Monday, July 29, 2013

Passport services now on phones

Ministry of external affairs on Monday launched its ambitious mobile app,MEA India, described by foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai as a one-stop shop. The app will make it possible to apply for passport and avail other services related to the travel document — as also visas and consular assistance anywhere in the world — using your smartphone or other handheld devices. 

"Whether it be information on passport status applied anywhere in India or location of centres which attest documents in India, or pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Haj, this one stop-shop will provide you all you need to know," said Mathai, who played the lead role in the development of the app. 

"Diplomats were earlier encouraged to work in anonymity but the requirements of communication have changed and evolved and so have we in MEA," he added. Mathai retires on Wednesday. 

The app is designed and developed by engineers from National Informatics Centre and Silver Touch Technologies and MEA under-secretary E Vishnu Vardhan Reddy. On an experimental basis, the app will allow ordinary Indians to ask questions about India's foreign policy which will be answered directly by the foreign minister. 

While the app will also make it possible to apply online for passport on your phone, it can also be used to seek consular help while travelling abroad. "MEAIndia helps you find the nearest Indian Mission/Post and establish contact with Indian officials there. Consular help is now just a click away," said an official.

Conspiracy behind move to double gas price April 2014 : PIL

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre, RIL and petroleum minister Veerappa Moily and sought their replies on a PIL which alleges conspiracy in the government's decision to double the price of natural gas from April 2014. 

Before seeking replies from the respondents within four weeks, a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi sought clarifications from Colin Gonsalves — counsel of petitioners MP Gurudas Dasgupta and ex-power secretary E A S Sarma — and heard RIL counsel Harish Salve. 

To Salve's preliminary objections, the bench said, "We cannot brush aside the assertions of an MP at the preliminary stage. You (respondents) file your replies and we will consider it." It fixed hearing on the PIL for September 5. 

The petitioners alleged that KG basin gas exploring contractors, RIL and NIKO Resources, entered into a conspiracy with the Centre "to provide exorbitant, unreasonable and excessive profits to the contractors, which will bankrupt the exchequer and severely affect the Indian economy". 

They sought quashing of the gas price hike and requested the court to direct the government to ensure that henceforth "the price of domestically produced gas is fixed in rupees and not dollars or any other currency". 

"Appoint a court commission comprising independent and fearless officers and experts having expertise in the area of this dispute to inquire into the real cost of gas at the well-head in the KG basin and also into the capacity of the basin itself and related issues raised in the petition," they said. 

Dasgupta and Sarma also alleged that certain benefits were being granted to the contractors by government for mala fide and collateral gain which would increase the subsidy burden enormously. They also said the gas price hike would "enormously impact" food and energy security resulting in higher prices of fertilizers, food products and cooking gas affecting the poor. 

Quoting comptroller and auditor general's report, they sought a direction to RIL and NIKO to "forthwith relinquish those areas of KG basin as recommended by the CAG and delineated by the Director General of Hydrocarbon". Salve said RIL was ready to relinquish these and had already written to the government in this regard. 

The petitioners quoted DGH to allege that only 18 wells against the required 50 had been drilled by RIL, which incurred expenditure of $5,693 million but till March 31, 2011 had recovered $5,258 million. 

The petitioners said the petroleum ministry on May 2, 2012 issued a notice to RIL informing it that breach of production sharing contract and failure to comply with the approved plan had resulted in heavy loss of production and sought to disallow $1005 million from cumulative cost incurred by the contractor. 

They said the matter went to arbitration with RIL appointing Justice SP Bharucha as its arbitrator and government choosing Justice VN Khare. When they were in the process of appointing the third arbitrator, the petroleum minister gave an interview saying he intended to junk arbitration and push for a negotiated settlement. 

The petitioners said the arbitration must proceed expeditiously and be completed within six months. But Salve objected to it saying both arbitrators were eminent retired chief justices of the Supreme Court and nothing should be said which would hurt them and the process of arbitration.

Britain confirms £3,000 cash bond for visas for visitors from India, 5 other countries

The British Home Office confirms it will demand a £3,000 ($4,350) refundable bond for visas for "high-risk" visitors from six former colonies in Africa and Asia.
A statement on Monday says Britain will go ahead with the pilot scheme which has caused outrage, charges of discrimination and warnings of retaliation and that the move will hurt trade.
The statement sent by email did not say when the pilot would start. It said if the scheme is successful Britain would like to apply the bond "on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country."
The countries affected are Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Britain's Home Office said it hopes the bond system deters overstaying of visas and recovers costs of foreign nationals using public services.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rs3L to acid attack victim- SC

Delhi's acid attack victim Laxmi sported a smile after an agonizingly meandering seven-year litigation in the Supreme Court, which on Thursday hiked compensation to victims like her to Rs 3 lakh and directed the states to adopt a Central model law to severely restrict retail sale of the corrosive substance.

