Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: V. Bhavani Subbaroyan, J., while addressing the allegations of defamation, held that,

While printing and publishing matters with regard to the leaders of the Country or State, the petitioners (Newspaper) are supposed to give respect and address them accordingly.

Instant petition was filed to quash the proceedings initiated against the petitioners for an offence punishable under Sections 500, 501 of Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that even if the allegations made in the complaint were taken as it is, the same does not constitute defamatory allegations with respect to the act or conduct of the then Chief Minister in the discharge of her public functions and at the best, it can only be treated as personal defamation.

Hence the counsel submitted that such a complaint cannot be maintained through the City Public Prosecutor, and it does not satisfy the requirements under Section 199 (2) CrPC.

Further, the Counsel for the Government submitted that the petitioner indulged in making wild allegations against the then Chief Minister and thereby defamed her name in the eyes of the general public.

Adding to the above submission, it was stated that in the name of freedom of press, petitioners cannot make defamatory and derogatory allegations against the former Chief Minister.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench stated Section 199(2) of CrPC provides a special procedure with regard to the initiation of proceedings for prosecution for defamation of a public servant.

 If the defamatory statement is personal in nature, this special procedure will not apply, and it is only the concerned person who has to file the complaint in his or her individual capacity.

In Court’s opinion, the allegations based on which the criminal complaint was filed did not in any way touch upon the conduct of the aggrieved person in discharge of her public function. The said allegation can only be construed as personal defamation.

Hence the said complaint cannot be maintained since it did not satisfy the requirements of Section 199(2) of CrPC.

High Court quashed the proceedings in view of the above discussion.

While concluding the matter, the petitioner’s newspaper was directed to refrain from printing matters in a disrespectful manner.[Dr R. Krishnamurthy v. City Public Prosecutor, Crl. OP No. 3817 of 2016, decided on 12-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioners: Mr S.Elambharathi

For Respondent: Mr E.Raj Thilak, Counsel for Government (Crl Side)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Sanjib Banerjee, J., addressed whether this Court is the appropriate forum to decide the quantum that can be forfeited and elaborated more of right to forfeit.

Instant petition was filed for issuance of a Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus calling for the records of the impugned letter issued by the respondent under Rule 9 (5) of the Security Interest (Enforcement) Rules, 2002 and quash the same and reasonable time frame to be fixed by this Court for paying the balance amount towards 75% of the balance purchase price by the petitioner.

Petitioner’s grievance was that the respondent secured creditor did not inform the petitioner of certain encumbrance pertaining to the asset sold under the Securities and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002.

At the bid, the petitioner had deposited only 25% of the consideration and did not pay any further.

Further, the petitioner’s case was that she tried to obtain loans to finance the purchase but was impeded by the property standing encumbered in some third party’s favour.

Another grievance of the petitioner was that the bank had purported to forfeit the consideration tendered without affording the petitioner a chance to pay the balance amount, particularly since the second surge of the pandemic stood in the way of the petitioner arranging for money.

Secured Creditor submitted that, notices were issued to the petitioner, and they had no authority to extend the payment period beyond 90 days from the date of the auction.

Adding to the above, secured creditor submitted that it had duly forfeited the amount which has been tendered by the petitioner and no question arises of the sale going through or of the consideration being returned.

Bench stated that, writ court is not the appropriate forum to adjudicate as to whether the forfeiture or the quantum thereof is appropriate and as to whether the secured creditor in this case is obliged to extend the time for making the balance payment by the petitioning-auction purchaser.

Right to Forfeit

Right to Forfeit has to be balanced against the rule against unjust enrichment.

Merely because there is a forfeiture clause does not imply that the entire amount deposited has to be forfeited.

Further, the High Court elaborating more, added that,

Forfeiture clause, like an earnest money deposit clause or a liquidated damages clause, has to be regarded as a genuine pre-estimate of the loss that may have been incurred, but when a forfeiture clause does not indicate an amount but provides that the entire amount tendered would be forfeited, it may not be permissible to forfeit, say 99% of the payment made for the default in depositing the balance 1%.

Thus, the quantum that can be forfeited will depend on the extent of the loss or damage suffered by the party, not in breach and this is, essentially, a question of fact that has to be adjudicated by an appropriate forum. The High Court, in exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, is not such forum.

In view of the above, petition was disposed of.[Rubina v. Axis Bank Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2349, decided on 2-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Mr. Adithya
For Respondent: Mr. R. Sreedhar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: P. Velmurugan, J., directs Schools to keep a complaint box to make the victims complain about the sexual assault freely and keys of the same to be kept under the control of Secretary District Legal Services Authority.

Factual background

On the date of occurrence, when PW 2, the victim girl was going to attend School, while crossing appellant’s residence, the appellant/accused invited her to his house and with an intent to assault her sexually saying that he will tell the story of Jesus, sexually assaulted her.

It was stated that the appellant touched the victim girl all over her body, removed the bottom of Churidar, embarrassed her and kissed her in right cheek with sexual intent, which involved physical contact without penetration and further the accused threatened the victim girl to come to his house with an intention to repeat the same on her.

In view of the above set of circumstances, the present case was registered against the appellant.

Victim girl stated that after the above-stated occurrence she went to her classroom and intimated the same to her friend who was examined as PW 7 and she clearly spoke about the offence committed by the appellant.

It was noted that the age of the victim girl was 12 years at the time of occurrence and hence the victim was a child under the definition of Section 2(1)(d) of POCSO Act.

High Court stated that the appellant being the head of Religious Institution committed sexual assault on the victim child, who was aged about 12 years at the time of occurrence. Hence the act of appellant came under Section 9(f) punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Court on perusal of the evidence produced, opined that the accused failed to rebut the presumption under Section 29 and 30 of the POCSO Act. Trial Court rightly appreciated the evidence of the prosecution and came to the conclusion that appellant/accused committed an offence under Section 9(1) punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Bench dismissed the criminal appeal and upheld the trial Court’s decision.

High Court’s recommendation

Further, the Court expressed that normally female students would get fear in lodging complaints against Teacher or Management of School regarding sexual offences, considering their future, hence Government of Tamil Nadu shall form a committee at every school, consisting of the Social Welfare Officer, the Secretary of District Legal Services Authorities, female Police Official not below the rank of District Superintendent of Police, District Educational Officer, female Psychiatrist and Physician from the Government Hospital.

District Educational Officer may inspect the School once in a month to get grievance of the female students with regard to sexual assault and give confidence to the female children to come forward to make complaints against the sexual offenders, who may be a teaching or non-teaching staff and also the members of the Management of the School. [S. Jayaseelan v. State, Crl. A. No. 321 of 2019, decided on 12-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant: Mr S. Samuel Raja Pandian for M/s. M.K. Selvakumar

For Respondent: Mrs T.P. Savitha Government Advocate (Crl.Side)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, by a majority of 2:1, has declared that certain portions of Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 as amended by the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 are unconstitutional and inoperative. Section 184 consists of provisions relating to the qualifications, appointment, etc., of Chairperson and Members of tribunals. The majority was formed by L. Nageswara Rao, J. who delivered the leading opinion, and S. Ravindra Bhat, J. penning a separate concurring opinion. Whereas, Hemant Gupta, J. wrote a substantially dissenting opinion.

The Challenge

The Madras Bar Association filed the instant writ petition seeking a declaration that Section 12 of the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 (“Ordinance”) and Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 as amended by the Ordinance are ultra vires Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution of India inasmuch as these are violative of the principles of separation of powers and independence of judiciary, apart from being contrary to the principles laid down by several earlier judgments[1] of the Supreme Court.

The dispute raised in the writ petition relates to:

(i) First proviso to Section 184(1) according to which a person below the age of 50 years shall not be eligible for appointment as Chairperson or Member; and also the second proviso, read with the third proviso, which stipulates that the allowances and benefits payable to Chairpersons and Members shall be the same as a Central Government officer holding a post carrying the same pay as that of the Chairpersons and Members.

(ii) Section 184(7) which stipulates that the Selection Committee shall recommend a panel of two names for appointment to the post of Chairperson or Member and the Central Government shall take a decision preferably within three months from the date of the recommendation of the Committee, notwithstanding any judgment, order or decree of any Court.

(iii) Section 184(11) which shall be deemed to have been inserted with effect from 26-5-2017, provides that the term of office of the Chairperson and Member of a tribunal shall be four years. The age of retirement of the Chairperson and Members is specified as 70 years and 67 years, respectively. As per the proviso, if the term of office or the age of retirement specified in the order of appointment issued by the Central Government for those who have been appointed between 26-5-2017 and 4-4-2021 is greater than that specified in Section 184(11), the term of office or the age of retirement shall be as set out in the order of appointment, subject to a maximum term of office of five years.

The Finance Act and the Ordinance

The Finance Act, 2017 was brought into force from 31-3-2017 to give effect to the financial proposals for the financial year 2017-18. Sections 183 to 189 thereof dealt with conditions of service of Chairperson and Members of Tribunals, Appellate Tribunals and other authorities.

The Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 13-2-2021 but could not be taken up for consideration. According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons, the said Bill was proposed with a view to streamline tribunals and sought to abolish certain tribunals and other authorities, which “only add to another additional layer of litigation” and were not “beneficial for the public at large”. Thereafter, the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 was promulgated on 4-4-2021. Chapter XI thereof makes amendments to the Finance Act, 2017.

Discussion and Observations

  1. Separation of Power

Discussing this indispensable concept, the Court said that the doctrine of separation of powers, though not expressly engrafted in the Constitution, its sweep, operation and visibility are apparent from the scheme of the Indian Constitution. It forms part of basic structure of the Constitution. The Constitution has made demarcation, without drawing formal lines between the three organs ─ legislature, executive and judiciary, which is nothing but a consequence of principles of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. Accordingly, breach of separation of judicial power may amount to negation of equality under Article 14. Stating thus, the Court reaffirmed:

Violation of separation of powers would result in infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. A legislation can be declared as unconstitutional if it is in violation of the principle of separation of powers.

  1. Independence of Judiciary

On this point, the Court recorded that independence of judiciary is a fighting faith of our Constitution. It is cardinal principle of the Constitution that an independent judiciary is the most essential characteristic of a free society like ours and the judiciary which is to act as a bastion of the rights and freedom of people is given certain constitutional guarantees to safeguard independence of judiciary. An independent and efficient judicial system has been recognised as a part of basic structure of our Constitution.

After discussing Article 50 (which provides that the State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State) and Article 37 (which declares that the principles laid down in Part IV of the Constitution are fundamental in the governance of the country and it should be the duty of the State to apply the principles in making laws), the Court observed:

[Independence] is the lifeblood of the judiciary. … It is the freedom from interference and pressures which provides the judicial atmosphere where [a Judge] can work with absolute commitment to the cause of justice and constitutional values. It is also the discipline in life, habits and outlook that enables a Judge to be impartial. Its existence depends however not only on philosophical, ethical or moral aspects but also upon several mundane things ─ security in tenure, freedom from ordinary monetary worries, freedom from influences and pressures within (from others in the judiciary) and without (from the executive).

