Nirbhaya: SC reserves verdict on death row convict Mukesh’s plea to be delivered Wednesday.

The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved verdict on a plea of one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi said that it will pronounce the verdict on Wednesday on convict Mukesh Kumar Singh’s plea.

President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected the mercy petition of Mukesh on January 17.

The four death row convicts in the case are scheduled to be hanged on February 1.

Supreme Court asks senior lawyers to deicide for deliberation issues related to discrimination against women.

The Supreme Court Monday asked four senior lawyers to convene a meeting on January 17 to decide on the issues to be deliberated by it in the matter relating to discrimination against women in various religions and at religious places including Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple.

The top court however made it clear at the outset that it was not considering review pleas in the Sabarimala case.

“We are not hearing review pleas of Sabarimala case. We are considering issues referred to by a 5-judge bench earlier,” said a 9-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde.

The bench said it will consider listing the petitions related to entry of Muslim women into mosques, female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community and barring of Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, from the holy fire place at Agiary.

It said the apex court Secretary General will coordinate with the four senior advocates, including Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and A M Singhvi, in thrashing out issues to be dealt by it.

The lawyers will decide whether the several issues referred to it by an earlier bench on November 14 last year needed to be reframed, it said.

The meeting should also deal with the time to be allotted to each lawyer for advancing arguments in the case, it added.

The bench said the lawyers should decide as to who will address which issue and fixed the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

“We will grant three weeks time for this (deciding the issues) and we will put this matter after that for hearing,” it further said.

The bench said it will not go into the specific details of each case like Sabarimala temple matter and would strictly go by the reference order of November 14 in deciding the scope of judicial intervention in matters of religious issues.

While referring the matter to a larger bench, the five-judge bench had said that the debate about the constitutional validity of religious practices like bar on entry of women and girls into a place of worship was not limited to the Sabarimala case.

It had said such restrictions are there with regard to entry of Muslim women into mosques and ‘dargahs’ and Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, being barred from the holy fire place of an Agiary.

It set out seven questions of law to be examined by the larger bench. They included — interplay between freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution; need to delineate the expression ‘constitutional morality’; the extent to which courts can enquire into particular religious practices; meaning of sections of Hindus under Article 25 and whether ‘essential religious practices’ of denomination or a section thereof are protected under Article 26.

While the five-judge bench unanimously agreed to refer religious issues to a larger bench, it gave a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking a review of the apex court’s September 2018 decision allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

A majority verdict by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra decided to keep pending pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding entry of women into the shrine, and said restrictions on women in religious places was not restricted to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well.

The minority verdict by Justices R F Nariman and D Y Chandrachud gave a dissenting view by dismissing all review pleas and directing compliance of its September 28 decision.

The split decision came on 65 petitions — 56 review petitions, four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas — which were filed after the apex court verdict of September 28, 2018 sparked violent protests in Kerala.

By a majority 4:1 verdict, the apex court had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine in Kerala and held that the centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional.

New roster released by SC to hear works like PILs by CJI S A Bobde.

 The Supreme Court has released a new roster of work saying that PILs would now be heard by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and three other senior most judges of the apex court.

In the roster of allocation of work that took effect from November 26, CJI Bobde has kept Public Interest Litigations and letter petitions to himself along with Justices N V Ramana, Arun Mishra and R F Nariman.

The new roster is slightly different from the last time when the outgoing CJI Ranjan Gogoi had kept PIL matters for top five judges of the apex court, including the CJI.

Besides PIL matters, CJI Bobde has kept with him matters of contempt, election, habeas corpus, social justice, direct and indirect tax cases, among others.

The CJI will also be dealing with criminal matters and cases related to commissions of enquiry, company law, Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Reserve Bank of India, among others.

As per the new roster, bench headed by Justice Ramana would deal with matters pertaining to armed forces, paramilitary, compensation, criminal and ordinary civil matters and issues related to judicial officers, employees of Supreme Court, high courts, district courts and tribunals, among others.

Justice Ramana will also be hearing matters related to eviction under public premises act, special leave petitions challenging arbitration matters, admirality and maritime laws and issues of commercial transactions.

Similarly, bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra would also deal with land acquisition and requisition matters, quota in admission to medical colleges, appeal against orders of statutory bodies and issue of establishment and recognition of educational institutions, among others.

Justice Mishra will look into indirect tax matters, contempt of court, ordinary civil issues and admission or transfer to engineering and medical colleges.

Besides PIL matters, Justice R F Nariman would look into cases of family law and hear matters related to armed and paramilitary forces, cases of leases, contracts by government and local bodies.

Justice R Banumathi led bench would hear matters related to labour, rent act, land laws and agricultural tenancies, among others.

Besides the CJI, Justices Ramana, Mishra, Nariman and Banumathi are part of the apex court Collegium.

Article 370: Supreme Court reserves verdict on pleas challenging curbs in J-K

The Supreme Court reserved on Wednesday its verdict on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restriction imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench of Justice N V Ramana, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice B R Gavai reserved the verdict.

