Legal wrap April 4: Apex court paves way for Navneet Rana to fight Lok Sabha elections as SC candidate & more

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1. Apex court earlier stayed Bombay High Court order

In a big relief for Navneet Kaur Rana, independent Member of Parliament (MP) from Amravati and now Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) candidate for the same seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the 2021 Bombay High Court order which had cancelled the Scheduled Caste certificate (SC) obtained by Rana. The Supreme Court bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and Sanjay Karol restored the ‘Mochi’ Scheduled Caste certificate issued to Rana by the District Scrutiny Committee and said that principles of natural justice were followed by the scrutiny committee and the committee had offered all the sides to the case an opportunity to be heard and moreover, the Bombay High Court order was an undue interference. The Supreme Court judgment that comes just days before the country goes to polls has also cleared the decks for Navneet Kaur Rana to contest Lok Sabha elections from the Scheduled Caste reserved constituency of Amravati in Maharashtra. The controversy around Navneet Kaur Rana’s status as a Scheduled Caste member of the Mochi community was raised in the Bombay High Court by Shiv Sena Leader AV Adsule, who had questioned Rana’s bona fides of being a member of the Mochi community which is a scheduled caste community in Maharashtra. While Rana claims that she belongs to Mochi community as she belongs to Shik-Char Community and chamar and Mochi words are synonyms. While Adsule’s contention was that the caste certificate obtained by Rana was done by fraud and collusion of the district caste scrutiny committee. The Bombay High Court had in 2021 dealt a blow to Rana by holding that she had obtained the Scheduled Caste – Mochi certificate by fraudulent means and directed Rana to not just surrender her caste certificate but also slapped a penalty of Rs 2 lakh on her. The High Court had in its judgement also pulled the scrutiny committee for doing its job of verification of Rana’s certificate in a callous manner. However, after the Bombay High Court verdict Rana had approached the Supreme Court, which had while admitting her petition had stayed the High Court judgment protecting her from immediate disqualification as an MP. Now the Supreme Court verdict has not just cleared the air of uncertainty around Rana’s status as a member of SC community but has also given paved the way for her to contest the upcoming lok Sabha elections from the reserved constituency of Amravati.

Also read: Supreme Court paves way for Navneet Kaur Rana to contest Lok Sabha elections as SC candidate

2. Comply with apex court’s March 19 order, apex court directs Ajit Pawar faction

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked both factions – Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar – of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to abide by its directions on use of party name, election symbols and disclaimers in publicity materials for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls. A bench comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan was hearing applications filed by both sides on non-compliance of apex court’s March 19 order. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Sharad Pawar submitted to the court that despite the apex court order, the Ajit Pawar faction was not using the disclaimer and that Ajit Pawar too has been using the clock symbol in his social media accounts without the disclaimer. Singhvi also tried to show to the court that the overall impact of the use of the ‘clock’ symbol without the disclaimer was to the detriment of the Sharad Pawar faction and there must be immediate stoppage of the same. The bench directed the Ajit Pawar faction to incorporate a disclaimer that the use of ‘clock’ symbol is sub-judice before the top court in every pamphlet, advertisement, audio, or video clips to be issued on behalf of Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP and all the office bearers and party functionaries, candidates of the Ajit Pawar faction must be sensitised about the court order and there should be no defiance of the same. The apex court bench also directed the Sharad Pawar faction of the NCP to sensitise its party workers on using the new name and symbol of the faction for the general and assembly elections and ask its party workers, office bearers and leaders not to use the ‘clock’ symbol, which has been allotted to the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP, in its poll advertisements. The apex court, in its March 19 order, had directed the Ajit Pawar faction to issue advertisements in English, Hindi and Marathi editions stating that the allocation of ‘clock’ symbol to it is sub judice before the Supreme Court and it was permitted to use the same subject to final outcome of the proceedings in court.

Also read: Supreme Court asks Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar to abide by its order on use of party name, election symbol