  1. Judicial Decisions and Legislative Overruling

The controversy that arose for consideration of the Court in the instant writ petition relates to the legislative response to the judgment of the Court in Madras Bar Assn. v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 962 (“Madras Bar Assn. case“). In that case, the validity of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020 (“2020 Rules”) was challenged by the Madras Bar Association. The relevant portions of the decision in Madras Bar Assn. case along with the affect of the Ordinance are discussed below at relevant place.

(A) Judicial Review

Appreciating the scope of judicial review of ordinances, the Court noted that it is the same as that of a legislative act. Article 123 of the Constitution empowers the President to promulgate an ordinance during recess of the Parliament, which shall have the same force and effect as an act of the Parliament. The validity of an ordinance can be challenged on grounds available for judicial review of a legislative act.

The power to strike down primary legislation enacted by the Union of India or the State legislatures is on limited grounds. Where there is challenge to the constitutional validity of a law enacted by the legislature, the Court must keep in view that there is always a presumption of constitutionality of an enactment and a clear transgression of constitutional principles must be shown. The Court reiterated that:

[S]ans flagrant violation of the constitutional provisions, the law made by Parliament or a State legislature is not declared bad and legislative enactment can be struck down only on two grounds: (i) that the appropriate legislature does not have the competence to make the law, and (ii) that it takes away or abridges any of the fundamental rights enumerated in Part III of the Constitution or any other constitutional provisions. [‘Manifest arbitrariness’ is also recognised] as a ground under Article 14 on the basis of which a legislative enactment can be judicially reviewed.

(B) Permissible Legislative Overruling

The Court culled out the principles in accordance with which legislative overruling could be permissible:

(i) The effect of the judgments of the Court can be nullified by a legislative act removing the basis of the judgment. Such law can be retrospective. Retrospective amendment should be reasonable and not arbitrary and must not be violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

(ii) The test for determining the validity of validating legislation is that the judgment pointing out the defect would not have been passed, if the altered position as sought to be brought in by the validating statute existed before the Court at the time of rendering its judgment. In other words, the defect pointed out should have been cured such that the basis of the judgment pointing out the defect is removed.

(iii) Nullification of mandamus by an enactment would be an impermissible legislative exercise. Even interim directions cannot be reversed by a legislative veto.

(iv) Transgression of constitutional limitations and intrusion into the judicial power by the legislature is violative of the principle of separation of powers, the rule of law and of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Validity of the Ordinance and Amended Provisions

The grievance of the petitioners was mainly related to the violation of the first proviso and the second proviso, read with the third proviso, to Section 184(1), Sections 184(7) and 184(11) of the Finance Act, 2017 as amended by the Ordinance.

  1. Section 184(1)

(A) The first proviso of Section 184(1) provides minimum age for appointment as Chairperson or Member of a tribunal as 50 years.

One of the issues considered in Madras Bar Assn. case was the correctness of the conditions imposed in the 2020 Rules that an advocate is eligible for appointment as a Member only if he has 25 years of experience. It is relevant to state that advocates were ineligible for most of the tribunals. In Madras Bar Assn. case, the Court found the exclusion of advocates from being appointed as Members to be contrary to earlier judgments of the Court. In such view of the matter, a direction was given to amend the 2020 Rules to make advocates with at least 10 years of experience at the bar eligible for appointment as Members in tribunals.

Discussing that the direction given in the nature of mandamus in Madras Bar Assn. case is to the effect that advocates are eligible for appointment as Members, provided they have experience of 10 years, the Court in the instant petition observed:

The first proviso to Section 184 which prescribes a minimum age of 50 years is an attempt to circumvent the direction issued in Madras Bar Assn. case striking down the experience requirement of 25 years at the bar for advocates to be eligible. Introduction of the first proviso to Section 184(1) is a direct affront to the judgment of this Court in Madras Bar Assn. case.”

Underlining the importance of recruitment of Members from the bar at a young age to ensure a longer tenure, the Court was of the view that fixing a minimum age for recruitment of Members as 50 years would act as a deterrent for competent advocates to seek appointment. Practically, it would be difficult for an advocate appointed after attaining the age of 50 years to resume legal practice after completion of one term, in case he is not reappointed. Security of tenure and conditions of service are recognised as core components of independence of the judiciary. Independence of the judiciary can be sustained only when the incumbents are assured of fair and reasonable conditions of service, which include adequate remuneration and security of tenure.

The Court found that first proviso to Section 184(1) is in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers as the judgment Madras Bar Assn. case has been frustrated by an impermissible legislative override.

Resultantly, the first proviso to Section 184(1) was declared unconstitutional as it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

It was directed that the selections conducted for appointment of Members, ITAT pursuant to the advertisement issued in 2018 should be finalised and appointments made by considering the candidates between 35 to 50 years as also eligible.

Ravindra Bhat, J., in his separate concurring opinion said that:

Prescribing 50 years as a minimum age limit for consideration of advocates has the devastating effect of entirely excluding successful young advocates, especially those who might be trained and competent in the particular subject (such as Indirect Taxation, Anti-Dumping, Income-Tax, International Taxation and Telecom Regulation). The exclusion of such eligible candidates in preference to those who are more than 50 years of age is inexplicable and therefore entirely arbitrary.

(B) The second proviso to Section 184(1) deals with the allowances and benefits payable to the Members which are to be the same as are admissible to a Central Government officer holding a post carrying the same pay.

In Madras Bar Assn. case, the Court considered Rule 15 of the 2020 Rules according to which, Chairpersons and Members of tribunals were entitled to House Rent Allowance at the same rate as admissible to officers with the Government of India holding Group ‘A’ post carrying the same pay. In that case, it was noted that an amount of Rs 75,000 per month which was paid as HRA was not sufficient to get a decent accommodation in Delhi for Chairpersons and Members of tribunals. Taking note of the serious problem of housing and the inadequate amount that was being paid as HRA to the Members, the Court in that case directed enhancement of HRA to Rs 1,25,000 per month to the Members and Rs 1,50,000 per month to Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson or President of tribunals. This direction was made effective from 1-1-2021.

Noting the submission of the Amicus Curiae that result of the instant amendment made by the Ordinance is that the Members of tribunals working in Delhi will get Rs 60,000 as HRA, the Court was of the view that the second proviso to Section 184(1), read with the third proviso, is an affront to the judgment in Madras Bar Assn. case. The direction issued in Madras Bar Assn. case for payment of HRA was to ensure that decent accommodation is provided to tribunal Members. Such direction was issued to uphold independence of the judiciary and it cannot be subject matter of legislative response. The Court held that a mandamus issued by the Supreme Court cannot be reversed by the legislature as it would amount to impermissible legislative override.

Therefore, the second proviso, read with the third proviso, to Section 184(1) was declared as unconstitutional.

The Court noted that after the judgment in the instant writ petition was reserved on 3-6-2021, the Ministry of Finance amended the 2020 Rules whereby the earlier Rule 15 was substituted[2]. The Explanatory Memorandum at the end of the notification states that the amendment to Rule 15 of the 2020 Rules on HRA, shall be given retrospective operation with effect from 1-1-2021, in order to give effect to the judgment in Madras Bar Assn. case. The Court was of the opinion that this amendment to Rule 15 is in conformity with the directions on the subject of HRA in Madras Bar Assn. case. In view thereof, no further direction is required to be given with respect to HRA.

  1. Section 184(7)

(A) Section 184(7) stipulates that a Search-cum-Selection Committee shall recommend a panel of two names for appointment to the post of Chairperson or Member and the Central Government shall take a decision preferably within three months from the date of the recommendation of the Committee, notwithstanding any judgment, order or decree of any Court.

Rule 4(2) of the 2020 Rules pertains to the procedure to be followed by the Selection Committee. According to the said Rule, the Selection Committee should recommend two or three names for appointment to each post. A direction was given in Madras Bar Assn. case to amend Rule 4(2) of the 2020 Rules to provide that the Selection Committee shall recommend one person for appointment in each post in place of a panel of two or three persons for appointment to each post.

The Court recorded that sufficient reasons were given in Madras Bar Assn. case to hold that executive influence should be avoided in matters of appointments to tribunals ─ therefore, the direction that only one person shall be recommended to each post. The decision of the Court in that regard is law laid down under Article 141 of the Constitution. The only way the legislature could nullify the said decision was by curing the defect in Rule 4(2). There is no such attempt made except to repeat the provision of Rule 4(2) of the 2020 Rules in the Ordinance amending the Finance Act, 2017.

Ergo, Section 184(7) was declared to be unsustainable in law as it is an attempt to override the law laid down by the Supreme Court.

(B) The second part of Section 184(7) provides that the Government shall take a decision regarding the recommendations made by the Selection Committee preferably within a period of three months. This was in response to the direction in Madras Bar Assn. case that the Government shall make appointments to tribunals within three months from the completion of the selection and recommendation by the Selection Committee.

Such direction, the Court noted, was necessitated in view of the lethargy shown by the Union of India in making appointments and filling up the posts of Chairpersons and Members of tribunals which have been long vacant. The direction given in Madras Bar Assn. case for expediting the process of appointment was in the larger interest of administration of justice and to uphold the rule of law.

The Court held, Section 184(7) as amended by the Ordinance permitting the Government to take a decision preferably within three months from the date of recommendation of the Selection Committee is invalid and unconstitutional, as this amended provision simply seeks to negate the directions of the Supreme Court.

  1. Section 184(11)

(A) The tenure of the Chairperson and Member of a tribunal is fixed at four years by Section 184(11), notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, order or decree of any court. Sub-section (11) of Section 184 has been given retrospective effect from 26-5-2017.

Rule 9 of 2020 Rules had specified the term of appointment of the Chairperson or Member of the Tribunal as four years.  After perusing the law laid down by earlier judgments that a short stint is anti-merit, the Court in the Madras Bar Assn. case directed the modification of tenure in Rules 9(1) and 9(2) as five years in respect of Chairpersons and Members of tribunals.

The Court, in the instant petition, held that insertion of Section 184(11) prescribing a term of four years for the Chairpersons and Members of tribunals by giving retrospective effect to the provision from 26-5-2017 is clearly an attempt to override the declaration of law by the Supreme Court under Article 141 in the Madras Bar Assn. case.

Therefore, clauses (i) and (ii) of Section 184(11) were declared as void and unconstitutional.

(B) The proviso to Section 184(11) refers to appointments that were made to the posts of Chairperson or Members between 26-5-2017 and the notified date, i.e., 4-4-2021. The proviso lays down that the term of office of Chairperson and Members of tribunals who were appointed between 26-5-2017 and 4-4-2021 shall be five years even though the order of appointment issued by the Government had a higher term of office or age of retirement.

