Weekly Legal Updates (5 November to 11 November 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.

‘Thank God we have judges like Justice Venkatesh’: SC refuses to entertain Tamil Minister Ponmudi’s plea against HC order on revision in DA case

Slamming the manner in which a corruption case against Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education K Ponmudi was transferred to a different district and resulted in his acquittal, the Supreme Court on Monday lauded Madras High Court judge Justice N Anand Venkatesh for recalling the transfer and acquittal suo motu.

While presiding over a three-judge bench, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud made no bones of his displeasure at the order transferring the case from Villupuram district to Vellore based on the administrative approval granted by three High Court judges – the then Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justices T Raja and V Bhavani Subborayan.

“Thank God we have judges like Justice Anand Venkatesh in our system. Look at the conduct. The Chief Justice transfers the trial from one district to another district. Where is that power? There is no administrative power to transfer trials. It is a judicial power,” emphasised CJI Chandrachud as the appeal by Ponmudi and his wife challenging Justice Venkatesh’s August 10 order came up for hearing before his bench.

The Supreme Court also refused to entertain the plea filed by Ponmudi and his wife against the Madras High Court’s August 10 suo motu revision order against their acquittal in the disproportionate assets case.

Overruling objections by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who appeared for the appellants, the CJI said, “The matter is placed before someone else and the trial is hurried ending in an acquittal”.

The bench pointed out that the August 10 order only issued notice to the prosecution and accused and told Sibal that he could raise his arguments before the HC.

Sibal said he had nothing to do with the administrative order, adding, “I cannot argue for the simple reason that he has set aside the judgment of the trial court”. “He says an administrative order of this nature should not have been passed. What do I have to do with it?” the senior counsel contended but the bench did not relent.

On this, the CJI said, “He (Justice Venkatesh) is absolutely right”.

The court said in its order, “We are not inclined to entertain the Special Leave Petitions at the present stage. The petitioners would be at liberty to urge all appropriate grievances before the single judge. We clarify that these objections of the accused would be considered on their own merits by the single bench on which we have not expressed any opinion whatsoever.”

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Ponmudi’s wife, also said his client did nothing to do with the administrative order.

The SC, however, repeated what the court had said for Justice Venkatesh. “As I said, thank god for our institution that we have judges like the judge in this case who passed the impugned order”.

Appearing for an intervenor, Advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out that Ponmudi is a sitting minister and claimed that the state was in collusion with the accused. He urged the court to appoint an amicus curiae or Special Public Prosecutor, but the SC left it to the HC to decide.

The Tamil Nadu Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption had registered the case against Ponmudi and his wife in 2002 accusing them of gathering disproportionate assets during his tenure as minister in the DMK government from 1996-2001.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 6 November 2023)

Andhra Pradesh: Supreme Court grants anticipatory bail to accused in skill development case

The Supreme Court on Monday made the earlier interim order absolute granting anticipatory bail to Ganti Venkata Satya Bhaskar Prasad, one of the accused in alleged skill development case. Former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu was arrested in the same case and presently out on interim bail.
The Supreme Court reserved judgement in Naidu’s quash petition and is expected to give judgement this week.

Bhaskar was named as A-35 in the case by Crime Investigation Department (CID). Interestingly, Bhaskar was earlier arrested by the CID, but the trial court rejected to send him to remand by
observing that section 409 of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act would not apply to him. As remaining sections in the case prescribe less than seven years of punishment, the ACB court directed the CID to follow the provisions of 41A CrPC.

Challenging the trial court order, CID moved high court arguing that the trial court did not consider section 120(B) of IPC which prescribes the same punishment as that of the main offence in the case. Considering the CID’s arguments, the high court set aside the trial court order. Following the high court’s order, Bhaskar moved anticipatory bail application as he was not in custody after the trial court refused to send him to remand.

