HC seeks report on Maha officials’ visits to malnutrition-hit areas

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government on Wednesday to submit a report on visits conducted by its public health and district level officers to the state’s tribal areas that are battling malnutrition.

A bench of justices A S Oka and M S Sonak directed the state’s counsel Neha Bhide to submit the report by next week.

The direction came after Bhide told the bench that the state had been organising health camps in the tribal-dominated Melghat area of Vidarbha region, Nandurbar district and others areas, to help the residents.

She said several officers from the public health department, the district collectors concerned and other local- level officers regularly visit these areas to take stock of the health facilities and other issues.

The court-appointed core committee then takes cognisance of their observations and extends necessary aid to these areas, Bhide said.

Her submissions, however, were opposed by the petitioners – some NGOs and activists working in the tribal areas.

They informed the bench that despite the state’s claims of extending timely aid to tribal areas, the residents there “continued to face poverty and government apathy”. They lacked access to proper food and basic health care facilities.

They also informed the bench that between October 1 and October 14 this year, 12 children in these tribal areas had died of malnutrition.

At this, the bench asked if the core committee followed a set mechanism to help it take decisions and extend aid to such areas.

“On what basis does the committee take action? Do your officers visiting the tribal areas submit any reports to the committee? We would like to see these reports,” it said.

The bench was hearing a bunch of Public Interest Litigations highlighting a rise in malnutrition-related deaths and illnesses among those living in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra.

Different benches of the Bombay High Court have passed several orders on the issue over the last two years, directing the state government to ensure that those living in tribal areas get adequate nutrition, health care, sanitation and education facilities.

During a hearing last week, the petitioners had told the bench that between January and September this year, 72 tribal children had died of malnutrition in the state.

The bench had at that time asked the state if it could come up with a system to ensure that doctors and health workers posted in the tribal areas conduct door-to-door visits to check whether any child in such homes was suffering from malnutrition or other ailments.

SC orders ban on Maharashtra construction

NEW DELHI: In an embarrassment to the Maharashtra government the Supreme Court order banning construction activity in States those do not have a solid waste management policy should not apply to Maharashtra, said Nitin Kareer, the State’s Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department.

The SC on Friday imposed a stay on all construction in Maharastra and slapped a fine of Rs 3 lakh on the state for not framing a policy for solid waste management.  There are two parts to this order. The first is regarding States that had not followed up on the court’s earlier order. The second directive pertains to States that do not have a solid waste management policy in place.

The ban is likely to hit Mumbai, one of the biggest real estate markets in India and the timely delivery of housing projects. It is also a double whammy for the city as it had faced a similar ban on new construction projects after a high court order in 2016. The ban on new projects was lifted in March 2018 by the SC for six months.

Meanwhile, builders in Chandigarh expressed concern that the ban may drive up property prices in the city. This, according to real estate consultants, could be a double-edged sword.

The state government has now decided to intervene in the matter next week, ahead of the hearing on October 9, to file its affidavit, apologise to the court and get the ban lifted.

Supreme Court declines to stay its 20 March verdict on SC/ST verdict

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to keep in abeyance its 20 March order on the SC/ST Act but said it will consider in detail the Centre’s review petition.

A bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, while referring to the large-scale nationwide violence during the protest against the verdict, said that people who are agitating have not read the judgment properly and have been misled by vested interests.

The bench also said it has not diluted any provision of SC/ST Act and only safeguarded the interest of innocents from being arrested.

However, the provisions of the Act cannot be used to terrorise the innocents, it said.

The top court listed the Centre’s review petition after 10 days for detailed hearing and asked the Maharashtra government and others to file written submissions by then.

The union government, in its review petition, said the 20 March verdict has “wide ramification and implication resulting in dilution of the stringent provisions of law enacted under the 1989 enactment. It adversely affects a substantial portion of the population of India being the members of SC/ST. It is also contrary to the legislative policy of Parliament as reflected in the Prevention Of Atrocities Act 1989”.

The supreme court had on 20 March said that “in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.”

Bombay High Court asks Maharashtra government to develop a plan for shelter homes

The Bombay High Court has said it is time the Maharashtra government develops a model plan for constant governance and supervision of shelter homes for children in the state.

The court also said that the government could also consult social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muuruganantham for supply of sanitary pads for girls staying in these homes.

