INDIA: LEGAL WATCH
Weekly Round-Up of Major Decisions of the Courts in India as also Legal Policy Developments
i. CBI granted two more weeks’ extension for completion of probe in the Unnao Case – The Supreme Court has agreed to grant an extension of two more weeks to the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’) for completion of probe in the Unnao victim’s alleged accident, which killed her aunt, and gravely injured the victim herself and her lawyer on 27th July, 2019. The Court also perused the report of the trial court in Delhi, where the rape trials are going on, and the Court had directed the trial court to complete the trial in 45 days. [In Re: Alarming Rise In The Number Of Reported Child Rape Incidents, SuoMotu Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 1/2019, date of order: 06.09.2019]
ii. Notice issued on the challenge to the UAPA (Amendment) Act, 2019: The Supreme Court has asked the Government of India to file its response to a writ petition challenging the validity of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2019, which made certain significant changes to the earlier law. The petition argues that the Amendment Act confers unbridled and unfettered discretion to the Government to designate any individual as a ‘terrorist’, unlike the earlier law that could designate only an association as engaging in terrorist activity, and thus is arbitrary and violative of the fundamental rights of equality, freedom of expression, and reputation guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(a), and 21 of the Constitution. [Sajal Awasthi v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1076 of 2019, date of order: 06.09.2019]
iii. Hearing in the Kashmir petitions adjourned: The Supreme Court adjourned the hearing in the slew of petitions challenging the validity of abrogation of Article 370, vide Presidential Orders dated 05.08.2019 and 06.08.2019. The petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin, editor of Kashmir Times, challenging the restrictions on media to report from Kashmir, has been kept for final arguments for 16th September, 2019. In another petition, the Court allowed Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti, former CM of J&K to meet her mother, but not to ‘move around’ in Srinagar, while the Court directed that the ailing CPM leader, M.K. Tarigami, would be shifted to AIIMS for his treatment. [Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India & Ors., Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1031 of 2019, date of order: 05.09.2019]
iv. P. Chidambaram denied anticipatory bail by SC: The Supreme Court refused to grant anticipatory bail to Mr. P. Chidambaram, former finance minister, in the case registered by Enforcement Directorate relating to the INX media case. The Court held that anticipatory bail was not a right, but a discretion of the court, and has to be granted sparingly, especially in case of economic offences. The Court had granted him interim protection from custody till the decion on his anticipatory bail in ED case was taken. Meanwhile, in the CBI case relating to INX media, Chidambaram was sent to judicial custody till 19th September, 2019.
v. Freedom of expression protects the right to propagate atheistic views: Rejecting a PIL seeking to remove atheistic inscriptions below the statues of Thanthai Periyar in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court held that individuals under Article 19(1)(a) have a right to disagree with the existence of God. The Court further held that “Dravidar Kazhagam Party, has every right under the Constitution of India, to fight for social justice in eradicating inequality, right for upliftment, express views on religion and existence of God. It further observed that divergent views on philosophy should be allowed to be expressed, and that there cannot be a prevention of freedom of expression.” [Dr. M. Deivanayagam v. State of Tamil Nadu, Writ Petition No. 28021 of 2017, date of decision: 04.09.2019]