Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Hemant Gupta* and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., set aside the order of Delhi High Court whereby the High Court had held that the Municipal Council could not impose different policies on lands transferred to it by the government than those imposed on lands owned by it. The Bench clarified,

“…the rights of Government of India in administering the markets as a lessor or licensee alone was transferred (to the Council) and not the land or the building thereon. The Council was to administer the properties as a delegate of the Union.”

Factual Matrix

A show cause notice was issued to the occupant-respondent alleging sub-letting and unauthorised construction in a stall located at Baba Kharag Singh Marg. The occupant-respondent claimed ownership of the property stating that the shop was allotted to one Maheshi Dhoundiyal and the same was sublet in the year 1999 to the occupant and later on it was transferred in her favour in the year 2000. The occupant-respondent relied upon the Circular dated 25-07-1996 as well as the policy adopted by the Government in pursuance of the Cabinet decision dated 31-08-2000 whereby occupants of the shops in the 14 specified markets were resolved to be granted ownership rights.

However, the Estate Office passed an order of eviction, ordering eviction of the allottee from whom the occupant had purchased the stall in question. The appeal against the said judgment was dismissed by the learned Additional District Judge.

Findings of the High Court

In appeal the High Court of Delhi allowed the petitions holding that merely because market in question i.e., Baba Kharag Singh Marg Market had fallen into the lap of New Delhi Municipal Council by virtue of notification dated 24-03-2006, it did not mean that the policy regarding substitution/mutation of ownership for that market could be different from the one adopted by the Council for all other markets managed by it. Accordingly, the High Court held that the Council could not treat them differently and the occupant was held to be entitled to regularization of allotment in accordance with its policies.

Nature of the Title

The predecessor of the occupant-respondent was allotted the site in question on 04-08-1998. Some of the conditions of the license deed read thus:

“The licencee(s) shall not permit the said premises or any part thereof being used by any other person for any purpose whatsoever without the previous consent in writing of the Government and in default thereof shall be liable for ejectment. The licencee(s) shall not introduce any partner nor shall he/they transfer possess on of the premises or part thereof or otherwise carry on the business in the premises alienate his interest in the premises.”

A partnership deed was executed by the predecessor of occupant-respondent on 12-06-2000 with the occupant-respondent wherein the predecessor had kept only 20% share in the partnership firm and the remaining 80% share was that of the occupant. The partnership was dissolved within 2 months with the condition that the predecessor of the occupant would have no objection for transfer of the shop in favour of the occupant-respondent and regularization in her name.

Contention of the Parties

On 24-03-2006, the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India transferred certain markets to the Council and Municipal Corporation of Delhi w.e.f. 01-04-2006. The argument of the occupant-respondent was that the policy of regularization/restoration of allotment followed by the local bodies should be applied to the site in question rather that policies followed by the Land & Development Office and Directorate of Estates. Reliance was also placed upon an advertisement issued by the Government of India published in the Hindustan Times on 06-08-2001 to confer ownership rights to the shopkeepers of 12 markets. It was argued that the Government of India on 25-07-1996 allowed regularization of shops, stalls, flats which had come into occupation of the respective premises on or before 20-10-1989.

The appellant argued that the license deed executed in the year 1998 had clearly prohibited subletting of premises, including induction of a partner. It was also argued that the notice published on 06-08-2001 would not be applicable to the stalls located at the Baba Kharag Singh Marg market and that the administrative decision of the Cabinet dated 20-10-1989 had ceased to operate. Moreover, the occupant was not in possession of the stall on or before 20-10-1989 and the public notice dated 06-08-2001 specifically stipulated that the earlier decision of the Cabinet dated 20-10-1989 shall cease to operate.

Analysis and Findings

Rejecting the claim of the occupant-respondent upon communication dated 08-07-2008 wherein the Director of Estates had communicated to the Council that all powers to administer the markets shall now rest with Council/MCD and that the Council may take appropriate action in this particular case at their end, the Bench held that the letter dated 08-07-2008 was interdepartmental communication and not any policy decision or circular meant for public. Thus, the Bench stated, interdepartmental communications are not the enforceable orders of the Union or of the Council.

Noticing that there was a clear stipulation in the license deed executed by the predecessor of the occupant that she should not induct any partner or sublet the premises, the Bench remarked,

“…in utter violation of the terms of the license, firstly, the partnership was executed and within two months, it was dissolved. The act of the predecessor of the occupant and the occupant are clearly and unequivocally in contravention of the terms of the license deed.”

The notification dated 24-03-2006 explained that the Council was to function as a lessor or licensee and was to exercise all powers being performed by Land and Development Office, Directorate of Estates and Central Public Works Department, as the case may be. Thus, the rights of Government in administering the markets as a lessor or licensee alone was transferred and not the land or the building thereon and the Council were to administer the properties as a delegate of the Union. Similarly, the regularization/restoration of allotment of shops in para 3 of the Notification was in terms of the policy of the Union and not that of Council as it stated:

“…the guidelines and procedure followed by Land & Development Office and Directorate of Estates in the matter of…regularization/restoration of allotment of shops may also be followed”.

