Article 370: Supreme Court reserves verdict on pleas challenging curbs in J-K

The Supreme Court reserved on Wednesday its verdict on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restriction imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench of Justice N V Ramana, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice B R Gavai reserved the verdict.

Appearing for Azad, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said they understand that there are national security issues in Jammu and Kashmir, but the entire seven million population cannot be “locked down”.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin, termed the curbs “unconstitutional” and said the restrictions have to pass the test of proportionality.

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration justified imposition of curbs on Internet services in the erstwhile state after abrogation of the special status given under Article 370, saying separatists, terrorists and Pakistan’s Army made attempts on social media to instigate people for ‘jihad’.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, had said that it was not only fighting enemies within but also with those from across the border.

Mehta referred to public speeches and social media posts of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of National Conference party against the removal of Article 35A, which gave special rights to permanent residents of the state, and Article 370 provisions that granted special status to the state.

Referring to social media app Twitter, Mehta said that “there were thousands of messages on official twitter handles of Pakistan Army, Afghan Taliban and other terror groups meant to instigate the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There was propaganda by Pakistan Army. We would have failed in our duty, if we had not taken precautionary steps”.

He had said that “the only solution is that either you have Internet or you don’t” as it was very difficult to segregate, especially in such a huge area. There were prohibitory orders so that there are no congregations which would have created law-and-order situation, he had said.

On November 21, the Centre justified restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and said that due to the preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet fired.

The Centre had referred to terror violence in the Kashmir Valley and said that for the past so many years terrorists were being pushed through from across the border, local militants and separatist organisation had held the civilians captive in the region and it would have been “foolish” if the government would not have taken preventive steps to secure the lives of citizens.

Collegium Recommends Justice B R Gavai And Justice Surya Kant For Elevation To Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of India’s Collegium has recommended the names of Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Justice Surya Kant for elevation to the nation’s highest court. “While recommending the names of Mr. Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Mr. Justice Surya Kant, the Collegium has taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, apart from their competence, conduct and integrity,” the collegium’s resolution, which was uploaded to the apex court’s website, said. Justice Gavai, currently ranked eighth in the all-India seniority list of high court judges, was appointed as judge of the Bombay High Court in 2003 and has been on its bench since then. He is ranked fourth in the seniority list at the Bombay High Court.

“His recommendation, in no way, is to be misconstrued to mean that three senior-most Judges from Bombay High Court (two of whom are serving as Chief Justices) are less suitable than Mr. Justice Gavai,” the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium said. “On his appointment, the Supreme Court Bench will have a Judge belonging to Scheduled Caste category after about a decade.”

Justice Surya Kant is ranked eleventh on all-India seniority list of high court judges and was appointed as judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court on Jan. 9, 2004 and was later elevated as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court. The collegium also reiterated the names of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice AS Bopanna for elevation to the Supreme Court. By doing so, it has rejected the objections of the central government. “The Collegium is of the view that, though inter-se seniority amongst Judges in their High Courts and their combined seniority on all-India basis should be given due weightage, merit should be the predominant consideration,” according to the notice. “The Collegium accordingly kept in mind these parameters while recommending the above two names.

The names of the two judges were sent back by the central government for reconsideration when the collegium had recommended their elevation on April 12, 2019.

Mumbai University’s highest authority too can’t relax 50% attendance rule: HC

The Bombay High Court has held that the Mumbai University’s ordinance mandating a minimum 50 per cent attendance was in the interest of students and thus, even the highest authority in the university had no power to allow any undue relaxation in the rule.

In the order passed on Thursday, a bench of justices B R Gavai and B P Colabawalla also held that the discretionary powers over students’ attendance was vested only with the colleges’ respective attendance committees and their principals and that the university can’t claim to be the “supreme appellate authority” in such cases.

The bench was hearing a petition filed against the Mumbai University’s grievance cell by a college in Kandivli.

The petitioner, B K Shroff College, had alleged that the university’s cell did not take strict action against the attendance defaulters and that it often allowed such students, who did not have the minimum requisite attendance, to appear for exams.

The petitioner alleged that in March 2017, about 100 commerce students were barred from appearing for their second semester exams since they had less than 50 per cent attendance.

