SC for declaration of criminal antecedents of candidates to EC

The Supreme Court Tuesday held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election, saying criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy is “unsettling”.

A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said that citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates.

In the unanimous verdict, the bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said that political parties are obligated to put all the information about their candidates on their websites.

It asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics.

The bench said that informed choice is the corner stone of democracy and termed criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy as “unsettling”.

The apex court favoured wider publicity, through print and electronic media about the antecedents of candidates affiliated to political parties.

The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas raising a question whether lawmakers facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.

The status before the filing of these petitions was that lawmakers were barred under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.

The verdict was reserved on August 28.

Bishop Mulakkal remanded to 12-day judicial custody

Kottayam: Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal, arrested on charges of repeatedly raping a nun, was on Monday remanded to a 12-day judicial custody by a magistrate court in Kottayam district.

Mulakkal was produced before the court after completing his two-day police custody. The court remanded him to judicial custody till October 6.

The clergyman has been shifted to the sub-jail in Pala after completing his medical examination at a government hospital there.

On Sunday, the bishop was taken to the St Francis Mission Home in Kuravilangad, where he had allegedly raped the nun, to reconstruct the crime scene.

In its remand report submitted in the court, police had said the nun was subjected to rape and unnatural sex 13 times by the accused at the guest house of St Francis Mission Home between 2014 and 2016.

In her complaint to the Kottayam police in June, the nun had alleged that the priest raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions. The nun had said she approached the police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.

However, the bishop has denied the charges.

Petition moved in HC against triple talaq ordinance

Mumbai: A former municipal Councillor, a city-based NGO and an advocate have jointly approached the Bombay High Court challenging provisions of an ordinance that makes the practice of instant triple talaq a punishable offence.

President Ram Nath Kovind had last Wednesday signed the ordinance, according to which giving instant triple talaq has been made illegal and void, and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.

Seeking to allay fears that the law could be misused, the government also included some safeguards in it, such as providing for bail to the accused husband.

However, the petition moved last Friday by former municipal councillor and social worker Masood Ansari, NGO ‘Rising Voice Foundation’ and advocate Devendra Mishra, claims that provisions of the ordinance are “illegal, null, void, unreasonable and arbitrary”.

“The very construction of the ordinance shows that it selectively targets men from the Muslim religion. The provisions of the ordinance are violative of fundamental rights of Muslim men,” the petitioners’ lawyer, Tanveer Nizam, said.

The petition has sought an interim stay on those sections of the ordinance which criminalises the act of pronouncing talaq by a Muslim husband.

It is likely to come up for hearing before a division bench on September 28, according to the high court’s website.

The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.

A woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.

SC asks UP to place before it rules on grant of remission to convicts

The Supreme Court Monday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to apprise it whether the state has made some guidelines or rules for granting remission to convicts lodged in jails.

A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta asked this question to the counsel appearing for Uttar Pradesh while it was hearing a plea filed by four persons who have served around 25 years in jail after being convicted in a dacoity case.

“What are your (Uttar Pradesh) rules for remission?”, the bench asked the counsel.

The counsel said in that earlier the state government had come out with a rule which said that convicts who have been in jail for 25 years would be eligible for grant of remission and be released from the prison.

The rule was challenged in the high court which had quashed it, he said.

The lawyer also said that one of the four petitioners before the apex court has died while three have served 25 years in jail.

The bench granted bail to the three convicts — Rajjan, Hira Lal and Rambha — and asked the Uttar Pradesh government to place before it the rules for grant of remission to convicts lodged in jails in the state.

The apex court said that since the three convicts have already served 25 years in jail, it was an appropriate case to grant them bail.

SC refers PIL against female genital mutilation to five-judge constitution bench

New Delhi: 

The Supreme Court Monday referred to a five-judge constitution bench the plea challenging practice of female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. 

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was hearing a PIL filed by a Delhi-based lawyer challenging the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) of minor girls of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community.

