Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: K. Murali Shankar, J., addressed the issue with regard to payment of maintenance, whether from the date of application or date of order.

Factual Matrix

In the present matter, the second respondent is the mother and respondents 3 and 4, brothers of the first respondent who had married the petitioner. After a while misunderstandings arose between the petitioner and first respondent due to which they started living separately.

Petitioner had filed a maintenance case earlier and the Magistrate passed an order directing the first respondent to pay monthly maintenance at Rs 5,000 per month to the petitioner and her minor children.

Petitioner’s case

Petitioner stated that in order to avoid the payment of maintenance, respondents conspired and took the petitioner and her children to Chennai so as to resume their cohabitation. In the period of two months that the petitioner lived with first respondent, she was harassed and tortured physically and mentally and the petitioner was forcefully sent out of the matrimonial home by forcibly retaining the minor children.

In view of the above petitioner invoked the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic violence Act, 2005.

Trial Court passed impugned order, wherein first respondent was directed to pay the maintenance of Rs 5,000. On not being satisfied with the maintenance amount also the order of the trial court directing the first respondent to pay maintenance from the date of the order, petitioner/wife came forward with the present revision.

Analysis

Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 does not provide the date from which the maintenance to be awarded and there is no provisions in the Hindu Adoption and Marriage Act with respect to the date from which the maintenance order may be made effective. But, at the same time, Section 125(2) CrPC, contemplates that the Magistrate may award maintenance either from the date of order or from the date of application.

 In the Supreme Court decision of Jaiminiben Hirenbhai Vyas v. Hirenbhai Rameshchandras Vyas, (2015) 2 SCC 385, it was held that Section 125 CrPC, impliedly requires the Court to consider making the order for maintenance effective from either of the two dates, having regard to the relevant facts.

It is neither appropriate nor desirable that a Court simply states that maintenance should be paid from either the date of order or the date of the application in matters of maintenance.

As per Section 354(6) of the CrPC, the Court should record reasons in support of the order passed by it, in both eventualities and that the purpose of the provision is to prevent vagrancy and destitution in society and the Court must apply its mind to the options having regard to the facts of the particular case.

Supreme Court in its decision of Rajnesh v. Neha,2020 SCC OnLine SC 903, after analyzing the provisions in various enactment of the Judgments of the appeal and considering the divergent views taken by the various Courts issued necessary direction to bring about the uniformity in the orders passed by all the Courts.

Right to claim maintenance must date back to the date of filing of the application, since the period during which maintenance proceedings remained pending is not within the control of the applicant. Considering the above, the Supreme Court categorically directed that all the Courts award maintenance from the date of application.

 Conclusion

In the present matter, the petitioner had filed the case in the year 2014 and the impugned order was passed on 11-07-2017.

In view of the above discussion, Court held that it has no hesitation to hold that the impugned order granting maintenance from the date of order is liable to be set aside and the petitioner would be entitled to get maintenance from the date of application.

Hence, criminal revision case was partly allowed. [Mohamed Nisha Banu v. Mohamed Rafi, Crl. RC (MD) No. 701 of 2017, decided on 17-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared for the parties:

For petitioner : S.M. Jinnah

For Respondent: No appearance

Appointments & TransfersNews

Appointment of Judges

President appoints S/Shri (i) Murali Purushothaman (ii) Ziyad Rahman Alevakkatt Abdul Rahiman (iii) Karunakaran Babu and (iv) Dr. Kauser Edappagath, to be Additional Judges of the Kerala High Court.

Read more about Judges:

Murali P., LL.B., was enrolled as an Advocate on 09.03.1991. He has 28 years of experience, practicing in High Court of Kerala from 11.03.1991 to 16.07.2019 in Election Law, Family Law, Labour Law, Cooperative Society Law, Contract Law, Constitutional Law and Service Law. He has specialisation in Election and Service Law. He was Standing Counsel for the State Election Commission, Delimitation  Commission of Kerala, Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee for Self Financing Professional Colleges and as Government Pleader in the High Court of Kerala in 2001.

Ziyad Rahman A.A, BA, LL.B., has 22 years of experience, practicing in the High Court of Kerala and also appeared before in Subordinate Courts, Tribunals in Constitutional, Civil, Land Laws, Electricity Criminal, Banking, Motor Vehicles, Insurance, Labour, Company, Consumer, Administration, Municipality, Taxation, Rent Control law matters and has specialisation in Electricity Laws, Motor Vehicle Laws, Insurance Act, Employees Compensation Act, Constitutional matters.

Shri K. Babu, M.A (Economics), LL.B, LL.M., joined Judicial Service on 21.05.2009 as Additional District Judge-I and he served in various capacities at different places as a Judicial Officer. Presently, he is serving as Principal District Judge, Thiruvanthapuram in addition appointed as Chairman of the Administrative Committee of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple by the Hon ‘ble Supreme Court of India w.e.f. 19.11.2018.

Dr. Kauser Edappagath, BA (Law), LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D., joined Judicial Service on 21.05.2009 as Additional District and Sessions Judge and he served in various capacities at different places as a Judicial Officer. Presently, he is serving as Principal District and Sessions Judge/ State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Ernakulum since 08.01.2018.

Link to the notification: Order of Appointment


Ministry of Law and Justice

[Notification dt. 22-02-2021]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Four Additional Judges elevated as Judges in Karnataka High Court

President appoints S/Shri Justices (1) Singapuram Raghavachar Krishna Kumar (2) Ashok Subhashchandra Kinagi (3) Suraj Govindaraj and (4) Sachin Shankar Magadum, Additional Judges of the Karnataka High Court, to be Judges of the Karnataka High Court.

Read more about the Judges:

Shri Justice Singapuram Raghavachar Krishna Kumar, B.A.L., LL.B, was enrolled as an Advocate on 29.08.1992. Since then he has practiced in Karnataka High Court and Subordinate Courts at Bangalore in civil, constitutional, matrimonial, company, consumer disputes and arbitration matters. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court for a period of two years with effect from 23 rd September, 2019. His term as an Additional Judge will expire on 22.09,2021.

Shri Justice Ashok Subhash Chandra Kinagi, B.Sc., LL.B., was enrolled as Advocate on 02.06.1995. He practiced in Karnataka High Court in civil, labour, service and constitutional matters. He was appointed as Central Government Standing Counsel during 2008 2012. He also worked as part time Lecturer in a Law College from July 1997 to March 2006. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court for a period of two years with effect from 23rd September, 2019. His term as an Additional Judge will expire on 22.09.2021.

Shri Justice Govindaraj Suraj, B.A., LL.B., was enrolled as Advocate on 23.06.1995. He practiced in civil, constitutional, company and arbitration matters in Karnataka High Court, various High Courts, Tribunals and Supreme Court and before various Tribunals. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court for a period of two years with effect from 23 rd September, 2019. His term as an Additional Judge will expire on 22.09.2021.

