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President voices concern over poor representation of weaker sections in higher judiciary

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President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind Image : File Photo IANS

New Delhi, Nov 25: President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday expressed concern over the “unacceptably low” representation of women, OBCs, SC/STs in the higher judiciary and called for steps to remedy the situation.

“There is unacceptably low representation of traditionally weaker sections such as OBCs, SCs and STs especially in the higher judiciary,” President Kovind said, adding that one in four judges is a woman.

Asking the judiciary to walk in pace with other public institutions in being truly representatives of society’s diversity, the President said: “Like our other public institutions, our judiciary too has to be judicious in being representative of the diversity of our country, and the depth and breadth of our society.

“Of the 17,000 judges in our subordinate courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court, only about 4,700 – roughly one in four – are women,” he said.

Telling the higher judiciary that it was its “sacred duty” to “groom” district and sessions judges and raise their skill so that more and more of them can be elevated to High Courts, President Kovind said “We need to take long-term measures to remedy this situation.”

“This will also enhance trust in our lower courts and their judgments and serve to declog our High Courts,” the President said.

However, in a caveat, he made it clear that the long-term solutions would be “without in any manner compromising on quality” of the judges and the judicial system.

The President was speaking at the inaugural function of the two-day meet organised jointly by the Law Commission of India and NITI Aayog on the National Law Day.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice Dipak Misra defended the court taking a pro-active position on the fundamental rights of citizens and expanding their scope, saying that the “Protections of the fundamental rights of every citizen was a sacrosanct duty of the judiciary conferred by the Constitution”.

Referring to the top court framing Vishaka guidelines’ for the protection of women at the work place and rescuing children working in industry, Chief Justice Misra said, “What you see today may be relevant tomorrow.”

“These are only protection of fundamental rights. We don’t make policy. We interpret policy. That is our job,” the CJI said brushing aside concerns raised over judicial activism or judicial over-reach by Minister of State for Law and Justice P.P. Choudhary.

Choudhary in his welcome address said, “It is a fundamental principle of governance that decisions should, as far as possible, be predictable and not disruptive. When judicial activism and review wades into policymaking, sometimes its consequences can be disruptive. This needs to be avoided if possible.”

Pointing out that there was a direct co-relation between Directive Principles of State Policy and the fundamental rights, Chief Justice Misra called for a quality governance and said, “Cooperative constitutionalism is the responsibility of the three organs of the State to protect the Constitution which is the source of their origin.”

Calling for judicial accountability, the Minister of State for Law and Justice said, “If judicial independence is a pillar of our democracy, then judicial accountability is the base of that pillar. Without accountability there can be no legitimacy.”

Citing B.R. Ambedkar on maintaining “delicate balance” between three organs of the State, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan favoured a re-look at the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary.

Mahajan said that the collegium system that is in working for over two decades needs to be reviewed if there was any shortcoming in its functioning or there was a need for transparency in its working.

Seeking to stay free of any controversy, Mahajan said that all the institutions are manned by humans and to err is human.

IANS

India

State must discard colonial notion of being sovereign: SC

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Supreme Court

New Delhi, Dec 1 : The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the state must discard the colonial notion that it is a sovereign entity handing out doles at its will. The remarks from the top court came as it rapped the Jharkhand government for depriving an industrial unit of its legitimate entitlement under an industrial policy.

A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said: “Both the accountability of the state and the solemn obligation which it undertook in terms of the policy document militate against accepting such a notion of state power. The state must discard the colonial notion that it is a sovereign entity handing out doles at its will.”

The bench noted that the state having held out a solemn representation, it would be manifestly unfair and arbitrary to deprive industrial units within the state of their legitimate entitlement.

The bench emphasised that the state’s policies give rise to legitimate expectations that it will act according to what it puts forth in the public realm. “In all its actions, the state is bound to act fairly, in a transparent manner. A deprivation of the entitlement of private citizens and private business must be proportional to a requirement grounded in public interest,” noted the bench.

The dispute is connected to one of the clauses of the state’s 2012 Industrial Policy. The Clause 32.10 provided an exemption from the payment of 50 per cent of the electricity duty for a period of five years for captive power plants established for self-consumption or captive use.

The state had moved the top court challenging a high court order, which upheld the claim of Brahmputra Metallics Ltd that it was entitled to a rebate/deduction from electricity duty in terms of the representation held out in the Industrial Policy 2012, and that the denial of the exemption by the state government for FYs 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 was contrary to the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

The top court observed that in terms of Clause 35.7(b) of the Industrial Policy 2012, the entitlement ensues from the financial year following the commencement of production.

“The respondent commenced production on August 17, 2011. Hence, the order of the high court would have to be confirmed for FYs 2012-13 and 2013-14. In conclusion, we are in agreement with the conclusion of the high court that the respondent was entitled to an exemption from electricity duty, although for the reasons indicated in this judgment. Further, the relief granted would stand confined to FYs 2012-13 and 2013-14,” said the top court modifying the high court order.

