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Competition law in the digital world: Blockchain

Abir Roy, Ishaan Chakrabarti & Vivek Pandey

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Blockchain technology, often dubbed as next major digital revolution after the advent of the internet, is essentially a general-purpose application of an existing technology, which is called “distributed ledger technology” (DLT). This technology essentially allows every person who is part of the blockchain network to verify the details of a transaction (for instance, how much money was paid to whom at what time) since a common “ledger” (which can be thought of a database) where all the transactions are recorded are “distributed” to every participant in the system, who individually verify the veracity of the transactions. This removes the need for an intermediary (such as a bank) having to act as central verifying authority.

Understanding the basics

A fundamental risk with our traditional, centralized systems is that they have a single (or a few) point of failure. Blockchain, being an application of DLT, solves this problem by making it harder for bad actors to leverage the system to the detriment of its users. Therefore, to understand blockchain, it is important to first understand what does DLT essentially mean. DLT is essentially used to maintain a decentralized database (i.e., the ledger), where the ledger is distributed across several users of the technology. Generally, in a DLT based service, every user of the service (called a ‘node’) maintains the ledger. Therefore, if any data changes happen, the ledger is updated by all nodes synchronically and continuously, therefore making the process decentralized by not requiring any single authority or system to record these changes. These nodes can use various mechanisms to verify and reach a common conclusion regarding the veracity of transactions on the ledger. The process by which nodes can arrive at this “consensus” is called the “consensus mechanism”. Reaching a consensus in a distributed system is very important as nodes must “agree” which transactions to add to the ledger, and which ones to reject.

How are transactions secure in this distributed system?

Transactions in a DLT-based system are secured using something called a Cryptographic Hash Function. A cryptographic hash function is an algorithm that takes an arbitrary amount of data (the input) – like a message or a transaction, for instance – and produces a fixed-size encrypted output of called a hash value: “hash.” A cryptographic hash function always gives the same output for a given input, but if you even slightly alter the input (the message), the corresponding hash changes completely. A cryptographic hash function encrypts the message in a secure manner so that it becomes infeasible to compute the contents of the message in reverse direction. This essentially means that one cannot guess the input (for example a word like “Apple”) from its encrypted message digest (which can be a string of seemingly random ones and zeros) without expending significant amounts of computing power that would in most cases render the enterprise of trying to decrypt the message futile. The cryptographic hash function is used in conjunction with other technologies like digital signatures, etc. that allow users on a network to easily verify if a transaction is correct or not, but not alter it.

A fundamental problem with distributed systems

Distributed systems face a fundamental problem in reaching consensus in a in a hierarchy-free network since a computer system or node may fail, and there is imperfect information across the other nodes regarding if and when a failure has occurred at a node. Computer systems must ensure that such faults do not stop the entire system from functioning. This problem is commonly known as the “Byzantine Fault” or the Byzantine generals’ problem.

The mitigation strategy employed by a system to ensure that such faults do not lead to complete system failure, is called Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT). A system is said to develop BFT when it can continue operating even if some of the nodes fail or act maliciously. That is to say, the nodes follow a method of arriving at a consensus on which transactions and in which order, to commit to the ledger in a distributed ledger system despite some nodes in the system malfunctioning. The mechanism through which these nodes reach this important consensus is called a Consensus Mechanism or a Consensus Protocol. There are various methods that DLT-based systems may employ to ensure BFT, such as Proof of Work, practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance, etc.

Enter: Blockchain

Fundamentally, blockchain is a combination of already existing technologies that together can create networks that secure trust between people or parties who otherwise have no reason to trust one another. Specifically, it utilizes DLT to store information verified by cryptography among a group of users, which is agreed through a pre-defined consensus mechanism. Each ‘block’ in a blockchain is akin to a page in the ledger, which contains the messages/transactions. Apart from the message/transaction data, the block is also secured by a hash, which acts as a unique fingerprint for the block, and the hash function for the block preceding it.

Tampering any data in a block (for instance, to alter any recorded transaction fraudulently), completely changes the hash of that block, thereby not allowing the next block to recognize the tampered block as part of the chain. This altered block would therefore not be recognized in the blockchain, allowing anyone to identify the exact transaction that was sought to be altered and maintaining the integrity of the chain.

While Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and many more are the most common and public facing applications of blockchain technology, different types of blockchains are being developed to suit different needs. Two of the most important features distinguishing the various types of blockchain are the “openness” of the platform (public or private) and the level of permissions required to add information to the blockchain (permissioned or permissionless).

