Friday, August 29, 2014

Centre must find solution to block porn sites -SC

Voicing concern over mushrooming pornographic sites on internet, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to find out solution to the "hydra headed" problem after government virtually expressed its helplessness, saying "if we block one site, another crops up".

"Human mind is very fertile and technology runs faster then law. Law has to keep pace with technology," a bench headed by chief justice R M Lodha said.

Additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao submitted that when one site is blocked, similar multiple sites crop up. He said that government is taking steps to bring servers operating from foreign countries to India to control sites.

"If we block one site, other crops up. There are also hidden servers in the country and it is difficult to control them. All social media are being operated from foreign land," he said, adding that parental control software should be provided to keep indecent material on net from children.

The bench, however, said some solution has to be found out for the problem.

"Law, technology and governance have to be synthesised to control pornographic materials on internet," it said, observing, "There are rules to control such sites and some method has to be found out".

The court was hearing a petition filed by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani who pleaded that although watching obscene videos was not an offence, pornographic sites should be banned as they were one of the major causes behind crime against women.

The petition filed through advocate Vijay Panjwani says that the absence of internet laws encourages people to watch porn videos and over 20 crore porn videos or clippings are freely available in the market, which have been directly downloaded from the internet or copied from video CDs.

The apex court also directed the Centre to place contents of the petition before an advisory committee set up under Section 88 of IT Act so that it can suggest ways to control the problem.

The apex court had on November 18 last year issued notice to the department of telecommunication (DoT) seeking its response as to how to block websites with pornographic content in the country, particularly those featuring child pornography.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Supreme court paves way for demolition at Bhadra - Ahmedabad

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging the Gujarat high court order giving green signal for demolition of the old court building at Bhadra. The apex court order dismissing the petition has now paved the way for the demolition of the old court building.

The old court building forms a part of Mughal-era monument Azam Khan sarai. Its demolition will make way for a multistoreyed court building in the heart of the city. Counsel Hemantika Wahi appeared for the state in the SC.

The high court had in April given green signal for the demolition of the old court building at Bhadra. Rejecting a PIL filed by advocate I M Khan, the HC had permitted demolition outside the protected monument of Bhadra fort.

The HC rejected the PIL after the Centre said that the structure sought to be protected by the petitioner was not a listed monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Moreover, it was also submitted that the proposed structure is outside the restricted 100-metre radius of the nearest listed monument.

The authorities had also made it clear that the main structure of Azam Khan sarai would not be disturbed by the proposed construction.

Khan then challenged the high court order in the SC. On Tuesday, after a hearing the matter, the SC dismissed the petition.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Supreme Court declares allocation of 218 coal blocks as 'illegal', 'arbitrary'

The Supreme Court on Monday declared allocation of 218 coal blocks across the country as "illegal", "arbitrary" and done in "most non - transparent ways."

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha held that all the allocation done in the last two decades "suffer from vice of arbitrariness" and could not withstand the test of legal scrutiny.

The bench said illegality crippled allocation done both under the government dispensation scheme and those by the screening committee for various reasons.

It said the procedure adopted by the screening committee was "not fair" and no objective criteria were adopted in the process of allocation.

The bench added that the principles of common good and public purpose were brazenly overlooked and the guidelines were practised more in breach.

However, whether these allocation should be scrapped or not, the court said it would hear the government and other parties further on the future course of action.

Most of these allocations were done during the Congress-led UPA regime upon the recommendations of the screening committee.

The court also said coal meant for Ultra Mega Power Projects ( UMPPs ) will not be diverted for any other purpose to any entity in future.

It ruled on a batch of petitions that had challenged the validity of the allocations, alleging illegalities and bias.

The court is separately monitoring the criminal investigation into the allocation scam.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HC to UPSC: Stick to 3% quota for disabled

The Bombay high court has directed the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the central government to stick to the 3% reservation for candidates with disabilities. The preliminary civil services examinations will be held across the country on Sunday. In another boost to the rights of the disabled, the HC directed that visually impaired candidates must be strictly given the concessions set out under the law, without any reductions.

The court directed the UPSC to consider the number of seats for disabled candidates as 39 out of the total 1,291 vacancies, instead of 26 notified for the exam. At 3% reservation, the figure would be 39, not 26, the court said, adding it has to be 1% for blind persons or persons with low vision, 1% for persons with locomotor disability or cerebral palsy, and 1% for persons with hearing impairment.