However, the high court on July 31, rejected his petition for anticipatory bail. Challenging the high court order Bhaskar moved Supreme Court for anticipatory bail. On August 22, the apex court granted him interim anticipatory bail with a condition to cooperate with the investigation.
The matter came up hearing again on Monday. The counsels for both the parties told the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Pankaj Mittal that he has appeared for investigation as per the conditions laid down in interim order. Considering the facts peculiar to Bhaskar, the apex court on Monday made the interim order absolute granting anticipatory bail subject to the same conditions set out in the interim order.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 6 November 2023)

Can’t bar telecom companies from reissuing deactivated numbers, says Supreme Court

There is bad news for those subscribers who prefer prepaid mobile numbers and often change their numbers. The Supreme Court has said mobile phone service providers cannot be barred from reallocating deactivated/disconnected numbers to new subscribers after expiry of the statutory 90-day period and that it was for subscribers to delete data shared on WhatsApp or otherwise.A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti dismissed a petition by advocate Rajeshwari, who had sought a direction to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to instruct mobile service providers to stop issuing deactivated mobile numbers to new customers. Trai, through advocate Sanjay Kapur, told the SC that reallocation of deactivated mobile numbers related to administration of ‘numbering resources’, which squarely fell within the domain of the department of telecommunications.

The Justice Khanna-led bench said, “We are not inclined to proceed further with the present writ petition, as it is clear from the counter affidavit filed by Trai that the mobile telephone number, once deactivated for non-usage or disconnected on the request of the subscriber, is not allocated to a new subscriber for at least a period of 90 days. It is for the earlier subscriber to take adequate steps to ensure that privacy is maintained.” On the petitioner’s concern about breach of confidential data, the bench said, “The subscriber can prevent misuse of WhatsApp data by deleting the WhatsApp account attached with the previous phone number and erasing the WhatsApp data stored on the local device memory/cloud/drive.

In its affidavit, Trai informed the SC that DoT in April 2017 had issued two instructions conveying that “the cellular mobile telephone connection of a subscriber deactivated for non-usage/disconnection on request of subscriber, shall not be allocated to any other subscriber till the expiry of a minimum period of 90 days, or such longer period as may be specified by the licensee, from the date of deactivation/disconnection”. Trai said Mobile Number Revocation List was a digitally signed list of permanently disconnected mobile numbers.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 6 November 2023)

Lay down national model for providing toilets to girl students consistent with their number in govt-aided, residential schools: SC

The Supreme Court Monday directed the Centre to lay down a national model for building toilets commensurate with the number of girl students in all government-aided and residential schools across the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also asked the Union government about the policy it has formulated for distribution of sanitary napkins to female school students nationally.

The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said the Centre should bring uniformity in the procedure for distribution of sanitary napkins.

During the hearing, the Centre informed the apex court that a draft national policy for distribution of sanitary napkins free of cost to school-going girls has been formulated and sent to stakeholders for eliciting their comments.

The top court had earlier warned the states, which had not submitted their response to the Centre on formulating a uniform national policy on menstrual hygiene for girls studying in schools, that it will take recourse to the “coercive arm of law” if they failed to do so.

On April 10, the apex court had appointed the secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) as the nodal officer to coordinate with states and UTs and collect relevant data for formulating a national policy.

It had noted that MoHFW, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Jal Shakti have schemes on menstrual hygiene management.

It had ordered all states and UTs to submit their menstrual hygiene management strategies and plans that are being executed with the help of funds provided by the Centre or through their own resources to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission within a period of four weeks.

The apex court had said the states and UTs shall also indicate to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission the appropriate ratio of female toilets for residential and non-residential schools in their respective territories.

It had asked all states and UTs to also indicate the steps which have been taken to provide low-cost sanitary pads and vending machines in schools and their appropriate disposal.

The plea filed by Congress leader and social worker Jaya Thakur has said adolescent females from poor background between the age of 11 and 18 years face serious difficulties in receiving education, a constitutional right under Article 21A of the Constitution.

“These are adolescent females who are not equipped with and are also not educated by their parents about menstruation and menstrual hygiene.

“The deprived economic status and illiteracy lead to a prevalence of unhygienic and unhealthy practices which have serious health consequences, increase obstinacy and lead to eventual dropping out from schools,” the petition says.

