DISTRICT COURT CAN ONLY APPOINT GUARDIAN FOR MINOR’S PROPERTY, NOT PERSON: KERALA HC - The Daily Guardian
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DISTRICT COURT CAN ONLY APPOINT GUARDIAN FOR MINOR’S PROPERTY, NOT PERSON: KERALA HC

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In a very significant development with far reaching consequences, the Kerala High Court in a learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment titled KS Narayana Elayathu vs Sandhya in MFA No. 150 of 2021 against the order/judgment in OPGW 1139/2017 of VI Additional District Court, Ernakulam has while making the legal position crystal clear held explicitly that while District Courts are empowered to appoint a guardian for a minor’s property, only Family Court can appoint a guardian for the person of a minor. It must be mentioned here that while partly allowing an appeal, a Division Bench of Kerala High Court comprising of Justice A Mohamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas set aside the proceedings of the District Court to the extent of appointing a guardian for the person of the minor. It also is worth mentioning that the appellant herein moved the Court challenging the proceedings of an Additional District Judge. The said proceedings were initiated by the respondent herein, who is the mother of minor girl named Nivedya against the appellant (minor’s father).

To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Sophy Thomas for himself and Justice A Mohamed Mustaque of Kerala High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This appeal has been preferred by the respondent in O.P (G&W) No.1139 of 2017, challenging the proceedings of the Additional District Judge-VI, Ernakulam dated 22.11.2021.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “O.P (G&W) No.1139 of 2017 was filed by Smt. Sandhya, mother of minor girl Nivedya, against the respondent, who is the father of the minor and husband of the petitioner. Due to strained marital relationship, the petitioner and respondent were living separately and the minor child was staying with her mother. Plaint schedule property was owned by the maternal grandmother of the minor child, and it was settled in her favour as per settlement deed No.1766/2012 of SRO, Tripunithura. The petitioner-wife filed that O.P for declaring her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor Nivedya.”

As it turned out, the Bench then lays bare in para 3 that, “The respondent-husband challenged the jurisdiction of the Family Court in entertaining that petition. He contended that the District Court is not having jurisdiction, as the entire right of the District Court, by virtue of the Guardian & Wards Act, has been taken over by the Family Court as per Section 7 (1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act, 1984.”

Needless to say, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “The District Court, after hearing the rival contentions raised by the parties, found that, when custody of the property of a minor is involved, the jurisdiction is with the District Court and so, that court has jurisdiction to entertain that O.P. In this appeal, the respondent-husband is challenging that finding.”

Be it noted, the Bench then hastens to add in para 8 that, “Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, lays down that a family Court shall have, and exercise all jurisdiction exercisable by any District Court or any subordinate civil Court under any law for the time being in force, in respect of suits and proceedings of the nature referred to in the Explanation which, inter alia, includes, according to clause (g), a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to, any minor. Section 8 of the Family Courts Act, specifically says that where a family Court has been established for any area, no District Court or any subordinate civil Court referred to, shall, in relation to such area, have or exercise any jurisdiction in respect of such suits or proceedings referred to, in the Explanation which includes clause (g). (relied on Abraham G Karimpanal and others vs. Nil – AIR 2004 Kar.321).”

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 9 that, “So, there is no doubt with regard to the fact that, in a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to, any minor, the jurisdiction of the District Court is taken away by the Family Courts Act as per Section 7(1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act, 1984. But, when the question involved relates to appointment of guardian in respect of the property of minor, the Family Court has no jurisdiction, as that dispute is not coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1).”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then spells out in para 10 that, “In Devi Lal Bhagat vs. Rekha Bhagat reported in 2008 (3) KLT SN 14 (C No.16), the Jharkhand High Court held that, on a bare reading of Section 7(1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 and Section 9 of the Guardian & Wards Act, 1890, ‘it is manifestly clear that the suits and proceedings including the suit or proceeding where any question of guardianship of the person of any minor or his custody or access to him arises, whether governed by any personal law or the provisions to the Guardians and Wards Act, would be cognizable only by the Family Court, if the mater arises within the area over which the jurisdiction is exercisable by the Family Court. The Family Court has no jurisdiction if the question involved relates to appointment of guardian in respect of the property of a minor whether under personal law or any other law for the time being in force. However, in such suits or proceedings where question of appointment of a guardian for both purposes namely person and property of a minor is involved, the Family Court would have no jurisdiction, as Clause (g) of the Act does not include proceeding in relation to property of a minor’.”

