Chief Justice Kapadia releases restatement of law

Restatements of three Indian Laws– on Legislative Privilege, Contempt of Court and Public Interest Litigation– were released by Chief Justice of India Sarosh Homi Kapadia this evening.

The restatements were put together by a Supreme Court Project Committee on Restatement of Indian Law which is chaired by Justice R V Raveendran.

As Justice Raveendran put it, a restatement does not amend a law but authoritatively documents it as per provisions of the Act and Supreme Court decisions and interpretation over years.

‘It is a continuous exercise’ intended to offer guidance to the legal community on what a Law and Justice Ministry statement dubbed ‘the march of Indian law in the last six decades through judicial pronouncements, legislations and their amendments, rules, regulations and other policy measures.’ The process of Restatement of Laws was initiated as early as 1923 in the United States.

An e-legal dictionary defines restatements as ‘sources of secondary authority to be cited in the support or defence of a particular claim made in a lawsuit.’ Restatements of Laws are not binding authority themselves, but they are highly persuasive because they are formulated over several years with extensive input from law professors, practising attorneys, and judges.

‘Although not legally binding upon the courts, restatements are effective in persuading a court to accept an argument advanced in an action.’ As American Judge Benjamin N Cardozo foresaw in 1923, such restatements ‘will be invested with unique authority, not to command, but to persuade. It will embody a composite thought and speak a composite voice.

‘Universities and bench and bar will have had a part in its creation. I have great faith in the power of such a restatement to unify our law.’

Voter card no proof of tenancy, rules apex court

The presence of a person’s name on the electoral roll would only prove that he/she was residing at the premises at a certain point of time but in no way would indicate his/her status as a tenant or a licensee, the Supreme Court has said.

 “The electoral roll will not show whether a person is occupying a premises as a tenant or as a licensee. It may at best show that the person was residing in the premises,” said Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik in their ruling Friday.

 

“The fact that both respondents were residing in the premises had never been disputed. If they represented that they were husband and wife, the electoral roll will reflect the same,” said the court.

 

The case relates to Dnyaneshwar Ranganath Bhandare, who allowed his maid servant Chhaya to stay in a room of a double-storey house in Sangli district of Maharashtra. Chhaya looked after Bhandare’s mother but he allowed her to stay on in the room even after his mother’s death.

 

Chhaya later brought in Sadhu Dadu Shettigar (Shetty), claiming he was her husband and occupied another room as well.

Bhandare approached the Supreme Court against an Oct 7, 2008, Bombay High Court order which had refused to interfere with the earlier Sangli district court’s judgement that ruled the couple was tenants.

 

Earlier, the trial court had ruled in favour of Bhandare and asked the couple to hand over the possession of premises to Bhandare.

Don’t open Kerala temple’s vault B for now: Supreme Court

Reserving its order on opening vault B of Kerala’s Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, the Supreme Court Friday said it would take into account the traditions and faith of the temple and its devotees but without compromising on its security.

However, the court for now would focus on the recommendations of the expert committee on the question of security, preservation, conservation of the artefacts that have been found in other vaults.

The expert committee, headed by Director General of National Museum C.V. Ananda Bose, was set up by the apex court July 21 this year.

An apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik Friday said: “Because of your faith and consequent absence of security, we can’t allow the treasure be stolen by the greedy people and thieves.”

The court said this when senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani contended that according to Devaprasnam ritual, vault B should not be opened. He said the Devaprasnam ritual was integral to the process of opening vault B.

Justice Raveendran said: “We are not anxious to break the tradition and faith of the temple and its devotees, but once it becomes inevitable, then some compromise had to be worked out.”

Justice Raveendran said that initially it was said that police, in their uniform, cannot enter the temple for security, but then a way was found by asking them to wear temple attire.

The court, in its directions to be pronounced Sep 21, will deal with the recommendations of the expert committee on replacing policemen with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel for the security of the six vaults and the sanction of the interim budget of Rs.2.98 crore for this purpose.

The expert committee has said the execution of the entire work, including preparing of inventory of the artefacts, steps for their preservation and conservation, and setting up of a museum, would take an year’s time.

The Kerala government has opposed the recommendations for handing over the security of the vaults to the CRPF.

The state has said that as it was to spend Rs.5 crore on the security of the temple, therefore the “interim budget” of Rs.2.98 crore required by the expert committee to execute its mandate should not be an open-ended one.

As the Kerala government sought to cap the expenses of the expert committee, Justice Patnaik observed that “so far it (temple) was running without incurring any expenditure”.

The court was told that the temple’s annual income from offerings and prayers was Rs.5 crore. Of this, Rs.4 crore was being spent on the employees, and Rs.1 crore on maintenance.

Senior counsel Dhruv Mehta, who appeared for one of the devotees who was petitioner before the trial court, said the one-year time sought by the committee to complete its task was a bit long and it should be “compressed”.

Rubies, diamonds, gold statues and coins found in the five vaults opened so far have been unofficially estimated to be valued at over Rs.1 lakh crore.

