Trial begins for ship crew
THE Supreme Court has directed that 35 members of the crew of the US patrol vessel, MV Seaman Guard Ohio, will be tried by a trial court in Tamil Nadu. The crew was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police in October 2013 for carrying arms and ammunition on board and entering Indian waters without permission. The ship was intercepted by the Coast Guard and detained at Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu. The crew was taken into custody under the Arms Act and the Essential Commodities Act.
The Madras High Court had earlier struck down all legal proceedings against them, ruling that the Arms Act could not be slapped on them. The apex court quashed the high court order and ruled that the accused had produced no evidence to claim immunity from the Arms Act. It asked the trial court to decide on the issue after examining the evidence. The apex court further ruled that it was for the trial court to decide whether the ship had entered Indian waters without permission.
Parties and RTI
In a move that may bring in transparency as far as political parties are concerned, the apex court issued notice to six national parties, asking them to explain why they did not fall under the ambit of RTI, as “public authorities”. The court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan which pointed out that despite the 2013 Central Information Commission (CIC) order that political parties are “public authorities”, the parties did not reveal information sought by the public under RTI, especially those related to funding. The petition also claimed that the CIC had no punitive powers to act against the parties and sought the apex court’s intervention. The court issued notices to the center and the Election Commission in this regard. They need to respond within six weeks.
ML Sharma to probe Ranjit Sinha
In a fresh twist to former CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s case, the Sup-reme Court has chosen former CBI special director ML Sharma to head a probe team to investigate Sinha’s conduct on the “visitors’ diary” issue. The former CBI director has been accused of meeting people involved in the 2G and coal scams at his residence. It is alleged that the visitors were trying to influence the case. The court had earlier decided that a probe was necessary to ascertain whe-ther the alleged meetings had any bearing on the CBI probe into the scams.
The investigating agency had expressed its reservations against such a probe, pleading that it will be a dent on its credibility.
Penalized for negligence
THE parents of a child who lost her eyesight soon after birth in 1996, was awarded compensation of `1.8 crore by the Supreme Court. Fixing the blame on the Government Hospital, Egmore, in Chennai, where she was born, the court asked the Tamil Nadu government and the hospital to shell out the amount. It cited gross negligence by the doctors, who were monitoring the baby after her premature birth.
The apex court accepted the plea of the girl’s parents that the doctors didn’t inform them about the impending risk of their child losing vision due to her premature birth. The parents alleged that the doctors did not prescribe any test to ascertain the risk and take preventive measures.And when the infant did show indications of blindness, it was just too late.
A relook at defamation laws
THE Supreme Court has started taking another look at criminal defamation as a punishable offense. It was considering several petitions before it that stated that penal provisions in defamation cases had been done away with, in several countries.The court observed that defamation laws under IPC had been framed under the British Raj. The court questioned whether the time is now ripe to tone down the severity of the defamation laws.
It asked the government for a comprehensive response on how defamation laws could be decriminalized before it takes a final decision.
The sections in question are 499 and 500 of IPC which prescribe a maximum of two-year jail term for defamation offenses. Subramanian Swamy, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal had filed petitions stating that the penal provisions throttled the freedom of speech.