SC to examine plea seeking reservation for orphans on par with SC, ST, OBC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine a plea seeking reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for orphans, who have no linkage in society, on par with those belonging to the SC/ST and OBC category.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi issued notice to the Centre seeking its response to the plea which has also sought provision of other benefits to the orphans, including bank loans and incentives for setting up businesses.

The petition, filed by Uttar Pradesh resident Poulomi Pavini Shukla, has claimed that the orphans, whose antecedents are unknown, were “unjustly” and “forcibly given a religion and a caste by the government which goes to their detriment.

The plea said that the state would have to assume the role of a “parent” for orphans.

“Issue a direction to the government to have a policy for assigning religion to orphans and ensure that orphan children are given the right to choose their religion upon attaining majority and are not under duress of any kind to choose a specific religion,” the plea said.

It also sought a comprehensive census or sample survey of children in need of care and protection saying this was essential to fix the numbers and targets and outlays in government schemes as well as outline the extent of the problem.

The plea has said that the state is bound to provide adequate measures for the orphans for their survival, growth and empowerment and opportunity so that they can compete on an equal footing with others.

It said the Centre should be asked to constitute an expert group of the NITI Aayog or a committee or commission like the ‘Mandal Commission’ with public participation to examine all aspects of orphan and children in need of care and protection and suggest solutions.

Authorities not proceeding with sealing drive: Monitoring Committee

New Delhi: A monitoring committee, which is mandated by the court to identify and seal unauthorised constructions in Delhi, today claimed in the Supreme Court that civic bodies have refused to carry out sealing drive on the ground that amendments in Master Plan of Delhi-2021 were not finalised yet.

Master Plan of Delhi-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis to ensure overall development and the proposed amendments are aimed at bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes on par with residential plots.

FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

The matter was mentioned before a vacation bench of justices U U Lalit and Deepak Gupta which said it would hear the issue on June 14.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the sealing matter, mentioned the issue before the bench and referred to the apex court’s May 15 order which had said that the monitoring committee would continue with its duties and responsibilities.

He placed before the bench a report of the monitoring committee and said that government authorities have said that since the amendment in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 was not finalised, they would not allow sealing to go on.

Kumar said that on June 8, the monitoring committee had inspected some areas in South Delhi and asked authorities concerned of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to take action against some unauthorised structures.

“They (authorities) said we will not seal them,” he said.

To this, the bench asked him to serve the copy of the report to the counsel appearing for the Delhi government, the Union of India as well as SDMC and said that the matter would be heard on June 14.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who is appearing for Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in the matter, said that he would inform the DDA about it.

The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner; Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority; and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the top court.

The court had on May 24 rejected the Centre’s plea seeking modification of its order in which the DDA was asked to invite suggestions from the public on amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

The top court had on May 15 accepted DDA’s action plan in which it had listed out steps including launching of an interactive website and a smart phone application to enable the public register their grievances regarding illegal constructions and given the authority 15 days time to make it operational.

The DDA had also proposed to fix responsibility on officials in cases of illegal construction activities in the national capital and violation of the master plan and building bye-laws.

In its five-page action plan, the DDA had earlier said that it intends to check all ongoing and future unauthorised constructions in the city under the supervision of a special task force which was constituted on April 25 following an apex court order.

The court had on March 6 stayed any “further progress” in amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 to protect unauthorised construction from ongoing sealing drive in the national capital, sternly observing that this ‘dadagiri’ (bullying tactics) must stop.

SC: Wife not a chattel, husband can’t force her to live with him

A wife is not a “chattel” or an “object” and she cannot be forced to reside with her husband even if the man desires to live with her, the Supreme Court has said.

The supreme court observed this while hearing a matter in which a woman, who lodged a criminal case against her husband alleging cruelty, said that she do not want to live with him while the man maintained that he wants to reside with her.

“She is not a chattel. You (man) cannot force her. She does not want to live with you. How can you say that you will live with her,” a bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the man, who was present in the courtroom.

The bench asked the man to “re-consider” his decision and desire to reside with his wife in view of the categorical statement by the woman’s counsel that she does not want to live with him.

“You better re-consider it,” the bench told the man.

“How can he (man) be so unreasonable? He is treating her as a chattel. She is not an object,” the bench told the lawyer appearing for the man and posted the matter for hearing on August 8.

The man’s counsel told the court that he would try to persuade him in this regard.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the woman told the bench that she want to get divorce on the ground of cruelty.

