Supreme Court grants time till Sept 6 to CBI to complete probe in accident case involving Unnao rape survivor

The Supreme Court Monday granted to the CBI time till September 6 to complete the investigation into the road accident in which the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer were critically injured and two of her aunts killed.

The apex court, which had earlier given two weeks to the CBI to complete the probe, extended the time while noting that the probe agency has done “extensive investigation” in the case so far.

“We have perused the report of the CBI. This court, vide order dated August 1, 2019, granted an outer limit of two weeks to complete the investigation. On perusal of the report, we find that the CBI has done extensive investigation but some loose ends need to be tied up,” a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.

“Some of the investigation relates to collating and analyzing the material already collected, especially the electronic records. Most importantly the statements of the victim and her counsel who was driving the car could not be recorded till date, as they are both not in a position to make a statement,” the bench noted in its order.

While seeking four more weeks to complete the probe, CBI told the top court that statements of rape survivor and her lawyer have not been recorded yet and it wants to analyse certain electronic evidence collected so far during the probe.

The court also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to pay Rs 5 lakh to the lawyer who is in a critical condition and undergoing treatment.

The bench however took exception to some public statements made by the family members of the rape survivor in the media and said it might help the accused during the trial of the case.

“If you have any grievances, feel free to tell us. We are here to help you. Some members of her family are going to the media. It may rather help the accused,” the bench observed.

At the outset, senior advocate V Giri, assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the lawyer injured in the road accident is still in a critical condition and he has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, for further treatment.

“A lot of money is required for his (lawyer) treatment and attendance. Though treatment has been provided to him free at AIIMS, there are expenditure which needs to be made. We, therefore, direct the state of UP to pay a sum of Rupees five lakhs to the wife of the victim’s counsel within three days from today,” the bench said, adding that “the amount be adjusted against the compensation finally adjudicated”.

During the hearing, the bench asked, “Who is appearing for the CBI? You (CBI) have asked for extension of time (to complete the probe) in the ground that statements of the victim and her lawyer have not been recorded yet”.

Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for CBI, said that the agency has filed an application in this regard.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on September 6.

On August 1, the apex court had directed Uttar Pradesh government to provide Rs 25 lakh to the rape survivor as an interim compensation.

The top court had on August 2 directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to complete the investigation in the case within seven days, adding that the agency could avail additional seven days in exceptional circumstances, but in no case the time frame would be extended beyond a fortnight.

It had earlier ordered transfer of all the five related cases in the matter to Delhi but later modified its order putting in abeyance shifting of the accident case till the probe was completed.

The modification was done stating that due to shifting of the case, the local court was facing technical hurdle in passing orders of remand for the accused who are being arrested in course of the probe.

The court had said the order transferring the accident case “shall remain in abeyance for the period during which the said case remains under investigation, which we have stipulated in the order dated August 1, 2019, to be completed in a maximum period of 15 days, preferably within seven days. The order dated August 1, 2019, is modified accordingly”.

The woman, allegedly raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2017 when she was a minor, is battling for life after a truck rammed into the car she was travelling in with some family members and her lawyer. Two of her aunts died in the road accident.

She was airlifted from a hospital in Lucknow and brought to the AIIMS for better care as she continued to be critical.

1984 anti-Sikh riots: SC notice to CBI on Sajjan Kumar’s appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the CBI on former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s appeal against his conviction in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S K Kaul also issued notice on Kumar’s bail plea

Kumar, 73, surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018 to serve his sentence in accordance with the Delhi High Court’s December 17 judgement, which convicted and sent him to prison for the “remainder of his natural life”.

The case in which Kumar was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 and the burning down of a gurudwara

The riots broke out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Kumar resigned from the Congress after his conviction in the case

The high court found Kumar guilty of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a gurudwara

It also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by a trial court to five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar

In its judgment, the high court noted that over 2,700 Sikhs were killed in the national capital during the 1984 riots, which it described as a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”

It said the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage” and aided by an “indifferent” law enforcement agency

The high court set aside the trial court’s 2010 verdict, which had acquitted Kumar in the case.

PIL in SC against govt’s move to authorise 10 agencies to intercept, monitor any computer

NEW DELHI: A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the recent Ministry of Home Affairs order authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor, decrypt “any information” on computers. The petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeks quashing of the government’s December 20 notification.

The petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeks to quash of the government’s December 20 notification. -The petition said the December 20 order allows the Central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt “any information” generated, transmitted, received or stored in “any computer resource” and called it the “ultimate assault on the privacy”. The plea claimed that the notification was issued “to find political opponent, thinker and speaker to control entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the Constitution of India”.

Bihar police says ex-minister Manju Verma untraceable; SC expresses shock

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday said it was “quite shocked” that the Bihar police was unable to trace and arrest former state minister Manju Verma, who had stepped down from the cabinet in the wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal, in a case related to alleged recovery of illegal ammunition from her.

A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta summoned the Bihar director general of police (DGP) to explain why the state police had failed to trace the whereabouts of Verma and arrest her in connection with the case.

Verma had resigned as the social welfare minister in the Bihar government following the Muzaffarpur case, where several women inmates of a shelter home were allegedly raped and sexually abused, after it came to light that her husband Chandrashekhar Verma had spoken to Brajesh Thakur, the prime accused in the case, several times between January and June.

At the outset, the bench asked, “Has the lady (Verma) been arrested?” 

The counsel appearing for the Bihar government said Verma was not arrested yet as the police were not able to trace her.

“That is fantastic. A (former) cabinet minister is not traceable. Fantastic. How could it happen that a (former) cabinet minister is not traceable and nobody knows where she is? Do you realise the seriousness of this? You have to explain to us how a (former) cabinet minister is not traceable,” the bench said.

“You call the DGP. This is too much,” Justice Lokur told the counsel appearing for the state.

The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing to November 27, also said, “We are quite shocked that a former cabinet minister cannot be traced for more than a month.” 

It also made it clear that if Verma was arrested in the meanwhile, the DGP need not appear before it.

Advocate Fauzia Shakil, appearing for petitioner Nivedita Jha, raised the issue of the state of affairs in 14 other shelter homes in Bihar, which was highlighted in a report submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to the Bihar government in March.

Shakil argued that the “high and mighty” were involved in these matters and despite the fact that rampant physical and sexual abuse of boys and girls was going on at these 14 shelter homes, no action was taken by the state till date.

“There appears to be widespread mismanagement in the shelter homes of Bihar,” the bench said and asked the chief secretary of the state to remain present before it on November 27.

It also referred to a recent newspaper report that said five girls had run away from a shelter home in Bihar.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, assisting the court as an “amicus curiae” (an impartial adviser to a court of law in a particular case) in the shelter home case, said the Child Welfare Committee was not functioning properly in Bihar.

“Child Welfare Committee? Even the police is not functioning in Bihar,” the bench observed.

On October 31, the apex court had expressed displeasure over the failure of the police in arresting Verma, whose anticipatory bail plea was dismissed by the Patna High Court on October 9.

Verma’s husband had earlier surrendered before a court in Begusarai, Bihar in connection with the case related to recovery of ammunition.

The top court had last month directed that Thakur be shifted to the high-security jail in Punjab’s Patiala from a jail in Bihar’s Bhagalpur.

The order to shift Thakur out of Bihar was passed after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had, on October 25, told the top court that he was an influential person and was found in possession of a mobile phone inside the Bhagalpur jail.

On September 20, the court had said it had come on record that Chandrashekhar Verma and his wife were in “possession of illegal ammunition of a fairly large quantity”. It is not clear whether they were in possession of illegal arms as well.

The court had observed that the CBI, in its status report filed earlier, had noted that an FIR was lodged against Chandrashekhar and Manju Verma.

“The affairs of these two need to be looked into, particularly with regard to their procurement and possession of illegal ammunition and availability of illegal weapons, if any. We request the local police in the state of Bihar to look into this aspect with some degree of seriousness,” the bench had said in its order.

Over 30 girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at the Muzaffarpur shelter home and the issue was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by the TISS to the social welfare department of the Bihar government.

An FIR was lodged on May 31 against 11 people, including Thakur, who was running the shelter home.

The probe was later taken over by the CBI and so far, 17 people have been arrested.

Supreme Court gets 4 new judges

New Delhi: 
Justices Hemant Gupta, R Subhash Reddy, M R Shah and Ajay Rastogi were Friday sworn in as judges of the Supreme Court, taking its strength to 28.

The swearing in ceremony started at 10:30 am in court number 1 of the apex court and Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi administered the oath of office to the four judges.

The president had Thursday given his assent to the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium for elevating Gupta, Reddy, Shah and Rastogi, who were chief justices of different high courts, as apex court judges.