Blockchain: Bringing Efficiency and Innovation

Blockchain technology has a potential to bring a lot of benefits in the market at a large scale in several sectors. For instance, some companies are experimenting with implementation of blockchain in supply chains. If effectively implemented, blockchain can bring in automated and better integrated inventory management. Supply chain blockchains, in particular, will be in demand due to ‘increased cost savings, enhanced traceability and greater transparency’. As per some reports, putting all of Asia Pacific’s trade-related paperwork into electronic form could slash the time it takes to export goods by up to 44 percent and cut costs by up to 31 percent. Companies are trying to scale and apply the technology to increase traceability of products in a supply chain, and decrease the time taken from days to seconds. If successful, tracing potentially hazardous food substances to a particular source such as a particular city or farm within a short time period would be a reality, allowing authorities to take effective steps and stay ahead of the curve in terms of managing cases where a disease may be highly communicable. Imagine the intended and effective application of this technology during our current crisis. Even as countries around the world are in a race to develop a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, ensuring smooth and efficient delivery of the vaccine to the most needed parts in the world is an entirely different challenge. A successfully deployed blockchain technology which streamlines supply chains in vaccine production and delivery across the globe can bring unprecedented value.

Some of these benefits can also be shared with competition authorities to regulate merger controls, cartel investigations and monitoring of abuse of dominance. For example, if all the evidence regarding company that is relevant for merger can be traced in a blockchain, it will be easier for authorities to assess correct economic evidences. This will increase transparency and reduce chances of getting misinformed by the parties. Similarly, in cartel investigations it may assist in case of leniency applications, where the applicant can provide all the economic evidences and history of transactions effectively to the authorities.

Understanding the Market

There can be several issues pertaining to horizontal agreements and vertical agreements. However, before delving deep into these issues, it is pertinent to assess how the market could be determined in future. There are several questions which may need to be answered by competition authorities. Would blockchain technology-based services compete with other existing technologies or would they come under a separate market for purposes of analysis of Competition Act (Act)? Will each blockchain be considered separate in its own and dominant in themselves? Further, considering that blockchains are meant for specific purposes, the market should depend on the type of blockchain and type of applications run of that blockchain. For example, blockchain for bitcoin will be completely different from a blockchain engaged in providing streamlined services for pharmaceutical companies.

 Anticompetitive Agreements: Possible Concerns

Horizontal Agreements – There are three categories of players involved in a blockchain. These are developers, users and miners. In this case, collusion will mostly depend on the mechanism that a blockchain will follow. There can be collusion amongst all the miners, developers or users depending upon whether the blockchain is permissioned or permissionless. For example, in a private blockchain if the consensus mechanism is present in a manner that it provides maximum control to group of developers, there could be a case of collusion among the developers.

Controlling the consensus mechanism

Since a blockchain works on consensus mechanism, issue of collusion remains the prime concern. Especially in a private blockchain, since the protocols and consensus mechanism can be made in a way that essentially, control would rest with a limited number of people and not to the public. Using the same, such group of participants can alter the protocols of the blockchain without notifying other members, and eventually engage in practice of alteration of any transactions or information stored in any block. Once there is required consent in the chain, there can be a case of cartelization in such blockchain. Similarly, as discussed above, the same can be case in public blockchain if there is enough consent. For example, even though it may be difficult, but if one manages to establish coordination among majority of the mining pool owners, there is a possibility of collusion in bitcoin also.

Exchange of sensitive information

 Exchange of sensitive business information is another aspect which may be achieved through blockchain. Such exchanges through blockchains can be used to collude and engage in anti competitive practices. Since the information is publicly available in a blockchain, it will be easier for enterprises to share information through which all the enterprises may collude easily. Considering the information on a blockchain can be updated on a real time basis, it can be used by colluding firms for their own advantages.

Additionally, because of anonymity that blockchain offers, it may be difficult for competition authorities to identify offenders and regulate conduct.

Enforcement of Cartel

Cartels usually enforce their anti-competitive agreements by ensuring that no cartel member deviates from their fixed price. For this, deviator is often punished by compelling it to compensate harmed firms. For the same purpose, information such as prices, sales data etc. are monitored on a regular basis, and data collection is a regular exercise in the whole process. Usually, cartel rely on self-reporting by a member for all the data that is being provided.

 Herein, blockchain may help cartel to ensure that none of the members are deviating from cartel objectives. It may help cartel members to effectively share the data at a large scale and subsequently monitor the prices. The cartel will no longer have to rely on self-reporting by member firms and a transparent database in form of blockchain can be readily available for their evaluation.

