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Claim of juvenility can be raised before any court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case: SC

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It is really good to see that in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Ashok vs The State of Madhya Pradesh in Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No(s). 643/2020 (Arising out of impugned final judgment and order dated 14-11-2017 in CRA No. 455/1999 passed by the High Court Of M.P. at Gwalior) that was delivered finally on November 29, 2021, the Apex Court has minced no words to make it clear that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after disposal of the case. So there should be no more confusion anymore pertaining to this! It must be specifically mentioned here that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee and Hon’ble Mr Justice JK Maheshwari observed that if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment first and foremost by observing in the opening para that, “By a judgment and order dated dated 29.07.1999, the Additional Sessions Judge, Gohad, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, convicted the petitioner inter alia for offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him inter alia to life imprisonment in Sessions Trial No. 260 of 1997. In the cause title of the said judgment and order, the petitioner has been described as Ashok, S/o Balram Jatab age 16 yrs 9 months and 19 days, R/o Village Anjani Pura, District Bhind.”

In hindsight, the Bench then brings out in the next para of this notable judgment that, “The petitioner filed an appeal being Criminal Appeal No. 455 of 1999 challenging his conviction and sentence. The said criminal appeal has been dismissed by the High Court by an order dated 14.11.2017, which is impugned in the Special Leave Petition(Crl.) No. 643 of 2020, filed by the petitioner.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then points out in the next para that, “The incident which led to the conviction of the petitioner, took place on 26.07.1997. The petitioner claims that the petitioner was born on 05.01.1981. The petitioner was, therefore, approximately 16 years and 7 months old on the date of the incident.”

As we see, the Bench then envisages in the next para that, “In this Court, the petitioner has for the first time contended that he was a juvenile on the date of the incident. His conviction and sentence are, therefore, liable to be set-aside. The claim of juvenility was not raised in the High Court.”

Needless to say, the Bench then further mentions in the next para that, “The learned Additional Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State argued that the claim of juvenility has been raised for the first time in this special leave petition.”

Be it noted, the Bench then while elaborating further and shedding more light observes in the next para that, “The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, which was in force on the date of commission of the offence as also the date of the judgment and order of conviction and sentence by the Sessions Court was repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The Act of 2000 received the assent of the President of India on 30.12.2000 and came into force on 01.04.2001. The Act of 2000 defined juvenile in conflict with the law to mean a juvenile, who was alleged to have committed an offence and had not completed 18th year of age as on the date of commission of such an offence.”

In retrospect, the Bench then mentions that, “Under the 1986 Act, the age of juvenility was upto the 16th year.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then hastens to add in the next para that, “Section 7A of the 2000 Act as inserted by Act 33 of 2006 with effect from 22.08.2006 provided as follows:-

“7A. Procedure to be followed when claim of juvenility is raised before any Court.-(1) Whenever a claim of juvenility is raised before any court or a court is of the opinion that an accused person was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, the court shall make an inquiry, take such evidence as may be necessary (but not an affidavit) so as to determine the age of such person, and shall record a finding whether the person is a juvenile or a child or not, stating his age as nearly as may be:

Provided that a claim of juvenility may be raised before any Court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even after final disposal of the case, and such claim shall be determined in terms of the provisions contained in this Act and the rules made thereunder, even if the juvenile has ceased to be so on or before the date of commencement of this Act.

(2) If the court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence under sub-section(1), it shall forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders and the sentence, if any, passed by a court shall be deemed to have no effect.””

Most significantly, the Bench then succinctly states what forms the cornerstone of this noteworthy judgment that, “The claim of juvenility can thus be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case and if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then also wastes no time in pointing out in the next para that, “Even though the offence in this case may have been committed before the enactment of the Act of 2000, the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of juvenility under Section 7A of the Act of 2000, if on inquiry it is found that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of the alleged offence.”

Going ahead, the Bench then states that, “It is true as pointed out by the learned Additional Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State that the certificate of Akikrit Shash, High School, School, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh relied upon by the petitioner is stated to have been issued on 17.07.2021. The said certificate does not specifically mention that the date of birth 01.01.1982 had been entered at the time of first admission of the petitioner at the primary school level.”