Shri Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, B.Sc., LL.B., has practiced in Karnataka High Court at Bangalore and at Dharwad Bench in civil, criminal, constitutional, service and matrimonial matters. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court for a period of two years with effect from 23 rd September, 2019. His term as an Additional Judge will expire on 22.09.2021.

Link to the Notification: Order of Appointment


Ministry of Law and Justice

[Notification dt. 22-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Jyotsna Rewal Dua J., dismissed the petition being non-maintainable.

The petitioner by way of this instant petition has challenged the election of Respondent 5 as Member, Block Development Committee, Misserwala, District Sirmour in the elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions of the State concluded in January 2021. The writ petition has been filed seeking that the respondent election commission may be directed to start the fresh election and declare the election under challenge as null and void.

The issue before the High Court is the maintainability of writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India vis-à-vis Article 243-O of the Constitution of India in respect of limitation in exercise of judicial review by the Court in election matters.

Section 162 of the H.P. Panchayati Raj Act provides that no election under the Act shall be called in question except by an election petition presented in accordance with the provisions of the chapter and Section 175 of the Act enumerates the grounds for declaring election to be void.

The Court stated

 “We are also conscious of the limitations set forth on such exercise of judicial review in view of bar of jurisdiction imposed by Article 243-O of the Constitution of India, which is quoted hereinbelow:-

“243-O. Bar to interference by Courts in electoral matters- Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution-

(a) the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies made or purporting to be made under article 243K, shall not be called in question in any court;

(b) no election to any Panchayat shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as is provided for by or under any Law made by the Legislature of a State.”

 The Court further relied on judgment Laxmibai v. Collector, Nanded, (2020) 12 SCC 186 wherein it was observed the maintainability of writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India vis-a-vis Article 243-O of the Constitution of India in respect of limitation in exercise of judicial review by the Court in election matters, it was held that all election disputes must be determined only by way of an election petition. This by itself may not per-se bar judicial review, which is the basic structure of the Constitution but ordinarily, such jurisdiction would not be exercised. The relevant paragraphs of the judgment are extracted hereinafter:

 “15. It is true that the High Court exercises a plenary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Such jurisdiction being discretionary in nature may not be exercised inter alia keeping in view of the fact that an efficacious alternative remedy is available therefor. (See Mrs.

  1. Article 243-O of the Constitution of India mandates that all election disputes must be determined only by way of an election petition. This by itself may not per se bar judicial review which is the basic structure of the Constitution, but ordinarily such jurisdiction would not be exercised. There may be some cases where a writ petition would be entertained but in this case we are not concerned with the said question.
  2. ….a writ petition should not be entertained when the main question which fell for decision before the High Court was non-compliance of the provisions of the Act which was one of the grounds for an election petition in terms Rule 12 framed under the Act.”
  3. Section 10A of the 1959 Act and Section 9A of the 1961 Act read with Articles 243-K and 243-O, are pari material with Article 324 of the Constitution of India. In view of the judgments referred, we find that the remedy of an aggrieved person accepting or rejecting nomination of a candidate is by way of an election petition in view of the bar created under Section 15A of the 1959 Act. The said Act is a complete code providing machinery for redressal to the grievances pertaining to election as contained in Section 15 of the 1959 Act. The High Court though exercises extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India but such jurisdiction is discretionary in nature and may not be exercised in view of the fact that an efficacious alternative remedy is available and more so exercise restraint in terms of Article 243-O of the Constitution of India. Once alternate machinery is provided by the statute, the recourse to writ jurisdiction is not an appropriate remedy. It is a prudent discretion to be exercised by the High Court not to interfere in the election matters, especially after declaration of the results of the elections but relegate the parties to the remedy contemplated by the statute. In view of the above, the writ petition should not have been entertained by the High Court. However, the order of the High Court that the appellant has not furnished the election expenses incurred on the date of election does not warrant any interference.”

 The Court thus held that “the instant writ petition is not maintainable at all and the same is accordingly dismissed with liberty reserved to the petitioner to avail appropriate alternate remedy in accordance with law.” [Kauser v. State Election Commission,  2021 SCC OnLine HP 227, decided on 08-02-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: H. S. Thangkhiew J., dismissed the writ petition being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner herein is the eldest son of the deceased employee who expired when the petitioner was still a minor aged 11(eleven) years old. The petitioner on attaining majority applied for appointment on compassionate ground in the year 2009, and it was only in 2013 that the petitioner was informed vide letter dated 21.03.2013 by the respondent 2 that he was placed at Sl. No. 19 in the list for consideration for appointment on compassionate ground. It was further informed by letter dated 10.11.2014 that after review by the Compassionate Appointment Committee, the petitioner was placed at Sl. No. 37, and thereafter down the year so much so that the petitioner is now placed at 10.1 and it is the norm that a person whose indigent index is less than 10 (points) is no longer considered eligible for appointment. Hence the petitioner herein has preferred this application before this Court on the grievance that his application for appointment on compassionate ground has not been duly considered and that he has been deprived of the same due to the arbitrary acts of the respondents.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the respondents have acted arbitrarily and delayed his case which has resulted in his low indigent index ranking and the respondents have not complied with the prescribed Scheme contained in the Office Memorandum dated 09-10-1998 issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pension (Department Personnel & Training), for consideration of appointment which has resulted in the deprivation of the petitioner of gainful employment.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the writ petition is hopelessly barred by delay and laches, inasmuch as, the deceased employee had expired in 2003, the application for compassionate appointment was only made in 2009, i.e. 6(six) years after the death of the employee, and that the petitioner has come to Court only on July, 2017. It was further submitted that this delay defeats the very purpose of compassionate appointment which had been formulated to provide immediate succor to the family of the bereaved to tide over the crisis caused due to the death of an employee.

The Court relied on judgment Umesh Kumar Nagpal v. State of Haryana, (1994) 4 SCC 138, wherein it was held:

“2…. The whole object of granting compassionate employment is thus to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis. The object is not to give a member of such family a post much less a post for post held by the deceased. What is further, mere death of an employee in harness does not entitle his family to such source of livelihood. The Government or the public authority concerned has to examine the financial condition of the family of the deceased, and it is only if it is satisfied, that but for the provision of employment, the family will not be able to meet the crisis that a job is to be offered to the eligible member of the family. The posts in Classes III and IV are the lowest posts in non-manual and manual categories and hence they alone can be offered on compassionate grounds, the object being to relieve the family, of the financial destitution and to help it get over the emergency”

 “6.For these very reasons, the compassionate employment cannot be granted after a lapse of a reasonable period which must be specified in the rules. The consideration for such employment is not a vested right which can be exercised at any time in future. The object being to enable the family to get over the financial crisis which it faces at the time of the death of the sole breadwinner, the compassionate employment cannot be claimed and offered whatever the lapse of time and after the crisis is over.”

