Sunday, February 8, 2015

Milk Adulteration to be Punishable with Life Imp.

In a significant statement with wide implications, the Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it has formed a highlevel committee to consider if to make the offence of milk adulteration punishable by life imprisonment. It has agreed to the view of the court that the present penalty of six months in jails "was hardly a deterrent" for the menace which was most acute in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

An affidavit in the court by Rakesh Nayal, a senior official in the Union health ministry said the panel, headed by R.K. Jain, secretary of the National Disaster Management Authority, and representatives from Food Safety and Standard Authority of India will take a decision within 45 days.

The court had on December 12, 2014 taken serious exception to Centre's refusal to amend the law to make the offence punishable with life term. 
"What are you doing about it? In March we had given an ultimatum to the Centre to inform us if you are amending the law and we are now in December,"
the Bench said when Anurag Tomar, the lawyer for the petitioner in the PIL, pointed out the delay.

"After perusing the reports submitted by various states, prima-facie we are of the opinion that milk is being laced with white paint, caustic soda, detergent, shampoo, urea, starch and blotting paper and the practice is going unabated. The Centre must come out with necessary amendment to the Act with all seriousness to curb adulteration. We hope the government will take appropriate decision during the winter session of Parliament," the court had said.
The Bench had earlier said it would be foolish to go lightly on adulterators just because no grievous illness or death has been reported immediately after someone drinks milk laced with such poisonous substances. 
"The poisoning in the body is gradual and once it happens people think they are afflicted with cancer and nobody blames milk. Are you waiting for them to add cyanide in milk? Only then instant death will be caused for you to take action," 
the court had said.

The Bench suggested an amendment to the law after the Uttar Pradesh government said they faced a hurdle in prosecuting adulterators under the IPC and seeking their life imprisonment after the Allahabad High Court ruled in 2010 that the IPC cannot be invoked when the FSSA should prevail.

Source: India Today

Sunday, February 1, 2015

PIL-WP questioning the Logic of Petroleum Pricing - Hon'ble Karnataka HC issues Notices

The Public Interest litigation (PIL) - writ petition filed in the Hon'ble Karnataka High Court  by NP Amrutesh, and presented by Senior Advocate SP Shankar, has questioned the unreasonable profits made by the government from sale of petroleum products.

And argues in favour of a sharp drop in retail price of diesel, petrol and LPG to benefit the common man. It argues that the cost for such a drop in retail prices could be easily covered by the humongous sale of 166 by-products of crude oil, and has gone on to say that the actual retail price of diesel in Bengaluru comes to Rs 13.35 per litre. 

Acting on the petition, the High Court issued notices to the Union government and its oil marketing companies and agencies.
The petition, says, "Under RTI Act, specific information is obtained in regard to the actual cost of acquisition, cost of cracking, blending and refining as well as cost of transportation from the refineries to the outlets and that the comprehensive cost of 1 litre of diesel at Bangalore is Rs 13.35 paise. Respondents have not furnished the cost of petrol and kerosene in like terms."

Besides the Union government, the high court issued notices to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum (HP), Bharat Petroleum (BP) and oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC).

The petition alleged that the government was making profits by selling petroleum products like petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG at a much higher retail price than what they should actually have.

The petition says the government and oil companies are hiding facts about the actual profits. Around 166 by-products are produced from crude petroleum and all of them are sold. The petition says, "When crude is cracked, refined and blended the products that are generated are 166 in number. The number of by-products has now reached 183. Some of these by-products are used as base material in manufacturing of aspirin and brufane. Entire gamut of base for cosmetics is built on petroleum by-products. Automobile and chemicals and fertiliser industries have roots in petroleum products like naphtha. So the government is never a loser in the matter of refining crude and (is) recovering the entire cost from sale of at least 166 by-products. The GOI through its petroleum ministry has a legal duty to make these aspects transparent and to be accountable to the people."

The petition says that instead of making profit out of the common man, the government can keep the prices low. It says, "The fact that sale of 26 by-products meant for industrial use will alone take care of the entire cost of acquisition of crude, its transportation to refineries at various places in India, for cracking the crude and refinement would show that there is no loss occasioned to the oil industry. Further, rest of the by-products are in constant demand in the market. Their sale is sufficient to make profit."

The petition alleges that the Union government was allowing concentration of wealth and material resources in the hands of the oil companies to the detriment and prejudice of the common good.

"The interest of the public at large is ignored in de-controlling and de-licensing sale of petroleum products by oil marketing companies. (The oil companies) cannot be treated as a trading wing or a commercial enterprise but only a service instrument of the Union of India. People of India do not exist and strive for promoting the interest of oil marketing PSUs or political bosses," it says.

Oil companies exposed

The petition cites the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports and also from the reports of the oil companies to show that the companies never suffered losses. "CAG of India has castigated the State owned fuel retailers namely Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Hindustan Petroleum Chemicals Limited and Bharat Petroleum Chemicals Ltd who have overcharged customers from the years 2007-08 to 2011-12 by rupees 26,626 crore, by way of calculating the desired retail price in a manner as if the product was imported by adding customs duty, freight, insurance, ocean loss and wharf-age charges to the prevailing international price of petroleum products," the petition says. "Thus an expenditure never incurred under the headings of L.C Charges, insurance charges, freight, wharfage charges, custom duty and ocean loss, amounting to Rs 50,513/- crores is added to the cost of petroleum products and is passed on to the consumers," it says.

