Adverse inference can be drawn against party who does not appear in person to depose: Supreme Court - The Daily Guardian
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Adverse inference can be drawn against party who does not appear in person to depose: Supreme Court

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In a well-written, well-worded, well-reasoned, well-substantiated and well-analysed judgment titled Iqbal Basith and others vs N Subbalakshmi and others in Civil Appeal No. 1725 of 2020 delivered as recently as on December 14,2020, a three Judge Bench of the Apex Court headed by Justice RF Nariman and also comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Krishna Murari held clearly, categorically, cogently and convincingly that adverse inference can be drawn against party who does not appear in person to depose. The Bench while allowing appeal against the concurrent findings by the Trial Court and the High Court dismissing a suit filed by plaintiff seeking the relief for permanent injunction. In appeal, the Court noted that the original defendant did not appear in person to depose and be cross-examined in the suit and instead his younger brother deposed on the basis of a power of attorney. So ostensibly the Bench had no hesitation to arrive at the logical, learned and laudable conclusion that, “No explanation was furnished why the original defendant did not appear in person to depose. We find no reason not to draw an adverse inference against defendant in the circumstances.”

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this notable judgment wherein it is stated that, “The plaintiffs are in appeal against the concurrent findings by two courts, rejecting their plaint seeking the relief for permanent injunction. The suit was initially dismissed. R.F.A. No.116/1990 preferred by the appellants was allowed by the High Court. The order was set aside by this court in C.A. No. 2072/2000 on 22.07.2004 and the matter was remanded to the High Court.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then enunciates in para 2 that, “Mr. Basava Prabhu S. Patil, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants, submits that the respondents had no concern with the suit property no. 44/6, ad measuring 90 ft. x 110 ft. situated on the J.C. Road in Bangalore. The respondents were the owner of property bearing no. 42, at a distance of 103 ft., with intervening properties also. The respondents illegally attempted to encroach on the appellants property on 10.02.1974 by dumping bamboo and other construction materials, compelling the appellants to institute the present suit. Shri Patil relied upon the reports of the Pleader Commissioner appointed by the Trial Court, and again by the High Court, to submit that the appellants were found to be in possession of the property coupled with the entries in the property tax register and the municipal tax receipts in name of the appellants. The respondents did not claim any title in themselves to the suit property, but feebly sought to question the appellants title in a vague manner. O.S. No. 3334/1984 filed by the respondents was allowed to be dismissed in default. The suit filed by the appellants was only for grant of permanent injunction. No suit with regard to title was therefore framed. The lawful possession of the appellants stood established from Ex.D-1 dated 07.09.1946, filed by the respondents, vesting title in their vendor, O.A. Majid Khan by the Bangalore City Municipality (hereinafter referred to as “the Municipality”) under Section 41(2) of the Mysore City Municipalities Act, 1933 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) over an area of 75ft. x 110ft., and the subsequent sale deed dated 27.09.1962 by the Municipality in favour of the appellants mother for the remaining area of 15 ft. x 110 ft.”

Without mincing any words, the Bench then goes on to put forth in para 3 that, “Both the Courts held that the respondents had no concern with the suit property, yet ventured to decide that the appellants had failed to establish title and dismissed the suit. The conclusion of the High Court that the identity of the suit property had not been established is perverse and contrary to the evidence on record.”

While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then puts forth in para 7 that, “The suit property bearing no. 44/6 in J.C. Road, Bangalore measures totally 90 ft. x 110 ft. The property originally belonged to the municipality, identified as site no. 10 and 17 J.C. Road, 6th Division, Bangalore. On 08.08.1945, the City Municipal Council resolved to sell 75 ft. x 110 ft. to one O.A. Majid Khan. Sanction for the sale was accorded by the Municipality on 07.09.1946, by Government Order No. L.33923/ML-55-46-6 under Section 41(2) of the Act. The respondents themselves filed a certified copy of the same in the suit, which was marked as Ex. D-1. The said O.A. Majid Khan, by letter no. A7.0.170/4647 dated 17.09.1946 was directed to deposit Rs. 17,361/- as consideration. The Municipal Engineer on 30.09.1946 was directed to hand over possession after deposit of the consideration amount. Possession was handed over to O.A. Majid Khan on 10.10.1946. On 16.04.1956, the Assistant Revenue Officer of the Municipality, informed that the property bearing no. 10 and 17 sold to O.A. Majid Khan had been renumbered as 44, J.C. Road, 25th division.”

