SC Decrees 25 Years As Minimum Age for NEET 2019

Supreme court on Thursday pronounced its judgement on the forthcoming NEET undergraduate exam 2019 for MBBS and BDS, imposing an minimum age limit of 25 years to appear for the exam.

The top court said the final admission would be subject to the final outcome of the case on validity of CBSE decision to fix upper age limit.

The top court has extended the last date for submitting filled NEET forms by a week to enable aspirants who did not qualify under the earlier age criteria to apply.

The last date for submitting forms was tomorrow.

The Central Board of Secondary Education, or CBSE, had notified the upper age limit of 25 and 30 years for general and reserved categories respectively to apply for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET)-UG, a pre-qualification for pursuing MBBS course.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes in the matter of Medical Council of India’s (MCI) decision to keep an upper age limit for NEET for admission to medical colleges.

The court had earlier agreed to examine the validity of an amendment to the MCI Regulations on Graduate Medical Education of 1997. The amendment that was notified on January 22, stipulated an upper age limit of 25 years for general category candidates and of 30 years for those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC) as well as those is the physically handicapped categories.

The Delhi High Court had on May 11 upheld the regulation. It had held that a 17- or 18-year-old candidate will find it difficult to compete with older and more experienced candidates.

Senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, arguing for the petitioners, told the court the regulation is artificial and serves no real objective. “The Regulation is bad as per the (MCI Oversight) Committee as well as the central government that has recommended deletion of the upper age limit as the country needs more doctors,” the lawyer said.

But the bench noted that the regulations are in exercise of legislative power to which Sharan replied: “When candidates secure higher marks, it increases competition, resulting in better doctors.”


New Name in CBI vs CBI Case; Union Law Secretary Shri Suresh Chandra Hauled In

Vitriolic revelation before Supreme Court in CBI vs CBI case has hauled in a new name. CBI DIG Manish Kumar Sinha’s petition professed many unbelievable truths before court and the latest one of which is the alleged involvement of Union Law Secretary and Cabinet Secretary Shri Suresh Chandra in the case who according to Sinha has invaded in investigations before Ex-CBI Chief Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana laid bribery accusations at each other’s door.

Sinha’s note accentuates Chandra’s voracious invasion in the probe conducted by central vigilance commissioner K.V. Chowdary.

Sinha’s source for the role supposedly played by Chandra is the Hyderabad businessman Sana Satish Babu, whose allegations of extortion led to an FIR being filed against Asthana in the first place.

Chandra, by contrast, was forthcoming in his denial of all the allegations made by Sinha when The Wire read out the relevant portions to him.

“Yes, it is true that I am the law secretary and P.K. Sinha is the cabinet secretary but I do not know these people at all – Sana Satish or Rekha Rani”. He also denied being in London in November, though he said he did visit England earlier this year.

Chandra added that he had not been following the Alok Verma-Rakesh Asthana matter in the Supreme Court. The reason, he cited, was the reaction of the Supreme Court to news reports that the Union law minister in the Manmohan Singh government, Ashwani Kumar, had reviewed a coal scam case file prepared by the CBI.

Sinha himself wants the Supreme Court to entrust the matter to a special investigation team:

The circumstances and the manner in which [I] was overnight removed from supervision of this case and transferred to a distant place thousand of kilometres away and the fact that the case involved [the] interest of some of the most powerful persons of the establishment, the present investigating officer of the said FIR may not be able to conduct a fair and impartial investigation, neither can one rule out the potent probability of the present or any subsequent IO being influenced or pressurised by the high and mighty who have been named in this application and in this case, thereby necessitating a court monitored SIT investigation to bring out the truth.

Therefore, it is extremely imperative that the investigation of instant FIR be handed over to a Special Investigation Team monitored by this Hon’ble Court.

Sinha’s petition is listed for hearing on Tuesday, November 20.

Collision Between RAW and Fugitives? Centre to Initiate an Enquiry

Disgruntled over his transfer to Port Blair, AK Bassi on Monday moved to court where he insinuated at the collusion between RAW’s head of the Research and Analysis Wing’s West Asia operations, Samant Goel and the two absconding two Dubai-based brothers named as suspects in an ongoing bribery investigation.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Deputy Superintendent of Police Ajay Kumar Bassi apprised the Apex court, that the agency had intercepted a conversation between RAW’s Goel and banker Somesh Prasad, warning the Dubai-based fugitive not to return to India ‘at any cost’.

In addition, Bassi’s pleadings say that the arrest of Prasad’s brother, Manoj Prasad, on 18 October, sparked off a series of phone conversations between him, Goel, and Rakesh Asthana — the CBI second-in-command at the heart of the still-unfolding crisis in the agency.