On this point, the Court referred to the interim directions given by the Supreme Court on 9-2-2018 in Kudrat Sandhu v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2898 wherein it was held that all selections to the post of Chairperson/ Chairman, Judicial/ Administrative Members shall be for a period as provided in the Act and the Rules in respect of all tribunals. Reference was also made to certain subsequent orders passed in the same case of Kudrat Sandhu.

Coming back to the instant petition, the Court was of the opinion that though, there is nothing wrong with the proviso to Section 184(11) being given retrospective effect, the appointments made pursuant to the interim directions passed by the Supreme Court cannot be interfered with. The Court pointed out that even the interim orders passed by the Supreme Court cannot be overruled by a legislative act.

While making it clear that the appointments that are made to the CESTAT on the basis of interim orders passed by the Supreme Court shall be governed by the relevant statute and the rules framed thereunder, as they existed prior to the Finance Act, 2017, the Court upheld the retrospectivity given to the proviso to Section 184(11). Clarifying further, the Court stated that appointments after 4-4-2021 shall be governed by the Ordinance, as modified by the directions in the instant judgment.

Consequently, Section 12 of the Ordinance making amendments in the earlier Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017, also stands invalidated.

The Dissent

Lastly, it may also be mentioned that the upshot of the dissenting opinion written by Hemant Gupta, J. (as summarised by S. Ravindra Bhat, J. in his opinion) was that as regards prescription of minimum age or with respect to conditions of service such as payment of house rent allowance, the Court ought to respect legislative wisdom; and that the directions issued in past judgments cannot bind Parliament, as they fell outside the judicial sphere.

The writ petition stood disposed of in terms of the majority judgment. [Madras Bar Assn. v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 463, decided on 14-7-2021]


[1] Union of India v. Madras Bar Assn., (2010) 11 SCC 1; Madras Bar Assn. v. Union of India, (2014) 10 SCC 1; Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd., (2020) 6 SCC 1; and Madras Bar Assn. v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 962

[2] Vide Rule 6, the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) (Amendment) Rules, 2021


Tejaswi Pandit, Senior Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: V. Parthiban, J., expressed that plea of public interest in a private loan transaction is only a mask to conceal for petitioners’ interest with a view to obstruct the enforcement of contractual obligation.

Instant petition was filed against the letter of respondent calling upon the petitioner company to forthwith pay Rs 1995,05,17,808 within 7 days failing which, further action would be taken including revocation of Restructuring Agreement entered into between the parties.

Analysis, Law and Decision

What is challenged in the instant petition?

The dispute is between private entities. A communication dated 30-04-2021 issued by the fourth respondent, a private company (an Asset Reconstruction Company), against the petitioner invoking certain clauses in terms of restructuring agreement of loan between the contesting parties, was challenged.

With respect to the issue of maintainability of writ against a private person or private legal entity, the legal position was no more res integra, as various decisions of the Supreme Court and High Court held that the issuance of the writ could not be denied merely because it sought to be issued against a private person or private entity.  Hence, the Court observed that,

“…this Court does not wish to open up any fresh vista on the rudimentary understanding of the progressive expansion of public law jurisdiction in matters where the Court finds interplay of private interest and public duty.”

 The judicial endeavour is appreciation of the relationship of the parties, their mutual rights and obligations within the private and commercial framework and in that relationship collaterally or concomitantly any public duty is imposed, or public interest is involved to bring the dispute arising from such relationship within the mischief of writ jurisdiction of the Court or not?

Petitioner’s primary contention was that, the 4th respondent which stepped into the shoes of consortium of initial lenders namely 9 nationalised banks failed to implement and comply with the Reserve bank of India circulars before issuing the impugned communication. In view of such a contention, it was stated that when there was a duty cast upon the banks and the financial institutions which admittedly included the 4th respondent, failure to follow the circulars amounted to abdicating its public duty enjoined upon them and in that view of the matter, a command ought to be issued by the Court by way of a Writ for their compliance.

Judicial Scrutiny

In a contractual relationship purely governed by commercial consideration, enforcing the terms of contract/agreement by one party as against the other could be subjected to judicial scrutiny under writ jurisdiction of the Court, is a knotty question and the answers are not be found on any definite legal principles or defined contours of factual circumstances.

Elaborating the above, it was stated that as a consequence of the march of law the judicial review is directed against the action, decision making process and not concerned with identity of the body as such.

High Court observed that the circular dated 27-03-2020 which appeared to be the fulcrum of the petitioner’s submission for maintaining the writ petition began with the preamble that certain regulatory measures had been initiated and announced by the Reserve Bank of India for schedule of payment due to Covid-19 crisis.

The said circular envisaged granting of moratorium that all payments due between March 2020 and May, 2020 would be shifted by 3 months extending the period of the payment to August 2020. The circular, while delineating the policy, permitted the financial institutions to consider grant of the benefit of moratorium. The circular also envisages exemption from the benefit in regard to the loan accounts being declared as NPA.

Further, in the said circumstances, admittedly individual financial institutions were given latitude and discretion to take a call in regard to the extension of the moratorium benefit to its borrowers.

Entitlement of the petitioner as to the benefit fell squarely within the framework as between the 4th respondent and petitioner.

When the relationship is founded on the Commercial and the contractual terms and understanding, the extension of the benefit of the moratorium by one party in favour of the other party, is dependent on various facts to be taken into consideration within the private and contractual precincts of such relationship.

Bench expressed that,

If this Court were to investigate into the disputed areas of understanding between the private parties, it would certainly amount to pitch forking a public law jurisdiction into a private dispute arising under a valid contractual relationship between the parties.

High Court stated that merely because RBI Circulars were issued during the pandemic crisis, it cannot change or transform the core character of the relationship of the parties and assume the coloration of public interest.

Bench expressed that it does not find any public character attached to the relationship of the parties. Transaction between them was plainly commercial without a tinge or shade of public function involved.

Further, the Court did not see any public duty imposed on 4th respondent that is referable in the context of complying with certain provisions contained in the enactments like Industrial Disputes Act, Minimum Wages Act, the Factories Act or the Statutes relating to Pollution etc., or even certain duties which have been imposed by common law, custom, or even contract stretching the requirement in terms of the observation of the Supreme Court of India in Ramesh Ahluwalia v. State of Punjab, (2012) 12 SCC 331.

Public duty becomes enforceable only when there is legal compulsion for its adherence.

Court opined the following:

  • There was no compulsion imposed on 4th respondent to extend the benefit of moratorium, regardless of the nature of the default and nature of agreement between the parties.
  • In absence of any compulsion/obligation or legal mandate to follow a particular course of action, the right exercised by the 4th respondent within the 4 corners of the commercial agreements and the disputes arising thereof would certainly not come within the broad context of public law recourse.

Activities of Port: Public Interest?

It was submitted by 1st respondent Port that the activities with respect to 1st respondent Port substantially touch upon the public interest. Any disruption of its activities by the adverse action of 4th respondent would only lead to a short supply of essential goods and ultimately, would only undermine the public interest.

Employment was also provided by the 1st respondent to thousands of employees and the continuance of payments of salaries and other related obligations would also get affected as a consequence of respondent 4’s action.

Bench stated that no doubt Port activities are essential services to keep the public interest afloat, but the 1st respondent was again a private company. Its activities may touch upon the public interest, nevertheless, the petitioner cannot be allowed to craftily project the port activities for the purpose of hitching on the public interest bandwagon.

In High Court’s view, the petitioner attempted to stealthily subserve their private interest behind the facade of public interest citing port activities.

On a wafer-thin legal basis, contending RBI circulars being not followed, the writ petition was sought to be maintained. Court stated that such slender premise is not good enough to maintain the writ petition in the circumstances of the case. 

In view of the Supreme Court decision in Central Bank of India v. Ravindra, (2002) 1 SCC 367, it was observed that where transactions concerned are not squarely governed by the RBI Circulars, in that case, such circulars are to be treated as standards to judge whether the action taken by the private Banks is opposed to any public policy. Hence, the petitioner cannot compel the Court to issue a command, namely Mandamus and more so, Writ of Certiorari.

Facts in the case of Bombay High Court’s decision in TransconIconica (P) Ltd. v. ICICI Bank, 2020 SCC Online Bom 626, are identical to the present matter. In the said matter directions were passed.

In Karnataka High Court’s decision of Velankani Information Systems Ltd. v. Ministry of Home Affairs, 2020 SCC Online Kar 835, the challenge was to the action initiated by a private bank and the challenge principally was on the ground that Bank did not follow RBI Circular.

The Court found that the Bench in the above decision delved pervasively into the factual disputes and held that petitioner was entitled to the moratorium protection and in that context, RBI was directed to enforce the recovery package as contained in the RBI Circular and consequently the action initiated by the private lending institution came to be set aside.

Further, the Court remarked that it is unable to follow the above judgment.

In the present matter, the very entitlement of the benefit of a moratorium was being questioned seriously and the Court was also of prima facie view that there appears to be a substantial force in the submissions of 4th respondent. Therefore, the applicability of the RBI circular itself being an unsure case of the petitioner, question of maintaining the petition would necessarily fail on that plank.

“… already stretched boundaries of writ jurisdiction for advancing the bonafide constitutional goals cannot be further stretched to bring all private disputes within the fold of judicial review.”

 Concluding the decision, Bench held that in exercise of writ jurisdiction, the Court would certainly not get involved in the commercial disputes entirely arising from the private relationship driven by commercial consideration and issue any command as that would amount to injudicious intrusion and invasive transgression into the defined areas of conflict governed by mutual rights, liabilities and obligations.

In view of the above discussion, petition was dismissed. [Marg Limited v. Karaikal Port (P) Ltd., WP No. 12381 of 2021, decided on 2-07-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Dr G. Jayachandran, J., refused to pass a decree in favour of the plaintiff who relied on general admission of facts made by the defendant.

In the instant matter, it was stated that the plaintiff was engaged in the business of providing and arranging finance to various borrowers and had lent a loan to the first defendant company, which is an NBFC.

On the date of filing the suit, a sum of Rs 38,16,45,711/- was due and payable to the plaintiff. While advancing the loan, the second defendant provided personal guarantees for each of the facility agreements entered by the first defendant.

The second and third defendants were jointly and severally liable to pay the suit claim.

According to the plaintiff, since 2014, the transaction between the plaintiff and the first defendant company was regular without any default till the month of September 2020.

Further, it was submitted that the misappropriation of the fund by the Management of the Company came to light, when there was a default and when the Chief Financial Officer of the first defendant issued a Circular on 07-10-2020 disclosing diversion of the fund of the first defendant company by the second defendant as a consequence, criminal proceedings had been initiated by the plaintiff and the matter had been seized by the Directorate of Enforcement Wing.

Extracting a certain portion of the pleadings in the written statement, the plaintiff sought passing of a decree and judgment upon the said statement as admission.

Bench stated that the three admissions which were relied upon by the applicant were all general admissions and did not admit the suit claim.

