Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2011: Productive year for Delhi High Court - India - DNA

2011: Productive year for Delhi High Court - India - DNA

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DMK MP Kanimozhi's bail successful hearing along with that of other high profile accused in the 2G case and upholding of jail term given to Sukhram in the 1996 telecom scam kept the Delhi High Court in the limelight. Delhi HC also questioned the basis of the cash-for-vote matter and granted bail to six accused.

The court's other significant orders and decisions included its refusal to grant interim stay on minority status accorded to Jamia Milia Islamia University, acquittal of sacked IPS officer RK Sharma in journalist Shivani Bhatnagar case and staying imminent deportation of 151 Pakistani Hindus, overstaying here on pilgrimage visa. Amidst all this, terror hit the High Court which claimed 17 lives at its doorstep on September 7. A powerful suitcase bomb ripped through the crowded reception area injuring 90 persons.

However, cases involving politicians and corporates kept the court busy. Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, daughter of veteran Dravidian leader M Karunanidhi, Kalaignar TV CEO Sharad Kumar, Bollywood producer Karim Morani and two others got bail in the 2G case on the ground of parity after the apex court granted bail to five corporate honchos, saying "bail is rule and jail is exception." However, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, who is left in jail along with A Raja since their arrest on February 2, was not so lucky as the court allowed CBI's plea that role of public servants be put to "stricter" scrutiny as they are expected to be different from other accused. The court said Behura was the "perpetrator" of the illegal design of Raja and cannot claim benefit of parity with 10 others released on bail.

The trial court's verdict awarding life imprisonment to dismissed IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma, who once served as the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the PMO, in the Shivani Bhatnagar case could not withstand scrutiny of the High Court which reversed the judgement. Sharma walked free after spending 10 years in jail. The court, in its judgement, itself raised questions as to who were behind the killing and what was the motive for it. It upheld conviction of Pradeep Sharma, one of the four persons, found guilty by the lower court, while setting free Sri Bhawgan and Satya Praksh besides RK Sharma giving them the benefit of doubt.

In a closely contested paternity suit, 85-year-old Congress leader N D Tiwari successfully avoided giving blood sample for the DNA test to ascertain the plea of 31-year-old Rohit Shekhar that he was his (Tiwari) biological son. A single judge bench of the court, which had earlier asked Tiwari to give blood sample, later reversed its own order and allowed the plea of the leader that he cannot be forced to give evidence against himself that too in a civil case. Rohit Shekhar has now challenged the order in a division bench, saying that it would be difficult to get justice unless Tiwari is forced to undergo the test.

Unlike Tiwari, his former party colleague and ex-Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, 86, was caught on the wrong side of the law with the high court upholding lower court's verdict awarding three year jail term to him in in the 1993 telecom equipment purchase deal to benefit a Hyderabad-based company. It also upheld conviction of Runu Ghosh, then Director in Department of Telecommunications, P Rama Rao, MD of Advanced Radio Masts (ARM) Pvt Ltd and asked them to surrender on January 5 to serve jail terms. Rao will have to undergo three years jail term while Ghosh would be in jail for two years. Sukh Ram was earlier awarded five years jail in another graft case and had to spend 10 days in jail before the High Court granted bail and stayed the trial court's verdict.

Former BJP President Bangaru Laxaman could not get any relief from the court in a case lodged after he was allegedly caught on May 13, 2001 taking bribe from undercover scribes of Tehelka portal for recommending to the Defence Ministry the purchase of their wares for the Army.

Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, however, won a legal battle against US-based Portfolio Brains LLC which was asked to pay a fine of Rs5 lakh to him for harassing him by running a website www.arunjaitley.com and refusing to transfer the domain name to him.

In a relief to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, the High Court dismissed a plea of a BJP leader seeking to declare him as a Nepalese citizen. The court said the complaint of BJP leader Padam Prasad Sharma was made to "gain political mileage".

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati also got relief as the court dismissed the Centre's appeal against the 2007 order of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) that her birthday gifts were exempted from taxation under the IT Act. The Income Tax department had challenged the ITAT ruling exempting Mayawati from paying tax on the gifts worth nearly Rs 65 lakhs received by her from supporters in the form of two houses in Inderpuri in West Delhi and two cheques worth Rs one lakh each. The gifts were received on her birthday in 2004.

Delhi Police invited the ire of the court for lax handling of the case of extradited gangster Abu Salem following the revocation of his extradition by a Portuguese High Court on the ground that the terms of extradition agreement, entered into between India and Portugal, have been breached. The Portuguese court had taken note of invoking of MCOCA against Salem as it provided life term as maximum sentence which was in contravention of an assurance given by the then NDA government that he will neither be tried under any special law and nor be handed down jail term in excess of 25 years. Salem, extradited in 2005, was booked under MCOCA for allegedly making extortion calls to a Delhi-based businessman Ashok Gupta in 2002 demanding Rs5 crore as protection money.

In another case, the court dismissed the plea of Haseena Ibrahim Parker, sister of fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, filed against Centre's decision that she will not be issued a fresh passport. The External Affairs ministry had said that Parker cannot be issued a fresh passport as she might "misuse" it to help her brother's criminal activities.

In 2011, the court reserved its order on the prosecution of 19 witnesses including model-turned-actor Shyan Munshi on charge of perjury for turning hostile during the trial of the Jessica Lall murder case. Earlier, the court had issued notices to 19 witnesses and had raised questions as to how they all turned hostile. Lall was shot dead in April 1999 by Manu Sharma, son of Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma, after she refused to serve a drink to him in a party at restaurant Tamarind Court in South Delhi. Sharma is serving life term in the case after the apex court upheld the HC's judgement.

The court took a sympathetic view of plight of 151 Pak Hindus and asked the Centre not to deport them back till it decides their plea seeking asylum or Indian citizenship. The Pakistanis, who fear for their lives in their homeland, face the danger of deportation as their pilgrimage visas have expired.

'Better late than never' is the phrase which could console Australian swimmer Susan Leigh Beer, who was awarded Rs 1.82 crore compensation by the court nearly 33 years after she slipped in a pool of an ITDC-run hotel here and became paralysed. Susan, 17, suffered from Quadriplegic, paralysis of all four limbs -- both arms and both legs-- after receiving head and spinal chord injuries during the fall in the pool of Akbar Hotel on the evening of May 5, 1978.

In a similar case, the High Court awarded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Nina Pillai, wife of Singapore-based Chairman of Britannia Group Rajan Pillai who died inside Tihar nearly 16 years ago. It held the state liable for lapses in providing medical care to Pillai, who was suffering from various ailments including alcoholic liver cirrhosis and died at a hospital here on July 7, 1995. He fled from Singapore to avoid a jail term in a criminal case there.

The court also upheld the conviction and award of life term to political activist Hari Singh for hijacking an Indian Airlines flight in March 1993. Singh, who has been on bail since July 18, 2003, was told to surrender before the lower court to undergo the sentence.

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