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Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad has been appointed as the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI) for a second term. The decision was reportedly taken by a three-member committee headed by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in a meeting held last week.
Justice Prasad had taken over from Justice Markanday Katju in November, 2014. More recently, journalists from eight media houses had issue a statement expressing “grave concern” about the decisions taken by Justice Prasad to form the 13th Press Council. They had alleged that he had “overlooked precedence and adopted a process to keep out certain media associations and candidates”.
The joint statement was issued by the All India Newspaper Editors Conference, Indian Journalists Union, Indian Newspaper Society, Working News Cameramen Association, Hindi Samachar Patr Sammelan, National Union of Journalists (India), All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation and Press Association.
A PIL had been filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking registration of an FIR against him alleging abuse of office and c misconduct. Similar complaints had been made to the CVC and the CBI as well.
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The Central Government has issued a notification to amend the compensation scales for motor accident claims under Second Schedule of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. As per the notification issued by Ministry of Road Traffic and Highways on May 22, 2018, the compensation payable in case of death is Rs.5 lakh. In case of permanent disability, the compensation payable is the disability percentage of Rs.5 lakh. The disability percentage is to be calculated as per 1st Schedule of the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act provides for ‘no-fault liability’. This provision gives an option to the claimant to claim fixed compensation without proving that the accident occurred due to any fault or negligence on the part of the offending vehicle. On opting for filing claim under ‘no fault liability’, the claimant will be getting compensation fixed as per the scale provided in Second Schedule. This provision and the schedule were inserted in 1994.
Sub-section (3) of Section 163A empowers the Central Government to issue notifications to amend the compensation scale from time to time. However, no amendment of the compensation scale to reflect the increase in living cost was ever made since 1994. In several cases, the Supreme Court has criticised the government inaction in this regard.
Before this amendment, the compensation was worked out on the basis of a multiplier-multiplicand formula, with reference to the age and income of the victim of the accident. In Sarla Verma v. DTC, the Supreme Court observed that the second schedule was full of errors, and that the formula was unworkable and cumbersome. In 2012, the Supreme Court in Puttamma case observed that the Second Schedule needed urgent amendment, as it was based on cost index of 1994.
The present amendment has done away with the formula system and fixes compensation for death Rs.5 lakh flat. The notification further provides that the amount will be annually increased at 5 percent with effect from January 2019.
Read the Notification Here
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Civil remedies for reputational encroachment are more suited for redressing such reputational harm, the court said.
The Supreme Court of Lesotho has declared country’s as criminal defamation laws unconstitutional observing that ‘crime of defamation has no place in its current constitutional dispensation’.
Justice MA Mokhesi in his 37 paged Judgment observed that Section 101- 104 of the Pena Code, that deals with the crime of defamation are inconsistent with the Section 14 of the Constitution.
Lesotho is a small country in Southern Africa. Just like Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, Lesotho, in its penal code enacted in 2010, has sections 101-104, which deals with offence of defamation. Section 101, 102 and 103 deals with definitions of defamatory matter, publication and unlawful publication respectively. Section 104 defines the offence of defamation.
The constitutional challenge to these provisions was made by Basildon Peta, owner and publisher of weekly newspaper ‘The Lesotho Times’. He was charged with these sections, after his newspaper published an article relating to the then commander of Lesotho Defence force.
Section 14 of the Country’s constitution is similar to Article 19 of Indian Constitution which guarantees its citizens, the freedom of speech and expression. The proviso, however allows restrictions in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health.
The means used to achieve the purpose of protecting reputation interests, in some instances, are overbroad and vague in relation to the freedom of expression guarantee in Section 14 of the Constitution, the Court said.
The court also said that criminal defamation laws have chilling effects on the freedom of expression and that, civil remedies for reputational encroachment are more suited for redressing such reputational harm. Striking down the defamation provisions from the penal code, the court said that the encroachment on the freedom of expression by these provisions is ‘not reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.’
The Court further said: “Criminalizing defamation has a chilling effect on journalistic freedom of expression. Fear of potential criminal sanction for reputational incursion may result in media practitioners doing what is known as self-censoring.”
Our SC upheld constitutionality
In May 2016, the Indian Supreme Court had upheld the Constitutional Validity of Sections 499 to 502 of Indian Penal Code relating to Criminal Defamation. The Bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and PC.Pant, while dismissing petitions filed by Subramanian Swamy, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, held that right to Life under Article 21 includes right to reputation.
Read the Judgment Here
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Delhi HC Tells Govt To Regularize Kashmiri Migrant Teachers & Extend To Them Pensionary And Terminal Benefits [Read Judgment]
Hoping that it would act as a “balm” for all Kashmiri migrants who suffered loss of their homeland due to communal violence and came to Delhi during 1990-93 and were employed as contractual teachers, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the AAP government and the four municipal corporations to regularize within eight weeks all Kashmiri migrant teachers from the first date of their appointment.
A bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Deepa Sharma also directed the government to extend all pensionary and terminal benefits to Kashmiri migrant teachers and in case of deceased employees, their legal representatives would be entitled to gratuity and other benefits while noting that these teachers have been sharing the same workload as their regular counterparts on less than half the salaries prescribed for the regular staff, which was a violation of Article 14.