Further, the Court added that the admission that fraud was committed per se will not entail the plaintiff for a decree as claimed in the suit. Whatever claimed in the suit has to be proved through evidence in the manner known to law and the portions of the admission relied upon by the plaintiff/applicant is a general admission of fact regarding the liability of the first defendant company and its inability to pay his creditors. The general admissions of fact cannot be construed as an admission of suit claim to pass a judgment and decree.

In view of the above application was dismissed. [Northern Arc Capital (P) Ltd. v. Sambandh Finserve (P) Ltd., A No. 3217 of 2020, decided on 5-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Applicant: Mr Anirudh Krishnan

For 1st Respondent: Mr. Supriyo Ranjan Mahaptra

For 2nd respondent: Mr Prashant Rajapogal

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: M. Nirmal Kumar, J., directed police protection to a member of the LGBTQIA+ Community who had apprehension of being subjected to honour killing.

Member of LGBTQIA+ Community

Present criminal petition was filed to seek police protection as the petitioner had received frequent life threats from her family members since the time, she disclosed that she was a queer person belonging to the LGBTQIA+ Community.

Petitioners’ father’s brothers sent the petitioner an FIR filed against her for ‘women missing’ even after knowing the fact that petitioner had left home on her own in order to protect herself.

 Further, it was stated that the petitioner’s apprehension is that her family members may resort to honour killing or adopt other tactics to cause grievous physical harm to her.

In view of the above background, she sought police protection.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that the petitioner admitted the fact that she belongs to the LGBTQIA+ Community and was living with her partner now, though on earlier occasions they were forcibly separated.

High Court stated that considering the precariousness, in which such people are made to lead their life, the guidelines to police have already been issued in the decision of this Court in S. Sushma v. Commissioner of Police, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2096.

Hence, in the present matter, Police was directed to not casue any harassment and give appropriate protection for the safety and life of petitioner following the above-stated decision of this Court.

In view of the above criminal original petition was disposed of. [X v. State of T.N., Crl. OP No. 10880 of 2021, decided on 25-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: V. Chethana

For Respondent: A. Damodaran, Government Advocate (Crl. Side)


Read More:

Madras HC Judge “removes Lordship’s hat” for framing guidelines for proper recognition of LGBTQIA+ rights, acknowledges “gurus” for pulling him out of darkness of ignorance: Read detailed case report

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee, CJ and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, J., while addressing a matter with respect to menace being caused due to online games expressed its opinion whether the Court can ban the same or not.

Petitioner in the instant matter complained of online business enterprises preying on children and young adults by offering divers online games that are addictive.

Submission of petitioner went by stating that since mobile phones have completely taken over our lives and even children and minors crave for an obtain mobile phones, they are supposed to being lured by unscrupulous business enterprises and particularly during the lockdown when schools and educational institutions are closed, many children and young adults are hooked to online games.

In petitioner’s opinion, the said addiction is devastating and life-threatening in the sense that it destroys the career-building phase of a young adult which may even lead to suicidal tendencies and extreme anger against parents and elders seeking to check the habit.

There is no doubt that children and young adults these days are addicted to their phones and their worlds appear to revolve around their mobile phones.

Bench expressed that even constitutional courts should be slow in entering into such areas and dealing with such matters on the personal sense of morality of the individual complainant or the Judge or Judges concerned.

Court elaborated stating that,

There is no doubt that when there is some illegal action or something which is detrimental to larger public interest, constitutional courts intervene; but in the matters of the present kind, especially when elected governments are in place, such matters of policy should be left to the wisdom of those representing the people and having their mandate instead of the Court issuing a diktat.

 High Court added that the duty of the Court is to direct the complainants to the executive for a more wholesome and studied policy decision to be taken by the executive than what may be possible before any Court.

Concluding the matter permitting the petitioner to make representations to the Union of India and to the State added that the larger or long-time effects that these online games have on children and young adults have not been gone into in any great detail in the present proceedings, particularly in the absence of any scientific material in such regard.  [E. Martin Jayakumar v. Government of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2335, decided on 1-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner:

Ms.Selvi George

For Respondents:

Mr. K. Srinivasamurthy, Senior Panel Counsel, for respondents 1 to 3

Mr. P. Muthukumar, Counsel for State for respondents 4 to 6

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: P. Velmurugan, J., addressed a matter revolving around the offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

A complaint was filed for an alleged offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Judicial Magistrate found the respondent guilty of offence under Section 138 NI Act.

The appellate Judge while allowing the respondent’s appeal set aside the conviction and acquitted the respondent for the offence punishable under Section 138 NI Act, for which he was prosecuted before the trial court.

Appellant’s case was that the respondent had borrowed a sum of Rs 90,000 from the appellant and in order to discharge the debt issued a cheque which returned when presented to the bank with endorsement “drawers signatures differs”.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that on statutory notice sent by appellant, respondent responded stating that he had denied the execution of the cheque.

Another significant fact was that the appellant did not prove that there was a transaction between the appellant and the respondent.

High Court remarked that,

When the cheque was returned for the reason that the signature differs, and the respondent/accused has taken a stand that the complainant is a stranger to the accused, it is for the appellant/complainant to establish the case and the appellant has not proved the same, and if once, execution of cheque is proved, the presumption under Sections 118 and 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act can be drawn and the accused has to rebut the presumption that there is no legally enforceable debt and cheque has not been issued for legally enforceable debt.

 Hence, in the present matter, complainant could not establish the execution of the cheque and borrowal of money by the respondent.

Therefore, in Court’s opinion the appellate Court’s decision had no perversity and Bench found no compelled circumstances or reason to interfere with the Judgment of acquittal.

In view of the above-stated facts and circumstances, criminal appeal was dismissed. [S. Ashok Kumar v. S. Boopal,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2325, decided on 22-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant : Mr. M. Marudhachalam

For Respondent: Mr. L.Mouli

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: M. Dhandapani, J., expressed that:

“…advocates are not above law and, in fact, it is the advocates who have to give more respect to the law, as it is their bread and butter.”

“Court should not be a mute spectator to the legal gimmicks…”

Factual Matrix

Respondent Police had registered a case wherein 2nd petitioner was stopped by police officials on duty while she was proceeding in her car. Her car was stopped as the lockdown was imposed and on query she responded that she had come out for the purpose of purchasing medicines, however, respondent 2 informed that she had stated that she came out for purchasing fish.

It was also stated that she had no valid pass for going out during the lockdown period.

In light of the above incident, a challan of Rs 500 was issued

Crux of the matter

The whole melee started on the issuance of challan, after which 2nd petitioner started quarrelling with police officials.

Overall scene that has led to the present matter was that, petitioner 1 claimed and proclaimed that she was an advocate, used filthy, abusive and unparliamentary language, used derogatory words and castigated the police officials on duty and in fact threatened them that they will be stripped off their uniforms, if they tried to intervene and cause any hindrance to the movement of the petitioners.

Police officials were smeared all over with mud by 1st petitioner. Hence, for total violation of lockdown guidelines and non-adherence to the provisions of the Disaster Management Act and violation of the provisions of the Penal Code, petitioners were slapped with by filing of the above complaint and further leading to registration of case.

In Court’s earlier order, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu was directed to file a status report as to the mechanism that was in place for taking action against those unruly advocates, who cast a slur by their act, demeaning the whole legal profession without bothering about the impact of their acts on the disciplined and law-abiding members of the legal fraternity.

As per the status report, a mechanism was envisaged under Section 35 of the Advocates Act for proceeding against a member of the Bar for unprofessional conduct or other misconduct. However, the said provision spoke only about the complaint received on which action is initiated by the Bar Council.

Though, from the status report it was not clear as to the suo motu powers of the Bar Council in dealing with such instances, where the unprofessional act comes to the knowledge of the Bar Council, though not on the basis of a complaint, in which case, the matters such as the present one goes unnoticed, though it was in the public domain and reached the ears and eyes of the public through the visual media.

Sine the status report was silent, it led to the inference that generally no action was taken against such persons, if there was no complaint before the Bar Council.

It is also not clear whether the Bar Council has deliberated on this aspect of initiation of suo motu action against such unruly members of the Bar, who damage and stature and sanctity of the institution and also the members associated with the said institution.

Police personnel | Frontline Workers

It is to be pointed out that the police personnel has been one of the frontline workers in trying to curb the spread of the deadly virus by maintaining the lockdown guidelines imposed by the Government from time to time since March, 2020 and it is further to be pointed out that the pandemic is not yet over and caution has been given about the on-coming of the 3rd and 4th wave, which are predicted to have a still more detrimental impact on the human race.

Police personnels have not only been working overtime but also working with least concern for their family and themselves and have been dedicating their lives to the cause of humanity. In such a scenario, the least expected of the general public and also the intellectual group of legal professionals that they should be given the minimum basic respect and courtesy while handing them.

Advocates Stature

Advocate because of his avocation and his social-minded acts, rise up the pedestal and in fact that was the reason law gave them the stature to question even the police. But that stature should be used in a legal and lawful manner without maligning the reputation and position of any individual person or any official of the Government.

Further, it was elaborated that,

Usage of the position of advocate for other than just causes is nothing but an act of corrupt nature, which requires to be cut down by the sword held in the hands of the statue of Justice.

The doyens of the Bar, more especially the Madras Bar, have held aloft the rule of law for centuries together and Madras Bar is always looked upon with awe and admiration.

 A very significant observation made by the Court was that, nowadays, a few members, just to enrich themselves and for their selfish cause, throw to the winds the larger interest of the legal fraternity and cause irreparable damage to the other members of the legal profession by their acts, as has been done in the present case. 

Bench noted that 1st petitioner indulged in the above-stated act in Infront of her daughter 2nd petitioner who was said to be a 4th-year student. In such a backdrop, it is more expected of the 1st petitioner to teach the 2nd petitioner the ethics for following the rule of law, as otherwise, her act as in the present case, would engrave upon the mind of the 2nd petitioner, which would not be a welcome sign to the legal profession.

High Court expressed that if it allowed such mindset to go unnoticed, it would be a great injustice that this Court would be doing to the legal profession and also to the genuine, dignified and respectful legal professionals, who respect this profession and the robes they wear and would also be sending a wrong signal to send 2nd petitioner who is slowly climbing up the ladder to enter the legal profession.

In view of the above discussion, Court did not grant anticipatory bail to the 1st petitioner.

With regard to 2nd petitioner, Court stated that mere quarrelling with the police officials cannot be said to be a wrongful act, which would attract the penal provisions pressed into service by the respondents against 2nd petitioner and any view taken to the contra would be negating the rights guaranteed to the citizens under the Constitution.

Law Enforcement Agency and their role

The law enforcing agency is manned by persons, who have experience in dealing with criminals and not each and every individual, who commits a mistake should be branded as a criminal by bringing the individual within the four corners of the penal code.

