Kamala Mills owner says it’s illegal detention in Supreme Court.

The owner of Mumbai’s Kamala Mills today moved the Supreme Court challenging his arrest in connection with a fire that claimed 14 lives in December last year.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked Ravi Bhandari to serve a copy of his petition to the Maharashtra government.

The top court listed the matter for further hearing on March 27.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Bhandari, said his arrest is illegal detention and he can’t be booked for the offence of culpable homicide.

He said the apex court has already held in the Bhopal gas tragedy and Uphaar cinema hall fire case that they are cases of negligence, which is a bailable offence.

The Bombay High Court had recently dismissed Bhandari’s bail application.

Bhandari was arrested in January along with fire officer Rajendra Patil and Utkarsh Pandey, who supplied hookahs to the pubs Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above where the fire started. All three are in judicial custody.

Fourteen persons were killed and several others injured when a fire broke out at the two pubs in the Kamala Mills compound in central Mumbai on December 29, 2017.

SC asks JAL to submit details of its ongoing housing projects

The Supreme Court today directed realtor Jaiprakash Associate Limited (JAL) to give details of its ongoing housing projects in the entire country while reiterating its direction that its directors shall not alienate their personal properties.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also directed amicus curie Pawan Shree Agrawal to set up a portal to take note of the grievances of the home buyers of JAL.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said it would decide at a later stage the application of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeking its nod to file insolvency proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) against the promoter company JAL.

The bench also considered the submission of senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, representing independent directors of JAL, that they be exempted from personal appearance before it on every date of hearing on account of their old age.

The bench, which exempted the independent directors from personal appearance, however reiterated its earlier direction that neither would they leave the country without its prior nod, nor would they alienate or create third party interests in their personal properties.

It said the interest of homebuyers was important and the JAL will have to deposit the money in pursuance of its earlier order.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and lawyer Anupam Lal Das, appearing for JAL, said they have sold several properties and where in the midst of loan restructuring.

They said JAL would be depositing Rs 125 crore more by January 25 as directed by the apex court on December 15 last year to safeguard the interests of hassled homebuyers.

JAL has deposited Rs 425 crore with the apex court registry so far.

Earlier, the top court had restrained 13 directors — five promoters and eight independent directors — from alienating their personal properties as well as that of their immediate family members.

The apex court’s direction that the directors shall not alienate their or their family members’ personal properties in any manner implies freezing of their assets.

The apex court, on November 13 last year, had also restrained the managing director and the directors of Jaypee Infratech Ltd from travelling abroad without prior permission.

The court had asked Jaypee Infratech to hand over the records to the interim resolution professional (IRP) to draft a resolution plan indicating protection of interests of over 32,000 hassled home buyers and creditors.

Homebuyers including one Chitra Sharma, through lawyer Ashwarya Sinha, had moved the apex court saying around 32,000 people had booked their flats and were now paying instalments.

The top court had on September 4, 2017, the stayed insolvency proceedings against the real estate firm before the NCLT.

Flat buyers, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of 2016, do not fall in the category of secured creditors like banks and hence can get back their money only if something is left after repaying the secured and operational creditors, Sharma, in her plea, said.

Hundreds of home buyers have been left in the lurch after the NCLT, on August 10, 2017, admitted the IDBI Bank’s plea to initiate insolvency proceedings against the debt-ridden realty company for defaulting on a Rs 526 crore loan, the plea said. SJK ABA RRT ARC

SC sets aside exoneration of ex-TN minister in DA case

 In a setback to DMK veteran K N Nehru, the Supreme Court has paved the way for further investigation into the alleged disporportionate assets of his son and set aside his exoneration in the case.

The apex court has set aside the order of the Madras High Court exonerating Nehru, a former transport minister, and his wife terming their discharge pending investigation as “visibly prematured” and “unsustainable in law as well as on facts”.

Nehru, his wife Shanta and son Arun are accused of acquiring assets disproportionate to their known sources of income during his tenure as the transport minister of Tamil Nadu between 2006 and 2011.

Currently an MLA from the Tiruchirappalli West constituency, he has been a four-time legislator of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party.

“The impugned order directing the discharge of the respondents is hereby set aside and the order of the Trial Court vis-a-vis them is restored,” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said.

It directed the vigilance department to complete further investigation at the earliest so as to enable the trial court to proceed in accordance with law.

