Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Anil Kumar and Saurabh Lavania, JJ., addressed a Public Interest Litigation and sought the essential necessities and facilities being provided to the migrant workers.

Present PIL was filed to seek direction with regard to safeguarding the rights of migrant workers stranded Uttar Pradesh and in view of that their essential necessities to be fulfilled. The one’s who are moving on road shouldn’t be left starving.

State Counsel, H.P. Srivastava and S.B. Pandey, Assistant Solicitor General of India ensured the Court that the Guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs and Supreme Court will be fully carried out by the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Bench in view of the above directed the respondents to file a status report for the above indicating what facilities have been provided to workers/labourers who are keen to reach back their native place in State of U.P.,some of which are on the way as also to the stranded workers/labourers in the State of U.P. [Dileep Kumar Mishra v. U.O.I, PIL Civil No. 8058 of 2020, decided on 21-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Anil Kumar and Saurabh Lavania, JJ. addressing a concerned with regard to spraying of Sodium Hypochlorite on human beings, State of U.P. sought time to file counter-affidavit.

Petitioner sought relief for the following through the present petition:

  • Issue a writ, order or command in the nature of Mandamus thereby directing the OP 1 to ensure compliance of advisory issued by MoHFW regarding prohibition of Sodium Hypochlorite spray on human beings or any other living being.

Petitioner’s counsel relied on following with regard to use of Sodium Hypochlorite:

Wear protective gloves/ protective clothing/eye protection/ face protection.

In case of ingestion, Inhalation, skin contact or eye contact, Poison Centre or doctor/physician to be immediately contacted.

On contact of Sodium Hypochlorite person can suffer burns by all exposure routes.

“…it is evident that from no stretch of imagination Sodium Hypochlorite can be used in any form for spraying it over a human being or any animal for any purpose, be it whatsoever.”

It has been stated that on 23rd March, 2020 a cleaning staff lost his lie in U.P. while spraying the disinfectant in order to prevent coronavirus as he was spraying the disinfectant without any proper preventive kit.

On 29th March, 2020, at District Bareli several persons comprising of men, women , old person and young children were subjected to spraying Sodium Hypochlorite in the name of killing corona virus which might be present in their body. It is also necessary to point out that the aforesaid inhuman act of spraying Sodium Hypochlorite caused severe panic and ill effects over the body of the men, women, old persons and children.

Again an incident has been highlighted wherein several labor were subjected to spray of sodium Hypochlorite at Charbagh Lucknow.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also in its guidelines issued that spraying of individuals or groups is NOT RECOMMENDED under any circumstances.

For the said matter, respondents counsel sought 4 weeks time to file a counter-affidavit. [Prince Lennin v. State of U.P., PIL Civil No. 8043 of 2020, decided on 19-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar, JJ., while addressing a Public Interest Litigation held that,

Azan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of Azan through loud­ speakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion, warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.”

Background

Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Afzal Ansari wrote a letter stating that fundamental right to religion of people at Ghazipur may be protected and State Administration may be directed to permit the recitation of Azan by only one person “Muezzin” from respective mosques of District Ghazipur, since it does not violate any of the directives issued in view of COVID-19 containment.

Senior Advocate of Supreme Court of India, Salman Khurshid also approached Allahabad High Court through Advocate Syed Mohd, Fazal to seek permission of recitation of Azan for the Muslims at Farrukhabad, Hathras, Ghazipur as Azan recitation is an integral part of Islam.

With the prayer of similar relief, Senior Advocate S. Wasim A. Qadri also wrote a letter.

In view of the above, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by Afzal Ansari .

Relief sought was that,

Muslims in the Districts Ghazipur and Farrukhabad, may be permitted to recite Azan through “Muezzin”, by using sound amplifying devices and the restrictions imposed by the administration are wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional since they do not, in any way, violate the guidelines issued for the containment of the pandemic.

Further it was submitted that pronouncement of Azan is not a congressional practice but is simply an act of recitation by a single individual which in no manner violates any of the conditions of lockdown.

Petitioner also added that caretaker of the Mosque is usually responsible for the recitation of Azan who resides in the mosque, in other cases person assigned the duty of recitation Azan is the closes available person, in both the stated cases, no violation of lockdown norms would be observed.

Also ban on Azan through sound amplifying devices is a violation of fundamental right under Article 25 of Constitution of India

Azan is integral to religion and in no way undermines the society’s collective response to the pandemic.

-Senior Advocate, Salman Khurshid

Additional Advocate General while appearing on behalf of the State, supported the Counter Affidavit filed by the Government, wherein it was submitted that, Azan is a call for congregation to offer prayers at the Mosque which clearly is a violation of COVID-19 guidelines.

A meeting was also convened by District Magistrate, Ghazipur on 24th march, 2020 which was attended by several religious leaders wherein it was decided that no religious activities will be conducted during the period of lockdown at any public place of worship and no loudspeakers/amplifiers would be used for the said purpose.

“In the new guidelines issued by Government in view of lockdown, it was stated that all religious places/places of worship shall be closed for public. Religious congregation strictly prohibited.”