Unnecessary infliction of charges of this nature on every individual would only make the individual look into the loopholes of the system and try to wriggle out of the same after committing mistakes, which should be avoided at all costs.

Hence, Bench stated that respondents shall ponder dropping of all the charges made against 2nd petitioner as there was no substance in the said charges.

Bar Councils’ Mechanism to deal with erring Advocates

Law has given the legal professional privilege and status, but the said privilege is to be used sparingly and only for upholding the majesty of law and following the rule of law. It is not given for the purpose of maligning the rule of law and demeaning the other members of the Bar to the benefit of the individual.

Any infraction by this Court in not safeguarding the interest of the legal profession would be a doom for the entire judiciary and the legal fraternity as a whole.

 Bar Council in its report submitted that it takes action only when it receives any complaint against any erring advocate.  However, what this Court was more bothered about was the fact that not all unprofessional conduct or other misconducts lead to a complaint being written by the Bar Council.

Any unprofessional conduct of a member of the legal profession, coming to the knowledge of the Bar Council through the visual media for which no complaint emanates from any quarter, can the Bar Council allow that instance to go unnoticed for the mere reason that the Advocates Act does not envisage suo motu action?

Court feels that it is high time the Bar Council enforces Section 35 of the Advocates Act, which gives it power and authority to initiate action suo motu on the incidents, which comes to its knowledge through the digital/print media, for which there is no complaint given by any individual.

In view of the above discussions, 2nd petitioner deserves anticipatory bail while dismissing the petitioner insofar as 1st petitioner.

Another issue that the Court dealt was a WhatsApp audio which was circulated by one R. Krishnamurthi, a member of the Bar who circulated the audio on social networking platforms attributing mala fides to the Bench.

advocate has further stated that I should recuse from hearing the case any further and has also attributed dishonesty and also stated that I am taking a lopsided view in favour of the law enforcing agency. Though I have called only for certain particulars, the advocate has gone on to make allegations that I have taken a biased view and I am leaning towards the law enforcing agency and has even casted aspersions against me openly in the social networking domain

Adding to the above, Bench also noted that the advocate imputed allegations against the Judiciary in falling to take any action against the law enforcing agency for very many irregularities committed by them during the pandemic situation, which are not in consonance with law.

The act of the advocate is very much contumacious and attracts initiation of criminal contempt proceedings. The whole audio paints a very gloomy picture and without any material aspersions are attributed against the Bench.

It was noted that the said Krishnamoorthy was a total stranger to the proceedings, yet he had made derogatory statements in the social media against the judicial functions of the Bench, including seeking Judge’s recusal, which was nothing but interference with the administration of justice.

Hence, High Court held that the act of aforesaid advocate attracted Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act.

This Court would not fall prey to such acts perpetrated by gossip mongers and unscrupulous elements, with a view to scuttle the judicial process and make the judiciary dance to their tunes.

Bench directed Registry to issue notice regarding initiation of Suo Motu Criminal Contempt proceedings against the said R. Krishnamoorthy as provided for under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act and, thereafter, place the matter before the Hon’ble Chief Justice for being listed before the appropriate Bench for hearing. [Tanuja Rajan v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2242, decided on 18-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioners: Ms. A.Louisal Ramesh

For Respondent : Mr. A.Gopinath, GA (Crl. Side) for R-1 Mr. Haja Mohideen Gisthi for R-2


Madras HC | Is there any mechanism to take action against members of legal fraternity for their misbehaviour with officials on duty? Bar council of Tamil Nadu to respond

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Pushpa Sathyanaryana and S. Kannammal, JJ., revised the amount of compensation awarded to the claimant in a motor accident claim and enhanced it from Rs 30,89,430 to Rs 83,35,000.

Instant appeal was preferred challenging the decision and decree of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

Deceased was proceeding in a two-wheeler, driver of the lorry drove the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner, dashed against two-wheeler. Due to the said impact, the deceased sustained injuries and died.

In view of the above, legal heirs – appellants/claimant of the deceased filed claim petition.

Insurance Company submitted that the accident occurred due to the carelessness and negligence on the part of the deceased and the deceased had not possessed any valid driving licence.

Tribunal, after considering the oral and documentary evidence, held that the accident had occurred due to the drunken driving of the deceased and also because of the rash and negligent driving of the driver of the first respondent and fixed the liability at 50:50.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court noted that in the post-mortem report no mention about the presence of alcohol was there.

Court added that having failed to prove that the accident occurred due to the drunken driving of the deceased, contributory negligence of 50% could not be attributed to the deceased.

From the sketch placed on the investigation report, it represented that the deceased was going from South to North on the left extreme of the road and the offending vehicle, namely, the lorry which was coming in the opposite direction hit the deceased and he died. Therefore, even on that ground, negligence cannot be attributed to the deceased.

For proving an offence under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, breath test is mandatory as per Section 203 of the MV Act.

Since the above was not satisfied, it was concluded that the deceased was not in a drunken state.

10% was deducted from the compensation on the ground that the deceased did not possess the valid driving licence

For the above contention, it was stated that he had only a learners licence. It is not the case of the second respondent that a person having LLR cannot ride on the road.

Though it is stated that a person having LLR and riding or driving should have an Instructor with them, it does not disqualify a person from riding a vehicle.

Award of the Tribunal was enhanced to Rs 83,35,000 from 30,89,430.[Kuralvani v. Kathirvelan, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2232, decided on 31-03-2021]


For Advocates before the Court:

For Appellants: Mr.I.Pinaygash

For R – 2 : Mr.B.Rajesh Saravanan

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: M. Dhandapani, J., stated that the Court has noticed where the legal fraternity has indulged in some high-handed activity against the law enforcing agency.

It has been stated that amidst pandemic, health workers and uniformed services have been performing arduous duty with due diligence and with scant care for their health and well-being. Each and every common man throughout the country had recognized and applauded their efforts, yet a few miscreants, who, with scant respect to the work done by law enforcing agency, indulge in a tussle with police personnel.

Additionally, it was stated that some miscreants of the legal fraternity also do fall in the above-stated league.

Society has witnessed very many instances of the legal fraternity indulging in war of words as also scuffle with the police personnel, but most of the times, the members of the legal fraternity do keep themselves within the bounds of law.

No Mechanism for unruly behaviour of members of the legal fraternity?

For unruly and indiscipline behaviour, other persons, who work for one or other arm of the Government, mechanism of disciplinary action is contemplated under the relevant Acts and Rules governing the service, yet, when it comes to the legal fraternity, the initiative and control vests on the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, to take appropriate action against such of those unruly advocates who involve themselves in these kinds of acts, which demeans the profession.

However, the mechanism that is in place to take action against such individuals, who involve themselves in indisciplined acts and misbehave with the officials on duty, are not clearly spelt out by the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu.

High Court directed the authorized officer of Bar Council of Tamil Nadu to file an appropriate status report before this Court as to the mechanism that is in place for taking action against the members of the legal fraternity as also the action that has been taken against such of those advocates, who have misbehaved in the public place with officials on duty.[Tanuja Rajan v. State,    2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2203, decided on 15-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Mr. Louisal Ramesh

For Respondent: Mr. A. Gopinath Government Advocate (Crl. side)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G.R. Swaminathan, J., held that irrespective of whether the proceedings under Central Act 43 of 2005 are of civil or criminal nature, the power under Article 227 of the Constitution would always lie to quash the proceedings if a case is really made out.

Instant petition was filed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India for quashing the proceedings on the file of the Judicial Magistrate.

It was stated that the petitioners were the parents-in law of the respondent. Marital life of the respondent came under strain leading to filing of D.V.O.P No. 11 of 2021. In the said petition respondent had arrayed her husband as the first respondent, petitioners as respondents 2 and 3 and her brother-in-law and wife of brother-in-law as respondents 4 and 5.

It was contended that the above petition was an abuse of legal process, hence the present petition was filed.

Adding to the above it was stated that the petition was filed on 17-03-2021 but the Registry did not number the petition.

Hesitation of the Registry was on the account of divergent views expressed in some of the earlier orders of the Madras High Court.

Earlier, to quash the proceedings filed under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, petitions used to be filed under 482 of CrPC. This was put an end to by a Judge of this Court vide order in Dr. P. Pathmanathan v. V. Monica (2021 (2) CTC 57)

In the above decision, Court had expressed that:

“..the proceedings instituted under the Central Act 43 of 2005 are civil in nature and therefore, petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. will not lie to quash them. Even while laying down a set of directions indicating the remedies available to the aggrieved parties, it was also held that a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution may still be maintainable if it is shown that the proceedings before the magistrate suffer from a patent lack of jurisdiction. The jurisdiction under Article 227 is one of superintendence and is visitorial in nature and will not be exercised unless there exists a clear jurisdictional error and that manifest or substantial injustice would be caused if the power is not exercised in favour of the petitioner.”

Whereas a contrary view was adopted by Justice S.M. Subramaniam in P. Arun Prakash v. S. Sudhamary,2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1954, it was held that the proceedings filed under the Central Act 43 of 2005 before the Criminal Court can only be termed as criminal proceedings. Such proceedings cannot be transferred from a criminal Court to a civil Court by exercising the supervisory power under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

In the present matter Court decided on the question,

Whether the impugned proceedings instituted under Central Act 43 of 2005 are civil or criminal in nature?

Bench opined that the Registry should not have kept the petition unnumbered for so long. When in view of the statutory bar set out in Section 18-A of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, a petition for anticipatory bail was not numbered by the Registry of the Madras High Court, matter was taken up by the Supreme Court. In P. Surendran v. State, (2019) 9 SCC 154, it was held that:

“…act of numbering a petition is purely administrative…”

 “…In this context, we accept the statement of the Attorney General, that the determination in this case is a judicial function and the High Court Registry could not have rejected the numbering…”

Hence, following the above decision, Court held that the Registry ought to have placed the papers before the Court, if it had any doubt regarding the maintainability.

Further, Court expressed that Article 227 of the Constitution of India is to the effect that every High Court shall have the superintendence over all the Courts and Tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction. The text of the provision is forum-neutral. It makes no distinction between civil court and criminal court. In other words, the power under Article 227 can be exercised both over civil Courts as well as the criminal Courts. While the power under Section 482 of CrPC, can be exercised only with reference to criminal proceedings before the criminal Courts, the power under Article 227 of Constitution of India is much wider and comprehensive.

High Court directed the Registry to number the petition and list the matter for admission. [Muthulakshmi v. Vijitha, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2183, decided on 11-06-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., issued interim directions for proper recognition of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and to ensure their safety and security to lead a life of their choice.

Important Issue:

De-stigmatization and acceptance in the eyes of society.

Crux of the Case:

Petitioners, a lesbian couple whose relationship was being opposed by their parents fled to Chennai from Madurai.

Further, the petitioners with the support extended by certain NGOs and persons belonging to LGBTQIA+ Community managed to secure accommodation and protection and were in search of employment. Meanwhile, the respondents i.e. the girl’s parents filed missing complaints. Later, on apprehending threat to their safety, the petitioners approached this Court and sought a direction from the police not to cause harassment and protection from any form of threat or danger.

