Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Ravindra V. Ghuge and Shrikant D. Kulkarni, JJ., while addressing the instant PIL, observed that, the service of the COVID Warriors in such extra­ordinary testing times is a service to the Nation and mankind.

The Constitutional Court should neither be shy of nor find itself powerless in upholding the fundamental rights of the citizens as guaranteed under Article 21.

COVID-19 Duties

High Court vide the decision of this Court dated 03-07-2020 observed, with regard to the alleged reluctance of the government employees in discharging their COVID-19 duties, wherein following was stated:

“Such persons need to be suspended immediately and if they are appointed on contract basis, contract need to be terminated and criminal action needs to be taken against them. Invariably against every such person such action needs to be taken and things can be corrected only by taking such action.”

Excessive Billing by Hospitals

On 21-07-2020, Court recorded ceratin grievances regarding alleged excessive billing and the alleged obstinate attitude shown by certain private hospitals in admitting COVID-19 patients.

Court has been informed that the local administrations in all the districts of Maharashtra ae putting in strenuous efforts and are working relentlessly even upto late hours in the Night. They begin their activities in the early hours of the day and are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

PIL — Whether Criminal or Civil?

Public Prosecutor and the Advocates representing the local bodies strenuously submitted that though the intention of the Court in suo-moto registering the present PIL is laudable, the present matter should not have been registered as a Criminal Public Interest Litigation.

It has been contended that the present PIL should have been registered as a Civil PIL.

For the above-stated issue, bench stated that in the light of Article 311 of the Constitution of India and the principles of natural justice, this Court would not advise short-circuiting of the legal procedure for initiating disciplinary action against the employees of the local authorities or for dispensing with their services.

Legal Procedure

If the legal procedure is followed and if it legally permits the administration to register a criminal offence against any of the erring employees under the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and/or the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Court found it judicious to leave the matter to the administration to deal with such cases with an iron hand.

“…it would be unfair on our part to keep the Damocles Sword of initiating criminal action and registering of criminal offences, hanging on the administration and Covid­-19 employees.”

Further, the Court stated that black sheep are found in all walks of life and in all spheres. It is mostly such work shirkers and indisciplined employees, who give a set back to the spirit and momentum of hardworking employees and give a bad name to the system.

Electronic and Print Media

Some stray acts of dereliction in duties or unintended negligence are highlighted and the general public at large, on getting to know such instances through the print and electronic media, develop an apprehension or an impression that the State and the local administration have failed.

Further, the Court observed that the good efforts put in by the administration should not be criticised merely for the sake of public consumption.

Bench has the power in the interest of the public at large, to issue appropriate directions to the Executive with the object of upholding the rights of the citizens.

In view of the above-stated position, Court being aware of its limitations issued guidelines under the heads infrastructure, task force, personnel/staff, the supply of food grains and few under the general category for ensuring that the residents of the State do not feel neglected or deprived of medical assistance.

Before parting with the present decision, Court complimented the officials who have wholeheartedly and dedicatedly devoted themselves in the battle of coronavirus. [High Court of Bombay v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 865, decided on 18-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ, and A.S. Gadkari, JJ., deferred the hearing for PIL’s filed in view of the unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput, a film actor.

In the present two Public Interest Litigations, it has been sought that CBI should be entrusted with the investigation into the unnatural death of a film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput.

Advocate General for the State, A.A. Kumbhakoni informed the Court that a petition with similar relief was moved before the Supreme Court, but the same was dismissed.

The petitioner on being asked for the copy of the petition stated answered in negative and added that the Supreme Court while dismissing the petition granted liberty to approach this Court.

Another significant point that the Court noted was the Supreme Court’s order dated 5-08-2020 wherein a status report has been called for from the State of Maharashtra in regard to the stage of investigation by Mumbai Police.

Hence, the Advocate General for the State states that the Court may not pass any order on the present petition and may await the Supreme Court’s decision.

Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh submitted that on acceptance of the request of the deceased father, the CBI has already registered an FIR, inter alia, under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860. He has also questioned the approach of the Mumbai Police in quarantining an IPS officer of the Bihar cadre, who had come to Mumbai for the purpose of ascertaining facts, although four other officers of Bihar Police who had earlier visited Mumbai were not meted out such treatment.

Hence in view of the above stated, Court while deferring the hearing till 21-08-2020, stated that CBI has registered an FIR and it would not be appropriate, at this stage, to express any opinion either way.

