Human Rights Law Network


Media Reports

Conspiracy behind move to double gas price: PIL

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre, RIL and petroleum minister Veerappa Moily and sought their replies on a PIL which alleges conspiracy in the government's decision to double the price of natural gas from April 2014.

Before seeking replies from the respondents within four weeks, a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi sought clarifications from Colin Gonsalves — counsel of petitioners MP Gurudas Dasgupta and ex-power secretary E A S Sarma — and heard RIL counsel Harish Salve.

To Salve's preliminary objections, the bench said, "We cannot brush aside the assertions of an MP at the preliminary stage. You (respondents) file your replies and we will consider it." It fixed hearing on the PIL for September 5.

The petitioners alleged that KG basin gas exploring contractors, RIL and NIKO Resources, entered into a conspiracy with the Centre "to provide exorbitant, unreasonable and excessive profits to the contractors, which will bankrupt the exchequer and severely affect the Indian economy".

They sought quashing of the gas price hike and requested the court to direct the government to ensure that henceforth "the price of domestically produced gas is fixed in rupees and not dollars or any other currency".

"Appoint a court commission comprising independent and fearless officers and experts having expertise in the area of this dispute to inquire into the real cost of gas at the well-head in the KG basin and also into the capacity of the basin itself and related issues raised in the petition," they said.

Dasgupta and Sarma also alleged that certain benefits were being granted to the contractors by government for mala fide and collateral gain which would increase the subsidy burden enormously. They also said the gas price hike would "enormously impact" food and energy security resulting in higher prices of fertilizers, food products and cooking gas affecting the poor.

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Justice Ganguly replies to government posers on Pakistan trip

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KOLKATA: A state government questioning the human rights commission (HRC) chief, who enjoys pay parity with a high court's chief justice, about his leave of absence is unheard of. But that's the uncommon situation Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly found himself in earlier this week when the Mamata Banerjee government shot off a letter seeking clarifications about his recent trip to Pakistan.

The West Bengal HRC chief, who visited Karachi in the first week of June to attend a two-day seminar, sent his reply to home secretary Basudeb Banerjee on Friday. The seminar on June 4 and 5 was jointly organized by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and the Hamdard School of Law in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network. Besides Justice Ganguly, others invited from India as speakers were lawyers Prashant Bhushan, Mukul Sinha and Colin Gonsalves. Justice Ganguly returned to the city on June 6 and joined office from June 7.

Since he took charge in April 2012, the WBHRC has proactively taken up cases ranging from the cartoon controversy to the Kamduni rape-murder in which the government has been embarrassed. WBHRC sources felt the letter could be a sequel to that.

The home secretary's letter, which was sent on Monday, "requested" Justice Ganguly to answer five questions about his trip: whether it was official or private, what its purpose was, who funded it, whether there was any FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) violation and if prior permission was taken from the governor.

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Assault in Jails: Inform Us on Steps Taken, SC to Centre

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Incidents of attack on foreign prisoners have "international ramifications", Supreme Court today said asking the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government to apprise it of steps to ensure that assaults similar to the one on Pakistani inmate Sanaullah Ranjay do not recur.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and S J Mukhopadhya also voiced displeasure over the pace of progress in investigation into the death of Ranjay at Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu.

"Such incidents have international ramifications. The Government has to tell us that about the certain steps that have been taken and are being contemplated to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future," the court said and asked the Centre and the state government to file affidavits.

"Look, such incidents have happened in Pakistan and in India. In so far as Pakistan is concerned, we have no control and so far as India is concerned, we have got the control. You must tell us about the steps taken to ensure that such incidents do not happen again," it said.

The court, after perusing the affidavit filed by Jammu and Kashmir government, expressed unhappiness there was "not a single word" about investigation into Ranjay's death though 72 days had passed since the incident.

"You must have held some preliminary inquiry. What are the findings. This (affidavit) is nothing as it does not give as to what had happened? How it happened? It does not even say the date on which the FIR was lodged.

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SC notice on proposed bodies for plaints against cops

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The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central and and state governments on a petition seeking direction to set up Police Complaint Authorities (PCA) to deal with public complaints related to law enforcers.

The authorities comprising competent and independent people were mandated by the apex court by its 2006 verdict related to police reforms.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves pointed to the court the "poor state of the implementation of the directions of the apex court for pushing police reforms".

The petition was filed by Sarfraj Mulla, Kavesh V. Gosavi, Abdul Allbaksh Gaffar Shirogod and Khalil Tannub Mohammed, who were all allegedly ill-treated by Goa Police, urging the court to direct all states and union territories to set up a PCA each and make it functional within three months.

The petitioners urged the court to direct the central government to frame model rules to be adopted by states and union territories on establishing the proposed complaint authorities.

They alleged that they were "tortured by the police, stripped naked, racially abused and maliciously prosecuted" by Goa Police.

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Legal fees are on the house

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Corporate Social Responsibility has entered India's legal corridors. Top law firms and lawyers are doing pro bono so that they can give back to society.

A man phones a lawyer and asks, "What's your fee for answering three simple questions?" The reply is: A thousand dollars. "Whoa! That's very expensive, isn't it?" exclaims the man. "It certainly is, now what's your third question?" asks the lawyer.

Expensive legal fees have been the butt of many jokes but not all lawyers are the sharks they're made out to be. There are a number of socially aware and generous souls who are increasingly lending their expertise for pro bono work. Short for the Latin term pro bono publico, 'for the public good', pro bono means a case is taken up for free or the rates are deeply discounted. I n India, traditionally, pro bono legal work was carried out by lawyers who had dedicated themselves to helping society. Take senior advocate Colin Gonsalves who, in the early 1980s, co-founded the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) to provide free legal access to the needy. Since then HRLN has expanded the scope of its legal offerings to include filing PILs, legal clinics and advocacy. Pune-based advocate Asim Sarode set up Human Rights and Law Defenders in 2002, which won accolades for providing free legal service to prisoners.

Yet, given the need for proper legal help for a diverse section of society — ranging from NGOs to social entrepreneurs; from sex workers to child labourers; and from battered women to helpless prisoners — even the PM, in his address at the Bar Council's centenary celebrations earlier this year, urged lawyers to take on more pro bono cases.

Cyber-platforms such as the international Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation and i-Probono are already helping connect law firms with social projects. Then there are organisations such as Ashoka which, through its 'Law for all' initiative, ensures that Ashoka Fellows (social entrepreneurs) have access to the most appropriate law firms. "In addition to meeting regulatory hurdles, this initiative also aims at providing emergency support to Ashoka Fellows, who given the nature of their work sometimes face threats and intimidation from vested interests," says an Ashoka spokesperson.

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Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.

HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.