Monday, March 31, 2014

SC does away with disparity in pensions of HC judges

The Supreme Court on Monday removed a 60-year-old disparity in computation of pension for two categories of high court judges - those appointed from judicial service from lower courts and others from among advocates.

Judges appointed from subordinate courts on retirement get pension for the entire period of service, including the time they worked as judicial officers, even if their tenure as a high court Judge was for three years.

Advocates appointed as HC judges, say a decade before reaching the retirement age of 62 years, had their pension computed taking into account their period of service as only 10 years.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana erased this disparity between those who get elevated from trial courts and those from among advocates.

"The experience and knowledge gained by a successful lawyer at the Bar can never be considered to be less important from any point of view in comparison to the experience gained by a judicial officer. If the service of a judicial officer is counted for fixation of pension, there is no valid reason as to why the experience at the Bar cannot be treated as equivalent for the same purpose," said Justice Sathasivam, who authored the verdict.

He added, "The fixation of higher pension to the judges drawn from subordinate judiciary who have served for shorter period in contradistinction to judges drawn from the Bar who have served for longer period with less pension is highly discriminatory and breach of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution."

Such disparity in pension affected the image of judiciary, the apex court admitted and cited this as a prime reason why many successful lawyers were shunning the offer of judgeship.

"When pensions are meager because of the shorter service, lawyers who attain distinction in the profession may not, because of this anomaly, accept the office of judgeship. When capable lawyers do not show inclination towards judgeship, the quality of justice declines," the bench said.

The court said "one rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a constitutional office". It said, "When a civil servant retires from service, the family pension is fixed at a higher rate whereas in the case of the high court, it is fixed at a lower rate. No discrimination can be made in the matter of payment of family pension."

Allowing petitions seeking parity in pension for HC judges, the bench said, "We accept the petitioners' claim and declare that for pensionary benefits, 10 years practice as an advocate be added as a qualifying service for judges elevated from the Bar." The court added 10 years service to this category of judges because the Constitution provides that a lawyer becomes eligible to be appointed as an HC judge if he has 10 years experience.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SC commutes Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's death sentence to life imprisonment

The Supreme Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of 1993 Delhi bomb blast case convict and Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar to life term on the ground of delay in deciding his mercy plea and his medical condition. 

A four-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam granted life to Bhullar on the ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding his mercy plea and also on the basis of his present medical condition. 

The bench, also comprising justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya, passed the order on a curative petition filed by Bhullar's wife Navneet Kaur. 

She pleaded before the court to relook into its verdict, in which Bhullar's plea for commuting the sentence was rejected, in view of its recent judgment where it was held that delay in deciding mercy plea can be a ground for commutation of death penalty. 

Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in September 1993, which killed nine persons and injured 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M S Bitta. 

The Centre had earlier on March 27 told the court that it had no problem with commutation of Bhullar's death sentence to life term. 

It had said that the petition in this regard has to be allowed in view of the court's January 21 verdict that delay in deciding mercy pleas can be a ground for such relief. 

The bench had on January 31 stayed Bhullar's execution and had agreed to review its judgment by which it had rejected the 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict's plea to commute his death sentence to life term. 

It had issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on a curative petition and had also directed the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), where Bhullar is being treated, to file a medical report on the condition of the death row convict who is alleged to be suffering from mental illness. 

The apex court had on January 21 said that inordinate and inexplicable delay by government in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence. 

The apex court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar's appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi high court in 2002. 

He had filed a review petition which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003. 

Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. 

The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 14, 2011. Citing the delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence but his plea was rejected. 

The apex court on January 21 had held inordinate delay by government in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence and had granted life to 15 condemned prisoners including four aides of forest brigand Veerappan. 

In the landmark judgment, the court had held that prolonging execution of death sentence has a "dehumanising effect" on condemned prisoners who have to face the "agony" of waiting for years under the shadow of death during the pendency of their mercy plea. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

HC notice to govt over 'gender bias' in State Reserve Police Force

Gujarat high court on Thursday sought explanation from the state government, the DGP and the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) over a petition filed by a woman constable alleging gender discrimination in the SRPF.

A woman constable from Rajkot, Tejiben Zapda, has questioned various circulars and departmental orders issued in the SRPF since 2011 forbidding female employees from doing any office work. These circulars hold that women are to be assigned field duty only.

