Madras High Court concludes hearing on Vedanta plea challenging closure of Sterlite plant

The Madras High Court has reserved orders on a petition moved by mining major Vedanta Limited challenging the closure of its copper smelter unit in Thootukudi in Tamil Nadu in May 2018.

Concluding the hearing of arguments after 39 days, a special bench of Justices TS Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan said on Wednesday it would try to deliver the order as expeditiously as possible.

Vedanta had approached the high court on in February last year seeking to reopen the Sterlite plant which was closed following a May 23, 2018 order issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) in the backdrop of violent protests against the unit that left 13 people dead in police firing on May 21 and 22.

Vedanta had moved the plea as suggested by the Supreme Court.

The top court had on February 18, 2019, set aside the National Green Tribunal order that allowed opening of the Sterlite Plant, which was at the centre of massive protests over pollution concerns.

It, however, gave the liberty to the company to approach the high court against the closure orders of the Tamil Nadu government and its state pollution control board.

An interim relief sought by Vedanta to permit access to the 200-acre factory premises to carry out maintenance work was rejected by the high court based on the assurance provided by the state that it would take responsibility of the premises.

The state government and TNPCB represented by the Advocate General Vijay Narayan and senior counsel CS Vaidyanathan opposed the plea for reopening of the plant, terming Sterlite as a ‘chronic’ defaulter.

“Unrestrained pollution appears to be standard modus operandi of the company, as it has been found guilty of various violations globally,” they had contended.

Vedanta’s senior counsels Aryama Sundaram and PS Raman countered the arguments, claiming that the closure order was nothing but ‘naked discrimination’ against the company.

The company also contended that the GO was only a knee-jerk reaction of the state to ‘appease’ a section of public with vested interest after 13 protesters were killed in the police firing.

It also alleged the hand of a Chinese company behind its closure and claimed the company which has financial interest in copper manufacturing was funding the protesters to agitate against Sterlite which is one of the biggest copper manufacturers with state-of-the-art technology.

Citing TNPCB pollution statistics, Vedanta claimed that a person living inside Sterlite is safer than a person living in Anna Nagar locality in Chennai.

Opposing the submissions, impleading petitioners in the plea Professor Fathima and Makkal Adhigaram told the court that the environment in Thoothukudi had actually improved after the closure of the plant.

Madras High Court junks plea to remove Governor

The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed a plea seeking a direction to the Union government to remove Banwarilal Purohit as Tamil Nadu Governor for not passing orders on the Council of Ministers’ advice to release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha dismissed as not maintainable, the petition of president of Kanchipuram District Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, M Kannadasan.

The petitioner submitted that the Council of Ministers had passed a resolution on September 9, 2018, recommending and advising the Tamil Nadu Governor to order premature release of seven convicts.

Madras High Court
Madras High Court

Despite a lapse of nearly 15 months, the Governor was yet to take a call and therefore such ‘inaction’ amounted to violation of provisions of the Constitution, Kannadasan said

He said he had also submitted a representation to the union government on November 22, 2019, pointing out the ‘inaction’ on the part of the Governor and prayed for appropriate action to remove him and it was acknowledged on December 3, 2019.

The petitioner, alleging inaction on the part of Union government, filed the above writ petition.

Home Ministry Officials had said the Governor has no power to release the seven convicts as recommended by the state government and would have to consult the Centre as per law.

Since the probe into the case was done by CBI, the Governor would have to consult the central government before taking a decision to remit or commute the sentence of the seven convicts, they had said.

The AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu had recommended to the Governor to release the convicts, a move hailed by most political parties in the state.

On August 10, 2018, the Centre had opposed in the Supreme Court, the proposal of the Tamil Nadu government to release the seven convicts, saying that setting them free would set a wrong precedent.

The Supreme Court had said that the state government cannot remit sentence of any convict in cases probed by a central agency and the Centre’s approval was mandatory to release the killers of Rajiv Gandhi as the case was probed by the CBI.

Nalini, her husband Murugan, Santhan, Robert Payas, Perarivalan, Ravichandran and S Jayakumar are serving life term in connection with the assassination of Gandhi by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.

Bombay HC directs P Chidambaram and others to file statement in 10,000 cr damage suit by 63 Moons Technologies.

