Saturday, May 31, 2014

Insurance buyers don't need to reveal lifestyle diseases

Not mentioning common lifestyle diseases while applying for insurance is not concealing facts and cannot be a reason for rejection of insurance claims, a district forum has observed while citing a state commission order.

The forum stated it cannot be concealment of facts unless a patient has undergone long treatment and hospitalization days before taking the policy.

On Friday, the forum directed New India Assurance to pay the medical insurance amount of Rs 2.3 lakh and compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the family of a man hospitalized for cardiac-related ailments in 2007.

The insurance company had repudiated the claim that the policy holder had concealed his pre-existing ailments before procuring it.

"The complainant has clearly mentioned that he was a heart patient and this fact was known to the officer of the insurance company. Hence, in our opinion, the rejection of the complainant's claim is unjust and improper," the forum said.

The policy holder, Kabiru Dhamani, died but his wife and two children filed the complaint before the South Mumbai Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum on June 13, 2008.

The Dhamanis told the forum Kabiru had revealed he was a heart patient. He had procured the policy in June 2004 and paid a premium of Rs 6,180.

The family alleged the insurance company was aware that Kabiru suffered from hypertension with diabetes mellitus. In 2006 and 2007, Kabiru was hospitalized and treated for cardiac problems at a Nagpur hospital.

In July 2007, the family filed the insurance claim which was rejected later. The insurance company said the claim was not admissible due the exclusion clause relating to pre-existing disease.

Aggrieved, the family filed a complaint before the forum.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nripendra Misra is PM's principal secretary

Retired IAS officer and former chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Nripendra Misra was finally appointed as principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday after a determined government swiftly promulgated an ordinance to clear the way for him to take over the coveted post.

The ordinance, conceptualized and cleared by the government in record speed, is designed to change the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, which forbade a chief of the regulatory body from "future employment under the central and state governments".

The ordinance, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet at its maiden meeting on Tuesday and was promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday, will override the Act.

The Modi government's decision to take the ordinance route for its maiden legislation, which struck many as odd, underlined its determination to have Misra in the crucial role of principal secretary to PM. Sources said the PM was aware of Misra's ineligibility because of the Trai Act, but decided to persist with his first choice for the crucial position by getting around the legal hurdle.

Misra scored high on parameters of integrity as well as leadership skills, attributes pre-requisite for Modi's plan to turn his office into a locomotive to drive the government. The fact that Misra, unlike several former bureaucrats, did not seek to curry favour with politicians tipped the selection scales in his favour.

Interestingly, soon after he took over as Trai chairman, Misra wrote to the communications ministry saying Section 5(h) of the Trai Act, which prohibited the head of the telecom regulator from taking up further employment, was unreasonable and should be done away with. In his plea, he argued that no such restriction applied to chairpersons and members of other important regulators like Competition Commission of India and Sebi.

Sources in the government justified the ordinance, saying this brought the service conditions of the Trai chairperson in line with those of heads of other regulatory bodies.

Congress, however, slammed the PM for taking the ordinance route for appointment of his principal secretary. "It is characteristic disregard of parliamentary and democratic norms. What was the urgency for a party that objected to an ordinance for food security and anti-corruption legislations to go for an ordinance to appoint an officer. This move is extremely out of place, glaring all the more when a Parliament session is in the offing in a week's time," chief spokesman Ajay Maken said.

Section 5(h) of the original Trai Act said the chairperson of the regulatory body, upon ceasing to hold such office, shall be ineligible for further employment under the central or state government, and not accept any commercial employment for a period of two years.

This provision, a department of personnel and training (DoPT) officer pointed out, would have clearly ruled out Misra, Trai chairman between 2006 and 2009, for the post of principal secretary to the PM. With Modi in no mood to let go of Misra due to what government sources said was a technicality, the only way out was to amend the Trai Act and drop the disabling provision.

According to sources, an ordinance to amend the Trai Act was drafted by the law ministry and moved for clearance by the Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday afternoon. After Cabinet approval, the legislation was sent to the President, who is believed to have signed it on Wednesday afternoon. Misra's appointment order as principal secretary to the PM followed soon after promulgation of the ordinance.

Misra, whose appointment order says his term will be co-terminus with the tenure of the prime minister, is a 1967 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Britain bans sex-based abortions

The UK government has issued fresh guidelines to close a legal loophole that allowed sex-based abortions amid reports that several infant girls were "missing" in certain ethnic communities, largely British Asian, who have a cultural preference to a male child. 

The updated department of health guidance issued on Friday warns that doctors who carry out abortions based on the sex of an unborn baby and presign abortion forms are breaking the law.

Abortion clinics in Britain will also be required to explicitly recognize that gender-based abortions are illegal as part of their licence conditions. 

The move follows reports earlier this year that anywhere between 1,500 and 4,700 infant girls were "missing" in certain ethnic communities in the UK, largely British Asian, who have a cultural preference to a male child. Concerns over sex selection were raised after secret filming by "Daily Telegraph" appeared to show two Indian-origin doctors agreeing terminations of female foetuses could go ahead. 

However, no charges were brought against them as the Crown prosecution service (CPS) said it was satisfied there was no intention to proceed with a termination. 

A child birth data analysis in Britain by the newspaper "Independent" in January had revealed that mothers born in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were most likely to opt for gender-based abortions, while those born in India and Nepal were also singled out as a category likely to opt for such abortions. 

An investigation into the work of abortion clinics found 14 were presigning certificates. The law in Britain states that two doctors must certify an abortion under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act. 

