No reasons to refer Article 370 matter to larger seven-judge bench: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday said there are no reasons to refer a batch of pleas, challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 on August 5 last year, to a larger seven-judge bench.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice N V Ramana pronounced the order.

The apex court had on January 23 reserved its order on the issue of whether the batch of pleas would be referred to a larger seven-judge bench.

SC slaps fine of Rs 5 lakh on states for failing to file reply on PIL for community kitchen.

Irked over repeated failures of the states to file their replies, the Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily and imposed cost of Rs five lakh on them for not complying with its directions to file their affidavits on a PIL seeking setting up of community kitchens across the country.

A bench of Justice N V Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and V Ramasubramanian, during hearing in the morning, said if the Union of India and the states file their affidavit in the next 24 hours then they will have to pay only Rs one-lakh fine, whereas those who still fail to submit it by then will have to pay Rs 5-lakh fine.

The top court said that five states — Punjab, Nagaland, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand — and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar, who have filed their responses on the PIL filed by Arun Dhawan, will not pay any fine.

Advocate Ashima Mandla, appearing for the petitioner said that five months have passed since the apex court had issued notice and except for five states and one union territory, no other states and UTs have filed their response.

She said that 69 per cent of children under the age of five who have lost their lives are due to malnutrition and it is high time that States take steps to set up community kitchens.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre sought some more time to file response to the PIL.

The bench, however, posted the matter for further hearing on February 17 and asked the Centre and state to file their responses at the earliest with the cost.

The apex court had on October 18 favoured setting up of community kitchens, saying the country needs this kind of system to tackle the problem of hunger.

It had issued notices to the Centre and all states seeking their responses on a PIL seeking directions to all the states and union territories (UTs) to formulate a scheme for community kitchens to combat hunger and malnutrition.

The plea had claimed that many children, under the age of five, die every day due to hunger and malnutrition and this condition was violative of various fundamental rights, including the right to food and life of citizens.

The PIL, filed by social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, had also sought a direction to the Centre for creating a national food grid for people falling outside the purview of the public distribution scheme.

It had also sought issuance of an order to the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) for formulating a scheme to mitigate hunger-related deaths.

The plea referred to the state-funded community kitchens being run in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi that serve meals at subsidised rates in hygienic conditions.

The plea also referred to the concepts of soup kitchen, meal centre, food kitchen or community kitchen, in other countries, where food is offered to the hungry usually for free or sometimes at below-market price.

The petition, filed through advocates Ashima Mandla and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, had said that the Centre and its various ministries have initiated and implemented various schemes to combat hunger, malnutrition and the resulting starvation, although in reality, effective implementation of the schemes was “unclear and fairly limited”.

The statistics on starvation deaths in the country are unavailable and starvation as the cause of death can only be ascertained upon autopsy after death, the plea said, adding that global agencies report that more than three lakh children die every year in India because of hunger, whereas 38 per cent below the age of five are stunted.

“Implementation of community kitchens funded by state or in association with corporate social responsibility by a public-private partnership (PPP) may be implemented to complement the existing schemes,” it said.

The petition also said that a 2010 report by the World Food Programme on the state of food insecurity in India indicates that increasing urban inequality, significant under-investment in urban health and nutrition infrastructure, workforce in casual or contract employment or even less remunerative self-employment, growth of slums and slum population lacking in most basic health and hygiene infrastructure has resulted in a permanent food and nutrition emergency.

Omar Abdullah’s sister Sara Abdullah Pilot moves SC challenging his detention under PSA

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s sister on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging his detention under the Public Safety Act.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioner Sara Abdullah Pilot, mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana.

Sibal told the bench that they have filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the detention of Abdullah under the PSA and the matter should be heard this week.

The bench agreed to urgent listing of the matter.

In her petition, Pilot has said that there could be no material available to detain a person who has already been detained previously for six months.

“The grounds for the detention order are wholly lacking any material facts or particulars which are imperative for an order of detention,” the plea said, adding that the detention order is “illegal”.

“It is rare that those who have served the nation as members of Parliaments, Chief Ministers of state, ministers in the union and have also stood by the national aspirations of India are now perceived as a threat to the state,” the plea said.

It said that on the intervening night of August 4/5, 2019, Abdullah was put under house arrest.

“It was later learned that Section 107 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 was invoked justifying such arrest”.

“It is therefore of the utmost importance and of the utmost urgency that this court protects not only the individual’s Right to Life and Liberty but also protects the essence of Article 21 which is the cornerstone of Part 3 of the Constitution, a violation of which is anathema to all that a democratic nation stands for,” the plea said.

“Finally the order conflates governmental policy with the Indian state, suggesting that any opposition to the former constitute a threat to the later. This is wholly antithetical to a democratic polity and undermines the Indian constitution,” the petition said.

