Thursday, April 29, 2010

Govt promises to amend laws to protect privacy

New Delhi: Controversies over phone tapping and the role of lobbyists in influencing decision-making reverberated in Parliament for the second day in a row, with the government announcing that it would amend rules to protect citizens’ right of privacy.

“Government is committed to the right of privacy. If rules on phone tapping are inadequate, we will amend rules, we will add to it. We will bring more stringent safeguards,” home minister P Chidambaram said while replying to a debate on the telephone tapping controversy.

The lively debate had members debating the challenge the state faces in combating technology-savvy terrorists without allowing the security agencies to impinge on privacy and civil liberties. It saw the government acknowledging the concerns expressed by the Opposition.

Thus, Chidambaram agreed to examine whether National Technology Research Organisation (NTRO) — the agency equipped with interception technology and which has been accused of engaging in political surveillance — could be put under political oversight. He said the agency, which works under the national security advisor (NSA), could be put under a minister who would be accountable to Parliliament.

The home minister also promised a through probe into the charge of NTRO tapping phones of politicians, and agreed to share the findings with the House. Chidambaram also agreed to take a fresh look at the government’s position that tax violation constituted a valid reason by itself for somebody’s phone to be tapped. Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley had strongly argued against the provision, saying that mere suspicion of tax evasion could not be equated with threat to public safety. To do so would be fraught with serious repercussions, Jaitley argued, citing the SC judgment in the PUCL case.

Chidambaram did not agree with Jaitley’s interpretation of the SC order. Hecontended that the very inclusion of agencies dealing with economic offences — Enforcement Directorate and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence — among those which are authorised to intetercept phones in accordance with the procedure laid down shows that the safety of the financial system is recognised as an important concern.

He, however, agreed to revisit the issue when Jaitley persisted with theargument that electronic surveillance merely on the ground of suspicion of taxevasion could have serious consequences.

traded. When Jaitley and others took a swipe at the government over alleged role of lobbyists in determining the make-up of the government, Chidambaram retaliated by recalling the episode when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prevented by lobbyists from having a finance minister of his choice. The reference was to last minute substitution of Jaswant Singh by Yashwant Sinha, though Chidambaram named no names.

The home minister said that no government would function without intelligence, as he underlined the threat of terrorists adept at harnessing new advances in technology.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SC quashes cases against Khushboo for pre-marital sex remarks

New Delhi: There was red e m p t i o n for south Indian actress K h u s h b o o on Wednesday after five long years of battling 23 cases filed across Tamil N a d u against her remarks on prevalence of pre-marital sex in Indian cities. Putting an end to her harassment, the Supreme Court quashed all proceedings pending against her in trial courts, saying the complaints woefully lacked in evidence.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan, said those who filed complaints against the 39-year-old actress were “extra-sensitive” about the remarks made by her in 2005 and had no proof that these had disturbed the peace or hurt people’s sentiments.
The Madras high court, reflecting on the hue and cry raised in Tamil Nadu over Khushboo’s controversial comments, had on April 30 last year refused to stay the proceedings in trial courts.
Khushboo had introduced herself in the SC as a “famous south Indian actress, a mother of two young children” and said in her petition that she was being harassed and victimized at the behest of people with vested interests who had filed 23 “false, frivolous and mala fide” complaints against her. She had added that her fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression could not be curtailed by such persons.
The apex court agreed with Khushboo that her comments, to a news magazine, were in response to a survey conducted about pre-marital sex in big cities in India and that it was a bona fide opinion.Khushboo had also said that her comments to the magazine had been distorted by the local media in Tamil Nadu and published in a manner that made them appear provocative and misleading.
During the hearing, the apex court had castigated the complainants and had said that there was nothing illegal in live-in relationships between adults. When her counsel, senior advocate Pinky Anand had read out a portion of her interview to a fortnightly magazine whose translated version in a Tamil newspaper had created pandemonium and led to filing of the 23 complaint cases against her, the court wanted to know from the complainants as to what was so abhorrent in her view.

Monday, April 26, 2010




Kamala Mangalal Vayani & Ors. ... Appellants


M/s United India Insurance Co. Ltd. & Ors ...Respondents


The claimants in five motor accident claim cases are the appellants in these appeals by special leave. The owner-cum-driver (third respondent) did not contest the proceedings before the Tribunal. Only the insurer (first respondent) contested the proceedings. The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal allowed the claim petitions by a common judgment dated 16.5.1996. The first case relates to death of one Mangalal and the Tribunal awarded Rs.21,61,965/- as compensation. The other four cases relate to injuries sustained by the respective claimants in the same accident and the Tribunal awarded Rs.84,000/-, Rs.80,000/-, Rs.84,000/- and Rs.1,01,000/- respectively, as compensation. The Tribunal held that the owner and insurer were jointly and severally liable and the amount was recoverable from the insurer.

