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Remission power of President and Governor: A discussion

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Recently, a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the matter of Pyare Lal v. State of Haryana framed an important question of law for the reference to the larger bench to consider-

“Whether in exercise of power conferred under Article 161 of the Constitution a policy can be framed, where under certain norms or postulates are laid down, on the satisfaction of which the benefit of remission can thereafter be granted by the Executive without placing the facts or material with respect to any of the cases before the Governor and whether such exercise can override the requirements under Section 433-A of the Cr.P.C.”

The matter in hand reports that the accused (Pyare Lal) was convicted in relation to the offence committed under Section 302 r/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer life imprisonment. The accused preferred an application for bail which was subsequently rejected by the Court. Another application for bail was preferred by the accused, but before the Court could consider the application of the accused, he was prematurely released from the prison in 2019 as a matter of State Policy which permits the accused to be released prematurely as he being aged above 75 years has served 8 years of imprisonment. The reason stated by the State Government for premature release was that:

“On the occasion of Independence Day i.e. 15th August 2019, the Governor of Haryana in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 161 of the Constitution of India, is pleased to grant special remission to prisoners who are undergoing sentence as a result of their conviction by the Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction in the State of Haryana.”

 The category of convicts refers to:

“The convicts who have been sentenced for life and are 75 years or above in case of male and of 65 years or above in case of female as on 15.08.2019 and have completed eight years of actual sentence in case of male convicts and six years of actual sentence in case of female convicts including under trial period and excluding parole period and whose conduct has remained satisfactory during confinement and who have not committed any major jail offence in the last two years be released forthwith….”

Interplay of Section 433-A Cr.P.C. and Article 161 of the Constitution

 In Maru Ram case, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court considered the constitutional validity of Section 433-A Cr.P.C. The issue before the Court was whether Section 433-A curbs the power of the Constitutional authority such as President/Governor to remit or commute unless the convict has served fourteen years of rigorous punishment in offence for which life imprisonment is imposed on the convict. The majority Judgment penned by Justice Krishna Iyer observed that Section 432 and Section 433 are not a manifestation of Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution but a separate, though similar power, and Section 433-A, by nullifying wholly or partially these prior provisions does not violate or detract from the full operation of the constitutional power to pardon, commute and the like. In other terms, the Court differentiated the powers emanating from the constitution and the statute, where the later can’t be equated with a high prerogative vested by the Constitution in the highest functionaries of the Union and the States. Ultimately, the Court upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 433-A by stating that the constitutional power is “untouchable” and “unapproachable” and cannot suffer the vicissitudes of simple legislative process.

Powers conferred upon the symbolic heads must be exercised sparingly with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers

As held in Maru Ram, that Section 433-A Cr.P.C. does not and cannot affect even a wee bit the pardon power of the Governor or the President. Hence, the question appears that whether the President or the Governor enjoys a discretionary power to remit or commute the punishment of the offender? The answer lies in negative because it is not open either to the President or the Governor to take independent decision or direct release or refuse release of anyone of their own choice. The Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh’s case laid down the law that it is fundamental to the Westminster system that the Cabinet rules and the President and the Governor, be they ever so high in textual terminology, are but functional euphemisms promptly acting on and only on the advice of the Council of Ministers have in a narrow area of power. Therefore, while exercising the powers under Articles 72 and 161, the two highest dignitaries in our constitutional scheme act and must act not on their own judgment but in accordance with the aid and advice of the ministers.

It is true that Articles 72 and 161 remain uncanalised but the powers must not be exercised capriciously but should be informed by the finer canons of constitutionalism. In Swaran Singh v. State of U.P. and Ors., the Supreme Court in a judicial review set aside the order passed by the Governor under Article 161 of the Constitution granting remission to the person convicted of an offence of murder, even before the convict had completed two years’ of actual sentence. The Court in this case highlighted the responsibility of the government to provide material facts before the Governor, as when the Governor was not posted with the material facts, the Governor was apparently deprived of the opportunity to exercise the powers in a fair and just manner, and conversely the power fringes on arbitrariness. The Court referring to its earlier ruling in Kehar Singh held that if the power under Article 161 exercised by the Governor is arbitrary, mala fide or in absolute disregard of the finer canons of the constitutionalism, the by product order cannot get the approval of law and in such cases, the judicial hand must be stretched to it.

