Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

Introduction

The word “adultery” derives its origin from the French word “avoutre”, which has evolved from the Latin verb “adulterium” which means “to corrupt”[1]. The dictionary meaning of adultery is that a married man commits adultery if he has sex with a woman with whom he has not entered into wedlock.

Under Indian law, Section 497 IPC  makes adultery a criminal offence, and prescribes a punishment of imprisonment upto five years and fine. The offence of adultery under Section 497 is very limited in scope as compared to the misconduct of adultery as understood in divorce proceedings. The offence is committed only by a man who had sexual intercourse with the wife of another man without the latter’s consent or connivance. The wife is not punishable for being an adulteress, or even as an abettor of the offence[2]. Section 198 CrPC deals with a “person aggrieved”. Sub-section (2) treats the husband of the woman as deemed to be aggrieved by an offence committed under Section 497 IPC and in the absence of husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed, with the permission of the court. It does not consider the wife of the adulterer as an aggrieved person.

Section 497 IPC and Section 198(2) CrPC together constitute a legislative packet to deal with the offence of adultery[3] which have been held unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

 Penal Code

Section 497. Adultery. — Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such a case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.

 Criminal Procedure Code

Section 198. Prosecution for offences against marriage. —  (1) No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XX of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) except upon a complaint made by some person aggrieved by the offence:

* * * * * * * * * *

(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under Section 497 or Section 498 of the said Code:

Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.

* * * * * * * * * *

Classification of offence

The offence of adultery is non-cognizable (a case in which a police officer cannot arrest the accused without an arrest warrant). Also, it is a bailable offence.

Compoundable offence

The offence of adultery is compoundable by the husband of the woman with whom adultery is committed. Compoundable offences are those where the court can record a compromise between the parties and drop charges against the accused. [Section 320 CrPC].

Cases

Offence of adultery held unconstitutional: Understanding Joseph Shine v. Union of India

Sections 497 IPC and 198(2) CrPC insofar it deals with the procedure for filing a complaint in relation to the offence of adultery, are violative of Articles 14, 15(1) and 21 of the Constitution, and are therefore struck down as being invalid, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

This Note hereinafter discusses various observations of the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine case.

Object

The object of Section 497 is to preserve sanctity of marriage. The society abhors marital infidelity.[4]

However, this object does not find favour with the Supreme Court. In Joseph Shine, the Court observed thus:  

“… the ostensible object, as pleaded by the State, being to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage, is not, in fact, the object of Section 497 at all …”

It was further observed that the sanctity of marriage can be utterly destroyed by a married man having sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman or a widow which is not penalised by the legislature. Also, if the husband consents or connives at the sexual intercourse that amounts to adultery, the offence is not committed, thereby showing that it is not sanctity of marriage which is sought to be protected and preserved, but a proprietary right of a husband.

History

Section 497 is a pre-constitutional law which was enacted in 1860. At that point of time, women had no rights independent of their husbands, and were treated as chattel or “property” of their husbands. Hence, the offence of adultery was treated as an injury to the husband, since it was considered to be a “theft” of his property, for which he could proceed to prosecute the offender.

The first draft of the IPC released by the Law Commission of India in 1837 did not include “adultery” as an offence. Lord Macaulay was of the view that adultery or marital infidelity was a private wrong between the parties, and not a criminal offence. The views of Lord Macaulay were, however, overruled by the other members of the Law Commission, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Ingredients

In order to constitute the offence of adultery, the following must be established:–

(i) Sexual intercourse between a married woman and a man who is not her husband;

(ii) The man who has sexual intercourse with the married woman must know or has reason to believe that she is the wife of another man;

(iii) Such sexual intercourse must take place with her consent, i.e., it must not amount to rape;

(iv) Sexual intercourse with the married woman must take place without the consent or connivance of her husband.

After stating the ingredients as mentioned above, the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine goes on to discuss the vice of unconstitutionality inherent in the offence of adultery, as may be seen presently.

Who may file a complaint

Only husband of the woman with whom adultery is committed is treated as an aggrieved person and only he can file a complaint. However, in his absence, some other person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may file a complaint on husband’s behalf if the court allows. [Section 198(2) CrPC]

In Joseph Shine, this was held to be arbitrary and violative of constitutional guarantees as is discussed below.

