Friday, June 27, 2014

Can failed affair lead to rape charges? Supreme Court asks

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the question which had rankled the Delhi high court last year can a failed consensual relationship between adults lead to filing of rape charges against the man?

In a judgment last year, the HC had flagged the issue and said rape cases were being used as "a weapon for vengeance and vendetta" to harass and even force a man to marry.

The Supreme Court did not pass any order. But it expressed anxiety over the recent spurt in cases where the women in failed relationships had filed rape charges against the men accusing them of inducing them into a sexual relationship on the promise of marriage.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gopal Subramaniam seeks withdrawal of candidature as a judge of SC

Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam on Wednesday asked the Chief Justice of India to withdraw the recommendation about his candidature as the judge of the Supreme Court.

Subramaniam's office said that he has written a letter to the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha requesting him to "withdraw" the recommendation for his elevation as the judge of the apex court.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stay on production at ceramic units lifted

Gujarat high court on Monday lifted its stay on production at ceramic units of Morbi and permitted them to resume operations. However, the units can begin production only after obtaining permission from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) to run coal-fired gasifiers equipped with zero-discharge technology so that pollution levels are brought down.

The HC lifted its stay and disposed of the PIL against the use of coal-fired gasifiers, after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said that it had suspended, for one year, its decision to dismantle gasifiers which do not run in accordance with its order issued on August 23, 2012. In its 2012 order, the CPCB had recommended dismantling of gasifiers because they were run on coal and this was against the norms. Two months later, it also suggested that if the gasifiers were modified to bring down pollution, the GPCB could consider granting no objection certificates (NOC) to units using them.

Last year, after the high court stay on production, the ceramic industries association had come up with the suggestion of introducing a zero-discharge technology. The high court had then ordered a committee led by GPCB-CPCB experts to inspect the technology and give suggestions. The committee recommended use of the new technology on certain conditions. The CPCB had then requested the high court that its experts would take the final call.

On Monday, the CPCB filed an affidavit with various recommendations, including the suggestion that those who wish to run industrial units should get the GPCB's nod first by following the procedure. This involves inspection of zero-discharge technology by the GPCB before issuing an NOC to run coal-fired gasifiers. The CPCB affidavit said that it had decided to suspend for a year its order for dismantling of coal gasifires, after going through the expert committee's report. It has powers to do so under Section 18(1)(B) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

Supreme Court sides against EPA on carbon

The Supreme Court struck a blow against the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Monday, ruling 5-4 against an agency plan to require permits for sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The decision split the court along ideological lines, with the high court’s conservative wing on one side, and its Democratic appointees dissenting from part of the ruling.

The second of two big environmental cases this term, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA involved a collection of challenges from industry groups to the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. The EPA had sought to issue a requirement that companies seek a permit before building or expanding facilities, such as power plants, factories or refineries, which would emit large amounts of greenhouse gasses. At issue is whether or not permits for facilities already sources of other pollutants would also have to address greenhouse gasses, and whether emitting greenhouse gasses alone would trigger the requirement to seek a permit. 

The high court ruled Monday that the EPA could not require permits based on greenhouse gas emissions alone, but that greenhouse gasses could be considered as part of the permit process for facilities already emitting other pollutants. The decision narrows the EPA’s options for dealing with emissions that cause climate change, but the agency could still reduce such emissions through another provision of the Clean Air Act that allows the EPA to set emissions standards. 

The impact on air pollution may also be limited. According to the EPA’s calculations, its plan would have addressed 86% of greenhouse gas emissions. The Supreme Court’s decision will still allow the agency to address 83% of those emissions. In a statement issued following the ruling, the EPA characterized the decision as “a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution because it allows EPA, states and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources.”  

The industry groups had wanted the high court to reconsider its 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA holding that the EPA had the authority to regulate such emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court declined, instead agreeing to hear narrower questions surrounding the EPA’s permit authority. That in itself was regarded as a win by environmentalists, since it meant that the agency’s general authority to regulate carbon emissions was not in question. The EPA won afar more sweeping case earlier this year when the high court upheld an EPA rule regulating interstate air pollution.

President Obama has promised to set new emissions standards for power plants which would cut emissions by 30% before 2030. The authority to set emissions standards under the Clean Air Act is distinct from the permitting authority, and was not at issue in the case. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Judges not consulted on keeping courts open round the year

Chief Justice of India R M Lodha did not consult his colleagues in the Supreme Court before pushing for a public debate on keeping courts open round the year like emergency services.