In her petition filed through advocate Vijay Nangesh, Zapda has claimed that denying women a posting in headquarters and offices is in violation of their right to equality in the force. Seeking quashing of these circulars and orders, she has argued that the orders "show grave prejudice against women at large and also reflect utter insensitivity towards the needs of little children and babies of these women constables, [and] towards their physical and mental well-being".

She has alleged that these orders are passed to "purposely harass and punish women by keeping them away from the head office and official work, keeping them away in distant places and assigning them the toughest tasks so as to break their morale and keep them under constant stress for reasons known to authorities only".

Claiming that the policy is against the recommendations of all the 6 National Conferences of Women in Policing, the petitioner has stated that the authorities try to discourage entry of women in the police force and thus severely hamper their empowerment. Zapda has also submitted that young mothers face various problems and their babies are left without proper care. The petition further states that women constable use pills to stop lactation artificially. This causes many side-effects such as vomiting, problems of digestion and feeling of nervousness in these young mothers and also increases the risk of breast cancer in the long run, the petition states. Many of the women constables are facing various other illnesses and going through severe depression.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Won't commandeer luxury cars - EC

The Election Commission has decided that it will not commandeer luxury cars for election duty. During the 2012 assembly elections, a PIL was filed complaining against the EC officials for arbitrarily taking possession of luxury cars and SUVs. This PIL was disposed of in 2013 when the government increased the remuneration for such vehicle requisitions.

In response to a petition filed by a Navsari's co-operative society, the EC and state government told the high court that they had issued strict instructions earlier this month to all officials concerned that no luxury cars should be requisitioned for election duty.

Gujarat high court orders Nadiad judge's retraining

The Gujarat high court came down heavily on a lower court judge for ignoring the Supreme Court directive while rejecting anticipatory bail of a farmer of Thasra village in Kheda district.

It has ordered to send the judge to HC's judicial academy to study and for his sensitization towards using court's powers in cases of anticipatory bail.

Justice Anant Dave pulled up an additional sessions judge of Nadiad court for denying bail to Thasra resident Bharat Patel, who was accused of killing a blue bull. The lower court judge refused bail to Patel by observing that an SC order related to interpretation of provisions of section 438 of the CrPC cannot be applied to this case.

When Patel moved the HC, Justice Dave found that the lower court judge was "oblivious to the law laid down by the apex court" and he just "casually" mentioned that such judgment is not applicable in a case.

Irked by the sessions judge's order, the HC said, "The degree of understanding of law and anticipatory bail by 5th additional sessions judge of Nadiad needs to be relooked and for sensitization of a judicial officer of the rank of additional sessions judge, the registry of the high court is directed to informed the concerned judge to attend the session that is to be conducted by the judicial academy, if so scheduled with regard to powers to be exercised under section 438 of the CrPC."

The HC said so after Patel's lawyer submitted that the accused suffers from epilepsy for 20 years and is home confined. The incident of killing the animal took place on February 25 and FIR was lodged the next evening merely on basis of a woman's statement.

Witness not expected to recall every minute detail while lodging FIR, Bombay high court rules

The Bombay high court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal filed by Farman Imran Shah, an accused under the stringent law meant to curb organized crime in a Pune murder case registered at Kondhwa police station. The court said it is not expected for a complainant who has just lost her husband to remember every minute detail immediately and held that more details and names can be added in the complaint, once out of trauma. 

Shah had sought a discharge citing lack of evidence, belated adding of his name by the complainant and non application of mind by the authorities who granted prior sanction to prosecute him under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). He had challenged an order of the Pune special court passed last March which rejected his discharge plea. 

The case against Shah was that he was involved in the fatal assault conspiracy on Anwar Shaikh in March 2012. At about 10.30pm on March 13 that year, Shaikh and his wife Parvin were in their car when two accused Matin sheikh and Nadir Sayyed, who were on a motorcycle, obstructed their way and other accused encircled their car. One man hurled a stone at a pane on the driver's side, others pulled out Shaikh and assaulted him. He succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. Police after investigation said it was a crime committed by an organized crime syndicate of Mohasin alias Guddu Anwar Shaikh and his associates. Shah was arraigned as accused number 12 in the case in 2012. 

A bench of Justices PV Hardas and AS Gadkari while dismissing Shah's appeal on March 25 observed that, "It cannot be expected from a witness who is under the impact of a ghastly incident to give each and every minute detail when he or she is suffering from the trauma." 

"It is only after the witness comes out of the trauma, that it is possible for him or her to recapitulate the details and give a detailed account'' to the police. 