The Court thus observed that the object of compassionate appointment which is an exception to Article 16 (1) of Constitution of India and as has been reiterated by a catena of judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, is to address the immediacy of the need and it is not meant to entertain stale claims. A scheme for the grant of compassionate appointment does not constitute a reservation of a post in favour of a member of the family of the deceased employee, and there is no general right which can accrue to the effect that a member of the family who was a minor at the time of death would be entitled to claim compassionate appointment upon attaining majority.

The Court thus held “no case has been made out by the petitioner for issuance of any direction or for any interference by this Court. Further, no discernable grounds have been made out to show that there was any failure on the part of the respondent No. 1 & 2 in complying with the Scheme for compassionate appointment, nor any materials placed on record to substantiate the allegations that there was any illegality or arbitrariness on the part of the respondents.”

In view of the above, writ petition was dismissed.[Dhaneswar Medhi v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Megh 15, decided on 03-02-2021]


Arunima bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Instant writ petition was registered suo motu, taking note of the menace of drug consumption and trade in State. The Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ., and A.M. Shaffique, J., observed the difficulties faced by Police officials while using “Abon Kits” to spot cases drug consumption. The Bench suggested,

“Efforts have to be taken to identify whether any ‘user-friendly’ device, at the same time ‘less expensive’, is available, and if so, to cause it to be procured and make the same available to the Police, Excise, and such other departments for extensive use.”

 Ramachandran, former District Police Chief, addressed a letter to Judges of High Court highlighting various aspects of drug abuse in Kerala. The letter had thrown light on increasing rate of crimes committed by youths under the influence of drugs and its alarming growth in children/students of both genders. Pursuant to the letter and observing that issues concerning rampant drug abuse were recently reported in the editorials of major newspapers, the Court had registered suo moto petition in the matter.

The Bench observed reports of various organizations on this matter. International journal of community medicine and public health had reported that 31.8% of Kerala youth abuse any one of the substances-alcohol, smoking, pan chewing, narcotics— irrespective of time and frequency in lifetime. Report of the State Special Branch,  suggested that around 400 institutions in the State were affected by drug abuse and out of the education institutions, 74.12% are schools,  20.89% are colleges and professional institutions, and 4.97% are other institutions viz., ITI, Polytechnics etc. The report of NCRB had noted that in 2017 Kerala’s incidence rate for NDPS cases (cases per lakh people) was 16.6 percent, second only to Punjab’s 20.2 per cent.

The report also revealed that a range of drugs from Ganja, Hashish to Synthetic Drugs were used by the student community. The report further revealed that in most of the cases detected in the college campuses, the seizure was below 1 kg of ganja, which was bailable, and this encourages a person to engage in drug abuse.

“Apart from the narcotic and synthetic drugs usage being rampant among the student community, inhaling of Noxious chemicals like whitener, ink, fevicol, varnish solution used for repairing tyre puncture, were being used by the students for getting intoxication.

Noticing that the above substances did not come under the purview of NDPS Act, no legal action could be initiated; the Bench suggested three main strategies for drug prevention:

  • Mass media campaigns to inform and warn the public of the dangers of drug use.
  • Educating children at school about drugs.
  • Efforts to raise awareness and change the attitude in targeted groups, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.

In Binu v. Union of India, 2011 SCC OnLine Ker 4151, this Court had expressed, nobody ha a right to expose the gullible population to the perils of drug abuse and push them into a condemned world of no return. The deleterious effects of these toxins on the human system have been scientifically proved.

Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances have a sure tendency to depersonalize those who consume them and reduce them to worthless freaks of nature. Some of these drugs are so potent that even the first dose produces addiction with a craving for excess. Adolescents constitute the first causality among the vulnerable sections.”

Considering the entire material on record, the Bench issued following directions be complied with strictly, in letter and spirit, in accordance with law, within a period of three months:

  1. State should to adopt a method of establishing Campus Police Units, to conduct regular checking inside educational institutions. Measures should also be taken to make it easier for the police personnel to enforce NDPS Act, 1985, in the educational institutions.
  2. State was also directed to convene a meeting of all the key officials from the Department of Home Affairs, Excise, Health, Law, Education and representative of State Mental Health authority, Department of Social Justice, and chalk out programmes, to ensure reduction in the incidence of Substance abuse among teenagers and youth and for the implementation of the suggestions made above.
  3. The Universities/Colleges/School authorities should be provided with guidelines as a charter of duties and responsibilities, to make the campuses of the educational institutions, drug free.
  4. Police officials should seek the services of Student Police Cadets, NCC, NSS etc., to tide over the situation that the students are unaware of the legal repercussions of the usage and trafficking of drugs, and the health and career hazards caused due to the usage of drugs.
  5. Police was also directed to introduce a special scheme to ensure that the premises of the educational institutions and Universities are drug free and should initiate steps to conduct anti-drug programmes in the institutions, propagate health awareness campaigns, and use the assistance of social media.
  6. Police Chief was further directed to establish counselling and rehabilitation mechanisms, to save the students who were already using drugs and addicts, and for that purpose, the co-operation of University authorities, affected students, and their parents be elicited.[Suo Motu v. State of Kerala,  2021 SCC OnLine Ker 665, decided on 10-02-2021]

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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Kameswar Rao, J., decided a petition wherein on the invocation of the arbitration clause, one of the parties appointed the sole arbitrator on its own.

The instant petition was filed under Section 11(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. Petitioner and the respondents entered into a lease deed in respect of the premises.

It has been stated that pursuant to the execution of the lease deed, petitioner started fulfilling the obligations on the assumption that the respondents will also do the same and disbursed an amount of Rs 3,32,000 to the respondents in order to expedite the refurbishment and up-gradation of the premises to make it at par with the petitioner’s benchmark.

Due to the pandemic, petitioner sought to invoke the force majeure clause in the Lease Deed.

Even after repeated communications and grant of time as sought by the respondents, the respondents failed to furnish the complete set of documents as mandated under Clause 11.2.1 of the Lease Deed.

While the above-stated breach was being cured, respondents suddenly and to complete shock and dismay of the petitioner issued a letter demanding a sum of money by misrepresenting the clauses of the Lease Deed.

Respondents invoked arbitration clause citing the existence of disputes under the lease deed and nominated a Retired Judge of this Court as the Sole Arbitrator.

 Issue for consideration:

Whether the appointment of the arbitrator was at variance with the stipulation in the contract and as such non-est for this Court to grant the relief to the petitioner by appointing a new arbitrator?

