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.

SC: The contentious Lodha committee reform stands vindicated

New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s observations, dismissing the need for a cooling off period for BCCI office-bearers, came as a ray of hope today for the embattled body, which said its position against the contentious Lodha committee reform stands vindicated.

“The Honourable judges heard our plea and made observations which has filled us with positivity. I feel now our (him and treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhry’s) position is vindicated,” BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary said.
His comments came in the wake of the Supreme Court’s observation that cooling off period does not seem necessary if the office-bearer is contesting for a different position.

“What is the need of cooling off period when a person is not contesting for the same post?” asked CJI Dipak Misra.

“The Lodha panel suggestion was that there should be a cooling off period between two consecutive terms for an office-bearer. After a tenure in a particular post of BCCI, the office-bearer may contest for some another post. There is no need for a cooling off period in between,” observed Justice D Y Chandrachud.

It was acting secretary Amitabh and treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhry, who had worked alongside member units, to raise the objectionable clauses in Lodha Reforms, taking inputs from them.

“We have to wait for the final order but I think there is a ray of hope for us that things will be in order. The Honourable court heard all our arguments on the objectionable clauses and we are grateful for that,” Chaudhary said.

Asked whether the clause on cooling off period and the age-cap of 70 years would be done away with, Chaudhary, who has of late been at loggerheads with the Committee of Administrators, sarcastically said: “Why don’t you ask the COA as to what they think about today’s observations?”

In the draft constitution submitted to the court, the eligibility for becoming a national selector has been set at 20 first-class matches.
If accepted, it would mean Jatin Paranjpe and Gagan Khoda, who were removed from the senior selection panel, might come back. They had been removed for not being Test cricketers
Jatin and Gagan have been paid their salary without any work as selectors can only be removed at the AGM.
In case the whole panel is removed at the AGM, they won’t make a comeback.

Supreme Court rejects PIL to frame rules to regulate composition of benches

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a PIL seeking the framing of rules to regulate the composition of benches, including constitution benches, and the allocation of work.

Junking the PIL by advocate Asok Pande, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that the CJI was the head of the institution and administrative authority is vested in him for the smooth functioning of the top court both on judicial and administrative matters.

Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Chandrachud said that as the head of the institution there cannot be a presumption of distrust in the Chief Justice.

Supreme Court refuses to order CBI probe into cases of fuel adulteration

The Supreme Court today refused to order a CBI probe into cases of fuel adulteration, saying that the law was already in place to enable the authorities to take action against such malpractices.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra noted that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has filed an affidavit stating the steps taken by public sector oil companies to conduct regular checks on the quality and quantity of petrol and diesel being supplied by retail outlets to the public at large.

“It has been stated that the Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices) Order, 2005 and the Kerosene (Restriction on Use and Fixation of Ceiling Price) Order, 1993 have made provisions to enable the States and Union Territories to take action against malpractices.

“Moreover, it has been stated that the Ministry intends to implement the direct transfer scheme in kerosene in identified districts of different states on a pilot basis. These are essentially matters of policy. The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is seized of the issue. Steps have been taken from time to time, as elaborated in the affidavit filed in this Court,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.

The apex court’s verdict came on a PIL filed by BSP leader Seema Upadhyay who had accused former Samajwadi Party MLA Devendra Agarwal of indulging in adulteration of diesel at petrol pumps owned or operated by him through ‘benami’ names.

On the allegation that Agarwal owns multiple outlets, the top court said that the issue has to be determined by the oil companies concerned and as none of the oil companies were impleaded in the proceedings, it would not be possible for it to make any “factual determination”.

“Whether an individual holds a dealership or outlet benami would turn on an appreciation of factual material which cannot be inquired into in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 32.

“Consequently all that we observe is that it would be open to the petitioner to bring such material as she has in her possession to the attention of the concerned oil companies for such action as is deemed necessary,” the bench said.

The top court also said it cannot be discarded that the PIL has been instituted for reasons other than a genuine effort to espouse an issue of public interest.

“A public interest litigation was filed before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in which, it has been submitted, the allegations were identical to those contained in the writ petition in the present case. The writ petition before the High Court was dismissed on April 6, 2011.

“From the averments contained in the counter affidavit, the defence that the petition has been instituted for reasons other than a genuine effort to espouse an issue of public interest cannot be discarded. Be that as it may, we are not inclined to keep the proceedings pending before this Court any further in view of what has been stated in the earlier part of this judgment. The petition shall, accordingly, stand disposed of,” the bench said.

Upadhyay, wife of BSP leader Ramveer Upadhyay, had claimed that there was a need for thorough probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into business activities of Agarwal.

