Magistrates and trial judges too have responsibility in safeguarding citizens’ Fundamental Rights: SC - The Daily Guardian
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Magistrates and trial judges too have responsibility in safeguarding citizens’ Fundamental Rights: SC

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It is quite significant to see that the Supreme Court in a righteous, recent, rejuvenating, refreshing and remarkable judgment titled Krishna Lal Chawla Vs State of U.P. in Criminal Appeal No. 283 of 2021 [Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 6432/2020] delivered on March 8, 2021 in exercise of its criminal appellate jurisdiction has minced just no words to observe elegantly, effectively and eloquently that the Magistrates and Trial Judges have as much, if not more, responsibility in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens of India as the highest court of the land. It is thus most ostensible that the Apex Court has given prime importance to the role of the lower judiciary in dispensation of justice and in preventing abuse of criminal court process. Very rightly so!

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 2 of this notable judgment authored by Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar for himself and Justice R Subhash Reddy wherein it is put forth that, “This appeal arises out of final order and judgment of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad (hereinafter, ‘High Court’) dated 28.09.2020, dismissing the Miscellaneous Petition No. 2561 of 2020 filed by Appellants herein praying for quashing of the following orders:

i) Order dated 4.04.2019 of Learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (hereinafter, ‘Magistrate’) in Complaint Case No. 2943/2018 issuing summons against the Appellants;

(ii) Order dated 13.01.2020 of the Ld. Additional District and Sessions Judge, Meerut (hereinafter, ‘Sessions Judge’) in Criminal Revision No. 202/2019, dismissing the Appellants’ revision application against the aforesaid summoning order.

While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then elucidates in para 3 stating that, “The brief facts leading to this appeal are as follows:

3.1 The Appellants and Respondent No. 2 are neighbours. The genesis of the proceedings before us lies in a physical altercation that took place between the Appellants and the Respondent No. 2 and his wife on 5.08.2012. While the occurrence of such an altercation is an admitted fact between the parties, the details thereof form the crux of this prolonged litigation.

3.2 On 5.08.2012, the Respondent No. 2 filed a Non-Cognizable Report (NCR) No. 158/2012 against the Appellants alleging offences under Sections 323, 504 and 506, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter, ‘IPC’). It was his case that the Appellants came to his house, beat him and his wife with iron rods and threatened to kill them.

3.3 The son of Appellant No. 1 also filed information on 5.08.2012, which was registered as Non-Cognizable Report (NCR) No. 160/2012 with the Daurala Police Station, alleging offences under Sections 323, 504 and 506, IPC against the Respondent No. 2 and his wife. This Report counter-alleged that the Respondent No. 2 and his wife came to the Appellant’s house, beat them up with wooden sticks and iron rods, and threatened to kill their family.

3.4 It seems that even prior to the alleged occurrence, there were disputes between the parties in 2006. A mutual settlement took place on 6.02.2006 by which Respondent No. 2 agreed to pay a penalty of Rs. 3,000/ to the Appellant No. 1. Subsequently, in another dispute, on 21.12.2013, the Special Chief Judicial Magistrate imposed a penalty of Rs. 1500/ on Appellant No. 4. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the parties have been at loggerheads from 2006 onwards. It appears that they have been fighting litigations on one pretext or the other since 2006. Though they were agriculturists and neighbours, peace did not prevail between them, which resulted in a number of cases being lodged by them against each other.

3.5 The Appellants filed an application under Section 155(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter, ‘CrPC’) before the Magistrate on 27.04.2017, almost 5 years after the alleged incident, seeking permission for the police to investigate NCR No. 160/2012. The learned Magistrate directed that NCR No. 160/2012 filed by the Appellants be registered as FIR in Crime No. 283/2017. Investigation was conducted, and on 17.09.2017 a charge sheet was filed against the Respondent No. 2 and his wife under Sections 323, 325, 504 and 506 of the IPC. Subsequently, the Magistrate framed charges against Respondent No. 2 and his wife. There is nothing on record to show that even a single witness has been examined till date, though charges were framed by the Magistrate long back. Thus, there has been considerable delay in these proceedings, during both the investigation and trial stages.

