Supreme Court Seeks Status on Uniform Civil Code in Country

Uniform Civil CodeThe Supreme Court has granted three weeks time to the government to come up with a proposal to amend the Divorce Act and inform it whether it was willing to bring the Uniform Civil Code in the country.

“We have requested the Solicitor General, who is present in Court, to look into the matter. He prays for three weeks’ time. List after three weeks,” a bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh said.

“There is total confusion we should work on the Uniform Civil Code. What happened to it? If you (government) want to do it, then you should do it. Why don’t you frame and implement it,” the bench observed.
The court in July had asked the Ministry of Law and Justice to file its reply and decide on the issue of amendment of sub Section (1) of Section 10A of the Divorce Act.

The apex court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a Delhi-based man, challenging the legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce, whereas this period of separation is one year for other religions.

Albert Anthony has challenged the validity of Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act, 1869, saying the two-year mandatory period of separation was biased against the Christian community amounting to “hostile discrimination”.

The Kerala and Karnataka high courts had declared the provision unconstitutional but Christians living in the other states were being denied benefit of the two judgments, he said.

SC decries industry’s tendency to hold back dues & taxes

The Supreme Court Friday deprecated the tendency of some industrial houses not to pay the government dues and taxes while lavishly spending on celebrity actors for the advertising their products.

A bench of taxmade the observation as it refused to provide any interim relief to cement manufacturer Binani Cement Limited that has been asked by the Rajasthan government to pay sales tax dues of Rs.183.37 crore for the period 2008-2011.
As senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for Binani Cement, addressed the court on its plea, Justice Sen observed: “Everybody has to be paid except the state. This is the same (company) in which Amitabh Bachchan says ‘Sadiyon Ke Liye'”.
“How much you have paid? Industry does not pay (the government dues). They don’t pay taxes. Are they only for employment? How much you have spent on advertisement. It must be in crores. AGovernment don’t run without taxes,” he asked.
Asking Binani Cement to pay the taxes, Justice Sen said: “You pay your taxes. I don’t know why we pamper industry. They don’t pay (their) dues, taxes..”
The court said this while refusing to interfere with Rajasthan High Court order by which it had stayed operation of an order passed by the single judge, saying Binani Cement would pay its sales tax dues of Rs.184.12 crore (Rs.153.34 crore tax and Rs. 30.78 crore interest) by paying an upfront payment of Rs.50 crore and the balance in twelve instalments.
This order of the single judge came in the wake of Binani Cements’ challenging the April 7 order of Rajasthan’s commercial tax department by which the cement manufacturer was ordered to make an upfront payment of 50 percent of the sales tax dues of Rs.183.37 crore and balance in ten instalments.
As Binani Cement counsel Rao sought to make his submission on the financial stress that his client was facing, the court said that he could present these arguments before the division bench of the Rajasthan High court when it heard the matter.
The single judge order was challenged by the Rajasthan government before the division bench which had put it on hold.

Delhi gang rape: SC extends stay on death sentence of two convicts

16 decThe Supreme Court Monday extended till April 7 the stay on the execution of the death sentence of Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, two of the four convicts in the Dec 16, 2012 gang rape, as it sought a copy of the trial court judgment.

The death sentence of the four convicts was upheld by the Delhi High Court March 13.

The apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice J. Chelameswar at the outset of the hearing said they have gone through the judgment of the high court upholding their conviction and award of death sentence but would like to go though the judgment of the trial court.

The court adjourned the hearing till April 7.

Counsel M.L. Sharma appeared for the two death row convicts Mukesh and Pawan.

A special sitting of the apex court bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh had stayed the execution of the death sentence till March 31.

Both Mukesh and Pawan have contended that they were denied fair trial under the garb of day-to-day trial and under torture they were compelled to accept the prosecution story “which is not only concocted but also contrary to the facts”.

On March 13, the high court bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani had upheld the death sentence of Mukesh and Pawan along with the two other convicts.

“Society’s abhorrence to atrocious crimes perpetrated upon innocent and helpless victims has resulted in the death penalty being retained on the statute book to remind such criminals that human life is very precious and one who dares to take the life of others must lose his own life,” the high court had said.

Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Ram Singh along with a juvenile were accused of gang rape and assault on a 23-year-old paramedical student inside a private bus. The victim and her friend were thrown out of the bus after the crime.

The woman died Dec 29, 2012 at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Mukesh and Pawan have contended that the prosecution’s story that the victim’s end came because of heavy bleeding on account of serious injuries to her intestines was not confirmed by the post-mortem report by the Singapore hospital.

They contended that their trial was not free and fair, and the trial that began Jan 21, 2013, was under “public/political pressure” with “object to hang the petitioners (Mukesh and Pawan) and other accused people”.

Describing the entire trial as “miscarriage of justice”, the petitioners contended that their fundamental right (under article 21 and 22 of the constitution) to have a counsel of their choice was violated as they were represented by a state-appointed advocate.

A trial court held Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur guilty Sep 10, 2013 and they were awarded the death sentence after being charged with murder, attempt to murder, gang rape, kidnapping and unnatural acts.

While the fifth accused, Ram Singh, committed suicide in Delhi’s Tihar jail, the juvenile was sent to a correctional home for three years, the maximum under the Juvenile Justice Act.


Lalit Modi will have to wait for RCA poll results

lalit modiFormer Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi will have to wait for some more time to know the results of the Rajasthan Cricket Association’s presidential election as the Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned the hearing in the matter till March 25.

The bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh directed the listing of the matter March 25 as parties to the case sought adjournment.

The election for the RCA president was held Dec 19, 2013, under the supervision of Justice (retd) N.M. Kasliwal who was appointed by the apex court.

The apex court had Jan 27 directed the listing of the matter for March 4 as counsel C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had urged the court to first hear the cricketing body before the envelope containing the results of the RCA election was unsealed.

However, the matter was again adjourned till Tuesday.

The BCCI has contended that a person who has indulged in financial embezzlement and is under life ban of the BCCI cannot even become its ordinary member, not to talk of becoming its office bearer or that of its affiliate body.

The BCCI had September 2013 imposed a life ban on Modi for alleged financial irregularities when he headed the IPL from 2008 to 2010.

(Source: IANS)

SC asks Nokia India to make proposal for settling tax row

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Monday asked Nokia India Pvt. Ltd. to make an offer to the Income Tax department for settling their tax row which has raised difficulties in the takeover of the mobile handset manufacturer’s Chennai plant by Microsoft.

A bench of Anil R.Dave and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh asked the company to make the proposal to settle the tax issue, as it challenged the Delhi High Court order making parent company Nokia Finland jointly responsible for paying the taxes including penalties and interest as determined under the Income Tax Act.

Faulting the Dec 12, 2012 high court order, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the company, told the court that the high court could not have added the name of Nokia Finland along with that of Nokia India as being jointly responsible for the discharge of tax liabilities being raised by the tax authorities.

Objecting to the first two conditions set out by the high court where Nokia Finland has been clubbed with Nokia India in the discharge of tax liabilities under section 201/201A, Rohtagi told the court that it had no problem with the high court asking it to deposit Rs.2,250 crore in an escrow account, the details of which would be furnished to the tax authorities within one month of the agreement with Microsoft/Microsoft International.

Rohtagi told the court that they are willing to deposit the money in the escrow account provided its deal with Microsoft was allowed to sail ahead.

He said otherwise it would shut the plant which has “perishable asserts” and then what would be left to recovered from the plant would be in the range of couple of hundred crores of rupees.

The court was told that the closing of the plant would have a direct bearing on its 8,000 employees and indirectly it would impact the livelihood of more than 25,000 people.

“What will happen if sale (of the Chennai plant) doesn’t take place”, Rohtagi told the court that “it (plant) is a perishable asset” and later it may not even fetch Rs.200 crore.

He wondered how the high court could make Nokia Finland responsible for discharging a tax liability which was beyond the jurisdiction of Indian tax authorities.

Saying that the notice by the tax authorities would take its course of litigation right up to the apex court, Rohtagi told the court that even though it was not obliged, yet Nokia Finland has undertaken to discharge the final amount that would eventually emerge.

However, Rohtagi’s plea was opposed by Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran who said that high court had adversely commented on the conduct of Nokia in the dealing of the matter and that Nokia India had paid the dividends of Rs.3,500 crore to its parent company Nokia Finland.

