SC reserves order on bail plea of Kerala priests accused of rape

The Supreme Court reserved the verdict in the anticipatory bail plea of the first and fourth accused in the case where four priests of the Malankara Orthodox order were accused of blackmailing and raping a woman parishioner at Kottayam in Kerala. The court, which heard the pleas in-camera but videotaped the proceedings, had extended protection to first accused Father Abraham Varghese, alias Sony, and fourth accused Father Jaise K. George till the court ruled on their bail pleas. Earlier in the day, the Magistrate Court at Thiruvalla had rejected the bail pleas of two priests who are already in custody. The court declined to grant the two arrested priests any reprieve in the sensational case that exposed the abuse of a woman over several years, including by the priest to whom she had made a confession, which he used to blackmail her. Father Job Mathew and Father Johnson V. Mathew, were further remanded to judicial custody. Both are currently lodged in the Pathanamthitta district jail. Their advocates are planning to move the High Court for relief. The crime branch has submitted in the court against granting the duo any reprieve and has requested they be allowed to arrest the priests for interrogation.…
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Lokpal appointment: SC asks Centre to expedite shortlisting of names

The process for appointment of India’s first Lokpal appears to be getting on track as the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to expedite the process for shortlisting of suitable candidate for the post. A Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi told the government to expedite the process for Lokpal’s appointment after Attorney General KK Venugopal informed it that the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister will hold a meeting on July 19. The Bench, however, did not issue any directions in view of the Attorney General’s statement. “Lets begin on an optimistic note. We do not wish to issue a mandamus. We hope that the selection and search committee will expeditiously finalise the names,” said a Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The top court said the selection panel will have to first appoint a search committee. As the Bench sought a report by Monday and posted the matter for further hearing on July 24, the AG said the selection committee may not be able to complete the deliberations in one sitting on July 19. “We cannot rush through,” Venugopal told the Bench, which also included Justice R Bhanumathi. Questioning the process adopted by the Centre, petitioner Common Cause has been insisting that the court should use its extra-ordinary power under Article 142 to appoint the Lokpal.…
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“Everyone Can Go”: Top Court On Entry Of Women In Sabarimala Temple

The right of a woman to pray is a constitutional right and does not depend on laws, the Supreme Court said today while hearing a bunch of petitions that challenge the traditional ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in the famous Sabarimala temple. “Every woman is also the creation of God and why should there be discrimination against them in employment or worship,” said Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the five-judge constitutional bench that was hearing the case. In October last year, the top court referred the issue to a Constitution bench, framing five “significant” questions. The chief is these is whether the traditional ban amounts to discrimination against women and violates their fundamental rights under the Constitution. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, also has Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, and Indu Malhotra. Today, state minister K Surendran said women should be allowed to offer prayers at the Sabarimala Temple, voicing the longstanding stance of the state’s ruling CPM. (Credit: NDTV)…
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Completely paralysed despite recent verdict, Delhi govt tells Supreme Court

The Delhi government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that its functioning is “completely paralysed” and it can’t order transfer or posting of officers despite the recent Constitution bench verdict on the national capital’s administration. The matter was heard by a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Navin Sinha. The court said it knows everything and the matter will be taken on July 26 since it is not a regular bench. “Functioning of the government is completely paralysed. We cannot post officers, we cannot transfer officers despite the recent constitution bench verdict which has explained every aspect. These issues need to be adjudicated at the earliest,” said senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for the Delhi government. Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who also appeared for the Delhi government, said officers are not willing to file an affidavit on this matter and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had therefore filed the affidavit. “I just wanted to clarify the situation,” Jaising said. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra recently laid down broad parameters for the governance of the national capital, which has witnessed a power struggle between the Centre and Delhi government since the Aam Aadmi Party came to power in 2014.…
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Court’s duty to strike down law if it violates fundamental right: SC

