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PC Act – more time taken for preliminary enquiry not a ground to quash criminal proceedings: SC

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In a very significant observation, the Apex Court has as recently as on October 29, 2021 in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled The State of Jammu and Kashmir vs Dr Saleem Ur Rehman in Criminal Appeal No. 1170 of 2021 in exercise of its criminal appellate jurisdiction observed without mincing any words that whatever enquiry is conducted at the stage of Preliminary Enquiry, by no stretch of imagination, can be considered as investigation under the Code of Criminal Procedure which can be only after registration of the FIR. The Court also observed that merely because some time is taken for conducting preliminary enquiry, that cannot be a ground to quash the criminal proceedings for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Very rightly so!

To start with, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by Justice MR Shah for himself and Justice AS Bopanna sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order dated 07.05.2018 passed by the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir at Srinagar in O.W.P. No. 1961/2015, by which the High Court in exercise of its extra-ordinary jurisdiction has quashed the criminal proceedings being FIR No. 32/2012 and has declared Rule 3.16 of the Vigilance Manual, 2008 dealing with the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) being in direct conflict with the Constitution Bench Judgment of this Court in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, reported in AIR 2014 SC 187 = 2014 (2) SCC 1, and consequently has declared the same ultra vires, the State has preferred the present appeal.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “That an FIR being FIR No. 32/2012, Police Station, VOK was registered against the respondent herein under Section 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘J&K PC Act, 2006’) and Section 120B of the Ranbir Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as the ‘RPC’) alleging inter alia that during 2010- 11, the Director Health Services, Kashmir along with the other accused persons misappropriated the huge amount of government money by way of effecting purchases of sub-standard medical kits under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) at highly exorbitant rates and in violation of the conditions of supply orders placed by the department.”

Truth be told, the Bench then points out in para 4 that, “By the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has quashed the entire criminal proceedings initiated against the respondent for the aforesaid offences by holding that:

(1) there is a non-compliance of the mandatory provision under Section 3 of the J&K PC Act, 2006 inasmuch as no special and separate reasoned order was passed by the authorising officer while conferring authority on a non-designated officer as per second proviso to Section 3;

(2) prior sanction of the Magistrate for the offence under Section 120B as required under Section 155 of the J&K Cr.P.C. was not obtained;

(3) there was a delay in conducting the preliminary verification and by holding the preliminary verification the authority entered into the domain of investigation which is not permissible as held by this Court in the case of Lalita Kumari (supra); and

(4) the allegations made in the FIR even if accepted to be true in its entirety are legally not tenable.”

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then also reveals in para 4.1 that, “Holding above, the High Court has quashed the preliminary verification No. 34/2011, FIR No. 32/2012, Police Station, Vigilance Organisation Kashmir and the resultant investigation of the FIR. The High Court has also quashed the Entrustment Order dated 16.11.2012 passed by the Senior Superintendent of Police, VOK, Srinagar authorising the investigating officer to investigate the case/offences. The High Court has also declared Rule 3.16 of the Vigilance Manual, 2008 dealing with Preliminary Enquiry (PE) as ultra vires on the ground that the same is in direct conflict with the decision of this Court in the case of Lalita Kumari (supra).”

Needless to say, the Bench then remarks in para 5 that, “Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court, the State of Jammu & Kashmir has preferred the present appeal.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 8.6 that, “In the present case also, it cannot be said that there was any nonapplication of mind on the part of the Senior Superintendent of Police authorising the inspector Nisar Hussain to enquire into the FIR for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120-B of the Ranbir Penal Code. It is required to be noted that Inspector Nisar Hussain who was authorised to investigate the FIR for the aforesaid offences was also authorised to arrest the accused persons whenever and wherever necessary. It is also required to be noted that in the said authorisation it has been specifically mentioned that he will conduct the investigation of the case under the supervision of the Superintendent of Police (BKB). Therefore, all precautions are taken by the Senior Superintendent of Police authorising the Inspector Nisar Hussain to investigate the FIR for the offences under the J&K PC Act, 2006. Even otherwise, it is required to be noted that on a plain reading of the second proviso to Section 3, only two requirements are required to be satisfied, namely, (i) authorisation in writing by an officer of the Vigilance Organisation not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police to an officer of not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police to investigate such offences; and (ii) such officer authorised may investigate the offences so specified in the order of authorisation. Therefore, as such, there is no requirement of giving either special reasons or there is no requirement to mention reasons. What is required to be considered is whether there is an application of mind with respect to offences and the relevant provisions with respect to authorisation. Considering the authorisation reproduced hereinabove, it cannot be said that such authorisation authorising Inspector Nisar Hussain to investigate the FIR for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120B of the RPC can be said to be vitiated and/or can be said to be void which warrants quashing of the entire criminal proceedings including the FIR. Therefore, as such, the High Court has committed a grave error in quashing the entire criminal proceedings holding that authorisation in favour of Inspector Nisar Hussain was bad in law, relying upon the observations made by this Court in the case of Bhajan Lal (supra), which has been subsequently explained by this court in the case of Ram Singh (supra). We are of the opinion that in the facts and circumstances of the case and considering the authorisation read with the second proviso to Section 3, authorisation cannot be said to be illegal and/or invalid.”

It is also worth noting that the Bench then observes in para 9 that, “Now so far as the finding recorded by the High Court for non-compliance of Section 155 of J&K Cr.P.C. is concerned, it is to be noted that the High Court has observed that for an investigating agency to investigate the group of offences which include the non-cognizable one, it must obtain a sanction from the concerned Magistrate before launching the investigation and in the present case no such sanction from the concerned Magistrate has been obtained is concerned, it is to be noted that the substantive offences against the respondent herein were under J&K PC Act, 2006 and as per Section 3 of the Act, all offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable. As such, the aforesaid issue is squarely covered against the respondent in view of the decision of this Court in the case of Pravin Chandra Mody(supra). In paragraph 6, it is observed and held as under:

“6. Section 156(2) provides that where a police officer enquires into an offence under Section 156(1) his action cannot be called into question on the ground that he was not empowered to investigate the offence. The enquiry was an integrated one, being based on the same set of facts. Even if the offence under the Essential Commodities Act may not be cognizable — though it is not alleged by the appellant that it is non-cognizable — the police officer would be competent to include it in the charge-sheet under Section 173 with respect to a cognizable offence. In Ram Krishna Dalmia v. State [AIR (1958) Pb. 172], Falshaw, J (as he then was) observed that the provisions of Section 155(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, must be regarded as applicable to those cases where the information given to the police is solely about a non-cognizable offence. Where the information discloses a cognizable as well as a non-cognizable offence the police officer is not debarred from investigating any non-cognizable offence which may arise out of the same facts. He can include that non-cognizable offence in the charge-sheet which he presents for a cognizable offence. We entirely agree. Both the offences if cognizable could be investigated together under Chapter XIV of the Code and also if one of them was a non-cognizable offence.””

Without mincing any words, the Bench then clearly lays down in para 10 that, “In the present case, the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a substantive offence and the investigation in respect of the offence under the PC Act, when considered and coupled with the offence of conspiracy, there is no requirement of prior sanction of the Magistrate. Merely because the offence of the conspiracy may be involved, investigation into the substantive offence, i.e., in the present case, offence under the PC Act which is cognizable is not required to await a sanction from the Magistrate, as that would lead to a considerable delay and affect the investigation and it will derail the investigation. Therefore, the High Court has erred in quashing the criminal proceedings on the ground that as the offence under Section 120B which is a non-cognizable, prior sanction as required under Section 155 of J&K Cr.P.C. is not obtained. The view taken by the High Court is just contrary to the law laid down by this Court in the case of Pravin Chandra Mody (supra), which has been subsequently relied upon by this Court in the cases of Brij Lal Palta (supra); Satya Narain Musadi (supra); Madan Lal (supra); and Bhanwar Singh (supra).”

Furthermore, the Bench then observes in para 11 that, “The impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court insofar as holding Rule 3.16 of the Vigilance Manual, 2008 as ultra vires is concerned, it is required to be noted that even Rule 3.16 can be said to be in consonance with the observations and the law laid down by this Court in the case of Lalita Kumari (supra). Rule 3.16 reads as under:

“CLAUSE 3.16 – PRELIMINARY ENQUIRY (PE)

When a complaint or information discloses adequate material indicating misconduct on the part of public servant which needs a detailed verification prior to registration of a case u/s 154 Cr.P.C., a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) can be ordered. A PE should normally be completed in a period of six months. The PE will be registered on a given proforma (Annexure K). Sometimes courts also order an enquiry by the State Vigilance Organisation. Such preliminary enquiries should also be registered after approval of the Commissioner of Vigilance. A PE may be converted into FIR, with the prior concurrence of central office, as soon as sufficient material becomes available to show that, prima facie, commission of a cognizable offence under Prevention of Corruption Act is made out. When the material available indicates ingredients of misconduct alone and not criminal misconduct, a self-contained note should be sent to the appropriate disciplinary authority for departmental action.””