(Courtesy:- The Telegraph Online, 6 November 2023)

Supreme Court rejects PFI’s plea against Centre’s ban, says approach High Court

The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday refused to hear a plea filed by the Popular Front of India (PFI) challenging a ban on the organisation and its designation as an ‘unlawful’ organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the Union government.

In its observations, a two-judge bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi said it would be appropriate for the PFI to first approach the high court against a tribunal’s order which upheld the government’s decision of banning and designating PFI and eight other organisations as ‘unlawful’ under the UAPA Act.

Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the PFI, agreed with the SC’s view that the organisation should have first approached the high court and then come to the top court.

Notably, the Union Home Ministry on September 27, 2022 imposed a five-year ban on PFI and eight other organisations for propagating communal hatred among people and indulging in ‘unlawful activities’ which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country.

(Courtesy:-  India Today, 6 November 2023)

Supreme Court asks UP government to consider school choice for slapping case victim

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to see if the victim in the Muzaffarnagar student slapping case can be admitted to a school of his parent’s choice.

The top court also expressed its dissatisfaction over non-compliance with its earlier order given to the state government and the education department.

During a brief hearing, a bench of Justices AS Oka and Pankaj Mithal asked the counsel for the state education department, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Natraj, whether the child had been admitted to any school.

Responding to the bench, the counsel said, “The child’s father has filed an affidavit seeking admission to a CBSE school. We have formed a committee because it’s covered under CBSE, not the UP board.”

He said the child can be admitted under the state education board if the parents prefer.

Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for petitioner Tushar Gandhi, told the bench, “There’s a good private school in the area, and the state can facilitate the admission. There are EWS [Economically Weaker Section] seats available there as well.”

The Supreme Court then asked ASG to see what could be done and said, “Have some senior government officer talk to the school principal. It will be done. I don’t think any school will say no.”

The bench also expressed its surprise over the fact that none of the affidavits were filed on time, and the bench couldn’t read anything. Justice Oka asked ASG Natraj about instructions he had received for counselling the child.

ASG told the bench that, “The child can be counselled at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow. If required, this can be referred to them.”

Advocate Farasat submitted, “King George is a reputed hospital, no doubt. But in terms of child psychology, TISS may be a better option. The state may bear the expense, and TISS may be appointed.”

Responding to this, Justice Oka asked ASG to find out if there are child psychologists available and said, “Actually, institutions like the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) are better. They have a lot of experts available.”

ASG responded, stating that NIMHANS is not in every state.

The bench then scheduled the hearing for Friday, November 10.

The case pertains to an incident wherein a seven-year-old boy was allegedly slapped by fellow students on the instructions of their teacher at a private school in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district.

(Courtesy:-  India Today, 6 November 2023)

Supreme Court bans polluting firecrackers across India

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that its directives against the use of banned chemicals in firecrackers applied to all states and not just Delhi and its neighbouring areas.

The top court’s clarification came during a hearing on an application seeking to direct Rajasthan to implement the court’s order banning use of certain firecrackers and reducing air and noise pollution.

“There seems to be a perception that your lordship’s order applies only to Delhi-NCR, though it is applicable throughout the country,” the petitioner told the Supreme Court.

The court directed Rajasthan to take note of its previous order, directing all states to take steps to minimise air pollution, especially during the festival season. The key is to sensitise people, the court added.

Justice MM Sundresh pointed out that there is a wrong perception that only the court has duties when it comes to environmental matters. “It is for everyone to manage air and sound pollution,” he noted.

The top court also slammed the central and the state governments for playing a “blame-game” over the Delhi air pollution issue as the air quality in the national capital and the neighboring states continues to worsen.

“We see there is a blame game, everyone is trying to pass (the reason) on…this is the reason, that is the reason,” Justice Sundresh said. The bench, however, did not comment further on the issue of stubble burning, stating that the matter is slated to be heard by the top court later in the day.(Courtesy:-  India Today, 7 November 2023)

Amid Delhi air pollution, Supreme Court’s strong words for Punjab over stubble burning: ‘Stop it’

The Supreme Court directed Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to stop stubble burning “forthwith”.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Punjab government over stubble burning while thick clouds of smog shrouded parts of Delhi as the air quality across the national capital continued to remain in the ‘severe’ category. It observed that there can’t be a political battle all the time. “We want it (stubble burning) stopped. We don’t know how you do it, it’s your job. But it must be stopped. Something has to be done immediately,” the Supreme Court told the Punjab government.

