Friday, February 12, 2016

National Herald: SC grants personal exemption to Sonia, Rahul

The Supreme Court on Friday exempted Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders from personal appearance before trial court in the National Herald case. 

The apex court also expunged all firm findings and observations made against the Congress leaders by Delhi high court while asking them to appear as accused in the case. 

Granting personal exemption to the Congress leaders, the apex court said they hold important position and won’t run away.

The court also gave permission to Gandhis and other Congress leaders to raise all issues before the trial court including challenging Swamy’s locus standi in the cheating case.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Court jails 14 public servants for misappropriation

A Delhi court has awarded varying jail term of up to seven years to 14 public servants of the Central Water Commission (CWC), including some retired officials, for misappropriating government funds.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar convicted them for various offences punishable under the IPC, including sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants). Six of these 14 accused were also held guilty for the offences under Prevention of Corruption Act.

Besides these 14 convicts, there were three more accused who had died during pendency of the case lodged in 2001.

“Prosecution has proved that all the convicts (except A2, A16 and A17) have dishonestly misappropriated or converted to their own use the government money. Therefore, I convict them under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of movable property or converting it to one’s own use) IPC each.

“All the convicts participated in this criminal endeavour, therefore, I convict all of them under section 120-B read with sections 403 and 409 IPC,” the judge said in a 177-page judgement.

The court sentenced convicts Y P Sharma, O P Narang, Jai Kumar Singal, J P Sharma and S K Aggarwal to seven years jail term each, while Chandreshwar Manjhi, Om Prakash, Shiv Sagar Naik, Om Prakash and Hayat Singh were given five years each.

Other two convicts, Jeet Ram Sharma and B M Ghosh, were awarded three year jail term each, while the remaining two, I Yashudanan and Natha Ram Suman, were given one year jail each.

Besides the jail term, the court also imposed varying fines of upto Rs 2.01 lakh on the convicts.

Meanwhile, the court granted bail to four of the 14 convicts, Jeet Ram Sharma, B M Ghosh, I Yashudanan and Natha Ram Suman, till March 23 for filing an appeal.

During trial, all the accused had denied allegations levelled against them by the agency.

According to CBI, the case was registered on the basis of complaint by the then secretary and vigilance officer of CWC against officials of CWC and the Pay and Accounts Office.

CBI said a special audit was conducted by an internal and audit division of controller of accounts on the basis of a complaint received by Controller of Accounts, Ministry of Water Resources, which had alleged that fraudulent payments were made to the officials by the accounts office.

The agency alleged that one of the serious irregularities was wrong withdrawal of pay and allowances to the tune of Rs 23,67,951 from July 1999 to March 2000, of which a sum of Rs 19,30,893 was claimed to have been refunded by concerned official through challans which were found to be fake by the special audit team.

It claimed that several irregularities were also noticed wherein payments were released to unconcerned persons which prima facie established that staff and officials of CWC, in connivance with the officials of Pay and Accounts Office, had defalcated government money by making false and forged bills and vouchers.

CBI alleged that officials of Pay and Accounts Office and account section of CWC had conspired to defraud government money by raising fictitious bills supported with fake sanction orders and got them passed and further fraudulently withdrew the money through cheques.

NRIs can purchase a house in India, rules NCDRC

Non-Resident Indians, who return to the country “every now and then”, can purchase a house in India, the apex consumer commission has said while asking Supertech Ltd to pay around Rs 64 lakh to an NRI for denying possession of a flat in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), presided by Justice J M Malik, directed the firm to pay Rs 63,99,727 to south Delhi resident Reshma Bhagat and her son, Tarun Bhagat, who had booked a flat in the builder’s project in 2008.

The firm was scheduled to hand over its possession to the complainant in 2009 and when it did not construct the house, the Bhagats approached the consumer commission for refund and damages, the complaint said.

The firm had opposed the complaint seeking refund and other damages, claiming that the flat was booked in the name of Tarun, an NRI, and it was not for residing purpose but solely to earn profit and he could not claim to be a ‘consumer’ himself.

The commission rejected the firm’s contention, saying “it cannot be made a ‘rule of thumb’ that every NRI cannot own a property in India. NRIs do come to India, every now and then. Most of the NRIs have to return to their native land. Each NRI wants a house in India. He (Tarun) is an independent person and can purchase any house in India, in his own name.”