Decision

  1. DISPUTE RESOLUTION- Any dispute or controversy arising out of or in connection with the Deed or its performance, including the validity, interpretation or application hereof, shall to the extent possible be settled amicably by negotiation and discussion among the Parties within 30 (thirty) days as of the date requested by either Party. Failing which, either Party shall be at liberty to refer the matter to arbitration in accordance with the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The arbitral panel shall consist of a sole arbitrator appointed mutually by the Parties. Any arbitral award issued by such sole arbitrator shall be final and binding on the Parties. The language of the arbitration shall be English and seat of arbitration shall be Delhi.”

(Emphasis supplied )

As per the arbitration clause contained in the deed, the arbitrator has to be appointed mutually by both the parties. In the present case, sole arbitrator was appointed by the respondent but was not confirmed by the petitioner.

Respondents should have approached the Court under Section 11 of the Act seeking an appointment of an Arbitrator when the same has not been confirmed.

Hence, the appointment is declared to be non-est.

Bench relied upon the Supreme Court decision in Walter Bau Ag. v. MCGM (2015) 3 SCC 800 and Naveen Kandhai v. Jai Mahal Hotels (P) Ltd., Arb. P. 53 of 2017.

With regard to the significance of adherence to the procedure agreed upon by the parties to an arbitration agreement with regard mutual/common consent in appointing an arbitrator, Court relied upon the decision of Manish Chibber

 While allowing the petition, Justice S.P. Garg, a retired Judge of this Court was appointed as the sole arbitrator to adjudicate the disputes and differences between the parties arising out of the lease deed. [Oyo Hotels and Homes (P) Ltd. v. Rajan Tewari,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 446, decided on 09-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Jeevan Ballav Panda, Adv. with Satakshi Sood & Satish Padhi, Advs.

Respondents: Bobby Anand, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J., reversed the order of the lower court issuing summons against the accused in a case under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, holding that the lower courts fell in error while computing the period of limitation.

Factual Matrix

Petitioner had borrowed a sum of Rs 10 Lacs from respondent 2 who had lent the same vide two cheques amounting to Rs 5 lacs each. Further, it was stated that after approximately 3 years, respondent 2 approached petitioner for repayment of the loan amount, petitioner assured that he will return the entire amount and in order to discharge his part liability he issued a cheque amounting to Rs 10 lacs, which was dishonored with remarks “funds insufficient”.

Complainant stated that when the above-said was informed to the petitioner, he paid no heed to his complaint and thereafter, a legal demand notice was served upon him, yet petitioner failed to make payment, therefore a complaint was filed under Section 138 NI Act.

In view of the above complaint, summons were directed to be issued against the petitioner.

The above Order was challenged and the revisional court dismissed the said petition which has been challenged.

Contentions

Petitioners Counsel submitted that the Metropolitan Magistrate had no jurisdiction to take cognizance under Section 138 NI Act without that being accompanied by application under Section 142 (1) (b) NI Act for condoning the delay in filing the complaint.

Further, while taking cognizance of the complaint, Metropolitan Magistrate did not take note of the fact that the complaint was filed beyond the limitation period and did not rightly calculate the days and therefore, directed to issue summons to the petitioner was illegal and without jurisdiction.

Analysis and Decision

Bench referred to the decision of Supreme Court in Econ Antri Ltd. v. Rom Industries Ltd., (2014) 11 SCC 769, while deciding the issue of calculation of limitation period with regard to proviso (c) to Sections 138 and 142(b) of the NI Act.

Further, the Court added that the ratio of the decision in Saketh India Ltd. v. India Securities Limited, (1999) 3 SCC 1 has to be applied to the case in hand.

Crux in the instant case was that the 15 days period with regard to legal demand notice lapsed. In terms of Supreme Court decision in Saketh India Ltd. v. India Securities Limited,  (1999) 3 SCC 1 one day has to be excluded for counting the one month limitation period and therefore, excluding the day of 19-06-2019, the limitation period started from 20-06-2019 and the limitation period expired with the day in the succeeding month immediately preceding the day corresponding to the date upon which the period started.

Consequently, the limitation period in this case, which commenced on 20-06-2019, expired in the succeeding month on a day preceding the date of commencement i.e. 19-07-2019. Admittedly, the complaint, in this case, was instituted on 20-07-2019 i.e. 01 day after the limitation period had expired.

Hence, Bench held that both the courts below have fallen in error while computing the period of limitation. Moreover, at the time of filing, the complaint was not even accompanied by an application under Section 142(1) (b) NI Act for condoning the delay.

Adding to the above, Court stated that the Revisional Court erroneously took into consideration two different dates for service of demand notice while computing the limitation period.

Therefore, the lower courts orders were set aside. [Simranpal Singh Suri v. State,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 236, decided on 01-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: M.S. Oberoi, Siddharth Khattar and Gaurav Rohilla, Advocates

Respondents: Izhar Ahmed, Additional Public Prosecutor for respondent 1

Anil Kumar Dhupar, Advocate for respondent 2

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Narayan Singh Dhanik and Ramesh Chandra Khulbe, JJ., disposed of a writ petition while giving certain directions in the matter filed by an officer in the Higher Judicial Service of the State of Uttarakhand seeking a writ of certiorari to quash the orders dated 24-11-2020 and 9-1-2021.

The petitioner was appointed as the Civil Judge (Junior Division)/Judicial Magistrate, Ist Class in the State of Uttarakhand in September, 2003 and he had joined his duties on 23-9-2003. He was promoted in the High Judicial Cadre in the year 2011. When he was posted as Ist Additional District Judge, Haridwar, a complaint was lodged against him on 19-3-2018 for the incidents allegedly happened on 31-1-2018 and 2-2-2018. The petitioner was placed under suspension by the High Court vide its order dated 22-4-2018. A chargesheet was thereafter issued to him and a sitting Judge of this Court was appointed as Enquiry Officer to enquire into the charges levelled against the petitioner.

The Court noticed that the Presenting Officer did not admit the official documents which were issued on the administrative side by the District Judge, Haridwar. Same was the position regarding the e-mail which was sent by the delinquent officer to the official e-mail account of the Hon’ble High Court. The Enquiry Officer had rejected the said application on the ground that none of the documents, in question, had been filed by the delinquent officer. The Court mentioned that in the Supreme Court judgment of M.V. Bijlani v. Union of India, (2006) 5 SCC 88 it was held that departmental enquiry was a quasi-criminal in nature. The Court further explained that the distinction between the departmental enquiry and a criminal trial has been considered elaborately by the Supreme Court in Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v. Sri C. Nagarju, (2019) 10 SCC 367 and held that this Court would, ordinarily, not interdict a departmental enquiry during its progress, as it is always open to the delinquent officer to question the mode and manner, in which the disciplinary enquiry is conducted, even after the enquiry is concluded and before the final order is passed. The court held that although the disciplinary proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature, the charges are not required to be proved like a criminal trial i.e. beyond all reasonable doubt.