What’s more, the Bench then further mentions that, “Furthermore, there is a birth certificate issued by the Gram Panchayat, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh which indicates the date of birth of the petitioner as 05.01.1982 and not 01.01.1982 as recorded in the school certificate referred to above.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then remarks that, “The entry in the records of the Gram Panchayat, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, also do not appear to be contemporaneous and the certificate has been issued in the year 2017.”

Furthermore, the Bench then adds in the next para that, “However, as pointed out by Mr. M.P. Parthiban, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner that the Sessions Court has recorded the age of the petitioner as 16 years, 9 months and 19 days. The petitioner has been in actual custody for over three years.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then enunciates that, “The 2000 Act has been repealed and replaced by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Section 21 of the 2015 Act provides as follows:

“21. Order that may not be passed against a child in conflict with law. – No child in conflict with law shall be sentenced to death or for life imprisonment without the possibility of release, for any such offence, either under the provisions of this Act or under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force.””

Quite significantly, the Bench then holds and directs in the next para that, “Considering that the Trial Court has recorded the age of the petitioner as 16 years and odd, and has been in actual custody in excess of three years, which is the maximum for a juvenile, we deem it appropriate to grant the petitioner interim bail on such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the Sessions Court. We further direct the Sessions Court to examine the claim of the petitioner to juvenility in accordance with law, and submit a report to this Court within one month from the date of communication of this order.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then holds that, “The concerned Sessions Court shall be entitled to examine the authenticity and genuineness of the documents sought to be relied upon by the petitioner, considering that the documents do not appear to be contemporaneous.”

Without leaving any room for doubt, the Bench then holds that, “In the event the documents are found to be questionable/unreliable, it will be open to the Sessions Court to have the petitioner medically examined by taking an ossification test or any other modern recognized method of age determination.”

Finally, the Bench then holds that, “List after the ensuing winter holidays.”

In essence, the Apex Court Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee and Hon’ble Mr Justice JK Maheshwari have thus clearly, cogently, composedly and convincingly laid down that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after disposal of the case. We thus see that the Apex Court has made it clear that the juvenile can claim the benefit of juvenility even after final disposal of the case and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect. This is to ensure that a juvenile does not suffer immensely inspite of being even a juvenile.

No doubt, it is definitely a right step in the right direction and the Apex Court deserves all the kudos for having reiterated the right position of law on this which directly benefits the concerned juvenile even after a sentence is passed against him/her. There is no reason of any kind to differ with what the Apex Court has laid down in this case so convincingly and so sagaciously. Of course, it ought to be implemented in letter and spirit and all the courts are certainly duty bound to always abide by what the Apex Court has laid down in this leading case so very commendably!

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‘FAILURE TO PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF DECEASED’S INCOME DOES NOT JUSTIFY ADOPTION OF LOWEST TIER OF MINIMUM WAGE IN MOTOR ACCIDENT’

The bench comprising of Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua observed while deciding the appeal preferred by an insurance company against award of Rs 15,85,000 compensation to the bereaved mother by the Claims Tribunal.

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The Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case United India Insurance Company Ltd v. Smt. Sumna Devi recently observed that merely because the claimants were unable to produce documentary evidence to show the monthly income of the deceased and the same should not justify for adoption of lowest tier of minimum wage while computing the income.

The bench comprising of Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua observed while deciding the appeal preferred by an insurance company against award of Rs. 15,85,000/- compensation to the bereaved mother by the Claims Tribunal.

It was observed that the Tribunal had assessed deceased’s monthly income as 10,000/- whereas the Appellant argued that in absence of any documentary evidence to show the deceased’s income and as per the minimum wage rate, i.e., Rs. 7,000- per month, the award must be calculated.

Further, the deceased’s mother informed the Court that her son was earning Rs. 10,000/- per month only from agricultural pursuits. It was submitted by her that he had completed two-year NCVT course in Mechanic (Motor Vehicle) Trade and would have definitely earned much more than Rs. 10,000/- per month, had he lived.

It was noted by the court that where the deceased had an NCVT CTS course diploma in Mechanic (Motor Vehicle) Trade from a Government Industrial Training Institute and was also carrying out agricultural works, Rs. 10,000/- per month has been correctly assessed as his income which he would have earned on attaining the age of 25 years.

