Weekly Legal Updates (26 March to 1 April 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 stays demolition of shelters for Delhi’s urban homeless without its permission

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would apply a three-point test – the Mumbai trial court judge’s opinion opposing the remission, heinousness of the offence and the release of the convicts when life convicts in other cases are languishing for decades – to determine validity of Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission to 11 lifers in the Bilkis Bano case involving gang rape and murders. Justice KM Joseph, who was on the bench with Justice BV Nagarathna, asked, “Our experience is that many life convicts continue to languish in jails for more than 20 years. The Supreme Court had to ask the concerned governments to consider their remission pleas. What are the special grounds in this case?”

The Gujarat government had on August 10 last year granted remission to the lifers in the post-Godhra communal riots case, the trial of which was transferred to Mumbai from Gujarat on the orders of the court, as they had served over 15 years in prison and reportedly shown good conduct in jail. However, it had also stated that the trial court judge at Mumbai as well as the prosecuting agency, the CBI, had opined against grant of remission on the ground that they committed the heinous offences in a gruesome manner. Brushing aside the convicts’ challenge to the locus standi of PIL petitioners, including Subhashini Ali and Mahua Moitra, in criminal cases, the bench issued fresh notices to the state, the Centre and the convicts on all petitions, including the one filed by Bilkis Bano. The SC said Bano’s petition would be treated as the lead petition and posted further hearing on April 18. (Courtesy:- The Times of India, 28 March 2023)

Supreme Court chides UP government for challenging HC order on rehab of Hathras victim’s kin 

The Supreme Court on Monday ticked off Uttar Pradesh for challenging an order of the Allahabad HC directing the state to implement its promise to provide employment to a kin of victim of 2020 Hathras gang-rape case and rehabilitate her family at a place within the state other than Hathras. 

UP government counsel Garima Prasad expressed difficulties of state in adhering to the promise as the kin eligible for offer of employment is the married brother of the victim and that the family wants to be settled in either Noida, Ghaziabad or Delhi. 

“Can the offer of employment to the kin extend to the married brother of the victim,” she asked. A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala chided the state government for filing the appeal. 

“How can the government appeal against such an order of the HC? It was a gruesome case of gang-rape in which the victim succumbed to her injuries. If that is the statutory relief promised by the state, how can it renege from it? In the facts and circumstances of the case, it does not warrant any interference,” it said. 

The incident had sparked nationwide uproar as the 19-year-old girl, who was gang-raped, ended up with broken bones and the perpetrators mutilated her tongue in an attempt to shut her up from giving evidence against them. She fought for life for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries on September 29, 2020 at Safdarjung.

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC had taken sun motu cognisance of the incident and had issued a series of directions in July last year, including a directive to the UP government to give employment to a kin of the victim within three months in the government or government undertaking as promised by the state in writing to the family on September 30, 2020. 

The HC bench of Justices Ranjan Roy and Jaspreet Singh had directed the state authorities to consider the socioeconomic rehabilitation of the victim’s family and relocate them outside Hathras but within UP within six months. It also directed the state government to take the decision keeping in mind the educational needs of the children of the family. (Courtesy:- The Times of India, 28 March 2023).

Explain ban on just 3 pesticides: Supreme Court to government

The Supreme Court on Monday asked why the Union government decided to ban only three out of 27 pesticides its draft notification had identified for disuse even as the Centre said the continuous evaluation process on use of safe insecticide should not turn the court into a forum for producers to settle their business rivalry. 

Dealing with a bunch of petitions demanding ban on over 100 pesticides still in use in India despite being banned in western world for their harmful effects on children, a bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud asked additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee to explain the rationale behind choosing only three of the 27 pesticides to be banned. 

Banerjee said Centre in its status report has explained the process of evaluation and has nothing to hide. 

The CJI-led bench said the Centre’s draft notification, on the basis of reports by committees headed by Dr S K Khurana and Dr T P Rajendran, had listed out 27 harmful pesticides. 

“The government had accepted the recommendations and decided to ban them. What made you ban only three? We want to be satisfied about the nature of the process followed,” it said. (Courtesy:- The Times of India, 28 March 2023)

Supreme Court Setback For Jagan Reddy Government In Andhra Capital Case

In a setback to the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court has not accepted a request from the state to stay the high court order from March last year that told the YSRCP government to develop Amaravati as the state’s capital within six months.

Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagaratna said the court will hear the request along with other petitions linked to the issue on July 11.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced in the state assembly that he would be shifting to Visakhapatnam and working from the coastal city from July.

Justice Joseph is to retire on June 16 and the issue is expected to come up before a new bench in July.

After the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 2014 into Telangana and a truncated Andhra Pradesh, both were supposed to share Hyderabad as capital for 10 years.

Chandrababu Naidu, who was elected Chief Minister of the new state, announced he would build a world class greenfield capital at Amaravati. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone for the ground-breaking ceremony.

Thousands of acres of land were acquired and big plans were drawn up, with building of the new capital, even though funds proved to be a big challenge.

When Mr Reddy became Chief Minister in May 2019, his government alleged huge real estate scam in land acquisition and also plans for the new capital at Amaravati and scrapped the AP Capital Region Development Authority.

Mr Reddy passed a new law announcing decentralisation and said the state would have three capitals – a judicial capital at Kurnool, a legislative capital at Amaravati and an executive capital at Vizag.

