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Policy & Politics

Love entangled in lust, smoke of gunpowder

Vijay Darda

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Before waxing eloquently on the topic of love and affection, I would like to talk about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. In 2007, when the last survey was conducted for the selection of Seven Wonders, India’s Taj Mahal came at number one. From the technical point of view, was its construction more challenging than the ‘Great Wall of China’? Everyone would say that it must have taken greater efforts to build the wall of China. It took about 2000 years to build the 21,196-km wall as it stands now. It was an extremely toilsome job. I don’t know how many rulers came and faded into history.

As compared to the wall of China, the construction of the Taj Mahal took only 22 years. Then why did the Taj Mahal get more votes than the wall of China? In fact, there is love in the foundation of the Taj Mahal and there is war in the foundation of the wall of China. Nobody likes war and everyone wants love. The nature remains so beautiful only because of love; the happy moments of life also come because of this positive emotion. Where the stream of love flows, the whole canvas becomes adorable. Well known poet Abhishek Kumar has succinctly put it:

Gul khile mann mein

gulshan khile

Aap jabse hamein ho mile,

Aap se maheka aangan mera

Bhul baithe sabhi ham gile,

Sar pe chhaya ajab sa nasha

Sari duniya badal si gayi,

Prem ka pushpa jab se khila

Sari duniya badal si gayi.

It was the songs of love that made Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Gopaldas Neeraj or Sahir Ludhianvi youth icons in their times. It was the springs of love that made Amrita Pritam and Sahir immortal! But the time changes too! It metamorphosed, changing its form into passion and thus got entangled into the physique. We are in the same phase today. I do not say that the river of love has stopped flowing, but it has to be accepted that many physical mounds have also emerged in the flow of love and unfortunately the modern world has accepted it as love. The body plays the role of a catalyst in promoting a certain kind of love, but there is no place for the physical in the natural love. How can love limit itself to the world of union of only two youths? When Nida Fazli talks about love with his daughter and Munawwar Rana about his mother, they are really talking about natural love. We are talking about that kind of love which should be the basis of our real life. Just imagine, can there be any greater love than a parent’s love for their child? Right from Mahavir, Buddha, Gandhi to many other greats in the world have spoken the language of love from time to time. Despite this, neither we could make a monument of love, nor did anyone nurture it with love. We have only poured gunpowder on it and tried to destroy it.

Love is a gift of nature, but we are creating boundaries around it! Let us allow love to flow freely. If you wrap it in every boundary and fragrance of relationships, have you ever wondered what this world will be like? If everyone builds relationship based on love, there will be no jealousy and no room for greed. There will only be humanity on earth. Visualising such a world, renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan has written:

Pyar kisi ko karna lekin

Kah kar use batana kya,

Gunn ka grahak banana lekin

Ga kar use sunana kya,

Le lena sugandh sumanon ki

Tod unhe murzana kya,

Prem haar pahenana lekin

Prem paash failana kya!

But where is the real space left for love today? Love is flying away from life like camphor. It will not be an exaggeration if I say that love has become a marketable commodity. In the modern world, families are disintegrating because the element of love that binds them is weakening. How can we imagine a better society when there is no family left? When the society is fragmented, how will the nation remain unaffected by it?

Sometimes I feel that the present era itself has become the enemy of love. Whenever two youths of different castes and religions take an oath to spend life together, the self-styled custodians of the society start wielding sticks. Family members become enemies. Caste and religion come under threat. ‘Honour killing’ takes place. Gopaldas Neeraj, the author of love songs, had realised this long ago. He wrote:

Aaj ki raat tujhe aakhiri khat aur likh dun,

Kaun jaane yah diya subah tak jale na jale!

Bam barood ke is daur mein maloom nahin,

Aisi rangin hava fir kabhi chale na chale!

In this situation, we can only pray so much on Valentine’s Day that we should love each other, but before that we should learn to love ourselves. When you love yourself, you keep the stream of love flowing. Once again I will say that it is love that can make life beautiful. If we spread love by eliminating the evil of hatred, this world will be filled with happiness. The rhetoric of enemies of humanity who speak of the language of skinning people and letting the rivers of blood flow around can be countered only with love, love and love! There is only one solution to counter violence and war across the world and that is love, love and love! Kabir Das has said too, Dhaai aakhar prem ka padhe so pandit hoy.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

Since Valentine’s Day has become a symbol of love, no one should have any objection in its celebration because love is the only element that gives beautiful shape or form to the creation of nature, adds fragrance and colour to it. But the reality today is that love is entangled in the realm of lust and is wrapped in the smell of gunpowder.

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Policy & Politics

Social perception of violence against women

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ABSTRACT

In our nation, violence against women is a serious communal issue. This problem goes mostly unnoticed. Violence and abuse against women have a variety of causes and explanations. Whenever a crime against a woman occurs, an inept law enforcement administration is blamed for the increase in the number of complaints filed.

Even the most stringent regulation has little influence on the rising crime rate. It’s awful that there’s a social stigma attached to accepting various forms of violence against women. Rising levels of violence against women have resulted in psychological and physical problems. This paper attempts to raise awareness urging for a change in the attitude towards the women who have been the victim of different kinds of violence. It also mentions the conditions of women and how they have been suffering. It gives insights into the laws pertaining to cope gender violence. This paper analyses the rise of violence against women in the times of them past as well as scenarios of current times. The paper recommends ways to tackle gender violence as a bell of caution is being sounded in today’s time.

Keywords: Violence, Gendered, Psychological, Abuse, Victim.

INTRODUCTION

Crime against women is a deep-rooted and fascinating dichotomy in that it is the most universal human rights violation while also being the least reported. Whether at home or in the wider world, women in our patriarchal society have been subjected to many forms of discrimination. Since ancient times, women have been viewed as a weaker gender, making it simpler to perpetrate violence against them. They are made to feel extremely vulnerable, which encourages them to suffer. Women are exposed to ferocity committed by people whether at home or in the outside world. Our law protects women and gives her justice and provides them with equality. Our constitution ensures that people are not being subjected to any kind of unbiased treatment towards anyone.

According to Article 15 of the Constitution of India, there is a prohibition on discrimination on basis of gender and it in the same manner directs and empowers the administration to endeavor strict methods for females. Our constitution also grants women various rights, such as equitable treatment for all, but when it comes to putting these rights into practise, the government consistently fails. The Crimes committed against women have been an obstacle to the enhancement of the society and the condition is not unknown to anyone in power. If we look into the current times there has been an increase in violent cases especially rape. A report states that a total of 717 cases of rape were enumerated from January to May 2020, which elevated to 787 in the time period of 2021. The information tells that there has been a hike of 9.76 percent in rape cases during this time span.

If we go forward to 2021, when we must stay at home due to a pandemic, it will be difficult for women to raise their voices since at this time, women are obliged to stay at home and endure and suffer as they neglect to report crimes against their family members. Working women had to juggle employment and domestic responsibilities. For roughcasting the effect and obstacle deriving from economic uncertainty, the ladies turn out to be their target. During the Covid-19 pandemic, violence against women has taken several forms. This stems from women’s struggle to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives.

WOMEN’S STATUS AND THE CAUSES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

The patriarchal laws and arrangements of societal practises, traditions, and norms allow for a clear identification of violence against women in both public and private life, raising a significant question regarding the lack of respect provided to women. Furthermore, it leads to a protracted and exhausting fight for justice. The economic, cultural, and religious structure of Indian society, which may be described as a bigot culture where women are harassed, beaten, and raped within homes, in the outer world, and even between the public, is really bad. The patriarchal beliefs even accept and elevate sex discrimination as well as violence against females irrespective of age. India has been a patriarchal-based society since time immemorial. Violence against women is ingrained inside the mindset of the families while degrading women as an object and treating women as an obstacle is just evidence of their mindset. The causes of violence against women are numerous. One of the grounds which steer to violence against women is the audacity of the criminal. Often, we see that the criminal’s mind reflects on himself to be exempted from the consequences of the violent acts that he has been unswerving. Some individuals are instinctive with the approach of controlling attitude which shall not be said to be dangerous as it arises under the realm of social conduct and ordinary disparity nature between individuals. There is a huge gender disparity in doing violence against women. Removing any kind of gender disparity means eliminating all types of inequality against women and eliminating obstructions that avoid women from being totally equal with all males and comprehending their Human Rights. One of the most extensive and universal obstacles is violence against women. These obstacles create havoc in the lives of the women and they come due to a lack of knowledge and awareness among individuals.

