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Author: Ritika Jain

SC collegium gave age criteria a miss while clearing names

When it finalised the draft of the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the document that guides appointments to higher judiciary, the Supreme Court collegium — headed by (then) Chief Justice of India JS Khehar — had decided that no lawyer below the age of 45 years and above the age of 55 years should be considered for appointment as Judge of a high court.Apart from then CJI Khehar, other members of the collegium who decided this included current CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur. All, except Justice Khehar, who is now retired, are members of the larger SC collegium now.However, even as the new MoP is yet to be notified — it is pending with the government since March — the collegium has shown that it isn’t too keen to stick to its own resolution.Minutes of meeting of the three-member Supreme Court collegium show that the CJI-led panel is not immune to violating the age limit.Take for example the December 4 decision of the collegium while clearing names for Calcutta HC.The High Court collegium had recommended names of six advocates, including Sabyasachi Chaudhury and Sakya Sen, who weren’t 45 at the time their names were recommended.However, the SC collegium has recommended Sen’s name for elevation to the bench in “relaxation of the age criterion”. As for Chaudhary, he completed 45 years of age during the intervening period when his name was recommended by the HC collegium and cleared by the SC collegium.But, Madras HC lawyer AV Radhakrishnan, whose name had been recommended by the HC collegium, wasn’t so fortunate. “… He is more than 57 years of age. Even on the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium he had crossed the maximum age limit of 55 years prescribed for Advocates recommended for elevation to the High Court Bench. Having regard to above, he is not found suitable for elevation to the High Court Bench,” the SC collegium decided on the same day when it ignored the age criteria in two other cases.Incidentally, it was on the Centre’s insistence that the SC collegium first agreed to include the age clause in the MoP. The Justice Ministry is of the view that such a cause will ensure uniformity and transparency in the appointment process and also rule out the possibility of members of the collegium adopting different yardsticks while recommending names.But it isn’t the age criterion that the SC collegium has refused to stick to while making appointments.It cleared the name of another lawyer of Calcutta HC – Ravi Krishan Kapur – who had failed to submit the undertaking from his lawyer-father as is mandated under existing rules. In doing so, the SC collegium also ignored the objection raised by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice on this subject, saying the undertaking was based on “mere administrative instructions and is not a mandatory requirement”.In yet another departure from rules, the SC collegium decided to clear a candidate – advocate Arindam Mukherjee – even though he had not submitted adequate number of reported/unreported judgments.”In our view, number of reported/unreported judgments is just one of the factors and not the only factor to determine suitability of a recommendee for purpose of elevation,” the collegium noted.

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Lok Sabha passes ‘historic’ triple talaq Bill

The Lok Sabha passed a Bill that proposes to make instant triple talaq a non-bailable offence with a three-year jail term for guilty husbands, a move that was hailed as “historic” by the Narendra Modi government. The Opposition Congress also welcomed the passage and called it the first step towards protection of Muslim women’s rights. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, was passed after an intense debate. The House rejected amendments proposed by AMIM, Congress and BJD. The Bill will now be sent to the Rajya Sabha for passage before it is forwarded to the President for his assent. The Bill is likely to sail through the Rajya Sabha, given the Congress’ stated support to the proposed law. Turn to P4In August, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the controversial Islamic practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word talaq thrice. But instances of instant triple talaq have continued. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the Bill, called it a “historic” move that would ensure gender justice for Muslim women. He said Parliament cannot remain silent when the fundamental rights of women were being trampled upon. He said the Bill was “not about any religion or community.”“Even today such an incident took place in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh,” he said adding, the husband divorced his wife simply because she overslept. The Bill would empower women to seek remedial measures for herself and her children, said Prasad. Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be illegal.Trying to score political points, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters that his was the first political party to welcome the Apex Court’s decision. “We welcome the move. It is a firm step towards protection of women’s rights,” he said. However, members of RJD, AIMIM, BJD, AIADMK and Indian Union Muslim League opposed the Bill, calling it a faulty and arbitrary in nature. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi termed the Bill “bad in law” and said its introduction would further alienate the minority. NCP leader Supriya Sule supported the Bill, with riders. She asked for removal of the three-year prison term provision. She suggested remedial action in the form of counselling. Muslim League’s ET Mohammed Bashir said the proposed law violated personal laws and was a politically motivated move by the BJP government. BJD’s B Mahtab said that he would not delve into the merits of the Bill and called the framing ‘faulty and flawed’.The government has said the Bill “empowers” Indian Muslim women by giving them a larger say in dissolving marriages, custody of minor children and the right to seek maintenance from their estranged husbands. Once the law is in place, victims will have the option of approaching the police and the legal system.

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Didn’t consult Muslim bodies before drafting triple talaq bill: PP Chaudhary

A day before the bill banning triple talaq is going to be tabled in Parliament, Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary, admitted that Muslim groups were not consulted before drafting the bill.Chaudhary’s admission comes days after the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) opposed the bill. “The terms set out in the proposed bill not only encroach upon the constitutional guarantees granted to religious minorities, but are also against the very essence of the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court on August 22, 2017 in instant triple divorce matter,” AIMPLB spokesman Maulana Sajjad Nomani said after an emergency meeting on the issue in Lucknow earlier this week.Responding to a question in Parliament, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad admitted that so far 66 cases against instant triple talaq have been reported since the practice was struck down.According to the list of businesses, Prasad is set to introduce The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in the Lok Sabha.The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, that was drafted in record time since the Supreme Court struck it down by a 3:2 majority in August, has come under fire from the Opposition and various women’s rights groups.The law proposes to empower the victim to approach a magistrate seeking ‘subsistence allowance’ for herself and her minor children. An aggrieved woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.This law is a non-bailable, cognisable offence and applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir.The bill seeks to criminalise instant triple talaq by imposing a prison term of up to three years and fine on husbands who violate the law. The proposed law is only applicable to talaq-e-biddat’ or the instant triple talaq through any means — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp.In August, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had struck down the practice of instant triple talaq in a 3:2 judgment. While three of the judges declared the practice unconstitutional, two judges wanted the practice banned for six months till the government came up with a new legislation. The draft bill — penned by an interministerial committee was released in record time on December 1.Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh headed the interministerial committee that prepared the draft. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and ministry of state P P Chaudhary were on the panel that helped draft the law. However, the women and child development ministry, which drafted the Centre’s affidavit in the matter along with interministerial consultations with the PMO, finance minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that they were not approached to be part of the committee.

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Central govt in no hurry to push through Women’s Reservation Bill

Despite overwhelming numbers in the Lok Sabha, there seems to be no urgency by the Centre to seek passage of 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill or the Women Reservation legislation to reserve 33% seats in elected bodies for fairer sex.On Wednesday, Minister of State for Law and Justice, PP Chaudhary, ducked a question in Lok Sabha, saying the government was awaiting a consensus among all political parties to seek passage of this Bill. The proposed legislation was passed by the Upper House seven years ago. Since then it awaits the nod of the Lower House, where the ruling BJP and its allies have an overwhelming majority. The number of MPs from the SP, RJD, BSP, who had been opposing the Bill, has trickled down.The minister told the House that the government endeavoured “to provide for reservation of one-third seats for women in the House of the People and the State Legislative Assemblies”. However, he conveniently passed the buck and placed the onus of passing the Bill on consensus among all parties.Being a Constitution Amendment, it requires a special treatment for its passage — that is a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House present during the time of voting. A total of 63 women are MPs against 471 men. And women account for 21.6 per cent in the Cabinet — of the 37 members, only eight women hold various portfolios in the Lok Sabha, which means women representatives are at a mere 11.80 per cent.

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Centre allots Rs 4K cr for fast track courts

The Law Ministry has earmarked Rs 4,144 crore for setting up 1,800 Fast Track Courts (FTCs) for a period of five years (2015-2020) as endorsed by the 14th Finance Commission.Uttar Pradesh will receive a big share of the fund with Rs 488.08 crore for 212 FTCs, followed by Maharashtra and Daman and Diu who will get Rs 469.67 crore for 204 courts. Gujarat will get Rs 400.59 for 174 courts.Currently, there are only 722 FTCs handling 5,88,992 cases. Maharashtra tops the list with 97,942 cases pending in 100 courts, followed by Bihar who has 55,469 between 55 courts. Tamil Nadu has 50,641 cases pending in 69 courts.Responding to a question in Parliament, Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary submitted that the 14th Finance Commission had endorsed the Centre’s proposal to strengthen the judicial system in states — which includes establishing 1,800 FTCs for a period of five years for crime cases involving senior citizens, women, children etc.Chaudhary also said that the Department of Justice has released Rs 1,561.15 crore for computerisation of district and subordinate courts in the country under eCourts Mission Mode Project Phase I (Rs 639.41) & Phase-II (Rs 921.7).Similarly, earlier this month, the Supreme Court accepted the Centre’s proposal to set up 12 fast track courts (FTC) to speed up trials in pending cases involving MPs and MLAs.Observing that the proposed scheme was “tentative” and at a “rudimentary stage”, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha directed the states and the respective high courts to set up the special courts and get them functional by March 1.These 12 FTCs — combining several states in respect of which jurisdiction will be exercised by one special court, would adjudicate 1571 criminal cases pending against lawmakers.In an affidavit filed earlier this week, the Centre submitted that Rs 7.80 crore had been earmarked to set up the special courts, a move that was approved by the top court.Maha topsCurrently, there are only 722 FTCs handling 5,88,992 cases. Maharashtra tops the list with 97,942 cases pending in 100 courts, followed by Bihar who has 55,469.

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2G Judge couldn’t have questioned my work: Spl prosecutor Anand Grover

Questions regarding why and how the prosecution lost the 2G scam case continued two days after a trial court acquitted all 21 accused, including some companies, of all charges of corruption.Hitting out against the judgement, senior advocate Anand Grover, who took over as the special public prosecutor, said no fault can be found with his conduct or preparation of the case. “It is wrong for any officer of the court to impeach the integrity of an individual. It is simply damaging to the integrity of the institution,” Grover said, while speaking to DNA on Saturday.”I am very bothered by the insinuations made in the judgement. I had no choice but to respond,” he added. Grover further said the judge breached the integrity of the institution by not telling the truth and using petty irrelevant arguments.In a setback to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), special judge OP Saini said the prosecution had failed miserably to prove their case, while acquitting those involved.In a strongly worded judgement, the special judge said the prosecution was unable to prove a shed of evidence to make their case.Reacting to the judgement, Grover said if there was no case, it would have been evident one and a half years ago, when the judge framed questions under section 313.In a criminal trial, once the chargesheet is filed, the charges are framed. After the prosecution has presented their evidence, the trial court judge then frames questions, for which he seeks answers from the defence.Special judge Saini had posed 1,800 questions against former telecom minister A Raja, one of the prime accused.”The charge sheet was vetted by the Supreme Court before it was presented in the trial court, based on which the judge framed charges against the accused,” Grover said.Moreover, he pointed out, that he came in at a stage when the prosecution had completed presenting their case. “I merely argued on the money laundering charges,” he said, referring to the fact that he succeeded justice UU Lalit, who was the SPP before him.The prosecution has hinted at appealing against the verdict in a higher court as Grover believes the trial court’s verdict “is riddled with errors”.

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Huge sigh of relief rocks the courtroom

The area surrounding the courtroom where Special Judge OP Saini was going to deliver his verdict in the 2G scam case was packed with family members, friends and supporters of the 17 accused.Even as former Telecom Minister A Raja’s supporters attempted to squeeze past the heavily guarded entryway, a loud roar from the interior momentarily stopped time. Confusion turned to happiness when advocates led by Vijay Agarwal — he represents Kareem Moranis — among a few others representing the accused, rushed out in the crowd shouting “acquitted, acquitted, acquitted” at the top of their voices.Similarly, the mood inside the courtroom shifted in a fraction once the judge pronounced his verdict. An uproar and huge sigh of relief rocked the courtroom as all the 17 accused, including former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK leader and MP Kanimozhi, jumped on their toes moments later.Roars of “thank you” reverberated the jam-packed courtroom at Central Delhi’s Patiala House Court as Kanimozhi bowed down before the judge to express her gratitude. Raja, dressed in a white shirt, quickly climbed atop a chair once outside the courtroom and acknowledged the frenzied crowd waiting for him.Scenes of emotional outpouring of happiness could be spotted in various clusters across the court complex even as DB group founder, Shahid Balwa, broke down in the court.Not long after the verdict was known, fireworks were heard across the din of people congratulating each other, prompting the special judge to inquire about the cause of the commotion.And suddenly just like that, it was all over. After seven years, the 2G scam, which was touted as the 2nd biggest scam in the world by the Times Magazine after the 1972 Watergate Scandal which led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon, came to an end.It seemed all the worry and apprehension that plagued the accused and their kin melted and happy smiling faces were found to be seen all around.All the prayers came to fruition, some were even found chanting and praying with rosaries inside the courtroom when the curtains fell after the brief 27-minute court proceedings. During this time the Special CBI Judge came to the bench thrice to deliver the verdict in the three separate cases registered.”Giving the record of the case, it is a very brief judgment that I have given,” Special Judge Saini said presenting the 1,552-paged judgment. He first announced the verdict in two cases, one each of CBI and Enforcement Directorate, followed by the last case pertaining to Essar.Speaking to DNA, Kanimozhi said, “Finally I got justice. I am innocent. I have been saying so from the first day.” Meanwhile, Raja could not contain his excitement and happiness as he received wishes from all corners.Karim Morani, who was accompanied by his wife, daughters and two brothers said that justice has prevailed. RK Chandolia’s family members and Raja’s erstwhile private secretary also expressed their happiness on the verdict.”It was not a 2G scam but a 2G revolution that A Raja had brought. We have finally got justice and our stand has been vindicated,” Harsha, Chandolia’s daughter said.Touted as 2nd biggest scamThe 2G scam, which was touted as the 2nd biggest scam in the world by the Times Magazine after the 1972 Watergate Scandal which led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon.

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2G scam verdict: Verdict raises questions on 122 cancelled licences

Even as a trial court failed to find a scam in the 2G spectrum allocation case on Thursday, the Supreme Court had five years ago cancelled 122 telecom licences and spectrum allocated to 11 companies on or after January 10, 2008 by former telecom minister A Raja.Declaring the allocation illegal, the top court had then taken over the investigation and the prosecution of the case, monitoring it for five-long years now.In 2011, a bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly held that spectrum was a natural resource and “are vested with the government as a matter of trust in the name of the people of India, and it is the solemn duty of the state to protect the national interest, and natural resources must always be used in the interests of the country and not private interests.”Trial court’s verdict throws the spotlight back on the top court’s decision to cancel the licenses. If there is no scam, then what happens to the licenses that were canceled on the assumption of a scam?Furthermore, the trial court has punctured holes in the CBI’s case calling it a “well choreographed chargesheet.” Special Judge OP Saini ruled that he had “absolutely no hesitation in holding that prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any accused”.Special judge OP Saini’s acquitted all the accused in the case based on the inability of the prosecuting agencies to prove the charges, despite the fact that the top court had maintained on no less than three occasions, that it was keeping an eagle eye on the probe.”We are, prima facie, satisfied that the allegations contained in the writ petition and the affidavits filed before this Court, which are supported not only by the documents produced by them, but also the report of the Central Vigilance Commission, which was forwarded to the Director, CBI, on October 12, 2009 and the findings recorded by the CAG in the Performance Audit Report, need a thorough and impartial investigation,” the Supreme Court had recorded in its order.The top court had also backed Comptroller Audit General (CAG) Vinod Rai’s work as the “most important officer under the Constitution of India and his duty, being the guardian of the public purse, is to see that not a farthing of it is spent without the authority of Parliament”.

