Why MP’s name is missing from FIR in noise pollution case: HC

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today rapped police for failing to initiate action against Shiv Sena MP Shrikant Shinde, accused of organizing an event in which the noise pollution rules were allegedly flouted.

If Shinde was the organiser, why did the FIR not have his name, the court asked, while also asking the MP to make his stand clear.

The police in Thane district had registered a case pertaining to a function held at Ambarnath in May last year in which the noise pollution rules were allegedly breached.

But they did not invoke the Environment Protection Act which provides for a stringent punishment, nor did they name Shinde in the FIR, though he was, allegedly, the organiser.

The police registered a case under the Noise Pollution Rules against some other persons. The maximum punishment under these rules is a fine of Rs 200.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla today said the police lacked elementary knowledge of how to handle such cases.

“We keep passing orders and directions but the police are making a systematic effort to save the real culprit,” Justice Oka rued.

The publicity pamphlets of the function clearly mentioned that the organiser was “Shrikant Eknath Shinde,” so why his name did not figure in the FIR, the court asked.

“We think it is high time the state government take a stand that it is not interested in implementing the noise pollution rules strictly,” the judges quipped.

The bench sought to know if there is any prescribed procedure which the police have to follow in such cases.

The court also directed Shinde to file an affidavit.

“If you (Shinde) have organised the event, tell us how could you permit use of loud speakers at night being a member of Parliament. If you have nothing to do with the function, say so in an affidavit,” Justice Oka said.

The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.

Shrikant Shinde is the Sena MP from Kalyan near Mumbai. His father Eknath Shinde is a state Cabinet minister.

NGO Hirali Foundation had approached the high court, alleging that Ambarnath police had committed a contempt of the court by ignoring its past directions to implement noise pollution rules strictly.

Fitness certificate to vehicle without independent test illegal: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court today said the Maharashtra government’s practice of issuing fitness certificates to private vehicles without conducting an independent test was illegal and in breach of its previous orders.

Therefore, the state government must take a decision on amending its rules and circulars on the issue and inform the court of its decision, a bench of justices A S Oka and R I Chagla said.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Shrikant Karve, a Right to Information (RTI) activist from Pune.

Karve alleged that officials at various regional transport offices (RTOs) across the state had been granting fake fitness certificates, or registration certificates, to private as well as transport vehicles without subjecting the vehicles to mandatory fitness tests first.

On a previous hearing, another bench led by Justice Oka had held that since under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the registration of vehicles is treated as valid only if it had a valid certificate of fitness, such vehicles that did not have a fitness certificate must be deemed as unregistered, and thus, not permitted to be driven at all.

However, the court was informed recently that the Maharashtra government had been granting registration to new vehicles without the fitness certificate.

The state’s counsel, Abhinandan Vagyani, had told the court that this was being done since all new vehicles were already checked for fitness by the manufacturers before delivery.

The bench, however, held today that the state’s stand was contrary to provisions of the law, and hence, illegal.

A fitness certificate is an official document certifying that the holder’s vehicle is fit for being driven in public places.

As per the Motor Vehicles Act, a vehicle must have a fitness certificate issued by the manufacturer, and also, another fitness certificate issued by the state RTO authorities after the inspection of its condition, its pollution certificate, tax, insurance, and other such details.

“Since under the Act, the registration of vehicle is treated as valid only if it has valid certificate of fitness from the manufacturer and the inspecting authority, the state’s stand that a vehicle can be granted registration merely on the basis of the date of its manufacture is illegal,” the high court said.

“It (the state’s stand) is also in breach of the law and the previous orders of this court,” it further said.

The bench held that in granting new registration certificates without proper fitness certificates and merely on the basis of the manufacturers’ certificates, the state was harming the interest of several people.

The court has now directed the state to take a decision on amending its current practice in view of its observations, by April 25 this year.

Which law allows you to turn private toilets into public ones : Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court today asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain the provisions under which the civic body had decided to convert ‘private toilets’ into public ones under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Iqbal Chagla was hearing a writ petition filed by owners of various petrol pumps from across Mumbai, along with the petrol pump association.

The petitioners were seeking a stay on a notice issued by the civic body on December 22, 2017, under which the BMC had put up signboards across all such stations informing the public to utilise the toilets at petrol pumps.

“It is your obligation to build toilets (under Swachh Bharat Mission). While you do not do that, instead you make private toilets into public toilets,” the bench said.

The petitioners had told the high court that they had been directed by the BMC to make toilets at their stations or premises available for the use of general public free of cost under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

The civic body has also put up signboards to the effect at various petrol pumps, the petitioners said.

“What is the source of power that allows BMC to claim that toilets inside private petrol pumps are public toilets?” questioned the court.

