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SC notice to Virbhadra Singh in disproportionate assets case

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, asking why his plea against a CBI investigation into a disproportionate assets case should not be transferred from the state high court.

The apex court bench of Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit issued notice on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) plea, challenging the Himachal Pradesh High Court order restraining it from investigating the chief minister and his wife or taking them in custody for interrogation.

The high court on October 1 had stayed the arrest of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh in the Rs.6 crore assets case as the CBI sought their custodial interrogation.

Virbhadra Singh moved the high court following CBI raids at his residences in Delhi and Shimla on September 26 which he contended were mala fide and out of political vendetta.

A notice, returnable on November 5, has also been issued to Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh.

Besides the notice on CBI plea seeking the transfer of case outside Himachal, the notice has also been issued on the plea challenging the October 1 order.

Assailing the high court order, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the judge who passed the October 1 order had on two earlier occasions recused himself from hearing the matter involving Singh, saying that the latter was his client when he was a practising advocate.

Rohatgi referred to newspaper reports to buttress his point, inviting jibes from senior counsels Kapil Sibal and P.Chidambaram for reading media reports as an extension of court orders.

Appearing for Virbhadra Singh, Sibal said that instances being referred to by the Attorney General were related to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association and had nothing to do with the matter before the apex court.

Besides objecting to the said judge hearing and passing the October 1 order, Rohatgi said that the investigating agency was seeking the transfer of the case as it related to an incumbent chief minister and the same matter was being heard and monitored by the Delhi High Court.

Rohatgi said that while the Delhi High Court asked the CBI to take the matter to its logical conclusion, but due to the order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court the investigating agency could not proceed with its investigation.

“I can’t interrogate. I can’t move forward in Rs.6 crore of unaccounted wealth that relates to the period when Virbhadra Singh was a union minister in the then UPA government,” he said.

While protecting Singh and his wife from any interrogation, the Himachal Pradesh High Court by its October 1 order said, “…by way of abundant precaution, it’s made clear that the petitioners shall not be arrested.”

“It’s also made clear that as and when the dossier is complete, it shall be open for the CBI to approach this court for permission to interrogate the petitioners in accordance with law,” the high court further said.

The case was registered on September 23 under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the chief minister, his wife Pratibha Singh, LIC agent Anand Chauhan and an associate, Chunni Lal.

The FIR was the outcome of a preliminary inquiry which revealed that Singh, while serving as a union minister during 2009-2012, allegedly accumulated assets worth Rs.6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members which were found to be disproportionate to his known sources of income.

 

(IANS)

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India Gets A Win, Supreme Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

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Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

 In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”.

In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.

The bench said it is no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private.

Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others’ identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be.

Homosexuality, India
LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow.
Pixabay

“It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail,” said the court.

The verdict sparked celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across India even as the judgment was being read out. Many of the community members who had assembled outside the apex court jumped in joy and distributed sweets.

Chief Justice Misra said consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.

Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence under section 377.

“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said the Chief Justice.

“Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.

Homosexuality, India
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional. Pixabay

 

In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality is “not a mental disorder or disease”.

He said the LGBTIQ community has an equal right to live with dignity and are entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to this judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.

Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.

“They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation… Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens,” said Justice Chandrachud, adding “the state has no business to intrude on such matters”.

Justice Indu Malhotra said that history owes an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality.

“LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow,” she said.

Homosexuality, India
People Participated in Hundreds for the Gay Pride Parade Held In Delhi.

The Supreme Court verdict, which overruled its own earlier judgment, assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.

The Delhi High Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice A.P. Shah, had in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults by overturning the 149-year-old law — finding it unconstitutional and a hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya in the Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs Naz Foundation and others case, had set aside the high court’s judgment and said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

The matter was subsequently resurrected in July 2016, when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community — dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur — which was then marked to the Constitution Bench by a Division Bench.

Homosexuality, India
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The reference was made on the basis of submission that it was the first time that individuals directly affected by the provision were approaching the court.

Among the petitioners are a batch of current and former students of Indian Institutes of Technology. Claiming to represent more than 350 LGBTIQ alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs, the petitioners said that the existence of Section 377 had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”. (IANS)