Is Supreme Court losing its moral authority? Lawyers wonder

supreme courtAs allegations of “unwelcome behaviour” against retired Supreme Court judges – two have surfaced so far – are denting the institution’s moral authority, an informal in-house mechanism is required to determine the veracity of such allegations and a single yardstick should be applied for any probes into the charges, eminent lawyers say.

They have also objected to the allegations being dealt with in an “extra legal fashion” and urged the media to be more circumspect in its reportage of the issue.

“I am extremely disturbed about the irreparable damage that these allegations are making to the institution. If we continue to deal with such allegations in extra legal fashion and the media continues to be oblivious to the most fundamental constitutional principles of the right to silence and presumption of innocence, then the Supreme Court will never be able to command the moral authority which is essential for democracy. The media should be circumspect and give adequate time to the judicial process to play itself out,” well-known criminal lawyer KTS Tulsi told a news agency.

Favouring “an in-house informal mechanism to determine the veracity of each of such allegations,” Tulsi said that “the very nature of the responsibility of a judge involves displeasing one party or the other in each case. So all judges are vulnerable to motivated attacks”.

With the allegations against Justice AK Ganguly, which led to his stepping down as the West Bengal rights body chief, continuing to linger in public memory, the apex court is once again under the scanner with an inquiry being sought into similar allegations against another former judge by a law graduate.

Not holding a brief for the second judge – who has since filed a defamation case against three media organisations in the Delhi High Court – the eminent lawyers also wondered why the victims are not taking recourse to the remedies available under the criminal law by filing FIRs and are directly approaching the chief justice of India, seeking to invoke his powers on the administrative side.

While Biggies in the legal fraternity, including Indira Jaisinh and Kamini Jaiswal, have been clamouring for the apex court to act on the new complaint of the former law intern – also from Kolkata’s National University of Juridical Sciences – that she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances by the former judge, others are questioning why the allegations are being made after a prolonged lapse of time – and that too when the judge had retired.

The second judge under fire has denied the allegation. The law intern had written in November 2013 to Chief Justice P Sathasivam and had sought action against the judge whom she accused of inappropriate behaviour in 2011 when she was interning under him. Now, she has filed a petition seeking action against the judge.

Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, as also Kamini Jaiswal, have sought action against the second judge, contending that “there could not be two yardsticks – one in respect of the allegations against Justice AK Ganguly and other in the instant case”. In Ganguly’s case, based on a newspaper report, Chief Justice Sathasivan had constituted a three-judge probe panel to inquire into the allegations.

“There can’t be two standards in dealing with complaints of sexual harassment,” Bhushan said, adding that a probe into the new allegations should be conducted in a similar fashion.

However, distinguished lawyer PP Rao said that the law should take its own course.

“It is good that the full court, on the administrative side, has decided not to entertain complaints against retired judges,” Rao told a news agency, adding: “They (the law interns) should file complaints with the police and go according to the law. Why are the allegations being made after a lapse of so much of time, and that too after the judges have retired? There is a prima facie doubt about the bona fides of these complaints.”

Wondering why an FIR has not been filed so far by the first law intern, Rao said: “If the allegations are true, the law will certainly take care of it. If there is any lapse on the part of the police, the magistrate can always direct the police to fairly investigate into the complaint.”

Not seeing delay as a big issue, former judge of the Rajasthan and Gujarat high courts MR Calla said: “It depends on the facts of each case. It has to be explained properly to the satisfaction of the court.”

What is needed, said Justice Calla, now a senior counsel practising in the apex court, is “regulations on the conduct of judges outside the court precincts”.

“It is tarnishing the image of the Supreme Court and the judiciary as an institution. There should be regulations on the conduct of judges outside the court precincts. We did urge the court by way of a petition to frame the regulations but it did not accept our plea and dismissed it,” Calla noted.

(Source: IANS)

SC directs de-sealing of stadium’s stands for IPL match

Chennai Corporation has directed by the Supreme court of India to de-seal three stands with 12,000 seats in M A Chidambaram Stadium for today’s IPL match between Chennai Superkings and Delhi Daredevils.

