Thursday, October 22, 2009

Allahabad High Court needs Rs 500 for RTI application!

Following is the link to Allahabad High Court's Rules for RTI.

Of relevance to note are the following rules for giving RTI application in Allahabad high court:

3. Every application shall be made for one particular item of information only.

4. Each application shall be accompanied by a cash or draft or pay order of Rs 500/- drawn in favour of the Registrar General, High Court, Allahabad, or the District Judge of the concerned District Court as the case might be.

5. If the application is permitted, the applicant shall be entitled to information only after he makes payment in cash at the rate of Rs 15/- per page of information to be supplied to him.

Comments: Just read the above again -- RTI application allowed for one particular item only, Rs 500 per application, and Rs 15 per page of information.

And to think that RTI stands for "Right to Information". Surely justice is blind...and it thinks that everyone who files an RTI application is a super-rich Indian citizen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judicial Reforms, Judicial Accountability.... la la la, la la la

Recent news has Law Minister Mr Moily at it again. While it is good to be reform oriented but too much talk on reducing case duration from 15 years to 2 years only gives suspicion it is going to remain tall talk for some time to come (read: duration of UPA govt).

The news below:

New Delhi, Oct 19 (PTI) The Centre today said it will bring in a comprehensive bill in the winter session of Parliament next month to ensure accountability and standard in judiciary.

"We need to introduce lots of systems to ensure accountability and standard among the judiciary. That is winter session... we hope to come out with a very comprehensive bill," Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told NDTV.

He said the government would like to replace the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968 with a new comprehensive bill named 'Judicial Accountability and Standard Bill, 2009.'

The Law Minister said the government would go for a national consultation on judicial reforms on October 24 and October 25 during which he may come out with a "vision statement" regarding bringing down the limit for the earliest disposal of cases from 15 years to just 2 years.

Comments: This better be followed by some action. Otherwise it would seem that it is nothing more than high-sounding talk of a 'newly' elected government which wants to promise too many things while early in power.

Accused's mysterious death in Judges and PF scam

Here is recent news which is shocking given the main accused in a scam allegedly involving a SC judge and several HC judges, has died mysteriously while in custody.

Excerpt from news below:

The mysterious death on Saturday of Ashutosh Asthana, main accused in the Ghaziabad Provident Fund (PF) scandal, has dealt a severe blow to the case which allegedly involves, among others, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court and seven judges of the Allahabad High Court.

It was in Asthana’s statement before the magistrate that names of judges, past and present, cropped up as alleged beneficiaries of the money he siphoned from PF accounts of employees. He had handed over to the CBI documents and receipts detailing the money trail.

Comments: While the investigation etc on this will go on for a while, this surely points out to the fact that there is serious need of more transparency in our police, investigation agencies, judiciary etc. When powerful people are allegedly involved in a provident funds scam, any lack of transparency and information will only increase suspicion in public's mind that powerful forces are in some way involved in not letting the truth come out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

High courts functioning with 3/4 judges - what was that?

This is a slightly older news, about 3 months old, which I could not blog about earlier. However I realized that for a litigant/petitioner/respondent/accused who is used to Indian Judicial Time (IJT), 3 months is like 3 days! So it is still fresh for the court-weary people.

So I present the recent news which gives the gory statistics on the shortage of judges in Indian high courts:

There is one kind of poverty where the poor does not have enough food to eat. There is another kind of poverty where the poor does not even have a big enough vessel to hold food to eat, even if food was available somehow. We seem to be suffering from the latter kind of poverty in our judicial system.

Indian women can have 2 husbands - 1 to slave on, 1 to pay maintenance

A recent news about a woman who has approached court for maintenance from first husband 3 years after divorce, WHILE she is now married to second husband!

The news is really shocking as given below:

The court, after hearing both the parties, pulled up Kirti for creating unnecessary trouble for Mayank, who is now well settled with his second wife and sent the case to mediation centre and asked them to solve the matter expeditiously.

The court also asked Mayank to pay Rs.2,000 per month each to her and their son till the final outcome of the case.

Comments: As per Indian laws and Hindu marriage Act 1956, the woman is not entitled to maintenance from first husband now that she has remarried. So is not this a travesty of written law that you can order for maintenance like ordering a pizza... and it will be delivered to you at your (ex)-husband's expense ... And your current husband is anyway available to provide for your more pressing shopping needs!