3.6 Being unsatisfied with the allegations made and charge sheet filed against him, the Respondent No. 2 instituted a fresh private complaint against the Appellants under Section 200 of CrPC in Complaint Case No. 2943 of 2018 in respect of the very incident that took place on 5.08.2012. This private complaint was filed only on 11.05.2018, that is about six years from the date of alleged incident. In the private complaint, not only new allegations were added but all allegations are wider and different from the averments made in NCR No. 158/12, though the incident is the same as of 5.08.2012 and between the same parties. It may not be necessary for us to narrate the contents of the private complaint inasmuch as we find and have satisfied ourselves that the allegations made in the private complaint are absolute material improvements over the allegations in NCR No. 158/12. Among other things, not only three additional eye witnesses are induced in the private complaint, but allegations of fraud, injury to bull, forging of affidavit etc. which were found in the 2012 complaint are also found in the private complaint. The private complaint for the first time mentions commission of offences under Section 429, IPC and Sections 10 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It is an admitted fact that Appellant No. 4 had inflicted injury on Respondent No. 2’s bull on 26.09.2011, for which Appellant No. 4 had voluntarily confessed and accepted penalty of Rs. 1,500 from the Magistrate as mentioned supra. Be that as it may, we see no reason why Respondent No. 2 chose to rehash this incident in the private complaint given that Appellant No. 4 has already been convicted for the offence, and it is of no relevance to the present case.

Curiously, the Magistrate was pleased to issue process against the Appellants based on this vexatious private complaint, which came to be confirmed by the Learned Sessions Judge in the impugned order. The Learned Sessions Judge has thus not only misunderstood Section 200, CrPC and its scope but also made a new case in favour of Respondent No. 2 by reading Section 506 Part II, IPC which is punishable by 7 years in the place of Section 506, IPC, probably only to bring the private complaint within the prescribed period of limitation under Section 468 CrPC. It is nobody’s case that the offence under Section 506(ii) has taken place, which means that the Courts took extra interest to improve the case of the respondent/complainant.

This appeal is filed challenging both the orders of the Magistrate as well as the Sessions Judge in respect of issuance of process, as mentioned supra.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 9 that, “It is also pertinent to note that as on 5.8.2012, Appellant No.1 was a 76 year old man; Appellant No. 2 was suffering from epileptic seizures; and Appellant No. 4 was of unsound mind. There is no equity in allowing them to be dragged into criminal proceedings pertaining to a petty offence, instituted 6 years after the alleged incident. The sword of Damocles cannot be allowed to forever hang on their heads, falling unpredictably at the whims of a litigant seeking to harass and persecute at will. We gain strength in our conclusions from Article 21 of the Constitution, which encapsulates the right to a speedy trial. This right has been interpreted to include not only the actual trial before the Court, but also the proceeding stages of inquiry and police investigation as well (Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar, (2009) 3 SCC 355; Abdul Rehman Antulay & ors. v. R.S. Nayak & anr., (1992) 1 SCC 225).”

As a corollary, it is then stated by the Bench in para 10 that, “The sum of the above circumstances and precedents leads us to what we see as an inevitable conclusion. That Respondent No. 2’s institution of the fresh complaint case in 2018 under Section 200 CrPC was a concerted effort to mislead the Magistrate with the oblique motive of harassing the Appellants with a frivolous and vexatious case against them. That the same was a counter-blast to the charge sheet dated 17.09.2017 filed against Respondent No. 2 and his wife in the case registered by the Appellant. The history of ill-will and malice between the parties leads further credence to Respondent No. 2’s motivations for tying up the Appellants in frivolous and harrowing criminal litigation, long years after the alleged incident. Respondent No. 2’s conduct in filing a delayed complaint case, suppressing material facts, and utilising fresh proceedings to materially improve on his earlier version, in totality, amounts to gross abuse of the process of court.”

