Supreme Court Upholds Order to Demolish Illegal Shiva Temple on Yamuna Floodplains

The Supreme Court has approved the demolition of an illegal Shiva Temple situated on the Yamuna floodplains. This decision upholds the May 29 ruling by the Delhi High Court, which had ordered the temple’s demolition. The High Court had argued that the Yamuna riverbed and floodplain should be free from encroachments and illegal constructions, suggesting that Lord Shiva would be happier with a cleaner environment.

A vacation bench of Justices PV Sanjay Kumar and Augustine George Masih addressed the case, confirming that the High Court’s decision was sound and questioning the legitimacy of the petition filed by the Akhada Samiti. Justice Kumar pointed out that having an akhada (a traditional place of wrestling) on floodplains is inappropriate and noted that akhadas are typically associated with Lord Hanuman, not Lord Shiva. The Delhi High Court had emphasized that Lord Shiva does not need the court’s protection, but rather, it is people who seek his protection and blessings. The court dismissed the petitioner’s attempt to involve Lord Shiva directly in the legal matter, labeling it as a tactic to shift the focus of the dispute. The court stated that the real concern is the encroachment on the Yamuna floodplains, and clearing these areas would be more respectful to Lord Shiva. Justice Dharmesh Sharma of the Delhi High Court further noted that just because daily prayers and special events are held at the temple, this does not make it a place of public significance. There was no evidence to prove that the temple was a public entity rather than a private one managed by the petitioner society. Based on these findings, the High Court had granted the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) the right to demolish the unauthorized structure. The petitioner society and its members were instructed not to interfere with the demolition process. Unhappy with the High Court’s ruling, the Akhada Samiti appealed to the Supreme Court, but their appeal was dismissed. The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces the High Court’s stance that removing illegal structures from the Yamuna floodplains is necessary for environmental and legal reasons. In summary, the Supreme Court’s ruling supports the idea that religious sentiments cannot justify illegal constructions, particularly in sensitive environmental areas like the Yamuna floodplains. The focus remains on upholding the law and protecting natural resources, ensuring that encroachments do not harm the environment.

J&K High Court Orders LCMA Not to Harass Tea Sellers at Dal Lake Floating Market

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently directed the Jammu and Kashmir Land Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) in Srinagar not to harass tea sellers at the Dal Lake floating market, as long as they have valid licenses. This decision came in response to a petition filed by the partners of Zabarwan Tea Stall, who complained that LCMA officials were frequently visiting and disturbing their business.

The High Court’s order was passed by Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal on May 29. The petitioners argued that they were being unnecessarily harassed despite having the required licenses to sell tea at the floating market. They claimed that this harassment was disrupting their business operations.

In their order, the judges emphasized that no obstacles should be placed in the way of anyone running a business legally with the necessary licenses. The Court made it clear that the LCMA officials should not disturb the petitioners’ business if they have a valid license.

The Court’s statement read, “We see no reason why any impediment be created to any person, who is running business after obtaining necessary license.” This means that as long as the tea sellers are following the rules and have the right permits, they should be allowed to operate without any trouble.

However, the High Court also gave the LCMA the authority to check the authenticity of these licenses. If any vendor is found operating without a valid license, the LCMA can take legal action against them. The Court stated, “The respondents-authority would be at liberty to verify the validity or genuineness of the license, if any and to proceed in the matter in accordance with law and if petitioners are found running the business without any valid license or documents, the concerned authority shall be free to proceed in accordance with law.”

Advocate Sajid Ahmad Bhat represented the petitioners, while Advocates Illyas Nazir and Syed Muzaib represented the LCMA.

In summary, the High Court has protected the rights of tea sellers at Dal Lake to operate without harassment, provided they have valid licenses. The LCMA can still check licenses and take action if any vendor is found operating illegally.

NEET UG 2024: Supreme Court Allows Retest for Affected Candidates

The Central government informed the Supreme Court that candidates who received less time during the NEET UG 2024 exam would be allowed to retake the test. If they opt not to retake the exam, their original scores will be kept, but any grace marks given for the time loss will be removed.