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, hearing air pollution matters, directed Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to stop stubble burning “forthwith”, making chief secretaries and director general of police concerned responsible for overseeing the implementation of the court order. Justice Kaul observed that while travelling through Punjab over the weekend, he saw widespread fires on both sides of the road.

The court also put the onus on the Centre, suggesting it should stop supporting minimum support price (MSP) for paddy in Punjab and should rather find ways to make farmers shift to alternative crops.

“The government has been propagating millets. Why not promote it?” the court said.

It adjourned the hearing till Friday.

On Monday, Punjab reported over 2,000 farm fires even as many parts of Haryana saw air quality indices in the ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ categories while it was ‘poor’ in areas of the border state. As farmers continued to set crop residue ablaze, 2,060 fresh stubble-burning incidents were recorded in Punjab, taking the total number of such cases to 19,463 till Monday, according to Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data.

Stubble-burning incidents reported from November 1 till November 6 constitute 61 per cent of the total such cases in the current season, news agency PTI reported citing the data. The total stubble-burning incidents of 19,463 registered from September 15 till November 6 was 35 per cent less than 29,999 such cases in the corresponding period last year, the data stated. The state had reported 32,734 farm fires during the same period in 2021.

Meanwhile, Haryana’s Fatehabad recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 425, followed by Faridabad at 412, Sonipat at 412, Jind 385, Hisar 380, Gurugram 376, Kaithal 370, Narnaul 340, Bhiwani 334, Rohtak 326 and Sirsa 308. In Punjab, Amritsar reported an AQI at 329, followed by Bathinda at 297, Ludhiana 283, Mandi Gobindgarh 266, Jalandhar 231, Khanna 228 and Patiala 220. Union Territory Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, saw an AQI of 149.

Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is considered one of the major reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in Delhi in October and November.

On Tuesday, the top court also directed Rajasthan and other states to follow its earlier order on the issue relating to firecrackers during the festive season. The Supreme Court directed the Rajasthan government to take steps to minimise air pollution, especially during the festival, adding that it is everyone’s duty to manage pollution.

The court order came while dealing with an application raising high pollution levels in Udaipur based on the falling air quality index and no regulations to demarcate noise pollution levels

“When it comes to pollution, there is a wrong perception it is the duty of courts. But it has to be everybody’s duty,” the court said.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 7 November 2023)

WhatsApp users get an important warning from Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India has reportedly issued a warning to WhatsApp users, specifically for the prepaid telecom plan users who are looking forward to changing their phone numbers. As per the recent ruling, the apex court has stated that the mobile service which is being provided by Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea are planning to reassign the deactivated numbers to the new subscribers. The move will take place after a certain period of time. Here are the details.

WhatsApp users need to delete data before changing their phones

The Supreme Court took the decision for WhatsApp users because the platform is linked to a user’s mobile number, which can result in data leaks. Therefore, the Indian judiciary body has emphasized the importance of WhatsApp users who are deleting their data before upgrading or changing their contact numbers. The move has been taken to prevent any potential privacy breaches.

TRAI to instruct telecom service providers to give out the deactivated numbers

The court has reportedly dismissed a petition which was filed by advocate Rajeshwari, who has been searching for direction from the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) for instructing the mobile service providers to cease deactivating mobile numbers to new customers. 

The bench, which is led by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, further describes, “The subscriber can prevent misuse of WhatsApp data by deleting the WhatsApp account attached with the previous phone number and erasing the WhatsApp data stored on the local device memory/cloud/drive. It is for the earlier subscriber to take adequate steps to ensure that privacy is maintained.”

The court’s decision has been taken with the guidelines set by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in April 2017. 

The guidelines state that a mobile number which is deactivated and is not in use due to any reason or if it is disconnected, then in that case as per the subscriber’s request, be reassigned to any new subscriber for at least 90 days. 

