1. SC orders release of all life convicts in Rajiv case
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the immediate release of six life convicts who have been in prison for over three decades in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The six convicts are: Nalini, Ravichandran, Jayakumar, Suthenthiraraja (Santhan), Murugan and Robert Payas.
A Bench of Justices B. R. Gavai and B. V. Nagarathna noted that the Tamil Nadu Cabinet had recommended their premature release to the Governor in September 2018. The Governor, instead of taking a call, had passed on their files to the Centre. The Governor was bound by the advice of the Cabinet in cases of murder as their convictions under the now-lapsed Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act was set aside by the top court.
The Bench referred to the case of their former co-convict A.G. Perarivalan, who was granted premature release by the top court on May 18.
2. Centre’s silence on judicial postings condemnable: SC
The Supreme Court on Friday lambasted the Centre for withholding names recommended or reiterated by the collegium for judicial appointments, even saying that the government is using silence and inaction as “some sort of a device” to force worthy candidates and prominent lawyers to withdraw their consent.
“The government neither appoints the persons nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names… Keeping the names pending is something not acceptable,” a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed.
The court issued notice to the Justice Secretary and Additional Secretary (Administration and Appointment) and listed the case for November 28.
The scathing five-page order comes even as the past few days have seen Law Minister Kiren Rijiju launch a relentless attack on the collegium system for lack of transparency.
But, in its order, the Bench said there were enough “checks and balances” in the current collegium system of judicial appointments.
3. DMK hails verdict, says Governors can’t sit on resolutions
Welcoming the Supreme Court judgment freeing the six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin said it underlined the fact that Governors nominated to their posts should not sit on resolutions passed by governments elected by the people.
“The judgment is a historic foreword to the democratic principles,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Stalin recalled the DMK’s consistent position favouring the release of the convicts when the party was in government as well as in Opposition. It was during the DMK government under M. Karunanidhi that the death sentence of one of the convicts, Nalini, was commuted to life imprisonment, he pointed out.
Since then, the DMK had favoured the release of the convicts, petitioned the President and the Prime Minister, and took steps to stand by their human rights, he said. “The Governor was sitting on the resolution adopted by the State Cabinet. We consistently urged him for their release.”
Describing the release earlier of A.G. Perarivalan, another convict in the case, as the first victory, the Chief Minister said the release of the other six convicts was the second victory. “This is a victory for the strong legal battles we undertook soon after we came to power,” he said.
4. SC extends protection for area around ‘shivling’
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the protection of an area in which a ‘shivling’ was reportedly found inside the Gyanvapi mosque premises to continue until further orders.
A Special Bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices Surya Kant and PS Narasimha further allowed the Hindu parties to approach the Varanasi District Court for consolidation of all suits concerning the Gyanvapi dispute.
The dispute began when several Hindu women moved a civil suit in a Varanasi court seeking a judicial declaration of their right to offer worship to deities they claimed were present at the mosque site.
The court had ordered a survey to be done by an Advocate Commissioner. The survey led to the alleged discovery of the ‘shivling’.
In May, the Supreme Court had transferred the case into the ‘seasoned hands’ of the Varanasi District Judge for adjudication.
On May 17, the Bench led by Chief Justice Chandrachud had struck a balance by ordering the area around the shivling to be protected while allowing Muslims to offer namaaz in the mosque.
On May 20, the apex court had intervened again to direct that the May 17 order would operate during the adjudication of the challenge made by the Muslim parties under Order VII Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code against the maintainability of the declaratory suit filed by the Hindu women who want to worship inside the mosque and continue to do for a further eight weeks following the outcome of the case before the District Judge.
On September 12, the District Judge had dismissed the maintainability plea of the Muslim parties, adding that the suit was not barred by the Places of Worship Act.
A criminal revision petition is pending in the Allahabad High Court.
On Friday, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, for the Hindu parties, informed the court that the eight weeks was expiring on November 12 and sought an extension of the protection. The Muslim parties did not raise an objection to the request.
However, they objected when Mr. Kumar argued that the petition filed by the Muslim parties against the appointment of the Advocate Commissioner had become infructuous and ought to be disposed of. Mr. Kumar said the Muslim parties were now “participating” before the Advocate Commissioner.
However, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, for the Muslim parties, said their petition in the apex court against the appointment of the Advocate Commissioner was hardly infructuous as claimed by the opposite side.
Instead, Mr. Ahmadi said, the entire case of the Hindu parties would fall if the apex court eventually set aside the appointment order.
Mr. Ahmadi also sought time to get instructions from his clients to rebut the allegations made by the Hindu parties that they were “participating before the Advocate Commissioner”.
5. Courts must take up civil suits against hate speech: ex-SC judge
Former Supreme Court Judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Friday said civil suits against hate speech leading to the award of punitive damages should be taken up by courts in the country.
“The moment a citizen petitions a court against hate speech, the court cannot only issue a declaration and an injunction, because of the fundamental duty, it can also award punitive damages… it would go a long way towards preserving and protecting fraternity. Nothing hurts more than that which hurts the purse,” he said while delivering the 13th V.M. Tarkunde Memorial Lecture.
Justice Nariman said the cardinal principle of fraternity prescribed that every citizen honoured the other citizen in the spirit of brotherhood, transcending religious, sectarian and other fissiparous tendencies.
He said the other great precepts were the Fundamental Duty of abjuring violence, looking up to and respecting the country’s composite culture, which is crucial as far as India is concerned, “particularly at this time”. Stating that the criminal law was sometimes put in motion selectively, he suggested the remedy of civil suits. He said given that the Fundamental Duties chapter of the Constitution was silent on what the court’s role was, “you can fill it in”.
“If we are actually going to live by the cardinal principle of fraternity… then it must be given some teeth,” he said.
He said in order for the citizens to adhere to the Constitution, it was essential for them to know what was there in it. He, therefore, suggested that the Centre should distribute copies of the Constitution in every possible language.
6. Altitude decides simians’ attitude to diet
Differences in altitude make a primate species in the same Himalayan habitat choose between flowers and fruits as food options beyond their staple menu of leaves, a new study has revealed.
The Himalayan Gray Langur or the Chamba Sacred Langur (Semnopithecus ajax) is a colobine, meaning leaf-eating monkey. It is considered an endangered species globally as its population is estimated to be less than 1,500 mature individuals in 15-20 groups. Three primatologists studied the diet composition of five such groups in and around the Kalatop-Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh between September and November 2020. They especially concentrated on two groups, one inhabiting the Kalatop forest at an average altitude of 2,396 metres, and the other based in the Khajjiar forest at an average altitude of 2,188 metres.
The domains of the two groups were only 208 metres apart, but the altitudinal gap made a huge difference when the monkeys took a break from feeding on the leaves of some 20 species of plants, primarily the Himalayan ivy (Hedera nepalensis) and the Himalayan oak (Quercus oblongata).
While the Kalatop group satisfied their craving for something different by feeding on flowers, the Khajjiar group ate fruits for a change of taste. Flowers and fruits constituted 11.11% and 15.49% of the diet of the two groups respectively. The preference for fruits or flowers “may depend upon the difference in their distribution in terms of elevation and availability of a particular plant part”, said the study published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
The study was conducted by Rupali Thakur and Kranti Yardi of the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research, and P. Vishal Ahuja of the Wildlife Information Liaison Department and Zoo Outreach Organisation based at Hardaspura in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district. Apart from recommending a census for the Himalayan Gray Langur in the district, thescientists advocated a further long-term study for a comparison of diet and behaviour in the forested groups and the urbanised groups of this primate species.