Thursday, February 29, 2024

Notorious Verdict? Children as Disqualification: After Haryana law on contesting panchayat elections, Rajasthan law for jobs

Unlike Kerala which uses education as tool for the goal of population control and remains sensitive to the reproductive rights of citizens, the two-child norm against Panchayat members of Haryana and now for job seekers in Rajasthan is reminiscent of notorious sterilization laws and judgements of the U.S. which restricted to blacks and racial minorities. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's judgement in 2003. a The Two Child Norm Bill, 2005 was introduced as a private bill in the Rajya Sabha. This bill is aimed at providing for population control through promotion of "voluntary sterilization" among eligible couples having two living children and measures for promoting two child norm. The case of Aadhaar Number shows that what is promoted as "voluntary" measure gets transformed into coercive measure. It emerges that there two kinds of norms for panchayat elections and for the election to state assemblies and parliament in Haryana and for job seekers in Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, the number of babies born in Japan totaled 758,631 in 2023, hitting a record low for the eighth straight year and representing half the figure of some 1.5 million logged in 1983. The 2023 figure declined by 5.1% from the previous year's preliminary total of 799,728, the largest ever margin of decline. The figure fell below the 800,000 mark for the first time in 2022. "Caring for Our Elders Institutional Responses: India Ageing Report 2023" of United Nations Population Fund and International Institute for Population Sciences indicates that an ageing population will give birth to economic crisis. The UN report  estimates that India’s elderly population (people over 60 years old) will grow at a rapid 41% between 2021 and 2031. The number of elderly people will be larger than the number of children (people who are younger than 15 years old) by 2046. Notably, in 2021 there were 39 elderly persons for every 100 children in India, and 16 elderly persons for every 100 working-age persons. The UN report shows that the elderly people will constitute about 20% (or one in five members) of India’s population by 2050. By the end of the 21st century, 36%, or a little more than one-third, of India’s population will be over 60 years old.

In such a backdrop, order of Supreme Court's bench of Justices Suryakant, Dipankar Dattaand K.V. Viswanathan upholding the judgment of a Division Bench of Rajasthan High Court dated October 12, 2022 appears to be caught in a time warp. The order ought to read with the UN report and the leading order of Justice (Dr.) D. Y. Chandrachud as part of the unanimous judgement by 9-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court delivered on August 24, 2017. He observed, "When histories of nations are written and critiqued, there are judicial decisions at the forefront of liberty. Yet others have to be consigned to the archives, reflective of what was, but should never have been. The decision of the US Supreme Court in Buck v Bell (1927) ranks amongst the latter. It was a decision in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. accepted the forcible sterilization by tubular ligation of Carrie Bucks as part of a programme of state sponsored eugenic sterilization. Justice Holmes, while upholding the programme opined that: 'three generations of imbeciles is enough'." In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s sterilization law. The Court decided that since sterilization only occurred after months of observation and an institutional board hearing, the practice was constitutional. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a eugenics enthusiast, wrote for the Court. Holmes stated that society’s welfare would be promoted by sterilizing Carrie Buck since she could likely have another child with a mental impairment. Holmes went on to say that since the country asks men to potentially lose their lives in battle, other citizens should be willing to suffer “lesser sacrifices.” Notably, Justice Pierce Butler dissented, thinking that personal liberty was at stake, and the state’s justification was not sufficient. Dr. Chandrachud referred to Siddhartha Mukherjee's book The Gene: An Intimate History, which provides a moving account of the regressive times.   

In 1942, the US Supreme Court decided Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel Williamson case. Jack Skinner was a chicken thief that the state of Oklahoma sought to sterilize. But the Supreme Court decided differently in this case, stating that reproduction is one of the basic rights of man. Therefore, sterilization violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also noted that being a chicken thief was not identified as an inheritable trait. It marked a shift in public attitudes towards eugenics. Eugenics came to be associated with the Nazi party, which committed mass genocide against the Jewish people and others in the Holocaust while claiming to promote the Aryan race. The Buck v Bell case was a landmark decision for the eugenics movement. Another eight thousand three hundred people in the state of Virginia and sixty-thousand people nationwide were involuntarily sterilized until the practice and eugenics as a whole fell out of favor in the 1970s.

Its order dated February 20, 2024 reiterated Supreme Court's judgement in Javed v. State of Haryana (2003) which had held that "the classification, which disqualifies candidates for having more than two living children, was non-discriminatory and intra-vires the Constitution, since the objective behind the provision was to promote family planning."

The aggrieved appellant, Ramji Lal Jat, an ex-serviceman had applied for the post of Police Constablein the Rajasthan Police on but his candidature was rejected in light of a Rule of the Rajasthan Police Subordinate Service Rules, 1989, on the ground that since he had more than two children after June 1, 2002, he stood disqualified for public employment under the State, as per the Rajasthan Various Service (Amendment) Rules, 2001, which provides that “no candidate shall be eligible for appointment to the service who has more than two children on or after 01.06.2002.” He had approached the Rajasthan High Court which turned down his claim on the premise that the subject-Rule, under which the appellant has been disqualified, falls within the realm of policy and does not warrant any interference by the Court.

On July 30, 2003, the Supreme Court's bench of Justices R.C. Lahoti, Ashok Bhan and Arun Kumar delivered its judgment in the case of Javed v. State of Haryana [Writ petition (Civil) No. 302 of 2001]. In this case the constitutionality of Sections 175 and 177 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 was upheld by the Court. The cumulative effect of these Sections is to disqualify persons having more than two children from becoming Sarpanch or a Panch of a Gram Panchayat or a member of a Panchayat Samiti or Zila Parishad or continue as such. The Court observed, "“Fundamental rights are not to be read in isolation. They have to be read along with the Chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Duties enshrined in Article 51A. Under Article 38 the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people and developing a social order empowered at distributive justice - social, economic and political. Under Article 47 the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and in particular the constitutionally down-trodden....The concept of sustainable development which emerges as a fundamental duty from the several clauses of Article 51A too dictates the expansion of population being kept within reasonable bounds.” The order was authored by Justice Lahoti. 

The Court held that "We are clearly of the opinion that the impugned provision is neither arbitrary nor unreasonable nor discriminatory. The disqualification contained in Section 175(1)(q) of Haryana Act No.11 of 1994 seeks to achieve a laudable purpose - socio-economic welfare and health care of the masses and is consistent with the national population policy. It is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution."

It observed that "Right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is a right conferred by a Statute. At the most, in view of Part IX having been added in the Constitution, a right to contest election for an office in Panchayat may be said to be a constitutional right --a right originating in Constitution and given shape by statute. But even so it cannot be equated with a fundamental right. There is nothing wrong in the same Statute which confers the right to contest an election also to provide for the necessary qualifications without which a person cannot offer his candidature for an elective office and also to provide for disqualifications which would disable a person from contesting for, or holding, an elective statutory office."

The Court drew on the law laid down in N.P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal Constituency (1952) Jagan Nath v. Jaswant Singh (1954) SCR 892 and Jyoti Basu v. Debi Ghosal (1982 wherein the Supreme Court held that "A right to elect, fundamental though it is to democracy, is, anomalously enough, neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is pure and simple, a statutory right. So is the right to be elected. So is the right to dispute an election. Outside of statute, there is no right to elect, no right to be elected and no right to dispute an election. Statutory creations they are, and therefore, subject to
statutory limitation."

The Court observed that "In our view, disqualification on the right to contest an election by having more than two living children does not contravene any fundamental right nor does it cross the limits of reasonability. Rather it is a disqualification conceptually devised in national interest." 

The judgement concluded that "The challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 175(1)(q) and 177(1) fails on all the counts. Both the provisions are held, intra vires the Constitution. The provisions are salutary and in public interest." Once upon a time even eugenics and forceful sterilisation of human beings were deemed in public interest. 

Supreme Court's bench of Justices Suryakant, Dipankar Dattaand K.V. Viswanathan missed the opportunity of rectifying the judgement in Javed v State of Haryana. The Court's insensitive approach  towards reproductive rights has been criticized in a paper published in National Law School of India Review. Unlike Indian Supreme Court, the US Supreme Court has held that "The right to procreation is a fundamental right, so a state cannot require the sterilization of criminals convicted of certain crimes." Subsequent to this order, the Virginia sterilization law was repealed in 1974. In 2002, Virginia became the first State to issue a formal statement of regret for its past support of eugenics and involuntary sterilization. In 2015, the General Assembly approved a financial compensation program for living survivors of eugenic sterilization that allowed them to claim up to $25,000. Notably, The Washington Post criticized Virginia’s compensation plan for the “insulting” amount offered to victims, noting that North Carolina offered victims $50,000 in its editorial published on November 28, 2015.

A day will come when the Haryana, Rajasthan laws and Aadhaar Act too will either get repealed or overturned by the Supreme Court and a statement of regret will be issued and compensations will be paid to the victims of these laws. 




On the 30th of July 2003, the Supreme Court of India delivered its judgment in the case of Javed v. State of Haryana.1 This judgment is seen by many as being a formal endorsement of the National Population Policy by the Apex Court and has been followed in the recent case of Zile Singh v. State of Haryana.2 In Javed the constitutionality of Sections 175 and 1773 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 (hereinafter, ‘the Act’) was upheld by the Court. The combined effect of these Sections is to disqualify persons having more than two children from becoming Sarpanch or a Panch of a Gram Panchayat or a member of a Panchayat Samiti or Zila Parishad or continue as such.

Read more at India's trusted legal database: https://www.aironline.in

Supreme Court finds directions of Armed Forces Tribunal de-hors its judgement, orders accommodation of woman naval officer in Permanent Commission

On February 26, 2024, Supreme Court's bench of .Chief Justice of India Dr Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli delivered the judgement in Cdr Seema Chaudhary v. Union of India (Review Petition (Civil) No 1036 of 20230 in Civil Appeal No 2216 of 2022 exercising its inherent jurisdiction. The judgement was authored by Dr. Chandrachud. It found the directions of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) was de-hors its earlier judgement. It ordered accommodation of Commander Seema Chaudhary, a  woman naval officer in Permanent Commission.   

The petitioner was commissioned in the Indian Navy as a Short Service Commissioned Officer (SSCO) in the Judge Advocate Generals’ (JAG) Branch of the Indian Navy on 6 August 2007. She was promoted on 6 August 2009 as a Lieutenant and, thereafter, on 6 August 2012 as a Lieutenant Commander. During the course of her service, she was granted an extension in November 2016 for a period of two years and, thereafter, for an equivalent duration in August 2018. On 5 August 2020, the petitioner was informed that she would stand released from service on 5 August 2021. The petitioner was an officer who was recruited before the Policy Letter of 26 September 2008 was issued. The Policy Letter stipulated that while women SSCOs would be considered for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) in stipulated branches (JAG, Education and Naval Architecture), the letter would have prospective effect. It was as a result of the application of the Policy Letter dated 26 September 2008 that the petitioner was initially not considered to be eligible for the grant of Permanent Commission. In the Court's directions dated  17 March 2020 in Union of India v. Lieutenant Commander Annie Nagaraja (2020) contained in paragraph 109.1 and 109.2, the Court noted that the statutory bar on the enrolment of women in the Indian Navy was lifted in terms of the notifications issued by the Union Government on 9 October 1991 and 6 November 1998 under Section 9(2) of the Navy Act. Moreover, this Court held that the policy decision of the Union Government dated 25 February 1999 would govern the conditions of service of SSCOs including women officers in regard to the grant of Permanent Commission in terms of Regulation 203 Chapter IX Part III of the 1963 Regulations.

The Court had specifically directed that the Policy Letter dated 26 September 2008, making it prospective and restricting it to specified cadres, would stand quashed and set aside. This Court directed that all SSCOs in the Education, Law and Logistic Cadres who were “presently in service”, shall be considered for the grant of PC. This entitlement arose from the Policy Letter dated 25 February 1999 read with Regulation 203 of Chapter IX of the Naval Regulations 1963. It is not in dispute that the case of the petitioner for being considered for the grant of Permanent Commission squarely arose in terms of the directions contained in paragraph 109.5 of the judgment. The petitioner was considered for the grant of Permanent Commission (PC) after the judgment of this Court, but has been denied on the ground that there were no vacancies.  

The petitioner had earlier moved to the Court under Article 32 of the Constitution, but was relegated to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) by an order dated 24 August 2021. The AFT had issued certain directions in its judgment dated 3 January 2022.These  directions were challenged before the Court in Civil Appeal No 2216 of 2022, which was disposed of by the Court by its order dated 20 October 2022. To meet the ends of justice would made the Court to recall the order which was passed by it Court on 20 October 2022 in Civil Appeal No 2216 of 2022 pertaining to the petitioner on February 26, 2024. The Court observed that "Any directions de-hors the judgment of the Court could not obviously be issued."

The Court's order reads: "We accordingly order and direct that in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, the case of the petitioner for the grant of PC shall be considered afresh by reconvening a Selection Board. The Selection Board shall consider the case of the petitioner on a stand alone basis since it is common ground that she was the only serving JAG Branch officer of the 2007 batch whose case for the grant of PC was required to be considered. The consideration by the Selection Board shall take place uninfluenced by any previous consideration of her case for PC and uninfluenced by any observations contained in the order of the AFT."

The order clarifies that in the event that pursuant to the directions of the AFT, if a proportional increase in the vacancies is required to be created to accommodate the petitioner, this shall be carried out without creating any precedent for the future. We have issued this direction under Article 142 of the Constitution so as to ensure that while no other officer is displaced, a long standing injustice to the petitioner is duly rectified. Any Annual Confidential Report which has not been communicated to the petitioner shall not be considered for the purpose of the grant of Permanent Commission. The exercise of considering the petitioner afresh for Permanent Commission shall be carried out on or before 15 April 2024.

Srimati Radhika Sinha Institute and Sachidanand Sinha Library (Requisition And Management) Act, 2015 is constitutionally valid: Patna High Court

Patna High Court's bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Rajiv Roy delivered a judgement on February 29, 2024 after hearing the writ petition which challenged the constitutional validity Srimati Radhika Sinha Institute and Sachidanand Sinha Library  (Requisition And Management) Act, 2015 on January 8, 2024. The petition was filed May15, 2015 by Anurag Krishna Sinha against the State of Bihar. The petition was heard on some fifteen occasions. The judgment was reserved on January 8, 2024.. The judgement was authored by the Chief Justice. The writ petition stands dismissed. This dismissal reversed the interim order dated May 22, 2015 by the bench of the then Chief Justice L. Narasimha Reddy and Justice Sudhir Singh which had suspended the operation of the Act as an interim measure.