2. The insurer (first respondent) filed appeals before the Madras High Court contending that the insured vehicle had been engaged by a group consisting of claimants and others for a pilgrimage tour in the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu; that the vehicle did not have a permit to operate as a public service vehicle; that the insurance policy covered the use of the vehicle only under a `permit' within the meaning of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 or such a carriage falling under sub-section (3) of section 66 of the said Act; and that as the permit was not produced, the insurer could not be made liable. The High Court, by its common judgment dated 5.10.2001 accepted the said contentions and set aside the judgement and awards of the Tribunal insofar as it made the insurer liable. The said judgment is challenged by the claimants.

3. The fact that the vehicle involved in the accident was insured with the first respondent under a comprehensive Commercial Vehicle Insurance Policy on the date of the accident (27.7.1990) is not disputed. The insurance cover under the said policy was available from 31.3.1990 to 30.3.1991. The schedule to the insurance policy shows that the owner of the vehicle had paid in addition to the basic premium, additional premium to cover liability in respect of ten passengers as also the driver. The insurer however contends that as it had 3 denied that the vehicle had a valid permit, the claimants ought to have proved that the vehicle had a valid permit on the date of the accident; and as they failed to do so, it was not liable.
4. As noticed above, the owner-cum-driver had remained ex parte. Once it was established that the vehicle was comprehensively insured with the insurer to cover the passenger risk, the burden to prove that it was not liable in spite of such a policy, shifted to the insurer.

The claimants are not expected to prove that the vehicle had a valid permit, nor prove that the owner of the vehicle did not commit breach of any of the terms of the policy. It is for the insurer who denies its liability under the policy, to establish that in spite of the comprehensive insurance policy issued by it, it is not liable on account of the requirements of the policy not being fulfilled. In this case, the insurer produced a certified copy of the proceedings of the Registering Authority and Assistant Regional Transport Authority, Bangalore, dated 7.7.1990 to show that the application for registration of the vehicle filed by the third respondent, was rejected with an observation that it was open to the applicant to apply for registration in the appropriate class. But that only proved that on 7.7.1990, the vehicle did not have a permit. But that does not 4 prove that the vehicle did not have a permit on 27.7.1990, when the accident occurred. It was open to the insurer to apply to the concerned transport authority for a certificate to show the date on which the permit was granted and that as on the date of the accident, the vehicle did not have a permit, and produce the same as evidence. It failed to do so. The High Court committed an error in expecting the claimants to prove that the vehicle possessed a valid permit. We are of the view that there was no justification for the High Court to interfere with the judgment and awards of the Tribunal in the absence of relevant evidence.

5. We therefore allow the appeals, set aside the order of the High Court and restore the judgment and awards of the Tribunal. The appellant-claimants will be entitled to interest on the compensation amount from the date of application for compensation to date of payment at the rate 5% per annum.

6. We make it clear that this judgment will not come in the way of the insurer proceeding against the owner and recovering the amount paid by it to the claimants, in the event of the insurer being able to establish, in any suit it may choose to file against the owner, that there was violation or breach of the conditions of the insurance 5 policy or that the vehicle was not covered by a permit on the date of the accident.

(R V Raveendran)

New Delhi; ____________________J.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bill ready to bar tainted lawyers from becoming judges: Moily

The Judges’ Standards and Accountability Bill envisages creation of a data bank of legal professionals to ensure that no professional with dubious antecedent is appointed as a judge in higher judiciary, said Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily Wednesday. Moily said the bill, presently being examined by a group of ministers, would be introduced in the next session of parliament.

Talking to reporters after a news conference, convened to announce the launch of “a national consultation” for the “Second Generation Reform in Legal Education”, the minister disclosed that his ministry was also working on a separate bill on the appointment process for judges. The national consultation, to be held May 1-2, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan attending the function at Vigyan Bhawan here. The consultation will identify the major challenges in the field of legal education and draw a roadmap for reforms, said Moily.
He said: “India presently faces major challenges in the field of legal education to respond to global challenges.”
“Despite having emerged as a leading global hub for the knowledge-based service industry, the country still needs a revolution to respond to global challenges in providing services particularly by lawyers,” said the minister.
The minister also underlined the need to amend the Advocates Act, 1961, which empowers the Bar Council of India to regulate legal education in India, besides exercising disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers.

Nominee, not heir, inherits shares: Bombay HC

The nominee of a deceased person, and not the heir, has the right to shares after the original shareholder’s death, the Bombay High Court has ruled. Dismissing the application of a widow who sought permission to sell shares belonging to her late husband, Justice Roshan Dalvi held that she had no right to do so since she was not the nominee. The nominee was her late husband’s nephew.