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2G scam verdict: Court pulls up then SG for dithering in case

Special Judge OP Saini not only pulled up the prosecuting agencies for failing to make their case in the 2G spectrum scam, but also highlighted roles of several officials, private and public, who dithered on the stand.The trial court judgment makes special references to several officers whose testimonies hugely impacted the case including that of former Solicitor General GE Vahanvati who the judge noted “tried to wriggle out” of his own submissions.In the judgment, Saini recorded that the Solicitor General had approved the action of DoT regarding change of policy of first-come first­served from date of application to date of payment. In his note, he had specifically noted that he had seen the notes and the issue of new LOIs was not before any Court and what was proposed was fair and reasonable. However, in the witness-box, he tried to wriggle out of the same.It was this change of stance which led to “unnecessary controversy” Saini observed. Had Vahanvati stood by his notings, the controversy would have died down much earlier, the judgment read.“He had the capacity, calibre and standing to explain the whole issue, but unfortunately he too chose to depose against his own official noting by resorting to legal technicalities. He endeavoured hard to absolve himself of all responsibility. Thus, his evidence did not match up to his standing. It is unfortunate that he is one of those witnesses whose testimony has been rejected in toto for being contrary to official record,” the judge said.

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Divide in SC Collegium over making its decisions public

The rift and the cracks within the Supreme Court Collegium appear to have widened with the emergence of two letters penned by Justices Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur expressing their reservations on the issue of publication of the body’s resolutions.In a bid to make processes transparent, the top court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on October 6 passed a resolution wherein the decisions taken by them would be uploaded online “to ensure transparency and yet maintain confidentiality in the Collegium system”.The historic move has come shortly after the Collegium came under fire after Karnataka High Court judge Justice Jayant Patel resigned over his transfer to Allahabad High Court.The collegium — comprising top five senior most judges of the top court — have often been criticised for its closed door decisions. In fact, Standing by his point, Justice Chelameswar refused to participate in the Collegium meetings unless the minutes of the meeting were recorded.It has now emerged that Justices Joseph and Lokur — who are the fourth and fifth senior most judges — had expressed their reservation before the resolution was passed on grounds that the rights of persons mentioned in the resolutions outweighed against the goal of transparency.In an October 7 letter, Justice Joseph wrote: “…you have in breach of the trust reposed in you, in violation of the mandate of the resolutions and in total defiance of the request of your sister and brother judges, chosen to upload the text of the resolutions which contained information which might violate human rights of some persons, if not other rights, who are still to continue as judicial officers…””If three out of five of the Collegium request you to have further discussions on the issue, are you not bound by such request?…All of us are seriously interested in transparency. But should we also not respect the rights of others affected by our attempt to be transparent? Have we not in the history of the collegium, where you are a member, made such revisits?” Justice Lokur’s letter read.If one goes by what Justice Lokur has suggested in his letter, the collegium system does not seem to be following the advise of the majority and unilateral decisions are being taken by a select few.Though it is not known if Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the third senior most judge — and possibly CJI Misra’s successor, has sent out a communiqué, from Justice Lokur’s letter it appears that he too, was not completely sold on the transparency idea and had advised “further discussion.”The resolution, which was uploaded on the SC’s official website under a dedicated tab, bears the signature of all five judges. However, every decision uploaded thereafter has been signed by the top three judges only.Justice Chelameswar, who was part of the Constitution Bench that struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, has been a champion for transparency in the collegium system and was the sole dissenter. In the judgment, he wrote a strongly worded observation criticizing the collegium system for its opacity.FOR TRANSPARENCYThe Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on October 6 passed a resolution wherein the decisions taken by them would be uploaded online “to ensure transparency and yet maintain confidentiality”.

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European court judgment could guide arguments on Aadhaar

Even as a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India examines the vexed issue of the Constitutionality of the unique biometric identification scheme, lawyers for the petitioners, who have challenged the Aadhaar, are likely to cite a December 2016 judgment of the European Court to buttress their point.For in that landmark judgment, the European Court ruled that the government’s intent to curb crime couldn’t be a valid basis for surveillance of all citizens and such a thing was violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights and the right to privacy.Through the judgment, the court had struck down a law that required all citizens to preserve computer and telecom data for one year.”Due regard to the Principle of Proportionality also derives from the Court’s settled case-law to the effect that the protection of the fundamental right to respect for private life at EU level requires that derogations from and limitations on the protection of personal data should apply only in so far as is strictly necessary,” it said.Incidentally, the doctrine of proportionality was declared a law in the landmark judgment of November, 2000 by the Supreme Court bench of Justices M Jagannadha Rao and UC Banerjee in the Om Kumar and others versus Union of India case.The European Court has also held, “Further, while the effectiveness of the fight against serious crime, in particular organised crime and terrorism, may depend to a great extent on the use of modern investigation techniques, such an objective of general interest, however fundamental it may be, cannot in itself justify that national legislation providing for the general and indiscriminate retention of all traffic and location data should be considered to be necessary for the purposes of that fight,” it added.Sometime back, a nine-Judge Constitution bench the Supreme Court of India ruled that Right to Privacy is a right guaranteed under the Constitution.Last month, the apex court bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul had also declared as unconstitutional the two stringent conditions for grant of bail under Section 45(1) of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.Five years ago, former Karnataka High Court Judge KS Puttaswamy filed the first appeal challenging the legality of Aadhaar. Since then, many others have joined the legal fight and, now, there are almost 38 petitioners represented by a battery of lawyers fighting for the right to privacy.Though the top court has restricted the use of Aadhaar, the Centre has all but made Aadhaar mandatory through various acts, notifications and circulars. This mandatory linking of the Aadhaar card has also been challenged among many other aspects.The Centre’s main aim to introduce Aadhaar was to cut down on corruption in the system and target delivery of benefits and services directly to the beneficiaries. It hoped by cutting down the middle-man, almost 100 per cent of the benefits would reach those who most required it.However, since its introduction, the Aadhaar has taken on a life of gigantic proportions and has been morphed into a tool that would make all non-aadhaar cardholders die a virtual civil death. Reports of data breach, misuse of private information, glitches in the system and more that are coming out in the public has not softened the government’s stand and has fuelled the debate surrounding the breach in fundamental right to privacy.According to the European court’s judgment, the rules are ultra vires of the Act and even if they are incorporated into the Act, such general surveillance for ostensibly detecting crime was violative of privacy right and therefore unconstitutional.

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Apex court gives Parsi woman interim relief

A Parsi woman on Thursday won her right to enter the Tower of Silence despite marrying outside the religion after the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust filed an undertaking permitting Goolrukh Gupta and her sisters to enter the Tower of Silence to offer prayers and participate in rituals in the event a family member passes away.For the moment, the Trust has extended its permission strictly limited to the petitioner and her sisters and not for all Parsi women who have married outside the faith. However, Gupta has not lost faith. Reacting to the news, the 51-year-old Mumbai resident is hopeful that Parsi women from small towns who have married outside the faith will be accorded the same right she has won today.”This is merely an interim order,” Shiraz Patodia — one of Gupta’s sisters and the advocate in this matter said. “The fate of other Parsi women and their rights will be decided when the court will hear the matter in the entirety,” she added.Goolrukh Gupta married her husband Mahipal Gupta, a Marwadi, more than 25 years ago, however in all that time she never forgot her faith and hardly ever skipped the daily ritual of tying the sudreh and kusti. The daughter of a trustee from Valsad, Gupta had the liberty to follow her religion, despite marrying outside the faith. However, things changed when the trustees changed.However, 15 years ago when a trustee, who had just then taken over — sometime in 2002-2003, took the hardliners approach, he all but excommunicated Gupta. Since then, Gupta was not allowed to enter the agyari (fire temple), nor participate in any religious rituals henceforth.Gupta had then filed a petition in court which, over the years finally reached the corridors of the Gujarat High Court. In their judgment, a three-judge bench 2:1 held that a Parsi woman who marries outside her faith ceases to be a Parsi. Dissatisfied with the verdict, Goolrukh had then approached the Supreme Court, challenging the HC judgment.”The last time I entered the Tower of Silence in Valsad was in 2003 when my maternal uncle passed away, Gupta said. That was also the last time she entered the fire temple there to attend the four-day prayers held for him.Thursday’s victory brings hope and cheer to the tiny, dwindling Parsi community which is under the threat of extinction. Numbering less than 50,000 now, an urgency has crept in among them. While some have taken refuge in the literal teachings of the text, others believe that Parsis need to reach out into the beyond. After all, they all want to survive.Last week, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had observed that a woman does not mortgage herself to a man by marrying him. She retains her identity, including her religious identity, even after she exercises her right to marry outside her community under the Special Marriage Act.The top court’s observation came when a five-judge bench was hearing Gupta’s matter.Couples from different faiths who wish to retain their individual religious identities may opt for a marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which ensures religious protection.Prima facie, the top court did not adhere to the principle of merger relied upon by the Gujarat High Court in denying Gupta the right to practice her faith.Representing Gupta, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had sought the court’s indulgence to treat this case as an endorsement of inter-faith marriages. Those who marry outside their faith should be saddled with any disabilities, she added. Government data suggests that the Special Marriages Act is not used as often as it should be, she said.”The Tower of Silence is not a mutt or a citadel of a cult. It is a place to offer prayers to the dead. Can such a right of a woman be guillotined? It is part of her Constitutional identity,” CJI Misra had observed.The court’s decision favouring the Parsi woman’s right will create a paradigm shift for women within the minority community. Earlier this year, the top court recently ruled in favour of Muslim women by striking down instant triple talaq as unconstitutional.

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Marriage does not mortgage woman to man: Supreme Court

On Thursday, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed that a woman does not mortgage herself to a man by marrying him. She retains her identity, including her religious identity, even after she exercises her right to marry outside her community under the Special Marriage Act.The top court’s observation came when a five-judge bench was hearing the matter of a Parsi woman who was barred from entering the Tower of Silence to offer prayers for her dead relatives because she married outside her faith.”Special Marriage Act confers in her the right of choice. Her choice is sacred. I ask myself a question: Who can take away the religious identity of a woman? The answer is only a woman can choose to curtail her own identity,” Chief Justice Misra said on the first day of the hearing.Couples from different faiths who wish to retain their individual religious identities may opt for a marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which ensures religious protection.Nobody can presume that a woman has changed her faith or religion just because she chose to change her name after marrying outside her community, the CJI observed.The bench — also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan — then asked senior advocate Gopal Subramanium who is representing the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust whether it would allow petitioner Goolrukh Gupta time to respond by next week.Should the trust respond in the negative, the court will then have to decide whether a Parsi woman can hold on to her religious identity if she chooses to marry someone outside her faith.Prima facie, the top court observed that it did not adhere to the principle of merger relied upon by the Gujarat High Court in denying Gupta the right to practice her faith. Gupta has challenged the high court’s order which essentially suggested that by the principle of merger, Gupta became a Hindu when she married one and thus ceased to be a Parsi.Representing Gupta, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising sought the court’s indulgence to treat this case as an endorsement of inter-faith marriages. Those who marry outside their faith should be saddled with any disabilities, she added. Government data suggests that the Special Marriages Act is not used as often as it should be, she said.Every custom, usage, customary and statutory laws must stand the test of the Fundamental Rights principle, Jaising said. Article 372 (continuance of existing laws) of the Constitution is subject to Article 13, which mandates that laws should not violate the fundamental rights of an individual, she added.Suggesting that excommunicating Parsi women for marrying outside the faith tantamount to gender discrimination, CJI Misra asked: “How can you (Parsi elders) distinguish between a man and woman singularly by a biological phenomenon… If a woman says she has not changed her religion, by what philosophy do you say that she cannot go to the Tower of Silence? No law debars a woman from retaining her religious identity.””If a woman’s identity is merged, then Special Marriage Act is not required, is it not?” Justice Sikri pointed out.”The Tower of Silence is not a mutt or a citadel of a cult. It is a place to offer prayers to the dead. Can such a right of a woman be guillotined? It is part of her Constitutional identity,” CJI Misra further observed.The court’s decision favouring the Parsi woman’s right will create a paradigm shift for women within the minority community. Earlier this year, the top court recently ruled in favour of Muslim women by striking down instant triple talaq as unconstitutional.
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Under fire, Kapil Sibal clears air

The confusion over the representation, or rather the lack thereof, for the Sunni Waqf Board in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid matter in the Supreme Court (SC), got some clarification on Thursday when senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that he appeared only for Mohammed Iqbal Ansari, son of late Mohammed Hashim — the original petitioner.Speaking at a press conference, Sibal said that who he appeared for is not the national issue and said the main issue was Gujarat, hinting at BJP’s campaign in the election-bound state.Advocate MR Shamshad, the advocate on record in the matter, supported Sibal and further clarified that the senior advocate’s name against the board in the appearance slip, or in the first part of the record of proceedings, could be a ‘clerical error’.On Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided to hear the 13 civil appeals filed by various parties, challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on February 8, 2018.In doing so, the bench refused to be swayed by Sibal’s plea that the matter be heard by the top court after the 2019 general elections. Sibal told the bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices Ashok Bhushan and SA Najeeb that he was making this request because “there will be serious repercussions” after the court’s ruling.Sibal’s submissions on Tuesday in the top court kicked up a storm as the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board distanced itself from his remarks and submitted that they favoured an early hearing in the matter.While addressing an election rally in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the Sunni Waqf Board for dissociating itself from Sibal’s statement on Ayodhya, and lashed out at the lawyer for politicising a sensitive issue.The controversial structure known as Babri Masjid was razed to the ground by Karsevaks on December 6, 1992.The court is hearing 13 appeals against a 2010 judgement by Allahabad High Court on four civil suits filed over the title of the land that is known to Hindus as the “Ram Janmabhoomi”, or the land where Hindu God Ram was born.A three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered the partition of the land equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the deity, Ram Lalla.SEEKING DEFERMENTSupreme Court on Tuesday decided to hear the 13 civil appeals challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court order on the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on February 8, 2018 Kapil Sibal pleaded to the top court that the matter be heard after the 2019 general elections.
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Supreme Court notice on convicts in party posts

The Supreme Court Friday sought the responses of the Centre and the Election Commission on a PIL seeking to restrain convicted politicians from holding any posts in political parties.Taking up a petition filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud issued notice to the respondents. The PIL seeks directions to the Centre and the Election Commission to frame guidelines to decriminalise the electoral system and ensure inner-party democracy as proposed by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC).The bench also agreed to examine the validity and contours of Section 29A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which deals with registration of political parties with the Election Commission.Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra told the bench that while convicted politicians are barred under law from contesting elections, they can still run a political party, thereby deciding as to who becomes a lawmaker. The petition also names several politicians who have been convicted or have charges framed against them but continue to hold posts in political parties and “wielding political power.” It points out that now even a person who has been convicted for heinous crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, money laundering, loot, sedition, or dacoity can form a political party and become its president.
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Cabinet okays salary hike for SC/HC judges

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet has approved revised salaries, gratuity, allowances and pension for the Judges — sitting and retired — of Supreme Court and High Courts, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday.Prasad said two bills — Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958 and High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954 — which govern the salaries of Chief Justice of India (CJI), SC judges, Chief Justices, and all HC judges, would be introduced in the upcoming Parliament session – beginning December 15, to affect the pay hike.According to the proposal, CJI will now get Rs 2.80 lakh per month in addition to perks, whereas the top court judges and chief justices of high courts will get Rs 2.50 lakh per month. HC judges will now get Rs 2.25 lakh per month.Currently there are 25 judges in the top court and 682 judges in 24 HC courts across the country. Approximately 2500 retired Judges will also benefit on account of revision of pension/gratuity etc. Arrears on account of revised salaries, gratuity, pension and family pension w.e.f 01.01.2016 will be paid as one time lump sum payment.Once the hike is effected, the salary of judges will be at par with those of bureaucrats following the implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.

