Supreme Court on Ayodhya case: Temple at disputed site and to allot alternative land for mosque.

The Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict on Saturday cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.

In one of the most important and most anticipated judgements in India’s history, a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century old dispute that has torn the social fabric of the nation.

The apex court said the mosque should be constructed at a “prominent site” and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.

The site was occupied by the 16th century Babri mosque which was destroyed by Hindu kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.

The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said possession of the disputed 2.77 acre land rights will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, who is one of the three litigants in the case. The possession however will remain with a central government receiver.

The Supreme Court said the Hindus have established their case that they were in possession of outer courtyard and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board has failed to establish its case in the Ayodhya dispute.

Delivering its verdict in the politically-sensitive case of Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya, the apex court directed allotment of alternative land to Muslims to build a new mosque.

The apex court said the extensive nature of Hindus worshipping at outer courtyard at the disputed site has been there, and the evidence suggests the Muslims offered Friday prayers at mosque which indicates that they had not lost possession of the site.

It said that despite obstruction caused in offering prayers at Mosque, the evidences suggest that there was no abandonment in offering prayers.

The apex court further said that the underlying structure below the disputed site at Ayodhya was not an Islamic structure, but the ASI has not established whether a temple was demolished to build a mosque.

It said that terming the archeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The court also said that the Hindus consider the disputed site as the birthplace of Lord Ram and even Muslims say this about that place.

The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed, the apex court said.

The bench said the existence of Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar grih are the testimony of the religious fact of the place.

The apex court said however that the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi appointed new Chief Justice of India, To Take Office On Oct 3

NEW DELHI: President Ram Nath Kovind appointed Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the next Chief Justice of India. He will take office on October 3.

According to the convention, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court is appointed by the CJI, and Justice Gogoi by virtue of his seniority, was next in line. As the 46th Chief Justice of India, Justice Gogoi will have a tenure of about 13 months, till November 17, 2019.

President Kovind signed warrants of appointment of Justice Gogoi following which a notification announcing his appointment was issued.

Known as a soft-spoken but tough, Justice Gogoi was among the four senior-most Supreme Court judges who had in January 2018 held a rare press conference and criticized Chief Justice Misra accusing him of misusing his authority in allotment of cases as the Supreme Court’s Master of the Roster.

On January 12 this year, Justice Gogoi and three colleagues — Justices J Chelameswar (since retired), Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — raised questions on the CJI’s allocation of cases to benches in the Supreme Court.

Born on November 18, 1954, justice Gogoi was enrolled as an advocate in 1978. He practised in the Guwahati high court on constitutional, taxation and company matters.

Dipak Misra Recommends Justice Gogoi, As Successor wrote to the government

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra has recommended the name of Justice Ranjan Gogoi as his successor with a month to his retirement. Justice Gogoi, the second senior-most judge in the Supreme Court, will take charge on October 3 as the next Chief Justice of India.

This comes after the Law Ministry a few days ago asked Chief Justice Dipak Misra to recommend his successor. It is convention for the law ministry to write to the Chief Justice asking for his recommendation on the man who will replace him. Justice Gogoi created a stir as a judge of the Supreme Court in 2016, when he issued contempt notice against a retired judge of the court, Markandeya Katju.

Justice Gogoi started his legal career as an advocate in the Gauhati High court in 1978. Thereafter, he was appointed as a judge to the high court in 2001 in the Gauhati high court itself. Ranjan Gogoi was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court in April 2012.

As per the law, the outgoing Chief Justice sends the recommendation for his successor 30 days before he is to assume office so that the Chief Justice-designate is named before time.

Centre is unprepared: SC on Special court to try cases of politicians

NEW DELHI: Speaking about the Centre not furnishing details sought by it on setting up special courts to deal with cases involving politicians, the Supreme Court said the Centre is “unprepared”. In December 2017, the apex court had ordered setting of 12 special courts to deal with such cases. These courts should start functioning from March 1, 2018, the court had said.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, the government is compelling us to pass certain orders which we do not want to at this stage, “the Union of India is unprepared”.

The court was hearing a PIL by an advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay seeking lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers and setting up of special courts for trying lawmakers accused of criminal offences.

In its affidavit filed in the court, the Centre has said that two special courts were to be set up in Delhi and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on September 12.

SC shows dissatisfaction over Centre’s response on Lokpal matter

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre’s response on appointment of search committee members for a Lokpal.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit giving relevant details of the search committee.
During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal submitted an affidavit and said a meeting of the selection committee was held but the names for the search committee were not finalised.

He said another meeting would be held soon for appointing members of the search committee, keeping in mind the provisions of law for such appointments.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, said the Centre has not specified the date of the next meeting and they are actually delaying the appointment of a Lokpal despite passage of a law nearly five years ago.
He said contempt action should be initiated against the concerned authorities or the court may proceed ahead for appointing the Lokpal by exercising its power under Article 142 of the Constitution (enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court).