While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then points out in para 8 that, “Sufia Khatoon, the widow of O.A. Majid Khan, sold the property to the mother of the appellants Zahara Khatoon, original plaintiff no. 3, on 10.07.1956 by a registered sale deed. Two confirmatory sale deeds were also executed on 08.04.1958 and 21.08.1959 by the legal heirs of O.A. Majid Khan in favour of Zahara Khatoon after attaining majority. Subsequently on 27.09.1962 the remaining portion of the suit property admeasuring 15 ft. x 110 ft. was sold by the municipality to Zahara Khatoon by a registered sale deed. Zahara Khatoon thus became the owner of the suit area of 90 ft. x 110 ft. of property bearing no. 44/6. The mother of the appellants gifted the property to them in 1966. The necessary entries were made in the property tax register, and the tax receipts demonstrate the payment of tax by the appellants from 1964-65 up to the year 1969-70 and again from 1984-85, 1986-87.”

Significantly, the Bench then postulates in para 9 that, “The present suit was instituted by the appellants in 1974 seeking permanent injunction as the respondents attempted to encroach on their property. The suit schedule property was described as no. 44/6. The respondents in their written statement claimed ownership and possession of property no. 42, acknowledging that other properties lay in between. A feeble vague objection was raised, but not pursued, questioning the title of the appellants. The respondents raised no genuine objection to the validity or genuineness of the government documents and the registered sale deeds produced by the appellants in support of their lawful possession of the suit property. The original defendant no.1 did not appear in person to depose, and be cross-examined in the suit. His younger brother deposed on the basis of a power of attorney, acknowledging that the latter had separated from his elder brother. No explanation was furnished why the original defendant did not appear in person to depose. We find no reason not to draw an adverse inference against defendant no.1 in the circumstances. In Ishwar Bhai C. Patel vs. Harihar Behera, (1999) 3 SCC 457 this Court observed as follows:

“17…..Having not entered into the witness-box and having not presented himself for cross-examination, an adverse presumption has to be drawn against him on the basis of the principles contained in illustration (g) of Section 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872.””

More significantly, the Bench then waxes eloquent with consummate ease in para 14 that, “The appellants were seeking the relief of permanent injunction only. Their title to the suit property was not disputed by the respondents. The respondents acknowledged that they were in ownership and possession of plot no. 42, which had no concern with the suit property and was situated at a distance of 103 feet with other intervening properties. The two reports of the Pleader Commissioner also confirmed the possessory title of the appellants along with property tax registers and municipal tax receipts. The appellants had more than sufficiently established their lawful possession of the suit property.”

Most significantly, the Bench then after considering all the facts before it and the relevant case laws find it no difficult to hold in para 15 that, “The conclusion by the courts below that the appellants had failed to establish title and therefore could not be said to be in lawful possession is therefore held to be perverse and unsustainable. Similarly, the conclusion that the identity of the suit property was not established is also held to be perverse in view of letter dated 16.04.1956 from the municipality, referred to herein above. The contention of the respondents feebly seeking to question the title of the appellants was rejected holding that they had nothing to do with the schedule property and that their conduct was questionable. Yet the appellants were wrongly denied the relief of permanent injunction.

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In our considered opinion the Trial Court and the High Court both posed unto themselves the wrong question venturing to decide the title of the appellants, and arrived at an erroneous conclusion.”

Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 16 that, “On basis of the aforesaid discussion, the materials and impugned orders dismissing the suit and the appeal are therefore not sustainable. We therefore set aside the orders of the Trial Court and the High Court dismissing the suit, and allowed the appeal.”