Thirty-eight of these students had approached the university’s grievance cell (commerce) and it asked the college to allow the defaulters to take the exams despite the fact that they had less than 50 per cent attendance.

The university’s ordinance on students’ attendance mandates that each student maintains 75 per cent attendance.

However, the college principals have the power to condone deficiency in attendance up to 25 per cent, if the deficiency is on account of bonafide exigencies, and was approved by the college attendance committee.

The university’s counsel, advocate Rui Rodrigues, however, told the high court that the university’s grievance cell intervened and granted relief to the students only if it was convinced that the relief was a well-deserved one.

“The ordinance is made by the university itself so the university is the ultimate appellate authority and can have the power to use its discretion on a case-to-case basis,” Rodrigues said.

He also cited a previous judgement of another bench of the high court that had granted relief in a similar case after holding that the university was the supreme appellate authority when it came to academic disputes.

The bench, however, rejected the above argument.

“A strict view on attendance must be maintained in the larger interest of not only the student, but also of the institution or university. The ordinance is meant to protect the interest of the state and it can’t be implemented haphazardly. Even the highest authority in the university has no power to allow any undue relaxation in the rule.

“We can’t accept the argument that the university is the supreme appellate body. Any relaxation in case of bonafide exigencies can be granted only by the college committee and the principal and even then a student must have minimum attendance of 50 per cent,” the bench said.

“A student can’t do well unless he or she attends classes and follows the rules of his or her institute. The university must remember that it is the protector or custodian of the academic interest of the students,” the bench said.

On a previous hearing, the HC had directed the college to declare its results and permit the students to continue in the third semester after they gave an undertaking stating they would maintain 75 per cent attendance in future.

Culpable homicide case: Kamala Mills director moves Bombay High Court

 A director of Kamala Mills Ltd has approached the Bombay High Court seeking to quash the culpable homicide case registered against him in connection with the December 29 fire in the Kamala Mills compound that claimed 14 lives.

Ravi Bhandari’s petition was mentioned yesterday before a division bench of Justices B R Gavai and B P Colabawala and posted for hearing after two weeks.

The bench pointed out that pendency of the petition shall have no effect on the hearing of the bail plea filed by Bhandari before a sessions court.

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

In his petition before the high court, Bhandari claimed that a serious charge of culpable homicide was not applicable to him. At the most it was a case of negligence, which was bailable, he said.

Fourteen persons were killed and several others injured when a fire broke out at the Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above pub at Kamala Mills in central Mumbai on December 29.

HC refuses to stay or postpone 1st semester LLM exams

The Bombay High Court today refused to stay or postpone the first semester examinations for LLM students of the Mumbai University.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and B P Colabawalla, however, permitted those students who were not prepared for the exams that are scheduled to begin tomorrow, to write their first semester exams at a later stage.

The bench said the university must not treat the non- appearance of such students in these exams as failure. And, instead, they must be permitted to give their first semester exams simultaneously with their second semester exams.

The order came while the bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), and a writ petition filed by some LLM students from the university.

They had claimed in their plea that due to the delay in declaration of the results for the university’s undergraduate courses last academic year, the admissions to the LLM courses got delayed.

There are a total of 660 students currently enrolled in the first semester LLM course at the Mumbai University.

While about 600 of such students secured admissions between October and November last year, 41 of these students were admitted on December 26 last year. The admission process for the remaining 19 students was completed only on January 19 this year.

The pleas claimed that under such circumstances, it was unfair to expect these students to appear for the exams within a few days of their admission.

University’s counsel Rui Rodriguez, however, argued that the court must not stay or postpone the exams as many students, especially those who had secured admissions early, might be prepared and ready for the first semester exams.

The bench thus, said that in such a case, it would be prudent to give a choice to the students.

“Since there is no representation from the students who got admissions on time and thus, might be prepared for the exams that begin tomorrow, it will be unfair to pass a blanket order staying the exams,” the bench said.

“However, we must not prejudice the rights of those students who got admissions late,” the bench said.

“Thus, those students who do not wish to appear for the first semester exams beginning tomorrow, must be given the liberty to give these exams with their second semester exams.

Their absence in the exams beginning tomorrow must not be treated as failure by the university,” the bench noted.

Source : PTI