The bench, in its order, said it’s unsatisfied with the Centre’s reply and sought a fresh affidavit in four weeks giving all necessary details.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court the Lokpal selection committee, headed by the prime minister, was scheduled to meet to set up a search panel for recommending a panel of names for the appointment of the anti-graft ombudsman and its members.
The government had said the search panel would lay down its procedures, following which the selection committee would fix the time frame within which the names for selecting the chairman and members of the Lokpal would be recommended.
The committee comprises the prime minister, the chief justice of India, Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by the NGO which has raised the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the apex court’s judgement of April 27 last year.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, had said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

SC to examine plea seeking reservation for orphans on par with SC, ST, OBC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine a plea seeking reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for orphans, who have no linkage in society, on par with those belonging to the SC/ST and OBC category.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi issued notice to the Centre seeking its response to the plea which has also sought provision of other benefits to the orphans, including bank loans and incentives for setting up businesses.

The petition, filed by Uttar Pradesh resident Poulomi Pavini Shukla, has claimed that the orphans, whose antecedents are unknown, were “unjustly” and “forcibly given a religion and a caste by the government which goes to their detriment.

The plea said that the state would have to assume the role of a “parent” for orphans.

“Issue a direction to the government to have a policy for assigning religion to orphans and ensure that orphan children are given the right to choose their religion upon attaining majority and are not under duress of any kind to choose a specific religion,” the plea said.

It also sought a comprehensive census or sample survey of children in need of care and protection saying this was essential to fix the numbers and targets and outlays in government schemes as well as outline the extent of the problem.

The plea has said that the state is bound to provide adequate measures for the orphans for their survival, growth and empowerment and opportunity so that they can compete on an equal footing with others.

It said the Centre should be asked to constitute an expert group of the NITI Aayog or a committee or commission like the ‘Mandal Commission’ with public participation to examine all aspects of orphan and children in need of care and protection and suggest solutions.

Centre tells Supreme Court: Process to appoint eminent jurist to select Lokpal underway

The Centre today told the Supreme Court that the process to fill up the vacancy of an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointing Lokpal was going on.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi that recommendation for induction of an eminent jurist in the panel has been made and the process was underway.

The bench said that it doesn’t consider necessary to pass any order at this stage but said it expects that the process of appointment of Lokpal will be made at the earliest.

The bench has listed the matter for further hearing on May 15.

Senior advocate P P Rao was earlier appointed as an eminent jurist in the committee but the post became vacant after he passed away last year.

The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause, which has raised the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the spreme court’s verdict of April 27 last year.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

It had said the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and “does not create any bar to the enforcement of provisions”.

The top court also said that the amendments proposed to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, and the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, were attempts to streamline the working of the Act and does not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement.

CJI first among equals with power to allocate cases: Supreme Court

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the “first among equals” and occupies a unique position having the “exclusive prerogative” to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The verdict assumed significance as it came in the backdrop of the January 12 unprecedented press conference of senior-most judges including Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph raising the issue of improper allocation of cases.

Significantly, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan has also recently filed a PIL seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the CJI as the ‘master of roster’ and laying down of principles in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to different benches.

“In his capacity as a Judge, the CJI is primus inter pares: the first among equals. In the discharge of his other functions, the Chief Justice of India occupies a position which is sui generis (unique)…Article 146 reaffirms the position of the Chief Justice of India as the head of the institution.

“From an institutional perspective the Chief Justice is placed at the helm of the Supreme Court. In the allocation of cases and the constitution of benches, the Chief Justice has an exclusive prerogative,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

Dismissing a PIL filed by Uttar Pradesh-based lawyer Ashok Pande seeking evolution of a “set procedure” to constitute benches and allot cases to different benches, the bench said that as a “repository of constitutional trust, the Chief Justice is an institution in himself”.

“The authority which is conferred upon the CJI, it must be remembered, is vested in a high constitutional functionary. The authority is entrusted to the Chief Justice because such an entrustment of functions is necessary for the efficient transaction of the administrative and judicial work of the Court.

“The ultimate purpose behind the entrustment of authority to the Chief Justice is to ensure that the Supreme Court is able to fulfil and discharge the constitutional obligations which govern and provide the rationale for its existence,” it said.

The entrustment of functions to the CJI as the head of the institution, is with the purpose of securing the position of the Supreme Court as an independent safeguard for the preservation of personal liberty, it said, adding “there cannot be a presumption of mistrust. The oath of office demands nothing less.”

Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgement for the bench, referred to the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and said they were notified with the approval of the President.

“Rule 1 indicates that it is the Chief Justice who is to nominate the Judges who would constitute a Bench to hear a cause, appeal or matter. Where a reference has been made to a larger Bench, the Bench making the reference is required to refer the matter to the Chief Justice who will constitute a Bench,” the judgement said.

The bench also referred to a recent five-judge bench verdict that had set aside an order passed by a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar ordering setting up of a larger bench, comprising five senior most judges, to hear a PIL of NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms relating to alleged medical admisson scam.

It was held that once the Chief Justice is stated to be the Master of the Roster, he alone had the prerogative to constitute benches and neither a two-Judge, nor a three-Judge bench can allocate the matter to themselves or direct the constitution of a bench.

Referring to the binding order of the larger bench, the court, in its 16-page judgement, said the relief sought was “manifestly misconceived”.