While Justice Gupta was the chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Justice Reddy was the Gujarat High Court’s chief justice.

Justice Shah was the chief justice of the Patna High Court and Justice Rastogi was the chief justice of the Tripura High Court.

The apex court has a sanctioned strength of 31. With the elevation of these four new judges, the strength has risen from 24 to 28.

The Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising its four-senior most judges, had on October 30 recommended to the Centre the names of the four for elevation as judges in the apex court.

Justice Gupta was appointed as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on July 2, 2002, and on February 8, 2016, he was transferred to the Patna High Court where he was appointed as the acting chief justice on October 29, 2016.

He was appointed as the chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on March 18 last year.

Justice Reddy was appointed as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on December 2, 2002. He was elevated as the chief justice of the Gujarat High Court on February 13, 2016.

Justice Shah was appointed as a judge of the Gujarat High Court on March 7, 2004, and later in August, he was sworn-in as the chief justice of the Patna High Court.

Justice Rastogi was appointed as a judge of the Rajasthan High Court in September 2004 and was elevated as chief justice of the Tripura High Court on March 1 this year.

This year, two apex court judges — justices Lokur and Kurian Joseph — are set to retire while Justice Sikri will demit office in March 2019.

Will appoint Lokayukta within three months: Nagaland tells SC

New Delhi:The Nagaland government on Wednesday gave an undertaking before the Supreme Court that it would appoint the state Lokayukta within three months.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which was hearing a PIL seeking appointment of an anti-graft ombudsman in every state, took note of the affidavit of the Nagaland chief secretary that the ombudsman under the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017 would be selected and appointed within three months.

“Further, it has been stated by the Chief Secretary that the state of Nagaland undertakes to ensure that the appointments to the office of the Lokayukta will be completed within three months from today,” the bench, also comprising justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, noted in its order.

In view of the statements made in the affidavit, “we leave it to the authority concerned to effect necessary amendments and to complete the process of appointment in the office of Lokayukta within the time undertaken that is three months from today,” it said. 

Earlier, the apex court was not impressed with the Nagaland government’s submissions in support of amendments to a local law to ensure the chief minister’s role in selection and appointment of Lokayukta.

It had also summoned the Nagaland chief secretary to interact on the issue of change in the local law governing selection and appointment of Lokayukta in the state.

The court is hearing a petition, filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, which has sought appointment of Lokayukta in every state.

It has also sought a direction to states to provide adequate budgetary allocation and essential infrastructure for effective functioning of the Lokayuktas.

According to the PIL, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 had received presidential assent on January 1, 2014, and came into force from January 16, 2014, but the executive has not established a Lokpal yet.

The petitioner has alleged that many state governments were “deliberately weakening” the Lokayukta by not providing adequate infrastructure, sufficient budget and workforce.

The apex court has been also dealing with the issue of appointment of Lokayuktas or the anti-graft ombudsmen in 11 other states, including West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Odisha.

The top court had earlier asked the chief secretaries of 11 states to specify the reasons for not appointing the anti-corruption ombudsman in the respective states even after the law was enacted in 2013.

Koregaon-Bhima case: SC refuses to interfere with arrests of five activists

New Delhi:The Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a SIT to probe their arrest.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in a 2:1 verdict, refused the plea seeking the immediate release of the activists.

The bench also extended by four weeks the house arrest of the activists. The five activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — are under arrest at their homes since August 29.

The majority verdict said accused persons cannot choose which investigating agency should probe the case, and this was not a case of arrest merely because of difference in political views.

Justice A M Khanwilkar read out the majority verdict for himself and the CJI, while Justice D Y Chandrachud said he was unable to agree with view of the two judges.

Justice Chandrachud, in his judgement dissenting with the majority, said arrest of the five accused was an attempt by state to muzzle dissent, and dissent is symbol of a vibrant democracy.

The Maharashtra police had arrested the activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ — held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village in the state.

Prominent Telugu poet Rao was arrested on August 28 from Hyderabad, while activists Gonsalves and Ferreira were nabbed from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad in Haryana and civil liberties activist Navlakha from Delhi.

The verdict said the protection of house arrest of the activists will remain in force for four more weeks to enable the accused to seek appropriate legal remedy at appropriate legal forum.

It said arrests were not because of dissent of activists but there was prima facie material to show their link with banned CPI (Maoist) organisation.

