Why No Mechanism To Monitor Assets Of MPs And MLAs : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain in two weeks why it has not set up a permanent mechanism to monitor the undue accretion of assets by elected representatives as directed by it last year. On Feb 16 last year, the apex court had said the undue accretion of assets by lawmakers was a “sure indicator” of the beginning of a failing democracy, which if left unattended, would lead to the destruction of democracy and pave way for “rule of mafia”.

It had then asked for a permanent mechanism to monitor the undue accretion of wealth by lawmakers. On Tuesday, hearing a contempt plea filed by NGO ‘Lok Prahari’, it said it was not issuing any notice but seeking a reply from the secretary of legislative department of the Union of India why the court’s directions were not complied with.

The NGO has claimed that certain directions issued by the court on Feb 16 last year have not been complied with. The court also asked the secretary to explain what his department has done with respect to non-disclosure or part disclosure of assets which would amount to “undue influence” under the Representation of People’s (RP) Act. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna asked the secretary to explain why Form 26, which every candidate is required to fill during his nomination, does not contain a declaration on whether he or she has suffered any kind of disqualification under the RP Act. At the outset, S N Shukla, secretary of the NGO, appearing in person, told the court that the Election Commission has complied with two of its directions, including one on the disclosure of assets and source of income of candidates, their spouse or dependents.

He said one more direction given by the court for making provision in Form 26 for disclosure by candidates about securing of contracts of high-monetary value either from the central or the state government has been complied. He, however, said three other directions has not been complied with till now. Shukla said no permanent machinery has been created to monitor the undue accretion of assets of members of Parliament, members of Legislative Assembly and Councils. He said the provision for non-disclosure of assets or part disclosure of assets which would amount to “undue influence” has not been given effect.

The third, he said, no provision has been made in Form 26 to enable a candidate to mandatorily disclose whether he or she suffers any disqualification of any kind under the RP Act. In a landmark verdict on electoral reforms on Feb 16 last year, the apex court had said disproportionate assets of elected representatives was a matter which should alarm citizens and voters of any democratic society. It had said that undue accumulation of wealth in the hands of any individual would not be conducive to the general welfare of the society.

Besides, income of lawmakers without any known or by questionable sources, would pave the way for the rule of mafia over the rule of law. The court had referred to Articles 38 and 39 of the Constitution, which declare that the state shall direct its policy towards securing that ownership and control of material resources of the community were distributed so as to best subserve the common good and guaranteeing that the economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. Lok Prahari, the NGO, had sought creation of a permanent mechanism to investigate candidates whose assets have grown disproportionately during their tenure as MLAs or MPs and also a direction to the candidates contesting polls to disclose their sources of income.

 

Supreme Court Issues Notice To Centre On Another Plea Against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Supreme Court Tuesday sought response from the Centre on a fresh plea challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice on the plea filed by Assam State Jamiat Ulama E Hind and ordered its tagging with similar pending petition of “Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha” (Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill). Also Read – SC Acquits Two Men Sentenced To Death By Chhattisgarh HC [Read Judgment] “Issue notice. Tag with Writ Petition … ,” the bench said.

The apex court had on February 27 issued notice on the plea filed by Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill which had sought to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order as “discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal”. Also Read – Ensure Mandatory Use Of Mic-Systems In All SC Courtrooms: Rights Group To CJI Prior to this, it had decided to keep the plea pending saying that it would be taken up “only after the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, consideration of which is now stated to be pending before the Rajya Sabha, reaches its finality”.

The bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha and it would now be presented in the Upper House of Parliament. Passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, the bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, after six years of residence in India instead of the 12 years currently, even if they do not possess any document. It also seeks to provide relief to the persecuted migrants who have come through the western borders to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, the home minister had said. The PIL of Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill has opposed the bill on the ground that it had introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and termed it as “communally motivated humanitarianism”.

“Never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as a ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens. It has introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and can be conveniently branded as ‘communally motivated humanitarianism’. “The illegal immigrants who are to be granted the benefit of this legislation are to qualify for citizenship only on the basis of religion, a requirement that goes against one of the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution, secularism,” it said. It further claimed that the “direct and inevitable” effect of the bill would be the dilution of the Assam Accord inked in 1985, which presently made anyone entering Assam from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971 an “illegal immigrant”. “The amendment defeats the purpose of the accord and opens the floodgates to more illegal immigration and consequently, increases claims on diminishing resources.