Both Radhika Sinha and Sachchidanand Sinha were towering personalities of Bihar. The latter was the first President of the Constituent Assembly of India. His contribution to the making of Constitution is well known. The Library was constructed with the personal funds of the wife of Sachchidanand Sinha way back in 1924. Radhika Sinha had sold her assets and with the sale proceeds constructed a library on a land given by the then Secretary to the Government. The personal collection of books of about ten thousand volumes, made by Dr. Sachchidanand Sinha and various other books have been kept in the library and ever since then it is functioning. The library is being run by a Trust, constituted under a deed. Till 1955, the Government of Bihar acknowledged the right, title, and ownership on the land, building, books and fixtures of the library in the trustees.  

On November 24, 1955, the Government of Bihar entered into an agreement with the Trust with the sole
purpose of seeking permission of the trust to permit the use of the Trust for implementation of the governmental scheme of Library reorganization. 
In the process, certain financial arrangement is also made. Clause 11 of the agreement provides that in the event of any breach of the agreement by the Trustees, the Government shall have the discretion to stop all further grants. It is also important to note that in the 1st clause of the agreement the State Government recognized the ownership and management of the land, building and structures, furnitures and fixtures, books and periodicals and other properties and assets as vested in the Trust. In 1983, an Ordinance was issued for taking over the Library. That became the subject matter of the proceedings before this Court as well as before the Supreme Court and in meanwhile, the Ordinance itself lapsed. 

It emerges from the judgement that, a Division Bench of the High Court had held that despite the lapse,  the vesting under the ordinance will have an enduring effect. "The Hon’ble  Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Division Bench expressing surprise at the rejection of the writ petition after taking note of the fact of both the ordinances having lapsed without any legislative measure having been taken during the currency of the ordinances. The vesting was adjudged to be life-less by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court was in the year 1996 and the State did not attempt any action for long years. In the year 2015, again, the State came with the present legislation."

The present Act which was challenged has been enacted with an objective “to provide provision for requisition, transfer and better management and development of Srimati Radhika Sinha Institute and Sachchidanad Sinha Library, Patna and for matters connected and incidental thereto.”

Sunil Kumar, the petitioner's senior counsel submitted that the Act, as has been brought out, is violative of Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The State lacks legislative competence to enact a law on a trust and the trustees. ‘the Institute & Library’ is covered under the Indian Trust Act brought out under Entry 10 of the Concurrent list (List III) of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India. An Act of the State legislature, for acquisition of property, cannot impinge upon the legislation brought out by the Union Parliament.

P. K Shahi, the Advocate General argued that the Bihar State Public Library and Information Centre Act, 2008 has Section 3  which specifically speaks of State Libraries; which the Institute & Library is, as per the agreement entered into in the year 1955. Insofar as the contention, with respect to special enactment having precedence above the general enactment, it is argued that the principle has no application insofar as the Indian Trust Act and the subject Act is concerned. The ownership of the properties is sought to be taken over and since the enactment itself in its Preamble speaks of development and better management of ‘the Institute & Library’, this is the public interest and there is no question of any digression from the objectives of the trust.  

Notably, on May 22, 2015, the bench of the then Chief Justice led bench had suspended the operation of the Act as an interim measure subject to the conditions that – (a) The Trust shall not alienate or create third party interest vis-à-vis the property; (b) Inventory of all the books and furnitures shall be prepared and be submitted to this Court on or before the next date of hearing; and,(c) The accounts of the Trust for the past two years, duly audited by a Chartered Accountant shall be placed before this Court. It is not clear from the proceedings whether this part of his order has been complied with.

He observed that Section 3 of the 2015 Act provides for vesting of the entire Library and its assets in the State Government, from the date of commencement of the Act. In Section 7 it is stated that if any question arises for the payment of compensation for the „acquisition‟ of the scheduled institution, and its right, title and interest, the State Government may pay only maximum one rupee after examining the claims.

The order was authored by Chief Justice Reddy.  He had observed, "The Act is not clear as to whether it proposes to 'acquire' or 'requisition' the property. The nomenclature of the Act provides with the legislative intent to 'requisition' the property, whereas Section 7 of the Act speaks of acquisition. The substantial difference between two concepts is too well known. Requisition can only be for a temporary purpose, whereas acquisition will result in transfer of ownership, for consideration." He also observed that "The Constitution was amended changing the right to property from fundamental to constitutional right. Article 300 of the Constitution provides that no property shall be taken over by the State except by paying compensation. The Act in its present form, violates Article 300 of the Constitution." He had noted that "it is difficult to fit the legislative exercise into any specific entry under List II of Schedule 7 of the Constitution. The Act virtually results in taking over private property without any compensation." His order stated that "as late as in the year 1955, the Government of Bihar acknowledged the right, title, and ownership on the land, building, books and fixtures of the library in the trustees. The same cannot be made to vest in the State without providing the adequate compensation or other measures. The relation between the State and the Trust is governed by an agreement. If the endeavour of the State is to ensure that the Library is to be properly maintained, necessary measures can certainly to be taken.We prima facie find that the legislative power used to commit the breach of an agreement, to which the State is a party. The Act, in a way results in insult to the legacy of the great personality. The composition of the Trust would speak about the greatness of the Trust. The Trustees included Former Chief Justice of India, Judges of this Court and Eminent Persons of great reputation. "

Unlike Chief Justice Reddy's interim order, Chief Justice Vinod Chandran's final judgement penultimate paragraph states that "The vesting occurs of ‘the Institute & Library’ on the State Government for the purpose of better management and development of ‘the Institute & Library’. The objects of the Trust cannot be digressed from by the State Government nor is it intended to be, as is disclosed from the impugned enactment. Whatever rights, powers and duties that remained with the Trustees, in the management of ‘the Institute & Library’ as was available after Annexure-2 agreement was entered into, would also vest completely in the State Government by the impugned enactment."

He concluded that "We find absolutely no reason to entertain the writ petition and dismiss the same but hasten to add that the vesting does not absolve the State Government from carrying on the objects of the Trust; which obligation attaches itself to the Trust taken over by the State Government, who has the responsibility to further the intention of the original settlor." It is apparent that the spirit of Justice Reddy's order regarding "the legacy of the great personality" has been safeguarded. The judgement implies that Srimati Radhika Sinha Institute and Sachidanand Sinha Library  (Requisition And Management) Act, 2015 is constitutionally valid.

    


Chief Justice headed bench dismisses appeal against action taken under Enemy Property Act

Patna High Court's bench of Chief Justice Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar allowed an Interlocutory Application for substitution of heirs and legal representatives of Appellant No. 1 who died on May 26, 2019. The Court directed the Registry to carry out the substitution. It dismissed the appeal Re: LPA No. 919 of 2015 which was filed against the judgment dated September 24, 2014 rejecting the prayer for quashing order dated June 18, 2010 passed under Sections 5 and 24 of the Enemy Property Act, 1968, in so far as it relates to the original first petitioner, father of the appellants, claiming title over a property. The Court found "absolutely no reason to interfere with the judgment of the learned Single Judge."

The subject property on which the deceased first petitioner claimed title, was taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property for India by the said order. The property was comprised in Plot Nos. 71, 71/342, 72/342, 139 and 148 situated in Chapra Lodi @ Maripur village. 

Shashi Shekhar Dwivedi, Senior Counsel for the for the appellants argued that the learned Single Judge laboured under a misapprehension that the title suit filed by the deceased first petitioner got rejected and failed to notice that in appeal, there was a compromise entered into where the rival claimant had accepted the title deed of the deceased first petitioner to be genuine and valid. The deceased first petitioners claimed to have purchased the property on July 14, 1964 from one Md. Sharif Punjabi, who had migrated to Pakistan. The notification under the Defense of India Act, 1962, which for the first time spoke of vesting of property belonging to Pakistani nationals in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India came into effect only on September 10, 1965, after the sale deed. There was sufficient evidence to indicate that Md. Sharif Punjabi had returned to India and presented himself before the Registrar for registering the document executed by him; which was validated by the compromise entered into between the deceased first petitioner and the rival claimant before the Additional District Judge, in an appeal filed against the decree and judgment in the suit for specific performance, filed by the rival claimant. 

The order notes that the notification of September 10, 1965 was under the Defense of India Act, 1962 and the Defense of India Rules, 1962 which stood revoked on 10.07.1968. Though the Enemy Property Act, 1968 came into effect with retrospective effect on September 10, 1965, the vesting could occur only by the notification, which was after the sale deed. By the time the notification vesting the property had come into effect, the sale had fructified and the property was conveyed by the Pakistani national to the deceased first petitioner, an Indian national. 

The Senior Counsel argued that when the notification came into existence, the property was in the possession of the Indian national. 

Additional Solicitor General Dr. K.N. Singh, assisted by Prem Ranjan Raj resisted the contention raised on behalf of the appellants. It was argued that there is absolutely no evidence led before the authority regarding the sale deed executed. In fact, two suits were filed, one by the deceased first petitioner, for eviction of the rival claimant and the other by the rival claimant, for specific performance. The deceased first petitioner’s suit for eviction was rejected and the rival claimant’s suit for specific performance was decreed;against which judgments, two appeals were preferred by the deceased first petitioner. The appeal from the dismissal of the suit of the deceased first petitioner was withdrawn, thus validating the decree, which in fact found that the sale deed was a fraudulently executed one. The compromise entered into in the appeal from the decree of specific performance is inconsequential in so far as the proceedings under the Enemy Property Act, which is the successor to the Defense of India Act.

The Court examined the records. The proceedings were initiated on a letter received by the office of the Custodian, from the Anchal Adhikari, Mushari that the subject property situated in Chapra Lodi alias Maripore village belonged to one Md. Sharif Punjabi who had migrated to Pakistan in the year 1962. It was also stated that Md. Sharif Punjabi never returned to India and one Najmul Hoda was claiming the property under a sale agreement allegedly executed in his favour by one Md. Ishak who styled himself as the Manager of Md. Sharif Punjabi. Noorul Hoda, the deceased first petitioner, also had raised a claim based on a sale deed executed in 1964. It was the categoric submission of the Anchal Adhikari that the said sale deed was not executed by Md. Sharif Punjabi. After investigation, the Additional Collector, Muzaffarpur also issued a letter dated June 28, 1977 with the opinion of the Additional Government Pleader, Muzaffarpur that the property is an evacuee property. 

The Court records that the Office of the Custodian received two representations with regard to the above property, one from the deceased first petitioner who claimed title by virtue of the registered sale deed dated July 14, 1964, allegedly executed by Md. Sharif Punjabi. The deceased first petitioner had produced photostat copies of the entry of Md. Sharif Punjabi into India, the statement of the police officer sent by the Police Commissioner, Calcutta. The first referred document was produced before the trial court and the officer, second referred was examined on oath. Despite this, the Sub-Judge-V before whom the title suit was pending rejected the prayer for eviction of the rival claimant, the defendant in the suit, on the finding that the sale deed is fraudulently created. 

Notably, the other claimant, Zafar Masood had also claimed the property and asserted that he was in possession of the property and was staying there for the last 40 years. It was the case of Shri Zafar Masood that he was staying in the property on an arrangement with Md. Sharif Punjabi and that the sale deed of the first petitioner, is a forged document. The Court didi not attend to the claim of Zafar Masood in the present appeal. 

The Court observed that as far as the deceased first petitioner is concerned whose claim was sought to be agitated before the Custodian by the second appellant, his son, the Custodian found that the consent decree obtained by the deceased first petitioner is not binding on the Custodian; rightly so. The admitted facts are that the property belonged to Md. Sharif Punjabi and he migrated to Pakistan in the year 1962. The property, if remaining in the name of that person, is an enemy property as provided under the notification of September 10, 1965. Under the Defense of India Act and the Rules framed thereunder, the notification of September 10, 1965 vested all immovable properties in India, belonging to or held by or managed on behalf of all Pakistani nationals, in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India with immediate effect. The only exception was in so far as property belonging to or held by or managed on behalf of the Pakistani nationals who are employed in the different missions of the Government of Pakistan, in India. Hence, the Custodian has the possession of the property unless the vesting as per the notification is unsettled by the sale deed allegedly executed on July 14, 1964.

It was admitted that there were two suits filed, one by the deceased first petitioner and the other, by the rival claimant for specific performance, based on a sale agreement of the subject property. While the rival claimant had filed a suit for specific performance based on a sale agreement executed purportedly by the Manager of Md. Sharif Punjabi, the deceased first petitioner’s suit asserted title and sought for eviction of the rival claimant. The suit for specific performance by the rival claimant was decreed and the suit for eviction of the deceased first petitioner stood rejected.

The deceased first petitioner hence lost before the trial court and filed two appeals, one against the rejection of his claim for eviction and the other against the decree of specific performance. 

It was admitted that the appeal against the rejection of the dceased first petitioner’s suit was withdrawn. In the appeal against the suit for specific performance, a compromise was entered into. The compromise was in so far as the rival claimant resiling from his claim over the agreement. The rival claimant entered into a compromise, photo copy of which is produced by the second appellant himself in the rejoinder filed in the appeal.

14. We find it appropriate to extract the entire compromise filed by the deceased first appellant and the rival claimant before the appellate court: "The humble compromise petition on behalf of the appellant and respondent 1st party is as follows:

1. That the relatives and the well wishers of the parties having felt unnecessary harassment and expenses of the parties due to prolonged litigation between them tried to get the dispute among the parties settled amicably.

2. That the appellant and the respondents 1st party at he persuasion of the relatives and well wisher settled all the dispute amicably irrespective of the allegations and counter allegation made in their respective pleadings.

3. That on the further information gathered from the reliable sources the respondent learnt that the registered sale deed dated 14.07.64 executed by Md. Sharif Punjabi in favour of the appellant with respect of the land under dispute is genuine, legal, valid and for consideration.