The counsel for the BMC said that the corporation had done so to further the cause of the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission.

“A meeting was held and the petitioners had allowed us to use these toilets for public purpose during emergency,” said the counsel.

Justice A S Oka said that action under the Swachh Bharat Mission or any other scheme of the Union government also had to be in accordance to law.

“Which law can allow you to convert private toilets into public toilets,” Justice Oka asked.

He also pointed out that as per the minutes of the meeting submitted by the petitioners, they had never allowed the civic body access to toilets in petrol pumps for general public.

“You cannot put up boards outside their properties saying that the toilets in their premises are public toilets.

How can you do that following the Swachh Bharat Mission. Show us where it says so,” said the court.

The court has now asked the civic body to take instruction in the matter by Wednesday.

“You cannot do this. Take instructions that you will not do this in a private property. The Swachh Bharat Mission cannot affect the rights of others like this. You cannot put up boards without consent of the petrol pump owners. You will have to remove the boards wherever it is required. Otherwise we will have to pass relevant orders,” the high court said.

Maharashtra government monitors condition of roads in state: HC

The Bombay High Court said today it was time the Maharashtra government took note of the poor condition of roads in the state and the failure on part of the civic corporations and district councils to fix potholes.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and P N Deshmukh made the observation while hearing suo motu a public interest litigation on pothole-ridden roads and the increasing number of accidents because of them.

“The time has come for the state government to step in and start monitoring the issue. The state government is not powerless. If local authorities and bodies are not doing anything then the state has powers to take action,” Justice Oka said.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation informed the bench that till December 31, 2017, it had received 239 complaints related to potholes in the city, of which 157 were resolved.

A court official told the bench that in rest of the state, 555 complaints were received, of which 477 were yet to be resolved.

The court also sought to know if the traffic police department can help in the issue.

“The traffic police is fully aware of potholes on each and every road… Potholes lead to traffic congestion. They can give a feedback and help local bodies,” the court said.

The bench posted the matter for final hearing on January 19.

‘Preserve cows, bulls; don’t punish harmless beef

Preserve cows and bulls but do not go after someone who innocuously consumes beef, the petitioners challenging the controversial ban on slaughter of bulls and possession and consumption of the bovine meat in Maharashtra told the Bombay High Court here today.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte is at present hearing a bunch of public interest litigations challenging Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act.

While the original Act banned slaughter of cows in 1976, the recent amendments prohibit slaughter of bulls and bullocks too, making it an offence punishable with five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine. Possession of meat of a cow, a bull or a bullock can attract one year in jail and Rs 2,000 fine.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, for one of the petitioners, argued that prohibition of slaughter is understandable but by criminalising even possession and consumption of beef, the state government has violated the fundamental rights of the citizens.

“Preserve cows and bulls but do not go after the citizens. The state is going after someone who innocuously consumes and possesses beef. Beef possession and its consumption is not harmful. It is not like drugs or ivory where mere possession itself is harmful,” Chinoy said.

He further argued that the government has nowhere given a satisfactory explanation as to why the sections which criminalise possession and consumption of beef are included in the Act and why they are necessary for its implementation.

“This is completely intrusive and draconian,” he said.

The arguments would continue tomorrow.

Bring new law in 6 months for protection of witnesses: HC

The Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government to frame a new law within six months for protection of witnesses and also consider bringing whistleblowers and RTI activists under its purview.

The government had last week informed the High Court that instead of a policy, it would come out with a law to provide protection to witnesses in sensitive cases. A draft of the proposed law was also submitted to the court.

The issue of protection to witnesses, whistleblowers and activists was taken up suo moto (on its own) by the court after the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty.

The court was today informed that a committee has been formed to look into the issue and a law for the protection of witnesses would be enacted soon.

Amicus curie (appointed to assist the court) Dinyar Madon, however, submitted that the new Maharashtra Witness Protection Act will not provide protection to whistleblowers and activists and may give cover only to witnesses in sensitive cases.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A K Menon then asked the government to consider including whistleblowers and activists also under the purview of new law.

The court directed the government to enact the new law within six months.

In October 2014, the High Court, while ordering the government to frame a fresh policy, had also directed that protection should be provided immediately to whistleblowers and witnesses even during the investigation stage, if such a person makes a request for protection.

Finish probe against Saudi captain in fake currency case: HC

In a minor relief to a Saudi Arabian navy captain booked for carrying fake Indian currency, the Bombay High Court today directed the Additional Commissioner of Customs to complete probe against the officer and pass an appropriate order within two weeks.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and S S Jadhav was hearing a petition filed by the naval captain Bandar Hurayb stating he has been wrongly prosecuted as he was unaware that the currency which he procured from an authorised forex agency outside the Jeddah Airport while leaving for India was fake. Hurayb landed in Mumbai on April 25 this year.