It would be just and proper to await the orders of the Supreme Court in the pending Transfer Petition, referred to above. [Priyanka Tibrewal v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 848, decided on 07-08-2020]

Also Read:

Sushant Singh Rajput death case| SC asks Mumbai Police to submit status of investigation so far; says truth must come out

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., held that as and when any advocate approaches the Court with regard to the inclusion of “Advocates” in the definition of “Professionals” under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006, the same could be entertained on merits.

A Public Interest Litigation was filed wherein the grievance was the non-inclusion of the advocates in the definition of the word “professionals” under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006.

Purpose of the petition was the welfare of the advocates as a class so that the benefits which flow from the inclusion under the Act, 2006 are made available to them as well.

Bench declined to entertain the petition.

Adding to its decision, Court stated that such PIL for the benefit of a class of persons can be preferred if the affected persons are unable to access the courts, e.g. the poorest of the poor, illiterates, children, and other classes of people who may be handicapped by ignorance, indigence, illiteracy or lack of understanding of the law.

Advocates are capable enough to approach the Court, if aggrieved.

Hence, as and when any advocate approaches the Court, decision on merits could be taken.[Abhijit Mishra v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 927, decided on 29-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Vikram Nath, CJ and P.B. Pardiwala, J., while addressing an issue with regard to the live streaming of the Court proceedings held that a committee to work out the modalities for the said purpose has been constituted comprising of two Judges of this Court.

A law student raised the issue with regard to the Live Streaming/Open Access of the Court proceedings and in the public interest Gujarat High court should work out the necessary modalities for the said purpose.

Bench on perusal of the material on record, stated that to observe the  requirement of an open Court proceedings, members of the public should be allowed to view the Court hearings through video conferencing except the proceedings ordered for the reasons recorded in writing to be conducted in-camera.

Right to Know and receive information is one of the facts of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and for which reason the public is entitled to witness the Court proceedings.

As, the above-stated Court proceedings involve the issue impacting the public at large or a section of the public.

Bench appreciated the efforts of the 3rd year law student appeared in person in the public interest.

Further, in line of the above-stated observations, Bench stated that to work out the modalities to facilitate the people at large including the media to watch the virtual hearing, Committee of two Judges of this High Court has been constituted pursuant to Standing Committee’s decision on 25-06-2020.

In the near future, a report of the committee is expected after which to allow access to the public at large including the media persons of print digital and electronic media shall be finalized.

Petition was disposed of in view of the above. [Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. Gujarat High Court, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1055 , decided on 20-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajamanickam, JJ., while stating that it has already on the Judicial side taken up the matter with regard to the tragic demise of “Jayaraj and Bennicks” closed the matter seeking direction in adherence to the Supreme Court’s decision in Lalitha Kumari v. Government of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1.

Petitioner sought direction for issuance of writ of mandamus to ensure strict adherence to the law laid down by Supreme Court of India in Lalitha Kumari v. Government of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1 in cases of Police excesses and thereby ensure immediate registration of FIR in cases where police persons are the alleged offenders and issue any guidelines, directions or standard operating procedures to be followed by the respondents herein and his subordinates in cases of police excesses.

Offence of Murder

Public Interest Litigation alleged lapses as to the non-registration of the FIR, despite the complaint lodged by the close family members, prima facie disclosing the commission of cognizable offence of murder.

Petitioner’s counsel, A. Rajarajan submitted that the police officials concerned deliberately failed to perform their duties and did not adhere to the decision of Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench in Lalithakumari v. Government of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1.


Bench stated that it has already taken up the matter suo motu and is dealing with the aspects of the tragic demise of “Jayaraj and Bennicks”, hence the present petition is to be closed. [L. Vasuki v. Director General of Police, State of T.N., 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1457 , decided on 09-07-2020]

Also read:

TN Custodial Deaths | Madras HC appeals to Print, Visual and Social Media not to misinterpret observations made during hearings & not to conduct media trial; CBCID to file a status report in a sealed cover

TN Custodial Deaths | Madras HC passes slew of directions for conducting of enquiry by the Judicial Magistrate in the brutal killing of father-son duo

TN Custodial Deaths | Madras HC directs preservation of clue materials; Issues directions on premise that case be transferred to CBI

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division bench of Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, JJ. while addressing the present petition stated that,

wouldn’t a ‘stone hearted person’ only challenge the decision to deduct one day’s salary for a pandemic?