ROLE OF THE LOWER JUDICIARY IN PREVENTING ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

Truly speaking, the Bench then is gracious enough to concede in para 11 that, “We find it imperative to observe that this is a case that should not have been allowed to reach as far as this Court. The justice dispensation machinery in India is plagued with backlogs, with 70% of the pendency before the subordinate courts being on the criminal side. [Roshni Sinha, ‘Examining pendency of cases in the Judiciary’, PRS INDIA (August 8, 2019)]. A significant factor in this backlog is the vast mass of frivolous litigation instituted year after year by litigants with an intent to use the courts of justice for their own mischievous ends. Curtailing such vexatious litigation is, thus, a crucial step towards a more effective justice system – a step that cannot be taken without the active involvement of the lower judiciary, especially in criminal proceedings.”

While underscoring the pivotal role of a Magistrate in the functioning of the criminal justice delivery system, the Bench then points out in para 12 that, “Immediately after the criminal justice system is set in motion, its course is almost entirely dependent on the judicial application of mind by the Magistrate. When a police complaint is filed on the commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 CrPC, the Magistrate decides if the charge against the accused person is made out before the trial begins. Separate procedure is prescribed if the complaint under Section 200 CrPC is filed. The aforesaid provisions make it abundantly clear that the Magistrate carries the stream of criminal proceeding forward after it is set in motion by the informant/complainant. Consequently, and automatically, the Magistrate also carries the responsibility for ensuring this stream does not carry forward in cases where it should not.”

While adding a word of caution for the Magistrates, the Bench then minces no words in holding in para 13 that, “The aforesaid powers bestowed on the Magistrate have grave repercussions on individual citizens’ life and liberty. Thus, these powers also confer great responsibility on the shoulders of the Magistrate – and must be exercised with great caution, and after suitable judicial application of mind. Observations in a similar vein were made by this Court in Pepsi Foods Ltd. v. Special Judicial Magistrate, (1998) 5 SCC 749:

“28. Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. Criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. It is not that the complainant has to bring only two witnesses to support his allegations in the complaint to have the criminal law set into motion. The order of the Magistrate summoning the accused must reflect that he has applied his mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto. He has to examine the nature of allegations made in the complaint and the evidence both oral and documentary in support thereof and would that be sufficient for the complainant to succeed in bringing charge home to the accused. It is not that the Magistrate is a silent spectator at the time of recording of preliminary evidence before summoning of the accused. The Magistrate has to carefully scrutinize the evidence brought on record and may even himself put questions to the complainant and his witnesses to elicit answers to find out the truthfulness of the allegations or otherwise and then examine if any offence is prima facie committed by all or any of the accused.””

This Court, thus, clearly emphasized that the power to issue a summoning order is a matter of grave importance, and that the Magistrate must only allow criminal law to take its course after satisfying himself that there is a real case to be made.”

While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then specifies in para 14 that, “Similarly, the power conferred on the Magistrate under Section 202, CrPC to postpone the issue of process pursuant to a private complaint also provides an important avenue for filtering out of frivolous complaints that must be fully exercised. A four-Judge Bench of this Court has eloquently expounded on this in Chandra Deo Singh v. Prokash Chandra Bose & Anr., AIR 1963 SC 1430:

“7. …No doubt, one of the objects behind the provisions of Section 202 CrPC is to enable the Magistrate to scrutinize carefully the allegations made in the complaint with a view to prevent a person named therein as accused from being called upon to face an obviously frivolous complaint. But there is also another object behind this provision and it is to find out what material there is to support the allegations made in the complaint. It is the bounden duty of the Magistrate while making an enquiry to elicit all facts not merely with a view to protect the interests of an absent accused person, but also with a view to bring to book a person or persons against whom grave allegations are made. Whether the complaint is frivolous or not has, at that stage, necessarily to be determined on the basis of the material placed before him by the complainant…”

Thus, it is clear that, on receipt of a private complaint, the Magistrate must first, scrutinize it to examine if the allegations made in the private complaint, inter alia, smack of an instance of frivolous litigation; and second, examine and elicit the material that supports the case of the complainant.”

