SC seeks Rajasthan govt’s response on plea for probe into death of over 100 infants at Kota hospital.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Rajasthan government on a plea seeking probe into the death of over 100 infants at a hospital in Kota recently.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant issued a notice to the state government on a plea filed by noted doctor K K Aggarwal and social worker B Mishra seeking probe into the death of new-born babies due to lack of equipment at a government hospital in Kota.

Over 100 infants had died in the Kota hospital recently.

Not discussing issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala temple: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday resumed its exercise of framing questions relating to discrimination against women in various religions and made clear that it was not discussing the issue of entry of women of all age groups into Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

A nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde has been hearing several senior lawyers on the issue of framing of larger legal questions to be deliberated upon by it relating to discrimination against women in various religions.

“The Sabarimala review case is not before us. We are not deciding Sabarimala. We are deciding the larger questions,” the bench said when senior advocates F S Nariman, Kapil Sibal, Shyam Divan and Rakesh Dwivedi opposed the hearing on the so-called larger issue relating to discrimination against women in various religions.

A five-judge constitution bench, by a majority of 3:2 on November 14 last year, had referred to a larger bench the issue of discrimination against women in religions such as denial of entry of Muslim women into mosques, the practice of female genital mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community and denial of right to Parsi women who have married outside their religion.

At the outset, Nariman said the question whether women of all age groups can be allowed entry into the Sabarimala temple has been already decided by the Supreme Court in 2018 and the subsequent review has also been dealt with and hence, this cannot be adjudicated afresh.

The bench, which also comprises justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said that it will also consider the objection of Nariman as one of the issues.

Nariman said the apex court cannot club other issues with Sabarimala and it cannot frame questions in a review and bring in new issues.

“Scope of review is very restricted. This will set a new precedent. How can you think about other issues in a review?” he said.

To this, the CJI said, “No. We will not be deciding these issues. We will only interpret articles involved in these cases.”

Another senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the All India Muslim Personal Board, said that though Muslim women are allowed entry into the mosque, the issue of essential religious practice is broad enough to be decided by this court.

The Article 25 and 26 (fundamental rights to religion) of the Constitution are part of the fundamental rights which are enforceable against state action, he said.

“A lot of petitions have been filed saying Nikah Halala is bad. Somebody is saying polygamy is bad. How the bench will decide the issue,” Sibal said.

To this, the bench said, “That is why we have set up a nine-judge bench. That is why we are hearing you.”

The bench said it was only going to decide the interpretation of those articles which have been invoked in Sabarimala.

During the hearing, which is still continuing, Sibal asked, “How do you interpret Article 21 (right to life or personal liberty), 17 (abolition of untouchability) and 14 (equality before law)? Any statement that you make will impact everyone across the country. It will impact the caste system. How do you decide?”

He further said these are the matters which will have an impact across the country and all religious denominations.

The apex court on January 13 has asked four senior lawyers to convene a meeting to decide on the issues to be deliberated by it in the matter.

While referring the matter to a larger bench, a five-judge bench on November 14 last year said the debate on the constitutional validity of religious practices such as a bar on the entry of women and girls into a place of worship was not limited to the Sabarimala case.

It had said such restrictions were there with regard to the entry of Muslim women into mosques and dargahs, and Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, from entering the holy fire place of an agiary.

It set out seven questions of law to be examined by the larger bench. They include the interplay between freedom of religion under articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, need to delineate the expression “constitutional morality”, the extent to which courts can enquire into particular religious practices, meaning of sections of Hindus under Article 25 and whether “essential religious practices” of a denomination or section thereof are protected under Article 26.

While the five-judge bench unanimously agreed to refer religious issues to a larger bench, it gave a 3:2 split verdict on petitions seeking a review of the apex court’s September 2018 decision, allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

A majority verdict by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra decided to keep the pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding entry of women into the shrine pending and said restrictions on women at religious places were not limited to Sabarimala alone and were prevalent in other religions as well.

The minority verdict by justices R F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud gave a dissenting view by dismissing all the review pleas and directing compliance of its September 28, 2018 decision.

By a 4:1 majority verdict, the apex court had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 years from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala and held that the centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

SC stays HC proceedings on plea challenging Kanimozhi’s election in LS polls.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Madras High Court proceedings on a petition challenging the election of DMK leader Kanimozhi Karunanidhi from Thoothukudi constituency in Tamil Nadu.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant took note of the submissions of the DMK leader’s lawyer and stayed the proceedings before the Madras High Court.

