Friday, December 19, 2014

BJP MLA suspended for ‘threatening’ health official

BJP MLA from Kota Prahlad Gunjal was suspended by the party leadership Friday after he was purportedly caught on tape intimidating and abusing a health officer over the recommended transfers of relatives of party workers.
Chief medical and health officer R N Yadav made the purported audio tapes of the “abusive phone calls” public before he tendered his resignation on Thursday.
The incident is likely to come as an embarrassment to the Vasundhara Raje government, particularly with the central leadership taking serious note of the offence and suspending the MLA. The state BJP unit, however, maintained that the decision to suspend the MLA was taken in consultation with Raje, who refrained from commenting.
The state BJP had Thursday issued a showcause notice to Gunjal, but dropped the matter after the he tendered an unconditional apology to the CM and the party. Gunjal, however, is yet to apologise to Yadav, who has sought legal proceedings against the MLA.
“I have also asked for security. I feel threatened now. It has been a difficult time for me,” R N Yadav told the Indian Express Friday. “I have applied for voluntary retirement and it is up to the state to decide. My service is till September 2017 and if the government wants I am ready to continue,” he added.
The issue created a storm in Parliament on Friday, with BSP supremo Mayawati seeking action against the MLA.
Later outside the House, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced Gunjal’s suspension.
“The Rajasthan MLA has been suspended and a showcause notice has been issued. The same has been communicated to the state BJP unit. The party will not tolerate such misbehaviour,” he told reporters.
Apart from intimidation and threat to life, charges under the SC/ST Act have been included in the FIR filed by Yadav, who belongs to the reserved category. The charges call for a non-bailable warrant against Gunjal, the police said. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said that the matter will now be handed to the CID .
Gunjal, in his apology, had said that he got carried away in a fit of rage after party workers “humiliated” him for not being able to effect the transfers of their relatives. “I had requested the CMHO on four occasions for the transfers of relatives of party workers but the work was not done. In an emotional reaction I used some abusive words that I should not have done. If this has hurt anyone’s feelings I apologise to you,” Gunjal wrote in a letter to Raje.

Cops get licence to snoop

The Gujarat state government has given its approval to the Cyber Suraksha Kavach (CSK), a task force whose members will be police officers authorized to monitor activity on different social media. Effectively, this means the police would now be able to legally snoop on users of the internet. 

Home department officials, however, have a different take on CSK. A senior official claimed that the chief objective of the task force is to tackle cyber terrorism as most terror outfits have created their own "cyber forces". CSK will have complete operational autonomy and it will keep an eye on the internet addresses of all users visiting Jehadi websites or posting objectionable anti-India comments on social media, said the official. "This will help identify terror suspects. CSK will also track users and purveyors of pornography, pedophiles, people involved in human trafficking, child exploitation and espionage through the internet," said a senior official of the home department. 

Senior police officials, however, clarified that the emails and phone calls of a user will be scrutinized by legal means, only after he is identified as a terror suspect. "CSK will have an in-house legal cell that will advise its 60-odd officers, including 20 private cyber experts proficient in investigating suspects," said a police officer. 

Sources in the home department said that once a suspect is found involved in criminal activities, CSK will get an offence registered with the police and continue with the investigation. "Efforts are also being made to get CSK status of a police station so that its officers can register an offence and charge-sheet the accused," said a source. 

Training of CSK officers is over and office premises for it have been rented in Thaltej. "CSK will start functioning in the first half of 2015."

SC rejects plea challenging Coal Ordinance

The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a plea challenging the ordinance on coal blocks, providing for retrospective recovery of a levy of Rs. 295 per metric tonne of extracted coal and linking its payment as a qualification to participate in the cancelled .
The Coal Mines (Special Provision) Ordinance, 2014, was promulgated for the allocation of coal blocks by auction route.
A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K.Sikri rejected the plea by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. (CESC), which contended that because of the levy, it has been saddled with a liability of Rs. 990 crores which it was in no position to pay.
Appearing fpr the CESC, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium told the court that the case of his client company was decided by the screening committee but it was not vitiated by vice of arbitrariness or anything.
He said that CESC should be counted in the exception carved out for the ultra mega power projects by the apex court by its Sep 24 order as it was already operating a captive mine for producing power that was being supplied to 24 lakh consumers at regulated prices.
Subramanium told the court that the status of CSEC as using coal for from the captive mine for the production and transmission of power at regulated price gave it a locus standi to challenge the ordinance and demand the provision which excluded the companies from the bidding process for failing to pay the levy must go.
Opposing the plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that CESC is a case of taint of screening committee procedure and the wrath of the court, for paying the levy, must fall on it.
Another petitioner Electrosteel Castings Limited who had also challenged the ordinance withdrew its plea which was dismissed as withdrawn after senior counsel K.V.Vishwanathan, appearing for the firm, so requested.
The various applications challenging the ordinance, and seeking to be exempted from the court’s judgment cancelling the allocations and imposing the levy, Rohatgi told the court that all these applications are to “delay the effect of ordinance, delay the auction and delay the economy”.
The apex court by its Sep 24 verdict had cancelled 214 coal blocks allocated from 1993 to 2011, except four vested with the NTPC, SAIL and Sasan Ultra mega power projects and imposed an additional levy per metric ton of coal extracted from exempted or operational mines.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pavements are for pedestrians, not hawkers -Delhi HC