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then minces no words to observe in para 12 that, “On a close reading of Rule/Clause 3.16, it can be seen that even the same can be said to be in the interest of the accused and/or a person against whom the allegations are made and to safeguard the accused against frivolous complaints. As per Clause 3.16 only after the Preliminary Enquiry is conducted and there is a prima facie case found, an FIR is required to be registered. Considering the nature of offences, a detailed enquiry is required and therefore it is observed in Clause 3.16 that a PE should be completed normally within a period of six months. It is the case on behalf of the respondent and even as observed and held by the High Court in the impugned judgment and order as per the law laid down by this Court in the case of Lalita Kumari (supra), a detailed investigation into the allegations on merits is not required by holding Preliminary Enquiry and that such enquiry is to be completed within a period of 7 days is concerned, it is to be noted that in the case of Lalita Kumari (supra), it is not held that if the Preliminary Enquiry is not completed within a period of 7 days, the entire criminal proceedings would be void and the same are to be quashed.”

Most significantly, the Bench then waxes eloquent to holds in para 13 that, “So far as the submission on behalf of the respondent that in the present case by conducting a Preliminary Enquiry, detailed investigation has been made and only thereafter the FIR is registered and that at the time of Preliminary Enquiry, investigation is not permissible since the FIR is lodged is concerned, the aforesaid submission seems to be attractive but has no substance. While holding a Preliminary Enquiry under Clause 3.16, whatever is conducted will be in the form of enquiry into the allegations to consider whether any prima facie case is made out or not which requires further investigation after registering the FIR or not. While considering the prima facie case for the purpose of registering the FIR, some enquiry/investigation is bound to be there, however, the same shall be only for the purpose of finding out a prima facie case for the purpose of registration of the FIR only. Whatever enquiry is conducted at the stage of Preliminary Enquiry, by no stretch of imagination, will be considered as investigation under the code of criminal procedure which can only be after registration of the FIR. Even otherwise, merely because while holding a Preliminary Enquiry a detailed enquiry is made into the allegations made against the respondent which, as observed hereinabove, can be said to be only for the purpose of finding out a prima facie case for the purpose of registration of the FIR and merely because some more time is taken in conducting the Preliminary Enquiry before registering the FIR, the entire criminal proceedings cannot be quashed. There shall not be any prejudice caused to the accused at the stage of holding Preliminary Enquiry which as observed hereinabove shall only be for the purpose of satisfying whether any prima facie case is made out with respect to the allegations made in the complaint which requires further investigation after registering the FIR or not. Therefore, the High Court has materially erred in holding and declaring Clause 3.16 as ultra vires.”

As it turned out, the Bench then observed in para 14 that, “Now so far as the 4th ground/question on which the High Court has quashed the criminal proceedings, namely, the respondent cannot be held vicariously liable in the absence of main conspirators – Private Limited Companies and/or their in-charge persons is concerned, it is to be noted that the allegations against the respondent are in respect of his individual capacity. Besides the Directors of the Private Limited Companies, respondent no.1 and other officials have been arrayed as an accused. Therefore, there is no question of any vicarious liability and the observations made by the High Court that in absence of main conspirators – Private Limited Companies and/or their in-charge persons, respondent no.1 cannot be held liable is unsustainable and cannot be accepted. The High Court has erred in quashing the entire criminal proceedings on the aforesaid ground.”

Finally, the Bench then holds in para 15 that, “In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court quashing the entire criminal proceedings for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120B of the Ranbir Penal Code arising out of FIR No. 32/2012 and quashing and setting aside the Entrustment Order dated 16.11.2012 passed by the Senior Superintendent of Police, VOK, Srinagar authorising the Inspector Nisar Hussain to investigate the FIR for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120B of the Ranbir Penal Code and holding and declaring Rule/Clause 3.16 of the Vigilance Manual, 2008 dealing with Preliminary Enquiry (PE) as ultra vires is unsustainable and deserves to be quashed and set aside and is hereby quashed and set aside. FIR/criminal proceedings against the respondent being FIR No., 32/2012 for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120B of the Ranbir Penal Code is to be investigated and proceeded further by the authorised officer expeditiously.”

In conclusion, the Apex Court has made it pretty clear that more time taken for preliminary enquiry cannot be a ground to quash criminal proceedings for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Para 13 forms the cornerstone of this judgment which we have already discussed above. All the courts must always adhere to what has been laid down by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna in this leading case so commendably, cogently, composedly and also convincingly! There can be no denying it!

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Legally Speaking

Claim of juvenility can be raised before any court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case: SC

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It is really good to see that in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Ashok vs The State of Madhya Pradesh in Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No(s). 643/2020 (Arising out of impugned final judgment and order dated 14-11-2017 in CRA No. 455/1999 passed by the High Court Of M.P. at Gwalior) that was delivered finally on November 29, 2021, the Apex Court has minced no words to make it clear that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after disposal of the case. So there should be no more confusion anymore pertaining to this! It must be specifically mentioned here that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee and Hon’ble Mr Justice JK Maheshwari observed that if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment first and foremost by observing in the opening para that, “By a judgment and order dated dated 29.07.1999, the Additional Sessions Judge, Gohad, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, convicted the petitioner inter alia for offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him inter alia to life imprisonment in Sessions Trial No. 260 of 1997. In the cause title of the said judgment and order, the petitioner has been described as Ashok, S/o Balram Jatab age 16 yrs 9 months and 19 days, R/o Village Anjani Pura, District Bhind.”

In hindsight, the Bench then brings out in the next para of this notable judgment that, “The petitioner filed an appeal being Criminal Appeal No. 455 of 1999 challenging his conviction and sentence. The said criminal appeal has been dismissed by the High Court by an order dated 14.11.2017, which is impugned in the Special Leave Petition(Crl.) No. 643 of 2020, filed by the petitioner.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then points out in the next para that, “The incident which led to the conviction of the petitioner, took place on 26.07.1997. The petitioner claims that the petitioner was born on 05.01.1981. The petitioner was, therefore, approximately 16 years and 7 months old on the date of the incident.”

As we see, the Bench then envisages in the next para that, “In this Court, the petitioner has for the first time contended that he was a juvenile on the date of the incident. His conviction and sentence are, therefore, liable to be set-aside. The claim of juvenility was not raised in the High Court.”

Needless to say, the Bench then further mentions in the next para that, “The learned Additional Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State argued that the claim of juvenility has been raised for the first time in this special leave petition.”

Be it noted, the Bench then while elaborating further and shedding more light observes in the next para that, “The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, which was in force on the date of commission of the offence as also the date of the judgment and order of conviction and sentence by the Sessions Court was repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The Act of 2000 received the assent of the President of India on 30.12.2000 and came into force on 01.04.2001. The Act of 2000 defined juvenile in conflict with the law to mean a juvenile, who was alleged to have committed an offence and had not completed 18th year of age as on the date of commission of such an offence.”

In retrospect, the Bench then mentions that, “Under the 1986 Act, the age of juvenility was upto the 16th year.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then hastens to add in the next para that, “Section 7A of the 2000 Act as inserted by Act 33 of 2006 with effect from 22.08.2006 provided as follows:-

“7A. Procedure to be followed when claim of juvenility is raised before any Court.-(1) Whenever a claim of juvenility is raised before any court or a court is of the opinion that an accused person was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, the court shall make an inquiry, take such evidence as may be necessary (but not an affidavit) so as to determine the age of such person, and shall record a finding whether the person is a juvenile or a child or not, stating his age as nearly as may be:

Provided that a claim of juvenility may be raised before any Court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even after final disposal of the case, and such claim shall be determined in terms of the provisions contained in this Act and the rules made thereunder, even if the juvenile has ceased to be so on or before the date of commencement of this Act.

(2) If the court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence under sub-section(1), it shall forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders and the sentence, if any, passed by a court shall be deemed to have no effect.””