Justice Lodha had mooted the radical proposal before lawyers at Jaipur in the second week of May to improve disposal of pending cases and had requested Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Biri Singh Sinsinwar, who like the CJI also hails from Rajasthan, to urgently seek views of other state bar councils. BCI is the apex regulatory body for professional conduct of lawyers.

After making public his proposal to keep courts open throughout the year, the CJI wrote to chief justices of all high courts for a debate on it and sought feedback. But judges of the Supreme Court felt ignored by the CJI on this score as there was "no consultation at all" with them on this issue. News agency learnt from some judges that "the issue was never even broached in any of the full court meetings of judges in the Supreme Court".

"Probably, we could have told the CJI how unworkable the proposal is. Also, we could have given suggestions to improve the pace of the justice delivery system," a judge said. The judiciary is groaning under the weight of over 2 crore pending cases though rate of disposal has improved over the years.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Detaining patients over unpaid bills is 'inhuman': HC

 The Bombay high court on Thursday denounced the "inhuman" practice of hospitals detaining patients till their medical bills were paid. A division bench of Justices VM Kanade and P D Kode heard a petition filed by Sanjay Prajapati (25) urging it to direct MIDC Police, Andheri (East), to act against doctors and staff of SevenHills Hospital, for wrongfully confining his brother over a disputed bill. He urged the court to direct the police to get the patient discharged and admitted to a suitable hospital for further treatment.

The petitioner said his brother Chinku suffered head injuries after a fall at home on March 29, 2014, and was admitted to SevenHills Hospital where he was operated upon. Prajapati later wrote to the CEO alleging improper treatment and bogus billings, but got no response. Finding no improvement in his brother's condition, he decided to shift him elsewhere but the hospital refused to discharge him till the disputed bills were cleared.

Some hospitals beat five-star hotels in luxury, and tariffs too

Diwakar Dwivedi, Prajapati's advocate, told the HC that out of a total bill of Rs 4.56 lakh, Rs 2.76 lakh was deposited and according to the hospital a balance of Rs 1.80 lakh was payable. "I have disputed it. I now want to shift my brother but they are refusing to discharge him unless the bills are paid. They cannot detain a patient in this manner," the petitioner said. The judges agreed. "It is a practice at all hospitals to detain patients as long as money is not paid. It is inhuman. It is happening even in government hospitals. It is surprising" said Justice Kanade. The judge recounted how a court staff was detained in a government hospital even after he stood guarantee for payment of the bill. He said the man had high blood pressure but was told he would be operated upon only after a deposit of Rs 2 lakh. Justice Kanade said he gave an undertaking for making the payment. "Government reimbursements are usually delayed. He was detained for 10 days," said Justice Kanade.

Prosecutor FR Shaikh remarked that hospitals have been "commercialized". The judges said people are expected to shell out a huge amount at a short notice and it is unfortunate that patients are refused discharge for payment. Prajapati's petition alleged that the surgeon at SevenHills, Dr Kishore Choudhary, was charging his visiting fees for the period when he was on leave. He claimed when he took up the issue of bogus visiting charges, he was allegedly threatened that the bills would be inflated further. He alleged that the hospital and its staff behaved badly with him and his brother as they were poor. "The patient has been ill-treated, humiliated and neglected by doctors as well as the staff," his petition stated. The judges have asked the state to take instructions and inform the court on Friday.

However, hospital authorities denied that the patient was being detained and told TOI that he was being extended the best care. "There is no question of holding back a patient. He is fit to be discharged and can walk out of the hospital whenever the family wishes to take him," said Anand Garg, CEO of SevenHills Hospital. He said doctors at the hospital have given Prajapati a new lease of life after he came with a broken skull. Garg however admitted that initially there was some erroneous billing. "There was some discrepancy in the initial bill that was sorted out soon after the family pointed it out to us. Our billing is automated so it was more of a technical error," he said. He insisted that the patient was not denied any second surgery. "The patient does not need that immediately," he added. Garg also said that the family was provided every medical record and diagnostic report that they had asked for.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

HC prohibits transport authorities from seizing private vehicle midway

Gujarat high court has ruled that the authorities cannot seize vehicles of private travel operators midway by making passengers alight the vehicles.
The high court has said that in case of violation of the Motor Vehicle Act or other laws, the authorities have to first ensure that the passengers do not suffer. They can seize vehicles only after they reach final destination and all passengers get down.
The HC ruling has come in response to a petition filed by the Akhil Gujarat Pravasi Vahan Chalak Mahamandal, which has approached the court after the show-cause notices issued to various travel operators by Ahmedabad RTO.

