High Court junks plea seeking ban on ‘Alibaug se aaya hai kya?’ phrase

The Bombay High Court Friday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on the phrase ‘Alibaug se aaya hai kya?’, observing that there was nothing derogatory in it and it should not be taken as a humiliation.

As per the plea, the phrase is commonly used in Maharashtra to address someone who is considered foolish or naive.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar dismissed the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rajendra Thakur, a resident of Alibaug district in Maharashtra.

“Jokes are made on every community…Santa Banta jokes…Madrasi jokes and jokes on north Indians. Have fun… don’t get humiliated,” Chief Justice Nandrajog said.

“We do not find anything derogatory in this,” the bench added.

In his plea, Thakur said that the phrase is “unfair and humiliating” as it projected people of Alibaug as illiterates.

Thakur’s plea states that Alibaug is a well-to-do place, a major tourist attraction, and that it has several good schools and high literacy rate.

It also says that Alibaug has a rich culture and history.

“Alibaug is bestowed with nature with scenical beauty. In spite of having such a rich background filled with history, culture, industry, tourism, medical facilities, nature and education, it is highly objectionable to ridicule the people of Alibaug by projecting them as ‘illiterate’ who do not have common sense,” the plea said.

Thakur had urged the court to direct state authorities to get public refrain from making such a comment.

He had also urged the court to ensure that films, documentaries, TV serials, among others, that have the above phrase as part of its dialogue, are not granted censor certificate.

The Bombay High Court stays Nusli Wadia defamation plea hearing against Ratan Tata some other directors of Tata Sons.

The Bombay High Court Monday stayed till March 27 the proceedings before a magistrate court in a 2016 criminal defamation case filed by Nusli Wadia against Ratan Tata and some other directors of Tata Sons.

A single bench of Justice Mridula Bhatkar stayed the proceedings through an interim order.

Justice Bhatkar will now hear a petition filed by Tata and other directors of Tata Sons seeking quashing of the defamation case against them on March 27.

Therefore, Justice Bhatkar directed the magistrate’s court to refrain from proceeding with the hearing on the defamation case until then.

In December 2018, the magistrate court had issued notices to Ratan Tata and other directors of Tata Sons in the criminal defamation case filed by Wadia and then posted the matter for further hearing on March 25, 2019.

Wadia had filed the case in 2016 after he was voted out of the boards of some Tata Group companies.

Wadia had claimed that Tata and the others had made defamatory statements against him after they removed Cyrus Mistry on October 24, 2016 as the group chairman of Tata Sons.

Wadia was on the boards as an independent director of group companies like Indian Hotels Company that runs the Taj group of hotels, TCS, Tata Motors and Tata Steel among others.

He was voted out by shareholders at a specially convened general meeting between December 2016 and February 2017.

He said that he approached the magistrate’s court as he was not satisfied with the explanation the respondents (Tata and others) had given him following his letters to them.

He therefore initiated defamation proceedings against the respondents under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

Wadia is represented in the high court by advocate Abad Ponda.

Ratan Tata and others are represented by former Union Minister P Chidambaram, Congress party leader and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and others.

All parties present in HC Monday had urged the court to stay the proceedings before the lower court until the quashing plea was heard by HC.

Why no order yet to prohibit political ads on social media: The Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court Thursday asked the Election Commission of India why it was hesitant to issue specific directions to prohibit political advertisements on social media 48 hours before election day.

A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar posed the question after the poll panel submitted that it was deliberating on bringing in such a direction, and currently, consulting experts and stakeholders.

“But, how long will the deliberations go on? Why don’t you take a decision, say yes, we are going to issue specific orders (to the above effect)?” the bench said.

It was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer, Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

The PIL had also urged the court to direct the ECI to prohibit all persons, whether politicians or private individuals, from posting advertisements related to politics or the elections, or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, 48 hours before election day.

During the previous hearing, social media platform Facebook had told the court that it had introduced a strict “pre-verification processes” for all political ads and paid content of “national interest” on their websites in India ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The new system ensures that only bona fide individuals, who are citizens of India, and political organisations based in the country can place political ads.

Twitter and YouTube told the bench Thursday that they only permitted such political ads that had been verified by the ECI.

The social media sites, however, told the court that they could not voluntarily impose a 48-hour ban as sought by the petitioner.

The counsels for Facebook, Google, and YouTube said they could prohibit display of political ads on their websites 48 hours before polling day, if they are directed by the ECI to do so.

The Representation of the People Act already prohibits political campaigning 48 hours before polling day and a notification of the ECI regulating ads on TV and print media prohibits publication of political ads 48 hours before the polling day.

The court, therefore, asked why the ECI could not formulate a similar direction for political ads on social media.