In the present appeal, Order dated 12th May, 2020 by Single Judge of the Court has been challenged wherein the appellant’s petition challenging the deduction of one day salary by the respondent-University for contributing to the PM CARES Fund to combat COVID-19 pandemic was dismissed.

Appellant’s Counsel, stated that respondent-University did not give all its employees adequate notice of the the deduction and further it proceeded to deduct one day’s salary even in respect of those employees who had expressed their desire not to make a contribution.

In view of his submission he emphasised on the aspect that voluntary contribution cannot be deducted without anyone’s consent.

High Court while placing its opinion stated that the present petition had not been filed in the prescribed format of PIL, further adding to the said, bench also stated that the teachers and staff of Delhi University are neither financially weak nor suppressed to such an extent that they cannot approach the Court directly.

While noting the fact that appeals were issued Chairman UGC as well as Registrar of respondent-University in the month of March, 2020 to voluntarily contribute to support the cause of COVID-19 pandemic.

Court takes judicial notice of the fact that we live in the ‘internet age’ wherein all people are active on social media.

Bench with regard to the deduction stated that in view of the severity and the spread of the pandemic, the deduction of one day’s salary of the appellant (i.e. Rs.7,500/-) cannot be said to be contrary to public interest or harsh or inequitable.

Present PIL is not in the interest of the public and thus in view of the above it is to be dismissed. [Shreekant Gupta v. University of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 651 , decided on 16-06-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has imposed a fine of Rs 5,00,000 on the petitioner seeking ban on the sale and use of Coca Cola, Thums up, Soft Beverages. The PIL had also sought issuing Notification uprising people at large not to drink and use it, as the same is detrimental to the cause of health.

Calling the invocation of Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution an abuse of process, the Court said,

“The petition has been filed without the petitioner having any technical knowledge on the subject. The source of his assertions has not been substantiated. No justification or explanation is forthcoming during the submissions of Mr S P Singh, learned Senior Counsel on why two specific brands in particular are chosen to be the target of the proceedings.”

It, hence, said that besides dismissing the petition an order directing the imposition of exemplary costs was necessary.

The costs imposed is to be deposited in the Registry within one month and shall be disbursed to the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association.

[Umedsinh P Chavda v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 500  , order dated 11.06.2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Direction sought for PM-CARES Fund to reveal money received and other details on its website.

As reported by ANI, A Public Interest Litigation was filed wherein transparency in the context of PM Cares Fund was sought.

In the said fund, petitioner had also sought direction to reveal information under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

It was added in the petition that, anybody that is “owned”, “controlled” or “substantially financed” by the government qualifies as a public authority under the RTI Act.

PM-Cares Fund was government controlled as well as substantially financed.

“The corpus of Rs 10,000 crore has been created by donations largely from the Public Sector Undertakings, Central Ministries and Departments and even the salaries of armed forces personnel, civil servants and members of the judicial entities have been compulsorily donated into the fund. If PM-Cares fund is held to be a public authority it needs to be examined as to whether the public authorities at the highest level could prompt the government agencies, public servants, to contribute to this funds whose details are now sought to be kept opaque.

Further the petitioner also stated that, reluctance in divulging information raises a “profoundly serious apprehension” since the fund had been established for a public cause for combating deadly pandemic.

[Source: ANI]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Anil Kumar and Manish Mathur, JJ.,took cognizance of the Public Interest Litigation petition filed seeking enforcing of guidelines on social distancing and sanitisation in UP jails.

Petitioner sought direction to respondents to take proper steps and arrangements to ensure the meeting of inmates with their deponents, family members, friends and lawyers while insuring the guidelines of social distancing and proper sanitization in order to protect the fundamental Rights of the inmates.

Another direction that petitioner wanted to be directed to the respondents was to devise a mechanism to ensure social distancing and sanitization norms alongwith other safety measures so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Jails of Uttar Pradesh.

S.K. Singh and Anand Shikhar, Counsels for the respondents submitted that the present PIL is not maintainable and need a period of 10 days for filing the counter affidavit.