A division bench of Justices N H Patil and G S Kulkarni was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a city resident, Sangeeta Punekar, raising the issue of poor condition of a children’s shelter home in suburban Mankhurd.

The court said prima facie, the Mankhurd shelter home’s condition was not up to the mark.

“There is a need for constant governance, supervision and special care so as to maintain the condition of the shelter home. It is time the government comes up with a model plan which can then be emulated in all other shelter homes in the state,” Justice Patil said in an order on March 27.

The bench pointed out that the staff vacancies need to be filled immediately, the existing staff should be paid salaries on time, and the CCTVs should be in working condition and maintained regularly.

There should be regular medical check-ups of the children at the shelter home, and a proper supply of medicines and sanitary napkins, the court said.

“The issue of supply of medicines and sanitary napkins can be resolved within a day. There are so many NGOs working towards this. Why can’t the state government contact these NGOs?” Justice Patil asked.

The court also said that the government could consult Muruganantham, the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine.

Government pleader Purnima Kantharia assured the court that the government was looking into the issue seriously and that all necessary steps would be taken.

The bench then posted the petition for hearing on April 20, and asked the government to file a compliance report by then.

Consider allotting 2 plots in suburbs to house displaced people: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra government to consider allotting two plots in suburbs, originally reserved for a cancer hospital and a public housing project, to rehabilitate over 60,000 people whose houses were demolished by the local civic body on the court’s order as they were near the Tansa water pipeline.

The high court was today informed that while some of the affected people were rehabilitated at suburban Mahul, several families are yet to be provided alternative accommodation. The number of such people stood at more than 60,000.

The government told a division bench of justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla it was yet to finalise the revised draft Development Plan (DP) for the metropolis.

Thousands of tenements located within 10 metres of Tansa water pipeline here were demolished by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) following orders from the high court.

“It would be appropriate if the government considers two plots at suburban Marol and Dindoshi, which, as per the earlier Development Plan, were reserved for a cancer hospital and a public housing project, for these people,” the court said while hearing a PIL.

“Considering the gravity of the situation, the state government will have to either consider de-reservation of these two plots or immediately make available some other place to rehabilitate these people,” Justice Oka said.

The court said its order of directing demolition of structures falling within 10 metres of the pipeline cannot be delayed or suspended because of absence of rehabilitation plans.

“The demolition process is important and necessary to ensure continued water supply to the citizens of Mumbai,” the judges noted.

The bench directed the government to file an affidavit by April 20.

The PIL raised concerns over the hazards caused to the Tansa water pipeline due to construction of residential and commercial establishments near it.

Maharashtra government changed Mumbai DP plan for Metro car shed: HC told

 Some city residents and activists have approached the Bombay High Court alleging the Maharashtra government has illegally modified the draft Development Plan 2034 for Mumbai to show what was previously a green zone as that reserved for a car shed for the Metro rail project.

The petitioners had earlier filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court challenging a notification of the state vide which, in August 2017, around 25 hectares of land in the Aarey Milk Colony was allotted for the construction of a car shed and allied services for the Mumbai Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) line.

The petitioners had claimed at the time that earlier, the said plot was reserved as a ‘no development zone’ area.

They said while the government had issued a circular earmarking the land for the car shed, the draft DP 2034 continued to show the said plot as a green area and a no-development zone.

Today, the petitioners moved the court, saying the state had recently issued a notification to amend the 2034 DP to change the use of the said plot of land in the Aarey Colony in suburban Mumbai as that reserved for the Metro car shed.

Such an amendment, the petitioners said, was made on the sly by the state to suit its case before the high court. The amendment in the draft DP will pave the way for the car shed.

The construction for the same was likely to destroy extensive green cover and cause much ecological damage, the petitioners claimed.

A bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and P D Naik permitted the petitioners to include their submissions in the original PIL and said it will consider the issue on March 20, the next date of hearing.

On the last hearing, the bench had directed the government to file a reply clarifying whether due process was followed in allotting the 25 hectare plot in Aarey for the construction of the car shed.

It had also asked the government and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to tell the court about the extent of ecological damage that the construction work for the proposed car shed was likely to cause.

The state and the MMRC, however, have maintained that due procedure was followed in taking over and changing the usage of the land concerned.

Decks cleared to acquire land for new prison in Mumbai: Maharashtra government to HC

The Maharashtra government has told the Bombay High Court that it has finally completed formalities to acquire land for a new prison complex here, four years after it made the proposal.