4. That the respondents hereby admit right title and interest & possession of the appellant over the land under dispute acquired on the basis of registered sale deed dated 14.07.1964 executed by Md. Sharif Punjabi.

5. That the respondents hereby abandon their claim and forgive their right under deed of Mohada dated 21.7.1962 which is the basis of the suit and will have no right to make any claim on the basis of the said Mohada.

6. That in view of compromise between the applicant and the respondent the decree dated 26.6.1995 passed by Sub-Judge 5th Court Muzaffarpur in T.S. no. of 1964 will be seemed to be non existent and void and no party will have right to make any claim on the basis of said decree.

7. That both the parties bear their respective cost of litigation and no party will have right to make any claim on account of cost of litigation against other parties.

8. That the parties have read and got read the contents of the compromise petition and having understood and found that the terms of compromise and settlement arrived at have been mentioned in its full spirit and sense, have signed the compromise petition in token of acceptance of terms thereof.

9. That the respective lawyers of the parties have also signed the compromise petition. It is therefore prayed that the compromise be recorded and the appeal be disposed off on the basis of the compromise and the compromise petition be made part of the decree. And for which both the parties shall ever pray.”

The Court observed, "The compromise so entered into by the deceased first petitioner and the rival claimant are only binding on both of them. The rival claimant cannot raise any further claim over the property, but the decree cannot be held out against the entire world by the deceased first petitioner to assert his title over the property. 

The Court reproduced the operative portion of  common judgment dated June 26, 1995 in the title suits, by the trial court. It reads: -"that Title Suit No. 117/64 is decreed on contest but without cost and the plaintiff of Title Suit No.117/64 is hereby directed to deposit Rs. 40,000/-which is balance consideration amount by Challan within one month from the date of Judgment and the defendant 1st party of T.S. 117/64 are hereby directed to receive the consideration amount of Rs.40,000/- as balance amount within three months and to execute kebala in favour of the plaintiff of Title Suit no. 117 of 1964 with respect to the suit properties failing which the sale deed will be executed with respect to the suit properties by the court in favour of the plaintiff. It is hereby also held that the plaintiff of Title Suit No. 117/64 has been residing in the suit premises on the strength of Ext.4. i.e. Mahada. It is also held that Ext. F has not been executed by Md. Sharif Punjabi on 14-7-64 the defendant no. 1 of Title Suit No. 117/64 as Md. Sharif Punjabi could not come to Muzaffarpur on 14-7-64 and Ext. F is held to be a fictitious document and the same is not legal, valid and operative.” 

The Court observed that "While the suit for specific performance filed by the rival claimant was compromised in appeal, the appeal against the rejection of the suit for eviction was withdrawn. Hence, the deceased first petitioner who filed the suit for eviction and suffered a dismissal at the trial court, cannot wriggle out of the judgment of the trial court. The trial court had found the document of 14.07.1964 to be fictitious and hence not a legal, valid and operative document. Even if the sale deed was accepted by the trial court, it would not only have been one piece of strong evidence to establish the case of conveyance, prior to the date of vesting as per the notification. The Custodian would be empowered to conduct an independent inquiry in which the deceased first petitioner had to establish that the agreement was genuine and executed by the Pakistani national."

The Court noted that "The only evidence offered by the deceased first petitioner was the compromise of the suit for specific performance, which terms of compromise only applies inter parties and as held earlier, cannot be held out as against the whole world. The Custodian of Enemy Property was not a party to the said proceedings and hence is not bound by the same." 

It further noticed that the Defense of India Act was revoked six months after the proclamation of emergency was revoked on January  10, 1968. The Defense of India Act ceased to have effect from 10.07.1968, prior to which the Enemy Property Act was brought into force. By virtue of Section 5 of the Enemy Property Act; a non obstante clause, despite the expiration of the Defense of India Act and the Defense of India Rules every enemy property vested before such expiration on the Custodian of Enemy Property continues to vest in the Custodian; before the commencement of the Enemy Property Act and from such commencement.

The order authored by Chief Justice Vinod Chandran concluded "The proceedings taken under the Enemy Property Act is perfectly in order."


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Prayer for suspension of conviction of Shankar Yadav, Pritam Lakra admitted in Patna High Court

In the matter concerning conviction of Shankar Yadav and Pritam Lakra, Patna High Court's Division Bench of Justices Ashutosh Kumar and A. Abhishek Reddy admitted the Criminal Appeal (DB)No.629 of 2023 in a case arising out of PS. Case No.-1 of 2021 in NCB Thana (Government Official), Bhojpur on February 22, 2024. The case was filed on June 23, 2023 and registered on June 25, 2023. Ravindra Kumar and Dr. Gopal Krishna are counsels for Shankar Yadav and Pritam Lakra respectively.

This appeal was against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated May 9, 2023/May 17, 2023, passed in N.D.P.S. Case No. 06 of 2021, arising out of N.C.B. Case No. 01 of 2021 by Virendra Kumar Choubey, the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur at Ara, whereby the appellants have been convicted for the offence under Sections 20(B)(ii)(C) and 25 of the N.D.P.S. Act, 1985. The Court called for the Trial Court Records. 

Notably, one of the four accused, Bijendra Kumar Rai, the main accused from Dahiyawa, Chhapra, Saran, Bihar was released by the judgment dated May 9, 2023 authored by the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur. The remaining three who are residents of Jharkhand have been convicted. They are: Nav Kumar Ojha, the owner of the truck from Pundru thana, Hazaribagh, Shankar Yadav, the driver of the truck from Sarwaha thana, Hazaribagh, and Pritam Lakra, the helper from Kuddu, Lohardagga. It is noteworthy that 909.2 kg of Ganja was seized from Truck No. JH09J4421 and 50 kg Ganja from Sumo 407 on February 2, 2021 besides a Scorpio Car No. JH09M7100 at Koilwar Police Station, Bhojpur.  

Significantly, the written complaint was filed on July 28, 2021 and the F.I.R. was lodged on July 28, 2021. The charge sheet was filed on July 28, 2021. The seizure happened pursuant to inputs from Anil Kumar, the informant, an Intelligence Officer. Out of the six witnesses named in the charge sheet four are members of the raiding team. They are Ramayodhya Kumar, Vinod Kumar, Paramhans Kumar, Anil and Kumar. The other two witnesses are Prince Kumar and Lav Singh who are also named as witnesses in seizure and complaint. Both have signed as witnesses. It is apparent that Anil Kumar, the informant who was a member of the raiding team is also the Investigating Officer in the case. The trial had commenced on February 4, 2022. The evidence was closed on November 21, 2022. Dinesh Ram and Ranjit Kumar were examined as witnesses by the defense. 

It is noteworthy that the judgement of the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur has not found the three accused, namely, Nav Kumar Ojha, the owner of the truck from Pundru thana, Hazaribagh, Shankar Yadav, the driver of the truck from Sarwaha thana, Hazaribagh, and Pritam Lakra, the helper from Kuddu, Lohardagga to be guilty of offences under Section 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. But they have been found guilty of offences under Section 20 (B) (ii) (C) and Section 25.

Section 20 (B) (ii) (C) of the NDPS Act was substituted by the Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2001 with effect from October 2, 2001. There were over 40 amendments made in the original NDPS Act, supposedly to address certain obligations specially in respect of the concept of ‘controlled delivery’ arising from the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs andPsychotropic Substances 1988 to which India is one of the 87 signatories out of 192 parties since March 27, 1990. Prior to that India amended the NDPS Act for the first time in 1989. The UN Convention came into force on November 11, 1990, in accordance with Article 29(1) of the Convention. The NDPS Act was amended in 2014 as well. Some 25 amendments were made under the 2014 legislation.

Section 20 of the NDPS Act deals with punishment for contravention in relation to cannabis plants and cannabis. It states that "Whoever, in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rule or order made or condition of licence granted thereunder,—(a) cultivates any cannabis plant; or (b) produces, manufactures, possesses, sells, purchases, transports, imports inter-State, exports inter-State or uses cannabis, shall be punishable..."  Section 20 (ii) B of the NDPS Act states that where such contravention relates to sub-clause (b) and involves quantity lesser than commercial quantity but greater than small quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. Section 20 (ii) (C) states that where such contravention relates to sub-clause (b), and involves commercial quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees: Provided that the court may, for reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees. 
 
A careful perusal of the judgement of the reveals that Pritam Lakra, the helper of the truck is not covered under the ambit of Section (ii) (B) and (C) of the NDPS Act because there is nothing on record to show that he is a cultivator of any cannabis plant or producer, manufacturer, possessor, seller, purchaser, transporter, inter-State importer, inter-State exporter or user of cannabis. It is apparent that the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur committed an error in convicting him under Section (ii) (B) and (C) of the NDPS Act.

Section 25 of NDPS Act deals with the punishment for allowing premises, etc., to be used for commission of an offence. It states that "Whoever, being the owner or occupier or having the control or use of any house, room, enclosure, space, place, animal or conveyance, knowingly permits it to be used for the commission by any other person of an offence punishable under any provision of this Act, shall be punishable with the punishment provided for that offence." This provision too was substituted by the Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2001 with effect from October 2, 2001. 

A bare reading of Section 25 of NDPS Act shows that Pritam Lakra, the helper of the  truck in question is not covered under the ambit of Section 25. It seems that the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur committed an error in convicting him under Section 25.    

The judgement of Virendra Kumar Choubey, the Additional Sessions Judge-VIII, Bhojpur does not find that he deserved punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy under Section 29 of the NDPS Act. Section 29 reads: "(1) Whoever abets, or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit, an offence punishable under this Chapter, shall, whether such offence be or be not committed in consequence of such abetment or in pursuance of such criminal conspiracy, and notwithstanding anything contained in section 116 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.(2) A person abets, or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit, an offence, within the meaning of this section, who, in India, abets or is a party to the criminal conspiracy to the commission of any act in a place without and beyond India which--(a) would constitute an offence if committed within India; or(b) under the laws of such place, is an offence relating to narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances having all the legal conditions required to constitute it such an offence the same as or analogous to the legal conditions required to constitute it an offence punishable under this Chapter, if committed within India." 

Admittedly, Pritam Lakra was not involved in any conspiracy. If he was not involved in conspiracy, he has no role in the offence in question and he is not a beneficiary of any sort, how can he be deemed guilty under Section (ii) (B) and (C) and Section 25 of the NDPS Act.  

In this backdrop, the High Court's order of February 22, 2024 assumes huge significance. It  reads: "Since a prayer for suspension of has sentence been made in the memo of appeal, Mr. Sujit Kumar Singh, the learned APP shall put in the written objection by the next date. Re-notify this appeal on receipt of the Trial Court Records on 4th of April, 2024." The order was authored by Justice Ashutosh Kumar. The next listing date for hearing is April 4, 2024.

Patna High Court dismissed PIL seeking protection of Zinda Shah Saheed Baba Mazaar

In the matter of an old and historical Mazaar of Zinda Shah Saheed Baba situated at Kayamnagar, Bhojpur on the four lane of National Highway No. 30 and 84 connecting Koilwar to Bhojpur, Roona, the counsel for Haji Md. Riyazuddin, the petitioner prayed for protection of Zinda Shah Saheed Baba Mazaar. The local public of all communities pay great respect to this old and historic Mazaar Sharif since long time. However, on account of approval and ongoing construction of the aforenoted four lane National Highway 30 and 84, the authorities are bent upon to shift/relocate the Mazaar, in question, despite several representations before the competent authorities with a request to protect it and not to disturb the same. The petitioner had also challenged the notice dated September 16, 2022 issued by the District Magistrate, Bhojpur directing to relocate /shift the Mazaar before the High Court. 

Although the petitioner was not opposed to construction of National Highway, but is only concerned with the religious sentiments of the people at large and moreover when alternative measures are available like to make Diversion, Golambar or Flyover, the respondents should take steps to protect the sentiments of the followers from all faiths and religion. It is lastly submitted that the Mazaar, in question, is a Waqf property
and without having any permission from the Bihar State Sunni Waqf Board, it cannot be demolished or shifted to any other place. 

The order records that a meeting of all stakeholders, including Roona, the Advocate for the petitioner and local community member was convened by the Collector, Bhojpur on March 6, 2023 to discuss and deliberate on the possibility of arriving at a consensus for the peaceful shifting of the Mazaar situated at Kayamnagar. The proceeding of meeting, as contained in Memo No. 194 dated March 7, 2023 was brought on record.

It emerged that no consensus could be arrived at as the local people and the Advocate for the petitioner were not ready for shifting of the Mazaar. The petitioner submitted his option in order to save the Mazaar being shifted to different place viz. Change in alignment, construction of Golambar, construction of Flyover and slope down the Mazaar. The authorities of the National Highway Authority of India, who were also present in the meeting have not found the option provided by the petitioner feasible, as the existence of the Mazaar, in question, falling in the alignment is causing great inconvenience and hindrance to the movement of traffic on the National Highway, which is High Speed Corridor and due to the structure, in question, it has become accident prone. Hence, the submission has been made on behalf of the respondents that there is no option but to shift the said Mazaar, as has been done in cases of large number of religious structures, which have been shifted earlier in this project.

The Court pointed out that in a matter, dealing with the four lane Koilwar-Bhojpur National Highway NH 30 and 84 in C.W.J.C. No. 8344 of 2021, it has directed the respondent authorities concerned to ensure that all steps are taken expeditiously so that the project may be completed within the stipulated period.

The order reveals that “Bihar unauthorized religious structures, construction, survey and its regularization, relocation and removal Rules, 2013” framed in exercise of powers conferred under Article 136 of the Constitution of India was  cited. The Court observed that "Even as per the aforesaid Rule no religious structure situated at public place could be regularized, which causes hindrance in smooth trafficking in any of the manner." 

The order inadvertently and incorrectly refers to Article 136 of the Constitution of India, which is situated in Chapter IV on Union Judiciary in Part V of the Constitution. Article 136 deals with "special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court". It provides that "(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India. (2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces." It is evident that Article 136 has no relevance with regard to Bihar unauthorized religious structures, construction, survey and its regularization, relocation and removal Rules, 2013. The preamble of the 2013 Rules makes it quite clear. It reads: "In view of order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in S.L.P. (c) No. 8519 of 2006 Union of India v/s State of Gujarat and others, and in exercise of the powers conferred by the Article 166 of the Constitution of India; the Governor of Bihar." 