Simply put, the Bench then enunciates in para 15 that, “It is said that every trial is a voyage of discovery in which the truth is the quest. In India, typically, the Judge is not actively involved in ‘fact-finding’ owing to the adversarial nature of our justice system. However, Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 by providing the Judge with the power to order production of material and put forth questions of any form at any time, marks the influence of inquisitorial processes in our legal system. This wide-ranging power further demonstrates the central role played by the Magistrate in the quest for justice and truth in criminal proceedings, and must be judiciously employed to stem the flow of frivolous litigation.”

Needless to say, it is then quite significantly stated in para 16 that, “All of this leads to one inescapable conclusion. That the Trial Judge has a duty under the Constitution and the CrPC, to identify and dispose of frivolous litigation at an early stage by exercising, substantially and to the fullest extent, the powers conferred on him. This Court has earlier emphasized on the high degree of responsibility shouldered by the trial Judges in All India Judges’ Association v. Union of India, (1992) 1 SCC 119. Ranganath Misra CJ (as he was then) writing for himself and two others stated:

“42. The trial Judge is the kingpin in the hierarchical system of administration of justice. He directly comes in contact with the litigant during the proceedings in Court. On him lies the responsibility of building up of the case appropriately and on his understanding of the matter the cause of justice is first answered. The personality, knowledge, judicial restraint, capacity to maintain dignity are the additional aspects which go into making the Court’s functioning successful.””

More significantly, the Bench then minces no words to point out in para 17 that, “Frivolous litigation should not become the order of the day in India. From misusing the Public Interest Litigation jurisdiction of the Indian courts to abusing the criminal procedure for harassing their adversaries, the justice delivery system should not be used as a tool to fulfil personal vendetta. The Indian judiciary has taken cognizance of this issue. In 2014, this Court elucidated as follows, the plight of a litigant caught in the cobweb of frivolous proceedings in Subrata Roy Sahara v. Union of India, (2014) 8 SCC 470:

“191…One needs to keep in mind, that in the process of litigation, there is an innocent sufferer on the other side, of every irresponsible and senseless claim. He suffers long drawn anxious periods of nervousness and restlessness, whilst the litigation is pending, without any fault on his part. He pays for the litigation, from out of his savings (or out of his borrowings), worrying that the other side may trick him into defeat, for no fault of his. He spends invaluable time briefing counsel and preparing them for his claim. Time which he should have spent at work, or with his family, is lost, for no fault of his…”

While the Court’s ruling pertained to civil proceedings, these observations ring true for the criminal justice machinery as well. We note, with regret, that 7 years hence, and there has still been no reduction in such plight. A falsely accused person not only suffers monetary damages but is exposed to disrepute and stigma from society. While running from pillar to post to find a lawyer to represent his case and arranging finances to defend himself before the court of law, he loses a part of himself.”

Most significantly, the Bench then resultantly also observes in para 18 that, “As aforesaid, the trial courts and the Magistrates have an important role in curbing this injustice. They are the first lines of defence for both the integrity of the criminal justice system, and the harassed and distraught litigant. We are of the considered opinion that the trial courts have the power to not merely decide on acquittal or conviction of the accused person after the trial, but also the duty to nip frivolous litigations in the bud even before they reach the stage of trial by discharging the accused in fit cases. This would not only save judicial time that comes at the cost of public money, but would also protect the right of liberty that every person is entitled to under Article 21 of the Constitution. In this context, the trial Judges have as much, if not more, responsibility in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens of India as the highest court of this land.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then also makes it clear in para 19 that, “As recorded by us above, the present controversy poses a typical example of frivolous litigants abusing court process to achieve their mischievous ends. In the case before us, the Magistrate was aware of the significant delay in the filing of private complaint by Respondent No. 2 and of the material improvements from the earlier NCR No. 158/2012 which were made in the private complaint. It was incumbent on the Magistrate to examine any possibility of abuse of process of the court, make further enquiries, and dismiss the frivolous complaint at the outset after judicial application of mind.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then observes in para 20 that, “However, this was not done – the Magistrate issued process against the Appellants by order dated 4.04.2019, and this controversy has now reached this Court for disposal.”