No pre-judging: SC junks petition against Sanjay Leela Bhansali

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Monday junked a petition that sought criminal charges against Padmavati’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for allegedly defaming the legendary Hindu queen’s character. The court said it did not want to pre-judge the movie as it was still pending before the censor board.This comes amid widespread protests by groups — claiming to represent the Rajput community — against the movie that has deeply divided chief ministers in several states. A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the matter was still pending before the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) and it was too premature to be decided by it (the court). The bench — also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud — said that it did not want to pre-judge the film.The petition had been filed by advocate ML Sharma who said Bhansali defamed the queen by portraying her as a dancer.The apex court, however, disagreed with him and said that no case was made.Protesters who have issued threats against the director and actors say the depiction of romance between Padmini and Delhi Sultnate ruler Alauddin Khilji insults the Rajput community. The film’s makers have been denying allegations of any distortion of history. Historians have also been divided over whether the queen ever existed.During the brief hearing, Sharma objected to songs already released by the production house as part of its promotional strategy. “Half the movie has already been released and without any proper certification,” Sharma argued.To this, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the film, responded that the process for certification is on and all appropriate paperwork was in order for the material that is already on air. The production house has deferred the December 1 release of the movie.But trouble for the movie continues. A Varanasi court directed the local police to register an FIR against Bhansali for “insulting the religion, selling or printing defamatory matter and public mischief.” Petitioner Kamlesh Chandra has sought a ban on the film and action against its makers for depicting the character of Rani Padmavati in poor light which has “hurt the sentiments of Indians.” The court issued summons to Bhansali who was also attacked on sets in January by a Rajput organisation.

Medical college scam: Supreme Court no to SIT, chides petitioners

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal’s petition seeking a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team (SIT) in the medical colleges scam. In doing so, the bench also terming attempts by the petitioner and her lawyer to secure orders from another bench even as the same matter was pending with another bench as an instance of forum shopping.A bench comprising Justices RK Agrawal, Arun Mishra and AM Khanwilkar called the attempts made by Jaiswal and that that of the lawyers from the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) as “forum-shopping, contemptuous, unethical, derogatory” but stopped short of initiating contempt of court proceedings against them, in the interest and “welfare of the great institution.””Let us unite and work for the welfare of the great institution,” the Bench observed. “Unnecessary doubt was raised about the integrity of this great institution,” Justice Mishra said reading out from the judgment.”Unnecessarily, the Institution has been brought to be scandalized for no good cause, it said.”The petition and entire conduct aims at bringing disrepute to this Court without any rhyme or reason,” it said.Speaking on the conduct of the petitioners and the crisis triggered by their petition, the bench held that filing the petition without due diligence and fact check amounted to events that were derogatory and contemptuous. However, the court erred on the side of caution and favoured bringing a quietus to the issue, saying goodwill should prevail.Calling the conduct of the petitioners as unethical, the bench also suggested that calling for the recusal of Justice AM Khanwilkar – who was also on the bench that deliberated on the issue of the medical college scam, amounted to forum shopping.In its judgment, the bench held that the decision of the Constitution Bench on November 10 was binding and that only the Chief Justice of India had the authority to constitute benches in the Supreme Court.However, the 38-page judgment hoped to bring and an end to the drama that began when CJAR first mentioned their petition before Justice Jasti Chelameswar or “Court number 2,” as it was referred to.”We still expect and hope the matter will stop at this,” Justice Mishra spoke for the bench, while dismissing Jaiswal’s petition.”Let the good sense prevail over the legal fraternity and amends be made as lot of uncalled for damage has been made to the great Institution in which public reposes their faith. We deprecate the conduct of forum hunting that too involving senior lawyer of this Court. Such conduct tantamount wholly unethical, unwarranted and nothing but forum hunting, as discussed by this Court in the case of Cipla (supra),” the judgement – unanimous in its decision since there is no author, read.On Monday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Monday queried whether advocate Prashant Bhushan’s act of filing duplicate petitions on the same issue was tantamount to forum shopping.Observing that his actions had scandalised the court, the bench comprising Justices RK Agarwal, Arun Mishra and AM Khanwilkar had reserved its judgement on the maintainability of the petition that sought a court-monitored investigation into the medical colleges scam where the accused had allegedly brandished names of some members of the higher judiciary to give out the impression that favourable order could be procured – for a cost.Last week, Bhushan’s Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Judicial Reforms and senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal had filed identical petitions on two consecutive days causing an uproar in the apex court. During their arguments, both petitions categorically sought the recusal of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra who had deliberated on matters where Prasad Education Trust – one of the petitioners is also an accused in the medical scam case which the CBI is probing.Appearing in his personal capacity, Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal observed that the court was facing a crisis that was brought about by the petitions. “There is a deep wedge between the bar and the judiciary. Here is a crisis that of confidence (in court) itself,” he said.”This petition wants to drive the investigation in a particular direction and particular decision,” he added. Submitting that American courts have condemned such actions, the top law officer added, “Judges are a very vulnerable class of people. The buck stops with Quddusi,” he added referring to the former Odisha High COurt judge who was arrested by the CBI for his role in the case.The bench saysLet us unite and work for the welfare of the great institutionUnnecessarily, the Institution has been scandalised for no good causeUnnecessary doubt was raised about the integrity of this great institution

Medical college owners worked the system

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra yesterday annulled the decision of a two-judge bench headed by Justice Jasti Chelameswar to form a Constitution bench to hear the plea for court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged bribery case involving retired Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi and others.The issue that became the subject matter of heated argument between the counsel for the petitioners and the CJI himself was whether CJI Misra ought to have recused from being part of the five-judge bench.Behind the demand for the CJI’s recusal was the fact that another bench headed by him had earlier heard the case involving the erring medical colleges. The PIL alleges that the retired high court judge who was arrested by the CBI had used his influence in the judiciary to get favourable orders for a college.The college in question set up by the Prasad Education Trust was one of the 46 colleges barred by the Government from admitting medical students for the forthcoming 1 or 2 years because of substandard facilities and non fulfilment of the required criteria.Here is what happened thereafter: In August first week, a bench comprising the CJI and Justices Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar directed the Health Ministry to conduct a fresh inspection “to obviate the possibility of any injustice in the process.” The ministry gave the college a fresh hearing but found nothing in its arguments to make it change its earlier decision.This is where the rot set in, according to the CBI. The college management got in touch with Justice Quddusi, who allegedly advised them to withdraw the petition from the Supreme Court, which they did.They then filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court, making, basically, the same prayer.In a curious turn of events, the High Court allowed the medical college to be on the list of colleges notified for counselling. The HC also stayed the ministry’s order to encash the bank guarantee.The MCI challenged the HC’s decision in the apex court, which, on August 29, disposed of the appeal after the college submitted that it would not claim any benefit from the order passed by the High Court.Two days later, on August 31, Prasad Education Trust filed a writ petition, which was admitted for hearing by a bench headed by the CJI.On September 18, a bench headed by CJI Misra ruled that there would be no renewal for the academic session 2017-18. It further stated that the bank guarantee that was deposited shall not be encashed and be kept alive. The bench also directed the MCI to send inspecting teams to the Institution as per the schedule to re-evaluate and consider granting the college leave of permission for the academic year 2018-2019.The very next day, on September 19, the CBI filed an FIR accusing Justice Quddusi and fixer Bhawana Pandey and other in a case of corruption.

Supreme Court says can’t revisit Memorandum of Procedure issue in open court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst high drama in the courtroom, the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that top judicial appointments were not matters to be discussed in a public forum. Openly disagreeing with the observations of a two-judge bench — passed last month, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra maintained that the reason behind delay in finalising the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) was not an issue to be heard on the judicial side.”After the Constitution Bench has gone into all this in the NJAC issue, there is no need to go into them now… these are not matters to be gone into on the judicial side at all. That’s all there is to be said,” the CJI noted.However, the decision of the bench – which also comprised Justices AK Sikri and Amitava Roy, was hotly contested by advocate RP Luthra who had filed the petition, incurring their wrath.The hearing saw heated arguments by Luthra, who wanted his submissions to be heard before deciding the matter.Amicus curiae KV Vishwanathan also told the bench, “It (delay in finalising MoP) is a matter of grave concern. There is a feeling that there is undue delay. The pendency is shocking. Access to justice is a fundamental right.”Responding to Luthra and Vishwanathan, the bench said, “These are not matters to be taken up on the judicial side and so we are dismissing the petition. You don’t know what all steps we have taken and we do not intend to say it here.”Incidentally, on October 27, the bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and UU Lalit had issued notice to the Centre on a petition which had challenged the delay in finalising the new MoP.The petition filed by Luthra had challenged the appointment of new judges to the higher judiciary on the grounds that the MoP had still not been finalised in terms of the decision of the apex court.Though, the bench Justices Goel Lalit had dismissed this, it had found merit in the prayer that there should be no further delay in finalising the terms of the MoP in larger public interest.”Even though no time limit was fixed by this court for finalising the MoP, the issue cannot linger on for an indefinite period. The order of this court is dated 16th December 2015 and thus more than one year and ten months have already gone by,” the bench had noted.The court had sought the presence of Attorney General KK Venugopal and also appointed senior advocate KV Vishwanathan as an amicus to assist the court on this issue.While previous CJI JS Khehar had sent the collegium’s unanimous view on the draft MoP to the Centre in March, the government has been sitting on the file, refusing to take any final view on it.

SC issues notice to MP and RIL on sham lease deeds

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to Madhya Pradesh and Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on a petition challenging lease deeds signed by the conglomerate with almost 400 tribals in Madhya Pradesh.A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and M Shantanagouder issued the notice based on a plea filed by Ravinder Tiwari, the president of Janta Kisan Sangharsh Morcha who alleged that Ratan Akhori, an authorised representative of RIL, fraudulently made tribal farmers sign on blank documents in order to divert agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.The petition states the tribals, who were dependent on an agrarian economy, were induced to sign the papers as ‘lease deeds’ in way of cash. According to the terms of the lease deed, RIL offered each tribal an amount ranging between Rs 1.20 lakh – Rs 1.50 lakh and a nominal and entirely sham sum of Re 1 per acre ‘as rent’ for the lease period which may be for either 29 years or 99 years.The remaining paperwork submitted with the state authorities were written in languages that were identical and were accordingly passed with identical orders.The signed land would then be used by RIL to felicitate the drilling equipment for exploiting the CNM leases. If the land is used for drilling methane gas, it will render the land useless, thus killing the livelihood of the tribals, Tiwari further maintained.”RIL has enabled land conversion en masse without application of any policy, advocate Avi Singh said representing Tiwari.Singh alleges that the High Court erred in dismissing the matter when it was initially filed as a public interest litigation.

In Supreme Court, hope for those stuck with banned currency

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the last hearing of the ongoing case in the Supreme Court, where several aggrieved citizens had sought relief and directions from the RBI about their old currency to be exchanged, the Centre assured them that no criminal action would be pursued.Assuring the petitioners, Attorney General KK Venugopal cautioned that the allowance was limited to the amount specified in their pleas before the apex court.The bench, led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, then clarified that protection could not be extended for any other amount possessed, since the demonetization law is still constitutionally valid.The petitioners before the bench said they were unable to exchange their old notes for new before the window set by the Centre expired. The lead petitioner, Sudha Misra, alleged that for her wedding in January 2016, she was gifted some cash. However, because she was pregnant with her twins in November, she coulnd’t exchange the cash in her possession.Another petitioner, 71-year-old Sarla Shrivastava who lost her husband in April 2016, came across Rs.1,79,500 while going through her husband’s possessions, after the window for exchange had closed.Abhishek Shukla, the alleged bookie who exonerated along with S Sreesanth, filed an unusual case. In 2013, when the Delhi police booked Shukla, they seized Rs.5 lakh — in the now-banned notes. When the money was released in February 2017, however, the notes had been demonetised and the window to exchange them had closed.Though the centre has remained firm on the issue of reopening the window, the top court has allowed these petitioners to tag themselves in a matter that challenges the demonetization law.Iegality of actThe matter challenges the demonetisation law and deems it to be unconstitutional. A five-judge constitution bench will now deliberate whether demonetisation was legal.

Centre advocates talk as it gains time in SC over Art 35A

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre on Monday bought itself a few months time in the issue pertaining to the constitutional validity of Article 35A that grants special status to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted that the Centre had recently appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director Dineshwar Sharma as the interlocutor in the valley and sought an adjournment for six months.In August, the top court indicated that matters challenging the validity of Article 35A is an issue that should be decided by a five-judge bench. The apex court’s observations were made in response to a petition filed by a Kashmiri woman Dr Charu Wali Khanna, who is settled outside the state of Jammu & Kashmir.Article 35A empowers the state legislature of J & K to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. Under this article, Indians, except the original inhabitants of the state, are barred from acquiring immovable property in the state or obtain jobs under the state government, and availing state-sponsored scholarship schemes.In her petition, Khanna contended that Article 35A of the Constitution read with Section 6 of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, related to inheritance of properties by non-state subjects, violates the fundamental right to equality guaranteed under Article 14.Khanna challenged the April 20, 1927, notification issued by Maharaja Bahadur of Kashmir, where widows and wives, who lived outside the state had no rights which are otherwise available to state subjects.In 1954, the 90-year notification was given Constitutional sanction under Article 370 by the Jawaharlal Nehru-led government and issued by President Rajendra Prasad.A Delhi based NGO — We the Citizens — filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the scrapping of Article 35A claiming it to be unconstitutional and violative of fundamental rights. The PIL pleaded that a new article to the Constitution cannot be simply aided by a presidential order as has been done in 1954. According to the law, only Parliament can amend the Constitution. In its plea, the NGO has contended that taking refuge behind the provisions of the article, J&K has been discriminating against non-residents.So far, the Centre has avoided taking a stand. In an earlier hearing, A-G Venugopal submitted, “A conscious decision has been taken not to file any counter affidavit in this case, because the issues which are raised for adjudication, are pure questions of law.”

