CJI calls for "guidelines" for journalists

Asserting that “freedom of expression… is not a sole aim of society,” India’s Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan today called for “guidelines” for journalists.”I hope,” Justice Balakrishnan said opening a workshop, “that… participants will be able to come out with guidelines that would be most valuable to journalists while reporting.” The Workshop on Reporting Court Proceedings by Media and Administration of Justice for Legal Correspondents / Journalists is being held amid growing media interest in what goes on in courts.Indian courts are backlogged, with close to 30 million cases pending, many for years, even decades, essentially implying that rule of law, as some may understand it, must wait its turn.To boot, while government experts advocate a three-or-four-fold increase in the number of judges – currently numbering around 14,000 – vacancies abound even in the meagre strengths in place.Such contradictions may ordinarily mean little to a lay citizen, but they end up having a bearing on his or her life, liberty and interests, when cases go on and on and on.As Justice Balakrishnan put it, “about 10 or 15 years back, the media was not paying much attention to the court proceedings though the decisions given by the courts had far reaching effect on the life, liberty and rights of the people.” He said media’s role “has radically changed and it greatly helped the common man to understand the nature and contents of our judicial proceedings.” He said the workshop was a unique experiment “by which we wanted to inculcate some ideas to some of our young talented representatives of the Print and Electronic Media.” Justice Balakrishnan recalled how the proponents of freedom of expression thought that if there is a freedom of trade in the market of ideas, truth will grapple with falsehood and truth will prevail ultimately.”Truth was always considered to be on encounter with error and became victorious in that encounter,” he said, adding that “it was assumed that freedom of expression may be relied on to supply true facts to people because false facts will soon be discovered and discredited.UNIindlawnews.com; Saturday, March 29, 2008

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CJI for mediation, resolving disputes at pre-litigation stage

NEW DELHI: It is the duty of the judiciary to see that people do not lose faith in it and resort to violence to show their dissatisfaction, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan said on Saturday, favouring mediation as an alternative to litigation. Referring to recent examples of vigilante justice, he said alternative dispute resolution (ADR) could help share courts’ burden and ensure that people’s confidence in the judicial system “does not get eroded.” “It is our duty that people shall not resort to violence and show dissatisfaction with the present system,” he said. “The mindset of judges, lawyers and litigants needs to change to ensure some disputes are solved through ADR,” Chief Justice Balakrishnan inaugurating an international conference on Alternative Dispute Resolution attended, among others, by Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales N A Phillips. “For this, the rules should be flexible and friendly for the litigants… and lawyers should also play a constructive role,” he said, suggesting a system where case can be settled at pre-litigation stage. Supreme Court judge Arijit Pasayat said with 13 judges for a population of million the mind boggling arrears of cases in the country did not come as a surprise. He said the legal fraternity wasn’t solely responsible for the pendency of cases and pointed to the need to upgrade infrastructure in courts. We need infrastructure for courts for their effective functioning so that it could be said “while justice delay is justice denied, justice hurried is not justice buried.”
THE TIMES OF INDIA; 29 Mar 2008, 1644 hrs IST , PTI

No longer fruits of adultery

A recent SC judgement on the rights of children of live-in parents has raised questions about the sanctity of marriage in todays times, says Vimla Patil.