Footpaths are meant for pedestrians, not for providing livelihood to hawkers and setting up of shops or kiosks, the Delhi high court observed on Thursday while stating that rights of pedestrians must be "zealously protected." 

A bench of Justices Kailash Gambhir and Najmi Waziri also ordered New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to carry out a survey within a week to identify pavements and footpaths that have been encroached upon by hawkers so they can be removed. "By definition, footpaths are meant for pedestrians and the latter have the first right over these. The rights of pedestrians can't be compromised in the name of providing livelihood to hawkers in metropolises," the bench noted. 

The high court expressed shock that NDMC had failed to comply with an earlier order to conduct a survey on encroachments. 

The court was hearing a plea by one Suman Lata who had sought directions to NDMC to renew her lease for running a pan stall. The civic agency had found the premises were being misused because hazardous material like gas cylinders were being stored improperly and the stall was encroaching on public land. Dismissing the plea, the single judge had directed NDMC to carry out a survey and file an action taken report in 12 weeks. The deadline fixed by the court ended last week. On its part, NDMC informed the bench that surveys are being carried out on various roads and it has so far examined 257 sites. 

However, the division bench was not satisfied, and termed the current state of affairs as "horrifying" since occupants of kiosks carried out various activities "beyond their allocated spaces and blocked spaces meant for pedestrians."

Conversion for ‘sole’ purpose of marriage is not valid: HC

Ruling that their conversions were not valid because it was done with “the sole purpose of marriage”, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday refused to grant any relief to five couples who had got married after the girls who were Hindu converted to Islam. The couples had approached the court seeking relief against alleged harassment by relatives and police.

A single-judge bench of Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani passed the order after clubbing five petitions from couples hailing from Siddhartha Nagar, Deoria, Kanpur, Sambhal, Pratapgarh and Mau in Uttar Pradesh.

The court said that the conversion of a person, “without any real belief in the religion to which he/she is converting, was null and void”. Such a marriage was against the tenets of the Quran and also the rulings of the Supreme Court on the issue, it added.

While dismissing the couples’ pleas, the court said: “The alleged conversion of petitioner No. 1 (girl) in each of the writ petitions cannot be said to be bona fide or valid. The religion of petitioner was converted at the instance of petitioner No. 2 (boys) to marry with the girl. The petitioner girls have stated that they do not know about Islam. In the writ petitions, as well as in the statements on oath made before this court, the petitioner girls have not stated that they have any real faith and belief in the unity of God and Mohammed to be prophet. They all stated that the boy got their religion converted with sole purpose to marry with her.”

Concluding that these marriages were “ against the mandate of... the Holy Quran”, the court said: “Thus conversion of religion to Islam in the present of facts of the girls, without their faith and belief in Islam and at the instances of the boys, solely for the purpose of marriage, cannot be said to be a valid conversion to Islam religion.”

The petitioners (girls), most of whom were aged around 18 or 19, had earlier submitted before court that they “did not know anything about Islam; they were not in the room when their religion was converted; and that they converted only because the boys wanted them to.”

The boys had also submitted before court that they were not aware of the paperwork regarding conversion. But they did admit that they had got the women converted for the sake of marriage.

SC asks Centre not to appoint CVC & VC without its permission

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to take its permission before appointing the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and Vigilance Commissioner (VC) and also sought details about the selection process.
A bench comprising chief justice H.L. Dattu and justice Madan B. Lokur, however, allowed the government to continue with the selection process.
During the hearing, attorney general Mukul  Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that he will be filing the relevant records pertaining to the selection process in a sealed cover.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO centre for integrity, governance and training in vigilance administration, alleging that the Centre was going ahead with the appointment of CVC and VC without giving wide publicity to the vacancies arising on the completion of tenure of the then CVC Pradip Kumar and the then VC J.M. Garg.
Kumar and Garg completed their tenure on 28 September and 7 September, respectively.
During the hearing on 18 September, the apex court had rapped the Centre for lack of transparency in the selection process of CVC and VC, following which government gave the assurance that no final decision will be taken without its nod.
Raising questions on lack of transparency in selection process of CVC and VCs, the apex court had said this promotes “favouritism and nepotism” and had asked why only bureaucrats are picked for the posts and not common people.
Enumerating the selection process, the attorney general had submitted that the Cabinet Secretary and 36 other secretaries propose the names of 120 people for the post out of which 20 names are taken and five people are short-lists and forwarded to the selection committee.
The PIL had referred to the 21 July letter issued by the secretary, department of personnel and training (DoPT), to secretaries in the government to suggest names for empanelment for the post of CVC and VC, allegedly aimed at keeping away common people.
The NGO had contended the Centre ought to have similar procedure for making appointment of CVC and VCs as is being done in the case of filling up one post of chairperson and eight posts of members in the Lokpal under the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Delhi High Court refuses to ban astrology-based TV shows

