Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

SC to hear PIL on relief for drought-hit regions

Courts will also hear issues of import prices of steel and alleged irregularities in clinical trials of cervical cancer vaccines, among others

New Delhi: At a time when Latur in Maharashtra is facing severe water crisis, Supreme Court on Wednesday will take up a public interest litigation (PIL) for providing adequate relief to drought-hit states. What the Supreme Court does could be key for regions facing acute drought-like conditions.

Courts will also hear issues of import prices of steel and alleged irregularities in clinical trials of cervical cancer vaccines, among others.

Here’s what to expect on Wednesday.

PIL on relief for drought-affected regions

The Supreme Court will hear a PIL filed by non-profit Swaraj Abhiyan, seeking the court’s intervention to ensure adequate relief for drought-affected regions. In one of the previous hearings, justices Madan. B. Lokur and R.K. Agarwal had rapped states that had not implemented the Food Security Act, considering the drought situation in the country. Read more

Alleged irregularities in clinical trials of cervical cancer vaccines

The Supreme Court is also hearing a case relating to alleged irregularities in clinical trials conducted for cervical cancer prevention vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix manufactured by pharmaceuticals major Merck Sharpe and Dohme, respectively. The case was stuck in a limbo since January last year after the court had asked the government to place before the court the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare.

Interestingly, a battery of senior lawyers for the drug companies argued on Tuesday that the court cannot look into the standing committee report. The case will be heard on Wednesday in detail.

Summoning of documents in National Herald case

The Delhi high court will continue to hear a plea by the accused in the National Herald case, seeking quashing of orders allowing summoning of documents. On Monday, the accused had argued that relevancy which was the prime consideration for allowing the release of such documents had not been established either in the application or the court’s orders. It was also submitted that the summoning order of 11 January was passed without giving Young Indian Pvt. Ltd an opportunity to be heard. Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Young Indian told the court that documents required for the case were already on record and those being summoned under the impugned order were not material to the case. On 11 January, a Delhi court on Swamy’s plea had passed an order summoning certain documents from the ministries of finance, urban development and corporate affairs, income tax department and other agencies in the case. Subsequently, another order was passed on 11 March, summoning the 2010-11 balance sheet of Associated Journals Pvt. Ltd. Read more

Minimum import price on steel products

The high court will hear a plea by lobby group Steel Wires Association of India against the government’s minimum import price or MIP on 173 steel products aimed at providing relief to local steel producers hurt by cheap imports. On 17 March, the court had sought responses within two weeks from the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), the ministry of commerce and the ministry of finance in the matter. The association in its plea has questioned the jurisdiction of DGFT which issued a notification on 5 February imposing MIP on 173 steel products ranging between $341 and $752 per tonne.

Centre-state tussle

The long-drawn face-off between the Centre and the state will continue with the high court hearing a plea to decide the distribution of powers between the Centre and the Delhi government. On Tuesday, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the Delhi government, proposed referring the matter to a larger bench as it involved grave constitutional questions. The issue has been heard expeditiously and is bound to have an impact on resolving various problems subsisting between the two. The last hearings have seen address the issue of the powers of Lieutenant Governor over consultation with the council of ministers in taking various decisions.The immediate reason for the problem is a Union ministry of home affairs notification dated 21 May replacing a 1998 notification on the issue. The Centre’s notification said that in police and other service matters, the LG could take decisions independently of the state government. Read more

Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will continue to hear arguments in Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s defence in the appeal filed by the Karnataka government against her acquittal in a disproportionate assets case. Last year, the Karnataka government approached the apex court, saying that the high court ignored clinching evidence. Jayalalithaa was convicted by a special court in Bengaluru for amassing assets disproportionate to her income when she was the Tamil Nadu chief minister during 1991-1996.

Drug ban

The Delhi high court heard the case against ban of fixed combination drugs under a government notification through the week. Major pharma companies moved the court against the ban and several have been granted temporary exemption by court. The court has already granted an interim stay on certain drugs and arguments by the government have begun. Earlier, the government told the court that the drugs were banned as pharma companies were selling absurd combinations of drugs and that proper licences had not been obtained by them. Arguments by senior advocate Kapil Sibal on behalf of Pfizer and few other pharma companies have concluded and the arguments by the Centre have begun.

Earlier, the Centre justified imposing the ban before the court, saying that it was not mandated to consult any Drugs Technical and Advisory Board or any other body since it was satisfied by the material regarding safety and efficacy of drugs by the Kakote Committee. Read more