Bench while disposing of the petition held that since the above documents had already been filed by the delinquent officer before the Enquiry Officer, one more opportunity should be given to the delinquent officer to prove the said documents submitted in defence while issuing certain directions:

  • The Registrar General will provide the video recording/CCTV footage of the enquiry proceedings to the delinquent officer within a period of ten days from the date of completion of the enquiry proceedings. The cost thereof shall be borne by the delinquent officer.
  • The Presenting Officer will verify the genuineness of the documents dated 13.11.2017, 31.1.2018 and 19.3.2018 as mentioned in the impugned orders within a period of three days and the Presenting Officer will submit its report regarding genuineness of these documents before the Enquiry Officer on or before 5th February, 2021.
  • The Presenting Officer will produce the concerned official of the Computer Section of the High Court before the Enquiry Officer on 5.2.2021 as the defence witness. In case the Enquiry Officer is not available on 5.2.2021, the Enquiry Officer would be at liberty to fix another date for recording the statement of the said witness.

[Kanwar Amninder Singh v. High Court of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 157, decided on 01-02-2021]


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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Gujarat High Court had acquitted a man booked for the offences under Section 7 read with Sections 13(1) & 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ has set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court after noticing that,

“The High Court has only made general observations on the depositions of the witnesses examined. However, there is no re-appreciation of the entire evidence on record in detail, which ought to have been done by the High Court while dealing with the judgment and order of conviction passed by the Learned Trial Court.”

The Court noticed that being First Appellate Court, the High Court was required to re-appreciate the entire evidence on record and also the reasoning given by the Learned trial Court while convicting the accused.

“Non-re-appreciation of the evidence on record may affect the case of either the prosecution or even the accused.”

Presumption of innocence – When available?

An Appellate Court while dealing with an appeal against acquittal passed by the Learned trial Court, is required to bear in mind that in case of acquittal there is double presumption in favour of the accused.

Firstly, the presumption of innocence is available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law.

Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of his innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial Court.

Therefore, while dealing with the cases of acquittal by the trial Court, the Appellate Court would have certain limitations.

The Court, further, relied on the decision in Umedbhai Jadavbhai v. State of Gujarat, (1978) 1 SCC 228, wherein it was observed,

“Once the appeal is entertained against the order of acquittal, the High Court is entitled to re-appreciate the entire evidence independently and come to its own   conclusion. Ordinarily, the High Court would give due importance to the opinion of the Sessions Judge if the same were arrived at after proper appreciation of the evidence. The High Court would be justified against an acquittal passed by the Learned Trial Court even on re-appreciation of the entire evidence independently and   come to its own conclusion that acquittal is perverse and manifestly erroneous”.  

However, so far as the appeal against the order of conviction is concerned, there are no such restrictions and the Court of appeal has wide powers of appreciation of evidence and the High Court has to re-appreciate the entire evidence on record being a First Appellate Court.

“Keeping in mind that once the Learned Trial Court has convicted there shall not be presumption of innocence as would be there in the case of acquittal.”

Conclusion

The Court, hence, found the approach of the High Court in dealing/non¬dealing with the evidence to be patently illegal leading to grave miscarriage of justice.

“The High Court ought to have appreciated that it was dealing with the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act which offences are against the society. And therefore, the High Court ought to have been more careful and ought to have gone in detail. We do not approve the manner in which the High Court has dealt with the appeal.”

It was, therefore, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court acquitting the respondent – accused without adverting to the reasons given by the Learned trial Court while convicting the accused and without reappreciating the entire evidence on record in detail cannot be sustained and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside.

The matter was, hence, remanded to the High Court to consider and deal with the appeal afresh in accordance with law and on its own merits keeping in mind the observations made in the case at hand.

[State of Gujarat v. Bhalchandra Laxmishankar Dave, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 52, decided on 02.02.2021]


*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment

Appearances before the Court: 
For State of Gujarat: Advocate Deepanwita Priyanka,
For Respondent-accused: Senior Advocate J.S. Attri and advocate Haresh Raichura
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., with regard to the settlement of disputes stated that:

“In crimes which seriously endangers the well being of the society, it is not safe to leave the crime doer only because he and the victim have settled the dispute amicably. “

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 CrPC for offence under Sections 419, 467, 471, 474, 376, 354, 506 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioner/Accused had met respondent 2 and revealed that his name to be Shiva and promised the complainant to marry her. Complainant and the Petitioner became intimate and had a physical relationship she had been promised marriage by the petitioner.

Later the respondent 2/complainant came to know that the petitioner had concealed his identity and his real name as ‘Akhtar’.

Respondent 2/Complainant stated in the FIR that the petitioner took her to Arya Samaj Mandir wherein they got married and in the marriage certificate he gave his name as Akhtar. After the marriage, the petitioner started demanding money and when respondent 2 visited his parents, she was driven away with them.

The instant petition was filed as the parties amicably settled their dispute.

A Status Report was also filed wherein it was stated that Akhtar/Shiva hid his identity and was sexually exploiting the respondent 2 for five years. It was also stated that the petitioner forged Aadhaar Cards and has got two Aadhaar Cards, one in the name of Akhtar and the second in the name of Shiva. On further investigation, it was also found that the marriage certificate was also fake.

Analysis and Decision

Bench stated that the power of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC to quash proceedings is those offences which are non-compoundable is recognized.

Court noted that the Supreme Court time and again held that the High Court has to keep in mind the subtle distinction between the power of compounding offences given to the Court under Section 320 CrPC and the quashing of criminal proceedings and the jurisdiction conferred upon it under Section 482 CrPC.

For the above purpose, Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Shiji v. Radhika, (2011) 10 SCC 705.

Further, the Bench added that:

“While exercising its power under Section 482 CrPC, High Court is guided by the material on record as to whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power.”

 Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, wherein it has been elaborated under what circumstances, criminal proceedings in a non-compoundable case could be quashed when there is a settlement between the parties.

In the case of Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2014) 6 SCC 466, the Supreme Court laid down principles by which the High Courts should be guided in giving adequate treatment to the settlement between the parties.

Court expressed that:

An offence of rape is an offence against the society at large and apart from offence under Section 376, the petitioner is also accused of committing offences under Sections 419,467,468,471,474,506 and 34 IPC.

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench opined that it is not in a position to quash the FIR on the basis of compromise entered into between the parties and wherein it was stated that the petitioner/accused and the respondent 2 decide to stay as husband and wife and lead their peaceful marital life.

Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that when parties reach a settlement and on that basis a petition is filed for quashing criminal proceedings, the guiding factor for the High Court before quashing the complaint in such cases would be to secure; a) ends of justice, b) to prevent abuse of process of any court.