The Delhi High Court has refused to prohibit astrology-based shows on television while saying it was not in its domain to prescribe what the programming code should be.
A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw, which was hearing a petition filed by NGO Sai Lok Kalyan Sanstha, said since there was already a regulatory mechanism in place, thus any direction in this regard is not required.
“As far as astrology is concerned, astrology/ zodiac/ prediction/ forecast are to be found not only on television but also in the print and news media. Astrology is a subject being taught in the universities and is not confined to India alone.
“In fact the most popular international publication on ‘forecast’ is of a foreign author named Linda Goodman. We therefore do not find it appropriate to also prohibit astrological programmes/ advertisements to the extent they are not in violation of the Programme Code and the Advertising Code,” the bench said.
It also held that the petitioner is required to either approach the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or the Advertising Standards Council of India or the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council or the authorised officer under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act for the redressal of his grievance.
“As far as the programmes based on astrology are concerned, the Legislature/ government having laid down the Programme Code and the Advertising Code, it is not in the domain of this court to prescribe as to what the code should be,” the bench added.
The plea filed by Ajay Gautam, president of the NGO, had alleged that “huge amount of money is changing hands and the physical and mental well being of citizen is at stake”.
“The existing laws and regulation have proved totally inadequate to check all these superstitions. These programs also do not derive any validity from the established religious institutions,” it said.
The petition had also sought direction to stop the “illegal activities” of the television channels which are continuing their business in violation of various acts, rules, regulations and guidelines, issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting.
It had alleged that “in this process of making money, many channels have compromised with ethics, and are also acting in breach of rules and law particularly provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedy Act and rules framed under Cable Television Network Regulation Act framed by Information and Broadcasting Ministry”.

Woman Who Lost Husband in Car Crash Gets Rs. 65 Lakh Compensation

A Navi Mumbai woman, who lost her husband in a 2012 car mishap, and her two children were today awarded a record Rs. 65 lakh compensation by a Lok Adalat in Thane.
A Lok Adalat panel comprising R S Chahal, S P Kamath and M N Belose ordered ICICI Lombard General Insurance and the car owner (respondent in the case) to pay the amount to the woman, Vandana Shinde (38), jointly and severally within a period of four weeks, the claimants’ lawyer said in Thane.
Joint and several liability is a form of liability that is used in civil cases where two or more people are found responsible for damages.
Vandana’s husband Pandurang Shinde, who resided in Navi Mumbai, worked as a Manager with Mahanagar Gas Ltd. On the fateful day, September 4, 2012, he was returning home with his office colleague S Sharma in the latter’s car.
Sharma was driving the car (insured with ICICI Lombard) when it hit a road metal railing. Pandurang suffered injuries in the accident and later died.
The 46-year-old’s family members – wife Vandana, son Akshay (17), daughter Nikhita (13) and mother Anusaya (70) claimed a compensation of Rs. 1 crore from the insurance
company and the car owner.
The Shindes told the panel members that Pandurang was the family’s sole breadwinner and was drawing a salary of around Rs. 50,000 per month at the time of his death.

Friday, December 12, 2014

US may include Gujarati language in visa process

The United States may include Gujarati language in its visa procedure for the convenience of people from the state planning to travel there, a senior official has said.
"We have included several regional languages of India in our visa procedure and would consider to include Gujarati language too if required," US consulate's vice consul Cheryl Collins said, according to a release issued here by Travel Agents Association of India's (TAAI) Saurashtra Chapter.

Gujarat HC rejects AAP plea to issue notice to PM Narendra Modi in affidavit case

Upholding the order of a trial court, the Gujarat High Court rejected an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member’s plea seeking issuance of notice to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with his affidavit filed before the 2012 Gujarat state assembly election.
Justice J B Pardiwala turned down AAP member Nishant Verma’s application saying that issuance of notice is the jurisdiction of the sessions court.
Verma had challenged a sessions court order and demanded issuance of notices to Modi and returning officer P K Jadeja of the Maninagar assembly seat in 2012.
“I do not find any good reason to interfere with the order passed by the revisional court (sessions court). I am sure that while disposing of the criminal revision application (of Verma before the session court), the learned judge would keep in mind the provisions of Section 401 (2) of the code,” Justice JB Pardiwala said in his order.
“In the result, this petition fails and is hereby rejected. I clarify that I have otherwise not gone into the merit of the matter. The revision application shall be decided on its own merit without being influenced in any manner by any of the observations made by this court in this order,” the order said.
In his main plea, which is pending before the sessions court, Verma had sought legal action against Modi and Jadeja in the 2012 affidavit case.
Later, he demanded summoning of both Modi and Jadeja before the court, which was rejected on October 10 by Additional Sessions Judge G N Rana, after which he approached the Gujarat High Court.

