Bill for more Supreme Court judges gets Lok Sabha nod

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday told the Lok Sabha that judges in the higher judiciary should be careful about their observations in ongoing cases & should be pertinent to the case they are hearing.

Mr. Prasad made these remarks during the passage of a Bill to increase the strength of judges in the Supreme Court from 30 to 33 in addition to the Chief Justice of India.

The Minister said that at times, judges made remarks about government policy that are arrived after due processes.

“We respect the judiciary. But if they want to make an observation then they should have the courage to write it in their judgments,” he said.

The Minister also said that the move is aimed at cutting down on the delay of the top court that has nearly 60,000 cases pending.

The Bill comes days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi requested Prime Minister Modi to increase the number of Supreme Court judges. The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges strength from 25 to 30 excluding the CJI.

As Lok Sabha passes Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill

Lok Sabha has passed Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which is aimed at making India an international arbitration hub.

Bill has been already passed by Rajya Sabha, aims to establish an independent body called Arbitration Council of India (ACI) for promotion of arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.

ACI’s functions would include framing policies for grading arbitral institutions and accrediting arbitrators, making policies for establishment, operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards for all alternate dispute redressal matters, and maintaining a depository of arbitral awards made in India and abroad.

As per Section 43B of the Act, the Arbitration Council of India will have perpetual succession and a common seal, with power, subject to the provisions of the Act, to acquire, hold and dispose of property, both movable and immovable, and to enter into contract. It can sue or be sued.

Government, in consultation with Chief Justice of India, will appoint the chairperson of the ACI. Chairperson has to be a judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court or a Judge of a HC or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration.

In the case of international commercial arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by Supreme Court.

In case of HCs’s jurisdictions, where no graded arbitral institution is available, Chief Justice of the concerned high court may maintain a panel of arbitrators to discharge functions and duties. An application for appointment of an arbitrator is required to be disposed of within 30 days.

For domestic arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by the concerned High Court.

Bill seeks to remove time restriction for international commercial arbitrations and states that the tribunals must try to dispose of the international arbitration matters within 12 months.

Know Why is the Arbitration Bill important?

1. Putting India on the world map in arbitration proceedings – It aims to make India an international arbitration hub by providing facilities for settlement of commercial disputes.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that,“India is qualified to have a centre of international arbitration as it has enough qualified lawyers, and has skill and training facilities. India should not accept imperialism in the field of arbitration. The best would be when Indian arbitrators are sought globally. We want India to become a hub of international arbitration.”

It aims to make the arbitration of excellent quality, bestowing responsibility on the ACI to hold trainings, workshops, courses, frame policies, guidelines and update norms to ensure satisfactory level of arbitrations, arbitral institutions and the arbitrators.

2. To reduce burden on courts- Presently, in case of any dispute with respect to appointment of Arbitrators, parties have to approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for appointment of Arbitrators or to resolve their dispute. With the huge backlog of cases, the courts are already overburdened. An effective ACI will share this burden of the court and even facilitate speedy appointment of arbitrators. This would further aid quick resolution of disputes outside the court.

3. To provide exhaustive list to choose an arbitrator- The parties to an arbitration agreement can choose their own arbitrator, this choice is sacrosanct to arbitration process.

Essence of choosing an arbitrator of choice is not circumscribed by nine broad qualification criteria as provided in the provisions of the bill. The list is broadly phrased and includes the choice of arbitrators from advocates, chartered accountant, cost accountant, company secretary, person with technical knowledge and experience etc.

4. To speed up arbitration process- The bill provides for statement of claim and defence to be completed within six months from the date the arbitrator receives the notice of appointment. This will fasten the entire process of arbitration. Earlier, parties would take a lot of time to submit their pleas. Now the time can be efficiently used for arbitration proceedings.

Lok Sabha Passes Teachers’ Reservation Bill

Overturning a Supreme Court decision on reservation in appointment of teachers in universities, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed a Bill that proposes to make a university or college a unit instead of a department for the purpose of providing reservation. The Bill is applicable to all Central universities.

The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill 2019, which will allow filling of about 8,000 existing vacancies in 41 Central universities & also provide 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections from the general category, was introduced to replace an ordinance issued in March this year.