3. There was no time limitation for filing application for compensation when law was framed

A provision of the Motor Vehicles Act that bars all application for compensation arising out of an accident unless made within six months of date of accident has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The court recently admitted the petition and has asked the central government to respond within eight weeks as to why the provision of law should not be struck down as unconstitutional. The Motor Vehicles Act, enacted in 1988, was amended in 2019 and section 166 (3) was introduced in it, which mandated that an application for compensation arising out of an accident shall be entertained unless it is made within six months of the occurrence of the accident. This provision of law came into effect from April 1, 2022. But now the provision of law has been challenged on the ground that the proviso is not just arbitrary but also curtails the rights of road accident victims by putting a cap of 6 month for filing petitions claiming compensation and putting a time limitation of six months has the effect of defeating the objective of the benevolent piece of law that has been framed to benefit victims of road accidents. The petition seeks that section 166 (3) which came into effect from April 1, 2022 is arbitrary, ultra-vires and violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India and deserves to be set aside. The Motor Vehicles Act besides dealing with various aspects of registration, licencing, insurance of vehicles also establishes Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals across the country for the purpose of adjudicating upon claims for compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles, or damages to any property of a third party so arising. However, when the law was framed there was no time limitation for filing application for compensation, but the position was changed in 2022. As per the annual report on ‘Road Accidents in India-2022” published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, a total of 4,61,312 road accidents were reported by States and Union Territories (UTs) during the calendar year 2022, which claimed 1,68,491 lives and caused injuries to 4,43,366 persons. This marks an increase of 11.9% in accidents, 9.4% in fatalities, and 15.3% in injuries compared to the year 2021.

Also read: Petition in Supreme Court challenges 6 month time limit for filing accident compensation claims

4. Delhi High Court noted that it recently dismissed a similar plea

The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the removal of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal following his arrest in a money laundering case linked with alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy. A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora noted that the court had earlier dismissed a similar petition and said told the petitioner that his remedy lies before the President of India and Delhi Lieutenant Governor and he should approach the constitutional authorities. “At times, personal interest has to be subordinate to national interest but that is his personal call. We are a court of law and have to go by the law. Your remedy does not lie here, it lies elsewhere. You go before the competent forum,” the High Court said, adding that it had recently dismissed a similar plea and it cannot take a different view. The High Court was hearing a plea filed by Hindu Sena president Vishnu Gupta seeking directions from the court to remove Kejriwal from the chief minister’s post with effect from March 21, the day when he was arrested by the ED in the excise policy case. Gupta’s counsel argued before the court that Kejriwal has has created a constitutional deadlock and is guilty of the constitutional breach of trust and has no right to continue as the Delhi Chief Minister. Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, who appeared for Kejriwal, said that petitioner Gupta should have withdrawn his case at the very start after the earlier High Court order dismissing a similar plea. Petitioner Gupta’s counsel told the court that he has instructions to withdraw the plea after court refused to pass any order and it was allowed by the court. The High Court had earlier dismissed a similar plea filed by Surjit Singh Yadav, saying that it fell outside the scope of judicial interference and it is for the other wings of the government to examine in accordance with the law. Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the money laundering case linked with alleged irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the now-defunct Delhi Excise Policy on March 21 and currently he is in judicial custody in Tihar Jail.

Also read: Delhi High Court refuses to entertain plea seeking removal of Arvind Kejriwal from chief minister’s post

5. Currently 34 cases involving MPs, MLAs are pending before single bench, Registry informed Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court has asked its judges to give priority to all criminal cases, appeals, revisions pending before them against the Members of Parliament (MP) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) to ensure expeditious and effective disposal of such cases. The High Court Registry informed the court that there are currently 34 pending cases, appeals and revisions involving MPs and MLAs before the single bench of the High Court in which orders of stay of trial have been passed and are continuing for a period of more than six months. A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora transferred these cases from the single judge concerned and directed its Registry to re-allocate or re-distribute these cases to such courts or benches as is considered appropriate and effective for expeditious disposal of such cases, so that stay applications are disposed of in the subject cases expeditiously and trial of such cases can conclude before the designated special courts. “In line with the directives passed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India in ,,,,., we direct the Registry of this Court to circulate this order to brother and sister Judges assigned with such cases so that priority is given to all criminal cases/appeals/revisions pending before them against the members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, as it is essential for expeditious and effective disposal of such cases,” the bench said in its order. Regarding the pending cases against MPs/MLAs before the District Court, the High Court, in continuation of its earlier directions issued on December, 21, 2023, directed the concerned designated courts to give priority, first of all criminal cases against MPs and MLAs punishable with death or life imprisonment, then to cases punishable with imprisonment for five years or more and then hear other cases. “We also request all the judges to refrain from adjourning the subject cases except for rare and compelling reasons,” the bench said.

