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.

Supreme Court to hear Ayodhya land dispute case Friday

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Friday the issues relating to the Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.

A notice in this regard was put up on the apex court website which said that the matter will be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The matter will come for the first time on Friday since March 8 order by which the top court had referred the decades-old politically sensitive case for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement.

Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are the other two members of the panel of mediators.

The panel was asked by the apex court to hold an in-camera proceedings and complete it within eight weeks.

Supreme Court to hear plea to bar candidates from contesting from more than one seat

 The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would hear after two weeks a plea which has sought to restrict a candidate from contesting from more than one constituency in a general election.

The matter was mentioned for early listing of the plea before a bench of Justices S A Bobde, M M Shantanagoudar and S Abdul Nazeer.

“List after two weeks before appropriate bench,” the bench said.

The Election Commission (EC) in an affidavit filed earlier in the apex court had quoted its 2004 proposals on electoral reforms and said that law should be amended to ensure that a person cannot contest from more than one seat.

It also said that its proposal to bar candidates from contesting from more than one seat was rejected by a parliamentary standing committee way back in 1998, which had taken note of the view of an all-party meeting favouring to retain the provision.

In response to the petition filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, EC said there was no change in its 2004 proposal.

It said: “As regards the proposal of the Election Commission of India that there should be an express provision in law requiring a person who contests and wins election from two seats, resulting in a bye-election from one of the two constituencies, to deposit in the government account an appropriate amount of money being the expenditure for holding bye-election, it is further stated that the amount proposed at that point of time was Rs 5 lakh for state Assembly and Rs 10 lakh for election to the House of People.”

EC submitted that there was no change in its stand on this proposal but the amount proposed in the year 2004 may be enhanced appropriately.

In his plea, Upadhyay has sought directions to the authorities to take appropriate steps to discourage the independent candidates from contesting parliamentary and state Assembly elections as suggested by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC).

He said the question of independent candidates is often connected with the issue of fragmented voting and instability in the electoral system and referred to the Law Commission’s 170th report which said the time is now ripe for debarring independent candidates from contesting Lok Sabha elections.

“Similarly, the NCRWC has recommended discouragement of independent candidates, who are often dummy candidates or defectors from their party or those denied party tickets,” the petition said.

Supreme Court Acquits Two Men Sentenced To Death By Chhattisgarh High Court

“It is difficult to draw an inference that the appellants had committed the crime.”
In yet another judgment delivered on Tuesday, the Supreme Court acquitted two men whose death sentence was confirmed by the Chhattisgarh High Court.

The bench comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah, acquitted Digamber Vaishnav and Girdhari Vaishnav who were accused of robbery and murder of five women.

Perusing the evidence on record, the bench noted that the case of prosecution mainly relied on the deposition made by the child witness. The court said that it is clear from the testimony of the child witness that she was not an eyewitness to the incident and that her evidence is fraught with inconsistencies. The bench said:

“This Court has consistently held that evidence of a child witness must be evaluated carefully as the child may be swayed by what others tell him and he is an easy prey to tutoring. Therefore, the evidence of a child witness must find adequate corroboration before it can be relied upon. It is more a rule of practical wisdom than law.”
The court also observed that there was an unexplained delay in reporting the crime. The examination of expert is crucial especially if reliance is placed on the finger print report to suspect the guilt of the accused, the bench said as it noted that the person who took the sample finger prints was not examined by the prosecution.

The court also noted that, even in FIR, there is no averment of any article or money being stolen or lost. Therefore, when the money allegedly recovered is being sought to be relied upon as stolen from the house of the deceased, the same is unreliable when there is nothing on record to support the claim of theft or robbery from the scene of crime, the court added.

On ‘last seen together’ aspect, the bench said that, to constitute the last seen together factor as an incriminating circumstance, there must be close proximity between the time of seeing and recovery of dead body.

Holding that it is difficult to draw an inference that the accused had committed the crime, the bench acquitted them and ordered their release.

Supreme Court turns down sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhat’s plea seeking security for his family

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain sacked Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhat’s plea seeking security for his family.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer asked Bhat to approach the Gujarat High Court with his plea.

On October 4 last year, the apex court dismissed his wife Shweta Bhat’s plea, challenging the police probe and his judicial custody in a 22-year-old case of alleged planting of drugs to arrest an advocate, and said he could approach an “appropriate forum” for relief.

The apex court had held it was not appropriate for it to interfere in the ongoing investigation.

Bhat was suspended in 2011 on charges of remaining absent from duty without permission and misuse of official vehicles and later sacked in August 2015.

His wife Shweta had unsuccessfully contested assembly election as a Congress party candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Maninagar constituency in Ahmedabad in 2012.

Sanjiv Bhatt and seven others, including some former policemen attached with the Banaskantha Police, were initially detained for questioning in the case. Bhat was Banaskantha district superintendent of police in 1996.

According to the police, Banaskantha Police under Bhatt arrested an advocate called Sumersingh Rajpurohit in 1996 on charges of possessing around 1 kg of drugs.

At the time, Banaskantha Police claimed that drugs were found in a hotel room occupied by Rajpurohit in the district’s Palanpur town.

However, a probe by Rajasthan Police concluded that Rajpurohit was allegedly falsely implicated by Banaskantha Police to compel him to transfer a disputed property at Pali in Rajasthan.

It also claimed to have found that Rajpurohit was allegedly abducted by Banaskantha Police from his residence at Pali.

