Supreme Court says California cannot restrict religious household gatherings

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that California cannot impose COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings in households, citing the First Amendment’s right to religious freedom.

The decision, made Friday night, follows other related orders from the high court in the state. In February, the Supreme Court said that California cannot ban indoor church services because of the pandemic.

“This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise,” the latest opinion states. “It is unsurprising that such litigants are entitled to relief.”

California laws currently allow members of up to three households to participate in indoor religious gatherings in homes, and participants are also required to wear face masks.

Similar to other related cases, conservative justices pointed out that the state allows establishments such as hair salons and movie theaters to operate during the pandemic, and that California treats secular activities “more favorably than at-home religious exercise.” They argued that applicants would be “irreparably harmed by the loss of free exercise rights” and that California has failed to prove that public health would be “imperiled” by loosening up COVID-19 restrictions. 

However, liberal justices said “the law does not require that the state equally treat apples and watermelons.” They argued that social distancing and mask-wearing would less likely be practiced by individuals indoors and in private settings, and that individuals would be encouraged to interact for longer periods of time as opposed to those in commercial settings. 

“In ordering California to weaken its restrictions on at-home gatherings, the majority yet again ‘insists on treating unlike cases, not like ones, equivalently,'” Justice Kagan wrote in a dissent.

The Supreme Court says the order will go into effect next week. 

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Man who allegedly murdered Jasmeen Kaur

The identity of the man police allege murdered Jasmeen Kaur, whose body was found buried in a shallow grave in outback South Australia last month, can now be revealed after a 30-day court-ordered suppression lifted.

Tarikjot Singh, 21, of Kurralta Park, was charged with the 21-year-old woman’s murder after her body was found buried at Moralana Creek, about 40km north of Hawker, on March 7.

The young nursing student was last seen leaving her work at Southern Cross Homes at Plympton North about 10pm on March 5.

She was reported missing the next day.

Singh was initially charged with failing to report a death to the coroner before it was upgraded to murder.

The accused first appeared in the Port Augusta Magistrates Court via video link on March 9 where Magistrate Gregory Fisher ordered the defendant’s name and image be suppressed for 30 days.

That order expired on Thursday.

It was also revealed in that hearing that Singh was in Australia on a student visa and had spent time in a mental health short stay unit this year.

Ms Kaur‘s family and friends held a memorial in mid-March at the site where she was buried to remember her.

They laid flowers, teddy bears and candles at the grave before prayers were made in Punjabi.

The group planted native plants and trees near where Ms Kaur was buried as a reminder of her legacy.

A wooden tribute was also attached to a nearby tree.

Ms Kaur’s uncle Sam Bhardwaj told reporters the family held the memorial where her body was found “to show the love.”

Her cousin Ramanpreet Kaur remembered “Jasoo”, which was Jasmeen’s nickname, as the ”most polite, kind-hearted and helpful girl”.

“We are feeling very strange as we never thought in the rarest of dreams this could happen to our Jasoo … (and) she would say goodbye to this world in such a tragic way,” she said.

“I’m missing the conversations and the family times we had together.”

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CJI Bobde Calls Collegium Meet for Recommendation of Judges, Experts Term it ‘Unprecedented’

File photo of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.

File photo of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.

On April 6, President Ram Nath Kovind officially appointed the most senior SC judge N V Ramana as the next CJI.

Chief Justice of India Justice SA Bobde has called for a meeting of the collegium on Thursday to discuss possible candidates for appointment to the apex court.

According to a report by Indian Express, two judges have said that since the President of India has issued warrants of appointment for the next Chief Justice of India, it would not be proper for the incumbent CJI to make any recommendations.

On April 6, President Ram Nath Kovind officially appointed the most senior SC judge N V Ramana as the next CJI. Justice Ramana is set to take oath to his office on April 24, a day after CJI Bobde retires.

The collegium to recommend judges to the SC consists of five judges. Apart from CJI Bobde and Justice Ramana, it currently includes Justices Rohinton Nariman, UU Lalit and AM Khanwilkar.

CJI Bobde’s call for the collegium comes in the backdrop of its protracted impasse on recommending Justice Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, to the apex court even as the process of appointment of at least six SC judges is due.

