Supreme Court asks Centre to produce governor’s letters inviting BJP to form govt

The Supreme Court on Sunday asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to place before it on Monday morning the letters of the Governor recommending revocation of President’s Rule and inviting Devendra Fadnavis to form government in Maharashtra.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government on a petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Fadnavis as chief minister.

The court also issued notice to Fadnavis and Dy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

The bench asked Solicitor General Mehta to produce letters of the Governor tomorrow at 10.30 am for passing orders.

The apex court declined the fervent request of Mehta seeking two days time to place the Governor’s communication on record.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for the combine, told the bench that floor test be conducted today itself so that it can be ascertained that Fadnavis enjoys majority in the house.

They maintained that post-poll alliance of the three parties have the majority in the 288-member house.

While Sibal termed as ‘bizarre’ the Governor’s decision to revoke President’s rule and anoint Fadnavis as the chief minister, Singhvi said it is a “murder of democracy”.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for two BJP MLAs and some independents, questioned the maintainability of the writ petition filed by the combine and said they should have approached the Bombay High Court.

Supreme Court asks J-K administration to place before it orders imposing restrictions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to place before it the administrative orders imposing communication and other restrictions in the state following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana questioned Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the administration, as to why the administrative orders have not been filed yet in the court.

“You had passed some orders. Why you have not filed it?”, the bench, also comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, asked Mehta. “Is it purposefully done?”

Mehta told the bench that they had filed a reply earlier in the matter but now, there is a change in circumstances as far as restrictions are concerned.

“After filing of the affidavit, there is change in circumstance on the ground. Some restrictions have been removed,” he said.

He said he would place before the top court the administrative orders relating to restrictions for the perusal of the bench only.

“We will place them before the Supreme Court. Nobody can sit in appeal of administrative decisions taken in national interest. Only the court can look into it and certainly not the petitioners,” he told the bench.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for petitioner and Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin, told the bench that they have filed a rejoinder and said that the Centre and J&K administration have not yet placed those orders and notifications before the court.

Mehta told the bench that original prayer in Bhasin’s petition was regarding restrictions and media freedom but now they were expanding the scope of their prayer.

Grover said in their petition, they have also made a prayer regarding placing of orders imposing restrictions in the state.

During the arguments, the bench took exception that some of the advocates appearing in the matter have raised their voice and said, “It is not proper for lawyers to shout in the court. It is not proper.”

When an advocate appearing for one of the intervenors said that J&K has not complied with the earlier directions of the court to place the restriction orders before it, the bench told Mehta, “Mr Solicitor General, please keep all those orders ready”.

When a lawyer appearing for one of the petitioners told the court that J&K must justify why they are not sharing the restriction orders with them, the bench said, “He (Mehta) has assured us that he will produce those orders”.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on October 25.

When the bench referred to media reports that mobile services have been restored in the valley, the counsel for one of the petitioners said only BSNL postpaid mobiles were operational but the SMS service was stopped by authorities on Tuesday.

The apex court was hearing the petitions which have raised the issue of physical restrictions and communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

Issue of linking social media profiles with Aadhaar needs to be decided at the earliest: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday said the issue of linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar needs to be decided at the earliest.

A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said, “At this stage we do not know whether we could decide this issue or the high court will decide”.

The bench further said it will not go into the merits of the case and would simply decide the transfer petition filed by Facebook seeking transfer of such cases pending before high courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh to the top court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that it has no objection to transfer of the cases from high courts to the top court.

The Tamil Nadu government had on Thursday claimed in the apex court that Facebook Inc and other social media companies were not complying with Indian laws, resulting in “increased lawlessness” and difficulties in “detecting crimes”.

It had sought modification of the August 20 order of the apex court directing the Madras High Court to continue hearing of pleas for linkage of social media profiles with biometric ID Aadhaar but restraining it from passing any effective orders.

The high court is at an advanced stage of hearing but due to the apex court’s August 20 order, it had deferred the hearings on those petitions, the state government had said.

Referring to different criminal cases, the state government had said local law enforcement authorities have attempted to seek information from these companies for investigation and detection of crimes on several occasions.

It had said that these companies ask authorities to send letters rogatory “despite operating on Indian soil” and have in all cases “failed to provide complete information”.

The state government had also submitted that the transfer petition of Facebook Inc filed before the court seeking to transfer cases from Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts is replete with “false and misleading averments” and is a blatant attempt to misguide the Court for oblique motives.

On August 20, the apex court had sought response from the Centre, Google, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and others on Facebook Inc’s plea seeking transfer of cases related to linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, pending in different high courts to the apex court.

Facebook Inc has contended that whether service providers can be asked to share data with probe agencies to help them in criminal investigation needs to be decided by the apex court as it will have a global effect.

The social media giant had argued that different high courts have taken contrary views and for the sake of uniformity it would be better, if the cases are heard at the Supreme Court.

It had said that sharing of data with third party involves privacy concerns of users spread across the country and the case of this magnitude should be heard at the apex court.

The top court had asked social media companies including Facebook and WhatsApp to explain what would be the effect of recent amendments in Aadhaar Act by which the 12-digit unique identity number could be shared with the private party for larger public interest.

