Justice Ranjan Gogoi delivers the third Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture — The Vision of Justice

PUBLISHED IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Full text of Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s speech at RNG Memorial Lecture:

I express my most heartfelt gratitude to The Express Group for extending this opportunity to me to deliver the lecture which has been organised in the memory of a man who was an institution in his own right: Ramnath Goenka ji.

While unlike some of you present here, I had not had the occasion to ever meet him, but, fortunately I have not been untouched by his proud legacy. Which gleams through that what he had founded as an answer to Gandhi ji’s call to start a swadeshi newspaper. Living in the realm of the Raj, it needed an iron-will and iron man and we found it in a young Ramnath ji. His legacy also gleams through the rich jurisprudence on the Freedom of the Press that he was instrumental in moulding, and which, by virtue of my Office, I work every day. It needed a committed and a cause-driven litigant – a rarity which it is nowadays – and we found it, yet again, in Ramnath ji. During the dark days of the Emergency, he stood as an unwavering gatekeeper of those fundamental liberties that we hold so dear today and that is his legacy too.

PART 1:

Today, after all these years, some remember him as the ‘Warrior of the Fourth Estate’ 1 , some remember him as a “dogged, unyielding adversary” 2 , some remember him as an “iconoclast”, some as a “magnificent rebel”. He was, at times unapologetic, at times uninhibited, at times even contradictory, but forever fierce, forever feisty, and forever fearless. His entire life trajectory from Darbhanga to Madras to Bombay; from the Constituent Assembly to the Newsroom to the Courtrooms, is a test case of its own kind that we, perhaps, need to use more often in our lives, in our institutions. Not too long back, I had read an interesting news article talking about the surprising surge – which is not so surprising, all things considered – in the sale of George Orwell’s 1984 in the United States. That piqued my interest in revisiting the classic. And, for some reason, I want to recollect a thought from it today. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress party along with former finance minister P Chidambaram at the third Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

If I had to put it very simply, for me, this is what Ramnath ji stood for. The freedom to say that two plus two make four. And, that is how I remember him as. Someone who could call Spade a Spade. Someone who could speak truth to power. Even if it came at a cost. To be ready to break, but not bend could be called obstinacy by some, and determination by others. Is it a matter of perspective? I do not know. And, I cannot say for others but as far as I am concerned, I only feel that we need to ask ourselves some questions: Where is the Goenka in us; his ideals; his values? Is that extraordinary phenomena losing his relevance today, after all these years? Why I have chosen the topic for this discourse merits a context too. And, this is the context. These are some sore questions, but too significant to get lost in the everydayness. And, when it is so, what other better tribute can there be to a visionary who embodied in so many ways the spirit of our Constitution, than to spend a thought. To spend a thought over how far we have come to achieve the vision that he had seen as someone who helped free the country in one era, and helped it become a meaningful Democracy in another.

PART 2:

I will use a few minutes to put across my proposition as to what I intend to say when I talk about the “Vision of Justice”. I will borrow from the Chief Editor Shri. Raj Kamal Jha himself, because it offers a very fine perspective. Very powerfully and thoughtfully and rightly, he said of Ramnath ji in one his letters to me, that, “fierce independence” and “enduring sense of inquiry without fear or favour” were the two values that Ramnath ji believed formed the “bedrock of Justice”. It is absolutely incontestable that they do and, for convenience, let me call them the Bedrock Principles. But, if I were to look at it anatomically, while these do indeed form the bedrock of Justice, what is the Form/Body of the ideal called Justice which rests on this bedrock? The Bedrock Principles have been the talk of the town lately considering how the entire thinktank is so keenly focused on it. And I am not suggesting that it ought not to be. It ought to be done and it is being done. I cannot recall the last time, the Judicial wing of the State made so much news. On a lighter note, let us recall, Hamilton (the American Founding Father) who had suggested that the Judiciary was the least dangerous branch of the State’s three branches – and I will refer to him again during the course of my address – but, were he to be here today, I wonder if he would have felt the same way. More so, in the light of the IE Top 100 Most Powerful Indians which included several names from the judiciary. But, the fact of the matter is that if we have to take stock of how we have fared – and about seven decades later since we ventured into becoming a Constitutional Order, this appears to be an opportune time to do so – we might as well do it comprehensively. And, by comprehensively what I mean is that we must evaluate both the Bedrock Principles and the Form Principles because the Vision of Justice, the way I understand it, is a compound of both. Clearly, they are not unconnected. And over the course of next about half an hour, I will attempt to touch upon both. I will begin with the Form Principles, and bear with me, in order to drive home my point, I may have to get somewhat academic.

From (L-R): Hrishikesh Roy, Chief Justice, Kerala High Court, Deepak Gupta, Judge, Supreme Court, N V Ramanna, Judge, Supreme Court, Madan B Lokur, Judge, Supreme Court at the third Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha) 

You will agree, that in the backdrop of a bleeding mega partition, deeply entrenched inequities, perpetuating injustices, our Constitution ushered us into believing in a grand promise of transformation on a scale that was beyond reformatory. It was, in all its full glory, a revolution in all aspects of life – social, economic, political. In a way, it said, let bygones be and the new society that we would be, would be egalitarian. While preserving our pluralistic character, we would be democratic and united too. The State would be religion-neutral, the citizens equal and together. Coming to think of it, it was just as pretentious as it was unpretentious an idea. But be that as it may, public institutions (one of them being the Judiciary) were inherited, they were tweaked where need was felt, to give life to this prodigious architecture of Justice. And, here, I would like to clarify that by justice, I am not implying only the juridical connotation of the word which is the administration of justice by the courts of law – although it is just as imperative – but justice is something that is an overarching principle, an underlying fundamental, the spirit, an order so to say. Which is why I say “prodigious”.

PART 3:

Because, it was a confluence of very many philosophies – [1] the Aristotelian, for instance, which suggests that the very essence of the State is justice which according to the philosopher was a social virtue; good of others; equality and fairness. When we peruse the Preamble to the Constitution- our vision document – is it not that this ideology is enshrined in the words “Equality of status and opportunity”? [2] Or, the Utilitarian philosophy of John Stuart Mill whose view was that justice was the greatest good to the greatest numbers. In the Preamble, is this not enshrined in the principles of “Socialism”, and “Equality” yet again? [3] Or, the relatively more modern one: the Rawlsian perspective which is that justice as fairness is the most egalitarian and also the most plausible concept of liberalism. In the Preamble, is this not reflected in the words “Liberty of thought, expression, belief”. So, the Preamble, if you deconstruct it precept-wise, is the very embodiment of these ideas. Justice is not something that is a standalone precept but an amalgam of other ideals like “socialism”; “democracy”; “liberty”; “equality”; “fraternity”, to name a few. They are not isolated silos because their undying endeavour is to establish one discipline – of overall justice, of an inclusive society. And, this is exactly what I meant by the Form Principles of Justice as an ideal. As a composite unit called Justice, these had been intended to be achieved by the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

Justice is not something that is a standalone precept but an amalgam of other ideals like “socialism”; “democracy”; “liberty”; “equality”; “fraternity”, to name a few — Justice Gogoi in his address. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Now, it will make for an incredibly interesting and if I may add overwhelmingly contentious tale to tell as to how the Executive and the Legislature have performed on this front. But the scope of my discourse will be limited to the judiciary’s endeavour in this regard. A few months back, I had the occasion to deliver the Justice P.D. Desai Memorial Lecture, at Ahmedabad. And, there I had proposed that attaining Constitutional Idealism was not like chasing a rainbow and the Supreme Court, through its pronouncements, had been reflecting it. It would not be a display of the pessimism of the intellect today, if I were to say that while, indeed, attaining Constitutional Idealism (= Vision of Justice) is not like chasing a rainbow, but, it is so only in the courtrooms. Perhaps, because fields are where the rainbows are (“fields” being the operative word). The point being that the way nation is built and the way this grand Vision of Justice is attained in the confines of the courts through judicial pronouncements and the way they are built on the ground are two very disparate realities. Agreed, the aspirational aspect of the Constitution and the operational aspect of the Constitution will always be two different notions. The aspirational aspect is high idealism of a kind that is almost moralistic and preachy. The operational aspect has to do with the very strange realities of the ground, almost defeating. But then even if we may be slow to move to bridge the gap between the two, which itself is not an acceptable compromise either, but we must, at the least, not become retrograde.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi: The judgments beyond their bare letter, say that, societal morality is fickle and not that, but constitutional morality that ought to dictate terms. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Take for example the 2015’s ruling in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India 3 (2015). It is a celebrated judgment, where the Supreme Court held that the public’s right to know was directly affected by Section 66A. Interestingly, while doing so, the Court was certainly inspired by, amongst other rulings, Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras 4 (1950); Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi 5 (1950); Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India 6 (1973). If you would recall, these were perhaps some of the earliest pronouncements protecting an Independent Indian’s Speech and Expression and were delivered in the light of the rights of the Press, which verdicts themselves had endorsed that a democracy was a marketplace of ideas where the people had a right to know; that prior restraints were anathematic to a democracy and that the freedom of speech and of the press is the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy. Shreya Singhal took this legacy ahead as it improved upon the jurisprudence on the independence of the Press to attain and promote the Constitutional precept of plurality of thought, diversity of opinion and the ethos of democracy in the tech-age and in the context of online speech. The Vision of Justice was indeed attained in the courtroom. Not once, but multiple times. But has it translated into reality? Has the success of these sterling verdicts reached the ground? I will let the facts speak for themselves. On the ground, it is a descent into chaos. And it is worrisome on all counts when you sue the messenger or when you shoot the messenger, or when the messenger itself declines to deliver the message because of the fear psychosis. On the 19 th June, The Indian Express had published a very insightful article (selected from The Economist) titled as ‘How Democracy Dies”.