Women often feel obligated to be around harassing men because of unequal access to education across the country, and the severe lack of legal protection leaves them with no choice but to suffer at the hands of their maternal families in their homes. Women are frequently subjected to irrational behaviour, which weakens them as individuals and has negative consequences for their health. The important point to remember is that victims who have been harmed by criminals’ actions as a result of gender-based violence or any other form of based violence should not be found liable or blamed.

TYPES OF VIOLENCE

Women’s violence can be classified into several categories. These categories represent the various types of crimes that a woman may encounter throughout her life. Physical violence against women is not the only form of violence against women. It is a broad term that encompasses all forms of violence, including sexual, sensitive, psychological, and financial abuse. Any type of violence against women is not bearable and the criminals or offenders deserve punishments, imprisonments or even capital punishments should be provided to them if required. The effects of ferocity can be overwhelming to a woman’s generative fitness as well as to other features of her bodily and psychological well-being. In the accumulation of instigating injury, the violence upsurges women’s long-term danger, raising a lot of mental as well as physical health complications including chronic discomfort, disability and may put an end to her own life through depression. Mainly, violence ensues in three circumstances – at the household or to her own self, at the community level and the state and at each phase, the social establishments fulfil dangerous functions in upholding the violence .

Self-directed: Often we look at parents, lineages and even colleagues passing taunts and oppressing the females in their houses or while working with them. These taunts reflect how weak they are and sometimes even to women who were the victims of some kind of violence. These constant picking on the violence they went through leave a huge impact on their lives, sometimes making their life even more miserable and scarred forever. Emotional exploitation is causing injury to their self-respect and mentally harassing them verbally. Various women commit self-harm for a myriad of purposes, but when viewed in the context of their psychosocial and economic circumstances, it appears to be completely understandable behaviour that contributes to the women’s poor mental health.

Suicide is a major mental health concern, aside from self-abuse. It’s also crucial to remember that suicide is the consequence of a combination of factors in a person’s life, rather than a single incident or debate. They commit suicide because of the abuse they face, the harassment they go through, problems of marrying at an early age with shattered dreams, the fact that they are not allowed to marry outside family choices, not allowed to go outside late at night, body shaming and several other factors which make them feel insecure about themselves hurting their self-confidence. Apart from the pressure of society, there are also other heinous crimes like rape, acid attack, etc. which contribute to this.

Interpersonal violence: Any act of violence or aggression towards other women by known individuals or family members. Women are subjected to a variety of sorts of violence, and when it is perpetrated by someone they know, it tends to harm them significantly more and leave a lasting mark on their lives, whether it is physical abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or even honour killing. The Advocate Netra Jaisingh in the film Thappad, for example, very accurately captured the same emotional exploitation where her husband disparages her in every situation and tries to affront her life and dishonour her for the accomplishment she gained. Very frequently we see that how women get slapped or beaten and sometimes even burned by their husband and family for dowry money or even for doing any work in a wrong manner or for not obeying them in any way .

Reports even come out to show that women are being asked to do sexual acts or forced to have sex and if they do not obey, then they even get threatened by their husbands. These are examples of Interpersonal violence that a woman goes through in her life. Apart from these examples in some rural as well as in urban areas, we find the concept of early marriages which are not yet declared null and void but declared as voidable which often is not the case when women are on the other side. At home, these types of irrational behavior are either ignored or not talked about and women often abstain from standing against these acts because it appears to them as a matter of a little issue and not a big act of physical violence. Physical violence is time after time getting increased in our country especially when we see it in the current challenging times.

In the current scenarios of COVID-19, there has been a steady upsurge in the numbers of domestic violence throughout the globe and this has been the case in the previous few months. Various worldwide associations or organizations took the perception of a worldwide increase in domestic violence cases as a result of physical violence. Many states have reported a 15-30% increase in the number of violent actions requests acknowledged from those women who were suffering in locked places because of domestic violence. These issues need to be addressed by the authorities in charge.

Community Violence: Despite the country’s desire to prevent violence against women, it continues to be widespread in certain sections of the country. Rape, abuse, sexual harassment, acid assaults, female genital mutilation, and other forms of physical, sexual, and mental violence are all common in the community. India is regarded as one of the most dishonest countries in the world when it comes to sexual abuse against women. Victims of rape are gradually reporting the sexual assaults, abuses, and rapes that criminals have perpetrated against them. Women are becoming more self-governing and prepared, to reduce their likelihood to account for the crime that they are facing. Rape comprises a total of about 12% of all crimes that happen against women in our country. Our country’s average rate of rape cases that are reported is about 6.3% per 100,000 of the population. The issue about rapes happening is that about 99% of the cases of sexual abuse go unreported which creates it challenging to find the true figure of rape cases. These stats create it terrible for a female to live in such an atmosphere where the woman cannot even live by herself alone. These are just a few statistics related to rape apart from the other crimes which a woman goes through in her life. In India, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation is quite common and there are different socio-educational causes for genital mutilation, which differ from place to place. There is a profound injustice against females. Although there are different unconventional reasons given for genital mutilation. People still follow it because it has been followed as a tradition. Genital Mutilation is a chronic expression that has inhospitable effects on the emotional well-being of the sufferers. The harshness of the disfigurement relates to the harm suffered. Since anesthesia is hardly ever made available to the victim during the system there is severe discomfort. There are other various acute effects for example bleeding, swelling, etc. risking the well-being of the females and in some cases, they even die . Even the concept of acid attack is a dreadful attack and has been increasing nowadays. Men have given themselves an option to destroy the appearance and the life of women. The aim behind this criminal act is very rudimentary that is negation to do matrimonial, sex and passion, refusal to love offers, etc. to prompt the mentioned. Apart from all of this, women also experience violence in the form of honour killings, human trafficking, or prostitution, and in certain cases, HIV infection has manifested itself in their bodies. As sex trafficking has grown in popularity, females have become more vulnerable to HIV infection due to a lack of knowledge about high-risk sexual behaviours. Similarly, HIV transmission spreads by worldwide and instinctive sex trafficking.

GENDERED VIOLENCE OF WOMEN IN INDIAN LEGAL MECHANISM

The government recognises a variety of legislative frameworks aimed at ensuring women’s rights, instituting joint segregation on various forms of cruelty to women, and providing aid to working women who like to work late at night. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 was passed to safeguard women in our country from all forms of domestic violence. It also protects all the women who have been or were entangled with the offender and are exposed to different kinds of violence.

Indian Penal Code (1860) contains preparations to defend women from the expenditure of attack, violence and other different types of offenses and the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) also protects women from such acts of violence done to her. The Hindu Marriage Act

(1955) offered betrothal and allowed it on specific prearranged grounds. It gives proper rights to women with regards to marriage and separation if the women are not safe at their home or feel unsafe in their matrimonial house. Shariat (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (1986) defends the Constitutional rights of Muslim women who have been alienated by or have attained beatings or violence in any form from their husbands.

The Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) prohibits the unkind or enchanting of dowry from her husband or even by her family members. Throughout the 1970s, many foreign nations have approved various legal procedures against Domestic Violence but in our nation, we contain a few legal procedures for the protection of the women from any kind of violence she has been subjected to. Further, during the period of the 1990s an attempt was put forth by the administration to permit the law for the safety of women from ferocity. But after bearing in mind the growing situations of crime against women in the country, the government finally passed the Domestic Violence Act in the year 2005. This law also included cruelty under Section 498A of IPC. This law was added to deal with crimes happening inside the home. But crimes were happening at workplaces as well and which is managed by the Act of Sexual Harassment.

The Act of Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act was passed in the year 2013. Further, the Supreme Court comprehended that we require such lawmaking after the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan. This law was passed to give protection to women from any kind of sexual violence or harassment who were working. This legislation gives the provision of setting up of an internal committee at every organization for solving the problem of sexual violence on women at the workplace. The Act describes sexual abuse on women at her workplace through doing any physical or sexual violence. Apart from the law governing sexual harassment, the law also safeguards the women who are subjected to heinous crimes like rape.