Notably, High Court's order cites this very case law in its dismissal order. It emerges that the High Court ought to have referred to Article 166 of the Constitution of India, not Article 136. Article 166  is situated in Part VI of the Constitution of India which deals with the States and under its Chapter II on the Executive. Article 166 deals with "Conduct of business of the Government of a State". It reads: "(1) All executive action of the Government of a State shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor.(2) Orders and other instruments made and executed in the name of the Governor shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules to be made by the Governor, and the validity of an order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the Governor. (3) The Governor shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of the State, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business in so far as it is not business with respect to which the Governor is by or under this Constitution required to act in his discretion." Notably, Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 had inserted fourth section of Article 166 in the original Constitution of India with effect from January 1, 1977 which was omitted by the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978 with effect from June 20, 1979.    

As per the orders of the High Court, the Administration attempted to arrive at an amicable solution but the local populous were unrelenting and the options put forth by the petitioner was not found feasible, therefore, construction of the road cannot be further delayed. 

Taking note of the importance and significance of the NH 30 and 84 High Speed Corridor, the Court did not find any substance in the present Public Interest Litigation and dismissed it.


Petitioner cannot be deprived of the benefit, due to non- constitution of the Appellate Tribunal under Bihar Goods and Services Tax Act: Chief Justice Vinod Chandran

In Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 2181 of 2023 (Amit Kumar Singh v. Union of India), the Patna High Court's bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar, the petitioner was desirous of availing statutory remedy of appeal against the impugned order before the Appellate Tribunal under Section 112 of the Bihar Goods and Services Tax (BGST) Act, 2017. But  due to non-constitution of the Tribunal, the petitioner is deprived of his statutory remedy under Sub-Section (8) and Sub-Section (9) of Section 112 of the BGST Act. As a consequence,  the petitioner was also prevented from availing the benefit of stay of recovery of balance amount of tax in terms of Section 112 (8) and (9) of the BGST Act upon deposit of the amounts as contemplated under Sub-section (8) of Section 112. The respondent State authorities have acknowledged the fact of non-constitution of the Tribunal and come out with a notification bearing Order No. 09/2019-State Tax, S. O. 399, dated 11.12.2019 for removal of difficulties, in exercise of powers under Section 172 of the B.G.S.T Act, which provides that period of limitation for the purpose of preferring an appeal before the Tribunal under Section 112 shall start only after the date on which the President, or the State President, as the case may be, of the Tribunal after its constitution under Section 109 of the B.G.S.T Act, enters office. Department of Commercial Taxes, Government is primarily responsible for Tax administration under B.G.S.T Act. So far this law has been amended twice in 2021 and 2023.

On April 6, 2023, the High Court's order disposed of the writ petition in the following terms:- 

(i) Subject to deposit of a sum equal to 20 percent of the remaining amount of tax in dispute, if not already
deposited, in addition to the amount deposited earlier under Sub-Section (6) of Section 107 of the B.G.S.T.
Act, the petitioner must be extended the statutory benefit of stay under Sub-Section (9) of Section 112
of the B.G.S.T. Act. The petitioner cannot be deprived of the benefit, due to non- constitution of the Tribunal by the respondents themselves. The recovery of balance amount, and any steps that may have been taken in this regard will thus be deemed to be stayed. It is not in dispute that similar relief has been granted by this Court in the case of SAJ Food Products Pvt. Ltd. v. The State of Bihar in C.W.J.C. No. 15465 of 2022.

(ii) The statutory relief of stay, on deposit of the statutory amount, however in the opinion of this Court, cannot be open ended. For balancing the equities, therefore, the Court is of the opinion that since order is being passed due to non-constitution of the Tribunal by the respondent-Authorities, the petitioner would be required to present/file his appeal under Section 112 of the B.G.S.T. Act, once the Tribunal is constituted and made functional and the President or the State President may enter office. The appeal would be required to be filed observing the statutory requirements after coming into existence of the Tribunal, for facilitating consideration of the appeal.

(iii) In case the petitioner chooses not to avail the remedy of appeal by filing any appeal under Section
112 of the B.G.S.T. Act before the Tribunal within the period which may be specified upon constitution of
the Tribunal, the respondent- Authorities would be at liberty to proceed further in the matter, in accordance with law.

The order was authored by Justice Vinod Chandran.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Patna High Court ChiefJustice led Bench imposes costs on Bihar State

Chief Justice of Patna High Court Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar heard the appeals of Kamini Kumari (Darbhanga), Sauda Khatun (Araria), Smt. Tara Singh (Saharsa), Smt. Meera Pathak (Munger), Smt. Rita Rani (Munger), Smt. Vimla Kumari (Munger) and Bansuri Acharya (Patna/North 24 Pargana) against the State of Bihar and others. 

Their appeals arise from the common judgment of a Single Judge in analogous writ petitions. After hearing the parties, the judgment was reserved on February 13, 2024.The judgement was delivered on February 27, 2024. Purushottam Kumar Jha, counsel for Kamini Kumari, the petitioner.

The petitioners were teachers appointed in the early 1980s whose appointments were subject of an inquiry, conducted by the CBI, on directions of the High Court in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). A report was submitted by the CBI and no action was taken. A PIL was filed again which led to further action against the teachers who were alleged to have been appointed illegally; in the CBI report. The various punishments imposed were set aside, in some of the cases, finding the departmental inquiry initiated against each of them to be improper. By reason of the liberty left by the Court to proceed afresh, the Department proceeded de novo against the said teachers. Many of them had retired, against whom, after inquiry, punishment was imposed withdrawing their pension in toto. Those who were in employment at the time of the de novo inquiry were terminated from service. Both these categories of persons along with others who were issued with show-cause notices approached this Court with a number of writ petitions, all of which were rejected by the judgment impugned in the appeal.

After elaborate hearing and rigorous examination of the records and relevant laws, rules and notifications, the Court records that "the appointments made in the year 1981, 1988 and 1989 were subjected to a CBI inquiry, the report of which was filed in the year 2004. Apparently no FIR was lodged and the reports submitted remained with the State Government, without any further action. It was long after, in the year 2016 that a Public Interest Litigation motivated the State Government into taking action. The order in the PIL only directed the State Government to take proceedings in accordance with law. We have found that the State Government had flouted all principles of fairness in disciplinary inquiry and also violated the specific rules of procedure as brought out under Article 309 of the Constitution of India."

The Court observed: "We cannot but deprecate the manner in which the inquiry proceedings were initiated by the State Government. True there was a CBI inquiry initiated in the PIL, in the course of which the petitioners were not at all examined or given an opportunity to put up their defence. The report of the CBI was filed in the year 2004 when all the petitioners were in service. Even then if a disciplinary proceeding had been taken, it would have been grossly delayed since the appointments were made in 1980’s."

The order reads: "Less said the better about the manner in which the inquiry was conducted. The memo of charges only contained the extract of the CBI report pointing out the alleged irregularity, as against the appointment of the individual petitioners. There was none examined at the inquiry nor documents marked. The extract of the CBI report could have been marked and proved only by the person who prepared the report or another officer of the CBI, who could depose on the basis of the records. This procedure was not followed and the inquiry officer did not independently consider the irregularity in appointment alleged."

The order states: "We have also noticed that the irregularity of roster clearance having not been obtained and the reservation rules not being followed were not treated as a ground to find irregularity in the appointments, in many individual cases. Insofar as the contention of over age is concerned, the petitioner
who was accused with that, has demonstrated that it is otherwise."

The order concludes: "On the reasoning above, we reverse the judgment of the learned Single Judge by allowing the appeals and allow the writ petitions setting aside the impugned orders.The orders set aside are those in which the punishments have been imposed, produced in the writ petition or by way of interlocutory application. These produced in the appeals, passed while they were pending also are set aside. The petitioners/appellants would be deemed to have retired from service and their pension would be restored with immediate effect. The petitioners shall be paid pension from March-2024 and the arrears for the period when they were denied of such pension, by reason of the impugned orders in the writ petition, shall be paid within a period of four months from today. The State shall be mulcted with further liability of interest at the rate of 5 per cent i.e from the date of stoppage of pension, if the arrears are not paid within four months. If interest is attracted by reason only of the delay caused in disbursing the arrears, then the State would be entirely at liberty to proceed against those officers who are responsible for the delay and recover the interest portion from them." 

The Court expressed its anguish about "the manner in which the inquiry proceedings were initiated and proceeded arbitrarily, flouting all procedural requirements. There were even instances of the disciplinary authority finding the individual liable to be continued, after which, again without notice subsequent inquiry report was obtained and punishment imposed. The State, being a welfare state has an obligation to its employees. The persons appointed were appointed decades back and continued in the employment of the State. Even if the CBI found some irregularities, it was for the State to meticulously examine whether such irregularities existed and if it did, whether it was expedient to take action against the petitioners, especially considering the passage of time and the fact that the State had extracted work from such persons in the intervening years. There is also no complaint raised against the appellants who were teachers, teaching in various schools. There is not even one instance pointed out when their services were found to be unsatisfactory. None of them are accused of any misconduct, four years prior to their retirement, or at any time before, in their total service. The State having acted in such an arbitrary manner; put the petitioners, who retired from service, to unnecessary agony, despair and prejudice by denying the entire pension for long years; which is held to be a matter of right and not a bounty paid by the State. On the above reasoning, we are of the opinion that the State should be imposed with costs which is quantified at Rs. 5,000/- in each of the appeals, which shall be paid along with the arrears." The appeal was allowed. The judgement was authored by Justice Vinod Chandran.

Patanjali Ayurved Ltd restrained from advertising by Supreme Court, contempt notice issued to Acharya Balakrishna

Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Jayesh Lele had filed a case against Union of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Advertising Standard Council of India, Central Consumer Protection Authority and Patanjali Ayurved Ltd on August 10, 2022. It was registered on August 17, 2022and was verified on August 20, 2022. This Writ Petition (Civil) No, No.645 of  2022 was heard by the Supreme Court's bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah on February 27, 2024. The Court has restrained Patanjali Ayurved Ltd from advertising or branding some of the products manufactured and marketed by it. These are products which are meant to address the ailments/diseases/conditions mentioned under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 and The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Rules, 1955. Patanjali Ayurved Ltd faced the wrath of the Court for disseminating misleading claims and advertisements targeting modern systems of medicine in breach of the assurance given by it in November 2023.

has restrained Patanjali Ayurved from advertising or branding some of the products manufactured and marketed by it which are meant to address the ailments/diseases/conditions mentioned under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 and the Rules. The Court came down heavily on Patanjali Ayurved conglomerate for persistently disseminating alleged misleading claims and advertisements targeting modern systems of medicine. The Court expressed dissatisfaction with Patanjali Ayurved's ongoing promotion of such misleading information despite giving an assurance in November

https://www.verdictum.in/court-updates/supreme-court/supreme-court-indian-medical-association-v-union-of-india-advertising-patanjali-ayurved-products-1522707

Prior to this the Court heard the matter on November 21, 2023. After hearing P.S. Patwalia, senior counsel for the petitioners, K.M. Nataraj, Additional Solicitor General and Sajan Poovayya, senior counsel appearing for the Patanjali Ayurved Limited, the Court recorded that Poovayya, senior counsel for the Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, "on instructions, assures this Court that henceforth there shall not be any violation of any law(s), especially relating to advertising or branding of products manufactured and marketed by it and, further, that no casual statements claiming medicinal efficacy or against any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form." He further assured that Patanjali Ayurved Ltd "is bound down to such assurance." The Court order reads: "It is made clear that the suit(s) pending on issues pertaining inter-se, that is, between the petitioners/other persons and the Respondent No.5 have not been stayed, and shall not be hindered only by reason of the pendency of the present writ petition". Patanjali Ayurved Ltd is Respondent No.5.

On another occasion, Ministry of AYUSH was compelled to issue a statement through Press Information Bureau on claims of Patanjali Ayurved on June 23, 2020 saying, "Facts of the claim and details of the stated scientific study are not known to the Ministry." It stated that "The concerned Ayurvedic drug manufacturing company has been informed that such advertisements of drugs including Ayurvedic medicines are regulated under the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules thereunder". This Act was enacted as law to control the advertisement of drugs in certain cases, to prohibit the advertisement for certain purposes of remedies alleged to possess magic qualities and to provide for matters connected therewith. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

High Court's verdict in Naushad Ansari v. State of Bihar yet to be complied by Bihar Police

In a bail case filed on December, 2023 and registered on January 9, 2024 by Md. Ziyaul Haq from Banka district, on February 8, 2024, Justice Anjani Kumar Sharan of Patna High Court had passed an order saying, "The present I.O. in connection with Dhoraiya P.S Case No. 27 of 2023, is directed to appear personally in the Court on 26.02.2024. It directed that "No coercive step shall be taken against the petitioner till further order in connection with Dhoraiya P.S. Case No. 27 of 2023, pending before the Court of learned C.J.M., Banka." 

On February 26, 2024, the matter came up for hearing before Justice Satyavrat Verma of the High Court. The Investigating Officer of the case Sonakshi Kumari was present in the Court in compliance of the order. The petitioner apprehended his arrest in a case instituted under Section 379, 411 and 120(b) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 21 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 read/with Section 56 of the Bihar Minerals (Concession, Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation & Storage) Rules (BMCPIMTS) Rules, 2019 along with Section 15 of the F.E. Act. 

Manoj Jha, the counsel for the petitioner submitted that the offences for which the instant F.I.R. has been instituted, carries punishment of less than seven years but still the police is bent upon arresting the petitioner. On query of the Court from the Investigating Officer of the case that as to whether the petitioner can be arrested for the offence which carries punishment of seven years or less, on which the Investigating Officer submits that she has orders of her superior to arrest the petitioner and in the event if the petitioner is absconding, then to take steps for getting process issued under Section 82 and 83 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.).

