SC to take ‘in-chamber’ decision on listing of plea challenging Article 35-A

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would take an “in-chamber” decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Advocate Bimal Roy had mentioned the matter before the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna.

He sought urgent hearing of the petition, filed by NGO ‘We The Citizens’, saying the court had earlier ordered listing of the matter in the second week of January.

In August, the apex court adjourned hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Article 35 A till January this year, after taking note of submissions of the Centre and the state government that there was a law and order problem in the state.

Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.

The apex court had on August 31 deferred till January the hearing on the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35 A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, after the Centre and the state said that polls to local bodies polls there would go on till December.

Article 35 A denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state. The provision, which leads to such women from the state forfeiting their right over property, also applies to her heirs.

The Article was incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 by an order of President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the then Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

In the previous hearing, a lawyer had given an illustration and said that if a native woman of the state married an outsider, she loses several rights, including property rights, in the state, but if a man marries a Pakistani woman, he and his spouse get all rights.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, had agreed to the contention that Article 35A and certain aspects needed to be debated upon and said, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A).

On August 6, the apex court had said that a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas challenging Article 35A should be referred to a five-judge constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.

Several petitions including by political parties like the National Conference and the CPI-M, have also moved the Supreme Court in support of Article 35-A that empowers the state assembly to define “permanent residents” for bestowing special rights and privileges to them.

An NGO, ‘Ikkjut Jammu’, has also filed a plea seeking quashing of the provision. It has said that Article 35-A furthers the “two nation theory which is against the theory of secularism”.

The state government, while defending the Article, had cited two verdicts of the constitution benches of the Supreme Court in 1961 and 1969, which had upheld the powers of the President under Article 370(1)(d) of the Constitution to pass constitutional orders.

NGT concern over hill states to file report on forest fires

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has showed concern over recurring forest fires in the hill states and directed them to inform it about the steps taken by them to control such incidents.

A bench headed by acting NGT Chairperson Jawad Rahim impleaded the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal in the case.

It also issued notices to these hill states and asked them to file an affidavit stating measures taken by them to check forest fires, which cause considerable damage to the environment.

“Issue notice to the aforesaid states and who are now impleaded with a direction to them to file an affidavit as to what steps they have taken with regard to National Action Plan for forest fire management at state level. It shall be done within two weeks,” the bench said.

During the hearing, the Uttarakhand government told the tribunal that a state forest fire management plan has been finalised and the details of the action taken are mentioned in the report submitted to it.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on July 30.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Friends which had alleged that a “nexus of timber mafia, some greedy villagers and officials” was suspected to be behind the fire incidents which have caused severe degradation of the environment.

In its plea, the NGO had sought an inquiry by judicial authority into the reasons for the fire incidents. It also demanded a ban on the practice of burning of woods for road works.

It had alleged that Uttarakhand government has not taken any “effective step to control the fire” due to which almost the entire hilly area was affected.

The plea had claimed that more than “1,300 incidents of forest blaze have taken plan in the present season and more than 2,600 hectares of forest area has been ruined” in the state.

Supreme Court sets aside Himachal High Court order denying relief to IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi

The Supreme Court has set aside a high court order that had declined to interfere with a plea made by Indian Forest Service officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi seeking a stay on a criminal defamation complaint filed against him by Himachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhary.

An supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra found that the Himachal Pradesh High Court order had not adverted to any aspect nor addressed the submissions of the petitioner and sent the matter back to it for passing a reasoned order.

“On a perusal of the order passed by the high court, we find that the learned judge, except stating that he is not inclined to interfere in the petition seeking quashing of the complaint, has not adverted to any aspect. Be it noted though the submissions has been referred to in the impugned order, the same have not at all been addressed,” the apex court said.

In view of the aforesaid, it is appropriate to set aside the impugned order and remand the matter to the high court for fresh consideration and pass a reasoned order in accordance with law, it said.