According to Section 376 of the IPC, there are diverse types of enactments that will form as a constituent of rape. Section 375 provides details about a sexual offense of rape. There were a lot of insufficiencies in the enactment involving rape and it was suggested that some alterations are needed in law . Often, we see that women are hampered in terms of having proper admission to justice. There is a huge illiteracy rate among men or women and they also have social gaps which prevent them from going or taking any severe activities against the carnages faced by them. The Criminal Law Act was amended in 2013 which is also known as Nirbhaya Act and it was again amended in the Kathua rape case occasioned in the portrayal of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, which, for the first time, placed the death penalty as a possible sentence for the rape of a girl under the age of 12. Crimes like rape often take an angle of stalking which also in itself is a crime under the Information and Technology Act, 2000. which also safeguards women from stalkers and cybercriminals and protects their right to privacy and right to live with dignity. Cybercriminals are often seen to take obscene pictures of women, send them wrong and immoral comments and try to sexually abuse the women.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS PROTECTING WOMEN FROM VIOLENCE

Our government has incorporated the vast majority of constitutional law acts into its domestic law, despite the fact that it still needs to be improved in order to comply with international norms. Our women deserve to be treated equally, and Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees that they will be treated equally. We witness how rude it is when a woman is subjected to unfairness and unjust treatment at home or at work. They are frequently victims of horrible crimes and exploited on the outside.

This Right against Exploitation is professed under Article 23 of the Constitution where it states “Prohibitions on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor.” Human Trafficking points out the deal and buying of humans mostly for the aim of sexual oppression, forced sex work or forced labor. Another form of slavery is Beggar. This is a practice of forced employment that states forcing an individual to work for no reimbursement.

Therefore, Article 23 is an overly broad concept which safeguards an individual from doing any illegal work involuntarily. It also prohibits compelling a woman or child into prostitution. Articles 21 and 23 equally strengthen the responsibility of the nation to distinguish, release and reinstate liberated protected workers. The Constitution allows the government to make any special law for the protection of women against any kind of violence.

Therefore, Article 23 is an overly broad concept which safeguards an individual from doing any illegal work involuntarily. It also prohibits compelling a woman or child into prostitution. Articles 21 and 23 equally strengthen the responsibility of the nation to distinguish, release and reinstate liberated protected workers. The Constitution allows the government to make any special law for the protection of women against any kind of violence.

Women did not have various rights when compared with men in earlier times. There is also a big taboo that women are substantially weaker than men and because of this authenticity, they have been mistreated. Due to this type of perpetual ill behavior, the financial welfare of women has straightaway turned out to be categorically dreadful. The Constitution gives women the right to live and liberty and this liberty is taken away from their family, friends and workplaces as well.

INADEQUACY OF LEGAL PROVISIONS AND FEW RECOMMENDATIONS

Gender imbalance should be prioritised because it is a critical component of reducing violence against women. Promoting, safeguarding, and realising women’s human rights should be the mission statement. There should be norms and agendas in place to encourage women and men to learn as a means of achieving gender equality in society. Different activities can be implemented to create awareness about the elimination of gender disparity and the rise in violence against women. Apart from that, it will shape people’s perceptions on how to treat women. Violence will be reduced if the judiciary receives backing from the legislature and the government. We look into different kinds of punishments given for various crimes that are not as appropriate as that of the nature of the crime especially when we talk about the concept of rape and sexual assault on women. The punishment of these heinous crimes should be tremendous making some kind of statement for the offenders. The laws should be well enforced and the administration should ensure that women are not just safe at their home but even when they go for their work because we see a plethora of sexual harassment cases time after time by the people of the management of the organization. Unless there is adequate stress on growing sensitization at the workplaces as well, no legal improvement could be achieved.

From the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan case, we can also see that the formation of the Sexual harassment committee will be able to help the agonize from any such incidents inside the workplace.

All the organizations which do the community work, associations of government, and NGOs should also advance and should spread their efforts in making awareness about reducing sexual harassment at workplaces.

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Policy & Politics

Cannot ask daughter-in-law to pay mother-in-law’s maintenance under Senior Citizens Act: Bombay High Court

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Bombay High Court

In a significant development with far reaching consequences, we saw how just recently on May 6, 2022, the Bombay High Court in a remarkable, rational, refreshing, and robust judgment titled Sheetal Devang Shah vs Presiding Officer in Writ Petition No. 3323 of 2019 observed without mincing any words that a daughter-in-law cannot be directed to pay maintenance to her ailing mother-in-law, especially in the absence of any proof of the woman’s income. The Court observed that, “We have reservations about such direction to SS (daughter-in-law) to pay maintenance amount to the mother-in-law…Be that as it may, upon perusal of the original record, we do not find a single document showing the earnings of SS (daughter-in-law).” It noted that Section 2(a) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 that defines ‘children’ includes son, daughter, grandson and grand-daughter, but does not refer to the daughter-in-law. While observing thus, the Bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Revati Mohite Dere of Bombay High Court set aside the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Tribunal’s order to the limited extent.

To start with, this learned, laudable and landmark judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This Bench has been specially constituted to hear the petitioner’s aforesaid petition and other petitions, by the Hon’ble Chief Justice. Both the members of this Bench preside over their respective Benches and have to disturb their regular boards, to assemble only for these matters.

1.1. On 27th April 2022, we heard the learned counsel for the parties from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and closed the matter for orders.

1.2. This Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is filed by the petitioner thereby taking an exception to the order dated 16.08.2019 passed by respondent No.1 – Presiding Officer of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens’ Tribunal (for short ‘Tribunal’).

1.3. The only substantive prayer in the petition reads as under:-

ii. That this Hon’ble Court be pleased to call for the records and proceedings from the Respondent No.1 and after perusing the legality and propriety of the impugned order dated 16.08.2019 passed by the Respondent No.1, this Hon’ble Court be pleased to issue a Writ of Certiorari and/or any other appropriate Writ, order or direction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and quash and set aside the impugned order dated 16.08.2019 passed by the Respondent No.1 at Exhibit-A;.”

In hindsight, the Bench then recalls in para 2 that, “During the pendency of this petition, the Division Bench of this Court (Coram: S. C. Dharmadhikari and G. S. Patel, JJ.), by order dated 18.09.2019, directed thus,

“5.(c) Since it is stated that the Petitioner may be dispossessed tomorrow and by using force, we direct that until further orders of this Court, the operative direction No.3 which directs the Petitioner to hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the premises to her in-laws be not acted upon or implemented.”

2.1. The aforesaid direction / interim order is in force till date.””

While elaborating on the background, the Bench then states in para 3 that, “Background facts leading to the filing of this petition are as under:-

3.1. Respondent No.1 / non-applicant has passed the order (impugned in the present petition) in the proceedings instituted by Smt. Nalini Mahendra Shah – respondent No.2 herein and her husband – Mahendra Shah. Since during the pendency of the present writ petition, husband of respondent No.2 died, with the permission of the Court, his name has been deleted from the array of the respondents. Respondent No.4 – Mr. Devang Shah is the husband of the petitioner as also the son of respondent No.2. Present petitioner – Ms. Sheetal Shah is the daughter-in-law of respondent No.2 and respondent No.3 (deleted).”

As an aside, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “For the sake of convenience, parties shall be referred to by their names and not by their status before the Tribunal or this Court.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 5 that, “Nalini Shah and her husband Mahendra Shah filed the application No.SDO/SCNo.SDO/JNVMP/Desk-6/SR-38 of 2018 before the Tribunal constituted under the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Briefly stated contentions of the applicants therein viz., Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, were as under:-

a. that, they are staying at Saprem, Plot No.20, 3rd Road, Juhu Scheme, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai – 400 056 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘residential premises’).

b. Devang Shah is the only son of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah and Sheetal Shah is their daughter-in-law. They all are residing in the aforesaid residential premises.

c. Nalini Shah is the housewife and her husband Mahendra Shah (deceased) was employed in the renowned business of diamond and diamond jewellery at Opera House. Mahendra Shah retired from the said business in the year 2016 and he had no other residential premises, save and except the residential premises at Saprem, Plot No.20, 3rd Road, Juhu Scheme, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai – 400 056.

d. Devang Shah is the employee of Supergems India Private Limited and Sheetal Shah is working as a fashion designer. Both of them are receiving handsome salary.

e. the aforesaid residential premises is in the name of Mahendra Shah and Nalini Shah.

f. It was alleged that Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah are unable to look after Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah and from last one year, they are not looking after necessities of life of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah. From January – February 2017 till the filing of the application, they were harassed in the said residential premises though they are the owners of the said house. Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah, both, are torturing Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, physically as well as mentally.

g. Nalini Shah is suffering from asthma, vergio, back pain and leg pain.