Matter to be listed on 15th June, 2020.[Shivam Pandey v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 695 , decided on 29-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: While deciding the instant matter wherein the petitioner sought the quashment of order dated 19-5-2020 issued by the Health Commissioner, Government of Madhya Pradesh prohibiting the disclosure of identity of Covid-19 positive patients, the Division Bench of Sanjay Yadav and Vishal Dhagat, JJ., upheld the Government Order, terming it to be in sync with the larger public interest. The Court further observed that the Order not only seeks to prevent any rampant chaos in the society, it also seeks to protect the Covid-19 patients from suffering social stigma and public wrath.

The State Government issued the aforementioned Order in line with the Advisory issued by the Central Government that urged the people from spreading misleading news related to the pandemic and highlighted the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for the citizens at large. The Advisory strictly cautioned the citizens against sharing unverified news on social media; refraining from labelling any community or area for spread of COVID-19 and refraining from targeting frontline ‘COVID Warriors’ like doctors, police and sanitary workers etc.

Perusing the contents of the Advisory and the State Government Order in question, the Court dismissed the petition observing that there is no merit in the instant PIL and the relief sought by the petitioner in the form of quashment the Government Order, runs contrary to the public interest. [Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch v. State of M.P., 2020 SCC OnLine MP 1078, decided on 28-05-2020] 

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan, CJ and Arijit Banerjee, J., while addressing a petition stated that responsible journalism includes the need to exclude irresponsible reporting by anyone involved in the print or audio visual media.

Advocate General pointed out that the present petition is essentially a Publicity Oriented Litigation because the petitioner has, by his conduct demonstrated vividly that he is using this litigation to publicize his political identity and also to encash it for enhancing his popularity in public domain.

Senior counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the fundamental right of freedom of expression cannot be curtailed in public domain.

It has been noted that, While the petitioner makes repeated complaints about the deficit in the number of sample testing, it is to be noted that there is lack of certainty as whether the rapid testing method as well as other modalities are appropriately utilized.

ICMR guidelines are, according to the petitioner, the touch stone on which the regulatory measures as well as other aspects ought to be in place. The testing of samples, test kits, mode of reference for ascertaining reason for death thereby keeping track of mortality rate attributable to Covid-19, are matters relating to scientific management of the pandemic. Union of India and the States are to respond.

Advocate General has been asked to ascertain the availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) sufficient enough to be provided to all who could be called front line worriers which includes doctors, para medics, ground staff, support staff and those dealing with medical institutions and also other areas where PPE usage ought to be the norm.

State to file affidavit disclosing the availability and utilization of PPE and also testing facilities in terms of ICMR guidelines. On the same issue, the Union of India shall also place its response.

A true version of any order can be generated from the website of the Calcutta High Court.

For the above, Bench also stated that responsible journalism includes the need to exclude irresponsible reporting by anyone involved in the print or audio visual media.

Therefore, Court stated that,

those in need of information about the contents of this Court’s orders, to access the High Court website and dissuade themselves from propagating or publicizing the orders to champion the cause of anybody concerned.

[Fuad Halim v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 898, decided on 28-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Songkhupchung Serto and S. Hukato Swu, JJ. gave certain limited directions to the State Government and other authorities regarding handling the COVID-19 situation in the State.

The Court was considering a PIL through which certain concerns regarding actions already and which are yet to be taken by the State Government regarding COVID-19 were sought to be brought the Court’s notice for issuing necessary directions.

Having heard the petitioner and the respondents, the Court was of the view that at this stage, it would be sufficient if notice is issued to the respondents and limited directions as mentioned below are issued:

1. Make at least 2 (two) testing labs of COVID-19 functional within 10 (ten) days from today and make every effort to establish other labs at strategic places in the State to facilitate free testing in the near future.

2. Provide sufficient number of PPEs which are of the standard quality prescribed by the appropriate authority to all persons who are involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and in the looking after of persons in quarantine centres.

3. Make all efforts to make ICU facilities at all places identified for treatment of COVID-19 infected persons and also increase the number of ventilators so as to facilitate treatment in times of need.

4. Make ambulance available to the patients of COVID-19, at the earliest, if not already made available and to also make available transportation facilities to all persons who are in the line of duty, in view of the constraints and restraints imposed both by the Government and the public.

5. See to it that under no circumstance or circumstances there should be any shortage of trained personnel for treatment of the COVID-19 patients and those who are quarantined.

6. Gear up and make sure that the 2 (two) main hospitals which have been identified for treatment of COVID-19 patients i.e. one at Kohima and one at Dimapur are fully equipped and ready for functioning to meet the challenge or challenges posed by the COVID-19 within a period of 2 (two) weeks.   

