Legal RoundUpWeekly Rewind


Top Story of the Week


Aadhaar Card for Sex Workers| Supreme Court bats for sex workers’ right to dignity; directs UIDAI to issue Aadhaar Card without insisting on address proof 

The Supreme Court has upheld sex workers right to identity and issued detailed directions for their protection and upliftment. The directions ranged from prohibiting police actions against consenting sex workers, police and medical protections for sex workers being victim of sexual assault, holding media accountable for voyeurism on revealing identity of sex workers to directing UIDAI to issue Adhar Card for them without insisting on address proof. 

It was observed that  

“…basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.” 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/26/aadhaar-sex-workers-without-address-proof-supreme-court-india-judgement-legal-news-updates-research-rights/  


Supreme Court


Insurance companies refusing claims on flimsy/technical grounds must stop! Don’t ask for documents that insured can’t produce 

Insurance companies refusing claims on flimsy/technical grounds must stop! This is what the Supreme Court observed while dealing with  a case where an Insurance Company had refused to settle an insurance claim on non-submission of the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration of the stolen vehicle. The COurt held that while settling the claims, the insurance company should not be too technical and ask for the documents, which the insured is not in a position to produce due to circumstances beyond his control. 

The Court was dealing with a case where a truck was stolen when and the Court observed the appellant had produced the photocopy of certificate of registration and the registration particulars as provided by the RTO, solely on the ground that the original certificate of registration (which has been stolen) is not produced, non-settlement of claim can be said to be deficiency in service. Therefore, the appellant has been wrongly denied the insurance claim. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/23/insurance-claim-rejection-technical-ground-insurance-company-non-production-document-supreme-court-india-judgments-mr-shah-legal-reserach-updates-news/  

Hindu widow’s pre-existing right to maintenance automatically ripens into full ownership when she is in settled legal possession of the property 

Observing that a Hindu woman’s right to maintenance is not an empty formality, the Supreme Court has held that by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu widow’s limited interest gets automatically enlarged into an absolute right, when such property is possessed by her whether acquired before or after the commencement of 1956 Act in lieu of her right to maintenance. 

Where a Hindu widow is found to be in exclusive settled legal possession of the HUF property, that itself would create a presumption that such property was earmarked for realization of her pre-existing right of maintenance, more particularly when the surviving co-parcener did not earmark any alternative property for recognizing her pre-existing right of maintenance. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/25/hindu-woman-right-to-maintenance-settled-possession-absolute-ownership-section-14-hindu-succession-act-supreme-court-judgment-india-legal-research-updates-news/  

IGST on Ocean Freight for imports unconstitutional; Won’t create a level playing field but will drive Indian shipping lines out of business 

In the case where the constitutionality of two Central Government notifications related to IGST was under scanner, the Supreme Court has held that since the Indian importer is liable to pay IGST on the ‘composite supply’, comprising of supply of goods and supply of services of transportation, insurance, etc. in a CIF contract, a separate levy on the Indian importer for the ‘supply of services’ by the shipping line would be in violation of Section 8 of the CGST Act. 

The Court observed that, 

“If Indian shipping lines continue to be taxed and not their competitors, it would drive the Indian shipping lines out of business.” 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/21/igst-ocean-freight-imports-unconstituional-indian-importers-shipping-lines-supreme-court-india-legal-research-updates-tax-law-news/  


High Courts


Kerala High Court| Right of Press to report truthfully and faithfully; Press shall NOT indulge in sensationalism

Stating that, though the Press has a duty to inform the public, the Division Bench of Devan Ramachandran and Sophy Thomas, JJ., observed that, it is the well-accepted thumb rule that the Press shall not indulge in sensationalism; or in speculating upon the guilt or otherwise of any accused or other individual; or to create an opinion about the comportment or character of a person involved in the Trial; and not to embellish, by impelling or sponsoring an opinion they seek. 

High Court also observed that,

“Press has a duty to inform the public, the publication of lurid details and other sensitive investigative inputs, which are within the sole jurisdiction of the courts to decide upon, certainly require to be put on a tight leash.” 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/25/right-of-press-to-report-truthfully-and-faithfully-legal-news-legal-updates-law-kerala-highcourt/

Chhattisgarh High Court| Would pledge of ornaments kept for marriage of a daughter and use for self without knowledge of husband would amount to cruelty? 

In a matter pertaining to mental cruelty, the Division Bench of Kerala HC, expressed that, if a spouse by her own conduct, without caring about the future of the daughter, parts with ornaments which were meant for the marriage, it will be within the ambit of mental cruelty done by the wife. 