The state government has argued that both Facebook and WhatsApp have accepted the jurisdiction of Madras High Court in dealing with the issue which would help agencies check fake news, pornographic content, terror messages as the originator could be traced.

It had said that a IIT professor is helping the Madras High Court to identify the originator of messages on these social media platforms.

Facebook Inc had contended that there are four petitions including — two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh high courts — and they contained almost similar prayers.

Supreme Court seeks information on detention centres and foreigners detained there in Assam

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Centre to provide it various details including number of functional detention centres in Assam and the number of foreigners detained there during the last 10 years.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a petition filed by activist Harsh Mander on the condition of detention centres in Assam and the prolonged detention of foreigners there.

The apex court asked the Centre to provide various details about the detention centres, the period of detention of detainees and the status of their cases before the Foreigners Tribunal.

“We would like to know as to how many detention centres are there. We also want to know how many persons are lodged there and since when,” the bench said.

The bench also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to provide details as to how many persons are being declared foreigners so far and how many of them have bene deported till date.

The bench also sought the year-wise details of foreigners who have illegally entered into India during the last 10 years.

The bench, which has sought details within three weeks form the authority, has now posted the matter for further hearing on February 19.

Framing guidelines for keeping foreigners in detention centres : Supreme Court

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the process of framing guidelines for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country was “under preparation”.

The Centre told a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur that the work of framing detention manual or guidelines was being taken up “very seriously”.

It also stated that in the meanwhile, some circulars have been issued to the state of Assam in this regard.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and R Subhash Reddy, said the Centre would ensure that requirements of the circulars or guidelines issued by the central government be adhered to by Assam.

The issue of framing of detention manual for keeping foreign nationals had cropped up when the apex court was hearing a matter related to the condition of detention centres in Assam.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Assam, told the bench that necessary steps would be taken by the state to implement “faithfully” the circulars issued by the Centre. 

Mehta told the bench that tenders have been invited by Assam for setting up of a new detention centre in Goalpara and the work is expected to be completed using pre-fab technology by August 31 next year.

“We expect the state of Assam to adhere to the timeline, more particularly since the executing agency is the Assam Police Housing Corporation Ltd,” the bench said.

The state government also said there were 47 declared foreign nationals or their family members that were proposed to be transferred for being re-united and the transfer process would take about 15 days.

“We are of the view that it would be inappropriate to keep the families separated without any valid reason, more particularly since many of them have already been separated for a considerable period of time,” the bench said. 

“Therefore, we require the state of Assam to speed up the process and complete it within a period of seven days and in any event within a maximum period of ten days since sufficient time has already elapsed,” the bench said in its November 2 order.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing in February next year.

In September, the Centre had told the apex court that it was in the process of framing guidelines for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country and the process would take around three months.

The court had said that the detention manual should be prepared within two months.

The apex court had on September 12 expressed displeasure that foreign nationals kept in detention centres in Assam were “separated” from their families and had asked the state to look into the issue with urgency so that the families are “not broken up”.

SC refuses to interfere with deportation of seven Rohingyas to Myanmar

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday allowed the deportation of seven Rohingyas to Myanmar, saying they were found by the competent court as illegal immigrants and have been accepted by their country of origin as citizens.

“Having considered the prayer, we would not like to interfere with the decision taken. The petition is dismissed,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said.

“Even the country of their origin has accepted them as its citizens,” it said.

The bench rejected the plea made by one of the Rohingyas, who had filed an application seeking to restrain the Centre from deporting to Myanmar the seven Rohingyas lodged in a detention centre at Silchar in Assam.

The Centre told the apex court that the seven Rohingyas illegally migrated to India in 2012 and were convicted under the Foreigners Act. 

The Centre also informed the court that Myanmar has issued a certificate of identity to the seven Rohingyas along with one month visa to facilitate their deportation.

“Myanmar government gave them certificate of identity and one month visa to facilitate their deportation,” Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench. 

The application was filed by one Jaffarullah, who said Rohingyas should not be deported under any kind of duress as they have migrated due to “genocide” in Myanmar. 

Rohingya immigrants will be handed over to Myanmar authorities at Moreh border post in Manipur on Thursday, a Home Ministry official had said Wednesday.

The interim plea, seeking urgent measures to stop the proposed deportation of seven Rohingyas, was filed on a pending PIL.

The PIL was filed earlier by two Rohingya immigrants — Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir — challenging the Centre’s decision to deport over 40,000 refugees who came to India after escaping from Myanmar due to alleged widespread discrimination and violence against the community. 

In the fresh plea, advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the applicant, said Myanmar government had earlier refused to accept these Rohingyas as their citizens. 

He alleged that a worst kind of genocide has taken place in Myanmar in which over 10,000 people were killed.

Bhushan further argued that due to the “genocide”, people were killed and their properties destroyed and several lakhs of Rohingyas migrated to Bangladesh and India.

“They are not illegal migrants, but refugees. The court should direct sending UN High Commissioner or his representative to talk to the seven Rohingyas so that they are not deported under any kind of duress,” he said.

The bench said it would not like to interfere with the decision and dismissed the petition.

Bhushan said it is a matter of life and it is the court’s responsibility to see that the lives of Rohingyas are protected.

However, the bench was not in agreement with his submission and said, “You don’t need to remind us of our responsibilities. We very well understand our responsibilities”.