A nine-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court Thursday began deliberations on the legal issue of whether the top court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction.
This question arose during the hearing in the Sabarimala case which relates to religious discrimination against women at religious places.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde is hearing the issues relating to discriminations against women at various places of worship including the Sabarimala temple.
The other members of the bench are Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.
Many senior lawyers including Fali S Nariman, Kapil Sibal, Shyam Divan, Rajeev Dhavan and Rakesh Dwivedi argued on February 3 that while exercising review jurisdiction, the Supreme Court does not have the power to refer a question of law to a larger bench.
Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who had fought the triple talaq case for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), today welcomed the Supreme Court verdict setting aside the practice, terming it as “dying” and “sinful”.
Sibal, who had argued before a five-judge constitution bench that triple talaq was an integral practice in Islam, told PTI that this was a “dying” and “sinful” practice and even the AIMPLB had agreed to suggest Qazis to give women the liberty to say ‘no’ to ‘talaq-e-biddat’ at the time of execution of the Nikahnama (marriage contract).
“We welcome the judgement in its entirety on the issue of practice of instantaneous divorce through triple talaq,” he said.
“It is a dying practice. This has been accepted by all of us as sinful and must be deprecated. AIMPLB has proposed that in the Nikahnama, a choice would be given to the woman that she will not accept this practice of divorce through triple talaq,” Sibal said.
Referring to the common points in the dissenting judgements, the astute lawyer said all the judges at the bench have agreed that personal law cannot be challenged on the grounds of infringment of fundamental rights.
“The verdict has protected the personal law that there can not be a challenge to Part III of the Constitution which has been held by Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer in their minority judgement,” he said.
He said even Justice Kurian Jospeh, who through a majority verdict set aside the practice of triple talaq, agreed with the CJI and Justice Nazeer that personal law has to be protected.
Sibal said Justice Joseph had also disagreed with Justices R F Nariman and U U Lalit that the 1937 Act was not a legitimate law.
He disagreed with the perception that the judgement is a step towards achieving the goal of Uniform Civil Code which can only come through a legislation.
In a lighter vein, the Congress leader said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should also make efforts to bring a law to ensure justice for Hindu women in certain cases.
The five-judge constitution bench, by a majority of 3:2 in which Chief Justice J S Khehar was in minority, said the practice of “‘talaq-e-biddat’ triple talaq is set aside”.
The two separate judgements, written for majority by Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman, did not concur with the CJI and Justice S Abdul Nazeer that ‘triple talaq’ was a part of religious practice and the government should step and come out with a law.
Delhi High Court today said that while it was willing to set aside costs imposed upon Congress MPs Kumari Seljaand Ambika Soni, the judgement by which it was held that they were not entitled to accommodation in type-VIII bungalows cannot be interfered with.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath made the observation on the appeals by the twoRajya Sabha MPs against the high court’s July 30 judgement by which their pleas challenging the Centre’s orders to evict them from large type-VIII bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi were dismissed.
“The costs we will set aside. But rest of judgement can’t be interfered with,” the court said.
Costs of Rs 25,000 was imposed on both of them by the high court while dismissing their pleas on July 30.
However, on the request of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the MPs, the bench while itself refusing to hear it, directed the registry to list it before another bench on August 11.
Sibal said that the MPs were not saying they were entitled to the larger accommodation, but rather their contention is “how can the estate office set aside an allotment made by the House committee”.
Central Government Standing Counsel Jasmeet Singh opposed the appeals of the MPs.
A single-judge bench had dismissed the pleas of Soni and Selja, saying they had attempted to give “political overtones” to the matter.
The judge had said he was “sad to note” that the two MPs, “merely for the sake of retaining a house to which they are not entitled, have attempted to give political overtones to the matter”.
Even as the opposition BJP leaders urged the president not to sign an ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers, Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal Wednesday said there was no attempt by the central government to shield convicted politicians.
Sibal, who was here to attend a function of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, claimed the ordinance being brought in by the government was in line with the recent Supreme Court ruling which said that leaders convicted for two years or more would be disqualified as members of the legislature.
The law minister said the ordinance was being misunderstood adding that it was going beyond the scope of the Supreme Court ruling by making the law more stringent for convicted lawmakers.
“There is no attempt by the government to protect any convicted politician. No one has read the ordinance and understood it correctly,” Sibal said.
He said he was surprised at the reaction of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who had Wednesday demanded that the president should not sign the ordinance on convicted lawmakers saying that the government was trying
The government on Thursday launched an anti-ragging website helping students of universities, colleges and professional institutes lodge online complaints against ragging or harassment and seek faster response.
The portal (www.antiragging.in)launched by HRD minister Kapil Sibal is also expected to maintain a database of students and will be connected to most universities by year-end. Sibal said, “Lot of young students have lost their lives, many loose their confidence because of this practice….Through this facility we want to ensure that culprits get strict punishment.”
The UGC-managed portal has been developed in active collaboration with Rajendra Kachroo, father of Aman who lost his life to ragging at a medical college in Himachal in 2009. According to Kachroo, medical colleges continue to have a disproportionately large number of complaints emanating from them.