The HC said, "Non-appearance of a name of an accused while lodging an FIR does not vitiate it, neither can an inference be drawn that such an accused had not participated in the crime at all.'' It rejected Shah's claim that his name was added later in the complaint as an "afterthought'' which indicates he was not involved. The court also found nothing wrong in the prior sanction granted to prosecute him under MCOCA and said the prosecution must be given a chance to lead evidence during trial in the case.

No need for CBI, SIT probe into Muzaffarnagar riots: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the plea for CBI/SIT probe into the Muzaffarnagar communal riots that took place in September 2013.

The apex court bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said that if the Centre and the state intelligence agencies had smelled of what was happening at the ground level, then the riots could have been prevented.

The court also held the state govt was responsible for "initial negligence."

The Surpeme Court said that the state had failed to protect the serious violation of fundamental rights of the people and said it was duty-bound to protect and uphold the people's rights.

The Surpeme Court also said that all those intelligence officials who failed in their duty must be proceeded against irrespective of their ranks.

The Supreme Court also ordered the state to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation to women who were sexually assaulted and harassed during the riots.

In a reference to a state government circular saying that the relief would be available to Muslim victims only, the court in one of its several directions said that the availability of relief should not be on the basis of victim's religious denomination and it should be provided to genuine victims.

Eloped girl can't ask for father's FDR : Court

 If a woman defies the "family and societal norms" and elopes with someone, then her father can take back the money which he deposited in her account when she was a minor. This is what a trial court observed recently while deciding a monetary dispute between a father and daughter. 

The father had moved the court against his daughter seeking a permanent injunction against the banks, directing them not to release the amount to the daughter on the date of its maturity. He said as his daughter had eloped with a relative, he didn't want the banks to allow her to withdraw the money. 

Interestingly, additional district judge Vinod Yadav endorsed this view saying, "Till the time defendant No 1 (daughter) behaved in the manner a growing child is supposed to behave with her parents, he continued the defendant No 1 to have that amount in her account, but the moment she defied the family and societal norms and eloped with somebody in the family out of her own volition without the consent and permission of her parents...then, like any prudent father, he would feel cheated and betrayed and in that state he is not supposed to allow his hard-earned money to be siphoned off by an unfaithful child". 

The man had opened a student's account for her daughter when she was a minor and deposited money at regular intervals. The girl had now attained majority. The bank with which the account was opened was also made a party in the case. During the trial, the bank submitted before the court that as per the banking norms, once a minor becomes major, the guardian or the person who had deposited the money in his or her account cannot claim it. However, the bank later submitted that it would honour the judgment. 

The daughter's counsel opposed the plea saying even if the money was deposited by the father out of his own will, the said amount had to be treated as a gift to his daughter. "Like a person who gives gift to another person, he cannot turn around and start reclaiming the gift to be his own," the counsel said. 

Not impressed with the arguments put forth by the daughter, the court said, "There being nothing on record to even remotely suggest that the said amount was deposited by the daughter in her account, the plaintiff (father) is entitled to the decree of declaration, as prayed for". 

Discussing the "social aspect" of the case, the court said, "Our society is governed by certain moral norms, which by the passage of time have attained sanctity of law and one of such predominant norms is that the parents are supposed to give best comfort, consortium, education and stay to their children to the best of their capability and conversely the same is also the right of a child...but the responsibility of the parents and the right of the children... to have the same from their parents go hand-in-hand and cannot be vouchsafed independent of each other."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Aadhar card why mandatory -SC

The Supreme Court today asked the government to explain why the Aadhar card is still being treated as mandatory by the government for citizens who want to get their marriages or property registered, or receive a gas connection.

In September, the court had ruled that the card cannot be a prerequisite for public services.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pimp slashes breasts of girl Crime against women

 In a shocking incident a 23-year-old girl's private parts were slashed when she refused to get into prostitution.

The pimp, a woman, had tortured the victim for few days but when she didn't budge, the pimp with the help of her two male friends slashed her breasts with a blade.

Bhiwandi city police has arrested the pimp, Ruby Munshi, 34 and has launched a manhunt for her male friends Alam and Afjal who helped her.

Alam lured the survivior, who hails from a poor family in Gujarat, to get married. He brought her to Mumbai and sold her to Ruby for Rs 30,000.

The police learned about the incident after the victim got herself admitted in the Indira Gandhi Memorial hospital.

