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Fault lines in the Indian criminal justice system

ASHOK BHAN

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. -Martin Luthar King Jr.

“Law should not sit limply, while those who defy it go free and those who seek its protection lose hope”. (Jennison v. Baker (1972) 1 All ER 997).

The sovereign power of the Indian State is never felt as starkly as in interactions with the criminal justice system. Broadly stated, the influence of the police is all pervasive when it comes to enforcing penal statutes. In colonial India, the vast police powers enjoyed by the Government was the object of sharp criticism and ridicule insofar as there appeared to be no accountability or oversight and no form of redress. It is interesting note that the nationalists who strongly abjured the powers of the police were enthusiastic to retain them in the post-colonial nation and quickly thereafter paved the way for its rapid expansion.

Whatever views one holds about the penal law, no one will question its importance to society. This is the law on which men place their ultimate reliance for protection against all the deepest injuries that human conduct can inflict on individuals and institutions. By the same token, penal law governs the strongest force that we permit official agencies to bring to bear on individuals. Its promise as an instrument of safety is matched only by its power to destroy. Nowhere in the entire legal field is more at stake for the community or for the individual.

The early decades of independence were characterized by the ‘license-raj’ where innumerable statutes were introduced to curb economic offences. These included the various laws passed by state governments to implement the directive principle of prohibition, further various economic legislations were introduced to fortify the commodity control as pre-existent. Most of these statutes were enacted to be ‘special’ legislations and operated outside the bounds of ordinary criminal procedure. The need for warrants were done away with and securing bail was made particularly difficult. The criminal law jurisprudence that we see today, is undeniably a legacy of the colonial state and the early decisions made in the wake of post-colonial India.

While the scope and breadth of police powers have remained the same, they have suitably modified to deal with the more sophisticated offences of the 21st century. A laudable development in this regard is the introduction of the Letter Rogatory system where international governments pledge mutual legal assistance in relations to crimes which have been perpetrated across international boundaries.

There are always two sides to thinking about criminal reform. One the one hand, the state will have to ensure that the powers of the police and associated magistracy is not diluted, negatively impacting their ability to enforce the laws of the land. On the other hand, as various examples of custodial violence and extrajudicial killings have brought to fore, there is a need to protect the citizen from the abuse of police powers. It is in the junction between these two paradigms that the courts of the country have a important responsibility.

Chief Justices of India in periodic chief justices conferences have time and again warned about the the fault lines in Criminal Justice System in India. It is common knowledge that the two major problems besieging the Criminal Justice System are huge pendency of criminal cases and the inordinate delay in disposal of criminal cases on the one hand and the very low rate of conviction in cases involving serious crimes on the other. This has encouraged crime. Violent and organised crimes have become the order of the day. The white-collar crime has become a profitable business. Life has become unsafe and people live in constant fear. Law and order situation has deteriorated and the citizens are losing confidence in the Criminal Justice System.

The magistrate has been granted supervisory and corrective powers over the functioning of the police. The magistrate interacts with the police and the accuse person at various stages from the grant of remand to police custody and to extend from time to time as required. This also involves examining the accused to accurately discern their well-being to call for medical tests where it appears that the accused person is being subjected to violence, intimidation and torture. This is a particularly important functions since accused persons are usually powerless when in police custody. The Supreme Court of India has in various decisions stated that the magistrate is not to act as a post-office for the prosecution, merely reiterating the version of the police. We have seen that in various recent examples, the magistrates do not appear to be functioning as independent supervisors of the police. At a first level much needs to be done to liberate the magistrates from the veil of executive influence to better discipline and reign in the abuse of police powers.

Various reports have brought to the fore the despicable state of under-trials in India. It is appalling that over one-third of the people presently occupying the prisons. India is known to have the third largest under-trial population in the world. In such cases, the trials have been pending for decades and the accused person is condemned to suffer inordinate periods of imprisonments while still awaiting trial. Once again, the magistracy is called upon to act. The Supreme Court has reiterated time and again that pre-trial detention can only be justified if there is a real anticipation of the accused person prejudicing the trial, influencing witnesses or absconding. Even in this respect, the prosecution is happy to provide exaggerated versions of apprehensions and the magistrates continue to act as post-boxes.

