Top 10 Legal News for the Month of August

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  1. The INX Media Case: The INX Media case pertains to the alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to the media group for receiving overseas funds. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance given to INX Media for receiving funds from abroad to the tune of Rs. 305 crores in 2007. ED also filed a money laundering case in the matter of 2018.

The situation was that INX Media had got an approval for issuing shares to three Mauritius companies amounting to Rs. 4.62 crores, and the proposal for downstream investment was rejected. However, INX Media brought in a sum of Rs. 305 crores and brought downstream investment. They then bribed Karti Chidambaram and told him to use his connections to get the “issues resolved amicably” with the help of his father, the then Finance Minister of India.

  1. Demise of Arun Jaitley: Arun Jaitley passed away at the age of 66 at AIIMS hospital in New Delhi. Former finance minister and BJP stalwart, Arun Jaitley, was unlike any other minister in the Modi cabinet. The suave lawmaker, with a long experience in both matters legal and political, was someone Prime Minister Narendra Modi actively relied on for sound policymaking. Arun Jaitley was a loyal BJP worker and served the party well in many regards. He was in charge of key elections, one of the few to be consulted on cabinet reshuffles, the only minister to be given two heavyweight portfolios in the first Modi cabinet (he handled both finance and defence) and, most importantly, the man at the forefront of reforms that formed the cornerstone of the first term of the Narendra Modi-led government.

Arun Jaitley’s biggest achievements as the finance minister in Modi Cabinet were the successful implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), both of which formalised the Indian economy. He also laid the roadmap for direct tax reforms and extensively worked toward opening up the economy by easing out foreign direct investment (FDI) rules. Besides, Jaitley was instrumental in bringing in several changes in the company law, bank recapitalisation process, monetary policy framework, etc.

  1. Revocation of Article 370: Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, introduced a Bill to remove Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha. The government also introduced a Bill for the re-organisation of Jammu and Kashmir. The Bill proposes to make J&K a Union Territory with legislature and Ladakh a Union Territory without a legislature. Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu & Kashmir, has been revoked by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, under the presidential order issued by him in exercise of his powers conferred on him by clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution. The President has also issued a presidential order revoking Article 35A of the Indian Constitution.

Article 370 was supposed to be a temporary provision, to last till the formulation and adoption of the State’s Constitution. However, the State’s constituent assembly dissolved without abrogation or amendment of Article 370. It was later held to have acquired permanent status through decisions of Supreme Court and High Court.

  1. Split of J&K into two Union Territories: Jammu & Kashmir will now be a separate Union Territory with a Legislature. Under the notification delivered by Amit Shah, the Ladakh region is also being given the special status of a Union Territory, without a legislature. 

The laws which are applicable to other Indian citizens will now apply to Jammu and Kashmir as well. 

The maximum strength of the assembly of J&K will be 107, which will be enhanced to 114 after a delimitation exercise. Twenty-four seats of the Assembly will remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Police, law and order, and land in the Union Territory of Ladakh will be under the direct control of its LG, through whom the Centre will administer the region. Ladakh will not have a legislative assembly.

From the appointed day, October 31, the two newly created UTs will come into existence and the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir shall be the common high court for the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

  1. Lok Adalat and FIR Case: The Supreme Court has passed a judgment which states that FIR cannot be lodged in respect of a dispute settled in Lok Adalat. This was decided in the case Saleem Ahmed vs. State and Anr. After noting that the electricity meter was not recording correct reading in the house of Saleem Ahmed (the appellant), BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd. (the respondent) made an assessment in relation to the consumption of the electricity and sent a bill for theft for Rs. 97,786 to him. Later the matter was referred to Lok Adalat to settle their recovery cases. Though the original demand was for Rs.97,786, the dispute was settled at Rs.83,120 in full and final payment of the bill and satisfaction of the claim made by the BSES. Despite the settlement of the case and receiving the payment, the BSES filed an FIR against Saleem under Section 135 of the Electricity Act in relation to the same demand. An appeal was then filed in the Supreme Court by way of special leave by the appellant. In the appeal, the Supreme Court observed that once the dispute of recovery of the outstanding amount was finally settled between the parties in Lok Adalat which resulted in passing of the award in full satisfaction of the claim, there was no basis or any occasion to file FIR by electricity board.
  1. The Ayodhya Dispute: The dispute is about a controversial piece of land, in Ayodhya, measuring 2.77 acres, which has the Babri mosque and Ram Janmabhoomi. This particular piece of land is considered sacred among Hindus as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of God Vishnu, one of the most revered deities of the religion. Muslims argue that the land is of the Babri Masjid, built in 1528, where they had offered prayers for years before the dispute. 