The authority has asked private operators to close their function in case they do not have requisite permission. It has also warned those who have allegedly violated norms of their permits.
The RTO has maintained that private travel operators do not have permission to issue ticket to passengers, but they get permit to transport a group of people to certain destination and not in an individual's case. They moved the HC expressing apprehension that their vehicles would be intercepted midway and passengers will have to suffer.
The rules say that private travel operators can provide transportation to people from a spot to pre-decided destinations. But they do not have permission to issue tickets to passengers. The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation has got monopoly in this field.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No prior agreement needed with foreign country to examine witnesses via video conferencing: HC

KOCHI: No prior agreement between the Indian government and the foreign government is required to examine a witness in a criminal case through video conferencing, the Kerala high court has held.

The ruling was given by a division bench comprising of justices KT Sankaran and ML Joseph Francis while considering appeals related to a 1995 murder case from Thiruvananthapuram. The victim, 29-year-old Sakkeer was hacked to death by the accused, who were later identified as People's Democratic Party (PDP) workers, on the night of January 16th. Sakkeer was elected as chairman of Thiruvannathapuram Law College on that day and was an activist of CPM's youth wing DYFI.

When the armed gang entered his house, he had escaped through the back door and had ran to the compound of his neighbour Shajahan. It was there that the gang hacked him. Shajahan was the sole occurrence witness in the case but he later went to Saudi Arabia for job purposes. Trial court had convicted 8 of the accused, including accused no. 1 to 5.

During the hearing of the appeals filed by the accused at the high court, it was alleged that Shajahan was not properly questioned as per Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Based on high court's direction, Shajahan, who had reached Saudi Arabia by that time, was examined through video conferencing through the Indian Embassy in Riyadh.

At the high court, the accused's counsel argued that video conferencing of Shajahan was not done as provided under section 285 (3) of CrPC. For examining a witness through video conferencing, it was mandatory that there was an arrangement between the Indian government and the Saudi government in criminal matters. As a procedure has been provided in CrPC, it should have been done only as provided in the Code and not otherwise, the counsel contended.

However, the court rejected the argument, ruling that even if there is any irregularity, it would not vitiate the conviction. Pointing out that no arrangement was made between the governments in the present case, the court held that a commission cannot be appointed to examine witnesses abroad but they can be examined through video conferencing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SC dismisses plea of Mumbai's Campa Cola residents against demolition of illegal flats

Tuesday dashed any remnant of hope residents of Campa Cola Compound had by dismissing their fresh plea against demolition.

The Campa Cola Residents Association had filed a new petition to stop the demolition on the grounds that BMC be allowed to regularize the 35 illegal floors across seven buildings in the Worli society.

Illegal Campa Cola residents dig in their heels

Their first prayer was that the SC prevent the BMC from going ahead with the demolition till the outcome of the present petition. The BMC said the residents had earlier too made several attempts to delay deadlines and sought extensions through various pleas filed in courts.

The BMC has plans to start the process of demolition. It had already prepared a report of all the steps it had taken earlier which it said the residents had successfully thwarted so far.

The residents said new facts had emerged through Right to Information queries made from the BMC about its plans to regularize the illegal flats earlier. Their plea in court was for directions to the BMC to "adhere to their decisions of regularising the construction as revealed from the letters dated July 3, 1986 and minutes of meeting dated July 23, 1985."

An alternate demand raised by the residents was to have the matter "remanded to the Bombay high court of Mumbai for fresh hearing on the basis of new facts procured under RTI in the interest of justice".

The SC had last February ended the long drawn battle between the Campa Cola compound residents and the BMC over the demolition notice issues almost two decades ago by upholding the demolition of all 96 flats in the illegally constructed floors.

The residents had claimed they were innocent victims of the process and the complicity between the BMC officials and the developers. The SC in its judgment held that the residents cannot be deemed to have been so innocent.

Road cleared for demolition of Campa Cola flats

The dismissal by Supreme Court of a fresh petition made by residents of Campa Cola Compound to protect them against demolition of their flats paves the way for BMC to begin demolition.

The Worli residents are also now bound by their undertaking in the SC to vacate and hand over peaceful possession of their flats.

Senior counsel Milind Sathe in Mumbai said, "The civic administration is free technically to begin the demolition process. It will however have to invited bids from contractors to carry out the actual demolition as it doesn't have the machinery. How soon or whether they do get viable bids will have to be seen."

For residents, the period of uncertainty has ended. But while they will now be required to vacate their premises, it is uncertain when the demolition would actually be carried out, said a lawyer.

The builders were originally allowed to build up to five floors but what came up included two towers of 17 and 20 floors each and three buildings of six floors each and two of seven floors.