As per an affidavit submitted in the high court by the Maharashtra government yesterday, the city collector will hand over around 52,000 sq mt plot at Mandale village near Mankhurd to the state by next month for the construction of the new prison.

The construction of the new prison was proposed by the Maharashtra government in 2014 to tackle overcrowding in the existing prisons in and around Mumbai.

As per the affidavit, the state home department, the revenue department, and other stakeholders met on January 3.

All formalities were completed during the meeting and the state revenue minister directed the city collector to hand over the 52,000 sq.m. plot within a month’s time.

Appearing for the state, advocate Anil Sakhre informed the court that the Public Works Department had also been directed to appoint an architect and prepare the plan and estimates for the new construction.

In the meantime, Sakhre said, the state had already begun constructing “eight new barracks at the Yerwada Central Jail premises in Pune since the prison has sufficient space” for the same.

“All new construction at the Yerwada premises and the proposed site in Mankhurd will be done in line with the suggestions of the state’s prison reforms committee,” Sakhre said.

The affidavit was filed in compliance with a previous order of the high court.

In February 2017, a bench led by Justice AS Oka had directed the Maharashtra government to set up a committee headed by a retired high court judge and experts as members to conduct a “scientific study on setting up a model prison with necessary infrastructure and steps to reduce overcrowding in jails.”

Following the court’s order at the time, the state had conducted an inspection, which revealed that the Arthur road jail in Mumbai and the Yerwada jail were severely overcrowded.

It had also revealed that the prisons across the state did not have adequate number of toilets and bathrooms, and that the male inmates often had to bathe in the open. In the women’s cell too, there were inadequate number of toilets and bathrooms.

The inspection report had also said that these toilets were ill-maintained and dirty.

In the affidavit submitted on Friday, the state said that the central prisons in Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, and Nagpur required around 200 additional toilets, bathrooms, and bathing platforms.

“We are carrying out repair work at the existing toilets and bathrooms. We will soon allocate funds for construction of new toilets and bathrooms too,” Sakhre said.

The court has now directed the state to submit by February 12 a chart detailing all repair and construction work that is proposed or currently being undertaken, the cost for the same, and the time that will be taken to complete all such work

HC raps Maharashtra government over delay in serving warrants and summons

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to form a policy, or amend existing laws to ensure that warrants and summons are served expeditiously to accused and witnesses.

A bench of Justices S C Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre was hearing a PIL claiming that the issue of a large number of pending summons and warrants, especially in cases of cheque bounce, was delaying hearings.

In a previous hearing in September 2016, the petitioner had also submitted data to show that “almost 80 per cent cases of cheque bounce under the Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act were pending at the stage of service of summons”.

At the time, the court had directed the Maharashtra government to take immediate steps to ensure that summons were served expeditiously.

On the last hearing yesterday, however, the bench noted that since the September 2016 hearing, the Maharashtra government had done “little” to comply with the Court’s order.

The state’s counsel, advocate JP Yagnik informed the bench that a special drive had been conducted recently to execute pending warrants and summons, and that the state had also decided to send summons in NI Act cases through the registered post of the Indian postal service since the police machinery was already “overburdened”.

The bench, however, dismissed the argument saying that such temporary measures were inadequate and that the state must create statutory provisions to solve the problem.

“The home department must issue some binding instructions and punish lapses. The law must be amended to ensure that there is no delay in serving of summons or execution of warrants in court cases,” the bench said.

“Why has the state failed to comply with the court’s orders and formulate a policy or mechanism? Is the High Court expected to take care of everything? The state’s sovereign and legal functions can’t be outsourced,” the bench noted.

Will revise Manodhairya scheme to hike compensation: Maha govt to HC

Will revise Manodhairya scheme to hike compensation: Maha govt to HC
Will revise Manodhairya scheme to hike compensation: Maha govt to HC

Facing flak over its “insensitive attitude” towards victims of rape and other women-related offences, the Maharashtra government today told the Bombay High Court that it would revise the Manodhairya scheme, raising the monetary compensation to victims to Rs 10 lakh.

Under the Manodhairya Yojana launched in October 2013, the state government gives a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to victims of rape and other crimes against women.

Apart from the monetary compensation, the government will also provide counselling to the victim and vocational or educational training, if required.