But presigning suggests the second doctor has not considered that woman's individual case. 

Under the updated guidance, doctors are reminded that presigning forms is not allowed and both doctors have a legal duty to certify abortions "in good faith". 

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British pregnancy advisory service which is a major provider of abortions for the NHS, said it abided by the guidance. 

But she added: "There is no clinical need for two doctors to certify a woman's reasons for abortion, in addition to obtaining her consent — it simply causes delays."

Former TRAI chief named Principal Secy to PM, but there’s a little legal hitch

Former chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Nripendra Misra may have already taken charge as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, but his appointment to the topmost position in the Prime Minister’s Office seems to be in violation of the rulebook.

This is because Section 5(8) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, states that the “chairperson or any other member ceasing to hold office as such, shall (a) be ineligible for further employment under the Central Government or any State Government; or (b) not accept any commercial employment, for a period of two years from the date he ceases to hold such office”.

Significantly, in August 2006, Misra, as TRAI chairperson, had written to the Ministry of Communications, calling this clause “unreasonable” and seeking its amendment. He had argued that such a restriction did not apply to the chairperson and members of the Competition Commission and of SEBI, who were eligible for future employment in central and state government agencies, and local and statutory authorities.

Misra, a UP-cadre IAS officer of the 1967 batch, was chairman of TRAI from March 2006 to 2009.

When contacted on Tuesday, Misra said: “I’m not in a position to discuss anything about this.” Asked if the specific  Ex-TRAI chief named Principal Secy to PM but law may not allow it provision in the TRAI Act was a hindrance in his appointment, he said, “I’m already looking after the work as Principal Secretary.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the new Telecom and Law Minister, when asked about this, said: “I will need to check.”

When contacted, Manish Tewari, former I&B Minister said: “Before the government makes any appointment, it would be worthwhile to peruse Sub Section 8 of Section 5 of the TRAI Act which bars any chairperson or any whole time member of the TRAI from holding any office under the Central government or any state government.”

Curiously, in the version of the TRAI Act, 1997, on the website of the telecom regulator, the words “shall be ineligible” in the operative portion — Section 5(8) — are substituted with “shall be eligible.” Moreover, in the website version, this clause figures as Section 5 (h), not Section 5 (8) as in the version available on, the “National Portal of India.”

A set of amendments were made to the TRAI Act in 2000, but the only applicable change incorporated in Section 5, subsection 8, was a reduction in the prescribed time-frame barring a TRAI chairperson or member from seeking commercial employment after retirement from two years to one year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gujarat high court stays construction of new Bhadra court building

A couple of days after the city civil court was shifted for construction of eight-floor building at Bhadra, the Gujarat high court on Wednesday stayed demolition of the present court buildings and any construction on the spot.

The HC has stayed construction in response to a PIL filed by advocate I M Khan, who has questioned the proposed construction of multi-storey court complex near the ASI-protected Bhadra Fort. He has sought court's direction to authorities not to pull down a part of the Mughal-era monument, Azam Khan's Sarai, though it is not a listed monument. He has demanded that the historic monument should be preserved as a heritage structure.

On hearing petitioner's advocate J T Trivedi about pre-requisite sanction from archaeological authorities, Justice S G Shah ordered "immediate interim" stay on construction of buildings. The judge issued notices to all concerned authorities the Archaeological Survey of India, the National Monument Authority, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the state's road and building department. Further hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

To establish that the large-scale demolition will take place soon in absence of any mandatory sanction from ASI, advocate Trivedi cited the notification issued for shifting of courts to the old high court campus, and a note written by competent authority from ASI, Vadodara. This PIL was filed last year, but the petitioner moved another application after he got more documents from the archaeological authorities.

The PIL claims that the Sarai is divided in three parts. One part falls in Fort's protected area, whereas two others are in the 200-metre regulated zone. For construction of the court building, one portion of the Sarai is required to be brought down, which is not proper and the entire building should be preserved as precious heritage.

Earlier, the petitioner took objection to demolition of staff quarters of irrigation department without obtaining permission from the ASI, though the building was within 100-metre prohibitory zone of the Bhadra Fort. After demolishing this structure, a shed was constructed at the place to accommodate practicing lawyers of the city civil and sessions court.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mother Dairy's Deputy Manager jailed in food adulteration case

A deputy manager of a dairy major has been awarded six months in jail by a Delhi court for supplying adulterated low fat cream to a hotel in 2006. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gaurav Rao also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Mother Dairy's deputy manager Dr Kallol Kumar Pramanik.
The court also convicted and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on Gujarat Corporation Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, which had further supplied the adulterated product to other enterprises through which it reached the hotel. " shall meet the end of justice if convict Dr Kallol Kumar Pramanik is sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of six months as well as pay fine of Rs 10,000 and M/s Gujarat Cooperation Milk Marketing Federation Ltd is sentenced to pay fine of Rs 1 lakh for the offence punishable under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act," the court said.
According to the Department of Prevention of Food Adulteration, Pramanik was also looking after day-to-day business of Mother Dairy, which had supplied the food item to Gujarat Cooperation Milk Marketing Federation. The federation had further supplied the food item to one Anand Enterprises which had sent that product to the hotel, it said.

