Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT): A Division Bench of Justice L. Narasimha Reddy (Chairman) and A.K. Bishnoi (Administrative Member) took Suo Motu cognizance of the behaviour of an Advocate who made attempts to hoodwink the tribunal.

Background

Sanjiv Chaturvedi an IFS officer of Uttarakhand Cadre was on deputation to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi for some period who filed different Applications with regard to recording of ACRs and was represented by Mehmood Paracha, Advocate.

On completion of his deputation, he was repatriated to his parent cadre.

Advocate stated that the Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by the AIIMS, by imposing the cost of Rs 25,000. He was also informed that the adjudication before the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court was only about the power of the Chairman under Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 to stay the proceedings while dealing with an application for transfer and that issue no longer subsists, with the adjudication by the Courts.

Sanjiv Chaturvedi was flamboyant in his approach and was in fact exhibiting triumphalism in getting the order of stay passed in the transfer petition, set aside.

Adjournment | Contempt of Court

Further, the applicant i.e. Sanjiv Chaturvedi was also informed that he can argue the PTs themselves so that the issue can be given a quietus. That did not appeal to him and he went on almost browbeating the Chairman and trying to explain as to how the Tribunal should function.

At that stage, he was informed that his conduct before the Tribunal touched the border of the Contempt of Court and it is for him to choose the course of action. Thereupon, he sought adjournment.

Counsel for the respondent, Mehmood Pracha, stated that the Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by the AIIMS. Taking note of the said fact, he was asked to proceed with the PTs and advance the arguments which did not appeal to him.

Humiliation

Instead, Counsel Mehmood Parcha who is the respondent in the present matter, started humiliating the other side’s counsel saying that the Supreme Court has shown them their place by the imposition of Rs 25,000 costs and hence they have no right to plead before the Tribunal.

Browbeating the Chairman | Personal attack on Chairman

He created an unfortunate situation in the Court and was browbeating the Chairman through his gestures and dramatics. Seeing that his provocation was not yielding the expected results, Advocate went on to make a personal attack on the Chairman.

Further, he went on to say that he has a lot to be said about the Chairman and the proceedings should be held in camera.

Scandalising the Chairman

He was informed that he can say in the open Court whatever he intends and if that is not done, it would amount to scandalizing the Chairman. His behaviour continued in the same manner and he did not reveal anything.

The Court was full of Advocates of different standings and repeated requests were made by them to pacify the respondent but nothing affected him.

Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act

It was also informed that the PTs are heard only the Chairman under Section 25 of the Act and if he i.e. the Advocate has any other suggestion, he could make it.

Yet, he continued his tirade.

In view of the above occurrence, Advocate was sent a notice requiring him to explain as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.

Delhi High Court took up the matter of contempt and referring to the Supreme Court decision in T. Sudhakar Prasad v. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2001) 1 SCC 516, and held that the tribunal alone has jurisdiction to hear and decide the contempt case.

The Supreme Court affirmed order in the contempt matter by rejecting SLP (Crl) No. 7850 of 2019 after the draft charge as provided by the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992 were framed on 19-07-2019 on the basis of the remarks and statements made by the respondent herein, in his capacity as an Advocate.

The respondent filed MA. No. 2471/2019 with three prayers viz., (i) to decide certain MAs filed in PT. No. 288/2017; (ii) to decide whether the Chairman has jurisdiction to hear the contempt case; and (iii) to pass orders in respect of draft charge dated 19-07-2019. The MAs were disposed of on 02-08-2019.

Vikramjit Banerjee, Additional Solicitor General appeared to assist the Tribunal.

Decision

Tribunal expressed that the matter falls under Rule 13(b) of the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992.

Criminal Contempt

Solicitor General, Vikramjit Banerjee, stated that even where an Advocate becomes emotional, during the course of hearing, there is a method of setting the things right and persistent behaviour of challenging the very authority of the Tribunal or attempting to denigrate the Chairman would clearly amount to criminal contempt.