In view of the FIR and Status Report, Bench held that it’s evident that the petitioner has been accused of serious offences like rape and forgery having a bearing on vital societal interest and these offences cannot be construed to be merely private or civil disputes but rather will have an effect on the society at large.[Akhtar v. GNCTD,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 260 , decided on 01-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Haraprasad Sahu, Advocate

Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: V.G. Arun, J., while partly allowing the instant petition held that offence under Section 185 of Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 would be attracted only when alcohol content is detected through breath analyser test or in any other test including a laboratory test.

The petitioner was an accused of offences under Sections 279 and 337 of IPC and Section 185 of the MV Act. Allegation against the petitioner was that he had driven his car in a rash and negligent manner so as to endanger human life and had dashed against another car, resulting in the driver and passenger of the other car sustaining injuries. The petitioner was arrested and subjected to medical examination, upon which the doctor opined that the petitioner smelled of alcohol.

Contention of the petitioner was based on the ground that the offence under Section 185 would be attracted only if alcohol content was detected through breath analyser test.  The petitioner, while relying on Sagimon v. State of Kerala, 2014 SCC OnLine Ker 12726, contended that no such test having been conducted, the entire prosecution was illegal.

Noticing that the doctor’s certificate was with regard to the injuries sustained by the petitioner and others as a result of the accident and no mention was made about breath analyser test or any other test conducted for the purpose of finding the alcohol content in the petitioner’s blood the Court clarified as per Section 185, whoever, while driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle has in his blood alcohol exceeding 30 mg per 100 ml of blood detected in a test by a breath analyser or in any other test including a laboratory test, is liable for punishment. Therefore, in order to attract the offence under Section 185(a), the accused should have been subjected to a breath analyser or any other test including a laboratory test to ascertain that his blood found to contain alcohol exceeding 30 mg per 100 ml. Therefore, it was held that the petitioner could not be prosecuted and the petition was allowed to the limited extent of quashing further proceedings against the petitioner under Section 185 of the MV Act. [Manoj Kumar K. v. State of Kerala, Crl. MC. No. 4820 of 2020(B), decided on 08-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Telangana High Court: P. Naveen Rao J., while dismissing the present petition, reiterated that the scope of interference under Article 226 is restricted and cannot be put to action where an alternate remedy is available under the concerned statute.

The present writ petition was filed alleging that even though a cognizable crime was reported on 03-11-2020, no crime was registered by the concerned police authority.

Court reiterating the position in such cases, said, “If the petitioner had grievance against non-registration of crime, he has an effective and efficacious remedy under the Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore, petitioner has to avail the remedy as available in law before invoking the jurisdiction of this Court.”

 Reliance was placed on, Sakiri Vasu v. State of U.P., (2008) 2 SCC 409, where the Supreme Court said, “In our opinion Section 156(3) CrPC is wide enough to include all such powers in a Magistrate which are necessary for ensuring a proper investigation, and it includes the power to order registration of an FIR and of ordering a proper investigation if the Magistrate is satisfied that a proper investigation has not been done, or is not being done by the police. Section 156(3) CrPC, though briefly worded, in our opinion, is very wide and it will include all such incidental powers as are necessary for ensuring a proper investigation”

 Following the above law, present petition stood dismissed granting liberty to the petitioner to work out his remedies as available in law on the issue of non-registration of crime stated to have been reported on 03-11-2020.[Masuna Satheesh Kumar v. State of Telangana, 2021 SCC OnLine TS 40, decided on 06-01-2021]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., while considering the re-opening of spas in GNCTD expressed that:

“While the spread of Covid-19 is the main factor to be considered, it has to be also balanced with the interest of reopening of businesses and establishments to bring back a semblance of normalcy.”

Petitioner an association of wellness Ayurveda and Spa providers in NCT Delhi is aggrieved by the delay by GNCTD and the Ministry of Home Affairs in issuing guidelines for re-opening of spas sought quashing of order dated 03-08-2020 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

After the lockdown in March, 2020, though various other establishments were permitted to reopen and commerce businesses, spas have still been forced to remain closed.

Petitioners relied on MOHFW’s office memorandum dated 18-11-2020 permitting the reopening of spas subject to conditions.

Despite the above, GNCTD did not permit the reopening of spas.

Senior Counsel, Mr Datta submitted that salons and other similar places have been opened but not giving permission for reopening of spas is discriminatory.

This Court vide order dated 04-12-2020 came to a prima facie conclusion that the distinction sought to be made between the salons and spas would be discriminatory.

GNCTD’s affidavit had the only reason for not giving permission on re-opening of spas which was the longer duration of proximity with the client.

Decision

Bench expressed that several developments have taken place including the reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases as also the introduction of a vaccine.

“…the question of reopening any particular class of establishments is a delicate one to be taken after due consideration of the relative merits and demerits.”

As of June, 2020, i.e., almost 6 months ago, salons which offer similar services have already been opened in Delhi, subject to such establishments observing standard operating procedure prescribed by the MoHFW.

High Court opined that the slight difference in the nature of services and a slightly higher percentage of risk due to the proximity of the client and the service provider can be obviated by prescribing stricter measures and safeguards rather than continuing to keep such establishments closed. 

Difference between salons and spas

Court observed that it cannot also be lost sight of that several salons also provide services akin to those provided in spas. The difference between the services provided in Salons and Spas is very minimal. The said services require service providers and service takers to remain in close proximity for sufficient duration.

Hence,

“…while allowing the opening of salons, continuing the embargo on spas would be violative of the rights of these establishments and their employees.”

High Court is conscious of the importance of prescribing strict safeguards that ought to be taken by establishments providing spa services as also the clients who visit the establishments, the continuation of the embargo on reopening of spas is unjustified.

Therefore, in light of the above, Court permitted the reopening of spas, wellness clinic and similar establishments, in the GNCTD, subject to the following conditions:

  • There shall be strict compliance of the conditions specified in the office memorandum of 18-11-2020 prescribed by the MoHFW in respect of spas. The 6 feet distance shall be in general maintained between clients and employees. Insofar as the service providers i.e., therapists etc., are concerned, they shall maintain all standards of hygiene, masking etc., as set out below;
  • In addition, considering the nature of services provided in spas, all employees in such establishments shall undergo fortnightly RTPCR tests, especially the therapists who are likely to come in close contact with the clients.
  • All therapists and other employees, as also the visitors, shall be subjected to thermal temperature checks and if anyone shows any symptoms, they would not be permitted entry in the establishment.
  • All service providers shall wear face shields and masks while providing therapy. For treatments which are longer than thirty minutes, a PPE kit should also be worn in addition.
  • Clients should preferably wear masks to the extent possible, considering the nature of services which are availed of.
  • All visitors/clients shall sign a declaration form to the effect that they have not contracted Covid-19 and if they have, they have tested negative. The establishments are permitted to take a written consent form accepting the risks that may be involved for clients/visitors.
  • Tools including clothing, other apparel, towels etc., used for clients, shall be sanitised after each and every treatment.
  • It shall be ensured that hygienic conditions are maintained in the spas and any other safeguards in force for salons shall also be adhered to by the spas.

