Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ has made a slight modification in the guidelines issued by it on April 06, 2020 on functioning of courts through video conferencing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court has ordered that the directions issued earlier need not be altered except sub-para (vii) of Paragraph 6 which shall be substituted with the following:

“The Video Conferencing in every High Court and within the jurisdiction of every High Court shall be conducted according to the Rules for that purpose framed by that High Court. The Rules will govern Video Conferencing in the High Court and in the district courts and shall cover appellate proceedings as well as trials.”

Earlier sub-para (vii) of Paragraph 6 of the order dated April 06, 2020 read as:

“Until appropriate rules are framed by the High Courts, video conferencing shall be mainly employed for hearing arguments whether at the trial stage or at the appellate stage. In no case shall evidence be recorded without the mutual consent of both the parties by video conferencing. If it is necessary to record evidence in a Court room the presiding officer shall ensure that appropriate distance is maintained between any two individuals in the Court.”

Noticing that several High Courts have framed their rules already, the Court directed that those High Courts that have not framed such Rules shall do so having regard to the circumstances prevailing in the State and

“Till such Rules are framed, the High Courts may adopt the model Video Conferencing Rules provided by the E-Committee, Supreme Court of India to all the Chief Justices of the High Court.”

Impressed with the functioning of virtual courts across the country amidst COVID-19 pandemic, the Court said,

“We must say the system of Video Conferencing has been extremely successful in providing access to justice.”

[IN RE GUIDELINES FOR COURT FUNCTIONING THROUGH VIDEO CONFERENCING DURING COVID 19 PANDEMIC, SMW (C) No(s). 5/2020, order dated 26.10.2020]


Read the guidelines dated April 06, 2020 on functioning of courts through video conferencing here

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Standard Operating Procedure for the resumption of physical functioning in the Delhi High Court from 01-09-2020

  • Regulations relating to entry in the court blocks for attending physical hearings and VC Court Rooms for VC Hearings
  1. Entry into the court block, for the purposes of attending physical hearings and VC hearings, shall stand restricted.
  2. No entry in the court blocks shall be permitted to:-
  • Juniors, Interns or law students associated with the Advocate concerned
  • Relative of any party-in-person/litigant
  • Non-registered clerks

3. No litigant, who is represented by any Advocate, would be permitted entry unless there is specific direction by the Hon’ble Court.

4. Advocates, Party-in-person and registered clerks above the age of 65 years and those suffering from co-morbidities may refrain from appearing in courts.

5. Persons displaying symptoms of flu, fever, cough, etc. shall not be permitted entry inside the court complex.

6. Mandatory norms are to be followed by all concerned who are permitted to enter the Court building/Court Room.

Further, the SOP has been listed under the following headings:

  • Court Blocks for Physical Hearing
  • Time-slot/Staggered Entry
  • Arrangements inside the Courtroom
  • Other Facilities
  • System of Mentioning
  • Matters to be taken up by the Courts
  • General Regulations

Read the public notice, here: NOTICE


Delhi High Court

[Public Notice dt. 27-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., directed that the statements under Section 164 of the Code of criminal Procedure, 1973 of children in need of care and protection should be recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate over video conferencing or by visiting the observation homes.

Petitioner has established a Child Care Institution under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Reason for filing the present petition was that, out of a rescue operation in July, 2020 ten minors who were working as child labour were rescued and brought to the Mukti Ashram.

Contention of the petitioner is that the children were compelled to leave Mukti Ashram and physically attend the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate for recording of their statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and for giving samples for COVID-19 testing.

Respondents should lay down procedures for recording of the childrens’ statements and their medical testing, which does not require them to leave the institution or at atleast to attend at crowded public places.

Bench stated that in the interest of the children who require care and protection it should be necessitated that their exposure t crowded environments be avoided in the prevailing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. As far as possible, they shouldn’t be required to leave the premises of the Child Care Institution in which they are housed.

Court directed as follows:

  • Statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 of children in need of care and protection can be recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate over video conferencing or if the Metropolitan Magistrate deems it necessary, he/ she can visit the concerned observation homes/Child Care Institutions where such children are housed, for recording the statement in person.
  • Proceedings before the Child Welfare Committees and other bodies where the children are required to participate, are already being conducted by video-conference. We direct that this process should be continued, and the requirement of taking the child out of the home/ Child Care Institution should be avoided as far as possible.
  • Covid-19 tests will also be carried out by the State authorities for the children in need of care and protection who are staying at different homes/Child Care Institutions under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The sample shall be collected for this purpose either at the home/Child Care Institution or at the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the area. The authorities will ensure that all precautions for the welfare of the child are taken, and that the sample is expeditiously collected, so that the child can return to the home/ institution.

In view of the above observations, petition was dismissed. [Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. GNCTD, WP(C) No. 4361 of 2020, decided on 28-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Vikram Nath, CJ and P.B. Pardiwala, J., while addressing an issue with regard to the live streaming of the Court proceedings held that a committee to work out the modalities for the said purpose has been constituted comprising of two Judges of this Court.

A law student raised the issue with regard to the Live Streaming/Open Access of the Court proceedings and in the public interest Gujarat High court should work out the necessary modalities for the said purpose.

Bench on perusal of the material on record, stated that to observe the  requirement of an open Court proceedings, members of the public should be allowed to view the Court hearings through video conferencing except the proceedings ordered for the reasons recorded in writing to be conducted in-camera.

Right to Know and receive information is one of the facts of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and for which reason the public is entitled to witness the Court proceedings.

