Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J. dismissed a petition filed by Prisoners Right Forum against the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate whereby he had dismissed a complaint filed in the matter of the death of a prisoner in judicial custody. It was held that the forum, being a third party who was neither a victim not an aggrieved person, had no locus standi to file the present petition.

The deceased, a prisoner, died in judicial custody in April, 2014. An FIR was registered, enquiry conducted, and criminal proceedings initiated against the respondent officials. However, ultimately, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate came to the conclusion that no offence was established against the accused persons, and therefore he dismissed the complaint. The said order was challenged by the Forum in the present petition under Section 482 CrPC.

The High Court was of the opinion that the preliminary issue to be decided was as to the locus standi of the petitioner Forum to file the petition. M. Radhakrishnan, Advocate led arguments on behalf of the Forum. Per contra, the respondents were represented by C. Emilias, Additional General, assisted by M. Mohamed Tiyaz, APP; and Senior Advocate N.R. Elango; and A. Gokulakrishnan, Advocate; all of whom opposed the petition.

The Court noted that the term locus standi is commonly understood as the right or the capacity to bring an action or to appear in a Court. The march of law, more particularly by way of public interest litigations, has now allowed anyone from the society, not related to the cause of action to approach the Court seeking justice for those who cannot or who could not approach themselves or in cases which involves the public interest at large. However, it was held that such right cannot be extended in a criminal case to a third party who is not in any way related to the case. It was observed: “If this practice is permitted in a casual manner, a meddlesome bystander can easily decide to attack a person who has been held to be not guilty by a Subordinate Court, by initiating a frivolous proceeding and thereby cause irretrievable injury to the life and liberty of the accused person.” The only exception that has been created in this regard is by the Supreme Court which has held that third parties will have right, in very exceptional cases, to approach the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. Reference was made to Amanullah v. State of Bihar, (2016) 6 SCC 699; National Commission for Women v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 12 SCC 599; Harsh Mandar v. Amit Anilchandra Shah, (2017) 13 SCC 420.

Holding that the petitioner had no locus standi to maintain the present petition, the Court dismissed the same.[Prisoners Right Forum v. State of T.N., 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 2476, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Mohit Kumar Shah, J. entertained a writ petition which sought relief against Bihar Public Service Commission to re-advertise by the way of corrigendum for the post of Dental Doctor and to be allowed to participate in the selection process.

The petitioner prayed for declaring the advertisement of 2015 issued by the Commission contrary to the Reservation Rules, 1991. The petitioner contended that she completed BDS course in 2016. It was stated that 617 posts in dental services were created by a notification of 2013, thus total sanctioned strength in the dental services became 700, out of which a few were earmarked for promotions and a few were already occupied, leaving 558 posts vacant. The Government of Bihar, enacted the Bihar Dentist Service Rule, 2014 for regulating appointments and service conditions in the dentist service. The commission issued an advertisement of 2015, for respective vacant posts and applications were invited from the eligible candidates. Further, it was stated that only 16 posts were earmarked for the backward class female.

The learned counsel for the petitioner, Kripa Nand Jha, submitted that the eligibility criteria in the advertisement of 2015 was BDS degree from a recognized University and should had been registered under the Bihar and Orissa Medical Act, 1916. The counsel brought to the notice of Court that since all the vacant posts were advertised and the last date of submission of the form was in 2015, the petitioner who received his degree in 2016, and similar aggrieved students would be precluded from obtaining employment for years to come.

The learned counsel for the respondent Commission, Zaki Haider, submitted that upon a requisition sent by the Department of Health, the Commission has published the advertisement for appointment as the post of basic grade Dental Surgeon under the Department of Health, Government of Bihar. He referred to the requisition sent by the Government in 2015, it had been submitted that the roster clearance was obtained from the General Administration Department and only thereafter, the vacancies were advertised, category wise. He further submitted that earlier also the Bihar Dentist Rules, 2014, issued vide notification in 2014, which was challenged before the High Court and the learned Division Bench of Court had dismissed the said writ petition.