Prasaran told the court that Nokia India has already transferred Rs.26,000 crore to its parent company ever since it was set up.

After issuing the tax notice, the Tax Authorities attached Nokia’s assets in Chennai which has come in the way of Nokia-Microsoft deal taking its logical course.

(Source: IANS)

Only assembly speaker, deputy speaker enjoy immunity: SC

Chief Justice P. SathasivamEveryone else falls in the same category and could not claim a privilege that is not available to the common man, an Apex Court bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said in its judgment on Tuesday.

The court also set aside the Madhya Pradesh Assembly’s show cause notice to the Lokayukta for breach of privilege for summoning its secretary and seeking certain documents in the course of its probe on a complaint alleging corruption in a construction work in 2007.

Holding that the action of the Lokayukta was legal and could not constitute breach of privilege, Chief Justice Sathasivam, pronouncing the judgment, said that “any person who is aware of breach of Prevention of Corruption Act is duty-bound to give information to the police and co-operate with it”.

(Source: IANS)

Make delay a criteria for deciding mercy petition, says SC

The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the government to include delay as a criteria in deciding the mercy petition of a death row convict.

Pointing out that the government has set out certain criteria for deciding mercy petitions, the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said: “We hereby recommend that in view of the recent jurisprudential development with regard to delay in execution, another criteria may be added to the existing yardsticks so as to require consideration of the delay that may have occurred in disposal of a mercy petition.”

The bench said the clemency procedure “provides a ray of hope” to the condemned prisoners and their family members for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment.

“Therefore, the executive should step up and exercise its time-honoured tradition of clemency power guaranteed in the constitution one way or the other within a reasonable time,” the court said.

Holding that mercy petitions could be disposed of at a “much faster pace than what is adopted now”, the court said: “The fact that no time limit is prescribed to the president/governor for disposal of the mercy petition should compel the government to work in a more systematic manner to repose the confidence of the people in the institution of democracy.”

Urging that mercy petitions should be decided expeditiously, the court said it has consistently held that prolonged delay in execution of the death sentence “gives rise to mental suffering and agony which renders the subsequent execution of death sentence inhuman and barbaric”.

Stating that it was not a “pleasure” for the court to interfere in the constitutional powers, it said: “We implore upon the government to render its advice to the president within a reasonable time so that the president is in a position to arrive at a decision at the earliest.”

Rajiv assassination conspirators escape noose release demanded

The Supreme Court Tuesday commuted the death sentence to three key conspirators in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, holding the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions “unreasonable and dehumanising”. Political parties in Tamil Nadu as well as the elated families have now demanded the trio’s release.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said: “We commute their death sentence into imprisonment for life. Life imprisonment means end of one’s life, subject to any remission granted by the appropriate government.”

The decision takes to four the number of death row convicts in the case whose sentences have been commuted.

The three who escaped the gallows are V. Sriharan alias Murugan, A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu and T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan, currently lodged in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore prison. They had sought commutation of their death sentences due to the long delay in deciding their mercy petitions.

Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister 1984-89, was killed by a Tamil suicide bomber Dhanu at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai May 21, 1991. Fourteen other people also lost their lives in the blast.

In 1998, all the 26 accused in the case were sentenced to death by a special trial court.

In 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of four – Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan and Nalini – while the capital punishment to the others was reduced to varying terms of imprisonment.

While Perarivalan and Nalini are Indians, the other two are Sri Lankan Tamils. Sriharan was a member of the intelligence wing of the now vanquished Tamil Tigers, whose leader V. Prabhakaran ordered Gandhi’s assassination.

The death sentence of Nalini, who is married to Murugan and who became a mother in prison, was commuted to life imprisonment after her mercy petition was accepted. The petition had the recommendation of Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.

The mercy petitions of the three men were rejected by the Tamil Nadu governor April 25, 2004, and forwarded to the union home ministry May 5, 2004.

After over five years, the ministry forwarded the petitions to the president but recalled them Feb 23, 2011. Eventually, the president rejected the mercy petitions Aug 12, 2011, after more than 11 years of the apex court judgment.

The rejection was challenged in the Madras High Court Aug 29, 2011. In May 2012, the Supreme Court transferred the case to itself.