Further it was submitted that,

During the period of lockdown with cooperation of religious groups no loud speakers/amplifiers have been used during the festivals like Navratri, Ram Navmi, Hanuman Jayanti and Parasu Ram Jayanti. People of different religions have been following the guidelines and no religious activities are being carried out at any religious place of worship or public place, and no loudspeakers have been used since 24.03.2020

Additional Advocate General stated that right contained under Article 25 of the Constitution of India is subject to public order, morality, health and Part III of the Constitution of India. Rule 5 of The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 also states that a loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority.

Bench Analysis & Decision

While referred to the decision of Calcutta High Court in Moulana Mufti Syed Mohammed Noorur Rehman Barkati v. State of W.B.,wherein it was held that,

use of microphone and loud­speakers were not an essential and an integral part of Azan.

There is catena of judicial decisions which recognizes the right to live in freedom from noise pollution as a fundamental right protected by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Noise pollution beyond permissible limit is hazardous which violates the fundamental rights of citizens.

In the Supreme Court decision of Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v. K.K.R. Majestic, (2000) 7 SCC 282, it was held that

“No religion prescribes that prayers should be performed by disturbing the peace of others nor does it preach that they should be through voice amplifiers or beating of drums.”

Court also observed the fact that petitioner’s counsel could not explain why the Azan could not be offered without the use of amplifying devices.

There is no such religious order which prescribes that Azan can be recited only through loud­speakers or by any amplifiers. Azan is certainly an essential and integral part of Islam but use of microphone and loud­speakers is not an essential and an integral part thereof.

Thus, Court for the above also stated that Right to religion by no stretch of imagination, ought to be practised, professed and propagated saying that microphone has become an essential part of the religion.

Azan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of Azan through loud­speakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions of part III of the Constitution of India.

Another point of significance to be noted is that, until and unless there is a license/permission from the authorities concerned under the Noise Pollution Rules, under no circumstances, Azan can be recited through any sound amplifying devices.

Hence it is ruled that while the right to offer Azan by voice, without the use of sound amplifying devices is a right protected under Article 25 of the Constitution. However, the right to recite Azan though sound amplifying devices is not protected under Article 25, since it is not an integral part of Islam.

Further, the Court stated that,

Azan can be recited by Muezzin from minarets of the Mosques by human voice without using any amplifying device and the administration is directed not to cause hindrance in the same on the pretext of the Guidelines to contain the pandemic­ Covid­-19.

With the above observations, PIL stands disposed of. [Afzal Ansari v. State of U.P., PIL No. 570 of 2020, decided on 15-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ., dismissed a petition raising concerns for the welfare of LGBTQI Community, as the same was filed without any ground work.

Public Interest Litigation was filed to seek direction to respondent to take effective measures to provide financial aid including food, shelter and medicines, etc., to sex workers, lesbians, bisexuals, gay and transgender people in Delhi for their survival during the COVID-19 Pandemic; petitioner also sought the constitution of a Committee for their rehabilitation.

Another point raised in the PIL was the exemption of rent for above-stated persons living in Delhi.

Bench on observing the points on concern raised in the PIL, asked the Counsel that for whose benefit the petition has been filed and how such people/persons are to be identified, he had no clue and appears to be thunderstruck by the question.

“…Whether any separate register is maintained of such persons, as indeed cannot be, again the petitioner has no idea.

Bench asked the Petitioner, whether such persons would come forward to identify themselves; he was unable to say anything whatsoever except for stating that such task should also be assigned to the respondent.”

Further the bench dismissed the matter by stating that respondent as well as State Governments have already brought out several schemes to alleviate hardship to citizens in wake of COVID-19.

Supreme Court and other Courts have already issued directions in the above regard and such persons are not being discriminated.

Thus petitioner sought to withdraw his petition. Court allowed for the same on the condition that,

“the petitioner, if files any other public interest litigation in his  name or on behalf of anybody else, to file a copy of this order alongwith the said PIL and mention this order prominently, in the synopsis as well as in the body of such fresh petition if any. [Anurag Chauhan v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine Del 584 , decided on 11-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and M. Nirmal Kumar, JJ. took up the present matter by was of suo motu Writ Petition as a Public Interest Litigation.

It was noted by the Court through the medium of a channel named “Puthiya Thalaimurai”, wherein it was telecasted that a Medical Doctor, who had health problems suffered from heart attack due to complications developed on account of COVID 19 infection. Body of the doctor was taken to a Christian Cemetry, though the residents assembled and opposed the burial of the said body.

In view of the above, body was taken to Velangadu and buried, during the process, ambulance was also attacked due to which some public servants were injured.

With regard to Article 21, Supreme Court’s decision in , Francis Coraile Mullin v. Administrator, UT of Delhi, (1981) 1 SCC 608, was cited wherein, it was observed that,

Now obviously, the right to life enshrined in Article 21 cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It means something much more than just physical survival.”

Bench in the present matter stated that the scope of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial. 