The NCDRC also rejected the firm’s claim that the complainants were offered an alternative flat but they rejected it and hence the complaint should be dismissed.

“It is well settled that nobody can force anybody to accept the flat of the choice of the Opposite Party (firm). Any other flat cannot be imposed upon the consumers. They have got their free will to accept or reject the other flats offered to the complainants. It is difficult to fathom why the flat which was promised to be given to complainants, originally, was not given,” it said.

According to the complaint, the complainants had made payment of Rs 63,99,727 to Supertech Ltd in 2008 for a luxurious flat which was to be built in Greater Noida and the flat’s possession was to be given by December, 2009.

The firm, however, did not construct the flat and the complainants approached the commission seeking Rs 1.40 crore from the firm, including interest and damages.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Maharashtra govt favours lifting ban on women at Haji Ali

The Maharashtra government, on Tuesday, favoured lifting of the ban on entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali shrine unless its controlling authority proves the measure has been put in place as part of its religious practice with reference to Quran.

The BJP-led government's view was conveyed to the court, hearing a petition challenging the ban, by state's advocate general Shrihari Aney.

The Durgah Board, however, told a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere that the women have been barred from entering the sanctum sanctorum since it houses the tomb of a male saint. In Islam, it is a sin for women to touch a male saint or his tomb, it said, defending the ban.

Petitioner Raju More, however, contested the Board's argument, contending Haji Ali's official website says nobody was actually buried inside the tomb.

"I also gave the court a printout of what is officially mentioned on the Haji Ali's website in support of my argument," he said.

After hearing their contentions, the court asked all the parties to submit their arguments in writing within two weeks.

The court had on February 3 sought the state government's opinion on the PIL challenging the ban.

The HC had indicated last month that it would wait for the Supreme Court's ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple in Kerala before deciding on the plea.

A petition in the apex court has sought entry for all women and girls into the Sabarimala temple which prohibits girls and women aged 10-50 years from visiting the shrine.

The Maharashtra government's submission on the issue came amid an ongoing row over a similar ban on women at a Shani temple in Shani Shingnapur. The authorities had recently thwarted an attempt by a women's group to enter the temple's sanctum sanctorum by detaining them.

The agitating women are now waiting for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's decision on whether the ban should be lifted.

Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking independent probe into alleged DDCA irregularities

The Delhi high court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by former cricketers Kirti Azad, Bishan Singh Bedi and others, seeking a probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

“The plea is premature as the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is already conducting a preliminary inquiry in this matter,” said justice Manmohan, while dismissing the plea.

The court also noted that a probe by SIT could only be directed in the rarest of rare case and this would not qualify as being so for such probe to be ordered.

The plea brought by the former cricketers sought appointment of an independent administrator to look into the alleged financial irregularities in DDCA.

The petition also challenged the allotment of land by the centre to DDCA at concessional rates.

This was opposed by additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain, who told the court on behalf of the centre that the scheme of allotment could not be challenged as land on concessional rates had been alloted to other sport bodies also.

ASG Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for CBI, assured the court that the bureau was seized of the matter and such task should be best left to them (an independent body) to bring the matter to its conclusion.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Drunk Salman Khan was behind wheels: Maharashtra Govt.tells Supreme Court

Salman Khan's acquittal in a 2002 hit-and-run case is a miscarriage of justice, the Maharashtra government argued in the Supreme Court on Friday and sought reversal of the Bombay High Court’s order.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the State described as "perverse" and travesty of justice the High Court order in December last, overturning the trail court’s verdict sentencing him to five years imprisonment.

Tracing through the history of the case, the AG submitted before a Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan that Salman Khan had consumed liquor and was drunk, he was driving the Land Cruiser, which killed a person sleeping on the pavement. He knew he should not be driving under the influence of alcohol," Mr Rohatgi said. He also said the theory that the car was being driven by Mr Khan's driver, who surfaced after 13 years, should be discarded. He pointed that for 13 years, his family had maintained that the driver was at home when the incident occurred. The High Court’s finding that Salman Khan was not driving the vehicle at the time of the accident is suspicious.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pakistan denies Anupam Kher visa to attend Karachi lit fest

akistan on Tuesday denied a visa to actor and BJP sympathiser Anupam Kher, who has been invited by the organisers of a literary festival in Karachi as one of their guests.