Bassi was among two officers involved in investigating Asthana when the government sent both the CBI second-in-command and his boss, Alok Verma, on leave. His Supreme Court plea — which claims he is being persecuted by the agency for investigating Asthana — does not allege Goel received payoffs.

However, Bassi’s plea suggests Goel maintained an inappropriate relationship the Prasad brothers, despite knowing they were the subjects of a criminal investigation.

RAW chief Anil Dhasmana had been pushing for Goel’s elevation to the top job, bypassing two more-senior officials. K Illango, the second-in-command at RAW, has extensive experience in both Kashmir and Sri Lanka, and R Kumar is an offensive-operations expert considered among the most able professionals to have ever worked in the organisation.

However, one RAW official said, “Once it became clear that the Prasad brothers were sought in criminal proceedings, it was simply unacceptable for Goel to have maintained the relationship. RAW cannot and ought not to offer deals to Indian nationals sought by Indian authorities for crimes against the Indian state.”

Disclose the Pricing Details of Rafale, SC Injuncted Centre

The Supreme Court on October 31 decreed the Centre for pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France but agreed that “strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed.

The Centre should give the details in a sealed cover within 10 days, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

In its order, the bench gave some more leeway to the government which has been arguing that pricing details are so sensitive that they have not even been shared with Parliament.

The apex court said the Centre must bring details of the decision making process of the deal in the public domain, except those that are confidential and have strategic importance.

The information must be shared by the government within 10 days and the petitioners could respond to it in the next seven days, the bench said and posted the matter for November 14.

“If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” the bench told Attorney General K K Venugopal in its oral observations.

The top court was hearing four petitions, including one by advocate Prashant  Bhushan and former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who are seeking a court monitored CBI investigation in the procurement of the fighter jets.

“That you will have to wait,” the CJI said, adding, “Let CBI put its house in order first.”

The attorney general had expressed reservations about disclosing the details of pricing of the jets and said its cost was not even disclosed in Parliament.

He also said the documents placed by the Centre before the court are covered by the Official Secrets Act.

The bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, said the “core of information” that can be brought in the public domain should be shared with the “petitioner and petitioners in person”.

In its order, the bench observed that none of the petitioners has questioned the suitability of the Rafale jets, their equipment and their utility to the Indian Air Force.

“What has been questioned is the bonafide of the decision making process and the price/cost at which the same is to be procured,” the bench said.

Supreme Court Revised Its Judgement on Crackers

The Supreme Court on Tuesday revisited its October 23 verdict restraining the time for bursting crackers on Deepavali and other religious festivals to two hours, between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Instead, it allowed Tamil Nadu and adjacent southern States to decide when people can burst crackers on festival days, provided the total time does not cross the two-hour mark. This means the authorities can stagger the time-slots and even make it an hour in the morning and another in the night.

Further, the court said its direction that only green crackers can be manufactured and sold is only applicable to Delhi and the National Capital Region areas.

On October 23, the court had held that only green or improved crackers would be used in religious festivals and other occasions, including weddings.

The court had fixed a uniform slot for bursting crackers across the country. During Deepavali and other religious festivals, the slot is between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Price Waterhouse vs SEBI Tussle Reached SC’s Doorstep

Skirmish between Price Waterhouse and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) took a different turn and landed at Supreme court’s doorstep once again.

The audit firm has filed an appeal to be allowed to continue auditing its existing clients till March 2020, while reiterating that it does not fall under the regulatory purview of SEBI in the matter related to the erstwhile Satyam Computer Services.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Price Waterhouse (PW) filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the apex court on Friday, after its second appeal was dismissed by the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).

“Currently, SAT has no bench and that could delay the proceedings at the tribunal. Price Waterhouse has a few clients whose financial year ends in December and hence urgently needs a directive on whether it could audit its existing clients till March 2020. It stands a better chance to be heard in the Supreme Court,” said the person on condition of anonymity.

The case goes back to January, when the capital market regulator barred PW from auditing listed companies for two years for its alleged role in the Satyam matter.

Further, the regulator barred PW from accepting new clients and servicing existing clients in the listed segment beyond March 31, 2018. Thereafter in February, the audit firm filed an appeal in SAT, which granted partial relief by allowing it to service its existing clients till March 31, 2019. Price Waterhouse filed another appeal seeking a further extension to service its existing clients till March 31, 2020, but the tribunal dismissed the appeal.

Meanwhile, an email query sent to Price Waterhouse remained unanswered till the time of going to press.