In 2019, Justice Kureshi was appointed Chief Justice of Tripura after the government raised objections to the collegium’s initial recommendation to appoint him as CJ of Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Besides CJI Bobde, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Nariman and Navin Sinha will retire this year. The last appointment made to the SC was in September 2019.

Experts quoted in various media reports have termed the CJI’s call as unprecedented.

Read all the Latest News and Breaking News here

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Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter

NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.

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Supreme Court’s marriage ruling puts Republicans in tricky position

Supreme Court’s marriage ruling puts Republicans in tricky position – CBS News

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The Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage put Republican presidential candidates in a politically tricky position. Julianna Goldman reports.

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Centre Moves SC Seeking Urgent Hearing, Matter to Be Heard Next Week

The Centre Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking urgent hearing on the report filed by a high-level committee regarding the role of erring police officials in the 1994 espionage case relating to ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who had been acquitted and was eventually awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation by the top court. The matter was mentioned for urgent hearing by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta before a bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, which said that the case would be heard next week.

Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, that the report has been filed by the committee and it be considered as this is a national issue. The bench said it understands that it is an important matter but not a very urgent matter.

We will take it up next week, the bench said. The apex court had on September 14, 2018 appointed a three-member panel, headed by its former judge Justice (retd) D K Jain, while directing the Kerala government to cough up Rs 50 lakh compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo “immense humiliation”.

It had ordered setting up of the committee to take appropriate steps against the erring officials for causing “tremendous harassment” and “immeasurable anguish” to Narayanan and had directed the Centre and state government to nominate one officer each in the panel. Terming the police action against the ex-scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a “psycho-pathological treatment”, the apex court had in September 2018 said that his “liberty and dignity”, basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, was compelled to face “cynical abhorrence”.

The espionage case, which had hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India’s space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women The scientist was arrested when the Congress was heading the government in Kerala. The three-member investigation panel submitted its report in a sealed cover to the apex court recently.

The CBI, in its probe, had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest. The case also had its political fallout, with a section in the Congress targeting the then Chief Minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, that eventually led to his resignation.

Over a period of almost two-and-a-half years, the panel headed by Justice Jain examined the circumstances leading to the arrest. The 79-year-old former scientist, who was given a clean chit by the CBI, had earlier said that the Kerala police had “fabricated” the case and the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.

Narayanan had approached the apex court against a Kerala High Court judgement that said no action needed to be taken against former DGP Siby Mathews, who was then heading the SIT probe team, and two retired superintendents of police K K Joshua and S Vijayan, who were later held responsible by the CBI for the scientist’s illegal arrest. “There can be no scintilla of doubt that the appellant, a successful scientist having national reputation, has been compelled to undergo immense humiliation. The lackadaisical attitude of the state police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody has made the appellant to suffer the ignominy, the apex court had said in its September 2018 order.

“The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect,” the top court had said. It had accepted Narayanan’s plea that the authorities, who were responsible for causing such a “harrowing effect” on his mind, should face “legal consequences”.

The CBI, while giving clean chit to the scientist, had said that Siby Mathews had left “the entire investigation to IB surrendering his duties” and ordered indiscriminate arrest of the scientist and others without adequate evidence being on record. The case had caught attention in October 1994, when Maldivian national Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of ISRO rocket engines to sell to Pakistan.

Narayanan, the then director of the cryogenic project at ISRO, was arrested along with the then ISRO Deputy Director D Sasikumaran, and Fousiya Hasan, a Maldivian friend of Rasheeda.


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Relief for Karnataka CM Yediyurappa as Supreme Court Puts on Hold Corruption Case

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday got a breather from the Supreme Court as it put on hold a corruption case against him.

Yediyurappa is accused of a role in the alleged illegal allotment of 24 acres of government land to private individuals at a huge loss to the taxpayer.

The Karnataka High Court had asked a special court to take note of the allegations and proceed on the basis of a charge sheet filed by the Lokayukta in 2012.

The case allegedly involving Yediyurappa refers to land in north Bengaluru taluk in an SEZ area. The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board had acquired the land in 2006 and denotified it later, the Times of India reported.