Most significantly, the Bench then succinctly states what forms the cornerstone of this noteworthy judgment that, “The claim of juvenility can thus be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case and if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then also wastes no time in pointing out in the next para that, “Even though the offence in this case may have been committed before the enactment of the Act of 2000, the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of juvenility under Section 7A of the Act of 2000, if on inquiry it is found that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of the alleged offence.”

Going ahead, the Bench then states that, “It is true as pointed out by the learned Additional Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State that the certificate of Akikrit Shash, High School, School, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh relied upon by the petitioner is stated to have been issued on 17.07.2021. The said certificate does not specifically mention that the date of birth 01.01.1982 had been entered at the time of first admission of the petitioner at the primary school level.”

What’s more, the Bench then further mentions that, “Furthermore, there is a birth certificate issued by the Gram Panchayat, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh which indicates the date of birth of the petitioner as 05.01.1982 and not 01.01.1982 as recorded in the school certificate referred to above.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then remarks that, “The entry in the records of the Gram Panchayat, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, also do not appear to be contemporaneous and the certificate has been issued in the year 2017.”

Furthermore, the Bench then adds in the next para that, “However, as pointed out by Mr. M.P. Parthiban, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner that the Sessions Court has recorded the age of the petitioner as 16 years, 9 months and 19 days. The petitioner has been in actual custody for over three years.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then enunciates that, “The 2000 Act has been repealed and replaced by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Section 21 of the 2015 Act provides as follows:

“21. Order that may not be passed against a child in conflict with law. – No child in conflict with law shall be sentenced to death or for life imprisonment without the possibility of release, for any such offence, either under the provisions of this Act or under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force.””

Quite significantly, the Bench then holds and directs in the next para that, “Considering that the Trial Court has recorded the age of the petitioner as 16 years and odd, and has been in actual custody in excess of three years, which is the maximum for a juvenile, we deem it appropriate to grant the petitioner interim bail on such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the Sessions Court. We further direct the Sessions Court to examine the claim of the petitioner to juvenility in accordance with law, and submit a report to this Court within one month from the date of communication of this order.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then holds that, “The concerned Sessions Court shall be entitled to examine the authenticity and genuineness of the documents sought to be relied upon by the petitioner, considering that the documents do not appear to be contemporaneous.”

Without leaving any room for doubt, the Bench then holds that, “In the event the documents are found to be questionable/unreliable, it will be open to the Sessions Court to have the petitioner medically examined by taking an ossification test or any other modern recognized method of age determination.”

Finally, the Bench then holds that, “List after the ensuing winter holidays.”

In essence, the Apex Court Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee and Hon’ble Mr Justice JK Maheshwari have thus clearly, cogently, composedly and convincingly laid down that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after disposal of the case. We thus see that the Apex Court has made it clear that the juvenile can claim the benefit of juvenility even after final disposal of the case and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect. This is to ensure that a juvenile does not suffer immensely inspite of being even a juvenile.

No doubt, it is definitely a right step in the right direction and the Apex Court deserves all the kudos for having reiterated the right position of law on this which directly benefits the concerned juvenile even after a sentence is passed against him/her. There is no reason of any kind to differ with what the Apex Court has laid down in this case so convincingly and so sagaciously. Of course, it ought to be implemented in letter and spirit and all the courts are certainly duty bound to always abide by what the Apex Court has laid down in this leading case so very commendably!

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Addressing issues related to NRI marriages

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The institution of marriage is the nucleus of the social system. It forms the very foundation on which the splendid edifice of the social system stands. This sacred matrimonial bond gives birth to a plethora of rights and obligations. With the increase in Indian Diaspora, matrimonial alliances of Indian women with overseas Indian men are rising proportionately.

As reported by National Commission for Women, typical instances of issues that arise in NRI marriages are Abandonment of the women right after marriage, leaving her women during pregnancy, after child-birth, abandonment of mother-child duo; physical and mental abuse, desertion without reasonable cause, false information/Concealment about job, immigration status, earning, property, marital status and other material particulars, to deceive into the marriage, amongst others. Moreover, legal issues related to jurisdiction of courts, service of notices/orders, enforcement of orders; simultaneous retaliatory legal proceeding by husband in the other country, taking advantage of more lenient divorce grounds, obtaining ex-parte divorce and non-submission to the legal proceedings in any ways to summons, or even warrant of arrest are also encountered by women. Through the present article, author attempts to simplify the substantive and procedural laws applicable to the NRI parties to matrimonial disputes.

SUBSTANTIVE LAW

To understand the interplay of laws in cases involving NRIs, it is pertinent to mention that there are two sets of laws; one is Substantive that determines the rights and liabilities of the parties, whereas the other one is procedural which doesn’t create any right or liability rather lays down the procedural framework through which the substantive rights are legally enforced. Substantive Law governing the rights and liabilities of the parties to NRI Marriages is the Law under which the marriage is solemnised. All direct and incidental rights emanating from marriage, like maintenance, divorce, guardianship, custody, inheritance, succession and adoption are also regulated by the same substantive law. For example- If two Indian Citizens (Hindu by religion), marry in India as per Hindu Rituals, their matrimonial rights would be governed by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 even if they are residing outside India.

Divorce cannot be granted on any ground which is not provided in the governing statute even if it is a valid ground in the country of their residence. To illustrate, Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage is not a valid ground of divorce under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; hence an NRI Couple cannot seek divorce on this ground in foreign country. If any Foreign Court has granted divorce on this ground, such a decree will be null and void in India. In Y. Narasimha Rao v. Y. Venkata Lakshmi, Supreme Court held that a Foreign Decree is not executable in India if the ground on which the divorce is granted by the foreign court is not a ground available under Indian Laws.

Section- 3 and 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) read with Section-188 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 extend application of IPC to Indian Citizens residing abroad. If any person commits Matrimonial Offence which is punishable under IPC or any other special law in India in foreign land, the perpetrator can be booked and punished under Indian Laws. Matrimonial Offences are mentioned in Chapter XX (Section- 493-498A) of Indian Penal Code, special laws and personal laws. Dowry-related offences are punishable under Section- 304B of IPC and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. If in-laws while sitting in India exert pressure for dowry on their daughter-in-law living abroad, they can be booked for Abetment to Dowry/Cruelty as Section 108 of IPC expressly, states, “A person abets an offense who, in India, abets the commission of any act within and beyond India which would constitute an offense as if committed in India.”

PROCEDURAL LAW:

Procedural Laws are lex fori in nature and procedure is governed by the law where the suit is instituted. Civil Proceedings can be initiated either at the place where the spouse ordinarily resides, or place where the couple last resided together, or place where the petitioner is currently residing, whether overseas or India. Special power of attorney (SPA) can be used by the NRI husband/wife living abroad to file a divorce case in India. In case the errant party despite repeated summons doesn’t appear before the Indian Court, warrants may be issued and uploaded on Ministry of External Affairs Website and shared with the Indian Embassy Office in the Foreign Country for compelling his/her attendance.

Provisions related to Execution of Foreign Divorce Decree in India are contained in Section 13 and 44-A Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. For a foreign decree to be valid and enforceable in India, it must fulfil the conditions mentioned in Section 13. In Y. Narasimha Rao Case (Supra), Supreme Court ruled the following conditions of a valid foreign decree-

Both parties voluntarily and unconditionally subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Court

Decision is given on the “merits” of the case

Ground of divorce in the decision of the Foreign Court must be a ground available under the Indian Law

Decree must be free from fraud or any misrepresentation

IMPOUNDING OF PASSPORT

Section-10 of The Passport Act lays down grounds and procedure for revocation of passport by Passport Authorities. Revocation or Impounding of a passport on account of any involvement of matrimonial offence is not per-se mentioned. However, passport may be revoked / impounded on the following grounds:

If the holder has been convicted of any offence by a court in India for an offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to an imprisonment for not less than two years

If criminal proceedings are pending in a court in India

If a warrant or summons for appearance or an arrest warrant has been issued by a court

In Rajiv Tayal v. Union of India (2005) passport of NRI husband was impounded after continuous failure on his part to respond to summons by the Indian Courts under Section 10 of the Passport Act. The husband challenged the revocation order passed by Consulate General of India, New York by invoking writ jurisdiction which was rejected by the High Court and he was ordered to appear before the Indian Court. Fines can be imposed as per Schedule to the Act in case of non-disclosure of correct marital status/details of pending matrimonial case or minor suppressions of information regarding marital status/name of spouse etc.