From (L-R): Acting Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice Gita Mittal, Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, CPI leader D Raja and jurist Soli Sorabjee at the third Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

It said, at one place, that, “…independent judges and noisy journalists are democracy’s first line of defence…Reports of the death of democracy are greatly exaggerated. But, the least bad system of government ever devised is in trouble. It needs defenders.” I agree but will only suggest a slight modification in today’s context – not only independent judges and noisy journalists, but even independent journalists and sometimes noisy judges. While Shreya Singhal was significant in its own right, NALSA v. Union of India 7 breathed new life into the Equality principle. The Court understood that our Founding Fathers’ vision about fundamental right against sex discrimination was to prevent differential treatment as a result of one’s not conforming to generalizations. The judgment made a momentous foray into the fountain-head of dynamism. And, I will get back to it but before I do that, I must touch upon a very fascinating judgment of 1986 vintage called Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala 8 . This was a case where three Jehovah’s Witnesses had refused to sing the National Anthem (as their tenets dictated so) when it was being sung in their school. They did stand up though. Nevertheless, they were expelled from the school. When the case found its way to the Supreme Court, while holding that the expulsion would be in violation of their Fundamental Right to ‘freedom of conscience’, the Court observed that “the real test of a true democracy is the ability of even an insignificant minority to find its identity under the country’s Constitution.”

Former Chief Justice of India Rajendra Mal Lodha (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

The court also felt the need to add a thought. And, I feel compelled to quote it. It is the penultimate line of the verdict and it says – “our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it.” Recently. in Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sangam v. Government of Tamil Nadu 9 , the Court held that even in the matters of religious beliefs, constitutional legitimacy cannot be foregone and following Justice B.K. Mukherjea in Shirur Mutt case (of 1954), went on to hold that it is not the State or the religious Indian but the Constitutional Court which decides on what constitutes essential practices of any particular religion.

Some of you could be wondering about how these judgments are even related. They are not. But, they are, at the same time. Dissimilarity is that the first one originates in a very intimate, private sphere of life and the other two originate in what everybody seems to want to have a say in – the matters of faith. But, it is the similarity that should be the take away. The judgments beyond their bare letter, say that, societal morality is fickle and not that, but constitutional morality that ought to dictate terms. As an Israeli judge Aharon Barak points out, it is not the transient spirits of time but the fundamental values that should be the guiding voice 10.

In a way, it said, let bygones be and the new society that we would be, would be egalitarian. While preserving our pluralistic character, we would be democratic and united too. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

In his last address to the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Ambedkar had said that we must not only be a political democracy but a social democracy as the former cannot last unless lies at the base of it the former. And, social democracy, he defined, as a way of life which recognises liberty, equality, fraternity as one principle. I wouldn’t want to wade into knowing if we are a successful political democracy, but, I do, earnestly believe, that we are a social democracy, in all aspects. But again, largely jurisprudentially. And the disparity is there because the two Indias – both just as perceptible – are at conflict. There is an India that believes that it is the New Order and there is an India that lives below a ridiculously drawn Poverty Line on daily wages in night shelters with no access to education or healthcare, let alone access to the Courts of Law. The ambivalence is intriguing. And, this is exactly what I call as getting lost in translation. One India in the aforementioned perspective is the Vision and to know how far we have succeeded in attaining this Vision of Justice is really a matter of perception. But nevertheless, there is a graphic disparity right there and removing this disparity will be the mission for the Indian Judiciary in the times to come. And if I may add, for that to happen, it is going to require a “constitutional moment” of its own kind in the life of this institution, which I believe has been long overdue.

“I will only say that if it wishes to preserve its moral and institutional leverage, it must remain uncontaminated,” says Justice Gogoi. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

The Constitutional history with reference to this institution as a whole (and, especially the Supreme Court) would show that its own role has constantly evolved in the light of the socio-political context. If 1970-1980 was the decade where it expounded the Basic Structure Doctrine, in 1980s, it constantly expanded the scope of Article 21 and by 1990s, it became somewhat of a “Good Governance Court” by innovatively interpreting Constitutional provisions to address the inadequacies consequent upon executive and legislative inactivity. In the first fifty years since our independence, the court has created a very sound jurisprudence which we continue to reap from. It is the inertia really that has kept us going till now. But the way things stand today, court processes are a trial even before the trial has begun. While I cannot say if it is a collective failure on our part but for a nation governed by the rule of law, is it not a matter of concern that to this extent at least, we are defying the idea of inclusiveness? Not a reform but a revolution is what it needs, to be able to meet the challenges on the ground and to keep this institution serviceable for a common man and relevant for the nation. For the effectiveness of the judgments to show, the justice dispensation system has to be made more result oriented i.e. to say, more focused on enforcement. I understand what Mr. Arun Shourie 11 suggests when he wonders if the judiciary is not being an “accessory to the resulting deterioration”, when it in its hopefulness and optimism, doesn’t go after its mandate till its implementation. I find it difficult to agree wholeheartedly. But I will certainly say that the judiciary must certainly be more pro-active, more on the front foot. This is what I would call as redefining its role as an institution in the matters of enforcement and efficacy of the spirit of its diktats, of course, subject to constitutional morality (= separation of powers) again. I will even go ahead to say that the institution, at all levels, needs to become more dynamic in the matters of interpretation of laws. And, this is what I mean to say by a constitutional moment of its own kind. However, it is going to be a tall order both at the micro level and the macro level because both come with their unique sets of challenges.

Executive Director of The Express Group Anant Goenka (left) presents a sketch to Justice Ranjan Gogoi at the third RNG Lecture in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express Photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

By micro level, what I mean is administration of justice on day-to-day basis. Here, the so-called “inefficiency” and “slow processes” have been historical challenges. I will put it very simply. The judiciary today is not a poor workman who blames his tools, but it is a workman with no tools. I am not going to saddle you with the figures that we keep consuming every day on pendency, arrears and judges’ strength but in the light of what a French author had once said, “Everything has been said already, but as no one listens, we must begin again.” 12 , I will only ask and request those at the helm to finally listen so that we must not have to begin again. In addition to that, I also feel that there is a pressing need to explore the endless limits of legal services mechanism. Legal awareness and legal empowerment of the marginalised in this vastly unequal society of ours, have to be a made an observable reality. Let me give you one instance which is glaring insofar as personal liberty is concerned. 67% of the prison population are undertrials, mostly belonging to the underprivileged classes and 47% of them are between the age of 18-30 years. Compare this with the U.K. where it is about 7% and the U.S. which is acknowledged to have a high rate of incarceration where the percentage is 22.7%. The period of about one year that a majority of the undertrials have been in custody would hardly redeem the situation. Will it be wrong to suggest that a fair share of our demographic dividend is being unjustifiably lodged in the jails and mostly for petty or less serious offences?

