Rahul Gandhi ‘unconditionally apologises’ to apex court for wrongly attributing ‘chowkidar’ remark to it
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday unconditionally apologised to the Supreme Court for wrongfully attributing phrase ‘chowkidar chor hai’ to the court. “The Deponent (Gandhi) unconditionally apologises for the wrongful attributions to the Supreme Court. The Deponent further states that any such attributions were entirely unintentional, non-willful and inadvertent,” Mr. Gandhi submitted in a three-page additional affidavit.
The case is scheduled for hearing on May 10 along with the Rafale case review petitions before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. On April 10, Mr. Gandhi made the remark to media in reaction to a Supreme Court verdict allowing the maintainability of the Rafale review petitions.
In his affidavit, Mr. Gandhi, through advocate Sunil Fernandes, urged that the court may “graciously be pleased to accept the instant affidavit and close the present contempt proceedings”.
On April 30, the court was categorical that Mr. Gandhi had to either offer a clear-cut apology or brave criminal contempt for attributing phrase “chowkidar chor hai”, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to the court. “Any person can make a mistake, but having made it, you should go ahead and admit it,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on the Bench had told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented Mr. Gandhi.
“And what is this ‘regret’ written inside brackets?” Chief Justice Gogoi had asked Mr. Singhvi. The court had said it could make no sense of what Mr. Gandhi wanted to convey in his earlier 28-page affidavit, which expressed ‘regret’ without apologising.
BJP lawmaker’s petition
That affidavit, filed on April 29, was in response to a notice issued by the court on April 23 in a criminal contempt petition filed by BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi against Mr. Gandhi.
“We have great difficulty in understanding what you [Rahul Gandhi] are trying to say in this affidavit… What does it [affidavit] mean? We do not understand…” Chief Justice Gogoi had remarked after reading Mr. Gandhi’s affidavit.
In the April 29 affidavit, Mr. Gandhi attempted to explain that he unfortunately juxtaposed political slogan ‘chowkidar chor hai’ with the Supreme Court proceedings in a moment of euphoria, immediately after the court allowed the review petitions. He had not intended to hurt the Supreme Court, he reiterated.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Ms. Lekhi, had declared Mr. Gandhi’s submissions as a “cock and bull story” and a “deliberate attempt to put words in the mouth of the Supreme Court”.
CJI sexual harassment charge: 55 detained for holding protest outside SC
Fifty-five protesters, mostly women lawyers and activists, were detained outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday when they protested against the procedure adopted to deal with a sexual harassment charge against CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
Chief Justice Gogoi on Monday got a clean chit from an in-house inquiry committee. It “has found no substance” in the allegation levelled against him by a former woman employee of the court. Carrying banners which read, “No clean chit,” “Supremacy of Rule of law must be maintained,” “Be you ever so high, the law is above you,” several women lawyers and activists staged a protest outside the Supreme Court raising objection to the clean chit given to Justice Gogoi.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Madhur Verma said, “There was heavy deployment of police around the area. Three men and 52 women protesters were detained and taken to the Mandir Marg police station.”
Chief Justice Gogoi on Monday got a clean chit from an in-house inquiry committee. It “has found no substance” in the allegation levelled against him by a former woman employee of the court. Carrying banners which read, “No clean chit,” “Supremacy of Rule of law must be maintained,” “Be you ever so high, the law is above you,” several women lawyers and activists staged a protest outside the Supreme Court raising objection to the clean chit given to Justice Gogoi.
Demanding a transparent inquiry, activist Annie Raja said, “The Supreme Court committee has violated all existing norms. We want to protect the justice system. If the SC itself is violating the norms, then there will be no value in the system left.”
The three-member committee proceeded ex-parte as the woman had opted out of the inquiry on April 30. The complainant had on Monday said “gross injustice” has been done to her as a woman citizen of India and her “worst fears” have come true, and all hopes of justice and redress from the highest court of the land have been shattered.
PMO ‘monitoring’ Rafale deal progress is not tantamount to parallel talks with French side, govt tells SC
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was “monitoring” the progress of the 36 Rafale jets’ purchase deal, but this cannot be taken as “parallel negotiations” with the French side, the government told the Supreme Court on Saturday. The submission follows the court’s directive on Tuesday last that the government respond to the Rafale deal case review petitions by Saturday. The Centre had sought a whole month to respond.
“The monitoring of the progress by the PMO of this government to government process cannot be construed as interference or parallel negotiations,” the government said.