REDRESSAL

NRI Cell of National Commission for Women is the nodal agency for resolving issues related to NRI marriages from across the country and abroad. Online Complaint can be filed with NRI Cell of NCW- http://ncwapps.nic.in/NRICellcms/ or sent via email- nricell-ncw@nic.in

Besides, Ministry of External Affair’s Online Consular Grievances Monitoring System- MADAD helps Indians abroad, including women married to NRIs. Distressed woman or any member of her family/friend can register a complaint under this Module.

For legal aid and advice on any matter, National/State Legal Services Authority can be contacted. As per Section-12 of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, every woman is entitled to free legal aid in India. If the victim wishes to file case in India, complaint can be filed through NALSA Mobile Application or NALSA on-line complaint portal.

WAY FORWARD

To support Indian women in distress by providing financial and legal assistance, Ministry of External Affairs implemented Scheme, titled “Scheme for giving legal / financial assistance to Indian women deserted by their overseas Indian / foreigner husbands”. The scheme is available to Indian women who have been deserted by their overseas Indian / foreigner husbands or are facing divorce proceedings in a foreign country, subject to the conditions mentioned therein. Besides, Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019 which is currently referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee makes registration of NRI Marriages compulsory. Failure to register marriage within 30 days would lead to impounding of passport by the passport. Moreover, the Supreme Court is also yet to formulate guidelines for safeguarding the interest of NRI married women in the PIL filed by NGO, Pravasi Legal Cell.

(Bhawna Gandhi is a Delhi-based Lawyer and Columnist, currently working as Researcher at Delhi State Legal Services Authority)

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Why contract law is essential for business transactions

A contract with extensive operational content is used to manage all parties’ distribution operations, whereas a contract with significant technical material is used to monitor the cluster’s output activities. The parties’ relationships have a clear impact on the contract’s execution. The transactional relationship leads to a specific deal use, but the relative relationship leads to a non-specific deal use.

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Since the human race began and human society has developed, there have been many laws and policies practiced through out the decades. In the past when the barter system was in practice and people used to exchange goods amongst them, people were unable to meet their needs properly so for that the concept of money and company into light and was accepted by everyone. In the contemporary era, the economy is growing fastly and vastly and the globe has accelerated the corporate transactions and business with the help of a legal instrument that is known as “Contract”. The Law of Contract is one of the oldest mercantile laws being used in India since 1872. The term “Contract” is referred to as the agreement between two parties that are contractual in nature that describes the responsibilities of the parties where the offeror makes an offer to enter into a contract with the offeree. If the offeror agrees to do something or to refrain from doing something and accepts the offer, then contact is made.

The Law of Contract is not only an important thing for business rather it is an essential law to carry on trade, business or commerce smoothly as it definiteness in the business transactions that affects the entire society. India is considered as a developing country with a mixed economy and in the 21st century, several new businesses and startups are emerging across the country. Make in India, Startup India, Execute India, and few other initiatives were started by the government to make India grow in the global market. These got boosted up when the Pandemic hit the nation and everything went virtual. People started working from and this was the time when many new startups and businesses came and grew up.

Every business or startup goes through a business transaction. A business transaction is basically an event or an occasion that involves an interchange of goods or money or any kind of services between two or more parties. It is very important as it provides a brief view of the interactions taking place between the company or organizations for accomplishing the business objective.

Any contract is enforced by the law as it ensures that if any party fails to do whatever he/she has agreed to, then in that case the other party may approach the Court of Law. to demand the damages for the injuries done by the violation of the law. However, any contract can only be taken forward and executed if it satisfies these conditions – agreement, free consent, competence, consideration, legal objective, and the contract not expressly declared null and void. Basically, a contract is an agreement that is written and agreed upon by all the parties involved in it. It not only provides an oppurtunity and smoothness for the execution of all the tasks and the fulfillment of the target as written in the agreement. It acts as a path of positive attachment with the clients.

Contract management, in this context, is a strategy for managing legally drafted contracts with clients or anybody else. A contract guarantee is a common commercial practise that clarifies requirements and aids in the delivery of the intended outcomes as quickly as feasible. It is important to obtain a legally binding contract from a lawyer.

Contracts become particularly significant due to the following factors:

1. PREVENTION OF MISCOMMUNICATION AND MISUNDERSTANDING:

This is one of the most common issues encountered in any organization for various reasons. Contract preparation is a mandate to deter such situations. Both the parties have to read and follow all the negotiated laws as it has a huge effect on the disputes between the parties and thus can make a huge effect on the entire firm.

2. COMPREHENSIVE PROOF OF INFORMATION:

A contract’s principal purpose is to memorialise all of the details agreed upon by both parties. The contract provides a thorough understanding of the services provided by a third party as well as the financial obligations that must be met by the third party. This data will be used as legal facts and is extremely important to the transaction.

3. ENSURES CONFIDENTIALITY:

A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that covers all sensitive material is required to ensure confidentiality. The parties concerned are not entitled to the disclosure of the business or to a monetary exchange with the third party, according to this agreement. They will be held accountable for breach of contract if they reveal the information.

4. OFFERS PROTECTION:

The duration of the contract and the collection of responsibilities are specifically stated in the legal agreement, which plays an essential role in ensuring security between the parties. If one of the parties files a lawsuit against the other, the contract may be used as evidence.

5. WORKS AS A CORPORATE RECORD:

The contract is the primary and most important document establishing mutual consent to the procedures set forth in the agreement. According to the contract, it can be used for comparative reasons. The length of the contract is usually noted in the contract, which provides extra direction on termination terms. In the worst-case situation, the contract may be cancelled if the other party fails to follow the contract’s regulations or ignores the conditions.

Before, commercial transactions were far too simple. Two individuals used to agree to make a transaction and both parties kept their word, but today’s professionals are aware of the history of deal-breaking and litigation that have occurred in their industry. Contracts are regarded the most significant item in any business since they explain both parties’ expectations and protect both parties if those expectations aren’t met adequately and a lockin price is paid for the services. Because it is implemented in our daily lives, contract law is extremely important. Life will not run as smoothly as it should without the contract. Any agreement in today’s period involved a contract, whether it was for buying raw materials, renting property, collecting money, or employment. Much of what the government does, in their opinion, derives from the action of the appropriate Parliament, and the services they give are increasingly privatised and delivered in accordance with the contract.

Various studies have been conducted in the past to demonstrate how the contract is utilised to replace the parties’ loss of trust. The problem is that protecting against probable future occurrences is difficult, if not impossible. The participants’ primary goal is to protect oneself in the event of a possible relationship involving complex and unusual interactions. Contract negotiations are reviewed in five stages: bid, discussion, adaptation, preparation, and the final negotiating process. The end outcome will most likely be a one-sided deal. There may also be a link between the length of the conversations and the proximity of the meetings. Long-term interactions, according to the model, are likely to result in more notable closeness as the parties learn more about one another. On the other hand, if the parties already have a good connection, the conversations may be brief.

The aforementioned circumstances make contracts inevitable for any firm that wants to keep its sensitive information safe and secure from the bad guys. It also protects employees when they fail to follow the terms of the contract by deceiving them with promises. Furthermore, we tend to believe that the negotiation approach, the contract, and its application are at the heart of the study. As a result, the contract itself contains a critical outcome on the contract’s employment. During a right-of-use arrangement, an agreement made by the granting party is used to govern individuals at intervals the opposing party’s company. This horrible contract is used in a variety of ways. A typical contract is discovered to have a non-differentiated usage. A contract that is not as thorough as a long term is perceived in a very different light.

A contract with extensive operational content is used to manage all parties’ distribution operations, whereas a contract with significant technical material is used to monitor the cluster’s output activities. The parties’ relationships have a clear impact on the contract’s execution. The transactional relationship leads to a specific deal use, but the relative relationship leads to a non-specific deal use. However, drafting a contract that takes these issues into account might be a difficult and time-consuming process. It’s also a good idea to seek the advice of a seasoned professional.

The Law of Contract is not only an important thing for business rather it is an essential law to carry on trade, business or commerce smoothly as it definiteness in the business transactions that affects the entire society. India is considered as a developing country with a mixed economy and in the 21st century, several new businesses and startups are emerging across the country. Make in India, Startup India, Execute India, and few other initiatives were started by the government to make India grow in the global market. These got boosted up when the Pandemic hit the nation and everything went virtual. People started working from and this was the time when many new startups and businesses came and grew up.