A bench of Justices R M Lodha and F M I Kalifulla accepted suggestions made on Laxmi's behalf by counsel Aparna Bhat and for Centre by Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran and said the model law clamping conditions on across the counter sale of acid to restrict access to the corrosive substance must be adopted and notified by the states within three months.

The compensation scheme notified by various states had varied amounts - from Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 lakh. The bench headed by Justice Lodha, which had speeded up the process for justice to acid attack victims in the last six months, agreed with Laxmi's counsel that it must be uniform and fixed it at Rs 3 lakhs.

Of the total compensation amount, the states must pay the victim Rs 1 lakh within 15 days and the rest in the next two months, the bench ordered.

Asking Union government to circulate the model rules based on restrictions applied for the across the counter sale for poison under the Poisons Act, 1919, the bench said: "within three months from the circulation of the model rules, the states and Union Territories which have not already notified the rules including 'acid' as poisonous substance shall frame the rules".

In another significant direction, the bench said "the centre and states shall work towards making the offences under the Poisons Act cognizable and non-bailable."

This means, any retailer would not get bail if arrested for selling the corrosive substance without asking for the identity proof of the buyer, his address, purpose of purchase and the quantity. Acid should not be sold to those below 18 years, the court said.

All retailers must report their stock of acid to the area sub-divisional magistrate every 15 days and if undeclared stock of the corrosive substance was found with him, he would face a fine up to Rs 50,000 coupled with confiscation of the undeclared stock, the bench said.

The court also said all educational institutions and industrial units using acid must maintain a log of the stock and report it to the area sub-divisional magistrate (SDM).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

HC asks man to pay wife costs for unnecessary litigation

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court has asked a man to pay Rs 25,000 to his wife as legal costs as he had forced her to enter into a legal battle over the custody of their daughter.

The court imposed cost on him for challenging the orders of the trial court and the Supreme Court by citing his constitutional rights. It observed that because of him, the wife was left with no option but to incur heavy expenses on a court battle.

Francis Joseph and Shobha Joseph have been in a legal battle over the custody of their daughter in Vadodara's family court. The court had given custody of the child to the mother but this was not acceptable to Francis. He challenged the decision before the principal judge but here, too, he was not able to get the order he wanted. Francis had even levelled allegations the court of the principal judge was 'prejudiced' against him and also made remarks about the functioning of the court. He also complained about the judge in his petition filed before the high court. His wife's lawyer placed before the court how Francis took every issue to the apex court whenever the trial court ruled against him. He also accused the petitioner of 'cunningly' drafting the petition to deprive the child from her mother's love.

Justice G B Shah observed: "The manner in which this petition is drafted, it appears that the petitioner belongs to the creed, which does not have any respect for truth and to achieve his goal, he appears to make allegations against any one." The judge upheld the order of the family court giving custody of child to the mother. The court went on to punish the petitioner for his conduct and told him to pay the amount to his wife for unnecessarily dragging her to courts.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Supreme Court refuses to reduce age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years

The Supreme Court today refused to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years and dismissed a plea that minors involved in heinous crimes should not be protected under the law.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said that interference in Juvenile Justice Act is not necessary and dismissed a batch of PILs which were filed in the aftermath of the December 16 brutal gangrape and murder case in which a minor was also allegedly involved.

"We uphold the provisions of the Act... Interference in the law is not necessary," the bench said while reading out operative part of its judgement.

In the wake of the huge hue and cry over the alleged involvement of the minor in the December 16 case, a batch of PILs was filed in the apex court pleading that the Act should be amended and a minor, involved in heinous crimes, should not be protected under the law. The plea in the apex court was opposed by various child activists, including former Chairman of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Amod Kanth.

On December 16, last year, a 23-year-old girl was brutally gangraped and assaulted in a moving bus allegedly by six persons, one of whom is a minor and is facing proceedings before a Juvenile Justice Board which is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on July 25.The girl had succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

One of the PILs filed in the apex court had sought examination of the constitutional validity of the provision defining juvenile in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, which treats a person as a minor till he attains the age of 18 years.