Kher claims only he has been singled out of the 18 delegates who applied for the visa. "I am very sad and disappointed that out of 18 participants, 17 were given visa and I was denied," Kher told news agency ANI.

Reacting to reports, the Pakistan High Commission, however, has claimed Kher never submitted any application for the visa.

Kher is scheduled to attend a session at the Karachi literary festival on February 5. The 60-year-old actor, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan recently, has been a vocal supporter of the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Last weekend, Kher and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor were involved in a war of words on Twitter over the veteran actor's comment that he is scared to openly say he is a Hindu.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Supreme Court recalls notice to Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa

The Supreme Court on 1st February conceded its “mistake” and recalled its notice issued to Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa in cases arising out of imposition of President’s Rule in the political crisis-hit hill state.

After considering its earlier verdict and the legal position that the Governor enjoys “complete immunity” in court proceedings, a five-judge Constitutional bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said “that (issuing notice) is our mistake.”

The bench made the remark at the outset when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi pointed out the legal position and referred to a 2006 judgement which had held that Governors cannot be asked to join legal proceedings.

Referring to Rohatgi’s contention that Governors have “complete immunity” under Article 361 of the Constitution, it said, “We consider is just and appropriate to recall the notice issued to Respondent 2 (the Governor).”

The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and N V Ramana, however, clarified that its order recalling the notice would not “preclude” the Arunachal Governor from filing or putting forth his views before it.

It also said that earlier senior advocate Satpal Jain, appearing for the Governor, had undertaken, in pursuance of court’s direction, to file materials leading to recommendation of President’s Rule.

The Attorney General, during the hearing, said either the leaders including Rajesh Tacho and Nabam Rebia agree to delete the name of the Governor from their respective pleas or he would cite the legal position and the case law on the issue.

“We can recall the notice, if we have committed the mistake,” the bench said.

“Having given a thoughtful consideration to the issue in hand, we are inclined to recall the notice. That, however, would not preclude the Governor from filing or putting forth his views before it,” the bench said.

It, meanwhile, issued notice to the Centre on fresh pleas of former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and Congress leader Bamang Felix against imposition of President’s Rule.

Woman becoming mother through surrogacy entitled to maternity leave: HC

A woman who has attained motherhood through a surrogacy procedure, is entitled to six months maternity leave like any other woman, the Bombay High Court has ruled. 

"Having considered rules 551(C) and(E) of Child Adoption Leave and Rules, we find that a case is made out for grant of interim relief as there is nothing in these rules which would disentitle maternity leave to a woman who has attained motherhood through surrogacy procedure," a bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and G S Kulkarni said in their order delivered on January 29. 

Accordingly, the judges, granting interim relief, asked the Central Railway (CR) to grant 180 days maternity leave to its woman employee, who had filed the petition challenging the decision of authorities to reject her leave application. 

The HC, while asking the Central Railway to grant petitioner maternity leave, posted the matter for disposal on March 11. 

The petitioner had approached the HC after the CR refused to give her maternity leave on the ground that there was no provision in the rules to grant such leave in case of surrogacy mothers. 

The petitioner got married in 2004 and for a long time she could not conceive a child. Hence, she decided to go in for the surrogacy procedure. Accordingly, an agreement was signed with a surrogate mother. 

When the surrogate mother completed 33 weeks of pregnancy, the petitioner applied for maternity leave, but her application was rejected by the CR. Being aggrieved, she moved the High Court. Counsels for the petitioner, Sandeep Shinde and Tanya Goswami, argued that if maternity leave was refused to the petitioner, it would violate the right of the child to develop a bond with the mother and would also not be compatible in society.

Supreme Court raps Gujarat for not implementing food security law

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on certain states for not implementing welfare legislation National Food Security Act, saying that why a state like Gujarat is not implementing the law passed by Parliament.

“What is Parliament doing? Is Gujarat not a part of India? The Act says it extends to whole of India and Gujarat is not implementing it. Tomorrow somebody can say that it is not going to implement the CrPC, IPC and the Evidence Act,” a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said.

The bench also asked the Centre to collect and collate information from drought-hit states on the status of welfare schemes like MGNREGA, National Food Security and mid-day meal.

It asked the Centre to filed the affidavit by February 10 and posted the matter for further hearing two days thereafter. The apex court had on January 18 asked the Centre to give information about implementation of schemes under MGNREGA, Food Security Act and the mid-day meal schemes as to whether those affected were being provided the minimum required employment and food or not.