A recent Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat, decreed that children born of a long live-in relationship can no longer be called ‘illegitimate’ or ‘fruits of adultery’. It recognised them as equal heirs to their father’s property. This judgement has raised many debates on its repercussions on the institution of marriage, joint family property and the rights of children born to married couples. “Hindu Succession Law has hitherto laid tremendous emphasis on the institutions of family and marriage,” says former Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Sujata Manohar, “Now this latest judgement has created a new dimension to this law by giving inheritance rights to children born of ‘live in’ couples who are not legally married but have lived in a ‘marriage like’ arrangement for a length of time. The effects of this judgement is yet to be checked out in our conventional and traditional society. It seems to me that the judges have looked at the children of such live-in arrangement as ‘innocent’ non-participants in their parents’ decision to live without a legal marriage. And they opine that such children should not suffer financial deprivation. But how this will affect children born of legal marriages is yet to be seen.”
Justice Arijit Pasayat admitted that his judgement on the inheritance rights of a child born of a live-in arrangement will probably influence future judgements in similar cases and be debated for months in the media and legal circles.Relief or trouble?”On the face of it, giving financial relief to children who have done no wrong seems a forward looking move,” says Nisha Vahia, a mother who is currently in a live-in arrangement, “As our society enters the 21st century, new arrangements between men and women come to light. For various reasons — including caste or religious differences or previous marriages without divorces — couples decide to live together and have children. Long-term live-in arrangements are like marriages and can be treated as such in a legal definition. But then, what happens to children who are born of one-night stands or short liaisons? They are also innocent and do not know why their parents brought them into the world if they had no intention of being together in a marriage. So there will be mothers seeking property shares for such children too.” There is bound to be some confusion as to who are the benefactors. How long should the parents have lived together to qualify their children for the property share? How many children should get this share? For instance, if a man has a legal wife (divorced) and one child, and his live-in partner has four children, will the major part of his wealth go to the children of the live-in arrangement? What about live-in partners where the man is a Muslim or a Christian? Which laws will apply to the children where the live-in parents belong to different systems of law? These are confusions raised by the current judgement. Probably, clarifications will come in time. Sarla Doshi, a staunch opponent of the judgement, says, “This judgement challenges the institution of marriage. For millenniums, every society has sanctified the union of a man and woman with the sacrament of marriage. In our country, by marrying into a family, a woman not only becomes a wife and mother, but also a part of the larger family and is considered to have many rights, which are not necessarily financial. This judgement should not encourage couples to go for this kind of arrangement as in the long run, it will weaken our society with children being brought up by foster parents or in government homes.”Is marriage sacred?”Live-in arrangements are by their very nature fragile,” says Suryakanta Mehta, a young lawyer currently training in a Mumbai firm, “What is the assurance that a man will be loyal to his partner? There are men who refuse to acknowledge their out-of-wedlock progeny. If a man is inclined so, he can father several children by many women. Will the court then give property rights to all such children? How can the law distinguish between children born of long-term live-in relationships and short-term or one-night liaisons? Such a law is discriminatory and may not do any good to our society.”Young people in metro cities, however, feel that the SC’s approval of a live-in relationship. is a step forward in social reform. This seal of approval will help live-in couples to hold their chins up in more ways than one, they feel.
DECCAN HERALD; Saturday, March 29, 2008

HC directs Govt to consider shifting convict

Chennai (PTI): The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Tamil Nadu Government to consider shifting a convict lodged in the Vellore prison to some other jail, preferably Puzhal near Chennai, following his allegations of solitary confinement and torture by prison officials.
A Division Bench of Justice D Murugesan and Justice V Periyakarupiah passed the interim order based on a report filed by the Principal District Judge (PDJ), Vellore, as directed by the Bench on March 25.
If the statement by Ganesan was true, all was not well with the prison officials, the bench observed.
Ganesan also alleged lack of food and charged officials with obtaining his signature forcefully on blank papers.
The Bench directed the officials not to lodge Ganesan in solitary confinement or obtain siatures on blank papers.
However, the Bench said, it was not making final opinion as to the allegations levied by Ganesan in his statement and said they would be considered at the time of passing orders, after the state gave its counter, and posted further hearing of the case to April 4.
The Bench had directed the PDJ to enquire Ganesan and submit a report after two advocates, one of them his counsel, filed petitions alleging he was tortured and they were denied permission to meet him.
Ganesan had earlier filed a case with the HC that his wife Nathiya was gangraped by four prison officials last year when she had come to meet him.
The missing girl was traced to Tirupur. She later said she was not married to Ganesan. The Government Doctor at Vellore also certified Nathiya was a virgin. Following this, the court came down on Ganesan for filing a “false case”.
THE HINDU; Friday, March 28, 2008

HC allows ED to proceed against Natwar

NEW DELHI: Delhi high court on Friday gave the green signal to the Enforcement Directorate to proceed against former external affairs minister Natwar Singh and his son Jagat Singh for alleged foreign exchange violations in the Iraqi oil-for-food scam, holding that the procedure followed by the ED was right. “The procedure followed by the adjudicating authority (ED) did not suffer any infirmity to call for our interference,” a bench comprising Justice T S Thakur and Justice Kailash Gambhir said while dismissing the father-son duo’s petitions. Vacating the stay imposed by it against ED’s proceedings against Natwar and his son, the court directed them to appear before the ED on April 24 to defend themselves in alleged FEMA violation cases. The Court passed the judgment on petitions filed by them challenging ED’s proceeding against them as copies of all the documents related to the scam were not provided to them.