It was also directed that the State and other respondents will file their affidavit showing their level of preparedness and also a statement showing the materials already supplied for the personnel who are on the line of duty. [Kikrukhonuo v. State of Nagaland, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 1370 , dated 27-4-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Bench of Anant S. Dave, Acting CJ and Biren Vaishnav, J. disposed of a public interest litigation that challenged the ban on the viral online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (“PUBG”), without passing any further orders as the notification extending the said ban was cancelled by the Police Commissioner, Rajkot City.

Pruthvirajsinh Zala — a first-year Law student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University — had filed a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of the notification which imposed a ban on PUBG in Rajkot City. The Rajkot Police commissioner had laid a 2 months ban on PUBG sinceMarch using powers under Section 144 CrPC and Section 37(3) of Gujarat Police Act. Later, the Police even arrested several people playing PUBG and booked them under Section 188 IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

The petitioner who appeared in person before the Court, challenged that notification on the grounds that it was arbitrary and unreasonable at the very face of it, and violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g), and 21. The Government Pleader submitted that the ban was merely for the school examination purposes and even the parents were happy about it. Per contra, the petitioner argued that such justification did not fall under the ambit of reasonable restrictions and it was based on mere anecdotal views lacking scientific nexus.

On 29-04-2019, the High Court had directed the State to file an affidavit in reply with regard to the contentions raised by the petitioner. On 08-05-2019, the State sought more time to file the affidavit. the petitioner informed the Court that the band had been extended for another 2 months vide notification dated 01-05-2019, even though the school examinations were over and summer vacations had begun. The Court granted one day’s time to State to file the affidavit. On 09-05-2019, the Court was informed that the Police Commissioner, Rajkot City had denotified the ban extended on PUBG.

In such view of the matter, the Court disposed of the petition observing that no further orders were required to be made.[Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. State of Gujarat, R/WP (PIL) No. 78 of 2019, decided on 09-05-2019]

In the communiqué received from Mr Pruthvirajsinh Zala, he quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. saying — “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” He says he strongly believes in constitutional values and human rights; and that he acted to protect the fundamental rights and prevent arrests of the citizens of Rajkot for merely playing a game.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: The Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ. disposed of a petition with the direction to the petitioner to approach the District Collector for alleviating the grievances of the petitioner.

The facts of the case are that a public interest litigation petition was filed by the petitioner contending that the Khasra in question was recorded in the revenue records as ‘gair mumkin pokhar’ (pond) and ‘gair mumkin rasta’ respectively. The said ‘pokhar’ was used by the villagers to feed water to the cattle and ‘rasta’ was being used by the villagers for going to said ‘pokhar’ and rainy water also came through that ‘rasta’ to the ‘pokhar’. It was contended that the Respondents 6 and 7 had encroached upon the aforesaid land of ‘gair mumkin pokhar’ and ‘gair mumkin rasta’ and closed the ‘rasta’ as also filled up the ‘pokhar’ with the mud. The petitioner several times requested the Tehsildar and the SDO to remove the encroachment over the aforesaid land but no action was taken by the concerned authorities. It was also contended that due to the aforesaid encroachment, the residents were suffering very hardship and they had no alternative ‘pokhar’ to feed their cattle. It was thus prayed that the respondents be directed to remove the encroachment.

The Court instead of directly entertaining this public interest litigation petition directed the petitioner to approach the District Collector for an appropriate action that should be taken within 3 months. [Bhagwan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 78, Order dated 04-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Dinesh Maheshwari, CJ and S. Sujatha, JJ. dismissed a PIL and condemned the act of petitioner wife who had filed the said petition for her personal interests in the garb of public interest.

The instant petition was filed praying for a writ of mandamus to the Central and State government suggesting certain guidelines to be implemented by law enforcement authorities to ensure protection of women and strict implementation of dowry and domestic violence laws. The averment of petitioner was that out of court settlements made with intrusion of politicians, rowdy elements or police by shelling out money has defeated the justice delivery system.

The Court noted that multiple proceedings involving the petitioner relating to disputes raised under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Sections 498-A, 506, 504, 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were pending. It further observed that though the petition was styled as public interest litigation, it was essentially filed to foster personal disputes and vendetta. As such, the action of petitioner pretending to act pro bono publico only to get personal gain ought to be discouraged.