Bench permitted to open spas, wellness clinics and similar establishments in light of the above conditions.[Sukaita v. GNCTD,    2021 SCC OnLine Del 61, decided 14-01-2021]


Advocates who appeared for the parties:
Petitioner: Sachin Dutta, Senior Advocate with Lal Singh and Sudhir Tewatia, Advocates. Randhir Kr. Lal, Advocate.
Respondents: Anupam Srivastava, ASC for GNCTD Advocate for R-1.

Shalini Nair, Anjana Gosain & Aditi Amitabh, Advocates. for R-2

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court:  N. Nagaresh, J., addressed the petition seeking to direct the State to implement International Arrest Warrant and to handover the accused to the Government of Dubai as per the provisions of the Extradition Act, 1962.

The petitioner was an NRI businessman in Dubai; the accused befriended him on the pretext of being a business partner of a well known Hotel in Dubai. The accused borrowed an amount of Six Million UAE Dirhams from the petitioner and promised to repay the said amount before 10-06-2015. But, before the said stipulated date, the accused absconded to India without repaying the amount. Counsel for the petitioner,  T.K. Vipindas submitted that the accused had borrowed money from several banks and other individuals in UAE and had absconded from UAE to India without discharging his debts. There were 8 criminal cases registered against him by Dubai Police and the Dubai Court had convicted the accused for imprisonment for a term of two years. Also, an International Arrest Warrant was issued against the accused on 16-05-2018. The petitioner contended that, Government of India has executed the Extradition Treaty with the Government of United Arab Emirates. As per Article 2 of the said Treaty, a person sentenced by the court of the requesting State with the imprisonment for six months in respect of an offence, is liable to be extradited.

The respondent submitted that in the case of extradition of an Indian national from India to UAE, the provisions contained in Article 5 of the Extradition Treaty would be applicable. Article 5 of the Extradition Treaty reads as follows:

“The nationals of the Contracting States shall not be extradited to the other Contracting State provided that the requested State shall submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution if the act committed is considered as an offence under the laws of both Contracting States.”

 The respondent relied on Bhavesh Jayanti Lakhani v. State of Maharashtra, (2009) 9 SCC 551, wherein the Supreme Court had held that, arrest of a fugitive criminal can be made at the instance of Central Government only when request to this effect is received from foreign country and not otherwise.

 The Court observed that, it was evident that nationals of Contracting States should not be extradited unless there was a request made by the State concerned. Since no such request had been received from the Government of UAE seeking extradition of the accused; therefore, going by the Extradition Treaty, the accused could not be extradited. Article 8 of the Extradition Treaty had prescribed that the request for extradition should be made in writing and dispatched through the diplomatic channels with supporting documents and particulars. Therefore, the Court dismissed the instant petition, holding that an International Arrest Warrant by itself would not suffice to arrest an accused and extradite him to UAE. [Rakhul Krishnan v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine Ker 8409, decided on 21-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Anil Kshetarpal, J., expressed concern over lethargic attitude of the State towards granting pensionary benefits to the petitioner, the Court stated, “This court is sad to observe that the officials have lost all the compassion.”

 The petitioner lost her son on 26-11-2016, who, at the time of his death was working as Rural Medical Officer with the State of Punjab. The widow and children of the deceased shifted to Canada and they had already submitted an affidavit giving ‘No Objection’ to the authorities to release of pensionary benefits exclusively to the petitioner, who was mother of the deceased. The instant petition had been filed for issuance of a writ of mandamus to direct the official respondents to release pensionary and other service benefits exclusively to the petitioner. It was submitted that the amount of gratuity with regard to the deceased had also not been released.

Counsel for the respondent, Ambika Bedi, argued that the widow of the deceased was required to sign the necessary papers only then the pensionary and other pending benefits could be released, since the widow did not contact the respondent with necessary papers, the department did not release the amount. It was further pointed out by the respondent that approximately a sum of 3,08,000 rupees had been released to the petitioner towards arrears of medical reimbursement, salary, leave encashment and ex-gratia. Also, the process for releasing the payment on account of Contributory Provident Fund and Family Pension and whatever amount was legally due to the petitioner had already been initiated and the same would be completed within one month.

The Court directed the respondent to address the grievances of the petitioner expeditiously. While expressing concerns over unjustified delay in the grant of pensionary benefits to the petitioner the Court said, “It is unfortunate that the dependents/heirs of an Ex-employee, who died in harness, are being made to run from pillar to post. It is, thus, apparent that the State of Punjab has to put its house in order lest the Court compelled to take a serious view of the matter. It is hoped that this order would serve as a wake up call for the officers.” [Balbir Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2263, decided on 21-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Vacation Bench of Ravindra V. Ghuge, J., allowed the petitioner, a transgender person, to contest the panchayat elections from a seat reserved for women candidate.

Backdrop

The petitioner was aggrieved by the rejection of her nomination form by the Returning Officer. She had decided to choose the female gender, and hence had tendered her nomination form for contesting the election from the ward reserved for women-general category. The reason for rejecting the nomination form was that the petitioner is a transgender. It was stated that there is no reservation for the transgender category in the instant village panchayat elections.

Submissions

A.P. Bhandari, Advocate for the petitioner, on instructions, made a categoric statement before the High Court that this was the first occasion wherein the petitioner had opted for a right to a self-perceived gender identity and had selected the female gender for all purposes during her lifetime. He submitted that the petitioner, henceforth, shall not switch over to the male gender under any circumstances anytime in future during her lifetime.

S.B. Pulkundwar, AGP, and A.B. Kadethankar, Advocate for the Election Commission, submitted that they would not argue beyond the provisions of law and would not make submissions contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438. It was stated that the Returning Officer was likely to be unaware of the law and must have been in a dilemma while deciding the issue of acceptance of the nomination form of the petitioner.

Analysis & Decision

The High Court relied heavily on and followed the law laid down in the “NALSA case” [National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438] wherein the Supreme Court has comprehensively dealt with the issue of the rights of transgender people. The Court noted that the Government of India has introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and has permitted a transgender person to have a right to be recognised and such transgender is permitted to have a right to self-perceived gender identity.

In the present case, the petitioner had opted for the female gender as her self-perceived gender identity and made a solemn statement, which was recorded as the statement made to the Court, that henceforth in her lifetime she would not switch over to the male gender driven by opportunism and would continue to opt for the female gender, in future, save and except if there is a reservation provided for transgender in public life.