Thus, the Bench held that if there was a policy of regularization or restoration of the Union, the same was to be followed by the Council which was evident from the fact that the revenue generated from the transfer of markets had to be deposited in a separate corpus of funds to be utilized only for the purpose of development of markets and for no other purpose and such income would not accrue to the Council as a part of their budget. Therefore, the Bench held,

“…the markets transferred by the Government of India to the Council have to be dealt independently and separately than the properties owned by the Council as the Council has no title over such markets as it has been asked only to manage them on behalf of the Government of India.”

Verdict

In the backdrop of above, the Bench held that the orders passed by the High Court were erroneous in law and the same were set aside. The order of eviction affirmed by the Additional District Judge was restored.

[New Delhi Municipal Council v. Ganga Devi, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 803, decided on 27-09-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 


Appearance by:

Counsel for the Appellant: Yoginder Handoo

Counsel for the Respondents: Anil Kumar Tandale, B. V. Balaram Das and   Aarthi Rajan


*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta

Know Thy Judge| Justice Hemant Gupta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sunil K. Kotwal, J., allowed SBI Insurance Co. (insurer) to recover, from the owner of the offending bus (insurer), the amount paid to a third party claimant) under a policy which was cancelled by the insurer on account of non-payment of the premium amount by the insured.

An accident occurred between a motorcycle and the offending bus, as a result of which the driver of the motorcycle passed away. A claim petition was filed by the claimants under which an award was passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal. The insurer paid the claim amount in the discharge of its liability towards the claimant. It, however, claimed to recover the said amount from the insured. Insurer’s case was that the insured issued a cheque in his favour towards payment of the insurance premium for the policy taken on 10-11-2015. The accident occurred on 19-11-2015. Pertinently, the cheque issued by the insured towards payment of premium got dishonoured by the bank and, therefore, the insurer cancelled the policy on 14-12-2015. As such, the insurer claimed recovery of the amount paid to the third party.

After perusing the authorities cited, the High Court was of the opinion that in such type of cases, if the policy is cancelled before the accident occurs, then the insurer is not liable to pay compensation to the claimant. However, if the policy is cancelled after the accident happens, then he is so liable. But, in the latter category of cases, the insurer is entitled to recover the amount so paid to the claimant from the insured. It was observed that a contract of insurance between an insurer and an owner of the offending vehicle includes reciprocal promised by both the parties. In such view of the matter, the owner of the offending bus (insured) was directed to pay back the amount of the award to the insurer along with interest thereon. [SBI Insurance Co. v. Madhubala, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 639, decided on 15-04-2019]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

“Attitude of States/ Union Territories in not framing policies under Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 even after two years is pathetic”

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ., while pronouncing an order in regard to framing of policies under Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 stated that it is pathetic that even in 2 years the States and Union Territories have not framed the policies yet.

The order imposed costs on Andhra Pradesh, U.T. of Chandigarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Uttarakhand as Union of India was not aware whether the State Policy regarding Solid Waste Management was framed.

Further, the Court on being disappointed with the attitude of States and Union Territories on not framing any policies under Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, the bench stated that if the States have interest of people in mind and cleanliness and sanitation, the policies should be framed to keep the States clean.

The Court while listing the matter for 09-08-2018 directed the States and Union Territories stayed constructions until the policy is framed. [Outrage As Parents End Life After Child Dengue, In Re; 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1290, Order dated 31-08-2018]

 

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta JJ., in an order directed the Delhi Police commissioner in order to frame the policy for clearing out the junkyards inside and around police stations from the seized vehicles of the city.

The Delhi police chief Amulya Patnaik who was summoned by the Supreme Court assured the court that he would examine the issue mentioned.

Therefore, the Supreme Court, directed to clear all impounded vehicles from Nizamuddin police station along with framing the policy to get rid of the alleged junkyards due to the seized vehicles.

[Source: The Times of India]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Uttaranchal High Court has banned all water sports, paragliding, and white river rafting in the State until a policy is framed to regulate these activities. The Court directed the State Government to “prepare a transparent policy in this regard within a period of two weeks”. The Court also took note of rafting deaths every year due to the capsizing of boat and said that it should only be permitted to be managed by highly trained professionals.

In this case, the petitioner brought to light the fact that the State Government was issuing illegal leases in favour of the private respondents in the river bed of Ganga. According to the petitioner, the temporary structures were being permitted to be set up on the banks of river Ganga and rafting was being carried out by the private entrepreneurs without any law. Court pointed out the dangerous and serious nature of these sports if not regulated while highlighting the requirement of their regulation. Besides this, the Court observed that the issue of environment pollution and ecology of the river and the surrounding areas could not be ignored. The Court was shocked to know that the State Government was permitting camping sites on the river beds.

