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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Rafale, Sabarimala, CBI: Busy week for Supreme Court after break

To kick-start what is likely to be a high-voltage week, the court is expected to hear on Monday the petition of CBI director Alok Verma, who has challenged the government’s move to divest him of powers last month over an internal battle with deputy Rakesh Asthana.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2018 00:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.
A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (PTI)
         

Convening after Diwali holidays on Monday, the Supreme Court will take up pleas on India’s most-debated issues in the next three days, when it will hear petitions pertaining to an infighting in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the entry of women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple and the deal to buy 36 Rafale jets from France.

To kick-start what is likely to be a high-voltage week, the court is expected to hear on Monday the petition of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma, who has challenged the government’s move to divest him of powers last month over an internal battle with deputy Rakesh Asthana, who too has been sent on leave. Both have accused each other of bribery.

The Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) is investigating allegations against Verma.

In an October 26 order, the court gave CVC two weeks to complete the probe against Verma, who has accused the government of interfering with CBI’s independence and autonomy. It also said the inquiry will be done under the supervision of a retired SC judge in a “one-time exception”.

People familiar with the matter say CVC has completed its probe and will file a report before the court on Monday.

The Congress party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, too has filed a petition in the matter, saying he should be heard because he is a member of the three-member committee that selects the CBI chief. The other two panel members are the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India (CJI). Kharge is part of the panel as the leader of the largest opposition party in Parliament’s Lower House.

Next on Tuesday, a three-member bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi is likely to hear pleas challenging the court’s verdict lifting the ban on the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

In a 4:1 majority verdict on September 28, the court ruled that divinity and devotion cannot be subject to the rigidity and stereotypes of gender. It added that the exclusion on the basis of biological and physiological features was unconstitutional and discriminatory because it denied women the right to be treated as equals.

But traditionalists staged protests, clashed with police and even intimidated journalists to stop women between 10 years and 50 years to enter Sabarimala after the temple opened. Protesters believe the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate.

Petitioners who have challenged the court order say faith cannot be judged by scientific or rational reasons or logic. They say the ban is not on physiological grounds but it is based on the deity’s celibate character.

On Wednesday, the court will take up the Rafale deal. On October 31, the court asked the Centre to submit pricing details of the Rafale jet deal in a sealed cover within 10 days. The government argued that the information is so sensitive that it has not been shared even with Parliament.

The Opposition has accused the government of overpaying for the planes and a lack of transparency in the deal. The government has repeatedly dismissed the charges.

First Published: Nov 12, 2018 00:57 IST