The majority verdict disagreed with the PIL by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of five rights activist, with liberty to the accused to seek remedy in appropriate court.

The plea by Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala, had sought an independent probe into the arrests and the immediate release of the activists.

Justice Khanwilkar refrained from commenting on the merits of the case saying it may prejudice case of accused and prosecution.

Justice Chandrachud said liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five activists is allowed without proper investigation.

He said the petition was genuine and lashed out at Maharashtra police for press meet, distribution of letters to media.

Justice Chandrachud said the court should proceed as if personal practices are essential but whether they are derogatory to liberty, dignity enshrined in Fundamental Rights.

He said letters alleged to be written by activist Sudha Bharadwaj were flashed on TV channels. Police selectively disclosing the probe details to media amounts to casting cloud on fair investigation, he said.

Justice Chandrachud was of the opinion that this was a fit case for appointing an Special Investigation Team (SIT). He said there should be monitoring of the SIT probe by the apex court.

He said dissent is the safety valve in the pressure cooker of democracy and it cannot be muzzled by brute force of police.

When investigation appears to be unfair, the top court must step in, he said and cited the case of wrongful arrest of scientist Nambi Narayan in ISRO spy case.

The apex court had on September 19 said it would look into the case with a “hawk’s eye” as “liberty cannot be sacrificed at the altar of conjectures”.

It had told the Maharashtra government that there should be a clear-cut distinction between opposition and dissent on one hand and attempts to create disturbance, law and order problems or overthrow the government on the other.

The court had reserved the judgment on September 20 after counsel for both parties, including senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Harish Salve and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, concluded their submissions.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, Ashwini Kumar and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the activists, had also alleged that the entire case was cooked up and adequate safeguards should be provided to protect the liberty of the five activists.

The apex court had also said that it may order an SIT probe if it found that the evidence has been “cooked up”.

PIL in SC challenging Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir

New Delhi:A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state.

The plea has said the special provision was “temporary” in nature at the time of framing of the Constitution and Article 370(3) lapsed with the dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly on January 26, 1957.

The plea, filed by Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, also seeks a declaration from the apex court that the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional” on grounds, including that it was against the “supremacy of the Constitution of India and contrary to dictum of ‘One Nation, One Constitution, One National Anthem and One National Flag'”.

“The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir is invalid mainly for the reason that the same has not yet got the assent of the President, which is mandatory as per provisions of the Constitution of India,” the plea, which may come up for hearing next week, said. 

The petition, filed Thursday through advocate R D Upadhyay, claims that the maximum life span of Article 370 was only till the existence of the Constituent Assembly, that was January 26, 1950 when the national document was adopted.

Article 370 is a “temporary provision” with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and restricts the applicability of various provisions of the Constitution by “curtailing” the power of Parliament to make laws on subjects which fall under the Union and Concurrent lists.

Consequently, it allows the state to accord special rights and privileges to the natives, the plea said.

It claimed that the Article empowered the state legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on the grounds of violation of the right to equality of people from other states or any other right under the Constitution.

SC extends house arrest of rights activists till Sep 19

The Supreme Court Monday said that it will examine two days later whether there is material supporting the arrest of five rights activists in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra extended till September 19 the house arrest of the five rights activists–Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha– at their respective homes.

“Every criminal investigation is based on allegations and we have to see whether there is some material,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

The bench said if there were some grave lapses, then it may consider the prayers like investigation by an SIT in the case.

The bench then fixed the case of Thapar and others for final hearing.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra government, said the court should make it clear that after the adjudication from the apex court, the arrested accused cannot avail remedies simultaneously on similar issues at other judicial forum. 

The Maharashtra police had arrested the rights activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ — held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.

Kerala church scandal: SC to hear tomorrow anticipatory bail plea of priest

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear tomorrow the anticipatory bail plea of Father Soni Abraham Varghese in connection with the sex scandal case involving four clergymen attached to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Kerala.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud agreed to hear the plea of the priest after he sought urgent hearing as he fears arrest in the case.

The crime branch had on July 2 registered a case against Father Varghese and three other priests on the basis of statements given by a woman belonging to the same Church accusing them of sexually assaulting her on many occasions.

The high court had earlier dismissed his plea and ordered him to surrender forthwith.

The woman has alleged that all the four priests had misused her confessions to sexually exploit her.

The probe agency has already arrested two of the accused.