Prima facie it appears that a person who practiced a noble profession as a doctor and breathed his last, has been deprived of his right to have a burial, in cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of law and order and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grevious injuries.

Court observed that the information relating to guidelines to be followed  in respect of COVID 19 cases are available in public domain at the instance of the Centre and State Government and people are expected to be aware of the said guidelines issued from time to time.

“Citizens are not expected to take law and order into their hands and if it is so, would definitely lead to anarchy.”

Thus, Court issued notices in public interest to the authorities concerned.

Matter is listed on 28-04-2020. [Suo Motu WP No. 7492 of 2020,  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 938, decided on 20-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Meghalaya High Court: A Division Bench of H.S. Thangkhiew and W. Diengdoh, JJ. addressed a PIL with regard to allotment of burial/cremation ground.

Petitioner filed the present Public Interest Litigation seeking direction to the State with regard to providing/alloting land for cremation/burial ground by assessing the need for various places of the District.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that Entry 10 of the State List in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India empowers the State to make law on burial and burial grounds and Section 252 of the Meghalaya Municipal Act, 1973 also empowers the Municipal Board to provide fitting places for burial or burning grounds as stipulated by Article 243 (W) read with Entry 14 of the 12th Schedule to the Constitution of India, however, till date there in no single burial ground of the Shillong Municipal Board allotted by the State Government.

Adding to the above submissions, it was averred that, on an emergency basis, the Government may be directed to provide and arrange a place outside the residential area to set up a crematorium or burial ground especially for dealing with cases arising out of the COVID-19 fallout.

With regard to the allotment of burial grounds, AG submitted that State Government is not the appropriate authority for the same as the government does not own land in Meghalaya except the land acquired or purchased from private persons and public land is owned by the Community, allotment of which is governed by the laws made by the concerned Autonomous District Council authorized in Schedule VI of the Constitution of India.

Counsel for Shillong Municipal Board, K. Barua  submitted that the Shillong Municipal Board does not have any land for use as burial ground and there are also no-bio medical plant to dispose of the burial waste.

Bench with regard to the above view stated that it requires a detailed hearing for which necessary material are to be placed before this Court.

Thus the matter is to be listed after 3 weeks. [Justice S.R. Sen (R) v. State of Meghalaya,  2020 SCC OnLine Megh 57, decided on 17-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Rajnesh Oswal, J. took suo motu cognizance of increasing domestic violence cases against women during COVID-19 lockdown and suggested measures to handle the situation. The Court also passed direction upon the Government and various authorities. The matter was directed to be listed as a writ petition in public interest (PIL).

Even at the best of the time, women and girls face tremendous barriers in accessing means to meet for help and securing justice. Illiteracy, financial incapacity; ignorance of available assistance; family and societal barriers; fear of formal institutions like police; insufficient legal aid; lack of information, etc impede women and girls from accessing resources against domestic violence being faced by them.

Observing that unfortunately all crises disproportionately impact women, the High Court noted that globally, while the pandemic is having a tremendous negative impact on societies and economies, the adverse social and economic consequences of the pandemic for women and girls are devastating. As the lockdown is implemented, societies as a whole are having reduced access to resources. There is increase in stress due to loss of jobs and strained finances. Lack of income, unemployment, insecurity about the future or the fate of children creates tensions amongst the adults leading to abuse of all kinds. This is exaggerated in families with prior histories of such behaviour. Women and children are found to be specially vulnerable to such domestic violence which has seen a worldwide spike.

… the biggest obstacle to a woman seeking assistance against abuse and domestic violence is the fact she has to go against intimate domestic partners or her own family members.

Looking at the stats, the latest data released by National Commission for Women, within a week after the lockdown began on March 24, a total of 257 complaints relating to crime against women, have been received by its Complaint and Investigation Cell. This data, shows a steep rise during the lockdown, compared with the figures available for the week between March 2-8, that stands at a total of 116 complaints. The cases of domestic violence, specially, rose to 69 from 30.

The lack of enforcement as well as alternative source of residence also impedes women filing complaints with officials or the police. There is also a huge trust deficit.

It was noted that one factor in the mode of lodging a complaint, which has been noticed in India, is the inability of women and children from the economic weaker sections of the Indian society to accessing online platforms for assistance. Any measure for assistance to victims of domestic violence must provide for women and children from this group.

Judicial notice was taken of the fact that plight of victims of domestic violence in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh must be no different as that of similarly placed victims in other jurisdictions. It was held that to ensure adequate means and tools to address domestic violence to victims in these two Union Territories, women’s leadership and adequate contributions must also be at the heart of the COVID-19 planning and implementation measures.

Adverting to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: the statutory mechanism in existence for protection of rights of women who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family, the Court stated that a duty is cast upon the Government under Section 11(a) to take all measures to give wide publicity to the provisions of the law through public media including the electronic and the print media.

Considering gravity of the situation, the High Court suggested following measures to grant immediate assistance:

(i) Creation of dedicated funding to address issues of violence against women and girls as part of the COVID-19 response by the Union Territories of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

(ii) Increased availability of call-in services to facilitate discreet reporting of abuse.