Before parting, it would be prudent to discuss para 12 which we have not discussed so far. It says that, “Both the courts then proceeded to consider the title of the appellants to decide lawful possession. The respondents had themselves produced a certified copy of Ex. D1 dated 07.09.1946. The appellants produced photocopies of all other resolutions, government orders and sale deed in favour of their vendor O.A. Majid Khan by the Municipality. The failure to produce the originals or certified copies of other documents was properly explained as being untraceable after the death of the brother of P.W.1 who looked after property matters. The attempt to procure certified copies from the municipality was also unsuccessful as they were informed that the original files were not traceable. The photocopies were marked as exhibits without objection. The respondents never questioned the genuineness of the same. Despite the aforesaid, and the fact that these documents were more than 30 years old, were produced from the proper custody of the appellants along with an explanation for non-production of the originals, they were rejected without any valid reason holding that there could be no presumption that documents executed by a public authority had been issued in proper exercise of statutory powers. This finding in our opinion is clearly perverse in view of Section 114(e) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which provides that there shall be a presumption that all official acts have been regularly performed. The onus lies on the person who disputes the same to prove otherwise.”

All told, we can thus clearly infer that the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court have with strong and substantial reasons very rightly concluded that as the original defendant did not appear in person to depose so there is no reason not to draw an adverse inference against defendant in the circumstances! The Court also very rightly referred to judgment of Lakhi Baruah vs Padma Kanta Kalita (1996) 8 SCC 357 which dealt with the admissibility in evidence of thirty years old documents produced from proper custody! No denying!

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GAUHATI HIGH COURT QUASHES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST GRAM PANCHAYAT PRESIDENT CITING PARTICIPATION OF MEMBER DISQUALIFIED FOR HAVING THREE CHILDREN

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The Gauhati High Court in the case Jugitawali Pawe v State of Assam and 15 ors observed and quashed a resolution expressing no-confidence in the petitioner – the President of a Gram Panchayat, as a result of which she as removed from office. It was stated that it is as per the citing no compliance with Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995.

It was preferred by the petitioner to the materials available on record to argue that one of the members of the Gaon Panchayat, the respondent. The respondent voted against the petitioner and had given birth to her third child the previous year. Moreover, by virtue of Section 111(2)(a) of the Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995, the petitioner stood automatically disqualified on the date of voting. Following, which her vote was taken by passing No-confidence motion.

It was prayed by the petitioner in the plea for setting aside the impugned resolution and for issuance of a direction to restore his client back in the office. Thereafter, to initiate fresh proceedings, liberty should be granted to the respondent, following the due process.

It was agreed by the Counsel representing for the respondent that the said member of the panchayat had been disqualified but retained on the ground that the disqualification would have no bearing on the petitioner’s case, as the impugned resolution was passed before the declaration of petitioner disqualification.

In the present case, It was noticed by Justice Suman Shyam the member had voted against the petitioner and without her vote. The petitioner would not have been ousted from office. Justice Shyam also found no dispute about the fact that the member had incurred disqualification under the law prior the date of adoption of the impugned resolution. Justice Shyam found it unnecessary to delve into other aspects of the matter which includes the procedural formalities for declaring the member a disqualified candidate.

It is observed that the impugned resolution was declared to be vitiated and liable to be set aside. Further, the Court restored the petitioner to the office of the President of the Bongalmara Gaon Panchayat with immediate effect and it was stated by the court that the order will not stand in the way should the authorities or any member of the Gaon Panchayat propose a fresh motion of “no-confidence” against the petitioner and the due process of law needs to be followed.

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Halt DDA’s demolition action against jhuggis in Nizamuddin’s Gyaspur area, orders Delhi High Court

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, the residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Manoj Gupta & Ors. v. DDA & Ors observed and has ordered status quo on the Delhi Development Authority’s proposal to demolish jhuggi clusters in city’s Gyaspur area in Hazrat Nizamuddin. The vacation bench comprising of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed in the petition filled by the residents and the court granted an interim relief.

It was ordered by the court status quo till July 11, the next date of hearing.

The bench orally remarked that a ten-day delay in demolition won’t make a difference but if today it is demolished and later, we come to know that they were entitled, who’s going to… the bench will consider it on July 11, 2022 but in the Meanwhile, some protections are entitled them. Adding this, Status quo be maintained. If since 1995, they have been there, heavens won’t come down if for 10 more days they are protected.

In the plea the petitioner stated that the T-Huts settlement in the area, which was stated by the authorities to vacate. It has been in existence for almost two decades and compromise of 32 jhuggis or households.