The petition seeks a transparent regulatory mechanism in the matter of sale of petroleum products; a simple cost accounting method of arriving at the selling price namely cost plus margin of profit. The petition says "how the 166 by-products are marketed is not disclosed. There is no transparency or accountability in fixing the price."

The petition, among other things, has sought pricing of petroleum products be as per Constitutional guidelines of a welfare state. It seeks a transparent manner of pricing the products and a court direction to the Union government to commit oil companies to be non-profit-making units. This can be done by considering petroleum a material resource in which earning profit is forbidden, the petition said.

Source - Bangalore Mirror

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Law ministry lists ways to reduce backlog - A Rehash of the same old Story?

Seems like an Old Read....
Would have helped if the previous Governments had given it a serious thought to Ramp up the Justice Delivery System in India.

From the Times of India dated:

The law ministry has drawn up a list of good practices followed by some of the high courts (HC) and circulated them recently to chief justices of all HCs to implement the same as part of a common action plan to bring down pendency of cases, particularly those which are older than five years.

Setting up fast track courts, designating a special day in a week for disposal of older cases and adopting a case flow management system are some of the measures the Centre has suggested to all chief justices of high courts to be adopted for reducing pendency.

The government has also highlighted best innovative initiatives undertaken in many other countries to address the backlog. Encouraging pre-trial proceedings by several countries prior to commencement of the trial, court performance measurement and monitoring and mandatory prior notice in civil cases are some of the initiatives suggested.

In the pre-trial proceedings, followed in some countries, a meeting is arranged in chambers between judge, counsel for accused, and the prosecution and specific issues of trial are narrowed down in order to save time.

Regular assessment and monitoring of performance of courts is an effective way to bring about improved efficiency, transparency and accountability in judicial system. The law ministry suggests this could be done by introducing measurement indicators based on globally accepted benchmarks such as leadership and management, court planning and policies, court resources, court proceedings and public trust and confidence.

The government has also suggested mandatory prior notice in civil cases that would help in speedy trials. For this it has mooted a provision similar to section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) for all categories of civil cases.

Section 80 of the CPC requires that a litigant must give two months' notice to the concerned party. The government thinks introducing this guideline by the court would help in curtailing unnecessary litigation.

Among the good practices followed by some of the HCs, the Allahabad HC has come in for praise for organizing Lok Adalats regularly during weekends. More than 3.22 lakh cases have been settled in 766 Lok Adalats in the state during March-June 2014. The largest HC in the country has also set up 171 reconciliation and mediation centres in districts with the help of the state government.

These mediation centres have settlement rates of 26%. The HC has also proposed to set up 81 fast track courts for trial of rape cases.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

SC ultimatum on social media law

The Supreme Court has set a one-week deadline on the Centre to make its stand clear on two draconian clauses that were pushed through by the UPA without debate and repeatedly invoked to harass Internet users.

The controversial provisions are Sections 66A and 74 of the Information Technology Act and have been largely used to crack down on those who posted allegedly “objectionable material” on social networking sites.

Under Section 66A, individuals posting “objectionable” material can be jailed for up to three years. Under Section 74, intermediaries such as the networking site hosting such material can be slapped with a jail term of up to two years.

Citing the potential for misuse, civil society has been demanding the repeal of the two sections. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a Jadavapur University professor, was arrested under Section 66A for circulating by email a joke lampooning chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Even after the change of guard at the Centre, the new government has not yet taken a clear-cut stand on the two widely derided clauses.

Today, the Supreme Court warned that it would stay the provisions unless the Centre explained within a week why they had been incorporated in the law.

The apex court rejected the repeated pleas of additional solicitor-general Maninder Singh that the government be given at least two weeks to file an affidavit.

“Either you file the affidavit within a week or we will stay the operation of the provisions until we dispose of the matter. Heavens are not going to fall if the provisions are stayed because this country had been existing for the past 60 years without those provisions.

“We leave the choice to you. Either file an affidavit within a week or we will stay the operation of the provisions, the choice is yours,” a bench of Justices J. Chelameshwar and S.A. Bobde told Singh.

The provisions were first challenged in the top court in late 2012 by a Delhi student, Shreya Singhal, after two teenaged girls in Mumbai were arrested for posting what the Shiv Sena considered objectionable remarks on Facebook against the late Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray.

Subsequently, there was a flurry of petitions from NGOs and civil liberties organisations seeking quashing of the provisions on grounds that they violated the fundamental right to speech and expression.

Agreeing with the petitioner’s counsel Manali Singhal, the apex court said the matter could not be treated lightly as the PIL was filed in April 2012. Over two years have passed but the Centre had not come out with any categorical stand.

Last year, the government had merely informed the apex court that on Section 66A, it had issued a general circular to all states and Union territories saying prior permission of IG-rank officers in cities and SP-level officers in districts would have to be taken before any person was arrested under the provision. There has been no follow-up action on Section 74.

The case in the Indian Supreme Court coincides with one in the US Supreme Court, which is addressing how far the law should protect — not punish — people who use social media to send violent and menacing threats. ( )

In India, Section 66A did not draw much attention when it was passed in Parliament but its power to harass became apparent when several state governments started invoking it to stifle dissent.

Section 66A affects individuals directly as it covers messages sent by “means of a computer resource or a communication device”.

Its reach is sweeping: any information that the sender knows to be false but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.

“Annoyance and inconvenience” are subjective and can be misinterpreted to launch witch-hunts.

In 2012, a former Chief Justice of India had told this newspaper that Section 66A was unsafe in the hands of authorities and it had been used only “where the powerful have been offended”.

Source - The Telegraph - SC ultimatum on social media law R. BALAJI