However, the high court, while hearing a bunch of petitions on the issue, had earlier said the Maharashtra government was “insensitive” towards such victims and that it should follow the footsteps of the Goa government, which awards compensation up to Rs 10 lakh.

The high court had formed a committee with two judges and bureaucrats from the state’s women and child department to evolve a model scheme.

The committee today submitted a 16-page scheme, proposed to be revised, to a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbakoni told the court that the state government has agreed to implement the scheme submitted by the committee.

According to the proposed scheme, in rape cases, where the victim suffers mental retardation or incurs permanent physical or mental disability; in gangrape cases; minor victims of sexual assaults and acid attack cases, the victim will get a relief of Rs 10 lakh.

In rape case which leads to death of a woman and in case she was a working woman, the legal heir will get Rs 10 lakh and in case of a non-working woman, the legal heir will get Rs five lakh, as per the scheme.

The high court took objection to this and said, “Why are you discriminating between working and non-working women? The services of a home maker cannot be measured or valued in money.”

Kumbakoni then immediately said the amount would be increased to Rs 10 lakh even in case of a non-working woman.

The revised scheme, however, shall apply only to the victims on whom offences are committed on and after the date of the scheme coming into effect.

According to the scheme, the state government shall issue an appropriate government resolution specifying the date with effect from which it shall come into force.

Under the revised scheme, the State Legal Services Authority has been authorised to receive applications seeking compensation and take a decision on how much compensation should be awarded to the victim.

“Every year there will be a separate budgetary allocation for this purpose,” Kumbakoni said.

He said in cases where after trial, the court finds that the case was false or the victim turned hostile, then the compensation awarded to the victim will be recovered.

According to the scheme, in order to provide immediate emotional support to the victims, the government shall set up a specially trained trauma team for each district.

The team shall provide emotional support, guidance, medical help and psychiatric counselling free of cost.

The team shall comprise a woman counsellor, medical officer and a lady police officer and they would undergo appropriate training.

As per the revised scheme, the State Legal Services Authority, within seven days of receiving an application from a victim seeking compensation, may disburse a sum of Rs 30,000 to her.

The authority shall decide the said application finally within a period of 120 days from the date of receipt thereof, according to the scheme.

The bench, after perusing the scheme, directed secretary of the department concerned to file an affidavit and posted the matter for hearing tomorrow.

( Source – PTI )

Those with criminal records don’t have rights? HC to Maha govt

Those with criminal records don't have rights? HC to Maha govt
Those with criminal records don’t have rights? HC to Maha govt

The Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra government if it believed that people with criminal records had no right to a safe life.

The government invited the high court’s ire after it submitted that it had decided not to extend police protection to persons who had a criminal record, since any threat to their lives was a consequence of their own actions.

They are into criminal activities and hence, they have a threat to their lives, public prosecutor Abhinandan Vagyani said.

“It is because of their own doing and hence, we have decided not to give them police protection,” Vagyani said.

A bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak, however, asked if this meant that the state believed those with criminal records had no right to a safe life.

“What nonsense is this? Are you saying that those who have a criminal record do not have any rights? Can anyone come and kill them just like that?” Chief Justice Chellur said.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer, seeking directions to the state police to recover dues from VIPs, including politicians, and film actors, who have been provided security cover, but have not paid the charges for the same.

As per the PIL, around 1,000 personnel from the state police are deployed for providing protection to private individuals.

The plea also claims that about 600 policemen in Mumbai are deployed for protection duty.

On the last hearing in September this year, the bench had directed the state government to revisit its policy on providing police protection to private persons.

It had also said that such protection must be provided to private persons only in the rarest of rare cases.

In compliance with the order, Vagyani told the HC that the state authorities consulted the advocate general and the additional commissioner of police, Mumbai, and then came up with a proposal revising its policy on police protection.

He said the above suggestions were a part of this revised policy.

The bench, however, dismissed the new proposal submitted by Vagyani, saying it was apparent that the authorities had not applied their mind to it.

“You have simply changed a few lines in the old policy of the year 2000. It is vague and an absolute nonsense. If this has been done after consulting with senior police and legal officers, if this is the decision of our officers, then God save the public,” Chief Justice Chellur said.

“How can you expect the court to approve such a vague proposal?” she asked.

The high court has now summoned the advocate general on the next date of hearing, on November 30.

( Source – PTI )