The Supreme Court continued last week hearings in the sensitive case of Judge Loya’s mysterious death in 2014. Indira Jaising, appearing for Admiral Ramdas, argued that there were sufficient reasons to suspect the alleged death of Judge Loya, including several inconsistencies in documents. There was no entry of Judge Loya’s stay at Ravi Bhawan from 30th November, 2014 to 1st December, 2014, as well as wrong spelling of Judge Loya in the hospital register. Further, several documents not been produced, including the inquest panchnama of personal belongings, ECG, case diary of when the police received the call of an accidental death, etc. Though a report of ‘accidental death’ was generated, the police failed to notify the nearest Executive Magistrate, as was required in law. The arguments are continuing.
Meanwhile, a delegation of 114 MPs across opposition parties have petitioned the President, urging him to order a judicial probe into the allegations surrounding the death of Judge Loya. The parliamentarians belong to 15 opposition parties – Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Aam Aadmi Party, Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress (M), Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India United Democratic Front, Janata Dal (Secular), and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
The parties want the investigation to be carried out by an SIT, and not the CBI or the NIA, and the officers to be independently chosen and the investigation would be monitored by the Supreme Court. The procedure, the MPs feel would serve the cause of justice. It seeks to ask the President to intervene in order to uphold the majesty of law. The memorandum emphasised on foul play in the death of not only Judge Loya,but also his close confidants and observed that lives of judges and lawyers should not be jeopardised for doing their duty
According to the MPs the situation was precipitated by the press conference where four senior judges of the Supreme Court came out to express the sentiment that democracy was in peril. A Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar is currently hearing two petitions and several Intervention Applications demanding an independent probe into Judge Loya’s death. [Tehseen Poonawala & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors., Writ Petition (Civil) No. 19 of 2018, date of order: 09.02.2108]
- Goan iron ore mining leases quashed – In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has found that 88 mining leases that were granted in Goa were in violation of its 2014 order and has subsequently quashed them. After the MB Shah report on illegal mining and certain other documents were brought before the Supreme Court by the Goa foundation in 2014, it came to the conclusion that iron and manganese mining licences had expired in 2007 and thus all mining operations after that were illegal. Thereafter, the Bombay High Court held that the decision would not stop Goa government from granting second renewals in compliance with certain conditions. The new leases granted were challenged in the Supreme Court, which now has been held to be illegal and in violation of its earlier order. It pointed out that the earlier order had only allowed fresh leases and not second renewals and these renewals were clearly aimed at benefiting private parties. [Goa Foundation v Sesa Sterlite Ltd, Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 32138 of 2015, date of judgment: 07.02.2018]
- Appeal from cases for enforcement of foreign awards only available under S. 50, Arbitration and Conciliation Act – The Supreme Court has held that both S. 50 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and appeal under S. 13 of the Commercial Courts Act are not available to a party aggrieved by a decision pertaining to the enforcement of a foreign award. Relying on the precedent of Furest Day Lawson Jindal Exports, the Court reiterated that the Act is a complete code within itself with regards to arbitration and the general law cannot be applied to it, including S. 13 of the Commercial Courts Act. [Kandla Export Corporation v OCI Corporation, Civil Appeal No. 1661-1663 of 2018, date of order: 07.02.2018]
- Advisories issued for effective implementation of sexual harassment at the workplace – In a PIL seeking the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, the Ministry of Women and Child Development filed an affidavit highlighting the steps it had taken in that direction. Accordingly, the Ministry has published a handbook about the provisions of the Act for capacity building. Private organisations, as per the affidavit, have been advised to amend it according to their personal codes. The Government has empanelled various institutions to conduct programs on the Act and that it has asked bodies like the Assocham, FICCI, Chamber of Commerce and Industry to ensure effective implementation. [Initiative for Inclusion Foundation v Union of India, Writ Petition No. 1224 of 2017, affidavit dated 31.08.2018]
- High Courts asked to establish child friendly courts – The Supreme Court has asked the Chief Justices of all High Courts to “seriously consider” establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district. These courts could help with the trial of adult women victims of sexual crimes, highlighting that the atmosphere of the general courts was not appropriate for them. The Court also criticised the State governments for not ensuring effective implementation of the Act and for improving the functioning of Commissions for Protection of Child Rights, Child Protection Units, Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees and management of Child Care Institutions. [Sampurna v Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 473 of 2005, date of order: 09.02.2018]