The order of Justice Verma records that "The learned APP after going through the Case Diary of the case fairly submits that it appears that the benefit of Section 41a of the Cr.P.C. has not been given to the petitioner, the said submission of the learned APP is accepted by the Investigating Officer of the Case. Learned APP placing reliance at Para – 32 of the Case Diary submits that Superintendent of Police, Banka, has given the aforesaid direction to get process under Section 82 and 83 of the Cr.P.C. issued in the event if the petitioner is absconding. On query of the Court from the learned APP that as to whether such direction can be issued by the Superintendent of Police to the Investigating Officer for getting process under Section 82 and 83 of the Cr.P.C. issued without giving the benefit of Section 41a of the Cr.P.C. to the petitioner in terms of the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar & Anr. reported in (2014) 8 SCC 273 on which the learned APP very fairly submits that what has been recorded at Para – 32 of the Case Diary is in complete breach of the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar & Anr. reported in (2014) 8 SCC 273 and order dated13.02.2024 in Cr. Misc. No. 3536 of 2024 (Naushad Ansari vs. State of Bihar)."

The Court directed "Put up this case on 28.02.2024 at 10:30 am, when the Superintendent of Police, Banka, shall remain physically present before this Court. In the meantime, the interim protection granted to the petitioner shall continue."

After the hearing, when the I.O. was asked about the non-compliance, the I.O. said, that C.J.M., Banka should have informed about the requirements under Supreme Court's verdict in the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Patna High Court's verdict Naushad Ansari vs. State of Bihar

 

 

Patna High Court detects blunder in a murder case order of Additional District & Sessions Judge-V, Bhagalpur

Patna High Court's order observes, that although the appellants have been convicted under Section 302/34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) "but surprisingly they have been sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for ten years and to pay a fine of Rs. 20,000/. There cannot be any sentence of less than life in a conviction under Section 302 of the IPC. We do not know whether it was an inadvertent mistake." The Court is examine the Trial Court Records and is likey to hear the matter March  4, 2024. 

Justice Kumar's order reads: "....we would consider the feasibility of issuing any notice of enhancement of sentence to the appellants or remitting the case to the Trial Court for writing out a fresh judgment with appropriate sentence."

It is apparent that  a very serious error has been committed in reducing the sentence from imprisonment for life to ten years.

A Criminal Appeal (Division Bench) was filed against conviction on October 5, 2023. It was registered on October 16, 2023 by Manoj Kumar Jha, the counsel for Santosh Yadav, the petitioner. Upon hearing the matter on January 15, 2024, the bench of Justices Ashutosh Kumar and Nani Tagia passed the order. The order authored by Justice Kumar called for the Trial Court Records in connection with S.T. No.973 of 2017/ Trial No.213 of 2022 arising out of Nathnagar (Lalmatia) P.S. case No.306/2017 from the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge-V, Bhagalpur because the order appears to be contrary to the punishment for murder under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

The provision reads: “Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” Supreme Court's bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Krishna Murari has held on September 2, 2022 that "any punishment/sentence less than the imprisonment for life shall be contrary to Section 302 of the IPC." The order was authored by Justice Shah. 


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Supreme Court criticises Bihar Police for assuming that "the accused has to appear before him and prove his innocence", grants absolute relief to the accused

The petitioners, Md. Sahzad and Md. Tauhid sought pre-arrest bail from Patna High Court in connection with Jehanabad Nagar P.S. Case No.158 of 2023 registered for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 323, 325, 307 and 506/34 of the Indian Penal Code. The case was filed on July 1, 2023 and registered on July 14, 2023.

It was submitted that as per the present First Information Report, Md. Sahzad, the petitioner no.1 is said to have assaulted the informant and his brother-in-law by iron rod. As per counter case, the petitioner no.1 was assaulted by the informant’s side in which his left hand has been fractured. So far as Md. Tauhid, the petitioner no.2 is concerned, there is no specific allegation against him in the First Information Report. The Court of Justice Rajeev Ranjan Prasad discovered that the petitioner no. 1 had obtained the character certificate containing a false declaration that there is no record of a criminal case against him in Jehanabad police station. The Court asked the Superintendent of Police, Jehanabad, who has issued the certificate to conduct an inquiry as to how and under what circumstances the character certificate declaring that the petitioner had no criminal records in Jehanabad police station was issued. The Court directed that upon completion of inquiry within a period of three months from the date of receipt/communication of a copy of the Patna High Court CR. MISC. No.45266 of 2023(5) dt.11-10-2023 5/5 order, he has to fix the responsibility in this regard and inform the Court.The Court refused their prayer for grant of anticipatory bail to the petitioner because they made false statement regarding their criminal antecedents. The application was disposed of on October 11, 2023. 

The petitions for Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No. 15538/2023 were filed in the Supreme Court against the High Court order. On December 6, 2023, the Supreme Court's bench of  Justices Abhay S. Oka and Pankaj Mitha observed that "As regard the first petitioner-Md.Sahzad @ Baratu @ Barat, we agree with the High Court that no case was made out to grant him benefit of pre-arrest bail." It dismissed his Special Leave Petition saying, "We grant him time of two weeks to surrender. After surrendering, if he makes an application for regular bail, the same shall be decided on its own merits." 

With regard to the second petitioner, on the perusal of the allegations made in the First Information report, the Court found that a case is made out to protect the second petitioner-Md.Tauhid @ Kallu. It passed an interim order saying, "the petitioner No.2 shall not be arrested in connection with FIR No.158 of 2023 registered at City Police Station, District Jehanabad, Bihar subject to the condition that he will always cooperate for investigation."  

Subsequently, in Criminal Appeal No. 721 of 2024 arising out of S.L.P. (Criminal No.15538 of 2023, on February 8, 2024, the Court observed, "From 6th December, 2023 till date, the appellant-Md. Tauhid @ Kallu was called upon to join the investigation only once on 15th January, 2024." It took note of Paragraph 9 of the counter affidavit which reads: “That further as per order of Hon’ble Supreme Court I.O has served notice to petitioner Tauhid @ Kallu, Manoj Singh on 15/01/2024 to join the investigation as mentioned in paragraph-71 of C.D. and thereafter Tauhid @ Kallu, Manoj Singh appeared before I.O. on 24/01/2024 and on interrogation pleaded himself innocent but did not produce and material in support of his claim.” It underlined this contention to observe that "From paragraph 9 of the counter affidavit, it is obvious that the Police need the custody of the appellant-Md. Tauhid @ Kallu, not for interrogation but for some other reason. We must also record that the approach of the Police reflected from paragraph 9 of the counter affidavit, to say the least, is shocking. The Police Officer seems to be under an impression that the accused has to appear before him and prove his innocence. Such approach cannot be countenanced." In this backdrop, the order of Supreme Court's bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan reads: "The interim order dated 6th December, 2023 is made absolute on the same terms and conditions. The Appeal is, accordingly, allowed." It disposed of the pending applications.

 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

लोकशाही के कबीर: कर्पूरी ठाकुर की न्याय चेतना यात्रा

वह जो तर्क नहीं करेगा वह कट्टर है;
जो तर्क नहीं कर सकता वह मूर्ख है;
और जो तर्क करने का साहस नहीं करता वह दास है।
-विलियम ड्रमंड, 1805

बिहार में बतौर मुख्‍यमंत्री और विपक्ष के नेता रहते हुए कर्पूरी ठाकुर के लिए फैसले, दायर मुकदमों और छेड़े गए संघर्षों पर जन अधिवक्ता डॉ. गोपाल कृष्‍ण की विस्‍तृत नजर

“मैं जातिविहीन आदमी हूं. जो लोग मेरा विरोध करते हैं वे कट्टर जातिवादी हैं। संविधान शैक्षिक और सामाजिक रूप से पिछड़े लोगों के लिए आरक्षण का प्रावधान करता है। इसे कई राज्यों में लागू किया जा चुका है. हमने आर्थिक रूप से पिछड़ों को भी इसमें शामिल किया है”, कर्पूरी ठाकुर का "जातिविहीन" होने का दावा 15वीं सदी के रहस्यवादी कवि और संत कबीर की नैतिक चेतना के अर्थ में दार्शनिक दावा है। कर्पूरी ठाकुर का यह बयान इंडिया टुडे के अरुल बी. लुइस को दिए साक्षात्‍कार में 31 दिसंबर, 1978 को छपा था।
 
शैक्षिक, सामाजिक और आर्थिक रूप से पिछड़े लोगों को विशेष अवसर प्रदान करने के उनके प्रयास जाति उन्मूलन में एकजुटता और मानवीय गरिमा के लिए डॉ. बी.आर. अम्बेडकर की वकालत के अनुरूप हैं। अम्बेडकर का विचार था कि जाति और जातीय चेतना के अस्तित्व ने जातियों के बीच अतीत के झगड़ों की स्मृति को हरा बनाए रखा है और एकजुटता को रोका है। उनके विचारों को उनके उत्तराधिकारियों ने भी साझा किया, जिनका मानना ​​था कि डॉ. राम मनोहर लोहिया का जातिविहीन समाज का सपना कोई कोरा सपना नहीं था।

अपनी जन्मशती पर भारत रत्न के सम्मान से नवाजे गए कर्पूरी ठाकुर गरीबों के सच्‍चे नायक थे। राजनेताओं और बिहार के मुख्‍यमंत्रियों के बीच उनका कद सबसे बड़ा था। 17 फरवरी, 1988 को असमय हुई उनकी मौत आज तक एक रहस्‍य है। उनकी मौत का कारण जांच का विषय है। वे एक स्‍वतंत्रता सेनानी थे जो भारत छोड़ो आंदोलन का हिस्‍सा भी थे। अपनी मौत तक वे समाजवादी विधायक बने रहे।

बिहार के मुख्‍यमंत्री के बतौर कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने फरवरी 1977 में जमा हुई मुंगेरी लाल आयोग की सिफारिशों को लागू किया था। सिफारिशों में पिछड़े वर्गों को अतिपिछड़ा मानने की बात थी, जिसमें मुसलमानों के कमजोर तबके भी शामिल थे। साथ ही अतिपिछड़ा और पिछड़ा वर्ग को नौकरियों में क्रमश: 12 और 8 फीसदी का आरक्षण देने की बात थी। इसके अलावा, किसी भी समूह से आने वाली औरत के लिए 3 फीसदी और ‘आर्थिक रूप से पिछड़े’ के लिए 3 फीसदी के आरक्षण की सिफारिश की गई थी। राज्‍य की सरकारी सेवाओं में पिछड़ों का प्रतिनिधित्‍व अपर्याप्‍त था। कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने यह फैसला भारत के संविधान के अनुच्‍छेद 15(4) और 16(4) के आधार पर‍ लिया था।
 

सामाजिक-राजनीतिक घटनाक्रम और सुप्रीम कोर्ट के दिए फैसलों ने समाज में व्‍याप्‍त असमानता, वंचना और अन्‍याय को संबोधित करने की कर्पूरी ठाकुर की दृष्टि को लगातार सही ठहराया है। पिछले साल महात्‍मा गांधी की जयन्‍ती पर बिहार के 13.07 करोड़ लोगों के जातिगत सर्वे के जारी किए गए गए आंकड़े कर्पूरी ठाकुर की सोच का ही विस्‍तार हैं। यह दिखाता है कि उनकी विरासत अब भी जिंदा है।

प्रेस की आजादी और कर्पूरी ठाकुर

भारी हो-हल्‍ले के बीच 3 अगस्‍त, 2023 को राज्‍यसभा से और 23 दिसंबर, 2023 को लोकसभा से पारित प्रेस एंड रजिस्‍ट्रेशन ऑफ पीरियॉडिकल्‍स ऐक्‍ट, 2023 को 28 दिसंबर 2023 को राष्‍ट्रपति से मंजूरी मिली। यह कानून बिहार के मुख्‍यमंत्री रहे जगन्‍नाथ मिश्र द्वारा लाए गए प्रेस बिल की याद दिलाता है, जिस पर बहुत बवाल हुआ था। विपक्ष का नेता होने के नाते तब कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने पटना उच्‍च न्‍यायालय में इस बिल को चुनौती देते हुए एक रिट याचिका दायर की थी।

जगन्‍नाथ मिश्र ने प्रेस बिल के रास्‍ते आइपीसी (भारतीय दंड संहिता) की धारा 292 और सीआरपीसी (दण्ड प्रक्रिया संहिता) की धारा 455 को संशोधित करने की कोशिश की थी। यह बिहार प्रेस बिल 31 जुलाई 1982 को लाया गया था और उसी दिन पांच मिनट के भीतर दोनों सदनों में ध्‍वनिमत से पास कर दिया गया था। यह संशोधन राज्‍य सरकार को "ब्‍लैकमेल की मंशा से अशोभनीय या अपमानजनक सामग्री छापने और प्रकाशित करने’’ से रोकने के अधिकार देता था। इसका पत्रकारों, प्रकाशकों, संपादकों और वितरक एजेंटों, हॉकरों तथा पाठकों ने जबरदस्‍त विरोध किया था। सीआरपीसी में संशोधन कर के जुर्म को गैर-जमानती और संज्ञेय बना दिया गया था। इससे पुलिस को ताकत मिल गई थी कि वह किसी भी पत्रकार को गिरफ्तार के कार्यकारी मजिस्‍ट्रेट के समक्ष पेश कर सकती थी, जो कि राज्‍य सरकार के नियंत्रण और दिशानिर्देशों के तहत काम करने वाले उच्‍च न्‍यायालय से सम्‍बद्ध न्‍यायिक मजिस्‍ट्रेटों के प्रावधान से उलट था। जुर्म साबित होने पर मुजरिम को जुर्माने सहित या बिना जुर्माने के दो साल तक की जेल हो सकती थी। जुर्म यदि दुहराया गया हो, तो सजा दो से पांच साल तक की थी, जुर्माना सहित।

पटना और दिल्‍ली में विपक्षी नेताओं, कांग्रेसी विधायकों और पत्रकारों के भीषण विरोध के बीच जगन्‍नाथ मिश्र ने अपने बिल के बचाव में तमिलनाडु के एक ऐसे ही कानून का हवाला दिया था, लेकिन इस तथ्‍य को वे छुपा ले गए थे कि तमिलनाडु के उक्‍त कानून की वैधता को मद्रास हाइकोर्ट में चुनौती दी जा चुकी थी। दशकों बाद, 26 अक्‍टूबर 2017 को जगन्‍नाथ मिश्र ने अपने फैसले पर खेद जताते हुए कहा था कि केंद्रीय सूचना और प्रसारण मंत्री वसंत साठे की ब्रीफिंग के आधार पर "जो बिहार प्रेस बिल मैं ले आया वह मैं मानता हूं कि मुझे नहीं लाना चाहिए था’’।

