Weekly Legal Updates ( 14 January to 20 January 2024)

Weekly Legal Updates main objective is to update the legal knowledge of law students, lawyers, academicians and other professionals. If we do not update our legal knowledge regularly, our knowledge become redundant.

Krishna Janmabhoomi case: Supreme Court stays execution of Allahabad HC order on Shahi Idgah survey

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of the Allahabad High Court’s December 14, 2023, order allowing an application for inspection of the Shahi Idgah complex in Mathura by a court-appointed commissioner in connection with the Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said there were legal issues which arise and need to be decided. Justice Khanna said the application filed before the HC seeking the appointment of a commissioner was “very vague”.

“Can an application be made like this? We have reservations about the application. Look at the prayer. It’s so vague. Read it. You cannot make an omnibus application like this. You have to be very clear about what you want the local commissioner to do,” he said.

The mosque committee has approached the SC saying that its petitions challenging the High Court order transferring to itself all suits in connection with the dispute are pending and the HC should not have given any interim relief to the other side in the meantime.

Issuing notice, the Supreme Court bench said the proceedings before the HC can continue but the commission will not be executed till the next date. The court will hear it again on January 23.

In May last year, the Allahabad High Court had transferred to itself all the suits on the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid dispute.

At least a dozen cases have been filed in courts in Mathura by different petitioners. A common thread in all the petitions is a prayer for the removal of the mosque from the 13.37-acre complex, which it shares with the Katra Keshav Dev temple.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 16 January 2023)

Supreme Court tells Centre to finalise Motor Vehicle Act amendments by April

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Centre to complete the consultation process with states and Union territories by April for amending the Motor Vehicles Act on the issue of whether a light motor vehicle (LMV) licence holder can legally drive a transport vehicle of unladen weight of up to 7,500 kg.

A five-judge bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud posted the matter for hearing on April 23 indicating that if the Centre is unable to resolve the issue by then, it will resume hearing on petitions filed by insurance companies seeking reversal of a 2017 judgment of the top court that permitted LMV licence holders to drive transport vehicles.

The bench, also comprising justices Hrishikesh Roy, PS Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra passed the order after a submission was made by the Centre that the consultation process is still on. Attorney general R Venkataramani said, “The consultation process with stakeholders is not over. We need more time.”

On November 22 last year, the bench had asked the Centre to expedite the consultation process with all necessary stakeholders, including states and Union territories, and file a report while directing the matter to be heard on Wednesday (January 17).

The bench told the AG, “If the issue is not resolved, proceedings shall be listed on April 23 for hearing what remains in the matter.” The court further conveyed to the Centre that as and when a decision is finalised on the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, a copy of the same should be submitted to the court and the parties to the proceedings a week before the next date of hearing.

In November, the Centre informed the court that the ministry of road, transport and highways (MoRTH) had begun the process of amending the provisions of MV Act, 1988 and had consulted all stakeholders to make changes to the provisions with a holistic perspective. He was responding to an order passed by the court on September 13 seeking his assistance in the matter in order to evaluate the “far-reaching implications” of reversing its 2017 judgment in Mukund Dewangan v Oriental Insurance, which had held the field for six years.

Though AG had requested the court for an indefinite adjournment, the bench was not keen as it observed, “An element of certainty must be brought on the issues raised in these petitions.”

The court is hearing a bunch of 75 petitions by insurance companies against the July 2017 verdict that ended the practice of different sets of rules guiding the grant of licence to drive private and commercial vehicles as long as the unladen weight of the vehicle was less than 7,500kg.

The verdict meant that any person with a licence to drive a private car or autorickshaw did not need the transport department’s endorsement to also drive cabs, taxis or other buses with passengers.

Insurance firms argued this verdict had serious implications for road safety as it would permit an autorickshaw driver to drive a road roller, a school bus or a contract carriage without going through the stringent checks meant for transport vehicle drivers, who had to undergo a rigorous 30-day training course before acquiring a licence.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 17 January 2024)

Want hate speech to stop but can’t put pre-emptive curbs: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday maintained that though it wants hate speeches and incitement to violence to stop, it cannot pre-empt people’s right to free speech and assembly by restraining them from holding meetings or processions without first granting them an audience.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta emphasised that the top court was inclined to strengthen the guidelines laid down by it in 2018 to prevent hate crimes and instigation for violence, including hate speeches, by making nodal officers and the police authorities at the district level accountable.

