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SC seeks reply of Kerala, others on plea of Guruvayur temple panel on issue of temple funds

The Supreme Court Monday sought responses from the Kerala government and others to a plea of the Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee (GDMC) challenging a 2020 high court verdict holding all properties of the famous Lord Krishna temple in Guruvayur vest in the presiding deity and its management has no power to divert the funds.

The dispute arose after the GDMC donated Rs 10 crore to the Chief Ministers Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) for flood victims in the state and Rs 5 crore for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kerala High Court, on December 18, 2020 held that all movable and immovable properties dedicated to the presiding deity of the famous Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur shall vest in the idol of Lord Guruvayurappan and its managing committee had no power to divert the funds to the government or any other agency.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justices Ajay Rastogi and S Ravindra Bhat took note of the submissions of senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for the temple management committee GDMC, and issued notices to the state government and 28 others including officials supervising the Devaswom board.
The bench, meanwhile, asked the parties to hold their hands with regard to finances till it decides the appeal of the GDMC against the high court verdict.

The senior lawyer said there were two aspects of the matter- one pertained to the rules and the other to the culture and tradition of the temple. This is a Lord Krishna temple…What money has been given? The money has been given for flood relief and for COVID victims, he added.

Issue notice returnable on October 10, 2022. Dasti in addition, the bench said. Dasti summons means one is willing to serve it to the opposite party personally without the appointment of a process server. Meanwhile, KSR Menon, President of the Democratic Social Justice Party (DSJP), filed a caveat in the top court in the matter, saying he be also heard as he was among the parties who had initially approached the Kerala High Court on the issue challenging the decision of the Guruvayoor Devaswom Board to divert funds.

The high court, in its verdict, had held that all the properties vest with the presiding deity. A full bench of the high court had made the observations on a batch of petitions challenging the decision of the GDMC to donate the temple funds to the Chief Ministers Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) for flood victims in the state. The high court had overruled a 2019 order of a division bench, holding that its view on Section 27 of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act of 1978 related to the authority of the GDMC to incur “certain expenses” out of the Devaswom funds.

The division bench had incorrectly interpreted the word “certain” as it could be taken as a clear indication of the non-exhaustive nature of items wherein the GDMC could have the authority to expend the Devaswom funds, the high court had said.

In an over 100-page order dealing with the role of the committee and aspects related to the expenditure to be incurred as per the devaswom act, it had said the GDMC was bound to administer control and manage all the properties belonging to Guruvayur Devaswom and that its status was that of a trustee.

“All the properties, including movable and immovable properties and money, dedicated to or endowed in the name of Lord Guruvayurappan or any property acquired in any manner by Guruvayur Devaswom shall vest in the idol of Lord Guruvayurappan, consecrated in the Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur,” the court had said in its order.

“None of the provisions in the Act of 1978, including Section 27, authorizes GDMC, or the Administrator or the Commissioner to contribute or part with or give away in any manner any amount from the funds belonging to the Guruvayur Devaswom, either to the CMDRF or to any other governmental agency, for any purpose specified under the Act….,” it had said.

The petitioners before the high court had contended that the decision was in total violation of the provisions of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act and the diversion of the Devaswom funds to CMDRF also violated their fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 25, and 26 of the Constitution.

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Ukraine Returnees Cannot Be Accommodated In Indian Medical Colleges: Centre To Supreme Court

New Delhi: In a setback to thousands of undergraduate medical Indian students who were studying in Ukraine but had to return to the country in view of the war with Russia, the Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that they cannot be accommodated in medical colleges here for lack of provisions under the law.

In an affidavit, the Centre said that till now, no permission has been given by the National Medical Commission (NMC) to transfer or accommodate any foreign medical students in any Indian medical institute/University. The government filed its response in a batch of petitions filed by students, who are undergraduate medical students of first to fourth-year batches in their respective foreign medical colleges/universities, who are primarily seeking transfer to medical colleges in India in their respective semesters.

“It is humbly submitted that in so far as such students are concerned, there are no such provisions either under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 or the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 as well as the Regulations to accommodate or transfer medical students from any foreign medical institutes/colleges to Indian medical colleges”, the government said.

It, however, said that to aid and assist such returnee students who could not complete their MBBS courses in Ukraine, NMC in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a Public Notice dated September 6, 2022, indicating that NMC would accept completion of their remaining courses in other countries (with the approval of parent university/Institution in Ukraine).

The government said that after such completion of their remaining courses, the certificate, of course, completion/degree is expected to be issued by the parent institutions in Ukraine.

It referred to the allegations of the students that even though public notice of September 6, conveys no objection to the academic mobility programme, which is a temporary relocation of the affected foreign students in different foreign countries globally, it is not clear as to whether Indian universities are also included in the realm of “Universities in different countries globally”.

The government said that these students have claimed that when they tried applying under the academic mobility programme at their respective Ukrainian Medical Universities, such universities refused to entertain their applications for academic mobility in their first semester of the academic year 2022-23.

“It is humbly submitted that the aforesaid affidavit (of the student) is completely frivolous and misleading. It is submitted that in so far as the aforesaid academic mobility program is concerned, the same was introduced only for those students, who were not able to continue their education due to war like situation in Ukraine”, the Centre said.

It added that in the public notice dated September 6, the phrase “global mobility” cannot be interpreted to mean accommodation of these students in Indian colleges/Universities, as the extant regulations in India do not permit migration of students from foreign universities to India.