The Bombay high court on Friday asked Congress leader P Chidambaram, former forward market commission (FMC) chairman Ramesh Abhishek and serving bureaucrat KP Krishnan to file their statements in the the Rs 10,000 crore damage suit by 63 Moons Technologies within four weeks.

The bench said that if the trio fail to submit the statements within the 4-week deadline, then it would be considered as an undefended suit. At the same time The Bombay high court warned the three that this would be the last extension given to them, as they missed the deadline for the second time.

On October 22, 2019, he Bombay high court had directed Congress leader P.Chidambaram, Ramesh Abhishek and KP Krishnan to file their written statements within eight weeks in the Rs 10,000 crore damages suit filed by 63 Moons Technologies Limited.

The court had also rejected the plea of Chidambaram’s counsel for further liberty saying that eight-week time is more than enough to file the written statements.

In February, 63 Moons had said that it served legal notice to Chidambaram and the two others seeking damages worth Rs 10,000 crore.

The company has alleged that the three individuals played a major role in perpetrating the NSEL payment crisis to destroy the exchange ecosystem created by 63 Moons. As per the company, it resulted in huge damage and value erosion and loss of employment.

In August, the Bombay high court had ruled that the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) is not a financial institution and hence notifications for attachment of the company’s assets, including bank accounts and properties, under the MPID Act stand quashed.

The company 63 Moons Technologies has also filed a case against Ramesh Abhishek in Madras high court seeking Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) probe into the matter.

 

Madras High Court censures TN govt for terming water project ‘technically infeasible’

The Madras High Court has censured the Tamil Nadu government for terming a proposal for uninterrupted supply of water to a group of villages “technically not feasible”, while drawing a contrast with India’s space missions to the Moon and a planned programme to study the Sun.

Allowing a petition of a farmers’ association, Justice K Kalyanasundaram on Wednesday directed the government to build within three months an underground tunnel or overhead super passage across a contour canal near Pollachi in Coimbatore district.

He said though the proposal for the construction of a super passage at a cost of Rs 15 lakh was made six years ago, nothing happened and the plea for allowing the natural flow of water was considered “technically not feasible” by the government.

“The government is bound to protect the interest of the agriculturists and if they are not able to fulfil their commitments citing technical issue, in my considered opinion, committed skills be employed to fulfil the obligations of the government,” he said.

Nallar-Palar Irrigation Area Farmer’s Association in a plea had sought a super passage or tunnel in the area as the natural flow of river Nallar, the main source of water for six villages, had been blocked after the formation of Parambikulam Azhiyar Project and diversion of the river water to a contour canal.

The riparian rights of the agriculturists were seriously affected and they were deprived of their livelihood, the farmers’ association said.

Justice Kalyanasundaram in his order highlighted country’s technological prowess.

In the 21st century, India successfully launched Chandrayaan-1 on October 22, 2008 by a PSLV-XL rocket and the Chandrayaan-2 on July 22 this year by a GSLV Mk III and the vehicles had to travel more than 3.84 lakhs kms (to the Moon), he said.

“We are proud to say that both the teams were led by Tamilians — Mylswamy Annadurai and K Sivan. Now, it is proposed to launch Aditya-L1 prob, to study the Sun, and it shows there is a large scale of development of technology in India,” he said.

Justice Kalyanasundaram also observed how in 1960s a contour canal was formed in the Western Ghat by piercing a hard rock for a distance of about 50 km and at some places water was taken through tunnels.

He said it is apposite to note that in the 20th century, when there were absolutely no roads and transport facilities, beautiful dams had been built in the Western Ghats and they are still serving their purpose.

Why not Give Part of Jayalalithaa’s Properties to Public, asks High court

Why not a portion of former CM. J Jayalalithaa’s properties be allotted for welfare of the public as she was a leader who always said she was made by the people & worked for them, the Madras HC asked on Friday.

A division bench of Justice N Kirubakaran & Justice Abdul Quddhose made the oral observation while hearing a plea moved by an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) member seeking to appoint him as official administrator to manage the properties of the former CM. In response, Jayalalithaa’s niece J Deepa & nephew J Deepak, who were present in the HC as per the directions of the bench, submitted that they have no objection in doing so as it was the wish of their aunt as well.