The dispute arises over the fact that whether the mosque was built on top of a Ram temple – after demolishing or modifying it in the 16th century. Hindus contend that the mosque was built on ‘Ram Jamnabhoomi’ (Lord Ram’s birthplace) after it was demolished by Mir Baqi. Muslims, on the other hand, say that the mosque is their sacred religious place – built by Mir Baqi (the Mughal Emperor) in 1528 – and that Hindus defiled it in 1949, when they placed idols of Lord Ram inside the mosque.

The Supreme Court has asked for a friendly, out-of-court settlement of the dispute. The bench urged the parties to mediate and settle instead of relying on a judicial pronouncement. However, the idea of mediation was opposed by Hindu lawyers saying that such attempts have failed in the past and it will not work this time either. The Muslim lawyers agreed for negotiations provided a regular hearing on the matter went simultaneously. 

Therefore, there have been daily hearings of the case in the Supreme Court however we are yet to reach to an amicable solution to the problem.

  1. Untimely death of Sushma Swaraj: Sushma Swaraj, former External Affairs Minister and veteran BJP leader, died after cardiac arrest on August 6. She was 67. The senior BJP leader was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) around 10 pm and taken to the emergency. While doctors tried to revive her for about an hour, she died at 10.50 pm, the hospital said in its statement.

Sushma Swaraj’s sudden death triggered a wave of shock and grief with aam aadmi and leaders across the political spectrum payed tributes to the minister. Sushma Swaraj had not been keeping well lately. Sushma Swaraj had a kidney transplant in 2016 but had continued to work through her recovery period.

Despite a severe medical condition and prolonged hospitalisation, she continued to work. Citing health reasons, Sushma Swaraj announced that she will not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year.

  1. CJI Gogoi at NALSA Meet: Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, along with several eminent leaders and judges of the nation met on 17th and 18th August at Nagpur. CJI Gogoi suggested using technology as a tool to provide legal aid using mobile apps especially in vernacular languages. He says that technology can be a very effective tool to ensure timely justice to the needy. He also emphasized on the requirement of improvement the quality of the legal aid, and not only the quantity. “Right to legal aid means right to quality legal aid.” He offered a few suggestions on ways to improve the legal aid and its efficiency – “There should be a rigorous selection process for empanelment of lawyers,” he said. “Quality of legal services must be a focus rather than just quantity and batted for a rigorous selection process and better terms of service and incentives for panel lawyers”, he said. He also advised the legal services authorities to break the wall beyond awareness campaigns and engage students to act as representatives in “the mission of access to justice”.

He also talked about legal literary. Emphasizing on the need for legal literacy, Chief Justice Gogoi said “awareness of ones’ rights and means of securing those rights are powerful instruments for bringing about social and economic progress.

  1. UAPA Amendment Bill: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) by the Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah. The Act contains provisions and special procedures to deal with unlawful activities such as terrorist activities.

President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the legislation. Under this legislation, the Centre and the State can declare individuals as terrorists and the seize their property.

Amit Shah said that terrorist activities are not committed by organizations but by individuals and that by declaring an organization as a terrorist organization it will not stop the individuals behind it. If individuals are not designated as terrorists then they would circumvent the law and simply gather under a different name and continue with their terror activities, he said.

Under the Act, the investigation of cases may be conducted by Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or an officer above their rank. The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

  1. CCI Orders Probe Against Intel: The Competition Commission of India has ordered a probe against Intel Corp for alleged “unfair and discriminatory” provisions in warranty policy for boxed micro-processors sold in India. The complaint was filed by an Indian company – Matrix Info Systems Pvt. Ltd., which is engaged in the business of importing and supplying IT products, against Intel Corp and its Indian subsidiary, Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd.

Matrix claims that Intel Technology India had entered into an agreement with its authorised Indian distributors which gives them exclusive selling rights of Boxed micro-processors (BMPs) in India.

The complainant alleges that this denial of market access to other resellers and importers due to the unreasonable condition put by Intel’s warranty policy is in contravention of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002. 

The CCI has directed the Director General, its investigation arm, to conduct a probe into the matter and submit a report within a period of 150 days.

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