Quite remarkably, the Bench then very rightly observes in para 21 that, “It is a settled canon of law that this Court has inherent powers to prevent the abuse of its own processes, that this Court shall not suffer a litigant utilizing the institution of justice for unjust means. Thus, it would be only proper for this Court to deny any relief to a litigant who attempts to pollute the stream of justice by coming to it with his unclean hands. Similarly, a litigant pursuing frivolous and vexatious proceedings cannot claim unlimited right upon court time and public money to achieve his ends.”

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It also cannot be just glossed over that it is then very rightly observed in para 22 that, “This Court’s inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to do ‘complete justice’ empowers us to give preference to equity and a justice oriented approach over the strict rigours of procedural law (State of Punjab v. Rafiq Masih (Whitewasher), (2014) 8 SCC 883). This Court has used this inherent power to quash criminal proceedings where the proceedings are instituted with an oblique motive, or on manufactured evidence (Monica Kumar (Dr.) & anr. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2008) 8 SCC 781). Other decisions have held that inherent powers of High Courts provided in Section 482, CrPC may be utilized to quash criminal proceedings instituted after great delay, or with vengeful or malafide motives. (Sirajul & ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2015) 9 SCC 201; State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, AIR 1992 SCC 604). Thus, it is the constitutional duty of this Court to quash criminal proceedings that were instituted by misleading the court and abusing its processes of law, only with a view to harass the hapless litigants.”

As a corollary, the Bench then states in para 23 that, “In this Court’s quest for complete justice, and to bring peace between the parties, who are fighting various litigations since 2006, we exercise our powers under Article 142 to quash all the litigations between the parties arising out of this incident.”

Our Conclusions

As anticipated, the Bench then holds in para 24 that, “The impugned judgment of the High Court dated 28.09.2020 in Miscellaneous Petition No. 2561 of 2020 is set aside.”

Now coming to para 25, the Bench then holds briefly in para 25 that, “The proceedings in Complaint Case No. 2943/2018, including the order of summons against the Appellants dated 4.04.2019 be quashed.” It is then held in para 26 that, “Further, proceedings pursuant to NCR No. 158/2012 dated 5.08.2012 filed by Respondent No. 2 also be quashed, in order to foreclose further frivolous litigation.”

Moving on, it is then held aptly in para 27 that, “Any other criminal cases between the parties initiated by them in relation to the incident dated 5.08.2012, including the criminal proceedings arising from NCR No. 160/2012 (Crime No. 283/2017) instituted by the Appellants, are quashed in exercise of our powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, in the interests of giving quietus to these criminal proceedings out of a petty incident 9 years ago.” Finally, it is then held in para 28 that, “The Appeal is allowed in the aforesaid terms.”

To conclude, the bottom-line of this latest, learned, laudable and landmark judgment is that the Apex Court concedes gracefully that Magistrates and Trial Judges also have responsibility in safeguarding citizens fundamental rights. Para 18 sums up the crux of this notable judgment which now merits no reiteration. All the Magistrates and Trial Court Judges must pay full attention to what the Apex Court has ruled in this leading case and always bear it in mind that, “They are the first lines of defence for both the integrity of the criminal justice system, and the harassed and distraught litigant” as has been stated quite uprightly in para 18 as stated above! The Trial Judges must also bear in mind always that, “They have as much, if not more, responsibility in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens of India as the highest court of this land” as has been summed up in para 18 and act accordingly! There can certainly be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

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Legally Speaking

MP HIGH COURT SEEKS DGP’S REPLY: DOES POLICE’S FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE FULL CRIMINAL ANTECEDENTS OF ACCUSED AMOUNTS TO MISCONDUCT, INTERFERENCE WITH JUSTICE?

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case Kuldeep Dohare Versus the State of Madhya Pradesh observed, recently the Gwalior bench directed the Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh to file an affidavit explaining as to whether non-communication of criminal antecedents of an Applicant or Accused to the Court is a minor misconduct or if it amounts to interference with the criminal justice dispensation system. Before the next date of hearing, the affidavit is to be filled.

The bench comprising of Justice G.S. Ahluwalia observed and remarked that the court was frequently finding that the police authorities were not sending the complete criminal antecedents, in spite of the circular issued by Police Headquarters.