5.1. In the aforesaid background, facts and circumstances, the said application was filed by Nalini Shah and her husband Mahendra Shah.”

To recapitulate, the Bench then recalls in para 25 that, “The Tribunal framed the following four issues of enquiry, which are as under:-

“1) Are the applicants capable of supporting themselves and meeting their basic needs ?

2) Is there any evidence that the respondent is not taking proper care of the applicant and is causing mental and physical harassment to the applicants?

3) Can the request made by the applicant be accepted?

4) What will be the orders?””

As it turned out, the Bench then observed in para 26 that, “The Tribunal, after adverting to the contentions raised by the parties and documents placed on record, observed that at the relevant time, applicant No.1 – Nalini Shah was 77 years old and applicant No.2 – Mahendra Shah was 79 years old. It is also observed that the said applicants are not in a position to work. The Tribunal observed that though it is contended by Sheetal Shah, that Nalini Shah is having share trading business and also Mahendra Shah has business of diamond and jewellery, Sheetal Shah has not submitted any evidence before the Tribunal to that effect. It is further observed, that even if the said contention of Sheetal Shah is accepted, in that case also, considering the age of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, it cannot be said that they are capable of supporting themselves from their own earnings. It is also observed that the family members viz., Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah should treat Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah with kindness, consideration and respect and that they should provide them basic necessities for a peaceful life. It is also observed that the kindness, consideration and respect cannot be bought with money. It is the responsibility of Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah being son and daughter-in-law of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah to pay attention to the daily needs of the applicants and to try their best to meet those needs. Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah are dependent upon Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah for their daily necessities, mental support and care and accordingly, issue No.1 is answered in the affirmative.”

As we see, the Bench then mentions in para 27 that, “Upon perusal of the original record of the proceedings instituted by Nalini Shah, we are in respectful agreement with the said observations made by the Tribunal while answering issue No.1 except to the extent that, it holds Sheetal Shah, (daughter-in-law of Nalini Shah) alongwith Devang Shah, liable to pay maintenance.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then notes in para 28 that, “We have carefully perused the observations made by the Tribunal while answering issue No.2 i.e., whether there is any evidence that Sheetal Shah is not taking proper care of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah and is causing mental and physical harassment to them. We have no doubt in our mind, that the observations made and the findings recorded by the Tribunal, that Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah are not taking proper care of the applicants and causing mental and physical harassment to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, are in consonance with the documents on record. We have also carefully perused the various complaints filed by Nalini Shah and Sheetal Shah, and we find that there is no peace and harmony in the house. There is unrest and also there is a mental and physical harassment to the old aged parents of Devang Shah. While exercising writ jurisdiction, it is not desirable to undertake exercise of disputed questions of fact, and more particularly, when we find that the observations/findings recorded by the Tribunal, while answering issue No.2, that Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah in the said application are causing mental and physical harassment to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, are made keeping in view the material placed on record.”

Furthermore, the Bench then enunciates in para 29 that, “The Tribunal, while discussing issue No.3 i.e., “Can the request made by the applicant be accepted?”, has made reference to various documents placed on record by the parties and in particular documents in relation to the said residential premises wherein, the parties are residing, and has reached a conclusion, that the residential premises is in the name of Mahendra Shah, who has inherited the same, from his parents. The Tribunal has also considered the effect of giving such property as a gift by Mahendra Shah to Devang Shah and after adverting to the provisions of Section 23 of the said Act, which provides for protection of life and property of senior citizens and as such, has correctly reached the conclusion, that the applicants’ (Nalini and Mahendra Shah) request for exclusion of Devang Shah from the suit property can be granted. It would be relevant to reproduce hereinbelow the provisions of Section 23(1) of the said Act, which reads as under:-

“23. Transfer of property to be void in certain circumstances.-

(1) Where any senior citizen who, after the commencement of this Act, has transferred by way of gift or otherwise, his property, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal.””

It deserves mentioning that the Bench then mentions in para 30 that, “The Tribunal, ultimately concluded, that Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah are not taking proper care of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, but are causing mental and physical harassment to them. As already observed, the age of Nalini Shah and her husband Mahendra Shah was 77 and 79 years respectively, at the relevant time, when they preferred the application. It is brought on record by the parties, that during the pendency of the petition, Mahendra Shah died. At present, Nalini Shah, wife of Mahendra Shah, is aged about 82 years. On couple of dates of hearing before us, she attended Court proceedings sitting on a wheel chair, that itself shows that she is certainly dependent upon Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah for physical and mental support.”

What’s more, the Bench then discloses in para 31 that, “After answering the issues framed, the Tribunal accepted the case of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah and directed Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah together to pay Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand only) per month to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah for their maintenance, subsistence and medical expenses, by depositing the said amount, in the bank accounts of Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah.”

Most crucially, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 32 that, “We have reservations about such direction to Sheetal Shah to pay maintenance amount to Nalini Shah. As already observed, in Section 2(a), ‘children’ include son, daughter, grandson and grand-daughter and there is no reference to the daughter-in-law. Be that as it may, upon perusal of the original record, we do not find a single document showing the earnings of Sheetal Shah. In that view of the matter, the Impugned Order, to the extent that it directs Sheetal Shah to pay Rs.25,000/- alongwith her husband Devang Shah to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah, cannot be legally sustained. However, so far direction given to Devang Shah to pay the said maintenance amount to Nalini Shah, the same is legally sustainable.”

It cannot be lightly dismissed that the Bench then clearly states in para 33 that, “The Tribunal has directed Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah to handover the possession of entire residential premises i.e., Saprem, Plot No.20, 3rd Road, Juhu Scheme, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai – 400 056 to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah (since deceased) in a peaceful manner. In our opinion, said direction given by the Tribunal is legally and factually sustainable, in as much as, when the application was decided by the Tribunal, the subject property stood in the name of husband of Nalini Shah, namely, Mahendra Shah. Relying upon the various documents placed on record including criminal complaints and other materials, the Tribunal has correctly reached a conclusion, that there is a continuous mental as well as physical harassment to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah (since deceased).”

Quite ostensibly, the Bench then holds in para 34 that, “In that view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the view taken by the Tribunal, after adverting to the material placed on record, is legally as well as factually sustainable. Therefore, we confirm the order passed by the Tribunal except the direction to Sheetal Shah to pay jointly with Devang Shah, maintenance of Rs.25,000/- to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah. Therefore, the direction to Sheetal Shah to that extent is quashed and set aside. However, as already observed, the son of Nalini Shah namely, Devang Shah is obliged to pay the said maintenance amount to Nalini Shah.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then holds in para 35 that, “The Tribunal in clause (3) of the operative order has observed that, within 15 days from the date of receipt of the order, Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah shall handover the entire possession of the residential premises in question, to Nalini Shah and Mahendra Shah (deceased) in a peaceful manner and at the same time, observed that Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah, should make separate arrangements for their own accommodation elsewhere. Keeping in view the said direction, we are of the opinion that Devang Shah, being the husband of Sheetal Shah is obliged to provide separate accommodation to Sheetal Shah and her sons elsewhere.”

In addition, the Bench then directs in para 36 that, “With the above observations, we dismiss the writ petition.”

Not stopping here, the Bench then holds in para 38 that, “Since the interim relief is operating till date, we deem it appropriate to grant further six weeks’ time to the petitioner, to act in compliance with the directions contained in clause (3) of the operative part of Tribunal’s order i.e. Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah should hand over the entire possession of the residential premises in question, to Nalini Shah in a peaceful manner. In the said clause (3), the Tribunal has also directed Sheetal Shah and Devang Shah to make separate arrangements for their own accommodation elsewhere. As already observed in para 35 hereinabove, Devang Shah (respondent No.4), being husband of Sheetal Shah and thus guardian of two sons is legally obliged to provide them accommodation befitting his status, income and assets.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench clarifies in para 39 that, “The observations made hereinabove, are restricted to adjudication of the present proceedings and will have no bearing on the proceedings pending between the parties and the orders passed therein, by the appropriate courts of competent jurisdiction or forum provided under the Statute.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 40 that, “All concerned parties to act upon ordinary copy of this order duly authenticate by court Sheristadar.”