The bench said that it is clear that the state had made a representation to the company and similarly situated industrial units under the Industrial Policy 2012. “This representation gave rise to a legitimate expectation on their behalf, that they would be offered a 50 per cent rebate/deduction in electricity duty for the next five years,” said the bench.

The bench noted that due to the failure of the state to issue a notification within the stipulated time and by the grant of the exemption only prospectively, the expectation and trust in the state stood violated.

“Since the state has offered no justification for the delay in issuance of the notification, or provided reasons for it being in public interest, we hold that such a course of action by the state is arbitrary and violative of Article 14,” said the top court.

The court did not agree to the state’s contention and answered in the affirmative on whether a private company was entitled to a rebate in electricity duty under the industrial policy.

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India

Shehla turned my wife, other daughter against me due to lust for money: Father

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Shehla Rashid

New Delhi, Dec 1: Abdul Rashid Shora, the father of student activist Shehla Rashid, alleged on Tuesday that his daughetr has ultimately succeeded in cornering him by turning his wife and other daughter against him due to their lust for money.

Shora, who has accused his daughter Shehla, a former JNU student leader, of indulging in anti-national activities, issued a statement on Tuesday to clarify his stand on his daughter’s comments against him on Twitter.

“Since June 2017, when Shehla admitted to me of taking money from terror fund operators Zahoor Watalli and Rashid Engineer, a turbulent conflict had been going on in my home wherein Shehla ultimately succeeded in cornering me by turning my wife and other daughter against me due to their lust for money and with the support of anti-social elements like Saqib and others,” Shora said.

“The extreme was reached when through a petition filed in 3rd Add Munsif Srinagar, Shehla and her accomplices secured an order to oust me from my own house on 17th Nov, which was issued Ex-Parte without even hearing me, thus making mockery of justice,” Shora alleged in the statement.

“The order was modified by the appellante court and my rights were restored on 27th November. The local police seemed nearly helpless in implementing the court order in my favour and I was directly threatened for life by Shehla’s accomplices when I tried to enter my house as per the spirit of the court order,” he alleged.

“Fearing serious threat to my life, I had to run away from Srinagar. I was not even allowed to take my clothes along and on reaching Jammu, I approached the DGP, who was kind enough to listen to me and issued orders to the concerned officers for necessary legal action,” Shora said while narrating the events.

“I know that at 68, I cannot be as vocal and energetic to contest my 32-year-old JNU mislead, manipulative, media management expert daughter Shehla and her young accomplices, but I have a strong conviction that the truth will always prevails,” Shora said.

He alleged that misleading statements and efforts by Shehla and her associates are deviating the attention of the press, media and all concerned from the core issue of having been associated with notorious people to fulfill their anti-national agenda in Kashmir by falsely highlighting family dispute, which only arose due to her continuous misconduct at his home under the disguise of political activity for Kashmir during the last three years, i.e., after her association with terror funding accused started in Kashmir.

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Health

May vaccinate those infected with Covid or having its antibodies: Govt

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Vaccine Covid

New Delhi, Dec 1: The Union Health Ministry hinted on Tuesday that the people infected with Covid-19 or those who have recovered and exhibit antibodies against the viral disease could also come under the ambit of vaccination drive for the immunisation of people against the coronavirus infection.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that this process is already in the mandate of a national expert group for vaccine administration, headed by V.K. Paul, member, NITI Aayog (health). “They are contemplating the issue, but nothing is concrete as yet,” he said while addressing a press conference.

Bhushan also said that many countries are contemplating the matter of whether patients suffering from Covid-19 or those who have developed its antibodies should be included in the immunisation drive.

Meanwhile, divulging into the technicalities of the matter, Balram Bhargava, Director-General (DG), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, “There are two important issues linked with the immunisation of such a set of people. If someone has antibodies against the Covid-19 infection, and a vaccine is given to that person, would he or she develop any vaccine associated adverse reaction? Secondly, if we consider the presence of antibodies and avoid the administration of vaccines to the person, would we be able to spare our vaccine doses?”

However, answering the points raised, Bhargava said that there are enough data from different trials that show that the vaccine related adverse reaction does not happen even if the dose is administered to a person having active Covid infection. “However, the discussion is still going on internationally regarding its implementation,” he added.

Bhargava also said that the World health Organization (WHO) has clearly stated after assessment of the solidarity trials of the vaccines that one does not need to measure the antibodies before administering the vaccine or even find out if the person receiving the dose has contracted the Covid-19 disease. “The current mandate of WHO gives a go-ahead for vaccination to such a set of people,” he added.

The Centre has formed tentative guidelines for vaccine administration to the priority groups. The government has divided the prioritisation under four groups — healthcare workers, people above 65 years of age, people aged between 50 and 65 years, and lastly, people below 50 years with underlying conditions.

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