This decision comes amid concerns over the “arbitrary” awarding of grace marks, which reportedly led to a surprising increase in top scores. Allegations of malpractices, cheating, and other irregularities during the exam have also surfaced.

The Supreme Court was told that 1,563 candidates were affected because they received less than the allotted time for the NEET 2024 exam. These candidates will have the option to retake the exam. If they choose to do so, their previous scores will be canceled, and only the new scores from the retest will count. If they decide not to retake the test, their original scores will stand, but without the previously awarded grace marks.

A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Sandeep Mehta was informed that this solution was proposed after a committee meeting held on June 12. The Court recorded this decision in its order. The Court noted, “As per the recommendations, it has been suggested that the scorecard of affected 1,563 candidates will be canceled and withdrawn, and actual scores will be informed without grace marks. A re-exam will be conducted for them. The result of those who do not take the retest will be their actual scores without grace marks.”

The National Testing Agency (NTA) announced that the retest would be held on June 23, with results expected by June 30. Medical college counseling will begin on July 6.

The Supreme Court is handling petitions regarding the conduct of the NEET UG exam. Some petitions challenge the award of grace marks, while others call for the cancellation of the NEET results announced on June 4. Advocate Kanu Agrawal, representing the Central government, explained that the decision to hold a retest for those who received grace marks due to time loss was made by an NTA committee on June 12. This was done to address the concerns of students.

The Court was informed that the retest would cover 1,563 students from six exam centers who were affected by the time issue. Advocate J Sai Deepak, representing a petitioner (Alakh Pandey, founder of test prep startup PhysicsWallah), raised concerns that while this decision provides a second chance for some candidates, there are others with concerns who have not approached the Court.

The Bench stated that it could not expand the scope of the case to include those who had not yet approached the Court. However, the Court ordered the NTA to respond to allegations of unfair practices in the NEET exam by July 8, when the case will be heard next. Advocate Naresh Kaushik represented the NTA.

In summary, affected NEET UG 2024 candidates can choose to retake the exam or keep their original scores without grace marks. This decision aims to ensure fairness amid controversies regarding the exam’s conduct and the awarding of grace marks.

Delhi High Court Orders Speedy Trial in Excise Policy Case Involving High-Profile Politicians

The Delhi High Court has issued specific directions to expedite the trial in the Delhi excise policy case, which is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This decision came after Hyderabad businessman Arun Ramachandran Pillai challenged the trial court’s decision to proceed with hearings on charges.

The case involves high-profile politicians such as former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha. Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma of the Delhi High Court instructed the trial court to start hearing arguments on charges immediately and to assign “block dates” for each accused to present their arguments on framing of charges. Justice Sharma also emphasized that written submissions should be filed on the same day the oral arguments are concluded, to ensure a speedy trial.

Furthermore, the Court directed that once the CBI files its supplementary chargesheet against K Kavitha, the document should be made available to the accused on the first day of the hearing to save time. The trial court is to set short dates for reviewing these documents, ensuring that the Investigating Officer (IO) provides clear and properly organized copies. The accused are expected to review these documents and report any deficiencies within two days to avoid unnecessary delays in the scrutiny process.

The High Court’s directions were issued while addressing a plea from Arun Ramachandran Pillai, who challenged the commencement of arguments on the charges, arguing that it should be deferred until the CBI completes its investigation. The trial court had dismissed his plea, prompting him to approach the High Court. Pillai’s counsel argued that the possibility of additional accused being included in the case necessitated delaying the trial to avoid prejudicing the defense.

However, the High Court refused to interfere with the trial court’s decision. It noted that the trial court had already considered Pillai’s concerns, acknowledging that 16 individuals had been chargesheeted and that hearing arguments on the charges would take significant time. If the CBI files additional chargesheets, the ongoing hearing can be paused, and copies of the new chargesheets will be provided to all accused. Consequently, the High Court concluded that there was no need to intervene at this stage, deeming the trial court’s order appropriate and free from any errors.

The High Court’s decision aims to balance the need for a speedy trial with ensuring that all accused have adequate time to review charges and prepare their defense. The directions also stress efficient document handling to avoid delays. This case, involving prominent politicians and significant public interest, underscores the judicial system’s efforts to manage complex cases promptly while ensuring fairness to all parties.