Appearing for Azad, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said they understand that there are national security issues in Jammu and Kashmir, but the entire seven million population cannot be “locked down”.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin, termed the curbs “unconstitutional” and said the restrictions have to pass the test of proportionality.

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration justified imposition of curbs on Internet services in the erstwhile state after abrogation of the special status given under Article 370, saying separatists, terrorists and Pakistan’s Army made attempts on social media to instigate people for ‘jihad’.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, had said that it was not only fighting enemies within but also with those from across the border.

Mehta referred to public speeches and social media posts of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of National Conference party against the removal of Article 35A, which gave special rights to permanent residents of the state, and Article 370 provisions that granted special status to the state.

Referring to social media app Twitter, Mehta said that “there were thousands of messages on official twitter handles of Pakistan Army, Afghan Taliban and other terror groups meant to instigate the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There was propaganda by Pakistan Army. We would have failed in our duty, if we had not taken precautionary steps”.

He had said that “the only solution is that either you have Internet or you don’t” as it was very difficult to segregate, especially in such a huge area. There were prohibitory orders so that there are no congregations which would have created law-and-order situation, he had said.

On November 21, the Centre justified restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and said that due to the preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet fired.

The Centre had referred to terror violence in the Kashmir Valley and said that for the past so many years terrorists were being pushed through from across the border, local militants and separatist organisation had held the civilians captive in the region and it would have been “foolish” if the government would not have taken preventive steps to secure the lives of citizens.

Maharashtra crisis: Supreme Court refers to previous judgements on floor test

While ordering floor test for Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court Tuesday referred to its past decisions on Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand where it had ordered similar exercise in times of political crisis.

The first decision it mentioned was upholding the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka by the then Assembly Speaker, which was pronounced on November 13 by the 3-judge bench led by Justice N V Ramana.

Justice Ramana also headed the 3-judge bench in the Maharashtra matter and referred to the Karnataka judgment which had emphasised the requirement of imbibing constitutional morality by constitutional functionaries.

The apex court also mentioned its 2016 verdict in the case of Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat in which it ordered the former chief minister of Uttarakhand to take a ‘vote of confidence’ on the floor of the Assembly.

Rawat had moved the apex court after the Modi government dismissed the then Congress government and imposed President’s rule after nine Congress MLAs sided with the BJP on the Appropriation Bill.

The rebel MLAs were subsequently disqualified by the Speaker under the anti-defection law, a decision that was upheld by the high court and the Supreme Court.

The High Court bench was then headed by Justice K M Joseph, who was then the Chief Justice and now the judge in the Supreme Court.

In its order, the top court had directed that “floor test be conducted on a special session of Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly to be summoned/ convened in which the only agenda would be the vote of confidence sought by the first respondent and apart from the said agenda nothing will be discussed”.

It had also issued directions to the chief secretary and the Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, to see that “all qualified Members of the Legislative Assembly, freely, safely and securely attend the Assembly and no hindrance is caused to them”.

The top court had also said that entire proceedings would be video graphed and the recording placed before it.

Holding that if the floor test is delayed, the top court said that there is a possibility of horse trading and it becomes incumbent upon the court to act to protect democratic values.

An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so, it said.

It referred to its May 18, 2018 order in which it had directed that a floor test be held in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm to ascertain whether BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa enjoys majority in the state

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna, pointed to the 9 -judge bench decision in S R Bommai case in 1994 in which it had said that “wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House…”

The 9 -judge bench had also held that imposition of President’s rule in states was unconstitutional as the governors did not give an opportunity for a floor test.

The apex court also referred to its 1999 order in the Jagdambika Pal vs Union of India in which it ordered composite floor test between contending parties in order to see which out of the two contesting claimants of chief ministership had a majority in the House.

The matter had come to the Supreme Court after UP Governor Romesh Bhandari sacked Kalyan Singh as chief minister and appointed Congress leader Jagdambika Pal as his successor.

Six years later, in Anil Kumar Jha vs Union of India (2005), the top court had issued similar directions after recording and taking notice of events that had taken place and few developments which were in the offing, as reported in the media.

The apex court had ordered a floor test in the Jharkhand assembly in March 2005 to decide whether Arjun Munda or Shibu Soren enjoyed a majority in the Assembly.

Ten years later, in Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat, (2016) again an interim order was passed after the special leave petitions were taken up for hearing, though after concession which was made by Mr Mukul Rohatgi, the then Attorney General for India, that the Union of India has no objection, which the Court had appreciated.

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.

Raja Bahadur property: Supreme Court directs matter to CJI for reference to larger bench

With two judges arriving at different conclusions, the Supreme Court has directed that the issue of acquisition of properties of the late Raja Bahadur Sardar Singh of Khetri, a member of the Constituent Assembly, by the Rajasthan government be placed before the Chief Justice of India for reference to a larger bench.

While Justice R Banumathi set aside the order of the Rajasthan High Court — directing that the properties be made over to Khetri Trust, a trust said to have been created by Raja Bahadur Sardar Singh — Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the order.