It is in this juncture that there is also a need to address the fact that quality of legal representation makes a world of a difference of the accused person. While people with the means are able to approach higher courts in revisions or appeals to secure their rights, a vast section of the population who do not possess the means are to be provided free legal aid. While on paper, India appears to have a thriving legal aid system, the truth of the matter perks it ugly head out from newspapers are reports which show that most often the legal aid lawyer has never met with the accused to understand their case thereby making a mockery of the constitutional right to legal representation.

In this context it may also be relevant to note that the Indian police are one of the most powerful police forces in the democratic world insofar as they have wide powers under special legislations such the UAPA, NSA etc. to detain an individual without trial for an extremely long period of time. While there is no doubt that these legislations are meant to deal with a completely different category of offences, the system fails to provide any redress to those wrongly arrested. In such cases, the magistrate appears to be completely bereft of any powers or inclination to take the investigating agencies to task to demonstrate even a semblance of a case. The burden of proof is completely reversed in seeking bail, making it impossible for accused person to prove their innocence while still is custody and without being able to lead evidence. This is another area that need special attention from the courts and legislature alike. Offences under special legislations (PCA,PMLA,SCST Atrocities Act,UAPA )and even offences against women often see low conviction rates. This indicates that there are organisational and structural biases and inefficiencies that are to be ratified.

We have seen however a lot judicial reform when it comes to sentencing, mandatory minimum sentences for minor offences have been done away with and it has become a norm for courts to separately hear aggravating and mitigating circumstances prior to sentencing. While the sentencing procedure has seen a marked improvement in the last few decades, the issue of prison reform is a looming crisis that successive governments have simply failed to engage with. Prison is to serve not just a retributive role but is supposed to also help reform the convicted individual and to imbibe valuable skills. In this respect, prisons (save a few minor exceptions) seem to be violent and neglected den of vice, thereby increasing the convicted individual’s propensity for crime.

 We have adversarial system. The Adversarial System lacks dynamism because it has no lofty ideal to inspire. It has not been entrusted with a positive duty to discover truth as in the Inquisitorial System. When the investigation is perfunctory or ineffective, Judges seldom take any initiative to remedy the situation. During the trial, the Judges do not bother if relevant evidence is not produced and plays a passive role as he has no duty to search for truth. As the prosecution has to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the system appears to be skewed in favour of the accused. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the Adversarial System by adopting with suitable modifications some of the good and useful features of the Inquisitorial System.

 Inductions of more Judges may help in reducing the arrears, it is the competence and proficiency of the Judges that contributes to better quality of justice. Unfortunately, adequate attention is not paid to look for competent persons proficient to handle criminal cases. Anybody who sits and watches the proceedings in the Courts will not fail to note that the level of competence of the Judges of the Subordinate courts at different levels is not adequate possibly because the training did not give emphasis on professional skills and case/court management. If the Judge is not competent he will take longer time to understand the facts and the law and to decide the case. This is one of the reasons which has contributed to enormous delay and huge pendency of cases. Any lawyer with experience will be able to tell you which Judge is competent and which Judge is not, which Judge is quick and which Judge is slow, which Judge’s decisions are by and large sound and which Judges decisions are not satisfactory. Even now there are many good Judges in the subordinate Courts but that number is declining.

The quality of justice suffers when the Judge is not competent. People come to the Court complaining about the denial of rights by other individuals, institutions or the State itself. They expect the Judge to be experienced, knowing, competent, upright and possessing all the attributes required to render justice to the parties. It is a very onerous responsibility to sit in judgment over the conduct and affairs of other citizens. Deciding cases is a very complex exercise. It needs good knowledge of the substantive and procedural laws. It requires experience of men and matters, abundant commonsense, intelligence, logical and analytical mind. The Judge has to possess ability to do hard work and concentrate on the issues involved. Above all he must be a man of character having abiding faith in the values of life.

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

Swami Vivekananda has said: “Truth does not pay homage to any society ancient or modern. But society has to pay homage to truth or perish”

 The Indian ethos accords the highest importance to truth. The motto Satyameva Jayate (Truth alone succeeds) is inscribed in our National Emblem “Ashoka Sthambha”. Our epics extol the virtue of truth. Gandhiji gave us truth – as the righteous means to achieve independence by launching the movement of Satyagraha.

For the common man truth and justice are synonymous. So when truth fails, justice fails. What is the place accorded to ‘truth’ in the Criminal Justice System in India?

It is worthwhile to recall the observations of the President of India.

