Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, India has taken suo-motu cognizance of a media report that after 5 years in jail in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh for the crime they didn’t commit, a couple can’t find their two kids, who had been reportedly sent to some orphanage in their absence.

Considering it as a serious issue of human rights violation, the Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.

The reports should include the enquiry/action taken, if any, against the police officers and the public servants who were responsible to ensure social security to the innocent children of the victim couple.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that the gross negligence committed by a public servant has devastated the entire family. The State authorities including the police and the social welfare authorities of the district Agra have acted in a reckless manner, showing no respect towards the basic human rights.

According to the media reports, carried on the 23-01-2021, the couple was arrested by the police in the year 2015, when a boy aged five years was found murdered and they were named in the case. The Additional District and Sessions Court, while releasing the couple had mentioned in the order that it is unfortunate that innocent people have spent five years behind the bars and the main accused is still free. The Court has reportedly directed the Senior Superintendent of Police to take action against the investigating officer for his negligence. The Court has also recommended re-investigation of the case on the basis of the available evidences, to arrest the actual perpetrator.

It is specifically mentioned in the news report that the then Sub-Inspector, who was working with the investigating officer, had admitted in the Court that he did not even try to find out as to against whom the FIR was registered.

As mentioned in the news report, the victim Narendra Singh, who was earlier working as a teacher, has been asking as to what was the fault of their children, son aged 5 years and daughter aged 3 years. The wife of Narendra Singh, who was also lodged in the jail with her husband, has reportedly written a letter to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Agra to search for their missing children. The couple never met their children after their arrest, and their bail application was rejected by the District Judge in the year 2015. It is also mentioned in the news report that the victim couple could not go further to approach the High Court due to their inability to afford the expenses.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 28-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Battu Devanand, J., while addressing the instant matter, observed that,

The government is not supposed to spend public money as per their whims and fancies as public money is accrued from the payment of the taxpayers.

Discontinuation of Pensions

175 Petitioners filed the petition seeking direction declaring the action of respondents in discontinuing pensions to them as illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and against the rules governing the distribution of pensions and direct all the respondents to distribute arrears of pension to the petitioners and continue to pay them thereafter.

Another petitioner consisting of 5 petitioners filed the petition against the respondent’s action to stop old aged/widow pensions.

Decision

The Government of Andhra Pradesh vide its order said that the Government of Andhra Pradesh is implementing various pension schemes as part of its welfare programmes for most needy and vulnerable people i.e., the persons in old age, widows, people with disabilities and weavers to provide them some succor.

Court stated that on perusal of the Government Order, it is clear that as part of welfare programmes the Government is implementing various social security pension schemes for the benefit of needy and vulnerable sections of the people to provide them some succor.

“…attempt of the government to implement these “Social security pension schemes” to provide the people belong to vulnerable sections to provide some succor is undoubtedly laudable.”

Bench emphasized the fact that the Government is the trustee of public money and is empowered to utilize the public money in a proper manner for the benefit of the public at large.

Supreme Court’s decision in Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority of India, (1979) 3 SCC 489 was also referred, wherein the following was held:

“The discretion of the government has been held to be not unlimited in that the government cannot give or withhold largess in its arbitrary discretion or at its sweet will.”

Public Money

Further, the High Court also noted the fact that earlier crores of public money was spent on different activities in the State of Andhra Pradesh.

In view of the above Court stated that,

Did any person in the State ask the State Government to spend a thousand crores of rupees for organising “Godavari and Krishna Pushkaralu”? 

Did any Christian ask for “CHRISTMAS KANUKALU ?”

Did any Muslim request for “RAMJAN THOFA?”

At present, thousands of crores of rupees are being sent under various pogrammes stating that it is for the welfare of the people. 

One has to question himself whether the public money is being utilized properly as it seems to be.

Unreasonable to stop payment of meager amount

Hence, the Bench held that Court is of the opinion that while spending crores of rupees of public money for all the programmes as stated above, it is unreasonable to stop payment of meager amount being paid towards social security pension in favour of the petitioners.

Court to fortify its view cited the Supreme Court decision in, Raghunath Thakur v. State of Bihar, (1989) 1 SCC 229, wherein the following was held:

“…a person adversely affected by order has right of being heard and making representations against order, even though rules do not provide so expressly”.

Social Security

Concluding with its’ analysis, Court held that stopping payment of social security to the petitioners without conducting any enquiry or without issuing any notice is illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and against the object of the social security pension scheme and against the principles of natural justice.

Two directions have been passed by the Bench in the above petitions:

  • Respondents are directed to make payment of pension to the petitioners from the month when it was stopped to till date within a period of 15 days.
  • Respondents are directed to continue the payment of the pension every month.

[Seepana Govindamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh, WP No. 21104 of 2019, decided on 08-09-2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of The United States: In a landmark decision affecting the immigrants in the United States of America, the 9 Judge Bench of the Court headed by John G. Roberts, CJ., with a ratio of 5:4 held that, the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the immigration relief program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (hereinafter DACA) can be judicially reviewed under the Administrative Procedure Act by the Supreme Court.