(iii) Increased tele/online legal and counselling service for women and girls.

(iv) Designated informal safe spaces for women, say grocery stores and pharmacies, where they can report domestic violence/abuse without alerting the perpetrators.

(v) Immediate designation of safe spaces (say for instance empty hotels/education institutions etc.) as shelters for women who are compelled to leave their domestic situation. These shelters must be treated as accessible shelters.

(vi) Giving urgent publicity to information regarding all of the above measures as also the availability of the facilities for seeking relief and redressal against the issues of domestic violence.

(vii) Increasing awareness campaigns on all aspects of the issues.   

The Court also passed certain directions on various authorities:

(a) Secretary, Department of Social Welfare; Governments of UTs of J&K and Ladakh; and the Member Secretary, J&K State Legal Services Authority, will submit a report informing about the steps taken regarding domestic or any other kind of violence being faced by the women on account of the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.

(b) Secretary, Department of Social Welfare; Governments of UTs of J&K and Ladakh; and the Member Secretary, J&K State Legal Services Authority, will examine suggestions given by the Court as enlisted above as also the innovative measures taken by countries world over and the spotlight initiative taken up by the United Nations. The said authorities will take a view regarding requirements and steps to be taken to mitigate the sufferings of the victims of domestic violence in the Union Territories.

(c) A report of measures in place, steps underway, and those contemplated, be placed before the Court before 28th April, 2020, the next date of hearing.

(d) The Secretaries of the J&K Legal Services Authority shall call for list of all cases involving cases of domestic violence which are pending as complaints with the police stations in the Union Territories or in the courts and ascertain the safety and well being of the complainants. 

(e) All the courts in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh shall treat cases of domestic abuse as urgent and proceed with the matters in accordance with the Circulars issued regarding the procedure to be followed ensuring social distancing.

Advocate Monika Kohli is appointed as an amicus curiae and the matter has been directed to be listed next on 28th April, 2020 for further consideration. [Court on its own Motion v. UTs of J&K and Ladakh, WP(C) PIL No. (unnumbered) of 2020, dated 16-4-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Vikram Nath, CJ and Ashutosh J. Shastri, J. addressed a suo motu public interest litigation in view of incident of mass congregation in Delhi.

At least 200 members of the said congregation have been reported to traveled to the State of Gujarat who may be infected with COVID-19. News reports have further confirmed death of one person in Gujarat out of a total of 8 deaths all over the country who had participated in the congregation at Delhi.

Further the Court noted that no one knows where all these 200 or more members of the congregation are now based in Gujarat.

Advocate General, Kamal B. Trivedi appearing for State of Gujarat submitted that Government is already in the process of identifying and tracing not only the members of the said congregation having travelled to Gujarat but also the details of other persons coming in close contact with the said members.

Devan Vyas, Assistant Solicitor General, on behalf of union of India, assured the Court that Central Government after collecting necessary data from State of Delhi with regard to the above would share the same with respective states including Gujarat.

High Court in its earlier order had directed the State Government to ensure that no gathering takes place in all the places of worship in the State but that would not mean that daily puja/aarti/service/offering of prayer(namaaz) in these places of worship is to be stopped bu that the same would carried out by the respective managements without making such places open to public.

Advocate General during the present hearing assured that the above would be strictly followed.

In the present hearing, Court issued that Union of India will provide complete information to the State of Gujarat and to the Court in a sealed cover of all those persons irrespective of their nationality who were party to the Tablighi Jamaat and have entered to the State of Gujarat.

Further the State Government shall provide following details:

  • Details provided by Union of India; Steps taken by State of Gujarat.
  • Quarantine, testing and other steps taken by the State in regard to such persons
  • State shall also provide details of those people who have been untraceable
  • Steps taken for the implementation of the restrictions that may have been imposed by the State with respect to gatherings at all worship places such as Temples, Churches, Gurudwaras, Mosques and strict compliance thereof.

Thus in view of the above the Court held that if satisfactory reports will not be submitted then the court will have to issue necessary directions and may take coercive measures.

Matter is to be listed on 03-04-2020.[Suo Motu v. State of Gujarat,  2020 SCC OnLine Guj 385, decided on 01-04-2020]


Also Read:

Government committed to — identify, isolate and quarantine COVID-19 positive Tabligh Jamaat workers in India post their congregation in Nizamuddin, Delhi

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Indrajit Mahanty CJ, and Ashok Kumar Gaur J., dismissed a Public Interest Litigation alleging the online game “Dream 11” of committing offence of betting and gambling.

In the present case, the petitioner filed a PIL with a grievance that the online game “Dream 11” should be declared involving betting and gambling. The petitioner prayed in his petition that the Court may pass suitable order/s to prohibit the stated game and also measures needs to be undertaken in order to prohibit the commission of offences of gambling.

The Additional Advocate General representing the respondents, Rajesh Maharshi, filed a reply to the above petition contending that the issues in hand has been discussed by various High Courts and the legality of the game has been upheld. The respondents submitted that as per Section 12 of the Rajasthan Public Gambling Ordinance, 1949, the game involving “mere skill” is exempted from the applicability of the Act/Ordinance and since “Dream 11” game has been held to be a game of skill and not a game of chance.