To the suggestion made by the learned Additional Solicitor General that the matter can be given a quietus in case the respondent expresses regrets, the latter stated that he will stand by whatever he said in the Tribunal and during the course of proceedings and that there is no question of expressing regrets.

It is not uncommon that a party or his counsel whose view point is not being accepted by the Court gets agitated. Howsoever strong such feeling may be, they have to stop at a particular stage, even while making effort to drive home, their point.

Upholding the dignity of the Institution

Attacking an adjudicator or attributing motives would cut at the very root of the system.

Once the dignity and status of the Institution are compromised, it loses its relevance. The concept of Contempt of Court is evolved inter alia to protect the dignity of the Institution.

Further, the bench stated that in all respects, result in the PTs was poised in favour of the applicant himself. However, what is discerned from the beginning is that his effort was to exhibit the IFS Officer’s personality than to get the relief in accordance with the law.

Tone & Tenor of pleas

The tone and tenor of the pleas are such that the target was certainly highly placed officers and authorities. In an application for transfer, all the above-stated was totally irrelevant.

The matter reached its pinnacle when in the Open Court counsel said that the proceedings be heard in the Chamber because he has to say something about the Chairman.

Though when he was asked to say whatever he wanted to in the Open Court, he went beating around the bush and did not spell out anything.

Hoodwinked the Tribunal

Counsel and his client have hoodwinked the Tribunal at every stage and in all possible manners.

Soon after the contempt notice was issued, a contempt case was filed against the Chairman, in the Uttarakhand High Court. A Single Judge bench entertaining it issued notice. The Supreme Court stayed it.

Tribunal noted that, the attempt in the present case made to add to the personality of the applicant and his counsel and for that purpose, Tribunal became an easy target.

Further, the bench stated that it may take decades of dedicated service for an officer to be recognised for his efficiency or honesty.

For a hardworking Advocate, it would take quite some time to get recognition or fame. Unfortunately, recourse is taken by some, to short cuts, without realising that the one who prefers short cuts is bound to be cut short.The only unfortunate part of it is that severe damage is done to the Institutions, in the meanwhile

In view of the above, the tribunal held the counsel i.e. respondent herein to be guilty of Contempt of Court under Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

However, there would have been every justification for the tribunal, to impose the sentence, proportionate to the acts of contempt held proved against the respondent.

However, by treating this as a first instance, he has been let off with a severe warning to the effect that if he repeats such acts in future in the Tribunal, the finding that he is guilty of Contempt of Court, in this case, shall be treated as one of the factors in the proceedings, if any, that may ensue. [Tribunal on its own motion v. Mehmood Pracha, Cr. CP No. 290 of 2019, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has extended the the tenure of the Chairman and the members of TDSAT for 3 months after Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted before it that  the tenure of the Chairman of TDSAT be extended for some period to enable the entire process of selection and appointment be completed.

The order of the Court reads,

“the tenure of the Chairman and the members of TDSAT be extended for a period of three months during which period the entire process of appointment of the Chairman and members be completed.”

The Court also asked the Government to take appropriate decision with regard to selection and appointment before the next date of hearing after National Disputes Redressal Commission submitted that the Selection and Search Committee has already made recommendation for judicial and non judicial members of National Disputes Redressal Commission on 24th June, 2020 which is pending consideration with the Government.

The Court has listed the matter on August 26, 2020.

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Shiva Kirti Singh is the Chairman of TDSAT. His tenure is coming to end on 20th July, 2020 and the tenure of members have already come to an end.

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, NCLAT has restored Cyrus Mistry as the Executive Chairman of Tata Sons and held the appointment of N Chandrasekaran as illegal.

Resolution by Tata Sons board removing Mistry was illegal. The appellate tribunal also set aside the change of Tata Sons from public to private company.

Mistry had approached the appellate tribunal against the decision of NCLT, Mumbai, which had dismissed the challenge to his removal as executive chairman of Tata Sons.