It was observed that the police authorities did not send the criminal antecedents of the applicant. Furthermore, it is clear that it is a clear attempt to facilitate the applicant to obtain bail by projecting that he has no criminal antecedents. The issue raised is weather the conduct of police officers can be said to be a minor negligence or it is an interference with the criminal justice dispensation system?

In the present case, the court was dealing with a bail application moved by the accused applicant for offences punishable under section 307, Section 149, section 148, section 147, section 506, section 294, section 201. On an earlier hearing, the court had observed that even though the case diary did not reflect any criminal antecedents on the part of the Applicant. The impugned order passed by the lower court rejecting his bail application mentioned otherwise.

It was observed that a reply was sought by the court from the Superintendent of Police, District Bhind as to why the important information with regard to the criminal antecedents of the Applicant were withheld by the respective SHO. The SP informed the Court on the subsequent hearing that the SHO concerned as well as the Investigating Officer in the case were found guilty of misconduct and were fined with Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 5,000, respectively.

The Court observed that since the problem was stemming from different police stations. However, the DGP should file his reply regarding the prevailing situation-

Since in different police station, this situation is prevailing. Therefore, an affidavit is directed to be filled by the DGP, State of Madhya Pradesh as to whether non- communication of criminal antecedents of an applicant is a minor misconduct or it amounts to interfere with the criminal antecedents of justice dispensation system.

Accordingly, the affidavit needs to be filled within a period of 1 week, the matter would be heard next on 08.07.2022.

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Legally Speaking

HIGH COURT OF MADHYA PRADESH: SECTION 5 OF THE LIMITATION ACT APPLIES TO ARBITRATION REFERENCE UNDER NATIONAL HIGHWAY ACT, 1956

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The High Court of Madhya Pradesh in the case Ghanshyam Gupta v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors observed and stated that Section 5 of the Limitation Act would be applicable to reference to arbitration under the National Highways Act, 1956.

The Division Bench comprising of Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Purushiandra Kumar Kaurav observed and reiterated that since no limitation is provided under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act. The bench stated that the provisions of Article 137 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 would apply to such proceedings.

Therefore, the court held that the limitation period for filing an appeal against the decision of the competent authority before the arbitrator from the date of expiry of 90 days is three years from the decision of the competent authority.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The petitioner, Mr. Ghanshyam Gupta was the landowner of the land which was acquired by the Respondent, Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation. Thereafter, the competent authority determined the quantum of compensation payable to the petitioner and passed an award to that effect on 30.07.2015.

The petitioner being dissatisfied with the quantum of compensation determined by the competent authority. On 04.12.2019, an appeal was filled by the petitioner before the arbitrator. The appeal was dismissed by the arbitrator as time-barred filed after the expiry of three years limitation period.

the petitioner filed a writ petition before the High Court, Aggrieved by the decision of the arbitrator.

Contentions Raised by the Parties:

It is stated that Section 5 of the Limitation Act is applicable to arbitration reference under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act, 1956.

It was observed that the petitioner was unaware of the availability of the remedy of appeal against the decision of the competent authority, the petitioner only after consulting his lawyer, that the petitioner came to know that he could seek enhancement. Further, there is a valid ground to condone the delay.

The submissions of the petitioner were countered by the Respondent on the following grounds:

Though, in the absence of a period of limitation for filing an appeal under Section 3G (5) of the Act of 1956, it was construed that the provisions of Article 137 of the Limitation Act would stand applicable.

It was stated that Article 137 provides for 3 years period, and the petitioner filed the appeal after a delay of 4 years.

COURT ANALYSIS:

The court observed and stated that since no limitation is provided under Section 3G (5) of the National Highways Act, the provisions of Article 137 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act would apply to such proceedings.

Therefore, the court held that the limitation period for filing an appeal against the decision of the competent authority before the arbitrator from the date of expiry of 90 days is three years from the decision of the competent authority.

The court observed that there is nothing in the National Highways Act that excludes the applicability of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. However, Section 5 of the Limitation Act would be applicable to reference to arbitration under the National Highways Act, 1956 and the arbitrator has the power to condone the delay against the award, in filing an appeal by the competent authority.