A series of reports published bymediahad revealed that the PMO was conducting “parallel negotiations.” A Defence Ministry note that was published said the “parallel parleys” had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD [Ministry of Defence] and Indian Negotiating Team.”
But the government denied any reason for objection from the Ministry. It referred to how then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar himself had noted that “it appears that PMO and French President’s office are monitoring the progress of the issues which was an outcome of the summit meeting”.
The government said these “selective” reports, based on “some incomplete internal file notings procured unauthorisedly and illegally” did not reflect the final decision of the competent authority of the Union government. They cannot form the basis of a review petition in the apex court.
The two affidavits filed by the MoD said the actions of the review petitioners, who include former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, “tantamount to questioning the sovereign decision concerning national security and defence.”
The government attacked the court’s April 10 judgment agreeing to hear the review petitions on the basis of the Rafale purchase documents published in the media.The government said the judgment would now be taken to imply that any secret document can be obtained through any means and put in the public domain without attracting penal action.
The submission follows the court’s directive on Tuesday last that the government respond to the Rafale deal case review petitions by Saturday. The Centre had sought a whole month to respond.
“This could lead to the revelation of all closely guarded State Secrets relating to space, nuclear installations, strategic defence capabilities, operational deployment of forces, intelligence resources in the country and outside, counter-terrorism and counter insurgency measures etc. This could have implications in the financial sector also if say budget proposals are published before they are presented in Parliament. Such disclosures of secret government information will have grave repercussions on the very existence of the Indian State,” it cautioned.
The government countered that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was turned on its head when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the French President announced the purchase in a joint statement on April 10, 2015 – that is, well over a year before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the purchase on August 24, 2016. The DPP mandates that any defence deal worth over Rs. 1000 crore first requires CCS approval.
To this, the government simply claimed “DPP does not mandate approvals prior to conveying an intent or making an announcement.” It said a waiver of sovereign guarantee in Inter Governmental Agreements (IGA) was “not unusual”.
In contracts signed with Rosoboronexport, the requirement of bank guarantees was waived off in view of assurances provided through a ‘Letter of Comfort’ from the government of the Russian Federation, the government said, adding, “Similarly, in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) with the US government, no sovereign/bank guarantee is signed.”
Further, in the Rafale procurement, the French government had proposed to provide ‘outstanding guarantees’ as per the IGA and a ‘Letter of Comfort’ from the French Prime Minister, the government noted.
It reiterated that it had no role in selection of the Indian Offset Partner, which is a commercial decision of Dassault Aviation.
The government dismissed allegations such as the “Reliance Group paid 1.48 million Euros to former French President Francois Hollande’s partner’s venture.” It said these charges were “matters of individual perceptions” of the petitioners.
It said DPP-2013 was followed and approval of the Defence Acquisition Council was taken for the procurement of the Rafale aircraft. The Indian Negotiating Team conducted comprehensive negotiations with the French side for about a year, holding 48 internal and 26 external meetings with the French side. The approval of the CCS was taken before signing the IGA.
Besides, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had concluded that the price of 36 Rafales was 2.86% lower than the audit aligned price, apart from additional benefits that would accrue.
The CAG has acknowledged that the Rafale deal was a better bargain than the earlier aborted deal with Dassault for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Though the price discovery of 126 MMRCA was determined out of a global competitive tender, the reasonability of the price for Rafale through the IGA was established by CAG audit, the government pointed out.
While the past process of 126 MMRCA could not come to a conclusion in 15 years, the Rafale deal was concluded in over a year. The Rafale procurement was on schedule with the deliveries of the aircraft commencing September, 2019 and training of the Air Force team had begun in France, the government said.
SC to consider sending 10% quota law challenge to Constitution Bench
The SC (Supreme Court) on Monday decided to consider the question whether the challenge to the 10% economic reservation law should be heard by a Constitution Bench. A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi scheduled the hearing on the question of reference to the larger Bench for March 28.
The issue of reference to a Constitution Bench arose when senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that 50% quota limit was part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution and the new amendment tinkered with it. The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
The petitions in the Supreme Court, mainly the one filed by activist Tehseen Poonawala, said Act violated the Basic Features of the Constitution. The petitioners argued that the 50% ceiling limit on quota was “engrafted as a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution’s equality code” by the Supreme Court.
One of the petitions, filed by Youth For Equality, represented by advocate Senthil Jagadeesan and settled by advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, contended that the Supreme Court, in a nine-judge Bench judgment in Indira Sawhney, had already settled the law that economic backwardness cannot be the sole basis for reservation.