Accordingly it was ordered, “in view of difference of opinions & the distinguishing judgments (Hon’ble R. Banumathi, J. allowed the appeal & Hon’ble Indira Banerjee, J. dismissed the appeal), the matter be placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India for referring the matter to the Larger Bench”.

A Bar at law from England, a Rajya Sabha Member & ambassador to Laos, Raja Bahadur Singh died intestate on Jan 28, 1987.

Supreme Court stays NSA detention order against man accused of cow slaughter

On Friday, the Supreme Court stayed a detention order passed under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against an Uttar Pradesh man accused of cow slaughter.

A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman also issued a notice on the plea by Mehboob Ali, said his counsel Narveer Dabas.

Ali said in the plea that the “stringent provisions of the National Security Act, 1980 providing for preventive detention have been invoked against” him “in a most arbitrary, discriminatory & malafide manner, & in utter violation of the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Article 21 & 22 of the Constitution of India”.

He contended that the detention order was passed on January 14, 2019 “on a mere apprehension that the petitioner may act in a manner prejudicial to maintenance of public order. The basis of such apprehension is the alleged involvement of the petitioner in two alleged cases of cow-slaughter & the ‘apprehension’ of the petitioner being released on bail in the said two cases”.

Dabas said the petitioner had not been named in either of the FIRs connected with the cow slaughter & had been granted bail in the cases.

According to his plea he “has never been involved in any case which has any nexus with the maintenance of public order nor has he ever been involved in any heinous offence”.

He said the grounds cited in support of the detention order “fail to disclose or even allege any nexus of the petitioner with the incident of mob violence that had occurred on 03.12.2018 leading to registration of a criminal case”.

The detention order had been challenged by the petitioner before the Allahabad High Court, but the plea was dismissed.

Ayodhya case : Chances Brighten for Verdict in November

Chances of the SC giving a final verdict in Nov. in the 70-year-old litigation for ownership of the 2.77 acre Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya brightened as all Hindu parties, who were awarded 2-3rd of the disputed land by the Allahabad HC, have completed their arguments. The hearing had started on Aug 6.

Giving a patient hearing to counsel but not allowing them to repeat or reiterate each other’s arguments, a bench of Chief Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi & Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan & S Abdul Nazeer appeared to have achieved the unimaginable — completion of arguments on behalf of deity Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara, All India Ram Janmasthan Punaruthan Samiti, 2 factions of Hindu Mahasabha, Shia Waqf Board (SWB) & legal heir of Gopal Singh Visharad, who had 1st instituted a suit in 1951 after idols were installed inside Babri Masjid in Dec 1949.

The Allahabad HC had divided the 2.77 acre disputed land equally among 3 parties, with 1-3rd going to deity Ram Lalla under the central dome of the mosque prior to its demolition in 1992, another 3rd comprising the Ram Chabutra & Sita Rasoi to Nirmohi Akhara & the last 3rd to Sunni Waqf Board.

With arguments on behalf of deity Ram Lalla & Nirmohi Akhara getting over on Day 16 of the proceedings, the main party left to advance arguments is Sunni Waqf Board represented by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who had protested against the 5-days-a-week hearing schedule fixed by the SC.

With many in the court corridors wondering whether the bench would be able to conclude proceedings & deliver a judgment before the retirement of Chief Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Nov 17, the completion of arguments by parties awarded 2-3rd of the disputed land brightens the chances of the court delivering the final verdict in Nov.

Law student traced, Supreme Court meets her, will stay in Delhi for 4 days

Directing UP police to produce the missing Shahjahanpur law student who was traced to Rajasthan Friday, a Supreme Court bench, after interacting with her in the evening instructed that she be accommodated in a short-stay home in New Delhi for four days.

The woman was reported missing a week ago from Shahjahanpur, & her father had accused former BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand, head of the law college management, of harassing her & other students. Acting on his complaint, police had booked Chinmayanand on charges of abduction & intimidation — charges he denied.

On Friday evening, Justice R Banumathi & A S Bopanna directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to send a team to fetch her parents & arrange their meeting. The judges asked authorities of the short-stay home to allow her to use the landline phone to speak to her parents but barred her from meeting anyone else till the court meets her again. The bench will hear the matter next on September 2.

The judges said she was responsive to their questions, that she understood English but replied mostly in Hindi. “She stated that prior to Raksha Bandhan she left Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, along with her three college mates who are also their family friends, in order to protect herself. She has stated that she does not intend to go back to Uttar Pradesh for the present till she meets her parents in Delhi & talks to them. She has further stated that after meeting her parents & talking to them, she will take a decision on her future course of action. Miss “A” wants to stay back in Delhi for the time being till she meets her parents & talks to them,” the judges said.

The woman’s father told The Indian Express: “We have been watching news channels the entire day & we learnt about our daughter’s recovery from Rajasthan. Later in the day, some police officers came to my house & informed us that she had been recovered from the Dausa area of Rajasthan.”