The court noted that the petitioner was not aware that an appeal could be filed against the decision of the Competent Authority and it is only after consulting his lawyer that the petitioner came aware of any such right, therefore, there is sufficient reason to condone the delay.

Accordingly, the application was allowed by the court and the court directed the arbitrator to decide the case of the petitioner on merit.

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KERALA HIGH COURT APPOINTS AMICUS CURIAE IN SARITHA NAIR’S PLEA; IS A STATEMENT RECORDED U/S 164 CRPC A PUBLIC DOCUMENT?

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The Kerala High Court in the case Saritha S. Nair v. Union of India & Anr observed and appointed an amicus curia to assist the court to decide the legal question of whether a statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC is a public document.

The bench comprising of Justice Kauser Edappagath appointed the amicus curiae, in the petition filled by Saritha S. Nair, the prime accused in the infamous solar panel scam seeking a direction to provide her with copies of the Section 164 statement given by Swapna Suresh, the accused in the gold smuggling case.

The court appointed Advocate K.K. Dheerendrakrishnan, as the amicus curiae in the case.

In the present case, it was observed that Saritha Nair is accused of having duped several influential people to the tune of 70 lakhs, by offering to install solar power units for them or by making them business partners and by receiving advance payments for the same.

Moreover, Swapna Suresh is accused of smuggling 30 kilograms of gold through diplomatic cargo dispatched to UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram.

It was observed that when the petition came up for hearing, the counsel appearing for the petitioner, Advocate B.A Aloor appearing that the statement given by Swapna was a public document and therefore the petitioner was entitled to get a copy.

Further, Nair approached the Court apprehending that certain allegation may have been brought on record against her in the statement given by Suresh. It was prayed by Nair, that the c court allow her plea, directing the production of certified copies of the said document to her, failing which she would sustain an irreparable injury, the hardship and as well as physical and mental agony.

It was observed that the Nair had had initially moved the Principal District and Sessions Court of Ernakulam, with the same request, but this was denied. The court noted and adjourned the matter to July 11, while on a petition filed by the accuse, Saritha S. Nair in the solar scam cases, for seeking a directive to provide a copy of the statement given by Swapna Suresh, accused in the diplomatic gold smuggling case before a subordinate court.

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Legally Speaking

Supreme Court issues notice in an SLP; can section 156 (3) CRPC be invoked after failing to get desired relief in a civil suit?

It was observed that before the Calcutta High Court, it was contended by the accused that the allegations made in the application under Section 156(3) CrPC fails to make out any offence against them. Further, it was submitted that a frustrated unsuccessful litigant before the Civil Court has approached the Criminal Court and the Criminal Investigation.

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The Supreme Court in the case Usha Chakraborty vs State of West Bengal observed and issued a notice in a Special Leave Petition filled, raising an issue whether in a dispute essentially in a dispute of civil nature that can a person, after having failed to get the desired relief from a civil suit, invoke Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure?

In the present case, an FIR was registered against the accused under Sections 323, Section 384, Section 406, Section 423, Section 467, Section 468, Section 420 and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 following an order passed by the Magistrate under Section 156(3) CrPC.

It was observed that before the Calcutta High Court, it was contended by the accused that the allegations made in the application under Section 156(3) CrPC fails to make out any offence against them. Further, it was submitted that a frustrated unsuccessful litigant before the Civil Court has approached the Criminal Court and the Criminal Investigation, which has commenced, is for the purposes of throttling them. The petition was dismissed by the High Court observing that the materials which have already been collected by the Investigating Agency, prima facie, make out a case for investigation. The issue raised before the court was weather the same would make out an offence after the investigation is concluded is absolutely at the end of the investigation to be analysed.

Therefore, challenging this order, one of the accused approached the Apex Court. However, It was submitted that the dispute is essentially of civil nature, for which the applicant in Section 156(3) CrPC petition filed a civil suit but having failed to get the desired relief, he invoked Section 156(3) CrPC.

The bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant and the Justice JB Pardiwala, while issuing notice also stayed further proceedings in FIR lodged against the accused.