The bench was hearing a PIL which alleged that parts of states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh have been hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.

The PIL, filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan run by persons like psephologist Yogendra Yadav, had sought implementation of the National Food Security Act which guarantees 5 kg of food grains per person per month. It also sought a direction to authorities that affected families be also given pulses and edible oils.

The plea had said that school-going children be also given milk and eggs under the mid-day meal scheme.

It had also sought adequate and timely compensation for crop loss and input subsidy for the next crop to the farmers affected by drought and subsidised cattle fodder for animals.

The PIL, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, had alleged that the Centre and states “have been highly negligent in performing their obligations, causing enormous damage to the lives of the people due to their inaction, which is in contravention of the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India”.

The petition submitted that the drought has led to severe decline in farm employment available to the rural poor.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Plea filed in Supreme Court against new juvenile law

A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the recently-passed juvenile law that allows delinquent minors of 16 years of age and above to be tried as adults if they commit heinous offences like rape and murder.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, cleared in the winter session of Parliament, repeals and recasts the old Act.

The PIL, filed by Congress leader and activist Tahseen Poonawalla, said that the new law is unreasonable, arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.

It challenges section 15 of the new Act which says in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of 16 years, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.

The plea said the impugned amended Act is “draconian and unconstitutional” which instead of providing care and protection to children deems them as adult in cases where the alleged commission of crime by them is heinous in nature.

It further said that the amendment goes against the letter and spirit of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is against the protection accorded to Child and adolescent criminals since 1800s.

On January 4, the President of India has accorded his assent to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

The Act also allows that any 16-18-year-old who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.

As soon as a child alleged to be in conflict with the law is apprehended by police, such a child shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated child welfare police officer who shall produce the child before the Juvenile Justice Board without any loss of time but within a period of 24 hours of apprehending the child.

Ex-Allahabad HC judge to investigate Rohith death

The judicial commission announced by the HRD Ministry to probe circumstances that led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) will be headed by retired Allahabad High Court judge Justice Ashok K Roopanwal. Sources said the one-member panel will be tasked with probing the sequence of events that led to Vemula’s death and fixing responsibility.

The ministry had announced a judicial probe last week after its fact-finding committee held the university responsible for Vemula’s suicide. The panel had also reported that students felt discriminated on campus.

Last November, HCU’s executive council had expelled five students, all Dalits, from the hostel. The students were punished for allegedly assaulting an ABVP student leader. The issue snowballed into a political storm after Vemula committed suicide on January 17.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Indian Maoist leader jailed for 23 years in UK for raping followers

Aravindan Balakrishnan, a 75-year-old Indian-origin man who ran a secretive extremist Maoist cult here, was today sentenced to 23 years in jail by a UK court for a string of sexual assaults, rape, and imprisonment of his own daughter for three decades.

Balakrishnan, known to his followers as Comrade Bala, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in London for six counts of indecent assault, four counts of rape and two counts of actual bodily harm.

He had been convicted following a jury trial in December last year where it emerged that he had kept his daughter in captivity for over 30 years of her life.

The 33-year-old daughter, who said she had been a "non- person" throughout her life, today choose a new identity for herself and described her situation as "horrible, dehumanising and degrading".

Katy Morgan-Davies, a new name of her choosing, told the BBC, "I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings. The people he looked up to were people like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein - you couldn't criticise them either in the house. They were his gods and his heroes. These were the sort of people he wanted to emulate".

She had told the court she was beaten and banned from singing nursery rhymes, going to school or making friends.

Sentencing Balakrishnan, the judge said, "You decided to treat her as a project, not a person. You claimed to do it for her to protect her from the outside world, but you created a cruel environment".

The judge also recommended a donation of 500 pounds to Palm Cove Society charity which helped Morgan-Davies escape.

Balakrishnan's wife, Chanda, who had lived with him as part of the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought for nearly 30 years had claimed earlier this week that his conviction was a "frame-up".

She had been unaware that her husband had fathered a daughter with his devoted follower Sian Davies and kept her confined in a London flat for years, spending her entire life until the age of 30 effectively imprisoned in the commune ruled by her father.

Balakrishnan had denied charges of rape and told the jury that he was "the focus of competition" between "jealous" women who made sexual advances towards him.

The sentencing ends an over two-year police investigation into a case which Scotland Yard detectives described as "completely unique".