Students can also register their complaint by dialing 18001805522 as part of the facility, which will be followed up in a structured software system. “The complaints would be examined. If they are of serious magnitude, they would be transferred quickly to the police, the magistrate and head of the institution,” said UGC acting chairman Ved Prakash.
The Law Minister Mr. Salman Khurshid today denied any kind of censorship on internet and said adequate provisions are already in place and IT Ministry is also holding consultations with various stakeholders to address concerns on objectionable content.
Addressing a seminar of ‘Editors Guild of India’ here, Mr Khurshid said his colleague and IT Minister Mr Kapil Sibal does not endorse the view of internet censorship in the country and stakeholders have shown willingness to discuss all issues, including how any “viral material” can be removed.
“I can share with you that Kabil Sibal has not endorsed internet censorship. He is already in consultation with the stakeholders. The consultation is going very well, but suddenly people reported that he was trying to put in censorship,” he said.
Explaining the need to monitor and control objectionable material on the internet, Mr Khurshid said the stakeholders have shown willingness to discuss all issues related to this.
“There is no problem with the internet. Stakeholders have been very willing to work with us and find how any viral material can be removed. I think it is not an insurmountable problem,” the Minister said.
On the issue of regulating social media websites, he said adequate provisions are available in this regard.
“There is already adequate provision available in the law as far as social media is concerned,” he said.
On TRP issue
The BJP leader and former Information and Broadcasting Minister Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad while addressing the gathering highlighted the need for regulating the agencies monitoring the TRP ratings of news channels.
Alleging that TRP management is done in the “most fraudulent” manner, Mr Prasad said “TRP must be accountable and it must run in a fair, reasonable and accountable manner duly backed by the law.”
Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa Monday told a Delhi court that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was selectively targeting some firms in the 2G spectrum case.
He asked how could he have caused a loss to the national exchequer when the prime minister and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal have said that there was no loss in the 2G case.
“The exact loss to the exchequer declared by the CBI is based on the assumption that if there was an option…, then what is the amount of profit it could get…when there was no option, then there is no question of loss incurred,” said Majid Memon, counsel for Balwa, who is in jail for alleged involvement in the 2G scam.
A voluntary group Thursday started a campaign to popularise the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal bill in central Delhi’s Chandini Chowk, the parliamentary constituency of union minister Kapil Sibal who was part of a team that drafted a separate official Lokpal bill along with civil society members.
In order to take Jan Lokpal bill, drafted by members of the civil society, to a large number of people, volunteers of India Against Corruption (IAC) would hold a referendum in the area during their four-day campaign.
“We will distribute questionnaires for the next three days among all the people here so that they can be made aware of the components of the bill,” said Javed, a volunteer at IAC.
The main objective behind the referendum was to elicit reaction and feedback of people on the government Lokpal bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by civil society members led by reformer Anna Hazare.
Twentyfive-year-old Ramesh, who is participating in the referendum, said: “It is an effective strategy to involve the mainstream to form their opinion. The referendum should be held all over India to make everyone participate.”
The key questions in the questionnaire include one on whether the prime minister, higher judiciary and all government employees, and not just a section of officers, should be under the purview of the Lokpal.“The referendum is the best way to reach out to the masses. It is a good step by Anna though the government is not interested in educating the people,” said Varun, another volunteer.
Anup Kumar, a businessman, said :”It is high time that the government supports Anna to weed out corruption.”The IAC volunteers are also circulating sms messages on mobile phones in the area so that more and more people can participate in the referendum.
The joint Lokpal Bill drafting committee Monday decided to seek the views of states and political parties on “issues of divergence” on the proposed legislation as the government and civil society representatives had differing views on key issues, including bringing the prime minister and the higher judiciary under the ambit of the new authority.
After a three-hour meeting of the 10-member drafting committee, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said both sides “were constructively looking as issues of divergence”.
He said the meeting had decided to write to political parties and state governments “as to what their views are” on some of the contentious issues.
Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, two the civil society representatives on the panel, however, expressed disappointment over the government’s response at Monday’s meeting.
“In the discussions, unfortunately, we found the response of the government not very reasonable… We are a bit disappointed,” Bhushan said.
He said the two sides had differing views on bringing the prime minister and the higher judiciary in the ambit of Lokpal and some other issues.
The government wants the “prime minister and higher judiciary out for different reasons”, he said.
Bhushan said the government also did not want actions of MPs in parliament to be brought under Lokpal Bill and wanted the proposed authority to cover only officers of rank of joint secretary and above.
He expressed apprehension that the committee may not be able to finish its work of drafting the bill by June 30.
Sibal said next meetings of the panel will be held June 6 and June 10, and stressed the government wants a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.
The proceedings of the Lokpal Bill draft committee should be telecast so that people could see the body language of union ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram who are on the committee, social activist Swami Agnivesh said Friday.
Speaking during the launch of the nationwide Jan Lokpal bill campaign here, Agnivesh, one of the convenors of the ‘India against Corruption’ campaign, said the people had a right to know how their political leaders “behaved” at the draft committee hearings.
“Let there be a live telecast of the draft committee hearings. The people should see the body language of (Human Resource Development Minister) Kapil Sibal and (Home Minister) P. Chidambaram during the meetings,” he said.
“The Lok Sabha channel should telecast the committee proceedings. Let the people see what happens,” Agnivesh added.