The court placed reliance on Chandra alias Chanda alias Chandra Ram & Anr. vs. Mukesh Kumar Yadav & Ors., wherein it was held that in absence of salary certificate the minimum wage notification can be a yardstick but at the same time cannot be an absolute one for fixing the income of the deceased. Thus, in absence of documentary evidence on record some amount of guesswork is required to be done. But at the same time the guesswork for assessing the deceased income should not be totally detached from reality.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition.

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VIOLATION OF RETRENCHMENT PROCEDURE U/S 25F & 25G OF INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT WARRANTS REINSTATEMENT, NOT MERE COMPENSATION: GUJARAT HIGH COURT

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The Gujarat High Court in the case Rameshbhai Bhathibhai Pagi v/s Deputy Executive Engineer observed and has reiterated that once a Labour Court comes to the conclusion that Sections 25F, G and H of the Industrial Disputes Act have been violated and reinstatement of workman ought to follow.

The bench comprising of Justice Biren Vaishnav observed while hearing several petitions challenging the Labour Court’s order wherein compensation of Rs. 72,000 was awarded to each of the workmen-Petitioner rather than reinstatement with back wages.

It was submitted by the petitioner that their services were put to an end in August 2010 without following the procedure and without awarding compensation. It was pleaded by them that there was a clear violation of Sections 25(G) and (H).

However, the court stated that the Labour Courts had found the termination bad for each of the petitioners. While drawing an adverse inference against the Respondents, it has been awarded by the Labour Court the compensation which was meagre in the eyes of the petitioner, even as work was available. The Court observed that the Reliance was placed on Kalamuddin M. Ansari vs. Government of India, wherein similar facts and circumstances, the High Court ordered reinstatement of employees with continuity of service and had set aside the order of compensation.

The decision of the Labour Court was supported by the AGPs on the ground that there was a delay in raising the dispute. Further, the work had been outsourced at the canal. Therefore, the reinstatement was not possible.

The bench of Justice Vaishnav noted that the Labour Court had clearly concluded that there was a violation of sections 25(F), (G) and (H) of the ID Act. The only question raised was weather the Labour Court should have fallen short of awarding reinstatement with or without backwages.

In the present case, reference was made to Gauri Shanker vs. State of Rajasthan, wherein order of Labour Court had been modified by the Supreme Court of granting compensation in lieu of reinstatement. Further, Justice Vaishnav recalled the following observations of the Top Court:

The Division bench and the learned Single Judge under their supervisory jurisdiction should not have modified the award by awarding compensation in lieu of reinstatement which is contrary to the well settled principles of law laid down by this Court, in catena of cases.

Keeping in view the fact and the precedents that compensation would be detrimental to the Petitioners who had worked for more than 20 years. The order of the Labour Court was modified by the High Court of granting lump-sum compensation and ordered the employer to reinstate the workmen in service with continuity of service.

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CENTRE NOTIFIES APPOINTMENT OF ELEVEN ADDITIONAL JUDGES IN PUNJAB & HARYANA HC

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On Sunday, the Central Government notified the appointment of 11 advocates as Additional Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Advocates appointed as additional judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court are namely:

1. Nidhi Gupta,

2. Sanjay Vashisth,

3. Tribhuvan Dahiya,

4. Namit Kumar,

5. Harkesh Manuja,

6. Aman Chaudhary,

7. Naresh Singh,

8. Harsh Bunger,

9. Jagmohan Bansal,

10. Shri Deepak Manchanda,

11. Alok Jain

The present appointment will take the actual strength of the High Court to 57 judges against a sanctioned strength of 85.

The judges have been appointed for a period of two years with effect from the date they assume charge of their respective offices, an official notification read.

In its meeting held on July 25, 2022, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had recommended the names of these 11 advocates for elevation as Additional Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In 2021, the appointment tally in High Courts was 120 in addition to 9 appointments in the Supreme Court. However, the entire appointment process in higher judiciary has been put on a fast track.

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KERALA HC: BAIL GRANTED TO A DOCTOR ACCUSED OF POSTING DEFAMATORY ARTICLES AGAINST LAKSHADWEEP ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS

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The Kerala High Court in the case Dr K P Hamsakoya vs Union Territory of Lakshadweep observed and granted an anticipatory bail to a senior doctor who has been accused of posting on facebook defamatory articles against officers of the Administration of Lakshadweep.