 It is pertinent to note that members of a cartel always have an incentive to deviate from the anti-competitive agreement in quest of capturing big profits. Therefore, cartels are usually difficult to sustain in long run. Herein, it is pertinent to note that better monitoring of cartel will give more credence to existence of a cartel. In case of blockchain, the information is updated in a real time basis and complete history of transaction is recorded. Since all the information will be publicly available, it will be easier for a cartel to detect any deviant behaviour of any cartelist.

 Vertical Agreements

It has been observed in EU competition law jurisprudence that even a unilateral conduct, if accepted by other enterprise, can fall foul of concerted practice. That being the case, blockchain network may be used to prohibit enterprises to act independently of their own in a vertically integrated market. Since the information is available publicly, it would be easier to identify any deviation from the prescribed practice. Such transparency can force other players to tacitly accept the conditions imposed by vertically upward players. For example, it can be used to prohibit dealers/ retailers to provide discounts to consumers as the information regarding discount will be updated and visible to everyone on the chain. This may, in turn, lead to issues of resale price maintenance.

Hub and spoke cartel

In Hub and spokes arrangements are a horizontal restriction where a ‘hub’ facilitates coordination amongst two or more spokes, thereby facilitating a cartel without direct contact between two horizontal players.

In a private-permissionless blockchain: enterprises can engage in hub and spoke cartel by establishing a link between two blockchains. For example, a distributor can be a member of two rival supply networks based on blockchain. Such distributor can be a link for flow of information between two enterprises, thereby facilitating freely transfer of information. Therefore, two enterprises working through two distinct blockchains can also coordinate effectively to engage in anticompetitive activities.

 Refusal to deal

Similarly, in a private blockchain created by one or more enterprises, it may be decided to not deal with any distributor or retailer. Private-Permissioned blockchains are distinguished from public blockchains in that the ability to write and commit transactions, and thus enjoy the facilities of the system, depend upon the permission granted to a user to access the blockchain. Such cases of refusal to deal are more critical in cases where access to any network is essential for the business. There may be a situation that certain players as well are prohibited from accessing the blockchain. This would be considered as a refusal to deal that may be violative of competition laws.

Tying

Furthermore, there can be an issue of tying supplementary products/ services that are outside the blockchain as a precondition to become a member of any blockchain. In this way, an enterprise or a group can engage in a traditional tie-in practices that may create adverse effect on competition, especially in a blockchain which is essential for any business. For example, there may be a situation that distributors of certain medicines are engaged in sale of drugs of certain pharmaceutical company, for which joining the blockchain of the company is essential. Herein, if the company decides to impose certain supplementary services unrelated to the core business, that may amount to tie-in and attract scrutiny under competition laws.

Predatory pricing

 Usually in a blockchain, pricing is the transaction fee to add a block. For example, the amount is paid to the miners who verify the transaction in case of public blockchains such as Bitcoin. As the technology is developing, there may also be different pricing methods for a member to be added on certain blockchains. Since protocols can be changed easily in private blockchain, pricing can also be changed accordingly to the competition by other blockchain, which can also be used to engage in predatory pricing and consequently to foreclose the market. For example, we can take a market where several small businesses outsource their transaction to blockchain companies for certain fee. If there are multiple blockchains competing for users, any blockchain company may choose to take loss in transaction fee by burning out of their own pockets. Subsequently, once the competition is eliminated, transaction fees can be charged again at usual or perhaps higher amount. Therefore, issue of predatory pricing may be similar to what we encounter in traditional anti-competitive practices.

Regulatory Issues: Interventionist approach while protecting the core principles

 One of the biggest concerns that come out are regarding regulation of blockchain. That because the blockchain is decentralised, immutable and anonymous, it might be difficult for competition authorities to regulate/ enforce competition law in blockchain regime. Even though it would depend on the protocols on which a blockchain works, in many cases, for competition authorities to effectively regulate the blockchain, there must be an intervention mechanism.

Once we decide that there must be an intervention mechanism, the follow up question is that how can such an intervention mechanism be implemented? It has been argued by Dr. Thibault Schrepel that for such implementation ‘law has to become code’. This means that basic rules of governance must be implemented in the protocols of blockchain right from starting. However, for doing so, competition authorities must build trust that such an intervention measures would not be misused as that would kill the incentive to use the technology itself. It can be framed in a manner that identity of an individual would be only revealed in case of reasonable grounds that there has been any violation.

The point to be taken into consideration while making such policy decisions is that the approach must be a balanced so that it does not disrupt a new technology which is considered as revolutionary as internet. This can be achieved only by ensuring that core principles on which blockchain rests are not interfered with.

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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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