The judiciary, with whatever little it has had at its hand, has been a proud guardian of the great Constitutional vision. (Express Photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

At the macro level, the judiciary as an institution is being seen as a course corrector, a leveller, a democratiser of sorts. And, since it is too well known that this country is on the cusp of an evolution, naturally it will have implications for this institution just as much. I would like you to recall that I had mentioned about Hamilton in the beginning of the discourse. While contemplating the U.S. Constitution 13 , he had said that the judiciary is the weakest of three branches because it neither has force of the Executive nor the will of the Legislature, but only judgment. This, and which I agree with absolutely, he said, was the “simple view of the matter”. The complex view is this. And which he was wise enough to warn about over two centuries ago. He had said that while the civil liberties will have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, they will have everything to fear from the union of the judiciary with either of the other two branches.

Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Justice Surya Kant (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

I would like to believe, this is why, Ramnath ji had also said that “fierce independence” is indeed the bedrock of justice. But I would like to add that “independence” must always be responsible with due regard to established Constitutional values. This institution is the last bastion of hope and the one that the citizenry believes firmly, will give justice to them, come what may. And it has. The judiciary, with whatever little it has had at its hand, has been a proud guardian of the great Constitutional vision. It fills me with immense pride to see that as an institution, the judiciary has been endowed with great societal trust. This very fact gives it its credibility and this very credibility gives it its legitimacy. It is a very enviable spot for an institution. I will only say that if it wishes to preserve its moral and institutional leverage, it must remain uncontaminated. And, independent. And, fierce. And, at all times. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So is an institution. And if introspection is where we have to begin, we might as well begin there. Perhaps, we can hope and endeavour that in the future, it is not our finality, but really our infallibility that should define us. It is my imagination of an ideal world and I am aware of what Carl Jung had said of it. He had had said that, “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.” I don’t know how true his view holds on other counts, but as far as idealism is concerned, I would say, it should be pursued like an axiom. Thank you very much.

Jai Hind!

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Hanging in balance: No executive interference required

opinion1RAJINDER SACHAR IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

The judiciary has been praised by some for its role in exposing corruption in politics, while others point to the defective method of selection of judges through the collegium system to criticise it. To prevent further easy public slapping of the judiciary, we must now finalise the method of appointment.

The suggested pattern of a judicial appointments commission broadly fills the void. It is headed by the chief justice of India (CJI) and includes the next two senior judges, the Union law minister, two eminent persons (emphasis added) to be selected by the prime minister, the CJI and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. Some rightly feel that “eminent persons” should be substituted with “eminent jurists”, because “eminence” by itself is too vague. Instead, “eminent jurist” would provide a larger field of academics, authors, outstanding lawyers (no longer practising, of course). The fear that the presence of a lay person would interfere with the independence of the judiciary is misplaced. As the Judicial Commission of New South Wales Annual Report said: “Judicial independence is not some kind of industrial benefit generously extended to judges and magistrates, it is [the] fundamental principle of our society’s constitutional arrangements.”

The provision with regard to the appointment of high court judges, however, states, unacceptably, that the JAC is only required to elicit (emphasis added) the views of the governor, chief minister and the chief justice of the high court. I can hardly see any relevance of eliciting the view of the chief minister separately from the governor. I, however, take strong objection to reducing the position of the chief justice of a high court to merely eliciting his view. The advice of the chief justice of a high court as to the suitability or otherwise of a person to be appointed a judge of a high court should normally be accepted.

Reportedly, though technically the collegium is being sought to be abolished, the CJI has asked chief justices of the high courts to consult their colleagues, even junior ones, as far as possible. But this suggestion may only be observed in the breach. I remember that in 1977, the Janata government’s informal suggestion that the chief justices of the high courts consult two senior colleagues was observed more in the breach. It was only when the collegium system was established that the chief justices of the high courts had no option but to consult their colleagues.

However, this did not mean that the government has accepted the collegium’s recommendation in all cases. In 1985, the chief justice of a high court and his two senior-most colleagues recommended four names, with the clarification that they must be appointed in the order in which the names were sent. This was done to prevent the government from picking and choosing on the specious argument that some names had not yet been cleared by the CBI and the appointments might be delayed, while those lower down the list could be appointed immediately. This was opposed by the chief justice, and the law ministry was so affronted that the government did not appoint any judge during his tenure. Afterwards, too, the law ministry first appointed new names and only later appointed those recommended by the earlier collegium. So the government’s intervention can only be checked by a strong judiciary. It is for this reason that I have reservations on doing away with collegiums entirely. The collegium system is welcome inasmuch as it constitutes a wider circle of three judges, rather than leaving it solely to the chief justice of the high court. The CJI’s advice to consult two more judges is welcome. I see no reason to abolish the collegium system at the high court level (which, after all, is only recommendatory). The appointments are now to be made under the provisions of the proposed JAC.

I am amazed that, so far, a serious self-inflected injury is being overlooked — that is, appointing the chief justices of high courts outside their parent court. I have never understood the logic of transferring the senior-most judge, whose turn to head the court in which he has worked for almost 10 to 15 years, and with the functioning and lower judiciary of which he is most familiar, has come. To transfer him to a new court for a period of one or two years or even less, to which he is a total stranger and most likely unaware of the names of his colleagues, is strange. At present, one has the embarrassing spectacle of a chief justice being transferred to a state where he cannot even understand the language. The chief justice of a high court should be the senior-most judge of the same court. This alone will lend strength and dignity to the high courts.

Section 8 of the new bill contemplates asking the state and Central governments to send recommendations for the selection of judges. I find this to be a frontal attack on the judiciary. After a JAC is constituted, the state or Central governments have no locus standi and should be outsiders in the process of selection. I agree though that the JAC should make public the names it is contemplating for appointments to high courts and the Supreme Court. This will make the process more open and participatory, and also negate the charge of secret manoeuvring in the appointment of judges.

The writer is a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court

‘Wholly arbitrary, capricious and contrary to public interest’

Supreme Court of India

Reproduced here are excerpts from the concluding paragraphs of the Supreme Court’s verdict cancelling 122 2G licences issued during A. Raja’s term as Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

69. …There is a fundamental flaw in the principle of first-come-first-served inasmuch as it involves an element of pure chance or accident. In matters involving award of contracts or grant of licence or permission to use public property, the invocation of first-come-first-served principle has inherently dangerous implications. Any person who has access to power corridor at the highest or the lowest level may be able to obtain information from the Government files or the files of the agency/instrumentality of the State that a particular public property or asset is likely to be disposed of or a contract is likely to be awarded or a licence or permission would be given. He would immediately make an application and would become entitled to stand first in the queue at the cost of all others who may have a better claim… the duty of the Court to exercise its power in larger public interest and ensure that the institutional integrity is not compromised the State and its agencies/instrumentalities must always adopt a rational method for disposal of public property and no attempt should be made to scuttle the claim of worthy applicants. When it comes to alienation of scarce natural resources like spectrum etc., the State must always adopt a method of auction by giving wide publicity so that all eligible persons may participate in the process. Any other methodology for disposal of public property and natural resources/national assets is likely to be misused by unscrupulous people who are only interested in garnering maximum financial benefit and have no respect for the constitutional ethos and values.

70. The exercise undertaken by the officers of the DoT [Department of Telecommunication] between September, 2007 and March 2008, under the leadership of the then Minister of C&IT [Communications & Information Technology] [A.Raja] was wholly arbitrary, capricious and contrary to public interest apart from being violative of the doctrine of equality. The material produced before the Court shows that the Minister of C&IT wanted to favour some companies at the cost of the Public Exchequer and for this purpose, he took the following steps:

(i) Soon after his appointment as Minister of C&IT, he directed that all the applications received for grant of UAS [Universal Access Service] Licence should be kept pending till the receipt of TRAI [Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India] recommendations.

(ii) The recommendations made by TRAI on 28.8.2007 were not placed before the full Telecom Commission which, among others, would have included the Finance Secretary. The notice of meeting of the Telecom Commission was not given to any of the non permanent members …

(iii) The officers of the DoT who attended the meeting of the Telecom Commission held on 10.10.2007 hardly had any choice but to approve the recommendations made by TRAI [or] they would have incurred the wrath of Minister of C&IT.

(iv) In view of the approval by the Council of Ministers of the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers, DoT had to discuss the issue of spectrum pricing with the Ministry of Finance…However, as the Minister of C&IT was very much conscious of the fact that the Secretary, Finance, had objected to the allocation of 2G spectrum at the rates fixed in 2001, he did not consult the Finance Minister or the officers of the Finance Ministry.