In other words, each category is entitled to have a reservation of 13 vacancies, so the total vacancies reserved for persons with disability should be 39, a bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sonak said in its order on August 19.

Sujit Shinde and another visually impaired candidate had filed a writ petition challenging a May 31 notification by UPSC for the preliminary exam that provided for 26 out of 1,291 vacancies as reserved for the disabled. The petitioners had argued that this was in breach of Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The court also directed the UPSC to allow candidates who engage services of scribes an additional 20 minutes per hour, instead of the 10 minutes per hour provided in the exam notification. There shall also be no restriction on the educational qualification of scribes.

The high court relied on the February 26, 2013 guidelines issued by the ministry of social justice's department of disability affairs, besides the Supreme Court verdict in the National Federation of the Blind case while issuing these directives.

The petitioners had contended that the UPSC advertisement for the 2014 civil services exam had put restrictions on qualification of scribes engaged by visually impaired candidates and had provided for only 10 minutes per hour of extra time. The UPSC had said the scribe's qualification should not be higher than graduation. "Both these provisions were in breach of the department of disability affair's guidelines," they argued.

SC refuses to defer civil services prelims exam

The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to defer the civil services preliminary examination on Sunday and dismissed an eleventh hour petition claiming that agitating students, who succeeded in forcing the UPSC not to count English comprehension test marks, needed time for preparation.

A bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra made a rare sitting on Saturday, a court holiday, to hear candidate Angesh Kumar, who wanted the examination to be deferred by two months claiming that the agitating students lost valuable time for preparation.

In response to protests and agitations, the government a week back had announced that English comprehension marks would not be counted in Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT).

After giving a patient hearing, the bench said: "The defect that you point out has already been remedied. There are no marks for English comprehension. What is the good reason to postpone the exam?"

The bench almost chided the candidate seeking postponement of the examination. "Nine lakh students are ready to give the examination. Only one student is not ready. They must have attended coaching classes as it is the same syllabus. If syllabus was changed we could have understood," it said.

The petitioner's advocate Ravindra S Garia argued that lakhs of candidates stood behind the petitioner in hope that the court will pass an order. "For most candidates, it will be the final attempt to appear in CSAT. And much time was lost in staging agitation and in seeking a response from Government," he said and requested the court to at least seek the Centre's response.

But, the bench refused. "The problem is you don't want merit to be assessed. You want it assessed your way," it said.

The court said these policy decisions were taken by the government after receiving recommendations from expert bodies and suggestions from various departments.

"Even in appointment of judges, there are debates and debates. Finally somebody has to decide and it has to be binding," the bench said.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Modi's poll selfie - Court accepts closure report

The magisterial court on Friday accepted the closure report filed by the city crime branch in the selfie case of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The complainant in this case, inspector H A Rathod, had earlier told the court that he did not have any objection to the clean chit given to Modi by the crime branch.

Additional metropolitan magistrate M H Patel allowed the crime branch to close the case after accepting the conclusions arrived at by the investigators that the media briefing that took place on the day of general elections was not a "meeting" at all. It accepted the statements of media persons and BJP leaders that the briefing took place at the request of media persons and it was impromptu and not a pre-arranged press conference or public meeting.

Besides, the court accepted the crime branch's version that Modi took selfie with BJP symbol lotus, but it was a white lotus. "The tone, tenor and language used by Modi in the media interaction and the display of white lotus symbol by him do not come within the ambit of display of election matter as envisaged under section 126(1)A and 126(1)B of the Representation of People Act," the court said.

On scrutiny of statements by media persons, police and security personnel and BJP leaders present on the spot, along with the documents, the court found that Modi was not even within the 100 metre prohibited area of the polling booth. Thus, there was no violation of section 188 of the IPC.

The complaints against Modi and unknown media persons were filed by the crime branch inspector Rathod at the instance of the Election Commission of India.

Meanwhile, another magisterial court in Mirzapur has also asked the crime branch to submit a report on this issue in response to a former Aam Aadmi Party member, Nishant Varma.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Married daughter part of parents' family: Bombay HC

 A married daughter does not stop being a part of her parents' family, the Bombay high court has ruled in a landmark order.

The state's rules that discriminate against a married daughter and exclude her from the purview of the expression "family" were unconstitutional and infringed on fundamental rights, ruled a division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar in a case of transfer of a kerosene retail licence.