As, the above-stated Court proceedings involve the issue impacting the public at large or a section of the public.

Bench appreciated the efforts of the 3rd year law student appeared in person in the public interest.

Further, in line of the above-stated observations, Bench stated that to work out the modalities to facilitate the people at large including the media to watch the virtual hearing, Committee of two Judges of this High Court has been constituted pursuant to Standing Committee’s decision on 25-06-2020.

In the near future, a report of the committee is expected after which to allow access to the public at large including the media persons of print digital and electronic media shall be finalized.

Petition was disposed of in view of the above. [Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. Gujarat High Court, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1055 , decided on 20-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has held that it’s order dated 23.03.2020, wherein the Court had extended limitation period of appeals from high courts or tribunals on account of COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be read to mean that it ever intended to extend the period of filing charge sheet by police as contemplated under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Setting aside the Madras High Court judgment, where it was had held that the Supreme Court order dated 23.03.2020 eclipsed all provisions prescribing period of limitation until further orders, including the time prescribed under Section 167(2) of the code of Criminal Procedure, the bench said,

“neither this Court in its order dated 23.03.2020 can be held to have eclipsed the time under Section 167(2) CrPC nor the restrictions which have been imposed during the lockdown announced by the Government shall operate as any restriction on the rights of an accused as protected by Section 167(2) regarding his indefeasible right to get a default bail on non-submission of charge sheet within the time prescribed.”

On 23.03.2020, the Court had extended the limitation for filing petitions/ applications/ suits/ appeals/all other proceedings to obviate lawyers/litigants to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals. The Court, in the present order explained that the said order was passed to protect the litigants/lawyers whose petitions/ applications/ suits/ appeals/all other proceedings would become time barred they being not able to physically come to file such proceedings. The order was for the benefit of the litigants who have to take remedy in law as per the applicable statute for a right.

“When this Court passed the above order for extending the limitation for filing petitions/ applications/ suits/ appeals/all other proceedings, the order was for the benefit of those who have to take remedy, whose remedy may be barred by time because they were unable to come physically to file such proceedings.”

Stating that the scheme of Code of Criminal Procedure clearly delineates that provisions of Section 167 of Code of Criminal Procedure gives due regard to the personal liberty of a person, the Court explained that without submission of charge sheet within 60 days or 90 days as may be applicable, an accused cannot be detained by the Police. The provision gives due recognition to the personal liberty.

Noticing that the law of limitation bars the remedy but not the right, the Court said that the Investigating Officer in the present case could have submitted/filed the charge sheet before the (Incharge) Magistrate. Therefore, even during the lockdown and as has been done in so many cases the charge-sheet could have been filed/submitted before the Magistrate (Incharge) and the Investigating Officer was not precluded from filing/submitting the charge-sheet even within the stipulated period before the Magistrate (Incharge).

On High Court’s opinion that the lockdown announced by the Government is akin to proclamation of Emergency, the Court said,

“The view of the learned Single Judge that the restrictions, which have been imposed during period of lockdown by the Government of India should not give right to an accused to pray for grant of default bail even though charge sheet has not been filed within the time prescribed under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is clearly erroneous and not in accordance with law.”

It is pertinent to note that another bench of Madras High Court had, in Settu v. State, Crl.OP(MD)No. 5291 of 2020, already considered the judgment of this Court dated 23.03.2020 and noticing that personal liberty is too precious a fundamental right, it had held,

“The noble object of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s direction is to ensure that no litigant is deprived of his valuable rights. But, if I accept the plea of the respondent police, the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court which is intended to save and preserve rights would result in taking away the valuable right that had accrued to the accused herein.”

The single judge in the impugned judgment before the Court had called the above mentioned Madras High Court order uncharitable. On this the Court said that the impugned judgment is not only erroneous but also sends wrong signals to the State and the prosecution emboldening them to act in breach of liberty of a person. It, further, said that all Courts including the High Courts and the Supreme Court have to follow a principle of Comity of Courts. A Bench whether coordinate or Larger, has to refrain from making any uncharitable observation on a decision even though delivered by a Bench of a lesser coram.

“A Bench sitting in a Larger coram may be right in overturning a judgment on a question of law, which jurisdiction a Judge sitting in a coordinate Bench does not have. In any case, a Judge sitting in a coordinate Bench or a Larger Bench has no business to make any adverse comment or uncharitable remark on any other judgment.”

[S. Kasi v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 529 , decided on 19.06.2020]


Also read:

COVID-19| SC extends limitation period for filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals, etc.

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The Supreme Court Registry has notified the list of 1239 matters that are likely to be heard by the Supreme Court through Video Conferencing from June 1, 2020.

Earlier, the Registry had notified the new schedule for summer vacations of the Court. The Notice read:

“the period from 18th May, 2020 to 19th June, 2020 (both inclusive) shall be declared as period functioning for the Supreme Court of India.”

The Court was originally supposed to remain closed from May 18, 2020 to July 5, 2020 but the same was changed due to the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic.  The Court had, on March 23, 2020, opted to hold video-conference to hear urgent matters in an unprecedented move

Click here to access the list of matter.


Also read: 

COVID-19| No in-person hearings in SC till further notice; Extremely urgent matters to be heard via video conference

COVID-19| Here’s the list of directions issued by CJI Bobde in the light of Coronavirus lockdown

COVID-19| SC extends limitation period for filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals, etc

COVID-19| SC extends limitation prescribed under the A&C, 1996 and the NI Act,1881

Hot Off The PressNews

Orissa High Court issued a Circular notifying that considering the disruption in power supply and internet connectivity and forecast of heavy rains due to the Super Cyclone Amphan and keeping in view the request of Bar, functioning of Court through video conferencing shall not be possible on 20th May, 2020 i.e. today.