Vineet Chawdhary, a 1982-batch IAS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre and former deputy director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences-Delhi, had filed a complaint against Chaturvedi in April 2016, alleging defamation for making public his vigilance profile.

He had also alleged that Chaturvedi made public a confidential letter written by the latter on August 16, 2014 in his capacity as the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS to the then chief secretary, Himachal Pradesh, giving information about pending corruption/departmental inquiries/proceedings against Chawdhary.

Chawdhary had alleged that this letter was circulated to ‘defame’ him and ‘malign his reputation’.

On Chawdhary’s complaint, a court in Shimla had issued summons to Chaturvedi on November 24, 2016.

Chaturvedi approached the Himachal Pradesh High Court seeking quashing of this order and also the complaint filed against him, and submitting that he has been summoned to face trial without there being any mandatory sanction of prosecution from government nor there being any evidence of his involvement in leaking the confidential letter.

On April 6, the high court refused to interfere with the local court order saying that it was open for the petitioner to approach the court concerned; enter appearance and take all such pleas at an appropriate stage.

“It is not that petitioner is remediless and as such must first take recourse to the remedies in accordance with law,” the order passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol read.

It was against this order that Chaturvedi had moved the Supreme Court.

In his petition before the Supreme Court, Chaturvedi stated that being the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS, he had investigated instances of corruption allegedly involving Chawdhary, who was then the deputy director at the premier medical institution, and that being a public servant, no criminal proceedings can be initiated against him without prosecution sanction of the government.

In April this year, the Delhi High Court had issued notices to the central government on a petition filed by an NGO alleging illegal closure of cases involving Chawdhary and some other senior officials of AIIMS.

High Court asks: How will pvt schools implement pay panel without hiking fees

How would private unaided schools in the national capital implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations without hiking their fees, the Delhi High Court asked the AAP government today.

The query was posed to the Delhi government by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar while asking it to file a status report on the implementation of the pay panel recommendations in private unaided schools.

The court said the government will have to monitor the implementation of the recommendations and should not wait for teachers’ complaints to take any action.

The Delhi government told the bench that it had issued an order in August last year asking all private unaided schools to implement the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and added that it has not received any complaint from teachers saying this was not being done.

“Why should you wait for complaints? You have to monitor the implementation of your order. Here you cannot take the excuse that the central government is not giving you funds,” the bench said and directed the Delhi government to file a status report in eight weeks.

The court, which listed the matter for further hearing on September 25, was hearing a PIL by an NGO seeking directions to the city government and the three municipal corporations to ensure implementation of the recommendations regarding the teaching and non-teaching staff of the private unaided schools.

The petition by NGO Social Jurist, filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal, has also sought appropriate action against the erring private schools.

The plea has said that the recommendations should be implemented to bring the pay, allowances and other benefits of private school staff in conformity with the employees of corresponding status in the schools run by the government and the three municipal corporations of Delhi.

It has also said the pay scales have not been revised in accordance with the recommendations with effect from January 1, 2016 and the arrears also not been paid.

“Not only are the unaided private schools blatantly flouting the statutory mandate prescribed under the DSE Act, the authorities by not taking any action against the erring schools, appear to be absolutely apathetic towards the plight of over two lakh teaching and non-teaching employees working in the unaided private schools of Delhi,” it has said, adding that this was encouraging the “recalcitrant attitude” of the schools.

Madras HC to NGO: Apply afresh to police to hold farmers’ meet

Madras HC to NGO: Apply afresh to police to hold farmers' meet
Madras HC to NGO: Apply afresh to police to hold farmers’ meet

The Madras High Court today asked an NGO to seek fresh permission from the police to hold a rally on farmers’ issues at an alternative site on city’s outskirts.

NGO ‘Arappor Iyakkam,’ which had earlier been denied permission to hold rally in the heart of the city, was asked by Justice M S Ramesh to apply afresh to the police for permission to hold the meet at an alternative site.