“The Companies Act sets out that the nomination has to be made during the lifetime of the holder, according to legal procedures. If that procedure is followed, the nominee would become entitled to all the rights in the shares to the exclusion of all other persons (following the death of the shareholder),’’ said the judge. The court said that Harsha Kokate would have no rights over the shares owned by her deceased husband, Nitin Kokate.
Harsha and Nitin wed in December 2004, and Nitin passed away in 2007. A year later, Harsha moved the High Court seeking to sell the shares in Nitin’s demat account with Saraswat Cooperative Bank. It was found that a year before his death, Nitin had nominated his nephew in respect of the shares.
Harsha’s lawyers argued that she was entitled to the shares as she was the heir and legal representative of her late husband. Her lawyers also pointed to the nomination provisions relating to insurance papers and to the shares of a flat in a cooperative housing society. “Since Nitin died intestate (without leaving a will), his widow would be entitled to the shares to the exclusion of the nominee,’’ claimed Harsha’s advocate.
The HC disagreed. “The provisions (relating to insurance and housing societies) are made merely to give a valid discharge to the insurance company or the cooperative society without vesting the ownership rights in the insurance policy or the membership rights in the society upon such nominee,’’ said the judge.

‘Muslim woman entitled to maintenance’

Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court, in a significant judgment, has ruled that a Muslim woman is entitled for maintenance pending litigation as well as payment of cost of litigation under the Family Courts Act, 1984.

A division bench comprising Justice Devi Prasad Singh and Justice S C Chaurasia, while elaborating the Right to Life and the Right to Livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India observed — “In case wife is suffering from paucity of funds or is unable to maintain herself or she has got no sufficient means for livelihood, then, the court in a pending suit for restitution of conjugal rights, has got ample powers to direct for payment of maintenance in pursuance to the powers conferred under section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure”.
Needless to say that right to life and livelihood does not need animal living but quality of life suiting to the status of the person concerned, said the Bench adding that the provisions of the Family Court Act shall be applicable to family disputes of every citizen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

HC: No age tests on pregnant woman

Mumbai: The Bombay high court was told that doctors of J J Hospital have stated that age verification test cannot be conducted on a woman who is in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

The division bench of Justice D B Bhosale and Justice R V More were hearing a petition filed by 33-year-old Shankar Chand seeking custody of his wife  who was sent to a shelter by Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for allegedly being a minor. Chand and his wife  eloped and married.

His wife ’s parents approached the CWC with her school leaving certificate, insisting that she was a minor. After an age verification test at the Police Hospital at Nagpada, it was certified on February 6, 2010, that women was 21 years old.

The judges wondered how could CWC conduct an ossification test to verify the age when under the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2000, it has to be carried out by a board.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Justice Dinakaran asked to go on leave

New Delhi: Already off judicial duty, Karnataka High Court chief justice P D Dinakaran faced another setback with the Supreme Court collegium asking him to go on leave.

Justice Madan B Lokur, acting chief justice of Delhi High Court, has been made the acting chief justice of the Karnataka HC.

The SC collegium took the decision on Thursday after representations from various quarters that judicial work at the Karnataka HC was suffering in the absence of a functioning chief justice.

Interestingly, since the Constitution does not provide for a judge to be sent on leave, cooperation of Justice Dinakaran is crucial for the implementation of the collegium’s decision.

The collegium also considered the fact that the inquiry against Justice Dinakaran by a three-member committee headed by Justice V S Sirpurkar will take more than a year to complete its work. Till then judicial work at the Karnataka HC could not have been allowed to suffer. The committee was set up by the Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari after admitting a motion seeking Justice Dinakaran’s removal.

The allegations against Justice Dinakaran range included possessing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income, unlawfully securing five housing board plots in the name of his wife and two daughters, entering into benami transactions, and acquiring and possessing agricultural holdings beyond the ceiling limit.

There are also allegations that Justice Dinakaran was involved in illegally encroaching on government and public property to deprive dalits and poor of their livelihood, violation of human rights of dalits and poor and destruction of evidence during the official inquiry.

In its meeting, the collegium also recommended the name of MY Eqbal, the senior-most judge of the Jharkhand High Court, as the new chief justice of the Madras High Court. He will succeed Justice H L Gokhale, who has been recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don’t treat armymen like beggars, SC to govt

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has slammed the Union government for treating army personnel like “beggars” in respect of emoluments and pension and asked the authorities to adopt a more “humane approach” towards those bravely defending the country’s borders.

“If a person goes to any part of Delhi and sits for begging, he will earn Rs 1000 every day and you are offering a pittance of Rs 1000 per month for a man who fought for the country in the high altitudes and whose arm was amputated?
“Is this the way you treat those brave army officers? It is unfortunate that you are treating them like beggars,” a bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and AK Patnaik said in verbal c o m m e n t s while passing the order.
The apex court passed the order dismissing the Centre’s appeal challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court direction to pay higher pension to CS Siddu, a Short Commissioned Officer whose right arm had to be amputated due to an accident while on duty at the high altitudes on November 21, 1970. PTI