Replying to a debate on the Bill, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said, “The Bill will give a major push to reforms in the education sector, making it inclusive & fulfilling aspirations of people from different categories.”

As many opposition members opposed the route of the ordinance & its timing before the elections, Pokhriyal said the ordinance had to be issued as the Supreme Court had declined to consider the government’s view on the matter & had rejected a review petition.

The issue emerges from an April 2017 Allahabad High Court order, in which it said that for the purpose of reservation for Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribes in universities, an individual department should be considered as the base unit to calculate the number of teaching posts to be reserved. The order was challenged in the Supreme Court, which upheld the HC order. A review petition filed by the HRD Ministry in February this year was also dismissed by the apex court.

High Court denies urgent hearing to plea seeking LoP’s appointment in Lok Sabha

The Delhi High Court Wednesday refused an urgent hearing to a plea for asking the Lok Sabha speaker to appoint a leader of opposition (LoP) in the House.

A vacation bench of justices Jyoti Singh and Manoj Kumar Ohri said “looking at the relief sought, there is no urgency”. The bench instead listed the petition for hearing by an appropriate bench on July 8.

Advocates Manmohan Singh Narula and Susmita Kumari, who filed the petition, said the Speaker was not performing his statutory duty of appointing the LoP.

They argued in the petition that recognising a member of the house as the leader of opposition was “not a political or arithmetical decision, but a statutory decision”.

“The speaker has to merely ascertain whether the party claiming this post is the largest party in the opposition,” they said in the petition, which also sought framing of a policy for appointment of the LoP.

Denying the second largest party in Parliament — the Congress — the leadership of the opposition sets a wrong precedent and dilutes democracy, they added..

West Bengal’s Behrampur MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has been elected as the leader of the Congress parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha.

The petition said under the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act of 1977, the person who is leader of the numerically biggest party in opposition to the government is considered as the LoP.

“That in the new Lok Sabha, with 52 members, the Congress is the largest party in the Opposition, and is therefore the rightful claimant to this post under the law,” it said.

The petition also contended that there is no condition in the Salaries and Allowances of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Act that the party in opposition has to have a strength of 10 per cent of the total MPs in the house for its leader to be recognised as LoP.

The petitioners have claimed that “the Speaker is legally bound to recognise the leader of that party as the leader of the opposition as per the statute passed by the Parliament.

“Since the speaker is performing a statutory duty in recognising the leader of the opposition, she or he cannot exercise any discretion in the matter,” the petitioner said.

Lok Sabha passes citizenship (amendment) bill

A bill seeking to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangaldesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday

Piloting the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Opposition that the bill was not against the provisions of the Constitution and would give succour to persecuted minorities in the three neighbouring countries

The Bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 years currently even if they do not possess any document

“They have no place to go to, except India,” he said, adding several leaders including first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru were in favour of giving shelter to persecuted minorities in the neighouring countries

He said although Indian leaders signed pacts with leaders of Pakistan and Bangaladesh for protection of minorities but unfortunately it had not happened

Even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while speaking as leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha had asked the then BJP-led government to be more liberal in dealing with the issue of persecuted minorities in Bangaladesh, the minister said

Rejecting the contention that bill sought to discriminate people on the basis of religion, Singh said “anyone eligible under the provisions under the law will be accorded citizenship”

Seeking to assuage the concerns in the Northeast, which saw an 11-hour bandh on Tuesday against the legislation, Singh said the proposed law will not be confined to Assam alone

“The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden. Government of India is committed to give all help to the State Government and people of Assam,” he said

It may be recalled, that the BJP appears to have been isolated over the issue. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a partner in the BJP-led Assam government, broke up with the saffron party while the NDA allies, the Shiv Sena and the JD (U), have opposed this legislation

Mizoram and Meghalaya governments have opposed the bill by adopting resolution against it in their respective cabinet meetings

The home minister said the Union Cabinet has also approved grant of ST status to six communities of Assam namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak

The Union Cabinet’s decision can been seen as a balancing act by the central government to strong opposition to the bill in Assam

According to the Home Minister:”At the same time, full safeguards will be provided to protect the interests, rights and privileges of existing Scheduled Tribes of Assam

“A separate Bill will be brought to grant ST status to Bodo Kacharis living in the Hill districts of Assam and Karbis in the plains. Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils,” he said

