Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the Madras High Court had ordered an enquiry and obtained a report without   furnishing a copy thereof to Tamil Nadu Minister SP Velumani in a corruption case and unceremoniously closed the writ petition, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ* and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ has held that when the State has not pleaded any specific privilege which bars disclosure of material utilized in the earlier preliminary investigation, there is no good reason for the High Court to have permitted the report to have remained shrouded in a sealed cover.

On 11.09.2018, a private complaint was lodged against the appellant alleging that while he was serving as a Cabinet Minister, he misused his powers to influence the tender process and ensured that tenders were awarded to his close aides. Thereafter, a writ petition was filed seeking investigation into the allegations made in the complaint. The Madras High Court directed an enquiry by a responsible officer, Ms. Ponni, Superintendent of Police, Director of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, who submitted her preliminary enquiry report to the Director of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, who in turn submitted a final report before the High Court in a sealed cover. In the meanwhile, the Government took a decision to close the case based on the   aforesaid report submitted by the Court appointed officer. Rather than deciding this issue, the High Court adjourned the matter by a month.  However, it appears that due to various reasons, the matter could not be listed until 19.07.21. In the meanwhile, the State Government had changed. In a turn of events, the State Government went back on their earlier stand to close the criminal case. Instead, the State Government submitted before the High Court that they intended to conduct further investigation in the aforesaid matter.

The High Court the High Court neither provided the appellant an opportunity to defend himself, nor sought a reasoned justification from the State for having turned turtle. Surprisingly, it left the decision completely in the hands of the State Government.

The Supreme Court observed that the High Court committed a patent error in not taking the matter to its logical conclusion.

“It was the High Court which had ordered that a preliminary enquiry be conducted and a report be submitted by the special investigating officer. However, once the enquiry was completed, the High Court failed to even peruse the said report. Rather, the High Court left the decision completely in the hands of the State Government. Such an approach, as adopted by the High Court in the present matter, cannot be countenanced in law.”

Observing that the State cannot blow hot and cold at the same time, the Court held that initiation of the FIR in the present case stemmed from the writ proceedings before the High Court, wherein the State has opted to re-examine the issue in contradiction of their own affidavit and the preliminary report submitted earlier before the High Court stating that commission of cognizable offence had not been made out. Hence, in this background the mandate of Section 207 of CrPC cannot be read as a provision etched in stone to cause serious violation of the rights of the appellant-accused as well as to the principles of natural justice.

The Court, hence, directed the High Court to supply a copy of the report submitted by Ms. R. Ponni, Superintendent of Police along with the other documents to the appellant. It also restored the Writ Petition before the High Court.

[SP Velumani v. Arappor Iyakkam, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 663, decided on 20.05.2022]

*Judgment by: CJI NV Ramana

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: G.S. Patel, J., while addressing a petition observed in the context of sealed cover submissions that,

“…it is not possible for any party to unilaterally decide to put material into a sealed cover. Since I have made it clear that I am not permitting any sealed cover submissions, there is no question of any party arrogating itself any such right or privilege of any such in any circumstance.”

Bench noted that a large number of identical matters have been filed and the list grows daily. Anugrah Stock and Brokers Pvt. Ltd. a ‘Trading Member’ on the National Stock Exchange is the sole respondent in some cases and 1st respondent in four or five cases. It is being represented by Mr Cama.

Wherever Anugrah is the  1st respondent, 2nd respondent is Teji Mandi Analytics Pvt Ltd. a sub-broker.

The said petitions are under Section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 invoking an arbitration provision mandated by the Rules of the NSE.

Petitioners Claim | Promising very high returns, Anugrah lured investors

Anugrah caused the petitioners extensive financial and monetary loss. Accusations of illegal and unauthorised trades are accompanied have also been placed.

Court notes that the collective losses when computed would somewhere appear to be in the double-digit crores and probably in hundreds of crores.

Curiously the financial securities said to be held by Anugrah are almost worthless. Though bench states that it seems unreasonable to accept that a company that was doing such a high volume of business and acquiring so many expensive assets, would have itself keep so very little in such financial investments.

Sealed Cover

Some additional material by the clients of Mr Cama has been placed in a sealed cover.

In the context of sealed cover, Court stated:

In any case, I am making it abundantly clear that at least in my Court there is no question—and there will never be a question—of anything being done ‘in sealed cover’.

Anything that I can see, all parties before me are entitled to see as this is the only method that I know of to ensure an open and transparent decision-making process.

All the details in the sealed cover are to be placed on affidavit.

To the above, Mr Cama apprehends that the material will find its way into the press to which the bench stated that the said is not its concern.

I decide matters before me on the basis of the papers filed in Court, not newspapers delivered to my doorstep. The press exists for a reason. It has a purpose, one that it serves. I cannot and will not curtail the rights of the free press at the instance of this or that party. I refuse to proceed on the basis that the press is always irresponsible.

Court asked Mr Cama if his clients were willing to deposit their passports to which the counsel stated that his clients will not leave the country without prior permission of the Court and the passports are already with the Economic Offences Wing.

Further, Court Receiver accordingly will proceed to take symbolic possession of all the assets noted in the Affidavit in Reply.

For the properties in Ahemdabad, private receiver will be appointed as the Court Receiver cannot visit that city.

The director of Teji-Mandi (which is now going to be the 2nd Respondent in all matters) and who has affirmed the Affidavit on behalf of Teji-Mandi, is directed not to leave the country without prior permission of this Court obtained after at least four clear working days’ notice to the Advocates for the Petitioner.

Matter to be listed on 05-08-2020.[Raveej Kumar (HUF) v. Anugrah Stock & Brokers Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 946, decided on 18-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon, JJ., has asked Central Government to submit policy on social media ban for Indian Army members in a sealed cover.

Social Media Ban Policy for Indian Army

Present petition was filed impugning the policy of respondent 2 Director General of Military Intelligence, to the extent it bans the petitioner and other members of Indian Army from using social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Additional Solicitor General appearing for the respondents opposed the petition.

Bench stated that only after perusing the policy counsels be heard.

“we are of the view that the counsels be heard after we have had an occasion to peruse the policy and if the document prescribing the policy does not record the reasons therefor, the document containing the reasons for the policy.”

Further the Court added that the stated documents be circulated in a sealed cover either through the High Court or directly at their respective residences, at least a day before the next date of hearing.

Petitioner’s counsel sought interim relief of relieving the petitioner from the mandate of being required to delete any existing social media accounts. It contended that the same has been directed to be deleted by 15th July, 2020.

To the above, Court stated that till the time no reason to entertain the petition would be found no interim relief can be granted especially when the matter has potential of concerning the safety and security of the country.

Matter has been listed for 21-07-2020. [Lt. Col. P.K. Choudhary v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 755 , decided on 14-07-2020]