The plea argued that the Act is “vulnerable” and negates a binding judgment of the top court. The petitioners have contended that the amendments excludes the OBCs and the SC/ST communities from the scope of the economic reservation. This, it said, “essentially implies that only those who are poor from the general categories would avail the benefits of the quotas”.
It said the high creamy layer limit of ₹8 lakh per annum ensures that the elite capture the reservation benefits.
Further, the petitioners have contended that the Supreme Court has already settled the law that the “State’s reservation policy cannot be imposed on unaided educational institutions, and as they are not receiving any aid from the State, they can have their own admissions provided they are fair, transparent, non-exploitative and based on merit”.
“While the impugned amendment attempts to overcome the applicability of Articles 19(1)(g) and 29(2), it remains completely silent on Article 14, which right protects the citizens from manifestly arbitrary State action,” the petition pointed out.
The petition also contended that the term “economically weaker sections” remains undefined in the Act along with the “ambiguous” term of “State.
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, back in September 2018, modified a 2006 judgment requiring the State to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.
The court also has to consider the issue in the light of another judgment pronounced in the Jarnail Singh case in September last year, which gave a huge fillip to the government’s efforts to provide “accelerated promotion with consequential seniority” for Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members in government services.
“The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis,” the couet had held in the Jarnail Singh verdict. The question of reference has come even as the Centre has sought more time to file its counter.
Ayodhya dispute: SC sends it for in camera mediation
A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, on March 8 sent the Ayodhya dispute for mediation in a bid to heal minds and hearts “if possible”.
The Bench appointed a panel of mediators, including former judge of the court Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman; spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a veteran lawyer with years of experience in alternative dispute resolution.
The mediation would start in a week’s time in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, of which the disputed area in Ayodhya is a part of. It would be held with “utmost confidentiality”. There would be no reporting in print or electronic media on the mediation process. The time given is eight weeks, but the court urged the mediators to “conclude at the earliest”. They would have to file a status report in the court in four weeks. They could co-opt more on the panel if necessary and take whatever legal assistance is required. The State government would provide them with all the necessary facilities. The mediation would be held in camera.
“No legal impediment”
The court had held that there is no “legal impediment” to sending the dispute for mediation. It cited Order 23 Rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Code for attempting to arrive at a ‘compromise decree’ in the long-pending civil dispute for the title of the disputed area where the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition by ‘kar sevaks’ in 1992.
According to the provision, if the parties reach an agreement, the Supreme Court can order such a settlement to be recorded and pass a decree accepting the resolution among the parties.
The Bench had pushed “negotiated compromise” as a means to heal hearts and minds. The dispute was a festering wound that had touched the religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims for decades.
Justice S.A. Bobde, on the Bench, had put matters in perspective by observing that the court was only concerned about the present state of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and not the past history of “Mughal invasion and conquests of Babur”.
“Primarily this is not about the 1500 sq ft of disputed land, but about religious sentiments. We know its impact on public sentiment, on body politic. We are looking at minds, hearts and healing if possible,” he had observed.
The Muslim parties had agreed to give mediation a try, while there is a dissonance of opinion among the Hindu appellants, who have said their faith that Lord Ram was born in the disputed land was non-negotiable.They had even suggested that the court should issue a public notice on whether or not to send the dispute for mediation.
“The faith that Lord Ram was born there is not negotiable. But we are willing to crowdfund a mosque somewhere else,” senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, for Ram Lalla, the deity, had submitted.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Uttar Pradesh government, had also submitted that the path of mediation was both “imprudent and inadvisable”.
The eight-week deadline is the time given to the Muslim parties to examine the accuracy and relevance of the State government’s official translation of thousands of pages of oral depositions and exhibits in the Ayodhya title suit appeals that have been pending since 2010.
In a February 26 hearing, Chief Justice Gogoi invoked Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code to propose mediation as an “effective utilisation of time” in the eight weeks.
The CJI had expressed the hope that mediation may spell a peaceful end to the volatile dispute between the members of the two religious faiths.
Relief for Mumbai dance bar: SC quashed Stringent rules
In a relief for Mumbai dance bar owners and employees, the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed some of the stringent rules prescribed by the Maharasthra government which led to the virtual shutdown of the establishments in Maximum City. A Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri did away with some mandatory conditions imposed by a 2016 State law, like the installation of CCTV cameras at the dance area as a violation of privacy.