High Court vide its Order dated 28-04-2021, had requested for the counselling of the parents and a report to be submitted before the Court. In the decision, Court had also expressed that:

I want to give myself some more time to churn. Ultimately, in this case, the words must come from my heart and not from my head, and the same will not be possible if I am not fully “woke” on this aspect. For this purpose, I want to subject myself for psycho-education with Ms.Vidya Dinakaran and I would request the psychologist to fix a convenient appointment for the same. I honestly feel that such a session with a professional will help me understand same-sex relationships better and will pave way for my evolution. If I write an order after undergoing psycho-education, I trust that the words will fall from my heart.

Counselling Psychologist submitted its report in the Court, which revealed that there was no substantial or marked change noticed in the attitude of the parents during the second counselling session. At the best, one of the parents had the heart to let their daughter alone to live their life even though they were not able to accept their same-sex relationship with the other Petitioner. Even though the counselling of the parents did not ultimately end up with the desired result, this Court atleast has the satisfaction of making all efforts to assuage their feelings, and to ensure that they were not left in the lurch in this journey.

Bench itself went under a counselling session and gained a great amount of insight and understanding and felt that further interaction with person(s) who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community would be greatly instrumental to help myself understand the ground realities, emotions, social discrimination and exclusion and several other difficulties faced by the community.

Bench also interacted with a transwoman who had successfully broken the shackles laid by the society on the LGBTQIA+ community.

The above session ultimately convinced the Bench that it must change all the preconceived notions and start looking at persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community as they are.

I must frankly confess that the Petitioners, Ms. Vidya Dinakaran and Dr. Trinetra became my gurus who helped me in this process of evolution and pulled me out of darkness (ignorance).

Understanding the concept of LGBTQIA+ Community

Unlike regular litigations, the present case has given this Court, not only an opportunity but also a vested responsibility to weigh the cause for inclusivity and justice against discrimination by heretofore social understanding of morality and notions of tradition. That being said, I also felt that I remove the “Lordship’s” hat and instead wear the hat of the average commoner in the society, who have not given thought to understand or accept, who are attempting to understand, who totally refuse to understand or accept the LGBTQIA+ community. I have no hesitation in accepting that I too belong to the majority of commoners who are yet to comprehend homosexuality completely. Ignorance is no justification for normalizing any form of discrimination.

Society and my upbringing have always treated the terms “homosexual”, “gay”, “lesbian” as anathema. A majority of the society would stand in the same position of ignorance and preconceived notions.

Court added that the only reason for referring the petitioners to counselling was to enable the Bench to understand something more about the said relationship from a professional.

In order to appreciate the controversy raised in the present case, Bench briefly traced the development of Article 15 of the Constitution and to notice the developments across the globe on the interpretation of similar non-discriminatory provisions.

High Court issued the following interim guidelines/directions:

A. The police, on receipt of any complaint regarding girl/woman/man missing cases which upon enquiry/investigation is found to involve consenting adults belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, shall upon receipt of their statements, close the complaint without subjecting them to any harassment.

B. Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE), has to enlist Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) including community-based groups which have sufficient expertise in handling the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. The list of such NGOs along with the address, contact details, and services provided shall be published and revised periodically on the official website. Such details shall be published within 8 weeks from the date of receipt of copy of this order.

C. Any person who faces an issue for the reason of their belongingness to the LGBTQIA+ community may approach any of the enlisted NGOs for safeguarding and protecting their rights.

D. NGO concerned shall maintain confidential records of such persons who approach the enlisted NGOs and the aggregate data shall be provided to the Ministry concerned bi-annually.

E. Such problems shall be addressed with the best-suited method depending on the facts and circumstances of each case be it counselling, monetary support, legal assistance with the support of District Legal Services Authority, or to co-ordinate with law enforcement agencies about offenses committed against any persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.

F. With specificity of issue of accommodation, suitable changes are to be made in existing short stay homes, Anganwadi shelters, and “garima greh” (a shelter home for transgender persons, the purpose of which is to provide shelter to transgender persons, with basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and recreational facilities. Besides, it will provide support for capacity- building/skill development of persons in the community, which will enable them to lead a life of dignity and respect) to accommodate any and every member of the LGBTQIA+ community, who require shelters and/or homes. The MSJE shall make adequate infrastructural arrangements in this regard, within a period of 12 weeks.

G. Such other measures that are needed for eliminating prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community, and channelizing them back into the mainstream shall also be taken up. The Union and State Governments respectively, in consultation with such other Ministries and/or Departments shall endeavour to device such measures and policies.

H. For the sake of creating awareness, the Court suggested certain sensitisation programs to be conducted by the Ministry concerned of the Union/State Government(s).

Matter to be posted on 31-08-2021 for passing further orders. [S. Sushma v. Commissioner of Police, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2096, decided on 7-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner : Mr. S. Manuraj

For Respondents 1, 2, 5 & 6 : Mr. Hasan Mohammed Jinnah State Public Prosecutor

For Respondent No. 3 : Mr. Mithelesh

For Respondent No. 4 : Mr. P. Thilak Kumar

For Respondent Nos. 7, 8, 9, 17 & 18 : Mr. Shanmugasundaram Advocate General Assisted by Ms. Shabnam Banu Government Counsel

For Respondent Nos. 10 to 16, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23 : Mr. Shankaranayanan Additional Solicitor General Assisted by Mr. V. Chandrasekar Central Government Standing Counsel

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G. Ilangovan, J., expressed that a cartoonist is also bound by the law and he cannot defame anyone.

Accused, who is the petitioner in the present matter had published a cartoon on his Facebook page regarding the self-immolation incident.

In the said cartoon burning body of a baby, being watched by three people, without clothes and carrying currency notes to cover their private parts was portrayed.

Three people in the cartoon were named as District Collector, the Superintendent of Police and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, it was said that the cartoon was highly humiliating and defamatory.

Due to the said cartoon, Government Officers were prevented from discharging their duties, because of the false accusation.

Based on complaint, a case was registered for the offences punishable under Section 501 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 67 of the Information and Technology Act, 2000. When the investigation was undertaken, the accused preferred this petition.

Petitioner was arrested in 2017 and was later enlarged on bail.

Question for consideration:

Where from the fundamental rights of freedom of thought and expression must begin and where must it end?

Freedom of thought and expression is subject to the limitations that have been set out in the Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

Just like, any other citizen, a cartoonist is also bound by the law and in the form of a cartoon, he cannot defame anyone, this is the settled position of law.

 Toon Controversy

In the ‘Toon Controversy’ a cartoon about the Prophet Mohammed was created resulting to a controversy in the World. A discussion emanated from the said episode wherein the limitation of freedom of speech and expression along with the principles of hate speech and expression came in.

Nature of thought and expression are not boundless. Whether a particular criticism by the cartoonists was within his bounds and must be decided only in the context of the particular issue.

Words spoken, cartoon drawn if taken away from the context, it will loss its soul and life.

In the present matter, the cartoonist was trying to portray his anger, grief and criticism regarding the inability of the administration, both Executive and Police, in containing the collection of exorbitant interest by money lenders.

Collector of Thirunelveli got humiliated by the said depiction. On the face of it, if any ordinary person looks at the cartoon may encounter so many thoughts. Some may feel that it is an over exaggeration of the event. Some may feel that the Authorities are not taking proper steps and they are not interested in protecting the life of the citizens and others may thought it is highly obscene.

 In view of the above-said, question for consideration was as follows:

Whether the cartoon was obscene and highly defamatory?

What the cartoonist wanted to express was his anger and the said cannot be construed as an intention to indulge on abscenity or defamation.

Court cannot teach ethicality to the people and it is for the Society to evolve and follow the ethical standards.

High Court concluded the matter while putting down the words of Benjamin Franklin:

” Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another; And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know, Two centuries later it remains difficult in law to draw the outmost bounds of freedom of speech and expression, the limit beyond which the right would fall foul and can be subordinated to other democratic values and public law considerations, so as to constitute a criminal offence. The difficulty arises in ascertaining the legitimate countervailing public duty, and in proportionality and reasonableness of the restriction which criminalises written or spoken words. Further, criminalisation of speech is often demarcated and delineated by the past and recent significant events affecting the nation including explanation of their causes. “

 Therefore, in Court’s opinion, continuing the investigation against the petitioner would make no purpose and no criminality was involved in the cartoon as the petitioner’s intention was not to defame the authorities but to expose the gravity of the issue involved. [Balamurugan v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2086, decided on 19-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: S. Vanchinathan

For Respondents:M. Ganesan Government Advocate (Crl. Side) for R1.

R2 – No appearance

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of T. Raja and G. Chandrasekharan, JJ., while upholding the decision of Court below stated that for 12 long years the wife did not appear for any proceedings to disprove the allegations of husband and crucial allegations such as assaulting husband on his vital part of the body are included which were never denied by the wife, then how can the parties be made to live together.

Present appeal was directed against the decision of the Family Court dissolving the marriage between the parties.

Counsel for the appellant/wife argued that the trial court without taking into account the contents of various exhibits and contents of cross-examination of the respondent/husband gave a finding of guilt of cruelty meted out to respondent/husband that could not be sustained as the same was a result of erroneous appreciation of entire materials available before the Court below.

It was also submitted that the husband had fabricated certain documents to evade the payment of maintenance. Due to which the wife had to file a number of proceedings for which the appellant could not be demoralized giving a stamp of inflicting cruelty upon her husband.

Issues that arose in the present matter were as follows:

  • Whether the failure on the part of the appellant/wife to participate in the divorce proceedings before the Court below would amount to accepting the allegations made by the respondent/husband as true?
  • When the respondent/husband has filed the petition for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, on the refusal of the appellant/wife either to appear in the witness box to state her own case on oath or not offering herself to be cross examined by the other side, whether the Court below is legally justified in drawing an adverse presumption that the case set up by the appellant/wife is not correct, under Section 114-Illus.(g) of the Evidence Act?

High Court’s Analysis and Finding

Bench stated that since the wife had raised counter-allegations, it was her duty and obligation to appear before the Court below and substantiate the same by disproving the allegations made by the respondent/husband by seriously participating in the enquiry.

It was rightly submitted by the counsel for the husband that when the divorce petition was pending from 2007 till 2019, for almost a period of 12 long years appellant/wife had chosen to filed 13 interlocutory applications but it is not known why she did not choose to appear before the Court below to take part in the enquiry.

Secondly, when the wife filed a case against the respondent under Sections 498(A), 406, 323, 504 & 506 of IPC, for which a trial of 9 long years was held, after which the husband and his parents were acquitted, it is unknown why the appellant devoted time to project a false case but did not appear for the enquiry before the Court below to disprove the allegations made by the husband.