It was contended by the other respondents, that proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India, conferred the powers to said State and specifically stated that as far as the prayer of the petitioner regarding issuance of a direction upon the respondents to re-advertise the post of Dental Surgeon and 35% horizontal reservation to the female candidates was permitted. They further contend that the petition was misconceived and bereft of any merit as to the aforesaid notification of the Department of 2016, and was not effective retrospectively. The requisitions were made by the Health Department and, accordingly, the Commission had issued the advertisement taking into consideration the rules of reservation i.e. the Bihar Reservation for Vacancies in posts and Services for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes Act, 1991.

The Court observed that, all adverting to the issue of applicability of the notification issued by the Department, admittedly the same is not applicable retrospectively and moreover, the roster clearance has been taken by the Health Department from the General Administration Department after which requisition was sent and thereafter, the advertisement has been published immediately in 2015, in pursuance to the Bihar Dental Service Rules, 2014.  Hence, the Court held that the said notification of the General Administration Department in 2016 cannot be applied for the recruitment process under consideration in the present writ petition. The contention of the petitioner regarding the Rules, 1991 being contrary to the advertisement of 2015 was also declared void. The Court noted submission made by the learned counsel for the petitioner to the effect that since the petitioner passed in the year 2016 and the advertisement had been issued in 2015, the petitioner was pre-empted from applying for the post of Dental Doctor in the Health Services of the Government of Bihar, and rejected the same as the petitioner was not eligible to apply in pursuance to the advertisement of 2015, hence she had no locus standi to challenge the eligibility conditions. Hence, the petition was dismissed.[Pragya v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 689, decided on 17-05-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: The petition of a liquidator was entertained by Samayawardhena, J. and was eventually dismissed due to lack of locus standi. 

The petitioner was the liquidator of Dart West Asia Holdings Ltd., he filed an application for issue of certiorari against the order of Commissioner General of Labour directing the Director of the said company to pay EPF and Gratuity to a former employee of the aforementioned company. 

At the argument, learned senior counsel for the respondent inter alia took up a preliminary objection regarding the standing of the petitioner to file an application. He further contended that the petitioner wanted to give an impact that the said company is still under liquidation. 

The Court observed that, winding up procedure is now concluded and the final account of the liquidator has also been sent to the Registrar General of Companies. Hence, declared that such winding up was voluntary and after the affairs of the company were fully wound up, Final General Meeting was held. Court highlighted the provisions of Companies Act, 2007 which provided that the Registrar General of Companies upon receiving the final accounts shall forthwith register them and on the expiration of three months, the company is dissolved automatically.

Court further held that from the application of petitioner it was clear that the application was filed several months after the company was dissolved. The contention of the petitioner that he was still a liquidator was not maintainable and the writ was disposed because the petitioner didn’t have any locus standi once the company was dissolved. [Chandanie Rupasinghe Weragala v. Deputy Commissioner, CA. Writ No. 429 of 2015, decided on 02-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, C.J. and N.S. Dhanik, J. dismissed a writ petition seeking changes in road alignment and to issue mandamus commanding and directing the respondent to construct the road as per the old survey, the petition further wanted an injunction against the respondent against peaceful possession of irrigated land of the villagers.

The aggrieved petitioner claimed to be a farmer and a duly elected Gram Pradhan of the village. He contended that the roads earlier sanctioned, passed through the Village Panchayat Chamaswada, which would have benefited around 500 families and now the respondent State had shifted the route which now passes through a different village, thereby affected the interests of individuals (villagers). He further contended that Right under Article 300-A of the Constitution, has been violated as per the new layout plan. It drastically affected the interest of several private landholders and they will not get adequate compensation according to Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The Court opinioned that, petitioner being a Gram Pradhan had a duty towards the people and in any case of grievance may put forward the case to State Government. In this particular case where the main issue was ‘where road should be laid’? or ‘whether the alignment of road should be continued’? is to be decided by Executive and it is out of the purview of Courts to adjudicate upon.