Representing Arun Ramachandran Pillai were advocates Nitesh Rana, Anuj Tiwari, Kaushal Kait, Deepak Nagar, Nikhil Kohli, Soumya Kumar, and Monika. The CBI’s legal team included Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) DP Singh, along with advocates Manu Mishra, Shreya Dutt, and Imaan Khera.

Overall, the High Court’s directions aim to streamline the trial process in the Delhi excise policy case, ensuring timely justice while upholding the rights of the accused to a fair trial.

Madras High Court: Senior Lawyers Not Paying Juniors is Exploitation and Violates Fundamental Rights

The Madras High Court recently addressed the issue of senior lawyers not paying junior lawyers, calling it a form of exploitation that violates fundamental rights. This decision came from a bench comprising Justices SM Subramaniam and C Kumarappan, who emphasized that the practice of not paying junior lawyers even a minimum stipend is unfair and exploitative. The court pointed out that young lawyers, despite their talent and hard work, struggle to make a living because senior lawyers do not compensate them adequately.

The bench referred to Section 6 of the Advocates Act of 1961, which mandates that Bar Councils must ensure the welfare of all lawyers registered with them. The court directed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to come up with guidelines to set a minimum amount that must be paid to junior lawyers by their seniors. The court insisted that it is the responsibility of the Bar Council to protect the interests of junior lawyers and ensure their livelihood.

This issue was highlighted during the hearing of a petition by Farida Begum, who raised concerns about the delay in processing around 200 applications for benefits under the Tamil Nadu Advocate’s Welfare Fund. Advocate CK Chandrasekar, representing the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, explained that the payments were delayed because the Tamil Nadu government had not yet released the necessary funds. Furthermore, he noted that the Welfare Scheme had not been approved by the Puducherry government, resulting in no benefits being disbursed to lawyers in Puducherry.

In response, the bench directed the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry governments to provide details on the number of lawyers eligible for the benefits, the funds allocated and released, and other relevant information. The court expressed concern over the practice of senior lawyers not paying juniors, stating that it is an unacceptable form of exploitation. The bench stressed that the Bar Council must take steps to ensure that junior lawyers receive a minimum stipend when they work for senior lawyers.

The court emphasized that extracting work from junior lawyers without paying them is a violation of their fundamental rights under the Constitution. Young lawyers, who start their careers with hope and enthusiasm, must be supported by senior lawyers and the legal community to ensure their survival and growth in the profession. The court noted that it is essential to fix a minimum stipend to protect the livelihood of junior lawyers.

The Madras High Court’s decision underscores the importance of fair compensation for junior lawyers and the responsibility of senior lawyers and Bar Councils to support the welfare of all lawyers. This move aims to address the exploitation of junior lawyers and ensure that they are adequately compensated for their work, thereby upholding their fundamental rights and promoting a fair and just legal profession.

Advocate C Elangovan represented the petitioner Farida Begum in this case, while Additional Government Pleader A Tamilvanan appeared for the Puducherry government. Advocate CK Chandrasekar appeared for the TN Bar Council, and Advocate S John J Raja Singh represented the Tamil Nadu government. The court has asked the TN Bar Council to provide instructions on the issue by June 12.

Delhi Will Turn into a Barren Desert if Deforestation Continues, Warns Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court has raised serious concerns about Delhi’s future environment, warning that ongoing deforestation could turn the city into a barren desert. This warning came during discussions on setting up a committee to protect forests in Delhi. The committee, led by former judge Justice Najmi Waziri, was formed after a request from the high court on April 4.

In a hearing on May 31, Justice Tushar Rao Gedela mentioned that Delhi recently recorded a temperature of 52.9 degrees Celsius on May 30, 2024. However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) later clarified that this high reading at Mungeshpur on May 29 was due to a sensor error.

Justice Gedela stressed the urgent need to address deforestation to stop Delhi from becoming a desert. The court reviewed a report by Justice Waziri, which highlighted the need for proper infrastructure to support the committee’s work. The chief conservator of forests informed the court that the necessary resources had been approved by the minister of the general administration department and were waiting for final approval from the cabinet and the Lieutenant Governor.