But as the only legal heirs of Jayalalithaa, we are entitled to all of her properties. We have plans to establish a trust in her name & provide charity to the people, they added.

Recording the submissions, the bench said why it took so long for them to approach the HC seeking permission to administer Jayalalithaa’s properties.

To this, Deepa said that since she had approached the authorities concerned for legal heir certificate, it took some time to move the HC. She added that she was denied access to Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence.

High Court Shifts Sexual Plaint Probe Against IG to Telangana

The Madras HC on Wednesday shifted the probe into the sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman superintendent of police (SP) against DVAC joint director S Murugan out of Tamil Nadu & handed it over to Telangana.

A report is to be submitted by the Telangana police to the HC in 6 months.

“We are conscious of the fact that the inquiry & investigation out of a state isn’t envisaged under the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act. But, looking to the nature of positions of both the parties, nature of allegations…we are inclined to ensure complete fairness & independence in the internal enquiry as well as the investigation in the First Information Report (FIR),” said the division bench of Justice Vineeth Kothari & Justice C V Karthikeyan on Wed.

The bench directed the chief secretary of Telangana as well as the Director General of Police (DGP) to undertake necessary steps for constitution of a separate internal complaints committee (ICC) in Hyderabad, headed by a senior lady officer. The complaint as well as First Information Report (FIR) filed shall be probed by a senior & independent official of Telangana police. “The report of internal complaints committee (ICC) & the report on investigation of the First Information Report (FIR) may be transmitted back to this HC within 6 months,” the bench added.

The HC passed the transfer order despite opposition from the Tamil Nadu govt on whose behalf advocate-general Vijay Narayan argued that the state’s image might be adversely affected if such transfer was ordered. Murugan also protested the proposal to shift the case out of Tamil Nadu.

High Court mulls ways to curb criminal abuse of social media

The Madras HC on Wednesday simply adjourned the hearing of the PIL seeking to link Aadhar with social mediaaccounts to ensure easy detection of online fraud & cybercrimes, as the SC(Supreme Court) is seized of the issue & the latter has restrained the HC from passing any final order.

A division bench of Justice S Manikumar & Justice Subramonium Prasad, however, made it clear that they are not inclined to entertain the prayer for linking Aadhar with social media accounts. The bench said it was trying only to navigate ways to curb online crime with the cooperation of social media companies. The bench then said it would take up the hearing on September 19, as the SC has listed the plea moved by Facebook seeking transfer of all such cases to the Top Court on September 13.

On Wednesday, when the plea moved by Antony Clement Rubin came up for hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Facebook, submitted that it would be a waste of time for the HC to continue hearing the matter as the SC had already restrained the HC from passing any final order. Opposing the submission, Tamil Nadu advocate-general Vijay Narayan contended that there is no impediment for the HC to continue the hearing as the SC has made it clear that the HCs could continue hearing the pleas but should not pass any final order.

Concurring with the submissions of Rohatgi, the bench observed that any further hearing of the case would be useless if the Top court decided to transfer the cases from HCs. During the last hearing, an expert from IIT-Madras informed the HC that it was technically possible to track people spreading rumours through social media platforms like WhatsApp.

The submission was made in response to the stand taken by WhatsApp that messages on its platform can never be traced to the origin because of the encryption built in to ensure privacy of its users. V Kamakoti, a professor at IIT-M countered this, telling the court that it is technically possible to add an ‘original’ identification tag to messages on WhatsApp even with the encryption. He said this is possible by WhatsApp making a change in the product design to include the phone number of the ‘originator’ whenever a message is forwarded.

Madras high court directs Southern Railway to install CCTV cameras in trains

Observing that police officials committing act of sexual harassment against women in running trains cannot be spared, the Madras high court on Thursday directed Southern Railway to install CCTV cameras in train coaches for the safety of woman passengers.

The court issued the direction while rejecting a petition filed by a dismissed police constable, A Vinoth. Vinoth was recruited as a Grade-II police constable under sports quota in 2008. He was deputed to the Railway Police in Trichy.