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Unlocking the reality of preventive detention laws in India

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Criminal laws act as a tool to prosecute criminals and also to prevent or reduce the risk of an anticipated future harm. Such measures enable the state to criminalize conduct at an early stage in order to allow the authorities to take action, to incapacitate suspected future wrong doers, keeping them behind the bars for an extended period and all this is done in the garb of public protection and security. Classical theories of jurisprudence comprehend the relationship between states and citizens. A citizen’s obligation to obey to the sovereign is a tacit form of consent and in return the state owes a deemed duty to protect the citizens from hazards, threats and any form of violence. With this rationale, the state proceeds towards fostering in itself the power the prevent an individual or a group from committing any harm. Broadly, preventive detention is a measure if it is created to avert or reduce the frequency or impact of an unacceptable risk or harm.

MEANING OF DETENTION

There is no universally accepted definition of preventive detention but in general sense preventive detention means to detain a person in order to prevent him from committing any possible future crime. There is another similar type of detention called ‘administrative detention’ which is more often used in civil law countries and on the other hand preventive detention’ is more often used in common law countries. The major difference between two types of detention is that in a former case detention is a tool for administration and on the other hand in the later case detention is a tool to prevent a ‘potential threat’.

There is also a third type of detention, ‘punitive detention’ the main purpose of which is to punish the person for an offence committed only after a trial and conviction in a court of law. As the name suggests the major difference between punitive detention and preventive detention is that one talks about punishment and other about prevention.

CONSTITUTIONAL PARADOX OF PREVENTIVE DETENTION LAWS IN INDIA

India chose to be a democratic country with inherent values of human rights embedded in our Constitution. However, the irony lies in the fact that the Constitution makers still chose to grant exemption to prevention detention laws when once they were victims of the same despotic laws.

Under Entry 9 the Union list, Parliament has the absolute power to enact laws with regard to preventive detention for reasons connected with security, defence and foreign affairs of India. Under Entry 3 of the Concurrent, both the state and the central government have been vested with the powers of enactment of such laws which related to the maintenance of public order, maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community etc. Preventive detention finds place in Constitution and that too under Fundamental Rights. Article 22(3) provides that: “if the person who has been arrested or detained under preventive detention laws then the protection against arrest and detention provided under Article22 (1) and 22 (2) shall not be available to that person.” This is why article 22(3) cannot be said as the fundamental right but a fundamental danger to the liberty of a person.

The Criminal Procedure Code of India also provides for Preventive detention under Section 151 as: “A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.”

In Union of India v Paul Nanickan and Anr, the Supreme Court of India stated: “the object of preventive detention is not to punish a man for having done something but to intercept him, before he does it, and to prevent him from doing it. No offence is proved, nor any charge formulated; and the justification for such detention is suspicion or reasonable probability and not criminal conviction, which can only be warranted by legal evidence.”

The main purpose for inserting preventive detention laws was to prevent the commission of a crime which are prejudicial to law and order of a state but it has failed miserably to serve its purpose and on the other hand is proving to be a tool to curtail the liberty of an individual.

Clause (3) of Article 22 is the main escape that outrightly exempts the applicability of rights of an arrested person as conferred by Article 22. Preventive detention thus allows detention without legal trial. At the same time, the constitution provides safeguards in case of misuse of preventive detention laws.

JURISPRUDENCE OF PREVENTIVE DETENTION LAWS VIA THE INDIAN JUDICIARY

The first case in post-independent India where the constitutionality of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 was questioned was the AK Gopalan Vs State of Madras. The court gave a green flag to the Preventive Detention Act because of the presence of the explicit provisions of Article 22(5). Although the petitioner made a good attempt by challenging the law in violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Later, PDA lapsed in 1969 and Parliament enacted the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) two years later. The infamous emergency of 1970s exercised MISA as a political weapon to curb political criticism and dissent. MISA expired in 1978 but paved way for the birth of another preventive detention law which is National Security Act (NSA) which is in effect today. Simultaneously, in 1967 the government enacted Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to restrict the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assembly peaceably without arms and to form associations. UAPA has undergone half a dozen amendments since then and is currently also recognized as a terror law.

It is pertinent to note that, the law in India allows detention of individuals in order to prevent act that may threaten ‘national security’ or ‘public order’. But the author wants to argue that neither the constitution nor the preventive laws expressly define what amounts to national security or public order or what possibly are the range of acts that may fall under these categories of offences. This deficiency on the fundamental clarity poses a challenge on the legality of these laws. The courts have justified preventive detention orders and given some direction in this regard in the case of Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar, wherein the court differentiated the concepts pf ‘security of state, public order and law and order’. The Court concluded that law and order represent the largest circle within which there is a smaller circle of public order and the smallest circle is the security of the state. So, it can be seen that what may affect law and order might not affect public order, similarly what may affect public order might not affect security of state.

However, the state is trying to normalize preventive detention under the umbrella of ‘national security’ and invoking judicial remedies in preventive detention cases becomes a rare option. The Apex Court has also mistakenly made a dangerous viewpoint in the case of Union of India Vs Dimple Happy Dhakkad where the accused were already arrested under the regular criminal process but were also subject to the preventive detention order under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Act, 1974 (COFEPOSA) as the case involved gold smuggling. Bail applications were rejected twice, The Apex Court very narrowly failed to consider the pre-existing detention of the accused when they were already languishing in jail for 2 months before the preventive detention order. The Supreme Court relied completely on the doctrine of the ‘subjective satisfaction’ of the detaining authority. The author undoubtedly admits the limitations of judicial review in detention orders but at the same time our Apex Court has itself widened the horizons of judicial review in arbitrary detention orders. The judiciary as in ADM Jabalpur has transformed itself to completely outlaw its tragic effect of fundamental freedoms and constitutionalism and overruled in the landmark Puttaswamy judgment. Moreover, the court in the case of Prabhu Dayal Deorah Vs. D.M Kamrup have rightfully assented to test the grounds on which the detention orders are passed on the lines of arbitrariness and vagueness. In another case of Bhawarlal Ganeshmalji v. State of Tamil Nadu, the court created a judicial requirement that the allegation must have a ‘live link’ with the present situation to justify the need of preventive detention.

It is significant to substantiate the recent judgment of Allahabad High Court in the Habeas Corpus case of NuzhatPerween Vs State of Uttar Pradesh. Briefly stating the facts of this case, Dr. Kafeel Khan (son of Nuzhat Perween) gave a public speech in Aligarh Muslim University. It was alleged that his speech incited feelings of communal disharmony and also lead to violent protests by some groups of students. A preventive detention order was passed against him to maintain public order in the district and he was put behind the bars. He applied for the bail and the bail was granted. What happens next is the episode which actually happens in our system. The executive did not enforce the bail order. When the court passed a second order to release Dr. Khan, the state claimed that the order was notified later and they have taken a preventive detention order authorized by the District Magistrate, Aligarh. When this matter reached the constitutional High Court of Allahabad, it took six months for a decision to be made. The inordinate delay is in itself a violation of the fundamental liberty of a person whose crime is a mere allegation. The petitioner mentioned that he did not have adequate material and thus his right to effective representation against is detention is violated. The Court agreed with this argument because the petitioner was given the CD of his speech but was given any means to play his disc. He was neither supplied the main transcript which was the primary basis for his preventive detention. Next, the court was asked to determine the contents of his speech as to whether it is of such a nature that a reasonable person could apprehend any disturbance to public order. The state correctly claimed that it is not open for the courts to wear the shoes of the preventive detention authority and the court cannot substitute their opinion in place of the ‘subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority’.

However, the court walked one step ahead and contradicting the above doctrine stated that ‘The expression “subjective satisfaction” means the satisfaction of a reasonable man that can be arrived at on the basis of some material which satisfies a rational man. It does not refer to whim or caprice of the authority concerned.’ In line with this principle of judicial scrutiny in the detention authority, the court noted that the speech delivered by the detenu was presented in parts by the police and not holistically. The speech is in no way against the maintenance of public order and therefore the closure of examining record as suggested would be nothing but a licence to allow the executives to act at their whims or caprice. This would be against the fundamentals of our constitutional values and provisions.