Female genital mutilation is performed “illegally upon girls (between five years and before she attains puberty)” and is against the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which is India is a signatory”, the plea said, adding the practice caused “permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child”.

A group of Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community members had earlier told the apex court that the female circumcision is practised by a few sects of Islam, including the Dawoodi Bohra community, and the validity of this be examined, if at all, by a larger constitution bench.

Kerala flood: SC orders to maintain water level at 139 ft at Mullaperiyar dam

As a blame-game erupted between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the devastating floods, the Supreme Court today directed the panel on the Mullaperiyar Dam to ensure that the water level at the reservoir is maintained at 139.99 feet till August 31.

The Mullaperiyar Dam, built in 1895 on Periyar River in Idukki District of Kerala, came under the spotlight with the Kerala government accusing Tamil Nadu, which maintains the reservoir, of sudden release of water leading to unprecedented deluge in the state.

Kerala’s claim was today rebuffed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who said the neighbouring state had suffered the deluge due to the discharge of excess water from 80 reservoirs spurred by heavy rains there.

The Tamil Nadu government also filed an affidavit in the apex court today charging Kerala with an “obstructionist attitude and non-cooperation” and alleging that it was helping illegal encroachments.

However, the top court steered clear of the dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the maximum permissible limit of water level of 142 ft in the dam as fixed by it in its 2014 verdict and said that currently, it was concerned with disaster management and maintaining the water level at 139 ft to ensure that the flood situation does not worsen.

“Needless to say, the present writ petition has nothing to do with any kind of dispute between the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but it relates to saving of human lives in the obtaining situation of disaster,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, took note of the submissions of Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, representing the Centre, that the sub-committee on the dam met on August 23 and directed “maintaining the water level at 2 to 3 ft below the permitted level (of 142 ft)”.

The law officer also said the Chairman of the panel has directed that the “current status of reservoir and water level is at 139.99 ft at Mullaperiyar dam, which shall be maintained till August 31”.

“At this juncture, we may direct that the Committee which has met yesterday, shall see to it that as far as practicable water level be maintained at the dam and both the states … shall cooperate with the Committee,” the bench ordered.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, alleged that the plea seeking to lower the water level at the dam could be part of a “sinister design” to circumvent the apex court’s decision fixing the permissible limit at 142 ft.

The bench said it would not get into the maximum limit as fixed by it in 2014 but rather deal with the aspect of disaster management.

It then fixed for hearing on September 6 the plea filed by Kerala resident Russel Joy seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu to manage the water level in the dam as the floods in Kerala have created a havoc.

It asked the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to file their responses to the affidavit filed by Kerala in the matter.

Lawyer G Prakash, the standing counsel for Kerala, said the Supreme Court in 2014 had fixed at 142 ft the maximum permissible water level in the dam. 

However, the Kerala government had then set up the “Dam Safety Authority” and fixed the maximum limit at 136 ft, the apex court had set aside the decision of the state government, the lawyer said. 

The 18th century dam’s full reservoir level stands at 152 ft and the limit of 142 ft has been fixed keeping in view its safety.

In 2007, an experts panel had submitted a report to the Kerala government saying there were chances of the dam breaking if the water level was raised beyond 136 feet.

A 2009 report by IIT Roorkee had also stated that the dam “was likely to face damage if an earthquake of the magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale struck its vicinity when the water level is at 136 feet”. 

In 2012, a 5-member Supreme Court-empowered Committee headed by former Chief Justice of India A S Anand on the Mullaperiyar Dam had submitted its report to the top court, focussing on all aspects of the 123-year-old dam and its safety. 

The Kerala government had yesterday told the apex court that the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar Dam by the Tamil Nadu government was one of the reasons for the devastating deluge in the state.

It had said that out of a total population of about 3.48 crore, more than 54 lakh or one sixth of the population of Kerala, had been directly affected by the floods.

