i. Kathua rape trial transferred to Pathankot, Punjab – After weeks of intense arguments, the Supreme Court finally transferred the trial in the Kathua rape case to the Sessions Court, Pathankot in Punjab, which was the closest court outside the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Court also directed that the trial would be conducted in-camera and on a day to day basis, with no deferment of examination of witnesses and cross-examination. The State of Jammu and Kashmir also been directed to ensure that the witnesses and the accused are provided the requisite facilities for transport and accommodation as required, andthe State can also appoint a Special Public Prosecutor. The petition had been filed by the father of the deceased minor girl arguing that the atmosphere in the State was not conducive to have a fair trial and thus should be transferred outside. The Supreme Court held that “a fair trial is a sacrosanct principle under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and a ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused persons, as well as to the victims of the crime.” [Mohd. Akhtar v State of Jammu and Kashmir, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 85 of 2018, date of order: 07.05.2018]

ii. Former CMs cannot be recognised as a special class of citizens – The Supreme Court while holding that former Chief Ministers after demitting their office were at par with common citizens and were not entitled to occupy government bungalows for the rest of their lives, struck down the provisions of Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981. The law entitled former CMs to special benefits including housing in government bungalows. The Apex Court held that “natural resources, public lands and the public goods like government bungalows/official residence are public property that belongs to the people of the country. The ‘Doctrine of Equality’ which emerges from the concepts of justice, fairness must guide the State in the distribution/allocation of the same.” The Court further noted thatholding previous CMs as a separate class was arbitrary and discriminatory and would go against the spirit of the Constitution. [Lok Prahari, through its General Secretary v State of Uttar Pradesh, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 864 of 2016, date of judgment:07.05.2018]

iii. Parliamentary Standing Committee Reports can be taken on record by the Courts: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that the reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committees can be relied on by the Courts for the purpose of the interpretation of a particular statutory provision, and as a historical fact, but such reports cannot be challenged in the courts. Such judicial notice would not amount to the breach of the parliamentary privilege under the Constitution. The issue arose in a writ petition filed in public interest seeking action against government authorities for approving a drug purportedly meant for curing cervical cancer in women, without proper clinical trials, and used in immunisation drive by this international NGO, Path International, which resulted in deaths of several women in Andhra Pradesh. When the Petitioners relied on a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s findings in the case, the questions arose on the legality of relying on such reports in the court proceedings. [Kalpana Mehta & Ors. vs. Union of India & Anr., Writ Petition (Civil) No. 558 of 2012, date of judgment: 09.05.2018]

iv. Withdrawal of petition against rejection of impeachment motion– Two Rajya Sabha MPs filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the rejection of the impeachment motion by the Vice President, which was withdrawn during the arguments as the Constitutional Bench before which it was listed refused to provide the order vide which it was constituted. The counsel for petitioners, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, argued that Article 145(3) of the Constitution allowed the formation of a five judge bench only when a substantial question of law was involved, and that too by a judicial order. In the history of the institution, a petition was never referred directly to a five judge bench. The petitioners thus strenuously demanded the order by which the bench was constituted, but the Court refused to grant it, which prompted the petitioners to withdraw their petition. [Pratap Singh Bajwa & Ors. vs. Chairman, Rajya Sabha & Anr., Writ Petition (Civil) No. of 2018, date of order: 08.05.2018]

v. Supreme Court reserves judgment in Aadhar hearing – After marathon arguments of almost four months, i.e., for 38 days to be precise, which was the second longest in the history of the Court, the Supreme Court finally reserved its judgment in the matter of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other. Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. On the day of the final hearing, both sides addressed their final arguments, especially with respect to Section 7 of the Act. Senior Advocates Gopal Subramanium and Arvind Datar argued that the provisions of the Act did not work towards meeting its aim, and sought for the outright destruction of the materials collected till date. [Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).494/2012, date of order: 10.05.2018]

vi. Approval of the central government required for reserving land for state governments for mines–The Supreme Court held that the approval of central government would be necessary for reserving land which was not being held under a prospecting licence or a mining lease even for State government companies under the Mines and Minerals Act. In the case, the Court was hearing appeals filed by two gemstone mining companies fighting over the rights to mine gold in Karnataka. The two companies had prospecting licences but another company, HGML, applied to the State Government for reserving the land to be used by a State undertaking. The Centre rejected the application and the two companies in question also challenged the grant by the State authorities in Court arguing that their prospecting licences should be given preference in being granted a licence. The Court reminded the parties that even though the State owned the mines and minerals, the Union government regulated their use, and thus its approval was necessary. [Geomysore Services v Hutti Goldmines, Civil Appeal No. 2357 of 2017,date of judgment: 08.05.2018]

vii. Domestic Violence Act can be invoked only by an ‘aggrieved person’– The Bombay High Court observed that the provisions of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act cannot be invoked by anyone, especially with a view to just claim maintenance. The petitioner has to be an ‘aggrieved person’ under the Act. In this case, the wife of the petitioner had simply stated that her husband was well-off and in case of a separation, she would have no other means of livelihood. The petition did not indicate any incidence of domestic violence. The Family Court had nonetheless awarded a maintenance of Rs 2 lacs under Section 20 of the Act, which was set aside by the High Court. [Prakash Kumar Singhee v Amrapali Singhee, Writ Petition No. 3553 of 2018, date of judgment: 04.05.2018]

viii. Enquiry ordered into denial of treatment to HIV+ve man after accident at government hospital – The Delhi High Court ordered an inquiry into the allegations by an HIV +ve man that he was treated badly and was even denied treatment at government hospitals in Delhi after he met with an accident, owing non-disclosure of his HIV status. The two hospitals in question are Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital and Lok Naik Jaiprakash Hospital. He further stated that, doctors in the first hospital verbally abused him for not indicating his status, even though he had suffered a fracture. His limbs were plastered but the shoddy job that ensued gave him blisters which could have turned into gangrene resulting in amputation. He had to eventually undergo treatment in a private hospital with at an expense of ₹1.5 Lac. He sought to recover these bills from the hospitals which was denied by the single judge bench. In appeal, the division bench has ordered an independent committee of the Medical Superintendents of the Respondent Hospitals, Director General of Health Services, GNCT of Delhi, Principal Secretary of Department of Health and Family Welfare etc to look into the incident.[HXXX v Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Letters Patent Appeal No. 266/2018, date of order: 09.05.2018]

ix. Forwarding social media posts held equal to endorsing the views–In the instant case, a journalist turned BJP leader S VE Shekhar had forwarded a post, which, according to him, was forwarded without reading, as it was from a source known to him as good and patriotic on Facebook. The post contained derogatory remarks about women journalists and once it was pointed out by his friends, he immediately removed it. The Court came down heavily against use of derogatory words against working women and stated that the attitude would not help the cause of such women. The applicant had filed an application for anticipatory bail which was denied by the Court.[S Ve Shekhar v Inspector of Police, Criminal Original Petition No. 12229 of 2018, date of judgment: 10.05.2018] (IPA Service)