The MLA’s counsel had refuted all allegations.

On how the “oil mafia” worked, the petition had alleged that subsidised kerosene, meant for persons residing in rural areas or below poverty line, has been long used for adulterating diesel and petrol, impacting those for whom the oil was meant, besides damaging vehicle engines.

It had alleged that subsidised kerosene was sold by oil refineries to wholesalers at Rs 14-15 per litre and further sold to the mafia and black marketeers at Rs 25 per litre.

Aadhaar law is just, fair & reasonable: Centre to SC

The Centre today justified the Aadhaar Act in the Supreme Court, saying it was a “fair and reasonable law” which complied with the tests prescribed by the historic verdict on the right to privacy.

A nine-judge constitution bench, on August 24 last year, had declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right and termed it as an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Centre today referred to the verdict and said the reasonable restrictions, which are applicable on right to life, would also govern the right to privacy.

It told a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is examining the validity of Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law, that the privacy verdict provided that State can seek certain information if there is a law, a legitimate state interest and the proportionality doctrine to weigh citizens’ privacy and the State’s interests.

“The lead (privacy) judgment of Justice D Y Chandrachud says that existence of law, legitimate state interest, and proportionality, are the tests to be applied to judge the privacy violation, if any,” Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench which also comprised Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

“The Aadhaar Act meets the standards and has adequate safeguards. The Aadhaar Act is a just, fair, and reasonable law. It is in pursuance of a larger public interest, including preventing dissipation of social welfare benefits, prevention of black money and money laundering…,” he said, adding that these were all “legitimate State interests”.

The Aadhaar scheme also satisfies the test of proportionality by showing a rational nexus between the means and the goal, he said, adding that all subsidies were part of right to life with dignity and would prevail over the right to privacy.

Venugopal said a law, which is constitutionally valid, does not become “invalid” on the ground of improper implementation and, moreover, the Aadhaar Act has kept the invasion to privacy, if any, to the minimum level.

Referring to separate concurring privacy verdicts penned by other judges, the Attorney General said they recognised that right to privacy was not “absolute” and legitimate state interests can override it.

At the outset, he read out the answers given by Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to the queries of the lawyers representing those opposed to Aadhaar. Pandey had made a presentation before the top court to allay apprehensions over the Aadhaar scheme.

Venugopal said UIDAI cannot provide authentication failure rates at the state level since it does not track the location of the authentication transactions. Referring to the data, he said the biometric failure rates stood at 6 per cent for fingerprints and 8.54 per cent for iris at the national level.

“It must be stated that authentication failures do not mean exclusion from or denial of subsidies, benefits or services since the Requesting Entities are obliged under the law to provide for exception handling mechanisms,” he said.

In response to a question as to how a leprosy patient or a person who does not have a mobile number, is being enrolled for Aadhaar, the top law officer said, “Aadhaar enrolment is done for all residents, even of residents with Leprosy. Biometric exception process is defined in the UIDAI resident enrolment process.

“In the case of a leprosy patient who may not be able to do fingerprint authentication, iris authentication can be used for update (and add the mobile number). This was the reason for multi-modal enrolment and authentication being selected for use in Aadhaar.”

As part of the exception handling mechanism, UIDAI

 

has already implemented a digitally signed QR code into eAadhaar which allows agencies to verify the Aadhaar card in an offline manner and trust the data, he said.

On the issue of Aadhaar for minors, he said school officials, if permitted to act as ‘introducer’ can enrol only when there is a parental consent to enrol.

Responding to a query whether a child can opt out of Aadhaar after attaining majority, he said “it is not permissible under Aadhaar Act, 2016. However, residents have the option of permanently locking their biometrics and only temporarily unlock it when needed for biometric authentication as per Regulation 11 of the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations, 2016.”

The advancing of arguments remained inconclusive and would continue tomorrow.

Earlier, the supreme court had refused to pass an interim order extending the deadline of March 31 for linking of Aadhaar with the welfare schemes where benefits are transferred to citizens from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The bench is hearing on clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law.

‘Khap panchayat’ interference in marriage of two consenting adults absolutely illegal : SC

In a relief to inter-faith or inter-caste couples who often face threat to their lives due to their relationship, the Supreme Court today banned any interference by illegal assemblies like khap panchayats into their marriages, terming the intrusions as “absolutely illegal.”


A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also laid down guidelines to prevent such interferences and said the norms laid down by it would remain in force till a suitable legislation is enacted by the Parliament.

The ruling came on a plea by NGO Shakti Vahini, which had moved the apex court in 2010 seeking protection of couples from honour killings.

While reserving its verdict in March this year, the court had observed that when two consenting adults get married irrespective of their background, no relative or a third person can interfere or threaten or unleash violence against them.