He was deputed to perform patrol duty on the Tuticorin – Chennai Pearl City Express train on December 29, 2014 along with a woman constable, Amsavalli. A passenger named Selvi, who travelled in S6 coach, submitted a complaint to the Government Railway Police, Tambaram, Chennai, stating that on December 29 when she was travelling in the train, the petitioner asked her cellphone number and talked to her saying that she looked pretty.

On receipt of the complaint, the authorities concerned placed the petitioner under suspension and conducted an inquiry. The departmental disciplinary proceedings ended with an order of dismissal from service on April 15, 2015.

When the petitioner preferred an appeal before general manager of Southern Railway, it was rejected. Hence, the petitioner moved the high court in 2015. The additional government pleader submitted that the woman constable, Amsavalli, had stated that the petitioner had talked to the complainant in an indecent manner in an inebriated mood.

Justice S M Subramaniam observed, “The state must provide adequate protection and ensure that the woman passengers, who are travelling lonely during odd hours, are to be protected by issuing certain guidelines to the police officials, who all are on duty in trains.”

“No leniency or misplaced sympathy can be shown in respect of such offences in a running train against woman passengers. In a running train, these women passengers are helpless. The police officials on duty are carrying arms and even the co-passengers cannot come to the rescue of such women,” observed the judge.
Hence, the judge suo motu impleaded the general manager of Southern Railway and directed to conduct a survey with the assistance of the experts and install CCTV cameras in railway coaches and compartments for the purpose of providing adequate safety and security to woman passengers, old age passengers and children.

The judge directed the Southern Railway to formulate the improvised guidelines to meet out the current day circumstances, to be followed by the security officials in running trains. The judge confirmed the order of dismissal and rejected the plea of the petitioner.

High Court Moots Special Teams to Assess Quality of Teaching in Govt. Schools

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday observed that there was a need for periodical assessment of the quality of teaching in government schools.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam directed the Secretary, School Education department, to constitute special teams in all districts under the chairmanship of Chief Educational Officer to conduct periodical inspection of government schools for assessing quality of teaching as well as knowledge acquired by students.

The court also directed the Secretary to instruct the CEOs to constitute additional teams based on the number of schools to be inspected. The additional teams should conduct frequent inspections of implementation of education policies to improve the quality of education in rural areas.

In order to assess the quality of teaching & to ascertain if it was on a par with standards prescribed under the education policy, a set of questions & answers should be formulated in consultation with experts. Further, the court directed the Secretary to monitor the functioning of special teams.

The respondent, School Education department, should ensure that students studying in elementary & primary schools were capable of reading, writing & possessed arithmetic skills. Should there be any lapses, serious action should be initiated against teachers, the court said.

The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Sowpackiavathy of Madurai, who sought to quash the disciplinary proceedings pending against her. Refusing to grant relief to the teacher, the court ordered that disciplinary proceedings for not taking classes properly be concluded as expeditiously as possible.

 

It was said that during an inspection of her class none of the students could answer the questions asked by the school inspector. Taking cognisance of the submission, the court observed that no teacher could take defence that students were incapable of learning, particularly those from rural areas.

Madras High Court Sets Aside Order for NEET Rank Revision

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday allowed the appeal preferred by the National Testing Agency (NTA) against the order of a single bench that had directed revision of NEET rank of a medical aspirant.

The single bench, in its order, directed the NTA to consider the plea of the candidate who had wrongly mentioned his community status as OBC, instead of SC. The court had ordered that the candidate be placed under the SC list & his ranking revised.

Challenging the order, the Centre submitted that the candidate, M. Vikram Balaji, had wrongly mentioned his community status as OBC instead of SC in the application form for NEET 2019. Though two opportunities were provided to the candidate, he did not make the correction, it was argued.

A public notice was issued on the website on January 14, informing students to carry out corrections, if any, in the application form. The application could have been corrected till January 31, the deadline. On May 27, another opportunity was provided till May 31 to carry out the correction.

Yet both the opportunities were missed by the candidate. It was not the responsibility of the Centre to vouch for the information/documents in the online application of candidates. It was for the candidates to ensure the authenticity of information uploaded by them, the Centre said.

Taking the submission into account, a Division Bench of Justices K. Ravichandrabaabu & Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy allowed the appeal preferred by the Centre & set aside the single bench order that had granted relief to the candidate.