The key allegation is that the leaders misused their position and caused losses to the state exchequer through waiver of service charges and development fee.

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US Supreme Court Backs Facebook in Case About Unwanted Texting

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for businesses to pester consumers with phone calls or text messages by tossing out a lawsuit accusing Facebook Inc of violating a federal anti-robocall law.

The justices, in a 9-0 decision authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, sided with Facebook over its argument that text messages the social media company sent did not violate a 1991 federal law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The case highlighted the challenge for the justices in applying outdated laws to modern technologies. The ruling sparked calls for the U.S. Congress to update the law, enacted three decades ago to curb telemarketing abuse by banning most unauthorized robocalls.

“By narrowing the scope of the TCPA, the court is allowing companies the ability to assault the public with a non-stop wave of unwanted calls and texts, around the clock,” Democratic Senator Edward Markey and Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo said in a joint statement.

The court ruled that Facebook’s actions – sending text messages without consent – did not fit within the technical definition of the type of conduct barred by the law, which was enacted before the rise of modern cellphone technology.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 in California federal court by Montana resident Noah Duguid, who said Facebook sent him many automatic text messages without his consent. The lawsuit accused Menlo Park, California-based Facebook of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s restriction on using an automatic telephone dialing system.

Facebook said the security-related messages, triggered when users try to log in to their accounts from a new device or internet browser, were tied to users’ cellphone numbers.

“As the court recognized, the law’s provisions were never intended to prohibit companies from sending targeted security notifications and the court’s decision will allow companies to continue working to keep the accounts of their users safe,” Facebook said in a statement.

Sergei Lemberg, Duguid’s lawyer, said anyone could steer clear of liability under the law as long as they use similar technology to Facebook’s.

“This is a disappointing ruling for anyone who owns a cellphone or values their privacy,” Lemberg added.

In this instance, the lawsuit asserted that Facebook’s system that sent automated text messages was akin to a traditional automatic dialing system – known as an autodialer – used to send robocalls.

“Duguid’s quarrel is with Congress, which did not define an autodialer as malleably as he would have liked,” Sotomayor wrote in the ruling.

The law requires that the equipment used must use a “random or sequential number generator” but the court concluded that Facebook’s system “does not use such technology,” Sotomayor added.

Duguid said that Facebook repeatedly sent him account login notifications by text message to his cellphone even though he was not a Facebook user and never had been. Despite numerous efforts, Duguid said he was unable to stop Facebook from “robotexting” him.

Facebook responded that Duguid had most likely been assigned a phone number that had been previously associated with a Facebook user who had opted in to receive the notifications.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit but in 2019 the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it. The 9th Circuit took a broad view of the law, saying it not only bans devices that automatically dial randomly generated numbers but also stored numbers that are not randomly generated.

The National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions said the decision “to narrowly interpret autodialers is a win for the credit union industry.”

“We have long fought for this clarity to ensure credit unions can contact their members with important, time-sensitive financial information without fear of violating the TCPA and facing frivolous lawsuits,” the association said in a statement.

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Supreme Court Appointed Committee Submits Report On Farm Laws

File photo of the Supreme Court.

File photo of the Supreme Court.

The committee, in its report, said that around 85 farmer organisation have been consulted in the case.

The three-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court on the three new farm laws has submitted its report to the apex court in a sealed cover. The committee said that around 85 farmer organisation have been consulted in the case. It added that after meeting with them it has tried to find a solution in the issue.

The content of the report will not be revealed till the Chief Justice SA Bobde led bench takes it for hearing and discussion. The hearing in the Supreme Court in the matter is expected to happen after April 5 as the Supreme Court will reopen after Holi vacation.

On January 12, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the three contentious farm laws for two months and asked the three-member committee to submit a report within two months after consulting the stakeholders.

Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November, seeking repeal of the new legislations.

They say the laws are pro-corporate, could weaken the mandi system and erode their bargaining power. The government, however, says the laws will usher in much-needed reforms in the agriculture sector and eventually help the farmers.

Several rounds of the talks between the Centre and 41 protesting farmer unions have remained deadlocked. The government has offered concessions including suspension of the legislations for 18 months, which the unions have rejected. They have been steadfast in their demand for complete repeal of the laws.

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