[DETAILED ORDER FOR THE SAME WILL BE UPDATED SOON]

To get an overview of the above story please follow the below links:

No restriction on conversion of Tata Sons to private limited company; was a hybrid company all along: NCLAT

No merit in Cyrus Mistry’s petition against removal as Chairman (TATA Sons): NCLT

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

S.O. 1369(E)— In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 4 of the Life Insurance Corporation of India Act, 1956 (31 of 1956), the Central Government hereby appoints Shri M.R. Kumar, Zonal Manager (In-charge), North Zone, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Delhi as Chairman, Life Insurance Corporation of India in the pay scale of Rs. 2,25,000/- (fixed), for a period of five years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post on or after the date of vacancy, or upto the date of his superannuation, or until further orders, whichever is the earliest.

[F. No. A-15011/02/2018-Ins.-I (1)]

Notification Dated: 14-03-2019

Ministry of Finance

Appointments & TransfersNews

S.O.1299(E)— In accordance of the Notification dated 21-02-2019 regarding constituting a Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities, as published in the Gazette of India Extraordinary Part-II, Section-3, Sub-Section (ii), the Central Government hereby appoints the following persons for the posts of Chairman and Members with effect from the date of assumption of charge by them:-

(1) Sh. Bhiku Ramji Idate: Chairman
(2) Ms. Mittal Patel: Member
(3) Sh. Otaram Dewasi: Member

The tenure of the aforesaid Chairman and the Members shall be three years from the date of assumption of charge by them.

[F. No. 16014/04/2018-BC-III]

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the scope of the powers of the Chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Bench of R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ said:

“The Chairman, like the Chief Justice of the Higher Courts or the Chief Judge of subordinate courts, may be higher in order of protocol and may have additional administrative duties and responsibilities. However, the Chairman, acting judicially, is equal to any other Member.”

In the case at hand, the CAT Chairman had stayed the proceedings pending before a Division Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court. The High Court had, hence, quashed the said order by the CAT Chairman.

Going through the provisions of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the Court noticed:

“A careful reading of Section 25 of the Act makes it clear that the Chairman deciding the question of whether a matter should be transferred from one Bench to another cannot grant interim stay of proceedings, there being no power conferred on the Chairman under the said section to pass such interim stay.”

It further elaborated on the scope of the powers of the CAT Chairman by stating that the Chairman may constitute Benches, shift members from one Bench to another, constitute Single Benches, Division Benches and even larger Benches, allocate business to the Benches and even transfer cases from one Bench to the other,

“but having done so he cannot interfere with the functioning of the Benches or tinker with its orders by passing interim orders in a transfer petition.”

Stating that an interim order passed by a court, on consideration of the prima facie case made out by an applicant, should ordinarily have been vacated by a Bench of coordinate strength after giving open notice to the applicant, the bench said:

“If the Chairman was of the considered opinion that there was urgency in the application for vacating the interim order, the Chairman ought to have assigned the application for vacating and/or vacation of the interim order to a Bench of two or more Members to consider whether the interim order should continue or be vacated. The Chairman could also have exercised his power to suo motu transfer the proceedings to another Bench without prior notice. The order of stay of the proceedings before the Nainital Bench is without jurisdiction and unsustainable in law.”

The Court upheld the decision of the High Court and held that the order of the Chairman of CAT staying proceedings before the two-member Bench was without jurisdiction and unsustainable in law as the CAT Chairman, being one amongst equals, could not have stayed proceedings pending before a larger Bench. [All India Institute of Medical Sciences v. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 118, decided on 01.02.2019]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Shri S. Ramesh, IRS (C&CE:1981) has taken over as Chairman, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs [CBIC], on superannuation of Smt. Vanaja N. Sarna today . Prior to his elevation, he was Member (Administration) in the Board.  Shri S. Ramesh began his career in Mumbai as Asst Commissioner, Central Excise and thereafter in Mumbai Customs. He has worked in various capacities in Hyderabad, Nagpur, Chennai, Trichy etc. He was the Chief Commissioner, Chennai Customs Zone from 2013 to 2016. Thereafter, he took over as Director General, Systems & Data Management. He joined the Board in September, 2016 as Member (IT, Central Excise & Service Tax).