Ranjana Anerao had challenged a government decision in 2007 rejecting her claim to the retail licence held by her deceased mother. The minister for food and civil supplies had said that as a married daughter, she could not be considered a part of her mother's family.

"Gender discrimination is prohibited (by) the Constitution," said the judges. "The government resolution of 2004 to the extent it excludes a married daughter from being considered a member of the family of a retail licence holder is discriminatory and violative of the Constitution."

The state government rules say "family" includes the husband, wife, major son, major unmarried daughter, daughter-in-law, dependent parents, legal heir and adopted son.

A divorced daughter could be considered part of the family, but any licence granted would be revoked if she remarried.

The state's lawyers defended the rule, saying that when a daughter gets married, she moves out of her family and could not be included in the expression "family" of her parents.

The high court pointed out that according to the state's rules, a major daughter before her marriage would be eligible to be treated as a member of the family of her parents who have been granted a retail licence. Similarly, a divorced daughter, too, would fall within the definition of family. But even if a married daughter is supporting her parents in their old age, she would be excluded from being considered for a retail licence held by them when they pass away.

"This exclusion of a married daughter does not appear to be based on any logic or other justifiable criteria. Marriage of a daughter who is otherwise a legal representative of a licence holder cannot be held to her disadvantage in the matter of seeking transfer of licence in her name on the death of the licence holder," said the judges.

The high court struck down the discriminatory rules and asked the state to reconsider Anerao's application for grant of the kerosene retail licence. The court's order is likely to have an impact on other rules which discriminate against a married daughter, and her entitlement to benefits that come from her parents' family.

Judge suspended for 'staring, inappropriate behaviour'

A sessions court judge on Thursday was suspended after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him by a court staff member. The judge, M T Gaikwad, was presiding over the special Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act court when the allegations were made.

The staffer complained of "inappropriate behaviour'' and alleged that he "stared'' at her in an offensive manner. During a preliminary inquiry, other staffers made similar allegations.

Shalini Joshi, registrar-general of the Bombay high court, on Tuesday confirmed the suspension. "The judge was suspended after substance was found in the complaint following a preliminary enquiry," she said.

The staffer filed the complaint about three weeks ago. The preliminary enquiry was conducted by S D Tulankar, who is also a special judge conducting trials under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA).

Joshi, the senior-most administrative officer at the HC, said that a departmental enquiry would now be conducted against Gaikwad. "The enquiry will be conducted either by a senior judge of the sessions court or high court, as decided by the Chief Justice of the Bombay high court," she said.

During such an enquiry a chargesheet will be filed against Gaikwad and witnesses will be examined. "He can represent himself during the enquiry or engage a lawyer. While there is no specific time-frame to carry out the enquiry, the process in such matters is expedited," Joshi said. Under such a departmental enquiry, if the judge is found guilty, penalties under the state civil services rules are imposed. "The penalties could entail removal or dismissal," Joshi said.

Gaikwad, a special judge, had been presiding over criminal cases under the NDPS Act for over five months and prior to had been presiding as a judge in civil cases. He was a judge in Parbhani earlier. Advocates who appeared before him said he appeared to be in his mid-40s. He had last month convicted and sentenced to 10 years a Wadala resident for possession of 2kg of charas, a commercial quantity.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gujarat HC backs govt rule on MBBS admissions for defence kids

Gujarat high court has once again turned down a petition questioning the state government's policy by which it denies admission in its medical, dental and para-medical courses to children of defence personnel, who are of Gujarati origin but are posted outside Gujarat, if they have studied in any other than Gujarat board.

The state government's rules for admission in medical courses provide opportunities for kids of IAS/IPS officer, who are posted outside Gujarat, and study in schools affiliated to boards other than Gujarat board. In two different orders, the HC has upheld the state government's policy.

This time, the question before HC was that as the government grants admission to kids of Gujarat-domicile defence personnel in engineering courses, it should consider the same criteria for medical courses. This issue was raised by Nina Vadhel, who cleared Class 12 from the Jammu & Kashmir board and whose father is a Naib Subedar in Uttarakhand.

However, the HC turned down her plea mainly on grounds that the state government has a right to make different admission criteria for different courses. Compared to the number of engineering seats, there are much fewer medical seats available in the state. Moreover, there is much greater demand for medical courses. Moreover, there is a 15% quota for outside students in medical courses, and defence personnel's kids can compete with others in this quota. This is because defence personnel are employees of the central government. The children of bureaucrats do not have to compete because the officers are allotted to Gujarat and they are at the state's service.