(v) The Minister of C&IT brushed aside the suggestion made by the Minister of Law and Justice for placing the matter before the empowered Group of Ministers. Not only this, within few hours of the receipt of the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in his letter dated 2.11.2007 that keeping in view the inadequacy of spectrum, transparency and fairness should be maintained in the matter of allocation of the spectrum, the Minister of C&IT rejected the same by saying that it will be unfair, discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious to auction the spectrum to new applicants because it will not give them level playing field. He simultaneously introduced cut off date as 25.9.2007 for consideration of the applications received for grant of licence despite the fact that only one day prior to this, press release was issued by the DoT fixing 1.10.2007 as the last date for receipt of the applications. This arbitrary action of the Minister of C&IT though appears to be innocuous was actually intended to benefit some of the real estate companies who did not have any experience in dealing with telecom services and who had made applications only on 24.9.2007, i.e. one day before the cut off date fixed by the Minister of C&IT on his own.

(vi) The cut off date, i.e. 25.9.2007 decided by the Minister of C&IT on 2.11.2007 was not made public till 10.1.2008 and the first-come-first served principle, which was being followed since 2003 was changed by him at the last moment through press release dated 10.1.2008. This enabled some of the applicants, who had access either to the Minister or the officers of the DoT, to get the bank drafts etc. prepared towards performance guarantee etc. of about Rs.1600 crores.

(vii) The manner in which the exercise for grant of LoIs [letters of intent] to the applicants was conducted on 10.1.2008 leaves no room for doubt that every thing was stage managed to favour those who were able to know in advance change in the implementation of the first-come-first served principle…

71. The argument of Shri Harish Salve, learned senior counsel that if the Court finds that the exercise undertaken for grant of UAS Licences has resulted in violation of the institutional integrity, then all the licences granted 2001 onwards should be cancelled does not deserve acceptance because those who have got licence between 2001 and 24.9.2007 are not parties to these petitions and legality of the licences granted to them has not been questioned before this Court.

72. In majority of judgments relied upon by learned Attorney General and learned counsel for the respondents, it has been held that the power of judicial review should be exercised with great care and circumspection and the Court should not ordinarily interfere with the policy decisions of the Government in financial matters. There cannot be any quarrel with [this]. However, when it is clearly demonstrated before the Court that the policy framed by the State or its agency/instrumentality and/or its implementation is contrary to public interest or is violative of the constitutional principles, it is the duty of the Court to exercise its jurisdiction in larger public interest …When matters like these are brought before the judicial constituent of the State by public spirited citizens, it becomes the duty of the Court to exercise its power in larger public interest and ensure that the institutional integrity is not compromised by those in whom the people have reposed trust and who have taken oath to discharge duties in accordance with the Constitution and the law …

73. Before concluding, we consider it imperative to observe that but for the vigilance of some enlightened citizens … and non governmental organisations who have been constantly fighting for clean governance and accountability of the constitutional institutions, unsuspecting citizens and the nation would never have known how scarce natural resource spared by the Army has been grabbed by those who enjoy money power and who have been able to manipulate the system.

74. In the result, the writ petitions are allowed in the following terms:

(i) The licences granted to the private respondents on or after 10.1.2008 pursuant to two press releases issued on 10.1.2008 and subsequent allocation of spectrum to the licensees are declared illegal and are quashed.

(ii) The above direction shall become operative after four months.

(iii) Within two months, TRAI shall make fresh recommendations for grant of licence and allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 Service Areas by auction, as was done for allocation of spectrum in 3G band.

(iv) The Central Government shall consider the recommendations of TRAI and take appropriate decision within next one month and fresh licences be granted by auction.

(v) Respondent Nos.2, 3 and 9 who were benefited by a wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional action taken by the DoT for grant of UAS Licences and allocation of spectrum in 2G band and who off-loaded their stakes for many thousand crores in the name of fresh infusion of equity or transfer of equity shall pay cost of Rs.5 crores each. Respondent Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 10 shall pay cost of Rs.50 lakhs each because they too had been benefited by the wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional exercise undertaken by the DoT for grant of UAS Licences and allocation of spectrum in 2G band.

(vi) 50% of the cost shall be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for being used for providing legal aid to indigent litigants. The remaining 50% cost shall be deposited in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

(vii) However, it is made clear that the observations and conclusions contained in this order shall not, in any manner, affect the pending investigation by the CBI, Directorate of Enforcement and others agencies or prejudice the defence of those who are facing prosecution in the cases registered by the CBI and the Special Judge, CBI shall decide the matter uninfluenced by this judgment.

Justice G.S. Singhvi

Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly

New Delhi

Don’t sit on sanction for prosecution in corruption cases, says Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India

In a blow to every corrupt politician or bureaucrat shielded by the executive’s unwillingness to let them stand trial, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set a three-month deadline for governments to decide whether or not to grant sanction for prosecution under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly was allowing a petition filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who questioned the delay on the part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the sanctioning authority, in granting sanction for prosecution of the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, in the 2G spectrum allocation case.

The Bench gave two concurring judgments and held that Dr. Swamy had the locus standi to file a private complaint and seek sanction for prosecution. Justice Singhvi said: “Keeping in view the fact that the Special Judge, CBI, has already taken cognisance of the offences committed by Mr. A. Raja under the PC Act, we do not consider it necessary to give any other direction in the matter.”

Justice Singhvi held that had the Prime Minister been apprised of the true, factual and legal position on Dr. Swamy’s representation, he would surely have taken an appropriate decision and would not have allowed the matter to linger for more than one year.

Justice Ganguly said: “Delay in granting sanction has spoilt many a valid prosecution and is adversely viewed in [the] public mind that in the name of considering a prayer for sanction, protection is given to a corrupt public official as a quid pro quo for services rendered by the official in the past or maybe [to be rendered] in the future and the sanctioning authority and the corrupt officials were or are partners in the same misdeeds.”

The Bench rejected Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati’s argument that the question of grant of sanction for prosecution of a public servant charged with any of the offences enumerated under Section 19(1) would arise only when the court decided to take cognisance and any request made prior to that was premature.

Justice Singhvi, however, said: “At the same time, we deem it proper to observe that in future every competent authority shall take appropriate action on the representation made by a citizen for sanction of prosecution of a public servant strictly in accordance with the direction [of the Supreme Court] in [the case of] Vineet Narain vs Union of India and the guidelines framed by the Central Vigilance Commission. While considering the issue regarding grant or refusal of sanction, the only thing which the competent authority is required to see is whether the material placed by the complainant or the investigating agency prima facie discloses commission of an offence. The competent authority cannot undertake a detailed inquiry to decide whether or not the allegations made against the public servant are true.”

Justice Ganguly said: “Parliament should consider the constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining the rule of law wherein ‘due process of law’ has been read into it by introducing a time limit in Section 19 of the P.C. Act 1988 for its working in a reasonable manner.” Making it clear that the power under Section 19 must be reasonably exercised, he said “Parliament and the appropriate authority must consider restructuring Section 19 of the P.C. Act in such a manner as to make it consonant with reason, justice and fair play.”

The judge said: “Where consultation is required with the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General or the Advocate-General of the State, as the case may be, and the same is not possible within the three months, an extension of one-month period may be allowed, but the request for consultation is to be sent in writing within the three months. A copy of the request will be sent to the prosecuting agency or the private complainant to intimate him about the extension of the time limit.”

At the end of the extended period, “if no decision is taken, sanction will be deemed to have been granted to the proposal for prosecution, and the prosecuting agency or the private complainant will proceed to file the charge sheet/complaint in the court to commence prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of the aforementioned time limit.”

Several cases in which sanction was unduly delayed were quashed by the Supreme Court, the judge pointed out. “Thus, in many cases public servants whose sanction proposals are pending before authorities for long periods of time are being allowed to escape criminal prosecution.”

Justice Ganguly said: “By causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the sanctioning authority stultifies judicial scrutiny and determination of the allegations against [a] corrupt official and thus the legitimacy of the judicial institutions is eroded. It, thus, deprives a citizen of his legitimate and fundamental right to get justice by setting the criminal law in motion and thereby frustrates his right to access judicial remedy which is a constitutionally protected right.”

Justice Ganguly :

Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitutional governance, it also threatens the very foundation of Indian democracy and the Rule of Law. The magnitude of corruption in our public life is incompatible with the concept of a socialist, secular democratic republic. It cannot be disputed that where corruption begins all rights end.

 Corruption devalues human rights, chokes development and undermines justice, liberty,equality, fraternity which are the core values in our preambular vision. Therefore, the duty of the Court is that any anti-corruption law has to be interpreted and worked out in such a fashion as to strengthen the fight against corruption. That is to say in a situation where two constructions are eminently reasonable, the Court has to accept the one that seeks to eradicate corruption to the one which seeks to perpetuate it.