Singh said the migrants – Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis – were earlier given protection against legal action in 2015 and 2016

“Long term visa provision was made for them. The amendment will make these persecuted migrants eligible to apply for citizenship,” he said

Singh said citizenship will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the state government

The legislation also seeks to provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other states, the Home Minister said

The bill will apply to all States and Union Territories of the country and the beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill will be able to reside in any state of the country

The bill was originally introduced in 2016 and was later sent to the JPC, which submitted its report on Monday

On the basis of the recommendations of the JPC, a fresh bill was introduced on Tuesday

Opposition parties have raised objections to the bill

The Congress said many states have opposed the bill and it should be sent to a select committee. As the government did not heed to the demand, the Congress staged a walkout

TMC’s Saugata Roy dubbed the bill as “divisive” and “insidious” that goes against the basic tenents of the constitution

“This is the worst form of vote-bank politics”, Roy said

The Bill was also opposed by P R Kunhalikutty (IUML), Jayprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD) and Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) who all contended that it was against the Constitution

Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD), Arvind Sawant(Shiv Sena) Mohammad Salim (CPI(M)) and Badruddin Ajmal (AIDUF) also spoke.

Death for Child Rape : Lok Sabha Passes Criminal Law Amendment Bill

On Monday, July 30, the Lok Sabha passed Criminal Law(Amendment) Bill making rape of girl below the age of twelve years an offence punishable with death.

The Bill seeks to amend provisions of Indian Penal Code(IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure, Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). It replaced the Ordinance promulgated by the Central Government during April 2018 in the wake of public outcry over Kathua incident of rape and murder of a minor girl.

Sunanda Pushkar death case transferred to designated court

A Delhi court today transferred the Sunanda Pushkar death case, in which her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has been chargesheeted for abetting her suicide, to a special court designated to try lawmakers.

Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmendra Singh transferred the case to Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, who will take up the matter on May 28.

“Since he is a sitting Member of Parliament, matter is being sent to the special designated court for politicians, that is ACMM Samar Vishal. Matter be taken up on May 28,” the court said.

The Delhi Police had on May 14 accused Tharoor, the Lok Sabha MP representing Thiruvananthapuram, of abetting Pushkar’s suicide and told a city court that he should be summoned as an accused in the four-and-half year-old case, claiming there was sufficient evidence against him.

In a nearly 3,000-page charge sheet, the police named Tharoor as the only accused while also alleging that he had subjected his wife to cruelty.

Lok Sabha passes Bill to amend Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code

The Lok Sabha has passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill -2017.The bill prohibits certain persons from submitting a resolution plan in case of defaults.

These include wilful defaulters, promoters or management of the company if it has an outstanding non-performing debt for over a year.

The Bill also has provisions to bar the sale of property of a defaulter to such persons during liquidation. Earlier, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the bill for the consideration and passing.

Bill criminalising triple talaq introduced in Lok Sabha

A bill to make instant triple talaq illegal and void and awarding a jail term of three years for the husband, was introduced in the Lok Sabha today.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, calling it a “historic day” amid opposition to its introduction by members of different parties, including RJD, AIMIM, BJD and All India Muslim League.

The law is about justice and respect for women and is not about any religion or community, he said, adding that the practice of instant triple has continued despite the Supreme Court order terming it void.

Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some oppositionmembers claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

“It is a historic day. We are making history today,” Prasad said.

The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.

The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.

Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be bad or illegal and void.

According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of three years and a fine. It would be a non-bailable offence.

Source : PTI

No justification to suspend operation of Lokpal Act: SC

No justification to suspend operation of Lokpal Act: SC
No justification to suspend operation of Lokpal Act: SC

There is no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, are cleared by Parliament, the Supreme Court said today.

The apex court said the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and it “does not create any bar to the enforcement of the provisions”.

It said the amendments proposed to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, and the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, were attempts at streamlining the working of the Act and does not constitute legal hindrances or bars its enforcement as it stands today.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha allowed a batch of petitions filed by NGO Common Cause and others and said such attempts for amendment cannot halt the operation and execution of the law which the executive in its wisdom has already given effect to and has brought into force by resorting to the provisions of the Act.