The plea has also sought quashing of the February 5 order detaining Abdullah under the PSA.

The grounds of detention against Omar, who was chief minister of the state from 2009-14, state that on the eve of reorganisation of the state he had made attempts to provoke general masses against the revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A.

The grounds also mention his comments on social networking sites to instigate common people against the decisions on Articles 370 and 35-A which had the potential of disturbing public order.

Omar, who has been junior foreign minister and commerce minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led Cabinet in 2000, was served with a three-page dossier in which he was alleged to have made statements in the past which were “subversive” in nature.

The grounds also mention his comments on social networking sites to instigate common people against the decisions on Articles 370 and 35-A which had the potential of disturbing public order.

Restrictions have been put on communication links since August 5 last year. These were subsequently eased. Internet is functional at a few places through leased lines. Mobile internet facility has been made functional but with a speed of 2G with special instructions that it would not be used to access social media sites.

Nirbhaya case : SC dismisses curative petitions filed by two of four death row convicts

The Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed the curative petitions filed by two of the four death row convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case.

A 5-judge bench headed by Justice N V Ramana rejected the curative petitions filed by Vinay Sharma (26) and Mukesh Kumar (32).

The proceedings were conducted in-chamber. A curative petition is the last and final legal remedy available to a person.

The five judges were unanimous that there was no merit in the curative petitions filed by the two condemned petitioners.

“The applications for stay of execution of death sentence are also rejected. We have gone through the Curative Petitions and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out within the parameters indicated in the decision of this Court in Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra & Another, reported in 2002 (4) SCC 388. Hence, the Curative Petitions are dismissed,” the bench said.

The other members of the bench were Justices Arun Mishra, R F Nariman, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan.

Vinay and Mukesh had filed curative petitions on January 9.

A Delhi court had on January 7 issued death warrants against the four convicts and said they would be hanged on January 22 at 7 am in Tihar jail.

Two other death-row convicts, Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25), had not filed curative petitions.

A 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya, was gang-raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012, in a moving bus in south Delhi by six people before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The Supreme Court had in 2017 upheld the capital punishment awarded to them by the Delhi High Court and a trial court.

One of the six accused in the case, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail.

A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board and was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.

On July 9, 2018, the apex court had dismissed the review pleas filed by three of the convicts in the case, saying no grounds had been made out by them for review of the 2017 verdict.

Supreme Court asks J-K administration to review orders imposing curbs within a week.

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within a week all orders imposing curbs in the Union Territory while holding that access to Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution

A five-judge bench headed by Justice N V Ramana also asked the J-K administration to restore Internet services in institutions providing essential services like hospitals and educational places

The verdict came on a batch of pleas which challenged curbs imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre’s abrogation of provisions of Article 370 on August 5 last year.

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.

Maharashtra crisis: Supreme Court refers to previous judgements on floor test

While ordering floor test for Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court Tuesday referred to its past decisions on Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand where it had ordered similar exercise in times of political crisis.

The first decision it mentioned was upholding the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka by the then Assembly Speaker, which was pronounced on November 13 by the 3-judge bench led by Justice N V Ramana.

Justice Ramana also headed the 3-judge bench in the Maharashtra matter and referred to the Karnataka judgment which had emphasised the requirement of imbibing constitutional morality by constitutional functionaries.

The apex court also mentioned its 2016 verdict in the case of Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat in which it ordered the former chief minister of Uttarakhand to take a ‘vote of confidence’ on the floor of the Assembly.

Rawat had moved the apex court after the Modi government dismissed the then Congress government and imposed President’s rule after nine Congress MLAs sided with the BJP on the Appropriation Bill.

The rebel MLAs were subsequently disqualified by the Speaker under the anti-defection law, a decision that was upheld by the high court and the Supreme Court.

The High Court bench was then headed by Justice K M Joseph, who was then the Chief Justice and now the judge in the Supreme Court.

In its order, the top court had directed that “floor test be conducted on a special session of Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly to be summoned/ convened in which the only agenda would be the vote of confidence sought by the first respondent and apart from the said agenda nothing will be discussed”.

It had also issued directions to the chief secretary and the Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, to see that “all qualified Members of the Legislative Assembly, freely, safely and securely attend the Assembly and no hindrance is caused to them”.

The top court had also said that entire proceedings would be video graphed and the recording placed before it.

Holding that if the floor test is delayed, the top court said that there is a possibility of horse trading and it becomes incumbent upon the court to act to protect democratic values.

An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so, it said.