The bench upheld the direction of High Court and the trial court for further probe and said the probe agency should keep in mind “the seriousness of the charge and the avowed objectives of the anti-corruption law involved and conduct the investigation as expected of it and submit its report as expeditiously as possible”.

The apex court allowed the appeal of the state government challenging the High Court order exonerating Nehru and his wife but affirming the direction for further probe against his son Arun.

“Having regard to the FIR, the explanation provided by the respondent No.1 (Nehru), the charge-sheet submitted as well as the indispensability of the scrutiny of the sources of income of Arun and his assets, we are of the view that the courts below had rightly directed further investigation to verify the genuineness or otherwise of the source(s) of income of Arun and his assets and the bearing thereof, if any, on the charge levelled against the respondents,” it said.

The court observed that the High Court, having endorsed the direction for further investigation vis-a-vis Arun, ought not to have recorded its findings of exoneration of Nehru and his wife at this stage.

“In fact, the discharge of the respondents flies in the face of the direction for further investigation into the affairs of Arun in order to verify the lawfulness or otherwise of his source of income and his assets.

“In our estimate, in view of the correlation of the explanation provided by the respondent No.1 to the imputation of disproportionate assets and the probe ordered into the affairs of Arun, to say the least, the discharge of the respondents before the completion of the investigation is visibly prematured,” the bench said.

Nehru in his explanation about his income said he had received the amount only from his son Arun and the latter had received remuneration for which he had paid TDS under the Income Tax Act and therefore the question of disproportionateness of his assets did not arise.

The court said that the exoneration of Nehru and his wife pending investigation amounted to “prejudging the charge” against them.

“We have thus no hesitation to hold that the order of the High Court, discharging the respondents herein, pending the investigation against Arun, at this stage, is unsustainable in law as well as on facts,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, contended that on taking into account the materials on record, the High Court ought not to have discharged them at this stage while affirming further probe into the sources of income of Arun.

He said the outcome of the further probe would have a vital bearing on the charge leveled against the accused and their discharge at this stage is wholly unwarranted.

Counsel appearing for Nehru and others said that the available materials do not substantiate the allegation and the discharge of the respondents is perfectly justified and does not merit any interference.

An FIR was lodged in 2011 against Nehru, his wife and son by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (vigilance & anti- corruption), Trichy, alleging that Nehru while serving as the transport minister had acquired assets in his name and in the names of his wife and son far beyond their known sources of income.

Before the check-period (May 13, 2006-March 24, 2011) both husband, wife and son had assets worth over Rs 2.83 crore which swelled to over Rs 18.52 crore at the end of the period.

After the charge sheet was filed against them, the accused moved trial court seeking discharge but the court ordered further probe into the assets and income of Arun.

The High Court on December 19, 2013, exonerated Nehru and his wife but affirmed further probe into the assets and income of Arun.

Mukul Rohatgi takes charge as Attorney General

Mukul RohatgiSenior advocate Mukul Rohatgi today took charge as the new Attorney General and made a strong pitch for a multi-pronged approach to reduce backlog of cases by increasing number of court working days and fixing a time limit for advocates to argue the case.

A noted corporate lawyer, 59-year-old Rohatgi, who will have a three year term, said there is a need to change the mind set of bureaucrats who, instead of taking decisions, leave it to the courts to decide all contentious issues.

“Leave it to the court to decide, these attitudes have to be changed,” he said, adding, “Image of the judiciary is sagging and you have to shake every part of the judicial functioning and redundant laws and procedures in criminal laws have to be shed.”

Speaking to reporters, he said number of holidays should be scaled down and also favoured setting up of National Judicial Commission for the appointment of judges. He said for 40 years it was the government that was appointing the judges and then for 20 years collegium system is in operation and now there is a need to have another experiment.

He said in no other country cases dragged on for so many years without any conclusion and suggested that lawyers should be asked to complete their arguments within a stipulated time period.

Rohatgi, son of former Delhi High Court judge Justice Awadh Behari Rohatgi, has represented Gujarat government in the Supreme Court in the 2002 Gujarat riots and fake encounter death cases, including the Best Bakery and Zahira Sheikh cases.

He said Supreme Court should be restored the status for which it was set-up and not every case should travel to apex court. He also also favoured senior lawyers being consulted before the appointment of judges. Rohatgi had also served as an Additional Solicitor General during previous NDA regime.

(Source: PTI)

SC refuses to reschedule West Bengal panchayat polls

West Bengal Panchayat polls will be held as scheduled between July 11 and 25 as the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected religious sentiment coated postponement pleas, which pointed out that Ramzan clashed with poll schedule and could deprive devout Muslims from casting vote.