The Court further held that the DHS’ decision to rescind DACA is arbitrary and capricious. The majority included John Roberts, CJ., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, JJ.

In 2012, the DHS introduced a memorandum announcing the DACA, an immigration relief program which allowed certain unauthorized aliens who arrived in the United States as children to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal. Those granted such relief become eligible for work authorization and various federal benefits. Some 700,000 aliens have availed this relief. However, during the early presidential years of Donald Trump (current President of the USA); the DACA was rescinded citing legal flaws. In 2017 the DHS clarified that it would no longer accept new applications, but existing DACA recipients whose benefits were set to expire within six months could apply for a two-year renewal. For all other DACA recipients, previously issued grants of relief would expire on their own terms, with no prospect for renewal. The rescission was challenged on the grounds of arbitrariness; violation of Administrative Procedure Act and infringement of the guarantee of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Government contended that DACA Memorandum is a general non-enforcement policy; hence the rescission of the same will not be reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). 

Scrutinizing various legal aspects surrounding the issue, the majority observed that the DACA did not merely decline to institute enforcement proceedings; it created a program for conferring affirmative immigration relief. Additionally, by virtue of DACA, 700,000 recipients may request work authorization and are eligible for Social Security and Medicare. Access to such benefits is an interest for which courts often are called to protect; therefore the rescission is subject to review under the APA.

It was further observed that when the Attorney General determined that the DACA is illegal, it was the DHS’ responsibility to best address the determination which involved important policy choices and providing sufficient explanation for the decision to rescind DACA. However, the Attorney General’s conclusion regarding the illegality of DACA was seen as sufficient reason to rescind both benefits and forbearance, without explanation. Thus, absence of a ‘reasoned analysis’ itself renders the rescission as arbitrary. Moreover, the Government failed to adhere to the principle of ‘legitimate reliance’ on the DACA Memorandum. It was observed that, “DHS has flexibility in addressing any reliance interests and could have considered various accommodations. It was required to assess the existence and strength of any reliance interests, and weigh them against competing policy concerns. Its failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious”.

Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, JJ., delivered the dissenting opinion. They observed that the majority opinion is an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct Government decision. [Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 591 US (2020), decided on 18-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, J., dismissed the petition on the ground that the Employees Compensation Commissioner has rightly observed that the respondents have duly complied with the provisions of Section 10 of the Employees Compensation Act and from the facts of the case it was clear that the petitioner wanted to linger the proceedings however the Bench was of the view that Employees Compensation Act, 1923 is a piece of social security legislation providing for a speedyEmployeesicient machinery for determination and payment of compensation to the employees. Thus, the impugned has been correctly passed as ex-parte.

In the pertinent case, the petitioner has moved to this Court to challenge the order dated 29.3.2019 passed by the Employees Compensation Commissioner/Assistant Labour Commissioner U.P. Gorakhpur whereby the application filed by the petitioner for recall of the orders dated 5.8.2016 and 28.7.2017 has been rejected.

The facts of the case are that the claim petition as Case No. WCC 2/2015, a registered notice dated 08.01.2016 was duly sent to the petitioner and it was only thereafter on 05.08.2016 that an order was passed for proceeding ex parte. 

The counsel for the petitioner had submitted that the orders in question were passed in proceedings which were ex-parte hence the same ought to have been recalled by the Employees Compensation Commissioner and the rejection of the recall application in the said circumstances is erroneous.

The Standing Counsel appearing for the State submitted that upon registration of the claim petition as Case No. W.C.C. 2/2015, a registered notice dated 08.01.2016 was duly sent to the petitioner and it was only thereafter on 05.08.2016 that an order was passed for proceeding ex parte. Therefore, the petitioner was fully aware of the proceedings and despite due notice it deliberately allowed the case to proceed ex-parte and as such there was no sufficient reason made out for the orders to be recalled. 

The High Court held that “…the order dated 28.7.2017 indicate that the Employees Compensation Commissioner has duly taken note that before filing of the claim petition the requisite notice of claim under Section 10 had been duly served upon the petitioner-employer and upon registration of the claim also a registered notice dated 8.1.2016 had been sent to the petitioner and only thereafter the order dated 5.8.2016 was passed directing the case to proceed ex-parte. It was subsequent thereto that the Employees Compensation Commissioner upon taking into consideration the facts of the case and the evidence on record had proceeded to allow the claim petition of the claimant respondent. 

The order dated 29.3.2019 passed upon the recall application filed by the petitioner also takes note of the fact that prior to filing of the claim petition the claimant had served a registered notice under Section 10 upon the petitioner-employer and in response to the same a reply had also been submitted by the employer admitting the factum of employment of the claimant with the petitioner. The order also records that after filing of the claim petition and despite issuance of notice the petitioner did not appear and allowed the case to proceed exparte and only after passing of the order dated 28.7.2017 awarding compensation and upon issuance of a show cause notice dated 9.12.2017 pursuant thereto the petitioner-employer filed the recall application. The Employees Compensation Commissioner has accordingly drawn an inference that the petitioner deliberately wanted to linger the proceedings and in the facts of the case where the claimant had suffered 100% disability and was not in a position to contest the proceedings further, taking into considering the larger interest of justice the recall application has been rejected. [Vasu Infrustucture Private Ltd. v. State of U.P.,  2019 SCC OnLine All 3535, decided on 23-09-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has sought response from the Bar Council of India on a plea seeking measures for women lawyers such as safety in courts, maternity benefits and the old age pension.