The petition had contended that sections 2(k), 10 and 17of the Act which deal with the issue were irrational and ultra-vires of the Constitution. The petitions had also submitted that the Act needs amendment as it does not talk about the physical or mental maturity of a juvenile. Another petition had sought appointment of a criminal psychologist to determine through clinical and medical examination if the juvenile accused in a case would be a threat to the society.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

13-year-olds on Facebook, HC slams centre for a lack of law to protect children online

"The world has gone way ahead, we are way behind" on protection of children from online abuse, the Delhi High Court today told the Centre, lamenting lack of adequate laws to address the issue. The court's observation came even as Facebook and Google, which were asked to submit affidavits detailing measures that are available on their sites as protection against misuse, told it that they cannot physically verify the age of the - users and it is the responsibility of the legal guardians. "You (Centre) are lacking.... You are behind time," a bench of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bhakru said while hearing a PIL questioning how children below 13 years of age can open an account on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut.
The court made the remarks after it was told by the petitioner that in the US there is a law 'Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)' as per which a child below 13 years of age is not allowed to open an account. "Do you have any such Act for online privacy? Nothing. You are not focussed on this issue at all. The world has gone far ahead. We are way behind," the court told the Centre. The bench was hearing arguments of petitioner and former RSS idealogue K N Govindacharya's counsel Veerag Gupta that children below 18 years are getting into an agreement with the social networking sites to open an account which is against the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and also the Information and Technology Act.

The petition also sought recovery of taxes from the web sites on their income from operations in India. Meanwhile, Facebook Inc and Google Inc submitted affidavits in the court detailing the protective measures that are available on their sites to ensure their product is not misused. They said their statement of rights and other terms and conditions prohibits children below 13 years of age from registering an account and creating more than one personal account.

They said they also have strict policies in place to delete any objectionable or misleading content they come across on their sites. They, however, told the court that they cannot physically verify the age of the users and it is the responsibility of the legal guardians. The petitioner had said due to non-verification of users, more than eight crore of Facebook users across the world were found to be "fake", which the website admitted before a US authority. He had said government was not taking any action against the foreign companies which have their Indian operations.

Supreme Court clears way for running of dance bars in Maharashtra

Seven years after they were banned, dance bars can again run in Maharashtra with the Supreme Court today upholding a Bombay High Court verdict quashing the state government's order.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar also vacated its stay order on implementation of the high court judgement.

The Maharashtra government had in 2005 brought in an amendment in the Bombay Police Act which was challenged in the high court by an association representing restaurants and bars.

The high court in 2006 had quashed the government's decision. The state government had moved the apex court against the high court's order that same year. The Supreme Court while admitting the government's plea had stayed the high court's verdict.

Seven years after they were banned, dance bars can again run in Maharashtra with the Supreme Court today upholding a Bombay High Court verdict quashing the state government's order.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar also vacated its stay order on implementation of the high court judgement.

The Maharashtra government had in 2005 brought in an amendment in the Bombay Police Act which was challenged in the high court by an association representing restaurants and bars.

The high court in 2006 had quashed the government's decision. The state government had moved the apex court against the high court's order that same year. The Supreme Court while admitting the government's plea had stayed the high court's verdict.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Money laundering: RBI imposes fine of Rs 49.5 crore on 22 banks

NEW DELHI: The RBI on Monday imposed fines totalling Rs 49.5 crore on 22 private and public sector banks including SBI, PNB andYes Bank for violating know your customer/anti-money laundering norms. It also gave cautionary letters to seven including Citibank and Stanchart following an expose made by an online portal.

"After considering the facts of each case...Reserve Bank came to conclusion that some of the violations were substantiated and warranted imposition of monetary penalty..." the central bank said in a statement.

A penalty of Rs 3 crore each has been imposed on State Bank of India (SBI), Bank of India, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Federal Bank.

United Bank of India, Lakshmi Vilas Bank, Punjab National Bank, Jammu & Kashmir Bank and Andhra Bank were slapped a penalty of Rs 2.5 crore each.

A penalty of Rs 2 crore each was imposed on Yes Bank, Vijaya Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and Dhanlaxmi Bank. The other banks which were penalised by the RBI include Deutsche Bank, Development Credit Bank, ING Vysya Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Ratnakar Bank.

Besides, Reserve Bank has issued cautionary letters to Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, BNP Paribas, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and State Bank of Patiala. Following probe into charges levelled by an online portal Cobrapost, RBI has earlier imposed fines totalling Rs 10.5 crore on top three private lenders - Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank.