Woman has no right to file a complaint

A wife is disabled from prosecuting her husband for being involved in an adulterous relationship. The law does not make it an offence for a married man to engage in an act of sexual intercourse with a single woman, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Who can be prosecuted

It is only the adulterous man who can be prosecuted for committing adultery, and not the adulterous woman, even though the relationship is consensual. The adulterous woman is not even considered to be an abettor to the offence. Woman is exempted from criminal liability.

Presence of an adequate determining principle for such classification was doubted in  Joseph Shine.

Woman treated as property of man

Historically, since adultery interfered with the “husband’s exclusive entitlements”, it was considered to be the “highest possible invasion of property”, similar to theft.[5]

On a reading of Section 497, it is demonstrable that women are treated as subordinate to men inasmuch as it lays down that when there is connivance or consent of the man, there is no offence. This treats the woman as a chattel. It treats her as the property of man and totally subservient to the will of the master. It is a reflection of the social dominance that was prevalent when the penal provision was drafted, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 497 violates Articles 14 [Equality before law]

Section 497 treats men and women unequally, as women are not subject to prosecution for adultery, and women cannot prosecute their husbands for adultery. Additionally, if there is “consent or connivance” of the husband of a woman who has committed adultery, no offence can be established. The section lacks an adequately determining principle to criminalise consensual sexual activity and is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 198(2) CrPC also violates Article 14 [Equality before law]

Section 198(2) CrPC does not consider the wife of the adulterer as an aggrieved person. The rationale of the provision suffers from the absence of logicality of approach and therefore it suffers from the vice of Article 14 of the Constitution being manifestly arbitrary, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of Article 15(1) [Prohibition of discrimination]

Article 15(1) prohibits the State from discriminating on grounds only of sex. A husband is considered an aggrieved party by the law if his wife engages in sexual intercourse with another man, but the wife is not, if her husband does the same. Viewed from this angle, the offence of adultery discriminates between a married man and a married woman to her detriment on the ground of sex only. The provision is discriminatory and therefore, violative of Article 15(1), Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of dignity of woman and Article 21 [Right to life]

Dignity of the individual is a facet of Article 21. Section 497 effectually curtails the essential dignity which a woman is entitled to have by creating invidious distinctions based on gender stereotypes which creates a dent in the individual dignity of women.

Besides, the emphasis on the element of connivance or consent of the husband tantamount to the subordination of women. Therefore, the same offends Article 21, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of right to privacy and right to choose

This Court has recognised sexual privacy as a natural right, protected under the Constitution. Sharing of physical intimacies is a reflection of choice. To shackle the sexual freedom of a woman and allow the criminalisation of consensual relationships is a denial of this right, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Married woman’s sexual agency rendered wholly dependent on consent or connivance of husband

A man who has sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent or connivance of her husband, is liable to be prosecuted for adultery even if the relationship is based on consent of the woman. Though granted immunity from prosecution, a woman is forced to consider the prospect of the penal action that will attach upon the individual with whom she engages in a sexual act. To ensure the fidelity of his spouse, the man is given the power to invoke the criminal sanction of the State. In effect, her spouse is empowered to curtail her sexual agency, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 497 denudes woman’s sexual autonomy

Section 497 denudes a woman of her sexual autonomy in making its free exercise conditional on the consent of her spouse. In doing so, it perpetuates the notion that a woman consents to a limited autonomy on entering marriage. The enforcement of forced female fidelity by curtailing sexual autonomy is an affront to the fundamental right to dignity and equality, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Opposed to “constitutional morality”

It is not the common morality of the State at any time in history, but rather constitutional morality, which must guide the law. In any democracy, constitutional morality requires the assurance of certain rights that are indispensable for the free, equal, and dignified existence of all members of society. A commitment to constitutional morality requires enforcement of the constitutional guarantees of equality before the law, non-discrimination on account of sex, and dignity, all of which are affected by the operation of Section 497, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Premised on sexual stereotypes

