New Delhi: Newly constituted special 'Social Justice Bench' of the Supreme Court on Friday had its first hearings and took up matters of Narmada dam project, shelters for homeless persons, welfare of construction workers and exploitation of children in circuses, among others.
The special bench of justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit first took up the 2002 plea of Narmada Bachao Aandolan and asked parties, including NBA activist Medha Patkar, to file short synopsis by December 24 as it did not want to waste time going through records running into thousands of pages.
"So all of you should have your brief ready on or before December 24. The time shall not be extended... We want the matter to be pushed...," it said and fixed it for hearing on January 9.
The court then heard a 2005 petition filed by Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram seeking welfare of tribals and asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit on the issues arising out of the PIL.
This matter was followed by the hearing of a PIL on exploitation of children in circuses in which the Supreme court had banned their participation three years ago.
After briefly hearing the issues arising in matters like child labour, child trafficking and child bondage, the bench directed the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare to act as a nodal agency and convene a meeting of secretaries concerned of states and Union territories to ensure compliance of its directions.
It also directed the Secretary of Union Ministry of Women and Child Welfare to hold meetings with other central ministries concerned like MHA, labour. The first meeting involving all the stake holders should be convened before January 12, it said, posting the matter for hearing on January 30.
The first sitting of the bench also saw imposition of fine of Rs 25,000 on BJP's student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for not filing its response in a PIL filed by it highlighting shortage of hostels for students belonging to SC/ST category.
The failure of states and Union territories in implementing the laws regulating employment of construction workers and subsequent contempt proceedings also figured during the sitting of the special bench which posted the matter for hearing on January 16.
It asked the Centre and states to be ready with the matter in which CAG has been also involved.
Among the other social issues which came for deliberation was on shelter for homeless and the bench set a deadline of December 31 for all the states to give their report on it.
Besides asking the states to constitute a panel on the lines of National Urban Livelihood Committee, the bench directed them to provide temporary shelters till they built permanent ones.
Chief Justice H L Dattu had on December 3 ordered setting up of the special 'Social Justice Bench' for hearing exclusively the cases relating to social issues.