“After we passed the last order (on appointment of nodal officers), it did have an impact on the ground. It (hate speech) stopped…And we want it to stop,” the bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who pressed for a direction to the authorities in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh for stopping rallies planned by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Bharatiya Janata Party MLA T Raja Singh later this week.

According to Sibal, the MLA from Telangana’s Goshamahal constituency was a habitual offender of hate speeches and was booked by the Maharashtra police in a separate case for allegedly making incendiary speeches at a rally in the Solapur district.

“See the kind of venom and hate that is being perpetrated. No action is being taken despite lodging of the FIR. There is no arrest, and he (Singh) keeps on. What’s the point of all this?” asked the senior counsel, requesting the court to stop the proposed rallies on January 18 and 19.

But the bench turned down Sibal’s plea. “See, they are objectionable. But some action has been taken in the other case that you are citing. But we are not going to stay the procession…Authorities will take action if there is any hate speech or incitement to violence. But it cannot be pre-emptory.”

Sibal, who was appearing for one of the petitioners in the batch of pleas relating to hate speech, argued that the guidelines on taking preventive steps and installation of CCTV cameras have not made a difference due to lack of concrete action by police.

At this point, the bench, however, pointed out that the applicant has not made Singh a party to the plea despite seeking direction against his holding processions, which is also a face of fundamental right.

“Mr Sibal, is he (Singh) a party in your application? The order you are seeking is going to affect someone. Have you made that person a party here? Your prayer is don’t grant permission to X. And if the permission is granted, withdraw it. Can we do it without hearing him? How can we pass this order without this person being a party or hearing them?” it asked Sibal, who conceded that the MLA has not been added as a party to the application.

The bench then underscored that it would be in breach of principles of natural justice to pass an order impacting a person’s rights without hearing him. “That goes against the fundamentals of natural justice,” it highlighted.

The court added that since there are already guidelines in place, it would ask the authorities concerned to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps during the rallies in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal and Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.

“It is to be noted that persons against whom allegations have been made are not made parties. Nevertheless in view of assertions made, we require authorities to be cautious of the fact that no incitement to violence or hate speech can be permitted. We accordingly direct the district magistrates and superintendents of police of Yavatmal in Maharashtra and Raipur in Chhattisgarh to take notice of the allegations and take appropriate steps as required. If necessary and deemed appropriate, police will install CCTV cameras with recording facilities so that perpetrators can be identified if anything happens,” the court said in its order.

Adjudicating a clutch of petitions seeking to curb hate speeches, the court had in November said that the Supreme Court cannot monitor the problem pan-India by dealing with scores of applications filed by individuals and groups citing various instances of hate speech. “In a country as big as India, there will be problems. But the question to be asked is whether we have an administrative mechanism to deal with it,” it noted on November 29, adding that the mechanism envisaged under the 2018 judgment ought to be strengthened.

The 2018 judgment in the Tehseen Poonawalla case laid down extensive guidelines and preventive steps to be taken by states to curb instances of mob lynching and hate speeches.

The court had at the time sought to know the status of compliance by the Centre and states with a slew of previous orders requiring nodal officers , not below the rank of superintendent of police, to maintain case diary of hate speeches, installing CCTVs at places where the police apprehended trouble and sensitising police about reporting hate speeches to the nodal officer. It had further asked the Centre to propose guidelines on how nodal officers could aid in preventing hate speeches by way of quick action.

To be sure, there is no definition of hate speech under the Indian Penal Code and the offenders are booked under the provisions dealing with creating enmity between two different groups, acts intended to outrage religious feelings and statements conducive to public mischief.

The lead petition in the case was filed in 2021 by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, demanding a specific definition and a separate law on hate speech.

The Law Commission of India, in its 267th Report that was released in March 2017, suggested that criminal law should be amended to introduce specific legal provisions to deal with hate speech. It proposed two new provisions to penalise instances of hate speech, entailing a jail term up to two years. The commission sought to define hate speech as an incitement to hatred or discrimination, primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like. The government, however, is yet to introduce specific provisions on hate speech in the penal law.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 18 January 2024)

SC rap for HC over 6 month adjournment

The Supreme Court has, in a recent order, taken a dim view of Delhi High Court adjourning a criminal case for six months. There is “something seriously wrong” with the high court in dealing with matters of personal liberty, it stated.

The apex court has further cautioned the high court that “public will start losing faith if cases stand deferred for so long”. Taking note of the strong observations by the apex court, the high court has expedited hearing in that particular criminal case.