During the proceedings in the matter, the Centre too had told the top court that state governments must provide protection to couples fearing for their lives due to inter-caste or inter-faith marriages and that such couples should inform the marriage officers about any such threat so that they can be given protection.

In an indication that it would not recognise khap panchayats, the top court had also said that it would refer to them only as an assembly of persons or as a community group.

The apex court had earlier said incidents of attacks against those going for inter-caste or inter-faith marriages were “absolutely illegal” and no khap panchayat, individual or the society could question any adult woman or man marrying to a person of his or her choice.

Khap panchayats are caste or community groups, present largely in rural areas of north India which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on age-old customs. Several cases of women and men falling victim to khap diktats have been reported over the years, particularly in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The apex court had also asked khap panchayats not to behave like “conscience keepers of the society” and said that a marriage between two adults was governed by the law.

Khap panchayats had earlier told the court that they were encouraging inter-caste and inter-faith marriages and had referred to provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act which prohibit a union between sapinda relationships or close blood relatives among Hindus.

They had claimed that they were performing their duties as conscience keepers of the society.

The court had invited khap panchayats to hear their views before issuing an order to stop them from harassing or killing couples purportedly to protect the honour of a family, caste, community or faith.

The Centre had earlier pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by khap panchayats, saying that the police was not able to protect such women.

The top court had also said that as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where khap panchayats were active.

In 2007, a Haryana court had awarded death to five people and sentenced one person to life for killing a couple on the orders of a self-styled khap panchayat for marrying against societal norms.

In April 2015, the khap of Notara Bhopat village had ordered a woman from Rajasthan to live with a man whose wife had eloped with her husband.

In 2014, a community panchayat in Uttar Pradesh had banned girls from wearing jeans and keeping mobile phones, claiming that these had a “bad” effect on them and were responsible for sexual harassment incidents.

 

Supreme Court extends protection to Karti Chidambaram till April 2.

The Supreme Court today extended the interim protection against arrest to Karti Chidambaram, granted by the Delhi High Court in the INX Media money laundering case, till April 2.

The order came as the Enforcement Directorate sought an authoritative pronouncement from the top court in view of several conflicting orders of different high courts on the probe agency’s power of arrest under section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was told by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the ED has been armed with the power of arrest under the statute, keeping in mind the several international conventions underlining the need to curb money laundering generated from drugs smuggling, terror financing and blackmoney routing.

Mehta referred to the 1988 UN convention and said the member countries felt the need to have a law to deal with the offence money laundering.

The advent of e-commerce has made investigation into money laundering more difficult as ill-gotten wealth have been transferred to all corners of the world very conveniently after the globalisation, he said.

The bench said the interim order of March 15 granting protection of arrest to Karti, son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram, till today, is extended till April 2. The hearing, which remained inconclusive, would also continue on April 2.

On March 15, the apex court had given the interim relief to Karti in the INX media money laundering case and said it would clear the “confusion” which has crept in due to the divergent views of different high courts on ED’s power to arrest.

The apex court had also transferred to itself the matters pending before the Delhi High Court relating to the power of Enforcement Directorate (ED) to arrest in money laundering cases and also a plea filed by Karti seeking protection from arrest in ED’s case.

The top court had said it would answer the question about interpretation of section 19 of the PMLA relating to ED’s power to arrest and also deal with the issue whether high courts can grant protection from arrest on a plea under Article 226 of the Constitution which deals with high court’s power to issue writs and orders.

Karti was on March 23 granted bail by the Delhi High Court in connection with the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI. He was arrested by the CBI on February 28 in Chennai immediately after he returned from abroad.

In his plea before the high court, Karti has sought striking down of ED’s power of arrest under section 19 of the PMLA, besides seeking quashing of the enforcement case information report (ECIR) and the probe being carried out by the agency.

He has also sought striking down the presumption codified in section 24 of the PMLA which says that when a person is accused of having committed an offence under section 3 (money laundering), the burden of proving that proceeds of the crime are untainted property, shall be on the accused.

An FIR by CBI, filed on May 15 last year, had alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving Rs 305 crore in overseas funds in 2007 when P Chidambaram was union finance minister.

 The Supreme Court closes proceedings against Tej Pratap in murder case.

 The Supreme Court today closed proceedings against former Bihar minister Tej Pratap, son of jailed RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, in the murder case of a Siwan-based journalist.

The Supreme Court had asked the CBI to investigate allegations relating to media reports featuring photographs and videos that showed Pratap, former Bihar health minister, along with two absconding accused, Mohd Kaif and Javed, who are presently in judicial custody in the Rajdeo Ranjan murder case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submission of Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi that CBI has not found any incriminating material against the RJD leader.