“The aforesaid Public notice cannot be used as a back door entry in Indian colleges/Universities offering UG courses”, it said.

The government said that most of the aggrieved students/petitioners had gone to foreign countries for two reasons-firstly due to poor merit in the NEET exam and secondly, affordability of medical education in such foreign countries.

“It is humbly submitted that in case these students with (a) poor merit are allowed admission in premier medical colleges in India by default, there may be several litigations from those desirous candidates who could not get seats in these colleges and have taken admission in either lesser known colleges or have been deprived of a seat in medical colleges”, the government said.

It further added that in case of affordability, if these candidates are allocated Private Medical Colleges in India, they once again may not be able to afford the fee structure of the concerned Institutions.

“It is humbly submitted that the government of India in consultation with the NMC, the apex medical education regulatory body in the country, has taken the aforesaid pro-active measures to assist returnee students from Ukraine while balancing the need to maintain the requisite standards of medical education in the country”, it said.

The government added that any further relaxation, including the prayer for transfer of these returnee students to medical colleges in India, would not only dehors the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the National Medical Commission Act of 2019 as well as the regulations made thereunder but would also seriously hamper the standards of medical education in the country.

A bench headed by Justice Hemant Gupta will be taking up the matter on Friday after the counsel appearing for the Centre said that they have filed the affidavit in the batch of pleas.

The students have relied upon the report of the Lok Sabha committee on external affairs dated August 3, by which it had recommended to the ministry of health and family welfare to accommodate these students in Indian colleges/universities as a one-time measure. The top court had earlier asked the Centre to place on record what is its policy or stand on the accommodation of these medical students.

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SC closes all Gujarat riots proceedings, pleas against UP over Babri demolition

The Supreme Court on Tuesday disposed of a batch of 11 petitions, including a plea filed by the National Human Rights Commission, seeking its intervention in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. Wrapping up its proceedings, the top court noted that the petitions had become infructuous in view of the subsequent developments in the matter.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit noted that the prayer in the main plea was to transfer the investigation to the CBI, which the high court denied, and that there was also a petition by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The CJI-led bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and J.B. Pardiwala, observed that the court had constituted an SIT to conduct the investigation and prosecution of nine cases connected with riots and the trial in eight out of those cases are complete, and the final arguments were going in the trial court in one case.

Advocate Aparna Bhat submitted that a plea made by activist Teesta Setalvad, whose NGO Citizens for Peace and Justice had moved an application in the apex court for proper investigation in riot cases, seeking protection was pending. Bhat added that she could not get instructions from Setalvad as she is currently under custody in a fresh case registered by the Gujarat Police. The top court granted liberty to Setalvad to approach the concerned authority for seeking protection, which would decide her application as per law.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the SIT, submitted that trial in only one matter out of the nine cases, pertaining to the Naroda Gaon area, is pending and is at the stage of final arguments. The top court was informed that in the other cases, trials were complete and those cases were either before the high court or the apex court. The top court noted that advocates appearing for the petitioners have accepted the statement of the SIT of completing the investigation. The bench said that since all matters have now become infructuous, the court may need not entertain these petitions any longer.

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SC Issues Notice To Gujarat Govt Over Release Of Bilkis Bano Case Convicts

Supreme Court issued notice to the Gujarat government over the remission granted to the 11 men convicted for the rape and murder of multiple people in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case. This comes after a plea was filed against the release of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.  Advocate Aparna Bhat and senior advocate Kapil Sibal before a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana. Counsel submitted that they are challenging the remission order, emphasizing that a pregnant woman was raped and people were killed.

The PIL was filed by Subhashini Ali, Revathy Laul, and Roop Rekha Rani, assailing the order of the competent authority of the Gujarat government by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offenses were allowed to walk free on August 15, pursuant to remission being extended to them.

The petitioners contended that a grant of remission solely by the competent authority of a state government, without any consultation with the Centre, is impermissible in terms of the mandate of Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Eleven convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, were released from Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. The convicts had completed more than 15 years in jail.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra has moved the Supreme Court challenging the release of all 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano Case on remission by the Gujarat government.

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Gujarat government’s response on a plea challenging the release of 11 men convicted for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana also asked the petitioners to implead those who have been granted remission as parties in the matter. The bench also posted the matter for hearing after two weeks. The bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Ajay Rastogi, and Justice Vikram Nath however posed a query with respect to the legal bar.

Mahua Moitra proceeds Supreme Court

Three Public Interest Litigations – by Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo Member Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and one other petitioner – have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the remission and consequent release of 11 convicts on Independence Day.

The incident turned into a huge political controversy with the special court judge who convicted the men also raising questions about the Gujarat government’s decision.”Did they ask the judge under whom the case was heard? I can tell you that I heard nothing regarding this… In such cases, the state government needs to take advice from the central government as well. Did they do that? I have no idea. If they did, what did the central government say,” Justice UD Salvi, who retired as a judge of the Bombay High Court.

“I don’t know if they went through the procedure or not,” he had added. The convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.

The convicts were welcomed by groups linked to the ruling BJP – with sweets, hugs, and garlands. A BJP MLA was quoted as saying that the men were Brahmins with “good sanskar” (culture). Days after the convicts’ release, Bilkis Bano said it has “shaken” her faith in the justice system and left her “shocked” and “numb”. The family has been too distraught to decide on any legal step. Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning. Among those killed was her three-year-old daughter.

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