The advocate representing the petitioner, Mr Sunil Kumar Singh, submitted that the State authorities have miserably failed to discharge their statutory obligation of preventing such game which is played by the innocent people and they indulge themselves in gambling and betting.

The Court upon analysing the facts and circumstances declared that the online game did not involve elements of gambling or betting and the State authorities have not violated any statutory obligations.

The Court placed reliance on the directions of the Punjab and High Court decision, Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh 2017 Cri.L.J. 3827 wherein it was decided: “The respondent company’s website and success in Dream 11’s fantasy sports basically arises out of users exercise, superior knowledge, judgment and attention…. Equally so, before I conclude, I must express that gambling is not a trade and thus, is not protected by Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India and thus, the fantasy games of the respondent-company cannot said to be falling within the gambling activities as the same involves the substantial skills which is nothing but is a business activity” The Court also relied on the Division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India Criminal Public Interest Litigation Stamp No. 22 of 2019 which upheld the legality of the game and upon challenge to the Supreme Court, the Apex Court had dismissed the challenge. The Bombay High Court had stated: “Only if the result of the game/contest is determined merely by chance or accident, any money put on stake with consciousness of risk and hope to gain, would be ‘gambling’ or ‘betting’. There is no merit in the submission that the result of their fantasy game/contest shall be considered as merely by chance or accident notwithstanding involvement of substantial skill.”

The Division Bench also held that the game did not involve any form of gambling since the result of the fantasy game also did not depend on winning or losing any particular team in the real world on any given day. The present Court dismissed the PIL being unable to find any merit in the prayers of the petitioner.[Chandresh Sankhla v. State Of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 264, decided on 14-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh, JJ. allowed the petition seeking a survey to be conducted for the functioning of jails in Punjab and the living conditions of the inmates.

The petitioner was a doctor posted in Central Jail, Ludhiana. The petitioner found grave irregularities in the functioning of the jail, such as poor quality and insufficiency of food, unhygienic cooking conditions, and kitchen staff suffering from a number of diseases. Furthermore, there were no proper supply of medicines and the inmates were charged exorbitant prices to avail of the hospital facilities, drugs and injections. The lack of proper medical aid resulted in the deaths of the inmates. The petitioner filed for a Public Interest Litigation (‘PIL’) praying for an independent investigation into the functioning of the jails of Punjab especially in the district of Ludhiana, and prayed for orders to improve the same.

Upon investigation by a Special Investigation Team, a report was submitted along with suggestions for the improvement of certain facilities. The present Bench upon considering the suggestions directed the State to maintain hygienic living conditions in the jail, and the kitchen. The Court also directed to provide the inmates with sufficient and hygienic food, and all the inmates suffering from diseases to be transferred to separate cells. An obligation was imposed upon the CMO and the Home Secretary for implementing the orders of the court.[Swarandeep Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 2185, decided on 31-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of S.R. Brahmbhatt and A.P. Thaker, JJ. dismissed a PIL filed by the petitioner.

The applicant filed a PIL in the Court and the following was prayed for:

  • The Court should declare the action of the respondent authorities in proposing the implementation of the slum rehabilitation scheme for the slum-dwellers of Rathod Vas Village as unconstitutional, illegal and without jurisdiction to the extent the same proposes shifting of location that too on payment of amount price under the JNURM BSUP Scheme.
  • Respondents must be directed to propose a slum housing project or allot them houses in the housing project situated in the closest proximity under the slum rehabilitation scheme without mandating any payment from the slum dwellers as prescribed under the Slum Rehabilitation Act and Slum Policies.
  • Respondent must be directed to pay the rent to the slum-dwellers for the inter-magnum period of their relocation from the slums till the completion and allotment of houses.

On these grounds the petitioner wanted the Court to pass an order restraining the respondent authorities from evicting the slum-dwellers.

The contentions of the petitioner were that the respondents did not have the right to uproot and shift the slum dwellers irrespective of they being registered as slum dwellers or not as per the Gujarat Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Re-development) Act, 1973. Secondly, the scheme under which the rehabilitation is offered also requires payment by the beneficiary, which also is not in accordance with the scheme, as while offering rehabilitation there ought not to have been any requirement of payment on the part of the occupant.

The respondent argued that the very petition was ill-conceived and must be dismissed as the petitioner created an undue hurdle in the way of the beneficiary for whom the petition is filed. Secondly, the petitioner had basically pleaded for the encroachment surrounding Vadsar Pond. They spoke about the rights of the beneficiary party to seek rehabilitation at a place of choice with payment of a minimum amount.

The Court took all the arguments into consideration and instructed the petitioner to apply to the Corporation for grant of alternative accommodation in accordance with the law and disposed of the petition.[Bhaliya Bhikhabhai Ramjibhai v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 1491, decided on 25-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Goverdhan Bardhar and Mohammad Rafiq, JJ. disposed of a Public Interest Litigation, directing the specialized authorities to take necessary actions against the respondents to prevent encroachment over the pasture land of the petitioners.