Section 497 is premised upon sexual stereotypes that view women as being passive and devoid of sexual agency. The notion that women are ‘victims’ of adultery and therefore require the beneficial exemption has been deeply criticized by feminist scholars, who argue that such an understanding of the position of women is demeaning and fails to recognize them as equally autonomous individuals in society[6], Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Breakdown of marriage

In many cases, a sexual relationship by one of the spouses outside of the marriage may lead to the breakdown of marriage. But often, such a relationship may not be the cause but the consequence of a pre-existing disruption of the marital tie, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Case of pending divorce proceedings

Manifest arbitrariness is writ large even in case of a married woman whose marriage has broken down, as a result of which she no longer cohabits with her husband, and may, in fact, have obtained a decree for judicial separation against her husband, preparatory to a divorce being granted. If during this period, she has sex with another man, the other man is immediately guilty of the offence, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Whether adultery should be treated as a criminal offence?

Adultery is basically associated with the institution of marriage. Treating adultery an offence would tantamount to the State entering into a real private realm. Adultery does not fit into the concept of a crime. It is better to be left as a ground for divorce, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

International perspective

International trends worldwide indicate that very few nations continue to treat adultery as a crime, though most nations retain adultery for the purposes of divorce laws, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Why did the Supreme Court not wait for the legislature and itself strike down the provisions?

These sections are wholly outdated and have outlived their purpose. Maxim of Roman law, cessante ratione legis, cessat ipsa lex [when the reason of the law ceases, the law itself also ceases], applies to interdict such law. Moreover, when such law falls foul of constitutional guarantees, it is Supreme Court’s solemn duty not to wait for legislation but to strike down such law, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Adultery continues to be a ground for divorce

There can be no shadow of doubt that adultery can be a ground for any kind of civil wrong including dissolution of marriage, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

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Further Suggested Reading

  1. Kumar Askand Pandey B.M. Gandhi Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Buy Here]
  2. C.K. Takwani – Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Buy Here]
  3. Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik – Supreme Court on Penal Code Collection by Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik [Buy Here]
  4. Dr. Murlidhar Chaturvedi – Indian Penal Code (Hindi) [Buy Here]

† Assistant Editor (Legal), EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

[1] The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition, Trident Press International (1996 Edn.).

[2] Law Commission of India, 42nd Report, The Indian Penal Code, June 1971.

[3] V. Revathi v. Union of India, (1988) 2 SCC 72.

[4] Malimath Committee Report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, March 2003, Vol 1.

[5] R v. Mawgridge, (1706) Kel 119.

[6] Malimath Committee Report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, March 2003, Vol 1.

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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A division bench comprising of Manoj Kumar Tiwari, J. and Rajiv Sharma, ACJ., directed the state to implement schemes for the welfare of transgenders.

Petitioners who are transgender were facing interference in their area of operation to which they have sought protection with respect to life and liberty. Hence the Court took judicial notice of the matter as it revolved around right to life by providing a dignified life to the petitioners owing to the miseries faced by them in order to bring them at par with other people in the society by paving their way to the mainstream.

The Supreme Court, in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438 has held the word “person” in Article 14 of the Constitution of India was not restricted to male and female and it includes even Hijras/Transgender persons who were also entitled to equal protection of laws and equality in all spheres. They were entitled to benefits as Socially and Educationally Backward class citizens including reservation in public employment. Gender identity was part of the right to dignity as well as personal autonomy and self-expression and thus declared that Hijras, Eunuchs be treated as the third gender giving them a legal recognition.

It was stated that the State Government, till date, has not implemented the directions issued by the Supreme Court. It was also brought to the Court’s notice that the State of Odisha has framed a scheme for Promotion of Transgender Equality & Justice. The scheme speaks of medical assistance to the parents of transgenders.