But that ran into legal trouble. The government then withdrew its decentralisation bill and cancelled the APCRDA in November.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had ruled in favour of Amaravati farmers in March 2022, asking for the capital to be built at Amaravati as per the master plan given in the Capital Region Development Authority Act, in six months. The state government went to the Supreme Court.

This was in response to multiple petitions filed by farmers who had challenged the scrapping of the CRDA Act passed by the Chandrababu Naidu government for developing a grand capital at Amaravati, and for which they had contributed land.

A division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra gave its final verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the Decentralisation Act and the repeal of the Andhra Pradesh CRDA Act.

In November, the state government withdrew the AP Decentralisation Act and the CRDA Repeal Act.

The high court had continued the hearing after some petitioners said there were more unresolved issues linked to the CRDA act, including transfer of developer plots to land owners who have given away their farm lands, development or basic infrastructure and mortgaging of lands in banks. (Courtesy:- NDTV, 29 March 2023)

Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal’s membership to Lok Sabha restored

Amid a row over Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as a Member of Parliament, the Lok Sabha Secretariat on Wednesday restored the membership of Mohammed Faizal P P, who represents the Lakshadweep parliamentary constituency. In an order, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said, “In view of order dated 25.01.2023 of the High Court of Kerala, the disqualification of Shri Mohammed Faizal P.P. notified vide Gazette notification no. 21/4/(1)/2023/TO(B) dated the 13th January, 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements.” 

In view of the membership being restored, the Supreme Court Wednesday disposed of the NCP leader’s plea against his disqualification as MP. 

Faizal was disqualified as member of Lok Sabha after the sessions court in Kavaratti, Lakshadweep convicted and sentenced him in an attempt-to-murder case on January 11, 2023. However, he had challenged the session court’s order in the Kerala High Court. The high court passed an order on January 25, 2023, suspending his conviction and sentencing. (Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 29 March 2023)

Supreme Court to examine validity of two PMLA provisions

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of Sections 50 and 63 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, empowering ED officials to summon anyone without giving any reason to record his/her statement and which provide for punishment for giving false information or for failure to give information. The petitioner, MP leader of the opposition Govind Singh, alleged that the unbridled power given to the agency was being misused to silence opposition leaders across the country. PMLA provisions allow roving and fishing expedition: Plea Leader of the opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly and seven-time MLA, Govind Singh, has moved the apex court saying some of the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 were violative of the fundamental rights of the accused. 

The provisions of Section 50 and 63 are in direct contravention to the fundamental rights against self-incrimination enshrined under Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which is interlinked intrinsically with the right to a fair trial under Article 21,” the petition said. The court, after a brief hearing, issued notice to the Centre and the ED, and asked them to file their responses within three weeks. The petitioner was granted two weeks thereafter to file a counter-response and the case was posted for further hearing in May. Courtesy:- (The Times of India, 29 March 2023)

Supreme Court allows Centre’s plea seeking Rs 5,000 crore from SEBI-Sahara fund to repay depositors

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a plea by the Centre seeking allocation of Rs 5,000 crore out of Rs 24,000 crore deposited by the Sahara group with market regulator Sebi to repay its depositors.

The direction came on an application filed by the Centre in a PIL by a person, named Pinak Pani Mohanty, who sought a direction to pay the amount to the depositors who invested in several chit fund companies and Sahara credit firms.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar said the amount shall be disbursed to depositors duped by the Sahara group of cooperative societies.

The entire process will be monitored by former apex court judge Justice R Subhash Reddy, the bench said.

The Centre had sought money from the SEBI-Sahara Sahara-Sebi escrow account that was formed after the top court in August 2012 directed two Sahara firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Limited (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing India Corporation Limited (SHICL) — to refund investors. (Courtesy:- The Telegraph 29 March 2023)

MP judge seeks transfer saying daughter to soon start practising there, SC Collegium accepts

The Supreme Court Collegium has accepted a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge’s request to transfer him out of the state as his daughter, a law student, will start practising in the district courts and before the Indore bench of the high court starting next year.

The five-member Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud in a resolution dated March 28 said that in a communication dated January 23, 2023, Justice Atul Sreedharan, who was appointed as a judge of the MP high court on April 7, 2016, had “sought a transfer out of the State of Madhya Pradesh on the ground that his elder daughter would enter practice next year and would be appearing before the District Court and the Indore Bench of the High Court”. (Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 31 March 2023)

Sedition law struck down in Pakistan: Supreme Court of India is also faced with the question of whether the law has become manifestly arbitrary

The ghost of its colonial past still haunts the subcontinent. One particularly vexing poltergeist is Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which provides for the offence of sedition and has similar counterparts in the penal codes of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Of these, the latter recently struck down the law for being unconstitutional.

The Lahore High Court declared unconstitutional the provision which provides that disaffection against federal or provincial governments in Pakistan would be considered sedition, for being in violation of freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 of Pakistan’s Constitution. The Indian section 124A does not distinguish between state and central governments but refers to “Government established by law in India”.

However, this is not the first time in the subcontinent that the law of sedition has been struck down for being unconstitutional. The High Court of Punjab in 1951 held that the text of the law itself does not suggest that there must be incitement of public disorder for invocation of section 124A, and that would make mere words and actions, without any overt violent act, seditious.

Therefore, it had no doubt that section 124A was a restriction on the freedom of speech granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution and tested it to see whether it was protected as a restriction under Article 19(2) or not.(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 1 April 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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