 “The Adversarial System is the opposite of our ancient ethos. In the panchayat justice, they were seeking the truth, while in adversarial procedure, the Judge does not seek the truth, but only decides whether the charge has been proved by the prosecution. The Judge is not concerned with the truth; he is only concerned with the proof. Those who know that the acquitted accused was in fact the offender, lose faith in the system”. Judges and emphasized the importance of finding truth in several cases.

The Supreme Court has criticised the passive role played by the

 In the case of Ram Chandra vs. State of Haryana, AIR 1981. SC 1036, the Supreme Court has said:

…there is an unfortunate tendency for a Judge presiding over a trial to assume the role of referee or umpire and to allow the trial to develop into a contest between the prosecution and the defence with the inevitable distortion flowing from combative and competitive elements entering the trial procedure.

The rights of the victim to participation and aid the investigation, right to prefer an appeal against acquittals and right to compensation becomes integral to ‘justice to victims’.

History of mankind is replete with instances where under every type of regime the accused in custody was tortured within the four corners of the cell for forcing him to confess or disclose information, when there is none to hear his cries or to come to his rescue.

The right not to be compelled to testify against himself is a universally recognised right of the accused under Art 14 of the International convention on civil and political rights and is a fundamental right conferred by Art 20 (3) of the Constitution. It says that “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”. This is often described as right to silence. Such a compulsion is prohibited by of Article 20(3).

Huge pendency of cases and poor rate of convictions are the twin problems of the judiciary,that has direct impact on the criminal justice system. The major area that needs attention for improving the situation is providing adequate number of Judges who are proficient in dealing with different variety of criminal cases. The statistics reflect gross inadequacy of the Judge strength at all levels. The Supreme Court has examined this issue and given directions to increase the Judge strength from the existing Judge population ratio of 10.5 or 13 Judges per million of people to 50 Judges per million people in a phased manner within five years. there is a constitutional right in article 21 for right of speedy trial for the accused, that requires to be strictly followed. There is also a need to radically re-think the very need for certain offences which were framed close to two centuries ago and are no longer justifiable in the context of the 21st century morality. In this respect, reference could be made to the offence of sedition which is susceptible to overbroad definitions and resting uncomfortably with the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Since any incitement to violence as tangibly discernable may be punished and curbed through various other offences, sedition in this context appears to almost be a ‘thought-crime’ that may be used to extract political vendetta. Similarly, various studies have shown that convictions under criminal defamations are extremely low, however the mere registration of a FIR for defamation can lead to deleterious effects upon the accused persons. Similarly, there is also a need for sober re-evaluation on the use of the death penalty. It has been repeatedly affirmed that no exclusive deterrent effect that is achieved from retaining a barbaric 15th century form of punishment and the justification to retain it should be exhaustively considered, especially in light of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bachchan Singh.

All the above aspects require a detailed evaluation, sober assessment and robust reforms are to be introduced. It is hoped that the recently constituted committee for criminal justice reform constituted by the Union Government can address these fault lines before they yawn open to signify the abject failure of the Indian criminal justice system.

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NCLAT: Withdrawal Of Resolution Plan Will Have Disastrous Effect.

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NCLAT: Withdrawal Of Resolution Plan Will Have Disastrous Effect.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in the case Shardha Buildcon Pvt. Ltd v. The Dhar Textile Mills Ltd, the bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Mr. Barun Mitra observed and has dismissed the appeal filed by the Resolution Applicant seeking permission to withdraw its resolution plan and held that allowing withdrawal of a resolution plan will be having serious disastrous effect on the whole purpose of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

Before the NCLAT, the appellant filled an appeal against the order dated 21.07.2022 passed by NCLT Indore which relying upon the judgment of Supreme Court in the case Ebix v. Educomp dismissed the application filed by the Appellant wherein seeking for the withdrawal of the resolution plan.

The Appellant contended that the judgement of Ebix is not applicable as the same deals with the cases where the Corporate Debtor has undergone changes but in the present case, wherein the Appellant is seeking withdrawal due to the financial difficulty that is being faced by the Appellant.

The argument of the Appellant was rejected by the bench and has held that even if the Appellant is allowed to withdraw from the plan due to financial difficulty and the same will be amounting to go back from the commitment made in the resolution plan which is not permissible.

The bench observed that the IBC is process consists of different steps with a ultimate object of reviving the Corporate Debtor. Thus, permitting Successful Resolution Applicant to withdraw after the Plan has been approved will have serious disastrous effect on whole purpose and object of IBC.