The bench ordered closure of proceedings against Tej Pratap and gave the slain journalist’s widow the liberty to get her plea revised if some incriminating material surfaces in the future.

Supreme Court asks Jaiprakash Associates Ltd to deposit Rs 200 crore by May 10

The Supreme Court today asked the embattled realty firm Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL) to deposit Rs 200 crore in two installments by May 10.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the real-estate major to deposit Rs 100 crore by April 6 and the rest by May 10.

The bench, comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, also asked the firm not to send any notices for default in payment of EMIs to home buyers who have opted for refund.

The top court asked JAL to submit a project-wise chart of home buyers seeking refund so that the amount can be dispersed on pro-rata basis.

“At present we are concerned with the refund and will take later the issue raised by home buyers who want delivery of flats,” the top court said.

Meanwhile, JAL informed the apex court that only eight per cent of 31,000 home buyers have opted for refund and the rest want possession of flats.

The firm also told the court that it has received/sought occupation certificate with regard to 13,500 flats so far in 2017-18.

The firm had on January 25 deposited Rs 125 crore in the Supreme Court after being directed to do so to safeguard the interests of home buyers.

The top court had on January 10 directed JAL, the holding firm of Jaypee Infratech Ltd (JIL), to provide details of its housing projects in the country, saying home buyers should either get their houses or their money back.

It had refused to accord urgent hearing on a plea of the Reserve Bank of India seeking its nod to initiate insolvency proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against JAL, saying it would be dealt with at a later stage.

Home buyers, including Chitra Sharma, had moved the apex court saying around 32,000 people had booked their flats and were now paying installments.

Hundreds of home buyers have been left in the lurch after the NCLT, on August 10 last year, admitted the IDBI Bank’s plea to initiate insolvency proceedings against the debt-ridden realty company for defaulting on a Rs 526-crore loan, the plea has said.

Supreme Court asks all High Courts to give details on setting up of children’s courts

 The Supreme Court today directed all High Courts in the country to give details on whether special courts to ensure speedy trial of offences against children have been set up in each district.

The court considered Section 25 and 26 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 which provide that there has to be a children’s court for speedy trial of offences against them and the cases of child rights’ abuses, besides appointment of public prosecutors to deal with them.

“Keeping in view the provisions, it is directed that the Registrar Generals of the High Courts would submit a report as regards Sections 25 and 26 of the Act. After receipt of the report, the issue shall be addressed.

“The Registry of this court is directed to forward the earlier order and the present order to the Registrars General of the High Courts with the stipulation that the reports shall be submitted within two weeks from the date of receipt of the orders,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

The court also made it clear that the pendency of the case before it shall not be construed “as any kind of impediment for establishment of courts and appointment of Special Public Prosecutors if steps in that direction have already been taken.”

Earlier, the court had sought response from all states on the running of orphanages, the mode of adoption and the treatment meted out to children there.

It had also expressed concern over alleged trafficking of orphans in West Bengal in the name of adoption and had said “nothing can be more disastrous than selling of children in the name of adoption”.

A bench was hearing an appeal of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) against a Calcutta High Court order staying NCPCR’s proceedings in a case related to alleged gross violation of rights of orphaned children in West Bengal.

The NCPCR had alleged that the West Bengal government had illegally formed ad hoc committees for adoption and giving away orphans for adoption in gross violation of law and rules.

The top court, while issuing notice on the plea of the child rights body, had expanded the scope of the plea and ordered that all states, besides West Bengal, be made parties through their chief secretaries and sought their response within two weeks.

The apex court had asked the states to respond with details about orphanages and the facilities being given to orphan children at those centres and also the procedures followed in giving children on adoption.

“It is necessary to have a comprehensive view of the entire country pertaining to running of orphanages, the mode and method of adoption, the care given and the treatment meted out to the children. For the said purpose, it is necessary that all the states shall be added as respondents in the matter,” the bench had ordered.

It had considered the submission of the NCPCR that orphans were being sold in West Bengal and had stayed the proceedings and the order of the Calcutta High Court.

The High Court had on August 29 last year stayed the proceedings initiated by the NCPCR after taking note of the plea filed by Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), CID, State of West Bengal.

It was alleged by the ADGP before the High Court that NCPCR had no jurisdiction as the West Bengal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights was seized of the matter.

In the High Court, the national child rights body and the West Bengal government were at loggerheads over the alleged trafficking of 17 children from an orphanage in Jalpaiguri.

The NCPCR had blamed the local administration for the thriving of the trafficking racket but the state government questioned the jurisdiction of the apex child rights body.