In a nutshell, the Bombay High Court has made it unequivocally clear that a daughter-in-law cannot be directed to pay maintenance to her ailing mother-in-law under Senior Citizens Act. We have discussed the reasons in detail. All courts must abide by what the Bombay High Court has held. No denying it!

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Policy & Politics

SC SENTENCES NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU TO ONE YEAR’S RIGOROUS IMPRISONMENT IN 1988 ROAD RAGE CASE

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While sending a very loud, strong and clear message to one and all that no one can be above the law, the Apex Court most recently on May 19, 2022 in a latest, learned and landmark judgment titled Jaswinder Singh (Dead) Through Legal Representatives vs Navjot Singh Sidhu and others in Review Petition (Crl.) No.477 of 2018 in CRL.A. No.60 of 2007 with Review Petition (Crl.) No.478/2018 in CRL.A. No.58/2007 Review Petition (Crl.) No.479/2018 in CRL.A. No.59/2007 (Arising out of impugned final judgment and order dated 15-05-2018 in Crl.A. No. No. 60/2007 passed by the Supreme Court of India) and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 498 has enhanced the sentence of senior Congress leader and former Indian cricket team member Navjot Singh Sidhu to one year rigorous imprisonment in a 1988 spontaneous road rage accident in which a 65-year-old person named Gurnam Singh had died. The untoward incident actually occurred on December 27, 1988 at a traffic junction in Patiala when a dispute pertaining to the right way of vehicles led to altercation with Navjot Sidhu pulling out the deceased from his vehicle and assaulting him with fist blows in a fit of rage. Even Sidhu himself could not have believed that the person whom he beat would die as everything happened suddenly without any preparation or past enmity. This alone explains why the Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice AM Khanwilkar rejected the plea for fastening culpable homicide not amounting to murder charge under Section 304A of the IPC. Very rightly so!

We know that Sidhu was earlier let off with a fine of Rs 1000 and the court spared him a jail term. In 2018, the top court had convicted Sidhu for the offence of “voluntarily causing hurt” but had acquitted him in connection with the culpable homicide charges as Sidhu had no intention to murder. But now the maximum possible sentence under Section 323 of the IPC has been awarded to the former Punjab Congress President and former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu as the victim’s family filed a review petition before the top court while pressing for enhancement of punishment. Sidhu will now be taken into custody by Punjab police to serve out the sentence.

The key points of this judgment are as follows:

1. When a 25 year old man, who was an international cricketer, assaults a man more than twice his age and inflicts, even with his bare hands, a severe blow on his (victim’s) head, the unintended consequence of harm would still be properly attributable to him as it was reasonably foreseeable – The indulgence was not required to be shown at the stage of sentence by only imposing a sentence of fine and letting him go without any imposition of sentence.

2. The hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same. This may be understood where a blow may be given either by a physically fit person or to a more aged person. (Para 24)

3. Even though any harm might not be directly intended, some aggravated culpability must be attached if the person suffers a grievous hurt or dies as a result thereof. (Para 32)

4. While a disproportionately severe sentence ought not to be passed, simultaneously it also does not clothe the law courts to award a sentence which would be manifestly inadequate, having due regard to the nature of the offence, since an inadequate sentence would fail to produce a deterrent effect on the society at large – A long period had lapsed by the time the appeal was decided cannot be a ground to award the punishment which was disproportionate and inadequate. (Para 25 -32)

BACKGROUND

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice AM Khanwilkar sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The original controversy emanates from an FIR dated 27.12.1988 under Section 304/34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’) registered by the Sub-Inspector of P.S. Kotwali of Patiala District, Punjab on the basis of the information given by one Shri Jaswinder Singh (Informant) about an occurrence around 12:30 p.m. at the traffic light of Battian Wala Chowk. The Informant and one Avtar Singh (PW-3 and PW-4 respectively) were travelling with the deceased, Gurnam Singh in a Maruti Car driven by the deceased. Apparently, a dispute arose on the right of way between the accused and the deceased and respondent No.1 (the first accused) came out of his vehicle, pulled out the deceased from his vehicle and inflicted fist blows. As per the Informant his endeavour to intervene resulted even in the second accused (respondent No.2) (not mentioned in the FIR) getting out of the vehicle and giving fist blows to the Informant. It was alleged that the car keys of the deceased’s car were removed by the accused and they fled from the scene of occurrence. PW-3 and PW-4 took the deceased in a rickshaw to the hospital where the doctors announced that Gurnam Singh was dead.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “A post-mortem was conducted by Dr. Jatinder Kumar Sadana (PW-2), who recorded that the injuries were ante-mortem in nature and caused by a blunt weapon though he reserved his opinion on the cause of death as it could apparently be given only after receiving the report of the pathologist. The Pathologist’s report dated 09.01.1989 noticed a large number of abnormalities in the condition of the deceased’s heart and did not notice any pathology insofar as the brain is concerned. Even after the Pathologist’s report, PW-2 did not give a definite opinion regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh. Thereafter, PW-2 wrote to the Civil Surgeon, Patiala on 11.01.1989 requesting that the case be referred to Forensic Expert, Government Medical College, Patiala, as a result of which a Medical Board was constituted consisting of six members. Two of these members were examined as PW-1 and PW-2 but a very cryptic opinion was given by PW-1 with disinclination to give any further clarification when sought for by the prosecution.”

As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “A chargesheet dated 06.03.1989 was filed on 14.07.1989 under Section 304 of the IPC against respondent No.2, exonerating respondent No.1. During the course of trial, the Sessions Court exercised its powers under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Cr.P.C.’) and after recording the statement of the Informant summoned respondent No.1 to stand trial. The Informant also filed a private complaint against both the accused for commission of offences under Sections 302/324/323 read with Section 34 of the IPC. Both the cases were consolidated and on 20.08.1994 charges under Section 304 Part I were framed against both the accused arising from the FIR. While in the complaint, charges were framed under Section 302 of the IPC against respondent No.1 and under Section 302/34 of the IPC against respondent No.2. Charges under Section 323/34 of the IPC were framed against both the accused for causing hurt to the Informant.”

As we see, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “The trial court post trial acquitted both the accused vide judgment dated 22.09.1999. In terms of the judgment of the trial court, the death was not caused by subdural haemorrhage and the deceased suffered sudden cardiac arrest under stress because of which he fell and received two abrasions leading to subdural haemorrhage. The death was caused due to violence but it was not certain as to when precisely Gurnam Singh had died.”

Furthermore, the Bench then mentions in para 5 that, “The State and the complainant both moved the High Court vide separate appeals. The High Court in terms of the judgment dated 01.12.2006 opined that the cases of the two accused were to be considered separately. The High Court convicted respondent No.1 under Section 304 Part II of the IPC based on the testimony of the doctors, PW-1 and PW-2. As per their testimony, the cause of death was cardiac failure and all that they had stated was that the cardiac condition of the deceased was very weak. On the opening of the skull, subdural haemorrhage was present over the left parietal region and brain. It was the haemorrhage which caused the death of the deceased and not the cardiac arrest. Insofar as respondent No.2 is concerned, he was held guilty under Section 304 Part II read with Section 34 of the IPC as well as Section 323 of the IPC.”

Simply put, the Bench then states in para 6 that, “Three criminal appeals were filed before this Court by the two accused and the Informant.”

To be sure, the Bench then postulates in para 7 that, “The High Court judgment was analyzed by this Court, wherein it was opined that the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy. Merely because there was a relationship between the Informant, Avatar Singh and the deceased, and more witnesses were not examined, could not have led to a conclusion that the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then mentions in para 8 that, “The post-mortem report was examined closely which indicated only two external injuries – one on the temporal region and another on the left knee of the deceased, and both were abrasions. The doctors had opined that the second injury could be the result of the fall and, thus, it is most unlikely that a person would simultaneously aim at the head and also the knees of the victim while giving fist blows. Respondent No.1 possibly delivered more than one fist blows while only one of them landed on the head of the deceased and others missed the target. This Court did not agree with the observations of the High Court that the death was caused by subdural haemorrhage and not cardiac arrest. There was stated to be uncertainty regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh and no weapon had been used, nor was there any past enmity between the parties, and what happened was the result of an instant brawl.”