SC rejects Delhi lawyer’s appeal in misdemeanour case, sends strong signal against women harassment

Harassment of women particularly in court premises, the Supreme Court on Friday threw out an appeal by a lawyer against a week-long jail term in a case of misdemeanour against a woman colleague in Delhi High Court in 2012.

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and Adarsh K Goel said there was no ground to interfere with the Delhi High Court order, passed under the Contempt of Courts Act.

Lawyer Amit Chanchal Jha, 36, is accused of physically abusing a female colleague and behaving indecently during a hearing before a HC registrar on January 13, 2012.

The HC, acting suo motu, had the same day sent Jha to jail for a week and debarred him from practising in any Delhi court for three months. It also directed the Bar Council of India, the apex disciplinary authority for lawyers, to act against Jha.

Saying Jha’s actions had interfered with judicial procedure, obstructed justice and lowered the majesty of the court, the high court had convicted him of contempt of court.

Jha then appealed to the top court, and claimed his conduct did not strictly fall under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Lalit argued that the incident took place when the two lawyers were working together and the registrar was not present.

His lawyers said the incident happened on the spur of the moment and his client regretted his behaviour. He claimed that any disciplinary action against him could come only from the Bar Council and not the court.

China bans wearing of full-length veils in public in Urumqi

Legislators in the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Urumqi in China have put a ban on full-face veils and full-body coverings in public in an attempt to curb the spread of religious extremism.
The standing committee of the Urumqi people's congress passed the regulation on Friday. However, the approval of the regional people's congress will be needed for the ban to take effect, reported the China Daily.
The wearing of full-face and full-body veils is associated with religious extremism, said officials.
Local officials will have the authority to ask people to not wear the logos and clothes linked to religious extremism.
A recent Regional Bureau of Religious Affairs' report said that the number of women wearing such clothes in Xinjianh has increased over the past few years, especially in southern areas.

Helmets for Sikh women not feasible: Delhi high court

The Delhi high court on Thursday rejected a couple of petitions seeking revocation of the city government’s notification to exempt Sikh women from wearing helmets while driving or riding pillion on two-wheelers.
The court said it was not feasible to make headguards mandatory for them.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said the Delhi government’s decision to “exclude Sikh women was a well-thought-out and considered decision and taken after following the procedure prescribed in the MV Act”. “The decision is found to be in the legislative domain of the government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and have been made in accordance with law and neither the courts nor the petitioners can substitute their own opinion for the same,” the judges said.

The court’s order came on two different public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the recent amendment to Rule 115(2) of the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules that has exempted Sikh women from wearing helmets in Delhi.
The court had earlier asked the transport department to apprise why it had made such an amendment in the law that exempted Sikh women from wearing helmets.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

High court slams Mumbai University panel for ‘mindless’ VC pick

Vice-chancellor for Mumbai University displayed "non-application of mind" in picking Rajan Welukar on the criterion of research publications, said the Bombay high court on Thursday, adding that the search committee should be directed to reconsider Welukar's eligibility.

Welukar, 55, was appointed on July 7, 2010, for five years. His appointment has been challenged by three persons, including one of his rivals for the V-C's post.

The division bench's judgment will be placed before a bench headed by HC chief justice Mohit Shah that originally heard the challenge for further orders.

The Justice Shah-led bench had made a reference to the division bench on only two points of the overall case. First, whether the three-member search committee's selection of Welukar as an eligible candidate on an essential criterion—five (out of 12) research publications must be post-PhD, peer-reviewed, published in international research journals and referred for study in higher education—suffers from non-application of mind. Second, should the HC in its extraordinary discretionary jurisdiction direct the search committee to reconsider Welukar's eligibility? The division bench of Justices P V Hardas and Anuja Prabhudessai answered in the affirmative for both.

In August 2011, a division bench headed by Justice Shah gave a split verdict on petitions challenging Welukar's appointment by differing on the five research publications. Subsequently, a single judge could also not decide on it. Hence, a reference was made to another division bench.

In a strongly-worded judgment written by Justice Prabhudessai, the bench said on Thursday that since there is no statutory requirement for the search panel to record reasons, it did not mean its decision should not be based on reason. It also did not confer upon it "any immunity from application of mind to all relevant considerations and exclude irrelevant consideration".

