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.

Supreme Court dismisses plea to advance poll timing in Lok Sabha election

The Supreme Court Monday dismissed a plea seeking a direction to the Election Commission to advance poll timings to 5:30 am from 7 am for the seventh phase of Lok Sabha polls in view of searing heat and the month of Ramzan.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna rejected the plea, saying the notified timings of voting are from 7 am to 6 pm and voters can cast vote in the morning also.

“The timings are for 7 am to 6 pm. People can come in the morning to cast their votes. They (EC) will face logistical problem (if timings are advanced),” the bench told advocate Mohammad Nizamuddin Pasha who had filed the petition.

Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea alleging cash-for-vote in LS polls in Tamil Nadu

The Supreme Court Monday refused to entertain a plea which alleged that people were being bribed on a massive scale for the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not inclined to hear the matter since the elections in the state were already over.

“As elections in the state of Tamil Nadu are over, we are not inclined to entertain this petition,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

The apex court had earlier sought Election Commission’s response on the plea in which the petitioner had sought creating awareness through TV, newspapers and radio that it was a punishable offence to give or take cash for votes.

The petition had said that so far Rs 78.12 crore in cash has been seized in the state.

The plea said the poll panel has already designated all 40 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, along with 70 other seats across the country, as “expenditure sensitive”.

“That Case of the petitioner is that there are reports in all the leading newspapers and T.V. Channels regarding cash-for-vote in bye elections and Lok Sabha, elections and state assembly elections. A survey report also speak about the increasing cash for vote practice in Tamil Nadu,” it said.

The petition further said that if one political party has an overwhelming superiority in money, the newspapers support and give patronage to it, and it will be almost impossible for it ever to be defeated.

“This would result in some voters being denied an equal voice and some candidates, denied equal chance,” it said.

The plea also alleged that all political parties openly paid cash-for-vote to the voters in Madurai, Thirumangalam bye-election held on 2009.

“A main major political party paid Rs 5,000 each to the voters to cast their vote, to their favoured candidates. The Election Commission’s hands were tied and its officials were seen as silent spectators in Madurai, Thirumangalam Bye Election constituency,” the plea claimed.

The petition sought increase in the number of flying squads appointed by EC to control cash-for-vote and effective monitoring.

It also sought that if election is postponed or cancelled for the reason of distribution of cash for vote or for deviating any election rules, the huge money spent for election by government should be recovered from the candidate/ head of political party.

The petitioner had referred to the media and intelligence reports to say that Rs 10,000 crore case was arriving in Tamil Nadu and the recent seizure of Rs 11.5 crore from a cement godown in Vellore district by the I-T investigation wing substantiates the allegations that huge cash was being used for votes.

SC to hear I-T dept plea against quashing of black money case involving Chidambaram’s family

The Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear the Income Tax department’s appeal challenging the Madras High Court order which quashed criminal prosecution against senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s family members under the black money law.

The top court, however, refused to stay the order of the high court.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to Chidambaram’s wife Nalini and their son Karti, who is contesting Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.

The bench also sought reply from Karti’s wife Srinidhi and others in the case.

The high court had quashed criminal prosecution initiated by the I-T department under the Black Money Act against the three.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the I-T department, sought stay of the high court order of November 2, 2018 on various grounds including that it can be used by other accused to avoid criminal prosecution in cases related to black money.

To this, the bench said that granting stay at this stage without hearing the other side would amount to allowing the appeal of the I-T department.

The Solicitor general further said that if the stay is not granted then other high courts may quash the criminal prosecution against similarly placed accused under the black money law and urged that the November order of the high court should not be treated as a precedent.

The bench said that it will not be treated as a precedent as the high court would be cognizant of the fact that the apex court is seized of the matter and is scrutinizing the Madras High Court order.

The issue relates to alleged non-disclosure of overseas assets and bank accounts held by the trio.

According to the I-T Department, the three had not disclosed a property they jointly owned in Cambridge in the UK worth Rs 5.37 crore in their returns which amounted to an offence under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) Act and Imposition of Tax Act.

It also alleged that Karti did not disclose an overseas bank account he holds with Metro Bank in the UK and investments he had made in Nano Holdings LLC, USA.