All case listed for 20th May, 2020 shall be taken up on 21st May, 2020.

NOTICE


Orissa High Court

[Notice dt. 20-05-2020]

COVID 19Gaurav Pingle and Associates

Under the extant provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 (“the Act”), approval of the shareholders can be obtained by passing a resolution in general meeting or voting through electronic means (i.e. e-voting) or postal ballot. The Act read with the relevant Rules made thereunder provide for detailed procedures for obtaining shareholders’ approval. Under the extant provisions, only meeting of the board of directors can be held through videoconferencing (VC) and other audio-visual means (OAVM). In view of the current extra-ordinary circumstances due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19 prevailing in the country, requiring social distancing, it is difficult for companies to obtain shareholders’ approval by conducting general meetings. Taking into consideration this situation, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) had provided a framework for conducting extra-ordinary general meeting of the company through VC or OAVM[1]. MCA issued another Circular and permitted the companies to hold the annual general meeting through VC or OAVM during the calendar year 2020[2].

This article is an analysis of certain provisions of the MCA directions and also address certain challenges for listed companies in conducting AGM through VC or OAVM.

Rights of shareholders: Before we discuss the procedure for conducting general meetings through VC or OAVM, let us first discuss the rights of shareholders. Chapter II of the SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 (the SEBI Regulations) relates to ‘Principles governing disclosures and obligations of listed entity’. According to the provisions, the shareholders shall have the right to participate in, and to be sufficiently informed of, decisions concerning fundamental corporate changes. The shareholders shall also have an opportunity to participate effectively and vote in general shareholder meetings. Shareholders shall be informed of the rules, including voting procedures that govern general shareholder meetings. They shall have an opportunity to ask questions to the board of directors, to place items on the agenda of general meetings, and to propose resolutions, subject to reasonable limitations. Effective shareholder participation in key corporate governance decisions, such as the nomination and election of members of board of directors. The exercise of ownership rights by all shareholders, including institutional investors. Listed entity shall have adequate mechanism to address the grievances of the shareholders.

The SEBI Regulations also provide that the exercise of voting rights by foreign shareholders shall be facilitated and the processes and procedures for general meetings shall allow for equitable treatment of all shareholders. The procedures of listed entity shall not make it unduly difficult or expensive to cast votes. The listed entities shall also ensure the said rights prescribed in the SEBI Regulations are not affected when the AGM of the company is conducted through VC or OAVM.

The highlights of the MCA Circular permitting companies to hold AGMs through VC or OAVM and certain challenges are as follows:

  1. Taking into consideration the difficulties involved in dispatching of physical copies of financial statements (including Board’s Report, Auditor’s Report, or other documents required to be attached), MCA has permitted sending such documents by e-mail to the members, trustees for the debenture-holders, or any other person entitled to receive such documents. The companies are required to give public notice by way of advertisement in vernacular language of the district in which registered office is situated and at least once in English language in English newspaper (preferably both newspapers having electronic editions). Considering this, the cost of conducting general meetings is significantly reduced for such listed companies.
  2. One of the biggest challenges for listed companies is to get the e-mail addresses of the members (holding shares in physical form) registered for sending financial statements. This will also enable the shareholders to cast their vote through remote e-voting or through e-voting during the meeting. Presently, even in the lockdown, the depositories, Registrar and share transfer agents and companies are taking adequate steps for the registration of e-mail addresses of such shareholders. However, for certain listed companies some shareholders are either not traceable or their contact details are not updated.
  3. According to MCA directions, the listed company shall provide two-way tele-conferencing facility or webex for ease of participation of the members and the participants are allowed to pose questions concurrently or given time to submit questions in advance on the e-mail address of the company. Such facility must have a capacity to allow at least 500 members or members equal to the total number of members of the company. According to the principles governing disclosures and obligations of listed entity under the SEBI Regulations (as discussed above), the shareholders shall have right to participate in, and to be sufficiently informed of, decisions concerning fundamental corporate changes. The shareholders shall also have an opportunity to participate effectively and vote in general shareholder meetings. The shareholders shall have an opportunity to ask questions to the board of directors, to place items on the agenda of general meetings, and to propose resolutions, subject to reasonable limitations. Considering the total number of shareholders and their participation, it would be quite difficult for listed companies to provide two-way tele-conferencing facility in the general meetings. Considering the participation of members and question-answer session, such meetings would take a long time to conclude. Presently, the companies/Registrar and share transfer agents are in the process of developing a system to answer/reply to the queries asked in the general meeting through VC or OAVM.
  4. According to the MCA directions, the process for election of Chairman depends upon the members present at the meeting i.e. if members present are less than 50, then the Chairman is appointed in accordance with Section 104 of the Act. And if the members present are more than 50, then the Chairman shall be appointed by a poll conducted through electronic voting system during the meeting. i.e. generally, in the case of listed entities, it will be compulsory to have a system of ‘electronic voting during the meeting’ for members attending electronically (i.e. VC or OAVM). This mandatory agenda item of electing the Chairman would consume a lot of time before discussing the agenda for the meeting. For listed entities (at least for 500-BSE companies), the participation in general meeting would be more than 50 members. The MCA direction with reference to the appointment of Chairman for the meeting directly conflicts with the provision in the Act. It would be quite challenging for the companies to comply with the said provision.
  5. According to the MCA directions, where less than 50 members are present in a meeting, the Chairman may decide to conduct a vote by show of hands (i.e. one member is equal to one vote, irrespective of shareholding), unless a demand for poll (i.e. one share is equal to one vote) is made by any member in accordance with Section 109 of the Act. In the VC system or OAVM system, the listed companies would be required to have a mechanism for demanding poll and the shareholders should be equipped to participate in the demand. Considering that e-voting (i.e. one share is equal to one vote) is open not less than 3 days before the general meeting, the MCA should have provided uniform method of voting for the general meeting through VC or OAVM.
  6. Under the Act, the register of directors and KMP and their shareholding shall be kept open for inspection at every annual general meeting of the company and shall be made accessible to any person attending the meeting. The VC system may have a facility of the company to upload the scanned copy of the register and members during the meeting through VC or OAVM may inspect the same. Similarly, if the articles of association of the company are being amended, the draft articles of association can be made available for inspection in the VC system.
  7. According to the extant provisions of the Act, the annual general meeting of the company shall be called during business hours i.e. between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. According to the MCA directions, the convenience of different persons positioned in different time zones shall be kept in mind before scheduling the meeting. Listed entities shall balance the two provisions for conducting the meeting, however ensuring convenience of shareholders in different time zones is difficult.
  8. In case of payment of final dividend, MCA has directed companies to pay dividend though electronic clearing service or any other means. Where the company is unable to pay the dividend to any shareholders by electronic mode, due to non-availability of bank details, the company are directed to dispatch the dividend warrant/cheque to such shareholder by post (i.e. upon normalisation of postal services). Post-lockdown and thereafter, if such dividend is not claimed by the shareholder then it may get credited in unpaid dividend account and then investor education and provident fund (IEPF) account which may be more difficult for the shareholders to claim such dividend.
  9. Considering the fact that the member would be attending the general meeting through VC or OAVM, the concept of proxy has become redundant. As per the MCA Circular, such member would be counted for the purpose of reckoning the quorum under the Act.
  10. Atleast an independent director and auditor/representative of auditor are mandated to attend the such meeting through VC or OAVM. Institutional investors are encouraged to attend and vote at the meeting.