“We, therefore, conclude by quoting Justice Krishna Iyer in reference, the Special Courts Bill, 1978 and holding that the Act as it stands today is an eminently workable piece of legislation and there is no justification to keep the enforcement of the Act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, are carried out,” the bench said.

The NGO had sought the immediate appointment of Lokpal in the country.

Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, had argued that even though the Lokpal Bill was passed by Parliament in 2013 and came into effect in 2014, the Lokpal was not being appointed by the government deliberately.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had said the Lokpal cannot be appointed in the current scenario, as amendments regarding the definition of the Leader of the Opposition (LOP) in the Lokpal Act was pending before the Parliament.

Rohatgi also submitted that there can be no direction to the Legislature to frame any law or amend the existing law or complete a legislative exercise within any time frame.

To this, the bench said the parliamentary wisdom of seeking changes in an existing law by means of an amendment lies within the “exclusive domain of the legislature and it is not the province of the court” to express any opinion on the exercise of the legislative prerogative in this regard.

It said that section 4(2) of the Act makes it clear that the appointment of Chairperson or a Member of the Lokpal will not become invalid merely because of the reason of any vacancy in the selection committee.

“If, at present, the LOP is not available, surely, the Chairperson and the other two members of the Selection Committee, namely, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee may proceed to appoint an eminent jurist as a member of the Selection Committee under Section 4(1)(e) of the Act,” the bench said.

The bench, which also highlighted the unique character and importance of the Act in the contemporary world, said,”We also do not see any legal disability in a truncated Selection Committee to constitute a Search Committee for preparing a panel of persons for consideration for appointment as the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal and also for such a truncated Selection Committee to make recommendations to the President of India for appointment of the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal.”

It said there is no specific provision akin to section 4 (2) of the Act insofar as the constitution of the Search Committee by a truncated Selection Committee is concerned.

“But, the absence of such a provision, by itself, will not invalidate the constitution of the Search Committee by the truncated Selection Committee when the Act specifically ’empowers’ a truncated Selection Committee to make recommendations for appointment of the Chairperson or Members of the Lokpal. To hold otherwise would be self contradictory,” it added.

The bench said the proposed amendment to Section 4(3) of the Act would be clarificatory and will not amount to an attempt to cure a shortcoming in the Act which is proving to be an inhibition in law to the appointment of Chairperson or members of the Lokpal.

“The view of the Parliamentary Standing Committee with regard to the expediency of the Search/Selection Committee taking decisions when vacancy/ vacancies exists/exist is merely an opinion with which the Executive, in the first instance, has to consider and, thereafter, the legislature has to approve.

“The said opinion of the Parliamentary Standing Committee would therefore not be sacrosanct. The same, in any case, does not have any material bearing on the validity of the existing provisions of the Act,” it said.

The bench said any interference by the court, at this juncture, would negate the basic constitutional principle that the “legislature is supreme in the sphere of law making”.

“The constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and demarcation of the respective jurisdiction of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary under the constitutional framework would lead the court to the conclusion that the exercise of the amendment of the Act, which is presently underway, must be allowed to be completed without any intervention of the court,” it said.

“Reading down a statute to make it workable in a situation where an exercise of amendment of the law is pending will not be justified either. A perception, however, strong of the imminent need of the law en-grafted in the Act and its beneficial effects on the citizenry of a democratic country, by itself, will not permit the court to overstep its jurisdiction. Judicial discipline must caution the court against such an approach,” it said.

The bench also dismissed a petition by NGO Just Society to declare as ultra vires some of the provisions of the Lokpal Act, saying there was no merit in it.

The petition challenged the provisions on the ground that the Chief Justice of India or his nominee Judge of the Supreme Court, under Section 4(1)(d) of the Act, is a mere member of the selection committee and the opinion rendered by either of them has no primacy in the matter of selection of Chairperson and members of the Lokpal.

The bench, however, said if the legislature in its wisdom had thought it proper not to accord primacy to the opinion of the Chief Justice or his nominee and accord equal status to the opinion rendered by the Chief Justice or his nominee and treat such opinion at par with the opinion rendered by other members of the selection committee, it does not see how such legislative wisdom can be questioned on the ground of constitutional infirmity.

“It is not the mandate of the Constitution that in all matters concerning the appointment to various Offices in different bodies, primacy must be accorded to the opinion of the Chief Justice or his nominee,” it said.

( Source – PTI )