Accordingly, the NCLAT bench dismissed the appeal filed by the Appellant and has upheld the order of NCLT, Indore.

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Supreme Court: Order Of Termination Approved By Industrial Tribunal Is Binding On Parties, Labour Court Can’t Take Contrary View.

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SUPREME COURT

T

he Supreme Court of India in the case Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation vs Bharat Singh Jhala (Dead) Son of Shri Nathu Singh, through Legal Heirs & Anr observed that the that an order of termination approved by an Industrial Tribunal is binding on the parties and a Labour Court cannot take a contrary view against it.

The bench comprising of Justice MR Shah and Justice Krishna Murari observed and has stated that once the order of termination was approved by the Industrial Tribunal on appreciation of the evidence led before it, thereafter it was stated that the findings recorded by the Industrial Tribunal were binding between the parties and no contrary view could have been taken by the Labour Court contrary to the findings being recorded by the Industrial Tribunal.

However, the court was considering an appeal plea by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation.

The bench observed that a workman was subjected to departmental enquiry for not issuing tickets to 10 passengers after collecting the fare. Thus, on conclusion of the departmental enquiry, his services were terminated. The termination was the subject matter of the approval application before the Industrial Tribunal in an application under Section 33(2)(b) of the Industrial Act. In the said proceedings, it was permitted by the management to lead the evidence and prove the charge/misconduct before the Tribunal. By order, the Tribunal approved the order of termination.

It was observed that after a judgment and an award in 2019, the Labour Court, Jaipur allowed the said reference and set aside the order of termination. An order was passed by the Labour Court while awarding 50% back wages from the date of termination till his death i.e., December 10, 2018. The Award and the judgement passed by the Labour Court was challenged before both, Single and Division Benches of the High Court. However, the petitions were dismissed both the times.

The Court observed after going through the relevant facts of the case that once the order of termination was approved by the Industrial Tribunal, thereafter the fresh reference under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, wherein challenging the order of termination was not permissible.

Adding to it, the court stated that though it is required to be noted that the order dated 21.07.2015 passed by the Industrial Tribunal which as such is a higher forum than the finality has been attained by the Labour Court.

Before the High Court, though the aforesaid fact was pointed out, the court did not consider this aspect and confirmed the judgment and award passed by the Labour Court for setting aside the order of termination, which has been approved by the Industrial Tribunal. 

It was held by the Supreme Court that the judgment and award passed by the Labour Court, confirmed by the High Court is unsustainable and allowed the appeal plea.

It has been committed by the High Court that a very serious error in dismissing the writ petition/writ appeal confirming the judgment and award passed by the Labour Court setting aside the order of termination.

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‘Attempt To Threaten Judges With Contempt Pleas Unacceptable’ : Madhya Pradesh High Court

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‘Attempt To Threaten Judges With Contempt Pleas Unacceptable’ : Madhya Pradesh High Court

 While fully, firmly and finally deprecating most strongly the most reprehensible practice of bringing “every wrong order” that is passed by the Trial Courts under the contempt jurisdiction, it is most assuaging to learn that none other than the Madhya Pradesh High Court itself has in a most laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Majid Beg and Ors vs Shri Tej Pratap Singh in Contempt Petition Civil No. 1987 of 2022 pronounced as recently as on September 20, 2022 observed sternly that trying to threaten judges with contempt pleas will not be accepted. It must be noted that while very strongly pulling up four litigants for making ‘reckless allegations’ against a Trial Court Judge, a Division Bench comprising of none other than the Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra observed without mincing any words in simple, straightforward and suave language that, “…We deprecate such attitude. We do not appreciate that every wrong order passed by the Trial Court is to be brought under contempt and the concerned judge has to be proceeded against trying to threaten the judges with petitions for contempt, in our considered view, is not going to be accepted.” Absolutely right!

More to the point : If Judges cannot function smoothly, then even God cannot save our country for it is Judges who determine God’s fate. As for instance when a woman lawyer named KL Chitra filed a PIL in Supreme Court for action to create a High Court Bench in West UP, the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi had very clearly said that we are no one to rule on this and it is only for the Centre to act in this regard. While adding a rider, the then CJI Gogoi said that he fully sympathized with the contentions that the people of so many districts of West UP are made to travel so far about 700 to 750 km on average all the way not even to Lucknow which is 200 km earlier but right till Allahabad to get justice. KL Chitra abided by that judgment instead of beating her chest and complaining and accusing Judge of being biased which really deserves to be applauded as inspite of losing the case as her PIL was dismissed yet she took it in correct spirit that judiciary whether it is UP Chief Justice or UP Chief Minister or Chief Justice of India is no one to rule on this and it is Centre and Centre alone which has to take the final call on it!   