In its verdict Tuesday, the apex court said the delay in deciding the mercy petitions was “inordinate and unreasonable”.

Chief Justice Sathasivam, junking the government’s contention that the death row convict needed to prove that he suffered during the prolonged delay in deciding his mercy petition, said that there was no such requirement in Indian law as well as in international judgments.

The court addressed two questions – whether the nature of delay caused was reasonable or inordinate and whether the dehumanising effect on the accused due to delay has to be ascertained or mere delay on the face of it was sufficient for commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment.

Divya Iyer, a researcher at Amnesty International India, said: “The positive rulings of commutations of January 2014 and those of today offer context and impetus for India to move towards a direction of a society that can be free of the death penalty.”

Expressing happiness at the Supreme Court’s decision, DMK president M. Karunanidhi urged the central and state governments to release the convicts from jail.

MDMK leader Vaiko said the judgement should be etched in golden letters in India’s judicial history and also demanded their release.

Communist Party of India’s Tamil Nadu secretary D. Pandian also urged the state government to release the convicts as they have spent more than two decades behind bars.

Elated at the news, Perarivalan’s mother Arputhammal told the media that she now hoped the Tamil Nadu chief minister would help in her son’s release.

Murugan’s mother Somani also met her son in Vellore. She thanked the media and others for their support.


Oppose principle of ‘mercy death’, government to SC

mercy deathThe Indian government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was opposed to pleas for “mercy death” as this was contrary to law and morality and no judicial pronouncement could be made in its favour.

Additional Solicitor General Siddhartha Luthra told a bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh that section 6.7 of Medical Council of India Regulations while prohibiting mercy deaths, permits it in certain situations.

He said that because of this provision, the court could not frame Vishaka-like guidelines done for protecting women from sexual harassment at work places as there was vacuum on penal provisions on this count.

Luthra told the court that any interpretation of the constitution’s article 21 (protection of life and liberty) on this count has got to be referred to a larger bench.

At this, the court asked Luthra: “Suppose after thorough examination, doctors come to conclusion that the patient will not revive and the relatives of the patient are not in a position to continue the treatment, then what would happen in that situation?”

Luthra said what the court had said could be valid in extreme situations but if in a society, they allow a life to be lost merely because the family is unable to take care of the patient, then it would be a very serious situation.

Appearing for the petitioner NGO Common Cause, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that they are merely asking that a person should be able to make a choice and tell the doctors attending him that in case his condition deteriorates and slips into coma and is in an irrecoverable conditions, then no treatment should be forced on him and he be allowed mercy death.

Bhushan told the court that the right to refuse medical treatment was an absolute right and could not be taken away on the grounds that it may result in death.

He argued it was the right of the patient to refuse treatment and opt for death, adding forcible treatment had social connotations as it deprives others waiting for medical attention of medical care.

Upon the conclusion of arguments, the court reserved the verdict.


SC to rule Friday on validity of newspaper employees’ wage board

supreme courtThe Supreme Court will Friday pronounce its verdict on the validity of the Justice G.R. Majithia Wage Board for Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees that has been challenged by several newspaper organisations including their joint body Indian Newspapers Society (INS).

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh would deliver their judgment on the challenge to the wage board by INS, Bennett Coleman Co. Ltd., Press Trust of India, United News of India, the Hindu, Indian Express Ltd., the Tribune Trust, Rajasthan Patrika P. ltd., Jagran Prakashan Ltd and others.

While contesting the legality of the constitution of the wage board, the newspaper organizations have contended that government had manipulated its composition to ensure that newspapers remained subservient to it and appointed its own labour secretary as the secretary to the wage board.

Contending that Justice Majithia Wage Board was no wage board in the eyes of law, the court was told that it was not validly constituted because the government never appointed three independent people as required under the provisions of law.

The newspaper organisations and their association had even challenged the validity of the Working Journalist and Other Newspaper Employees (Condition of Service) and Miscellaneous Provision Act, 1955.

However, the newspaper employees organisation had contested the claim of the newspaper employers organisations contending that the board was set up under the provisions of the 1955 act and its validity was not in question.

The employees’ side was represented by the Federation of PTI Employees Union and other organisations.