He had also “failed” to disclose investments made by Chess Global Advisory, a company co-owned by him, which amounted to committing an offence under the Black Money Act, the department had said in its complaint in the special court in May last year.

On the issue, Karti’s spokesperson said the I-T department had alleged that a house property was not disclosed in the I-T returns of Karti Chidambaram and his family members.

“The I-T department’s complaint was challenged in the Madras High Court. The High Court quashed the complaint as baseless and illegal,” he said, adding that Karti and others will appear in due course and contest the case.

“You Will Never Let This Country Remain In Peace,” Says SC Rejects Plea For Worship At Ayodhya Site.

“You will never let this country remain in peace,” the Supreme Court said Friday while dismissing a plea seeking permission to carry out religious activities in nine ancient temples situated on the undisputed acquired land adjacent to Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya. “There will always be something,” said a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna. The bench was hearing an appeal filed against the January 10 order of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which had dismissed the plea seeking its nod to offer prayer in the nine temples there and had also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on the petitioner.

The apex court, while hearing the appeal, told petitioner Pandit Amar Nath Misra to “stop poking” around with the issue. Misra, who is a social activist, had claimed before the high court that authorities have turned a “blind eye” to the initiation of religious activities in ancient temples which are situated on the acquired but undisputed land in Ayodhya since last 25 years.

The apex court recently appointed a panel of mediators headed by former top court judge Justice F M I Kalifulla for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement to the vexatious land dispute. 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.

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. On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished. Religious tolerance has been one of the great traditions of the people of India, HC had said Pandit Amar Nath Misra had approached the High Court seeking permission to carry out religious activity in nine old/ancient temples housing the idols of various Gods and Goddesses situated on the undisputed acquired land adjacent to the Ram Janam Bhoomi Complex.

The bench noted that this case is undoubtedly one of the most sensitive case and known to persons of all faiths across the country. It noted in its order: “Even otherwise any citizen in his own house or over his own property can define his place of worship but such a right cannot be acknowledged as a right to be asserted at a public place which has been established to be utilized by every member of the public at large for a particular purpose. Thus, the land which has been acquired by the Central Government in the interest of the public at large, cannot be claimed to be a place of worship as a matter of fundamental right.”

The bench had also observed that religious tolerance has been one of the great traditions of the people of India.

It had said: “The people of different religions and sects have been living together since ages and contributing in the development of the country. This is a message for all the communities to show full faith and credit to the Constitution and judiciary for maintaining the rule of law and communal harmony. A tolerant society must be nurtured for our growth as a country.”

 

Enron-Dabhol power project: Supreme Court closes case of alleged corruption

The Supreme Court Thursday closed the case of alleged corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats and corporates in the Enron-Dabhol power project, taking note of the inordinate delay in the case that was filed in 1997.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna allowed the plea of Maharashtra government to close the case.

The USD 3 billion mega power project was set up in Maharashtra by US-based Enron and its associates Dabhol Power Corporation in 1996 after signing of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) in 1993.

The apex Court had in 1997 admitted the petition of the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) challenging a Bombay High Court order upholding the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and issued notice to MSEB on the role of government and its officials in the signing of the PPA.

Nobody for opaqueness, but judiciary can’t be destroyed in name of transparency: SC

Nobody wants a “system of opaqueness” but in the name of transparency the judiciary cannot be destroyed, the Supreme Court said Thursday, while hearing the appeals of its registry against the Delhi High Court order that the CJI’s office falls under the ambit of RTI Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict on three appeals filed in 2010 by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court against the High Court and the CIC’s orders after lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General K K Venugopal concluded submissions.

“Nobody is for a system of opaqueness. Nobody wants to remain in the state of darkness or keep anybody in the state of darkness. The question is drawing a line. In the name of transparency, you can’t destroy the institution,” said the bench which also comprised Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

At the outset, Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist S C Agrawal, said though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it is hearing the appeals due to “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer termed as “unfortunate” and “disturbing” the reluctance of judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act and asked, “Do judges inhabit different universe?”

He said the apex court has always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State but it develops cold feet when its own issues require attention.

Referring to RTI provisions, he said they also deal with exemptions and information which cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always “outweigh” personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office.

Dealing with “judicial independence”, he said the National Judicial Accountability commission Act was struck down for protecting judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from “public scrutiny”.