In Epuru Sudhakar case, the division Bench of the Supreme Court dealing with the same set of factual scenario as that in Swaran Singh, emphasized that the powers conferred to the Governor or President must be exercised sparingly and not only for the benefit of the convict but while exercising such a power the President or the Governor, as the case may be, has to keep in mind the effect of his decision on the family of the victims, the society as a whole and the precedent it sets for the future. The Court also laid down the following grounds on which limited judicial review is available and impugned orders of the President or the Governor may be challenged, such as:

 (a) that the order has been passed without application of mind;

(b) that the order is mala fide;

(c) that the order has been passed on extraneous or wholly irrelevant considerations;

(d) that relevant materials have been kept out of consideration;

(e) that the order suffers from arbitrariness.

Further delineating on the aspect of exercising the power on the basis of material facts, the Division Bench of the Supreme Court in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar v. State (NCT of Delhi) observed that:

“On receipt of the advice of the Government, the President or the Governor, as the case may be, has to take a final decision in the matter. Although, he/she cannot overturn the final verdict of the Court, but in appropriate case, the President or the Governor, as the case may be, can after scanning the record of the case, form his/her independent opinion whether a case is made out for grant of pardon, reprieve, etc. In any case, the President or the Governor, as the case may be, has to take cognizance of the relevant facts and then decide whether a case is made out for exercise of power under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution.”

Moreover, the Bench averred that the Court can neither sit in appeal nor exercise the power of review, but can interfere if it is found that the decision has been taken without application of mind to the relevant factors or the same is founded on the extraneous or irrelevant considerations or is vitiated due to mala fides or patent arbitrariness.

 Conclusion

In Pyare Lal, the Court concern on the point whether the Governor has the occasion to look into the issues such as severity of the crime or the manner in which the crime was committed or the impact of the crime on the Society or how the matter was seen and considered by the concerned courts while holding or upholding that the concerned convicts were found guilty of the offences in question is justified because in Maru Ram there are observations that no separate order for each individual case would be necessary but a general order must be clear enough to identify the group of cases and indicate the application of mind to the whole group. The Supreme Court in consistent line of cases has laid down that the principles of Section 433-A of the Code do not and cannot apply to the exercise of constitutional power either under Article 72 or under Article 161 of the Constitution, however the consequence of the general order may provide the hardened offender an advantage of being released prematurely despite serving a punishment for heinous offences where life imprisonment is the minimum punishment imposed on the offender. Hence, the power of remission must be exercised on the case to case basis where the relevant aspects including seriousness of the crime and the manner in which the crime was committed must also be part of the consideration.

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SC Collegium Recommends elevation of Justice Prasanna B. Varale as Karnataka HC Chief Justice; Recommends New CJs For Orissa, J&K

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Supreme court

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended elevation of Justice Prasanna B. Varale, Bombay High Court Judge as the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.
Justice Prasanna B. Varale was born on 23rd June, 1962 and enrolled as an Advocate on 12th August, 1985. He also served as a lecturer in Law at Ambedkar Law College, Aurangabad from 1990 to 1992 and as the Assistant Government Pleader and Additional Public Prosecutor, High Court Bench at Aurangabad and also as an Additional Standing Counsel for Union of India.
On July, 18., he was elevated to the bench at Bombay High Court.
The Supreme Court Collegium also recommended to elevate of Orissa High Court Judge, Justice Jaswant Singh, as its Chief Justice.
Justice Singh was February 23, 1961 and was enrolled as an Advocate in 1986 in Haryana. In April 1988, he moved to Chandigarh and held the posts of Assistant Advocate General, Deputy Advocate General, Senior Deputy Advocate General and Additional Advocate General, in the office of Advocate General, Haryana, since March 1991.
On December 5, 2007., he was elevated as a Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court and on 8th October, 2021., he was transferred to the Orissa High Court.
The Collegium also J&K High Court’s Judge, Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey to take charge as the Chief Justice.
Justice Magrey was born on 8th December, 1960 and enrolled as Advocate in the year 1984. However, he remained as standing counsel from 1986 onwards for various State instrumentalities and was appointed as Additional Advocate General in February, 2003. In September 2009, he was appointed as Senior Additional Advocate General.
On 8th March, 2013., he was appointed as Permanent Judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

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Supreme Court Collegium Recommends Transfer Of 3 Judges To Bombay, Jharkhand & Tripura High Courts