“We are ready to withdraw the 498A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) IPC case. We do not want any alimony also. She do not want to live with him,” her counsel said.

The court had earlier referred the matter for mediation observing that both of them were educated and they would be inclined to settle their matrimonial dispute rather than going for litigation which may prolong their agony.

It had told both the man and the woman to fully cooperate with the mediation proceedings keeping their interest in mind and the fact that it might not be advisable for them to litigate for an indefinite period.

However, the apex court was later told that the issue was not resolved in mediation.

To complete probe into 2G scam in 6 months : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today directed investigating agencies CBI and ED to complete their probe into the 2G spectrum allocation cases and other related matters in six months.

A bench of Justices Arun Misra and Naveen Sinha directed the Centre to file a status report on investigation into the 2G spectrum scam and related cases arising out of it, including the Aircel-Maxis deal, in two weeks.

The bench observed that the investigation has been going on for long time and people of this country cannot be kept in dark in the sensitive matter like this.

The apex court also relieved senior advocate Anand Grover, who was appointed by it in 2014 as Special Public Prosecutor in the 2G spectrum case.

The court put a stamp of approval on the Centre’s decision to appoint Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehat by replacing Grover as the SPP in the 2G Spectrum case and dismissed a contempt petition filed by an NGO which has been pursuing the developments related to the scam in the apex court.

Use technology for welfare of children : Supreme Court

 India’s status as a technological power house in the world would remain on paper if the state does not take advantage of its resources to benefit the children or track the missing ones, the Supreme Court has said.

The Supreme court, while stressing the need for use of technology in Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC), said it was “disheartened” that there was an acute shortage of computers and peripherals in these bodies.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the use of technology would help in dealing with crucial issues like tracing and tracking of missing children, rescuing those working in hazardous industries and victims of child sexual abuse.

“It is well-known that our country is a technological power-house and if we are unable to take advantage of the resources available with us and fully utilise the benefits of technology through computers and the internet for the benefit of children, our status as a technological power house would be in jeopardy and would remain only on paper,” the bench said.

It said the data regarding children could be easily collected by using computers and the internet.

“This would be of great assistance in planning and management of resources and MWCD (Ministry of Women and Child Development) and others concerned with child rights must take full advantage of this,” the bench said.

The apex court also said that the Centre and states needed to look into this aspect and provide necessary software and hardware to JJBs and CWCs for their functioning.

“Similarly, the use of video conferencing could also be considered in appropriate cases where some inconvenience to the juvenile in conflict with law necessitates the use of video conferencing facilities,” it said.

The top court complimented the MWCD for bringing out an online central monitoring system in this regard but said it was “unfortunate” that there was not much active cooperation of the states in updating the information on this system.

It asked the states to update the information on the online monitoring system “once a quarter”, adding “surely that cannot be a difficult task”.

“Needless to say, updating information is extremely important so that there can be efficient planning which will ultimately lead to better management of issues concerning children,” the bench said.

It directed the MWCD to continue to make creative use of information and communication technology not only for the purpose of collecting data but also for other issues connected with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

“With the utilisation of technology to the fullest extent, administrative efficiency will improve considerably, which in turn will have a positive impact on the lives of children,” it said.

The court said this in a judgement in which it passed a slew of directions for implementation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

The verdict came on a PIL seeking implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and its rules. The petition has raised the issue of alleged apathy by the governments in implementing the welfare measure.

Chhattisgarh entitled for choice of chopper : Supreme Court

In a relief to Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh, the Supreme Court today said the state government was entitled to make a choice to purchase an AgustaWestland helicopter for VVIP use and there was no record to show that it could have been procured at a lesser price.

The top court also gave clean chit to Abhishak Singh, son of the Chief Minister, saying there was no material to prima facie hold that he was a beneficiary of the transaction and it was not necessary to go into the allegations of procedural irregularities.

“It cannot be disputed that the State Government was entitled to make a choice to purchase the helicopter in question. There is nothing on record to show that the helicopter could have been procured for a lesser price. No person claiming to give a better deal has come forward,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and U U Lalit said.

It said that in the absence of clear evidence that loss was caused to the public exchequer by way of commission payment to a firm, Sharp Ocean Investments Limited, which was only a route to send the payment to the son of the Chief Minister, interference by the apex court was not called for.