आज यदि कर्पूरी ठाकुर जिंदा होते तो उन्‍होंने नए प्रेस कानून और प्रस्‍तावित 60 पन्‍ने के ब्रॉडकास्टिंग सर्विसेज (रेगुलेशन) बिल, 2023 को पक्‍का चुनौती दी होती, जो मीडिया की आजादी पर पाबंदी लगाते हैं। इस बिल में 77 ऐसे संदर्भ हैं जो बताते हैं कि केंद्र सरकार अधीनस्‍थ विधायिकाओं के माध्‍यम से कानून बनाएगी। ऐसे में केंद्रीय विधायिका की क्‍या भूमिका रह जाती है? कर्पूरी ठाकुर जैसे नेताओं की अनुपस्थिति के चलते ही ऐसे मीडिया विरोधी कानूनों के खिलाफ पर्याप्‍त लोकतांत्रिक प्रतिरोध पैदा नहीं हो पा रहा है।

एडिटर्स गिल्‍ड ऑफ इंडिया ने प्रेस और पीरियॉडिकल्‍स पंजीकरण कानून, 2023 तथा ब्रॉडकास्टिंग सर्विसेज (रेगुलेशन) बिल के मसौदे में शामिल ‘विनाशकारी प्रावधानों’ पर गंभीर चिंता जताई है। गिल्‍ड ने प्रेस और पीरियॉडिकल्‍स पंजीकरण कानून, 2023 के संबंध में लोकसभा के स्‍पीकर को सुझाव दिया था कि इसे संसदीय समिति को भेज दिया जाए, लेकिन उसकी बात नहीं सुनी गई। विपक्ष की अनुपस्थिति में बिल को ध्‍वनिमत से राज्‍यसभा में पास कर दिया गया।

यह नया कानून किसी प्रकाशन के कार्य करने के तरीकों ‘पर निगरानी रखने और दखल देने के राज्‍य के अधिकारों को और व्‍यापक’ बनाता है। इसके कुछ प्रावधान ‘अस्‍पष्‍ट’ हैं और इसका प्रेस की स्‍वतंत्रता पर प्रतिकूल प्रभाव हो सकता है। एडिटर्स गिल्‍ड ने इस कानून के खिलाफ जो बयान जारी किया था उस पर इसके पदाधिकारियों सीमा मुस्‍तफा, अनंत नाथ और श्रीराम पंवार के दस्‍तखत हैं। यह बयान कहता है कि नया कानून प्रेस पंजीयक के अलावा अन्‍य सरकारी एजेंसियों को भी अनुपालक एजेंसी बनाता है, जिसमें पुलिस और अन्‍य एजेंसियां शामिल हैं। यही ‘सबसे ज्‍यादा चिंताजनक’ बात है। यह सरकार को ताकत देता है कि वह उन व्‍यक्तियों को पत्रिका निकालने के अधिकार से वंचित कर दे जो ‘आतंकी गतिविधि या गैरकानूनी गतिविधि’ के दोषी हैं या जिन्‍होंने ‘राज्‍य की सुरक्षा के खिलाफ कुछ भी किया हो’।

मसलन, कानून की धारा 19 केंद्र सरकार को ऐसे नियम बनाने का अधिकार देती है जिनके तहत भारत में समाचार प्रकाशित किए जाने हैं। इसमें सरकार को यह ताकत मिली हुई है कि वह अपने मनमर्जी ‘गैरकानूनी गतिविधि’ को परिभाषित करे और यह बताए कि ‘राज्‍य की सुरक्षा के खिलाफ’ क्‍या है। यानी नए कानून का सारा जोर ‘पंजीयन’ के बजाय ‘नियमन’ पर है।

जहां तक ड्राफ्ट ब्रॉडकास्टिंग सर्विसेज बिल का सवाल है, गिल्‍ड ने इस बात पर चिंता जाहिर की है कि सरकार के पास कंटेंट की निगरानी करने और उसे ब्‍लॉक करने, अस्‍पष्‍ट आधार पर प्रसारण को रोकने और एक ऐसी आत्‍मनियमन प्रणाली लाने का अधिकार हो जाएगा जो सरकारी नियंत्रण में इजाफा करेगा। य‍ह ड्राफ्ट बिल अस्‍पष्‍ट परिभाषाओं और अधीनस्‍थ विधेयकों के लिए बहुत सी जगह बनाता है। इसी नियमन प्रणाली के अंतर्गत केबल टीवी और रेडियो के साथ ऑनलाइन समाचार प्रकाशकों और ओटीटी प्रसारकों को ले आने का प्रस्‍ताव अतार्किक और अन्‍यायपूर्ण है। इसके अलावा, ओटीटी प्रसारकों पर लगाए जाने वाले कड़े नियम उनके ऊपर वित्‍तीय और अनुपालनात्‍मक बोझ को बढ़ाने का काम करेंगे। इसमें ‘प्रोग्राम’ की जो परिभाषा दी गई है उसके अंतर्गत डिजिटल वेबसाइटों का लेखन भी आ जाएगा। ‘लेखन’ की परिभाषा अस्‍पष्‍ट रखी गई है। इस तरह समाचार (स्‍वतंत्र समाचार वेबसाइटें, समाचार और विचार प्रसारण के लिए स्‍थापित हो चुके व्‍यक्ति, व्‍याख्‍यापरक वीडियो, अन्‍य ऑनलाइन उपलब्‍ध ऑडियो-विजुअल सामग्री), ओटीटी कंटेंट, शो, सीरियल, डॉक्‍युमेंट्री और अन्‍य फीचर को एक ही मान लिया गया है। लिहाजा, समाचार को पहली बार केंद्रीय फिल्‍म प्रमाणन बोर्ड (सीबीएफसी) जैसे एक संस्‍थागत ढांचे के दायरे में लाया जा रहा है, जो प्रमाणन अब तक सिनेमा के लिए आरक्षित था। सेंसरशिप का यह शुरुआती खाका होगा। य‍ह कानून के दुरुपयोग को खुला निमंत्रण है।

यह बिल शोधकर्ताओं और पत्रकारों के उपकरण और औजार जब्‍त किए जाने को सामान्‍य बनाता है। बिल में केंद्र सरकार द्वारा बनाई गई श्‍याम बेनेगल समिति की सिफारिशों को अनदेखा किया गया है। डिजिटल माध्‍यम से जो कोई भी समाचार या समसामयिक प्रोग्राम बनाता हो, यह बिल उसको मंत्रालय के दायरे में ले आता है। यह हर किसी पर लागू है, केवल मीडिया कंपनियों या पत्रकारों तक सीमित नहीं है जो पेशेवर या वाणिज्यिक गतिविधि के तौर पर समाचार प्रसारण करते हैं। इस बिल में ‘समाचार और समसामयिक मामलों’ की परिभाषा पर भी चिंता जताई गई है। यानी पत्रकारीय अभिव्‍यक्ति और विविध नजरियों तक पहुंच के अधिकार को भी खतरा पैदा हो रहा है।

यहां यह याद किया जाना होगा कि प्रेस बिल के खिलाफ कर्पूरी ठाकुर पटना में कई दिनों तक पत्रकारों और छायाकारों के साथ धरने पर बैठे थे। उनकी यह विरासत प्रेस और पीरियॉडिकल्‍स पंजीकरण कानून, 2023 तथा ब्रॉडकास्टिंग सर्विसेज रेगुलेशन बिल, 2023 के खिलाफ खड़ा होने की एक नजीर पेश करती है।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर बनाम अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर

ऐसे ही कुछ और मामले हैं जो न्‍याय की तलाश में आजीवन जुटे रहे कर्पूरी ठाकुर की प्रतिरोधी विरासत हमारे सामने लाते हैं। जैसे, कर्पूरी ठाकुर बनाम अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर के केस में जस्टिस एसएनपी सिंह द्वारा ठाकुर को राहत देने से इनकार किया जाना, जिसका आधार समझाते हुए जज ने कहा था: ‘’यह स्‍थापित सिद्धांत है कि यदि कोई वैकल्पिक उपचार उपलब्‍ध है, तो हाइकोर्ट रिट ऑफ मैंडेमेस जारी करने के अपने विशेषाधिकार का प्रयोग नहीं करेगा। इसलिए, याची का आवेदन इस आधार पर खारिज किए जाने योग्‍य है।‘’

यह आदेश 3 मई, 1974 को दिया गया था। मुख्‍यमंत्री अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर की तरफ से पैरवी करते हुए एडवोकेट जनरल ने कहा था कि सरकार की नीति सदन द्वारा खारिज किए जाने के संबंध में पैदा हुए गतिरोध को लेकर संविधान में पर्याप्‍त प्रावधान दिए गए हैं, लिहाजा कोर्ट किसी अन्‍य उपचार को नहीं सुझा सकता।

इस मामले में उपलब्‍ध उपचार यह था कि मुख्‍यमंत्री और उसके मंत्रिमंडल को बरखास्‍त करने का अधिकार केवल गवर्नर के पास है क्‍योंकि गवर्नर ही उनकी नियुक्ति करता है और उसी की आश्‍वस्ति से सरकार कायम रहती है, बशर्ते गवर्नर इस बात से मुतमईन हो कि मुख्‍यमंत्री और मंत्रिपरिषद को विधानसभा में बहुमत का विश्‍वास हासिल नहीं है। दूसरा उपचारात्‍मक विकल्‍प यह था कि यदि कोई मंत्रिपरिषद विधानसभा के बहुमत के विश्‍वास से खुद को गिरा पाती हो तो वह गवर्नर से सदन को भंग करने की सिफारिश कर सकती है और गवर्नर ऐसा कर सकते हैं। अदालत कोई तीसरा उपचार देकर मुख्‍यमंत्री से उसका इस्‍तीफा नहीं मांग सकती।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर का केस यह था कि धन्‍यवाद प्रस्‍ताव पर बहस के बगैर ही विधानसभा का सत्रावसान कर दिया गया था जिससे यह स्‍थापित होता था कि अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर की सरकार को सदन का विश्‍वास हासिल नहीं है इसलिए मंत्रिपरिषद की वैधता समाप्‍त हो चुकी थी और वह संवैधानिक रूप से सत्‍ता में नहीं रह सकती थी। कर्पूरी ठाकुर का कहना था कि असेंबली का सत्रावसान मुख्‍यमंत्री और उनकी मंत्रिपरिषद के कहने पर किया गया क्‍योंकि उन्‍हें अहसास हो चुका था कि वचे सदन का विश्‍वास खो चुके हैं और इसीलिए वे गवर्नर के अभिभाषण पर धन्‍यवाद प्रस्‍ताव हासिल करने की स्थिति में नहीं थे। इसीलिए कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने मुख्‍यमंत्री को परमादेश (रिट ऑफ मैंडेमस) की याचिका डाली थी कि वे अपने पद से इस्‍तीफा दे दें, मंत्रिमंडल भी इस्‍तीफा दे और उन्‍हें बिहार के मुख्‍यमंत्री के बतौर काम करने से रोका जाए।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर का आरोप था कि विधानसभा अध्‍यक्ष ने अपनी मनमर्जी से सदन का सत्रावसान कर दिया था, लेकिन उनके वकील बासुदेव प्रसाद ने सदन के सत्रावसान पर कोई दलील नहीं दी। इसके बजाय प्रसाद की दलील यह थी कि यह मुख्‍यमंत्री का संवैधानिक दायित्‍व है कि साल के पहले सत्र में बहस और वोटिंग के बाद गवर्नर के अभिभाषण के पश्‍चात वह धन्‍यवाद प्रस्‍ताव के माध्‍यम से सदन का विश्‍वास हासिल करे, ताकि मौजूदा वर्ष में राजकोष से होने वाले खर्च, इत्‍यादि के संबंध में अपनी सरकार की नीतियों और विधायी कार्यक्रम के लिए निचले सदन की अनुमति उसे मिल सके। चूंकि मुख्‍यमंत्री ऐसा करने में नाकाम रहे हैं लिहाजा उनके और उनकी मंत्रिपरिषद पास अब पद पर रहने का संवैधानिक और कानूनी अधिकार नहीं रह गया है तथा वे संविधान के अनुचछेद 163(1) के तहत राज्‍यपाल को सलाह नहीं दे सकते। ऐसे में मुख्‍यमंत्री का यह अनिवार्य संवैधानिक दायित्‍व है कि वे अपने मंत्रिमंडल के साथ पद से इस्‍तीफा दे दें।  

प्रसाद ने कहा कि धन्‍यवाद ज्ञापन के नोटिस और गवर्नर के अभिभाषण में संशोधन के संबंध में विज्ञप्ति जारी किए बगैर सत्रावसान किए जाने के चलते गवर्नर के अभिभाषण से लेकर सदन की समूची कार्यवाही ही निरर्थक हो जाती है। चूंकि गवर्नर के अभिभाषण से सबंधित कार्यवाही को संविधान के अनुच्‍छेद 176(1) के प्रतिबंधों के चलते दोबारा शुरू नहीं किया जा सकता, इसलिए ऐसी स्थिति में विधानसभा भविष्‍य के लिए पंगु हो जाती है। यानी आगे से वह कोई कार्यवाही नहीं कर सकती, जिसमें 30 जुलाई 1974 को प्रस्‍तावित वित्‍त विधेयक का पारित होना भी शामिल है। इसलिए मुख्‍यमंत्री के रूप में अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर के नेतृत्‍व में एक लोकतांत्रिक सरकार का होना असंभव हो जाता है।

अदालत इन दलीलों से सहमत नहीं हुई। उपलब्‍ध दस्‍तावेजों की जांच से पता चलता है कि कर्पूरी ठाकुर द्वारा अदालत को जमा कराए गए कागजात और तथ्‍यों पर अदालत को कोई आपत्ति नहीं थी। कर्पूरी ठाकुर प्रक्रियागत आधार पर यह मुकदमा हार गए थे। लिहाजा, अब्‍दुल गफ्फूर का मुख्‍यमंत्री बने रहना तकनीकी और कानूनी रूप से तो सही था, लेकिन नाजायज था।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर बनाम स्‍टेट ऑफ बिहार