Taking into consideration that MCA has permitted companies to hold the general meetings through VC or OAVM, SEBI may also relax certain provisions of the SEBI Regulations in due course. It will be interesting to see the effective implementation of the dynamic amendments introduced to the provisions of general meeting – i.e. calling of meeting, holding and conducting of meeting. Taking into consideration the current extra-ordinary circumstances due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19, for the general meetings for the year 2020 should be more of ‘shareholders co-operation’ than ‘shareholders activism’, except in exceptional circumstances.


*Practising Company Secretary, Pune. He can be reached at gp@csgauravpingle.com

[1] MCA General Circular No. 14/2020 dated April 8, 2020.

[2] MCA General Circular No. 20/2020 dated May 5, 2020.

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, Deepak Gupta and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has directed extended the limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881. The Court directed that the limitation period under the said Acts,

“shall be extended with effect from 15.03.2020 till further orders to be passed by this Court in the present proceedings.”

The said order of the Court came in furtherance of the order passed on March 23, 2020 in IN RE: COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 343, wherein the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJhad  invoked its power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India and extended limitation period of appeals from high courts or tribunals on account of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Court took into consideration the effect of the Corona Virus (COVID 19) and resultant difficulties being faced by the lawyers and litigants and passed the present order with a view to obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunal across the country including this Court.

The Court further said,

“In case the limitation has expired after 15.03.2020 then the period from 15.03.2020 till the date on which the lockdown is lifted in the jurisdictional area where the dispute lies or where the cause of action arises shall be extended for a period of 15 days after the lifting of lockdown.”

[IN RE: COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 434 , order dated 06.05.2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Keeping in View the prevailing situation due to outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID—19) and after considering the prevailing situation in the States of Punjab, Haryana and specifically UT Chandigarh Where the unique conditions of lockdown/Curfew and the Containment Zone continues and with a view to ensure the safety of the Judges, Advocates, Staff and litigants; the Administrative Committee has resolved that w.e.f. 04.05.2020, an arrangement shall be put into operation on experimental basis, till further orders, on the court working days of the High Court.

  •  Only urgent matters to be entertained.
  • Mentioning of urgent matter to be made on High Court website from 8.30 am to 10 a.m. on the court working day.
  • Once mentioning request has been declined no further mentioning request in the same matter by the same advocate of party shall be entertained during the aforesaid period.
  • Hearing to be conducted through Video Conferencing.
  • The concerned Advocate/Litigant shall ensure that the Room from where he/she intends to appear before the Court through Video conferencing or Video call is free from all source of disturbances like external noises, poor lighting, improper acoustics. It shall be ensured that judicial proceedings are conducted with taken courtesies and protocol as are being observed during judicial proceedings in the Court. No other person except the advocate/litigant shall be allowed in the Room from where litigant/advocate is appearing through video-conferencing/video-call facility.
  • Advocates/ their clerks/law interns/general public shall not be permitted inside the High Court building during this period.

To read the detailed Order issued by the High Court, please follow the below link:

ORDER


Punjab and Haryana High Court

[Order dt. 02-05-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

In view of the nationwide lockdown being extended till 17th May 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic and taking into consideration the new guidelines issued by the Government of Sikkim vide Order No. 06/Home/2020 dated 2nd May 2020, it is hereby informed to all concerned that the High Court of Sikkim and the District Courts in the State of Sikkim will continue to function in terms of Notification No. 77/HCS dated 18th March 2020, Guidelines to the District Courts bearing reference No. 78/ HCS dated 18th March 2020 and Circular No. 33/Confdl/HCS dated 24th March 2020.