The bench noted that there was a tripartite agreement of October 26, 2007 between Sharp Ocean Investments Limited, the State of Chhattisgarh and Agusta to the effect that Sharp Ocean Investments was entitled to retain payment made by it to Agusta to the extent of USD 100,000 and USD 1,473, 800 under the contract.

The CAG report does not attribute any extraneous consideration in the deal, it said.

With regard to the role of the Chief Minister’s son in the deal, the bench said, “there is no material to prima facie hold that beneficiary of transaction was Abhishak Singh. We do not consider it necessary to go into the allegation of mere procedural irregularities. We broadly find that no case is made out for interference by this court for issuing a direction as sought in the absence of allegation of extraneous consideration being substantiated”.

The bench took various correspondences and statements of senior helicopter engineer, chief pilot, Director Aviation, Chhattisgarh on record and said the letters stated that Agusta itself was not in a position to deliver the light twin-engine chopper before January 2010, but it could be done in August-September 2007, from the distributors M/s Sharp Ocean Investments Limited, Hong Kong, at a total amount of USD 6,315,000.

“Thus, for quick delivery, the State negotiated with M/s Sharp Ocean Investments Limited. Final payment made is of USD 6,570,000. Contention that the price of the helicopter was USD 5,246,000 as shown by the invoice of the AgustaWestland dated October 30, 2007 and thus, the remaining amount was by way of commission cannot be accepted in view of the contents of the Agreement dated October 9, 2007 and the correspondence,” it said.

The bench after perusing the records said “for earlier delivery, pre-sold helicopter could be purchased from its distributor at a higher price. Thus, it cannot be said that there was an excess payment for extraneous reason”.

The top court also rejected the comparison of price made with the chopper purchased by the neighbhouring state Jharkhand at USD 5.591 million in 2005 and said that both deals had taken place at different period of time, as the Chhattisgarh chopper deal took place in August 5, 2006.

While dealing with the objections raised by Chhattisgarh government that the petition was filed for political gains by Swaraj Abhiyan, a political party, should not be looked into, the bench relied on various verdicts of apex court and said the courts should refrain from interference with decisions of the executive without there being clear issue of genuine public interest.

“However, they do not create a jurisdictional bar, if conscience of the Court is pricked in a given case. A petition under Article 32, without clear element of public interest, cannot be entertained at the instance of a political rival merely on account of an alleged procedural irregularity in the decision making which can be challenged at appropriate forum by the aggrieved party,” it said.

The court’s verdict came on three petitions filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, T S Singhdeo, leader of the opposition of the Chhattisgarh Assembly, and a social activist, seeking investigation into the alleged irregularities in the purchase of the chopper by the state government in 2006-07 and into the alleged bank accounts in British Virgin Islands (UK) linked with the son of Chief Minister Raman Singh.

It was alleged that the chopper was purchased without following due process and caused loss to the public exchequer. It was also alleged that an account was opened by the son of the Chief Minister six months after the bulk payment was made by the state government for the purchase of chopper.

Swaraj Abhiyan had alleged that the database compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) showed Abhishak Singh as the shareholder of Quest Heights Limited (incorporated in British Virgin Islands on July 3, 2008) and Sharecorp Limited.

It had said that even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report stated that a loss of Rs 65 lakh was caused to the exchequer in the procurement of the helicopter.

SC questions Delhi government and DDA over proposed amendments in DMP

The Supreme Court today directed the Delhi government and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to apprise it whether an environmental impact assessment was conducted before proposing amendments in the Delhi master plan, 2021.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also asked DDA, Delhi government and the municipal agencies to file withing a week an affidavit giving details on whether issues like safety of buildings, traffic congestion, parking and availability of civic amenities were taken into account before proposing the amendment.

The bench also asked the authorities to apprise it about availability of statistics with the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee regarding the pollution level in Delhi from 2007 onwards.

It took serious note of a report of the court-mandated monitoring committee, which is carrying out a sealing drive in Delhi, that MLA O P Sharma and councillor Gunjan Gupta along with their supporters had obstructed the panel members from carrying out their work in Shahdara zone here.

The bench issued show cause notices to Sharma and Gupta asking them to explain why contempt of court action be not initiated against them for interfering in the committee’s work.

It directed both of them to remain present before the court on the next date of hearing and listed the matter for further proceedings after two weeks.

The top court also directed the Delhi police commissioner to ensure that protection is given to the members of the monitoring committee so that they can carry out their duties.