The Bench observed that the petitioner-wife was seeking relief in a sinister manner through a frivolous litigation masked to resolve family disputes circumventing the regular judicial process. In case there is an infraction of a law by authorities, the appropriate remedy for the same was available under law.

In view of the aforesaid observations, PIL jurisdiction in the present petition was declined. [Anusha N. v. Union of India, WP No. 44038 of 2018, decided on 20-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division bench comprising of Dinesh Maheswari and S.G. Pandit, JJ. while hearing a civil writ petition declined to exercise its jurisdiction under public interest litigation since the petition involved the determination of questions of fact.

The instant writ petition was filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India praying to call for records pertaining to the case on hand and seeking a direction against the respondent State to clear the road by removing encroachments made on public roads.

The court, on the day of preliminary hearing, stated that it was not persuaded to entertain the present petition as a public interest litigation (PIL) because though the petition alleged several encroachments on public pathway and roads but none of the alleged encroachers had been impleaded as a party to the said petition, not even in a representative capacity. Further, it was noted that the matter involved questions of fact which could not be determined in the PIL jurisdiction of the Court.

With the aforesaid observations and noting, the court dismissed the present petition with a liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to appropriate remedies in accordance with law. [Chaitanya Mandal v. State of Karnataka,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 1755, decided on 23-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The petition was filed before Krishna Murari, CJ. and Arun Palli, J., praying that the State Government should be commanded to declare an area in question as a protected monument and to preserve it accordingly. An affidavit was filed by Deputy Secretary, Department of Archaeology, Museums, and Archives, Punjab stating that a notification under Section 4(3) of the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964, had been issued and published.

As per the amicus curiae in this case, according to the affidavit, cause of this petition had already been served thus this petition should be quashed. Whereas the Punjab Urban Development Authority submitted that notification had been issued without considering the objections by the authorities.

The High Court was of the view that issue raised by Punjab Urban Development Authority and submission of respondent both were beyond the scope of this Public Interest Litigation. Amicus curiae brought to light the fact that consideration for auction was not fully paid and no allotment order in their favour has been issued. The Court stated that if any legal right was violated they can take recourse accordingly and for this Public Interest Litigation the proceedings were closed and the matter was disposed. [Subhash Kapoor v. State of Punjab, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 1517, decided on 01-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In an highly structured and ornate decision concerning the deficiencies of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 placed in the form of a PIL, the Division Bench comprising of A.S. Oka and Riyaz.I.Chagla, JJ., have remarkably given the explanation on the objects of enacting the Trees Act, which clearly is a leading path towards the growth of trees rather than the destruction in urban areas.

The focal point of addressing the present PIL was the challenge placed by the petitioners on the validity of the amendment to the Trees Act. The talked about PIL in this case constitutes two petitions and the authorities involved in them are “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai” and “Municipal Corporation of City of Thane”. The challenge in both the petitions is to the sub-section (6) added in Section 8 of the Trees Act and there is a challenge to the constitutional validity of the said provision on the ground of violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The first and foremost submission posed by the petitioners was that in regard to the constitution of the Tree Authority and the kind of mindless decision making process they have adopted towards granting the felling of trees. Her contention is that the entire process is vitiated by illegality due to which they cannot be allowed to function. The next submission was made in regard to the primary challenge of the PIL which concerns sub-section (6) of Section 8, in which she states that, the said provision is arbitrary in nature and has no nexus with the purpose or object sought to be achieved and it certainly violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Along with the mentioned contentions, the other concern was that of the violation of a Fundamental Right of citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India due to the manner of exercise of power by the Municipal Commissioner under the above mentioned sub-section.

Further, even in the other writ, petitioner posed a similar issue by challenging his submission to sub-section (6) of Section 8 by stating that intelligible differentia is not present for the classification under the said sub-section which clearly carves the vagueness and ambiguity due to complete absence of guidelines.

Noting all the contentions posed by the petitioners and prioritising the issue by issuing various directions towards the alarming issue of decisions being taken for felling of trees by the authorities acting in an arbitrary manner, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay has taken care of the issues by limiting the powers of the Municipal Commissioner by making the authorities a little more diligent towards the issue of felling of trees and therefore, allowing the citizens to appeal against such decisions. [Rohit Manohar Joshi v. Tree Authority, Thane; PIL No. 119 of 2017, dated 23.04.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed for a direction to the authorities to take appropriate measures for combating the disease of dengue spreading like fire in the State of West Bengal and for taking appropriate measures in that regard. Justice Arijit Banerjee and Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, ACJ, issued interim measures to combat the hazardous situation.