The court noted that these migrant teachers functioned against regular vacancies and continue to do so for the past 22 years or more and have shared the burden of instructing pupils in NCT government and MCD schools just in the same manner as all other teachers.
It also was of the view that these teachers accepted the offer of employment without any benefits for want of any choice and the only alternative being of starvation and eking out a tenuous existence based on government doles.
The court’s verdict comes in two appeals—one moved by a society formed for the welfare of migrant teachers and the other by the Delhi government against a single judge order asking it to extend the benefits to migrant teachers as given to regular teachers.
Below are the directions passed by the high court:
(a) All the Kashmiri migrant teachers who approached this court, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, and those whose cause has been espoused by LPA 286/2015 & LPA 620/2015 Page 54 of 55, the first respondent society in LPA No. 620/2015 are held to be entitled to regularization; the Govt of NCT of Delhi and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and the New Delhi Municipal Council (the latter four collectively referred to as “the municipal corporations”) shall pass appropriate regularization orders, stating that they are regularly appointed teachers from the date of their first appointment. Such orders shall be issued within eight weeks from today.
(b) The said regularized teachers shall be entitled to fitment in the lowest stage of pay prescribed for the post occupied by them with effect from 1 January 2009 and also entitled to annual increments in that grade, for all these intervening years. Consequently, they shall be paid the differential amounts they are entitled to, towards the total emoluments they can draw (including dearness allowance and all other allowances), on the basis of what was actually paid to them and what they are entitled to each year, including the increase in pay scales based on recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission and allowances payable under the amended rules.
(c) In the case of all serving teachers, the amounts in terms of the above direction shall be calculated and appropriate fitment and fixation orders shall be issued to each of them within ten weeks from today. While making payments, it is open to the Govt of NCT and the municipal corporations to withhold one-fourth of such total amount as contributions towards provident fund by opening separate PF accounts in respect of each of them.
(d) While making payments in accordance with the above directions, the Govt of NCT and the municipal corporations shall ensure that the lumpsum payments shall be appropriately spread out in accordance with provisions of the Income Tax Act, to ensure that deductions are spread out, and minimum tax effect is felt by such teachers. The Govt of NCT of Delhi and the municipal corporation shall render all assistance with the income tax authorities in this regard.
(e) The Govt of NCT of Delhi and the municipal corporations are also directed to extend pensionary and other terminal benefits to the said teachers, including leave encashment, gratuity, etc. In the case of retired employees, appropriate pension fixation orders shall be issued again within 10 weeks. In their cases too, regularization shall be made effective from dates of initial appointments. They shall be entitled to gratuity, differential pay amounts and pension arrears all of which shall be paid within 10 weeks. A similar direction is issued in the case of deceased employees; their legal representatives shall be entitled to those amounts within 10 weeks.
While granting them the relief, the bench quoted from Siddhartha Gigoo’s Garden of Solitude describing the pain and agony of migrant workers and observed who wait endlessly for dawn of a new day and observed, “The petitioners’ hope of returning to their homes, and for peace in the Valley may not yet be attainable; but the acceptance of their claims, should act as a balm, re-kindle their confidence in the society and our commitment to equality and equal opportunity. Hopefully, this is the “new day to dawn and the new evening to descend” that Siddhartha Gigoo wrote about.”
The court in its judgment noted that these migrant teachers had initially come to Delhi after being forced to leave the Kashmir Valley due to communal violence and had stayed in camps in Delhi.
In order to provide employment to the educated amongst the migrants, the Delhi government at a Cabinet meeting dated April 2, 1994, after noticing that some of the migrants were trained teachers and that their services could be utilized in that capacity, resolved that one educated member from each such migrant family could be appointed as teacher depending on her or his suitability for the different categories of jobs. It was also noted that since the number of such trained Kashmiri migrant teachers was comparatively small, there would be no difficulty in offering them employment on the year-to-year contractual basis.
Their appointment was initially for six months terminable by one month’s notice and they were not entitled to claim any benefit of provident fund, pension, gratuity, medical attendance and treatment, accommodation or HRA, or any other benefits available to government servants appointed on regular basis. Their contract had a condition that they would have no right to claim for regular appointment to the post.
Their contract came to be extended from time to time by way of various executive orders and each of these orders expressly mentioned that the appointment of the Kashmiri migrants was only on compassionate grounds and keeping in view the situation in Kashmir and that they were not entitled to claim regularization or parity in terms of pay, leave and other benefits which were available to those appointed on regular basis.
When it became apparent that the migrant teachers might never be able to return to Kashmir, the government decided in-principle to extend the contracts for a longer period of 5 years, as a matter of policy. It was only in 2017 that the final decision not to regularize the Kashmiri migrant teachers was taken as it was felt that regularization would create a wrong precedent.
While these migrant teachers have been making representation for regularization and bridging the inequality between them and regular teachers, the Delhi government urged that the principle of equal pay for equal work is inapplicable as the migrant teachers were contractually appointed without following any recruitment procedure while a regular employee has to compete in a process of open selection.