In the recent bail order of the Delhi High Court in the case of Devangana Kalita Vs State of NCT of Delhi the court strongly observed that the state in its anxiety to suppress dissent has blurred the line of constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity. The Court uprightly confronted Section 43D(5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Quoting the court ‘The making of inflammatory speeches, organising chakkajams, and such like actions are not uncommon when there is widespread opposition to Governmental or Parliamentary actions Even if we assume for the sake of argument, without expressing any view thereon, that in the present case inflammatory speeches, chakkajams, instigation of women protesters and other actions, to which the appellant is alleged to have been party, crossed the line of peaceful protests permissible under our Constitutional guarantee, that however would yet not amount to commission of a ‘terrorist act’ or a ‘conspiracy’ or an ‘act preparatory’ to the commission of a terrorist act as understood under the UAPA’

In the latest 2019 amendment, individuals can also be designated as ‘terrorist’ by way of Section 35. Not just that, under Section 43D(5), bail can be denied by relying upon the prosecution documents even though they are inadmissible in courts. This archaic provision has been affirmed by the Apex Court of the country in the case of National Investigation Agency Vs. Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali. This is the point of concern.

The tragic death of Father Stan Swamy is one such harshest reality of UAPA who was languishing in jail at the age of 84, a man who fought for the rights of the tribals and is applauded by the world. Many other renowned educators and activists like Professor Sudha Bhardwaj, Tamil Poet Varvara Rao etchave been detained under this law in the controversial ElgaarParishad and Bhima Koregaon case. Student activists have been put behind the bars for more than a year only because they dissent from those in power. The dissenting opinion of Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud in the Romila Thapar Case enlightens the current scenario of the arbitrariness of these laws. The complexity is embedded in Article 22 which guarantees protection against arrest and detention, yet it provides exception for preventive detention laws and our so called ‘democratic governments’ have time and again enacted preventive detention laws like MISA, UAPA, TADA, POTA, NSA etc. to curb voice raised against them.

CONCLUSION

All these legislations outlaw the fundamental rights coupled with the basic human rights. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies the rule of fair hearing in every circumstance and this has been recognized as the basic human tenant. The state, under the misconception of protecting the security of the country, has actually put the country in a state of turmoil. Where at one instance Arnab Goswami is granted bail in 24 hours,

Father Stan Swamy was denied medical bail every time he knocked the doors of the court. The question is who actually are we protecting under these arbitrary preventive detention laws. The answer is none. We are actually protecting the state from dissent.

The constitutional courts of the country must remind themselves the crucial judgment if Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India which has expanded the horizons of Article 21 and the court also heard a batch of petitions challenging the National Security Act. In the case of A.K. Roy Vs Union of India upheld the validity of the Act by completely relying on Article 22 (3)(b). After this judgment, preventive detention laws have never been tested constitutionally and this settled proposition is proving to be very unsettling now. The author argues and concludes by stating that the narrowed interpretations of Article 22 have ceased to exist when the Apex Court re-affirmed due process into the constitution and the State cannot rely on this provision anymore while putting people behind the bars for months without giving them adequate legal representation. The judiciary must uphold constitutionalism of the constitution.

It is pertinent to note that the law in India allows detention of individuals in order to prevent acts that may threaten ‘national security’ or ‘public order’. But the author wants to argue that neither the Constitution nor the preventive laws expressly define what amounts to national security or public order or what possibly are the range of acts that may fall under these categories of offences. This deficiency on the fundamental clarity poses a challenge on the legality of these laws. The courts have justified preventive detention orders and given some direction in this regard.

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SC RIGHTLY OVERTURNS TWO BOMBAY HC JUDGEMENTS ON POCSO

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In a most significant turn of events, we saw how just recently on November 18, 2021, the Apex Court in Attorney General for India v. Satish and another in Criminal Appeal No. 1410 of 2021 (@ Special Leave Petition (CRL) No. 925 of 2021) and connected appeals, held that touching a child with sexual intent even through clothing is an offence of sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act thus setting aside two separate decisions of the Bombay High Court passed on January 15 and January 19 that made skin-to-skin physical contact a necessary condition to hold someone guilty of sexual assault. The Court directed the convicted persons top surrender within four weeks to undergo the remaining sentence of three years and five years awarded to them by a special POCSO court in 2020. It may be recalled that Attorney General KK Venugopal was the first to file an appeal against one of the High Court judgments in question. Later, we saw how the Maharashtra government followed by the National Commission for Women also filed appeals. Even the accused were represented in the case and the court appointed senior advocate Siddharth Dave to assist in the matter as amicus curiae.

While underscoring the detrimental effect of allowing such an interpretation, a Bench of Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi said that, “Restricting the interpretation of the words “touch” or “physical contact” to “skin-to-skin contact” would not only be a narrow and pedantic interpretation of the provision contained in Section 7 of the POCSO Act, but it would lead to an absurd interpretation of the said provision.” Through two separate but concurring views, Justice Bela M Trivedi writing for herself and Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat traced the origin of the words “touch” and “physical contact” and noted that “skin-to-skin” contact was never intended to be incorporated by Parliament while enacting the POCSO Act in 2012.

To start with, it is first and foremost pointed out by the Bench in para 2 after granting leave as stated in para 1 that, “The four Appeals filed by the appellants – Attorney General for India, by the National Commission for Women, by the State of Maharashtra and by the appellant-accused Satish respectively, arising out of the Judgment and Order dated 19.01.2021 passed in Criminal Appeal No. 161 of 2020 by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench, and the Appeal filed by the Appellant-State of Maharashtra, arising out of the Judgment and Order dated 15.01.2021 passed in the Criminal Appeal No. 445 of 2020 by the same Nagpur Bench, encompass similar contextual legal issues, and therefore, permit us this analogous adjudication.”

I. FACTUAL MATRIX IN CASE OF THE ACCUSED-SATISH

In hindsight, the Bench then recalls in para 3 that, “The Extra Joint Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur (hereinafter referred to as the Special Court) vide the Judgment and Order dated 5th February, 2020 passed in the Special Child Protection Case No. 28/2017 convicted and sentenced the accused-Satish for the offences under Sections 342, 354 and 363 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (For short POCSO Act). Being aggrieved by the same, the accused-Satish had preferred an appeal being Criminal Appeal No. 161 of 2020 in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench. By the Judgment and Order dated 19th January, 2021, the High Court disposed of the said appeal by acquitting the accused for the offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, and convicting him for the offence under Sections 342 and 354 of the IPC. The accused was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year and to pay fine of Rs. 500/- in default thereof to suffer R.I. for one month for the offence under Section 354 and to undergo imprisonment for a period of six months and to pay fine of Rs. 500/-, in default thereof to suffer R.I. for one month for the offence under Section 342 of IPC.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “The case of the prosecution before the Special Court as emerging from the record was that the informant happened to be the mother of the victim aged about 12 years. The accused-Satish was residing in the same area where she was residing i.e. Deepak Nagar, Nagpur. On 14.12.2016 at about 11.30 a.m., the victim had gone out to obtain guava. Since she did not return back for a long time, the informant-mother went in search of the victim. At that time, one lady Sau Divya Uikey who was staying nearby, told her that the neighbouring person (the accused) had taken her daughter along with him to his house. The informant, therefore, went to the house of the accused. The accused at that time came down from the first floor of his house. The informant having made inquiry about her daughter, the accused told her that she was not there in his house. The informant, however, barged into the house of the accused to search her daughter as she heard the shouts coming from a room situated on the first floor. She went to the first floor and found that the door of the room was bolted from outside. She opened the door and found her daughter who was crying in the room. On making inquiry as to what had happened, her daughter told her that the accused had asked her to come with him and told her that he would give her a guava. He took her to his house. He then pressed her breast and tried to remove her salwar. At that time, the victim tried to shout but the accused pressed her mouth. The accused thereafter left the room and bolted the door from outside. The informant, on having learnt such facts, went to the Police Station along with her daughter to lodge the complaint. The said complaint was registered as Crime No. 405/2016 at Police Station Gittikhadan, Nagpur. It was further case of the prosecution that when the police rushed to the spot, they saw that the accused was trying to commit suicide by hanging himself. He, therefore, was sent to the hospital for treatment. The spot panchanama was drawn and the statement of the victim was got recorded under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure before the Magistrate. After the completion of the investigation, the charge-sheet was filed in the Special Court, Nagpur against the accused. The Special Court after appreciating the evidence on record, passed the Judgment and Order of conviction and sentence as stated hereinabove.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then recollects in para 5 that, “The High Court in the appeal filed by the accused-Satish acquitted the accused for the offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted him for the minor offence under Sections 342 and 354 of IPC by making following observations:

“18 . Evidently, it is not the case of the prosecution that the appellant removed her top and pressed her breast. The punishment provided for offence of ‘sexual assault’ is imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine. Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offence, in the opinion of this Court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required. The act of pressing of breast of the child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific details as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault’. It would certainly fall within the definition of the offence under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code.”