High Court of Sikkim issues the following instructions:

1. Standard Operating Procedure published vide reference No. 137/Comp/HCS dated 24th March 2020 will continue to operate for hearing of cases through video-conferencing. Helpline number ‘14636’ for queries relating to video-conferencing facilities have also been made operational.

2. Facilitation Centres for video-conferencing established in the High Court of Sikkim and all the District Courts will be made available to such litigants who do not have means or access to video-conferencing facilities. This facility can also be utilized by the learned Advocates, if required.

3. Filing Section of the High Court of Sikkim will remain open from 10 am to 1 pm. Similar arrangements shall be made by the jurisdictional District Judges in their respective Districts.

4. A roster duty arrangement from 4th May 2020 to 17th May 2020 will be made to ensure that urgent administrative works are attended to. Depending on the exigencies of service and situation, the Registrar General of the High Court and the jurisdictional District Judges at the District Courts will place the concerned staff on duty during the roster period.

However, it will be ensured that not more than one-third of the employees should be attending the Office at a time. The jurisdictional District Judges will also consider the new guidelines issued by the Government of Sikkim dated 2nd May 2020, while making the duty roster.

The above instructions will remain effective till 17th May 2020.


Sikkim High Court

[Circular dt. 02-05-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court (Monthly Roundup)

COVID-19 STORIES


Functioning of courts

Supreme Court issues guidelines on functioning of courts through video conferencing


Release of prisoners

Ensure that prisoners released on parole are not left stranded due to lockdown: SC to Centre

No prisoner shall be released without taking appropriate steps if he/she has suffered from coronavirus disease

SC refuses to pass blanket order for release of prisoners above 50 years of age on parole

Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam middleman Christian Michel seeks bail; SC asks him to approach HC


Children and women in Protection & shelter homes

SC issues extensive directions to protect children in Protection Homes from spread of coronavirus

SC suggests Centre to extend directions to protect children in Protection Homes from spread of coronavirus to Nari Niketans as well


Migrant workers

SC refuses to entertain plea seeking requisition of private properties to provide shelter to migrant workers

SC seeks Centre’s response on plea seeking payment of basic minimum wages to migrant workers

Centre submits affidavit on plea seeking minimum wages for migrant workers during lockdown

SC leaves issue of payment of minimum basic wages to migrant workers to Centre


Healthcare professionals, testing kits, masks, etc.

Doctors and healthcare professionals are “warriors”; protect them: SC issues directions

Don’t charge exorbitant fees from public for Coronavirus testing: SC asks Centre

SC seeks Centre’s response on PIL calling for WHO-approved protection kits for health care professionals

We are making masks, sanitisers, etc available to public at reasonable price: Govt. tells SC

Everyone not eligible for free testing kits; To be made free only to the economically weaker sections of society

SC refuses to pass order on petition seeking changes in the treatment guidelines; Asks ICMR to look into the matter


Other orders

Ration to people without ration cards: SC refuses to pass order on ‘policy issue’

Not appropriate to impose a financial emergency right now; SC adjourns the matter

This institution is not hostage of government: Furious SC tells advocate Prashant Bhushan during migrant workers hearing


TOP STORIES


Uniform NEET for admission to Medical & Dental courses does not violate rights of the unaided/aided minority institutions

“There is no right given to maladminister the education derogatory to the national interest. The quality of medical education is imperative to sub­serve the national interest, and the merit cannot be compromised.”

Scandalous allegations against SC judges: SC finds all 3 advocates guilty of contempt

“The allegations are also scurrilous and scandalous and such allegations cannot be permitted to be made against the Judges of highest Court of the country.”

Some relief to finacially stressed Vodafone Idea as SC directs payment of Rs.733 Crores tax refund within 4 weeks

Vodafone Idea had sought Rs 4,759.07 crore in tax refund from for Assessment Years 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. The Court directed a tax refund of Rs.733 Crores to the company within 4 weeks. It also directed the Income Tax department to conclude the proceedings initiated pursuant to notice under sub-section (2) of Section 143 of the Act in respect of AY 2016-17 and 2017-18 as early as possible.

Centre to pay Rs. 1 Lakh compensation for improper handling of sexual harassment allegation by former RAW agent Nisha Priya Bhatia

The Court upheld the compulsory retirement for former RAW agent Nisha Priya Bhatia, who had levelled sexual harassment complaints against colleagues Ashok Chaturvedi and Sunil Uke, on the ground of “exposure” having regard to the nature of work of the Organisation of which confidentiality and secrecy are inalienable elements. It, however, asked the Centre to pay, within 6 weeks, compensation quantified at Rs.1,00,000/­  to Nisha Priya Bhatia for violation of her fundamental rights to life and dignity, as a result of the improper handling of her complaint of sexual harassment.

Arnab Goswami vs Sonia Gandhi Row| SC grants 3 weeks protection from arrest to Arnab Goswami; stays all but one FIR

In the petition filed by Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami, challenging the FIRs registered against him in various parts of the country for alleged defamation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ has granted 3 weeks of interim protection and no coercive action against the petitioner, Arnab Goswami.

Andhra Pradesh’s 100% reservation for Scheduled Tribe candidates for the post of teachers without rhyme or reason: SC

The 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ held that there was no rhyme or reason with the State Government to resort to 100% reservation.