The Bombay High Court notice to prosecutor who ‘slapped’ judge over decision

The Bombay High Court has taken suo motu (on its own) notice of an incident where a sessions court judge was allegedly assaulted by an assistant public prosecutor on the court premises.

Vacation judge Justice R K Deshpande of the high court’s Nagpur bench said Wednesday that such incidents are a “threat to independence of the judiciary”.

Assistant public prosecutor Dinesh Parate allegedly slapped senior civil judge K R Deshpande outside a lift on the seventh floor of the Nagpur District and Sessions court around noon Wednesday.

According to the police, the lawyer was miffed over the judge’s decision in a case.

Parate tried to run away after the incident but was caught by the police personnel present there.

Justice Deshpande of the high court noted in his order that it was a serious matter where personal security of a judge was under threat.

“It is a threat to independence of the judiciary. The rule of law is being undermined. Such outrageous conduct needs no tolerance,” the high court said.

“It causes or tends to cause obstruction or interference in the administration of justice, as it is the result of adjudication by the judge which has gone against Dinesh Parate,” Justice Deshpande said.

The high court issued a notice to Parate, seeking response from him within six weeks as to why action for criminal contempt of court should not be taken against him.

High Court refuses to stay govt official’s conviction in bribe case

New Delhi:- The Bombay High Court has refused to stay the conviction of a government servant for accepting bribes and held that granting relief to the officer would adversely affect the public’s perception of the integrity of government institutions.

In an order passed earlier this month, a single bench presided over by Justice AM Badar rejected the plea filed by Sangeeta Pillay, an official of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Pune, seeking that her conviction be stayed and her sentence be suspended till her appeal against it was decided by the HC.

Pillay was arrested while accepting a bribe of Rs 5,000 from a complainant for registering some documents during a trap laid by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last year.

A special CBI court convicted her in December last year under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Pillay, however, filed an appeal in HC in January this year arguing that sanction for her prosecution had been issued by the state without application of mind.

The bench held that while the validity of the sanction would be decided during the final hearing of her appeal, she could not be granted any interim relief in the form of a stay or suspension of her conviction and sentence.

“Cases like the above are of offences involving moral turpitude. If a convict has been sentenced for crimes that are so outrageous, then staying her conviction would have a serious impact on the public perception of the integrity of public institutions,” the bench said.

“Such an order (of granting relief by staying the conviction) will definitely shake the publics confidence in the judiciary,” Justice Badar said.

“This is why the Apex Court has cautioned time and again that all courts must be wary in staying convictions, especially when it comes to cases such as the one referred to above. And such stay must be granted only under exceptional circumstances,” he said.

No HC relief from demolition to go-karting facility in Kamala Mills

The Bombay High Court has refused to grant protection from demolition to a go-karting track, bar and restaurant run by Smaash Entertainment Private Ltd at the Kamala Mills compound where a major fire in a pub claimed 14 lives last week.

Justice Sandeep Shinde was yesterday hearing a petition filed by the company seeking protection from the demolition drive undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) after the December 29 fire incident at the upscale ‘1 Above’ pub.

The company sought protection of three of its structures — a go-karting track ‘Smaash gokarting’, a restaurant and bar namely ‘Verbena’ and a banquet facility called ‘18.99 Latitude’.

The structures are on the fourth floor of a building ‘Trade View’, situated in the Kamala Mills compound in central Mumbai.

Senior counsel S U Kamdar, appearing for the petitioner, informed the court that the civic body had sanctioned for a temporary shed to be built abutting the banquet and the restaurant and it was done in accordance with the sanction plan.

He also told the court that the petitioner was willing to remove any construction that was found to be in excess of the sanctioned area.

However, the court said the petitioner has failed to produce a permission, as contemplated under section 342 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, for raising temporary shed on the fourth floor of the building ‘Trade View’.

“In the given set of facts, the officers of the corporation shall visit the premises – the fourth floor of building ‘Trade View’. If the officers of the corporation finds that the area of the temporary shed exceeds that in the sanction plan they shall demolish the same, if not removed by the petitioners already,” the court ordered.

With regard to the go-karting structure, the court said while the sanction plan shows that the area was earmarked for the activity, the petitioners have, however, not produced the permission granted by the civic body for erecting the super- structure which facilitates go-karting.

“Thus, in the absence of any permission for installing super-structure facilitating go-karting activity, I am not inclined to protect the go-karting structure,” Justice Shinde said.

The court also recorded the statement of BMC counsel Anil Sakhare that the corporation has already undertaken corrective steps against the go-karting structure.

The bench has posted the petition for further hearing on January 8.

The BMC yesterday asked the owners of commercial establishments to assess, on their own, if their premises were compliant with all fire safety norms. If they were found non-compliant, they would face action, the civic body said.