The bench comprising of Justice Viju Abraham observed and was essentially dealing with the pre-arrest bail plea of Dr. K P Hamsakoya, who is one of the senior-most doctors serving the Lakshadweep Administration and that presently, he is under suspension.

The Court observed that Dr. Hamsakoya has been accused of posting defamatory articles on Facebook against officers of the Administration of Lakshadweep, thus causing a negative effect amongst the public against the Administration. He has been booked under Sections 505 (1) (b), 505 (2) and 500 of the IPC and Section 66 (A) (b) of the Information Technology Act.

Before the Court, the Counsels Ajit G Anjarlekar, G.P.Shinod, Govind Padmanaabhan, and Atul Mathews appearing argued that he has been falsely implicated in the case and has been booked under the offence punishable under Section 66 (A) (b) of the IT Act (a provision which has been struck down in its entirety by the Apex Court).

It was contended by the court that the offences under Section 500 IPC cannot be registered without a complaint being filed by a person who has been defamed.

The Court while considering the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of the allegations, the pre-arrest bail was granted by the court to the petitioner and the court dismissed his plea with the following directions:

On August 29, 2022, the petitioner shall surrender before the investigating officer and shall co-operate with the investigation.

The court stated that in the event of the petitioner, he shall be produced before the jurisdictional Magistrate and shall be released on bail on his executing a bond for Rs.50,000/- with two solvent sureties each for the like sum as per the satisfaction of the jurisdictional Court.

It was stated by the court that if any of the aforesaid conditions are violated, the Investigating Officer of Minicoy Police Station, Union Territory of Lakshadweep has been given the liberty to file an application for cancellation of bail before the jurisdictional court.

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GUJARAT HC GRANTS RELIEF TO DIPLOMA HOLDERS: STUDENTS CAN’T BE FAULTED FOR PHARMACY COUNCIL’S FAILURE TO APPROVE MEDICAL STORES FOR IMPARTING TRAINING.

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The Gujarat High Court in the case Oza Nikun Dashrathbhai v/s State Of Gujarat observed and has come to the rescue of D.Pharm students who were denied registration as ‘Pharmacist’ by the State Pharmacy Council on the ground that they have not undertaken training from medical stores approved the Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015.

The Single bench comprising of Justice AS Supehia observed and noted that the Pharmacy Council of India has not approved any medical store under the Regulation for the purpose of imparting practical training of Diploma to the students in Pharmacy Course like the present petitioners.

Court Observations:

It was observed that the petitioners cannot be faulted for the action of the respondent authorities in not approving the medical stores under regulation 4.4 of the Regulation of 2015 and hence, no option was there to the petitioner to take their training from the respective medical stores.

It was claimed by the petitioner’s student that the State Council was not registering them as Pharmacists despite having undertaken the necessary training of 500 hours for three months from the respective medical stores.

Further, it was observed that the State had admitted that all documents of the Petitioners were genuine, however, the registration was denied solely for the aforesaid reason. Further, one of the governmental circulars had clarified that the process for granting approval of Chemist/ Pharmacy and Druggist will be notified through the online mode. But the same was targeted only at “prospective students” .

It was noted by the High Court that in order to avoid hardship to current students, who had already undergone or undergoing the D.Pharm course while taking the practical training under the Pharmacy, Chemist and Druggist licensed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, as per precedence students will be considered for the registration, provided the students had undergone the D.Pharm course in an institution approved under PCI under section 12 of the Act.

Accordingly, the High Court directed the State Council to register the Petitioners as Pharmacists within three months.