“It was least expected from the functionary like Government to act in aforesaid manner as they were bound by the dictum laid down by this Court in Indra Sawhney and other decisions holding that the limit of reservation not to exceed 50%.”

Madhya Pradesh Governor had the Constitutional authority to order floor test: SC

“In a situation where the Governor has reasons to believe that the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House, constitutional propriety requires that the issue be resolved by calling for a floor test. The Governor in calling for a floor test cannot be construed to have acted beyond the bounds of constitutional authority.”


MORE STORIES


SC quashes Income Tax department notice to NDTV seeking to re-assessment of for financial year 2007-08

Legislature has not defeated the dictum in Bharat Earth Movers case by inserting clause (f) to Section 43B of the IT Act

State Government cannot fix the “minimum price” of sugarcane once Centre has already fixed it

Petition for removal of Karnataka-Kerala border disposed of after SG apprises agreement already been reached between States

Medical Oxygen IP and Nitrous Oxide IP are ‘drugs’ as per Section 3(b)(i) of the the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940

 

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

In the light of Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) of the Government of India dated 15.04.2020 on the subject of functioning of Government establishments during lockdown period on account of pandemic COVID-19, requiring 100% attendance of the officers of level of Deputy Secretary and above and upto 33% attendance of remaining staff, it has been decided as follows:

(1) With effect from 04.05.2020, the Chairperson and Members of the National Green Tribunal, as well all the officers of the National Green Tribunal (Deputy Registrars and above) will attend the Office with 100% attendance, while the remaining staff upto 33% strength shall physically attend the Office as separately notified from time to time. The section heads/incharge of all sections shall prepare rosters of staff required to attend office physically by rotation. The staff members not required to present physically at the Office, shall always remain available on phone and electronic means of communication, and shall attend office physically as and when required.

(2) Considering the health and safety of lawyers / public / litigants / staff, till the situation of Corona improves, judicial work will be conducted by the Benches of NGT only by Video Conferencing, without physical presence/appearance of parties or their counsel in the NGT complex. Only online filing (e-filing) of cases is allowed and no physical filing is permitted. The parties/lawyers may request for listing or adjournment of their cases or make urgent mentioning, by sending an email in advance to judicialngt@nic.in. All communication with NGT qua listing of cases, filing of documents/reports, filing of written submissions / synopsis / audio of oral submissions (if any) etc. shall be done only through this email ID.

(3) The lawyers/litigants desirous of participating personally in VC hearings are required to send request at the above email ID in advance, giving their names, case title, case number, date of hearing, email IDs, mobile numbers, etc. For VC hearings, NGT shall be using “Vidyo” App whereby users can join Vidyo room from their mobile phones/laptops/desktops having adequate internet facility. Vidyo App can be downloaded from link given in website ecourtvc.nic.in as well as Google Play Store (for android) and Apple Store (for iOS). If request for personal hearing through VC is permitted by the Bench, the time and link with one-time password for VC hearing shall be shared with the parties by the Office.

(4) Entry to NGT complex shall be restricted only to its staff. All the safety and precautionary guidelines issued by the Government shall be scrupulously followed by all concerned. The staff shall maintain social distancing norms and protocols, shall wear face masks throughout, shall pass through thermal scanner at entry gate and shall sanitize/wash hands at appropriate intervals. There shall be no crowding at any place / branch in NGT complex and seating of staff shall be arranged accordingly. The NGT complex, including surfaces of furniture and frequently touched objects, shall be sanitized with disinfectants on daily basis.

This shall be subject to further modification if and when further instructions are received from the Government.


National Green Tribunal

[Office Order dt. 28-04-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Chief Justice of the M.P. High Court has ordered to suspend the hearing of cases even through video conferencing upto 3-5-2020 only at the Indore Bench. However, hearing of cases via video conferencing will remain operational at the Gwalior Bench and at the Principal Bench at Jabalpur.

The decision was taken after considering the present scenario and spread of COVID-19 in Indore city. As per the information received by the Court, there are more than 1000 COVID-19 +ve cases and 171 identified hotspots in Indore city, out of which 20 are declared highly sensitive. Notably, 1 employee of the Indore Bench Registry has been found positive for COVID-19 and some officials have been quarantined.    

Earlier, in the wake of unprecedented and uncertain situation due to outbreak of COVID-19, the Court working was deferred from 25-3-2020 to 14-4-2020 by a notification issued by the High Court. The operation of that notification was extended till 3-5-2020.

As per the Video Conferencing and E-Filing Guidelines dated 15-4-2020/16-4-2020, it was directed that urgent matters shall be filed through e-filing or through email and hearing of the cases may be conducted through video conferencing.


Madhya Pradesh High Court

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of N.V. Anjaria and Ashok Kumar C. Joshi, JJ. addressed a petition wherein Writ of Habeas Corpus was sought in order to produce the daughter of the petitioner.

Matter:

Petitioner’s minor daughter was taken by respondent 4 when she was doing some labour work at a factory. Respondent 4 was also engaged in working at the same factory. Petitioner had lodged an FIR for offenses punishable under Sections 363 and 366 of Penal Code, 1860 as well as Section 18 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012., but no satisfactory reply came from the police.

In view of the above, petitioner approached the High Court through the present petition.

Further on issuance of order by this court, respondent-3 /Police was asked to take steps to trace the corpus. Later the proceedings kept adjourning due to the COVID-19 Outbreak and consequential suspension of regular court working.