A bench of justices B S Chauhan and Dipak Misra, however, said that the stands will remain closed for other matches and they cannot be opened without its permission.

Without going into the merits whether the construction of the three stands was illegal or not, the bench allowed their usage, saying that tickets had already been sold for the stands and it would create law and order problem if people were not allowed to get in to watch the match.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) seeking its direction to de-seal the three stands.

The Association assured the bench that the stands will not be used in any match without the court’s permission.

TNCA had challenged Chennai Corporation’s action of sealing three stands –I, J and K–on the ground that they had been constructed without prior permission from the authorities concerned.

It had submitted that the three sealed stands were part of renovation work going on in the stadium and six stands had already been allowed by the Corporation.

The cricket body had pleaded that the stands be de-sealed as tickets had already been sold for today’s IPL match. Seven IPL matches had been played in the stadium this year without any hitch, according to it had.

UP seeks SC nod for beautification of Taj Mahal

A notice to the Centre and Archaeological Survey of India has issued by the Supreme Court of India seeking their responses to Uttar Pradesh government’s plea for its permission for beautification of areas near the Taj Mahal.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir also sought a response from central pollution control board on the state government’s plea.

Two applications were filed by the state government seeking permission from the apex court to develop Taj Nature Walk and Taj Heritage Corridor Area (Mumtaj Eco Park) near the white marble mausoleum located. Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Earlier, the Mayawati government had also planned beautification of areas near the Taj through Taj Corridor Project but it was mired in corruption charges and a CBI inquiry was directed into it by the apex court.

Airhostess moves SC to get her contract renewed by Air India

Salome Sinosit an air hostess has moved to Supreme Court of India for directions to the company to take her back because her contract was not renewed by an Air India subsidiary on the grounds that she has become overweight.

Petitioner Salome Sinosit, 39, was an airhostess in Airline Allied Services Limited, a subsidiary of Air India.

She contended that anybody becoming an overweight cannot be a ground for termination of contract as the weight can be reduced.

She also pleaded that the termination of her contract by the company violates civil and human rights as it was rescinded without any valid reason and also without giving any opportunity to bring down her weight within the prescribed limit.

Gangrape: Friend’s interview cannot be treated as evidence, says SC

“The interview given by the friend of December 16 gangrape victim to the media cannot be treated as an evidence in the case,” ruled by the Supreme court of India here in New Delhi.

The accused had filed a petition in Delhi High Court praying that the interview given to the media by the friend of Delhi braveheart should be permitted to be treated as evidence in the case.

The petition has been allowed by the High Court.

Delhi police challenged the order in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal of Delhi police holding that an interview given to a TV channel cannot be admitted as evidence in the case

NIA to probe Italian marines’ case, trial on daily basis: SC

NIA has been allowed by the by the Supreme court of India here in Delhi to probe the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen and asked the special court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis after the charge sheet is filed.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir clarified that the special court, set up by the Centre for this case, will not take up any other matter and complete the trial as soon as possible,  IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

The bench also comprising Justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen said that the two marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will remain in the custody of the apex court till the completion of the trial.

The Italian government had raised objection over the case being handed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), saying that the agency has no jurisdiction and pleaded that the case be probed by CBI.

The Italian government had approached the apex court, saying that the charges which have been slapped on the marines are not covered by the NIA Act.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government, had submitted that NIA can probe the case only if charges under Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, are also slapped against the marines and the same cannot be done in view of apex court verdict to prosecute them only under IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The two marines were on board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’ when they had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year.

Gujarat to file review plea on lions translocation

In the Supreme court the review petition will get file by the Gujarat Government against translocation of lions to Madhya Pradesh before May 14. The decision was taken at an urgent meet of the state wildlife board chaired by CM Narendra Modi. The government, it seems, has finally sought to consult wildlife experts, who form part of the board.

“The Gujarat State Board of Wildlife discussed Supreme Court’s order for shifting of Asiatic Lions to Madhya Pradesh,” said Ganpatsinh Vasava, minister for forest & environment. “The board members were of unanimous opinion that the lions should remain in Gujarat. Government has decided to seek review of the order.” A review petition will be filed in SC before May 14, added Vasava.