 Time and again this Court has expressed its dismay and shock at the ever growing tentacles of corruption in our society but even then situations have not improved much. [See Sanjiv Kumar v. State of Haryana & ors., (2005) 5 SCC 517; State of A.P. v. V. Vasudeva Rao, (2004) 9 SCC 319; Shobha Suresh Jumani v. Appellate Tribunal Forfeited Property & another, (2001) 5 SCC 755; State of M.P. & ors. v. Ram Singh, (2000) 5 SCC 88; J. Jayalalitha v. Union of India & another, (1999) 5 SCC 138; Major S.K. Kale v. State of Maharashtra, (1977) 2 SCC 394.]

 Learned Attorney General in the course of his submission fairly admitted before us that out of total 319 requests for sanction, in respect of 126 of such requests, sanction is awaited. Therefore, in more than 1/3rd cases of request for prosecution in corruption cases against public servants, sanctions have not been accorded. The aforesaid scenario raises very important constitutional issues as well as some questions relating to interpretation of such sanctioning provision and also the role that an independent judiciary has to play in maintaining rule of law and common man’s faith in the justice delivering system.

 Both rule of law and equality before law are cardinal questions in our Constitutional Laws as also in International law and in this context the role of the judiciary is very vital. In his famous treatise on Administrative Law, Professor Wade while elaborating the concept of rule of law referred to the opinion of Lord Griffith’s which runs as follows:

 “the judiciary accept a responsibility for the maintenance of the rule of law that embraces a willingness to oversee executive action and to refuse to countenance behaviour that threatens either basic human rights or the rule of law.”

[See R. v. Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court ex p. Bennett {1994) 1 AC 42 at 62]

I am in respectful agreement with the aforesaid principle. In this connection we might remind ourselves that courts while maintaining rule of law must structure its jurisprudence on the famous formulation of Lord Coke where the learned Law Lord made a comparison between “the golden and straight metwand of law” as opposed to “the uncertain and crooked cord of discretion”.

The right of private citizen to file a complaint against a corrupt public servant must be equated with his right to access the Court in order to set the criminal law in motion against a corrupt public official. This right of access, a Constitutional right should not be burdened with unreasonable fetters. When a private citizen approaches a court of law against a corrupt public servant who is highly placed, what is at stake is not only a vindication of personal grievance of that citizen but also the question of bringing orderliness in society and maintaining equal balance in the rule of law. It was pointed out by the Constitution Bench of this Court in Sheonandan Paswan vs. State of Bihar and Others, (1987) 1 SCC 288 at page 315:

 “……It is now settled law that a criminal proceeding is not a proceeding for vindication of a private grievance but it is a proceeding initiated for the purpose of punishment to the offender in the interest of the society. It is for maintaining stability and orderliness inthe society that certain acts are constituted offences and the right is given to any citizen to set the

machinery of the criminal law in motion for the purpose of bringing the offender to book. It is for this reason that in A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak this Court pointed out that (SCC p. 509, para 6) “punishment of the offender in the interest of the society being one of the objects behind penal statutes enacted for larger good of the society, right to initiate proceedings cannot be whittled down, circumscribed or fettered by putting it into a strait jacket formula of locus standi……”

 Keeping those principles in mind, as we must, if we look at Section 19 of the P.C. Act which bars a Court from taking cognizance of cases of corruption against a public servant under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the Act, unless the Central or the State Government, as the case may be, has accorded sanction, virtually imposes fetters on private citizens and also on

prosecutors from approaching Court against corrupt public servants. These protections are not available to other citizens. Public servants are treated as a special class of persons enjoying the said protection so that they can perform their duties without fear and favour and without threats of malicious prosecution. However, the said protection against malicious prosecution which was extended in public interest cannot become a shield to protect corrupt officials. These provisions being exceptions to the equality provision of Article 14 are analogous to provisions of protective discrimination and these protections must be construed very narrowly. These procedural provisions relating to sanction must be construed in such a manner as to advance the causes of honesty and justice and good governance as opposed to escalation of corruption. Therefore, in every case where an application is made to an appropriate authority for grant of prosecution in connection with an offence under P.C. Act it is the bounden duty of such authority to apply its mind urgently to the situation and decide the issue without being influenced by any extraneous consideration. In doing so, the authority must make a conscious effort to ensure the rule of law and cause of justice is advanced. In considering the question of granting or refusing such sanction, the authority is answerable to law and law alone. Therefore, the requirement to take the decision with a reasonable dispatch is of the essence in such a situation. Delay in granting sanction proposal thwarts a very valid social purpose, namely, the purpose of a speedy trial with the requirement to bring the culprit to book. Therefore, in this case the right of the sanctioning authority, while either sanctioning or refusing to grant sanction, is coupled with a duty. The sanctioning authority must bear in mind that what is at stake is the public confidence in the maintenance of rule of law which is fundamental in the administration of justice. Delay in granting such sanction has spoilt many valid prosecution and is adversely viewed in public mind that in the name of considering a prayer for sanction, a protection is given to a corrupt public official as a quid pro quo for services rendered by the public official in the past or may be in the future and the sanctioning authority and the corrupt officials were or are partners in the same misdeeds. I may hasten to add that this may not be factual position in this but the general demoralizing effect of such a popular perception is profound and pernicious. By causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the sanctioning authority stultifies judicial scrutiny and determination of the allegations against corrupt official and thus the legitimacy of the judicial institutions is eroded. It, thus, deprives a citizen of his legitimate and fundamental right to get justice by setting the criminal law in motion and thereby frustrates his right to access judicial remedy which is a constitutionally protected right. In this connection, if we look at Section 19 of the P.C. Act, we find that no time limit is mentioned therein. This has virtually armed the sanctioning authority with unbridled power which has often resulted in protecting the guilty and perpetuating criminality and injustice in society.

 There are instances where as a result of delayed grant of sanction prosecutions under the P.C. Act against a public servant has been quashed. See Mahendra Lal Das vs. State of Bihar and Others, (2002) 1 SCC 149, wherein this Court quashed the prosecution as the sanctioning authority granted sanction after 13 years. Similarly, in the case of Santosh De vs. Archna Guha and Others, (1994) Supp.3 SCC 735, this Court quashed prosecution in a case where grant of sanction was unduly delayed. There are several such cases. The aforesaid instances show a blatant subversion of the rule of law. Thus, in many cases public servants whose sanction proposals are pending before authorities for long periods of time are being allowed to escape criminal prosecution.

 Article 14 must be construed as a guarantee against uncanalized and arbitrary power. Therefore, the absence of any time limit in granting sanction in Section 19 of the P.C. Act is not in consonance with the requirement of the due process of law which has been read into our Constitution by the Constitution Bench decision of this Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India and Another, (1978) 1 SCC 248.

I may not be understood to have expressed any doubt about the constitutional validity of Section 19 of the P.C. Act, but in my judgment the power under Section 19 of the P.C. Act must be reasonably exercised. In my judgment the Parliament and the appropriate authority must consider restructuring Section 19 of the P.C. Act in such a manner as to make it consonant with reason, justice and fair play.

In my view, the Parliament should consider the Constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining the rule of law wherein ‘due process of law’ has been read into by introducing a time limit in Section 19 of the P.C. Act 1988 for its working in a reasonable manner. The Parliament may, in my opinion, consider the following guidelines:

a)All proposals for sanction placed before any Sanctioning Authority, empowered to grant sanction for the prosecution of a public servant under section 19 of the P.C. Act must be decided within a period of three months of the receipt of the proposal by the concerned authority.

b)Where consultation is required with the Attorney General or the Solicitor General or the Advocate General of the State, as the case may be, and the same is not possible within the three months mentioned in clause (a) above, an extension of one month period may be allowed, but the request for consultation is to be sent in writing within the three months mentioned in (a) above. A copy of the said request will be sent to the prosecuting agency or the private complainant to intimate them about the extension of the time limit.

 c)At the end of the extended period of time limit, if no decision is taken, sanction will be deemed to have been granted to the proposal for prosecution, and the prosecuting agency or the private complainant will proceed to file the chargesheet/complaint in the court to commence prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of the aforementioned time limit. With these additional reasons, as indicated, I agree with Brother Singhvi, J., and allow the appeal and the judgment of the High Court is set aside.

