Salary can’t be withheld for not linking bank account with Aadhaar: HC

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday questioned the Center’s decision of withholding the salary of a port trust employee since 2016 on the grounds that he had not linked his salary account with his Aadhaar.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and S K Shinde while hearing a petition filed by Ramesh Purale, working as a chargeman with the Mumbai Port Trust, said his salary cannot be withheld over failure to link his bank account with his Aadhaar card.

Purale had challenged a letter issued to him by the Union Ministry of Shipping in December 2015, asking him to link his his bank account, in which his salary was being credited, with his Aadhaar card .

He, however, refused to do so citing his fundamental right to privacy. From July 2016, he stopped getting his salary following which he petitioned the HC.

Earlier this month, Purale filed an application in his petition where he relied on the Supreme Court’s judgement of September 26 on the Aadhaar card issue.

The high court Monday questioned the Union government as to how it could take such a stand that it would not give salary to its employees because their Aadhaar card is not linked to their salary accounts.

“How can you (Centre) take a stand that salary will not be given to an employee because his Aadhaar card is not linked to the salary account?” Justice Oka asked.

“We have perused the apex court’s judgement. Prime facile, we are of the view that the petitioner’s salary cannot be withheld on the ground that there is failure to link Aadhaar card with the bank account,” he said.

The bench directed the government to pay the arrears to the petitioner and posted the petition for final hearing on January 8.

The apex court, in its verdict in September, had declared that the Center’s bio metric identity project was constitutionally valid but limited the scope, ruling it is not mandatory for bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions.

Only we can decide Aruna’s future, hospital tells apex court

Even as the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a petition seeking mercy killing for Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, a nurse of the King Edwards Memorial Hospital in Mumbai who is in coma for the past 38 years after she was raped by a staff sweeper, the hospital asked the court to reject the plea, saying that they alone had the right to decide her future.

“She is one of us, we have taken care of her. In the last 38 years, no one has ever thought of putting her to sleep. This should not be allowed. Let her meet her natural end,” the hospital told the apex court bench of Justice Markendey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra.

The hospital also told the court that such pleas should not be entertained as India was not a matured society and it could have serious consequences.

The court showered praise on the nurses and doctors of the hospital for taking such good care of Aruna that in the last 38 years of her bed-ridden care, she had not suffered even one bed sore.

The court’s observations came in the course of the hearing of the petition by Aruna’s friend Pinki Virani seeking mercy killing for the nurse.

On the evening of Nov 27, 1973, Aruna was attacked by a sweeper in the hospital, who wrapped a dog chain around her neck and sodomized her.

The attack left her with severe brain damage. Aruna is bed-ridden and in coma since then.

Apex court seeks status report on K.G. Balakrishnan

Supreme Court Friday asked Attorney General G. Vahanvati to submit the status report on the home ministry’s investigation into a complaint alleging former chief justice K.G. Balakrishnan possessed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatantra Kumar gave the attorney general 14 days to file the status report on the complaint against Balakrishnan, who is chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

The court told the attorney general that a complaint was filed before President Pratibha Patil, who in turn forwarded it to the home ministry for further action.

The court asked the attorney general that it wanted to know the status of action taken by the home ministry.

One M. Furquan, in a letter to the president May 4, 2010, alleged, “Justice Balakrishnan is a very corrupt man and he should not be appointed the NHRC chairman”. He also sought investigation against Balakrishnan on the grounds that he had amassed wealth and his son had travelled to Dubai nine times in the last one year.

Cabinet discusses black money issue after apex court rap

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue of black money during a cabinet meeting here Thursday, a day after the Supreme Court queried why the government cannot name those involved in this $1.5-trillion “national plunder”.

The discussion came against the backdrop of the apex court coming down heavily on the government’s reluctance to provide full information on ill-gotten money stashed away by Indians in foreign banks.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, officials said, will hold a detailed briefing on the discussion soon.

The prime minister made it clear Wednesday that information on black money stashed in tax havens abroad cannot be made public as it would entail violation of India’s treaty obligations with other countries and jurisdictions.

“The information will not be made public. It will be a violation of treaties,” Manmohan Singh told reporters after initiating a cabinet reshuffle when asked about his stand on black money abroad.

“There is no instant solution to bring back what is called black money. We have got some information and that has been provided to us for use in the collection of taxes.”

The matter had come up before the apex court after noted lawyer Ram Jethamalani sought directions to the union government to act upon a report that Germany was willing to share details of Indians having accounts in banks based in Liechtenstein.

Jethamalani wanted the directions to be given to the government to bring back such ill-gotten money, estimated at a whopping $1.5 trillion – nearly one-and-a-half times India’s gross domestic product – put away in foreign banks by Indians.

“It is not a case of tax. The issue involved is of serious nature. Keep aside all the things. Let us consider the persons named,” said the apex court bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S.Nijjar.

The finance ministry in its status report during last hearing of the case said there were 12 trusts owned by 26 tax assesses, which even include non-residrnt Indians, that hold accounts in the Swiss and German banks in Liechtenstein.

There are 15 banks in Liechtenstein, of which seven are Swiss-owned. The principality, with an area of about 160 sq km, is surrounded by Switzerland and Austria and has a total population of 67,000 people.

Mukherjee had maintained in the past that India has followed the guidelines laid down by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and signed independent treaties with a host of countries and territories.

He has also said these treaties were meant to share information on illegal transfers, often referred to as black money, but cannot be disclosed even to parliament, let alone the Directorate of Enforcement because of the secrecy code.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari has said the union government’s reluctance to disclose the names of Indians with ill-gotten money parked abroad raised suspicions about it and the government should make the names public.