Love jihad case: Supreme Court to hear Hadiya Shafin in person

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hadiya Shafin, 24, is an adult, her consent is “prime” and she will be heard in an open court at 3 pm on November 27 to know whether she converted to Islam and married a Muslim by choice or she was compelled, the Supreme Court said on Monday. The court overruled vociferous objections by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing Kerala’s “love jihad” case, and the woman’s father.The homeopathic doctor’s marriage had been annulled in May by the Kerala High Court on her retired military man father Ashokan KM’s appeal after Akhila Ashokan converted to Islam and married Shafin Jahan in December 2016. Her father had said the marriage was a form of recruitment by ISIS and she was to be sent to Syria.Her husband has challenged the HC order and also a sanction given by the apex court to the NIA to probe allegations of Hindu women being lured by members of terror outfits.On Monday, SC first directed Kerala’s government to produce the woman. The father then undertook the responsibility to bring her to the court. “We call the person and question her. At the time, if we have any doubts that she was not free to make her choice… then we will take a final call,” said the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.”Get me out of here… I am going to die. My father is getting angry,” Hadiya had said in a video released last week.”If a girl comes and says I don’t want to stay with my father, what should the court do? We have to find out where she intends to stay,” said the bench that also comprised Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. As far as her marriage is concerned, it’s a personal choice, the bench said. “It is our constitutional obligation to direct the production of the girl and ask her choice,” the court said.In response, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, representing the NIA, said: “In normal cases, yes, but not in cases of indoctrination.” Here, Singh said, hypnosis was used as a method of radicalisation and the girl’s mind was manipulated. “This is an exceptional case and there is no concept of free will,” Singh added.Singh further submitted that Akhila’s case was not unique and Kerala was witnessing a trend of people joining ISIS. “Eighty-nine cases have been identified in Kerala so far and nine are the worst.” Singh said. The ASG added that Akhila was indoctrinated by conversion organisation Sathya Sarini, and Popular Front of India, an Islamic fundamentalist organisation, was behind her radicalisation, and hence her “free consent” should not be considered.

Mamata Banerjee moves SC over Aadhaar-phone linkage

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday approached the Supreme Court to challenge the mandatory linking of Aadhaar numbers to mobile phones and bank accounts.Banerjee’s petition, filed in the apex court through senior advocate and Member of Parliament Kalyan Banerjee, is likely to be heard on October 30 before a bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.On Wednesday, Banerjee had declared she would not link her mobile number to her Aadhaar number and asked her party members to follow suit.”I will not link my phone number to Aadhaar at any cost. They may disconnect my phone if they want to. They may not even give me an Aadhaar number if they want to. I request all of you to do the same. Let us see how many phone numbers they disconnect,” she told party leaders in an extended core committee meeting that day.She claimed doing so would compromise individuals’ privacy. “I will raise the issue at the Parliament. If need be, we will fight it legally. We didn’t object linking Aadhaar with PAN because it was related to tax payment,” she added.Earlier this week, the Centre proposed extending the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones from December 31, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but only for those who are “willing to enrol for Aadhaar”.However, this extension would not apply to those who already have an Aadhaar card.Highlighting the fact that the deadline was moved forward, Attorney General KK Venugopal had sought a delay in the hearing on matters pertaining to Aadhaar.

Only 500 ml RO water to be offered to Ujjain’s jyotirlinga

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Devotees can only use water from the Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine for the jalabhishek at the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Ujjain, as per the norms passed by the Supreme Court on Friday for worship at the historic temple.Devotees can avail of the water from the RO machine installed during Simhastha (religious fair). Apart from this, the apex court also has also limited milk or panchamrut (mixture of honey, liquid jaggery, milk, yoghurt and ghee) offering to 1.25 litres per devotee at the Shiv lingam, which was rebuilt in the 18th century. Currently, during the bhasma aarti (special ceremony with sacred ash), half of the lingam is covered with cloth; now the entire deity will be covered.Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga — considered an avatar of Lord Shiva— is one of 12 such in India. In order to check the corrosion of the deity by pollution, moisture and extensive worshipping, SC constituted a committee of officials from the Archaeological Survey of India, the Geological Survey of India and other experts to study the rate at which the corrosion is occurring and suggest steps to curb it.The committee submitted 24 points to preserve the deity, of which only eight were passed by the bench made up of Justices Arun Mishra and L Nageswara Rao.New fans and dryers have been installed to dry the lingam after jalabhishek, which ends at 5 pm everyday. After that, only dry puja will be permitted. The court has also banned the practice of rubbing sugar powder on the linga. Instead, devotees will be encouraged to use khandsari (unrefined raw white sugar).”Bilva (bel) leaves and flowers shall be offered on the upper part of the Shiv ling to avoid obstructing the natural breathing of the stone,” the resolution approved by Supreme Court said. “we have entertained this petition just to preserve the lingam. It cannot be denied that good work has been done by temple management and it is appreciable that they have accepted the recommendation of the expert committee in one stroke. It is a bold step,” the Bench added.Worship norms500 ml of RO water per devotee1.25 ml panchamrut or milk per devoteeOnly dry puja after 5 pm

Supreme Court: Run Blue Whale warning film

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday directed state-run television network Doordarshan to use it prime time slot to broadcast programming warning viewers of the dangers of the so-called Blue Whale Challenge that has claimed a number of lives across the country.A bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has given the national broadcaster a week’s time in which to prepare its material. The next hearing has been set for November 20.The Blue Whale Challenge essentially goads players into carrying out a series of tasks, the final one being suicide.”The idea behind the programme is to make parents and children aware of the dangers of online games like Blue Whale. The message of the programme should be that children should not be trapped by the game. There are children who are lonely and frustrated. Definitely, visuals will have more impact,” Chief Justice Misra noted.The court made its observations while hearing a petition filed by advocate Sneha Kalita who sought immediate measures to ban/block all sites linked to the Blue Whale online game and other similar games.The apex court has also asked DD to consult with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry while preparing its programming.In a bid to increase the reach of the programming, the bench, which included Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, directed the “competent authority” to explore the possibility of doing so on private channels, as well as on other platforms.While explaining the dangers of the game, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria outlined the various steps – 50 in all – that culminate in the player’s suicide.

Govt for new cadre for court management

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has sent a communication to chief justices of all High Courts seeking their suggestion on the need for a separate cadre of administrators for court administration, court management, finance etc.The need for a separate administrative cadre was felt “in order to keep judges/judicial officers free from such administrative, managerial and financial work so that they can devote their time to more judicial work,” the letter read.In his letter, Prasad said that the 13th Finance Commission had earmarked Rs 300 crore for the appointment of Court Managers for the period 2010-2015 to assist judges in streamlining administrative duties. In the one-page letter, he also listed reasons for the lack of success on this front. Only one-third of the money was released and one-seventh utilised, the letter read.”Recruitment on contract basis, low remuneration package, reluctance on the part of the judiciary to accept Court Managers to participate in judicial process have been identified as some of the reasons for failure to attract suitable candidates,” the letter read.The issue of court administration was also broached during the 2013 Conference of Chief Justices wherein it was decided that National and State Judicial Academies would take steps for imparting training to judicial officers on managerial skills. It was also decided that judicial officers would be sent to the Indian Institution of Management to receive training, the law minister said.Prasad said that during a week-long discussion at Maharashtra Judicial Academy in February 2016, participating court managers identified lack of clear direction from judges and their ambiguous status in the court system as one of the reasons why this issue was a non-starter.Earlier this year, the Niti Aayog has made a few suggestions that need to be immediately implemented in the next three years to bring about much needed critical reforms in the Indian judicial system. Niti Aayog’s draft report in April had suggested the introduction of an administrative cadre – reporting directly to the Chief Justice of the High Courts, which was ease the burden of administrative duties currently borne by the judges.The Niti Aayog suggested the introduction of a ‘judicial performance index’ to check delay in trials and address the issue of pendency of cases. “The index can also include certain progress on process steps that have already been approved by high courts, like burden of day-to-day activity being removed from judges and given to administrative officials.Since 2000, 81.8% of the cases have taken more than five years to be disposed of, while, 57% took more than 10 years in the district and lower courts. In four higher courts where sufficient data were available, 87% cases took 10-15 years to be disposed of, and only 5% of the cases were cleared in less than five years. Comparatively, in the United States of America (USA), the median time from filing to disposal took 7-8 months for criminal and civil cases respectively (in 2015).The Indian judiciary has been largely crippled on account of shortage of judges, which in turn has led to a high pendency of cases in courts. However, data released by the law ministry suggests that the number of pending cases in the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts has gone down in the past three years, though, the cases of pendency in the lower judiciary has risen.The lack of judges is perhaps the biggest issue facing the judiciary and the Law Ministry today. According to data available on the Department of Justice website, 24 high courts across the country are now working, with 692 judges, as opposed to the required strength of 1,079. With a shortfall of 387 judges, this means that on average a judge is hearing and dealing with almost double the number of cases that he should be.The lower courts are functioning with an approved strength of nearly 20,000 judicial officers, falling short by 4,937 judicial officers.This shortage of judges has taken its toll, as seen in the number of pending cases above. Sources within the Law Ministry reveal that the Centre will focus on simply filling up the vacancies as and when a judge retires as opposed to increasing the strength of judges.”The budgetary allocation for judicial services has been a constant 0.04 percent,” Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said while delivering an address on the concluding day of the two-day 15th All India State Legal Services meet up in the national capital earlier this year. Accordingly, the judiciary’s impact was akin to the same, he observed.

SC collegium restores judges’ appraisal move

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over seven months after the Supreme Court collegium junked the system of evaluating the performance of Additional Judges of the high courts through a detailed scrutiny of their judgments, the Supreme Court collegium yesterday restored the system.The decision to restore the system was taken at the meeting of the collegium under Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra. The collegium has also decided that judgments of Additional Judges of the High Courts would be evaluated by a committee of two Judges of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the CJI.These two Judges would not be the consultee-Judges – which refers to Judges who have served in the high court to which the additional judge, whose case for making permanent is under consideration, belongs.The guideline was the main criteria to decide whether an Additional Judge should be made a Permanent Judge and was issued by the then CJI SH Kapadia on October 30, 2010.As first reported by DNA, the decision of the collegium, then headed by previous CJI JS Khehar, taken at a meeting on March 3, 2017, had, however, not found favour with the Centre.The Union Law Ministry took strong exception to the new practice of the collegium recommending names of additional judges of various high courts for confirmation as permanent judges without making an objective assessment of the judicial work of the judge.This newspaper had also reported that the government had told the SC collegiums that since the guideline that made it mandatory for a Judgments Evaluation Committee to evaluate the performance of an additional judge before recommending his/her name for appointment as permanent judge was the only “parameter” to examine the performance of the judge, it did not agree with the decision to scrap it.In his letter to the HC CJs on March 29, then CJI Khehar had written, “The collegium comprising myself and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court in its meeting held on 3rd March, 2017 has resolved that assessment/evaluation of judgements of Additional Judges of High Court for purpose of determining their suitability for confirmation as Permanent Judges runs contrary to Para 41 of the Judgment of the Supreme Court in SP Gupta case (1981 Supp. SCC 87) and, therefore, the practice of Judges’ Committee by the chief justices of the high courts for the said purpose needs to be discontinued.”He had also written to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on April 16, requesting him to consider the possibility of issuing “necessary instructions to the concerned department to take note of the contents” of his communication to the chief justices while “processing the proposals for appointment of Additional Judges of the high court as Permanent Judges”.GOVT OBJECTIONDNA had reported Centre’s objection to the practice of the collegium recommending names without making an objective assessment of the judicial work of judges

DNA Exclusive: PIL in Supreme Court seeks autonomy for Election Commission

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A petition in the Supreme court was filed on Tuesday seeking autonomy for the Election Commission of India (ECI).To strengthen the independence of the election process and maintain its purity, the petition filed by advocate Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay seeks a new framework to empower the ECI to make rules after consultation with the government.”Conferring the rule making power to the ECI is not only necessary to insulate it from Executive/Political pressure but also essential to ensure a free and fair election in spirit of Article 324 of the Constitution of India,” the petition reads. Kumar suggests that “maintaining the purity of elections requires multi-pronged approach, which includes removing the influence of money and muscle power, expediting the disposal of election petitions, introducing the internal democracy and financial transparency in the functioning of political parties, strengthening the Election Commission and regulating the opinion polls and paid news.” “These are some issues, which have plagued our electoral system over the decades and eroded the trust of citizens,” the petition added. In his petition, Kumar has suggested that the Bill, which lapsed with the dissolution of the 10th Lok Sabha, needs reconsideration and the expenditure of the ECI should be charged on consolidated fund of India. In addition, Kumar has also sought parity for the Election Commissioners so that they shall not be removed from their office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as the Chief Election Commissioner who can be removed on the same grounds as that of a Supreme Court judge. “The current constitutional guarantee is inadequate and requires an amendment to provide the same protection and safeguard in the matter of removability of the ECs as available to the CEC.” ECI cannot function independently until the CEC & ECs are protected similarly, its expenditure is charged as consolidated fund and has independent secretariat & rule making authority.Kumar submitted that various Committees & Commissions including the Goswami Committee, Election Commission and Law Commission (in 255th Report) have suggested in this regard but the Executive has not implemented those recommendations till date.Kumar reasoned that by giving protection to the CEC as enjoyed by the Judge of this Hon’ble Court in matters of removability from office is in order to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pulls and pressure. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution. Hence, autonomy to the ECI can only be strengthened if the ECs are also provided with the similar protection as that of the CEC, the petition says. That to strengthen the independence of the ECI, the Goswami Committee recommended that the ECI should have an independent secretariat, along the lines of the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha secretariats, provided in Article 98(2), which permits the Parliament to regulate the recruitment and service conditions of persons appointed to secretarial staff in either House of Parliament.

SC puts foot down, says active euthanasia akin to suicide

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Observing that active euthanasia was akin to suicide, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stated that it was not permissible. The Centre, which concurred with the top court’s observation, then submitted that it was ready with a draft Bill to permit passive euthanasia under strict regulation and guidelines.A five-judge Constitution Bench was deliberating on the issue of active euthanasia or assisted suicide, which is not allowed in India so far. The Apex Court was considering the concept of a living will, which refers to a terminally ill patient’s right to refuse treatment and his or her permission, given in advance, to authorise doctors to stop the life-support treatment in order to hasten death.The current debate in the top court was initiated by a petition filed by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, for the NGO Common Cause. The petition reopened the legal debate surrounding euthanasia when it asked the Apex Court to declare that people should have the right to die and opt for a living will to ensure that they do not end up lying in a vegetative state and are “allowed to die with dignity”.The draft Bill on the issue outlines the guidelines and framework under which passive euthanasia, or a scenario where doctors could withdraw treatment to a terminally-ill patient, can be allowed.The Centre then told the Bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan, that it did not support the concept of a “living will” as the “social consequences” would be negative for the country.During the course of argument, Justice Chandrachud observed that the elderly in our country were mistreated. “This whole grey area is very troubling. Especially among the lower middle class, where the elderly are thought of as a burden and hence are subjected to great cruelty. So, a living will can pose problems,” he said.Debating the question of law, the Chief Justice then observed that one cannot say that you have a right to die (suicide), but you have a right to dignified death. The matter to be decided was whether the law should allow it (euthanasia). “If we recognise the right to dignity in death, then why not dignity in dying?” Chief Justice Misra said.”Passive euthanasia is permissible. Guidelines outlined in the Aruna Shanbaug judgment are applicable till a law comes in to place. As a public policy, tentatively, this Bill will not be beneficial for us,” Additional Solicitor General, representing the Centre, PS Narasimha informed the Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse, was left in a vegetative state after being raped by a hospital peon in 1973. In 2009, a petition filed on her behalf had reached the top court. While it declined Shanbaug’s plea for mercy killing, the court allowed the concept of passive euthanasia under exceptional circumstances. She died four years later. Towards the end of the day, the Chief Justice also observed that there should be medical boards in every district to decide on such appeals.Matter of factAssisted suicide is when a patient with a competent mind decides to end his or her life with the assistance of a doctor. Euthanasia, on the other hand, refers to the call taken by the family and friends of a patient, who is presumably on life support.Euthanasia and assisted suicide are acceptable in 10 countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.