In Welukar's case, there is no material to indicate that the committee considered if seven of the 12 submitted publications were discarded and the remaining five fulfilled the eligibility criteria. Even in court, it could not specify which five publications were considered, said the ruling.

The judges said the facts lead to the conclusion that the search committee had abdicated its functions by accepting Welukar's claim disclosed in his resume at face value or relying entirely on notings prepared by a nodal officer without independently ascertaining whether the publications fulfilled the requirement of research publications and, consequently, whether Welukar possessed the minimum requisite eligibility. "This in our considered view is an error touching the decision-making process," they added.

The bench said neither the committee nor the chancellor was entitled to relax essential eligibility on research publications.

Passing the matter to the other bench, the judges said it is unable to decide if the five publications of Welukar meet the stipulated requirement; it is for an expert body to assess, review and determine.

Bar license bribery case: Vigilance registers case against Kerala minister K M Mani

Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Thursday registered a case against Finance Minister K M Mani in connection with the allegation that he had accepted bribe from a bar hotel owner to renew liquor licence.

Mani, chairman of Christian-dominated regional party Kerala Congress (M), is listed as the first accused.

Mani termed the case as an outcome of a political conspiracy and turned down the Opposition demand that he should quit. Kerala Congress (M) and Congress rallied behind the beleaguered minister, one of the senior leaders of the ruling coalition United Democratic Front. Catholic Church and upper class Hindu Nair leadership too rushed its support for Mani. Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council chairman Cardinal Clemis doubted whether registering a case would make Mani a corrupt politician. Nair leader G Sukumaran Nair said he did not think that Mani was corrupt.

Last month, prominent bar hotel owner and their trade body working president Biju Ramesh levelled the allegation that he had paid a bribe of Rs 1 crore to Mani in two installments against the minister’s demand for Rs 5 crore.

Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan soon rushed a letter to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala that a case be registered against Mani as per the Prevention of Corruption Act. Accordingly, the VACB went for a quick verification report. Its sleuths recorded the statements of 29 persons and found that prima facie a case could be framed against Mani as per sections 7 and 13 (D) of anti-corruption act. The VACB mainly depended on the statement of Ramesh driver Ambili, who had allegedly gone to Mani’s house in Pala in hand over the money.

While VACB’s quick verification was in the process, two LDF leaders had moved the high court seeking a directive to the agency to register case against Mani. The court rejected the petition, with a rider that VACB director should take a decision based on the quick verification report. The legal adviser at the VACB reported that an FIR could be registered against Mani.

Xiaomi banned from selling, importing phones in India

Delhi high court has put paid to Xiaomi's surging sales juggernaut in India. At least for now.

Hearing a case filed by Ericsson India against Xiaomi, the court on Monday passed an ex parte order forbidding the popular Chinese manufacturer from importing and selling its smartphones in India, according to a report by Spicy IP.

It has been reported that the ex parte order has injuncted Xiaomi from selling, advertising, manufacturing or importing devices that infringe the SEPs (Standard, Essential Patents) in question. It is not clear if the order will impact all Xiaomi devices sold in India or specifica devices that violate the patents.

In fact, the judge also directed the customs officials to stop the imports under the IPR Rules, 2007. Moreover, local commissioners too have been appointed to visit Xiaomi India offices to ensure the implementation of the order.

The adverse order in the case seems to have come about after Xiaomi allegedly ignored Ericsson's repeated communications.

As per the report, the patents in the Xiaomi case may also be the same ones which are the subject matters of litigation Ericsson had put up against Micromax, Gionee and Intex.

It's worth pointing out that Delhi High Court had earlier asked homegrown handset maker Micromax to pay a royalty that amounts up to 1% of the selling price of its devices to Ericsson for using the Swedish equipment maker's patents on technologies that are essential to manufacture the products.

 Xiaomi India head Manu Jain informed that the company hasn't officially received any communication from the court or Ericsson. He said that India was an important market for Xiaomi and that the company's legal team was evaluating the situation based on reports in the media. Jain added that Xiaomi intends to be in full compliance of all laws and is open to working with Ericsson to settle the dispute.

Xiaomi had launched its India operations in July 2014 and the country is the second largest market for the company and also the fastest growing one, as per Xiaomi Global VP Hugo Barra. The company had sold more than half a million smartphones till October. It sells phones exclusively through online marketplace Flipkart via weekly flash sales in limited numbers. The company has been panned for creating hype and artificial scarcity with claims to go out of stock in a few seconds. It stopped selling its flagship smartphone, Mi 3, after just one month of introducing it selling a 120,000 units.

Xiaomi sells one phone model at a time and is currently offering the Redmi Note phablet. Its premium smartphone, Mi 4, is expected to launch in Q1 2015.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Saudi Arabia approves pact to hire Indian maids

The Saudi Arabia government has approved an agreement for recruitment of Indian domestic workers including maids, media reported.