The Bench also added to its observation that, during the marriage ceremony in the Indian household, the presentation of the ornament is normally done for which the parents start the effort, from an early date. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/24/would-pledge-of-ornaments-kept-for-marriage-of-a-daughter-and-use-for-self-without-knowledge-of-husband-would-amount-to-cruelty-chhattisgarh-high-court-law-legal-news-legal-updates/ 

P&H High Court| Can an act of dissent be labeled as sedition? 

Expressing that, in a democratic set-up, there always would be voices of dissent and opinions against rules and protest against actions, P&H HC, observed that, some protests may have aggression but still an act of dissent would not be ordinarily labeled as sedition. 

Bench added to its observation that, to attract an offence such as Section 124-A IPC, there must be deliberate resistance and conscious defiance of authority with a conceived plan aimed to unsettle elected government. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/26/can-an-act-of-dissent-be-labelled-as-sedition-punjab-and-haryana-high-court-law-legal-news-legal-updates/ 

Delhi High Court| Once tenant starts paying rent, can he/she turn around and challenge title of landlord? 

In a matter with regard to the grant of leave to defend, Subramonium Prasad, J., expressed that, the tenant cannot merely make allegations that the landlord has other premises without producing some material to substantiate the same. 

High Court added to its observations that, it is a well-settled position that a tenant may take all kinds of pleas in its application for leave to defend but the Rent Controller has to ensure that the purpose of Chapter III of the Rent Control Act is not defeated by granting leave to defend in every frivolous plea raised by the tenant which may result in protracting the case. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/27/once-tenant-starts-paying-rent-can-he-she-turn-around-and-challenge-title-of-landlord-delhi-high-court-law-legalnews-legal-updates/ 


Legislations


Motor Vehicles (Third Party Insurance Base Premium and Liability) Rules, 2022 

On May 25, 2022, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in consultation with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, has published Motor Vehicles (Third Party Insurance Base Premium and Liability) Rules, 2022 in order to revise the base premium for third party insurance for unlimited liability. The rules shall come into force on 1st June, 2022. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/26/base-premium-for-third-party-insurance-for-unlimited-liability-revised-vide-motor-vehicles-third-party-insurance-base-premium-and-liability-rules-2022/  

IFSCA (Fund Management) Regulations, 2022 

The International Financial Services Centers Authority has revised the Application and Registration Fee under IFSCA (Fund Management) Regulations, 2022. 

Read here: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/05/23/fee-structure-under-ifsca-fund-management-regulations-2022-revised/  


New Releases 


 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a landmark case, the 3-judge Bench comprising of L. Nageswara Rao, B. R. Gavai and A.S. Bopanna, JJ., upheld sex workers right to identity and issued detailed directions for their protection and upliftment.

The directions ranged from prohibiting police actions against consenting sex workers, police and medical protections for sex workers being victim of sexual assault, holding media accountable for voyeurism on revealing identity of sex workers to directing UIDAI to issue Adhar Card for them without insisting on address proof.

The Court invoked Article 142 of the Constitution to fill the vacuum till such time the legislature steps in to cover the gap or the executive discharges its role. The Court remarked,

“The constitutional regard for human decency and dignity has been explicitly incorporated into Article 21 by this Court. Needless to say, this basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.”

Constitution of Special Penal

By an order dated 19-07-2011, the Court had constituted a panel with Mr. Pradip Ghosh as the Chairman, Mr. Jayant Bhushan, Senior counsel, Usha Multipurpose Co-operative Society through its President/Secretary, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee through its President/Secretary, and Roshni through Ms. Saima Hasan to assist and advise the Court for giving suitable directions in the matter. The terms of reference made to the panel were:

“(1) Prevention of trafficking,

(2) Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, and

(3) Conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity.”

Later on, by an order dated 26-07-2012, the Court had modified the third term of reference to conditions conducive to sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Penal Report and Recommendations

After conducting a detailed discussion with all the concerned stakeholders, the Panel submitted a comprehensive report and the recommendations made by the panel were considered by the Union Government and a draft legislation was published incorporating the recommendations so made. Thereafter, periodically adjournments were taken by the Union government on the ground that the Bill is on the anvil.

Noticeably, the panel had recommended in respect of the third term of reference in the following terms:

  • “When it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent, the police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action. The panel noted, There have been concerns that police view sex workers differently from others. When a sex worker makes a complaint of criminal/sexual/any other type of offence, the police must take it seriously and act in accordance with law.
  • Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the CrPC, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).
  • Whenever there is a raid on any brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised.
  • The State Governments may be directed to do a survey of all ITPA Protective Homes so that cases of adult women, who are detained against their will can be reviewed and processed for release in a time-bound manner.
  • Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity.