In the meantime, Police succeed in tracing the minor girl with respondent 4. Girl and Respondent 4 were found to be in Panvel Talk of Ahmednagar District in the State of Maharashtra. On 18-04-2020 corpus was brought back to Gujarat. It was found that respondent 4 had taken the girl to various different places during the period.

As the Corpus was in police custody, request was made by the Additional Public Prosecutor to get the matter listed so that the girl could be produced before the Court. Thus the matter after being listed by Registry came up before the Court.

Permission was granted for the corpus to be produce through video-conferencing as, in the present circumstances it was not possible.

According to the Police Report it was noted that the girl was made to go through medical examination and the report for the same submitted to the Court. Respondent 4 had already been booked pursuant to the FIR and events thereafter.

According to the statement recorded by police, it was stated by the Corpus that she was willing to go her parent’s house.

Bench wanted to make sure of the fact that the girl was saying the above out of her own will and thus she was produced before the Court wherein the same question of her willingness was asked and Corpus stated that she was willing to go. Parents of the Corpus were also asked about their willingness to take their daughter to which their response was in positive.

Court directed the parents of the Corpus to take proper care their minor daughter, in view of the stated corpus was permitted to go with her parents. Police authorities were also directed to ensure safe passage of the corpus and her parents.

To ensure the well being of the Corpus, authorities concerned were erected to depute a Social Welfare Officer from the District and the said officer shall visit the house of corpus and report before ether competent authority after one month.

Petition disposed in the above terms. [Atubhai Nanjibhai Baraiya v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 506 , decided on 21-04-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Chief Justice Justice of Madras High Court issues the following further directions with reference to the mode of filing and hearing of cases in the Principal Seat at Madras in view of the COVID 19 Outbreak :-

1. In view of the inconvenience to be faced by the lawyers, litigant etc. in physically attending court proceeding due to lockdown, court proceeding of extreme urgent matters shall be conducted via video-conferencing or otherwise through the mode which is compatible to the Registry from time to time.

2. For all matters involving extreme urgency, the Advocate/Party is first required to send the scanned copy of the Petition/Application/Grounds of appeal along with the requisite documents as filed physically in the Registry in support of their case, the scanned copy of Memo containing not more than 200 words citing attention to be required to hear the case during this exigency and the precisely made Written Arguments in PDF Format to the email ID – m.jothiraman@aij.gov.in and to the email ID of the Designated Officer concerned of the Registry.

3. If Advocate/Party intend to file Petition/Appeal/Application against Union or State during this exigency, the Carbon Copy (CC) of the same is required to be marked to the respective Law Officers.

4. The said Memo shall inter-alia clearly contain the case-details, contact-details of the Advocate/Party including e-mail id, mobile number and alternate number(s), Enrolment number and residence/office address with Pin Code. The said Memo shall also contain the undertaking that they will abide with the instructions given by the Information Technology Wing of the Registry for effective functioning of Court through Video Conferencing.

5. The Court fee and other charges, if payable to the Petition/Application/Appeal so filed, shall be remitted through E-stamping facility by utilizing the services of STOCK HOLIDING CORPORATION OF INDIA LIMITED (SHCIL) through on-line mode or otherwise and the scanned acknowledgement receipt for the said remittance shall be sent along with the copy of the Petition/Application/Appeal.

6. Advocates/Parties are required to remit Court fee and other charges that are payable to the Appeals/Petitions/Applications so far filed through email and Registered by the Registry ie., from 26.03.2020 to 17.04.2020 within the period of two weeks from the date of Functioning of Regular Court.

7. Upon receipt of the case papers along with the Memo, the same shall be placed before the Court concerned through e-mode, for obtaining permission by the Registry. If the Hon hie Court concerned so directs, then only the case will be taken up on file, otherwise, the case shall deemed to be considered as non-emergent case.

8. Upon receipt of the permission from the Court concerned for entertaining the case, the same shall be intimated to the Advocate/Party, if the Court considers as necessary, by the Designated Officer by return of email or by other means of communication as per the directions of the Court concerned.

9. If the Court insists for the hard copy of the case papers, the Advocate/Party shall make necessary arrangements to furnish hard copy of the case papers that are sent through e-mail. The said hard copy of the case papers shall be handover to the Registry in the Pass Counters near Dr.Ambedkar Statue in the High Court campus from 10.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. during Court working days.

10. The Registry would act only upon such emails that are sent to the email ID as specified above, and reply would be sent by the Designated Officer concerned, only when the Court so directs, to the same email ID from where the request would have come or by other means of communication as per the directions of the Court concerned.

11. Instructions for participating Court Proceedings through Video Conferencing facility will be intimated to the Advocates/Parties by the Registry.

Click on the link below to read the notification: 

NOTIFICATION


Madras High Court

[Notification dt. 17-04-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

It is hereby notified for information of all concerned that upon consideration of the prevailing situation of the pandemic of COVID-19 (Corona Virus), the Hon’ble the Chief Justice, High Court, Calcutta has been pleased to direct that the order of suspension of regular works of the Hon’ble Court and its Circuit Benches, and also in the Subordinate Courts/Offices under its control, as contained in the Court’s Notification No. 1498-RG dated 24.03.2020 read with Corrigendum No. 1504-RG dated 24.03.2020, shall continue to operate till 30th April, 2020.

The Chief Justice has further been pleased to direct that during the period from 9-04-2020 to 30-04-2020, there shall be two Division Benches and three Single Benches on each day, i.e. on 16.04.2020, 21.04.2020, 23.04.2020, 28.04.2020 and 30.04.2020, for taking up extremely urgent matters through Microsoft Teams or other electronic medium.