In the plea it was alleged that the bulldozers have been parked around the camp and a DDA official has orally asked them to vacate the area and it is noted that till date no proper notice have been sent to them nor has DDA conducted any survey of the area.

Furthermore, the DDA did not provide any alternate arrangement for their rehabilitation which resulted in extreme distress among the residents.

Moreover, it was admitted by the petitioner that the land in question belongs to DDA and they may seek that status-quo to be maintained at the site. It was urged that the residents should not be physically dispose or evicted from the demolition site until the survey is conducted and rehabilitation is provided to the residents as per the DUSIB policy of 2015.

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. The residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.

It is observed that in the case Ajay Maken v. Union of India, Reliance is placed on the Supreme Court decision and the High Court decision in the case Sudama Singh & Ors. v. Government of Delhi & Anr, it was held in the case that that removal of jhuggis without ensuring relocation would amount of gross violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, it was held that the agencies conducting the demolitions ought to conduct survey before undertaking any demolition.

It is submitted that these observations would apply across the board, in the entire NCT of Delhi.

Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Shiyaz Razaq, Kaoliangpou Kamei, Jepi Y Chisho and Paul Kumar Kalai, represented the petitioner.

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TELANGANA HIGH COURT: PLACE OF RESIDENCE OF THE ARBITRATOR WOULD NOT BE THE SEAT OF ARBITRATION

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The High Court of Telangana in the case M/s S. Square Infra v. Garneni Chalapathi Rao observed and held that the place of residence of the arbitrator would not determine the seat of arbitration.

The Single bench comprising of Justice P. Sree Sudha observed and held that merely because an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad has been appointed, it does not mean that only the Courts at Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration agreement.

Facts of the Case:

In the present case, after the dispute arouse between the parties, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner for nomination an arbitrator who is residing in Hyderabad. To its said notice, petitioner replied and declined the appointment of the arbitrator for the reason that there was no dispute which required the appointment of an arbitrator.

A suit was filled by the respondent before the VII Additional District Judge Sangareddy, seeking for relief of permanent injunction. An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and the parties referred to the arbitration.

An application was filled by the respondent under section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act before the Principal District Judge, Sangareddy, Subsequently, an application was filled by the petitioner for transferring the application from the Court at Sangareddy to Court at Hyderabad.

Contentions made by Parties:

On the following grounds, the petitioner sought the transfer of application.

An arbitrator residing in Hyderabad was nominated to respondent. However, only the courts in Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of the arbitration.

It was stated that the nomination of an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad amounted to designating Hyderabad as the Seat of Arbitration.

On the following grounds, the respondent countered the submissions of the petitioner:

An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the A&C Act before the Court at Sangareddy. However, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act, only the court at Sangareddy would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration.

Court Analysis:

The Court held that the seat of arbitration would not be decide by the place of residence of the arbitrator.

The argument of the petitioner was rejected by the court that since the respondent had initially nominated an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad, the Hyderabad Court would have the jurisdiction.

The court stated that merely because a party has nominated an arbitrator who resides in Hyderabad, the same would not designate Hyderabad as the Seat of arbitration in absence of any designation of the seat under the arbitration agreement.

It was further stated by the court that the application filled by the petitioner filled under Section 8 application before the Court at Sangareddy consequent to which the parties were referred to arbitration. Therefore, the Court would have the jurisdiction, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act.

The Transfer petition was dismissed by the Court.

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DELHI HIGH COURT REMANDS IN THE MATTER BACK TO ASSESSING OFFICER AFTER SETTING ASIDE: JUST 3 DAYS’ TIME GRANTED TO RESPOND TO THE INCOME TAX NOTICE

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Shubham Thakral Vs ITO, the Delhi bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora observed and remanded the matter back to the assessing officer as just 3 days’ time was granted to respond to the income tax notice.

In the present case, the petitioner/assessee assailed the notice under Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018–19.

It was contended by the assessee that only three days’ time was granted to the assessee to respond, as against the mandatory statutory period of at least seven days. However, despite of the fact that the annexure attached to the notice gave the petitioner eight days to respond, the e-filing submission portal was closed earlier, in violation of Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act.