In the instant case, the Counsel representing the Petitioners, Rakesh Kumar contended that there has been an unauthorized intrusion in the pasture land of the petitioners, and placing reliance on the Supreme Court Judgment, Jagpal Singh v. State of Punjab, (2011) 11 SCC 396, it submitted that the Apex Court had directed the State Governments to prepare a scheme for eviction of illegal/unauthorized occupants.

It was also pointed out that in the case of Jagdish Prasad Meena v. State of Rajasthan, D.B. Civil Writ Petition (PIL) No. 10819/2018, the Rajasthan High Court had taken note of the fact that a large number of PIL applications were being filed with regard to encroachment of pasture lands, hence it directed the Chief Secretary of the State to devise a permanent mechanism for such issues whereby the general public can lodge their complaints/representations to the specifically designated Public Land Protection Cell (PLPC). The PLPC shall get such complaints/representations enquired into by deputing concerned Sub Divisional Officer/Tehsildar/Naib Tehsildar so as to verify the authenticity of such encroachments. Upon verifying of such encroachments, if the Cell finds substance in the allegations, appropriate steps shall be taken against such trespassers and the Cell shall decide by passing a speaking order informing the necessary action taken.

Therefore, the High Court took note of the above decisions and directed the petitioners to file a detailed representation and approach the Sub-Divisional Officer along with the copy of the order. It also directed the authorities to dispose of the complaints/representations within a period of three months from the date of filing of the representation.[Aam Janta Village Saroli v. State Of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 1092, decided on 01-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Govind Mathur, CJ and Saurabh Shaym Shamshery, J. ordered the administration of Allahabad University to come up with a plan to stop rampant criminal activities in its campus.

The incident of the brutal killing of a young boy at the hostel of Allahabad University, Prayagraj had been published with prominence in all the newspapers. The facts stated in newspapers reflected lawlessness existing on the campus of Allahabad University. The campus under the control of the University had become shelter homes for the criminals and the entire campus had been converted by them as a playground for their criminal deeds. The University administration appeared to be ignorant and was not taking any action to prevent the prevailing circumstances. It was also brought to notice that a huge number of criminals were staying in the different hostels under the control of the University though they were not regular students and even the citizens of that area were not feeling safe and protected by the law maintaining authorities. Thus, the atmosphere of fear due to the criminal activities in the university and the area nearby resulted in cognizance of the same to be taken by Court in the form of Public Interest Litigation.

The Court directed the Registrar of the Allahabad University, Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj and the District Magistrate, Prayagraj to remain personally present before the Court. The Court observed that in recent years there had been a spurt in criminal activities on the campus and in the hostels of the Allahabad University. The affidavits filed by the district administration revealed a shocking state of affairs of the University. It was stated that during the raids in the hostel’s huge amount of arms and ammunition had been found. In view of the facts revealed in the affidavits, the Court directed the Vice-Chancellor of the University to hold a meeting with district administration and prepare a plan/proposal to eradicate anti-social and criminal activities in the campus and hostels of the Allahabad University. Furthermore, Court added one more aspect in the present Public Interest Litigation by observing that the Court’s experience showed that the election of the Students’ Union in Allahabad University were held in blatant violation of the direction of the Supreme Court given in the case of University of Kerala (1) v. Council of Principals of Colleges in Kerala, (2006) 8 SCC 304, which opined guidelines to be followed in a University election. The Court thus ordered the University to address these issues with the help of district administration and further, the University, as well as the district administration, was directed to file all necessary progress report relating to the steps taken.[In re: Criminal activities in the city of Prayagraj and the incident of murder of an ex-student of Allahabad University at P.C.B. Hostel, Allahabad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Criminal Writ – PIL No. 4 of 2019, decided on 17-05-2019]

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Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of S.C. Sharma and Virender Singh, JJ., dismissed the review petition on the ground that no interference was required when there was no error apparent on the face of the record.

A Public Interest Litigation Writ Petition was made by certain persons against the selection in respect of various teaching post which was dismissed by this court on various ground. Thus a review petition was made out of an order passed in a PIL against the certain person being aggrieved by the selection in various teaching post.

T.N. Singh, senior counsel for the petitioner submitted that the matter relating to the appointment was being scrutinised by the Director, Technical Education and, therefore, the judgment delivered by this Court be reviewed.

The Court after referred the judgment of the Supreme Court, relating to the use of the review power of the court which was discussed in the case of Haridas Das v. Usha Rani, (2006) 4 SCC 78 in which it was held that that “a mistake or an error apparent on the face of the record means a mistake or an error which is prima-facie visible and does not require any detail examination” In the present case as petitioner was not able to point out any error apparent on the face of the record, the court decided the case on merit. The court also discussed the scope of interference and limitation of review through the judgment of the Supreme court, Inderchand Jain (dead) v. Motilal, (2009) 14 SCC 663 and held “that re-appreciation of evidence and rehearing of case without there being any error apparent on the face of the record is not permissible in light of provisions as contained under Section 114 and Order 47 Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908” Thus, the court dismissed the review petition on the above-mentioned grounds.[Dr Suyog Jhanvar v. Govindram Saksaria Institute of Technology & Science, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 1080, decided on 30-04-2019]

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Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of L. Narayana Swamy and P.S. Dinesh Kumar, JJ. allowed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) to declare amendment 4 of Karnataka Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012, as null and void on the grounds of violation of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India.