Advocate Gautam Narayan, acting as a friend of the court, emphasized the need to provide the required resources quickly. He warned against delays due to bureaucracy, stating that the needed infrastructure and other facilities should be provided without delay. Justice Gedela ordered that the approval process should not take longer than June 15 and that the infrastructure should be ready within 15 days after approval.

The court’s concerns highlight the urgent need for environmental protection in Delhi to combat rising temperatures and prevent severe ecological damage.

Rahul Gandhi Ordered to Appear in Court on June 7 in BJP Defamation Case

A Bengaluru court has ordered Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to appear personally on June 7 in a defamation case filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The case involves Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, and Rahul Gandhi. BJP leader Keshav Prasad filed the complaint, objecting to Congress advertisements during the 2023 Karnataka assembly elections. The ads accused the BJP, then in power, of demanding 40 percent commission or bribes from contractors for public works.

During a hearing on Saturday, Gandhi’s lawyer requested an exemption from his appearance, citing Gandhi’s participation in an INDIA alliance meeting. The court allowed the exemption for that day but insisted that Gandhi must appear on June 7. The court clearly stated, “It is made clear that the Accused No.4 shall appear before this court on the next date of hearing without fail.”

Earlier in the day, the 42nd Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate granted bail to Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM DK Shivakumar, requiring them to provide bail bonds of ₹5,000 each. Since Gandhi did not attend the hearing, his plea will be heard on June 7.

The BJP’s complaint argues that the Congress party’s advertisements spread false information targeting its members, including the then Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. The BJP claims these ads unfairly accused their party of corruption, damaging their reputation.

In summary, the Bengaluru court has directed Rahul Gandhi to appear on June 7 in a defamation case related to Congress’s election campaign allegations against the BJP. While Gandhi’s request for exemption was accepted for now, the court has emphasized his required presence at the next hearing.

Delhi Court Denies Bail to Kejriwal’s Aide in Swati Maliwal Assault Case

A Delhi court recently denied the bail plea of Bibhav Kumar, an aide to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a case involving the assault of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Swati Maliwal. Kumar was accused of assaulting Maliwal at the Chief Minister’s residence on May 13 and was placed in judicial custody on May 24.

The court rejected Kumar’s bail request, emphasizing that Maliwal’s allegations must be taken seriously and that there was a risk of Kumar influencing witnesses or tampering with evidence. The court also mentioned that the delay in registering the FIR (First Information Report) did not significantly impact the case, as Maliwal’s injuries were documented in a medico-legal certificate four days after the incident. The court stated that if the incident were premeditated, the FIR would have been filed immediately.

Kumar plans to appeal the decision in the Delhi High Court. According to Maliwal’s allegations, while she was waiting to meet Kejriwal at his official residence, Kumar screamed at her, threatened her, used abusive language, and brutally assaulted her by dragging and banging her head on a table.

During the bail hearing, Kumar’s lawyer argued that the allegations were premeditated and false, meant to defame him because Maliwal believed he was responsible for her not meeting the Chief Minister. The lawyer also noted that Maliwal chose the location of the alleged assault because there were no CCTV cameras. In response, Maliwal broke down in court, claiming that AAP had deployed its resources to tarnish her image, holding press conferences against her, and labeling Kumar as abnormal.

The Delhi Police, in their report, described the incident as a serious case where the brutal assault could have been fatal. They accused Kumar of not cooperating with the investigation and being evasive in his responses. The police noted the severity of the case, as it involved the assault of a Member of Parliament, and highlighted Kumar’s lack of cooperation during questioning.

Recently, Kumar was taken to Mumbai to recover data from his phone, which he had allegedly formatted before his arrest. Police suspect that he transferred the data to someone or a device in Mumbai before wiping the phone. His phones, laptop, and CCTV recordings from Kejriwal’s house have been sent for forensic examination.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) also weighed in, claiming that Kumar was called to the Chief Minister’s residence after Maliwal arrived. The commission demanded details on who called him and called for an investigation into the call records of all involved parties, including the Chief Minister.