As the petitioner, during an hour-long urgent hearing at the residence of the judge, proposed an alternative site on city’s outskirts for the rally, Justice Ramesh gave it the liberty to approach the city police commissioner with a fresh application.

He asked the petitioner to specify all details, including the number of participants and the venue in its application.

The forum had moved the court yesterday after police denied it the permission to hold the Uzhave Thalai (farming is supreme) meet at the YMCA Grounds in the heart of the city here on March 31.

In its plea, the forum had sought to restrain the state authorities from obstructing, preventing or in any manner interfering with the peaceful assembly and conduct of the meeting.

Since the court is on vacation till today for Ugadi festival, the matter was heard at the residence of Justice Ramesh.

Adjourning the matter to tomorrow, he asked the government pleader M K Sbramanian to get instructions.

Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel said they have selected another venue near Avadi on the city outskirts for the meet.

In the petition, it was submitted that farmers who came for the meet from across the state on March 31 were prevented by a large contingent of police from entering the YMCA Ground.

The forum said the meet was proposed as a means to bridge the urban-rural divide as it was shocked by the severe crisis faced by the farmers and ‘total ignorance’ of the urban society about them.

The development comes at a time when a group of farmers from the state are on an agitation at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for the past 20 days, demanding a drought relief package of Rs 40,000 crore from the Centre and farm loan waiver.

( Source – PTI )

SC asks J&K court to proceed against NGO, others

SC asks J&K court to proceed against NGO, others
SC asks J&K court to proceed against NGO, others

The Supreme Court today directed a trial court of Jammu and Kashmir to proceed with a matter against NGO ‘Transparency International India (TII)’ relating to a media report on alleged corruption in lower judiciary.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar asked the judicial magistrate-first class to proceed in “accordance with law” in the matter in which the lower court had sought the presence of officials of TII, Centre for Media Studies (CMS) and others to respond to the show cause notices issued against them earlier.

The matter relates to a report of a survey conducted by the global anti-corruption NGO and on the basis of which a Jammu and Kashmir-based newspaper had published an article on alleged corruption in lower judiciary in the state.

“In view of the above, while disposing of the writ petition, we direct the officer holding the charge of judicial magistrate first class to proceed with the matter in furtherance of the original show cause notice dated May 4, 2006,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said.

The bench agreed with the contention of senior counsel Jayant Bhushan, representing TII and CMS, and said the judicial magistrate had “absolutely no jurisdiction” to pass the order to ensure presence of the petitioners before it.

“We, however, are satisfied in accepting the arguments that the judicial magistrate has absolutely no jurisdiction to pass the impugned order whereby it attempted to enforce presence of the petitioners…in order to respond to the first order dated May 4, 2006,” the bench said.

The apex court had in September 2006 stayed the execution of warrant of arrest issued by the magistrate against the petitioners and had also stayed the proceedings pending there.

( Source – PTI )

“Parl should approve revised nat’l policy on elderly”

"Parl should approve revised nat'l policy on elderly"
“Parl should approve revised nat’l policy on elderly”

Parliament should approve the national policy on welfare of elderly person in view of a “grey tsunami” which is likely to overtake the nation, an NGO has told the Supreme Court.

The report on policies for elderly and suggestions was filed before a bench of Justices M B Lokur and P C Pant which took it on record and asked the Centre to go through it.

The NGO HelpAge India has been made amicus curiae by the apex court in a PIL filed by former law minister and senior advocate Ashwini Kumar seeking implementation of welfare schemes for the elderly.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on February 27.

The NGO in its report has said that according to the Census of India in 2011, the number of elderly people was 103 million and that it was 108 million in 2015.

Quoting a report of the Ministry of Statistics, the NGO said that the percentage of citizens over the age of 60 has jumped 35.5 per cent — from 7.6 crore in 2001 to 10.3 crore in 2011.

“There is a strong demand to revise and modify the National Policy of Older Persons, 1999. The central government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of V Mohini Giri which had formulated a draft National Policy on Senior Citizens on March 30, 2011. However, despite the passage of 5 years, the said national Policy has not been finalised and no development in this area has taken place.