Learned Advocate General on behalf of the State, challenged the maintainability of the writ petitions on two grounds: Firstly, the petitions were filed on the basis of newspaper reports and secondly, these writ petitions are not supported by any evidence, whereas, Hon’ble Apex Court has laid that a party should approach the High Court only after doing adequate research for the grievance made. The writ petitions filed in this regard are seeking publicity and they have no public interest involved, by quoting this, the learned Advocate General relied on a few decisions like, Ravinder Kumar Sharma v. State of Assam, (1999) 7 SCC 435; Holicow Pictures (P) Ltd. v. Prem Chandra Mishra, (2007) 14 SCC 281 and many more on the same issue of seeking publicity and not for any public interest.

Mr. Sanyal by relying on the decision of Division Bench of this Court in Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury v. State Of West Bengal, 2003 SCC OnLine Cal 611: (2004) 2 CHN 40, submitted that a PIL is definitely maintainable if it carries the issue of public health and concern at large. Learned counsel also submitted that WP 26784 (W) of 2017, is not based merely on newspaper reports instead it is based on a State Government report to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

Hon’ble Court further held that, newspaper reports are per se inadmissible in accordance to Section 81 of the Evidence Act, unless the  reporter concerned is examined and cross-examined in the Court. The information should show the gravity and seriousness involved. Therefore, by considering the above-stated contentions, 2 out of 9 Writ petitions stand on a different footing and along with that the report filed by State admits that Dengue has become a serious social problem, for which the Court cannot just remain silent.

State has taken appropriate measures to the best possible extent, but a number of deaths still continue to occur, for which adequate steps shall be taken and also the the Court did not hold that the writ petitions filed on the grave issue of dengue causing several deaths are not maintainable as PILs and the contention of the State of the writ petitions not maintainable was also rejected.

Further, interim directions were issued to tackle the problem:

· Mobile medical facilities for blood testing, in areas where no hospitals at close proximity are available.

· All Government Hospitals in the State to be provided with adequate medical kits.

· A report shall be submitted by every clinical establishment to the licensing authority as soon as a person is found to be suffering from Dengue, for which a notification had already been issued by the State Government in 2012.

[Anindya Sundar Das v. State of W.B.;  2017 SCC OnLine Cal 16057; decided on 01-12-2017]


Hot Off The PressNews

In an unfortunate incident that took place last night, six NUJS students were groped and brutally assaulted by a mob of goons hired by the government contractor in charge of demolition of the Subhas Sarovar slums. After the students of NUJS Kolkata obtained a stay order of Calcutta High Court on the demotion of slum housing.

Narrating the sequence of events, the Student Juridical Association, NUJS, in it’s official Press Release, said that despite the stay order, the contractors demolished the slums at which point NUJS students went to the contractors with the copy of the Court order. On being confronted, the order was torn up, following which the female students were groped by multiple goons and the male students were grievously assaulted till they were unconscious. Their phones were smashed and destroyed and when they tried to escape, the gates of the area, which is a fenced enclosure, were shut.

Terming the incident as manhandling of collective conscience, the student association wrote:

“we, as the law school fraternity, must stand together against this complete obliteration of the rule of law that we seek to defend and practice. We sincerely hope that in this hour of need, our collective conscience will inspire us to participate in defending and echoing the common ideals of liberty and rule of law that bind us together.”

As per the latest update, the Calcutta High Court has immediately ordered the state for rehabilitation of the evicted slum dwellers within 24 hours and has issued a contempt of court notice against perpetrators.

Last month, the public interest team at Increasing Diversity By Increasing Access (IDIA) comprising of NUJS students had obtained a stay on slum demolitions in Kolkata’s Subhas Sarovar area.

As part of its beautification project, the West Bengal state government planned to demolish the slums in the area, which would render around twenty-two families living there for more than a decade, homeless. Three of the slum dwellers, including octogenarian Shiv Shankar Ray, sought to file a petition before the Calcutta High Court challenging the government’s decision. The petition was drafted by the IDIA team comprising of NUJS students– which received help from pro bono lawyers practising at the High Court.