Still adding more, the Bench then notes in para 9 that, “The case against respondent No.2 was held not to have been proved and mere presence of respondent No.2 with respondent No.1 was not sufficient to result in a conviction based on common intention. Even for the offence under Section 323 of the IPC, respondent No.2 was held not guilty.”

In hindsight, the Bench then recalls in para 10 that, “The Court recognized that there were lapses in investigation but then people are not convicted on the basis of doubts. Respondent No.1 was held not guilty of causing the death of Gurnam Singh, and the only conclusion which was found acceptable was of the respondent No.1 causing voluntary hurt to Gurnam Singh which is punishable under Section 323 of the IPC. It was noticed that respondent No.1 was an international cricketer and a celebrity at the time of the incident and at times there was an endeavour to turn a blind eye to the violations of law committed by celebrities. On the question of sentence, a fine of Rs.1,000/- alone was imposed vide order dated 06.12.2006, since the incident was 30 years old at the time, there was no enmity between the parties and no weapon was used.”

It deserves mentioning that the Bench after hearing both sides then observes in para 24 that, “We have given our thought to the matter. In our view, some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing, such as the physical fitness of respondent No.1 as he was an international cricketer, who was tall and well built and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry. The blow was not inflicted on a person identically physically placed but a 65 year old person, more than double his age. Respondent No.1 cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect. It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury which could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne. In fact, this Court to some extent had been indulgent in ultimately holding respondent No.1 guilty of an offence of simple hurt under Section 323 of the IPC. The question is whether even on sentence, mere passage of time can result in a fine of Rs.1,000/- being an adequate sentence where a person has lost his life by reason of the severity of blow inflicted by respondent No.1 with his hands. The hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same. This may be understood where a blow may be given either by a physically fit person or to a more aged person. Insofar as the injury caused is concerned, this Court has accepted the plea of a single blow by hand being given on the head of the deceased. In our view, it is this significance which is an error apparent on the face of the record needing some remedial action.”

While mentioning relevant US Apex Court judgments, the Bench then states in para 34 that, “The US Supreme Court has also moved in the same direction in Payne v. Tennessee 501 US 808 (1991) while examining the aspect of the “victim impact statement” in a case of capital offence at the time of sentencing. The court considered the aspect from the dissenting judgment in the case of Booth v. Maryland 482 U.S. 496 (1987) which emphasized on “reminding the sentencer that just as the murderer should be considered as an individual, so too the victim is an individual whose death represents a unique loss to society and in particular to his family.” The words of Justice Benjamin Cardozo in Snyder v. Massachusetts 291 US 97 (1934) bring out that “justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also. The concept of fairness must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true.””

To put it differently, the Bench then observes quite forthrightly in para 35 that, “Thus, a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings. Indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system. (Shri P. Babulu Reddy Foundation Lecture, Victims of Crime – The Unseen Side by Dr. Justice A.S. Anand, Judge, Supreme Court of India (as he then was) (1998) 1 SCC (Jour) 3. Delivered at Hyderabad on 28th September 1997.).”

For clarity, the Bench then stipulates in para 36 that, “We noticed the aforesaid judgments to repel the contention of learned senior counsel for the respondent that the victim should have no say in the matter of enhancement of sentence.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then clearly states in para 38 that, “We are not setting forth much about how the investigation proceeded initially, how the court had to intervene to see that the relevant people are charged, the manner of leading of evidence, the hesitancy of doctors all of which weighed in this Court opining that a case beyond reasonable doubt could be only of one under Section 323 of the IPC. We do believe that the indulgence was not required to be shown at the stage of sentence by only imposing a sentence of fine and letting the respondent go without any imposition of sentence.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then holds in para 39 that, “The present case is not one where two views are possible such that review should not be exercised. It is a case where some germane facts for sentencing appear to have been lost sight of while imposing only a fine on respondent No.1 and, therefore, no question of choosing between two possible views arises.”

CONCLUSION

Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by directing in para 40 that, “The result of the aforesaid is that the review applications/petitions are allowed to the aforesaid extent and in addition to the fine imposed we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment to be undergone by respondent No.1. The parties are left to bear their own costs.”

In essence, the Apex Court has made it indubitably clear that there is merit in the review petition of victim’s family. We thus see that the punishment for Sidhu is enhanced from just Rs 1000 fine to one year rigorous imprisonment in jail. It is really a fine gesture on the part of Navjot Singh Sidhu to humbly accept the Supreme Court verdict without any ifs and buts and he tweeted saying clearly that, “Will submit to the majesty of law…” No denying it!

“The High Court judgment was analyzed by this Court, wherein it was opined that the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy. Merely because there was a relationship between the Informant, Avatar Singh and the deceased, and more witnesses were not examined, could not have led to a conclusion that the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

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Policy & Politics

COVID VACCINE: POLICY AND LAW

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Vaccine

INTRODUCTION

On 12 th May,2022, the Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgement in which it held that the directive of the State Governments and Union Territories to make vaccination compulsory was unreasonable. Justice Nageshwara Rao delivered the judgement ( also on behalf of Justice Br Gavai) and also directed the Central Government to release the data of clinical trials subject to the privacy of the individuals.

REASONING OF THE COURT

Coming to the substantive part of the judgement which struck down the policy of mandatory vaccination, it becomes essential to bring to the notice of the readers how the Court arrived at its reasoning. The Apex court has held that vaccine mandates do not satisfy the test of proportionality as laid down in the landmark case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. UOI (2017). The test of proportionality as elucidated by the court seeks to measure whether the object and the need that is desired to be fulfilled are proportional to the measures adopted in the law to achieve them. It also measures whether the law imposed is disproportionate to the fundamental right that is infringed by the law in achieving the objective.

The Supreme Court while deciding the proportionality of the vaccine mandates has come to the conclusion that the restrictions imposed by the rules of vaccine mandates are not proportionate to the restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated persons. The court found that there is no demonstrable data to prove that the coronavirus spread only from the unvaccinated persons and not from the vaccinated persons. This is significant considering the fact that a huge misconception exists in the society where it is generally considered that those who are not vaccinated pose a virus threat to the society. The apex court held that the vaccine mandate that infringes Article 21 of the Petitioner is not in proportionate as “both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals presently appear to be susceptible to the transmission of virus at the similar level.”, thus, there is no reasonable ground for the restrictions to be continued on the unvaccinated persons.

PRUDENT MENTION OF FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS

The court also took note of the developments around the world in which the Courts stepped up in order to defend the rights of the individuals. For example, the Court has cited the case of New York where the city was divided into various zones such as red and orange on the basis of the Covid threat. By the majority,the Supreme Court had held that the said restrictions were violative of the first amendment of the Constitution. Significantly the Court had also explicitly stated that fundamental rights cannot be put away even in time of a pandemic.The Court in detail also dwelt on other foreign jurisdictions such as New Zealand and New South Wales( a state in Australia) in order to show how active judiciary was in times of Covid 19 to safeguard personal liberty of the citizens of the country. The examples of these countries were likely given in order to lead to the inference that the courts all over the world in leading constitutional democracies have played a significant role in stepping up in order to ensure that basic fundamental rights of the citizens of the country remain intact.

CONCLUSION

The judgement definitely comes as a big relief for the citizens of the country since those who were still unvaccinated had been put at a disadvantageous position due to the fact that they were being denied benefits of various services . It is hoped that various State Governments will take back their directive of mandatory vaccination in light of the judgement pronounced. At the same, there is no more discretion left for the Government to decide on which data it wants to release and which not. Overall, the judgement serves a good purpose for ensuring that the executive is held accountable for its unjust and arbitrary policies.

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Policy & Politics

Sedition law: How to interpret the recent developments

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In an unprecedented development apex court recently passed an interim order to put section 124 A commonly known as Sedition Law of the Indian Penal Code in the dormant state till Either the Union Government comes with amended provisions regarding the said law or the Hon’ble Court final adjudicatesthe issue. It is pertinent to note here that the Sedition law is 152 years old colonial law and many of our freedom fighterslike Annie Besant, VD Savarkar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Queen Empress V. Bal Ganga 1898) & Mahatma Gandhi were convicted under the same law during India’s Struggle forfreedom. This provision was extensively used to curb the political dissent during the Independence movement. 

The Sedition Law has been originated in England, where King was considered the pre-eminent, and anything said or done against the king tantamount to his insult, hence England lawmakers drafted provisions regarding dealing with such acts.  