The court set aside the condition that only persons of good character would be allowed to run dance bars, saying the term “good character” is too vague. Noting that dance and liquor can co-exist, it said that there is no need to segregate the area where liquor is served to patrons from the dancing area.
The apex court upheld the condition that dance bars should operate only between 6 p.m. and 11.30 p.m
The court also refused to see eye to eye with the State that barred dance bars from within one km radius from educational institutions and religious places in Mumbai. The bar owners had argued that this was not geographically possible in a city that is as chock-a-block like Mumbai. The court asked the State to make the conditions reasonable.
The court, however, stopped patrons from showering money at the performers. It also upheld the condition that dance bars should operate only between 6 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.
The judgment came on petitions filed by women working in Maharashtra’s bars, including dancers and waitresses, against the constitutionality of the 2016 State law containing a rather explicit definition of what is “obscene” in dance.
The Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 was passed by the State Assembly to circumvent a Supreme Court judgment of 2015 which ordered dance bars to be throw open again and classified dance as a profession.
The Bench had earlier expressed its suspicion that this law was just a ruse to “circumvent” the apex court’s order of October 2015. The Act said an ‘obscene dance’ consists of “a sexual act, lascivious movements, gestures for the purpose of sexual propositioning or indicating availability of sexual access to the dancer, or in the course of which, the dancer exposes his or her genitals or, if a female, is topless”.
Legal experts said terms used like “lascivious movements”, etc., was at best vague and exposes the dancer and her establishment to the whims of the authorities itching to crack down on them.
Along with the petition filed by the Bharatiya Bargirls Union, the court had heard petition by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHRA), challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the 2016 Act.
The bargirls’ union had argued that the 2016 law stigmatises their profession and unreasonably interfered with their free choice of expression through dramatic performances. “The act of tipping or giving gifts as a token of appreciation has been customary and an integral part of traditional dance culture. This decades-old practice is akin to those performing Mujra, Lavani [traditional Marathi song and dance] or Tamasha [traditional Marathi theatre] where performers earn their living through ‘bakshisi’ offered by the audience as a token of appreciation of the performances,” their petition had said.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had criticised the new law for prohibiting liquor in dance bars as “absurd”, “absolutely arbitrary” and indicative of the State’s mentality which is “absolutely regressive by centuries”.
The 2015 order lifting the ban on dance bars came as a relief for women who had lost their jobs and slipped into prostitution and penury due to the clampdown after the Maharashtra State Assembly, in July 2014, circumvented a 2013 Supreme Court decision that upheld that “dancing is a fundamental right”.
Ramjanmabhoomi Case: Appropriate SC bench will fix hearing on January 10
A two-judge Bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Friday posted the volatile Ramjanmabhoomi dispute appeals before the “appropriate bench” for “further orders” on January 10.
In brief moments of a rapid-fire hearing, Chief Justice Gogoi and Justice S.K. Kaul did not delve into the issue. The appeals were previously heard by benches in the combination of the judges. “This is the Ramjanmabhoomi case? Yes? Listen to the order now… ‘Further orders will be passed by the appropriate Bench on the 10th of January’. Please come on the 10th of January,” Chief Justice Gogoi told the advocates present in the case.
The whole of this week is devoted to hearing miscellaneous matters after the court re-opened post the winter vacations. All the Benches in the court are sitting in combinations of two judges this week. The court would continue to sit in two-judge combinations on miscellaneous days – Mondays and Fridays – every week henceforth. This is one of the reforms introduced by Chief Justice Gogoi to deal with pendency of cases. Hence, Ramjanmabhoomi is posted for January 10, a Thursday, when there would be a three-judge combination bench available.
On October 29 this year, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Gogoi had ordered the appeals to be listed on January 4, 2019 before an appropriate Bench to fix a date for hearing.
The October order had come when the parties had sought an early hearing. At the time, Chief Justice Gogoi had orally told them that the decision when to start hearing the appeals would be in the realm of discretion of the “appropriate bench” before which the matter would come up in January. “We have our own priorities… whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate Bench,” Chief Justice Gogoi had remarked.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for different parties, did not even get the opportunity to make any submission
On September 27, the apex court, in a majority opinion, had declined the plea made by Islamic bodies and individuals to refer the question as to whether prayer in a mosque is an essential part of Islam to a seven-judge Constitution Bench. The majority verdict, in its last paragraph, had further directed the Supreme Court to start hearing the pending from October 29. This direction had triggered questions whether the court intended to deliver a judgment in the appeals before the May 2019 elections.