Ex-law minister suggests women property laws are ineffective

Here is interesing news on alimony and discussion on women rights. It was organized in participation with a premier law school of India and a premier agency which tries to safeguard interests of women.

Excerpt from news below followed by Comments:

Stressing on the need for a comprehensive law to safeguard women, governor H R Bhardwaj, who wielded the law baton in the UPA government's 2004-09 run, said: "The moment a woman marries, she's entitled to 50% share in her husband's property. There may be some issues with the minorities, but it should still be applicable to many.''

Comments: Shri Bhardwaj ji, Given that you were a previous law minister and having an all encompassing knowledge of law and justice system, can we know your proposals on the following cases about your 'comprehensive' law:

1. What if a woman marries a man, gets 50% entitlement to his property, and next day (or next month) files case against him under PWDVA, or worse say under IPC 498A? According to this 'comprehensive' law, she will get 50% property for a marriage that lasts anywhere from 1 day to 1 month or 1 year, and then she can go ahead and do the same on next husband (lamb to be slaughtered).

2. There is already laws to protect daughters' share in parents' property. Are you trying to suggest by your statement that that law is totally ineffective in protecting women rights to property? If sons' rights are protected by that, then won't that law be enough to protect daughters' rights also?

3. Are you saying that a daughter is now entitled not only to equal share in parents' property, but also entitled to share in husband's property? Have you discussed or thought of all the repercussions of this in a society which still does not have the mindset to give equal share to daughters?

4. Is this not a sinister way to introduce laws which instead of protecting daughters' interest by giving share in parents' property, make a daughter a burden to be removed and dumped on shoulders of husband and in-laws.

5. Have you discussed and found statistics on what has been the benefit of other women protection laws like Dowry Act, IPC 498A, PWDVA 2005 etc. How many women have benefited from them. And please don't tell us the number of cases filed as one of the benefits! Just as a hospital cannot claim to have done good job merely because it received so many emergency cases in an year, you cannot claim to have done justice if you simply claim that so many cases were filed under IPC 498A, PWDVA, Dowry Act etc!

RTI act -- positive amendments sought

From news below:

One of the main suggestions of the commission, which has been included in the list of proposed amendments, is that the Act should be made more NRI-friendly. “The NRIs, being Indian nationals, can apply for information under the RTI Act, but the means for access for them are very unsatisfactory. Where do they pay the fee of Rs 10, and how? When they approach Indian embassies, they are seldom helped.”

Comments: This is an excellent idea. The RTI act is applicable to all Indian citizens. To deny its use to NRIs or even Indian citizens who are travelling and outside India is not a good idea.

The Government is also planning to reduce the number of organisations mentioned in the Second Schedule of the RTI Act which are exempt from disclosure norms. At present, there are 22 security and intelligence organisations which do not have the general obligation to disclose information unless it is a matter of human rights violation or corruption. These include RAW, Intelligence Bureau, DRDO, SPG, CRPF and CISF. Sources said organisations like Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) could be taken off the Schedule.

Comments: Again this is in interest of more disclosure of information and fits in with fundamental right to information. Denial of information should be an exception and therefore most departments of government should be openly accessible as far as their decision making is concerned.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mr Moily says will go by hard evidence

Here is latest news, that Law min Mr Moily says elevation of Justice Dinakaran will be based on hard evidence:

“Constitutional authorities will not go by perceptions or impressions and controversies and will go by hard facts and evidence,” Moily told reporters.

Comments: Oh yes, going by evidence of hardly any case of a judge being ever impeached or brought to book; we know for sure that hard evidence will never be found!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mini-Mahabharat: Karnataka Judicial association vs Bar council

A mini-Mahabharat is brewing between two communities which are part and parcel of judicial system -- judges and lawyers.

Excerpts from the news with my comments as Comments:

Expressing solidarity with Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, the Karnataka State Judicial Officers Association has termed the recent reports against him an onslaught on the independence of judiciary.

Comments: Hmmm... Karnataka judicial association is taking the same stand as CJI and coterie... say anything which casts an aspersion on judiciary and out comes the mantra of "independence of judiciary". Maybe judges need to wake up and realize that when 15 lakhs of cash bundle is delivered to a HC judge's doorstep, or large amount of land assets in Noida are transferred at dirt cheap rate to a HC judge, when large amounts of lands are found to be as assets of another HC judge; then the issue is not about 'independence of judiciary', but saving citizenry from such 'independent judiciary', which it seems is accountable to no one but its own coterie.