Furthermore, the petitioner relied on the decision of Delhi High Court, in the case of Shri Sai Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd versus ITO, the Delhi High Court in the case held that under Section 148A (b), a minimum time of seven days has to be granted to the assessee to file its reply to the show cause notice.

No objections were raised by the department/respondent to the matter being returned to the Assessing Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with the law. Accordingly, the court set aside the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018-19. The Assessing officer was directed by the court to pass a fresh reasoned order in accordance with the law after considering the reply of the petitioner, which was directed to be filed within a week.

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ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT: ADVOCATES SHOULDN’T ADVISE CLIENTS TO REAGITATE MATTERS IF THERE IS NO ERROR APPARENT ON FACE OF RECORD

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The Allahabad High Court in the case Malhan and 17 Others Vs. State Of U.P. And Another observed and stated that an advocate should be given such a piece of advice when there is no error apparent on the face of the record nor was there any reason why the matter be re-agitated it was finally decided.

The bench comprising of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Justice Vivek Varma observed while dealing with the civil review application wherein the bench observed the concerned advised his client to make a chance by filling the instant review application after a period of six year.

In the present case, a civil review petition was filled along with the application under section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963., the application was filled for seeking condonation of delay in filling the application, the application was filled with a delay of six years i.e., 1900 days.

It was stated by the applicant that the review application could not be filled due to the blockage of public transportation on account of the COVID-19 guidelines.

Moreover, the court observed that the appeals were disposed of by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and only in 2020-2021, the pandemic struck India and furthermore, it cannot be said that due to the COVID guidelines the public transportation was blocked and however, the applicant could not come to Allahabad Court to file review.

Further, it was stated that the court asked the counsel for the review applicants to explain the delay in filling the review application, to which the council gave a strange reply that the counsel had advised the clients that they must take a chance by filling this review application after a period of six years.

Following this, the Court observed:

The court noted that an advocate should not give such an advice when there is no error apparent on the face of record nor was there any other reason that when the matter was finally decided, why the matter be re-agitated.

It was stated that the court has no reason to condone the delay of six years as the same was not explained as to why this review application is filed after such an inordinate delay.

The Court opined that the lapse in approaching the court within the time is understandable but a total inaction for long period of delay without any explanation whatsoever and that too in absence of showing any sincere attempt on the part of suiter, this would add to his negligence and the relevant factor going against him.

The court observed that careless and reckless is shown by the review applicant in approaching the court and due to the condemnation of delay in the application with a token cost of Rs.10,000/, the court dismissed the application.

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SUPREME COURT CRITICISES HIGH COURT: POSTING ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA AFTER TWO MONTHS CAN’T BE APPRECIATED

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The Supreme Court in the case Sanjay versus The State (NCT of Delhi) & ANR observed and stated that in the case where personal liberty is involved, the court is expected to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other. Further, the top court observed that posting of an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

The bench comprising of Justice C. T. Ravikumar and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a June 2 SLP against the Delhi High Court in a petition filed under section 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for seeking anticipatory bail in a 2022 FIR, a notice is issued. It was stated that the learned APP for the state is present and accepts the notice and seeks time to file status report. The High Court in the impugned order stated that Let the status report be filed by the state prior to the next date with an advance copy to the learned counsel for the petitioner. The matter is to be list on 31.08.2022.

It was noted by the bench comprising of Justice Ravikumar and the Justice Dhulia that in the captioned Special Leave Petition, the grievance of the petitioner is that the application for anticipatory bail moved by the petitioner, being Crl. M.A. No. 11480 of 2022 in Bail Application No. 1751 of 2022 without granting any interim protection, was posted to 31.08.2022. on 24.05.2022, the bail application was moved on.

However, the bench asserted that the bench is of the considered view that in a matter involving personal liberty, the Court is expected to to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other.

It was declared by the bench that at any rate posting an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

Further, the bench requested to the High Court to dispose off the application for anticipatory bail on its own merits and in accordance with law expeditiously, preferably within a period of three weeks after reopening of the Court. Adding to it, the bench stated that if the main application could not be disposed off, for any reason, within the stipulated time, relief sought for in the interlocutory and on and on its own merits, the application shall be considered.

While disposing of the SLP, the bench directed in its order that we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein, Till such time.

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