DoT’s policy on reallocation of the contact number

The court has further noted that the DoT’s policy- which has been supporting the practice of not reallocating the numbers immediately, further enables the time for the previous subscriber in order to protect their privacy accordingly.

Mobile Number Revocation List 

Furthermore, the court has also highlighted the existence of the Mobile Number Revocation List (MNRL), which is a digitally signed record of permanently disconnected contact numbers. 

The MNRL works as a tool for maintaining transparency and efficiency, and further helping various service providers, non-banking financial institutions, banks and other regulated entities by avoiding sending One-Time Passwords (OTPs) to unintended recipients.

Supreme Court’s advice to WhatsApp users

The Supreme Court has advised WhatsApp users to delete the data which has been associated with their previous number. This will help safeguard their privacy when they will be switching to a new number. The decision makes sure that there is a balance between efficient number allocation being practised along the subscriber’s privacy.

(Courtesy:- Indiatvnews, 7 November 2023)

Contempt power not to protect judges from criticism: CJI D Y Chandrachud

: The much-feared and criticised contempt of court powers were not meant to “protect a judge from criticism but to prevent individuals from interfering in dispensation of justice by courts”, CJI D Y Chandrachud told TOI as he spoke on a wide range of issues, on completing a year as head of the judiciary, and more than 23 years as a constitutional court judge.

Justice Chandrachud became CJI on November 9 last year and has one more year to go in the top post. The scale and diversity of India makes it truly unique. The Supreme Court, despite sitting in New Delhi, deals with legal issues arising from every corner of the country. An interesting by-product of our Constitution is that although we have a federal system of governance, our judiciary is unitary. Thus, appeals from across the entire country work their way up to the Supreme Court.

Further, the court is both an appellate court and a constitutional court. As Chief Justice, I am acutely conscious that this requires a balance, between deciding the cases of ordinary citizens on the one hand, and answering important constitutional questions that concern the nation as a whole, on the other. To meet these demands, we are increasing the rate at which the court hears cases, while also continually hearing crucial constitutional cases.

As Chief Justice, not only do I have to decide claims from diverse groups of citizens, I also have to pay attention to the important task of justice delivery across the nation. This means ensuring not just the Supreme Court and high courts are able to operate with integrity and efficiency, but also the district courts across the country are accessible and useful to citizens of all strata of society.

While this can seem like a lot, I think all judges should take immense pride in their work. As you mentioned, India is the largest democracy in the world and the judiciary has played an important role as a governance institution in ensuring that the institutions of the country are working for the people.
Is the work, both administrative and judicial, as an SC judge very different to that of the CJI?

All judges of the Supreme Court do some administrative work assigned by the Chief Justice. We have
committees of judges responsible for various aspects of court administration such as staff welfare and promotions, the Supreme Court Library, case management, and the construction of new infrastructure.

However, the role of the Chief Justice is distinct for two reasons. First, the final decision-making authority on all administrative issues rests with the Chief Justice’s office. In this context, much of my administrative work is conceiving and coordinating the rollout of new initiatives such as e-SCR which has made available 34,000 judgments available online free of cost, the construction of universal restrooms in the Supreme Court to meet the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, or ensuring the continued development of ICT-enabled courtrooms across the country.

The Chief Justice’s administrative responsibilities extend far beyond the Supreme Court. For example, the Chief Justice is the patron-in-chief of the National Legal Services Authority, the Visitor of several law universities, the president of the Indian Law Institute, etc. This aspect sets the CJI’s role apart as he must provide a vision, not just for the Supreme Court but for the judiciary as a whole. For instance, through the Chief Justices’ and Chief Ministers’ Conference, the Chief Justice makes efforts to emphasise a national agenda related to the judiciary.

Thus, the Chief Justice’s role is not just deciding cases and ensuring the working of the court, but also looking to the future. Does public perception matter to judges in deciding matters involving conflict of rights? Does the SC lean towards protecting fundamental rights even in situations conflicting with national interest?

Judges at all levels of the Indian judiciary have received training on how to remain impartial even in controversial or sensitive cases. On the one hand, we must remember that judges are human, they read the newspaper, they watch television, and they talk to people.