The top court had earlier ordered the disaster management panel of the Mullaperiyar Dam to urgently decide on lowering the water level.

Mirchpur incident deliberate act by Jats to teach lessons to Dalits: HC

The Mirchpur Dalits killings was a deliberate act of targeting Balmiki houses by the Jat community mob and involved a large scale conspiracy “to teach them a lesson”, the Delhi High Court today said.

The high court’s observations came while overturning the acquittal of 20 persons and awarding life term to 12 out of 33 members of the dominant Jat community.

A bench of justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta said Balmikis houses were set on fire in a pre-planned and carefully orchestrated manner.

“This was not a case of a fire spreading quickly as a result of any accidental fire catching on to the cow dung cakes or other flammable materials which were just lying around. This was an act of deliberate targeting of the Balmiki houses by the Jat community mob and setting them on fire in a pre-planned and carefully orchestrated manner. 

“The entire evidence, if read carefully, more than adequately demonstrates that there was a large scale conspiracy hatched by members of the Jat community to teach the Balmikis a lesson and pursuant to that conspiracy, houses of the Balmiki community were set on fire,” the bench said.

A 60-year-old Dalit man and his physically challenged daughter were burnt alive by members of the Jat community in Mirchpur village in Haryana’s Hisar district in April 2010.

The instances of “atrocities” against Scheduled Castes by those belonging to dominant castes have shown “no sign of abating” even after 71 years of Independence, the bench remarked.

It said the evidence unmistakably showed that victim Tara Chand and his daughter were set on fire and pushed inside the house in that condition fully knowing that they were Balmikis. 

The bench said Tara Chand’s dying declaration more than adequately establishes the role of several accused, and held that the killing of both the victims was murder and not ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’.

It noted that the Jats had planned their attack in advance and had come to the Balmiki basti well armed with oil cans, ‘rehris’ filled with stones, lathis, gandasis, jellies etc and the properties of the Balmikis were burnt and their belongings destroyed.

The trial court had on September 24, 2011, convicted 15 of 97 men belonging to the Jat community. Two convicts died during pendency of appeals. In October 2012, the 98th accused, who was earlier absconding, was tried and acquitted by the trial court.

People dying in illegal high-rises having no occupancy certificate: SC

Taking strong note of the recent fire incident in a posh Mumbai high-rise that claimed four lives, the Supreme Court said the people were dying in such illegally-constructed buildings which had no relevant certificates or clearances.

It also referred to the incidents of Bawana factory in Delhi and the Kamala Mills in Mumbai and said unregulated constructions were being rampantly carried out with the hope that “some day such buildings will be regularised”. 

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta expressed concern over illegal constructions and wondered how such high-rises were being allowed to be constructed with no clearances from the authorities.

“People are dying in these unauthorised constructions. You see what happened in Mumbai’s Parel where a fire broke out in high rise building two days back. We have read somewhere that the building did not have an occupancy certificate. How are these high rise buildings being allowed to be built,” the bench said.

The top court, which is dealing with a matter related to unauthorised construction in Delhi, said “it is actually a sorry state of affairs if we look other parts of the country”.

“We are dealing with the issue of Delhi, but what is happening in rest of the country is equally worrying. Shall we start taking the matter city-wise for Mumbai, Calcutta or Chennai,” the bench asked.

Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, concurred with the views of bench and said these high-rises were being built due to “large scale corruption in town-planning departments and civic bodies.” 

To this, the bench said “then what is the government doing if there is so much corruption. Tell us what steps are being taken by it. If we take certain action, you say it is judicial activism”.

The court said that people were staying in such buildings for years and one fine day they are told that the building where they are residing have no occupancy certificate.

“Something or the other has to be done. It can’t go on like this way as people are dying”, the bench said.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is amicus curiae in the matter, drew the attention of the court to the recent incident of a building collapsing in Shahberi village of Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh and said over half a dozen people were killed.