The Government of Karnataka enacted Karnataka Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules in 2012 (herein Karnataka Act) to implement the provisions of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act passed by the Parliament in 2009 (herein RTE Act). Section 12(2) of the Karnataka Act defined the term ‘school’ as per Section 2(n) of RTE Act, 2009. Under this section, the unaided private schools were envisaged reimbursement as compensation for filling 25 per cent seats for the RTE children from weaker parts of the society. However, on 30-01-2019, the Government of Karnataka enacted an amendment altering the definition of term ‘school’ under Section 12(2) of the Karnataka Act. After this amendment, unaided schools were not required to provide admission to disadvantaged children where there government and unaided schools in the neighborhood. Thereafter, a writ petition was filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India to quash the impugned amendment.

The learned counsels for petitioners, Suman Hedge, Manasi Sharma, and Chethan B, contended that the Amendment was against the RTE Act, as it created an obligation for disadvantaged children to take admission in government schools against their choice. They argued that the parents of poor children didn’t want to send their wards to government schools as they lacked pre-elementary education and they were not English-medium schools. Moreover, they said that issuing of reimbursement to unaided schools was not be considered a burden by Karnataka Government as their total budget including such reimbursement amount was less than the national average of the educational budget. Furthermore, they argued that the amendment that notifies ‘neighborhood principle’ was bad in law. This provision said that within 1 km of the locality of poor children, if there were no private schools and within 3 km, if there was no higher secondary school, then the children had to enroll in the government school situated in their locality.

The learned State counsel for respondents, the Advocate General, Udaya Holla argued that due to the reservation under RTE there had been a tremendous fall in the number government schools as several schools had been shut down over the years. Moreover, a tremendous increase in the number of private schools was witnessed from 2011-12. The State counsel also argued that a heavy burden had been there on the State government and over the years the cost of reimbursement had increased manifold.  He also contended that the ‘neighborhood principle’ was in consonance with the spirit of the RTE Act. It postulated that if there was a government school nearby, the children couldn’t avail the option of going to private schools.

The Court observed that the State government or the local authorities were under the obligation to provide reimbursement to unaided schools for RTE children only if there were no government or government-aided schools in the neighborhood. Reliance was laid upon Unni Krishnan, J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1993) 1 SCC 645 to hold that reimbursement of expenditure incurred on elementary education of a child was permissible only in the case where the government or aided schools were not available. Hence, the Court declared that the amendment was neither arbitrary nor unconstitutional nor in violation of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India. The Court further said that once the government schools were established then the government need not reimburse the education of RTE children. Therefore, the prayer sought by petitioners was not granted and the PIL was rejected.[Education Rights Trust v. Government of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 567, decided on 31-05-2019]

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Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of S.C. Sharma and Virendra Singh, JJ. contemplated a petition by way of Public Interest Litigation in 2013 and sought directions to the State for necessary action to control and prevent rabies to the resident by the expanded population of stray dogs in the locality.

The Petitioner/Advocate, Mr Sanjay, submitted that State has not taken proper steps towards the management, control, and prevention of rabies caused via stray dogs and other animals. He further contested that due to the increased population of stray animals in the locality the residents were facing various problems and the safety was at stake. He has tried to highlight such issue via newspaper and requested the State to intervene. He stated that despite having forced to tackle such issues, State was inactive in managing such serious issues of health and hygiene, State cannot deny that such stray animals can bite therefore causing various diseases which are life-threatening.

The Municipal Corporation submitted a detailed action report and mentioned various measures taken such as:-

  1. Enhanced rate of sterilization of stray animals
  2. Anti-rabies vaccines
  3. Public awareness

The Corporation further submitted that, Several representatives of NGOs and officials of Municipal Corporation held Monitoring Committee meeting in 2019, wherein under proposals for deploying separate vehicle for grown-up puppies in zones where sterilization work is complete and establishment of Asara center for treatment of sick and injured dogs were made.

The Court observed that since the petition was filed, various orders have been issued regarding this matter. Court has in previous instances, directed State and Municipal Corporation to file progress report in conformity with Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Animal Birth Controlled Dogs Rules, 2001. Court has also directed the government hospitals to ensure that the injection in respect to rabies (anti-rabies injection) was given free of cost to all persons in case they approached the government hospitals. It was observed that various action reports were filed on behalf of the government and it was ensured that proper measures were adopted, sterilization was carried out and vaccines were made available in all hospitals.