The High Court had concluded that Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 900,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga. One of the judges added that the “world knows” where Ram’s birthplace is while another said his finding was an “informed guess” based on “oral evidences of several Hindus and some Muslims” that the precise birthplace of Ram is under the central dome. The High Court had relied on Hindu faith, belief and folklore to reach this conclusion.
The Ayodhya appeals were previously heard by another three-judge Bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra (CJI Gogoi’s immediate predecessor), Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.
The majority opinion of September 27, authored by Justice Bhushan and supported by Justice Misra, had ordered the Ayodhya appeals “which are awaiting consideration by this Court for quite a long period, to be now listed in week commencing 29th October, 2018 for hearing”.
Usually, this would entail the appeals returning to the Bench comprising Justices Bhushan, Nazeer and a new third judge, replacing Justice Misra, who retired on October 2.
It was also found rather unusual for Justice Bhushan, a puisne judge on the Bench, to fix the date of hearing of the appeals as October 29. They say it should have been ideally left to Chief Justice Gogoi, as the master of roster, to decide the next course of hearing.
September 27 had also witnessed the stinging dissent penned by Justice Nazeer, who observed in a separate opinion that the question of what is essential or not in a religion cannot be hastily decided.
Justice Nazeer had held that the question raised on the essentiality of offering prayers in mosques should indeed be examined by a seven-judge Bench before the Ayodhya suit appeals are heard further. Justice Nazeer had concluded that questions raised during the Ayodhya appeals’ hearing about the comment made in the Ismail Faruqui judgment of 1994 require a “comprehensive examination” by a seven-judge Bench.
Speaking for himself and the Chief Justice, Justice Bhushan had objected that references cannot be made to a larger Bench merely because of “questionable observations” made in an earlier judgment.
Mr. Modi’s comments came amidst heightened demands by Hindutava organisations, including the RSS, for an ordinance for an early construction of the temple. “Let the judicial process take its own course. Don’t weigh it in political terms. Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever be our responsibility as government, we are ready to make all efforts,” the Prime Minister said during an interview, broadcast by several TV channels.
Timeline:Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute
The first suit regarding the structure was filed in 1885, when the Faizabad Deputy Commissioner refused to let Mahant Raghubar Das build a temple on land adjoining the mosque. Das then filed a title suit in a Faizabad court against the Secretary of State for India, seeking permission to build a temple on the Chabutra on the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid. The legal battle over the title has gone on for over a century.
The case timeline
1949: Idols of Ram Lalla are placed surreptitiously under the central dome.
1950: Gopal Simla Visharad files first suit in Faizabad civil court for rights to perform pooja to Ram Lalla.
1950: Paramahansa Ramachandra Das files a suit for continuation of pooja and keeping idols in the structure.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara files third suit, seeking direction to hand over charge of the disputed site. U.P. Sunni Central Wakf Board files fourth suit in 1961 for declaration and possession and fifth in 1989 in the name of Ram Lalla Virajman for declaration and possession.
1986: District judge orderes locks be removed. Site opened for Hindu worshippers.
1989: The four suits pending were transferred to the High Court.
1991: U.P. govt. acquires land around the structure for convenience of devotees who attend Ram Lalla darshan.
December 1992: Babri Masjid demolished by a frenzied mob of karsevaks. Two FIRs filed in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Crime no. 197 deals with actual “demolition of the mosque by karsevaks.” Crime no. 198 named L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and others for ‘communal’ speeches before the demolition.
1993: Govt. takes over 67 acres of land around the area, seeks SC’s opinion on whether there existed a Hindu place of worship before the structure was built.
October, 1993: CBI files a composite charge sheet and accuses Advani and other leaders of ‘conspiracy’
1994: Case goes back to Lucknow Bench of HC, suits heard again from 1996.
May 4, 2001: Special Judge S.K. Shukla drops conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Mr. Advani and Kalyan Singh. Bifurcates Crimes 197 and 198.
Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order, dismisses the CBI’s revision petition for a direction to proceed with the conspiracy charge against Mr. Advani and others.
September 30, 2010: Allahabad HC awards two-thirds of Ayodhya site to Hindu parties, one-third to Waqf Board.
February, 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court. Argues that “the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid and the continuous assault on media persons form a single connected transaction and can well be a concerted conspiracy”.
May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute.
Mohammad Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main litigants from Muslim side in the 1949 Babri Masjid case.
March 6, 2017: SC indicates it may revive conspiracy charge and order a joint trial of crimes 197 and 198.
March 21, 2017: Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar advised peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably.