Independents will not lose separate identity on joining coalition government: court

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

J VENKATESANIN THE HINDU

Bench lists reasons for setting aside disqualification of five Independents for expressing lack of faith in Yeddyurappa regime

By joining a coalition government and becoming Ministers, Independents will not lose their separate identity, and later by expressing lack of faith in the Chief Minister, they will not attract disqualification, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

A Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph gave this ruling while setting aside the Karnataka Assembly Speaker’s order disqualifying five Independents for expressing lack of faith in the government, led by the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. In May 2011, the Bench quashed the order and said it would give detailed reasons later.

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Kabir interpreted the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution relating to defections and held that the fact that the Independents had joined the BJP government would not mean that they had sacrificed their identities.

The Bench said: “It is no doubt true that an Independent legislator does not always have to express his intention to join a party in writing, but the mere extension of support to Mr. Yeddyurappa and the decision to join his Cabinet, in our view, were not sufficient to conclude that the appellants had decided to join and/or had actually joined the BJP, particularly on account of the subsequent conduct in which they were treated differently from the members of the BJP.”

“In the facts of this case, there is no material or evidence to show that the appellants had, at any time, joined the BJP. Even as Independents, the appellants could extend support to a government formed by a political party and could become a Minister in such government. There is no legal bar on… such extension of support or joining the government. Hence, such extension of support or joining the government as Minister by an Independent does not by itself mean that he has joined the political party which formed the government. There is also no evidence to show that the appellants were accepted and treated as members of the BJP by that … party. It is to be noted that the petitioners before the Speaker had no grievance about the appellants supporting the BJP government and becoming Ministers in the government for more than two years.”

The Bench said: “Only when the appellants withdrew support to the government led by Mr. Yeddyurappa and a confidence vote was scheduled to be held did the petitioners rake up the issue of alleged disqualification. The appellants, D. Sudhakar and others, even while participating in the meetings of the BJP Legislature Party, were shown separately in a category different from the other participants in such meetings, which clearly indicates that the appellants, though Ministers in the government led by Mr. Yeddyurappa, were treated differently from members of the BJP and were considered to be only lending support to the government…, without losing their independent status. Mere participation in the rallies or public meetings organised by the BJP cannot lead to the conclusion that the appellants had joined the BJP.”

The Bench said: “The order of disqualification passed by the Speaker was against the constitutional mandate in para 2(2) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.”

Indicting the Speaker for the procedure adopted by him to disqualify the MLAs, the Bench said: “It is obvious from the procedure adopted by the Speaker that he was trying to meet the time schedule set by the Governor for the trial of strength in the Assembly and to ensure that the appellants and the 13 BJP MLAs stood disqualified prior to the date on which the floor test was to be held. Having concluded the hearing on October10, 2010, by 5.00 p.m., the Speaker passed detailed orders, in which various judgments, both of Indian courts and foreign courts, and principles of law from various authorities, were referred to, … holding that the appellants and the other MLAs stood disqualified as Members of the House.”

The Bench pointed out that the vote of confidence took place on October 11 2010, in which the disqualified members could not participate, and in their absence Mr. Yeddyurappa was able to prove his majority. Unless it was to ensure that the trust vote did not go against the Chief Minister, there was hardly any reason for the Speaker to have taken up the disqualification applications in such a great haste.”

On the contention that the Speaker was not amenable to court jurisdiction, the Bench, citing various decisions, held that under the Constitution, “the Speaker discharges quasi-judicial functions, which makes an order passed by him in such capacity subject to judicial review.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2832406.ece

What will happen, if the protectors themselves become poachers? The then Chief Minister has let down the people of the city and the state, and the children.

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

LAW RESOURSCE INDIA

What will happen, if the protectors themselves become poachers? The then Chief Minister has let down the people of the city and the state, and the children. This iswhat the Supreme Court said about Mr Manohar Joshi former Speaker of Lok Sabha .

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court has slammed Shiv Sena leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi for handing over prime government land in Pune to his son-in-law for building a housing complex in 1998. In a severe indictment of Mr Joshi – also a former Lok Sabha Speaker – the court observed, “It is rather unfortunate that the then chief minister, who claims to be an educationist, took interest in releasing a plot duly reserved and acquired for a primary school only for the benefit of his son-in-law.”

The case, dating back to 1998, pertains to the change of land use of a plot meant for a primary school in Pune to favour a builder who was close to Mr Joshi’s son-in-law Girish Vyas. The nod for the change in the land use was given by Mr Joshi himself. The court has imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 on Mr Joshi and has asked his son-in-law, Mr Vyas, to surrender his claim on the ten-storied building that has come up on that land, failing which the structure would be demolished.

The Court in a wide ranging order while reminding the duties of the various agencies said that ” People of a state look up to the Chief Minister and those who occupy the high positions in the Government and the Administration for redressal of their grievances. Citizens are facing so many problems and it is expected of those in such positions to resolve them. Children are particularly facing serious problems concerning facilities for their education and sports, quality of teaching, their health and nutrition. It is the duty of those in high positions to ensure that their conduct should not let down the people of the country, and particularly the younger generation. The ministers, corporators and the administrators must zealously guard the spaces reserved for public amenities from the preying hands of the builders. What will happen, if the protectors themselves become poachers? Their decisions and conduct must be above board. Institutional trust is of utmost importance. In the case of Bangalore Medical Trust (supra) this court observed in paragraph 45 of its judgment that the directions of the Chief Minister, the apex public functionary of the State, was in breach of public trust, more like a person dealing with his private property than discharging his obligation as head of the State administration in accordance with law and rules Same is the case in the present matter where Shri Manohar Joshi, the then Chief Minister and Shri Ravindra Mane, the Minister of State have failed in this test, and in discharge of their duties. Nay, they have let down the people of the city and the state, and the children.”

We reproduce some important paragraphs from this judgement :

The Responsibility of the Municipal Commissioner and the Senior Government Officers

The Municipal Commissioner is the Chief Executive of the Municipal Corporation. It is his responsibility to act in accordance with these laws and to protect the interest of the Corporation. The Commissioner is expected to place the complete and correct facts before the Government when any such occasion arises, and stand by the correct legal position. That is what is expected of the senior administrative officers like him. That is why they are given appropriate  protection under the law. In this behalf, it is worthwhile to refer to the speech of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of independent India, made during the Constituent Assembly Debates, where he spoke about the need of the senior secretaries giving their honest opinions which may not be to the liking of the Minister. While speaking about the safeguards for the Members of Indian Civil Service (now Indian Administrative Service), he said-…To-day, my Secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given that freedom to all my Secretaries. I have told them `if you do not give your honest opinion for fear that it will displease your Minister, please then you had better go. I will bring another Secretary.’ I will never be displeased over a frank expression of opinion. That is what the Britishers were doing with the Britishers. We are now sharing the responsibility. You have agreed to share responsibility. Many of them with whom I have worked, I have no hesitation in saying that they are patriotic, as loyal and as sincere as myself(Ref: Constituent Assembly Debates. Vol.10 p. 50)

Now unfortunately, we have a situation where the senior officers are changing their position looking to the way the wind is blowing.

Expectations from the Political Executive

Same are the expectations from the political executive viz. that it must be above board, and must act in accordance with the law and not in furtherance of the interest of a relative. However, as the time has passed, these expectations are belied. That is why in the case of Shri Shivajirao Nilangekar (supra) this Court had to lament in paragraph 51 of the judgment as follows:- "51. This Court cannot be oblivious that there has been a steady decline of public standards or public morals and public morale. It is necessary to cleanse public life in this country along with or even before cleaning the physical atmosphere. The  pollution in our values and standards in (sic is) an equally grave menace as the pollution of the environment. Where such situations cry out, the courts should not and cannot remain mute and dumb

People of a state look up to the Chief Minister and those who occupy the high positions in the Government and the Administration for redressal of their grievances. Citizens are facing so many problems and it is expected of those in such positions to resolve them. Children are particularly facing serious problems concerning facilities for their education and sports, quality of teaching, their health and nutrition. It is the duty of those in high positions to ensure that their conduct should not let down the people of the country, and particularly the younger generation. The ministers, corporators and the administrators must zealously guard the spaces reserved for public amenities from the preying hands of the builders. What will happen, if the protectors themselves become poachers? Their decisions and conduct must be above board. Institutional trust is of utmost importance. In the case of Bangalore Medical Trust (supra) this court observed in paragraph 45 of its judgment that "the directions of the Chief Minister, the apex public functionary of the State, was in breach of public trust, more like a person dealing with his private property than discharging his obligation as head of the State administration in accordance with law and rules Same is the case in the present matter where Shri Manohar Joshi, the then Chief Minister and Shri Ravindra Mane, the Minister of State have failed in this test, and in discharge of their duties. Nay, they have let down the people of the city and the state, and the children.