The Court held Municipal Corporation has taken all possible steps to control the population of stray dogs and its ongoing process. Resultantly, no further orders are required to be passed in the present writ petition. It further directed the Corporation to continue with the sterilization until all strays are sterilized and to start with a campaign for public awareness related to birth and control of strays, it directed State to provide a free supply of rabies vaccines for all aggrieved.[Sanjay v. District Collector, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 855, decided on 09-05-2019]

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Kerala High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Hrishikesh Roy and A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar, JJ. was seized of a petition structured as a Public Interest Litigation praying for the following declarations:

  • that the Royal Family of Pandalam does not have any right over the Sabarimala temple;
  • that the Thazhaman Family does not have any Thantric rights over Sabarimala;
  • that the post of Chief Priest in Sabarimala, as well as Malikappuram temples, are open to all qualified persons belonging to Hindu religion; and
  • to issue a writ of mandamus directing the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to take over ornaments of Lord Ayyappa from the Royal Family of Pandalam.

The Court opined that consideration of the above prayers, as made in the petition, would require determination of many factual aspects which would not be feasible while exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.

It was further observed that the challenge herein related to religious belief and practice and the petitioner had failed to show, even on a prima facie basis, as to how such religious belief and practice should be a matter of court intervention.

In view of the above, the petition was dismissed but the petitioner was granted liberty to establish a factual foundation for his claim before proper forum. [Dr S. Ganapathy v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 5802, decided on 21-12-2018]

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Bombay High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Manjula Chellur, C.J., and M.S. Sonak. J., dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) which was filed against a 20-storey building which was already complete, on the grounds that it was not bonafide and that there was a delay in the institution of the petition.

The Court stated that the PIL should have been filed at the time the building was under construction and not post construction. Court referred to R & M Trust v. Koramangla Residents Vigilance Group, (2005) 3 SCC 91 and applied the doctrine of laches. It held that locus in PIL is a very relevant factor and courts must always inquire into the locus of the person filing it. Further they also observed that PIL should be entertained in very rare cases. Moreover, the Bench stated that delay in the filing of the PIL is a very important factor for the court to exercise it’s extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Consequently, they cannot disturb the rights of the third party interest on account of the delay and the court shall not come to the rescue of a person who is not vigilant enough to look after his own rights.

Dismissing the PIL, the Court observed that it cannot be ruled out that the petitioner has been put up as a proxy by private builder or this petition has been filed to practice extortion; and imposed cost of Rs 50,000 payable to the Legal Services Authority. [Deepak S. Lande v. State of Maharashtra,  2017 SCC OnLine Bom 9289, decided on 17.11.2017]

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Delhi High Court: While dismissing the present petition filed in public interest seeking the writ of mandamus directing the DRDO and Ministry of Defence to prosecute a particular officer, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Division Bench of G Rohini, C.J. and RS Endlaw, J., stated that the mechanism of PIL cannot be misused for intra office rivalries, and especially when the authorities concerned are taking reasonable action for the same.

The counsel for the petitioner R. Sathish, in support of his argument that no action is being taken by the concerned authorities on the complaint, placed reliance on Lalita kumari v Government of Uttar Pradesh (2014) 2 SCC 1, contending that the reports submitted by the authorities must be made public. The Court persued the reports of the committee constituted to look into the complaints and, directed the respondents to take the report to its logical conclusion.

The Court relied on Sachidanand Pandey v. State of West Bengal (1987) 2 SCC 295, Chhetriya Pradushan Mukti Sangharsh Samiti v. State of U.P. (1990) 4 SCC 449 and Gurpal Singh v State of Punjab (2005) 5 SCC 136 and stated that the Court has to be careful to see that under the garb of  a PIL no attack is being made to satisfy any personal grudge. The Court reiterated that a PIL cannot be filed in the service matters and disposed the petition by emphasising that PIL should not be used as a weapon to defend any private malice. [Prabhu Dayal Dandriyal v Union of India, 2015 SCC Online Del 14134 decided on 17-12-2015]

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Delhi High Court: While dismissing a petition filed in public interest seeking a direction to the respondent to prohibit cow slaughtering and make arrangements to maximise environmental and economic benefits from the cow to mankind, a bench of G Rohini CJ and R.S. Endlaw J. stated that the issue of ban on slaughter of cows is beyond the domain of judicial decision making and is a policy matter in which the courts under the doctrine of separation of powers are not entitled to transgress.

The Court referred Mohd. Hanif Quareshi v. State of Bihar AIR 1958 SC 731, Manubhai Nandlal Amorsey v. Popatlal Manilal Joshi (1969) 1 SCC 372 and State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat (2005) 8 SCC 534 and stated that the Legislature whenever had deemed necessary has framed appropriate laws in this regard and challenge thereto has also been considered by the Court.

The Court relied on Bal Ram Bali v. Union of India, (2007) 6 SCC 805 where it was held that the Court cannot issue any direction for ban on slaughter of cows as it is a matter of policy on which decision has to be taken by the government, and a complete ban can only be imposed by enactment of an appropriate legislation by the legislature in this regard. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition. [Sadh Foundation v. Union of India, 2015 SCC Online Del 14138, decided on 17-12-2015].