When India was under British Control, IPC was drafted by Thomas Macaulay, and Sedition was not introduced initially under the legislation, later it was included as an offense through special Act XIV. This law was introduced specifically for anything done against the king but after India got independence our lawmakers mix up provisions of treason and defined Sedition under IPC as, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India” shall be punished with imprisonment for either description of 3years which may be extended for life or fine or both. It is a Non-Bailable offense and the Government is entitled to seize the passport of the convicted under this section and shall not be eligible for any government job.

The provisions contained under 124A explicitly provide that one is free to criticize the government in power but the said criticism shall not be attempting to excite hatred, contempt, or dissatisfaction.

In a significant amendment to Criminal Law Amendment 26 of1955, the previous punishment Under 124A IPC replacedTRANSPORTATION FOR LIFE with IMPRISON LIFE. The said amendment has been criticized by eminent law professionals. After the independence, we came across many cases under this section and some of the most important ones are discussed hereunder;

Romesh Thapar V State of Madras (950 CRILJ 1514, [1950] 1 SCR 594, AIR 1950 SC 124, (1950) 2 MLJ 390, LQ/SC/1950/24the Supreme court liberally interpreted the provisions of the sedition law in this case and held that any criticism of Government exciting dissatisfaction feeling towards the government shall not be regarded as justifying ground for restricting the freedom of speech and expression of any individual unless said dissatisfaction may undermine national security. It can be safely concluded that in this case Supreme court promotes freedom of speech & expression and narrowed the scope of Sedition law for the general good.

TARA SINGH GOPI CHAND V. STATE 

The Punjab & Haryana High Court asserted that section 124A was used as a tool to curb the freedom of speech & expression by the Britishers during their regime and it has no role to play in independent India, hence held is Unconstitutional. 

Allahabad High Court asserted the same view in Ram Nandan V. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1959 All 101, 1959 CriLJ 1) promoting freedom of speech and enabling government criticism.

Meanwhile, the most important Judgement about this issue came in 1962 in Kedarnath Singh V State of Bihar (1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Sulp. (2) 769) where a Supreme 5 judges Constitutional bench where all the previous judgments were overruled in this case and it ultimately upheld the Constitutionality of Section 124A. meanwhile, it was suggested that Government should not invoke this section in every case to curb the freedom of any individual and its scope was defined. The court explicitly held that ‘criticizing the Government is itself would not fall under the category of Sedition unless the said criticism is accompanied by incitement to promote hatred against the government established by the law. Seven guidelines were put forth by the Supreme court to define sedition.

The most recent case involving the said provision is Vinod Dua V Union of India (LL 2021 SC 266) where an FIR was registered against renowned Journalist Vinod Dua for criticizing the Government for the mismanagement during the Covid, the FIR was quashed by the Apex Court. Further Apex Court suggested Government amend the Sedition Law.

It is pertinent to note here that cases registered by invoking section 124A were not recorded in National Crime Record Bureau before 2014, currently, we have approx. four hundred cases invoking the said section out of which only 144 charge sheet U/S 173 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 has been filed by the police after investigation. The conviction rate of the said section is negligible. 

The reason behind the low conviction rate can be traced to the fact that most of the cases U/S 124A of the Indian Penal Code are politically motivated. Recently we have seen how GehlotGovernment invoked the Sedition cases against their MLAs and said the decision of the Rajasthan government was widely criticized. Even Maharashtra Government invoked Sedition charges against MLAs which were ultimately quashed by the High Court.

The government has categorically asked for some time for the amendment in the Section 124A, petitioners argued in the present petition that we already have UAPA and other laws to deal with the law and order situation in the country and an Independent Democratic Country like India doesn’t need any such colonial law to curb the freedom of speech and expression of its citizens. This section is used against the journalist for curbing the criticism. If the Apex court decides to hold it unconstitutional that would result in overruling KedarNath’s judgment. The next hearing in the case would take place in the month of July and it is expected that Union Government would dilute some provisions of the said law, till then-No fresh case would be registered against any individual invoking this section and any person charged U/S 124A can approach to competent courts to get remedies.

The reason behind the low conviction rate can be traced to the fact that most of the cases U/S 124A of the Indian Penal Code are politically motivated. Recently we have seen how GehlotGovernment invoked the Sedition cases against their MLAs and said the decision of the Rajasthan government was widely criticized. Even Maharashtra Government invoked Sedition charges against MLAs which were ultimately quashed by the High Court.

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Policy & Politics

High Court can’t terminate services of District Judge or impose any punishment of reduction in rank under Article 235: Chhattisgarh HC

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In an extremely significant judgment with far reaching consequences, the Chhattisgarh High Court has as recently as on May 13, 2022 in a brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment titled Ganesh Ram Berman v. High Court of Chhattisgarh & Anr. in Writ Petition (S) No. 825 of 2017 held unambiguously that under Article 235 of the Constitution of India which provides control to the High Courts over subordinate courts, the former cannot terminate the services of a District Judge or impose any punishment of reduction in rank. This power belongs to the Governor being the appointing authority under Article 311(1) of the Constitution. However, the word “control” in the Article gives the High Court power to make inquiries and disciplinary control and recommend imposition of such punishment. No doubt, this is a very progressive, powerful and pragmatic judgment.

To start with, this extremely refreshing, remarkable, robust and rational judgment authored by a single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Sanjay K Agrawal of Chhattisgarh High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition is directed against the order dated 6-2-2017 (Annexure P-5) by which the State of Chhattisgarh exercising the power under sub-rule (4) of Rule 9 of the Chhattisgarh Higher Judicial Service (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2006 (for short, ‘the HJS Rules’) and on the recommendation of the High Court of Chhattisgarh, terminated the services of the petitioner with immediate effect.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The petitioner was appointed as District Judge (Entry Level) by order dated 30-10-2014 (Annexure P-2) and he was posted as Additional District Judge, Raipur. It is the case of the petitioner that during the continuance of the period of probation, he was served with a memo dated 26-8-2016 by the Registrar (Vigilance) along with memo dated 31-8-2016 issued by the District & Sessions Judge, Raipur with a copy of anonymous complaint making certain allegations against him and two other judicial officers. The petitioner was directed to submit his explanation on the anonymous complaint and on the inspection report of the Registrar (Vigilance) which he submitted on 24-9-2016 vide Annexure P-4, but he was not informed anything further and he was served with the order of termination dated 6-2-2017 in terms of sub-rule (4) of Rule 9 of the HJS Rules. It is the further case of the petitioner that the order of termination is stigmatic / punitive in nature, once the order of termination is stigmatic and punitive, it must have been followed by a full-fledged departmental enquiry which has not been done, as such, the impugned order of termination is liable to be quashed. It is also the case of the petitioner that the inspection report of the Registrar (Vigilance) along with the explanation of the petitioner was submitted to the Standing Committee and the Standing Committee in its meeting dated 24-1-2017 took a decision and resolved to recommend the termination of services of the petitioner under sub-rule (4) of Rule 9 of the HJS Rules. The Standing Committee was not empowered to recommend the termination of the petitioner’s services to the State Government and it was only the Full Court of the High Court which was authorised to recommend for termination of the services of the petitioner in view of the provisions contained in Article 235 of the Constitution of India. It is also the case of the petitioner that the Full Court has never authorised the Standing Committee as contained in terms of Rule 4-C under Chapter I-A of the High Court of Chhattisgarh Rules, 2007 (for short, ‘the Rules of 2007’) read with Rule 9(4) of the HJS Rules to recommend the termination of a probationer. As such, the termination of the petitioner is liable to be quashed on the aforesaid two grounds.”