The Court further observed that, all such matters are of Executive realm and even under Article 226 of the Constitution; Courts don’t have the power to take over the functions allocated to Executives and the State agencies. Answering to the issue aforementioned related to violation of private rights of individuals, the Court held, “Needless to state that it is always open to the land-owners, who are aggrieved by the action of the Government in laying a road over their lands, to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court. Leaving it open to those land-owners, who may be aggrieved by the exercise undertaken by the respondents of laying a road without acquisition of their lands, to avail their judicial remedies.” Hence, the writ was dismissed as the petitioner had no locus standi in the relevant issue raised.[Bharat Singh v. State of Uttrakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 348, Order dated 2-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and N.S. Dhanik, J. dismissed an appeal while placing reliance on the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for its policy decision and found no reason to entertain the petition since the locus standi of the petitioner was itself in doubt.

In the present matter the policy decision of the Government of India, to establish several petroleum retail outlets throughout the country, was challenged. The ground being that the increase in the number of petroleum retail outlets would result in a concomitant increase in petroleum consumption and would thus result in increased air pollution which will further put the viability of the existing units in jeopardy. Also as the government is coming out with an alternative fuel policy and a manifold increase in the number of petroleum retail outlets would, therefore, result in needless wastage of public money.

The court held that the petitioners were unable to show any statutory violation on the part of the respondents, apart from Section 11 of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006, where it only deals with the functions of the Regulatory Board, and does not stipulate a condition for obtaining prior consent of the Regulatory Board required for the Petroleum Corporations to establish petroleum retail outlets. Court was of the opinion that such matters are required to be examined by the Government of India and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will give such a representation its due consideration, and if the need be, take necessary action thereafter in accordance with the law.[Samajik Evam Gramin Shiksha Vikas Samiti v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 143, Order dated 01-03-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: The Divison Bench of Mushir Alam and Qazi Faez Isa, JJ. allowed a petition seeking to set aside lower Court’s direction for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test of a lady.

Respondent herein had filed a suit against the petitioner alleging that she was adopted by his father, late Abdul Qayum and brought up as his own daughter. However, the fact of adoption was concealed from her. In his suit, respondent sought declarations that Laila was not the real daughter of Abdul Qayum and, had no right to his legacy. Further, he filed an application seeking a DNA test to be conducted to determine whether Laila is the daughter of Abdul Qayum. The application did not, as per procedural requirement, cite any provision of law whereunder it was submitted; but the same was allowed. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed.

Petitioner’s counsel challenged respondent’s locus standi to question the petitioner’s paternity and contended that the suit filed by him was not maintainable under Sections 39 and 42 of the Specific Relief Act, 1877. He also referred to Article 128 of the Qanun-e Shahadat Order, 1984 according to which only a putative father may challenge the paternity of a child.

The Court opined that a declaration in suit can only be made in favour of a person who is entitled to any legal character or right, as to any property, which another is denying. In the instant case, petitioner had neither denied respondent’s legal character nor his right to any property. Reliance in this regard was placed on Abdur Rahman Mobashir v. Amir Ali Shah, PLD 1978 Lahore 113.

Further, Article 128 does not permit a putative brother, viz., respondent herein, to challenge his sister’s paternity. Judgment in Salman Akram Raja v. Government of Punjab, 2013 SCMR 203 was also relied on to hold that a free lady cannot be compelled to give a sample for DNA testing as it would violate her liberty, dignity and privacy guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

In view of the above, the impugned order was set aside. [Laila Qayyum v. Fawad Qayum, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 2, Order dated 18-02-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): The Bench of Justice A.I.S Cheema, Member (Judicial) and Balvinder Singh, Member (Technical) observed that a shareholder of a company is entitled to file a petition for the revival of the company.