According to the prosecution, a raid was conducted by the food inspector at the hotel on June 3, 2006 during which it was found that its manager was conducting the business of various food items including low fat cream. The inspector collected the sample of the food item. "Public analyst found that the sample was adulterated because the milk fat was found to be less than the minimum prescribed standard of 25 per cent," the food inspector said.
A case was filed by the prosecution against both Pramanik and the federation and also against hotel Shangri-La's manager Girish Sharma, hotel's parent group Hotel Excelsior and Anjali Anand and Harsh Anand of Anand Enterprises for allegedly being involved in the business of producing and selling the said adulterated item.
The court, however, acquitted Girish, Hotel Excelsior, Anjali and Harsh in the case. The court while convicting the others said that the offence was "serious in nature" and "adulteration of food is a menace" to public health. "The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act has been enacted with an aim of eradicating that social evil and for ensuring purity in the article of food."
The aim of the Act is to protect the citizens from those in the guise of respectable trades jeopardise the health and the well being of innocent customers. The adulterators are serious risk to the society," the court said.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Candidates can be disqualified if info not disclosed

Candidates fighting elections can be disqualified if they fail to disclose information about assets and liabilities of even their spouse and dependent children, the Supreme Court has held.

A bench of justices Surinder Singh Nijjar (since retired) and A K Sikri said that a person contesting elections is also under legal obligation to disclose information on his or her criminal antecedents and educational qualifications.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SC says changes in IPS rules breach of court order

The Supreme Court has stayed the Indian Police Service (Cadre) Amendment Rules, 2014, finding it prima facie breaching the court’s judgement on police reforms whereby executive control on service matters of senior police officers was sought to be done away with for their independent functioning.

A bench led by Justice B S Chauhan restrained the Centre and all states from taking any step relating to police officers’ service issues, especially on their transfers, postings and any disciplinary action, in pursuant to formation of the Civil Services Board (CSB).

Under the Rules notified on January 28, CSB was constituted to recommend all appointments of cadre officers, besides decide their postings and transfers before completion of minimum period of service specified under relevant IPS (Cadre) rules.

Hearing a contempt petition against the government’s move to include IPS officers under CSB, the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar and M Y Eqbal noted the new rules were not in conformity with SC verdict.

In 2006, allowing a petition by former DGP Singh Prakash Singh, the SC directed the Centre and states to set up authorities like State Security Commission and Police Establishment Boards, to decide selection, promotions and transfers of police officers and other staff, till the governments came up with an appropriate legislation.

Singh’s petition pointed out that the CSB has been entrusted with the task that had already been assigned to a different body by the SC eight years ago. It cited the composition of the CSB, which comprises the Chief Secretary, senior-most Additional Chief Secretary or Chairman in the Board of Revenue, Principal Secretary or Secretary in the Department of Personnel, Principal Secretary or Secretary (Home) and Director General of Police.

Singh said since four out of five CSB members were IAS officers, they would call the shots and decide the fate of IPS officers. The petition said the government’s attempt was to subvert autonomy given to police departments in 2006.

The petition stated that CSB was set up in compliance with another SC verdict in November last, ruling that civil servants should be assured of a minimum tenure in a posting and CSB should be formed to make recommendations to governments on service issues. But this judgement clearly kept IPS officers out of its purview and was confined to other civil servants, said the petition.

Last week, the bench told Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran that the contentious rule did not appear to be in consonance with the judgement in Prakash Singh’s case and that the Centre required to think over this. Parasaran conceded that the Centre was considering the question of amending the contentious rules.

“In such circumstances, pending consideration by the Government of India about the amendment of the Rule, we direct the Government of India as well as all state governments not to take any proceedings in pursuance of the rules referred to above. This order be communicated to Chief Secretaries of all states and the Cabinet Secretary,” said the bench, posting the matter for the second week of July.

Decide on pre-arrest bail plea quickly: HC

The Bombay high court has held that the hearing of an anticipatory bail plea can be adjourned without passing an order, giving relief from arrest, but only for a short period.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar gave her verdict on a couple's plea for interim bail until the sessions court decides on their application for anticipatory bail. Their advocates, Abad Ponda and Sujay Kantawalla, argued the court will either reject it or pass an interim order, but there is no third option to adjourn the hearing without granting interim relief to the applicant or accused. They also submitted an application of pre-arrest bail cannot be kept pending for a long time and the applicant must be informed, at the earliest, if he is protected or his application is rejected.
Opposing the application, the prosecutor and the complainant's advocate argued in serious offences when a short notice of a day is given and the prosecutor is unable to contact and take instructions from the investigating officer, granting of interim protection will amount to miscarriage of justice as it may hamper investigation or cause tampering or destruction of evidence. They argued the court can adjourn the hearing without either rejecting or granting interim relief.
Justice Bhatkar, in her May 8, 2014, judgment, though, said it is not mandatory for the court to decide "this way or that way". She said the power of anticipatory bail is to be carefully used as the court has to achieve a balance between protection of an individual's liberty and effective and unhampered investigation by the state machinery. "Thus, when a case cannot be classified as black and white but there is a grey area or a borderline case that needs some time for a judge to get the correct picture, though prima facie, to decide fairly the application for pre-arrest bail.'' Justice Bhatkar said law permits to adjourn or postpone any inquiry or trial but it is to be heard expeditiously. She directed that the interim protection granted to the accused couple may continue till the sessions judge hears their anticipatory bail plea.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

In Islam, woman returning to earlier faith can end marriage if she likes: Delhi HC

Interpreting a 75-year-old law, Delhi high court has held that a non-Muslim woman who embraces Islam after marriage but reconverts to her original faith can dissolve the union due to apostasy.

Granting divorce under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939 to Sultana (name changed), a division bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Najmi Waziri also clarified there is no requirement in such circumstances for a woman who leaves the pale of Islam to prove her act in a trial. The mere act of apostasy dissolves the marriage if she so desires.

