Weekly Legal Updates (17 September to 23 September 2023)

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.

Supreme Court dissolves special probe team in Lakhimpur Kheri violence case

The Supreme Court on Monday disbanded the Special Investigative Team (SIT) constituted to probe the Lakhimpur Kheri incident and said the probe is complete, chargesheets have been filed and trials in the cases have begun.

During a brief hearing, Additional Advocate General (AAG) Garima Prasad for the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government told a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Suryakant and Dipankar Dutta that a chargesheet has been filed in the case and the trial is going on.

Taking note of the July 12 letter received by the secretary general of the Supreme Court by SIT, the bench said, “It appears the SIT has become functus officio (an agency whose mandate has expired). Members of the SIT and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain can be relieved of their responsibilities.”

In its order, the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the Lakhimpur Kheri case, also noted that the trial judge has been sending periodic status reports. However, the bench said the SIT could be reconstituted in future in case it was found necessary.

As many as eight people, including four farmers, were killed in October 2021 in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district.

After the incident, Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra, was booked under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 302 (related to murder) for the incident.

Later, the Supreme Court appointed former Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) Judge, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, as monitoring judge of the probe and SIT was composed of directly recruited IPS officers, which included SB Shiradkar, Padmaja Chauhan and Dr Preetinder Singh.

(Courtesy:- India Today, 18 September 2023)

Supreme Court to hear plea against Madras High Court’s verdict on Ganesh idols

The Supreme Court will on Monday hear a petition challenging the recent interim stay order issued by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court. The High Court’s order has permitted the making and sale of Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, but has imposed restrictions on its immersion in water bodies.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter today.

The appeal, which questions the Madras High Court’s verdict, focuses on the ban it imposed on the sale of Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris. This prohibition came into effect following a special hearing held on a Sunday.

The case is slated to be brought before the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the petitioner seeks an urgent hearing. The matter has assumed significance due to its direct impact on Ganesh Chaturthi festivities, which is widely celebrated across the country.

While Ganesh Chaturthi is a significant festival in many parts of India, the use of non-biodegradable materials like Plaster of Paris in the creation of idols has raised environmental apprehensions. Such materials can have adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems when immersed in water bodies, prompting various authorities and courts to address the issue.

(Courtesy:- India Today, 18 September 2023)

Approach High Court first: SC refuses to entertain Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s plea against ED summons

The Supreme Court Monday refused to entertain Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s plea challenging the summons issued to him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with money laundering charges and asked him to instead approach the High Court in this regard.

Soren withdrew the plea after the bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi expressed disinclination to entertain it. Taking up the plea Monday, the bench sought to know why he had not approached the Jharkhand High Court which is the jurisdictional HC.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Hemant Soren, submitted he could approach the High Court but added there were related issues pending before the SC. Rohatgi added that it is a case of “complete witchhunt”.

“You go to the High Court. We will allow you to withdraw,” said Justice Trivedi.

“See, the case should be started from the High Court in general,” added Justice Bose.

Rohatgi eventually agreed to withdraw the plea.

The matter relates to a probe being undertaken by the ED in connection with a case of illegal mining and the alleged fraudulent sale of land parcels in Ranchi.

The agency had summoned Soren to appear before it on September 18 but since the challenge to it was also listed for hearing before the SC the same day, the ED re-issued the summons asking him to appear on September 23.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 18 September 2023)

Supreme Court Stays HD Deve Gowda’s Grandson’s Election Disqualification

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Karnataka High Court order which invalidated the Lok Sabha membership of JDS MP Prajwal Revanna.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud stayed the Karnataka High Court order which declared the election of Revanna null and void.

Karnataka High Court has invalidated the Lok Sabha membership of JDS MP Prajwal Revanna, saying that he had filed a false affidavit to the Election Commission in the 2019 general election.

The Karnataka High Court order was challenged before the Supreme Court by the petitioner Mr Revanna.

Prajwal Revanna, who is the grandson of former Prime Minister, HD Deve Gowda, won the election in 2019 from Hassan Lok Sabha constituency as a joint candidate of JDS and Congress.

(Courtesy:- NDTV, 19 September 2023)

Set time frame: Supreme Court to Maharashtra Speaker on MLAs’ pleas

Observing that Maharashtra assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar seems to have done “nothing” in four months to decide on the disqualification applications of MLAs, filed by rival Shiv Sena factions, the Supreme Court Monday directed him to expedite proceedings and asked him to place before the SC a schedule for wrapping up hearing and taking decisions.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said that it had on May 11 directed the speaker to decide on the pleas within “a reasonable time”. “It appears that nothing has happened… You cannot say that you will hear in due course,” the bench told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the speaker.

The Supreme Court on Monday said disqualification proceedings pending before the Maharashtra speaker cannot be delayed indefintely and the speaker has to abide by its order to maintain the court’s dignity. It asked speaker Rahul Narwekar to hear the matter ‘no later than a period of one week’.