While concluding its judgment, the bench quoted Lee Iacocca, who once remarked that in a completely rational society, “the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else”.
“Our society values teachers, who are venerated to the same level of parents, worthy of worship. It is a sad day for such a proud society that teachers have to reach out to courts, for what is justly their due. That this was the case with migrant teachers, who had to toil for these 20 years, with less than the minimum scale, is a sad commentary for the state which in the first place could not assure the security and safety of their life and possessions that led them to flee their native state and become refugees, in a manner of speaking in their own country. Whatever compulsions the Govt of NCT of Delhi and the municipal corporations had or reservations they harbored in relation to regularizing teachers, applicable to contract teachers otherwise (whose employment or engagement might have been for other reasons), could not have weighed with these authorities in denying these benefits to the Kashmiri migrant teachers. Their condition sets them apart and defines a distinctive exception,” it observed.
Read the Judgment Here
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PIL Challenges Appointment of Delhi Medical Council Registrar as Pvt Doctors’ Assn Prez; Delhi HC Issues Notice [Read Petition]
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Delhi Medical Council (DMC), the Delhi Medical Association (DMA), the Delhi government and DMC’s Registrar Girish Tyagi, on a public interest litigation challenging his continuance on the said post while also acting as the DMA president which represents the interest of medical practitioners.
A bench of Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla issued notice on the PIL filed by VP Bansal, former Additional Director General of Health Services and a practicing doctor, and Hemant Goel, who is also a practicing doctor and also an Assistant Professor at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Both Bansal and Geol are members of the Delhi Medical Association, which is a private association of doctors.
The petitioners were represented by PSL advocates and solicitors through managing partner Sandeep Bajaj and associate partner Soayib Qureshi, assisted by associate Naman Tandon.
They submitted before the court that “the Registrar, DMC, being a part of the Delhi Medical Council and performing a quasi-judicial functions and regulating the conduct of doctors in Delhi, cannot at the same time be allowed to represent the interest of doctors as the President of Delhi Medical Association, the largest private association of doctors”.
They said the “DMC is a statutory body and exercises public functions in terms of the Delhi Medical Council Act. Amongst other functions, it also adjudicates the complaints of general public against the doctors within the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The Decision dated February 21, 2018 of the Delhi Medical Council in allowing the present incumbent registrar to hold the post of President of a private association of doctors as well as the Registrar of Delhi Medical Council is bound to cause conflict and interfere in the functioning of Delhi Medical Council and is thus liable to be declared illegal and void being contrary to the rule of law and public policy of India”.
They also said this development also highlights the need for a look into the affairs of DMC.
Read the Petition Here
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The Thane Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) has awarded a compensation of Rs 30.79 lakh to the family of a police constable who died in a road accident. MACT member and district judge K D Vadane held that the offending tempo’s owner was liable to make the payment along with an eight per cent interest… Read more »
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A Delhi court has denied anticipatory bail to four PWD officials, accused of conspiring with a contractor in an alleged construction scam involving over Rs 3 crore, saying the allegations against them are serious. Special Judge Sanjay Khanagwal, who last week rejected the bail of contractor Vinay Bansal in the matter and sent him to… Read more »
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The Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) has agreed to take up an appeal filed against a power plant in Gujarat funded by US-based International Finance Corporation (IFC).
SCOTUS on Monday granted the Petition for a writ of certiorari, limited to the following question posed by the Petitioners: “Whether the International Organizations Immunities Act—which affords international organizations the “same immunity” from suit that foreign governments have, 22 U.S.C. § 288a(b)— confers the same immunity on such organizations as foreign governments have under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602-11.”
The case, filed by several farmers and fishermen- Budha Ismail Jam, Kashubhai Abhrambhai Manjalia, Sidik Kasam Jam, Ranubha Jadeja, Navinal Panchayat, and Machimar Adhikar Sangharash Sangathan- would come up for hearing in the next session, beginning October.
The Petitioners allege that widespread environmental damages have resulted from the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant, which has received USD 450 million in financial assistance from Washington DC-based IFC, the financing wing of the World Bank.
They point out that in accordance with IFC’s policy to prevent social and environmental damage, the loan agreement afforded IFC “supervisory authority” over the project and “included an Environmental and Social Action Plan designed to protect the surrounding communities” from harm. According to IFC’s own ombudsman, however, IFC engaged in “inadequate supervision of the project.”
Relying on the ombudsman’s report, they assert that the power plant has “devastated” the local environment, and the local way of life, submitting, “To name just a few of the calamities, neighboring villagers and farmers are no longer able to procure fresh water because the plant’s construction caused “[s]altwater intrusion into the [local] groundwater.” Id. 2a n.1.
“[T]he plant’s cooling system discharges thermal pollution into the sea, killing off marine life on which fisherman rely for their income” and local residents rely for nourishment. Id. And “coal dust and ash”—released from a conveyor system that brings coal to the plant—“disperse into the atmosphere and contaminate the surrounding land and air.”
IFC has, however, failed to address such grievances on grounds of absolute immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. With the District Court and the Court of Appeals, both ruling in favor of IFC, the Petitioners have now moved the Supreme Court.
Read the Order and Petition Here
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