In the light of the facts and the issues stated the Court gave the following directions:

  • State Government shall provide reservation in admission in educational institutions and for public appointments along with social welfare schemes for the betterment of transgenders by framing the same.
  • Frame a scheme of housing for transgenders by giving suitable accommodation.
  • Provide financial assistance to the parents of transgenders with scholarship to transgenders up to post-graduate level.
  • Constitute a welfare board with representation given to transgenders in the board.
  • Provide free medical access to transgenders in all the hospitals.
  • Transgenders shall have free access to public institutions, public places.
  • Provide separate toilets in every public utility buildings.
  • Frame law/scheme to ensure that no transgender is separated from the parents/guardians and family
  • Criminal cases shall be registered against the persons who forcibly remove transgender from their parents/guardians and family.
  • All the transgenders in the State were ordered to be registered by the District Magistrates to recognize them as such.
  • There shall not be any discrimination against transgenders qua employment or occupation. Also, They should not be treated unfairly and have an absolute right, as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to maintain privacy and to live with dignity.

Accordingly, the writ was disposed of. [Rano v State of Uttarakhand, WP (Crl.) No. 1794 of 2018, order dated 28-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Life commands self-respect and dignity.

                                        -Dipak Misra, CJ

Supreme Court: The bench comprising of Dipak Misra, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. awarded a compensation of Rs 50 lakhs to the appellant while disposing of an appeal filed against the judgment of a Division Bench of Kerala High Court whereby the decision of the Single Judge quashing the order of State Government declining to take action against the erring police officers concerned was reversed.

In January 1994, a criminal case was registered against one Mariam Rasheeda, a Maldivian National under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Paragraph 7 of the Foreigners Order. While being interrogated by Kerala Police and Intelligence Bureau, she made certain confessions which led to registration of another criminal case under Sections 3 and 4 of the Indian Official Secrets Acts, 1923 alleging that certain official secrets and documents of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had been leaked out by scientists of ISRO. In November 1994, investigation of both the cases was taken over by the Special Investigation Team headed by Respondent 1. Pursuant to this, the appellant –  erstwhile scientist at ISRO – was arrested along with other persons. In December 1994, the investigation was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. After the investigation, the CBI submitted a report before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam, under Section 173(2) CrPC stating that the evidence collected indicated that the allegations of espionage against the scientists at ISRO, including the appellant herein, were not proved and were found to be false. This report was accepted vide court’s order and all the accused were discharged. In June 1996, State of Kerala, being dissatisfied with the CBI report, issued a notification and decided to conduct re-investigation of the case by the State Police. Subsequently, the Supreme Court in K. Chandrasekhar v. State of Kerala, (1998) 5 SCC 223 quashed the notification of the State of Kerala for re-investigation holding that the said notification was against good governance and consequently, all accused were freed of charges. Another writ petition was filed before the High Court wherein a Single Judge quashed the order dated 29.06.2011 passed by the State of Kerala whereby the Kerala Government had decided not to take any disciplinary action against the members of the SIT (erring police officers) and consequently remitted the matter to the State of Kerala for reconsideration and passing further orders within three months. The said decision was reversed by a Division Bench vide the order impugned. It was urged by the appellant that the prosecution launched against him by the Kerala police was malicious on account of two reasons. Firstly, the said prosecution had a catastrophic effect on his service career as a leading and renowned scientist at ISRO, thereby smothering his career, lifespan, savings, honour, academic work as well as self-esteem and consequently resulting in total devastation of the peace of his entire family which is an ineffaceable individual loss. Secondly, the irreparable and irremediable loss and setback caused to the technological advancement in Space Research in India.