Supreme court cautions chief ministers on discretionary powers

The Supreme Court has held that a chief minister should eschew arbitrariness and discrimination while using discretionary powers in the disbursal of relief funds as these powers are not unfettered or unaccountable.

 “In a democracy governed by the rule of law, no government or authority has the right to do what it pleases. Where the rule of law prevails there is nothing like unfettered discretion or unaccountable action,” said the apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik in their judgment delivered Thursday.

 “The disbursement or payment to undeserving cases can be questioned,” the judgment said.

 “When there are no guidelines or when it is difficult to limit the discretion in a high functionary by guidelines, the authority should be careful in exercising discretionary power, so as to ensure that it does not give room for nepotism, favouritism or discrimination,” said the court.

 “Relief amount cannot be granted, merely because the recipient happens to be the friend, supporter of the chief minister or belongs to his political party,” the court said.

 Justice Raveendran said: “But this does not mean that no discretion can be vested in an authority or functionary of high standing. Nor does it mean that certain funds cannot be placed at the disposal of a high functionary for disbursal at his discretion in unforeseen circumstances.”

 The Supreme court said this while setting aside the Rajasthan High Court’s Dec 18, 2007, decision in which it held that all minor victims of rape should be treated equally for the grant of relief by the chief minister under the relief fund. The petition was filed by social activist Sanyam Lodha.

 The petition said that in Rajasthan from January 2004 to August 2005, 392 cases of rape of minor girls were filed. Out of these, 13 were given assistance from the relief fund ranging from Rs.10,000-50,000. However, a rape victim was given a sum of Rs.5 lakh June 25, 2005 and another was given Rs.3.95 lakh Aug 11, 2004, in an arbitrary manner.

 Setting aside the high court order, the Supreme court said that the mere fact that in two cases of rape, involving “extreme viciousness and depravity”, high compensation was granted keeping in view the “gravity of the offence and the surrounding circumstances”, was by itself not sufficient to interfere with the discretion of the chief minister.

 Pointing out that the relief fund was to be used for various purposes including natural calamities, the judges cautioned against the grant of excessive compensation in one or two cases. “The amount granted should, therefore, be reasonable to meet the immediate need of coming out of the trauma or catastrophe,” the court said.

Draw up workable scheme for free treatment to poor patients: Supreme court

The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Delhi government to draw up a “workable scheme” for the 27 city private hospitals to provide free treatment to poor patients which they are obliged to in exchange for getting land at concessional rates.

 The Supreme court also asked the city government to file an affidavit stating the kind of treatment being provided to poor patients in the 27 private hospitals.

Under the scheme, the 27 private hospitals are to provide free treatment to patients from weaker sections at 10 percent of the hospital bed-strength.

The apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik issued the direction when Delhi government’s assertion that 27 private hospitals were providing complete treatment to poor patients was contested by Dharamshila Cancer hospital.

The court also asked the Delhi government to hold another round of meeting with the representatives of 10 hospitals which were not extending their free medical facilities to the patients from weaker sections of the society to formulate a scheme.

The court told the Delhi government that a line had to be drawn on the cost that these hospitals will bear on extending free treatment. In some cases, like in the treatment of cancer, the cost of medicine is very high and hospitals may not bear it, the court said.

“Some kind of transparency has to be there. Some scheme has to be worked out. Otherwise they will turn away the poor patients. There has to be some workable scheme,” said Justice Raveendran.

The court was told that the private hospitals were given land at concessional rates with a provision that they would provide free treatment to patients coming from weaker sections that is 10 percent of their hospital bed-strength.

Asking Delhi government not to delay in putting in place the scheme so that the private hospitals may not wriggle out of it, the court asked the city government to appoint a nodal officer who would direct the poor patients to private hospitals for free treatment.

The court asked the Delhi government to file its affidavit and give it to the contesting hospital and directed listing of the matter on Sep 1, 2011

Supreme court asked to keep Kerala temple’s vault B shut

The Supreme Court was moved on Friday seeking direction to the apex court appointed committee not to open kallara (vault) B of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala as such a step would hurt the sentiments of a large number of devotees. Rama Varma, a member of the erstwhile Travancore royal family, said in his application that most of the devotees are against the opening of the vault B as this would hurt their sentiments and beliefs.

He also said that there should not be any videography and photography of the material present in the vault.

The application said that, as it is, by opening of five other kallaras, particularly the kallara A, the threat to the security of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple has increased. By opening the kallara B, the threat would increase further.

The application has also raised issues about the way the court appointed committee was conducting its affairs.

By its July 21 order, an apex court bench of Justice R.V.Raveendran and Justyice A.K.Patnaik had set up a committee to conduct an inventory of the treasure found from Kallara A of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple.

The committee was also mandated to examine the necessity of opening Kallara B, which continues to be locked. It is generally believed by Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple devotees that the opening of Kallara B would unleash the wrath of Sri Padmanabhaswamy on all those involved in disturbing it.

Headed by National Museum’s director general of C.V. Ananda Bose, the committee has nominees of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Reserve Bank of India and the executive office of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple as its members.