A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said it has respect for religious sentiments of the Muslims, who constitute nearly 33% of voters in West Bengal. But, the bench clarified that this would not sway it from strict adherence to constitutional mandate for expeditious elections to panchayats, preferably before the expiry of their tenure. The five-year term of all panchayats had expired in May and June.

The court was firm that religious considerations could not persuade it to rearrange or postpone panchayat polls schedule as directed by it on June 28. The bench had ordered the state to contribute 35,000 security forces and the Centre between 15,000 to 25,000 forces for each phase.

The Mamata Banerjee government’s discomfiture at the presence of central forces during panchayat polls came out in open when senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee informed the court that the state was ready to provide 50,000 security forces for each phase.

The bench rejected the offer and said: “If you (Banerjee government) had wanted the elections in time, you could have given requisite forces as per the order of the (Calcutta) High Court instead of dilly dallying for a long time.”

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Progressive Youth Federation, espoused the religious cause of Muslims to seek postponement or rescheduling of the court directed panchayat poll schedule. He said the elections could be held after August 9, when Ramzan ends.

He said Muslims constituted nearly one-third of the voters and would possibly be deprived of choosing their representatives in local self government institutions as the elections clashed with Ramzan, when the devout Muslims keep fast and do not take food or water.

“Let an impression not go that no one is bothered about the Muslims,” He said suggesting either postponement of elections to after August 9 or rescheduling the last two phases of elections from July 22 and 25 to July 6 and 9.

But, the bench said Article 243E of the Constitution mandates that elections to panchayats must be held before their five-year term expired. “Should we bypass this constitutional provision? We have to ensure smooth elections to panchayats as early as possible and as soon as central forces were available. Can we overlook the fact that the term of the panchayats have already expired?” the bench asked.

It told Rohatgi: “You as a constitutional lawyer tell us fairly what should be the approach of the court in such a situation.” The bench of Justices Patnaik and Gogoi said it had already rejected the State’s plea for holding it after Ramzan on June 28 precisely because of the constitutional mandate and that it could not take a view contrary to it now.

“We will neither postpone the elections nor re-arrange it,” the bench said dismissing the applications.

(Source: IANS)

Delhi government rapped for interfering in power tariff

The Delhi High Court Friday pulled up the Delhi government for trying to interefere with the fixing of tariff rates for 2010-11 by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).

The division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan sharply criticised the government, saying: ‘Delhi government cannot pass any direction, asking DERC to hold its decision on tariff.’

While passing the order, the high court accepted the submission of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, who has been helping the court in the matter, that the state government was ‘not empowered to interfere with the DERC’s decision and could only issue guidelines to it for its consideration’.

‘Vahanvati’s submission deserves acceptence. Acordingly, we hold that the communication of the present nature made by the state government is absolutely unjustified, unwarranted and untenable and, accordingly, the same stands quashed,’ the bench said, after seeing a file relating to the appointment of the DERC’s members.

‘On a close scrutiny of the aforesaid directions, it is clear as noon day that there has been an order of prohibition to the commission not to pass the tariff order. The direction is issued keeping in view the public interest. The same is not discernible. It is neither evident nor demonstrable. It was an unwarranted interdiction. It is understandable that the state government could have suggested some kind of a matter relating to policy having nexus with public interest, but unfortunately that is not so,’ said the court.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) accusing the government of succumbing to pressure from private power distribution companies (discoms) and ‘prohibiting the release of a new tariff order approved by the DERC’ April 29 last year.

The PIL contended that the DERC told the government that discoms were sitting on a combined cash profit of over Rs.300 crore per month and it was time to reduce the power rates.

‘It is the most sorry state and the Delhi government has to play a pro-active role but the state is lost despite the fact that it has immense powers,’ the bench observed.

The court also expressed its unhappiness over the entire exercise of fixing the power tariff for the capital and rapped the city government and the DERC for it.

The functioning of the DERC, which is a quasi-judicial body, was not satisfactory, the bench said, adding that the state government should not have interfered with the panel’s decision on fixing a new tariff.

Highlighting the lapses, advocate Prashant Bhusan had earlier said: ‘A large number of file notings have been tampered with and it is a serious issue.’

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the discoms, submitted that the issue of power tariff could be decided at a later stage but the issue of fuel surcharge be decided as it was hurting the power companies.

The court then deferred the matter for further hearing Feb 23.