Following the Rajasthan Police investigation, former inspector of Banaskantha I B Vyas moved the Gujarat High Court in 1999 demanding a thorough inquiry into the matter.

In June this year, the high court handed over the probe in the case to the CID while hearing the petition and asked it to complete the probe in three months.

Why only ‘babus’ shortlisted for appointment as information commissioners : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre as to why only retired or sitting bureaucrats were being shortlisted by the search committee for appointment as information commissioners.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer 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.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that search committee has recommended 14 names for consideration to the selection committee for appointing information commissioners.

“In these 14 names, apart from bureaucrats (retired or sitting) is there anybody else?,” the bench asked.

To this, the ASG said one of the 14 persons is a retired judge while rest are bureaucrats.

“Their (petitioners) objection is that only civil servants are there. Ultimately, you do not find even a single person other than bureaucrats,” the bench told the ASG.

The bench also observed that the search committee comprises of civil servants only.

The apex court is 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.

During the hearing, the ASG told the court that process of appointing information commissioners was an ongoing exercise and government is following the selection criteria prescribed under the RTI Act.

Advocate Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for the petitioners, said that cases in State Information Commissions (SICs) are kept pending for years due to non-availability of information commissioners and in West Bengal, cases filed in 2008 is being decided now.

He said that as per apex court’s December 13 last year order, the Centre should have put on the website the names of members of search committee, candidates who have been shortlisted and criteria which was followed for selection but it was done only after appointment of four information commissioners.

“This information should have been made public during the process of appointment and not after the appointment was already being done,” Sachdeva said, adding, “transparency in the entire process is required”.

He said that the government was appointing only retired or sitting civil servants as information commissioners but names of persons like activists, scientists, journalists, lawyers and others should also be considered for appointment.

The ASG told the court that government has complied with the requirements during the process of appointing chief information commissioner and information commissioners and the details were uploaded on the website.

She said 280 applicants had applied in the process and while some vacancies have been filed up, the process for others was going on.

The counsel appearing for West Bengal told the bench that they already have one state chief information commissioner and three state information commissioner and they would review the situation within six months and see whether they needed more state information commissioners.

Similarly, counsel appearing for Andhra Pradesh said they have three state information commissioners and process to fill up the vacancy was already underway.

The petitioners counsel informed the bench that 10 state information commissioners have recently retired in Uttar Pradesh and he has filed a separate application in the court in this regard.

The bench asked the states to file affidavits within two-three days giving details of the steps taken by them in filing up the existing vacancies.

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 the appointments in a timely manner.

Aircel-Maxis case: SC recuses from hearing Swamy’s plea

New Delhi: A Supreme Court judge today recused herself from hearing a plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking to implead himself as a party in a case related to probe into alleged disproportionate assets of an ED officer investigating the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

Swamy said the petition filed by Rajneesh Kapur seeking investigation of assets of ED officer Rajeshwar Singh, in which the top court had on June 5 sought assistance of Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, was an attempt to delay the ongoing probe in the Aircel-Maxis case.

A vacation bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra asked Swamy to mention the matter on June 25 before another bench as Justice Malhotra recused herself from hearing in the matter without assigning any reason.
“You mention the matter on next Monday (June 25). The bench will be sitting in different combination at that time,” the bench said.
During a brief hearing, Swamy said that the apex court had earlier this year directed for completion of investigation in the Aircel-Maxis deal case within six months.

Do state commissions for women really exist: SC asks Centre

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre if state commissions for women (SCW) actually exist across the country.

The top court raised the question as it dealt with the issue of precarious conditions faced by destitute widows living in Vrindavan and such other places.

The apex court, which is hearing a matter pertaining to the condition of such widows across the country, told the Centre that if SCWs did not exist in the states, then the concerned state governments should be asked to ensure setting up of such panels.

“The solicitor general should also inform us whether the SCW is actually existing in all the state governments and if not, then a communication to the state governments be sent to ensure that these SCW should be in place in accordance with the statute,” a bench headed by Justice M B Lokur said.

The Centre told the bench, which also comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, that it would furnish an affidavit on the agreed action plan, which contains several steps required to be taken to improve the situation of the destitute widows.

The court asked the Centre to do the needful within six weeks and fixed the matter for hearing on December 6.

In August, the top court had said that the ostracised destitute widows belong to the “socially disadvantaged class” of society and were not treated with the dignity they deserve in the shelter homes in Vrindavan and elsewhere.

It had equated them with socially underprivileged groups who have no real access to justice, are voiceless and were needed to be empowered.

“There can be little or no doubt at all that widows in some parts of the country are socially deprived and to an extent ostracised. Perhaps this is the reason why many of them choose to come to Vrindavan and other ashrams where, unfortunately, they are not treated with the dignity they deserve,” the bench had then said.

“It is to give voice to these hapless widows that it became necessary for this court to intervene as a part of its constitutional duty and for reasons of social justice to issue appropriate directions,” it had said.

Observing that encouraging widow re-marriage was a “subject of hope”, it had set up a six-member committee to study the reports on their condition furnished in the apex court and come up with a common working plan by November 30 this year.

The apex court had earlier taken note of the “pathetic” condition of widows after a petition was filed in 2007 highlighting how they lived in the welfare homes of Vrindavan.

It had referred to various reports filed by the National Legal Services Authority, District Legal Services Authority and National Commission for Women on the condition of shelter homes for widows in Vrindavan.

One of the reports had said there was lack of proper toilets and bathrooms in the shelter homes, besides poor water and electricity facilities.