“This is not the independence from accountability. Independence of judiciary means it has to be independent from the executive and not independent from common public. People are entitled to know as to what public authorities are doing,” he said.

The deliberations of Collegium in appointing and overlooking judges or lawyers should be made public and information can be parted with under RTI on case-to-case basis keeping in mind the larger public interest, he said.

The bench said people, of late, are opting out and do not want to become judges because of the fear of negative publicity.

“Of late, we are experiencing good people, who have opted to become judges, withdrawing their consent. On interaction, the reason appears to be the possibility of the negative observations, whether rightly or wrongly, being brought into the public domain,” it said.

In such a case, besides losing judgeship, reputation, professional life and family life of the person are all adversely affected, it said.

It said it has brought about changes in the functioning of the collegium system and said now collegium members have started interacting with prospective candidates.

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It then referred to a case of a Madras District Judge who was not elevated as the High Court judge and moreover, he was allowed to retire at the age of 58 years.

“All his colleagues who were not even in the zone of consideration for the High Court got the extension, but not only did he not become a High Court judge, he retired at 58”, the CJI said, adding that all the decisions of collegium cannot be “painted” with the same brush.

“Let us not assume any judge has an animus against anybody, let alone the Chief Justice. Otherwise, the institution will dissolve…,” the bench said.

Bhushan then referred to the case of a HC lawyer whose name was recommended and reiterated by the High Court Collegium twice and still the government did not accept and said that people are entitled to know the reasons.

Dealing with the aspect of personal information which can be shared, Bhushan gave an illustration and said suppose a homosexual lawyer’s elevation as a judge is objected to by the government on this ground alone, then this personal information can be disclosed in public interest as people have the right to know.

Justice Chandrachud said certain things may vary from case to case.

He said suppose a judge wanted transfer because of certain kind of illness of his spouse then the nature of disease cannot be disclosed as this is a “personal information”.

The bench said that there cannot be a “blanket” ban on disclosure and it has to be examined on a case-to-case basis.

Justice Gupta said a person himself does not want a disclosure as to his sexuality, then a line would have to be drawn, otherwise it would be “very dangerous”.

The best test would be to ask the person himself if he wanted the reasons for non-elevation or non-appointment to be placed in public domain, the bench said.

Detention of foreigners: Supreme Court directs Assam chief secretary to appear before it on Apr 8

The Supreme Court Monday voiced unhappiness over the inaction in a case relating to detention of foreigners in Assam and directed the state Chief Secretary to appear before it on April 8

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi termed the affidavit filed by the Assam government as an “exercise in futility” and wanted to know as to how many persons, who have been declared foreigners by the tribunal, have amalgamated with the local population.

“What is the number of declared foreigners who have amalgamated with the local population. This is why we wanted your Chief Secretary to remain present,” the bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said while expressing displeasure over the non-appearance of officials.

The apex court then directed the chief secretary to appear before it and posted the PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander on the issue for April 8.

The bench was hearing a plea on the condition of detention centres in Assam and the prolonged detention of foreigners there.

Earlier the apex court had asked the central government to apprise it on several issues including as to how many functional detention centres are there in the state.

Will Judicial Declaration Of A Person As A Foreigner Stand Superseded If His Name Is Included In NRC? SC Commences Hearing.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was faced with the question whether judicial determination of a person being a foreigner would stand superseded if the name of the same person is included in the draft/final NRC. The question was being considered by a Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna. During the hearing, the State of Assam and the Centre submitted that the judicial verdict would prevail, notwithstanding the executive exercise of the preparation of the NRC list. They relied on the provisions of paragraph 3(2) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

However, Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, asserted that if the name of a person included in the NRC is deleted on the ground that he was a foreigner or an illegal migrant, he would have a right of appeal or right to approach the appropriate forum, as the case may be, against the exclusion/dropping of his name from the NRC.

Mr. Sibal added that though the statute may not have provided a remedy of appeal against such exclusion, the remedy may be carved out by the Supreme Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The arguments on the issue will continue at 3 pm on March 28. Notably, another matter relating to NRC has been listed for March 28. The question posed before the Apex Court in that petition concerns the fate of people whose names appear in the electoral roll but are not included in the final NRC.

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/declaration-of-a-person-as-a-foreigner-nrc-143848