National Task Force set up by Supreme Court for effective and transparent medical oxygen supply

The Supreme Court has established a 12-member National Task Force to expedite and guarantee the transparent and efficacious distribution of liquid medical oxygen to States and Union Territories battling COVID-19, on a scientific, fair and equitable basis.

According to an order issued by a bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah, the task force’s mandate includes resolving issues pertaining to oxygen supply to various states, recommending precautions to enhance the accessibility of essential medicines, and optimizing all use of required expertise. 

The National Task Force will be convened by the Union Cabinet Secretary, who can appoint an officer not below the position of Additional Secretary to deputize for him if appropriate, according to the bench.

In its order, the Supreme Court stated that the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will serve on the task force as an ex-officio member.

According to the Supreme Court, the task force is free to meet and obtain inputs from the Union Government’s human resources, which include the following: (i) A Niti Aayog member appointed by the Vice-Chairperson; (ii) secretary of Ministry of Human Affairs; (iii) Secretary of Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal  Trade; (iv) Secretary of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways; (v) Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi; (vi) Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research in New Delhi; (vii) Director General of Health Services; (viii) Director-General, National Informatics Centre, and (ix) Head and Centre for Development of Advancing Computing. 

The Task Force may begin working immediately and will last for six months. The Court ordered the Task Force to investigate and report on the urgent issues of oxygen modalities within a week.


Live-in relationships morally and socially unacceptable: Punjab and Haryana High Court rejected to grant safeguards to live-in couple

The Punjab and Haryana High Court declined to provide protection to a live-in couple who purportedly suffered intimidation from the girl’s family after their elopement, stating that granting such protection would disrupt the society’s social structure.

The petition was submitted by Gulza Kumari and Gurwinder Singh. The girl in this case who initiated the petition is barely 19 years old, while her partner is 22. The duo informed the court that they have been residing together and that they were seeking life and liberty defence by the plea. The petitioner quoted former High Court rulings in Sukhbir Singh v. State of Punjab and Ors and Simran Kaur v. State of Punjab and Ors, in which the court mandated the concerned Senior Superintendent of Police to investigate pleas for defence from couples in live-in relationships.

Under the guise of filing the petition, the petitioners were seeking permission for their live-in union, according to Justice Madaan. He claimed that live-in relationships are “morally and socially unacceptable,” and that “no defence order in the petition can be released, and the petition is accordingly discarded.” 

Advocate JS Thakur, who represented the petitioners, clarified that both participants were legally qualified to marry and desired to do so. They were unable to proceed with their marriage plans, however, because the girl’s family had some of the required papers, such as an Aadhar card. It was also argued that since the Supreme Court of India had previously affirmed the live-in arrangement, they wanted to approach the HC, requesting safeguards before the marriage, and that they were in a live-in relationship at the time to avert the animosity of the girl’s family, who were opposed to their relationship.


Justice Lalit nominated as Executive Chairperson of NALSA

With immediate effect, President Ram Nath Kovind has announced Supreme Court judge Justice Uday Umesh Lalit as the current executive chairperson of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Justice Lalit will succeed Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. The Ministry of Law and Justice issued a notification to that effect in the official gazette. 

The notification issues stated that “the President is pleased to appoint Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Judge, Supreme Court of India, as Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority, with immediate effect, in obligations imposed by Clause (b) of sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.” 

About Justice Lalit:

Justice Lalit is the son of Retd. Justice UR. Lalit, a senior lawyer working in Delhi and a former alternate judge of the Bombay High Court, Nagpur bench. Justice Uday began his legal career in the Bombay High Court, where he practised from 1983 to 1985. From 1986 to 1992, he served in the chambers of former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee. He was designated a senior advocate in 2004, and he has operated on the Supreme Court’s Legal Services Committee for two years. In 2011, he was chosen as the CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor in all 2G matters by a Supreme Court bench led by Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly. He was nominated to the Supreme Court as a judge in 2014. Justice Lalit is presently a member of the Supreme Court collegium and is set to become India’s 49th Chief Justice. 


Legal journalists and law students move Allahabad High Court seeking directions for live-streaming, live-reporting of court proceedings

Legal journalists Areeb Uddin Ahmed and Sparsh Upadhyay, along with three law students, have initiated a public interest litigation in the Allahabad High Court, asking permission to live-stream and live-report court proceedings throughout the state of Uttar Pradesh, including the High Courts, Tribunals, and Subordinate Courts. 

To secure access to digital or actual hearings and write on them as they unfold, the plea cited the fundamental right to press, which is part of the right to freedom of expression and is an explicit attribute of Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. 

Owing to virtual trials being convened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, legal journalists and law students have been unable to witness court proceedings, according to the petition. The petitioners cited the case of Swapnil Tripathi & Ors. v. Supreme Court of India in which the Supreme Court resolved to live-stream court hearings for the greater good of the public. The plea claimed expressly that live-streaming and live-reporting of Court cases would enable such access and align VC hearings with the “Open Justice” concept.