Thirdly, she had also filed a case of domestic violence and for maintenance.

High Court stated that when she had boycotted the proceedings before the Court below, where she had the advantage of examining and cross-examining the respondent, she could not have come to this Court.

Bench referred to Order VIII Rule 5(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, as per which every allegation of fact in the plaint, if not denied specifically or by necessary implication, the same shall be taken to be admitted as against the person who failed to deny the same.

Conjoint reading of Order XVI, Rule 20, Order XV, Rule 4, Order XVI, Rule 20 and Order XXII, Rule 4 of CPC shows that where any party to a suit pending in Court refuses to give evidence or to produce any document then and there in his/her possession or avoid the Court willfully, the Court can pronounce judgment or make such order against that party on the ground that he or she failed to prove the case.

High Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Mohinder Kaur v. Sant Paul Singh, (2019) 9 SCC 358, wherein it was held that a party to the suit who does not appear in the witness box to state his own case on oath and does not offer himself to be cross examined by the other side, would suffer a presumption, because the case set up by hi would not be genuine, natural or honest and real one.

12 Long Years and No Appearance

Further, in the present matter, Court’s opinion was that when the appellant/wife deliberately and willfully boycotted the proceedings before the Court below for 12 long years due to not having any evidence, she cannot approach this Court with this appeal since the same will not be maintainable.

A very crucial allegation made by the husband was that the wife had assaulted him on his vital part of the body and the same was not even denied by the wife in the counter affidavit.

In view of the above-said allegation and no denying of the same by the wife, it is clear that the wife not only caused mental cruelty but also physical cruelty upon the husband.

“…when the parties are all fighting for more than 14 long years, they cannot be made to live together.”

Unclean Hands

Family Court of Mumbai found that the appellant came to the Court with unclean hands since in the proceeding regarding maintenance she did not show that she was working and having a source of income.

The above order became final, this Court found no justification in this appeal.

High Court found no infirmity or error in the decision of the Family Court and hence upheld the same. [Narayanee v. S. Karthik,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2080, decided on 24-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant: Dr K Santhakumari

For Respondent: J. Saravanavel

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G.R. Swaminathan, J., remarked that,

“I am conscious that every judicial verdict must be anchored only in law and logic. But a judge must also exhibit awareness of what is going on. His inner antena should catch the signals. To create such an ambience, before dictating this Judgment, I listened to T.M.Krishna’s “poramboke padal”.

 I recalled the words of Nithyanand Jeyaraman that while encroachment of water bodies may be regularised by law by issuing pattas, “Nature” will not take note of the same. I think it was Pt.Deen Dayal Upadhyaya who said that we must treat Nature like a milk-yielding cow. We must milk it and not slaughter it.”

Petitioners sought stoppage of quarrying operations conducted by respondent 5 who had been granted mining lease to quarry rough stone.

It was the petitioner’s contention that the leaseholder had breached the permit conditions as powerful explosives were used.

They stated that blasting operations seriously endanger the lives of the farm-hands who are working in the nearby agricultural fields. There is a considerable generation of dust causing air pollution. The leaseholder has also encroached on a water body. He has blocked the customary pathway of the villagers and even the local Panchayat passed a resolution favouring the closure of the quarry.

District Administration had permitted respondent 5 to quarry Tirupani rock for the purpose of earning revenue.

It takes probably a million years for such rocks to be formed while it takes a few minutes to destroy them.

Whether executive authorities can permit the destruction of such hillocks?

It was stated that it is well settled that the Government, as well as the citizens, have a constitutional obligation to protect the environment and ecology.

As per the doctrine of inter-generational equity adumbrates that environment is not only for the benefit of the present but also the future generations.

In the Supreme Court decision of M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, (1997) 1 SCC 388, held that the State as a trustee of all-natural resources is under a duty to protect them. Resources meant for public use cannot be converted into private ownership.

In Intellectuals Forum v. State of A.P., (2006) 3 SCC 549, it was held that it is the responsibility of the State to protect the environment.

In N.D. Jayal v. Union of India, (2004) 9 SCC 362, the Supreme Court observed that the right to the environment has been declared as a fundamental right.

Bench stated that Man has continued his predatory activities without any break and Nature is losing her patience.

Adding to the above remark, Court also stated that the rubicon is about to be crossed and retribution is in the offing. The time for course correction is now or never. 

Bench stated it was time to implant basic structure doctrine by way of analogy into the principle of sustainable development evolved in environmental law.

While the administration can tap the hills and hillocks for mineral resources, exploitation cannot lead to their complete destruction.

It was noted that at the rate at which the exploitation had been going on, the hillock itself would be extinct in a few years.

Why Hills and Hillocks cannot be given away for mining?

High Court stated that we are a democratic republic and the Government cannot arbitrarily give away hills and hillocks for exploitation.

Merely because the process of issuance of mining lease was conducted in consonance with the statutory procedure, that would not confer any immunity against judicial scrutiny. Unless there are supervening public interest considerations, hills and hillocks cannot be given away for mining.

Bench referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Lal Bahadur v. State of U.P., (2018) 15 SCC 407, in this decision, Court quashed the master plan whereby use of area in question for green belt in the master plan was changed.

Right to Environment, Right to Life & Right to Development

Speaking of the right to environment, it means that one has the right to retain the advantages and benefits conferred naturally on the environment. It must be conceded that no right can be enforced absolutely. Need may often arise to balance the said right with the right to development. But then the onus lies on the executive to demonstrate that there is a need to subordinate the right to environment to the right to development.

High Court observed that it is facile to assume that destroying the hillock in question would be of no consequence. Also, the official respondents did not demonstrate as to why the hillock in question should be destroyed to enrich the exchequer of the day by a few million rupees. The case was not of wherein there was lack of minerals or they could not be sourced from somewhere else. Hence, no compelling public interest.

Adding more to the reasoning, Court stated that no doubt, Tamil Nadu Minerals Minor Concession Rules, 1959, applies to all the lands in the State of Tamil Nadu and this includes hills and hillocks too, but as per the limitations to exercise the statutory power conferred by such Rules, one of the limitation states that the authorities will not allow the destruction of hills and hillocks by mechanically issuing mining licenses.

Bench stopped the quarry operations looking at the exploitation that has gone beyond the threshold level, hence writ of mandamus was issued.

Lastly, Court noted the fact that respondent 5 cannot be faulted as she has been restrained from enjoying the fruits of the lease well before the expiry of the same, hence she was permitted to make representation to authorities for a refund of proportionate lease amount for the unexpired period.[K. Santhanam v. District Collector, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2092, decided on 26-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioners:: Mr. V. Malaiyendran

For R-1 to R-4 :: Mrs. M. Rajeswari, Government Advocate.

For R-5: Mr H. Arumuga

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G.R. Swaminathan, J., held that to succeed in a suit for malicious prosecution, the acquittal of the plaintiff alone is not sufficient. Rather, the plaintiff is obliged to prove (i) that the prosecution was without any reasonable and probable cause, and (ii) that it was instituted with a malicious intention, and  (iii) that he suffered damage.

The instant second appeal was filed by the defendants in the suit filed by the plaintiff for malicious prosecution. The plaintiff had questioned the manner in which the local mosque of his area was being administered. The President of the Jamath which managed the mosque was the brother-in-law of Defendant 1, who implicated the plaintiff and his son in a criminal case under Sections 452 and 506(2) IPC. The plaintiff was arrested and detained in custody for more than 24 hours. He was also suspended from service. Subsequently, he was acquitted by the Judicial Magistrate. Following his acquittal, the plaintiff filed the instant suit.

The plaintiff claimed damages of Rs 1.5 lakhs from the defendants. The trial court had dismissed the suit of the plaintiff, but he succeeded before the first Appellate Court which awarded him damages amounting to Rs 1 lakh. Defendants 1 to 6 (all appellants in the instant appeal) were found liable by the first Appellate Court.

While giving relief to Defendants 2 to 6, and dismissing the appeal qua Defendant 1, but at the same time modifying the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff, the High Court discussed and decided the following points:

1. Suit for malicious prosecution lies against whom?

A suit for malicious prosecution will lie only against that person at whose instigation the proceedings commenced.

The High Court said that the question is who was the prosecutor. In the instant case, it was only Defendant 1 who gave the complaint against the plaintiff and his son. The other defendants no doubt supported the prosecution but they merely figured as witnesses. Defendants 2 to 6 could not be said to have prosecuted the plaintiff. If according to the plaintiff, they had committed perjury, the course of action to be taken against them will have to be different.

The Court held that the plaintiff did not have any cause of action against Defendants 2 to 6. The appeal qua them was allowed.

However, according to the Court, Defendant 1 could not take the same plea. Even though criminal case was based on police report, it was anchored on the complaint given by Defendant 1. Having been the de facto complainant and having played a prominent part in the prosecution, Defendant 1 could not be heard to contend that the suit is not maintainable against him. The Court placed reliance on the Privy Council decision in Balbhaddar Singh v. Badri Sah, 1926 SCC OnLine PC 14.

2. Duty of Civil Court in a suit for malicious prosecution

The case of the prosecution against the plaintiff in the criminal case under Sections 452 and 506(2) IPC ended in acquittal. But, according to the High Court, the Civil Court must undertake an independent enquiry in such cases. It cannot merely borrow the grounds of the acquittal and grant decree in favour of the plaintiff. The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff to show that he was maliciously prosecuted.

3. Shifting of burden of proof

To discharge the burden cast on him, the plaintiff examined himself to depose that the complaint against him was false. According to him, the first defendant was nurturing animosity against the plaintiff for more than one reason.

The High Court said that there is no doubt that the burden of proof lay only on the plaintiff. This burden can never shift. However, the plaintiff cannot be called upon to prove the negative. As regards the non-existence of reasonable and probable cause, the onus will shift to the defendant after the plaintiff asserts in the witness box that the complaint against him was false and after he adduces evidence demonstrating the existence of malice on the part of the defendant.

While on this point, the High Court summarised the principles laid down in Bharat Commerce & Industries Ltd. v. Surendra Nath Shukla, 1965 SCC OnLine Cal 79; and Satdeo Prasad v. Ram Narayan, 1968 SCC OnLine Pat 26.

4. Nature of proof

The High Court observed that a plaintiff in a suit for malicious prosecution need not demonstrate that he was innocent of the charge upon which he was tried. The Privy Council in Balbhaddar Singh v. Badri Sah, 1926 SCC OnLine PC 14 has categorically held so. The plaintiff need not undergo a second agnipariksha. On the other hand, it is the defendant who must discharge the onus once it is shifted to him.

5. Merits of the case

The High Court held that in the instant case, Defendant 1 had miserably failed to discharge the onus cast on him and the plaintiff had proved all the ingredients of malicious prosecution.

