ISSUE XI (NOVEMBER 9- NOVEMBER 15)


ISSUE 11
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1. CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST LEGISLATORS: IMPLEMENT WITNESS PROTECTION SCHEME, NO UNNECESSARY ADJOURNMENTS, DIRECTS SC:

Case Name:Ashwini Upadhyay v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 699/2016.

The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, while considering the PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyay raising the issue of pendency of criminal cases against legislators, directed that no unnecessary adjournments should be granted in criminal cases pending against legislators across the country and also emphasized that the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 must be enforced by the concerned courts. While issuing the directives, the Court noted the report submitted by various High Courts as well as the report submitted by the Amicus Curiae Sr. Adv. Vijay Hansaria. The Bench also reiterated the earlier directions issued on September 16 regarding vacation of stay that may have been granted by the High Courts. The Court clarified that these directions are applicable to cases involving both sitting as well as former legislators (MPs and MLAs).


2. SC TO HEAR PETITIONS AGAINST ANDHRA GOVERNMENT’S PRESS CONFERENCE ACCUSING JUSTICE NV RAMANA AND HC JUDGES:

The Supreme Court on 16/11/2020 will hear two petitions against Andhra Pradesh Government’s Press Conference wherein Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy revealed that he had written a letter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, making allegations against Supreme Court Judge NV Ramana. A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit will be presiding over the matter.

Underlining the importance of the independence and integrity of the judiciary, one of the pleas has been filed by Advocate GS Mani, seeking for the records of the sitting Chief Minister and to declare that he has no authority to hold his office as he is misusing the same.

Submitting that the Executive should not encroach the Judiciary's sphere by making false allegations, the plea attempts to highlight the injury that can be caused to public confidence and faith bestowed in the Judiciary by making "false, vague and scandalized remarks and political allegation openly in the public and media". The plea also alludes to the sitting Chief Minister's involvement in a number of criminal cases with the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Court, and therefore, avers that the allegations have been made to tarnish the reputation of the Court for personal gain and motive.

The second petition has been filed on behalf of Sunil Kumar Singh, a practicing lawyer, through Advocate-on-Record Mukti Singh, and the petition seeks a stop on such press briefings by the Chief Minister against judges and to issue "show cause notice" to him as to why suitable action should not be taken against him. The plea states that the Press Conference by the Chief Minister made unsubstantiated allegations against an honorable judge of this Hon'ble court and it was an attempt to tarnish the Majesty of the highest court of the country.


3. EMPLOYER FREE TO REJECT OVER-QUALIFIED APPLICANTS: SC

A prospective employer has discretion not to appoint a candidate who may have a “higher qualification”, but not the one prescribed for the job vacancy, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said courts have limited judicial review over such decisions by employers.Prescription of qualifications for a post is a matter of recruitment policy. Discretion lies with the employer.

No role for courts

“It is for the employer to determine and decide the relevancy and suitability of the qualifications for any post, and it is not for the courts to consider and assess,” Justice M.R. Shah, who authored the verdict, pointed out.

The apex court said courts allow a “greater latitude” for employers to prescribe the necessary qualification for a post.“There is a rationale behind it... Qualifications are prescribed keeping in view the need and interest of an institution or an industry or an establishment as the case may be. The Courts are not fit instruments to assess expediency or advisability or utility of such prescription of qualifications,” the apex court judgment explained.It, however, noted that an employer cannot act arbitrarily or fancifully in prescribing qualifications for posts.

The judgment came on an appeal filed by the Punjab National Bank against an Orissa High Court decision allowing an over-qualified candidate to be appointed as a peon. The Supreme Court set aside the High Court decision of November 22, 2019 upholding an over-qualified candidate’s claim to a job as peon in the bank.It noted that this candidate had deliberately not disclosed the fact that he was a graduate. It was known only later.

Besides, the prescribed qualification for the job was Class XII pass. The Bank had a specific rule against appointing a graduate as peon.

Conscious decision

“In the present case, prescribing the eligibility criteria/educational qualification that a graduate candidate shall not be eligible and the candidate must have passed 12th standard is justified. It was a conscious decision taken by the Bank in force since 2008. Therefore, the High Court has clearly erred," the Supreme Court observed.


4. SC REFUSES PLEA AGAINST FIREWORKS BAN:

The Supreme Court declined to entertain a plea against the Calcutta HC ban on the sale and use of fire crackers during kali puja. The court observed that preservation of life is more important than festivals amid the pandemic. The court said that the pandemic had put life in peril, especially for those with co-morbidities. It said the HC order was based on its knowledge of the ground situation there.


5. DELHI RIOTS: HC ISSUES NOTICE ON PLEA CHALLENGING APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL PUBLIC PROSECUTORS:

On 24/06/2020 the Delhi Government issued a notification appointing 11 Special Public Prosecutors for conducting cases concerning the Delhi Riots. The Delhi Prosecutors Welfare Association filed a writ petition challenging the notification. According to the petition, the proposal made by the Delhi Police to appoint SPPs and the revised proposal submitted by the same were rejected by the Delhi Government which decided to appoint SPPs from the empanelled advocates. Subsequent to this, the Lieutenant Governor intervened and decided to appoint the members recommended by the police. The Petition contended that the unilateral decision by the L-G of Delhi is violative of Article 239AA and Article 21 of the Indian constitution and section 24 of the Criminal Procedure Code.


6. ORISSA HIGH COURT NOTIFIES RULES FOR COURT PROCEEDINGS THROUGH VIDEO CONFERENCING

In exercise of the powers conferred under Article 227(2) r/w Article 225 of the Indian Constitution, the Orissa High Court with the previous approval of the Governor of Odisha notified the Orissa High Court Video Conferencing for Court Rules, 2020. The objective is to consolidate, unify and streamline the procedure relating to the use of video conferencing for courts.


7. ORDER SUSPENDING TELECOM/INTERNET SERVICES SHALL NOT BE IN OPERATION FOR MORE THAN 15 DAYS: CENTRE AMENDS RULES

The Central Government has amended Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 to restrict the life of suspension orders. Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Amendment) Rules, 2020 has been notified by the Department of telecommunications and has come into force. The amendment inserted Sub Rule 2A, according to which, an order suspending telecom/internet services shall not be in operation for more than 15 days.


8. PROVIDE JUSTIFICATION FOR DENIAL OF INFORMATION; DON’T MERELY INVOKE EXEMPTION CLAUSE OF RTI ACT: CIC TELLS CBI

The appellant under section 3(Right to Information to all Citizens) of the RTI Act has sought information regarding preliminary inquiry and all other subsequent proceedings in the case against officials of MSME Development Institute and Thirumaran of M/S Integrated Assessment Services Pvt. Ltd. But the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) invoking section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act refused to release the information to the Appellant. Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act allows a public authority to withhold information if it impedes the process of an investigation or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders. The Chief Information Commissioner Vanaja N. Sarna relying upon the Delhi High Court’s ruling in the case of BhagatSingh v. Chief Information Commissioner stated that mere existence of an investigation process cannot be ground for refusal of the information and further directed the CPIO to provide justification for applicability of section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act with respect to information sought in the RTI application.

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