Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad: Article 370 had become shield for terrorists

On Saturday, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had become a platform to “shield” terrorists and their patrons.

“The Government’s decision on Article 370 was taken in the interest of the nation as well as the common people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Prasad told reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of the 17th all India meet of state legal services authorities in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

“We should understand that it was a temporary provision and removed in the interest of the country,” Prasad said. “We always strive for protection of the country and for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We want Jammu and Kashmir to progress.” The Centre had on August 5 announced abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and decided to bifurcate the state into Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — hours after Kashmir was placed under a total clampdown.

“Article 370 had become a platform to shield terrorists and their patrons, but we finished this. It is for the development of Kashmir,” Prasad said.

“The Prevention of Corruption Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and law to stop manual scavenging were not applicable there. Which Kashmir was this?” the Minister asked.

Prasad said the administration in the state would take a call on further measures after taking into account the situation.

On a query over Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s statement that India is preparing for a Balakot-like strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Prasad said, “We don’t have to take notice of what they are saying.”

“But a strong reply will be given if any action is taken by Pakistan. Under the leadership of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, India is alert about its protection and appropriate reply will given to any terror activities,” he added.

All India Judicial Service: Law Minister Seeks Suggestions From States, High Courts

In a bid to further the proposal of a having a national level examination for recruitment of judges in the country, the Central Government has sought the stand of all State Governments and the High Courts on the creation of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS).

As per the report published by the Economic Times, the Law Ministry has sent out letters on the proposal on June 19 to all the State Chief Secretaries and High Courts to “furnish views, comments, observations at the earliest.”

The Law Commission had recommended the formation of AIJS in its 116th Report released back in 1986. In 1992, the Supreme Court had ruled that the recommendations of the Law Commission “be examined expeditiously and implemented as early as possible” by the Centre.

The proposal to create an AIJS has thus been making rounds for some years, yet no significant development has happened till date due to the difference in opinion among stakeholders.

The Central Government, in 2016, had told the Delhi High Court that the Centre and the judiciary had been in a deadlock over the issue. The Court was also informed that no progress had been made since the topic was discussed at the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of the High Court held in April 2015.

The creation of AIJS was also formally discussed by the Law Ministry in January 2017.

In December last year, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a PIL petition seeking the creation of All India Judicial Services on the ground that its creation could not be done through a judicial order.

PIL in SC over CJI’s administrative authority as of roster

Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the master of roster and for laying down the principles and procedure to be followed in preparing it for allocation of cases.

He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan who wrote a letter to the supreme court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes the CJI.

In the letter, Prashant also said that it would be appropriate that the petition be listed before three senior-most judges of the top court for allocating it before an appropriate bench.

In the petition, CJI Dipak Misra has been named as one of the respondents along with the registrar of the Supreme Court.

The senior advocate has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.

The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion.”

It said that such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncement of this court.

This petition assumes significance as on January 12 this year four senior most judges- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph- of the Supreme Court had called a press conference and said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.

The four judges had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before junior judges of the supreme court.

Coal blocks scam: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigns

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigned on Friday following mounting pressure from the opposition, demanding his removal.
Kumar has been under severe attack by the opposition for vetting the CBI report on coal block allocation scam, with the Supreme Courtmaking critical observations over it.

Kumar’s resignation was the second in Congress’ cabinet on Friday just hours after that of Railway ministry Pawan Kumar Bansal who was earlier asked to put in his papers after a bribery scandal hit the ministry.

The resignation of the two ministers came after Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked the PM to take a final decision on the ministers. According to news channel CNN-IBN, Sonia Gandhi felt that allegations against the ministers may damage party’s image and that the damage must be controlled.

Congress Party earlier in the day made it clear that ‘it is not going to spare anybody mired in corruption’.

“The Congress is examining the issue very seriously,” Congress spokesperson Bhaktcharan Das told reporters, when asked about the bribery allegations against Bansal.

The Law Minister along with Bansal met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence, submitting their resignations.

Earlier, reports said that Kumar might be shifted to a different portfolio through a Cabinet reshuffle. Congress spokespersons maintained that the government is “seized” of the matter of continuance of Bansal and Kumar.



Coalgate case: Why was court kept in the dark: SC

In a big embarrassment to the government in the Coalgate case , the Supreme Court today termed as “very disturbing” the CBI affidavit on sharing its report with the Law Minister and others and slammed the agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue.

Hearing the coal blocks allocation scam case in a packed courtroom, the bench said “suppression” of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is “not ordinary”.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha observed that there was a “very disturbing feature” in the affidavit filed on April 26 by CBI director Ranjit Sinha and the agency must be restored to its independent position. Sinha, in his two page affidavit filed in the apex court, had said that the agency’s status report on coal allocation scam was “shared” with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of PMO and Coal ministry “as desired by them”.

