayodhya: Supreme Court asks parties to file English translation of documents

 The Supreme Court today asked parties before the Allahabad High Court in the Babri Masjid- Ram Janmabhoomi dispute to file in two weeks English translation of documents exhibited by them.

A special bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that it would hear the appeals on March 14 and clarified that it never intended to hear the case on a “day-to-day basis”.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said it will deal with the instant matter as a “pure land dispute” and indicated that impleadment applications of those which were not before the High Court would be dealt with later.

The top court said the excerpts of vernacular books, which have been relied upon in the case, be translated in English and be filed within two weeks from today.

The apex court also directed its Registry to provide copies of video cassettes, which were part of high court records, to parties on actual cost.

The special bench of the apex court is seized of a total 14 appeals filed against the high court judgement delivered in four civil suits.

A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had in 2010 ordered that the land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.