Although the investigation did not reveal any prima facie evidence of money laundering, RBI said that "any conclusive inference in this regard can be drawn only by an end-to-end investigation of the transactions by tax and enforcement agencies".

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Educated woman in love can't cry rape: HC

The court went through the prosecution case and noted that the accused had proposed to the girl.

A love affair gone bad is no reason to charge a man who got a woman pregnant with rape, the Bombay high court has ruled. Justice Sadhna Jadhav acquitted Borivali resident Manesh Kotiyan (39) of rape charges three years after his arrest and subsequent conviction.

"The very fact that the prosecution has admitted in the cross-examination that she had a love affair with the accused and she desired to marry him. In these circumstances, offence under Section 376 of the IPC (rape) would necessarily fail," said Justice Jadhav ruling that the rape charges against Kotiyan were "unsustainable".

The court went through the prosecution case and noted that the accused had proposed to the girl. "The complainant is an educated adult person," said the judge. "She was fully aware of the fact that he (Kotiyan) was attracted to her. She chose to accompany him to Gorai. She also checked into a hotel to celebrate his birthday. She was aware of the consequences," said the judge.

"She had not cried for help and had not taken her resistance to a logical end. Hence, it would not be justifiable to hold that the consent was obtained by intimidation, force meditated imposition, circumvention surprise or undue influence," said the judge.

The court, however, upheld Kotiyan's conviction on charges of cheating as he had failed to disclose to the victim that he was married and had children. Since he has served around three years in prison, the court ordered his release.

"There is no evidence that the accused coerced her and raped her," said advocate Arfan Sait, who was appointed by the high court legal aid cell to defend Kotiyan. "He had always intended to marry her and had told her he would do so once the divorce proceedings ended."

The case dates back to March 2010, when the girl who was four months pregnant lodged a case of rape against Kotiyan. The two had met when they were working at a stationery shop in Borivli. In November 2009, they had gone to Gorai to celebrate Kotiyan's birthday, where according to the prosecution he forced her into having sexual intercourse. A sessions court in 2012 held Kotiyan guilty of rape and sentenced him to seven years rigorous imprisonment. Kotiyan filed an appeal in the HC. "It is clear from her deposition that she had lodged the FIR in a fit of rage," the HC said.

MPs, MLAs will be disqualified as soon as they are convicted: SC

In a big leap towards cleaning up Indian politics, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that MPs and MLAs will be immediately disqualified if they are convicted in a criminal case by a trial court. The court struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protects convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months, on the ground of pendency of appeal.
The court, however, said its order will not apply to sitting MPs and MLAs who have filed appeals against their convictions in higher courts. But those convicted after this verdict will not be saved by this provision, said the court, adding that Parliament had exceeded its powers in providing this immunity.

Discarding the Centre''s argument, the bench of Justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya ruled that Parliament lacked legislative competence to enact this provision since it was in direct conflict with Articles 101 and 102, which stipulate the principles for those who want to contest elections as well as those who have been elected.

The court ruled that no relaxation could be given to a sitting MP or a MLA when an ordinary citizen is barred from contesting elections if he stands convicted on the date of polling. "If, because of a disqualification, a person cannot be chosen as a member of parliament or state legislature, for the same disqualification, he cannot continue as a member of parliament or the state legislature," it said.

The bench also rejected the Centre''s argument that the disqualification of a convicted MP or MLA was only "deferred" and not rendered ineffective. It held that the constitutional provisions "expressly prohibit" parliament from deferring the date from which disqualification will "come into effect" and so Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act is "ultra vires".

"Once a person, who was a member of either house of parliament or state legislature becomes disqualified by or under any law made by parliament under Articles 102(1)(e) and 191(1)(e) of the constitution, his seat automatically falls vacant and parliament cannot make a provision to defer the date on which the disqualification of a sitting member will have effect," it said.

The court accepted the argument of senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who was appearing for PIL petitioner Lily Thomas, and another petitioner S N Shukla, that the constitutional provisions provide for immediate disqualification on conviction under different charges including corruption, violence against women and sexual offences, customs violation, illegal use of drugs and inciting communal hatred.

The bench rejected the Centre''s argument that the lawmakers will be left with no remedy in case of "frivolous convictions" that may later be set aside. The bench said appellate courts have the powers to stay the convictions under Section 389(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The lawmakers will not be disqualified in such cases, it said.