The Supreme Court, at the outset, observed that to say the least, the delineation by the Division Bench was too simplistic. It was stated that the entire prosecution initiated by the State police was malicious and caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish to the appellant. It wasn’t a case where the accused was kept under custody and, eventually, after trial, he was found not guilty. The State police was dealing with an extremely sensitive case and after arresting the appellant and some others, the State, on its own, transferred the case to CBI. After comprehensive enquiry, the closure report was filed. An argument was advanced by the respondents that the fault should be found with CBI but not with the State police, for it had transferred the case to the CBI. The said submission was noted only to be rejected. The criminal law was set in motion without any basis. It was initiated on some kind of fancy or notion. The liberty and dignity of the appellant which are basic to his human rights were jeopardized as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, he was compelled to face cynical abhorrence. According to the Court, such situation invited the public law remedy for grant of compensation for violation of the fundamental right envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution. In such a situation, it springs to life with immediacy. It is because life commands self-respect and dignity. The Court made references to D.K. Basu v. State of W.B., (1997) 1 SCC 416; Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P., (1994) 4 SCC 260; Kiran Bedi v. Committee of Enquiry, (1989) 1 SCC 494; etc. In the words of the Court, reputation of an individual is an insegregable facet of his right to life with dignity. In the final analysis, the Court held that it can be stated with certitude that the fundamental right of the appellant under Article 21 had been gravely affected. There could be no scintilla of doubt that the appellant, a successful scientist having national reputation, was compelled to undergo immense humiliation. The lackadaisical attitude of the State police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody made the appellant suffer the ignominy. The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect. Keeping in view the report of the CBI and the judgment in K. Chandrasekhar, The Court ordered the State to pay Rs 50 lakhs as compensation to the appellant. It was further held that the obtaining factual scenario calls for constitution of a Committee to find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials. For the said purpose, the Court constituted a Committee which shall be headed by Justice D.K. Jain, a former Judge of Supreme Court. The Central Government and the State Government were directed to nominate one officer each so that apposite action could be taken. The Committee shall meet at Delhi and function from Delhi. However, it has option to hold meetings at appropriate place in the State of Kerala. The appeal was accordingly disposed of. [S. Nambi Narayanan v. Siby Mathews,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1500, decided on 14-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Navin Sinha, J. speaking for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar, J. delivered a decision in a criminal appeal wherein the appellant, a convict under Sections 302 and 324 IPC, was acquitted giving him benefit of doubt on grounds of insanity at the time of the commission of the act.

The appellant was convicted of murder of one Harish Chandra Chauhan. On the day of the incident, he picked up a sickle from a shop and started attacking the people around, and when the deceased came to the rescue of a person being attacked, the appellant rained blows on his back and stomach which resulted in his death. The petitioner tried to flee but was apprehended by the villagers and handed over to the police. The trial court while finding guilt of the appellant, did not accept his plea of unsoundness of mind. He was convicted for the offences mentioned above. The Bombay High Court declined to interfere.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the prosecution deliberately withheld relevant evidence with regard to appellant’s mental illness and his mental condition during the commission of the act. It was held that both the trial court and the High Court completely failed to discuss this lacuna in the prosecution case. The Court referred to Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand, (2011) 11 SCC 495 while noting that in such cases, the accused has only to prove a preponderance of probability. The medical records of the appellant, the fact of the psychiatric treatment even in the prison for continuing ailment, statement of the witnesses, etc., all pointed towards the fact that the appellant was not of sound mind and he suffered insanity while the act was committed. The Court was of the view that the burden of proof under Section 105 of Evidence Act was satisfied by the appellant; by a preponderance of probability, he was able to raise a doubt regarding his mental condition at the time of the act. Accordingly, giving him the benefit of Section 84 IPC, the Court allowed the appeal and acquitted the appellant. Further, it was considered that necessary directions should be given under Sections 335/339 CrPC for proper care and support to the appellant befitting his right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. [Devidas Loka Rathod v. State of Maharashtra,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 645, decided on 02-07-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The appellant conducted blood group determination test 8 times in both government and privately-owned hospitals, situated in Agra as well as Delhi. Some tests returned his result as blood group ‘B-positive’ while others as ‘B-negative’. The appellant was perplexed and approached the Medical Council of India (“MCI”) under Right to Information Act (“Act”) to ascertain conclusively his blood group, specifically whether he was Rh-positive or Rh-negative.

The Public Information Officer (“PIO”) of the MCI responded saying that the information sought did not qualify as ‘information’ defined under Section 2(f) of the Act, which reads:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”

This argument by the respondent-MCI was accepted by the First Appellate Authority (“FAA”) who deemed the PIO’s reply appropriate.

The appellant approached the Central Information Commission (“CIC”) praying for relief, citing the reason that the matter pertained to his health and knowledge of his blood group is essential in case of an emergency where blood transfusion might be required. He, therefore, claimed a right to be informed of his correct blood group.

The MCI maintained that apart from the fact that the solicited information did not fall under the purview of the Act, but the respondent MCI neither possessed such information nor had any jurisdiction or power to obtain such information. The MCI also suggested that the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (“AIIMS”) may be approached to carry out suitable research on the same and put to rest the appellant’s queries.