The transformation of migrants, hitherto perceived as illegal encroachers, into legitimate citizens cannot be justified,” it said. The plea further claimed that the bill had the potential to “derail and nullify” the gains made by updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. “Many persons, who could not otherwise establish their claims and were therefore excluded from the draft NRC published recently, can now take shelter under this and subsequently, become legitimate Indian citizens at the cost of the indigenous people of Assam,” it said. The petition further alleged that Assam had repeatedly witnessed ethnic clashes and violence, which were arising out of existential threat perceptions, fear of being reduced to minority in one’s own homeland and giving up territories to foreigners and imposition of foreign or alien culture. The PIL sought directions to the Centre, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Assam government to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order as “discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal”. It further sought directions to the Centre to constitute a National Immigration Commission or any other appropriate body to frame a National Immigration Policy and a National Refugee Policy.

 

 

Govt’s Apathy Turning Our Cities Into Virtual ‘Gas Chambers’: Plea In Supreme Court For Adopting Electric Vehicles.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a petition demanding implementation of the plans and policies for adoption of electric vehicles to tackle air pollution and climate change. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna ordered the government to apprise it of the status of implementation of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme and listed the matter to be heard after one month.

The petition has been jointly filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, NGO Common Cause and Sita Ram Jindal Foundation. The petitioners were represented by Advocate Prashant Bhushan. They bring to the attention of the court the fact that the government had released the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan, 2020 in 2012, making several recommendations for adoption of electric vehicles. Among other things, the plan had recommended that government fleets and public transportation be switched to electric vehicles; subsidies be provided to consumers for purchase of electric vehicles; provision of tax incentives & policy incentives; and requisite charging infrastructure be created by mandating fast and normal charging points in apartment buildings, parking lots, government offices, malls etc. Also Read – SC To Hear Rafale Review Petitions In CJI’s Chamber On 26th February The petition submits that in order to implement the plan, the government promulgated the FAME-India scheme that does provide subsidies to consumers.

It, however, contends that this scheme failed to mandate demand and charging infrastructure. The petition further alleges that while a modest target of sale of 7 million electric vehicles was set by the 2012 plan, only 0.263 million vehicles have been sold as of January, 2019, “showing a total failure of that scheme”. It further claims that the government has thus far allocated less than 600 crores over a period of 7 years towards the entire scheme, despite the fact that the 2012 plan had called for an investment of 14,500 crores from the government to kickstart demand and creation of charging infrastructure. The petition goes on to rely on Niti Aayog’s policy framework on Zero Emission Vehicles as well, to assert that electric vehicles alleviate the effects of pollution, in terms of the total ‘life cycle’ cost of ownership as well as ‘life cycle’ emission of pollution vis-a-vis fossil fuel based vehicles. Furthermore, relying on Constitutional guarantees for securing healthy environment, it contends,”Articles 39(e), 47 and 48 of Constitution of India collectively cast a duty on the State to securethe health of the people, improve public health, and protect and improve the environment.

The lack of effort on the part of the enforcement agencies, notwithstanding adequate laws hasresulted into spiralling pollution levels. The quality of air is steadily decreasing and no effective steps have been taken by the administration in this behalf……government has abdicated its duty to protect the citizens right to health and clean environment under Article 14 and Article 21. Governmental apathy in suitably implementing there commendations of it’s own agencies has led to spiralling emissions from fossil fuel based vehicles contributing to the problems of Climate Change and Air Pollution turning our cities into virtual ‘gas chambers’.” The petition therefore demands implementation of the FAME-India scheme and Niti Aayog’s recommendations, as well as adoption of internationally recognised best practices for integration of usage of electric vehicles.

 

Supreme Court agrees to hear plea seeking protection of human rights of security forces

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to the Union of India, Ministry of Defence, Jammu and Kashmir and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on a plea, filed by 19-year-old Preeti Kedar Gokhale and 20-year-old Kajal Mishra.

The Supreme Court Monday agreed to examine a plea seeking protection of human rights of security force personnel, who are being attacked by mobs while performing duties.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to the Union of India, Ministry of Defence, Jammu and Kashmir and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on a plea, filed by 19-year-old Preeti Kedar Gokhale and 20-year-old Kajal Mishra.

The plea sought formulation of a policy to curb human rights violations of security force personnel, who are being attacked by mobs while performing duties.

Supreme Court to hear PIL seeking protection of Kashmiri students.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Friday a PIL seeking a direction to authorities to protect Kashmiri students who are allegedly being attacked across the country in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror strike.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, on Thursday took note of senior advocate Colin Gonsalves’ submission that the plea needed to be heard urgently as it relates to the safety and security of students.

The bench, which refused to list the plea for hearing on Thursday, however, assured Gonsalves that it will be listed for consideration on Friday.

The plea alleged that students from Kashmir Valley are being attacked at different educational institutions across the country after the Pulwama terror attack and authorities concerned should be directed to take actions to stop such assaults.

Forty 40 CRPF personnel were killed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, in a terror attack allegedly carried out by banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Supreme Court allowed NGO Naz Foundation Trust to withdraw curative plea against verdict recriminalising consensual gay sex

The Supreme Court Monday allowed NGO Naz Foundation Trust to withdraw its curative plea challenging the apex court’s 2013 verdict that had again criminalised gay sex between two consenting adults.