The bench issued notice to the BCI and its chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra on the PIL, filed by advocate Indu Kaul, which listed out incidents of sexual harassment against women lawyers in different court premises including the Delhi High Court and the trial courts.

The plea sought formulation of social security measures by the apex bar body in coordination with state bar councils to ensure that women lawyers are strengthened.

“The chamber blocks in the court premises have no police person deployed. Male and female rest rooms which have common wall are often found poorly lit which again makes it vulnerable for lady advocates when they use the facility,”

The petition said their safety and security ought to be made the “first priority” in the legal profession where gender disparity cannot be “overlooked”.

“Gender disparity cannot be overlooked in the legal profession where any successful lady advocated is attributed motives for her success which can be as hurting as her character assassination. Safety and security ought to be made the first priority. Lady advocates will withhold themselves from contesting elections of bar associations and bar councils as her male colleagues envy her success from the very first day,”

It further said that as per BCI Model Scheme, at the retirement age of 60 years, a lady lawyer’s position becomes pitiable as her practice diminishes due to poor health and her family still nourishes the impression that being an advocate she must be capable of earning her livelihood. Through social security measures there must be a provision for pension when she opts out of active practice.

It also mentioned the death of Darvesh Yadav, the first woman chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Bar Council who was shot dead by a male colleague in the premises of Agra district court last month. Instead of compensating Yadav’s family out of its own Advocate Welfare’ Fund, issued a press release demanding the compensation from the State Government.

The plea also submitted,

“Bar Councils from different states and BCI collect a huge amount of money on the sale of Advocates’ Welfare Stamp affixed mandatorily on every Vakalatnama irrespective of the fact that the case is criminal, jail petition, of women, old and indigent persons and/or PIL. … BCI as a statutory body is bound to formulate social security measures for providing financial assistance which is a part of it as a body corporate to bear the corporate social responsibility.”

(Source: PTI)

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

As reported by PTI, Cabinet has approved the Code on Wages Bill which seeks to :

” subsume existing laws related to workers remuneration and enable the Centre to fix minimum wages for the entire country.”

The said Code would combine four labour laws — Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

The wages code bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 10, 2017. The bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which submitted its report on December 18, 2018. However, the bill lapsed after 16th Lok Sabha dissolved in the month of May.

The bill provides that the central government will fix minimum wages for certain sectors, including railways and mines, while the states would be free to set minimum wages for other categories of employment.

The code also provides for setting up of a national minimum wage. The central government can set a separate minimum wage for different regions or states.

The draft law also says that the minimum wage would be revised every five years.


Ministry has taken steps for drafting four Labour Codes on Wages; Industrial Relations; Social Security; and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions respectively, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws. The 4 Labour Codes contain provisions relating to wage, social security, safety, health and grievance redressal mechanism for workers. These initiatives are expected to provide wage security, social security, occupational safety and decent working conditions to the workers. However, there is no proposal at present to dismantle and merge of Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) with other central schemes and privatization of social security fund.

The process of Legislative reforms on Labour includes consultation with stakeholders including Central Trade Unions, Employers’ Associations and State Governments in the form of tripartite consultation. Besides, the draft Labour Codes were also placed on the website of the Ministry, seeking comments/suggestions from all stakeholders including the general public. The draft legislations are finalised after considering comments/suggestions received from various stakeholders.

The proposed labour reforms initiatives will reduce the complexity in compliance due to a multiplicity of labour laws and facilitate setting up of enterprises and thus creating the environment for the development of business and industry in the country and generating employment opportunities without diluting basic aspects of safety, security and health of workers.

Ministry of Labour and Employment


[Source: PTI]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for extending the investment limit from Rs 7.5 lakhs to Rs 15 lakhs as well as extension of time limits for subscription from 4thMay 2018 to 31stMarch, 2020 under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandan Yojana (PMVVY) as part of Government’s commitment for financial inclusion and social security.

Further, as a boost to the Social Security initiatives for senior citizens, the investment limit of Rs 7.5 lakh per family in the existing scheme is enhanced to Rs 15 lakh per senior citizen in the modified PMVVY, thereby providing a larger social security cover to the Senior citizens.  It will enable upto Rs.10000 Pension per month for Senior Citizens.

As of March, 2018, a total number of 2.23 lakh senior citizens are being benefited under PMVVY. In the previous scheme of Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana-2014, a total number of 3.11 lakh senior citizens are being benefited.

Background: The PMVVY is being implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to provide social security during old age and protect elderly persons aged 60 years and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions. The scheme provides an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum for ten years, with an option to opt for pension on a monthly / quarterly / half yearly and annual basis. The differential return, i.e. the difference between the return generated by LIC and the assured return of 8% per annum would be borne by Government of India as subsidy on an annual basis.

Cabinet