Making reference to the Supreme Court’s and Gujarat High Court’s dedicated media rooms, the petitioners pleaded that a similar set up, combined with the requisite technologies and facilities, be established in Allahabad High Court to guarantee that all individuals can access the physical and virtual proceedings of cases and that the public, including journalists, should be able to effectively access Virtual Courts via VC links, which could be published on the High Court website or included with each day’s Causelist.


Held on Sedition Charges, elected MP of YSR Congress Party moves Supreme Court seeking bail

Kanumuri Raghuram Krishnam Raju, an accredited Member of Parliament (YSR Congress Party) from the Narasapuram Parliamentary Constituency in Andhra Pradesh, has moved the Supreme Court after a single-judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court led by Justice K. Suresh Reddy disqualified his bail application. 

Raju had previously filed a bail application with the High Court to widen in a case involving crimes punishable under Section 124-A, 153(A), 505 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code

It was observed by the High Court that, Raju, a staunch critic of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Jagamohan Reddy, has been rendering hate speeches against certain groups and spreading disaffection against the Government that would result in a lack of confidence in the government and furthermore lead to instability.  

In consideration of this, the High Court determined that the appeal for bail must be withdrawn since the Court was not likely to entertain it. Raju, on the other hand, was granted the freedom to address the relevant trial judge and demand the requisite reliefs.

Mr. Raju filed a plea with the Supreme Court of India in order to seek relief. He stated in his plea that he had a major surgery four months ago and that the Central government provided him with security due to a vulnerability to his health. He claimed stated the High Court had issued preliminary orders in a handful of claims that he had previously appealed, and that the High Court’s order directing him to go to the Lower Court first is counter to existing legal standards.

Senior advocate B. Adinarayana Rao, who appeared on behalf of Mr. Raju, sought to persuade the Judge that the petition ought to be heard immediately, invoking Article 21 of the Constitution (protection of life and personal liberty). It was also argued that the High Court refused to investigate the details and circumstances of the case, and also that his conviction was an infringement of his right to free speech and expression.


Basic Structure Doctrine held applicable in Kenya by Kenya High Court referring to the Keshavananda Bharati case

The High Court of Kenya has ruled that the Doctrine of Basic Structure applies in Kenya, which is a substantial ruling in respect of the Kenyan Constitution. Articles 255 to 257 of Kenya’s Constitution restrict parliament’s amending authority.

A five-judge Constitution Bench delivered the decision in a public interest petition opposing President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s Building Bridges Initiative and the subsequent Constitution Amendment Bill. The petitioners claimed that the reform rights enshrined in Articles 256 and 257 of Kenya’s Constitution should only be used to amend the Constitution’s “ordinary clauses,” and that they should not include the authority to “replace the Constitution” or “create a new system of government or enforce a new Constitutional Order.” They also contended that the Kenyan Constitution’s Doctrine of Basic Structure, as well as the corollary doctrines of statutory unamendability and eternity clauses, preclude this from happening.

The petitioners centred their argument on the Indian case of Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala and Others [(1973) 4 SCC 225], wherein they asserted that when it falls to parliament’s amending power, the Constitution itself imposes certain fundamental limitations on that power.

The respondents responded to the petitioners’ reference of the Keshavananda Bharti case (India) by implying that Keshavananda Bharti’s verdict emphasizes the essence of the Indian Constitution and the enforceability of this doctrine within the Indian context, which is not at all analogous to the Kenyan interpretation.

The Kenyan High Court ruled that: – The Basic Structure Doctrine is justifiable in Kenya. Articles 255–257 of the Constitution’s alteration authority is limited by the Basic Structure Doctrine. The Basic Structure Doctrine, in general, curtails the right to amend the Constitution’s Basic Structure and eternity clauses. The Constitution’s Basic Structure and eternity clauses must only be modified by the Primary Constituent Power that entails these steps: political engagement, public engagement and opinion gathering, Constituent Assembly debate, and, respectively, a referendum.


State’s obligation to ensure the Right to Life: Bombay High Court on Goa’s oxygen scarcity

The Bombay High Court ruled that it is the state’s duty to ensure people’s right to life, which would be breached if people die leading to a medical oxygen deficiency.

The bench of Justices M.S. Sonak and N.W. Sambre ruled that patients dying due to a lack of oxygen supply are an infringement of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life. As per the Supreme Court, the state must enforce provisions that safeguard this right to life and that the state must protect it, which would be utterly breached if citizens die from oxygen deprivation. It is not possible to escape this duty by pretending helplessness or stating logistical difficulties in acquiring and producing oxygen. The decision was made in response to a petition about COVID-19 poor management in Goa, where there were approximately 700 beds in Goa Medical College (GMC) to handle COVID-19 patients, but around 1,000 patients were admitted for medication, resulting in a 300-bed scarcity. 