However, the training judges receive, the quiet lives they lead, the important safeguards that protect judicial independence and the moderating influence of the bench as a whole, allows judges to decide cases impartially irrespective of public perception. You must remember that public perceptions change every week, but a judicial career is measured in decades, thus, judges are well insulated and unconcerned with the vicissitudes of everyday public perception.

It’s true that social media represents a new era of unfiltered public discourse, and I have even seen deepfakes of myself or false articles attributing to me things I have never said. However, I believe it is both futile and a distraction to try and target every false or misleading post on the internet. Certainly, when a post gains a lot of traction and may undermine judicial proceedings, it must be responded to CJI D Y Chandrachud.

With respect to fundamental rights, of course, judges, particularly at the Supreme Court, are often called to balance national interest with individual rights-claims. The Constitution guarantees citizens rights that the courts are duty-bound to protect. However, these rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

The role of the court is to ensure that the actions of the government, even when pursuing the national interest, always respect the rule of law and the Constitution. It is really for commentators and academics to decide which way the court ‘leans’, and they are entitled to their opinions. But the task of the judge is to decide each case on its merits within the framework provided by the Constitution.

Does contempt of court law require a revisit in the era of social media where people express whatever comes to their mind irrespective of the harm it causes to reputation, dignity and public life of individuals and institutions? The power to punish for contempt of court exists to prevent individuals from interfering with the operation of the court, not to protect the reputation of judges. For example, if someone is in wilful disregard of a court order or creates commotion in court and prevents proceedings from taking place, such a person may be in contempt.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 9 November 2023)

SC grants Congress’ Randeep Surjewala 5-week protection in 23-year-old case

Case Details:- Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. UOI W.P.(C) No. 699/2016

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed for five weeks a non-bailable warrant (NBW) issued against Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, issued by an MP/MLA court in Varanasi in a 23-year-old case in which the Congress leader is accused of committing alleged vandalism during a political protest.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud allowed Surjewala to appear before the trial court in four weeks for the cancellation of the warrant after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi requested for an urgent mentioning of the matter.

“We permit the petitioner to move the trial court for cancellation of NBW within four weeks. The warrant shall not be executed for a period of five weeks,” the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said.

The warrant was issued on November 7 by additional sessions judge of Varanasi heading the special MP/MLA court seeking Surjewala’s presence in the case.

Singhvi told the court that there was no hurry for the judge to issue NBW as the Allahabad high court has reserved orders on October 30 on a petition filed by Surjewala seeking the quashing of the criminal case registered against him in August 2000.

He further pointed out that after the issuance of NBW, Surjewala had approached the HC seeking cancellation, but the HC declined to list the matter forcing him to approach the top court.

“It is a political protest. Where is the need for an NBW to be issued today? The HC judgment will come, and I will take my legal recourse,” Singhvi said.

The bench asked Singhvi to tell his client to appear before the trial court and cancel the warrant. Singhvi said that he has already applied to the trial court for the supply of legible and readable documents produced by the prosecution, along with the charge sheet filed in the trial. “Give me some breathing time of four weeks,” Singhvi requested the court.

The state was not represented in the case and SC did not deem it fit to issue notice to the UP government.

The case dates back to 2000 when Surjewala as the national president of Youth Congress, along with other Congress leaders, was booked for allegedly creating ruckus while protesting the alleged false implication of some party leaders in the Samvasini scandal in Varanasi.

The police alleged that during the demonstration, Surjewala along with his supporters indulged in damaging property, stone-throwing and preventing public servants from discharging their duties.

A criminal case was lodged against them at the Cantt police station in Varanasi under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 9 November 2023)

Supreme Court directs courts to monitor progress in criminal cases involving MPs an MLAs

The Supreme Court on Thursday (November 9) issued a slew of directions to monitor the early disposal of pending criminal cases against Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra observed that it was difficult for the Supreme Court to lay down uniform guidelines applicable across the States and left it to the High Courts to evolve such measures for effective monitoring of such cases by invoking its powers under Article 227.