“It is a well settled principle that no mandamus can issue to direct a body or authority which is vested with a rule making power to make rules or to make them in a particular manner. The Supreme Court has been authorised under Article 145 to frame rules of procedure…,” it said, adding that such authority lies “exclusively in the domain” of the CJI.

Besides setting up norms for allocaiton of cases, the PIL had sought a direction to the apex court for making a rule to the effect that “a three judge Bench in the Court of the Chief Justice should consist of the Chief Justice and the two senior-most judges while a Constitution Bench should consist of five senior-most judges (or three senior-most’ judges and two juniormost’ judges).”

It had also sought “bifurcation of apex court into a ‘Supreme criminal court’, with similar divisions to hear PIL, tax, service, land disputes and miscellaneous matters”.

The bench rejected these prayers also by terming them as “misconceived”.

No extension of date for updation of NRC in Assam : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today refused to extend the May 31 deadline for the ongoing process of publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam in the wake of panchayat elections in the state, saying the polls should not become an impediment.

The top court, however, spared the Additional Deputy Commissioner rank officer currently engaged in NRC updation work for the local bodies elections scheduled next month.

“We have already said that the deadline for updation of NRC is May 31 and the next 30 days for cross-checking of data till June 30. It can’t go beyond that and complete final draft should be ready by then. You deploy your surplus employees or request neighbhouring states, but no employee engaged in NRC work can be spared or disturbed,” a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman said.

The bench’s remark came after the state government said the panchayat elections were due next month and urged that the employees engaged in NRC work be allowed to be deployed for the polls. The NRC is being prepared to identify illegal migrants in Assam.

The bench said it had no intention to interfere with the panchayat polls in the state and it should be held as per schedule. But the polls shall not become impediment in the work of NRC, it added.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Assam, told the court that as per the Panchayat Constitution Rules of the state, deputy commissioner is responsible for the elections but he was currently engaged in NRC work.

“When we asked the deputy commissioner to work for polls, the state coordinator of NRC Prateek Hajela said it will be contempt of court as no officer can be engaged in any other work,” he said.

To this, the bench said if there was a statutory requirement, then the additional deputy commissioners of each district can be spared for the local bodies’ election, but no other official can be allowed to do any other job, except NRC updation.

The bench asked all state governments, railways, banks, CBSE, UIDAI and Ministry of External Affairs to assist the NRC officials in verification of the records in the stipulated period.

Mehta said if the panchayat elections are delayed in Assam, then the state will lose a grant of Rs 1000 crore, which can be given only if the elected local bodies are in place as per the recommendation of 14th Finance Commission.

During the hearing, the bench also pulled up the Registrar General of India (RGI) for “putting spanners” in the work of updation of NRC.

“Mr. Attorney General, we have received a confidential report from our sources and have found that this gentleman (Registrar General of India) is putting spanners in the work,” the bench said.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, who was present in the courtroom, asked whether the court meant that the RGI was delaying the work.

“Yes. We have received a confidential report regarding this. If that will be the case, we will not hesitate to direct for replacing the Registrar General of India,” the bench said.

RGI Shailesh was also present in the courtroom when the bench made the observation and warned him of the action.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on May 8.

On February 20, the apex court had made it clear that the ongoing process of publication of the final NRC in Assam has to be completed by May 31 this year and work on it should continue without “any interference from any quarter”.

The bench, while noting in its order that the work of final draft NRC would be completed by June 30, had also dealt with the issue of the upcoming panchayat and local body elections in Assam, which were due in for April this year.

The top court had said that the state election commission would conduct these elections as per schedule but the poll process should not cause “slightest of interference in the publication of NRC”. It had said that the work of holding election will not be at the cost of upgradation and preparation of NRC.

The first draft NRC for Assam was published in December end as per the apex court’s direction to come out with the first draft NRC by December 31, 2017.

The apex court had said that claims of those citizens, whose names do not figure in the draft NRC for Assam published by December 31 last year, would be scrutinised and included in the subsequent list, if found genuine.

The NRC of 1951 is being updated for Assam in accordance with the tripartite agreement among the state and central governments and the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was arrived at in 2005 to implement the 1985 Assam Accord.

12 states to appointed Lokayukta : SC

 The Supreme Court today asked the chief secretaries of 12 states to specify why they have not appointed a Lokayukta.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi also asked the chief secretary of Odisha to apprise the court about the status of the Lokayukta in state and said the apex court has no information whether it has an anti-corruption ombudsman or not.

The 12 states which have been asked to give reasons for not appointing a Lokayukta are Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal.

The apex court also asked the 12 states to specify by when they would appoint a Lokayukta.

Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, states that every state shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta.

The apex court was hearing a PIL, which also sought a direction to the states to provide adequate budgetary allocation and essential infrastructure for effective functioning of Lokayuktas.

According to the PIL, filed by advocate and Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, received presidential assent on January 1, 2014 and came into force from January 16, 2014 but the executive has not established a Lokpal yet.

According to the petitioner, many state governments are “deliberately weakening” the Lokayukta by not providing adequate infrastructure, sufficient budget and workforce.