CURRENT FOCUS

In a major victory for Common Cause, the Supreme Court on Aug 2, 2017, imposed a hundred percent penalty on mining companies indulging in illegal mining on account of lack of forest and environment clearances, mining outside lease/permitted area and for mining in excess of what has been allowed.

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Common Cause Updates

Supreme Court:

  • Challenging the Lokpal Search Committee Rules: The court, on April 27, 2017, held that there is no justification to put the appointment of Lokpal on hold. The matter was earlier tagged with two other cases. The writ was allowed by the court and the matter was disposed on April 27, 2017, stating that the Lokpal Act as it stands is enforceable, turning down Center's argument to keep the Lokpal Act in suspension till the relevant laws are amended. The Court observed that if the Leader of the Opposition is not available, the chairperson and two other members of the selection committee may proceed to appoint an eminent jurist as a member of the selection panel.
  • Inquiry against Ex-Chairman, NHRC, KG Balakrishnan: Petition was filed for an enquiry against and removal of Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, the then Chairman, NHRC, for transgressions while holding the public office. The prayer for his removal became infructuous as he demitted office on May 2015, and an application was filed to amend the prayer. In February 2017 the court directed the Centre to file a response to our plea seeking a probe into the alleged disproportionate assets amassed by Shri Balakrishnan. The matter is likely to be listed in July, 2017.
  • Coal Block Allocation: On April 25, 2017, the CBI filed an FIR against its former director Shri Ranjit  Sinha in the coal block scam probe. In the hearing on July 10, 2017, the court criticised the CBI for transferring DIG Shri Ravi Kant, the officers investigating the coal scam cases since 2012, without the Court's permission. While the Court abstained from passing any order on the transfer, it directed that no CBI officer, who is investigating the coal scam cases, would be transferred without the explicit permission of the Court. The Court said that the present CBI director would head the SIT that would look into the report of the ML Sharma panel, which had prime facie indicted Shri Sinha in the matter.   On July 13, 2017, the Supreme Court held that the pleas challenging any interim order passed by a special court during the pendency of the trial will be entertained only by it, and refused to revisit its July 25, 2014 order in the matter. The three-judge bench noted that the coal block allocation scam needed to be treated in a manner different from the usual cases dealt by the court. Hence it rejected the plea of industrialist Naveen Jindal, one of the accused in the case, seeking permission to approach the High Court to challenge the trial court's order.
  • Writ against Illegal Mining in Odisha: This petition was filed to curb the rampant illegal mining in Odisha, following which the operation of 26 illegal mines was stayed in May 2014. The court in 2016 directed the states to consider applications of miners filed before January 2015 or 12 months before the expiry of the lease. The court held that mining leases will not lapse automatically unless the state governments hear the companies and pass orders to that effect. Judgement on the matter was reserved on May 8, 2017.
  • Corruption in Management of Defense Lands: The PIL seeks systemic reforms and court-monitored CBI investigation into illegalities and irregularities in management of defense lands. It was filed in the wake of CAG reports highlighting mismanagement noticed in audit of defense lands. On February 20, 2017, the court issued a notice to the Center directing it to evict encroachers from the defense lands. On July 11, 2017, submissions were made by the petitioner pertaining to computerization of land records, removal of encroachment on the defense lands, establishment of an independent regulator, etc. The Court noted that there was a need to consolidate the position regarding actions already taken by the government and actions which are supposed to be taken. The matter is likely to be listed on August 23, 2017.
  • Criminalisation of Politics: The PIL was filed for debarring persons charged with serious criminal offences from contesting elections and expediting the disposal of pending criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs. The constitutional validity of Section 8(4) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 was challenged. A landmark order was obtained in March 2014 for concluding criminal cases against lawmakers within a year of framing of the charges. The matter was tagged with two other cases with similar prayers and was referred to a Constitution Bench on March 8, 2016. In a hearing on July 12, 2017, the Court criticised the Election Commission for retracting its earlier position supporting a plea for lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers. The matter is likely to be listed again on August 18, 2017.

Allahabad High Court:

  • Audit of NOIDA, Greater Noida Authority and Yamuna Expressway Authority by CAG: The writ was filed in the light of the serious allegations of misconduct and corruption in the acquisition and disposal of land meant for public purposes and the need for auditing of accounts by CAG. As has been recently reported, the Government of Uttar Pradesh decided to conduct CAG audit of the three industrial development authorities- Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway. This was reportedly stated by UP Industrial Development department principle secretary Alok Sinha, in a letter to the Accountant General of the Economic and Revenue Sector Audit department on July 11, 2017. The matter was listed on May 29, 2017, and is likely to be listed again on August 18, 2017.

     

Volume: XXXVI No. 2
April June 2017