SC judicial picks’ details go online

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 24 years after a seven-Judge bench of the Supreme Court in the Second Judges’ Case directed that a collegiums of judges would make recommendations to the President with regard to appointment and transfer of members of the superior judiciary, the Supreme Court collegium finally decided to put in public domain collegium recommendations sent by it to the government.The move comes within days of senior Karnataka High Court Judge Jayant Patel putting in his papers after being transferred to Allahabad High Court led to an uproar, with many questioning the collegium’s decision.As per the latest decision of the collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, collegiums’ decisions will be uploaded online. The other signatories to the October 3 decision Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.”The decisions henceforth taken by the Collegium indicating the reasons shall be put on the website of the Supreme Court, when the recommendation(s) is/are sent to the Government of India, with regard to the cases relating to initial elevation to the HC Bench, confirmation as permanent judge(s) of the HC and elevation to the post of Chief Justice of HC,” the note said.”Transfer of High Court Chief Justices / Judges and elevation to the Supreme Court, because on each occasion the material which is considered by the Collegium is different,” the note said.A separate tab on the Supreme Court’s website — dedicated to news from the collegium will also have reasons that influenced their decisions. To begin with, the apex court uploaded documents citing reasons for the recent posting and transfer of judicial officers at the Kerela High Court and Madras High Court.The collegium— comprising the top five senior most judges of the top court, has often been criticised for its closed door decisions and the opaqueness behind its decision. Justice J Chelameswar, who was part of the Constitution Bench that struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, was the sole dissenter and wrote a strongly-worded judgment criticising the collegium system for its opacity. Standing by his point, Justice Chelameswar refused to participate in the collegium meetings unless minutes of the meeting were recorded.

Apex court expresses its dismay over bar association’s body submission on pellet guns

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association suggested that accession of the state, rigged elections and the security personnel’s capture and kill policy were the “historical reasons” why the Valley erupted in violence.The Supreme Court on Wednesday said they were “slightly shocked” by the disclosure presented by the lawyers’ body. The Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, along with Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud were hearing a plea seeking a ban on the use of pellet guns in the Valley.The public interest petition filed by the lawyers’ body accused security personnel of using excessive force to control the crowd in the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death in July 2016. In an affidavit, filed at the behest of the court which sought to understand why the citizens in the Valley were protesting, the lawyer’s association pointed out the “historical reasons” for the continued violence over the years.The Centre, however, contested the submissions made and urged the top court to dismiss them. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, representing the Centre, said the lawyer’s body had crossed the boundaries of their petition and hence it was not maintainable.”They say every poll since 1947 was rigged, that accession should not have happened, they say that instead of taking peaceful means, a catch-and-kill policy is adopted,” Kumar said.

Rohingya crisis: Centre’s stand on refugees out of sync, Fali Nariman tells SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday observed that the Centre should not act on its emotions; rather it should go by law and must be ruled by concern for human values and mutual respect. “I, for one, believe, from my past experience of 40 years, that when a petition like this comes to us under Article 32 of the Constitution, the court should be very slow in abdicating its jurisdiction,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said leading a bench that also comprised Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. The apex court’s observations were made during an appeal for a stay on the proposed deportation of the beleaguered Rohingya community in India. Several petitions seeking a stay, as well as a few seeking the expulsion of the refugee community are being heard in the top court. Replying to a batch of petitions that sought a stay on the proposed deportation of Rohingya community from India, the Centre had submitted that the refugees had no locus to approach Indian courts seeking rights. It further added that the decision to deport the 40,000 strong-community was the Executive’s decision and hence outside the purview of the judiciary. Earlier, the Centre had termed Rohingya refugees as “illegal immigrants” who were allegedly here as part of a “sinister” design created by Pakistan’s ISI and other terror groups such as the ISIS. In an August 8, 2017 communiqué to all the states, the Centre had advised all States to keep tabs on the influx of “illegal immigrants” and initiate the process for deportation immediately. The Centre said the states must aid in identifying the Rohingyas. It also said “some” Rohingyas were terrorists and that “illegal immigrants” were more liable to be lured by anti-national forces. The decision to deport the Rohingyas was made based on certain parameters like diplomatic concerns, geographical demographics of certain states and whether the county could sustain such an influx. When the arguments failed to impress the bench, the Centre backed down and said that it would try to convince the top court that refugees did not have locus to approach the judiciary and that why the issue was justiciable on October 13, when the matter will be heard next. Representing the refugees in India, eminent jurist Fali Nariman picked apart the Centre’s stand on this issue and revealed it’s dichotomy in handling refugees. The government’s stand on the issues of refugees has “gone out of sync,” Nariman said. While arguing for the cause, in a lighter vein, Nariman jested that he was the original refugee from British Burma, and not the Burma as we now know. “Our Constitution is not based on Group Rights like the French Constitution, it is based on Individual Rights. Union of India has always tried to advance Refugee rights. It is making such an argument for the first time,” Nariman submitted countering the Centre’s stand. In the rejoinder, those who sought a stay on the expulsion submitted various stands taken by the Indian government on the issue of refugees on international platforms. “The Government of India has constantly made efforts to substantiate, enhance the rights of refugees. The August 8 communication is totally contradictory to Article 14. It sticks out like a sore thumb in our nation’s policy towards protecting refugees.”Nariman then referred to a December 29, 2011 directive issued by the Centre which laid out the standard operating procedure (SOP) and internal guidelines for Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO). In the December directive, the Centre said that if necessary steps must be taken to provide the foreign national with a long-term visa. This had to be done irrespective of religion, gender, etc. Nariman then objected to the blanket claim for expulsion of all Rohingyas on account of probably a few allegedly having “terror links.”Responding to the rejoinder, the Centre today countered and said that though it was “fully conscious, aware and responsible about its obligations emanating from various international instruments”, but certain views expressed by Indian representatives and the contentions, based on “declarations/resolutions/international instruments” were devoid of merits.“As a sovereign State, India will always honour such obligations which are binding obligations. Having said that,it is reiterated that India is not a signatory to United Nation Convention of 1951 and the Protocol of 1967 issued thereunder.“The said Convention/Protocol is, therefore, not binding upon India and no other Declaration/Resolution/Convention/ international treaty or instrument of any kind is in force which prohibits India, as a sovereign nation, to exercise its right of deporting illegal immigrants in accordance with laws of India and thereby protecting the fundamental rights of its own citizens more particularly in the interest of national security,” the Centre said.

Rohingya pose security threat, Centre tells SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the Rohingya Muslims are “illegal” immigrants in the country and their continuous stay has “serious national security ramifications” for India.The Centre’s affidavit also says that many Rohingya refugees have links with the Islamic State as well as Pakistan’s ISI and therefore allowing them to stay in India would pose a security threat to the country.”It is also found by the Central Government that many of the Rohingya figure in the suspected sinister designs of ISI/ISIS and other extremist groups who want to achieve their ulterior motives in India including that of flaring up communal and sectarian violence in sensitive areas of the country,” the 16-paged affidavit added.Some of the 40,000-strong Rohingya Muslims in India are also taking advantage of the porus Indian borders and indulging in human trafficking.Providing facilities and privileges to illegal immigrants would be a diversion of resources which rightfully belong to Indian citizens, the affidavit says.The affidavit, containing the Centre’s response to the pleas to let Rohingya refugees remain in the country, also asserts that the Centre’s plan to deport Rohingya refugees was a policy decision, asking the court to desist from interfering in the matter.Further, it also said the fundamental right to reside and settle in any part of the country was available to citizens only and illegal refugees couldn’t invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to enforce the right.The affidavit comes after last week’s faux-pas by the Centre in the matter.Earlier during the day, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra fixed the PIL challenging the deportation of Rohingyas for hearing on October 3.”As evident from the constitutional guarantee flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India as well as right to move freely throughout the territory of India is available only to the citizens of India… No illegal immigrant can pray for a writ of this Court which directly or indirectly confers the fundamental rights in general…,” the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs said.The government said it may file in sealed cover the details of the security threats and inputs gathered by the various security agencies in this matter.The Centre also said that since India was not a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, the obligations concerned to non-refoulement wasn’t applicable.”That the provisions of Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967 cannot be relied upon by the petitioner since India is not a signatory of either of them. It is respectfully submitted that the obligation concerning the prohibition of return/non-refoulement is a codified provision under the provisions of 1951 Convention referred to above.The petitioners – two Rohingya immigrants – have contended that they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.Today, jurist Fali Nariman stood with the Rohingyas as several appeals were heard on the Centre’s move to deport the Rohingyas. Two new appeals – one for the deportation, and one against were also filed in this matter. Senior advocates Colin Gonsalves, Rajeev Dhawan, Kapil Sibal along with advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is representing the original petitioners – two Rohingya refugees, also appeared for the community.Matiur Rahman of Assam filed an application through advocate Somiran Sharma, citing the recurring ethnic conflicts in Assam, to oppose the Rohingyas’ plea to be allowed to stay.Earlier, speaking to reporters here, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju asserted the government’s stand to deport Rohingya refugees was in the nation’s interest. He also asked international human rights bodies not to spread misinformation about India.

Women Army officers seek parity with men

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over two dozen women officers of the Indian Army have moved an application in the Supreme Court, seeking to implead an ongoing case related to treating Short Service Commissioned Officers (SSCOs) at par with Commissioned Officers. The applicants include Major Charu Sharma and Major Neha Bhatnagar.During the hearing of the applications on Friday, the Supreme Court warned the Centre that it would not grant any more adjournments in a matter where Indian Army officers are seeking the effective grant of reckonable Commissioned Service benefits, particularly SSCOs commissioned under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES).The bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra commented on the over one year delay, and said the matter would be heard after two weeks and no further delay will be tolerated thereafter.The case of over 100 Army officers — serving and retired — for grant of parity with officers of permanent commission — in accordance with the report of Defence Ministry’s Committee of Experts authored by former Defence Secretary AV Singh, is pending before the top court.The report, which proposed time-bound promotions for the ranks of Capt, Major, and Lt Col in two, six, and thirteen years, respectively, was accepted by the Centre.However, the applicants have accused the establishment of gender-based discrimination.Leading the all-women’s charge, advocate Aishwarya Bhatti said that mere lip service is not enough, the government needs to implement the reforms if it is serious about women empowerment.They have said that even though the Centre has already issued orders under the Army Act extending the benefit of promotions as applicable to Permanent Commissioned Officers to all SSCOs (Men and Women), the reason given by the Army HQ for non-grant of the statutory benefit “reflects nothing but an argument which is an epitome of banality”.The applicants have also pointed out that the Navy and the Air Force have already institutionalised these promotional avenues to all without any cut-off stipulation or specious reason of “reckonable commissioned service”.

Supreme Court suggests more open jails to reform prisoners

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has urged the Centre and all states to consider establishing open jails as a measure to give prisoners a chance to reform themselves. The court, in its judgement delivered on Friday, passed a slew of directions aimed at reforming prisons.A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta was hearing a 2013 plea on the unsatisfactory conditions in 1,382 jails across the country.The bench directed all high courts — 24 in all — to register a suo motu case to identify the kin of those who died unnaturally in prisons in instances after 2012 and award suitable compensation.In its more than 40-page judgment, the bench stressed on the importance of appointing counsellors and other support staff for prisoners, especially first-time offenders.The court also gave examples of the open prison in Shimla, and a semi-open jail in Delhi, to underline the success of the experiment. Open prisons are jails with minimum supervision and physical control over inmates is also lax. Prisoners interred at open jails are allowed to take up regular employments outside the premises; they can walk out and return at appointed hours.”It is time for the state to go beyond projections through circulars and advisories and actually come to grips with the reality as it exists in a very large number of prisons. What is practised in our prisons is the theory of retribution and deterrence and the ground situation emphasises this, while our criminal justice system believes in reformation and rehabilitation and that is why handcuffing and solitary confinement are prohibited,” the bench said.The apex court was also distressed to learn that custodial deaths of children in juvenile homes haven’t been probed. “It seems that apart from being ‘voiceless’, such children are also dispensable,” the court observed.”There must be a genuine desire to ensure that the guarantee to a life of dignity is provided to the extent possible even in prisons, otherwise Article 21 of the Constitution will remain a dead letter. It must be appreciated by the State that the common person does not violate the law for no reason at all. It is circumstances that lead to a situation where there is a violation of law.”Apart from directing all the states to study the availability of medical assistance accorded to prisoners, the apex court has sought remedial steps wherever necessary.

Govt red faced over Rohingya affidavit in public domain by ‘mistake’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was a red-face moment for the government as an affidavit regarding the deportation of Rohingyas, which was still being filed, was out in public domain. It was later clarified that the copy of the affidavit served to a lawyer associated with the case was a “mistake” as it was not yet finalised.The affidavit was to be filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the ongoing proceedings in a petition filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan on the Centre’s stand to deport Rohingyas, a Muslim community of Myanmar that has faced persecution in their country.The eight-page draft affidavit, signed by the Deputy Secretary (Foreigners Division ), MHA Ravi S, states, “The decision to deport illegal immigrants (Rohingyas) in the case on hand has been taken in the larger public interest and in the interest of national security.”The draft affidavit also said intelligence agencies, who have submitted their inputs, state that many of the illegal immigrants have managed to fraudulently obtain official Indian identity documents and also “figure in suspected sinister designs of the ISIS/ other extremists groups who have ulterior motives in India…”A Home Ministry spokesperson clarified that no affidavit has been filed on the subject in the Supreme Court, adding that it is in process.Some of the Rohingyas with a terror background are found to be active in Jammu (where most of them have been camping), Hyderabad, and Mewat have been identified as posing serious and potential threat to internal security.It was submitted that due to the large influx of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring countries, the demographic profile of some of the bordering states have undergone a serious change causing far-reaching complications in various contexts.The affidavit also insists that there are around 40,000 Rohingyas in India, though the United Nations says there are 16,000.It also added that India’s track record in dealing with illegal immigrants from Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lankan Tamils has been internationally acclaimed.Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Thursday hit out at those criticising the government’s decision to deport Rohingyas saying it is a “calibrated design” to “tarnish” India’s image.

Supreme Court lifts ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR with conditions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its November 2016 order and lifted a ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi with conditions.Lifting the suspension on the permanent licences already granted, the supreme court put these licensees on notice for Dussehra and Diwali in 2018.The court said that those granted licences will be permitted to possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017 and it will substantially reduce over the next couple of years.”Since there are enough fireworks available for sale in Delhi and the NCR, the transport of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR from outside the region is prohibited,” the apex court said.”Concerned law enforcement authorities will ensure that there is no further entry of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR till further orders,” the court added.In November 2016, the top court had banned the sale of fire crackers in Delhi and NCR region in wake of the alarming air pollution in the region. The environmentalists had sought courts intervention in passing orders for a ban on the sale of firecrackers due to a rising pollution.