The name of one “Venku Hospitals (P)Ltd.” was struck off from the Register of Companies in 2005 for non-filing of annual accounts and returns w.e.f. the Financial Year ending 2000-2001. A petition was filed before the National Company Law Tribunal, Chennai for the restoration of the company’s name in the Register under Section 252 of the Companies Act, 2013. However, the petition was dismissed by NCLT on the ground, inter alia, that Appellant 2 (Director of Venku Hospitals) had no locus standi to file the same. Aggrieved thereby, the present appeal was filed.

Anandh K., Advocate for the appellants made extensive arguments assailing the order of the Registrar of Companies, Chennai and the subsequent order of NCLT. Per Contra, Registrar of Companies supported its order in the reply filed by it. Sanjiv Kumar Mohanty, Advocate appeared as Amicus Curiae.

At the outset, the Appellate Tribunal observed that Appellant 2 was also a shareholder of Venku Hospitals and as per Section 252(3), he was entitled to file the petition for the revival of the company. However, on perusing facts of the case, it was held that no relief could be granted to the appellants. It was noted that all the documents filed by Venku Hospitals to support their case were old and irrelevant. Thus, the Appellate Tribunal did not find any occasion to interfere with the impugned order and hence, the appeal was dismissed. [Venku Hospitals (P) Ltd. v. Registrar of Companies, 2019 SCC OnLine NCLAT 7, dated 18-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division bench comprising of P.R. Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran, J. while hearing an appeal against the order of a Single judge held that denial of pension benefits to a person residing in a particular State, vests him with the locus standi to file the writ petition challenging such denial in that State.

The appellant, who worked in the Assam Rifles in Shillong, was discharged from service on medical grounds which entitled him to disability pension. However, when he was not sanctioned full pension, he made a representation to competent officials but the same was rejected. The appellant submitted that after he was discharged from service, he had no financial resources to continue to live in Meghalaya and therefore he was constrained to come to Kerala.

The only issue involved in the matter was as to whether this Court had territorial jurisdiction to entertain the appellant’s writ petition.

Relying on the dictum of  Apex Court in Nawal Kishore Sharma v. Union of India, (2014) 9 SCC 329, the  High Court observed that when a party residing within the jurisdiction of a court was denied the benefit of pension by an authority, a part of cause action could be said to have arisen within the jurisdiction of that Court. It is settled law that under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, writ jurisdiction can be exercised by any High Court, if any part of the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises within its territorial limits.

The Court noted that the request for disability pension was made from Kerala and its rejection was communicated to the petitioner in Kerala. Thus, the appeal was allowed holding that this Court was vested with territorial jurisdiction to entertain the present matter. [K.T. Sudharshanan v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 4003, decided on 28-09-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT): A two-member bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, Member (Judicial), while dismissing an appeal filed under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 held that Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India had no locus standi to file the appeal.

The appeal was filed by the IBBI against the order passed by National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai contending that the interpretation of Section 29A  made therein by the Tribunal was not correct that resulted in selection of an ineligible Resolution Applicant and further approval of an ineligible resolution plan. The Appellate Tribunal noted that the IBBI is a regulatory body required to act in terms of Sections 196 and 240 I&B Code.

At the outset, the Appellate Tribunal observed, IBBI could not be held to be an aggrieved person under the Code. Further, it was held that the interpretation challenged as mentioned above may not be proper, but the IBBI had no locus standi to challenge the same. Referring to Section 30, the Board observed that it is the duty of the Resolution Professional to find out which resolution plans are in conformity with provisions of the Code. Further, in case of any wrong finding by the Adjudicating Authority (NCLT), it is the Resolution Professional, who represents the Corporate Debtor, to prefer an appeal under Section 61. While dismissing the appeal for the aforesaid reasons, liberty was given to IBBI to inform the Resolution Professional to move an appeal under Section 61. [Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India v. Wig Associates (P) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine NCLAT 386, order dated 01-08-2018]

 

Case BriefsForeign Courts

United States Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit): While deciding the issue that whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement, Carlos T. Bea and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges, and Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge, held that the monkey in particular and all the animals in general, by the virtue of the fact that they are not humans, lack the statutory locus standi under the Copyright Act, even though they have a constitutional standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.