“It is imperative that Parliament approves the revised policy in view of the grey tsunami which is likely to overtake us,” the report said, adding that the present National Policy of Older Persons of 1999 remains largely unimplemented and it has been able to cover only 19.6 million people while bulk of the poor older persons was still left out.

Flagging non-usage of funds despite budget allocation, the report filed by Mathew Cherian, CEO of HelpAge India, said that provisions under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 says that old age home will be built in every district, but till date not a single such home has been built.

The amicus report said that the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPCHE,) launched in 2008 for providing dedicated health care facilities to senior citizens, was to cover 100 poorest districts by 2013, but the coverage is only partial in 100 districts out of the total 622 districts in the country.

( Source – PTI )

Delhi HC refuses to defreeze NGO’s a/c to use foreign funds

Delhi HC refuses to defreeze NGO's a/c to use foreign funds
Delhi HC refuses to defreeze NGO’s a/c to use foreign funds

The Delhi High Court today refused to defreeze an NGO’s account enabling it to use its foreign funds as the Centre claimed the decision not to renew the foreign funding registration under FCRA was taken in “public interest”.

“I am not inclined to give any interim relief with regard to defreezing of the petitioner account. I will have to hear it and than decide the issue,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.

It further observed that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in their sealed cover report, which was perused by it, has stated that they have inputs of the intelligence agencies in relation to the renewal of licence and the foreign funding.

The court, however, asked the MHA to file its counter affidavit within three weeks asking it to give reasons for refusing to renew registration of the NGO, Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC), under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

The court has fixed the matter for further hearing on January 17.

Central government standing counsel Anil Soni, appearing for the MHA, defended the decision saying it was done in the “public interest”.

“We have right to prohibit foreign contribution which are likely to affect prejudicially the public interest and also the friendly relation with any foreign state,” the MHAs’ counsel said.

He also said that the government was exempted from giving reasons for refusing to renew the FCRA registrations.

Soni also told the court that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notice to the Home Secretary after taking suo-motu cognisance of the issue, and has sought a report within six weeks.

The MHA has been asked by NHRC to provide details of the number of NGOs of Human Rights defenders that have not been allowed renewal of licence and the foreign funds received by them over the past three years, as well as the reason for non-renewal, he said.

The lawyer also said how the matter could be taken up by the commission when the high court was dealing with it.

( Source – PTI )

MHA officer sent to judicial custody till June 6

MHA officer sent to judicial custody till June 6
MHA officer sent to judicial custody till June 6

A special court today sent an MHA official to jail till June 6 for allegedly issuing FCRA notices arbitrarily to several NGOs for financial gains after CBI submitted that his further custodial interrogation was not required in the case.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar sent accused Anand Joshi, under secretary in the Home Ministry, to 14-day judicial remand after he was produced before the court on expiry of his CBI custody.

In its application before the court, the CBI submitted that the accused be sent to jail as he was no more required for further questioning in the case.

The court also allowed the counsel for the accused to get a copy of the FIR in the case.

According to sources, the CBI had summoned several government officials and other persons in connection with the probe.

Earlier, the special court had extended the CBI custody of Joshi after the agency mentioned that seven new files have been recovered during the probe.

Joshi, who was arrested from west Delhi on May 15, was under CBI custody which ended today.

CBI had earlier claimed that the files relating to several NGOs had gone missing from Home Ministry and they were recovered from his house although he was not supposed to take them away.

It had alleged that Joshi had been issuing notices dishonestly to a large number of NGOs/societies registered under the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) 2010, which have been receiving significant amount of foreign contributions, in an arbitrary manner.

It has said some of these organisations are Care India, Snehalya Charitable Trust, Indian HIV/AIDS Alliance and All India Primary Teachers Federation and alleged that the representatives of some of these organisations were called and Joshi demanded and obtained illegal gratification.

( Source – PTI )