Anyway, coming back to the key issue, it must be noted at the outset itself that this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath for a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition is filed seeking initiation of proceedings for contempt against the respondent herein for willfully disobeying the order dated 9th July, 2022 passed in Miscellaneous Criminal Case No.27507 of 2022.”

To put things in perspective, the Division Bench then envisages in para 2 of this learned judgment that, “Shri Vishal Vincent Rajendra Daniel, learned counsel for the petitioners contends that the respondent has violated the aforesaid order. He submits that the order passed by this Court in paragraph-9 has been disobeyed. He submits that even though the impugned order therein dated 10.05.2022 was set aside, the trial judge is proceeding to recall the witnesses and record their evidence. It is his submission even though he brought it to the notice of the trial judge, he was told that there was no order to restrain him not to summon the witnesses. Therefore, in view of the fact that there is no specific order restraining him not to summon the witnesses, there is no disobedience of the aforesaid order. Therefore, it is pleaded that since the contempt has been committed in disobeying the directions contained in paragraph-9, appropriate action be taken against the respondent.”

While mentioning about the core issue itself, the Division Bench after hearing the petitioners counsel as mentioned in para 3 then enunciates in para 4 of this remarkable judgment that, “Paragraph-9 of the order, which is said to have been disobeyed by the respondent reads as follows:-

“9. Therefore, in view of the above, present petition is allowed. Order dated 10.05.2022, passed by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Seoni is set aside and learned Chief Judicial Magistrate is directed to decide the matter afresh after granting an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners/accused and to raise all such objections as are available to them, in accordance with law. Criminal case is pending for more than 9 years. Therefore, learned CJM is expected to dispose of this case as early as possible preferably within a period of six months from the date of receipt of copy of this order.””

Furthermore, the Division Bench then specifies in para 5 of this robust judgment that, “It is the further plea that the trial judge has stated that there was no order passed by the High Court directing him not to recall any of the witnesses. What was ordered by the High Court was to decide the matter afresh after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners/accused etc. Therefore, what is being done by the trial judge is in accordance with the directions especially given in paragraph-9. Hence, there is no contempt.”

Most forthrightly, the Division Bench then mandates in para 6 of this pragmatic judgment that, “On considering the contentions, we are of the considered view that no contempt would arise in this matter. There is no specific order directing the trial court not to summon the witnesses or anything of the like nature. This Court after setting aside the order dated 10.05.2022 which is an order under Section 311 of the Cr.P.C., directed the CJM to decide the matter afresh after granting opportunity. ‘Afresh’ necessarily means from the beginning. Opportunity has already been granted. Therefore, we do not find any willful disobedience as pleaded by the petitioners. Hence, the petition is liable to be dismissed on this ground itself.”

Most remarkably and also most significantly, the Division Bench then encapsulates in para 7 what constitutes the cornerstone of this notable judgment that, “So far as the contentions being advanced are concerned, we do not appreciate the same. Apparently, the plea of the petitioners is that in spite of the order of the Court, the trial judge has disobeyed the same. We have hereinabove held that the same does not amount to contempt. Every order that is passed by a superior court, is liable to be followed by the lower court. Even assuming the case of the petitioners is to be accepted of certain misapplication of the law, that does not amount to contempt. The understanding of the trial court is quite a different issue than disobedience. One has to show that the disobedience is willful to the orders passed by the superior courts. If there is any scope for any interpretation in the directions being issued then that cannot constitute a contempt. In the instant case, the impugned order therein was set aside with a direction to consider the matter afresh. Therefore, the trial court has to consider the matter afresh. As to how that amounts to contempt, we are unable to follow. Therefore, we are of the view that this is nothing but a pure adventurism by the petitioners in making such reckless allegations against the trial judge. We deprecate such attitude. We do not appreciate that every wrong order passed by the trial court is to be brought under contempt and the concerned judge has to be proceeded against. Trying to threaten the judges with petitions for contempt, in our considered view, is not going to be accepted. Since this matter is arising for the first occasion we have restrained ourselves from taking strict action but only direct a warning to the petitioners to desist from such adventurism.”