OBC’s 10 percent relief is on eligibility marks: Supreme court

Other Backward Classes (OBC) students will qualify for admissions if they have 10 percent less marks than the eligibility level fixed for the general category students, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The apex court on Thursday clarified that 10 percent relaxation being given to OBC students did not mean it will be 10 percent less than the last student admitted under general category.

The verdict was delivered by a bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik while upholding the Delhi High Court judgement of Sep 7, 2010.

Justice Raveendran said that in all those central educational institutions where the admission process has been completed and the OBC seats have been filled up, the court’s fresh ruling will not disturb the admission process.

However, in institutions where the last date for admission is over and the OBC seats are still vacant, the date of admission as a special measure has been extended to Aug 31, 2011, and will be filled by OBC candidates only, the court said.

The apex court verdict came on a petition by a former director of IIT – Chennai, P.V. Indiresan who challenged the earlier Delhi High Court verdict.

Order CBI probe only in exceptional cases, courts told

The Supreme Court has said that the high courts while exercising their ”wide powers” should be sparing and cautious in ordering probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as this cannot be done as a ”matter of routine”.

Referring to a judgment of the court’s constitution bench, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik said in their verdict that “the powers of the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution to direct investigation by the CBI are to be exercised sparingly, cautiously and in exceptional situations…”

Justice Patnaik said that an order directing the CBI to investigate a matter is not to be passed as a matter of routine or merely because a party has levelled some allegations against police.

The apex court giving its ruling July 29 set aside the Madras High Court’s order for a CBI probe into a complaint by V. Engammal against three people, including P. Kalaikathiravan, an inspector of Tamil Nadu Police.

The judges said that the high court had exercised its power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. (Criminal Procedure Code). Engammal complained that she was cheated of Rs.3 lakh in a loan transaction and the case was not being properly investigated as one of the accused, Kalaikathiravan, was a police inspector.

Engammal contended that though she received Rs.3 lakh Aug 5, 2006 – a day after she lodged the complaint with superintendent of police – no proper investigation was carried out on her complaint.

“In our considered view, this was not one of those exceptional situations calling for exercise of extra-ordinary powers of the high court to direct investigation into the complaint by the CBI,” the judgment said.

The apex court said that if the high court found that the investigation was not being completed because Kalaikathiravan, an inspector of police, was one the accused, then it should have directed the superintendent of police to entrust the probe to a senior officer.

The court said that directing the CBI to take over the probe was not the right course.

Can’t touch seats reserved for OBC students: Supreme court

The Supreme Court Wednesday said conversion of seats reserved for students belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) to general category seats in central educational institutions was not permissible.

The apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik said this while reserving its verdict on a petition by P.V. Indiresan, former director of Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai.

The petitioner challenged the Sep 7, 2010, verdict of the Delhi High Court which said that the minimum eligibility marks for admission under the OBC category would be 10 percent below the minimum eligibility marks fixed for general category students.

The process to take away the OBC seats for conversion into general category seats was not permissible, said Justice Raveendran.

The court said this when senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the petitioner, said that in case the court decided the issue against him then it must ensure that 50 percent seats earmarked for general category students were not encroached upon by OBC candidates even if some of them entered a university by taking the merit route.

When a lawyer referred to Justice Raveendran’s observation Tuesday that rules of the game couldn’t be changed after its start, the judges said that what they meant was that it had to be decided in advance at what point the process of the admission of the OBC students under the reserved category would start and what would be the cut-off marks.

Venugopal sought to make a distinction between the reservation for the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and the OBC and said they could not be placed at par because social ostracism suffered by the former did not visit the latter.

Justice Patnaik asked Venugopal that when the law used the same language for extending reservation to the OBC as it did in the case of SC/ST, then how could he interpret it differently.

While reserving its verdict, the court gave all the contending parties time till Monday to submit their written submissions.

 

Experts begin documenting Kerala temple treasure

A Supreme Court appointed committee of experts Monday began documentation of the Rs.1 lakh crore worth of treasure uncovered in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple here.

Director General of the National Museum, C.V. Ananda Bose, who heads the five-member panel, led his colleagues after 3 p.m into the place where the treasure has been stored in six vaults.The experts emerged just before 7 p.m.

With the apex court asking the team not to make public its findings, Bose did not reveal much to the media.

‘We went into the vaults and worked out a plan,’ he said.Asked what the plan was, he quipped: ‘The next plan is to implement the plan.’

An apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik appointed two committees in July and directed them to see that the entire process be videographed.Bose’s committee will videograph and photograph the articles found in the temple. Another three-member panel headed by Justice M.N. Krishnan will oversee the work of this committee.The decision on whether to open Vault B is yet to be taken.

Stocktaking of the treasure started after the late T.P. Sunderarajan, a former Indian Police Service officer, approached the apex court, alleging mismanagement of temple affairs. Sunderarajan, 70, died July 17. The temple has six vaults, five of which have been opened on the orders of the Supreme Court.