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Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended transfer of three Judges in its meeting held on 28th September, 2022 in the following manner:
The transfer of Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra from Uttarakhand High Court to Jharkhand High Court
Justice Mishra was born on December 29, 1961 and has obtained his LL.B. degree in 1987 and in February 1999 joined as Additional District & Sessions Judge. However, he worked as District & Sessions Judge, Sundergarh, Dhenkanal, Special Judge (CBI), Bhubaneswar and has joined as Registrar General of Orissa High Court.
On October 7, 2009., he was elevated as Judge of the Orissa High Court and was transferred to the Uttarakhand High Court on October 11, 2021. Between December 24, 2021 and June 28, 2022, he served as the Acting Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
The transfer of Justice K. Vinod Chandran from the Kerala High Court to Bombay High Court
Justice K. Vinod Chandran was born on April 25, 1963 and has started his law practice in 1991. Also, he served as a Special Government Pleader (Taxes) of the Government of Kerala from 2007 to 2011. In November 2011, he was sworn-in as Additional Judge of Kerala High Court and was appointed as a Permanent Judge with effect from June 24, 2013.
The transfer of Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh from Jharkhand High Court to Tripura High Court
Justice Singh was born on 7th July, 1965 and got enrolled as an advocate at Patna in 1990. On 24th January, 2012., he was elevated as an Additional Judge of Jharkhand High Court and was confirmed as permanent Judge on 16th January, 2014. Presently, he is holding an additional charge as Executive Chairman of Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority.

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Kerala High Court Directs Union Health Ministry And Department of Pharmaceuticals To File Response: Patents On Life Saving Drugs

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The Kerala High Court while taking serious note in the case XXX v. Union of India of the unaffordability of a life-saving patented medicine for breast cancer, the Court directed a competent officer of the union health ministry and the department of pharmaceuticals for filing their response on the issue within a month.
A direction has been issued by the Court after noting that the matter had to be taken up at the higher level.
The bench of Justice V.G. Arun observed and has warned that if the counter is not filed within the stipulated time, the court would be constrained to proceed with the case based on the “uncontroverted averments in the writ”.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing on behalf of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and the Controller General of Patents, Patent Department, Standing Counsel T.C. Krishna submitted that the situation to invoke Sections 92 and 100 for compulsory license of the patented drug as sought for in the petition and was not prevalent as of present.
Further, it was asked by the counsel that how far the court could interfere in this case, since the plea had sought that the drug be made available at a reasonable price. Adding to it, he questioned that weather the Court could suggest what a ‘reasonable price’ would be to the government.
In response to the question, it was clarified by advocate Rahul Bajaj that cancer was not part of the list of the notifiable diseases list issued by the Central Government.
The Amicus Curiae, Advocate Maitreyi Sachidananda Hegde submitted that the authority to take decision under Section 92 or Section 100 of the Patent Act ought to be of the Joint Secretary level as the Assistant Patent Officer could not decide whether the issue falls within the government realm or not.
It was also argued by the Amicus that the legal question which has been raised could be decided by the Court.
Further, it was submitted by Amicus that the counter Affidavit that had been submitted by DPIIT and Patent Department suffered from certain drawbacks for not addressing whether reasonable discretion had indeed been exercised in the instant case or not.
The Counsel appearing for the respondent refused while stating that the government has to take the decision in this regard, before the Patent Department could go ahead with compulsory licensing or any other such measure.
Representing an intervenor, Advocate Bajaj pointed out that the right to health in Indian and International spectrum includes within its ambit the right to life-saving medicines, as well. Hence, it was submitted by the counsel that the issue could not merely be looked into from a policy lens alone, but that it is a rights-based issue in itself.
The Court on 16.09.2022., had taken a suo motto cognizance of the issue of unaffordability of patented life-saving medicines, in light of the death of the petitioner who had espoused this cause having not been able to afford the Ribociclib drug for the treatment of her breast cancer.
Accordingly, the court posted the case for the next hearing on 2nd November 2022.

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Allahabad high court: Not mandatory to summon lower court record before deciding state’s plea for grant of leave u/s 378(3) crpc