They said media reports on 50 to 60 per cent of judges being corrupt are baseless. "The reports also claimed that delay in disposal of cases is only on account of laxity of the judiciary. Such statements are highly derogatory and members of the association deprecate the same. The judiciary's image is tarnished on account of this," they noted.

Comments: A correction here... judiciary does not have an image anymore. Please conduct a survey of citizens, the to find out what they think of judiciary.

"False allegations are being made against judges at all levels without any basis and the courts are often boycotted. The functioning of the judiciary was interfered with only on the basis of reports appearing in the press without verifying the truth..."

Comments: Now one thing is clear... either the lawyers are complete morons, or have taken this opportunity to take some heat off from their own irresponsible behaviour every now and then. Who of the two is wearing the spotless clothes is difficult to say, so it is easy to figure that both of the two groups have something to hide and are engaging in this 'blame the other group' game to hide their own blemishes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Will judge -- but please increase my salary

This news story is positive yet displays a nagging Indian characteristic about decision making -- we know something is a problem, we know something is to be done to fix it, and then we just keep talking about it over and over again for several years till a real crisis emerges.

Read the news story below with highlights and my comments as Citizens' Comments:

NEW DELHI: Over 30 lakh cheque bouncing cases are clogging the wheels of justice which have already been slowed down by the weight of 2.7 crore cases pending in the trial courts, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.

A solution is difficult to find, said a Bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal and G S Singhvi. "It is easy to point fingers at the apparent slow pace of justice, but are there enough judges? It's difficult to select even 20 good judges from a total of 3,000 applicants," said Justice Singhvi citing his experience as a member of the selection panel.

Citizens' Comments: Ok. Now we have some handle on the problem. 20 judges selected out of 3000 applicants; the selection ratio according to this will be 1 in 150... if my memory serves me right this is about as tough or tougher than competition to get into prestigious management institutes like IIM. But wait a second, SC judge does not say there are only 20 jobs but only 20 candidates qualify to become judge.

"Will those who point fingers at judiciary care to find out the financial implications of recruiting more number of judges and the willingness of the states to invest more in judiciary," the Bench asked. It said the competent among the lawyers were refusing to become judges.

Citizens' Comments: Now we can't be sure if India is shining for the rich only, or for aam aadmi also; but it seems that no aam aadmi or rich person wants to become a judge. So what is the remedy -- increase salary of judges! If young people do not mind to take up jobs working night shifts in a call centre, what then holds them back from trying to have a job and respectable profession of a judge? A country (ok a city really) like Singapore pays high salaries to judges and high bureaucrats, that is one way to ensure that the competent people do not feel left behind and get tempted into corruption.

Here is another news story with some details on actual salaries of judges of the supreme court. Remember that these salaries levels are after the 3 fold increase which happened few months earlier.

Even HC Judges confused about PWDVA

Here is a news report which covers many of the points about applicability of PWDVA to women as 'respondents', as defined in Sec 2(q) of the act.

An excerpt from the news story:

The lower courts and high courts across the country differ on this issue. The Madhya Pradesh HC has held that complaint can be filed and proceedings can be initiated against adult male persons only under DV Act. In one case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has taken similar view that women cannot be made respondents, but in another case a division bench of the same high court took a different stand.

The division bench in AP High Court on June 2 this year concluded that the complainant under DV Act has to be a woman and if she is a wife, the female relatives of husband can be named as respondents. Thus, DV Act does not exclude women completely.

It is interesting that now the topic of discussion has shifted to how some women can only file complaints under PWDVA, and some women can only be at the receiving end of it. At what end of the stick you find yourselves is decided based on your relationship to a man. A woman being wife or even live-in partner entitles her to wield the stick, but any other woman relative of a man should be ever ready for getting beaten by the stick.

As regards the act itself which was deemed as 'clumsy drafting' as per SC judgment in 'Batra vs Batra' case, it surely seems the handiwork of certain lawyers who banded together in the name of women protection. Surely their clumsy and shoddy work can only entitle them to be called as Lawyers Defective, however that is the subject of another post...