"Were a woman married under Muslim personal law to apostatize, the marriage stands dissolved. In such circumstances, the woman is entitled to seek a decree of declaration that the marriage stands dissolved from the date of her apostatizing," Justice Waziri explained.

The bench went into the circumstances under which the pre-Independence act was passed in 1939 to emphasize, if people come or are brought into Islam from a different religion, they should be permitted to go back for which there should be no bar.

The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the husband Asif (name changed) challenging the grant of divorce by a Saket family court to Sultana on her petition. Asif contested Sultana's reconversion back to Hinduism and alleged she did it under pressure from her parents. Asif also cited Section 4 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act to contend that it prohibits dissolution of marriage only on the ground of apostasy.

On her part, the estranged wife argued that for her reconversion to Hinduism no evidence is required to be led, as her mere statement 'ipso facto' amounts to abjuration of Islam and its tenets. She also filed an affidavit admitting to her apostasy along with two fatwas from two mufti. The wife also informed the court she had withdrawn complaint filed under Domestic Violence Act and another petition seeking maintenance. Now that she had apostatized, neither the marriage nor any right to claim maintenance subsisted.

The HC agreed with the trial court verdict and ruled that Section 4 has not altered the rule of Muslim personal law that apostasy dissolves a marriage. "In the opinion of this court, all that Section 4 has done is to introduce an intervening mechanism, but to reach the same conclusion, i.e., that apostasy would not by itself dissolve the marriage and some further substantive act would be required to be done in this regard; the substantive act being the filing of a suit seeking declaration as to dissolution," it observed. However, it rejected Asif's argument that Sultana would have to prove her apostasy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

SC restrains Archana Ramasundaram, first woman CBI additional director, from discharging her duties

A day after Archana Ramasundaram became the first woman additional director in CBI, the Supreme Court restrained her from functioning in the post. 

The SC said prima facie there is a strong view that her selection was not done as per the procedure laid down and that she appeared to be a government choice, which was not approved by the selection committee. 

In a twist to the tug-of-war between the Centre and Tamil Nadu over Archana Ramasundaram, the state government had on Thursday suspended the IPS officer hours after she took charge as the additional director in CBI. 

Sources said Tamil Nadu chief secretary Mohan Verghese Chungath sent out Ramasundaram's suspension order late on Thursday evening as the 1980-batch officer didn't inform the state government about her new role in the CBI. Explaining the state government's stand, a senior official said, "Archana Ramasundaram has deserted from her last position as the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board." 

The official said Ramasundaram sent her formal letter to the TN chief secretary only on Thursday afternoon, saying that she has joined as the CBI additional director. 

In a formal letter sent to the Centre, Chungath said, "The IPS officer should not be allowed to take charge in the new position. Even if she has already taken charge, she should be relieved immediately and sent to her headquarters (Tamil Nadu)." 

However, the All India Services manual says that the Centre can depute an officer in extraordinary circumstances in which there is concurrence of the officer and the Centre even if the state government is not in agreement.

CBI probe into Saradha chit fund scam - Supreme Court

In a setback for the West Bengal government, the Supreme court on Friday handed over investigation into Saradha chit fund scam to the CBI.

The court also asked the CBI to investigate ponzi scheme scams in Odisha, Assam and Tripura.

The West Bengal government, all through the hearing of the matter, had strongly resisted the plea for handing over the investigation to the CBI.

The apex court asked the West Bengal government to hand over all Saradha chit fund scam cases to CBI.

It also said that the CBI will investigate all cases against 44 chit fund companies in Odisha.

The SC said the state police have not yet been able to trace the money trails that clearly had an inter-state as well as possible international links.

The SC also asked the Enforcement Directorate to join CBI in finding the money trail. The ED is already conducting a probe into the scam.

The apex court said it wanted the chit fund scam in these states to be probed by an independent agency like CBI because of involvement of politicians and influential persons in the cases.

The court also said the CBI is the right agency to probe the cases as the roles of market regulator Sebi and also that of RBI are under scanner.

Earlier, the Calcutta high court had refused to grant the prayer for a CBI investigation into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam.

Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen was arrested from Sonmarg in Kashmir on April 23,2013 along with two close associates.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

SC quashes Kerala govt law restricting water level in Mullaperiyar dam

In a major victory for Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the law enacted by the Kerala government to restrict the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam.
The SC held that the 2006 law framed by Kerala was unconstitutional since it interfered with the judicial functions.

A five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha held that the 2006 law framed by Kerala was unconstitutional since it interfered with the judicial functions and violated the doctrine of separation of power. The SC had in 2006 allowed raising the water level of the dam, prompting Kerala to come up with a new law.
The bench said that the water level must be increased from 136 ft to 142 ft to redress grievances of Tamlaght Nadu.
The bench also allowed Tamil Nadu to carry out necessary repair works in the dam.
It set up a supervisory committee, to be headed by a representative from the Cental Water Commission and one member each from the two states. The committee shall oversee the repair works and will also take all requisite safety measures.
The bench was hearing a suit filed by Tamil Nadu government questioning the law enacted by Kerala in 2006 constituting the Dam Safety Authority to prevent the former state from raising the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam from 136 ft to 142 ft.
Tamil Nadu challenged the jurisdiction of Kerala to restrict the water level in the dam on the Periyar river.It had also countered Kerala’s claim that Periyar was an intra-state river. Tamil Nadu had cited a 1950 report signed by the then Kerala state irrigation minister V R Krishna Iyer (who later became an SC judge) recording that Periyar was an inter-state river since drainage area lay in Madras.
Backing the conclusions of the SC appointed empowered committee, Tamil Nadu also said there was enough evidence to show that the dam was structurally, hydrologically and seismically safe for raising the water level.
The bench in 2010 had appointed an empowered committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India A S Anand, to go into the safety aspects and a report was submitted in April 2012.
According to Tamil Nadu, people living in the drought- prone districts of Vaigai basin were put to sufferings which could be addressed by raising the level at least up to 142 ft. Further the reduction in storage had affected the generation of hydro-electric power from the water that could be diverted to Tamil Nadu for irrigation.
On the other hand, Kerala had asserted its right to enact a law regulating the safety of dams in the state, insisting that the river rises and falls in Kerala which is why it is an intra-state issue. Kerala has defended the “Dam Safety Act” before the constitution bench and opposed Tamil Nadu’s claim over the river on which the dam is built.