एक और मामला कर्पूरी ठाकुर बनाम स्‍टेट ऑफ बिहार का है, जिस पर सुनवाई करते हुए पटना उच्‍च न्‍यायालय के जस्टिस नागेंद्र प्रसाद सिंह ने अपने फैसले के निष्‍कर्ष में कहा, "जब कभी स्‍पीकर किसी व्‍यक्ति को विपक्ष के नेता के रूप में मान्‍यता देता है, वह ऐसा नजीर या विधायिका के आचार के मद्देनजर करता है और साथ ही कानूनी परिभाषा का भी खयाल रखता है। अगर उसके फैसले का आधार कानून नहीं बल्कि परंपरागत आचार हो, तब उसे उस विपक्षी पार्टी के नेता को विपक्ष का नेता चुनना होता है जिसके पास न सिर्फ कानूनन सबसे ज्‍यादा संख्‍या हो बल्कि सदन की कुल सदस्‍यता का दसवां हिस्‍सा भी हो। ऐसी स्थिति में उसके फैसले को असंवैधानिक या गैर-कानूनी ठहरा पाना मुश्किल होगा।"

इसी टिप्‍पणी के साथ कर्पूरी ठाकुर की उस रिट याचिका को 16 दिसंबर, 1982 को खारिज कर दिया गया, जिसमें उन्‍होंने यह जानने की कोशिश की थी कि बिहार विधानसभा में विपक्ष के नेता के बतौर उनकी मान्‍यता रद्द किया जाना वैध और कानूनी है या नहीं।    

हुआ यह था कि असेंबली के अध्‍यक्ष ने उन्‍हें बिहार विधानसभा के अध्‍यक्ष की मान्‍यता दी थी। इस संबंध में उन्‍हें 1 जुलाई, 1980 को स्‍पीकर का फैसला सूचित किया गया। उस सूचना में यह कहा गया था कि कर्पूरी ठाकुर उस पार्टी के नेता हैं जिसकी संख्‍या असेंबली में 42 विधायकों की है जो कि विपक्ष के किसी भी दल के मुकाबले सबसे ज्‍यादा है, इसलिए स्‍पीकर कर्पूरी ठाकुर को विधानसभा में विपक्ष का नेता घोषित करते हैं। इसके कुछ दिन बाद पार्टी दो फाड़ हो गई और कर्पूरी ठाकुर वाले धड़े का संख्‍याबल 31 विधायकों तक सिमट गया।

विधानसभा स्‍पीकर ने ठाकुर को 4 अक्‍टूबर, 1982 को सूचित किया कि उनके नेतृत्‍व वाले दल के विधानसभा सदस्‍यों की संख्‍या 42 से घटकर 31 रह गई है इसलिए विपक्ष के नेता के बतौर उनकी मान्‍यता रद्द की जाती है। इस बात पर कोई संदेह नहीं था कि कर्पूरी ठाकुर जिस दल के नेता थे वह विधानसभा में अब भी विपक्ष का सबसे बड़ा दल था, उन्‍होंने यही दलील भी रखी और कहा कि इसी वजह से उन्‍हें विपक्ष के नेता की मान्‍यता बरकरार रखी जाए। यह मांग तार्किक थी।

इसके बावजूद जस्टिस सिंह ने कर्पूरी ठाकुर के वकील की यह दलील नहीं मानी कि बिहार लेजिस्‍लेचर (लीडर्स ऑफ अपोजीशन सैलरी ऐंड अलाउएंसेज) ऐक्‍ट, 1977 की धारा 2 स्‍पीकर को सत्र के दौरान किसी भी व्‍यक्ति को विपक्ष का नेता मानने पर निषेधाज्ञा जारी करती है और कानून के तहत इस सबंध में कोई प्रक्रिया भी वर्णित नहीं है। कर्पूरी ठाकुर के वकील का कहना था कि धारा 2 भले ही परिभाषा के तौर पर दर्ज है लेकिन इसे कानून के प्रावधान के तौर पर पढ़ा जा सकता है, जिसके अंतर्गत यह स्‍पीकर का कर्तव्य हो जाता है कि वह सदन में सबसे ज्‍यादा संख्‍या वाले विपक्षी दल के नेता को ही विपक्ष का नेता माने।

जस्टिस सिंह इस दलील से सहमत नहीं हुए। दस्‍तावेजी तथ्‍यों से स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कर्पूरी ठाकुर की आपत्ति बिलकुल ठोस थी लेकिन पटना उच्‍च न्‍यायालय से उन्‍हें न्‍याय नहीं मिला। 

ऐसा उनके साथ पहली बार नहीं हुआ था कि वे बिहार विधानसभा के अध्‍यक्ष के हाथों अन्‍याय का शिकार हुए थे।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर बनाम शिव चंद्र झा
 

विधानसभा की 13 जनवरी, 1988 की दिनांकित कार्यवाही के अनुसार 11 अगस्‍त, 1987 को असेंबली के स्‍पीकर शिव चंद्र झा ने कर्पूरी ठाकुर को विपक्ष के नेता के पद से हटा दिया। स्‍पीकर के इस फैसले के खिलाफ विपक्ष में भीषण रोष पैदा हुआ। विरोध पटना की सड़कों तक पहुंच गया। विपक्ष ने राज्‍यपाल पी. वेंकटसुब्‍बैया को अर्जी दी। फिर उसने लोकसभा अध्‍यक्ष बलराम जाखड़ को लिखा। बिहार विधानसभा के अध्‍यक्ष शिव चंद्र झा के खिलाफ ज्ञापन लिखकर विपक्ष ने देश भर की विधानसभाओं को भेजा। सदन के भीतर विपक्ष ने स्‍वीकर के खिलाफ अविश्‍वास प्रस्‍ताव और उसे हटाए जाने का प्रस्‍ताव ला दिया। इस प्रस्‍ताव पर फैसला सुनाने के बजाय झा ने तय तारीख से तीन दिन पहले ही विधानसभा को अनंतकाल के लिए विसर्जित कर डाला। विपक्षी विधायकों का बहुमत होने के बावजूद झा ने कर्पूरी ठाकुर को विपक्ष के नेता के पद से हटा दिया। कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने तो अपने विधायकों की गवर्नर के सामने परेड तक करा दी थी, इसके बावजूद स्‍पकीर शिव चंद्र झा ने अपना फैसला नहीं पलटा।    

2 सितंबर, 1987 को पटना हाइकोर्ट में रिट याचिका (संख्‍या 3984) दाखिल की गई। अदालत ने 8 सितंबर को उसे खारिज कर दिया। इसके बाद कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने सिविल एसएलपी 11678 और एक अन्‍य सीएमपी 25127 दाखिल की। स्‍पीकर ने यह कहते हुए मामले पर फैसला देने से इनकार कर दिया कि मामला न्‍यायाधीन है। स्‍पीकर शिव चंद्र झा के अन्‍यायपूर्ण फैसले के खिलाफ कर्पूरी ठाकुर अपनी जिंदगी के अंत तक कानूनी लड़ाई लड़ते रहे। कोर्ट के रिकॉर्ड का शुरुआती परीक्षण करने पर उनकी याचिका पर कहीं कुछ भी नहीं मिलता। इससे जुड़े केस के विवरण हाइकोर्ट और सुप्रीम कोर्ट की वेबसाइटों पर भी उपलब्‍ध नहीं हैं। इसका क्‍या न्‍याय-निर्णय हुआ, यह पता करने के लिए अदालती रिकॉर्ड का गहन परीक्षण करना होगा। राज्‍य विधानसभा की कार्यवाही बताती है कि पीठासीन अधिकारी ने कर्पूरी ठाकुर के दावे पर कोई फैसला नहीं लिया था, वही दलील देते हुए कि मामला सुप्रीम कोर्ट में न्‍यायाधीन है।

बिहार की बदकिस्मती

अपनी पुस्‍तक मिनिस्‍टर्स मिसकंडक्‍ट में ए.जी. नूरानी लिखते हैं: "ललित नारायण मिश्र और लहटन चौधरी जैसे मंत्रियों के हाथों बिहार को जैसी बदकिस्‍मती भोगनी पड़ी, उसकी कहानी जस्टिस केके दत्‍त की अध्‍यक्षता वाले उस जांच आयोग के जिक्र के बगैर पूरी नहीं होगी जिसे कर्पूरी ठाकुर की सरकार ने कोसी प्रोजेक्‍ट में भारत सेवक समाज (बीएसएस) के फंड के दुरुपयोग के आरोपों की पड़ताल के लिए 27 मई 1971 को नियुक्‍त किया था। जस्टिस दत्‍त पटना हाइकोर्ट के पूर्व जज थे। इस आयोग द्वारा की जाने वाली जांच का एक आयाम यह पता करना था कि ‘’क्‍या भारत सेवक समाज ने कोसी परियोजना में जनसहयोग के आह्वान पर केंद्रीय निर्माण कमेटी और कोसी परियोजना निर्माण कमेटी से परियोजना में निर्माण का ठेका लिया था और अपने यूनिट प्रमुखों के माध्‍यम से 1955 से 1962 के बीच रिश्‍वत खाई थी, जिसमें से 23 लाख से ज्‍यादा की रकम इसलिए वसूल नहीं की जा सकी क्‍योंकि ललित नारायण मिश्र और लहटन चौधरी द्वारा नियुक्‍त किए गए वे यूनिट प्रमुख अस्तित्‍व में ही नहीं थे और क्‍या उक्‍त रकम या उसका कोई हिस्‍सा गबन चला गया, जिससे कोसी परियोजना के प्रयाासन और सरकार को नुकसान पहुंचा।"

ललित नारायण मिश्र भारत सेवक समाज की केंद्रीय निर्माण समिति के अध्‍यक्ष थे और और लहटन चौधरी उसके सचिव थे। कर्पूरी ठाकुर के नेतृत्‍व वाली राज्‍य सरकार को केंद्रीय मंत्री मिश्र की संलिप्‍तता वाले मामले में जांच के लिए एक जांच आयोग गठित करने का पूरा अधिकार था क्‍योंकि मामला ललित नाराय मिश्र के केंद्रीय मंत्री बनने से पहले का था। दुर्भाग्‍य यह रहा कि इस न्‍यायिक जांच आयोग को कर्पूरी ठाकुर की सरकार गिरने के बाद भंग कर दिया गया और इसका काम पूरा नहीं होने दिया गया। जस्टिस दत्‍त आयोग की बहाली की मांग तो हुई लेकिन उसे अनसुना कर दिया गया।

न्‍यायिक जांच आयोगों को सरकार द्वारा भंग किए जाने के ऐसे उदाहरणों के चलते ही यह दलील मजबूत हो उठती है कि सरकारों को कमीशन ऑफ इंक्‍वायरी ऐक्‍ट, 1952 के तहत प्राप्‍त जांच रोकने के अधिकार से ही वंचित कर दिया जाय। यह कानून इंग्लिश ट्रिब्‍यूनल्‍स ऑफ इंक्‍वायरी (एविडेंस) ऐक्‍ट, 1921 की नकल है, लेकिन भारतीय कानून के उलट अंग्रेजी कानून में सरकार को जांच रोकने के अधिकार प्राप्‍त नहीं हैं।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर के नेतृत्‍व वाली सरकार द्वारा फंड के दुरुपयोग की जांच का फैसला कालांतर में सही साबित हुआ, जब राज्‍य विधानसभा की एस्टिमेट कमेटी की 38 पन्‍ने लंबी 53वीं रिपोर्ट में "सहरसा जिले के बलुआ बाजार के मिश्र परिवार" के ठेकेदारों पर आरोप लगाया गया कि उन्‍हें दूसरे ठेकेदारों के मुकाबले समान कार्य करने के लिए कहीं ज्‍यादा पैसों का भुगतान हुआ है और इस परिवार के प्रति असाधारण पक्षपात किया गया है।      

वो तो काफी बाद में प्रतिष्ठित सांसद ज्‍योतिर्मय बसु ने 18 दिसंबर, 1974 को लोकसभा में एक प्रस्‍ताव रखा जो कहता था कि "यह सदन संकल्‍प लेता है कि इस सदन के सदस्‍य और कैबिनेट के सदस्‍य श्री ललित नारायण मिश्र को सदन की सदस्‍यता से बरखास्‍त किया जाए क्‍योंकि उन्‍होंने गंभीर दुराचार किए हैं, जैसा कि भारत सेवक समाज के मामले में जांच आयोग की रिपोर्ट से स्‍पष्‍ट होता है और विशेष रूप से आयोग को दी गई गवाहियों से स्‍पष्‍ट है…।" उन्‍होंने इस बात की ओर ध्‍यान दिलाया कि लोकलेखा समिति ने 1963-64 के लिए अपनी 34वीं रिपोर्ट (तीसरी लोकसभा) में भारत सेवक समाज के अधूरे बहीखाते पर प्रतिकूल टिप्‍पणी की थी और चाहता था कि योजना आयोग शुरू से बीएसएस के बहीखातों को जमा करने की मांग करे। इसके लिए बीएसएस को छह माह का वक्‍त दिया गया और कहा गया कि ऐसा होने तक कोई अन्‍य अनुदान नहीं दिया जाएगा। रिपोर्ट कहती है: "भारत सेवक समाज लोकलेखा समिति द्वारा दी गई छह माह की अवधि में अपना बहीखाता जमा नहीं करा सका और उसने अनुदान जारी करने का अनुरोध किया तथा बहीखाता जमा कराने के लिए सरकारी प्रारूप की मांग की।"

चौथी लोकसभा की लोकलेखा समिति फिर से इस मामले पर आती है और कहती हैं कि, "इसी पृष्‍ठभूमि में जस्टिस जीवन लाल कपूर का जांच आयोग भारत सेवक समाज के मामलों की जांच के लिए 1969 में केंद्रीय कृषि मंत्रालय के सामुदायिक विकास विभाग द्वारा गठित किया गया और 1973 में उसने अपनी रिपोर्ट जमा की।" ध्‍यान देने वाली बात है कि 12 दिसंबर, 1974 को इंदिरा गांधी ने ललित नारायण मिश्र के खिलाफ आरोपों पर राज्‍यसभा में जवाब दिया था। कोसी परियोजना में कर्पूरी ठाकुर द्वारा शुरू करवाई गई न्‍यायिक जांच की गूंज कई बरस तक संसद में सुनाई देती रही।     