March 23, 2017: A Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
April 6, 2017: The Supreme Court indicated that it will use its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the Babri Masjid demolition related trial in Rae Bareilly against top BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshito Lucknow, where a CBI court is hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
August 8, 2017: Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board tells Supreme Court that they would settle for a masjid located in a “Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram.” They tell the Court that the Babri Masjid was a Shia waqf (endowment) and their Sunni counterpart, who have been at the frontline of the 70-year-old title dispute, were mere interlopers led by “hardliners, fanatics and non-believers” who do not want an amicable settlement with the Hindu sects involved.
August 11, 2017: Supreme Court schedules hearing of 13 appeals in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on December 5, 2017, the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century mosque.
February 8, 2018: The Supreme Court conveys its clinical approach to the 70-year-old dispute, exhorting the parties on either side of the fence to treat it merely as a “land issue”.
March 23, 2018: Almost 24 years after the Supreme Court said a mosque has no “unique or special status” and is not an essential part of the practice of Islam and namaz, Muslim parties involved in the Ramjanmabhoomi title dispute wants the apex court to first re-consider its stand before going ahead with the hearing in the Babri Masjid case. In 1994, the Supreme Court observed that “Muslims can offer prayer anywhere, even in open”.
September 27, 2018: A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion of 2:1, declines to refer the question if a “mosque as a place of prayer is an essential part of Islam” in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid appeals to a seven-judge Bench.
October 29, 2018: A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, orders the Ayodhya dispute appeals to be listed in January 2019 before an appropriate Bench to fix a date for hearing. When parties sought an early hearing, the court says the decision when to start hearing the appeals would be in the realm of discretion of the “appropriate Bench” before which the matter would come up in January.
Judgment on Section 497 of IPC: Towards a Progressive Society
By- Dr.Shubhra Parmar
About the Judgment
The Supreme Court of India has given new interpretation of section 497 of IPC on historic day of 27 September 2018 and declared section 497 of IPC as unconstitutional. The monumental judgement in the history of India has been given by the five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and consisting of Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. The recent judgement of Supreme Court has overturned last three judgements related with section 497 of IPC. According to the new ruling adultery regarding the male is not a crime.
Our Indian society in the world is recognised by our Indian values, tradition, culture and customs. Marriage is one of the important culture of Indian society. The new ruling creates a threat for marriage. The society, feelings, emotions, ideologies related with sexuality and sexual desires are changing these days due to pressures and complexities of life. The new relationships among the individual in the society will create complexities, expectation and confusions. These problems and challenges of life is diluting the strength of husband-wife’s trust and companionship. It is a kind of marriage reversal concept. It will badly and negatively effects our children and parents. It will finish the nourishment and nutrition of family very soon. It will lead to emotional, mental and physical unnecessary stress and insecurity for both the partners. Sometimes these other relationships creates disturbances and an emotional blackmailing with lots of negative consequences. Section 497 declares adultery is not a crime but adultery was a ground for divorce under section 13(1) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1956. I think at this level Indian society need more reforms and amendment in this regards for further improvements in the relationship issues because these days India is going through transitional phase.
Indian Society Towards Gender Neutral Laws
This new judgement is just a initial step towards a revolutionary transformation, progressive and developed society. This ruling is emerging with western values of individuality, individual freedom, liberty and giving decision making right in sexual relations. The society welcomes the new ruling on section 497 of IPC. The brings justice, freedom, liberty and equality between male and female in the society. The new judgment creating space for the new definition of morality, humanity, dignity and equality to women. This explores the new possibility of gender neutral laws in India which will give a chance to people for more open, tolerant and transparent society.
If we analyse it completely we can say that somewhere it lead to mental- emotional peace and sexual satisfaction for the individual. People will become more open and truthful. Till date, in Indian society women do not have any right to speak out her desire. Women have never spoken and expressed themselves till date, but now they have the power of expression with legitimacy. Every individual has a perception and choice for sexual desire and right to choose a partner. Now it does not matter that the person is male or female. If suppose many people are genuinely truthful to their wife so they will and those who are not till date they will never be truthful to anybody in any relationship. So by this way we can say that nature of a particular person will not change, whether the law is there or not. While looking through the judgment we need to study the practical aspect and future implication of the matter. This ruling may lead to more transparent and long term positive relationships among the individuals. This ruling also helps out in changing the patriarchal mindset of the dominant males in the society. Women will no more considered as the property status for men. It will also bring revolutionary change on dependency of women on men and develop the culture of independent decision making practice of Indian women.