The bench, after hearing both factions and the speaker, said, “The order of this court requires the speaker to decide the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period. While this court is cognisant to the need of comity with the speaker, we also expect dignity of this court’s judgement to be maintained. We direct that the speaker shall hear the matter no later than a period of one week. At the time, procedural directions shall be issued for completing the record and setting out time for hearings. Soft copies of annexures shall be served on all respondents,” the bench said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta replied that the speaker is proceeding as per law and informed the court about the steps taken over the past four months to refute the Uddhav Thackeray faction’s allegation that Narwekar has deliberately been holding up proceedings. He said that a speaker is a constitutional functionary and cannot be ridiculed in the court of law.

The solicitor general also informed the bench that the speaker has categorised the applications into six segments and responses of 56 MLAs as to why they should not be disqualifed have already been sought.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sunil Prabhu seeking expeditious decision by the Maharashtra speaker on the disqualification proceedings pending against MLAs, including chief minister Eknath Shinde. The Shinde camp also filed disqualification applications against MLAs belonging to the Uddhav camp.

Appearing for Prabhu, senior advocate Kapil Sibal submitted that a speaker conducts proceedings under the 10th Schedule, anti-defection act, in lay parlance, as a tribunal the functioning of which cannot be counted as part of House proceedings. Hence, the court can direct him to conclude hearing a time-bound manner, he contended. Sibal further said that hearing before the speaker is a “farce” and made to protect the “illegal” government.

Senior advocates Niraj Kishsan Kaul and Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Eknath Shinde’s Sena camp, strongly objected to Sibal’s submission and told the bench that voluminous documents were filed before the speaker at the last moment.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 19 September 2023)

“Can’t Run Affairs Of Army”: Supreme Court On Woman Colonel Commanding Unit

Courts cannot run the affairs of the Army, the Supreme Court observed on Friday while hearing a petition filed by a woman colonel who was given the charge of a company of soldiers which is ordinarily commanded by a major, two ranks her junior.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud was hearing three matters- two pertaining to the women officers of the Army and one of the Navy- in which several grievances have been raised including about promotions.

“We now can’t run the affairs of the Army,” the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, told senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the petitioners, when she raised the issue of the woman colonel having been given the charge of a company which is ordinarily led by a major rank officer.

“We interfere in those cases on issues of principles,” it observed, adding, “Surely, we can’t start running the command structure of the Army”.

She said it was a case where the woman officer has been given permanent commission and she is a colonel in the Army. Arora said it amounts to “gross humiliation” of the woman officer who is now a colonel.

“Ordinarily, a colonel has to be put in a command post which will have a certain number of JCOs (junior commissioned officers), officers and others under them. Now people who are junior to me have been given units in those commands,” she said.

“You have heard the grievance now,” the bench told Attorney General R Venkataramani.

The top court, which posted the matter for further hearing on September 27, said there are issues which can surely be sorted out by the authorities themselves.

The bench asked the petitioners to circulate a note, not exceeding two pages, setting out the grievances raised by them.

It said the respondent authorities will be at liberty to file their responses on the issues raised.

The bench clarified the pendency of these proceedings will not preclude the Army and Navy authorities from looking into the grievances raised by the petitioners and resolve them. 

In a landmark verdict on February 17, 2020, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission, rejecting the Centre’s stand on their “physiological limitations” as being based on “sex stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”.

The top court had directed that within three months all serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers have to be considered for permanent commission irrespective of them having completed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.

Later, in another major verdict on March 17, 2020, the top court had paved the way for granting permanent commission to women officers in Indian Navy, saying a level playing field ensures that women have the opportunity to overcome “histories of discrimination.

(Courtesy:- NDTV, 22 September 2023)

Supreme Court upholds directive on fire NOC for coaching institutes

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Delhi High Court order regarding the closure of coaching centres operating without No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department in the national capital.

A bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta, while dismissing the plea filed by the Coaching Federation of India, took note of the fact that the High Court was slated to hear its suo moto petition on the Mukherjee Nagar coaching institute fire incident on October 10, 2023.

The court also granted the Coaching Federation of India liberty to approach the High Court immediately for redressal of their grievances. “Having heard senior counsel, we are informed that the matter is coming up before the High Court on October 10. In view of the matter, we are not inclined to hear the Special Leave Petition (SLP).

The petitioner federation will be at liberty to pray impleadment before the High Court and raise all contentions. The SLP is dismissed. Since the matter is listed before the High Court on the 10th, the petitioner federation has the liberty to approach the High Court immediately for redressal,” the order said.

The court was considering a plea filed by the Coaching Federation of India against the Delhi High Court’s July 25 order passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma. Laying emphasis on the importance of fire safety, the bench had said that all coaching centres are under an obligation to comply with their statutory requirements under the Delhi Master Plan, 2021, and other regulations.

“If a coaching centre is not conforming with the master plan provisions, it is to be shut down. There is no other alternative,” the bench, also comprising Justice Saurabh Banerjee, had said. “Respondents (MCD and Delhi government) are directed to close coaching centres which do not have fire NOC,” the court had ordered.

The Coaching Federation, appearing through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, said that the High Court order was passed without hearing them. Urging the bench to grant them reprieve with several teachers unemployed due to closure, Rohatgi said, “ Kindly grant us relief till the 10th. The order has been passed without hearing.“

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 23 September 2023)

*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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