The courts cannot wait for a “majoritarian government” to decide on enacting, amending or striking down a law if it violates fundamental rights, the Supreme Court asserted today. “We would not wait for the majoritarian government to enact, amend or not to enact any law to deal with violations of fundamental rights,” a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed while hearing a batch of petitions seeking decriminalisation of consensual gay sex. The courts are not in obligation to wait and would act if any violation of fundamental right was brought before it, the bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said. The observations by the bench, which is dealing with a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, came when advocate Shyam George, appearing for some Apostolic Alliance of Churches and Utkal Christian Association, submitted that it was the legislature’s job to decide whether to amend or allow section 377 in the statute book. “The moment we are convinced about violation of the fundamental right, the object of these fundamental rights give power to the court to strike down the law,” the bench said.…
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Aborting healthy foetus akin to murder, says SC rejecting plea to terminate pregnancy

The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday denied a 20-year-old woman permission to terminate her 25-week-old pregnancy, stating that aborting a healthy foetus that is unlikely to affect the mother’s physical health amounted to murder. In her petition, the Mumbai-based woman said she would suffer from mental trauma if she went ahead with the “unwanted pregnancy”. The petitioner said she was suffering from epilepsy and was about to separate from her husband, whom she accused of domestic violence. The woman had first approached the Bombay high court but was forced to move the apex court after her plea was declined. According to the Indian law, a foetus older than 20 weeks can be aborted if its birth is likely to culminate in serious physical or mental abnormalities or if the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life. In this case, however, the SC ruled that the continuation of the pregnancy would not harm the woman physically. “She is not likely to suffer any physical harm,” SC told the woman’s counsel, Sneha Mukherjee. Mukherjee, however, argued that the mental injury her client would suffer if she isn’t allowed to abort the “unwanted pregnancy” should also be considered. “A mother’s health and rights need to be put on a higher pedestal than the child… One needs to choose the existing right over a potential right.…
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Tell Court To Waive 10 Lakh Deposit To Dig Baby’s Body: Top Court To NGO

The Supreme Court on Friday asked an NGO to move the Calcutta High Court for waiver of condition to deposit Rs. 10 lakh for exhuming body of a six-month-old baby for conducting autopsy as he was allegedly buried by the hospital authorities. Observing that the high court should not have imposed a condition to deposit Rs. 10 lakh, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asked the petitioner NGO — People for Better Treatment — to move an application before the high court seeking waiver of the condition. “It can move an application for the waiver of the conditions,” said Chief Justice Misra. Justice Chandrachud told senior counsel Bhim Singh appearing for the petitioner that the high court had some doubts about the authenticity of the PIL petitioner and if it could take action. The Calcutta High Court had last week said that they could allow the writ petition provided the NGO made an advance deposit of Rs. 10 lakh, which would be returned if it was established that the death of six-month-old baby was due to medical negligence. The People for Better Treatment had moved the high court espousing the cause of an Asansol resident, Akshay Ghosh, who was described by senior counsel Bhim Singh as “street beggar, who can”t in any way mobilise Rs.…
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People, not industries, are more important: SC on pollution by pet coke

People are more important than industries, the Supreme Court said today while taking note of a report that 60,000 people have died due to pollution. The top court, which was hearing matters arising out of a 1985 PIL filed by environmentalist M C Mehta on the issue of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR, asked whether the government had allowed pet coke import without studying its impact on the people’s health. A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also pulled up the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for seeking time to study the impact of ban on import of pet coke used in industries as fuel. “You seem very keen to allow the import of pet coke. Were you earlier allowing import of pet coke in the country without even conducting the study? The other day newspapers reports said that 60,000 people died due to pollution. What are you doing? People are dying in the city due to huge amount of pollution,” the bench said. “We don’t know whether the newspaper report is correct or a fake news. But your reports have also earlier indicated that people have lost lives due to pollution,” it said. Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the MoEF said a report of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) says “the Ministry is over-enthusiastic but it is not correct.…
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No Harm In Pictorial Warnings For Tobacco Products: Supreme Court Rules