The issue revolves around Naruto, a crested macaque living on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. In 2011, the monkey picked up the camera of wildlife photographer David Slater, and took several photos of himself; the collection which later became popular as “monkey selfies”. The pictures were later published in Slater’s book, which identified Slater and Wildlife (magazine published by Wildlife Personalities, Ltd.) as the copyright owners of the Monkey Selfies. However a copyright infringement case was filed against Slater and Wildlife, by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as “Next Friends” on behalf of Naruto. PETA claimed that that the monkey was the author and owner of the photographs and had suffered concrete and particularized economic harms.

Perusing the facts and the argument, the Court deliberated upon the constitutional and statutory locus standi of Naruto; and whether PETA qualifies to be the “Next Friend” of the monkey. It was observed by the Court that PETA has failed to allege any facts to establish the required significant relationship between a next friend and a real party in interest and; an animal cannot be represented, under US laws, by a “next friend.” Thus PETA cannot sue on behalf of the monkey. Resolving the question of constitutional and statutory standing, the Court relied upon their decision in Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004), and observed that Naruto’s lack of next friend does not deprive him of a constitutional standing under Article III. However vis-à-vis the Copyright Act, it was noted that if an Act of Congress clearly states that animals have statutory standing, then animals will have statutory standing; and if the statute does not state, then animals do not have statutory standing. The Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits under the statute; therefore Naruto cannot sue for copyright infringement. [Naruto v. Slater, No. 16-15469, opinion dated 23.04.2018]

Case Briefs

Supreme Court: Answering an important question of law, the bench of Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi, JJ held that the subsequent purchaser, the assignee, the successor in interest, the power of attorney, etc., are entitled to file a case for a declaration that the land acquisition proceedings have lapsed by virtue of operation of Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

Rejecting the contention that subsequent purchasers do not have locus standi to challenge the acquisition proceedings, the Court said that it is one thing to say that there is a challenge to the legality or propriety or validity of the acquisition proceedings and yet another thing to say that by virtue of operation of a subsequent legislation, the acquisition proceedings have lapsed. It is a declaration qua the land wherein indisputably they have an interest and they are affected by such acquisition. For such a declaration, it cannot be said that the persons mentioned above do not have any locus standi.

Stating that the 2013 Act has made a sea change in the approach on the acquisition of land and compensation and that the Act proposes to protect the interest of those persons, among others who are affected by the acquisition, the Court said that the subsequent purchasers/successors, etc., are all people affected by the acquisition, and therefore, also they are entitled to seek a declaration on lapse under the 2013 Act. [Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Manav Dharam Trust, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6112 OF 2017, decided on 04.05.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Forum of SC and ST legislators and Parliamentarians- a non legal entity filed a PIL before the Delhi High Court alleging that that E-8 Level officers of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) are illegally not being considered for promotion. The Court said that in case some persons are not being considered for promotion, then only such persons have locus standi to approach the Courts with their grievance.

Further it stated that someone else can’t approach the Court on their behalf especially, in service matters. For this, the Court relied on Bholanath Mukherjee v. Ramakrishna Mission Vivevkananda Centenary College, (2011) 5 SCC 464 in which the Supreme Court had held that in service matters a Public Interest Litigation petition does not lie.

Observing that the petitioner was a non-legal person, the Court held that it being only a non-legal person did not have any personal interest, and the personal interest would be of individuals who are employees of respondent. Accordingly, the writ petition was dismissed for lack of locus standi. [Forum of SC and ST legislators and Parliamentarians v. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 7217, decided on 27.02.2017]