Ministry of Finance

Appointments & TransfersNews

In an immediate follow up action of last week’s Cabinet approval for creation of the posts of Chairman and Technical Members of the National Anti-profiteering Authority under GST, the Government issued orders appointing senior IAS officer Shri B.N. Sharma, as the first Chairman of this apex Authority in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

Shri B.N. Sharma, an IAS officer of 1985 batch belonging to Rajasthan cadre, is currently posted as Additional Secretary in the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. Shri B.N. Sharma has been closely associated with the formulation of GST and its implementation. He has also worked as Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Power and prior to that, in the Commercial Taxes Department in the State of Rajasthan. As its first Chairman, Shri B.N. Sharma is expected to give a direction to the Authority in boosting the confidence of consumers that GST is a ”Good and Simple Tax” in the overall national interest.

Shri B.N. Sharma would be assisted by four senior officials of the rank of Joint Secretary and above, who have been appointed as Technical Members in the Authority. These officials are Shri J.C. Chauhan, Chairman Tax Tribunal, Himachal Pradesh; Shri Bijay Kumar, Principal Commissioner GST, Kolkata; Shri C.L. Mahar, Principal Commissioner GST, Meerut; and Ms. R. Bhagyadevi, ADG, Systems, Chennai.

The appointment orders of Shri B.N. Sharma as Chairman and of the other officials as Technical Members of the Authority were issued on the recommendation of a high level Selection Committee headed by Shri P.K. Sinha, Cabinet Secretary. Revenue Secretary, Chairman, CBEC and Chief Secretaries of States of Maharashtra and Tamilnadu were the other members of the Selection Committee.

The Authority has been set up for a two-year period, which would begin from the date Shri B.N. Sharma assumes charge as Chairman. The Authority is mandated to ensure that the benefits of input credit and the reduction in GST rates on specified goods or services are passed on to the consumers by way of a commensurate reduction in prices. With the Chairman and Technical Members now having been appointed, the Authority becomes functional thereby reassuring consumers of Governments’ commitment that GST would result in lower prices of goods and services.

It may be recalled that in almost every meeting, the GST Council has been engaged in rationalizing and reducing the GST rates on a wide spectrum of goods and services. The last and indeed the most significant reduction took place from midnight of 14 November, 2017 when the GST rate were slashed from 28% to 18% on goods falling under 178 headings. This now leaves only 50 items which attract the highest GST rate of 28%. Likewise, a large number of items witnessed a reduction in GST rates from 18% to 12% and so on with some goods being completely exempt from GST.

In addition to the Authority, the institutional mechanism for effective implementation of the “anti-profiteering” measures enshrined in the GST rules consists of a Standing Committee, State level Screening Committees and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).

Consumers who are aggrieved that there has been no commensurate reduction in prices may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the State. After forming a prima facie view on the substance of the application, the matter would be referred to a Standing Committee at the Centre. The Standing Committee shall, in turn, ask the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC to carry out detailed investigation. The Director General of Safeguards shall report its findings to the Authority. The Screening Committee is expected to look into complaints of local nature while the Standing Committee would ordinarily enquire into cases of mass impact with All India ramification.

Once the Authority confirms there is justification to apply anti-profiteering measures, it has the authority to order the business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed along with interest @18% to the consumers of the goods or services. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the consumers, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund. The Authority also has the power to impose penalty on the defaulting business or even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.

The Authority shall function from the Jeevan Bharti Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi. The secretariat for the Authority shall be as follows:

Directorate General of Safeguards,

2nd Floor, Bhai Veer Singh Sahitya Sadan,

Bhai Veer Singh Marg, Gole Market,

New Delhi: 110001.

Email: anti-profiteering@gov.in

Tel.: 011-23741537

Ministry of Finance