Finally, the Division Bench then as a corollary finds no hesitation in coming to the palpable conclusion as directed in para 8 of this progressive judgment that, “Petition is accordingly dismissed.”

In a nutshell, what inevitable conclusion that can be drawn from this most powerful, pragmatic and progressive judgment is that the Madhya Pradesh High Court has minced just no words to make it indubitably clear that any attempt to threaten Judges with contempt plea is totally unacceptable. There is absolutely no bona fide reason why any citizen of India should dare to differ even marginally with what the Division Bench comprising of none other than the Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra have dwelt upon so succinctly and so convincingly that there remains no valid reason not to agree in totality with what they have held so commendably!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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Supreme Court Sets HC Bail Condition Of Depositing Rs 7.5 Lakhs: Plea Seeking Pre-Arrest Bail Not Money Recovery Proceedings.

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Supreme Court Sets HC Bail Condition Of Depositing Rs 7.5 Lakhs: Plea Seeking Pre-Arrest Bail Not Money Recovery Proceedings.

The Supreme Court in the case Udho Thakur Vs State Of Jharkhand observed while opening that petitions seeking pre arrest bail are not same as money recovery proceedings petitions, the Top Court of India recently annulled a condition imposed by the Jharkhand High Court of depositing 7.5 Lakhs as “victim compensation” while granting pre-arrest bail.

The Division bench comprising of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Bela M Trivedi observed and stated that even if we take the submissions of the learned counsel for the contesting respondent on its face value, the bench is clearly of view that in essence, the petitions seeking relief of pre arrest bail are not money recovery proceedings and, ordinarily, for adopting such a course there is no jurisdiction that for the purpose of being given the concession of pre-arrest bail, the person concerned apprehending arrest has to make payment.

In the present case, the bench was considering an appeal plea filed challenging the order of the Jharkhand High Court granting pre-arrest bail to the appellants on the condition that they furnish a bond of Rs.25,000/- and deposit a demand draft Rs.7,50,000/- as an ad-interim victim compensation.

It was submitted by the counsel appearing for No. 2 submitted 1 that the expression “victim compensation” as used in the impugned order may not be apt as it was not a case of recovery of victim compensation, but otherwise, the condition cannot be said to be onerous or unjustified because receiving of the said sum of Rs. 7,50,000/- by the appellants at the time of marriage has not been a fact in dispute.

It was observed that the counsel appearing for the state government relied on several orders against imposing the terms of payment for the purpose of granting the relief of pre-arrest bail and remitting the matter for re-consideration.

The order of High Court was modified by the Court without remitting the matter back to the High Court.

The court observed while having regard to these circumstances that the said condition of depositing a sum of Rs.7,50,000/- for the purpose of granting the relief of pre-arrest bail cannot be approved and else and the order of granting bail deserves to be maintained. However, the court is of the view that no useful purpose would be served by sending the matter for reconsideration to the High Court and the order impugned deserves to be modified appropriately only in these appeals.

The order was clearly clarified by the Supreme Court of India in the manner-releasing the appellants on bail in the event of arrest on furnishing bond of Rs. 25,000/ will remain intact but on the other part of the order, the appellant require to deposit a sum of Rs. 7,50,000/- has been annulled.

Accordingly, with the aforesaid observation, the court disposed of the petition.

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Delhi High Court: [CPC] Objective Of Interrogatories Is To Narrow Controversy, Can’t Be Used By Plaintiff For Substituting Burden Of Proof.

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Delhi high court

The Delhi High Court in the case Micromax Media Pvt Ltd v. M/S Hewlett Packard India Sales Pvt Ltd and Ors. observed and stated that the interrogatories cannot be used by the plaintiff in a suit for substituting its burden of proving things by adducing relevant evidence, adding that its objective is to narrow the controversy and facilitate the framing of issues regarding the disputed facts in the case.

The bench comprising of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed and has further added that Order 11 Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is for expediting trial of the suit, thereby saving the costs of litigation and judicial time.

The Court stated that the interrogatories must be used liberally by the parties and one of the greatest objects of the interrogatories when properly administered is to save evidence i.e., for diminishing the burden of proof which was otherwise on the plaintiff. Thus, the object is not merely to discover the facts but also to save the expense of proving a part on the case.

It was observed that Order XI Rule 1 of the Code states that the plaintiff or defendant in a suit may, by leave of the Court, deliver interrogatories in writing for examination of opposite parties or for any of the parties.