The council of ministers, chaired by Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defence, on Monday approved the Saudi Arabia's agreement with Delhi, Arab News reported on Tuesday.

"The agreement aims to protect the rights of domestic workers as well as their employers and regulate the contractual relationship between the two parties," said Haj minister and acting information minister Bandar Hajjar.

The agreement also aims at organising the recruitment process and controlling the cost of recruitment in both countries.

"It stipulates that such domestic labour shall have no criminal records, be trained in specialised centres in household work and educated on the kingdom's customs and traditions as well as the terms and conditions of the employment contract," Hajjar said.

False cruelty cases ruining marriages: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday said false complaints under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code against innocent in-laws alleging cruelty and harassment at matrimonial homes were increasingly making the husbands adamant not to take back their wives.

"For no fault, the in-laws, especially old parents of the husband, are taken to jail the moment a false complaint is filed against them by a woman under Section 498A. By roping in in-laws without a reason and for settling a score with the husband, the false and exaggerated 498A complaints are causing havoc to marriages," said a bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and A K Sikri.

These comments assume significance as it has been a trend with the apex court to seek response from the husband on a mere mention of a petition by a woman in matrimonial disputes. The court also readily transfers a matrimonial case to a place convenient to the wife, brushing aside protests from the husband.

No arrests under anti-dowry law without magistrate's nod, SC says

Dismissing a woman's petition, who had appealed against a trial court's decision not to permit her lead evidence against the two brothers of her husband, the CJI said, "There is an increasing hardening of stand among husbands, whose parents had been arrested in false 498A cases, not to take back the wife. They say they are willing to give her all the property, they will take care of the children's education and marriage but will not take her back."

The CJI added, "They take a plea before the court that they may have committed a mistake but for that punishing their old parents on a false complaint was not condonable. The false complaints under Section 498A are ruining marriages."

When the counsel said the court's observations might be true in some cases, the bench retorted, "It is true in most cases." But the court was quick to clarify that it was not giving a certificate to erring in-laws.

The court had some advice for women who file complaints under Section 498A. "When you file complaints under Section 498A, be circumspect and truthful. Do not drag old parents if they had no role in causing any harassment to you. You unnecessarily involve old people in your complaint, you end up ruining the marriage," it said.

Recently, the Supreme Court had ruled that even a single false dowry complaint against the husband and in-laws was sufficient ground for courts to grant decree of divorce to annul the marriage.

Allowing dissolution of marriage between K Srinivas and K Sunita last month, the court had said, "We unequivocally find that the respondent-wife had filed a false criminal complaint, and even one such complaint is sufficient to constitute matrimonial cruelty. We accordingly dissolve the marriage of the parties."

Monday, December 8, 2014

SC rejects ban on hookah bars in smoking zones

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down the ban on sale and use of hookahs in hotels, restaurants and even airports where smoking is otherwise legally permitted.

The SC has set aside judgments passed by three high courts three years ago that upheld such prohibitions brought in by the civic bodies and police in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai.

The apex court pointed out that the definition of smoking under the Cigarettes Act included smoking tobacco in any form with the help of a pipe, wrapper, or any other instrument, which would include a hookah and the expression, "no other service shall be allowed", referred to services other than hookahs. So, the use of hookahs could be permitted in smoking zones, said a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman, allowing a bunch of appeals against the judgments of the Bombay, Gujarat and Madras high courts. Gujarat and Madras HCs had relied on an August 2011 judgment of the Bombay HC, which rejected a challenge to a BMC circular issued in July 2011 that banned the stocking and sale of cigarettes and tobacco even in hotels and restaurants and prohibited use of the hookah in smoking rooms there.

The law, as it stands, prohibits smoking in all public places across the nation except in specially designated smoking rooms in hotels, restaurants and airports. The SC pointed out that the law permitted the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to adults in areas outside a 100-yard radius of educational institutions. Any other exception added by the civic administration or the police would be impermissible, said the SC judgment. C U Singh, counsel for Narinder Chadha who had gone to the SC against the Bombay HC's prohibitory order, argued the BMC circular was unlawful as it prevented the stocking and sale of tobacco even on licensed premises. The SC accepted his argument.

The law, as it stands, prohibits smoking in all public places across the nation except in specially designated smoking rooms in hotels, restaurants and airports. 

The tussle revolved around Rule 4(3) framed by the Centre in 2008 to govern smoking in public places that said only smoking and "no other services shall be allowed" in smoking areas. The BMC additionally banned the "use of any apparatus designed to facilitate smoking". "The effect of the added words is that a hookah can't be provided by the hotel, restaurant or airport and it is an apparatus designed to facilitate smoking," said the SC, adding the BMC's condition was contrary to the Cigarettes Act.