The CIC held that the clarifications sought by the appellant can be construed as information as different pathology laboratories have provided opposite results and the appellant only wished to obtain concrete and reliable information in case of medical emergency, which is also a part of his Righto Life under the Constitution.

The CIC also observed that as a responsible and sensitive PIO, the respondent ought to have forwarded the appellant’s query to the AIIMS under Section 6(3) of the Act. Hence the respondent was directed to send the documents furnished by the appellant to the AIIMS, which was, in turn, requested to carry out necessary tests and provide the requested information. The appeal was accordingly disposed of. [Soni S Eramat v. Medical Council of India, File No. CIC/MEDCI/A/2017/120881, decided on 10.05.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of SC Dharmadhikari and Bharati H. Dangre, JJ issued a writ of habeas corpus ordering the release of the petitioner’s son, who had been illegally detained in unlawful continued judicial custody for more than sixty days. The detenu had been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Economic Offences Wing on 19-09-2017.

Following multiple remand applications requesting extension of custody of the detenu, the total detention period exceeded the maximum limit of sixty days on 23-11-2017. Under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a Judicial Magistrate is entitled to authorize a detention not exceeding 60 days for all offences, unless the offence is punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a period of at least ten years.

Though the prosecution contended that the charges framed against the detenu during the course of investigation involved offences that were punishable with death, with life imprisonment or with imprisonment for at least ten years, the Court held the detention beyond the period of 60 days to be in contravention of S. 167(2) CrPC and also violative of the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. [Rajkumar Bhagchand Jain v. Union of India,  2017 SCC OnLine Bom 9435, order dated 08-12-2017]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench: In the wake of smog engulfing the NCR for days, posing a serious environmental hazard, the NGT banned all construction work in the area till the next date of hearing. The Tribunal stated that the right to decent and clean environment is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and that Article 48-A read with Article 21 mandates the State to protect the environment and Article 51-A(g) imposes a fundamental duty upon the citizens to protect the environment.

The Tribunal took note of the statistical data available on suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the NCR for 08-11-2017 and 09-11-2017.On 08-11-2017, the PM10 value was 986 mcg (micro grams) per cubic metre against the prescribed value of 100 mcg per cubic metre and the PM2.5 value was 425 mcg per cubic metre against the prescribed value of 60 mcg per cubic metre. The values were 1136 mcg per cubic metre and 760 mcg per cubic metre respectively on 09-11-2017. The Tribunal also noted that all parameters including SO2, NO2, CO and Ozone were not tested by the Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee, directing the boards to submit reports containing all parameters on the next date of hearing. Citing the doctrines of preventive and precautionary principles with emphasis on inter-generational equity, the Tribunal stated that the doctrines have been violated at all relevant stages and that no party, statutory body or even the citizens can be mere spectators to the environmental crisis at hand.

The Tribunal pointed towards it’s directions in Vardhman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 4176, on 10.11.2016 stating that the steps that were required to be taken in long and short term remained unexecuted and non-complied with. Failing to find a single plausible explanation as to why the directions in the aforesaid order were not complied with, the Tribunal clearly stated that fundamental rights, particularly the ones which relate to right to life cannot be subjected to economic limitation.

Resultantly, the Tribunal, in an attempt to alleviate the harmful effects of smog and pollution, banned all construction activity in the entire NCR region till the next date of hearing. The Tribunal added that labourers shall not be denied their daily wages. Further, all industrial activities which release emission were also prohibited till the next date of hearing. Further, all the Corporations dealing in health, environment and development were directed to constitute teams to visit different areas under their jurisdiction to check burning of waste or any material in any part of NCR. [Vardhaman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 7584, order dated 09.11.2017]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 5-judge Constitution bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ reserved the verdict on whether or not a terminally ill patient has a right to die with dignity.