At the same time, the bench issued the following general directions for monitoring of early disposal of pending cases :

1. High Court Chief Justices shall register a suo motu case title “In Re Designated Courts for MPs/MLAs” to monitor early disposal of pending criminal cases against MPs/MLAs. The suo motu case may be heard by a special bench led by the Chief Justice or a bench assigned by him.

2. The Special Bench hearing the suo motu case may list the matter at regular intervals as felt necessary. The High Court may issue such orders and directions as necessary for expeditious and effective disposal of the cases. The Special Bench may consider calling upon the Advocate General or Prosecutor to assist the court.

3. The High Court may require a Principal District & Sessions Judge to bear the responsibility of allocating the subject cases to such court(s). The HC may call upon the Principal District & Sessions Judge to send reports on such intervals.

4. The designated court shall give priority – (i) to criminal cases against MPs/MLAs punishable with death or life imprisonment, (ii) cases punishable with imprisonment for 5 years or more, (iii) other cases. The trial court shall not adjourn the cases except for rare and compelling reasons.

5. The Chief Justice may list the cases where stay of the trial has been passed before the special bench to ensure that appropriate orders, including vacation of the stay order, are passed to ensure the commencement of the trial.

6. The Principal District & Sessions Judge shall ensure sufficient infrastructure facilities for the designated court and also enable it to adopt such technology as expedient for effective functioning.

7. The High Court shall create an independent tab on the website providing district-wise information about the details of year of the filing, number of subject cases pending and the stage of proceedings.

While monitoring the subject cases, the special bench may pass such orders or directions as are necessary for expeditious disposal, clarified the Court.

With these directions, the Court disposed of the first prayer in the PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyay. The writ petition is kept pending to consider the other prayers which seek to bar convicted MPs/MLAs and persons who are dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty from contesting any elections for life.

The petitioner has challenged the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act which restrict the term of disqualification as the period of sentence plus six years after the release and the disqualification on government servants who are dismissed for corruption or disloyalty to five years from the date of such dismissal.

The plea had sought for following reliefs–

1. Provide adequate infrastructure to set-up Special Courts to decide criminal cases related to People’s Representatives Public Servants and Members of Judiciary within one year and to debar the convicted persons from Legislature, Executive and Judiciary for life uniformly;

2. Direct and declare the words “and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release” be severed from sections 8(1)(ii), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the words “for a period of five years from the date of such dismissal” be severed from section 9(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as invalid;

3. Direct Union to take appropriate steps to setup Special Courts to decide the cases related to people representative and public servants within one year and implement the important electoral reforms, proposed by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, Law Commission of India in its 244th and 255th Report and Election Commission of India;

4. Direct Union to take appropriate steps to debar the person convicted for the offences specified in sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3), 9(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 from contesting MLA/MP election, forming political party or becoming office bearer of political party.”

The Court had previously passed a series of orders for creating Special Courts to try the cases against sitting and former MPs/MLAs. The Apex Court, thereafter, had been monitoring the expeditious disposal of these criminal cases.

Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria and Advocate on Record Sneha Kalita assisted the Court as amici curiae. After the order was pronounced, Hansaria thanked the Court and said, “I hope these directions will ensure that less number of convicted politicians contest elections.” He said that the directions to set up Special Courts have deterred several persons from criminal background from entering politics.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 9 November 2023)

You are playing with fire: Supreme Court to Punjab governor

: In a big victory for the AAP government led by Bhagwant Singh Mann, the Supreme Court on Friday slammed the Punjab governor for “playing with fire” and “putting parliamentary form of government in peril” by withholding assent to four bills passed by the assembly on the erroneous and mistaken ground that the June 19-20 session, in which the bills were passed, was invalid.

Mincing no words in criticising the governor for exceeding his jurisdiction and treading into the domain of the speaker, who alone exercises power to adjourn or prorogue the assembly, a
bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said, “The speaker was within his rights to adjourn the budget session sine die without proroguing it. How can you (governor) say that a bill, which has been passed validly by the assembly, shall not be assented to on the ground that the session itself is invalid? Do you realise the gravity of what you are doing?”