The Court ordered that although the Goa Medical College has a maximum capacity of about 700 beds, and there are approximately 950 patients admitted there, such additional patients must be treated through loose cylinders. 


‘Essential Articles Control Act’ to Control Prices of Items Essential to treat COVID: Kerala Government

The Kerala government fixed the prices of healthcare equipment used in the diagnosis of COVID-19, including PPE kits, N95 caps, face shields, and hand sanitizers, under the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act, 1986. 

The Kerala Essential Articles Control Act, 1986, was invoked by the Food and Civil Supplies Department, along with a Central government advisory to ensure the supply of healthcare items at decent prices.

According to a tweet from the Chief Minister’s office, the state government used the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act, 1986 to reduce prices on items medication to prevent COVID-19.

The Government ruled that a PPE kit must not cost more than Rs 273 and a N95 mask must not cost more than Rs 22. A pulse oximeter will therefore cost less than Rs 1,500. Private hospitals with a National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) can charge Rs 2,910 per day for the overall ward, whereas those without a NABH can charge Rs 2,645 per day, according to the order. Hospitals will charge Rs 3,795 (non-NABH) and Rs 4,175 (NABH) per day for the High Dependency Unit (HDU).

The government has taken this measure to combat black marketing and profiteering, and the order was given in consideration of the rising number of COVID cases across the nation. The decision is in accordance with the Indian government’s directive to state authorities to take the reasonable steps to ensure that medical items are widely available at reasonable and affordable prices.


Court Authorizes imprisoned Assam Activist Akhil Gogoi to take oath in Assembly

Raijor Dal leader and peasant activist Akhil Gogoi will appear in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Assam.  Akhil Gogoi, who is currently incarcerated on UAPA charges, will stand for office in the Sivasagar constituency. A specific NIA court docket permitted him to take the oath as legislator of Assam Meeting, making him the first Assamese to win an election from behind bars.

Since his appeal was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court last year, he lodged a bail petition in the top court. Having heard a petition from Raijor Dal chief Akhil Gogoi, NIA Special Court Judge Pranjal Das permitted him to be sworn in as a legislator at the Assam Assembly compound. 

Independent candidate Akhil Gogoi became the primary Assamese to win an election while incarcerated. After former trade union minister George Fernandes, who secured the Lok Sabha election in 1977 from Muzaffarpur in Bihar by and over three lakh votes despite being detained since June 1976 during the emergency, Akhil Gogoi’s victory has been labeled the “most impressive.”

In the latest Assam Assembly elections, Akhil Gogoi, who was imprisoned after being arrested by the NIA on sedition and terrorism charges, defeated Surabhi Rajkonwari of the BJP by 11,875 votes. Raijor Dal’s leader was apprehended by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) in December 2019 for his alleged role in massive riots against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the state.

In one of the cases, the Gauhati high court affirmed the NIA court’s decision to grant bail to Gogoi. He remains in jail while he is still to be released on bail in a separate lawsuit brought by the investigation body.


Kerala Politician Advocate KR Gauri Amma who presented the Land Reforms Bill in 1957 passes away

KR Gouri Amma, the chief of Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS), the creator of Kerala’s land reforms, the state’s first woman minister, and one of the state’s longest-serving lawmakers died on May 11, at the age of 102 due to age-related complications at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.

Gouri Amma was the state’s first woman lawyer from the Ezhava caste, which is considered as Other Backward Class (OBC). Her life and political career are unrivaled in the state’s culture, as a trailblazer who overcame adversity. After the late K M Mani, she was the longest-serving MLA.

Gouri Amma, who was born within the village of Pattanakkad in Alappuzha in July 1919, went on to study law and open a practice in Cherthala. She became a member of the Communist Party in 1948, and her political career flourished with it. While functioning as Revenue Minister in 1957, Gouri Amma initiated the progressive Land Reforms Bill, which significantly altered the state’s land ownership rights. Among her accomplishments is the establishment of Technopark, which is now India’s leading IT Park in terms of established sector, with over 400 companies and over 50,000 employees. Gouri Amma was a member of the trade union and peasant movements, and she was incarcerated several times. Gouri Amma was dismissed from the CPI (M) in 1994 for “anti-party practices.” She then formed the Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi, a political organization centered in Alappuzha. Her fiery social engagement, intense battles against the feudal system, firm stand for women’s rights, and incredible administrative astuteness earned her the title “Iron Lady” and enabled her to build out a position in Kerala’s male-dominated politics. Gowri Amma was instrumental in the implementation of the groundbreaking Agrarian Relations Bill, which established a limit on the amount of land a family could possess, enabling dispossessed farmers to claim excess land.