The board members also felt that the contentions raised by the state board were not considered, or perhaps even overlooked by the national wildlife board.

Countering some of the contentions raised by wildlife experts which led to the decision of lions being translocated, Lavkumar Khachar (conservationist and a member of the board) said that the probability of an illness wiping out the entire species doesn’t exist as the lions are spread over a large geographical area. “The lions are not concentrated in a small area but across large ones,” according to Khachar.

As per the translocation plan, Gujarat will have to give male lions every three to five years to Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. “But the new male lions will kill the cubs and the wildlife experts should have emphasised on this,” said Khachar. He further said that Kuno-Palpur doesn’t have a natural criss-cross of rivers, as in Gir Forest, which increases possibility of the species getting wiped out due to forest fires.

“Even if there is a fire (in Gir), rivers will contain it, thus preventing the spread to other parts of the forest,” according to the Khachar. He also emphasised on the unique relation that the lions share with people of Saurashtra.

“This aspect of conservation is unique to Gujarat and hasn’t been seen anywhere else.” Meanwhile, NGOs, who form part of the wildlife board, are also mulling to join as a party to the petition.

SC grants four weeks more to Sanjay Dutt to surrender

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt has got four more weeks to surrender to serve the remaining period of sentence in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case by the Supreme Court of India.

Sanjay will now have to surrender on May 16.

Sentenced for five years for possessing weapons illegally during the 1993 Mumbai riots, Dutt wanted six more months to surrender to complete his projects worth Rs. 278 crore.

The actor has already spent 18 months in jail and has to undergo the remaining thee-and-a-half-year sentence.

The SC had on March 21 granted Dutt four weeks – ending April 18 – to surrender. Upholding his conviction under the Arms Act, the court had reduced his sentence from six to five years.

Another SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir had rejected three other convicts’ petitions seeking more time to surrender on the ground their clemency pleas were pending before President Pranab Mukherjee.

Govt officials’ ACRs can’t be made public: SC

A plea for disclosure of the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of public servants under the RTI Act has been rejected by the Supreme court of India.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya upheld the Delhi High Court’s order that the annual performance appraisal reports (APARs), previously known as ACRs, of a public servant were personal information and exempted from disclosure under the transparency law.

“We find no reason to interfere with the impugned judgement passed by the division bench whereby the order passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court was affirmed,” according to the bench.

The court passed the order on an appeal filed by transparency activist R K Jain’s plea challenging High Court’s order.

Jain had sought setting aside of HC order and issuance of a direction to the Centre to disclose alleged “adverse” remarks in ACR of Jyoti Balasundaram, a member of Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) in 2000-01.

Jain had earlier approached the CESTAT’s Central Principal Information Officer, who had refused to “divulge any information on the ground that it was exempted under Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act”. The CIC had also declined the plea on the same ground.

New law soon to prosecute sea pirates: Govt to SC

The Supreme Court of India has been informed by the Centre that it will soon bring a legislation to ensure effective prosecution of pirates and taking all possible steps to bring back Indian seamen who are being held hostages.

In an affidavit filed in the apex court, External Affairs Ministry said that the Piracy Bill 2012, prepared by it in consultation with the ministries of Shipping, Defence, Home Affairs and Law & Justice, has been approved by the Cabinet.

“It is submitted that India does not currently have a separate legislation on piracy. Therefore, it was decided by the government to prepare a comprehensive domestic legislation on piracy in line with United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, 1982 at the earliest so as to ensure effective prosecution of the pirates and to act as a deterrent to pirates,” mentioned in the affidavit.

The Centre also said that it is helping the Somalian government in combating piracy.

“India has been providing assistance to Somalia in its capacity building to enable it in combating piracy more effectively. It is not out of place to mention that India had contributed USD 3 million towards augmentation of the African Union Mission during 2011-12,” according to it.

The affidavit was filed in compliance of the apex court order which had issued notice to the Centre on a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking direction to the government to frame effective anti-piracy guidelines in the wake of increasing incidents of Indian seamen being held hostages by Somali pirates.

Mr. Bansal alleged that number of incidents of hijacking of Indian ships in high seas is growing as the government has not adopted a proper mechanism to deal with such cases in an effective manner.