MTP Act ought to reflect modern times, needs: Sneha Mukherjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sneha Mukherjee’s office at the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in South Delhi’s Bhogal area is as busy and chaotic as the bazaar outside. However, Mukherjee is an oasis of calm amid the mountains of paper.Through her, HRLN has handled over a dozen cases seeking medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) in the Supreme Court, and won all except one. “I saved another woman’s life,” she once excitedly told this reporter, when they bumped into each other in SC’s corridors.The 26-year-old, who hails from Kolkata, says she took up law by chance. “I was a science student, and like all parents, mine too wanted me to pursue engineering. But I decided to take a chance and study law to figure out what I want,” she says.As a first-year law student, Mukherjee interned with an NGO, which helped her gain an insight into how her work impact someone’s life for the better, she tells us. This year, SC decided the fate of more than a dozen cases on medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) including that of two minors. Except in two, the top court gave its nod in all cases for MTP.“I try to interact as much as I can with my clients. These women are from all over the country. I still worry about that woman for whom I could not secure an abortion,” she says.Mukherjee’s first MTP case was in December 2016. “I was new to the issue of abortion rights. But then you interact with the petitioners; you realise how situations like these affect them. I spoke to gynaecologists, did as much research I could to understand more about the issue and what is the right way to address it.”The young lawyer has been instrumental in helping these women and a minor regain some amount of rights over their bodies. “After the media’s attention to MTP cases, I have been getting a lot of calls. We are now going to publish common queries online and make access to us more systematic,” says the lawyer.Working on these cases, one thing is clear to her; the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act needs to be discussed. Urgently. It needs to be amended to reflect the modern times, and the changes in science that are better equipped to deal with pregnancies at an advanced stage.

WhatsApp to clarify what it shares with Facebook

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has asked messaging app WhatsApp to come clean if it is sharing any data with Facebook or any other third party platforms. And if it is, the top court has asked WhatsApp clarify what the data is.Senior advocate K V Vishwanathan and advocate Madhvi Diwan, representing the petitioners who have challenged WhatsApp’s privacy policy, alleged that the messaging app is sharing personal user information and other details that could profile a user with its parent company Facebook and other third party apps. The change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy came after it was bought over by Mark Zuckerberg in 2014.The information gleaned by sharing this personal data and other metadata is used by Facebook for targeted advertising, Vishwanathan said before a five-judge constitutional bench led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.The petitioners also sought an injunction on any data that is being shared until such time a cohesive data protection law comes into force.However, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar who represent WhatsApp and Facebook denied the assertations made and submitted only limited content is being shared. “We are merely sharing the mobile number, last seen status (on WhatsApp), and the registration model number of the phone,” Sibal said.Opposing any move for an injunction, Sibal said: “We are sharing information, and it is going to be used at some point.” However, they would file an affidavit clarifying what is being shared and with whom.Representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta submitted that the Centre has constituted a panel under the aegis of former supreme court judge Justice BN Srikrishna “to identify key data protection issues in India and recommend methods of addressing them.”This report could result in a comprehensive data protection law, the Centre submitted to a bench that also comprised Justices AK Sikri, Amitava Roy, AM Khanwilkar and MM Shantanagouder.

Appoint nodal officers to curb cow vigilantism: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed all state governments to appoint a senior police officer as a nodal officer in each district to ensure that incidents of cow vigilantism are prevented and dealt with effectively. The job of these nodal officers, the court said, will be to ensure that vigilantes did not become a law unto themselves.”The senior police officer shall take prompt action and will ensure vigilante groups and such people are prosecuted with promptitude,” the bench said.Hearing a petition filed by Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, seeking directions to the Centre and states to take preventive measures against cow vigilantism, the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also directed the chief secretaries of all states to file a status report giving details of the actions taken to prevent incidents of cow vigilantism. It also asked the state governments to list steps they will take to step up security on highways.In the past, cow vigilantes have stopped vehicles carrying cattle on highways and attacked people.While passing the order, the bench also rejected the contentions of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for four BJP-ruled states.The bench also sought the Centre’s response to the petitioner’s plea that the Centre issue directions under Article 256 of the Constitution to all state governments on issues related to law and order.Gandhi’s lawyer Indira Jaising also submitted details of various incidents of lynching and armed attacks on the pretext that the victims were either transporting or in possession of beef.The latest attack in the name of cow protection happened last month when villagers in West Bengal stopped a cattle-carrying truck, dragged out its two occupants and beat them to death.

EC tells SC it does not know if candidates overspent in 2014 LS elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down on the Election Commission (EC) when it failed to submit an account of the expenses incurred by candidates during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.A bench of Justice Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer asked the poll panel how would it initiate action against the candidates who may have crossed the expenditure limit during the campaigning when it did not have the data in the first place.The observation came when the bench asked poll panel advocate Meenakshi Arora for the data and she replied in the negative. “The data is with the district officers to whom the candidates file their expenses. However, it has not yet been collated and submitted to the poll panel,” she said.The bench expressed its disappointment over the delay and said that the data should have been collated immediately, not three years hence. “This means if the district officer chooses not to report the submissions made by the candidates, whats the purpose of an election mandate?” Justice Chelameswar observed. “It is a sad state of affairs. The parliament has been thrown out of the window,” he said.The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by NGO Lok Prahari seeking amendments to the Representation of People Act. One of the pleas filed in the petition seeking the mandatory filing of Income Tax (IT) returns for the candidates as well as their spouses. Another plea suggested the implementation of reforms as proposed by the EC and accepted by the Law Ministry.

SC likely to hear Sec 377 curative petition on Sept 8

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India, the apex court is set to reopen the debate over the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises gay sex.The top court is likely to begin hearing a curative petition on September 8 filed by Naz Foundation and several gay rights activists challenging an SC judgement from 2013 upholding the validity of Section 377.The SC had, in 2013, set aside a 2009 judgement of the Delhi High Court decriminalising homosexuality, saying it should have been left up to the Parliament to amend or repeal law.On August 24 had observed: “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform.”

Judiciary is accountable, too: PP Chaudhary

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Several references have been made on the quality of judges, specifically in the lower judiciary. How can this be remedied?Candidates who are to be elevated should be recommended by all judges, not a select few. However, the truly meritorious ones should be evaluated by a collegium in the High Court. While reports prepared by the Intelligence Bureau are essential, it will only reflect the conduct of the judges. Opinions of senior counsels from the bar must also be ought to get a clearer and more wholesome picture.Is there a clear and independent mechanism to investigate allegations of impropriety against judges?No. An in-house procedure needs to be created in consultation with the Executive. The judiciary needs to come forward and make the process more transparent. Parliament is competent enough to step in, if need be. However, the government prefers the judiciary steps up and takes initiative in creating a full-proof mechanism to look into complaints. In a democracy, no institution should be left unaccountable and that includes the Judiciary.Appellate courts should also be empowered to penalise judges who misuse powers or pass absurd orders (referring to the verdict by a Rajasthan HC judge who said peacocks are celibate). If the appellate court finds a judge without merit, suitable provisions should be there to retire the said judge.Even the procedure for impeachment should be less complex. The reform needs to come from within the judiciary itself.There is a huge push towards the digitisation of courts. Do you find that there is some hesitance in accepting this change?Yes, there is some reluctance from within. The judges are not as accepting of technology. This reflects in the day-to-day functions. Orders are not uploaded on time, and the websites, especially of the lower courts, are not that informative. The Executive alone cannot do magic. The Executive, judiciary and the bar will have to work together on this issue. Implementation and strict adherence to timelines for execution is important.How can one reduce the pendency of cases and delays?Reducing arrears is not difficult. Reducing pendency and vacancy is not a panacea. As a lawyer, I find that if a judge understands the issue and grasps the matter, then dispensation of justice is quick. However, if a judge does not understand the matter, then time is wasted. Judges that delay matters should be punished. The pass the post system is not acceptable. If bureaucrats and politicians can be removed for corruption, then why not judges? Public representatives fear reprisals and are thus accountable. Judiciary is an organ, an important one, of a free and thriving democracy. The need of the hour is that judges should be held accountable. If accountability is removed from a democracy, then it is no longer a democracy.There have been many attacks on the judges. How does that affect the image of the Judiciary?When charges are levelled against a judge, it is very difficult for him to defend himself, more so if they are bogus. Honest judges should be protected from vicious targeted attacks. Hence, there is a need for a mechanism to protect his reputation. This can be done, if there is a separate body to look into these issues.Is there a need for more women on the bench?There is no reservation in the higher judiciary. The government has written to the Chief Justices to recommend candidates who are women, SC/ST, OBC, Tribals and minorities.

Mumbai rains delay tests of 13-year-old seeking abortion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a 20-year-old Pune-based woman to terminate her 24-week-foetus which was growing without a skull and a brain.The bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao relied on a report submitted by a medical board, which said that there was “complete absence of brain and skull” of the foetus and the chances of survival was minimal.The top court, however, was unable to deliberate on another plea for abortion, filed by the parents of a 13-year-old rape survivor, who is more than seven months pregnant. The matter was postponed to Monday because the medical board was unable to conduct its tests as directed by the court.”Tuesday’s deluge in Mumbai threw things off gear,” advocate Sneha Mukherjee, who is representing the parents in this case, said. On Monday, the top court had ordered a medical board at JJ Hospital to examine the feasibility of an abortion for the 13-year-old.However, due to incessant rains on Tuesday, the family, residents of Kandivli — about 31 km away from the hospital —couldn’t go for the tests.The family will go for the tests as ordered on Friday. Any additional delay merely complicates the matter since the minor is already way past her seventh month of pregnancy.

Dera chief Ram Rahim acted like a ‘wild beast’, court observed during sentencing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Monday, a special court at Rohtak prison compared Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — who was convicted of rape last week, as a wild beast and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. “The court is of the view that when the convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast, he does not deserve any mercy,” special CBI judge Jagdeep Sharma said at the makeshift court in the district jail of Sunaria, Haryana, where the trial for quantum of sentencing took place. Sharma concurred with a Supreme Court observation that rape is not merely a physical assault; it destroys the whole personality of the victim. The two victims had put the Dera Chief on the pedestal of god and had revered him accordingly. However, the convict committed “the breach of gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers.” He further intimidated them of dire consequences and as such did not deserve the sympathy of the court.
ALSO READ Prisoner number 1997: Here is how Dera chief Ram Rahim’s life is in Rohtak’s Sunaria jailAn act of this nature, the court found is bound to shatter the images of pious and sacred, spiritual, social, cultural and religious institutions existing in this country. The court observed that the offence, and the manner in which it was committed must be taken into consideration. The idea behind punishing an individual is to create a deterrent not only for him but also for the society at large.
ALSO READ Full CBI statement explaining why Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh got 20-year sentence instead of 10Undue sympathy in such a case would do more harm to the justice dispensation system and impact the public’s confidence in the law. “A man who has no concern for humanity, nor has any mercy in his nature do not deserve the leniency of this court,” Sharma said.
ALSO READ Jagdeep Singh: Judge who sent Gurmeet Ram Rahim for 20 years in jailThe court also considered Singh’s wealth while imposing costs to the tune of Rs 15 lakhs. The victims would be granted Rs 14 lakh towards their compensation and rehabilitation. The court was of the view that showing undue sympathy in such cases would do more harm to the justice dispensation system and affect the trust of the people in courts. Apart from the rights of the victim, the collective conscience of the society must also be considered. “In a way, it is an obligation to the society which has reposed its faith in the courts to curtail evil,” the special judge observed. “The conception of mercy has its own space but it cannot occupy the entire accommodation.”“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater courage? Without her man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with woman… Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?,” the order read, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. During arguments, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the agency that probed the case, contended that the Dera chief committed sexual assault on the victims who treated him like their father and used to worship him as God. By committing this crime, he had shattered the faith and exploited his victims. The CBI further added that since the victims stayed on the premises along with the convict, the heinous crime committed was no less than custodial rape.CBI further contended that the convict was a very influential figure and must be sentenced appropriately to send a deterring message to potential offenders. Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim repeatedly cried, howled, whimpered and begged for mercy after a special CBI court on Monday sentenced him to 20 years in jail and fined him Rs 30 lakh for raping two of his followers in 2002. The court read out two sentences of 10 years in jail and Rs 15 lakh fine for each of the two cases. Both sentences will run consecutively.The order came two days after Ram Rahim’s conviction triggered large-scale violence and left 38 people dead in Haryana.

Training in cases of sexual offences

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Joint Registrar (Rules) Justice Reetesh Singh created the Whatsapp group he merely wanted to facilitate and coordinate with those who were going to attend the seminar on the proper way to conduct a medical examination in cases involving sexual offences. He neither foresaw how popular the seminar would be nor did he know how active the group would be. The Delhi HC has been conducting various training seminars on the proper implementation of guidelines in matters pertaining to sexual offences and child witnesses. So far, all the four workshops that have been organised have been immensely successful and well attended even at the cost of a lazy Sunday. “I had to ultimately quit the group. It got very active with members (from the medical fraternity) posting questions for Dr Jagdeesh Reddy – the expert in forensics till night,” Singh said. However, Reddy – who has been conducting the training seminars – did not have the option to quit. He stayed on in all the four groups – one each for the different seminars hosted and patiently answered all the queries. “I do not have a single unread message,” he proudly said. This is one of the examples of how the training workshops have changed the outlook of those who come in contact with victims of sexual abuse.

Recap of arguments during the case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court’s decision to accord privacy as a fundamental right was not an easy one. The nine-judge bench acknowledged the efforts of the advocates on both sides who argued their case. DNA recaps a few key arguments made during the trial.The debate for privacy that was triggered by a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar was heard by a rare nine-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar.The privacy judgment delivered on Thursday will remain to be a touchstone in CJI Khehar’s career as he retires on Friday.Over an almost three-week period, a battery of lawyers representing various petitioners, the Centre and various states argued around the concept of privacy as a common law right protected by statutory rights, or whether it was fundamental to a human’s existence.Senior Advocates Gopal Subramanium, Soli Sorabjee, Shyam Divan, Anand Grover, Arvind Datar, Kapil Sibal, and Meenakshi Arora argued for the petitioners and sought the elevation of privacy as a fundamental right.Opposing them, Attorney General KK Venugopal, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta with senior advocates CA Sundaram and Rakesh Dwivedi, along with advocates like Gopal Shankarnarayan, and Arghya Sengupta argued that privacy was a common law right and had enough protection through statutory provisions.The crux of the Centre’s argument was that the right to life (under Article 21) superceded one’s right to privacy. “Aadhaar is beneficial to the poor. In the name of fundamental rights, one cant deprive a large section of the society and their right to life,” the top law officer had said.Privacy was not a fundamental and absolute right in this (Aadhaar) instance. The state can subject privacy to reasonable restrictions in order to preserve the right to life of the masses. An elite few cannot claim that their bodily integrity would be violated by a scheme which serves to bring home basic human rights and social justice to millions of poor households across the country, he had added.Interestingly, Sengupta — who closed the arguements on Wednesday is also part of the ten-member committee that will draft the data protection law recently constituted by the Centre. Sengupta, founder and research director of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy also helped draft the Aadhaar bill. He argued that the existing fundamental right to liberty sufficiently covered privacy and hence no new jurisprudence was required.