(Writer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Bhagini Nivedita College, University of Delhi, Delhi)
Justice Ranjan Gogoi sworn in as Chief Justice of India
Justice Ranjan Gogoi was on Wednesday sworn in as the 46th Chief Justice of India. He succeeds Justice Dipak Misra. President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath to the 63-year-old Justice Gogoi at a brief ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Darbar Hall. Justice Gogoi will have a tenure of a little over 13 months and retire on November 17, 2019.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi after being sworn in as the 46th Chief Justice of India at Rashtrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi, October 3, 2018
Justice Gogoi was enrolled at the Bar in 1978 and practised at the Gauhati High Court of which he was made a Permanent Judge on 28 February 2001. He was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 9 September 2010 and became its Chief Justice on 12 February 2011. He was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court on 23 April 2012. On 3 October 2018, He took the oath of office of the chief justice of India, thus succeeding Dipak Misra.
Significant Judgments & Orders
Dismissal of appeal by Reliance Communication
A bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, dismissed the appeal of Reliance Communication, challenging the Gujarat government’s demand notices seeking to levy Rs 13-crore property tax on cell towers and telecom equipment installed on rooftops and building terraces in the state.
On Coconut Oil Packaging
In the case on whether coconut oil packaged in “small containers” be classified as edible oil or hair oil for the purpose of taxation, the Supreme Court Bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi were unable to arrive at a consensus to put this issue to rest. According to Justice Gogoi, Coconut oil would fall under the category of edible oil regardless of the size of its packaging while according to Justice Banumathi coconut oil, when it is packaged in small containers, would be classified as hair oil, regardless of whether it has been labelled as edible oil by the manufacturers.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R. Banumathi, has observed that in the absence of arbitration agreement, the court can refer parties to arbitration only with written consent of parties either by way of a joint memo or joint application and not on oral consent given by their counsels.
In October 2002, Bachchan filed returns showing income of Rs 14.99 crore for 2002-03. On March 31, 2003, he filed revised returns, declaring total income for 2002-03 in which he claimed expenses at 30% ad hoc amounting to Rs 6.31 crore, showing his income at Rs 8.11 crore. In March 2005, Income Tax Department determined the actor’s income at Rs 56.41 crore for the assessment year 2002-03.
Dismissal of advocate Kamini Jaiswal’s petition seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe
The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi on JANUARY 24, 2018 dismissed Advocate Kamini Jaiswal’s petition seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the incidents of attacks on then JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar 15 and 17 February 2016, at Patiala House Court while he was escorted to courtroom in a sedition case.
23-year-old Soumya, an employee of a Kochi shopping mall, was assaulted by one Govindaswamy in an empty ladies’ coach of Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on February 1, 2011. She was allegedly pushed off from the slow-moving train, carried to a wooded area and subsequently raped. She succumbed to injuries at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, on February 6, 2011. Govindaswamy was awarded death sentence under section 302 IPC for committing murder by a trial court and the order was upheld by Kerala high court on December 17, 2013.
On 15 September 2016, the Apex Court Bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit set aside the death penalty awarded for the Offence of Murder (S.302) and sentenced Govindaswamy to a maximum of Life imprisonment for Rape (s.376 IPC) and other offences of causing bodily injuries.
However, to hold that the accused is liable under Section 302 IPC what is required is an intention to cause death or knowledge that the act of the accused is likely to cause death. The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position, according to P.W. 64, was for the purposes of the sexual assault. The requisite knowledge that in the circumstances such an act may cause death, also, cannot be attributed to the accused, inasmuch as, the evidence of P.W. 64 itself is to the effect that such knowledge and information is, in fact, parted with in the course of training of medical and para-medical staff. The fact that the deceased survived for a couple of days after the incident and eventually died in Hospital would also clearly militate against any intention of the accused to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position. Therefore, in the totality of the facts discussed above, the accused cannot be held liable for injury no.2. Similarly, in keeping the deceased in a supine position, intention to cause death or knowledge that such actions may cause death, cannot be attributed to the accused. We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable therefor. Rather, we are of the view that the acts of assault, etc. attributable to the accused would more appropriately attract the offence under Section 325 IPC. We accordingly find the accused-appellant guilty of the said offence and sentence him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for commission of the same…
…While the conviction under Section 376 IPC, Section 394 read with Section 397 IPC and Section 447 IPC and the sentences imposed for commission of the said offences are maintained, the conviction under Section 302 IPC is set aside…
Following the judgement of setting aside the death sentence of the accused in the said Govindaswamy vs State Of Kerala case, Justice Rajan Gogoi and his bench were severely criticized by members of the public, political leaders including Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, Law Minister of Kerala, A.K. Balan, Senior CPI(M) leader V. S. Achuthanandan, media members and legal luminaries including Supreme Court lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj and Supreme Court Justice (retd) Markandey Katju. Justice (retd) Katju had called the Supreme Court’s September 15 verdict a “grave error” not expected of “judges who had been in the legal world for decades”. The blog dated September 17 had castigated the Bench for believing “hearsay evidence” that Soumya jumped off the train instead of being pushed out by Govindaswamy. In the blog, Justice (retd) Katju had written,
Even a student of law in a law college knows this elementary principle that hearsay evidence is inadmissible.