It referred to its May 18, 2018 order in which it had directed that a floor test be held in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm to ascertain whether BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa enjoys majority in the state

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna, pointed to the 9 -judge bench decision in S R Bommai case in 1994 in which it had said that “wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House…”

The 9 -judge bench had also held that imposition of President’s rule in states was unconstitutional as the governors did not give an opportunity for a floor test.

The apex court also referred to its 1999 order in the Jagdambika Pal vs Union of India in which it ordered composite floor test between contending parties in order to see which out of the two contesting claimants of chief ministership had a majority in the House.

The matter had come to the Supreme Court after UP Governor Romesh Bhandari sacked Kalyan Singh as chief minister and appointed Congress leader Jagdambika Pal as his successor.

Six years later, in Anil Kumar Jha vs Union of India (2005), the top court had issued similar directions after recording and taking notice of events that had taken place and few developments which were in the offing, as reported in the media.

The apex court had ordered a floor test in the Jharkhand assembly in March 2005 to decide whether Arjun Munda or Shibu Soren enjoyed a majority in the Assembly.

Ten years later, in Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat, (2016) again an interim order was passed after the special leave petitions were taken up for hearing, though after concession which was made by Mr Mukul Rohatgi, the then Attorney General for India, that the Union of India has no objection, which the Court had appreciated.

Supreme Court asks Centre to produce governor’s letters inviting BJP to form govt

The Supreme Court on Sunday asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to place before it on Monday morning the letters of the Governor recommending revocation of President’s Rule and inviting Devendra Fadnavis to form government in Maharashtra.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government on a petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Fadnavis as chief minister.

The court also issued notice to Fadnavis and Dy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

The bench asked Solicitor General Mehta to produce letters of the Governor tomorrow at 10.30 am for passing orders.

The apex court declined the fervent request of Mehta seeking two days time to place the Governor’s communication on record.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for the combine, told the bench that floor test be conducted today itself so that it can be ascertained that Fadnavis enjoys majority in the house.

They maintained that post-poll alliance of the three parties have the majority in the 288-member house.

While Sibal termed as ‘bizarre’ the Governor’s decision to revoke President’s rule and anoint Fadnavis as the chief minister, Singhvi said it is a “murder of democracy”.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for two BJP MLAs and some independents, questioned the maintainability of the writ petition filed by the combine and said they should have approached the Bombay High Court.

 The Supreme Court asks J&K HC Juvenile Justice Committee to examine fresh allegations of detention of minors

The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the four member juvenile justice committee of Jammu and Kashmir High Court to examine afresh allegations of detention of minors by security forces in the state after abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana asked the committee to place its report as expeditiously as possible and posted the hearing for December 3.

The bench said there was a need for examining the allegations afresh as the earlier reports of the committee was not in accordance with the apex court order due to time constraints.

The top court was hearing a petition which has raised the issue of alleged illegal detention of minors in Kashmir.

Supreme Court asks J-K administration to place before it orders imposing restrictions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to place before it the administrative orders imposing communication and other restrictions in the state following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana questioned Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the administration, as to why the administrative orders have not been filed yet in the court.

“You had passed some orders. Why you have not filed it?”, the bench, also comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, asked Mehta. “Is it purposefully done?”

Mehta told the bench that they had filed a reply earlier in the matter but now, there is a change in circumstances as far as restrictions are concerned.

“After filing of the affidavit, there is change in circumstance on the ground. Some restrictions have been removed,” he said.

He said he would place before the top court the administrative orders relating to restrictions for the perusal of the bench only.

“We will place them before the Supreme Court. Nobody can sit in appeal of administrative decisions taken in national interest. Only the court can look into it and certainly not the petitioners,” he told the bench.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for petitioner and Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin, told the bench that they have filed a rejoinder and said that the Centre and J&K administration have not yet placed those orders and notifications before the court.

Mehta told the bench that original prayer in Bhasin’s petition was regarding restrictions and media freedom but now they were expanding the scope of their prayer.

Grover said in their petition, they have also made a prayer regarding placing of orders imposing restrictions in the state.

During the arguments, the bench took exception that some of the advocates appearing in the matter have raised their voice and said, “It is not proper for lawyers to shout in the court. It is not proper.”

When an advocate appearing for one of the intervenors said that J&K has not complied with the earlier directions of the court to place the restriction orders before it, the bench told Mehta, “Mr Solicitor General, please keep all those orders ready”.

When a lawyer appearing for one of the petitioners told the court that J&K must justify why they are not sharing the restriction orders with them, the bench said, “He (Mehta) has assured us that he will produce those orders”.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on October 25.

When the bench referred to media reports that mobile services have been restored in the valley, the counsel for one of the petitioners said only BSNL postpaid mobiles were operational but the SMS service was stopped by authorities on Tuesday.

The apex court was hearing the petitions which have raised the issue of physical restrictions and communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.