Kanimozhi contested from the Thoothukudi constituency in 2019 and her election was challenged by a voter, A Sanathana Kumar, on the grounds that she failed to mention her husband’s Permanent Account Number (PAN) in her election affidavit disclosing family assets.

The Madras High Court had earlier rejected the plea of Kanimozhi seeking dismissal of two election petitions filed by the voter and a BJP leader separately challenging her election to the Lok Sabha.

The election petition should necessarily be taken to its logical end, it had said.

While dismissing Kanimozhi’s plea, the high court had said that the election petitioner must be given a chance to marshal evidence to prove his claim of improper acceptance of nomination.

The DMK leader had said her husband was an NRI living in Singapore and he neither possessed a PAN card nor does he pay any income tax in India.

Kanimozhi had defeated her nearest rival Tamilisai Soundararajan (now Governor of Telangana) of BJP.

Another plea challenging the election of Kanimozhi was filed by Soundararajan, who withdrew the plea after becoming Governor of Telangana.

A Muthuramalingam, a local BJP leader, has substituted Soundararajan as a party in the high court.

SC seeks response of Centre, EC in 2 weeks on plea seeking stay on electoral bond scheme.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response of the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea seeking stay on the electoral bond scheme meant for funding political parties.

The top court, however, refused to grant an interim stay on the electoral bond scheme.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant asked the Centre and the Election Commission to file their responses within two weeks to the interim application filed by NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’ for staying the scheme.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, alleged that the scheme is a means for channelising unaccounted black money in favour of the ruing party.

Bhushan also referred to a document of the RBI while seeking stay of the scheme.

“We will see that. We are listing it after two weeks, the bench said.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the EC, said all these arguments have already been advanced earlier and sought four weeks time to reply to the plea of the NGO against the scheme.

SC seeks Centre’s reply on PIL for converting public transport and Govt vehicles into electric ones.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Centre on a PIL seeking implementation of its policy on gradually converting all public transport and government vehicles to electric vehicles to curb air pollution and carbon emission.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took note of the plea filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation alleging that the government has not done enough in pursuance of its own policy of converting public transport and government vehicles into electric vehicles.

The bench, which also comprised justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, issued notice to the union Ministry of Road Transport and sought its reply within four weeks.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said the scheme was formulated to curb air pollution and restrict carbon emission which has been creating the problem of global warming.

He also said that infrastructure facilities for proper charging batteries of electric vehicles also needed to be developed.

In March last year, the apex court had directed the Centre to apprise it about steps taken so far for implementation of the scheme.

The bench has now posted the PIL for hearing after four weeks.

SC to hear after four weeks PIL seeking greater autonomy for ECI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear after four weeks a PIL seeking that the chief election commissioner and election commissioners be appointed by a three-member collegium.

The collegium will comprise the prime minister, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant took note of submissions that the plea needed an urgent hearing.

“We will list it for hearing after four weeks,” the bench said.

BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay has filed the PIL seeking to ensure more autonomy for the chief election commissioner’s (CEC) office and election commissioners.

The plea has also sought an independent secretariat for the Election Commission of India (ECI) and that it should also be given the power to make rules.

Collegium Recommends Justice B R Gavai And Justice Surya Kant For Elevation To Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of India’s Collegium has recommended the names of Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Justice Surya Kant for elevation to the nation’s highest court. “While recommending the names of Mr. Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Mr. Justice Surya Kant, the Collegium has taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, apart from their competence, conduct and integrity,” the collegium’s resolution, which was uploaded to the apex court’s website, said. Justice Gavai, currently ranked eighth in the all-India seniority list of high court judges, was appointed as judge of the Bombay High Court in 2003 and has been on its bench since then. He is ranked fourth in the seniority list at the Bombay High Court.

“His recommendation, in no way, is to be misconstrued to mean that three senior-most Judges from Bombay High Court (two of whom are serving as Chief Justices) are less suitable than Mr. Justice Gavai,” the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium said. “On his appointment, the Supreme Court Bench will have a Judge belonging to Scheduled Caste category after about a decade.”

Justice Surya Kant is ranked eleventh on all-India seniority list of high court judges and was appointed as judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court on Jan. 9, 2004 and was later elevated as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court. The collegium also reiterated the names of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice AS Bopanna for elevation to the Supreme Court. By doing so, it has rejected the objections of the central government. “The Collegium is of the view that, though inter-se seniority amongst Judges in their High Courts and their combined seniority on all-India basis should be given due weightage, merit should be the predominant consideration,” according to the notice. “The Collegium accordingly kept in mind these parameters while recommending the above two names.

The names of the two judges were sent back by the central government for reconsideration when the collegium had recommended their elevation on April 12, 2019.