The Bombay High Court raises security concern over Uddhav’s oath at Shivaji Park

 The Bombay High Court on Wednesday raised security concerns over the swearing-in ceremony of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister at Shivaji Park here, and said holding such functions at a public ground should not become a regular feature.

Henceforth, everyone will want to use the ground for such ceremonies, a division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla said while making it clear that the court is not saying anything about the oath-taking event.

Thackeray will be sworn in as chief minister of Maharashtra at the Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai on Thursday evening.

“We do not want to say anything about tomorrow’s ceremony…we are only praying that nothing untoward happens,” the court said while hearing a plea of NGO Wecom Trust on whether the Shivaji Park was a playground or a recreation ground.

“What will happen is that this (holding ceremonies) will become a regular feature and everyone will want to use the ground for such ceremonies,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

The court also raised concerns over the security aspect, saying lakhs of people will gather for the ceremony, scheduled for 6:40 pm on Thursday.

“You (authorities) have to also consider security aspect. You cannot put everybody’s lives at risk,” the court said.

“To prepare for the swearing-in ceremony to be held tomorrow, materials like chairs and bamboos to erect pandals will be brought in trucks this (Wednesday) evening. This means the park (ground) will not be available both today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) for the public use,” the court said.

The high court had in 2010 declared the area as a ‘silence zone’ after the PIL was filed by the NGO.

The court had then said that programmes can be held at the Shivaji Park only on December 6 (death anniversary of B R Ambedkar), May 1 (Maharashtra Foundation Day) and on January 26 (Republic Day).

However, the state government and the Mumbai civic body later carved out 45-days in a year to permit non-sporting activities in the ground.

The bench posted the petition for further hearing on December 12 and sought response from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state government on its policies on allowing non-sporting activities at the Shivaji Park.

Bombay HC bars Bengaluru-based newspaper from using Indian Express Group founder’s name Ramnath Goenka.

The Bombay High Court, in an interim order, has restrained publisher Prashant Goenka and others from using the name and image of Indian Express Group founder Ramnath Goenka in his newspaper ‘Sajaga Samachar Parivartan Ka’.

Justice S C Gupte also directed defendants Prashant Goenka and others not to use Ramnath Goenka’s name and image on their websites and social media platforms until further orders.

The court was hearing an infringement suit filed by the Indian Express Group. It said Prashant Goenka was claiming to be late Ramnath Goenka’s grandson and passing off his newspaper as part of the Indian Express Group.

The group sought an order from the court restraining Prashant Goenka from using name and image of its founder in his Hindi newspaper which is circulated in Bengaluru.

Justice Gupte, after hearing brief arguments from both parties, noted that the plaintiff (the Indian Express Group) has prima facie made out a case for interim relief.

“The question before the court is should the defendant be allowed to trade with the name and image of Ramnath Goenka in view of the newspaper and to collect funds and other concerns,” the court said.

“Prima facie, at this stage, it seems the answer is negative. The plaintiff has clearly made a case for ad-interim injunction in suit for perpetual injunction,” it said.

The court directed the defendants to file affidavits responding to the suit and posted the matter for final hearing after six weeks.

Indian Express counsel Dinyar Madon argued that Prashant Goenka was seeking to ride on the goodwill of the Express Group.

He informed the court that Prashant Goenka had in fact organised an awards ceremony — RNG Peace Awards — on the same lines as that of the Indian Express Excellence in Journalism Awards.

Prashant Goenka’s advocates, Nausher Kohli and Jay Vakil, contended that their client had applied for the awards’ title and hence it did not amount to infringement.

According to Kohli and Vakil, their client is a grandson of Ramnath Goenka’s brother.

They claimed Prashant Goenka admires Ramnath Goenka, a doyen of Indian journalism, since his childhood and has been working with an intent to maintain his reputation.

Justice Gupte said it is not just a question of use of name by relatives, but of use of The Indian Express’ name.

According to the plaintiff, Prashant Goenka’s newspaper is not part of the 87-year-old Indian Express Group.

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.