Privacy a Fundamental Right? SC to deliver judgement today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A nine-Judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will on Thursday pronounce its judgment on whether citizens have a fundamental Right to Privacy under the Indian Constitution.The decision of the bench, comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices J Chelameswar, SA Bobde, RK Agrawal, Rohinton Nariman, AM Sapre, DY Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer, will have far-reaching impact since it could also revisit two earlier judgments delivered decades ago which declared that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.It will also have an effect on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for almost everything, an action that has led to a clutch of petitions being filed in various courts.Some of these petitions challenged the legal status of Aadhaar itself.The Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, who retires on August 27, had heard the matter over a period of three weeks.The debate over whether privacy is a fundamental right was triggered when the top court was hearing a batch of petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of the Centre’s unique numbering system – Aadhaar.Thrice a week over a period of three weeks, a battery of lawyers representing various petitioners, the Centre and various states argued around the concept of privacy as a common law right protected by statutory rights, or whether it was fundamental to a human’s existence.During hearing, the bench had observed that privacy could not be an absolute right. It had also observed that steps need to be taken to give data protection a statutory recognition. “This (issue of privacy) is a new procedure for us,” Justice Rohinton Nariman had observed. “There is no established procedure till date and we will need all the assistance particularly on the parameters of the issue,” he had said.Justice Chandrachud had said: “It is all well and good to argue about privacy in the abstract, But What are its contents? What are the contours? How can the State regulate privacy?”Interestingly, during hearing, the counsel for the petitioners had referred to a speech by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament during discussion on the Aadhaar Bill where he had said that the right to privacy was a fundamental right.

Revisiting activist’s model nikahnama

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In May, shortly after the verdict on the instant Triple Talaq was reserved, Flavia Agnes, lawyer activist representing Majlis Manch had submitted a model nikahnamma in the Supreme Court.In light of Tuesday’s judgment, DNA revisits the model nikahnama — Muslim marriage contract.Through its submissions, the organisation overthrew the constraints of two binaries — for and against, instead seeking to offer an advance, a more nuanced, argument that would be beneficial to Muslim women.In her model contract, Agnes not only barred Triple Talaq, but also polygamy. She cited the 1973 Nikahnama of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s great granddaughter which was drafted along the lines of a modern contract.Sheherzad Tilat Masood, Khan’s great grandaughter’s nikahnamma drafted more than four decades ago prohibited polygamy. The Talaq-e-Tafweez clause — a women’s right to divorce, was also included. It also stipulated the appointment of an arbitrator who would oversee that proper reconciliation procedure between the bride and the groom.The four-page draft contract laid down a detailed procedure that not only followed injunctions from the Quran but also bound the husband to monogamy. The Mehr (compensation) would be fixed at the time of marriage, and issues of children’s custody in the event of a divorce were also sorted beforehand.If a couple wished to dissolve their marriage, it was mandatory for the couple to seek arbitration, counselling, and mediation. The entire process would last for three months during which attempts at reconciliation would be a continuous process. If all failed, the pronouncement of talaq would take place in the presence of witnesses. All this and more has been fleshed out in the Talaqnama (divorce contract). As an end note, the contract further stipulates that if the husband is unable to fulfill his contractual obligations after the final pronouncement of divorce, the divorce would be void.In an attempt to empower women, the contract also made provisions that would prevent the husband from denying his wife the right to work, championed for the custody of minor with the mother and strictly prohibited domestic violence.

Triple Talaq verdict: A new dawn for muslim women, freedom from instant indignity

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a historic decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday called the controversial practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’, which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly by uttering “talaq” thrice, “manifestly arbitrary” and declared it illegal.The majority judgement of a five-judge bench came as a huge victory for lakhs of Muslim women who had long argued that instant talaq violated their right to equality.Pronouncing the final order of the bench, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar announced: “By majority of 3:2, ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is set aside.”Judges from five different religious backgrounds — Hindu (Justice UU Lalit), Sikh (CJI Khehar), Christian (Justice Kurian Joseph), Parsi (Justice Rohinton Nariman) and Muslim (Justice S Abdul Nazeer) — formed the five-judge Constitution bench.While Justices Joseph, Nariman and Lalit ruled against instant talaq, CJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer ruled in favour of the practice, holding that it was being followed for over 1,400 years by the Hanafis and had become a part of religious practice.CJI Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, in their minority judgement (which is not binding), put the onus of passing a new legislation on to the legislature, hoping it would do so within six months.In the meantime, they ordered a stay on instant triple talaq for six months. They said if a legislation banning instant triple talaq completely is not placed before Parliament within six months, the stay on the practice would continue till the House enacted or rejected the law.The minority judges opined: “It would not be appropriate for this court to record a finding, whether the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is or is not affirmed by ‘hadiths’, in view of the enormous contradictions in the ‘hadiths’, relied upon by the rival parties.””The practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ being a constituent of ‘personal law’ has a stature equal to other Fundamental Rights. The practice cannot therefore be set aside, on the ground of being violative of the concept of the constitutional morality, through judicial intervention.”The minority judgment also held that instant talaq did not violate Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.However, CJI Khehar also observed that in view of the fact that even the Muslim world had shed talaq-e-biddat, there was no excuse for independent India to lag. He appealed to political parties and legislators to set aside their individual gains and give “thoughtful consideration” to frame a suitable law.Triple talaq is banned in 22 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.While Justice Nariman penned the majority judgment, Justice Joseph wrote a separate concurring one. Justice Nariman said triple talaq in all three forms — talaq-e-biddat, talaq ahsan and talaq hasan — was “recognised and enforced” under Section 2 of the Shariat Act of 1937. Due to this very reason, he added, triple talaq was no longer a personal law but a statutory law, which fell under Article 13(1) of the Constitution. Under Article 13, no law can be violative of the Fundamental Rights.Justice Joseph said triple talaq was not sanctioned by Quran and hence could not form part of the Fundamental Right to religion. He also added that what is not true in theology couldn’t be sanctioned by practice or law.The five-judge bench, which sat for six days during the summer vacations, was constituted to decide the validity of triple talaq after a batch of petitions were filed by Muslim women challenging the legality of the same.At the end of the hearings, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had submitted that the issue was outside the judiciary’s realm.The AIMPLB had asked the court not to interfere in what was essentially the religious matter of the Muslim community. The then Attorney-General, Mukul Rohatgi, had asserted that the issue could not be seen as discrimination between majority and minority communities.During hearings, the Centre had also argued against the practice, terming it “unreasonable, unfair and discriminatory” and assuring the court that it would bring in a new law to regulate marriage and divorce among Muslims if the practice of triple talaq was declared unconstitutional.However, the apex court had decided to restrict itself to the validity of triple talaq and had refused to go into other issues of polygamy and nikah halala, which requires a female divorcee to marry someone else, consummate the marriage and then get a divorce to remarry her previous husband,under the Muslim personal law.Earlier this year, the Allahabad High Court had held triple talaq unconstitutional and violative of basic human rights of Muslim women.What the judgement meansOnly instant talaq goneTalaq-e-biddat that allowed the husband to pronounce talaq thrice in one sitting is now illegal. The other two forms of talaq — Talaq-e-Hasan and Talaq-e-Ahsan — remain valid. They allow the husband to pronounce talaq three times spread over three monthly courses. The divorce is revocable during those months.What the order will lead to The Supreme Court’s judgement reasserts Muslim women’s right to equality. If Muslim men divorce their wives by letter, telephone, text, WhatsApp messages and Skype, it will be held illegal. The verdict will improve the condition of women who face atrocities due to instant triple talaq.Minority view not binding Of the five judges, two — CJI JS Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer — upheld the validity of instant talaq. But this is not binding. The views of three other judges override that. Initially, there was confusion among journalists about the ruling because CJI Khehar started reading out the minority judgement first.Personal Law upheld The Supreme Court not only left the two other forms of divorce untouched, but also refused to go into other contentious issues of polygamy and nikah halala. This went on to enthuse even the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which said the order has protected Personal Law.No new legislation as of nowCJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer, in their minority judgement, also suspended instant talaq for six months, asking the government to bring in legislation. This will also not be binding. Government officials still ruled out the need for bringing any legislation in the light of the overriding verdict.

Freedom, freedom, Freedom … From Instant Indignity

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a historic decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday called the controversial practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’, which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly by uttering “talaq” thrice, “manifestly arbitrary” and declared it illegal.The majority judgement of a five-judge bench came as a huge victory for lakhs of Muslim women who had long argued that instant talaq violated their right to equality.Pronouncing the final order of the bench, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar announced: “By majority of 3:2, ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is set aside.”Judges from five different religious backgrounds — Hindu (Justice UU Lalit), Sikh (CJI Khehar), Christian (Justice Kurian Joseph), Parsi (Justice Rohinton Nariman) and Muslim (Justice S Abdul Nazeer) — formed the five-judge Constitution bench.While Justices Joseph, Nariman and Lalit ruled against instant talaq, CJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer ruled in favour of the practice, holding that it was being followed for over 1,400 years by the Hanafis and had become a part of religious practice.CJI Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, in their minority judgement (which is not binding), put the onus of passing a new legislation on to the legislature, hoping it would do so within six months.In the meantime, they ordered a stay on instant triple talaq for six months. They said if a legislation banning instant triple talaq completely is not placed before Parliament within six months, the stay on the practice would continue till the House enacted or rejected the law.The minority judges opined: “It would not be appropriate for this court to record a finding, whether the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is or is not affirmed by ‘hadiths’, in view of the enormous contradictions in the ‘hadiths’, relied upon by the rival parties.””The practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ being a constituent of ‘personal law’ has a stature equal to other Fundamental Rights. The practice cannot therefore be set aside, on the ground of being violative of the concept of the constitutional morality, through judicial intervention.”The minority judgment also held that instant talaq did not violate Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.However, CJI Khehar also observed that in view of the fact that even the Muslim world had shed talaq-e-biddat, there was no excuse for independent India to lag. He appealed to political parties and legislators to set aside their individual gains and give “thoughtful consideration” to frame a suitable law.Triple talaq is banned in 22 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.While Justice Nariman penned the majority judgment, Justice Joseph wrote a separate concurring one. Justice Nariman said triple talaq in all three forms — talaq-e-biddat, talaq ahsan and talaq hasan — was “recognised and enforced” under Section 2 of the Shariat Act of 1937. Due to this very reason, he added, triple talaq was no longer a personal law but a statutory law, which fell under Article 13(1) of the Constitution. Under Article 13, no law can be violative of the Fundamental Rights.Justice Joseph said triple talaq was not sanctioned by Quran and hence could not form part of the Fundamental Right to religion. He also added that what is not true in theology couldn’t be sanctioned by practice or law.The five-judge bench, which sat for six days during the summer vacations, was constituted to decide the validity of triple talaq after a batch of petitions were filed by Muslim women challenging the legality of the same.At the end of the hearings, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had submitted that the issue was outside the judiciary’s realm.The AIMPLB had asked the court not to interfere in what was essentially the religious matter of the Muslim community. The then Attorney-General, Mukul Rohatgi, had asserted that the issue could not be seen as discrimination between majority and minority communities.During hearings, the Centre had also argued against the practice, terming it “unreasonable, unfair and discriminatory” and assuring the court that it would bring in a new law to regulate marriage and divorce among Muslims if the practice of triple talaq was declared unconstitutional.However, the apex court had decided to restrict itself to the validity of triple talaq and had refused to go into other issues of polygamy and nikah halala, which requires a female divorcee to marry someone else, consummate the marriage and then get a divorce to remarry her previous husband,under the Muslim personal law.Earlier this year, the Allahabad High Court had held triple talaq unconstitutional and violative of basic human rights of Muslim women.What the judgement meansOnly instant talaq goneTalaq-e-biddat that allowed the husband to pronounce talaq thrice in one sitting is now illegal. The other two forms of talaq — Talaq-e-Hasan and Talaq-e-Ahsan — remain valid. They allow the husband to pronounce talaq three times spread over three monthly courses. The divorce is revocable during those months.What the order will lead to The Supreme Court’s judgement reasserts Muslim women’s right to equality. If Muslim men divorce their wives by letter, telephone, text, WhatsApp messages and Skype, it will be held illegal. The verdict will improve the condition of women who face atrocities due to instant triple talaq.Minority view not binding Of the five judges, two — CJI JS Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer — upheld the validity of instant talaq. But this is not binding. The views of three other judges override that. Initially, there was confusion among journalists about the ruling because CJI Khehar started reading out the minority judgement first.Personal Law upheld The Supreme Court not only left the two other forms of divorce untouched, but also refused to go into other contentious issues of polygamy and nikah halala. This went on to enthuse even the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which said the order has protected Personal Law.No new legislation as of nowCJI Khehar and Justice Nazeer, in their minority judgement, also suspended instant talaq for six months, asking the government to bring in legislation. This will also not be binding. Government officials still ruled out the need for bringing any legislation in the light of the overriding verdict.

Triple talaq verdict today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A five-judge, multi-faith bench of the Supreme Court will on Tuesday decide the legality of triple talaq and rule whether the contentious practice violates the dignity and fundamental rights of Muslim women.The verdict will come a little over two months after the constitutional bench heard the matter over a period of six days during the summer vacation starting on May 11.The Centre has been pushing for a ban on the practice on grounds of gender equality and justice. A favourable order from the bench — comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar (Sikh), along with Justices Kurian Joseph (Christian), Rohinton Nariman (Parsi), UU Lalit (Hindu) and SA Nazeer (Muslim) — will win the ruling BJP support from Muslim women.The issue came under scrutiny with reports emerging of men divorcing their wives via letters, Skype and even WhatsApp messages. Several women divorced by triple talaq petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the practice.The all-men bench has heard arguments from various women’s rights groups, the Centre and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), among others.

SC notice to Centre on Constitutional recognition for differently-abled

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking a “purposive interpretation” of the Constitution to recognise the fundamental rights of differently-abled persons prohibiting discrimination.In his petition, wheel-chair bound Nipun Malhotra also urged the Centre to strike down the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed on essential equipment meant for differently-abled persons.A bench, constituting of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud, issued notice to the Finance Ministry on the PIL which alleged that imposition of GST on mobility aids like wheelchairs, tricycles, crutches and Braille paper and watches for differently-abled people was violation of their fundamental rights.Initially, the court was reluctant to admit the plea by saying that similar petitions — pertaining to the imposition of GST, were already being heard in court. However, advocate Jai Dehadrai, representing Malhotra alleged that imposing a tax on wheelchairs was akin to imposing a financial penalty on differently-abled for walking. Dehadrai added that taxing Braille-material and writing paper was akin to imposing a state-sponsored financial burden on reading.”It is shocking to note that taxes have been introduced and sustained on the most basic mobility aids used by those citizens who would otherwise not be able to carry out daily activities, such as walking and reading, which are taken for granted, and are tax-free by those who are able-bodied,” the petition read.