HC notice to man on plea against discharge in murder case

The Bombay High Court has issued a notice to a senior citizen here seeking his response to a petition of the Maharashtra government challenging his discharge from the 2003 murder case of a Canadian national.

The state government approached the high court challenging an order passed by a sessions court in February this year, discharging Narendra Goel (66) on charges of killing his father-in-law’s sister Dr Asha Goel, a Canadian national, at their residence in south Mumbai’s Malabar Hill.

Asha (62), a doctor by profession in Canada, was allegedly killed on August 14, 2003 at her brother Suresh Agarwal’s residence in Malabar Hill.

Police found 21 injuries on her body, including a massive head wound, a broken jaw, ruptured liver and numerous stab wounds.

Narendra, the son-in-law of Suresh, was arrested two years after the crime, based on the confessional statement made by alleged killer Pradeep Parab.

While Parab was made an approver in the case, the police’s crime branch sought to frame charges against Narendra and two of his accomplices – Pawankumar Goenka and Manohar Shinde.

According to prosecution, the motive behind the killing was a property dispute.

Narendra later filed a discharge application in the sessions court which was allowed in February this year.

The sessions court, while discharging Narendra from the case, observed that there was no evidence to show his involvement in the offence.

Aggrieved by the order, the state government filed a petition in the high court challenging the discharge.

On June 19, a single judge bench of Justice A K Menon issued the notice to Narendra and sought his response to the government’s petition.

The matter will be heard further on July 11.

Maharashtra to soon have whistleblower/witness protection law

 Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it would soon come out with a law to provide protection to whistleblowers and witnesses in sensitive cases.

.The court had last October asked it to frame a fresh policy on the issue.

The division bench headed by Justice AS Oka was on Tuesday informed that the government was likely to come out with a law instead of a mere policy.

A draft of the proposed law was also submitted to the court.

The court then asked the government to file an affidavit stating the same within a week.

In October 2014, the High Court, while ordering the government to frame a fresh policy, had also directed that protection should be provided immediately to whistleblowers and witnesses even during the investigation stage if such a person makes a request for protection.

The bench has taken up the issue suo moto (on its own) after the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty.

HC rejects Parsi man’s plea to nullify wedlock to Hindu

Bombay High CourtThe Bombay High Court has rejected the plea of a Parsi man to declare his 15-year-old marriage to a Hindu as null and void as their wedlock was arranged in accordance with Hindu rituals though they professed different religions.

A division bench recently dismissed an appeal filed by Viraf Phiroz Bharucha, a city resident, against a family court order rejecting his plea to grant divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, saying that there was no merit in the case and that the plea was barred by law.

Upholding the impugned family court order of February 24 this year, justices A R Joshi and Vijaya Tahilramani held that the appellant had taken too long to realise that his marriage to the respondent be declared null and void as they belonged to different religions.

“The appellant has admitted that he got married to the respondent in 1999. The petition was filed before the Family Court in 2011. There was a delay of 12 years (now 15 years) and a baby boy was born to the couple in 2001. No reason is pointed out to show what compelled the appellant to suddenly realise that he belonged to a different religion and hence the marriage should be declared a nullity,” the judges said.

“This shows that the appellant is taking advantage of his own wrong,” the bench remarked.

The bench said the appellant had come up with a very strange case. According to him, he is a ‘Parsi’ by birth and continues to profess his faith in the same religion. However, petition was filed by him before the Family Court under the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Bench held that the provisions of Hindu Marriage Act can be availed and are applicable when both spouses are Hindus and it does not apply to any person who is a Parsi, Jew, Christian or Muslim. “The appellant is a Parsi, so he cannot avail of the provisions of this Act,” the Judges ruled.

“It is also necessary under the Act that at the time of filing of petition, both the spouses are Hindu by religion. If one of the party to such marriage is not a Hindu, the provisions of Hindu Marriage Act cannot be invoked to seek remedy,” the bench held.

Court rules favouring Vodafone in transfer pricing case

The Bombay High Court Friday ruled that British telecom major Vodafone need not pay taxes of around Rs.3,200 crore in a transfer pricing case.

“We feel that there is no taxable income on the share premium received on the issue of the shares,” a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M.S. Sanklecha ruled.

Acccordingly, the court held that since there was no taxable income, there would be no tax on Vodafone, in the company’s $11.2 billion deal with Hutchison in 2007.

The verdict could prove to be a major setback to the Income Tax Department (ITD), which is expected to challenge the high court ruling in the Supreme Court.

The IT Department had demanded the tax amount from Vodafone’s outsourcing unit in Pune for the year 2008-2009, including taxes plus interest, which the company had challenged.

Vodafone was ordered to pay taxes for a share transfer that was done by the subsidiary of the parent company, on the value of the shares that were issued.

The judgment spells hope now for at least 20 other companies involved in similar taxation-related disputes with the Indian authorities.