- Heated exchange over Ramjanamboomi case in the Supreme Court – The Supreme Court begun hearing the Ram janambhoomi-Bari Masjid dispute. Senior Counsel, Mr. Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for one of the appellants, argued that the bench should hear the case on a day-to-day basis rather than intermittently to ensure speedy disposal. To this, the Chief Justice pointed out that other litigants were also awaiting justice. The Counsel appearing for Lord Ram suggested that each party should put forth a synopsis of arguments to the Court. [ Siddiq v Mahant Suresh Das, Civil Appeal Nos. 10866-10867 of 2010, date of order: 07.02.2018]
- Proceedings in Renault-Nissan case stayed – The Madras High Court stayed proceedings related to the winding up petition involving car makers Nissan Motor India and Renault Nissan Automotive India before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose gave the interim order on a petition filed by the two companies challenging the transfer of the winding up petition earlier heard by the high court to the NCLT. The petition was transferred to the NCLT under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). The petitioner sought to declare the provisions of the Companies (Transfer of Pending Proceedings) Rules as ultra vires of the Constitution and beyond the legislative competence of Parliament. The rules enable winding up proceedings filed under the Companies Act before the high court to be treated as an application under the IBC to be adjudicated by the NCLT. [Renault Nissan Automotive v Union of India, Writ Petition No. 2333/2018, dated 02.02.2018]
- CBI files appeal in Bofors case – After 12 years of the Delhi High Court acquitting all the accused in the Bofors pay-off case, the CBI has finally filed an appeal in the Supreme Court citing an interview of the private detective Micheal Hershman in which he alleged that the then Rajiv Gandhi government sabotaged the investigation. CBI has further argued that the acquittal even before the accused could go to trial was a serious threat to national and public interest and in doing so, the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction. Further, the judgment was premised on the fact that the documents relied on by the CBI were not available in original or duly authenticated copies.
- Stepson of Hindu dying intestate cannot claim inheritance under the Hindu Succession Act – The Bombay High Court has held that step son of a Hindu dying intestate not entitled to inheritance under HSA. It was argued that since the Hindu Succession Act does not define ‘son’, the definition of ‘child’ under the Income Tax Act should be used which includes a stepson. The Bombay High Court dismissed the arguments by explaining that under the Hindu Succession Act, only those relatives which are mentioned in the Schedules to the Act can succeed which do not include a stepson. The essence of ‘son’ in the Hindu Succession Act was a blood relationship, the Court held. [Yansh Bahadur Sabhajeet Yadav, Applicant in the matter between Dudhnath Kallu Yadav v Ramashankar Ramadhar Yadav, Chamber Summons No. 495 of 2017 in Suit No. 2219 of 2000, date of judgment:12.01.2018]
- ‘Human Rights Violations’ to not include service matter disputes for the RTI Act – The Delhi High Court has set aside an order passed by the Central Information Commission directing the CBI to provide one of its officers information related to the status of the disciplinary proceedings. The CIC had held that the officer had the right to know about his case, irrespective of the exemption granted to CBI and other investigation agencies. But the Delhi High Court held that every alleged violation of fundamental rights cannot be included in violation of human rights, about which even investigation agencies are required to provide information. Thus service matters can be excluded from the same. [The Central Public Information Officer, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi v Central Information Commission, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 11092/2017, date of order: 02.02.2018]
- FIR against Bhansali quashed – After reviewing the movie Padmaavat in order to “appreciate the primary evidence of the subject matter”, the Rajasthan High Court held that the movie did not undermine the Rajput valour, courage or traditions, rather exalted them. The Court also noted that the movie also upheld the dignity of Mahrani Padmavati, and the movie was not aimed at provoking enmity between any two communities. Further, the Court also observed that the queen was never considered a religious figure, and thus any offence under Section 295A was not made out. Accordingly, the Court quashed the FIR against the Director. [Sanjay Leela Bhansali v State of Maharashtra, Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No. 737/2017, date of order: 06.02.2018]
- New Special Public Prosecutor for 2G appointed: The Central Government has issued a notification dated 08.02.2018 appointing Additional Solicitor General, Shri Tushar Mehta, as Special Public Prosecutor for 2G Spectrum Cases. It is not clear whether Shri Anand Grover, Senior Advocate, who was the SPP before, appointed by the Supreme Court in September, 2014, would continue to be associated with the case or not.