The Supreme Court today refused to stay the operation of new amended rules of the Union Health Ministry directing the manufacturers to have graphic warning images on packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products and helpline numbers for those who wanted to quit the habit. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud refused to grant interim stay on Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Second Amendment Rules, 2018, which would come into effect from September 1. The new rules stipulated that two images depicting the manifestation of cancer, as a specified health warning, would appear on the package consecutively during the rotation period with an interregnum period of 12 months. During the hearing, the bench and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the manufacturers, entered into a debate on the matter. When Mukul Rohtagi said the people should have the right to choice and the new rules violated that right, the bench responded saying the “people also have the right to informed choice.” It added that if the pictorial warnings provided the information, then there was no harm. Assailing the new rules, Mukul Rohatgi again said “If one eats chocolates, they run the risk of becoming diabetic which may lead to glaucoma.” To this, the bench said “eating chocolates does not create diabetes.…
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“State Must Prevent Mobocracy,” Says Supreme Court On Cow Vigilantism

On mob killings in the name of cow protection, the Supreme Court today said no citizen can take the law into their hands and the government must act. “It is the state’s duty to ensure order and prevent mobocracy,” the court said today. “In case of fear and anarchy, the state has to act positively. Violence can’t be allowed,” said Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, leading a three-judge bench. Putting out “preventive, remedial and punitive” guidelines to prevent such mob attacks by self-styled cow protectors, the Supreme Court urged that parliament bring in a separate law against lynching. The court has ruled on petitions including those by social activist Tehseen Poonawalla and Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, seeking to check violence by cow vigilante groups. Tushar Gandhi had also filed a contempt plea on some states, accusing them of not enforcing the earlier orders of the court. The court had earlier said that violence by any vigilante group had to be curbed, after its attention was drawn to the violence in Maharashtra, where five people were beaten to death by a mob of villagers following WhatsApp rumours of kidnappers prowling the area. (Credit: NDTV)…
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Can petrol, diesel prices be made same for four wheelers: SC asks Centre

The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to apprise it as to whether petrol and diesel can have an equal pricing for four wheelers and private cars after the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) said pollution from diesel vehicles was a cause of concern. A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta suggested that the government could contemplate fixing price of diesel and petrol on par for four wheelers, other than goods vehicles. “You take instructions whether you can have equal price at petrol stations for diesel and petrol for four wheelers and private cars,” the bench told the counsel appearing for the Centre. Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the apex court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the real concern was pollution from diesel vehicles. She said that people go for diesel vehicles since they have high power fuel efficiency. The amicus told the bench that one of the EPCA’s report show there was “leakage” of funds from environment compensation charge (ECC) which was levied by the apex court for purchase of diesel vehicles. “But SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) says that they (diesel vehicles) are not polluting. They are arguing that you change your standards,” the bench observed.…
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Babri Masjid destroyed by ‘Hindu Taliban’: SC told

he Babri Masjid was destroyed by the “Hindu Taliban” just like the demolition of the Buddha statue by the Taliban at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, a litigant in the Ayodhya temple-mosque land dispute case told the Supreme Court today. No law or the Constitution allows destruction of religious structures of any faith, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the legal heirs of M Siddiq — one of the original litigants in the case and has died, told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer. Dhavan also questioned the locus of the Shia Central Waqf Board in the case. His comments came after the Shia board told the bench that it was willing to donate one-third of the disputed land, which the Allahabad High Court had given to the Muslims, to the Hindu group for “peace, harmony, unity and integrity” in this great country. The counsel for the Shia Central Waqf Board said they were the claimants of the Muslim share of land at the disputed Ayodhya site, as the Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baki, a Shia Muslim. “It is a fundamental issue. The Shia Central Waqf Board has decided that for the unity, integrity, peace and harmony of the country, we want to donate the one-third part of land to the Hindu group,” the lawyer said.…
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