In her complaint, the victim alleged that when she refused to get into prostitution, the accused first harassed her and then Rubi slashed her breasts and branded her with a hot iron rod.

"When we learned about incident on Friday from the doctor we immediately arrested Rubi." said RH Saste, police inspector of Bhiwandi city. Rubi was produced in the Bhiwandi court and remanded to police custody till March 25.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shakti Mills gang rapes verdict

A Mumbai court today convicted all accused in cases related to two gang rapes that took place at the Shakti Mill premises last year.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sahara chief Subrata Roy to remain in jail, SC rejects bail plea

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Sahara chief Subrata Roy's petition to be released from custody.

The SC bench said that without a fresh refund proposal from Sahara, it can not consider Subrata Roy's interim bail plea.

The SC said it has not yet punished Roy for the contempt of court charge which is pending. 

The SC bench also said it has ordered Subrata Roy's detention as a tool to enforce compliance of its August 31, 2012 judgment directing refund of Rs 24000 crore illegally collected from 3.3 crore investors. 
Beleaguered Sahara Chief Subrata Roy had on Wednesday challenged before the Supreme Court his detention order passed by a two-member bench calling it "illegal and unconstitutional" and demanded his release.

"Declare the order dated 04.03.2014 as void, nullity and non-est in the eyes of law," said the petition on behalf of Roy.

On March 4, the two-judge bench had sent Roy and two of company's directors to Tihar jail in connection with the case relating to non-refund of Rs 24000 crore to its investors.

The same bench briefly heard the matter in the Wednesday afternoon when senior advocate Ram Jethmalani made a strong plea for "rectification of mistake" in the March 4 order.

"It is a little embarrassing to argue before you that your order needs rectification," the counsel said adding "It is a deep embarrassment for me but if the lordship is willing to hear then I would make my lordships quite satisfied with my arguments".

However, the bench said it would go through the petition and hear the matter on Thursday and then can express its view.

"We will go through the pleadings then we will say whether we are embarrassed or not," Justice Khehar shot back.

Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Delhi HC upholds death penalty awarded to 4 convicts

The Delhi high court on Thursday upheld the death sentence awarded to the four convicts in the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl here on December 16, 2012 that shook the nation's conscience and led to widespread protests. 

A bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani confirmed the sentence of Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh, saying the offence committed by them falls in the category of rarest of the rare and upheld their conviction. 

"Death reference is accepted. Death sentence awarded by the trial court is affirmed. The appeals of the convicts are dismissed," the bench said. 

The parents of the victim were also present in the court at the time of pronouncement of the verdict. 

"We have got full faith in the judiciary. We had expected this verdict. But the ultimate satisfaction will be when the convicts meet to their ultimate fate," the mother of the 23-year-old paramedic told the media outside court room after the verdict was delivered. 

"Hume pura nayay tabhi milega jab sab faansi par latkaye jaege (We will get justice only when all of them will be hanged)," she said. 

The trial court had on September 13, last year awarded capital punishment to the four, saying they be "hanged till death" as the "beastly" and "hair-raising" manner in which the crime was committed against the girl fell in the rarest of the rare category. 

The high court had reserved its verdict on January 3 after a marathon three-and-a-half-month long hearing on the death sentence reference sent to it by the trial court and the appeals of the four convicts. 

On the night of December 16, 2012, Ram Singh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan, Mukesh and a juvenile had gang-raped the girl in a bus after luring her and her 28-year-old male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle, which was later found to be plying illegally on Delhi roads. 

The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital. 

Ram Singh, who was the prime accused, was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail in March last year and the proceedings against him were abated. 

The sixth accused, the juvenile was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rubbing private parts an attempt to rape, HC rules

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court, while reducing the sentence of a rape convict, has ruled that rubbing the male organ against female genitals constitutes an attempt to rape. The accused had sought a further reduced sentence by claiming that it should be considered as outraging modest.

"Considering the fact that the appellant had rubbed his penis against the survivor's vagina and she left the spot on pretext of going to urination, it can safely be said that there was an attempt to commit rape by him," the single-judge bench comprising Justice Madan Tahaliyani ruled recently.

"In my considered opinion, rubbing of penis against survivor's genitals may not simply amount to an offence punishable under Section 354 (outraging modesty) of the IPC. Since it is not possible to ascertain whether even slightest penetration was there or not, it will not be possible to convict the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 376 (rape) of the IPC," the court said before reducing the 10-year rigorous imprisonment sentence to five years.