संविधान (तीसरा संशोधन) विधेयक का विरोध

संविधान (तीसरा संशोधन) विधेयक, 1954 पर कर्पूरी ठाकुर का भाषण, जिसे संसद मे 10 सितंबर, 1954 को पेश किया गया था, संविधान (एक सौ पहला संशोधन) अधिनियम, 2016 के निहितार्थों के बाद काफी प्रासंगिक हो गया है, जिसके जरिए एक राष्ट्रीय वस्तु व सेवा कर (जीएसटी) 1 जुलाई, 2017 से देश में लागु किया गया।दोनों संशोधनों ने राजनीतिक और आर्थिक शक्ति के केंद्रीकरण का मार्ग प्रशस्त किया। 

संविधान (तीसरा संशोधन) विधेयक को 1954 में लोकसभा, राज्यसभा और राज्य विधानसभाओं में विरोध का सामना करना पड़ा। अशोक मेहता जैसे समाजवादी सांसदों ने बताया था कि यह विधेयक संविधान के मूल से सबंधित है क्योंकि यह सत्ता की शक्तियों का-राज्यों और संघ के बीच- के वितरण में गड़बड़ी करना चाहता है। केन्द्रीय सत्ता द्वारा राज्य की शक्तियों का अतिक्रमण किया जा रहा है। इस संशोधन के लिए या संघ द्वारा यह शक्ति लेने का कोई तर्क नहीं प्रस्तुत किया गया था। विधेयक को 35-सदस्यीय संयुक्त संसदीय समिति को भेजा गया था जिसमें जवाहरलाल नेहरू और तत्कालीन वाणिज्य और उद्योग मंत्री टी. टी. कृष्णमाचारी शामिल थे जिन्होंने विधेयक पेश किया था।

जब यह विधेयक संविधान के अनुच्छेद 368 के प्रावधानों के अनुसार समर्थन के लिए बिहार राज्य विधानसभा में आया तो कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने इस पर अपनी बात रखी। इसे संविधान की पहली अनुसूची के भाग ए और बी में निर्दिष्ट आधे से अधिक राज्यों की विधानमंडलों द्वारा राष्ट्रपति के समक्ष सहमति के लिए प्रस्तुत करने से पहले उन विधानमंडलों द्वारा पारित इस आशय के संकल्प द्वारा समर्थित किया जाना था। राजस्थान, पंजाब, पटियाला और पूर्वी पंजाब राज्य संघ, सौराष्ट्र, मध्य प्रदेश, मद्रास, पश्चिम बंगाल और बिहार की राज्य विधानसभाओं ने इसकी पुष्टि की। इस विधेयक ने संविधान की सातवीं अनुसूची की प्रविष्टि 33 में संशोधन किया। सातवीं अनुसूची में, सूची III की प्रविष्टि 33 के लिए, प्रविष्टि को एक नए पाठ के साथ प्रतिस्थापित किया गया था। मूल रूप से, प्रविष्टि 33 में लिखा है: “व्यापार और वाणिज्य, और उन उद्योगों के उत्पादों का उत्पादन, आपूर्ति और वितरण, जहां संघ द्वारा ऐसे उद्योगों पर नियंत्रण को संसद द्वारा कानून द्वारा सार्वजनिक हित में समीचीन घोषित किया जाता है। ” प्रविष्टि 33 का संशोधित संस्करण है: "व्यापार और वाणिज्य, और उत्पादन, आपूर्ति और वितरण, - (ए) किसी भी उद्योग के उत्पाद जहां संघ द्वारा ऐसे उद्योग का नियंत्रण संसद द्वारा कानून द्वारा समीचीन घोषित किया जाता है सार्वजनिक हित में, और ऐसे उत्पादों के समान आयातित सामान; (बी) खाद्य पदार्थ, जिसमें खाद्य तेल के बीज और तेल शामिल हैं; (सी) मवेशी चारा, जिसमें तेल केक और अन्य सांद्र शामिल हैं; (डी) कच्चा कपास चाहे कुचला हुआ हो या बिना काटा हुआ , और कपास के बीज; और (ई) कच्चा जूट।"

यह संशोधन संविधान के अस्थायी प्रावधान को स्थायी प्रावधान बनाने का प्रयास था। भारत सरकार अधिनियम, 1935 के अनुसार राज्य के भीतर व्यापार और वाणिज्य और माल का उत्पादन, आपूर्ति और वितरण राज्य सूची में शामिल मामले थे। द्वितीय विश्व युद्ध के दौरान, आपातकाल की घोषणा की गई और केंद्रीय विधानमंडल ने यह शक्ति हासिल कर ली। इन मामलों पर कानून बनाएं जो राज्य सूची में थे। युद्ध की समाप्ति के बाद, 1 अप्रैल, 1946 को आपातकाल हटा लिया गया था, लेकिन मौजूदा परिस्थितियों और आवश्यक वस्तुओं की कमी के कारण इन मामलों पर कानून बनाने की शक्ति डोमिनियन सरकार द्वारा बरकरार रखने की मांग की गई थी। इस उद्देश्य के लिए, यूके की संसद ने भारत (केंद्र सरकार और विधानमंडल) अधिनियम, 1946 अधिनियमित किया, जिससे डोमिनियन सरकार को कुछ राज्य विषयों पर कानून बनाने की अनुमति मिल गई। यह अधिनियम एक वर्ष की अवधि के लिए संचालित होना था। लेकिन समय-समय पर इसे बढ़ाया जाता रहा. भारत का संविधान 26 जनवरी, 1950 को लागू हुआ और संविधान सभा ने उस व्यवस्था को आगे बढ़ाने की दृष्टि से, जिसके तहत केंद्र सरकार राज्य सूची के भीतर कुछ मामलों पर कानून बना सकती थी, संविधान में एक अस्थायी प्रावधान के रूप में अनुच्छेद 369 डाला। पांच वर्ष की अवधि 26 जनवरी, 1955 को समाप्त होनी थी। अनुच्छेद 369 संविधान के भाग XXI में था जिसमें "अस्थायी, संक्रमणकालीन और विशेष प्रावधान" थे, यह "संसद को कुछ मामलों के संबंध में कानून बनाने की अस्थायी शक्ति" प्रदान करता था। राज्य सूची मानो समवर्ती सूची के मामले हों।”

16 दिसंबर, 1954 को, कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने संविधान (तीसरा संशोधन) विधेयक का विरोध किया, जिसे 15 दिसंबर, 1954 को अनुग्रह नारायण सिंह द्वारा राज्य विधानसभा में प्रस्तुत किया गया था, उन्होंने बिहार राज्य सहित सभी राज्यों के हितों की रक्षा के पक्ष में संविधान संशोधन द्वारा राज्यों के अधिकारों पर हमले के बात की थी। उन्होंने कहा कि संविधान सभा की इच्छा के विपरीत यह संशोधन भारत को एक एकात्मक राज्य में बदल देगा। इससे राज्यों की स्वायत्तता खत्म हो जायेगी.एक संघीय राज्य के विपरीत जो सरकार के विभिन्न स्तरों के बीच राजनीतिक शक्ति को विभाजित करता है, एकात्मक राज्यों में एक केंद्रीकृत सरकार का वर्चस्व रहता हैं। संविधान संशोधन में राज्य विधायिका की शक्ति को छीनने और संसद की अस्थायी शक्ति को स्थायी शक्ति में बदलने की मांग की गई थी। उन्होंने कहा कि यह राज्य की स्वायत्तता का अपहरण है। यह केंद्र सरकार को मनमानी शक्ति प्रदान करता है। उन्होंने 8 अगस्त, 1942 के भारत छोड़ो आंदोलन के प्रस्ताव का उल्लेख किया जिसमें कहा गया था कि संविधान स्वायत्तता के सबसे बड़े उपाय के साथ संघीय होना चाहिए। संकल्प में किए गए वादे के विपरीत, संवैधानिक संशोधन राज्यों की शक्ति छीन लेता है। उन्होंने इसे सत्ता हथियाने की नीति करार दिया और प्रगणित व्यापार और वाणिज्य मामलों को समवर्ती सूची में रखने के खिलाफ तर्क दिया, जो भारत के संविधान के अनुच्छेद 254 के मद्देनजर केंद्र सरकार के दायरे में लाता है। वह संसद व्यक्त किये गए विपक्षी दलों की चिंताएं का समर्थन कर रहे थे। भारत के संविधान में अभी तक हुए 106 संशोधनों का अध्ययन से पता चलता हैं कि ऐसे कई संशोधन हैं जो राज्य की शक्ति और संविधान में निहित अधिकारों के सिकुड़न के बारे मे उनकी चिंता बिल्कुल सही थी।

कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने संविधान सभा द्वारा मान्यता प्राप्त राज्यों के अधिकारों को छीनने वाले संवैधानिक संशोधनों से राज्यों के अधिकारों के अतिक्रमण के गंभीर खतरे को उजागर करने के लिए 17वीं सदी के बुंदेलखण्ड के कवि बिहारीलाल को उद्धृत किया। उन्होंने सुनाया:

सतसैया के कांटे, ज्यों नाव के तीर।
देखन में छोटी लगी,गंभीर।

उन्होंने कहा कि संविधान संशोधन के प्रावधान मधुमक्खी के डंक की तरह हैं, जो देखने में छोटा लगता है लेकिन घाव बहुत गहरा करता है। इस तरह के मनमाने संशोधन निरंकुशता के खिलाफ संवैधानिक उपायों को कमजोर करते हैं। ये असामान्य विधायी उपाय आपातकालीन स्थितियों के असाधारण विचलन को एक आदर्श में बदल देते हैं। राज्यों की स्वायत्तता और संविधान के तहत उनकी शक्तियों के क्षरण के संबंध में उनकी चिंताएं वर्तमान परिदृश्य में भी काफी प्रासंगिक हैं।
 

नैतिकता की मिसाल

कोसी परियोजना में भ्रष्‍टाचार की विरासत आज भी बिहार की समृद्धि को खाये जा रही है। इस संदर्भ में यह याद करने वाली बात है कि नीतिश कुमार की सरकार ने अगस्‍त 2008 में कोसी बांध में हुई टूट के कारणों की जांच के लिए 11 सितंबर 2008 को एक सदस्‍यीय जांच आयोग गठित किया था। पटना उच्‍च न्‍यायालय के पूर्व चीफ जस्टिस राजेश बालिया की अध्‍यक्षता वाले इस आयोग ने मार्च 2014 में अपनी रिपोर्ट जमा की जिसमें सिफारिशें और उपचारात्‍मक कदम भी शामिल थे। यहां अहम बात यह है कि जस्टिस बालिया आयोग के आधिकारिक जांच के दायरे में वह अवधि भी थी जिसके लिए कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने जस्टिस दत्‍त वाली जांच समिति बनाई थी।

अफसोस, कि कोसी नदीघाटी के निवासी शुरुआती वर्षों में भ्रष्‍टाचार की भेंट चढ़ चुके समूचे भू-परिदृश्‍य और ड्रेनेज प्रणाली को दुरुस्‍त करने की आवाजें आज तक उठाते आ रहे हैं। गरीबों के सच्‍चे नायक कर्पूरी ठाकुर की स्‍मृति को श्रद्धांजलि स्‍वरूप एक उच्‍चस्‍तरीय आयोग बनाया जाना चाहिए जो ढांचागत भ्रष्‍टाचार से कोसी नदीघाटी को हुए नुकसान को पलट सके और कोसी की ड्रेनेज प्रणाली को बहाल कर सके।

राजनीतिक दलों, विधायिका, उच्‍च न्‍यायालय और सर्वोच्‍च न्‍यायालय का इतिहास गवाह है कि कर्पूरी ठाकुर का नैतिक पक्ष उन सब के मुकाबले आज भी कहीं ज्‍यादा ऊंचा है जिन्‍होंने उनके साथ और उनके न्‍यायपूर्ण सरोकारों के साथ अन्‍याय किया है।

जॉन रॉल्स के न्याय के सिद्धांत को धरातल पर उतारने के लिए कर्पूरी ठाकुर यह दिखाने का प्रयास करते रहे कि हमारी प्रकृति और उन आवश्यकताओं के अनुसार निष्पक्षता के रूप में न्याय का सुव्यवस्थित समाज वास्तव में संभव है। यह प्रयास सुलह के रूप में राजनीतिक दर्शन से संबंधित है; यह देखने के लिए कि सामाजिक दुनिया की परिस्थितियाँ कम से कम इस बात की अनुमति देती हैं कि यह संभावना दुनिया के बारे में हमारे दृष्टिकोण और इसके प्रति हमारे दृष्टिकोण को प्रभावित करती है। अब इसे निराशाजनक रूप से शत्रुतापूर्ण दिखने की आवश्यकता नहीं है, एक ऐसी दुनिया जिसमें पूर्वाग्रह और मूर्खता से प्रेरित, हावी होने की इच्छा और दमनकारी क्रूरताएं अनिवार्य रूप से प्रबल होनी चाहिए। इनमें से कोई भी हमारे नुकसान को कम नहीं कर सकता, क्योंकि हम एक भ्रष्ट समाज में हैं। लेकिन हम यह सोच सकते हैं कि दुनिया अपने आप में राजनीतिक न्याय और उसकी भलाई के लिए प्रतिकूल नहीं है। 
कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने कबीर की तरह ही सियासत के दरिया के बीचो-बीच "ज्यों की त्यों धर दीनी चदरिया"। उन्होंने दास कबीर की राह चल "जतन से ओढ़ी, ज्यों की त्यों धर दीनी चदरिया"। कर्पूरी ठाकुर ने भी "झीनी-झीनी बीनी चदरिया, ज्यों की त्यों रख दीनी चदरिया"।

 -लेखक एक दार्शनिक न्याय शास्त्री, पर्यावरणविद व वकील हैं। उनका वर्तमान कार्यअधिनायकवाद के दर्शन पर केंद्रित है। वे संयुक्त राष्ट्र, की एजेंसियों ,सुप्रीम कोर्ट की समितियों और देश व विदेश के संसदीय समितियों के सामने पेश होते रहे है.