Importance of the spaces for public amenities

As we have seen, the MRTP Act gives a place of prominence to the spaces meant for public amenities. An appropriately planned city requires good roads, parks, playgrounds, markets, primary and secondary schools, clinics, dispensaries and hospitals and sewerage facilities amongst other public amenities which are essential for a good civic life. If all the spaces in the cities are covered only by the construction for residential houses, the cities will become concrete jungles which is what they have started becoming. That is how there is need to protect the spaces meant for public amenities which cannot be sacrificed for the greed of a few landowners and builders to make more money on the ground of creating large number of houses. The MRTP Act does give importance to the spaces reserved for public amenities, and makes the deletion thereof difficult after the planning process is gone through, and the plan is finalized. Similar are the provisions in different State Acts. Yet, as we have seen from the earlier judgments concerning the public amenities in Bangalore (Bangalore Medical Trust (supra) and Lucknow (M.I Builders Pvt. Ltd. (supra), and now as is seen in this case in Pune, the spaces for the public amenities are under a systematic attack and are shrinking all over the cities in India, only for the benefit of the landowners and the builders. Time has therefore come to take a serious stock of the situation. Undoubtedly, the competing interest of the landowner is also to be taken into account, but that is already done when the plan is finalized, and the landowner is compensated as per the law. Ultimately when the land is reserved for a public purpose after following the due process of law, the interest of the individual must yield to the public interest.

As far as the MRTP Act is concerned, as we have noted earlier, there is a complete mechanism for the protection of the spaces meant for public amenities. We have seen the definition of substantial modification, and when the reservation for a public amenity on a plot of land is sought to be deleted completely, it would surely be a case of substantial modification, and not a minor modification. In that case what is required is to follow the procedure under Section 29 of the Act, to publish a notice in local newspapers also, inviting objections and suggestions within sixty days. The Government and the Municipal Corporations are trustees of the citizens for the purposes of retention of the plots meant for public amenities. As the Act has indicated, the citizens are vitally concerned with the retention of the public amenities, and, therefore deletion or modification should be resorted to only in the rarest of rare case, and after fully examining as to why the concerned plot was originally reserved for a public amenity, and as to how its deletion is necessary. Otherwise it will mean that we are paying no respect to the efforts put in by the original planners who have drafted the plan, as per the requirements of the city, and which plan has been finalized after following the detailed procedures as laid down by the law. Suggested safeguards for the future

Having noted as to what has happened in the present matter, in our view it is necessary that we should lay down the necessary safeguards for the future so that such kind of gross deletions do not occur in the future, and the provisions of the Act are strictly implemented in tune with the spirit behind.

(i) Therefore, when the gazette notification is published, and the public notice in the local newspapers is published under Section 29 (or under Section 37) it must briefly set out the reasons as to why the particular modification is being proposed. Since Section 29 provides for publishing a notice in the `local newspapers’, we adopt the methodology of Section 6 (2) of the L.A. Act, and expect that the notice shall be published atleast in two daily newspapers circulating in the locality, out of which atleast one shall be in the regional language. We expect the notice to be published in the newspapers with wide circulation and at prominent place therein.

(ii) Section 29 lays down that after receiving the suggestions and objections, the procedure as prescribed in Section 28 is to be followed. Sub-section (3) of Section 28 provides for holding an inquiry thereafter wherein the opportunity of being heard is to be afforded by the Planning Committee (of the Planning Authority) to such persons who have filed their objections and made suggestions. The Planning Committee, therefore, shall hold a public inquiry for all such persons to get an opportunity of making their submission, and then only the Planning Committee should make its report to the Planning Authority. (iii) One of the reasons which is often given for modification/deletion of reservation is paucity of funds, which was also sought to be raised in the present matter by the Municipal Commissioner for unjustified reasons, in as much as the compensation amount had already been paid. However, if there is any such difficulty, the planning authority must call upon the citizens to contribute for the project, in the public notice contemplated under Section 29, in as much as these  public amenities are meant for them, and there will be many philanthropist or corporate bodies or individuals who may come forward and support the public project financially. That was also the approach indicated by this Court in Raju S. Jethmalani Vs. State of Maharashtra reported in [2005 (11) SCC 222].

Primary Education

Primary education is one of the important responsibilities to be discharged by Municipalities under the Bombay Primary Education Act 1947. Again, to state the reality, even after sixty years after the promulgation of the Constitution, we have not been able to attain full literacy. Of all the different areas of education, primary education is suffering the most. When the Constitution was promulgated, a Directive Principle was laid down in Article 45 which states that the State shall endeavour to provide, within the period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. This has not been achieved yet. The 86th Amendment to the Constitution effected in the year 2002 deleted this Article 45, and substituted it with new Article 45 which lays down that the State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years. The amendment has made Right to Education a Fundamental Right under Article 21A. This Article lays down that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. In the year 2009 we passed the Right of Children to  Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. All these laws have however not been implemented with the spirit with which they ought to have been. We have several national initiatives in operation such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, District Primary Education Programme, and the Universal Elementary Education Programme to name a few. However, the statistical data shows that we are still far away from achieving the goal of full literacy.

Nobel laureate Shri Amartya Sen commented on our tardy progress in the field of basic education in his Article `The Urgency of Basic Education’ in the seminar Right to Education-Actions Now held at New Delhi on 19.12.2007 as follows:-

India has been especially disadvantaged in basic education, and this is one of our major challenges today. When the British left their Indian empire, only 12 per cent of the India population was literate. That was terrible enough, but our progress since independence has also been quite slow. This contrasts with our rapid political development into the first developing country in the world to have a functioning democracy.

The story for Pune city is not quite different. Since the impugned development permission given by the Municipal Corporation was on the basis of no objection of the Chief Minister dated 21.8.1996, we may refer to the Educational Statistics of Pune city, at that time. As per the Census of India 1991, the population of Pune city was 24,85,014, out of which 17,14,273 were the literate persons which comes to just above 2/3 of the population. The percentage of literacy has gone up thereafter, but still we are far away from achieving full literacy and from the goal of providing quality education and facilities at the primary level.

There is a serious problem of children dropping out from the primary schools. There are wide ranging factors which affect the education of the children at a tender age, such as absence of trained teachers having the proper understanding of child psychology, ill-health, and mal-nutrition. The infrastructural facilities are often very inadequate. Large number of children are cramped into small classrooms and there is absence of any playground attached with the school. This requires adequate spaces for the primary schools. Even in the so called higher middle class areas in large cities like Pune, there are hardly any open spaces within the housing societies and, therefore, adequate space for the playgrounds of the primary schools is of utmost importance. Having noted this scenario and the necessity of spaces for primary schools in urban areas, it is rather unfortunate that the then Chief Minister who claims to be an educationist took interest in releasing a plot duly reserved and acquired for a primary school only for the benefit of his son-in-law. It also gives a dismal picture of his deputy, the Minister of State acting to please his superior, and so also of the Municipal Commissioner ignoring his statutory responsibilities.

Operative order with respect to the disputed buildings

We have held the direction given by the State Government for the deletion of reservation on Final Plot No.110, and the commencement and occupation certificates issued by the Pune Municipal Corporation in favour of the developer were in complete subversion of the statutory requirements of the MRTP Act. The development permission was wholly illegal and unjustified. As far as the building meant for the tenants is concerned, the developer as well as  PMC have indicated that they have no objection to the building being retained. As far as the ten storied building meant for the private sale is concerned, the developer had offered to hand over half the number of floors to PMC, provided it permits the remaining floors to be retained by the developer. PMC has rejected that offer since the plot was reserved for a primary school. The building must therefore be either demolished or put to a permissible use. The illegal development carried out by the developer has resulted into a legitimate primary school not coming up on the disputed plot of land. Thousands of children would have attended the school on this plot during last 15 years. The loss suffered by the children and the cause of education is difficult to assess in terms of money, and in a way could be considered to be far more than the cost of construction of this building. Removal of this building is however not going to be very easy. It will cause serious nuisance to the occupants of the adjoining buildings due to noise and air pollution. The citizens may as well initiate actions against the PMC for appropriate reliefs. It is also possible that the developer may not be able to remove the disputed building within a specified time, in which case the PMC will have to incur the expenditure on removal. It will, therefore, be open to the developer to redeem himself by offering the entire building to PMC for being used as a primary school or for the earmarked purpose, free of cost. If he is so inclined, he may inform PMC that he is giving up his claim on this building also in favour of PMC.