Also read: Delhi High Court asks judges for expeditious disposal of criminal cases involving MPs, MLAs

6. Cross-gender massages have led to operation and proliferation of illegal prostitution: Petitioner

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea seeking a direction to authorities to ban cross-gender massages in spas and massage centers in the national capital. A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora, while dismissing the plea noted that a single judge of the High Court is already seized of a plea challenging the validity of Guidelines for Operation of Spas/Massage Centers in Delhi issued by the city government on August 18, 2021. “A perusal of the paper book reveals that a challenge to the validity of the said Guidelines issued by GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) by way of Notification dated 18th August, 2021 is pending consideration before a learned Single Judge of this Court. Since the learned Single Judge is already seized of the controversy, this court is of the view that the present public interest cannot be entertained. Accordingly, the present petition is dismissed,” the High Court said. A single judge bench of the High Court had ordered the municipal corporations and the Delhi Police in December 2021 to conduct inspections and take necessary steps to ensure that no spa is permitted to run without a valid licence and had asked police to inspect all licenced spas and register cases against them if they were found engaging in any illegal activity. The petitioner in the instant case sought a direction to the authorities to ban cross-gender massages in spas/massage centers and a direction to the authorities to share the recordings of spas/massage centers with the Delhi Commission for Women on a regular basis. Petitioner’s counsel submitted before the High Court that cross-gender massages are being carried out in various spas and massage centers in the national capital in violation of ‘Guidelines for Operation of Spas/Massage Centers in Delhi dated August 18, 2021 issued by the Delhi Government. The petitioner emphasized that in accordance with clause 2(b) of the Guidelines, cross-gender massages are prohibited in spas and massage centers in Delhi, however, such massages are being provided in locked rooms in violation of clause 2(d) of the Guidelines and cross-gender massages have led to operation and proliferation of illegal prostitution. The petitioner further told the court that he did not receive any response to various complaints and representations, including a representation dated February 19, 2024 addressed to the Station House Officer (SHO) of Karol Bagh Police Station with respect to illegal operation of various spa parlours in Karol Bagh.

Also read: Delhi High Court dismisses plea seeking a ban on cross-gender massages in spas, massage centers in national capital

7. Kejriwal is currently allowed two meetings with lawyer every week

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday moved an application before a court hearing the cases related to alleged irregularities in Delhi Excise Policy urging it to allow more time with his lawyers to prepare for cases pending against him before various courts in several parts of the country. The Delhi Chief Minister, who is currently lodged in judicial custody in Tihar Jail in a money laundering case connected with Delhi Excise Policy, is currently allowed two meetings every week with his lawyer in the jail. Kejriwal, in his application before the court, has urged the court to allow him spend more time with his lawyer, saying two meeting in a week with his lawyer was not sufficient as he is facing various cases in various states and needed more time for consultation and urged the court to increase the number of meetings with his lawyer from two to five per week. Kejriwal’s application is likely to come up for hearing before Special Judge Kaveri Baweja on Friday. The special court on Wednesday had allowed an application of the Delhi Chief Minister asking for an electric kettle for heating water and for having tea and a table and a chair for reading books in view of his medical condition. Kejriwal, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the money laundering case on March 21, was sent to judicial custody till April 15 by the special court after the central agency did not seek his further remand in the money laundering case.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal urges Delhi Court to increase number of meetings with lawyer every week from 2 to 5

8. BRS leader Kavitha was arrested by ED from Hyderabad on March 15

A special court hearing the alleged irregularities in the formulation and implementation of Delhi Excise Policy on Thursday reserved its order for Monday on an interim bail plea of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, who urged the court to grant her interim bail for providing “moral and emotional support” to her 16-year-old son for her exams. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Kavitha before special judge Kaveri Baweja, urged the court to release her on interim bail, saying that she has a child, who is not a toddler or is in arms but a 16-year-old, however, the issue is different and it is about the mother providing moral and emotional support to her child when there is trauma and shock about what has happened. “The perspective of a mother is not substitutable by the father or sister or brother. The emotional support of a mother can’t be substituted by a ‘maasi’ also,” Singhvi argued before the special judge, adding that no immediate interrogation is there which can’t wait for these few weeks and that an exam anxiety doesn’t have to be a medical condition for the mother to join. The ED opposed the interim bail plea of the BRS leader, claiming that the BRS leader destroyed evidence and influenced witnesses in the case and she completely wiped out four mobile phones and is one of the prime movers of giving bribes. The ED counsel further told the court that the BRS leader is not only part of arranging kickbacks in advance but also beneficiary through Indospirit and there are direct proceeds of crime through bank accounts where she is a beneficiary. “I am not relying on statements alone. I have material, WhatsApp documents etc and there are direct proceeds of crime through bank accounts, where she is a beneficiary,” the ED counsel told the court, adding that the agency is on the verge of a crucial breakthrough and any relief to accused Kavitha at this stage will hamper the investigation. “There is influencing of witness, there is an attempt to make at least two or three witnesses to retract statements. Out of which one or two people, she (BRS leader Kavitha) has already succeeded. Third person came forward to us and said that she exerted pressure on him. There is an apparent destruction of evidence,” the ED counsel told the court.

Also read: Excise Policy case: BRS leader Kavitha urges Delhi court for grant of interim bail; ED opposes her plea

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