As it turned out, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “Return has been filed by respondent No.1 / High Court stating inter alia that the order of termination of the petitioner, who is a probationer, is strictly in accordance with Rule 9(4) of the HJS Rules. It has been pleaded that an anonymous complaint dated 3-12-2015 and another complaint dated 18-1-2016 was made by Shri J.P. Agrawal, Civil Court, Raipur, which were placed before the Portfolio Judge for consideration and pursuant to the order of the then Portfolio Judge, records of criminal cases including bail, criminal appeal and criminal revision decided by the petitioner as Judicial Officer were called for and ultimately, the Registrar (Vigilance) conducted enquiry and submitted report and in the enquiry, no apparent irregularity was found in the sessions case, criminal appeals and criminal revisions for the period from August, 2015 to January, 2016 decided by the petitioner and two other judicial officers, however, certain irregularities were found in respect of four bail applications decided by the petitioner which shows the inability of the petitioner to act as a Judicial officer and his working was found not to be satisfactory. Ultimately, inspection report dated 15-6-2016 submitted by the Registrar (Vigilance) was placed before the Portfolio Judge, Raipur for consideration and it was placed before the Standing Committee and the matter was ultimately considered by the Standing Committee vide resolution dated 16-8-2016 which called for explanation of the petitioner after furnishing the copy of report and in compliance of resolution dated 16-8-2016, memo dated 26-8-2016 was issued to the petitioner seeking his explanation. Ultimately, decision was taken to terminate the services of the petitioner and his services were recommended to be terminated which was accepted by the State Government and the impugned order was came to be passed.”

While continuing in same vein, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “Thereafter, the petitioner filed rejoinder on 15-2-2018 followed by additional rejoinder on 13-7-2018 stating inter alia that recommendation for his termination was not made by the Full Court, but was made by the Standing Committee. The petitioner also filed copy of information obtained with regard to composition of Standing Committee dated 6-2-2017 vide Annexure P-6.”

As we see, the Bench then notes in para 5 that, “On 2-5-2019, additional return was filed by respondent No.1 – High Court stating that the Standing Committee has only made recommendation in contemplation of Chapter I-A of the Rules of 2007 and final decision was taken by the Full Court, and not taken by the Standing Committee as alleged by the petitioner.”

Furthermore, the Bench then specifies in para 6 that, “On 27-1-2022, the petitioner filed documents along with copy of the extract of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Standing Committee dated 24-1-2017 obtained under the Right to information Act to demonstrate that his termination was recommended by the Standing Committee and on the same day, the matter came up for hearing before this Court and time was sought and granted to counsel for respondent No.1 to file additional return, and ultimately, additional return has been filed on behalf of respondent No.1 on 18-2-2022 stating that the petitioner’s matter was placed for consideration before the Standing Committee and the Standing Committee taking into account the fact that the petitioner was on probation, recommended for termination of his services and pursuant to the recommendation of the Standing Committee, the Government of Chhattisgarh, Law and Legislative Affairs Department has passed order dated 6-2-2017 terminating the services of the petitioner. No further pleadings have been filed by the parties.”

Be it noted, the Bench then postulates in para 11 that, “Upon hearing learned counsel for the parties, following two questions posed for consideration: –

1. Whether the Standing Committee constituted by notification dated 4-7-2015 would have competence and jurisdiction to recommend the termination of the petitioner’s services (probationer) to the State Government in terms of sub-rule (4) of Rule 9 of the HJS Rules read with Article 235 of the Constitution of India?

2. Whether the termination of the petitioner’s services from the post of District Judge was punitive / stigmatic warranting holding of full-fledged enquiry against him into the allegations of misconduct?

Answer to Question No.1: –

Quite ostensibly, the Bench then stipulates in para 12 that, “In order to answer the question, it would be appropriate to notice Article 235 of the Constitution of India, which states as under: –

“235. Control over subordinate courts.—The control over district courts and courts subordinate thereto including the posting and promotion of, and the grant of leave to, persons belonging to the judicial service of a State and holding any post inferior to the post of district judge shall be vested in the High Court, but nothing in this article shall be construed as taking away from any such person any right of appeal which he may have under the law regulating the conditions of his service or as authorising the High Court to deal with him otherwise than in accordance with the conditions of his service prescribed under such law.””

Of course, the Bench then hastens to add in para 13 that, “A focused glance of the aforesaid provision would show that while the posting and promotion of District Judges shall be in the hands of the Governor acting in consultation with the High Court,—the posting and promotion and granting of leave to officers of the State Judicial Service other than District Judges shall be exclusively in the hands of the High Court, subject, of course, to such appeals as are allowed by the law regulating conditions of the service.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then mentions in para 32 that, “A careful perusal of the additional return filed by the High Court on 18- 2-2022 would show that it is the Standing Committee which has recommended the case of the petitioner for termination to the State Government and on that basis, the State Government passed order dated 6-2-2017 terminating the services of the petitioner.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then holds in para 33 that, “From the aforesaid factual position on record, it is quite vivid that the competent authority to make recommendation for termination of the petitioner’s services on the ground that his services were not satisfactory, was the Full Court of the High Court in view of Article 235 of the Constitution of India and in view of the judgments of the Supreme Court noticed herein-above, however, in the present case, admittedly, the Full Court had not made any recommendation for termination of the petitioner’s services and it is the Standing Committee that has made such recommendation for dismissal of his services which the Standing Committee was neither empowered nor authorised in terms of notification dated 4-7-2015 to make recommendation to terminate the services of the petitioner. Since the power to make recommendation to the State Government to terminate the services of the petitioner is vested with the Full Court of the High Court by virtue of Article 235 of the Constitution of India, the Full Court would only be the competent authority to exercise such power, but, in the instant case, no such recommendation has been made by the Full Court of the High Court to terminate the services of the petitioner in terms of Rule 9(4) of the HJS Rules. Since the High Court has not made any recommendation in terms of Rule 9(4) of the HJS R les to terminate the petitioner’s services, the order of termination passed by respondent No.2 on the basis of recommendation of the Standing Committee is ipso facto unconstitutional, non est and without authority of law, and deserves to be quashed.”

Answer to question No.2: –

It merits mentioning that the Bench then expounds in para 34 that, “Since this Court has already held herein-above while answering question No.1 that the order of termination passed by respondent No.2 State Government is ipso facto unconstitutional, non est and without authority of law, the question as to whether the impugned order terminating the services of the petitioner is punitive or stigmatic in nature, in my considered opinion need not be gone into as the impugned order was passed on the basis of recommendation made by incompetent authority.”

While citing a very recent and relevant case law, the Bench then states in para 35 that, “Very recently, the Supreme Court in the matter of Sunny Abraham v. Union of India and another 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1284 at para 11 while deciding that any decision not having the authority of law would be non-est explained the doctrine of non-est in the following words: –

“… The term non-est conveys the meaning of something treated to be not in existence because of some legal lacuna in the process of creation of the subject-instrument. It goes beyond a remediable irregularity. That is how the Coordinate Bench has construed the impact of not having approval of the Disciplinary Authority in issuing the charge memorandum. In the event a legal instrument is deemed to be not in existence, because of certain fundamental defect in its issuance, subsequent approval cannot revive its existence and ratify acts done in pursuance of such instrument, treating the same to be valid.””

Quite palpably, the Bench then maintained in para 36 that, “Since the impugned order of termination has already been held to be unconstitutional, non-est and without authority of law, this question though placed for consideration, is not being gone into as held hereinabove and question No.2 is answered accordingly.”

Most significantly, the Bench then holds in para 37 that, “As a fallout and consequence of the aforesaid discussion, question No.1 is answered in favour of the petitioner and question No.2 is answered in the terms stated herein-above. In view of the above stated analysis, impugned order dated 6-2-2017 (Annexure P-5) terminating the petitioner’s services is liable to be and is hereby quashed. However, this will not bar respondent No.1 to proceed in accordance with law. The petitioner is directed to be reinstated in service forthwith along with all consequential service benefits except back-wages. The question of back-wages will be considered by the competent authority. However, the petitioner may make representation to the competent authority within 30 days from today claiming back-wages which shall be considered by the competent authority within next 60 days in accordance with law keeping in view the relevant rules and regulations.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 38 that, “Accordingly, the writ petition is allowed to the extent indicated hereinabove leaving the parties to bear their own cost(s).”

To sum up, the Chhattisgarh High Court has been most forthright and firm in holding that High Court can’t terminate service of District Judge or impose any punishment of reduction in rank under Article 235 of Constitution. No denying it! The process which the High Court follows in such cases has already been discussed hereinabove.

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The petitioner was appointed as District Judge (Entry Level) by order dated 30-10-2014 (Annexure P-2) and he was posted as Additional District Judge, Raipur. It is the case of the petitioner that during the continuance of the period of probation, he was served with a memo dated 26-8-2016 by the Registrar (Vigilance) along with memo dated 31-8-2016 issued by the District & Sessions Judge, Raipur with a copy of anonymous complaint making certain allegations against him and two other judicial officers.

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