THE TIMES OF INDIA; 29 Mar 2008, 0142 hrs IST , TNN

Pension arrears’ non-payment irks HC

PATNA: Taking strong exception to the non-payment of pension arrears to the retired teachers of Patna University (PU), the Patna High Court on Wednesday observed that the teachers who have rendered valuable services to society do not deserve this shabby treatment in the evening of their lives. The court ordered that all the pension arrears of retired teachers for the period from April, 1997 to December, 2001, should be paid within two months failing which the HRD secretary would be handed out appropriate punishment on June 23 when the court re-opens after summer vacation. Hearing a contempt petition filed by the Patna University Retired Teachers’ Association, Justice V N Sinha of Patna High Court ordered immediate payment of the arrear since there is no discrepancy and there is no evidence of any irregularity during the period in question, in the audit report. The judgement applies to all those teachers of PU who retired or died prior to January 1996. PU vice-chancellor and Registrar and HRD secretary and higher education director were present in the court. Pleading on behalf of the retired teachers, Gyanand Roy, advocate, informed the court that similar retired teachers of other universities of Bihar had been paid all their arrears, including gratuity at revised rate. While Magadh University was sanctioned Rs 24 crore for payment of pension arrears to its retired teachers, PU received only Rs 3.34 crore against its actual requirement of Rs 21 crore. Welcoming the decision of Patna High Court, association president B V N Sinha and secretary S K Ganguli appealed to the government to implement the court order at the earliest and save the retired teachers from unnecessary harassment.
THE TIMES OF INDIA; 29 Mar 2008, 0152 hrs IST , B K Mishra , TNN

Nand Lal won’t give in, moves HC over House verdict

MUMBAI: A fresh round of confrontation between the state election commissioner Nand Lal and the political establishment is on the cards. After spending a night in prison on orders of the state assembly, Mr Lal on Friday challenged the legislature’s decision to punish him, before the Bombay high court. Mr Lal, who has been at loggerheads with chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for quite some time, accused him of political vendetta and declared a war on the chief minister. Mr Lal, who was kept in Arthur Road Jail where underworld don Abu Salem is also lodged, has challenged his conviction. The Maharashtra assembly on Thursday approved a resolution, sentencing the former IAS officer to two days ‘simple custody’ following the report of the House Privileges Committee in a breach of privilege matter against him in 2006. The committee had summoned Mr Lal on January 16, seeking a reply on the allegation that he breached state assembly’s privilege by his order in 2006 that elections to the local bodies shall be conducted by election commission, not the state government. Mr Lal refused to appear personally, but sent a written reply. The committee rejected the reply as it was not signed by him, and recommended on Thursday that he should be sentenced to seven days’ civil custody for his absence. Soon after the House passed the resolution, Mr Lal was picked up by policemen in plain clothes from his first floor office opposite Mantralaya and taken to the jail in central Mumbai. He was released at 10.30 am on Friday, much before his two-day term was over. Explaining the logic behind Mr Lal’s early release, a Vidhan Bhavan official said “He was sentenced to two days simple custody and not to 48-hour simple custody. He was taken into custody before sunset yesterday which was counted as the first day of his sentence. He was released after sunrise, which was counted as second day of his sentence.” Shortly after coming out of the jail, Mr Lal, blasted the chief minister for “exerting pressure through intermediaries to de-reserve Mr Deshmukh’s Latur constituency in Marathwada region.” He dubbed the punishment meted out to him as “arbitrary and against principles of natural justice”. THE ECONOMIC TIMES; 29 Mar, 2008, 0313 hrs IST, TNN

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