The Court reprimanded State Government that river beds cannot be leased out for a song and pressed that there has to be transparent procedure for inviting the applications after fixing the minimum rates for using the water. The Court observed that the tourism must be promoted but it is required to be regulated as the sports for pleasure cannot be permitted to end in disaster. Therefore, the Court recommended State Government to make suitable legislation for regulating the white river rafting, paragliding, and other water sports throughout the state. [Hari Om Kashyap v. State of Uttarakhand, WP PIL No. 27 of 2014, order dated 18.06.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Deciding a public interest litigation praying that the Union of India and State of U.P. be directed to introduce compulsory religious education from Class I to the post-graduate level and also provide for a syllabus for research of such education, the Division Bench comprising of Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Dr Vijay Laxmi, JJ. in their separate judgments observed that the Courts cannot impose upon the State a particular policy for imparting any form of religious instruction or education about religion and it is for Parliament or the legislative assembly concerned that has the competence to do so. It is the appropriate government which has to decide as a matter of policy to introduce the imparting of religious education and the manner of such imparting is for the expert bodies to recommend.

A prayer was also made that the respondents be restrained from granting recognition to institutions if there is no sufficient provision for imparting religious education and that the prescription of the syllabus should also include different aspects of Islamic religion including the advent of Islam and encourages the study of Islamic literature as a source of Islam. Additionally a prescription has been sought for introducing Hindu religious scriptures in the syllabus which would lead to peace in society and foster harmony between people believing in different religions. The petitioner’s thrust is that the shadow of doubt would all be cleared by the process of learning and therefore it is necessary to invoke State action to promote education about different religions.

In a separate judgment, Vijay Laxmi, J. observed that “Our experience of more than 65 years reveals that ‘secularism’ cannot be practiced by adopting a complete neutral approach towards religions but by a positive approach by making people to understand and respect religion and faith of another section of people. Based on such mutual understanding and respect for each others religious faith, mutual distrust and intolerance can gradually be eliminated.” The Judge also observed that “We must civilize the human heart. Education of the emotions and discipline of the will are essential parts of a sound system of education. Religion is a permeative influence, a quality of life, an elevation of purpose. Our institution, if they are to impart religious vitality, should have simplicity and an atmosphere of consecration that permanently influence lives. We must civilize the human heart. Education of the emotions and discipline of the will are essential parts of a sound system of education. Religion is a permeative influence, a quality of life, an elevation of purpose. Our institution, if they are to impart religious vitality, should have simplicity and an atmosphere of consecration that permanently influence lives.”

The petition was dismissed in view of the judgment in Aruna Roy v. Union of India, (2002) 7 SCC 368 wherein it was held that this Court can enforce constitutional provisions and laws framed by Parliament. It cannot, however, compel that a particular practice or tradition followed in framing and implementing the policy, must be adhered to. [Hindu Front for Justice v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine All 681, decided on August 19, 2016]

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): While declaring the repudiation of claim of a policyholder by the insurance company on the ground of non-disclosure of material facts as improper, NCDRC directed the insurance company to pay the insurance cover amount to the policyholder. A pilot of a private airline had approached NCDRC alleging that he was denied insurance claim on the ground that he did not disclose the fact that he was a known case of Hypertension and chronic kidney disease. Earlier, the complainant who was working for Jet Lite (India) Ltd. as pilot from 01.12.2007 had obtained a policy Ltd. of Rs.1.00 crore in April, 2009 from New India Assurance Co. and paid a sum of Rs.56, 200/- as premium. Later, in December, 2009, when the complainant was declared ‘permanently unfit’  for flying, he approached the insurance company for his policy claim but his claim was repudiated on the ground that he did not disclose the fact that he was a known case of Hypertension and chronic kidney disease. The complainant had alleged that as the last two medical tests conducted by the Air Force, reveal that the complainant had met the prescribed medical standards and the insurance policy was issued after going through the said medical reports, insurance company is liable to pay the claim amount. After perusing the documents, Commission observed that, “At the time of renewal of the licence, the complainant had undergone assessment through Medical Board constituted by Air Force Central Medical Establishment and it was certified that the complainant met the specified medical standards.  The said disease was detected only in June, 2009.  There is not even an iota of evidence which may go to show that the complainant suffered from this ailment, prior to April, 2009.” Accordingly, the Commission directed the insurance company to pay a sum of Rs.50, 00,000/- in favour of the complainant, with interest @ 9% p.a., from the date of filing of complaint till its realisation.” The sum of Rs.27, 575/-, which was not earlier refunded by the company to the complainant was also directed to be refunded with interest @ 18% p.a., till its realization. (Capt. A.K.Singh v. New India Assurance Co. Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine NCDRC 12, decided on 11.05.2015)