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UTTARAKHAND HC SAYS UTTARKASHI’S BAN ON “MEAT SHOPS” WITHIN 500 METRES OF “RIVER GANGA” IN LINE WITH CONSTITUTIONAL SCHEME

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It is interesting to note that while fully, firmly and finally very rightly and commendably upholding the ban that was imposed on meat shops that was enacted by the Zila Panchayat of Uttarkashi District, the Uttarakhand High Court in an extremely remarkable, robust, refreshing and rational judgment titled Naved Qureshi vs State of Uttarakhand & Ors in Writ Petition (MS) No. 2073 of 2016 that was pronounced recently on July 20, 2022 has expressed its consonance with a bye-law of Zila Panchayat, Uttarkashi to the effect that no shop for butchering animals and selling meat within 500m from the bank of river Ganga shall be permitted. It must be noticed here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra said quite clearly that keeping in view the “special status” of Uttarakhand and the river Ganga that emerges from District Uttarkashi and the sanctity attached with the river Ganga by majority of population of Uttarakhand, the decision taken by the Zila Panchayat by making the said bye-laws is in line with the scheme of Constitution of India, as envisaged in Part IX. It very rightly ruled that the District Magistrate had not committed any error in not issuing a no objection certificate to the petitioner to run a mutton shop, at a premises situated at 105 metres distance from the bank of Ganga.

At the outset, this extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth lucidly in para 1 that, “By filing this writ petition, the petitioner has prayed for the following reliefs:

“i. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari calling for the original record and pleased to quash the impugned order dated 08.06.2016 (Annexure – 2) passed by the respondent no. 2 i.e. District Magistrate, Uttarkashi, District Uttarkashi.

ii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of Mandamus directing and commanding the respondents that they shall not interfere in the peaceful business activities i.e. in running the mutton shop in his house situated at the roadside of Gangotri National Highway without any valid reason.

iii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of Prohibition making declaration to the effect that after central enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 the bye-laws no. 3 framed by the respondent Zila Panchayat became illusionary and same are not applicable for the purpose of regulating food safety activities in rural area, therefore, no license from respondent Zila Panchayat is required to do business.””

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The facts of the case, not disputed at this stage, are that petitioner is a resident of village Hina Gaon, Police Station – Maneri, District – Uttarkashi. His father was recorded tenure holder having bhumidhari land bearing Khasra Nos. 1555 and 15556, situated in the aforesaid village. He was running a mutton shop since 2006 in a rented accommodation in village – Hina Gaon, after getting license from Zila Panchayat. Though, according to him, license was not required after enforcement of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as “FSS Act, 2006” for brevity). In the year 2012, he also obtained a license from the designated authority under the FSS Act, 2006. Till the year, 2015, he ran his shop at aforesaid rented premises and after construction of his own shop over the bhumidhari land, he shifted his business of butchering and selling mutton into it. On 27.02.2016, respondent no. 3 – Zila Panchayat, Uttarkashi, through Additional Mukhya Adhikari, issued a notice to the petitioner to shift his mutton shop, within 7 days to another place, as his shop is situated 105 metre away from the bank of river Ganga, which is violative of the existing by-laws. As per the by-laws, operation of mutton/chicken shop within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga is prohibited. On 15.03.2016, petitioner being aggrieved by the notice, preferred a Writ Petition (MS) No. 651 of 2016, which was disposed of, in limine, by this Court by giving opportunity to the petitioner to file a representation before the Authorities and with a direction to the Authorities to dispose of the same. Thereafter, on 09.05.2016, the petitioner served a copy of the aforesaid order on respondents no. 2 and 3 and prayed for issuance of license for the next financial year 2016-17 but the respondent no. 2 – District Magistrate, Uttarkashi vide order dated 09.05.2016 rejected the representation of the petitioner on the basis of the Resolutions of meeting held on 04.05.2016.”

In this same para 2, it is then further mentioned that, “Feeling aggrieved by the aforesaid order dated 09.05.2016 and minutes of meeting dated 04.05.2016, the petitioner preferred a Writ Petition (MS) No. 1383 of 2016 wherein respondents were directed to file counter affidavit within four weeks and the said writ petition is still pending. In the meantime, petitioner again represented before respondent no. 2 – District Magistrate, Uttarkashi to grant him no objection certificate, which was again rejected. The said order of the learned District Magistrate, Uttarkashi is assailed in this writ petition.”

On the one hand, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that the only ground on which his application for grant of no objection certificate has been rejected by the District Magistrate, Uttarkashi is that his shop is situated within 500 metre from the bank of river Ganga. According to the petitioner, after passing of the FSS Act, 2006, the jurisdiction of Zila Panchayat is ceased to operate and it is only the Designated Authority, under the FSS Act, 2006 has authority to grant license or reject it in favour of the petitioner for running a shop for selling and butchering the animals. Therefore, he prayed that annexure no. 2 to the writ petition be quashed and it be declared that FSS Act, 2006 shall have overriding effect on the by-laws issued by the Zila Panchayat.”