As a fallout, the Bench then reveals in para 6 that, “The above observations/findings made by the High Court, have caused the Attorney General for India, the National Commission for Women and the State of Maharashtra to file the appeals before this Court. The accused has also filed the appeal challenging his conviction for the offences under Section 354 and 342 of the IPC.”

Be it noted, the Bench then holds in para 40 that, “In the light of the afore-discussed legal position, if the findings recorded by the High Court are appreciated, it clearly emerges that the High Court fell into error in case of the accused-Satish in holding him guilty for the minor offences under Sections 342 and 354 of IPC and acquitting him for the offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The High Court while specifically accepting the consistent versions of the victim and her mother i.e. informant about the accused having taken the victim to his house, having pressed the breast of the victim, having attempted to remove her salwar and pressing her mouth, had committed gross error in holding that the act of pressing of breast of the child aged 12 years in absence of any specific details as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hands inside the top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of sexual assault, and would fall within the definition of offence under Section 354 of the IPC. The High Court further erred in holding that there was no offence since there was no direct physical contact i.e. “skin to skin” with sexual intent.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then observes in para 41 that, “The interpretation of Section 7 at the instance of the High Court on the premise of the principle of “ejusdem generis” is also thoroughly misconceived. It may be noted that the principle of “ejusdem generis” should be applied only as an aid to the construction of the statute. It should not be applied where it would defeat the very legislative intent. As per the settled legal position, if the specific words used in the section exhaust a class, it has to be construed that the legislative intent was to use the general word beyond the class denoted by the specific words. So far as Section 7 of the POCSO Act is concerned, the first part thereof exhausts a class of act of sexual assault using specific words, and the other part uses the general act beyond the class denoted by the specific words. In other words, whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, would be committing an offence of “sexual assault”. Similarly, whoever does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration, would also be committing the offence of “sexual assault” under Section 7 of the POCSO Act. In view of the discussion made earlier, the prosecution was not required to prove a “skin to skin” contact for the purpose of proving the charge of sexual assault under Section 7 of the Act.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then holds in para 42 that, “The surrounding circumstances like the accused having taken the victim to his house, the accused having lied to the mother of the victim that the victim was not in his house, the mother having found her daughter in the room on the first floor of the house of the accused and the victim having narrated the incident to her mother, were proved by the prosecution, rather the said facts had remained unchallenged at the instance of the accused. Such basic facts having been proved by the prosecution, the Court was entitled to raise the statutory presumption about the culpable mental state of the accused as permitted to be raised under Section 30 of the said Act. The said presumption has not been rebutted by the accused, by proving that he had no such mental state. The allegation of sexual intent as contemplated under Section 7 of the Act, therefore, had also stood proved by the prosecution. The Court, therefore, is of the opinion that the prosecution had duly proved not only the sexual intent on the part of the accused but had also proved the alleged acts that he had pressed the breast of the victim, attempted to remove her salwar and had also exercised force by pressing her mouth. All these acts were the acts of “sexual assault” as contemplated under section 7, punishable under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.”

II. FACTUAL MATRIX IN THE CASE OF THE ACCUSED-LIBNUS

Of course, the Bench then lays bare in para 7 that, “The Additional Sessions Judge, Gadchiroli (hereinafter referred to as the Special Court) vide the judgment and order dated 5th October, 2020 passed in the Special POCSO case no. 07/2019 convicted and sentenced the accused-Libnus s/o Fransis Kujur for the offences punishable under Section 448 and 354-A (1)(i) of IPC and Sections 8 and 10 read with section 9 (m) and 12 of the POCSO Act. Being aggrieved by the same, the accused-Libnus had preferred an appeal being Criminal Appeal No. 445 of 2020 in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench. Vide the Judgment and Order dated 15th January, 2021, the High Court maintained the conviction of the accused for the offences under Sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC read with Section 12 of the POCSO Act and set aside the conviction of the accused for the offences under Sections 8 and 10 of the POCSO Act. The High Court considering the nature of the alleged acts and the punishment provided for the alleged offences, modified the sentence imposed by the Special Court to the extent he had already undergone, and directed to set him free.”

In this context, it would be instructive to note that the Bench then mentions in para 43 that, “So far as the case of the other accused-Libnus is concerned, the High Court vide its impugned judgment and order, while maintaining the conviction of the accused for the offences punishable under sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC read with Section 12 of the POCSO Act, has acquitted the accused for the offence under Sections 8 and 10 of the POCSO Act. Pertinently the High Court while recording the finding that the prosecution had established that the accused had entered into the house of the prosecutrix with the intention to outrage her modesty, also held that the acts “holding the hands of the prosecutrix” or “opened the zip of the pant” did not fit in the definition of sexual assault. In the opinion of the Court, the High Court had fallen into a grave error in recording such findings. When the alleged acts of entering the house of the prosecutrix with sexual intent to outrage her modesty, of holding her hands and opening the zip of his pant showing his penis, are held to be established by the prosecution, there was no reason for the High Court not to treat such acts as the acts of “sexual assault” within the meaning of Section 7 of the POCSO Act. The High Court appears to have been swayed away by the minimum punishment of five years prescribed for the offence of “aggravated sexual assault” under Section 10 of the POCSO Act as the age of the prosecutrix was five years and the sexual assault if committed on the victim who is below 12 years is required to be treated as the “aggravated sexual assault” as per Section 9(m) of the Act. However, neither the term of minimum punishment nor the age of the victim could be a ground to allow the accused to escape from the clutches of Section 7 of the POCSO Act. The alleged acts of the accused in entering the house of the prosecutrix with sexual intent to outrage her modesty, holding her hands and unzipping his pant showing his penis to the prosecutrix having been held to be proved by the prosecution, they would certainly be the acts falling within the purview of the “sexual assault” as contemplated in the second part of Section 7 i.e. “……… or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration”. The Court, therefore, has no hesitation in holding that the accused-Libnus had committed an offence of “sexual assault” within the meaning of Section 7 of the POCSO Act and the prosecutrix being below the age of 12 years, he had committed an offence of “aggravated sexual assault” as contemplated under Section 9(m) of the said Act, liable to be punished with the imprisonment for a term not less than five years under Section 10 of the POCSO Act. In that view of the matter, the judgment and order of the High Court insofar as it has set aside the conviction of the accused-Libnus for the offences under Section 8 and 10 of the POCSO Act is liable to be set aside, and the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by the Special Court is required to be restored.”

Order

As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 44 that, “In the aforesaid premises, the judgments and orders dated 19.01.2021 and 15.01.2021 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench, at Nagpur in Criminal Appeal No. 161 of 2020 and Criminal Appeal No. 445 of 2020 respectively are hereby quashed and set aside; and the judgments and orders dated 05.02.2020 and 05.10.2020 passed by the Extra Joint Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur in Special Child Protection Case No. 28 of 2017 and by the Special Court, Gadchiroli in POCSO Case No. 07/2019 are restored.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then holds in para 45 that, “Accordingly, the accused-Satish is hereby convicted for the offences punishable under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and under Sections 342, 354 and 363 of the IPC. He is directed to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years and to pay fine of Rs.500/- and in default thereof to suffer simple imprisonment for a period of one month for the offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. Since he has been sentenced for the major offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, no separate sentence is imposed upon him for the other offences under the IPC.”

What is also worth noting is that the Bench then also holds in para 46 that, “The accused-Libnus s/o Fransis Kujur is hereby convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 354-A (1)(i) and 448 of the IPC as also for the offences under Sections 8, 12 and 10 read with Section 9(m) of the POCSO Act. He is directed to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of five years for the offence under Section 10 of the POCSO Act and to pay fine of Rs. 25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand only) and in default thereof to suffer simple imprisonment for a period of six months. Since he has been sentenced for the major offence under Section 10 of the POCSO Act, no separate sentence is being imposed upon him for the other offences under the IPC and the POCSO Act.”