“It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised. The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens.”

  • The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities.
  • The newly introduced Section 354C, IPC which makes voyeurism a criminal offence, should be strictly enforced against electronic media, in order to prohibit telecasting photos of sex workers with their clients in the garb of capturing the rescue operation.
  • Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety (e.g., use of condoms, 12 etc.) must neither be construed as offences nor seen as evidence of commission of an offence.
  • The Central Government and the State Governments must involve the sex workers and/or their representatives in all decision-making processes, including planning, designing and implementing any policy or programme for the sex workers or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex work.
  • The Central Government and the State Governments should carry out workshops for educating the sex workers abut their rights vis-a-vis the legality of sex work, rights and obligations of the police and what is permitted/prohibited under the law. Sex workers can also be informed as to how they can get access to the judicial system to enforce their rights and prevent unnecessary harassment at the hands of traffickers or police.
  • No child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade. Further, if a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that he/she has been trafficked. In case the sex worker claims that he/she is her son/daughter, tests can be done to determine if the claim is correct and if so, the minor should not be forcibly separated.”

Directions by the Court

Considering that no legislation has been made till date even though the recommendations were made by the Panel in the year 2016, the Court exercised its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to implement the abovementioned recommendations. Accordingly, the State Governments/ UTs were directed to act in strict compliance of the recommendations by the panel. Similarly, the competent authorities under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 were directed to comply with the provisions of the Act while the Union Government was directed to file its response to the recommendations made by the panel within a period of six weeks. The Court added,

“It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Constitutional protection that is given to all individuals in this country shall be kept in mind by the authorities who have a duty under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956.”

Aadhaar Card for Sex Workers

With regard to non-issuance of Aadhaar Cards to sex workers as they were unable to produce proof of their residence, earlier, the Court had issued notice to UIDAI and sought its suggestions in respect of waiving the requirement of residence proof for the sex workers. The UIDAI had proposed that sex workers who are on NACO’s list can be issued Aadhar Cards without having to submit a residence proof, provided a ‘proforma certificate’ is submitted by a Gazetted Officer at NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation) or the State Health Department certifying the particulars of the applicant.

Some suggestions had been made by the organisations representing sex workers for the procedure to be followed by UIDAI; i.e. the procedure to obtain Adhar by sex workers should be publicize through outreach under the Targetted Intervention Programmes and issuance of the Adhar Cards should not be restricted to sex workers on the NACO list but also be extended to those who are identified by CBOs after verification. Since UIDAI had accepted the given suggestions, the Court directed that Aadhar Cards shall be issued to sex workers. The Court emphasized,

“There shall be no breach of confidentiality in the process, including assignment of any code in the Aadhar enrolment numbers that identify the card holder as a sex worker.”

The matter is listed on 27-07-2022 for further hearing.

[Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of W.B., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 704, order dated 19-05-2022]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together


Gauhati High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gauhati High Court: The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ. and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., took up a petition filed in the nature of PIL; concern raised was the present condition of sex workers in Assam who, according to the petitioner in most cases, were on the verge of starvation, considering the strange and difficult times of the present COVID-19 pandemic, which is now in its second wave.

Counsel for the petitioner, Ms D Ghosh submitted before the Court an order passed by the Supreme Court in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal, Criminal Appeal No. 135 of 2010, dated- 29-09-2020 where certain directions were given regarding relief and aid to be given to sex workers during the present COVID-19 pandemic. The petitioner had moved an impleadment application in compliance of this Court’s order on 27-05-2021 for impleading the Union of India, represented by the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development as well as National AIDS Control Organization, represented by Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, as respondent.

The court allowed the impleadment application.

Mr R.K.D. Choudhury, Assistant Solicitor General of India was given directions to apprise the Court as to how the National AIDS Control Organization through the Assam State AIDS Control Society will give relief to the sex workers in Assam during the present pandemic, and how will the sex workers be identified. Mr R. Dhar, Senior Government Advocate, Assam was also asked to obtain necessary instructions in the matter.

On the urge of the counsel for the petitioner an interim mandamus was issued directing the Deputy Commissioner, Cachar as well as the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Cachar to immediately provide ration to sex workers and their family members in Cachar who were struggling in the current situation.[Debajit Gupta v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1169, decided on 28-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.