The SC rejected a Madras HC judgment that had upheld a July 2011 notice that prevented hotel and restaurant owners from providing tobacco to adults. 

Dismissing BMC counsel R P Bhatt's arguments that hookahs cannot be permitted in public places at all, the SC said the rule could not be used by the BMC to justify its stand on prohibiting hookahs even in designated smoking areas. "The rules must be read harmoniously... What is expressly allowed in one rule, cannot be taken away by another," it said.

Besides setting aside the Bombay HC's judgment and deleting some sections of the BMC circular, the SC rejected a Madras HC judgment that had upheld a July 2011 notice that prevented hotel and restaurant owners from providing tobacco to adults.

In Gujarat, the HC had upheld an order from the Ahmedabad police chief, prohibiting standalone hookah bars and also those in hotels and restaurants. The SC observed that the "Gujarat HC had referred to the evil effects of smoking ... and concluded that the police power to regulate included the power to prohibit". Justice Nariman, who penned the SC ruling, held that the Gujarat HC was wrong on all counts.

Mumbai hookah parlour owners Shakil Bhure and Suhail Mansoori, who had also appealed against the HC order, said they were happy that their "undivided efforts of three years paid off" and didn't go up in smoke.

UK Judge Quits After Racial Slur on Indian-Origin Woman

  A senior judge in Britain has been forced to quit his job after allegedly making a racist remark about an Indian-origin woman while hearing a harassment case involving the woman's ex-boyfriend.

"With a name like Patel she can only be working in a corner shop or off licence," said District Judge Peter Hollingworth after being told a prosecution team could not bring forward the case against Parvan Singh, accused of threatening Deepa Patel, as the victim was not in court, The Daily Mail reported Sunday.

"She won't be working anywhere important," he was quoted as saying.

The "inappropriate comments" of Judge Hollingworth were reported to HM Courts and Tribunals Service after which he resigned as a deputy district judge. However, he remains an immigration judge with the Asylum and Tribunal Services.

"It's shocking and disgusting for anyone to say that, especially a judge...You would assume people of this day and age, especially a judge, wouldn't be racist," Patel was quoted as saying.

She said it was "outrageous" that Hollingworth was still an immigration judge. "He needs to resign altogether," she said.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Heavy drinking while pregnant is not a crime

Heavy drinking while pregnant is NOT a crime Unborn children have no rights, appeal judges decide A CHILD left disabled after her mother drank her way through pregnancy has been refused compensation – because the girl was ‘not a person’ at the time. The council now caring for the seven-year-old argued she had been a victim of violence after the alcoholic mother downed half a bottle of vodka and eight cans of lager a day. But Lord Justice Treacey said: ‘Parliament could have legislated to criminalise the excessive drinking of a pregnant woman – but it has not done so.’ The Court of Appeal decision to deny the girl a payout from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board comes as a blow to other children who have Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. About 3,000 babies are born with the condition in Britain each year and lawyers were ready to bring 80 claims had the council won. The girl in the test case is being fostered and suffers from development, memory and behaviour problems. Neil Sugarman, who represented the council in the north-west of England, said: ‘Everyone involved with the case is disappointed with the outcome and will need time to digest the judgment and consider their options. ‘I am pleased that this case has raised awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.’ The judges’ decision was hailed by women’s rights campaigners who said that, had the girl won, mothers could have landed in court for doing anything harmful to a foetus, such as eating soft-boiled eggs. Ann Furedi, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said last night: ‘This is an extremely important ruling for mothers everywhere. ‘Women must be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies.’

Gujarat HC asks CS to facilitate Porbandar collector in curbing illegal limestone mining

Gujarat high court on Thursday directed the chief secretary to see that the district collector's initiative to curb illegal mining of limestone are facilitated with additional manpower.
The HC has intervened in this issue in response to a PIL filed by Dilip Modhwadia through advocate Sandhya Natani. In the past, the Porbandar collector had asked 224 lease holders of limestone mining across the district to put up a fence around their lease land in order to identify and curb illegal mining of limestone. In absence of any demarcation of lease lands, the leaseholders start mining in adjacent land without permission.
When the leaseholders failed to fence off their tracts, the administration snapped electricity connections and other facilities. This led to 15 leaseholders to put up fencing around their plots. The electricity connection was restored in their case.
After the PIL was filed raising the issue of illegal mining, the HC asked the district collector about precautionary steps taken by the administration. The authorities got into action suddenly, the collector ordered measurement of lease tracts and to put up fence around them.
As the proceedings went on before the HC, the court also asked the petitioner to make some of the leaseholders party into proceeding. On Thursday, 114 members of the association of limestone leaseholders moved the HC and requested to become part of the litigation. The HC has allowed them to be joined in the proceedings. Further hearing is kept on December 16.