The AAP has dismissed Maliwal’s allegations, accusing her of being used by the BJP to defame Arvind Kejriwal ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The party insists that Maliwal’s claims are politically motivated and intended to damage Kejriwal’s reputation.

In summary, Bibhav Kumar remains in custody as the court takes Maliwal’s allegations seriously, citing potential risks of witness tampering and evidence manipulation. The case has drawn significant attention, with both political and legal implications, as investigations continue and appeals are planned.

Consumer Forum Fines Britannia ₹60,000 for Underweight Biscuit Packets

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Thrissur, Kerala, has fined Britannia Industries and a bakery ₹60,000 for selling biscuit packets that weighed significantly less than the stated weight. The commission’s decision came after a complaint from a consumer named George Thattil, who found that the biscuit packets he purchased were 52 grams lighter than the claimed 300 grams.

George had bought two packets of “Britannia Nutri Choice Thin Arrow Root Biscuits” from Chukkiri Royal Bakery, each costing ₹40. The packaging claimed each packet weighed 300 grams, but George found that one packet weighed 268 grams and the other 248 grams. Suspecting foul play, George reported the issue to the Assistant Controller with the Flying Squad of Legal Metrology in Thrissur. Upon verification, the authorities confirmed that the packets were indeed underweight.

George then filed a complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, seeking compensation for the financial, physical, and mental distress he experienced due to the misleading packaging. He also requested an order to prevent such deceptive practices by manufacturers and sellers in the future.

The commission, consisting of President C.T. Sabu and members Sreeja S. and Ram Mohan R., noted that both Britannia and the bakery failed to respond to the notices sent to them. Consequently, the commission proceeded with the case ex-parte, meaning without the defendants’ participation. The commission found that both parties had engaged in unfair trade practices by selling underweight biscuit packets, which violated the Consumer Protection Act and Section 30 of the Legal Metrology Act 2009.

The commission emphasized that selling products with misleading weights not only cheats consumers financially but also violates their right to be free from exploitation and deception. The deceptive actions of the manufacturer and the seller were deemed serious enough to warrant strict penalties.

As a result, the commission ordered Britannia and the bakery to pay ₹50,000 in compensation to George for the distress and losses he suffered. Additionally, they were ordered to pay ₹10,000 to cover his litigation costs. The commission also directed the Controller of Legal Metrology in Kerala to conduct a state-wide investigation to ensure that all packaged commodities comply with net quantity regulations.

This ruling underscores the importance of manufacturers and sellers adhering to accurate labeling and packaging standards. Misleading consumers with incorrect weights or measures is a serious violation of consumer rights and can lead to significant penalties. The case also highlights the role of legal metrology authorities in verifying and enforcing compliance with these standards to protect consumer interests.

Advocate A.D. Benny represented George in this case, ensuring that his grievances were heard and addressed by the commission. The decision serves as a reminder to consumers to remain vigilant and report any discrepancies they encounter in product packaging to the relevant authorities. It also serves as a warning to businesses about the consequences of engaging in unfair trade practices.

Supreme Court Urges Senior Lawyers to Let Juniors Argue During Vacations

The Supreme Court recently encouraged senior lawyers to let their junior colleagues argue cases during court vacations. This suggestion came from Justices PS Narasimha and Sanjay Karol during a courtroom exchange with Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta.

Justice Karol emphasized that vacations are intended to give younger lawyers opportunities to grow. He urged senior lawyers to support this initiative by allowing juniors to take on more responsibilities during this time.

Dr. Singhvi supported the idea but stressed the need for uniform rules across all Supreme Court benches. He mentioned that consistent guidelines would make it easier for senior lawyers to follow the practice. Singhvi also noted that he has been advocating for such uniform rules for five years and urged the Justices to discuss and implement them collectively.

SG Mehta added that some vacation benches already do not permit Senior Advocates to argue, highlighting that some steps are being taken in this direction.

The Supreme Court’s call aims to foster the growth and development of younger lawyers by giving them more opportunities to argue cases, especially during court vacations.