The bench further said, “The governor says the session of the legislative assembly, which has passed four bills, that session itself is void because the assembly ought to have been prorogued and not adjourned sine die. Do you realise you are playing with fire?

“The bills are passed by a duly elected legislative body. If you have reservations on the bill on the ground that it is unconstitutional, you have your remedies under the Constitution. You can reserve it for consideration of the President, you can return it to the assembly. But surely, you can’t sit on judgment over it and say this legislative assembly session is unconstitutional. If we allow this power to the governor, what will happen? Will we continue to be a parliamentary form of government?”

It ruled that the session was valid and asked the governor to proceed to examine the bills within his constitutional powers.

For the Tamil Nadu government, similar grievances were made by senior advocates A M Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi and P Wilson, who said the governor was sitting on 12 bills passed by the assembly, the first one for three-and-ahalf years, four files seeking sanction for prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act, 54 files for premature release of convicts, and proposals to fill 10 vacant posts in the 14-member state public service commission. “How will the government function with such an obstructionist governor?” Wilson asked.

Calling it a “matter of serious concern”, the bench sought the home secretary’s response on resolving the constitutional imbroglio as Singhvi said “the disease has spread from Punjab to Kanyakumari”. It requested attorney general R Venkataramani and solicitor general Tushar Mehta to assist the court in the matter. Another petition filed by the Kerala government, airing similar grievances against the governor, is likely to be heard soon.

In the Punjab case, the SC brushed aside Mehta’s request to adjourn the hearing for a week while assuring that the Centre would sort out this issue. As the CJI-led bench termed the June 19-20 session of Punjab assembly valid and asked the governor to proceed with examination of the bills passed by the House, Mehta sought a clarification whether the speaker could perennially adjourn House sittings without proroguing.

“The Punjab assembly’s budget session convened in March is still continuing,” he said. When the bench sought a clarification, Singhvi, appearing for Punjab government, said he could not give a fixed timeframe on behalf of a high constitutional authority like the speaker but could assure the court that the winter session would be convened soon. “It is so difficult for the Punjab government to convince the governor to summon a session as it had to approach the SC to instruct the governor to summon the budget session in March,” Singhvi said.

The SC agreed with the SG that the House could not be summoned in January and continue to be in session till the end of the year with the speaker merely adjourning it and not proroguing it. But when the SG pointed out that the CJI-led bench did not mention anything about this in its order, Justice Chandrachud said during the correction of the order, the bench would try to incorporate this aspect.
In its order, the SC said, “We are of the view that there is no valid constitutional basis to cast doubt on the validity of the session of assembly which was held on June 19-20. Any attempt to cast doubt on the session of legislature would be fraught with grave perils to democracy.”

“The speaker, recognised to be the guardian of the privileges of the House and a constitutionally recognised authority who represents the House, was acting well within his jurisdiction in adjourning the House sine die. The convening of the House on June 19-20 was within the ambit of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Punjab Vidhan Sabha. Casting doubt on the validity of the session of the House is not a constitutional option open to the Governor,” the bench said.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 11 November 2023)

Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea to frame guidelines for regulation of trading of cryptocurrencies

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a petition seeking a direction to the Centre and others to frame guidelines for regulation of trading and mining of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are blockchain-based digital or virtual currencies which operate independently of a central bank.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said the main reliefs sought in the plea were more in nature of a legislative direction.

The bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, observed that though the petition was under Article 32 of the Constitution, it was evident that the “real purpose is to seek
bail in proceedings which are pending against the petitioner.”

“We are unable to subscribe to this course of action. The petitioner would be at liberty to move the appropriate court for the grant of regular bail. Insofar as the main reliefs are concerned, they are more in a nature of a legislative direction which the court cannot issue under Article 32 of the Constitution,” the bench said in its order passed on Friday. Article 32 deals with right to constitutional remedies and 32 (1) grants a citizen the right to move the apex court for enforcement of rights.

The bench noted that reliefs sought in the plea filed by the Uttar Pradesh-based man also included a direction for prosecution of cases involving digital assets/cryptocurrencies.

“We accordingly dispose of the petition granting liberty to the petitioner to pursue his remedies in accordance with law,” it said.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 11 November 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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