The allegation of Defendant 1 was that he had given an earlier complaint against the plaintiff and to force him to withdraw the same, the plaintiff and his son entered his shop on 1-12-2000 at 9 pm. But the earlier complaint was not marked. Since the occurrence spot is a shop, it would have definitely attracted notice and a complaint would have been lodged before the local police immediately thereafter. But, Defendant 1 approached the District Superintendent of Police only on the next day and the written complaint given by Defendant 1 was sent through post to the Police Station concerned and the FIR itself was registered only on 6-12-2000. Also, in support of the criminal charge, except the testimony of Defendant 1 himself, there was no corroboration forthcoming.

In Court’s opinion, the existence of malice was amply established by the plaintiff. On 2-11-2000 the plaintiff has sent a notice to the President of the mosque, who was none other than the brother-in-law of Defendant 1. It was also admitted that the plaintiff asked for accounts and the relationship between the mosque management and the plaintiff was under strain. In this background, the criminal case was registered and the plaintiff was arrested.

A reading of the evidence adduced on either side showed that there were two issues, one concerning the mosque administration and the other concerning the matrimonial dispute of the plaintiff’s son. It was obvious that the mosque management wanted to teach the plaintiff a hard lesson. There was no cause at all for giving the complaint, let alone reasonable and probable cause. The twin reasons mentioned above culminated into a false complaint.

6. Damages

The plaintiff was arrested and was in detention for more than twenty-four hours. He had to seek bail and furnish sureties. He had to undergo the agony of trial. He was suspended from service. The plaintiff obviously incurred expenditure for engaging counsel and attending the court hearings. As a result of the case, his family was also excommunicated. Thus, the plaintiff established that he suffered damage and injury. His reputation was tarnished and he also suffered loss of liberty. He had clearly made out a case for award of damages.

Considering the facts and circumstances, the High Court quantified the compensation payable to the plaintiff at Rs 50,000. Defendant 1 was directed to pay damages as compensation to the plaintiff with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of plaint till the date of payment. [M. Abubaker v. Abdul Kareem, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1934, decided on 21-4-2021 ]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: S.M. Subramaniam, J., held that

Protraction and prolongation of litigations affecting women can never be encouraged by the Courts.

Husband and wife used to live in Singapore and when a misunderstanding arose between the two, the husband stated that the respondent/wife deserted him in the year 2018. Hence, the husband sought the relief of Restitution of Conjugal Rights by filing a petition in the Family Court, Chennai.

Wife had filed a Domestic Violence Complaint against the husband and further filed the maintenance seeking maintenance.

Under the above-stated circumstances, an instant transfer petition was filed to transfer the Domestic Violence Act case.

Questions of Legal Importance

Whether the High Court in the exercise of power of superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution of India transfer the criminal proceedings from the Criminal Court to the Family Court, when the powers of transfers of cases are already conferred on the High Court under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and Civil Procedure Code?

Presuming, the powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India is exercised, in order to transfer a criminal case to a Civil Court or Family Court, what would be the consequences and the provisions governing such transfers and the Constitution of Special Courts under the Special enactments?

Whether the decision of this Court in Mohana Seshadri v. Anuja, CDJ 2020 MHC 944, can be followed as a precedent in the present matter?

Analysis

The above case cited by the petitioners need not be relied upon for the purpose of entertaining a transfer petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. In the present petition, this Court has to consider the provisions of the Special Acts namely the Domestic Violence Act, Family Courts Act and also the Code of Criminal Procedure for the purpose of forming an opinion.

Domestic Violence Act

Provisions of the ‘DV Act’ are unambiguous that an application is entertainable before the Judicial Magistrate Class I or the Metropolitan Magistrate as the case may be for seeking one or more reliefs under the Act.

Proceedings under the ‘DV Act’ are regulated under the Code of Criminal Procedure as contemplated under Section 28 of the ‘DV Act’. Thus, a complaint registered under Section 12 of the DV Act is criminal proceedings on the criminal side of the judiciary and accordingly the said proceedings are to be regulated under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Generalia Specialibus non derogant (when there is a conflict, general and special provision, the later will prevail)

It is to be held that Special Act will prevail over the General Laws.

Therefore, when a Special enactment is in force to deal with certain specific offences, in the present context, Domestic Violence Act, then the other general laws cannot have any application and all such Domestic Violence’s are to be tried by following the procedures as contemplated under the Special Enactment and this being the legal principles, the application under

Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act cannot be construed as a civil natured proceeding.

Family Courts Act, 1984

Applications which are all filed seeking maintenance for wife, children and parents alone shall be tried by exercising the powers conferred under Section 7(2)(a) of the Family Courts Act, 1984. Hence, with regard to the jurisdiction as contemplated under the DV Act, the Family Courts/Civil Courts are not having jurisdiction to deal with certain offences defined under the provisions of the DV Act.

Criminal Procedure Code

Section 407 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides Power of High Court to transfer cases and appeals.

 Hence, the High Court is empowered to transfer the case from one Court to another Court as the case may be as contemplated under the provisions of Section 407 of the CrPC.

Civil Procedure Code

Under Section 24 of CPC, Civil Proceedings can be transferred from one Civil Court to another Civil Court.

 However, Criminal Proceedings cannot be transferred from one Criminal Court to a Civil Court/Family Court.

Article 227 of the Constitution of India

In the Supreme Court decision of Shalini Shyam Shetty v. Rajendra Shankar Patil, (2010) 8 SCC 329, there was an elaborate consideration of High Court’s Power of Superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution.

Power of High Court

High Court’s power under Article 227 to be plenary and unfettered but at the same time, the High Court should be cautious in its exercise.

“…in cases, where the High Court exercise its jurisdiction under Article 227, such exercise is entirely discretionary and no person can claiming it as as a matter of right.”

Jurisdiction of superintendence under Article 227 is for both administrative and judicial superintendence. Therefore, the powers conferred under Articles 226 and 227 are separate and distinct and operate in different fields. Jurisdiction under Article 227 is exercised by the High Court for the vindication of its position as the highest judicial authority in the State

Scope of the power under Article 227 of the Constitution cannot be exercised overriding the provisions of the Special Enactments, wherein the specific reliefs are provided for redressal.

Thus, the proceedings instituted under the Family Courts Act before the Family Courts are to be regulated in accordance with the provisions as contemplated.

Equally, an application filed under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act is to be regulated under the provisions of the ‘DV Act’ and the application registered under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act is a criminal proceedings and the entire provisions of the ‘DV Act’ unambiguously portrays that the nature of proceedings are under criminal law. The procedures as contemplated under the Criminal Procedure Code is to be followed for trial of the cases under the ‘DV Act’.

Thus, there is no reason to form an opinion that application filed under the ‘DV Act’ is a “Civil natured proceeding”.

Bench added that when the scope of Article 227 does not permit the High Court to entertain a transfer petition to transfer a criminal case to a Civil Court or a Civil case to a Criminal Court, then conversion of such power under Article 227 for transfer of cases is certainly beyond the scope of the principles settled by Supreme Court decisions.

Transfer not Traceable

The power of transfer conferred under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure are expected to be exercised by the High Courts and such power of transfer is not traceable under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

Multiple options are provided under the special enactments, facilitating the aggrieved women to redress their grievances which are to be dealt in accordance with the provisions of such enactments and speedy disposal being the paramount importance, Courts are bound to ensure all such cases, affecting women must be disposed of at the earliest possible.

Proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act

Further, the Court added to its elaborative analysis that the initiation of proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act with reference to the bodily injuries contemplated under the provisions of the Act, are Criminal acts and therefore, the Domestic Violence proceedings are criminal in nature and to be tried by the competent Judicial Magistrate.

Offences/Bodily Injuries as contemplated under the DV Act are against the society at large and therefore, the proceedings are criminal and competent criminal Court of Law is empowered to try those cases.

In view of the above discussion, Court concluded that criminal proceedings instituted under the Domestic Violence Act cannot be converted as Civil proceedings nor construed as proceedings of civil nature, so as to transfer such criminal proceedings before the Civil Court or Family Court by exercising the supervisory powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

Therefore, any transfer petition, if at all filed to transfer a case registered under the Domestic Violence Act must be entertained only under the Code of Criminal Procedure and certainly not by invoking power under Article 227.

On transferring the DV Act proceedings to Family Court, the appropriate reliefs are depraved.

Hence, the objections regarding the maintainability of the transfer petition raised by the Registry, High Court of Madras, is perfectly in consonance with provisions of law and said objections stands confirmed. [P. Arun Prakash v. S. Sudhamary, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1954, decided on 01-04-2021]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee, CJ and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, J., addressed a few pertinent issues with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“…the State of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry have been able to manage the second surge of the pandemic and the worst, it is hoped, is over.” 

It was noted that there has been a slight fall in the number of COVID positive cases in the State of Tamil Nadu and UT of Puducherry, though the number of deaths has gone up in comparison to other States, the numbers are lowest in this State.

Oxygen Supply and Cyclone ‘Yaas’ 

It has also been stated that there is no clamouring for Oxygen, though the State apprehended that the 146 MT of daily oxygen from the eastern corridor is not being fully delivered on a regular basis as the same may be completely disrupted if the severe cyclone Yaas hits the east coast.

As per the State’s Health Secretary’s affidavit, Maharashtra has agreed to supply 20 MT of Oxygen and there is a hope that Centre has an alternative plan to ensure the supply of daily 519 MT of Oxygen to the State as allocated.

To the above concern, Additional Solicitor General assured the Court that the possible disruption due to the cyclone has been taken into consideration and the alternative arrangements may be indicated.

Beds in Hospitals

It has been noted that in private hospitals, rich and influential people are able to book a bed or an oxygenated bed without the patient in being need for the same, due to which the less fortunate are being denied beds, as beds in government hospitals appear to be all filled up.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Centre’s affidavit indicates the augmentation of the production of various manufacturing units. ASG informed the Court that as per the plan put in place by the Centre, 216 crore doses of vaccine should be available by the end of the year for all Indians to be fully vaccinated.

Awareness campaigns and like measures need to be undertaken to educate the citizens, particularly in the rural areas, to step forward and take the vaccine.

Superstitions and archaic beliefs practised in some communities stand in the way of scientific measures being implemented and there continues to be a resistance to accepting vaccination in certain sections of the society. Both the Centre and the State should take appropriate measures to allay the misgivings that may be harboured in such regard.

 Mucormycosis in the State

Mucormycosis cases are being subjected to a short supply of required drugs. To this, Centre has indicated that measures have been put in place to manufacture the drugs immediately and in bulk upon reducing the quantum of production of other medicines for the moment.

future allocation of vaccines for Tamil Nadu appears to be somewhat disappointing. 

Further, intervenors have suggested the prioritizing of personnel, delivering food, remaining healthcare workers, and even advocates and Judges who come into contact with litigants who should be vaccinated first when the vaccines supply in adequate.

Matters pertaining to COVID-19 shall appear next on May 27th, 2021 unless there is any urgency. [Suo Motu  v. Union Government of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1956, decided on 24-05-2021]