The DDA recently proposed bringing uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residence plots and complexes at par with residential plots, a move that would come as a big relief to traders facing the threat of sealing.

FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built.

The apex court had earlier observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had “completely broken down” in Delhi and expressed concern over illegal construction.

It had also ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures.

The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner, Bhure Lal, Chairman, EPCA and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the apex court.

Ayodhya: Supreme Court asks parties to file English translation of documents

 The Supreme Court today asked parties before the Allahabad High Court in the Babri Masjid- Ram Janmabhoomi dispute to file in two weeks English translation of documents exhibited by them.

A special bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that it would hear the appeals on March 14 and clarified that it never intended to hear the case on a “day-to-day basis”.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said it will deal with the instant matter as a “pure land dispute” and indicated that impleadment applications of those which were not before the High Court would be dealt with later.

The top court said the excerpts of vernacular books, which have been relied upon in the case, be translated in English and be filed within two weeks from today.

The apex court also directed its Registry to provide copies of video cassettes, which were part of high court records, to parties on actual cost.

The special bench of the apex court is seized of a total 14 appeals filed against the high court judgement delivered in four civil suits.

A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had in 2010 ordered that the land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

BCCI response on Sreesanth’s plea : SC

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from BCCI on controversial cricketer S Sreesanth’s plea challenging the life ban imposed on him by the apex cricket body.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India and two office bearers of its Committee of Administrators (CoA) to file their responses within four weeks.

The court, however, refused to grant any interim relief sought by senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing the cricketer, that he may be allowed to play.

Sreesanth, who had been absolved in the IPL spot-fixing case, was successful when he filed a plea before the single judge bench of the Kerala High Court challenging the life ban imposed on him by BCCI.

However, the division bench of the high court had set aside the single judge bench and upheld the ban.

The cricketer has now challenged the high court verdict in the apex court.

Agusta deal: SC asks searching questions to Chhattisgarh

 The Supreme Court today posed searching questions to the Chhattisgarh government on the purchase of a AgustaWestland helicopter for VIP use in 2006-07 and asked what was the “interest” of Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son in this.

A bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked the state about the allegations of irregularities in the purchase of helicopter and foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the chief minister’s son, on which a probe has been sought in the petitions filed before it.

“What is the interest of Abhishek Singh, who also happens to be the son of the chief minister, in this? You have to satisfy us on that,” the bench asked senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who was representing the state.

Jethmalani said the allegations were “unwarranted insinuations” and there was no evidence to substantiate these claims.

“These are all reckless allegations in the petition,” he told the bench which reserved its verdict on the pleas filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan and others seeking investigation into the alleged irregularities in the purchase of the helicopter.

The petitioners have alleged that in July 2008, a bank account in the name of ‘Abhishak Singh’ was opened in British Virgin Islands, and on August 1, 2008, one of the firms which was purportedly involved in the deal was wound up.

They have alleged that there was a “strong possibility” that the money paid as commission in this deal has ultimately reached to the foreign bank account.

During the arguments today, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners, said the proposal of the state in December 2006 said that helicopters firms should be invited to make their representations, but later, no company was called and a tender was issued only for a AgustaWestland chopper.

He claimed that an extra amount of 1.324 million dollars was paid to a firm, Sharp Ocean, over and above the cost of the helicopter

which was 5.246 million dollars.

When he raked up the issue as to why only AgustaWestland was selected, the bench said, “it is a matter of their (state) choice”.

However, Jethmalani said officials of state government had negotiated with representatives of Sharp Ocean, which was the authorised agent for AgustaWestland in Hongkong in February 2007 and the price of the chopper came down and they also got its delivery soon.

He said that due to the negotiations, the price came down from 6.2 million dollars to 6 million dollars and the chopper was delivered to the state on December 20, 2007. He said there was nothing wrong in the entire deal.

Meanwhile, the petitioners claimed that Chhattisgarh had paid 6.57 million dollars for the purchase of the helicopter, while Jharkhand had paid 5.591 million dollars to AgustaWestland for the same chopper bought at the same time.

Bhushan said that even today, the Chhattisgarh government was hiring other helicopters for its use.

The apex court had earlier said it was only concerned as to whether any “fraud or hanky-panky” was committed in the deal, while making it clear that it was not questioning the choice of the helicopter.

It has also directed the state to place before it the original files relating to the deal.