In response, the SC bench led by Justice Rajan Gogoi decided to convert that blog by Justice Markandey Katju into a review petition and asked him to personally appear in court to debate. On November 11, 2016, he appeared in the court and submitted his arguments. The Court then dictated the order rejecting the review petition and issued contempt of court notice to him stating that “Prima facie, the statements made seem to be an attack on the Judges and not on the judgment”. On January 6, 2017, The Supreme Court has accepted Justice Markandey Katju’s apology and closed the contempt proceedings against him.
On people who are originally inhabitants of the state of Assam
On 5 December, 2017 , while disposing off a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1020 of 2017, Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha & Others Versus Union of India & Others clubbed with similar other petitions seeking clarification as to the meaning of people who are originally inhabitants of the state of Assam , a term which appears in a schedule to the Citizenship (Registration Of Citizens And Issue Of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 pertaining to special provision as to manner of preparation of National Register of Indian Citizen in state of Assam, the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi & Rohinton Fali Nariman observed that
The exercise of upgradation of NRC is not intended to be one of identification and determination of who are original inhabitants of the State of Assam….. Citizens who are originally inhabitants/residents of the State of Assam and those who are not are at par for inclusion in the NRC.
The National Register of Indian Citizens or in short the NRC, at its root, comprises of all the Local Registers of Indian Citizens containing details of Indian citizensusually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area.
The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card) Rules, 2003 were amended in November 2009 and March, 2010 for preparation of National Register of Citizens by inviting applications from all the residents in Assam for updation of the old National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 in Assam based on relevant records. In order to undertake updating of NRC in all districts of Assam, pilot projects for updating of NRC in two blocks (one each in Kamrup and Barpeta districts) were started in June, 2010. Subsequently, pilot projects were stopped due to law and order problems. A second attempt to update the register for Assam was made by the Government of India through issuing a Gazette Notification in December 2013.
On 17 December 2014, the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi & Rohinton Fali Nariman mandated the Government of India to complete the finalization of final updated NRC for the entire state of Assam by 1st January 2016.
The Supreme Court Wednesday declared the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that while Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and telecom service providers cannot seek its linking of Aadhaar for mobile connections.
It would also not be mandatory for school admissions, as also for the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.
The bench also struck down the national security exception under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act.
It said Aadhaar is meant to help the benefits reach the marginalised sections of society and takes into account the dignity of people not only from personal but also community point of view.
The top court said Aadhaar is serving much bigger public interest. Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best.
There are three sets of judgements being pronounced. The first of the three verdicts was pronounced by Justice A K Sikri who wrote the judgement for himself, CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar.
Justice Chandrachud and Justice A Bhushan, who are part of the bench, have written their individual opinions.
Justice Sikri struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act permitting private entities to avail Aadhaar data and ruled that Aadhaar authentication data cannot be stored for more than six months. It directed the government not to give Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.
The apex court upheld passing of Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill by the Lok Sabha. The Congress party and its leader Jairam Ramesh had challenged the passage of the bill in the House. It said there is nothing in the Aadhaar Act that violates right to privacy of an individual.
Justice Sikri said robust data protection regime has to be brought in place as early as possible. He said the attack on Aadhaar by petitioners was based on violation of rights under the Constitution, which they felt will lead to a surveillance State.
Observing that there has been minimal demographic and biometric data collected by UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment, Justice Sikri said unique identification proof also empowered and gave identity to marginalised sections of society.
There is no possibility of obtaining a duplicate Aadhaar card, he said, adding there is sufficient defence mechanism for authentication in Aadhaar scheme.
The concept of human dignity has been enlarged in the judgement, he said. The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law.
The bench had on May 10 reserved the verdict on the matter after a marathon hearing that went on for 38 days, spanning four-and-half months.