Petitioner Pomesh Rahangdale allegedly tried to rape a 10-year-old girl who was his neighbour on December 26, 2010, at his room after luring her with chocolates.

The session court convicted him under Section 376(2)(f) of IPC and awarded him 10 years' RI along with a Rs 5,000 fine, which he challenged in the higher judiciary. The section of the IPC pertains to rape of a girl under twelve years of age.

Govt bans trucks from carrying protruding rods - The Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR)

 The government has banned vehicles from carrying rods, pipes or any protruding material beyond the body frame. The road transport ministry has deleted the provision in the  

Sources said the road transport ministry had deleted Section 93 of CMVR 1989, which allowed goods vehicles to carry poles or rods or indivisible load "so long as the projecting part or parts do not exceed the distance of one metre beyond the rear most point of the motor vehicle". But this provision was widely misused.

In 2012, at least 9,100 people died in 28,217 road accidents caused due to load protrusions. Besides, at least 29,500 people were injured. Over 50% of such fatalities were reported from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. UP leads the list with 1,961 such deaths.

In July last year, the Supreme Court had sought the Centre's response after a PIL said thousands of motorists died every year in accidents caused by trucks parked recklessly on highways, many with iron rods protruding from their body frames.

The road ministry has sent the amendment for notification. "Soon, we will publicize the amendment to spread awareness. We are harmonizing our standards keeping in mind best global practices. The focus is that material carried in a truck or trailer remains within the length of the vehicle or trailer. But the results of this rule depends on how strictly state agencies and police enforce the law," road transport secretary Vijay Chhibber said.

Officials said as soon as the notification came out, there would be awareness campaigns to educate truckers and consignees.

At present, truck drivers seldom follow the practice of fixing blinkers at the end point of protruding material to warn vehicles coming from behind. Though city police teams sometimes conduct surprise checks, there is little policing on highways, particularly during night.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No need to pay full stamp duty on jantri rates: HC

In an important judgment, Gujarat high court on Monday held that registration of property cannot be made mandatory on payment of stamp duty according to the jantri rates only. Thus, paying 5% stamp duty of the market rates as prejudged by the ready reckoner, will not be the deterrent in registration of property deals.

Restoring the system that prevailed before 2007, the high court has quashed a state government's circular issued on May 9, 2007 making it mandatory for the registration that full stamp duty should be paid as per the jantri rates of the property. The court has held that this circular was in violation of provisions of Registration Act and Bombay Stamp Act, said advocate R C Kakkad who represented a Rajkot-based petition.

In May 2007, the state government issued a circular and amended rule 45(1) of the Registration Act, and directed all sub-registrars to register property documents only if buyer-seller agrees to pay stamp duty as per the jantri rates only. Later the registration formats were provided in such a manner that registration of property could not be possible, if documents reveal that transaction amount was below the jantri rate.

Before this amendment, people could register the property while paying stamp duty on contracted value. After registration, the deputy collector of stamp duty used to decide property's value on site inspection. In case of difference, property buyers were at liberty to contest their cases before different fora, including court.

The lawyer said that the changes made in 2007 rendered provision of section 32A of the Act as redundant, as aggrieved persons could not raise their dispute because the duty amount was fixed as per the jantri rate. But now the authorities will have to register the property at any contracted value and they can ask for recovery at a later stage.

Petitioners had also demanded that a token or a receipt could also have solved the problem. They argued that as government has power to impound the document, at least a token or receipt should be issued in lieu of registration pending the valuation of the property.

1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of Gopal and Sushil Ansal in 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case.

The Supreme Court deffered decision on quantum of sentence to Ansal brothers. The court double has transferred the case to a three-judge bench.

"Ansals were more concerned about making money than ensuring safety of cinemagoers," the court said.

Earlier, the high court had reduced their sentence from two years to one year whereas the CBI and victims of the fire tragedy have demanded that the Ansals be convicted under more stringent sections.

A total of 59 people died and 100 were injured when there was a big fire at Uphaar cinema hall, in the heart of south Delhi, while a film was being screened on the evening of June 13, 1997. The fire started in the parking lot and then engulfed the building in the busy Green Park area - most people died in the ensuing stampede or were asphyxiated.

In 2003, the Delhi high court awarded compensation of Rs 18.5 crores to be paid — Rs. 18 lakh to the next of kin of each victim above 20 years of age; Rs. 15 lakh for victims below 20 years of age; and Rs 1 lakh each to the injured. The court ordered that this be paid with nine per cent interest