SC lifts stay on nursery admissions; eligible students to get seats under IST quota

The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted the stay on nursery admissions in Delhi and held that parents who have moved court against the Delhi government’s decision to scrap the Inter-State Transfer (IST) will get seats in schools for their toddlers this academic year.
The court also quashed the government’s February 27 notification by which the IST quota was scrapped. It said that the admissions shall be granted in accordance with the previous notification dated December 18, 2013, whereby eligible children got 5 extra points under IST quota.
The court directed the schools to admit such children by increasing the seats if they have to 24 children, whose parents had queued up in the apex court or the Delhi High Court against the February 27 notification are set to get relief after this order.
Earlier, supporting the parents whose genuine cases suffered after the Lt-Governor quashed the quota, the Court had last week held that it will pass orders for the government and schools for accommodating all such bonafide wards by increasing number of seats in the schools, if required.
A bench led by Justice H L Dattu said that all such parents and guardians who have come to the SC or have their cases pending before the Delhi High Court will get relief for their children.
But, “fence-sitter” parents will not have any say in the matter since they chose not to come to the court and waited for the outcome of petitions by others, the bench, while refusing to pass any “general order”, had clarified.
The court had then taken on record the submission by government counsel Raju Ramachandran that it was not possible to increase the number of seats by 5-7 in each school for the IST category. Responding to the court’s query, Ramachandran said the inability to increase seats had emerged following deliberations with the Lt-Governor and the schools. He had pleaded the bench to pass appropriate orders.
The admissions in nursery was stalled in the city by the SC on April 11 after some parents challenged the February 27 notification, scrapping the IST quota. They had come to the apex court after the HC allowed admissions without considering the IST cases.

Lokayukta’s gag order to media: Don’t publish proceedings news

In a kind of gag order prohibiting media from publishing news about any of its proceedings, the Gujarat Lokayukta has declared that publishing or broadcasting any such news amounts to imprisonment for up to two years and fine under the provisions of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act.  The office of the Gujarat Lokayukta, D P Buch, sent a letter in this regard to media houses on Monday, through his registrar  B D Soni.
“As per the provisions of Section 10(2) of Gujarat Lokayukta, there is a prohibition on publicity of any proceedings before the Lokayukta,” the letter reads.
Explaining the Section 10(2) and 10(7) of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, the letter further states that revealing the identity of any public servant against whom the complaint is made before, during and after the proceedings before the Lokayukta attracts the punitive provisions.
The letter also stated that it had come to the Lokayukta’s knowledge that due to the ignorance about the said legal provisions, newspapers had been publishing news about Lokayukta’s proceedings.  He further asked the newspapers to be careful and not to publish any news on the proceedings pending before the Lokayukta.
“It has come to our notice that news are being published about proceedings before the Lokayukta (despite the prohibitory legal provisions). So, to be on a safer side, we thought it fit to draw the attention of newspapers towards the legal provisions. So that, in future, they do not plead ignorance of the said provision,” said Gujarat Lokayukta D P Buch.

10-year-olds can open and operate bank account alone: RBI

Children older than 10 years will no longer need the help of their parents or guardians to open and operate a savings bank account. To boost financial inclusion, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday said that banks were at liberty to allow minors above 10 years to independently open and operate savings bank accounts. As of now, banks allow minors to operate bank accounts only along with a parent or a guardian. All children and teenagers below the age of 18 are considered minors under current rules.

RBI also allowed banks to offer additional facilities like internet banking, ATM, debit card and chequebook to a minor. However, the central bank said that such facilities should be within the overall norms that banks will not allow a minor's account to be overdrawn and that these accounts should always remain in credit.

However, RBI has given the leeway to banks to fix the minimum age at which they will allow minors to operate savings bank accounts independently. Banks can also fix a maximum limit on money such minors can have at their disposal through such account. Banks can also decide on what kind of documents will be needed to open accounts by minors, a notification from RBI said.

In a separate notification, the RBI said banks cannot slap charges on customers for not maintaining the minimum balance in inoperative savings and current accounts — in which no transactions have been made for two years. The central bank had announced this change in its April 1 monetary police and was made effective on Tuesday.

In its last policy meeting document, the RBI had also said that banks should not take undue advantage of customer difficulty or inattention relating to banking services. "Instead of levying penal charges for non-maintenance of minimum balance in ordinary savings bank accounts, banks should limit services available on such accounts to those available to Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts and restore the services when the balances improve to the minimum required level," the policy document had said.

In recent times, there have been cases where due to penal charges in inoperative accounts, customers had negative balances. And when they went to close such accounts, they were asked to pay up. The latest RBI circular will avoid such situations.