This is not the first time that the audit firm has knocked the doors of the apex court in this matter. Basis a petition filed by the audit firm, the Supreme Court, in January last year, directed SEBI to expedite the investigation against Price Waterhouse and conclude the probe by July.

Ayodhya Petition Gets a Date Ahead

The Supreme Court on Monday delegated the Ayodhya case hearing for a January hearing where an “appropriate” bench would adjudicate the case.

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Monday ordered the sensitive Ayodhya dispute appeals to be listed in January 2019 before an appropriate Bench to fix a date for hearing.

The date of commencement of hearing rely upon the circumspection of the bench before the hearings are listed to be made.

“We have our own priorities… whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate Bench,” Chief Justice Gogoi remarked orally.

Chief Justice Gogoi repeated that all that the court has ordered now is for the appeals to be posted in the first week of January before a Bench, that too, “not for hearing but for fixing the date of hearing.”

Last year, in the initial stages of hearing of the appeals, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on the side of certain Islamic bodies and private appellants, had suggested in court that the Ayodhya hearings be posted after July 15, 2019, post the general election.

Mr. Sibal, along with senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Rajeev Dhavan, had pegged the Ayodhya dispute as not just any other civil suit. They flagged how the case covered religion and faith, and dated back to the era of King Vikramaditya.

The case, they said, was probably the most important case in the history of India, which would “decide the future of the polity.”

Ayodhya Case Litigation to Ensue Today in SC

Supreme Court today will be the cynosure of all eyes today as the most contentious dispute over land of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area in Ayodhya is going to be heard today in the court.

Hearing on a stack of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict, are in the offing by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph.

On September 27, the Supreme Court had declined to refer to a five-judge constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.

In a majority verdict of 2:1, a three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence and the previous verdict has no relevance to this issue.

Justice Ashok Bhushan, who had penned the judgment for himself and the Chief Justice of India, had said it has to find out the context in which the five-judge bench had delivered the 1994 verdict.

However, Justice S Abdul Nazeer had disagreed with the two judges and had said whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering religious belief which requires detailed consideration.

The court had on September 27 said the civil suit on land dispute would be heard by a three-judge bench on October 29.

The issue whether a mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when the three-judge bench was hearing the appeals filed against the Allahabad High Court’s verdict.

The three-judge high court bench, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

SC’s Dictate Will Superficially Work; People’s Attitude towards Crackers Will Be Changed, Says Firework Manufacturers

Fireworks manufacturers across the nation heaved a sigh of relief when Supreme Court turned down the petition seeking a blanket ban on firecrackers this year on Tuesday. The Apex judiciary of the nation permitted the sale of firecrackers but laid down certain conditions.

In response to SC’s verdict General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association said that the permission to manufacture and sale of firecrackers is only skin deep as the conditions laid by the judiciary are problematic.

Tuesday’s verdict said that only ‘green’ crackers with reduced emission will be permitted, and the rest are banned. While online sales have also been banned, firecrackers are to be obtained only through licensed traders who abide by the new rules. Barium salts in the fireworks have also been banned.

The secretary said, “The judgement will clearly change the attitude of people towards firecrackers. They used to keep saying it made poisonous gases. People were hesitant to buy. But now people will no longer be reluctant. There will be a change in attitude.”

However, he points out that several aspects of the judgement are unclear and as a consequence, its implementation may be in peril.

For example, Mariappan says that without barium salt – the chemical often used to create pyrotechnic formula – they cannot manufacture fireworks.

“Bariums salts have been banned without providing any reason. They should have atleast consulted with the licensing authority i.e., the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation. It is their responsibility to say whether a chemical is permitted for use. They haven’t said what should be the alternate for barium salt. This is unacceptable for the industry,” he says.

In a move that has drawn flak from many quarters, the judgement specifically states, “On Diwali days or on any other festivals like Gurpurab etc., when such fireworks generally take place, it would strictly be from 8:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. only. On Christmas eve and New Year eve, when such fireworks start around midnight, i.e. 12:00 a.m., it would be from 11:55 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. only.”

Mariappan points out that there is a vast difference between how festivals are celebrated in different parts of the country.

“In Tamil Nadu, will celebrate Deepavali on the morning of November 6. In the north, they will celebrate on the evening of November 7. In Mysore, Dussehra is more prominent. In West Bengal, they celebrate Kali Puja. Does this mean bursting firecrackers during these festivals is banned? The judgement seems to be unaware of traditions and cultural backgrounds of festivals. How can there be a uniform time for all states to celebrate?” he asks.

Despite this, Mariappan says the industry is grateful that there has been no blanket ban. This means that they can now jog back to regular production levels, sans the uncertainty that came every festival season that the judgement had been pending.