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The Allahabad High Court in the case State of U.P. v. Vakil S/O Babu Khan observed and has held that it is not mandatory for the High Court to summon the lower court record in every case before deciding the State Government’s application for grant of leave to appeal against an acquittal order as provided under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C.
It stated that section 378 Cr.P.C. provides for filing of appeal in case of acquittal by the State and sub-section 3 of Section 378 Cr.P.C. contemplates for grant of leave for the entertainment of such appeals filled.
The bench comprising of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Shiv Shanker Prasad observed and has stated that it is for the High Court to decide on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case that whether the application filled for grant of leave requires the perusal of the lower court records or not.
However, the court was of the view that though the right of the appellate court to summon the lower court record in an appropriate matter always subsists and it is not necessary for the High Court to call for the lower court records for consideration of an application under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C., in every case or as a matter of routine.
The Court also referred to the Apex Court’s ruling in the case of State of Maharastra Vs. Sujay Mangesh Poyarekar (2008) 9 SCC 475, wherein it was observed that the High Court while exercising the power to grant or refuse leave must apply its mind and considering where a prima facie case has been made out or arguable points have been raised and not whether the order of an acquittal would or would not be set aside.
It was observed that the court also took into account sub-section 2 of Section 384 Cr.P.C. which provides that before dismissing an appeal, summarily, the Court may call up for the record of the case. Thus, the court noted that non-summoning of the lower court records in an appeal against conviction is not fatal and that the use of the expression ‘may’ in sub-section (2) clearly suggests that the power to summon the record is only an enabling provision and as shall it is not to be read.
Further, the court stressed that every appeal is not required to be admitted inasmuch as leave must not necessarily be granted in every matter and the exercise of power in that regard is dependent before the Court upon a prima facie assessment of the material placed so as to ascertain whether the appeal raises arguable points or not.
Subsequently, the Court came to the conclusion that it is not mandatory for the High Court to summon the lower court record in every case before deciding the application for grant of leave under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C.
It was added by the court that the right of the appellate court to summon the lower court record in an appropriate matter always subsists and It is for the High Court to decide on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case that whether the application for grant of leave requires the perusal of the lower court records or not.

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All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

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All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

In a landmark judgement this week, the Supreme Court held that all women are entitled to a safe and legal abortion. A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that the meaning of rape must include marital rape for the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The Supreme Court said that the distinction between married and unmarried women for the purposes of the MTP Act is “artificial and constitutionally unsustainable” and perpetuates the stereotype that only married women indulge in sexual activities.
The rights of reproductive autonomy give similar rights to unmarried women as those to married women, the bench held.
Insisting on a “forward-looking” approach, the Supreme Court on 7 August opined that any discrimination between married and unmarried women in respect of the medical termination of pregnancy law in India that does not allow a single woman to go for an abortion after 20 weeks violates her personal autonomy.
The top court had said that it would interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to a 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.
The upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, with special categories including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks.

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SEBI v/s RIL : Review Petition Admitted

The present issue relates back to certain share transactions of RIL in 1994, whereby around 12 crore equity shares of RIL were “fraudulently” allotted to its promoters and group companies.

Tarun Nangia

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SEBI v/s RIL : Review Petition Admitted

The Supreme Court in the case Securities and Exchange Board Of India vs. Reliance Industries Limited & Ors observed and has allowed for listing of the instant petition in open court.

The bench comprising of the Chief Justice Of India U.U. Lalit, Justice J.K. Maheshwari and the Justice HimaKohli observed while considering the facts and circumstances of the case and on the submissions made by the counsel in the review petition. The bench deemed it appropriate to allowe the application filled for the listing of the instant petition in open court.

Background of the Case:

The present issue relates back to certain share transactions of RIL in 1994, whereby around 12 crore equity shares of RIL were “fraudulently” allotted to its promoters and group companies. In 2020, a complaint was filled by S Gurmurthy, the regulatory initiated probe into the alleged irregularities. An opinion was sought by SEBI of former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna twice and also the opinion of a Chartered Accountant named YH Malegam.

It was requested by the RBI for disclosure of these opinions and related internal documents. The RIL filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court, when SEBI turned the request and the same was dismissed in February 2019.

A Criminal complaint was lodged by SEBI in 2020 before Special Judge, Mumbai against RIL alleging offences punishable under SEBI Act and Regulations. The same was rejected by the Court as time-barred. A revision petition was filled by the regulatory before the Bombay High Court challenging the dismissal of the complaint. However, in SEBI’s revision petition, RIL filed an interlocutory application seeking the disclosure of the documents. The High Court adjourned RIL’s application on March 28, 2022 by stating that it can be considered only along with the main revision petition. Therefore, this led to filling of the special leave petition before the Supreme Court.

On September 29, 2022., the matter was circulated in the Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court listed the review petition for next hearing on 12.10.2022.

Case Title: Securities and Exchange Board Of India vs. Reliance Industries Limited & Ors
Case No: W.P.(C) No. 250 of 2022 & W.P.(C) of 1167 of 2022.
Coram: Chief Justice Of India U.U. Lalit, Justice J.K. Maheshwari, Justice Hima Kohli
Date Of Order: 29th Day of September, 2022.

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