Sikhs, Muslims object to headgear ban at US amusement park

Two Sikh and Muslim groups have filed complaints alleging religious discrimination against a California amusement park after a couple of families wearing religious headgear were denied access to riding go-karts due to “safety concerns”.

The complaints were filed Tuesday with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Boomers!, which is owned by Newport Beach-based Palace Entertainment, according to CBS Local.

Nasir Abdo of Sunnyvale filed a complaint on behalf of his daughter, Noorah Abdo, alleging that she was not allowed to ride on the go-kart at Boomers last Aug 8.

Members of a Sikh family from Alameda alleged that less than two weeks earlier, on July 28, they were discriminated against when the park would not let them ride go-karts wearing their traditional Sikh turbans, according to

Officials of United Sikhs and California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) say one alleged incident in March 2013 involved two women who went to the Boomers in Irvine with their four daughters and two sons.

“The children waited a half-hour in line, but when they got up to the front the attendant told them they were not allowed to ride on the go-cart with a scarf around the neck,” CAIR-Los Angeles’s civil rights coordinator, Sammar Miqbel, was quoted as saying.

The headgear ban was implemented after riders at other parks around the country, which were not owned by Palace, were injured when headscarves, hats or other loose clothing were caught in equipment, Palace Entertainment spokesperson Michele Wischmeyer said.

“Safety is our number one priority and this is a matter of safety, not racial or religious discrimination,” she was quoted as saying.

The company’s headgear ban includes baseball hats, visors, cowboy hats, ties, scarves, loose clothing and necklaces.

(Source: IANS)

Rani-ki-Vav to figure in Unesco World Heritage list

Experts from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a body which has a special responsibility as adviser to Unesco on world heritage sites, has favoured including the 11th century Rani-ki-Vav step well in Patan in the list of world heritage monuments.

ICOMOS had communicated its decision to the ministry of culture last week. The council's opinion is the final step in inscribing the step well as a world heritage monument in its upcoming 38th session of the World Heritage Committee, scheduled in Doha, Qatar, from June 15-25.

Once declared a Unesco World Heritage site, Rani-ki-Vav will be second in Gujarat after the Champaner-Pavagadh group of monuments to earn this coveted status. The historic Walled City of Ahmedabad is still on the tentative list of Unesco.

ICOMOS has considered two outstanding universal values (OUV) - out of the total nine - for the step well, including "masterpiece of human creative genius" and a monument which stands for "significant stages in human history".

Shikha Jain, member secretary, advisory committee on world heritage in India, told TOI, "ICOMOS has suggested Rani-ki-Vav to be inscribed as a World Heritage site."

An ICOMOS team had visited Patan in September last year and conducted a detailed study. It even talked to locals on how they perceived the step well and what it meant to them. The ICOMOS team was led by professor Zhang Jie of Tsinghua University, China. Jie was associated with conservation of the Dong Village Cultural Landscape (CDVCL), which was hidden deep in mountain area of China Southwest. Other experts - Shikha Jain, and ASI officials Satyabhama Badrinath and K C Nauriyal - were also present during the inspection.

SC says no imposing mother tongue at primary level

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a state government cannot insist that the medium of instruction at the primary level be the mother tongue only.A five-judge bench, led by CJI R.M. Lodha, said this while upholding a Karnataka high court order which had disallowed the state for imposing Kannada at the primary level in all schools in the state, including minority, unaided and non-Kannada schools. Karnataka had laid down in 1994 that the medium of instruction in all primary schools should be either Kannada or the child's mother tongue. Thus was later struck down by the high court in July 2011.The top court on Tuesday also ruled that such an executive order was violative of a child's fundamental right to study in the medium of his choice. 

CBI can investigate corruption charges against top babus without govt nod: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a single directive provision which barred CBI from investigating corruption charges against joint secretary and above rank officers without prior permission of the Centre.

The court held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision in the law requiring government's approval to probe senior bureaucrats on corruption charges.

All government officials have to be treated equally and have to face the same process of inquiry in graft cases, the SC said, adding, "status of top bureaucrats is of no relevance in the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act".

The apex court said such a classification of bureaucrats for investigation purposes violated Article 14 of the Constitution which mandated that law would treat everyone equally.

"Prior permission from the Centre to probe corruption charges against joint secretary level officers would fetter the CBI from collecting evidence and also alert the corrupt to destroy evidence," the Supreme Court added.

"Protection of prior approval for probing graft charges against officers at level of joint secretary and above has propensity of shielding corruption," the Supreme Court said.

This is the second time the apex court is striking down the single directive provision in Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

Supreme Court says NTPC can cut power to Delhi distributor if not paid

The Supreme Court has told India's top power producer that it can cut supplies to an electricity distributor in New Delhi if it is not paid arrears by end-May, intensifying a dispute that could lead to blackouts in the capital. 

The court on Tuesday ordered BSES — part of billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance Infrastructure Ltd — to pay state-run NTPC the 7 billion rupees ($116 million) it is owed by May 31. 

If BSES fails to pay by the end of May, the court said NTPC is entitled to cut the power it supplies to the distributor, overturning an earlier court order that NTPC should keep power flowing despite the outstanding bill. 

BSES did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said lower tariffs and a revenue shortfall meant it could not pay. 

The case in Delhi reflects a growing battle over who should bear the rising cost of power in India. 

On the one side are many consumers who consider cheap or free power to be a right and want tariffs kept low. 

But pressure to keep prices low makes it tough for distributors to force through tariff rises they say are necessary to keep pace with changes in the cost of power, which has risen as the country imports expensive oil and gas. 