A bench headed comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna considered the plea of the NGO that its curative plea has now become infructuous in view of the five-judge constitution bench verdict in 2018 which had set aside the 2013 judgement.

The trust, which had first knocked doors of the Delhi High Court with its plea in 2001, seeking decriminalising of the consensual sexual act, had filed the curative petition.

After the 2013 verdict, the Supreme Court had dismissed the review plea that had laid the foundation to file the curative petition.

However, a five-judge constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra entertained fresh petitions seeking decriminalising of the consensual gay sex.

The NGO said that the 2018 judgement had already set aside the earlier one, and hence it be allowed to take back its curative petition. The apex court allowed it.

A five-judge bench had on September 6 last year unanimously struck down part of the British-era law and held that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised consensual gay sex was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”.

The bench had held that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community possess the same constitutional rights as any other citizen and part of Section 377, which prohibits sexual relationship between consenting adults of the same sex, is violative of the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.

The court referred to its 2013 verdict and said that upholding the validity of Section 377 on the ground that LGBTs comprised a minuscule fraction of the total population was constitutionally “impermissible” and the law was being misused.

Supreme Court raps CBI for transferring officer probing Bihar shelter home cases

The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on CBI for transferring its former Joint Director A K Sharma, who was probing Bihar’s shelter home cases, out of the agency in violation of the court’s order and directed its then interim chief M Nageswara Rao to personally appear before it on February 12.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took serious note of violation of two earlier orders of the apex court and issued contempt notice to Rao for transferring Sharma to the CRPF on January 17 without taking prior permission from the court.

The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, directed CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla to give the names of officers who were part of the process in transferring Sharma out of the probe agency.

The top court referred to its earlier orders in which it had asked CBI not to remove Sharma from the team probing Bihar shelter home cases.

Besides Rao, the bench also sought appearance of all other CBI officers who were involved in the transfer process of Sharma on February 12.

It also directed for presence of S Bhasu Ram, in-charge Director of Prosecution CBI, for violating its order.

Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur and the issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

Supreme Court agrees to examine Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent quota to poor in general category

The Supreme Court Friday decided to examine the Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent reservation in jobs and education to poor candidates belonging to general category.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to the central government on various petitions challenging the validity of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019, which paved the way for grant of quota to poor belonging to general category.

“We are examining the matter and hence issuing notice returnable within four weeks,” the bench said.

The bench, however, did not stay the operation of the Centre’s decision granting quota to the poor in the general category.

In poll year, the Narendra Modi government had come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to the poor among general category candidates.

The petitions were filed by parties including organisations like Janhit Abhiyan and Youth For Equality challenging the Centre’s decision.

The petition, filed by Youth For Equality, has sought the quashing of the bill saying that the economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.

The plea has said the bill violates basic feature of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general categories and the 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.

A similar plea has been filed by businessman Tehseen Poonawalla seeking to quash the bill, saying that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”.

The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill on January 8 and 9 respectively and it has also been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Supreme Court seeks information on detention centres and foreigners detained there in Assam

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Centre to provide it various details including number of functional detention centres in Assam and the number of foreigners detained there during the last 10 years.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a petition filed by activist Harsh Mander on the condition of detention centres in Assam and the prolonged detention of foreigners there.

The apex court asked the Centre to provide various details about the detention centres, the period of detention of detainees and the status of their cases before the Foreigners Tribunal.

“We would like to know as to how many detention centres are there. We also want to know how many persons are lodged there and since when,” the bench said.

The bench also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to provide details as to how many persons are being declared foreigners so far and how many of them have bene deported till date.

The bench also sought the year-wise details of foreigners who have illegally entered into India during the last 10 years.

The bench, which has sought details within three weeks form the authority, has now posted the matter for further hearing on February 19.

Supreme Court asks ED to provide date on which it wants to interrogate Karti Chidambaram

The Supreme Court Monday asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to specify by January 30 the date on which it wanted to interrogate Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, in the INX Media and the Aircel Maxis cases.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, to seek instructions and give the date on which the probe agency wanted to quiz Karti.

The bench was hearing Karti’s plea seeking permission to travel to France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom for the next few months for international tennis tournaments organised by a company called ‘Totus Tennis Ltd’ having its registered office in the UK.

“We will ensure both. We will ensure that he appears before you (ED) and he goes for his tennis assignment,” the bench said adding, “No tennis for him if he evades”.

The ED will have to apprise the court by January 30 about the date on which it wants Karti to appear before it for interrogation.

Karti is facing criminal cases being investigated by the ED one of which relates to Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving foreign funds of Rs 305 crore when his father was the finance minister.