The High Court has not specified the time for taking the necessary steps in this behalf. Hence, for the sake of clarity, we direct the developer to  inform the PMC within two weeks from today whether he is giving up the claim on the ten storied building named `Sundew Apartments’ apart from the tenants’ building in favour of PMC, failing which PMC will issue a notice to the developer within two weeks thereafter, calling upon him to furnish particulars to PMC within two weeks from the receipt of the notice, as to in what manner and time frame he proposes to demolish this ten storied building. In the event the developer declines or fails to do so, or does not respond within the specified period, or if PMC forms an impression after receiving his reply that the developer is incapable of removing the building in reasonably short time, the PMC will go ahead and demolish the same. In either case the decision of the City Engineer of PMC with respect to the manner of removal of the building and disposal of the debris shall be final.

As far as the ownership of the plot is concerned, the same will abide by the decision of the High Court in First Appeal Stamp No. 18615 of 1994 which will be decided in accordance with law. The old tenants will continue to occupy the building meant for the tenants.

The PMC and the State Government have fairly changed/reviewed their legal position in this Court, and defended their original stand about the illegality of the construction. We therefore, absolve both of them from paying costs to the original petitioners. The order with respect to payment of cost of Rs. 10,000/- against the then Chief Minister and the Minister of State to each of the original petitioners however remains. Over and above we add Rs. 15,000/- for each of them to pay to the two petitioners separately towards the cost of these appeals in this Court. Thus, the then Chief Minister and the Minister of State shall each pay Rs. 25,000/- to the two petitioners separately.

The spaces for public amenities such as roads, playgrounds, markets, water supply and sewerage facilities, hospitals and particularly educational institutions are essential for a decent urban life. The planning process therefore assumes significance in this behalf. The parcels of land reserved for public amenities under the urban plans cannot be permitted to be tinkered with. The greed for making more money is leading to all sorts of construction for housing in prime city areas usurping the lands meant for public amenities wherever possible and in utter disregard for the quality of life. Large number of areas in big cities have already become concrete jungles bereft of adequate public amenities. It is therefore, that we have laid down the guidelines in this behalf which flow from the scheme of the MRTP Act itself so that this menace of grabbing public spaces for private ends stops completely. We are also clear that any unauthorised construction particularly on the lands meant for public amenities must be removed forthwith. We expect the guidelines laid down in this behalf to be followed scrupulously.

The conclusions in nutshell and the consequent order

In the circumstances we conclude and pass the following order –

(i) We hold that the direction given by the Government of Maharashtra for the deletion of reservation on Final Plot No. 110, at Prabhat Road, Pune, and the consequent Commencement and Occupation certificates issued by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in favour of the developer were in complete  subversion of the statutory requirements of the MRTP Act. The development permission was wholly illegal and unjustified.

(ii) The direction of the High Court in the impugned judgment dated 6/15.3.1999 in Writ Petition Nos. 4433 and 4434/1998 for demolition of the concerned building was fully legal and justified.

(iii) The contention of the landowner that his right of development for residential purposes on the concerned plot under the erstwhile Town Planning scheme subsisted in spite of coming into force of Development Plan reserving the plot for a primary school, is liable to be rejected. (iv) The acquisition of the concerned plot of land was complete with the declaration under Section 126 of the MRTP Act read with Section 6 of Land Acquisition Act and the same is valid and legal.

(v) The order passed by the High Court directing the Municipal Corporation to move for the revival of the First Appeal Stamp No. 18615 of 1994 was therefore necessary. The High Court is expected to decide the revived First Appeal at the earliest and preferably within four months hereafter in the light of the law and the directions given in this judgment.

(vi) The developer shall inform the PMC whether he is giving up the claim over the construction of the ten storied building (named `Sundew Apartments’) apart from the tenants’ building in favour of PMC, failing which either the developer or the PMC shall take steps for demolition of the disputed building (Sundew Apartments) as per the time frame laid down in this judgment.

(vii) The former occupants of F.P No. 110 will continue to reside in the building constructed for the tenants on the terms stated in the judgment. (viii) The corporation will not be required to pay any amount to the developer for the tenants’ building constructed by him, nor for the ten storied building in the event he gives up his claim over it in favour of PMC. (ix) The strictures passed by the High Court against the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Manohar Joshi and the then Minister of State Shri Ravindra Mane are maintained. The prayer to expunge these remarks is rejected. The remarks against the Municipal Commissioner are however deleted.

(x) The order directing criminal investigation and thereafter further action as warranted in law, is however deleted in view of the judgment of this Court in the case of Common Cause A Registered Society Vs. Union of India reported in 1999 (6) SCC 667

(xi) The then Chief Minister and the then Minister of State shall each pay cost of Rs. 15,000/- to each of the two petitioners in the High Court towards these ten appeals, over and above the cost of Rs. 10,000/- awarded by the High Court in the writ petitions payable by each of them to the two writ petitioners.

(xii) The State Government and the Planning authorities under the MRTP Act shall hereafter scrupulously follow the directions and the suggested safeguards with respect to the spaces meant for public amenities.

Khurshid remains consistent on Bail for 2G Scam Accused

Bail is rule, jail exception”, Khurshid reminds SC

In a balancing act, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said that while it was for the courts to decide as to who should be locked up, the dictum of bail being the rule and jail an exception has been laid down by the Supreme Court itself. Elaborating on his controversial statement that the judiciary needs to understand the ‘political economy’ in the country, Mr. Khurshid told PTI on Tuesday night that “it is not for me to lock up people, it is for the courts to decide”.

At the same time, he recalled that the Supreme Court had laid down the law “bail is the rule, jail is an exception”. The Law Minister was speaking in the backdrop of his comment, “if you lock up top businessmen, will investment come”, which was termed as “disturbing” by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Mr. Khurshid said his comments had nothing to do with the 2G case but agreed with the questioner that a lot of people think that many of those long detained in the scam had been deprived of their liberty.

In a changing society every institution has to respond to the demands of changing time and the courts had done that in the case of protection of environment for which they needed to be complimented.

Similarly, “the demands of our time are that we must appreciate what dissent is”, the minister said adding that it was the Supreme Court that had given bail to Maoist sympathiser Binayak Sen without saying that he was guiltless.

“They (the apex court) said he will be tried. If he is wrong he will be punished. But that is no no reason to keep him in prison. They gave him bail,” Mr. Khurshid said describing the order as “brilliant“. He went on to ask, “But when economic issues come does the Supreme Court pay the same attention to developing economic issues as the rest of us do”.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2531547.ece

If you lock up businessmen, will investment come: Law Minister

INDIAN EXPRESS

At a time when the judiciary is seized with cases concerning corruption, black money and the 2G spectrum scam, Law Minister Salman Khurshid has said that the judiciary needs to understand the “political economy” in the country.

Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “What will affect the functioning of the government is if other institutions do not understand the kind of political economy we are faced with today: what is needed to encourage growth and investment? If you lock up top businessmen, will investment come? What optimal structure should be put in place for investment to come?”

Asked if he meant the judiciary when referring to “other institutions”, he replied: “Yes, judiciary is as important a player in the entire effort. Each of the three wings — judiciary, legislature and executive — has to understand the political economy and respond to it. The judiciary can’t be immune to the demands of society in changing times. The judiciary has been making positive interventions in the field of environment, fight against corruption, protection of human rights and social welfare, but it also has to understand the political economy.”

On why the UPA government has been increasingly facing flak from the judiciary, Khurshid said, “It’s not the entire judiciary. There are some judges who have felt that things need to be set right. Sometimes, we may not agree. For instance, we did not agree on the black money verdict and hence sought its recall. Two judges disagreed among themselves. These are difficult issues of political economy. We don’t blame the judges for getting it wrong. On certain things, the executive and the legislature also get it wrong.”

Asked about the controversial Finance Ministry’s note regarding Home Minister P Chidambaram’s stand on the 2G spectrum allocation issue when he was the Finance Minister, Khurshid said, “Even the worst interpretation of that document does not drag in the then FM.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/if-you-lock-up-businessmen-will-investment-come-law-minister/857840/0