The Court was hearing the reference of the 3-judge bench of P. Sathasivam, CJ, Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ that has, in  Common Cause v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 338, referred the matter relating to right to die or euthanasia to a Constitution Bench and noted:

“although the Constitution Bench in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648 upheld that the ‘right to live with dignity’ under Article 21 will be inclusive of ‘right to die with dignity’, the decision does not arrive at a conclusion for validity of euthanasia be it active or passive. So, the only judgment that holds the field in regard to euthanasia in India is Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454, which upholds the validity of passive euthanasia and lays down an elaborate procedure for executing the same on the wrong premise that the Constitution Bench in Gian Kaur had upheld the same.”

The bench had said that it was extremely important to have a clear enunciation of law on euthanasia and hence, invited the Constitution bench to lay down exhaustive guidelines in this regard.

Earlier, in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454, the bench of Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra, JJ, had refused to allow Aruna Shaunbaug, who had been the centre of the euthanasia debate as she spent 42 years of her life in a Permanent Vegetative State, to be euthanised but allowed terminally ill patients to choose to be passively euthanised. It was held that passive euthanasia can also only be allowed by the High Court and an application should be moved before it in this regard. Allowing passive euthanasia, the bench had said:

“if we leave it solely to the patient’s relatives or to the doctors or next friend to decide whether to withdraw the life support of an incompetent person there is always a risk in our country that this may be misused by some unscrupulous persons who wish to inherit or otherwise grab the property of the patient. Considering the low ethical levels prevailing in our society today and the rampant commercialisation and corruption, we cannot rule out the possibility that unscrupulous persons with the help of some unscrupulous doctors may fabricate material to show that it is a terminal case with no chance of recovery.”

The 5-judge bench heard the matter for 2 days continuously and will pronounce the verdict soon.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Paying heed to the grievance of a 35-year-old woman, a victim of sexual assault, who sought for termination of pregnancy on the ground that she is HIV positive, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M.M. Shantanagouda, JJ directed the Medical Board at AIIMS, New Delhi to examine the petitioner and submit a report to the Court on the next date of hearing i.e. 08.05.2017 so that attempts can be made to save the life of the petitioner.

Earlier, the Patna High Court had directed the Medical Board at Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna to examine the petitioner. The report of the said Board stated that a major surgical procedure was required. The High Court hence held that the Medical Board report has stated that it would be unsafe to the life of the petitioner and further there is compelling State’s responsibility to keep the child alive.

 Stating that the quintessential purpose of life, be it a man or a woman, is the dignity of life and all efforts are to be made to sustain it, the Court said that a woman, who has already become a destitute being sexually assaulted and suffering from a serious medical ailment, should not to go through further sufferings. [Indu Devi v. State of Bihar, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 560, order dated 03.05.2017]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Deliberating upon a relevant issue as to whether, “a minor daughter’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to create a life”, the Bench of Dr. S. Vimala, J., observed that it is a woman’s choice and her autonomy to decide what to do with her body,  including conceiving a child and retention of pregnancy. With this observation, the Court thus held that considering the right to life, which includes the right to create a life, the right to dignity, the right to autonomy and bodily integrity, the Court cannot order the abortion of the foetus against the wishes of the victim girl as in the present case.

The present writ petition came up whereby which the petitioner (father) pleaded before the Court to direct the government hospital to medically terminate the pregnancy of his daughter under Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as the continuance of such pregnancy would cause grave physical and mental agony to his daughter, however the daughter was reluctant to abort the foetus and expressed her desire to continue with the pregnancy.

Examining the contentions of the parties, the Court first chose to look into the matter as to whether the daughter was a minor or major on the date of the alleged occurrence and on the date of production before the Court. Perusing the evidences, the Court decided that at the time of the sexual intercourse and conception the girl was a minor (17 years), however she attained majority on the date of her production before this Court. The Court further observed that India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which places importance upon the decision-making ability of a child in matters affecting him/her directly or indirectly. Furthermore the Court highlighted the controversies surrounding certain provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the disadvantages of teenage pregnancies. However, upon observing that the girl has formed a positive opinion regarding continuing her pregnancy, the Court declined to pass any order regarding termination of her pregnancy. The Court also observed that controversies, conflicts and constitutional validity of the POCSO Act can only be decided by the Division Bench of this Court as per the considerations of the Chief Justice of this Court. [Marimuthu v. The Inspector of Police, WP (MD) No. 12212 of 2016, decided on 19.09.2016]