BSES, which runs two distributors in Delhi, and a third firm say they face a revenue loss, built up over years of operations, totalling more than 150 billion rupees ($2.4 billion).

Hit-and-run case: Witnesses identify Salman Khan as SUV driver

Actor Salman Khan, two witnesses on Tuesday identified the actor in the 2002 hit-and-run case.

One witness told the court that the actor was drunk and driving the SUV. After the incident, Salman Khan got down from the SUV from the driver's side and fled from the scene, the witnesses said, Times Now reported.

Salman Khan is accused of running his SUV over five men sleeping on the pavement in suburban Bandra, killing one and injuring four on September 28, 2002.

The actor is being retried for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in a Mumbai court. If convicted, he could face a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sahara case: Subrata Roy to stay in jail as Supreme Court rejects plea

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the plea by Sahara chief Subrata Roy challenging its March 4 order sending him to judicial custody for not complying the order to return investors money by routing it through SEBI.

Roy and two directors were sent to judicial custody for the failure of group's two companies' SIRECL and SHICL to comply with its order to return investors' Rs.24,000 crore that they had collected through Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCDs).

Roy will continue to remain in custody as the court has asked his counsel to make a revised proposal to return investors' money to secure his release.

Dismissing Roy's plea, the apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice K.S. Khehar said that there is "no merit and same is dismissed".

The court said that after going through the judgment, Roy could make a revised proposal for returning the investors money as a condition to secure his release.

The court said this as senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan drew the attention of the court to Roy' earlier proposal to deposit Rs.10,000 crore.

Of the Rs.24,000 crore, Sahara India Real estate Corporation Limited and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Limited have already deposited Rs.5,120 crore in December 2012 with SEBI.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Traffic challans may follow you home - Ahmedabad

The city traffic police have again revived the e-challan project under which challans for traffic infringements will be delivered to offenders on their doorstep. Interestingly, this will be done in collaboration with international agencies. Senior officials of traffic police indicated that the new system will be launched as a pilot project from June 2015. The existing database of vehicle owners has been updated for the purpose, said senior officers.

Harikrishna Patel, additional commissioner of police (traffic), said that efforts were being made to conduct road surveillance electronically through a network of CCTV cameras integrated with traffic signals.

"The work is being done in collaboration with various agencies. The new system will also generate e-challans. What is required for the project is a specialized network linked through software with database of vehicle users at RTO, and to the system of offender identification. This project will be implemented as part of the overall plans to improve the city," said Patel.

Some initiatives already form part of the Rs 11-crore memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2013 between Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Mapping trouble spots

Other initiatives taken up by the traffic police include a software analysis system for traffic jams and personnel appraisal. Senior officials said that they have started collating data from various sources to understand the trouble spots and map them. The data is being collected from such sources as 1095-traffic helpline, 100-city police control room, complaints on Facebook page and WhatsApp group and direct response from citizens in the form of letters and emails.

Monitoring personnel

The traffic police have also developed software to keep track of personnel. "We got to know about some rowdy behaviour on the road and also about personnel moving out of their jurisdiction to collect fines. To prevent their recurrence, we have devised a system where the software keeps track of deployed personnel and their physical presence," said an official.

Illegal parking major worry

The Ahmedabad Traffic Consultative Committee (ATCC) organized a public discussion on the topic, 'Traffic Discipline and Citizens', at Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) on Saturday. Senior traffic officials and prominent citizens participated in the discussions on traffic-related issues.

Gauri Wagenaar of ATCC said that they wanted to bring the traffic police and members of the public on the same platform. "It was a healthy discussion on pertinent questions. People also got to know about the police perspective on different issues. When we can campaign for higher turnout in polls, why not for better traffic conditions?" she said.

The major issues for citizens were illegal parking on the roads and hawkers causing traffic jams in the absence of a concrete policy. Bottlenecks caused by BRTS tracks, behaviour of traffic police, the fine system and lack of coordination between various agencies involved in traffic management were the other concerns of citizens.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cheque bouncing cases: Banks to set up Lok Adalats

The Law ministry is working on amendments to the Legal Services Authority Act that would allow leading banks to set up permanent Lok Adalats on their premises for settlement of all disputes related to cheque bounce.

Retired district judges or additional district judges will be appointed as chairpersons of such Lok Adalats in consultation with the high court concerned and the state government. A draft note has been circulated to departments concerned, said a senior law ministry official. By the time the new government is formed, the amendment bill may be ready for the cabinet to take a decision.

The finance ministry had earlier proposed to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act that would restrict banks from dragging offenders of cheque bounce cases to courts.

It is estimated that more than 30% of all the pending cases in courts across the country are either related to cheque bounce or traffic challans and once these amendments are passed by Parliament, the pendency of court cases are likely to come down substantially.

Ruling of Lok Adalats is deemed to be decree of a civil court and considered binding on all parties concerned.

Pendency of cases is a major issue before courts. Currently there are more than 3.20 crore pending cases in different courts. Of this nearly 2.76 crore cases are in the subordinate courts while 44 lakh are pending in various high courts and nearly 60,000 in the Supreme Court.

Due to cases like that of cheque bounce and traffic challans, many offences related to heinous crimes remain pending for decades.

The proposed amendment in the NI Act was suggested by an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) which was set up to make suggestions for necessary policy and legislative changes to deal with a large number of cases pending in various courts. Setting up of Lok Adalats are in tune with the recommendation of IMG.

The surface transport ministry has also been working on making suitable changes in related law so that cases of traffic challans are kept out of courts unless some other criminal intent is alleged.