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then adds in para 11 that, “A Single Bench of this Court had occasion to consider a similar issue in Anitha Abraham vs. Jacob Oommen reported in 2003 (1) KLT 417, in which this Court found that the Family Court has no jurisdiction to entertain an application to appoint a person as guardian of the property of the minor. The judgments in Susila Naik vs. Judge, Family Court, Rourkela (AIR 1988 Ori. 61) and in Kamal V.M Allaudin vs. Raja Shaikh (AIR 1990 Bom. 299) were also relied upon by the learned Single Judge to reach that conclusion.”

Of course, the Bench then points out in para 12 that, “In the case in hand, the mother of the minor child approached the District Court for appointing her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor Nivedya. Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant had filed O.P No.931 of 2019 before the Family Court, Muvattupuzha, for getting custody of the child under Section 7(1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act and it is pending consideration of that court. But, in O.P (G&W) No.1139 of 2017, the respondent is praying for declaring her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor. Since Family Court has no jurisdiction to entertain a petition for guardianship of the property of the minor, no doubt, the jurisdictional District Court has to entertain that petition.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then clearly states in para 13 that, “Section 7 of the Guardian & Wards Act, 1980 empowers the jurisdictional District Court to appoint a guardian of the person or property or both of a minor or to declare a person to be such a guardian, if the court is satisfied that, it is for the welfare of the minor. Section 8 of the Guardian & Wards Act sets out the class of persons on whose application alone, the court can exercise the power vested in it by Section 7. The court is exercising parens patriae jurisdiction to ensure the welfare and well-being of the minor.”

To be sure, the Bench then stipulates in para 14 that, “Now let us see whether the District Court can entertain a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to any minor when the jurisdiction of the District Court is taken away by the Family Court, as per Section 7(1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act. The Family Courts are set up for the settlement of family disputes, to exclusively provide within the jurisdiction of the Family Courts, the matters relating to matrimonial relief including nullity of marriage, judicial separation, divorce, restitution of conjugal rights or declaration as to the validity of marriage or as to the matrimonial status of any person, the property of the spouses or of either of them, declaration as to the legitimacy of any person, guardianship of a person or the custody of any minor, maintenance etc. etc. as seen from the statement of objects and reasons in the bill presented for the enactment of the Family Courts Act. The nature of suits and proceedings coming within the jurisdictional competence of a Family Court is enumerated in Section 7 of the Family Courts Act. When parties to a marriage or an erstwhile marriage seek guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to their minor children, it is exclusively a suit or proceeding coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act, and then the jurisdiction of a District Court or Subordinate Civil Court is taken away as per Section 8 of the Family Courts Act which reads thus:

“8. Exclusion of jurisdiction and pending proceedings.-Where a Family Court has been established for any area,-

(a) no district court or any subordinate Civil Court referred to in sub-section (1) of section 7 shall, in relation to such area, have or exercise any jurisdiction in respect of any suit or proceeding of the nature referred to in the Explanation to that sub-section;

(b) no magistrate shall, in relation to such area, have or exercise any jurisdiction or powers under Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974);

(c) every suit or proceeding of the nature referred to in the Explanation to sub-section (1) of section 7 and every proceeding under Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),-

(i) which is pending immediately before the establishment of such Family Court before any District Court or subordinate Court referred to in that sub-section or, as the case may be, before any Magistrate under the said Code; and

(ii) which would have been required to be instituted or taken before or by such Family Court if, before the date on which such suit or proceeding was instituted or taken, this Act had come into force and such Family Court had been established, shall stand transferred to such Family Court on the date on which it is established”.”

Most significantly, what should attract maximum eyeballs is then elaborated upon in para 15 wherein it is held that, “In the case in hand, the mother of the minor child approached the District Court to appoint her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor daughter Nivedya. The relief for appointing her as the guardian of the person of the minor is exclusively coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act and so, the jurisdiction of the District Court with respect to that relief is taken away by the jurisdictional Family Court. The respondent/father has already filed a petition before the Family Court for getting custody of the minor daughter. If the District Court also is proceeding for appointment of guardian of the person of the minor, it may result in conflicting decisions. So, as far as the dispute between parties to an erstwhile marriage regarding guardianship of the person, or the custody of, or access to their minor child, the jurisdiction of the District Court is taken away by the Family Court. The fact that a court cannot appoint a guardian of the person, is no bar for appointing a guardian of the property. Since the question regarding guardianship of the person of the minor between the parents of the minor is to be decided by a Family Court, the District Court cannot decide on that issue, especially when the proceedings initiated by the appellant for getting guardianship and custody of the minor child is pending consideration before a Family Court. In case of overlapping jurisdiction, it may result in contradictory orders, which may affect the welfare and well-being of the child, which is of paramount consideration. In suits or proceedings of the nature coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1), the Family Court alone will get jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the District Court is ousted, going by Section 8 of the Family Courts Act.”

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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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