“Unregularised constructions are being done with a hope that some day such buildings will be regularised. Just see the incidents of Bawana in Delhi, Kamala Mills in Mumbai, it seems no lesson has been learnt,” the bench observed.

Nadkarni said that respective high courts should be asked to look at all the unauthorised constructions in their jurisdiction.

The bench took on record the report of the Monitoring Committee which is overseeing the sealing drive in Burari area of North Delhi.

The report said there were over 24 un-regularised residential buildings which have been given provisional regularisation certificates and large-scale encroachment has taken place on the lands of Delhi Development Authority and Forest Department.

Several multi-storied residential and commercial buildings have come up in the agricultural lands and 800 godowns and industrial units are being run in the residential areas, it said, adding that action has been taken against 25 such illegally constructed buildings.

The bench directed the Special Task Force (STF), constituted on April 25 following the court’s order to oversee enforcement of laws on illegal constructions in Delhi, to take into account the report of Monitoring Committee.

It directed the STF to initiate action against the illegal structures in compliance with the court directions.

On July 18, the apex court had directed that there would be “no stopping of sealing or demolition” of unauthorised constructions in Delhi after the Centre said it had not given any instructions to the civic bodies to go slow or stop the sealing drive against offending structures.

It had said that construction activity be stopped with “immediate effect” wherever any unauthorised construction was noticed or booked by authorities concerned in the national capital.

The top court is dealing with the issue of validity of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.

SC reserves verdict on pleas for live streaming of court proceedings

The Supreme Court today asked the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) not to proceed with the implementation of the amended Delhi Master Plan till the next hearing on the issue.

A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni to advise the Centre not to enforce, through the SDMC, amended Master Plan of the national capital till the next date of hearing on August 28.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, also an amicus curiae in the matter dealing with unauthorised constructions in Delhi, informed the court that a circular has been issued by the SDMC that a shopping Centre coming up in South Delhi will be in accordance with the amended master plan of the city.

“The implementation has been stayed by the Supreme Court by its earlier orders and matter is listed for further hearing on August 28. They (SDMC) should be directed not to implement the plan till further hearing,” Kumar said.

The bench then observed that they (the SDMC) will not implement it and asked Nadkarni to advice the Centre not to go ahead with the circular.

Nadkarni assured the bench that he will advise the secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs not to proceed with the circular till next date of hearing.

On May 15, the apex court had partly modified its March 6 order by which it had stayed further progress in amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, while asking the Centre to give a window of 15 days for inviting objections to the proposed changes.

It asked the Centre to consider the objections to the proposed amendments and then take a final call after considering all the aspects.

It had also asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to advertise in leading dailies on three consecutive days the action plan placed before it for monitoring of all construction activities and fixing responsibility in cases of violation of MPD and the building byelaws.

The amendments are aimed at bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes at par with residential plots. FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

The apex court had on March 6 stayed any further progress in amending the MPD 2021, which seeks to protect unauthorised construction from ongoing sealing drive in Delhi.

The top court is dealing with the issue of validity of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.

Alwar Lynching: Supreme Court seeks, Rajasthan Government reply on contempt plea

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra today, sought explanation from Vasundhara Raje led Rajasthan government over the issue pertaining to Akbar alias Rakbar who was attacked by alleged cow vigilantes in Ramgarh, Alwar, due to suspicion of being a cow smuggler.

A bench of  Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asked the Principal Secretary of the state’s Home Department to file an affidavit on a plea seeking contempt of court proceedings against the state government.

The bench asked the Rajasthan government whether any disciplinary action has been taken against the police officers who allegedly took three hours to reach a hospital with a badly injured man accused of smuggling cows.

A dairy farmer from Haryana’s Mewat district, Rakbar was beaten up by seven people in July on suspicion of transporting two cows and their calves. The autopsy report said that he had died of shock and injuries from a “blunt weapon or object.

The bench was hearing a contempt plea filed by Tushar Gandhi and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala seeking contempt action against the Rajasthan government in the mob lynching case at alwar.