Nina has studied in J&K state board, but admission rules in that state say that a non-Kashmiri student cannot get admission in medical courses. This led her to seek admission in Gujarat's medical colleges, but the rules in Gujarat also disqualify her for admission.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marriage registrations to go online from next month

The revenue department of Delhi government is aiming at a mid-September launch for the e-district project, beginning with north district, under which marriage registration will be the first service to go online.

Couples seeking to register their marriage under the new law - which makes it mandatory to do so within 60 days of the wedding - will soon be able to just go online. From applying for registration and uploading of documents, the process will be similar to the one followed for passport applications. An appointment slot for the final registration will be given and the couple required to visit the marriage registrar at the office of the sub-divisional magistrate for completion of the process.

The revenue department of Delhi government is aiming at a mid-September launch for the e-district project, beginning with north district, under which marriage registration will be the first service to go online. The state intends to issue digitised certificates in the long run.

Trial run of the new portal is on, and within the next one year, more services will be added. The e-district project is aimed at rooting out touts and middlemen and ending the chaos at the district offices. According to Delhi's divisional commissioner Dharampal for those who do not have access to the internet, the district offices will have e-district kiosks.

"The e-district project envisages integrated and seamless electronic delivery of citizen services by the district administration through re-engineering and automation of work flow, online verification of citizen data and integration across participating departments," explains Dharampal. He says the ultimate goal is to provide digitally signed certificates which can be authenticated online and facilitate capacity building and infrastructure improvement at district, tehsil and block levels. "The e-district will facilitate citizens to apply and access progress details through internet, IVRS and mobile phones.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

End alimony delays: Madras high court

The Madras high court has asked family courts to think out of the box and invoke their inherent powers to curb the practice of husbands denying or delaying payment of alimony to their wives in matrimonial cases. "The Family Courts Act is a most flexible legislation, enabling family court judges to invoke novel and creative ideas, so as to dispose of cases quickly and effectively. Still, it is not being done," the court said.

Passing orders on a petition filed by Anita, who said her husband Mahaveer Sancheti had defaulted on payment of monthly alimony of 10,000 since 2011, Justice S Vimala said in an order on Tuesday that courts should not do three things while handling such cases. One: They could not remain a mute spectators, merely recording the fact that maintenance amount had not been given. Two: They could not ask the wife to file a new execution petition, as it would give the husband some more opportunity to drag proceedings. Three: They should not grant innumerable adjournments, so that the wife is unable to realise the maintenance amount.

Instead, family courts should invoke Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code and tap their inherent powers to deal with the matter, she said. At times courts should do things not expressly stated in law, she said, adding: "Even though there are no provisions enabling the court to strike out pleadings/defence, in case of non-payment of maintenance/non-obedience to orders, court can invoke powers under Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code and strike out pleadings."

The judge also pulled up a family court for having simply adjourned an alimony case several times, though the woman had told the court that her husband had not paid the monthly maintenance for nearly three years. "When an application has been filed by Anita, the family court should have acted in a sensible manner and passed an order immediately. The silence on the part of the family court has made the wife approach the high court, seeking a direction to dispose of the application," the judge said.

Pointing out that notices served to the husband had been returned with a note, 'addressee not present', Justice Vimala said it was clear that the intention was to delay the proceedings endlessly. She then directed the family court concerned to dispose of the petition relating to non-payment of alimony within a week, and pass final orders on the main matrimonial case itself thereafter.

Supreme Court upholds punishment to judicial officer for sexual abuse

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a 2007 order of the Madras high court and upheld the decision of a disciplinary authority to send a judicial officer to compulsory retirement for sexually harassing his private secretary when he was serving as deputy registrar on deputation in a tribunal.

Setting aside the Madras HC order, the apex court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice M Y Eqbal restored the order of the Disciplinary Authority sending K Muthukumarasamy on compulsory retirement with effect from October 10, 2002.

Muthukumarasamy was sent on compulsory retirement following an inquiry into a complaint by his private secretary that he wrote lewd remarks on two slips and caused mental torture and agony by calling her house at midnight. Muthukumarasamy had challenged the decision in the Madras high court which in 2007 reversed it.

Noting that during the pendency of the appeal before it Muthukumarasamy had completed his service and retired, the court said, "What should be the consequences that should now visit the delinquent including his pensionary entitlements is a matter that we leave to the discretion of the Disciplinary Authority which power will naturally be exercised in accordance with known principles of law in this regard."