On the other hand, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “Learned counsel for the State would submit that petitioner was granted license by the Designated Authority to run the shop at a particular place but he shifted his shop, after getting the license from the Designated Authority under the FSS Act, 2006, to another place, which came within 500 metre from the bank of river Ganga, therefore, no objection certificate was not granted to him and order passed by District Magistrate, Uttarkashi does not have any infirmity or perversity and requires no interference.”

Furthermore, the Bench then succinctly discloses in para 5 that, “Learned counsel for the State further submits that as per Section 106 (1) of the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016, the Zila Panchayats have powers to make by-laws. Section 106 of the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016 is quoted as under:

“106 Powers of Zila Panchayat to make bye-laws (1) A Zila Panchayat may, and where required by the State Government shall, make bye-laws for its own purposes and for the purposes of {Kshettra Panchayats}, applicable to the whole or any part of the rural area of the district, consistent with this Act and with any rule, in respect of matters required by this Act to be governed by bye-laws and for the purposes of promoting or maintaining the health, safety and convenience of the inhabitants of the rural area of the district and for the furtherance of the administration of this Act in the Khand and the district.””

Needless to state, the Bench then notes explicitly in para 6 that, “Article 243 (Part IX) of the Constitution of India provides for formation of Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat. Article 243 G provides for the powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats. For better appreciation of the matter, it is quoted below:

“243G. Powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats – Subject to the provisions of this Constitution the Legislature of a State may, by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority and may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government and such law may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats, at the appropriate level, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, with respect to –

(a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice;

(b) the implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.””

Quite ostensibly, the Bench then enunciates in para 7 that, “Thus, it is apparent from the aforesaid Article that the Constitution recognises the Zila Panchayats, as sovereign authorities, having powers to plan for economic development and social justice, as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule. Article 243 G also provides that the Legislature of a State, may by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government. Entry 4 in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution of India provides for animal husbandry, dairying and poultry. Entry 22 provides for markets and fairs. Thus, it is clear that as far as markets and fairs and animal husbandry, dairying and poultry are concerned, the Zila Panchayat, as an institution of self government, may function to regulate animal husbandry etc. as mentioned above.”

Be it noted, the Bench then quite forthrightly holds in para 8 that, “Therefore, the contention of learned counsel for the petitioner that after passing of the FSS Act, 2006, the powers of Zila Panchayat ceased to operate with respect to food items does not appears to be correct. Since, the Zila Panchayats have been granted powers to act as institutions of self government, the provisions made by Zila Panchayat has to be harmoniously constructed with the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006.”

Most significantly, what truly constitutes the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then encapsulated in para 9 wherein it is held that, “In view of the above, this Court is of the opinion that no objection certificate is mandatory to be obtained from the Zila Panchayat or the District Magistrate for running a mutton shop in the present matter. At the same time, keeping in view the special status of State of Uttarakhand and the river Ganga that emerges from District Uttarkashi and the sanctity attached with the river Ganga by majority of population of Uttarakhand, the decision taken by the Zila Panchayat by making by-laws to the effect that no shop for butchering the animals and selling the meat within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga appears in line with the scheme of Constitution of India, as envisaged in Part IX. Hence, this Court is of the view that respondent no. 2, District Magistrate, Uttarkashi has not committed any error in not issuing no objection certificate to the petitioner to run a mutton shop within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes aptly by directing in para 10 that, “Accordingly, the writ petition fails and is hereby dismissed. It is observed that any person, who runs a meat shop for selling and butchering the animals in District Uttarkashi, shall obtain no objection certificate from the concerned authority, in the light of by-laws made by the Zila Panchayat and also obtain license from the designated authority.”

In sum, the Uttarakhand High Court has very rightly held that Uttarkashi’s ban on meat shops within 500 meters of the river Ganga is in line with constitutional scheme. So it definitely merits no reiteration of any kind that the same has to be complied with accordingly in its entirety! No denying it!

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