It is also stated in the provision that no party shall deliver more than one set of interrogatories to the same party without an order for the same.

It was observed by the court that interrogatories are not limited to giving plaintiff the knowledge of something which is not already known, but includes getting admission of anything which he has to prove on any issue raised between the defendant and him.

The court added that Order 11 gives a party a right to interrogate with a view to obtain an admission from his opponent of everything which is material and relevant to the issue raised in the pleadings.

In the present case, the court was delaing with an application filed under Order XI Rules 1 and 5 read with Section 151 of the Code by Micromax Media Private Limited seeking directions to make Hewlett Packard India Sales Private Limited officials to answer the interrogatories in the suit filled.

It was ststed in the application that the defendants in their Written Statement-cum-Counter Claim had admitted the entitlement of the plaintiff company to the MVC rebates and bonus for the period between December 2008 till June 2009.

However, Hewlett allegedly set off and raised a counter-claim of Rs. 5,69,00,000 against  Micromax claiming that it had received excess payments from the month of November 2007 to April 2009 which was discovered during the audit. The court was informed that no document was placed by the defendant company on the basis of which it was claiming excess payment.

The counsel appearing for the defendant company seek dismissal dismissal of the application by taking a preliminary objection that the company had nowhere admitted to the entitlements to the alleged MVC rebates.

Before the Court, it was also argued that the interrogatories sought to be administered to the defendants were nothing but a fishing expedition tantamounting to embarking on a roving enquiry.

Also, the court observed that the documents sought from the defendants, relating to their Counter-Claim, did not shorten the controversy or narrow the scope of evidence that the plaintiff would have to prove necessarily in support of its claim.

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No need for a NOC to transfer flats built on land leased to the developer: SC

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Supreme Court

The Maharashtra government cannot require a “no objection certificate” from the collector in order to register the transfer of flats in cooperative societies built on land not provided directly by the state, the Supreme Court ruled last week.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by the state government challenging a decision issued by the Bombay High Court on September 29, 2009, which held that the state could not insist on payment of a premium and the issuance of a NOC for registering the transfer of plots when there is clear evidence that the land was allotted first to builders who built flats and then sold it to purchasers. Following that, the owners formed a cooperative society.

The HC decision was based on a petition filed by Aspi Chinoy, a senior advocate in Mumbai, and the Cuffe Parade Residents Association, who were residents of the 22-story Jolly Maker Apartments.

The top court bench of justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna dismissed the state’s appeal on Friday, “Since the land was not allotted to a society but to a builder on lease, who has constructed flats for private individuals, who have subsequently formed a Cooperative Society, the 1983 Resolution and 1999 Resolution would not be applicable to the members of such a society.”

The state had relied on two resolutions, dated May 12, 1983 and July 9, 1999, to levy a premium as a condition for granting permission for flat transfers.

The Resolution of 1983 provided for the grant of land at reduced rates to various categories of co-operative societies.

Following the 1983 Resolution, the government issued a modified resolution in 1999 that applied to co-operative societies to whom government lands were sanctioned at reduced rates.

Chinoy had approached the HC, questioning the resolutions’ relevance to their plot. He had challenged the collector’s letter of June 27, 2000 to the sub-registrar, Bombay City, Old Custom House, directing him not to register any transaction involving the transfer of flats in the buildings located in B.B.R. Block Nos. 3 and 5, Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade, Bombay, without first obtaining a NOC from the collector.

According to the residents, their building dates back to 1971, when the state government solicited bids for the lease of Plot Nos.93, 94, 99, 100, and 121 from Block V Back Bay Reclamation Estate. In response to the notice, M/s. Aesthetic Builders Pvt. Ltd. successfully won the bid and completed the construction of flats. On December 12, 1975, the building’s occupancy certificate was issued. Two years later, the owners established the Varuna Premises Cooperative Society Limited.

The bench said, “The present case is not a case where the land is allotted to a co-operative society by the government. The land was leased out to the builder, who was the successful bidder and after the ownership of flats was transferred to the private individuals, a society of the flat owners was formed.” The judges also lifted the stay on the refund order issued by the Supreme Court.

Chinoy claimed that the flat in which he lives was first sold to A Madhavan in 1972 and then to Reshmidevi Agarwal in 1978.

Chinoy then entered the picture by signing an agreement with Agarwal in December 2020 in exchange for five shares in the society.

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