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Legally Speaking

GAUHATI HIGH COURT QUASHES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST GRAM PANCHAYAT PRESIDENT CITING PARTICIPATION OF MEMBER DISQUALIFIED FOR HAVING THREE CHILDREN

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The Gauhati High Court in the case Jugitawali Pawe v State of Assam and 15 ors observed and quashed a resolution expressing no-confidence in the petitioner – the President of a Gram Panchayat, as a result of which she as removed from office. It was stated that it is as per the citing no compliance with Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995.

It was preferred by the petitioner to the materials available on record to argue that one of the members of the Gaon Panchayat, the respondent. The respondent voted against the petitioner and had given birth to her third child the previous year. Moreover, by virtue of Section 111(2)(a) of the Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995, the petitioner stood automatically disqualified on the date of voting. Following, which her vote was taken by passing No-confidence motion.

It was prayed by the petitioner in the plea for setting aside the impugned resolution and for issuance of a direction to restore his client back in the office. Thereafter, to initiate fresh proceedings, liberty should be granted to the respondent, following the due process.

It was agreed by the Counsel representing for the respondent that the said member of the panchayat had been disqualified but retained on the ground that the disqualification would have no bearing on the petitioner’s case, as the impugned resolution was passed before the declaration of petitioner disqualification.

In the present case, It was noticed by Justice Suman Shyam the member had voted against the petitioner and without her vote. The petitioner would not have been ousted from office. Justice Shyam also found no dispute about the fact that the member had incurred disqualification under the law prior the date of adoption of the impugned resolution. Justice Shyam found it unnecessary to delve into other aspects of the matter which includes the procedural formalities for declaring the member a disqualified candidate.

It is observed that the impugned resolution was declared to be vitiated and liable to be set aside. Further, the Court restored the petitioner to the office of the President of the Bongalmara Gaon Panchayat with immediate effect and it was stated by the court that the order will not stand in the way should the authorities or any member of the Gaon Panchayat propose a fresh motion of “no-confidence” against the petitioner and the due process of law needs to be followed.

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Halt DDA’s demolition action against jhuggis in Nizamuddin’s Gyaspur area, orders Delhi High Court

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, the residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Manoj Gupta & Ors. v. DDA & Ors observed and has ordered status quo on the Delhi Development Authority’s proposal to demolish jhuggi clusters in city’s Gyaspur area in Hazrat Nizamuddin. The vacation bench comprising of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed in the petition filled by the residents and the court granted an interim relief.

It was ordered by the court status quo till July 11, the next date of hearing.

The bench orally remarked that a ten-day delay in demolition won’t make a difference but if today it is demolished and later, we come to know that they were entitled, who’s going to… the bench will consider it on July 11, 2022 but in the Meanwhile, some protections are entitled them. Adding this, Status quo be maintained. If since 1995, they have been there, heavens won’t come down if for 10 more days they are protected.

In the plea the petitioner stated that the T-Huts settlement in the area, which was stated by the authorities to vacate. It has been in existence for almost two decades and compromise of 32 jhuggis or households.

In the plea it was alleged that the bulldozers have been parked around the camp and a DDA official has orally asked them to vacate the area and it is noted that till date no proper notice have been sent to them nor has DDA conducted any survey of the area.

Furthermore, the DDA did not provide any alternate arrangement for their rehabilitation which resulted in extreme distress among the residents.

Moreover, it was admitted by the petitioner that the land in question belongs to DDA and they may seek that status-quo to be maintained at the site. It was urged that the residents should not be physically dispose or evicted from the demolition site until the survey is conducted and rehabilitation is provided to the residents as per the DUSIB policy of 2015.

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. The residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.

It is observed that in the case Ajay Maken v. Union of India, Reliance is placed on the Supreme Court decision and the High Court decision in the case Sudama Singh & Ors. v. Government of Delhi & Anr, it was held in the case that that removal of jhuggis without ensuring relocation would amount of gross violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, it was held that the agencies conducting the demolitions ought to conduct survey before undertaking any demolition.

It is submitted that these observations would apply across the board, in the entire NCT of Delhi.

Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Shiyaz Razaq, Kaoliangpou Kamei, Jepi Y Chisho and Paul Kumar Kalai, represented the petitioner.

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