Telangana encounter deaths: Supreme Court orders judicial inquiry and to be headed by its ex-judge VS Sirpurkar

The Supreme Court appointed on Thursday a three-member inquiry commission headed by former apex court judge V S Sirpurkar to inquire into the circumstances leading to the encounter killing of the four accused in the gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Telangana.

The commission, which also included former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Sondur Baldota and ex-CBI director D R Karthikeyan, will submit its report to the Supreme Court in six months.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde stayed proceedings pending in the Telangana High Court and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the case and sought an SIT report into the case, saying no other authority shall inquire into the matter pending before the commission of inquiry till further orders.

The bench, also comprising Justice S A Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, ordered that security to the three-member commission shall be provided by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

The top court said the six-month deadline for submission of the report by the commission shall start from the first day of hearing and it shall have all the power under the Commission of Inquiry Act for conducting inquiry into the December 6 encounter deaths.

The bench noted that “conflicting versions about the incident demands an inquiry to uncover the true facts”.

The bench also took into account the submission made by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Telangana government that a Special Investigation Team of the state police headed by a police officer of the level of Commissioner of Police was also investigating into the incident and would submit its report.

The bench was told that the SIT was inquiring into the cause of death four person who were accused in the rape and murder of the veterinarian and FIR was lodged against them for attempting to kill police officials who had taken them to the spot where the woman’s charred body was found.

In its order, the bench noted that obviously even if the SIT conducted investigation and prosecution of the dead person, they can neither be tried or convicted.

The bench said, “We do not see how to certify the possibility of such a trial can ever uncover the truth relating to the incident in which policemen are said to have made an encounter and caused the death of four accused.”

“Therefore we are of considered view that inquiry commission needs to be constituted into inquiring the circumstances in which the four accused persons were killed in the morning in Hyderabad on December 6,” it said

At the outset the bench was of the view that there should be impartial inquiry into encounter deaths of the four accused.

Appointments, transfers pivotal to justice system; interference doesn’t augur well: Supreme Court

Appointment and transfer of judges form “the root of the administration of justice” and interference in that “does not augur well” for the institution, the Supreme Court said on Monday.

It made the observation while deciding to keep the Gujarat High Court Advocate Association’s plea pending which has sought a direction to the Centre to implement the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendations on the transfer of Bombay High Court judge Justice Akil Kureshi.

The Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, had recommended to the Centre to appoint justice Kureshi as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

It later recommended that Justice Kureshi be appointed as the Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court.

“Appointments and transfers go to the root of the administration of justice and where judicial review is severely restricted. Interference in system of administration of justice does not augur well for the institution,” the apex court said while keeping the plea of bar body pending.

A bench comprising the Chief Justice and justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer was told by senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the GHCAA, that its plea be kept pending till the central government implements the Collegium’s recent recommendations of appointing Justice Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court.

The bench agreed to the submissions of the GHCAA and fixed the matter for further hearing after the Centre takes a call on its decision.

The modified recommendation to send Justice Kureshi to Tripura High Court was uploaded on the apex court’s website late Friday evening and it said that the concerned decision was taken in the Collegium’s meeting held on September 5.

Appointment of Justice Kureshi as chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh high court was recommended by the collegium on May 10 this year.

The GHCAA plea has claimed that the Centre did not clear the file for appointment of Justice Kureshi and on June 7 came out with a notification appointing Justice Ravi Shanker Jha as acting chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The association has contended that the reluctance of the Centre to appoint Justice Kureshi as chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court is against the procedure laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) and amounts to a violation of Articles 14 and 217 of the Constitution.

It has further said the inaction on the part of the Centre is an attack on the independence of the judiciary and diminishes the primacy of the judiciary in the matters of appointment and transfer of judges to the high courts and the Supreme Court.

GHCAA president Yatin Oza had reportedly said that Justice Kureshi was being singled out for an order passed by him in 2010, remanding current Union Home Minister Amit Shah in police custody.

Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court does not support claims on inability to access court there : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday said it has received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there. The bench had then sought a report from the chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S a Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors.

During the hearing on Friday, the apex court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue of alleged detention of children in Kashmir.

Supreme Court notice to Centre and J&K on plea for producing Farooq Abdullah

 The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce before court former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is allegedly under detention following the scrapping of the state’s special status.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and the state, and fixed Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko’s plea for hearing on September 30.

Vaiko, who said he is a close friend of Abdullah for the past four decades, has contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of “illegal detention without any authority of law”.

1984 anti-Sikh riots case : SC asks CBI to apprise it of status of ongoing trial of Sajjan Kumar

The Supreme Court Monday asked the CBI to apprise it of the status of the ongoing trial in a case involving former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and listed his bail plea for hearing on April 15.

The CBI told a bench of Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer that Kumar, who was a sitting MP in 1984, was the “kingpin” of the massacre of Sikhs in the national capital in 1984.

“This is a gruesome offence of massacre of Sikhs. He (Kumar) was the leader and he was the kingpin of this,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, told the bench.

Mehta also told the bench it would be a “travesty of justice” if Kumar is enlarged on bail as he is facing trial in another 1984 anti-Sikh riots case at Patiala House district court here.

The bench said that it would hear on April 15 bail plea of Kumar, who was convicted and sentenced to life term by the Delhi High Court in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The case in which Kumar was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1 and 2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.

Anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute : SC says aware of outcome of mediation on body politic of country

The Supreme Court Wednesday said it was conscious of the gravity of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute and the outcome of mediation on the body politic of the country.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the case was not only about property but also about sentiment and faith.

“It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible,” the bench also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer said.

“We are not concerned about what Mughal ruler Babur had done and what happened after. We can go into what exists in the present moment,” the bench said.

The apex court is considering whether the dispute can be settled through mediation.

The top court had asked the contesting parties to explore the possibility of amicably settling the decades-old dispute through mediation, saying it may help in “healing relations”.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

Much is happening in West Bengal : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, while hearing a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged killings of BJP workers in West Bengal, on Tuesday said “much is happening in West Bengal”.

The top court’s observation came after petitioner Gaurav Bhatia, a lawyer, told a bench of justices A K Sikri, S A Nazeer and M R Shah that three workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were killed in West Bengal last year and the police had filed a closure report in one of the cases, stating that it was a suicide.

“Much is happening in West Bengal also”, the bench observed.

Appearing for the West Bengal government, senior advocate Kapil Sibal replied, “Much is happening in the CBI also…. And all of this (Bhatia’s petition) is indeed politics.”

He said the apex court should not go into the facts of the case, which was the job of the trial court.

The court asked Bhatia, also a BJP leader, whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) could probe cases in West Bengal, considering that the state government had withdrawn consent to the central probe agency’s jurisdiction within its territory like the Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh governments.

Sibal, however, said the top court should not decide the case on facts.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on February 21.

Referring to the “brutal killings” — the body of one of the BJP workers was found hanging from a high-tension electric pole — the petition said it was an example of the violence meted out by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal to its political rivals.

Bhatia alleged that the state police was pressured by the state government, adding that in one of the cases, there was an inordinate delay in lodging the FIR, which was registered 18 days after the incident.

The petition alleged that family members of the victims were being threatened and FIRs were also lodged in this regard.

It demanded a CBI probe into the killings and alleged that the family members of the three slain BJP workers — Shaktipada Sarkar, Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar — were being threatened.

Bhatia also demanded a Rs 50-lakh compensation and security cover for the family members of the victims.

Earlier, the apex court had refused to grant an urgent hearing on the plea seeking a CBI probe into the killings of BJP workers in Purulia and South 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal after last year’s panchayat polls.

Shaktipada Sarkar, a BJP block president in the Mandirbazar-Dhanurhat area, was hacked to death when he was returning home in South 24 Parganas district on July 28 last year.

The body of 32-year-old Dulal Kumar, a BJP worker, was found hanging from an electric pole in Purulia district’s Balarampur on June 2 last year.

On May 30 last year, the body of 18-year-old Trilochan Mahato, also a BJP worker from Balarampur, was found hanging from a tree with a poster written in Bengali struck on his back, saying he was killed for canvassing for the saffron party during the rural polls.

Process to appoint CIC should be same as chief election commissioner: Supreme Court

 The Supreme Court on Friday passed a slew of directions on filling up vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and state information commissions (SICs) and said the process of appointments must start one to two months before a post falls vacant.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and S A Nazeer said the post of a chief information commissioner is on a higher pedestal and the appointment process for a CIC should be on the “same terms” as in the process of a chief election commissioner.

The apex court also took note of the existing vacancies in CIC and SICs and directed authorities to fill them up within six months.

Taking note of the provisions in the RTI Act, it said besides bureaucrats, eminent citizens from other walks of life should also be considered for the post of information commissioners in the CIC.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre as to why only retired or sitting bureaucrats were being shortlisted by the search committee for appointment as information commissioners.

The top court was told by the government that chief information commissioner and four information commissioners have already been appointed while the process for appointing other information commissioners was underway.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by RTI activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired) and Amrita Johri who have claimed that over 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC as posts of information commissioners are lying vacant.

The apex court had earlier asked the Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of chief information commissioner and information commissioners and upload details of search committees and applicants on the website.

In July last year, the top court had expressed concern over vacancies at the chief information commission and state information commissions and had directed the Centre and seven states to file an affidavit giving a time schedule for filling up the posts.

The court had asked seven states — Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka — to apprise it about the time frame for filling up the posts.

The petitioners have said that several information commissions like in Gujarat and Maharashtra were functioning without the chief information commissioner, even though the RTI Act envisages a crucial role for this post on which the administration and superintendence of commission is vested.

The plea has claimed that the Centre and state governments have “attempted to stifle” the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointments in a timely manner.

Ayodhya: Supreme Court asks parties to file English translation of documents

 The Supreme Court today asked parties before the Allahabad High Court in the Babri Masjid- Ram Janmabhoomi dispute to file in two weeks English translation of documents exhibited by them.

A special bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that it would hear the appeals on March 14 and clarified that it never intended to hear the case on a “day-to-day basis”.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said it will deal with the instant matter as a “pure land dispute” and indicated that impleadment applications of those which were not before the High Court would be dealt with later.

The top court said the excerpts of vernacular books, which have been relied upon in the case, be translated in English and be filed within two weeks from today.

The apex court also directed its Registry to provide copies of video cassettes, which were part of high court records, to parties on actual cost.

The special bench of the apex court is seized of a total 14 appeals filed against the high court judgement delivered in four civil suits.

A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had in 2010 ordered that the land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.