It was observed by the Court:

“It is quite apparent that the Returning Officer was handicapped insofar as the knowledge of law was concerned while deciding the fate of the nomination form of the petitioner. No other contesting candidate has taken any objection against the petitioner. It is the Returning Officer, who was circumspect about the nomination form of the petitioner and hence, opted to reject the form believing that the petitioner can neither be a male nor a female and the ward has been reserved for women general category. There is no ward reserved for the transgender.”

In view of the above, this writ petition filed by the petitioner was allowed. The impugned order passed by the Returning Officer was quashed and set aside. Since the nomination form of the petitioner was otherwise complete in all respects, the same stood accepted and she was permitted to contest the election from the ward and category which she had opted for in her nomination form. [Anjali Guru Sanjana Jaan v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 11, decided on 2-1-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G.R. Swaminathan, J., while retention of custody of an Elephant named ‘Lalitha’ to her caretaker with whom she had stayed for almost 20 years and had an emotional bonding observed that

“Just solutions to legal issues may sometimes lie outside the formal statutory framework. Judges should therefore boldly think outside the box and not feel inhibited or timid.”

The above lines were quoted since the present case pertained to “Lalitha” a female elephant, and Court found light not in the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 but in the pages of Peter Wohlleben’s “The Inner Life of Animals”.

Facts

G. Thangappan had originally purchased Lalitha and the ownership certificate for the same was issued. Later the said elephant was bought by Mohammed Aslam and sold her to Kannathu Kunju Mohammed.

Petitioner purchased ‘Lalitha’ in 2000 and the applied to seek transfer of ownership.

While the petitioner awaited for the transfer ownership the said request was rejected in March 2020 with the imposition of penalties for having transported Lalitha from one place to another without permission.

Crux of filing the instant petition

Petitioner sought rejection order in regard to the transfer of ownership to be set aside.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Relevant Provisions

Section 43 (1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 states that no person having in his possession captive animal in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership shall transfer by way of sale or offer for sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature such animal.

Section 39 (3) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 states that no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wild Life Warden or the authorised officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control, or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise any wild animal falling within the purview of the Act.

Was the sale of Lalitha Illegal?

The significant fact noted by the Court was that there could be no dispute that the sale of Lalitha in the first place by Thiru, Thangappan was illegal and subsequent sales were also vitiated.

Since no prior permission was obtained by the petitioner for acquiring Lalitha, the said was rightly rejected and hence the bench upheld the said order to be valid.

Respondents stated that the petitioner will have to surrender possession of the animal for being shifted to the camp maintained by the Forest Department.

Bench considered the above, whether the same could be permitted or not?

Mirror Test

Court while considering the above question observed that:

Elephants are known to be sensitive and possessed of self-awareness. They have passed what is known as “mirror test”.

German naturalist Peter Wohlleben, after years of direct, personal observation, says that animals also feel the very same emotions which the humans are capable of. Feelings of love, grief and compassion are equally found in the animals.

Article 51A (g) of the Constitution of India calls upon us to have compassion for living creatures.

Supreme Court in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547, after noting that Chapter 7.1.2 of the guidelines of World Organization of Animal Health (OIE), recognizes five internationally recognized freedoms for animals such as (i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; (ii) freedom from fear and distress; (iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; (iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and (v) freedom to express normal patterns of behavior declared that Sections 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. 

In light of the above-cited case, High Court held that Lalitha is entitled to express her normal patterns of behaviour.

Court noted that Lalitha has been with the writ petitioner for more than twenty years. In all these years, State did not intervene and take her away.  The department was issuing directives from time to time and they were complied with by the petitioner.

Further, it was noted that a Microchip has been implanted in Lalitha’s body so that her movements could be tracked. It seemed that Lalitha developed a great bonding with her caretakers.

Forcible relocation in alien surrounding would traumatize Lalitha.

Hence, the approach to be adopted in the instant matter is to be similar as the one in child custody cases.

Surprise inspection

Bench made a surprise inspection and found that Lalitha was being sumptuously fed and the fact that pleased the most was her not being chained at all. In fact, Lalitha looked happy and healthy.

Lalitha’s Maintenance

Caretakers were questioned by the Bench in regard to Lalitha’s maintenance to which they responded that she is taken to some well-known temples and Dargas, wherein she is paid for her majestic participation, her dignity is maintained intact.

Bench in light of the above stated that there was no exploitation to which Lalitha was being subjected.

Peter Wohlleben in the chapter “In the Service of Humanity”, in his Book remarks that when the log-haulers are kind and give rest to their horses, the animals are eager to work. One can find a similar human-animal partnership with shepherds and their dogs which also follow verbal commands. This is another example of animals taking pleasure in their work, as we can clearly see if we watch sheepdogs racing around a flock of sheep to round them up (Page 251).

Further, the Court also expressed that the veterinarians appointed by the department certified that Lalitha was being maintained properly by the petitioner.

A psychological wound would be caused to Lalitha if she will be removed from petitioners’ custody. Hence the present arrangement needed to be continued.

Another significant and essential point which was noted by the Bench was that Lalitha’s usual place of stay was a coconut groove and there was an R.O. Plant as well. The said land was owned by Thiru. Pothiraj who gave in writing to the Court that the said land will not be sold during the lifetime of Lalitha.

High Court took inspiration from the following statement of law:

“The courts now recognise that the impact on the administration is relevant in the exercise of their remedial jurisdiction. Quashing decisions may impose heavy administrative burdens on the administration, divert resources towards re-opening decision, and lead to increased and unbudgeted expenditure. Earlier cases took the robust line that the law had to be observed, and the decision invalidated whatever the administrative inconvenience caused. The courts nowadays recognise that such an approach is not always appropriate and may not be in the wider public interest. The effect on the administrative process is relevant to the courts’ remedial discretion and may prove decisive.”

[Passage approvingly quoted by the Supreme Court in (1994) 1 SCC 648, Malaprabha Co-Operative Sugar Factor v. Union Of India]

In light of the above passage, Court held that the administrative decision may be found to be valid in law and yet there can be no sequitur.

In the present matter,

the rights of the animal are more relevant and they determine the adjudicatory outcome and not the formal validity of the administrative order.

For the above reason, Court disposed of the petition and upheld the impugned order by directing the respondents to permit the petitioner to continue to keep the custody of Lalitha. [S.G.M. Shaa v. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Life Warden,  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 6242, decided on 10-09-2020]

Appointments & TransfersNews

President transfers Justice Mohammad Rafiq, Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and to direct him to assume charge of the office of the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

ORDER


Ministry of Law and Justice

Case Briefs

President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, transfers Justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath, Judge of the Uttarakhand High Court, as a Judge of the Himachal Pradesh High Court and to direct him to assume charge of his office in the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

ORDER


Ministry of Law and Justice