Advocate Rizwan Merchant, appearing for Hurayb, today told the court that his application waiver of show cause notice before the Additional Commissioner of Customs is pending since June. “He (Hurayb) came to India as a tourist and wants to go back to his country now,” he argued.

The bench after hearing the arguments directed the Additional Commissioner of Customs to pass appropriate orders on Hurayb’s application within two weeks. According to Hurayb’s petition, the authorities were not willing to discharge Hurayb from the case in spite of him having produced the receipt for the currency exchange. The petition mentions that Hurayb used the money to pay for a taxi at the airport. However, since the person on the counter didn’t have change, he went to a nearby forex counter, where the in-charge suspected the note to be fake. Hurayb then went to another man at a bank, who also suspected the note to be fake.

A Customs officer who overheard their conversation then demanded to search Hurayb and asked him about the number of notes he was carrying. Hurayb’s petition claims he voluntarily disclosed he was carrying Rs 45,500 in Rs 500 notes. All the notes found is his possession were later found to be fake.

Hurayb was then booked by Customs for carrying prohibited goods and produced in Metropolitan court the next day. On April 30, he was arrested by Sahar airport police for carrying fake Indian currency. However, he was granted bail on May 14 by a sessions court, where the judge observed that “prima facie any knowledge or reasonable belief cannot be attributed to Hurayb.”

HC upholds life sentence of couple in murder case

The Bombay High Court has upheld the life sentence awarded to a married couple for murdering a woman eleven years back, based on the ‘last seen’ theory.

The accused – Mohammad Iqbal Ansari and Deepa Ansari – have been convicted of murdering their roommate Shobha Bhoudi.

According to prosecution, Shoba’s torso was recovered on October 13, 2001 from a water tank in suburban Andheri.

The couple had allegedly stabbed the victim to death and then chopped off her head and limbs, the prosecution said.

Two days later, the couple were arrested and Mohammad Iqbal identified the place where other body parts of the victim were dumped by them.

In 2003, a lower court had convicted the couple and sentenced them to life imprisonment, but they had challenged the ruling and approached the High Court.

Observing that the prosecution has managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the case against the two accused, a division bench of Justices S P Davare and A S Oka upheld the conviction and sentence last week.

“It is true that it is not established that the other body parts were allegedly recovered at the instance of the first appellant (Iqbal) and that the body parts were of the deceased. But considering the evidence of last seen together and the proximity of time and place of finding of torso of the deceased, the chain of circumstances leads to the only hypothesis of guilt of the accused,” the court observed.

Stating that the prosecution has proved beyond doubt that the deceased was residing in the premises occupied by the accused till October 12, 2001, the High Court said, “There is evidence of last seen together against the accused. They were last seen together with the victim.”

The bench further observed that in less than 24 hours from the time the accused persons and victim were last seen together, Shobha’s body was recovered from a place not far away from the premises of the couple.

Man acquitted by HC in 22-yr-old murder case

A man sentenced to life imprisonment twenty years ago for murder has been acquitted by the Bombay High Court, which refused to accept the extra judicial confession made by the accused to a witness. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and S S Jadhav refused to consider the confession made by the accused, Chandrakant Salunkhe, to prosecution witness Subhash Bhoir allegedly accepting that he had murdered the victim Pandhari Pandharkar due to rivalry.

“The entire prosecution case rests upon the extra judicial confession allegedly made by the accused to Bhoir. This is a weak piece of evidence. The witness has himself said that the accused at the time of the alleged incident was under the influence of alcohol. In these circumstances, the confession cannot be considered as it is shrouded with mystery,” the bench observed.

According to the prosecution, in October 1990, Salunkhe had assaulted the victim on a road in Pune. Bhoir had later seen Salunkhe with the sword. Since the victim was in an inebriated state, Bhoir took the sword from his hand. Bhoir and the accused then took the victim to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead. Bhoir then went to the police station and lodged a case and handed over the sword to the police following which Salunkhe was arrested.

After trial, Salunkhe was convicted and sentenced to life by a sessions court in Pune in 1991 following which he approached the High Court. While acquitting Salunkhe recently, the High Court observed the prosecution has to prove that the accused is the perpetrator of the crime.

“The prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” the bench said. It further said that the conduct of the accused soon after the alleged incident also needs to be considered.

“The very fact that the accused accompanied the injured to the hospital and then had not fled away from the spot is sufficient to infer that the accused was not nurturing a sense of guilt at that time,” the court said.

(Source : PTI)