CJI tells HCs to clear cases over 5 yrs old

Concerned at rising pendency of cases older than five years in high courts, Chief Justice of India Justice H L Dattu has written to chief justices of all HCs asking them to ensure that such cases are not pending in any court, including the subordinate judiciary under them.

Pendency of over five-year-old cases has significantly increased in high courts, with 30-40% of such cases in many of them. In the Allahabad high court, country's largest HC, this pendency is as high as 60%. Interestingly, pendency of such cases in subordinate courts has come down to 4%-6%.

Sources said the CJI had written to the CJs of HCs last month as pendency of old cases had substantially gone up in many of these courts. In several judgements earlier, the apex court had expressed displeasure on the subordinate judiciary giving repeated adjournments, prolonging trial.

In order to enforce SC orders, the government had even brought in relevant amendments in Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and suggested the idea of imposing cost on judges for giving unnecessary adjournments in civil cases. It was, however, never done.

The amendments in CrPC, intended to give speedier justice, were notified effective November 1, 2010 and provide for no more than three adjournments. Sources in the law ministry said it is not being implemented by courts and resulting in uncalled for increase in the pendency of cases.

Section 309 of CrPC provides that "every inquiry or trial shall be held as expeditiously as possible and the recording of examination of witnesses shall be continued on day-to-day basis unless the court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded".

With subordinate courts bringing down the pendency of older cases, the focus of the apex court is now on HCs to clear all cases older than five years, many of which are cases of heinous crimes against women and children.

Rice from KFC, Sagar Ratna found unsafe, HC told

The Delhi high court has been informed by the city government's food safety department that samples of rice dishes collected by it from two popular eateries here have been found to be unsafe.

In an affidavit filed by the department, it said that the presence of artificial colour rendered the dishes "unsafe" for human consumption.

Samples taken from KFC's restaurant at Scindia House in Connaught Place of its "Rizo Rice" showed it to be unsafe due to the presence of artificial colour, the affidavit said.

Rice samples collected for testing from Sagar Ratna restaurant in Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar also were found to be unsafe.

The response of the government came on a petition seeking ban on the sale of fruits, vegetables and food items with artificial colours and pesticides.

The affidavit said legal action has been initiated against the offenders.

It also said samples of ghee collected from various eateries were found to be of "sub-standard" quality and were "misbranded" to mislead the public.

Samples of fruit and vegetable chutney picked up from the Bikanerwala restaurant at the ITL Tower in Netaji Subhash Place also showed addition of artificial colours.

After the high court's direction, the department has been regularly inspecting fruits and vegetables in markets here to detect colours and pesticide residue in them.

A total of 1,420 samples of various edible items were taken since the court issued the direction March 5. Five of them showed the presence of pesticide residue above the prescribed tolerance limit.

The court had acted suo motu on a report by NGO Consumer Voice, which in 2010 found that 35 varieties of vegetables and fruits, picked from Delhi markets and tested for pesticide content, had toxins beyond permissible limits.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

CJI sets up Social Justice Bench for public interest cases

Resoulute that people’s voices never go unheard before the highest court of the land, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has set up a special bench, christened “Social Justice Bench”, to specifically deal with the issues troubling a common man in everyday life.

This is the first time the Supreme Court will have a dedicated bench to hear cases pertaining to public interest and all fresh PILs may be heard by the new bench from now. Currently, such cases are scattered over different benches.

Notifying the constitution of a two-judge bench on Wednesday, the CJI, through an official note, expressed concern over pendency of several cases in the Supreme Court without a proper hearing.

Cases that relate to problems in society and those which have a direct impact on the rights of the people are the areas where the constitutional mechanism has to play a proactive role so as to meet the goals of the Constitution, according to the note.

“Honb’le the Chief Justice of India is of the view that these cases shall be given a specialised approach for their early disposal so that the masses will realise the fruits of the rights provided to them by the constitutional text,” stated the note, adding the CJI’s order aimed at securing social justice — one of the ideals of the Constitution.

Secretary General VSR Avadhani told The Indian Express that the CJI has directed that the Social Justice Bench would start functioning from December 12. The new bench will devise a procedure to expeditiously deal with the issues and would continue to sit on every working Friday at 2 pm to monitor the implementation of its directions to authorities concerned.

Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Uday U Lalit would comprise the bench, which will hear not only the pending cases but also all the fresh matters on the pertinent issues. Out of around 200 such cases pending in the court, 65 cases have been identified to begin with and the cases, already pending before other benches, may get transferred to the special bench on the directions of the CJI.

Release of surplus food grains for people affected by natural calamities after framing a comprehensive scheme for public distribution, rehabilitation of sex workers, prevention of untimely death of pregnant women and children due to malnourishment or lack of medical care, hygienic mid-day meal, shelter homes for the destitute and homeless and education for the children are illustrations of the kind of cases that the new bench would take up.