The apex court said that sharing of information with the government about the probe into the scam has “shaken the entire process” and CBI need not take instructions from “political masters” on their probe.

“Our first exercise will be to liberate CBI from political interference,” the bench said. In his affidavit, the CBI Director had said, “I submit that the draft of the same (status report) was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them.”

The CBI director had also assured the apex court that the agency will not share further status reports in this case with any member of the political executive.

Sinha’s affidavit had contradicted the claim made by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval on behalf of CBI on March 12 that the probe report in the scam has not been shared with any member of the government and it has only been shared with the apex court after being vetted by the CBI director.

The affidavit was filed in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order which, in an unprecedented move on March 12, had directed the CBI director to assure the court that the status report in the coalgate scam is not being shared with the government. Today’s hearing came a day after Raval shot off a letter to Attorney General G E Vahanvati in which he alleged that he has been made a “scapegoat” in the matter.

Raval is also believed to have accused Vahanvati of trying to interfere in CBI’s probe report. Earlier, the CBI and the Centre had clashed over the coalgate scam. The agency had told the court that there have been “arbitrary allotments without scrutiny” in the coal blocks allocation during the UPA-I tenure.

The government had refuted its findings saying that the “CBI is not the final word on this.” In the status report filed by CBI on March 8, the agency had said that the coal block allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was given by the Coal Ministry in giving coal blocks to them.



CBI status report shared with Law Minister: CBI Director to SC

Here in New Delhi an affidavit has been submitted by the CBI in Supreme Court stating that the coal scam status report prepared by the investigating agency was shared with the PMO and two concerned ministers before presenting it to the court on March 8.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s two-page affidavit filed on the direction of the apex court contradicts the claim made by CBI counsel on the last date of hearing that the coalgate scam report was not shared with any member of the government.

“I submit that the draft (status report)of the same was shared with law minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court….it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister’s office and ministry of coal as desired by them,” mentioned in the affidavit.

During an earlier hearing in the case, additional solicitor general Harin Raval had told the court that the March 8 probe report was not shared with the political executive.

The CBI affidavit says the report was shared with law minister Ashwani Kumar as per his request and the coal minister.

The affidavit further states that two joint secretaries had also seen the report.

A joint secretary level officer in the PMO had also desired to see the status report and his request was complied with, CBI director Ranjit Sinha says in the affidavit.

The CBI director also revealed that the status report was shared with a joint secretary in the coal ministry.

There has been a huge controversy after it was revealed that the govthad vetted the CBI status report.

The apex court had sought an affidavit from the CBI director on the issue.

BJP and other opposition parties have been demanding resignation of law minister Ashwini Kumar for allegedly interfering with the functioning of the CBI.

Bar Association alarmed at Govt. move on Judicial appointments

The Bar Association of India (BAI) expressed ‘alarm’ at the reported move by the government to bring in a Draft Bill for a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) without consulting any legal body and urged the government not to rush through the legislation without a debate.

Several eminent lawyers including BAI President Emeritus Fali S Nariman, BAI President Anil B Divan, and Vice Presidents K K Venugopal and Ashok Desai and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, in a signed memorandum to Law Minister Ashwini Kumar, said such an important measure should not be rushed through without a ‘robust’ debate and discussion which necessarily involved a reasonable time.

Reports said the government proposed to set up a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), headed by the Chief Justice and having Law Minister as a representative of the government, to provide a say to the government in the appointment of judges.

The proposed system, which is likely to be discussed by the Union Cabinet today, will scrap the mechanism of judges appointing judges.

It is seen as an attempt by the government to interfere in the judiciary.



Chief Justice of India names Justice Kabir as his successor

Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, who retires this month, has recommended the name of seniormost Supreme Courtjudge Justice Altamas Kabiras his successor, setting in motion the process of change of guard in the apex court.

Sources in the law ministry said Justice Kapadia, due to retire on September 28, recommended the name of Justice Kabir (64) recently.

As per the memorandum of procedure which governs the appointment of members of the higher judiciary, “appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office.”

It stipulates that the law minister would, at the appropriate time, seek the recommendation of the outgoing Chief Justice of India for the appointment of the next CJI.

Under this process, after receipt of the recommendation of the CJI, the law minister puts it before the Prime Minister who advises the President in the matter of appointment.

Justice Kabir, who was elevated to the Supreme Court in September, 2005, would retire on July 18, 2013 after attaining the age of 65.