Last month, a bench of Supreme Court justices Vikram Nath and Rajesh Bindal were constrained to note that “there is something seriously wrong with the high court of Delhi in the matters of personal liberty and where interim orders are being sought a date after six months has been given which is not acceptable.”

The apex court was dealing with a case relating to criminal proceedings being faced by a private party and was unhappy to find out that proceedings in it had been deferred for six months.

“We have been informed that on September 1, 2023, the high court has fixed the next date as March 19, 2024 i.e., after more than six and a half months. If such matters of personal liberty and interim reliefs are adjourned for such a long duration, the public will start losing faith in the judicial system of this country,” the Supreme Court further underlined.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 18 January 2024)

Supreme Court junks Punjab Govt plea against bail to MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira in 2015 drug case

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to cancel the bail granted to Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a 2015 drug case.

A Bench led by Justice Bela M Trivedi dismissed the Punjab Government’s special leave petition challenging the January 4 order of the high court granting bail to Khaira.

Noting that the allegations against Khaira were serious, the Bench, however, said it would not interfere with the high court’s order considering the facts and circumstances of the case.

“If Khaira was involved right from the beginning, why did you not include him in the chargesheet? He was only named as accused after the entire trial concluded,” Justice Trivedi asked senior counsel Siddharth Luthra, who represented the Punjab Government. The Bench also rejected the state government’s apprehensions about Khaira intimidating witnesses.

Contending that the Punjab and Haryana High Court did not consider all facts of the case, the Punjab Government had moved the Supreme Court challenging the high court’s order granting bail to Khaira in the case registered against him under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

Luthra said while the challenge to the summons under Section 319 of the CrPC was pending, the top court had stayed the proceedings against Khaira and the probe could not proceed further.

Khaira was represented by senior counsel PS Patwalia and advocate-on-record Nikhil Jain.

As Luthra asserted that further investigation was pending against Khaira and the state did not act against him out of deference to the top court, Justice Trivedi wondered if there was permission granted to the special judge to order further investigation.

“Sorry! The allegations are serious but given the facts and circumstances of the case, we are not inclined,” the Bench said, dismissing the Punjab Government’s petition.

Khaira, an MLA from the Bholath Assembly constituency, was arrested in September in connection with the 2015 case, triggering accusations of political vendetta against the state’s ruling AAP by the Congress.

The high court granted him bail on January 4 but before he could be released, Khaira was arrested by the Punjab Police in a fresh case registered at the Subhanpur police station on a complaint filed by the wife of a key witness in the 2015 drugs case, accusing him of criminal intimidation. However, he was granted bail by a Kapurthala court in the second case on January 15.

(Courtesy:- The Tribune , 18 January 2024)

‘No merit’: SC nixes plea of Bilkis case convicts

Supreme Court on Friday refused to extend the deadline of January 21 fixed by it for 11 convicts to surrender and go back to jail to serve their sentence of life imprisonment for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and killing 14 members of her family in the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.

It took only a few minutes for a bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan to decide the plea of the convicts, who had cited medical problems and family responsibilities to seek extension.

“The reasons cited by the applicants to seek postponement of surrender and report back to jail have no merit inasmuch as those reasons in no way prevent them from complying with our directions,” the court said.

At the outset of the hearing, one of the lawyers appearing for the convicts urged the court that some “breathing time” be given to them to “put their houses in order” before returning to jail. However, the bench said it had granted them two weeks to manage their affairs. The apex court has rightly asked the convicts to go back to jail. As for their medical problems, they can be attended to, once they are back in jail. They should not have been out in the first place.

The court was so categorical that advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bilkis, did not even have to argue her case.

Now, the convicts — Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, Jaswantbhai Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana — will have to surrender by Sunday.

On January 8, the court had quashed Gujarat government’s decision to grant them remission and directed them to surrender. Allowing the plea of Bilkis, who had challenged their remission, the court found fault not only with Gujarat government’s decision but also with the order passed by SC in 2022 that triggered the remission process.

In that order, SC had directed the state to decide the remission plea of one convict. It also said the 2022 order was obtained by convict Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah by misleading the court and
he had “stealthily” approached SC by hiding various facts. The bench noted that Shah had earlier filed a remission plea before Maharashtra government, too, and all authorities, including the special CBI court, had opined against premature release.

Bilkis was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped and her family, including a two-dayold infant, were murdered. Her three-year-old daughter was killed by smashing her head on a rock.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 20 January 2024)

*Disclaimer: – Always check with the original copy of judgment from the Court website.

Legal News in this Weekly Legal Update are compiled by Team www.deepakmiglani.com

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