*To read the detailed notification, please follow the link:

NOTIFICATION


Calcutta High Court

[Notification dt. 08-04-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Andhra Pradesh High Court issues guidelines for hearing of cases through video conferencing during lockdown period in the Subordinate Courts

Following are the guidelines:

  • All the Subordinate Courts shall ensure that the measures have been taken to reduce the need for the physical presence within Court premises and to secure the functioning of the Courts in consonance with social distancing guidelines and best public health practices shall be deemed to be lawful.
  • All the Subordinate Courts shall ensure that the urgent cases are heard by adopting the mode of video conferencing through a convenient video conferencing app/software.
  • The Subordinate Courts can proceed with pronouncement of judgments/orders in Civil cases by issuing notices to both the counsels through whatsapp, e-mail and also by uploading the notice in the official website of District Court under the caption ‘NOTICE’.
  • The facility of video conferencing for the stakeholders including legal aid counsel is to be provided for participating in hearing of the cases through video conferencing, if they are not having such facility. The concerned District Legal Services Authority or Mandal Legal Services Committee shall take care of arrangement of such facility, if they are approached by the stakeholders.
  • All the Judicial Officers shall note that since the High Court is in the process of framing transitional guidelines for e-filing and video conferencing, the video conferencing shall be mainly employed for hearing arguments whether at trial stage or appellate stage.
  • The trial Courts shall record evidence in urgent cases through Video conferencing only, with consent of both the parties.

To read the detailed guidelines, please follow the link:

GUIDELINES


Andhra Pradesh High Court

[Notification dt. 08-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Faced with the unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ has called for functioning of courts through video conferencing. It said that it was necessary that Courts at all levels respond to the call of social distancing and ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus.

Exercising it’s power under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Court, hence, issued the following guidelines:

  1. All measures that have been and shall be taken by this Court and by the High Courts, to reduce the need for the physical presence of all stakeholders within court premises and to secure the functioning of courts in consonance with social distancing guidelines and best public health practices shall be deemed to be lawful;
  2. The Supreme Court of India and all High Courts are authorized to adopt measures required to ensure the robust functioning of the judicial system through the use of video conferencing technologies;
  3. Consistent with the peculiarities of the judicial system in every state and the dynamically developing public health situation, every High Court is authorised to determine the modalities which are suitable to the temporary transition to the use of video conferencing technologies;
  4. The concerned courts shall maintain a helpline to ensure that any complaint in regard to the quality or audibility of feed shall be communicated during the proceeding or immediately after its conclusion failing which no grievance in regard to it shall be entertained thereafter.
  5. The District Courts in each State shall adopt the mode of Video Conferencing prescribed by the concerned High Court.
  6. The Court shall duly notify and make available the facilities for video conferencing for such litigants who do not have the means or access to video conferencing facilities. If necessary, in appropriate cases courts may appoint an amicus-curiae and make video conferencing facilities available to such an advocate.
  7. Until appropriate rules are framed by the High Courts, video conferencing shall be mainly employed for hearing arguments whether at the trial stage or at the appellate stage. In no case shall evidence be recorded without the mutual consent of both the parties by video conferencing. If it is necessary to record evidence in a Court room the presiding officer shall ensure that appropriate distance is maintained between any two individuals in the Court.
  8. The presiding officer shall have the power to restrict entry of persons into the court room or the points from which the arguments are addressed by the advocates. No presiding officer shall prevent the entry of a party to the case unless such party is suffering from any infectious illness. However, where the number of litigants are many the presiding officer shall have the power to restrict the numbers. The presiding officer shall in his discretion adjourn the proceedings where it is not possible to restrict the number.

Courts throughout the country particularly at the level of the Supreme Court and the High Courts have employed video conferencing for dispensation of Justice and as guardians of the Constitution and as protectors of individual liberty governed by the rule of law.

[IN RE: GUIDELINES FOR COURT FUNCTIONING THROUGH VIDEO CONFERENCING DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 355, order dated 06.04.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjeev Sachdeva and Navin Chawla, JJ. addressed the matter with regard to the issues being faced by the Delhi Riot victims.

The present hearing has been conducted through video conferencing.

Senior Advocate, Colin Gonsalves contended that Delhi Riot Victims have been facing several issues, he stated that the victims were staying at Idgah Camp but the Government has cleared the camp due to which they had to relocate themselves. In view of the lockdown they are facing several issues with regard to medical and food.

Standing Counsel for GNCTD, Rahul Mehra states that the camp has been removed as the victims voluntarily left camp and were not removed by police or government.

He added to his submission that, in view the present situation and also the directions with regard to lockdown issued by the Central Government, the officers shall get in touch with the representatives of each of the 275 families, whose names and telephone numbers have been provided and will further ascertain whether any assistance with regard to food, medical help etc. is required by them.

The families will be provided with the Nodal officers details for any kind of assistance during an emergent situation. In case any of the families require accommodation, efforts shall be made to immediately place them in appropriate accommodation/relief camps.

Senior Advocate, Colin Gonsalves further submits that there is an apprehension with regard to shifting them to the existing night shelters in and around their respective localities.

Standing Counsel for East Delhi Municipal Corporation submit that authorities shall coordinate between themselves and ensure that such families are not accommodated in the existing night shelters.

List for directions/reporting compliance on 03.04.2020 [Shaikh Mujtaba Farooq v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine Del 49, decided on 30-03-2020]

Also Read:

COVID-19 | Del HC | Delhi riot victims who may be shelterless to be provided accommodation and basic amenities