Recognising the plight of citizens in getting potable water, the Supreme Court held that right to water was part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21.
The court directed the Centre to form a committee of scientific experts to address water shortage in the country on a war footing. The Centre has already allocated more than Rs.500 crore for the purpose. “We propose to monitor this case from time to time,” the court said.
On the political front, the court came down heavily on the Mayawati government for defying its order. Acting suo motu on media reports, especially The Hindu’s report, it ordered the Mayawati government to stop construction activities at the Kanshi Ram Memorial Sthal and other sites in Lucknow.
The court said it appeared from media reports that work was in full swing. It directed that “activities of all manner and kinds, whether construction, repair or maintenance, shall stop forthwith at all the construction sites covered by the previous order of this court, and all the construction sites shall be vacated of the entire workforce.” Later, on a contempt of court notice, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary appeared in the court and tendered an apology.
The court asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gujarat riot cases to look into a complaint filed by Jakia Nasim Ahesan, wife of the former Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri (who was killed in the 2002 riots), against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and submit a report by December 31.
The court directed the Gujarat government to pay an interim ad hoc payment of Rs.10 lakh to Rubabuddin Sheikh and other legal heirs of Sohrabuddin, who was killed in a fake encounter, and his wife, Kausar Bi, who was killed subsequently. The Gujarat government admitted that it was a fake encounter and agreed to pay Rs.10 lakh in compensation.
The court is examining a public interest litigation petition filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and five others for a direction to the Centre to take steps to bring back Rs.70,00,000 crore stashed illegally in Swiss and other foreign banks.
The court gave its nod for the display of pictorial warnings on all tobacco products with effect from May 31. The Health for Millions alleged that the government initially brought in the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules in 2006 to make the warnings mandatory for all tobacco products, but was dragging its feet owing to pressure from the tobacco lobby. The court, however, rejected the allegation.
On Friday last, it laid down a series of guidelines for dealing with ragging in educational institutions. It was suggested that the atmosphere in an educational institution instil a sense of confidence in the minds of freshers and steps should be taken towards this objective.
The Supreme Court cautioned the trial courts and the High Courts against imposition of unnecessary constraints and conditions while granting anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court said that over-generous infusion of constraints and conditions, not to be found in Section 438 of the Code, could make the provision constitutionally vulnerable, since the right to personal freedom, as enshrined in Article 21 (right to life and liberty), could not be made to depend on compliance with reasonable restrictions.
It upheld the Delhi High Court’s judgment convicting senior advocate R.K. Anand for contempt of court for attempting to influence the trial in the BMW hit-and-run case. The court, however, acquitted the then Special Public Prosecutor, I.U. Khan, who was also convicted by the High Court. The High Court had barred both the lawyers from appearing in the court for four months and held that they had forfeited their right to be designated as senior advocates.
The Supreme Court has rejected a plea for putting curbs on the media and television channels in conducting sting operations. It held that any attempt to control and regulate the media from outside was likely to cause more harm than good.
The court banned unauthorised construction of any temple, church, mosque or gurdwara on public streets/spaces with immediate effect. It directed all the States and the Union Territories to ensure that “no unauthorised construction of any religious institution shall be permitted on public street/space.” For the existing unauthorised constructions, it asked the States to come out with a comprehensive scheme to be considered by the court for further directions.
Finally, for more than nine weeks, the Supreme Court heard one of the biggest corporate legal battles: the dispute between Reliance Industries Ltd. and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. over allocation of gas. It reserved verdict on the issue.