The changes in the NI Act will make it compulsory for the disputing parties to resolve the matter through alternative dispute resolution mechanism such as the Lok Adalat.

Suicide note not enough for arrest: HC

 Taking the wind out of "incriminating suicide notes" naming specific people as responsible, the Madras high court has said mere abuses or a casual remark or words uttered in a fit of anger could not be termed as "abetment" and people named cannot be arrested and jailed.

Suicide is an "act of cowardice" and people can't be punished for somebody's foolish decision, Justice P Devadass said on Wednesday, granting bail to a 20-year-old youth arrested after a 15-year-old girl killed self and named him as responsible.

Justice Devadass said merely because a person has been named in a suicide note, courts should not immediately jump to the conclusion that he is an offender. "If a person makes an ordinary joke or a casual remark in routine course of ordinary life, and then if the victim commits suicide, that will not attract abetment charges under Section 306 of the IPC," he said.

"Simple abuses are not sufficient to provoke a person to commit suicide. If a debtor commits suicide simply because the lender has demanded repayment of his money, the creditor cannot be said to have abetted the suicide. Mere reprimanding does not amount to instigation. Words stated in a fit of anger will not amount to abetment. Casual remark of husband towards his wife in the ordinary course of life will not amount to abetment to commit suicide," he said.

What, then, will attract the instigation charges? Justice Devadass said: "The offence of abetment requires 'mens rea' (guilty mind). There must be intentional doing/aiding or goading the commission of suicide by another."

If a person's name is found in a suicide note, instead of straightaway treating him as an instigator for the tragic death, authorities should examine contents of the suicide note and the circumstances, the judge said. "There may be a case wherein the suicide note had named a person as responsible, but on proper analysis, Section 306 may not be attracted."

Noting that suicide is self-killing and self-murder, where an individual terminates his own physical existence, the judge said the law tackles the menace indirectly by making any attempt to commit suicide a punishable offence under Section 309.

The youth was arrested on April 1 after the girl killed herself at her residence in Chennai, leaving behind a suicide note saying she was forced to take the extreme step because the boy's love did not allow her to concentrate on her studies and that it would humiliate her entire family. Prosecution opposed the youth's bail plea saying the suicide note clearly mentioned his name and hence he could not be released on bail.

Granting him bail and rejecting the prosecution's objections, Justice Devadass said there was no overt act by the youth that forced the girl to commit suicide. "For her foolish decision, the youth cannot be blamed. There was no intentional doing or instigation on his part, provoking her to commit suicide."

"A person may die like a coward. On his failure in examinations, a student may commit suicide. They are weak-minded and persons of frail mentality. For their foolish mentality/decision, another person cannot be blamed."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

High court transfers 234 judges in Gujarat

The Gujarat high court has transferred 234 judges of different cadre across the state as part of routine annual transfers. The HC has amended rules and made transfer mandatory for a judicial officer in every three years. This would normally be made during summer vacation.

The list includes 63 district judges, 78 civil judges, 62 senior civil judges, 23 labour court judges and eight judges of industrial courts. They have been asked to take charge by May 7. However, those who have been transferred to family courts are exempted from this deadline.

Additional metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra, who rejected Zakia Jafri's protest petition against SIT's clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi and others in connection with the 2002 riots case, has been transferred to Gandhidham in Kutch district. Earlier, he was shifted to Anand, but the SIT moved the Supreme Court and his new posting was cancelled during the hearing on SIT's closure report last year.

The HC notifications suggest that there are six judges of district judge cadre that are transferred from the Ahmedabad rural courts. They are B G Doshi, A M Parmar, J B Dhadhal, N M Vyas, K K Dholakia and B L Chauhan. Three judges - J C Doshi, R T Vachhani and B S Upadhyay - have been shifted to the city civil and sessions court.

Chief metropolitan magistrate S V Parekh has been replaced with Y B Bhatt, who is chief judicial magistrate at Valsad. Parekh has been transferred to Gandhidham.

Gujarat cops' 'clean chit' to Modi over FIR against him

A new political controversy is brewing over a reported "clean chit" to Narendra Modi by the Gujarat police, in connection with a complaint filed against him for flashing his party symbol and giving a speech near the booth where he voted on Wednesday.

The police in Gujarat, the state Mr Modi has ruled since 2001, say their initial investigation reveals no violation of the Election Commission's rules. The Congress has reacted sharply to these comments.

"Our preliminary probe has revealed that authorities had marked a limit with a white strip outside the booth, and Mr Modi's press conference was outside that limit," the Press Trust of India quoted a senior Crime Branch officer as saying.

The Election Commission ordered an FIR or First Information Report against Mr Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, after he addressed the media after voting in Gandhinagar. The model code of conduct for elections prohibits canvassing within 100 metres of polling stations.

The Gujarat police said the charge against Mr Modi would not stand legal scrutiny, as he never called the media or others who had gathered at the Ranip polling station.

Union Minister Kapil Sibal said, "I don't think Gujarat police has given clean chit to anybody. The complaint of EC has nothing to do with how far he was from the booth. (The law) applies to ordinary people like us; is Narendra Modi God or above the law?"

On Thursday, Mr Modi appeared to blame the Congress for the FIR against him.  "In my entire life, not even a single FIR has been registered against me, not even for driving a scooter on the wrong side or for wrong parking... I will never forget April 30," he said, adding that the FIR showed how "shaken" the Congress was.

The Election Commission had said on Wednesday that "it is evident from Modi's tone and tenor that he made a political speech. He intended, calculated to influence voting."