Appointing judges is a continuous and collaborative process: PP Chaudhary

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>From judicial appointments to repealing outdated laws, the ministry has been on an overdrive. Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary tells Ritika Jain that while a lot has been done, much more is on the anvil.What are your plans for reducing Government Litigation?We have written to all departments of the Central Government and to the states to develop an “Action Plan for Special Arrear Clearance Drives” to reduce cases where the government is a party. National Litigation Policy is also being finalised to avoid unwarranted litigation. We wish to encourage Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms to redress grievances in the system. Many more initiatives in this regard are on the agenda.The Government is trying to weed out outdated laws. What is the progress so far?This is a subject very close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s heart. Out of 1,824 identified Acts enacted by Parliament, 1,175 Central Acts have already been repealed. Two Bills to repeal another 245 Central Acts are currently pending in Lok Sabha. Moreover, states have also been asked to expedite the repeal of 229 Acts (out of the identified 1,824 Acts) that were enacted for them by the Parliament. India’s ranking in the global ‘Ease of Doing Business’ list is dismal.What are you doing to deal with this issue?Ever since this Government took over, earnest efforts are being made to leapfrog in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Rankings. On the legal front, various steps like enactment of Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015, amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, have been undertaken and much more are on the anvil.Are appointment of Judges of High Court and Supreme Court being done satisfactorily?Yes. Appointment of judges is a continuous and collaborative process involving the executive and the judiciary and every effort is being made to fill up the existing vacancies expeditiously. It is our endeavour to ensure a potential candidate is selected for appointment as judge at least six months before a post goes vacant. Last year, 126 Judges in High Courts were appointed — the highest ever in a year. This year, 75 Judges have been appointed in the higher judiciary. We are also actively considering 134 fresh proposals.Electoral Reforms are need of the hour. How are you planning to build consensus on the subject?As electorate matures and technologies advance, electoral reforms are a must. Many decisions have been taken including amending the Income Tax Act so that all donations exceeding Rs 2,000 received by political parties are only through account payee cheque/draft, electronic clearing system or through electoral bonds.How do you see using Information Technology tools in court management?There is great potential for use of ICT in justice delivery system be it in the form of e-Courts where e-filing, Video Conferencing and digital record management transform the entire court ecosystem, or in the form of National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) which can metamorphose the judicial landscape of the country.Is there any plan to reduce number of under-trials in prisons?Under-trials, especially those who have been granted bail by courts but are still incarcerated because they cannot deposit cash bail, continue to be a priority for us. We are working on ‘Creation of a Bail Fund’, which shall be available to such under-trials. We are also hopeful Nyaya Mitras engaged by our Ministry recently would coordinate with the local administration and prison authorities and take up the cause of under trials.There are many complaints against members of the higher judiciary. Are you planning to revive the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill?The “Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill” was passed in the 15th Lok Sabha but could not be discussed in the Rajya Sabha and lapsed due to dissolution of the Lok Sabha. This matter requires further consultation with various stakeholders.Do you think that legislative drafting may be done in simple manner so that a common man can also understand it?Laws should be comprehensible for a common man. All the laws enacted by Parliament are translated into Hindi. It is our endeavour to ensure that all the laws are also made available in the various regional languages. Moreover, we also want to ensure that IndiaCode portal (indiacode.nic.in) becomes a single point repository for laws and subordinate legislation in the country.What about the entry of foreign law firms in India? How do you see the response of Indian lawyers on the issue?There are multiple facets to this issue. Currently foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side but can give legal advice regarding foreign law and international legal issues. This matter is already sub- judice in the Supreme Court. Simultaneously we are in active discussions with relevant stakeholders to achieve a broader consensus on the issue.

Ensuring India gets justice | Law Ministry’s hits and misses

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reform of the judiciary has been of the utmost importance to the Modi government ever since it came to power over three years ago. The government’s proposal of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill in 2015 which would replace the then collegium system – used by the judiciary to appoint judges both to the High Court and Supreme Court – saw both parties indulge in a war of words ensuring a roadblock on much needed reforms within the judiciary. However now, some of these reforms are underway.Lack of judgesThe lack of judges is perhaps the biggest issue facing the judiciary and the Law Ministry today. According to data available on the Department of Justice website, 24 high courts across the country are now working, with 672 judges, as opposed to the required strength of 1,079. This means that on average a judge is hearing and dealing with almost double the number of cases that he should be.This shortage of 407 judges is taking its toll, as today there are over three crore cases pending in courts across India. Sources within the Law Ministry reveal that the Centre will focus on simply filling up the vacancies as and when a judge retires as opposed to increasing the strength of judges.The lack of movement on this issue has naturally upset the judiciary with many exhorting the government to act on this issue. Former CJI TS Thakur said in 2016. “At present, there are several vacant courtrooms in India but no judges available. A large number of proposals are still pending and I hope the government will intervene to end this crisis.”Memorandum of ProcedureThe appointment of Justice Khehar as the Chief Justice in January this year has seen the Supreme Court make its peace with the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) – a new system to finalise the appointment of judges – which had been a long standing thorn in relations between the government and judiciary.Though the government is yet to approve the final draft of the MoP, the fact that there is some move towards agreement is a cause to cheer. Lack of agreement on the MoP has meant stalled appointments and non-movement of files, among another long list of issues that have plagued the judiciary. Thus, access to justice within reasonable time – a basic right accorded to us in the Constitution – has become an unlikely victim in this bitter public battle.Today, while it has not been smooth sailing, the collegium has at least conceded on the government’s demand on accepting integrity reports on judges prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) before making appointments. This is a sign that things could slowly be moving forward.Digital courtsOne of the biggest successes the government has enjoyed is in pushing for digital courts. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad – who is also the IT Minister – has pushed for digitisation in order to ease the burden of cases. On July 3, when the courts re-opened, all fresh matters listed in the top five senior most courts began to be digitally filed. Paperless courts, government officials say, will cut down on time and bring about transparency in the system. However, they add, the system will take time to implement.The government is encouraged by the fact that CJI Khehar has given his full support to the project. Speaking about the benefits of digitisation he said, “The system will automatically, through SMS and e-mail, inform the litigant about the court fee to be paid, the date of hearing and defects, if any that need rectification. This will infuse transparency in listing cases for hearing. We will gradually extend digitisation through the Integrated Court Management Information System (ICMIS) to the district courts level.”Lok AdalatThe other area, certain members of the judiciary feel, the government needs to focus on is the Lok Adalat. At a function earlier this year, Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that though the number of cases resolved by the Lok Adalat was impressive in isolation, the numbers were “dismal” if compared to the general population of our country.Figures show that in February this year, Lok Adalat courts cleared more than 9.43 lakh cases across the country. However, Justice Gogoi submitted that if one looked at the country’s population of 1.3 billion, the numbers were just a “drop in the ocean.””The budgetary allocation for judicial services has been a constant 0.04 percent,” Justice Gogoi said while delivering an address on the concluding day of the two-day 15th All India State Legal Services meet in the national capital. Accordingly, the judiciary’s impact was akin to the same, he observed.Justice Gogoi also submitted that a proactive approach by the government to use funds that have remained largely unutilised would go a long way in clearing up the dock of accumulating cases. Figures from NALSA –National Services Legal Authority, a body formed to provide free legal services for the poor, and strengthen the Lok Adalat system, showed that as of 2017 there was a total unspent grant of Rs 13,21,33,066.Legal schemes for the poorReacting to observations made by various top court judges stating that quality lawyers and para-legal volunteers were the need of the hour to help ensure greater access to affordable legal aid to marginalised communities, the government has started three schemes – Tele Law, Nyaya Mitra and Pro Bono Legal Services.While Tele Law looks to provide legal advice to communities through state legal service centres, it will also look to provide advice through tele-conferencing. Pro Bono Legal Services, on the other hand, will set up a database of lawyers who will provide services free to those who cannot afford lawyers’ fees. They can be accessed through a website. Finally, Nyaya Mitra will focus on reducing the number of cases in selected districts, especially focussing on those which have been pending for the last 10 years.The government has said that the schemes, launched earlier this year, are already showing signs of success. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said recently that almost 200 lawyers have registered to offer their legal services pro-bono while 2.70 lakh service centres have been established across 2,500 panchayats to facilitate digital delivery of justice.Arbitration courtsEarlier this month, the Union Law Minister announced the constitution of the Justice BN Srikrishna committee to suggest reforms in India’s arbitration mechanism. The committee has since recommended key amendments in existing arbitration laws and the establishment of an Arbitration Promotion Council of India (APCI) among other suggestions.The recommendations include setting up a dedicated bar for arbitration thus creating special arbitration benches for commercial disputes in courts. Government officials say that the idea for setting up this committee is to turn India into an international hub for arbitration and it will also help take the load off the judiciary in many cases.”Changes have been suggested in various provisions of the 2015 Amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act with a view to make arbitration speedier and more efficacious and incorporate the best international practices,” Prasad had said at a press conference.WHAT GOVERNMENT HAS DONEThe sanctioned strength of judges of High Courts has been increased from 906 judges to 1,079 judges. A total of 173 posts were sanctioned between June 2014 and May 2016.
The sanctioned strength of the subordinate judiciary has been increased from 20,174 at the end of 2014 to 22,288 in December, 2016.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) organised the National Lok Adalat in July, 2017. More than 9.97 lakh cases with the settlement amount of Rs 2,925 crore were disposed.
1,824 redundant Central Acts have been identified for repeal. So far, 1,200 Acts have been repealed.
A nation-wide drive to reduce cases pending in courts by curtailing Government litigation was launched. Minister of Law and Justice has written to Centre and state ministers to launch ‘special arrears clearance drives’ to reduce pending cases and minimise fresh litigations. JUDGES’ APPOINTMENTS2016126 High Court judges and 131 Additional Judges were made permanent
22 Additional Judges of High Courts had their tenure extended.
4 judges were appointed in the Supreme Court 20175 judges appointed in SC
75 judges in High Courts
28 Additional Judges have been made permanent.
8 Chief Justices have been appointed in the High Courts Source: Law Ministry

Be proud of who you are: CJI Khehar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indians should be proud of their faith and ethnicity, Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar said speaking on the occasion of the country’s 70th Independence Day celebrations on the lawns of the Supreme Court.“Whether it is Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Muslims or Jains, everybody should be proud of his own religion to be an Indian. Everybody should be proud of his own ethnicity. Proud of being an Indian and that is what the Constitution is all about,” he said.“After being a citizen, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. You are no less or more than anyone else,” Khehar said after he revealed that he was born in Kenya.“The Chief Justice of India was not a citizen of this country to start with, but when he became the citizen of this country, he was equal to everybody else and had equal opportunities. This is what citizenship or independence is. The freedom to all to achieve their hopes, ambitions, desires,” Khehar said.The CJI added that the country has a Dalit leader who spent his childhood in a mud hut, a Vice-President who is an agriculturist and a Prime Minister who was once a tea vendor.Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was also present at the event, suggested that the country’s greatest achievement was its secular fabric.“I hold a very firm view that India is not secular because the Constitution says so. The word ‘secularism’ was added to the Preamble only during Emergency. India is secular because India’s heritage is secular. That flows from the great Rig Veda. Truth is one, wise men interpret it in different manners,” he said.

‘Citizens of all religions, ethnicity proud Indians’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Chief Justice of India, Jagdish Singh Khehar, at an Independence Day function at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asserted that every citizen of India is equal and whatever be the religion or ethnicity, should be proud of being an Indian.”Whether it is Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Muslims or Jains, everybody should be proud of his own religion to be an Indian. Everybody should be proud of his own ethnicity. Proud of being an Indian and that is what the Constitution is all about,” he said.The event became a nostalgic affair for CJI Khehar, as he reminisced about how his great grandfather was forced to shift to Kenya to avoid being arrested in Lahore for his suspected role in fomenting a student uprising against the British rule. “The CJI was not a citizen of this country to start with. But when he became the citizen of this country, he was equal to everybody else and had equal opportunities. This is what citizenship or Independence of this great country means,” he said.The CJI’s statement assumes significance coming as it is within days of previous Vice President Hamid Ansari’s assertion that Muslims were feeling insecure in the country.”You might be thinking how I reached Kenya and became a Kenyan national? My great grandfather was Dr Wazir Chand, a medical doctor in Lahore. In his spare time, he was honorary doctor of student boarders in the DAV institutions in Lahore. He was suspected of involvement in the freedom movement, for motivating college students to join the uprising against the British. To avoid his arrest and from being incarcerated in the Andamans, he fled to Kenya,” CJI Khehar recalled.However, while the CJI’s great grandfather escaped to Kenya, his grandmother, Sulakshna, was brought up in Jalandhar under the care of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. The family remained in Kenya, but after Independence Dr Wazir Chand returned to India. While still in school, CJI Khehar gave up his Kenyan nationality, deciding to acquire Indian nationality.”After being a citizen, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. You are no less or more than anyone else,” CJI Khehar said. He pointed out that the country has a Dalit leader who spent his childhood in a mud hut, a Vice-President who is an agriculturist, and a Prime Minister who was once a tea vendor.In his address, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was also present, suggested that the country’s greatest achievement was its secular fabric. “I hold a very firm view that India is not secular because the Constitution says so. The word ‘secularism’ was added to the Preamble only during Emergency. India is secular because India’s heritage is secular. That flows from the great Rig Veda. Truth is one, wise men interpret it in different manners,” he said.

High-risk prisoners in Tihar go on hunger strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gangster Neeraj Bawana has alleged that he is being treated “worse than an animal” in Tihar jail and has reportedly gone on a hunger strike since Monday to protest against the inhumane conditions.In a two-paged application letter filed before the Additional Sessions Judge Siddharth Sharma, Bawana through his counsel MS Khan levelled several allegations against the jail authorities. Bawana alleged that “locked in his cell 24 hours without any reason and not allowed any sunlight or air.”The cells where the applicant and others were lodged “are stinking and having thousands of insects/sand falling from the walls.” Fresh water is being curtailed and sub-standard food is being served, Bawana further alleged. Prison authorities were not providing proper medical facilities and wanted the inmates to go into depression or other illnesses, the application read.A special court at the Patiala House District Court has sought a response from the jail authorities by August 11.However, advocate Rudro Chatterjee and Shariq, also representing Bawana told DNA that not only their client, but almost all the inmates in Tihar’s high-risk ward – 43 of them, have been on a hunger strike since the past few days.Mohammed Hakeem, who is an accused in the Delhi serial blast is another inmate who is allegedly on a hunger strike. According to Chatterjee and Shariq, a few who could not sustain the pressure of the hunger strike were hospitalised within the jail premises.In July, Rajan Kumar Madan, who along with Jagdeep Rana have been lodged at Tihar Jail after being jailed by the Delhi Assembly Speaker for creating a ruckus in the Assembly on June 28 also went on a hunger strike for non-availability of fresh water.A few of the striking prisoners have confessed to their counsels that inmates who displease prison authorities are often transferred to, or threatened with a transfer to the high-risk ward in jail one where rules are far more stringent than other wards. In this way, prison authorities circumvent the official platform to penalise the prisoners.Director General (Prisons) Sudhir Yadav however refuted all allegations. “A block of prisoners (around 30 of them) led by Bawana have been threatening to go on a hunger strike.”Bawana wanted liberty to roam the courtyard – which is not permitted in the high risk ward, Yadav said speaking to DNA. “High-risk prisoners such as Bawana are not only a threat to themselves, but are also a threat to other inmates,” Yadav added.Yadav however conceded that since Tuesday, a few prisoners have not taken their meals. However he was quick to add that the prisoners’ had enough food stocked in their cells. “This is just a pressure tactic that they are employing,” Yadav added.Jail authorities have reported the matter to the concerned judge, who will decide on the future course of action.Yadav also refuted allegations that prisoners who apparently displeased them were threatened with a transfer in the dreaded ward. “There is a review committee headed by me that decides which prisoner merits a stay in the ward, or a transfer out of the ward,” Yadav said.

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