Representation of The people act

* SECTION 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act says a sitting MP or MLA "shall not" be disqualified till the appellate court decides on his appeal against the first conviction, filed within three months.

* IN 2005, a 5-judge SC bench upheld Section 8(4) as a reasonable classification that does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution.

* ACCORDING to APDR, an NGO, 162 sitting Lok Sabha members have criminal cases pending against them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

SC gives timeframe for vacating government housing

The Supreme Court Friday issued guidelines giving time frame for vacating government accommodation by judges and government employees upon their retirement or ceasing to occupy the office.

This also applies to members of parliament. The apex court bench headed by Justice P. Sathasivam said judges would vacate government accommodation within one month of their retirement and the government employees would do so within 15 days of their retirement.

In case of member of parliament, if they fail to vacate government accommodation within a stipulated time then the estate department would report the matter to the Lok Sabha speaker or the Rajya Sabha chairman as the case may be.

The Lok Sabha speaker would in turn refer the matter to the house committee which would take appropriate steps to secure the vacation of government accommodation.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Undertrial can be MP, but not cop: SC

 Supreme Court's ruling, which set aside concurrent judgments of the Central Administrative Tribunal and the Delhi high court allowing a person, who was booked for rioting and assaulting but was acquitted after reaching a compromise with the victims, to join Delhi Police as constable.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Ranjana P Desai on Tuesday said, "A candidate wishing to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude. He must have impeccable character and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not fit in this category."

Justice Desai, who authored the judgment for the bench, added, "Even if he is acquitted or discharged in the criminal case, that acquittal or discharge order will have to be examined to see whether he has been completely exonerated in the case because even a possibility of his taking to a life of crime poses a threat to the discipline of the police force."

One Mehar Singh and his associates assaulted a bus conductor in 2004 on being asked to purchase tickets. They also broke the window panes and assaulted passengers who came to the conductor's rescue. But the aggressors reached a compromise with the victims and were acquitted by the trial court in 2009, the year when Delhi Police advertised for recruitment of constables.

Mehar Singh cleared the physical test, written examination and interview. But the screening committee, which examined his antecedents, observed that he and his associates had assaulted the bus conductor with iron chain, belt and stones in a pre-planned manner and caused injuries to him. This showed Mehar Singh's violent nature and scant respect for the law of the land, the screening committee inferred and did not recommend his case for appointment as constable.

Singh challenged it successfully before CAT, which ordered Delhi Police to take him. Delhi Police's appeal was rejected by the high court. But additional solicitor general Rakesh Khanna argued before the Supreme Court that the acquittal was not as honourable as was being projected by Singh and pleaded that recruitment of such persons could lower the moral of police to tackle criminals.

Accepting his argument, the bench of Justices Singhvi and Desai said, "The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the great responsibility of maintaining law and order and public order in society. People repose great faith and confidence in it. It must be worthy of that confidence."

The bench lamented that in the recent past, the image of police had taken a beating because of wayward behaviour and misuse of power. "In such a situation, we would not like to dilute the importance and efficacy of a mechanism like the screening committee created by Delhi Police to ensure that persons who are likely to erode its credibility do not enter the police force," it said.

The bench also took serious note of allegations that persons involved in serious offences had been recommended for appointment as constables by the same screening committee and wanted the Delhi Police commissioner to inquire into it.

"It is for the commissioner of police, Delhi to examine whether the screening committee has compromised the interest of the police force in any case and to take remedial action if he finds that it has done so. Public interest demands an in-depth examination of this allegation at the highest level. Perhaps, such deviations from the policy are responsible for the spurt in police excesses," the apex court said.

"We expect the commissioner of police, Delhi to look into the matter and if there is substance in the allegations to take necessary steps forthwith so that policy incorporated in the standing order is strictly implemented," it said.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SC rejects two telecom service providers’ plea

Supreme Court on Monday rejected the plea by telecom service provider Essar tele holding and Loop telecom limited that they could not be proceeded against by the 2G special court into the charges of cheating and conspiracy in the allocation of 2G licences and allocation spectrum.

The apex court bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice SK Mukhopadhaya dismissed the plea holding that it lacked merit.

Pronouncing the judgement, Justice Mukhopadhaya said: “No merit and dismissed.”

Essar tele holding limited, Loop telecom limited and Vikas Saraf had moved the apex court that the special CBI court trying 2G cases could not proceed against them as it was set up to try cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and their trial by the 2G special court would deprive them of one step in the judicial ladder to seek remedy.