Furthermore, the Bench then directs in para 47 that, “Both accused – Satish and Libnus are directed to surrender themselves before the concerned Special Courts, within four weeks from today.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then holds in para 48 that, “Before parting, it may be noted that in the case of the accused-Libnus, the State of Maharashtra while filing the Appeal before this Court had not produced the certified copy of the judgment of the High Court, however, had produced a copy of a certified copy, wherein the High Court had recorded acquittal of the accused for the offence under Sections 8, 10 and 12 of the POCSO Act, while maintaining his conviction under Sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC, whereas in the copy of the impugned judgment of the High Court downloaded by the respondent-accused produced on record by the learned Advocate for the accused, the High Court had recorded the conviction of the accused for the offence under Sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC read with Section 12 of the POCSO Act. There being a discrepancy in the said two copies of the impugned judgment of the High Court, the learned Advocate for the respondent-accused had filed an I.A. bringing to the notice of the Court about such discrepancy. The Court, therefore, had vide its order dated 27.10.2021 directed the Registrar of the High Court to send the certified copy of the decision of the High court dated 15.01.2021 passed in Criminal Appeal No. 445 of 2020. Accordingly, the Assistant Registrar of the High Court of Bombay, Nagpur Bench, has sent the certified copy of the said judgment.”

Most astonishing is what is then stated by the Bench in para 49 that, “It is very surprising to note that the Registry of High Court of Bombay, Nagpur Bench, has certified the copy of the impugned judgment by affixing the stamp on the back side of every page of the judgment which is blank. The said copy of the judgment appears to have been downloaded from the website and, therefore, does not bear even the signature or the name of the concerned judge at the end of the judgment. The certificate that the said copy is a true copy of the judgment, is also not written at the foot of the judgment as contemplated in Section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act. Such a practice, if followed by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, may allow the miscreants to manipulate or commit mischief in the judicial orders which are used as the public documents having great significance in the judicial proceedings. The Registrar General of the Bombay High Court, therefore, is directed to look into the matter and ensure that proper procedure for preparing the certified copies of the judgments/orders of the Court in accordance with law is followed.”

It then notes in para 50 that, “All the five appeals stand disposed of accordingly.”

Finally, the Bench then holds in para 51 that, “It will be failure on our part if we do not extend gratitude of appreciation for the enormous assistance rendered by learned senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, learned Amicus Curiae Siddharth Luthra, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the accused through Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, Ms Geeta Luthra, learned Senior Advocate appearing for National Women Commission and all other advocates who have appeared in the matter.

The initiative taken by the learned Attorney General for India Mr KK Venugopal in filing the appeal with all sense of expressing his concern in the cause also deserve to be appreciated.”

It must be mentioned that Justice Ravindra S Bhat in his separate but concurring judgment said that, “The reasoning in the High Court’s judgment quite insensitively trivializes – indeed legitimizes – an entire range of unacceptable behaviour which undermines a child’s dignity and autonomy, through unwanted intrusions.”

While cautioning Judges in interpreting provisions of the law, Justice Bhat said that, “It is no part of any Judge’s duty to strain the plain words of a statute, beyond recognition and to the point of its destruction, thereby denying the cry of the times that children desperately need the assurance of a law designed to protect their autonomy and dignity, as POCSO does.”

On a concluding note, it must be said that all the Judges must always strictly adhere to what the Apex Court three Judge Bench in this extremely commendable, cogent, courageous and convincing judgment has laid down so clearly. It is clearly laid down that skin-to-skin touch is not must to judge POCSO offence. What is essential is sexual intent. If sexual intent is there then that is sufficient to convict the accused! We thus see that the Apex Court has in this notable case decisively rejected the narrow interpretation of sexual assault against children and rightly held that unacceptable behavior cannot be trivialized. Very rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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Legally Speaking

Biomedical Waste Disposal: An Analysis

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Biomedical waste is composed of animal and human waste, treatment equipment, for instance, syringes, needles, and the other different kinds of amenities in the process of research and treatment (Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016). Adequate biomedical waste management concerning the proper rules and regulations were consistently overlooked for years, specifically in a developing country like India.

India, the second most populated country worldwide after China and the world’s second worst-hit country by COVID-19 officially, and unofficially it is undoubtedly the worst affected. India now has 20.7 million confirmed cases of the deadly Covid-19 virus. However, the recovery rate among Indian population is also very remarkably high. The administration has also taken rigorous steps to tackle Covid-19, but this has resulted in piles of Bio-medical waste. According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, approximately 4527 tons of bio-medical waste was generated in December 2020. This has unduly pressurised the waste management system of country. Lack of resources has further added to this problem of waste management. India faced severe consequences during the second wave of COVID-19 and responding to which the medical system is also overburdened. These critical conditions have also posed a challenge in the administration to manage the bio-medical waste generated in treating the patients found positive with Covid-19. The country has a total of 238,170 healthcare facilities, out of which 87,267 are bedded while the remaining 151,208 are non-bedded healthcare facilities (HCFs) generating BMW. According to a study, improper management and disposal of bio-medical waste could expose freely roaming animals and humans with diseases like Covid-19. Thus, it becomes imperative to think for effective management strategies and spare some resources to manage bio-medical waste.

Untreated and improperly managed BMW is a potential source of infection. Millions of contaminated personal protection equipment (PPE) (e.g., facemasks and gloves) would end up as wastes, which, if improperly managed, can pose environmental and health threats. In a recent study (Kampf et al., 2020) finds that the coronavirus can survive on material surfaces (e.g., metals, glass, and plastics) for up to 9 days. Such threats may be ameliorated in developed countries where green and sustainable waste management strategies, capable of containing such viruses, are practiced. However, the threats would be much higher in developing countries that have poor waste management strategies. In many developing countries, solid wastes are dumped in the open and in poorly managed landfills where waste pickers without wearing proper PPE would scavenge for recyclable materials (World Bank, 2019).

Thus, it is the right time to call upon the policymakers to ponder this problem, which could become an uphill climb later if not given due attention.

IMMEDIATE ACTION AND FUTURE POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS:

The lockdown had led to enhancement in the origination of the food and packaging waste from the domestic households, which should be disseminated as per the current waste accumulation rules. The occurrence of the collection of biodegradable waste could be modified according to the locality. However, the recyclable waste could be reduced according to the accessibility of the people as well as the trucks. As they should be helped to accumulate them in the sealed bags for a longer tenure. There would be more generation of infectious waste and toxic waste if more heed is given to sanitary products and other health care products. So, it is very much necessary that it should be accumulated in double lined sealed bags with a particular symbol. The food packaging and the other waste should be handled with possible care and caution as it should be carried in a double layered compostable bag.

There would be less charge on the management of the hazardous waste as more waste from the households is being compensated by the smaller number of wastes from the restaurants, eateries and the other complexes. It is necessary to be conscious for the exposure of the waste as long as it exposes the pathogen to spread. The people living at their home required to be more prudent as there is a need of dissemination of the waste. The propagation of the same should be done through advertisements, newspapers or other source of media.

Few Policy recommendations deliberately made for the policymakers which might assist a system to tackle the pandemic:

a) Identification of the key role: This is the prime duty of the government to recognize the part which has to be played by sanitation workers. For instance, UK government has specifically given key worker status to their workers as the government would be fulfilling all the requirements of their family during the COVID crises so they could continue their services.

b) Formulation of the Global Common Platform of Knowledge: It is very much necessary to formulate a platform as well as foundation of knowledge so that the people should gain the know how of handling the waste as they could curb themselves in need of the hour.

c) Pervasive standardization of the coding: The universal standards for the color coding are very much significant for disseminating the bio medical waste. As it would provide assistance to the identification of the type and the characteristic of the waste. Proper training to the workers in the regard would also be very much helpful.

d) Technology Based Solutions: To deliver the high quality by products, it is very much necessary to emphasize the gasification, hydrothermal, and carbonization kind of techniques. Additionally, there should be investment of research into it.

e) Implementations of the principals from circular economy: To reduce the amount food wasted, re-utilization of the food waste and nutrient recycling are the major fundamentals of the circular economy in the food system and should be executed both at producer as well as consumer level. Furthermore, the circular-based models’ execution would assist in deviation of the accumulated waste from the disposal sites to the recyclable plants; however, it would also help in declining the generation of the waste in the initial place.

f) Propagation Regarding Circular economy: People are not knowing about the methodology behind the circular economy so it is the dire need to aware people regarding the concept of circular economy. The fabrication of the recyclable products would, for instance, bioplastic and biodegradable products should be highly promoted as well rewarded.

g) Moving from awareness to Action: Just by propagating the general public regrading the same would not help rather they should be highly motivated to implement all the schemes practically. Media campaigning would really assist in effecting the people’s behavior and would also assist in the transformation of their musings to converting the economy into a greener one.

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