Gallows to the December 16 gangrape convicts and high profile matters relating to defamation, bribery allegations, overseas funding of major political parties and policy issues kept the Delhi High Court busy in 2014 during which Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul also sought relief in the National Herald case.
The Gandhis, who were trying to come to terms with Congress’ debacle in the general elections, suffered another rude shock after they were summoned as accused by a trial court in the alleged misappropriation of party fund for acquisition of Herald, after which they approached the high court which stayed the order.
The case against them and Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, General Secretary Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey was lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who also opposed the Tata-AirAsia venture which was cleared by the UPA-II government.
Others close to the Gandhi camp, who got relief from the High Court were Sonia’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and her close aide Vincent George with former getting success in avoiding court-monitored probe in various land deals and the latter winning an appeal to set aside a 13-year-old disproportionate assets case against him.
Congress leaders like Rasheed Masood and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who also moved the high court, however, did not get the relief they had sought.
Masood’s plea for bail on health ground in the medical seat scam case was rejected by the court which also refused to waive the Rs 3 lakh fine imposed on Dikshit by a trial court for not appearing before it in a defamation case lodged by her against BJP leader Vijender Gupta.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its chief Arvind Kejriwal, who governed Delhi for 49 days, were also embroiled in cases over allegations of defamatory remarks, foreign funding, exceeding poll expenses and using forged papers for registering the party, made against them by rivals, including BJP.
The convicts in high profile criminal cases too had a tough time in the high court which did not spare gallows to the four convicts in the December 16 gangrape case apart from holding D P Yadav’s son and nephew guilty of killing Nitish Katara.
The Delhi government’s education department also faced the brunt of the high court which set aside its 2013 nursery admission guidelines and said that schools should have autonomy to decide the criteria for admitting children.
Among the political parties, both Congress and its rival BJP, were forced to move the Supreme Court after the high court held them guilty of violating foreign funding laws by receiving donations from UK’s Vedanta Resources’ subsidiaries and directed the Centre and Election Commission to take appropriate action against them within six months.
The high court refused to extend the interim bail of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief and former Haryana Chief Minister O P Chautala and directed him to surrender after he was found campaigning for the assembly polls while on bail on health grounds.
Pleas for CBI probe into allegations of corruption and bribery against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as well as for quashing the order setting aside the Election Commission’s decision holding former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan guilty of filing incorrect expenses for the 2009 Assembly polls, are pending before the high court.
Apart from political issues, AAP was also involved in litigation over corporate matters as an FIR lodged by the party, while in power, against the then UPA minister Veerappa Moily and RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani and others, relating to pricing of gas from the company’s KG6 basin, was challenged in the high court by the Centre and RIL.
The issue is yet to be decided, as the Centre and RIL have contended that the Delhi government’s Anti Corruption Branch does not have jurisdiction to probe policy decisions of the Union government.
Major pharma companies as well as international mobile phone manufacturers also approached the high court over patent and trademark infringements as well as policies of the Centre.
Half-way through the year, an organisation of drug manufacturers challenged the National Pharma Pricing Authority (NPPA’s) July 10 notification that brought over anti-diabetic and cardiovascular drugs under price control.
Thereafter, it had withdrawn the guidelines under which the notification was issued, prompting the high court to question whether the cap on prices would survive or not as a result. While NPPA has contended that the ceiling on the drugs would remain, the court is yet to decide the matter.
Another issue which is pending in the high court is whether the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has the power to audit power distribution companies as directed by the AAP government.
While the court, earlier in the year, had upheld the laws empowering CAG to conduct audit of private telecom companies, it is yet to arrive at a decision on whether private discoms can be audited by the constitutional authority.
The court has also been monitoring the usage of social media, like Facebook and private emails, like Gmail, by government servants, with the Centre informing it that an advisory on usage of social media as well as an email policy has been finalised.
The submission had come after the court had enquired why government servants are continuing to use private emails for official work.
Government agencies and its officials were also kept on their toes by the high court over issues like maintaining law and order, keeping the city clean and removal of illegal structures, shelters for homeless, guidelines for nursery admission and providing water, in the capital.
Law and order problem also reached the high court throughout the year which culminated with Uber Cab issue involving the rape of an executive by the driver hired by the US-based company. The high court refused to lift the ban imposed by government on its operation.
The high court also brought the curtains down on some long-pending issues including the 38-year-old case of attempting to assassinate then Chief Justice of India A N Ray near the Supreme Court in 1975 as well as the six-year-long paternity row between Congress leader N D Tiwari and Rohit Shekhar.
In the Justice Ray assassination attempt case, the court upheld the convictions of two of the three convicts and set free the third, and in the paternity case, it held Tiwari to be the biological father of Shekhar and restrained the veteran Congress leader from disowning this in public.
Another old issue that the High Court decided pertained to whether the money received by three former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs and party chief Shibu Soren for voting in favour of the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1993 was liable to be taxed. The court answered it in the affirmative.
On law and order issues, particularly with respect to ensuring safety of women in Delhi, the high court issued a slew of directions, like carrying out of crime mapping and awareness campaigns, recruiting more cops, setting up additional forensic labs and creation of a victims compensation fund.
While the crime mapping and other suveys revealed the alarming fact that most crimes against women were committed by those known to them and inside their households, the court noted that issues of recruiting more cops, setting up additional forensic labs and creation of the victim compensation fund are still mired in government red tape.
The court has also been monitoring several incidents of hate crimes/racial abuse in the national capital against people of northeast origin after a youth from Arunachal Pradesh died after being assaulted early in the year.
The high court also took up the mantle of ensuring that no unauthorised vehicles plied on the city’s roads, by banning operation of unauthorised erickshaws, which forced the government to amend the Motor Vehicles Act to allow these battery-operated rickshaws to run.
On the issue of illegal constructions in several parts of the city, including Sainik Farms here, the court while noting that the same occurred under the “watchful eyes of the police and municipal corporation”, directed the authorities to either come up with a policy to regularise such areas or demolish the same.
The court also expressed concern over Delhi, already home to 150-160 feet tall garbage totaling around 20 million metric tonnes, turning into a landfill if more land is not made available to the municipal corporations to construct ‘dhalaos’ and waste-to-energy plants.
It further directed the city’s authorities to construct and temporarily acquire private buildings, schools and parking areas for shelters for the homeless as well as provide civic amenities, like toilets and adequate water, to the residents of the national capital.