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Revisiting the fundamentals of the Burari Mass Killings

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Court seeks report on loss to victims in riot case at Burari

It is about one of the most horrific, hideous and dreadful mass killings which shook the nation when bodies of 11 members of same family were found hanged. This incident took place in the night of 30th June, 2018 and bodies were found on 1st July, 2018. It is a matter of utter surprise that a case of this sort did not find much space both in media reports and retention of the masses. The Burari Case still comes of shock and disbelief among common citizenry.

The Chundawat Family
Also known as Bhatia family, lived in double-story house in Burari, Sant Nagar vicinity for around two decades, after shifting from their native-born town in Tohana, Haryana. The family ran a grocery store and plywood business in the area. The family had three generations of members living together happily under one roof, quite an example for modern day families in cities. They held high regard and respect in the community and everything seemed to be going good for the family. The family had 11 members namely, Narayani Devi (80), mother of Bhuvnesh, Lalit and Pratibha, Pratibha Bhatia (57), widowed daughter of Narayani Devi, Bhuvnesh (50), elder son of Narayani Devi, Lalit (45), younger son of Narayani Devi, Savita (48), elder daughter-in-law of Narayani Devi, wife of Bhuvnesh, Tina (42), younger daughter-in-law of Narayani Devi, wife of Lalit, Priyanka (33), daughter of Pratibha, Nitu (25), elder daughter of Bhuvnesh, Monu (23), younger daughter of Bhuvnesh, Dhruv (15), only son and youngest child of Bhuvnesh, Shivam (15), son and only child of Lalit.

The story
The occurrence of the incident was brought to notice by neighbour named Gurcharan Singh who used to go to morning walks with one of the deceased found bodies of the family hanged, blindfolded, wire messed hands, knotted scarf over neck, (later cotton rubs found in ears) and called for an alert for the people. At first sight it clearly seemed to be a case of mass murder with 11 members of the family killed overnight but subsequently after due course of investigation police found very peculiar aggregation of evidences which surely negated murder as a possibility reason being that the women of the house were found to be wearing all the ornaments and no signs of stress were found on the body apart from the neck marks. This also negated the burglary as a reason. Many components were raised in support of the mass suicide but the contention that the bodies were hanged, cotton plugged in ears, blindfolded seemed to be a lot of task to fit in onto the definition of suicide. Narayani Devi (80) was found lying dead in the other room beside her bed with a half-turned body. One more point which was peculiar to this case was all the bodies were just few centimeters above the ground which gave certain doubts that maybe the crime was through with at some other place and later were the bodies brought back to the house, but then 11 bodies? Was it even possible? And that too in that time period? Another point to note was that the pet of the house named Tommy was found tied at the roof of the house. Neighbours confirmed that they heard Tommy barking whole night. When found, he was weeping and was in high fever, he was rushed to vet clinic. The youngest of all Shivam (15) was found to be playing cricket last night around 11:30 pm with his friends. There were numerous questions around the horrific incidents. Bhopal Singh, husband of Narayani Devi died in 2007. The reason of his death was found to be of natural causes but it was noticed that Lalit Bhatia post that incident became really very drawn-in and introvert and started spending time in lone most of the times. He was noticed to be involved in paranormal activities as well, although not duly confirmed. It is at this stage that rumours did their part well in this case.

Investigation
Rajeev Tomar, then Head Constable Delhi Police, Burari Police Station and also the family’s former neighbour was the first one to be abreast about the spine chilling incident which was presumed to be a suicide initially. Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) was informed of the direful and awful incident. Later in the reports of the FSL about the faecal matter in the large intestines of the deceased it assured that the members of the family were not in stress, this formally negated the possibility of murder anyway. Police recovered handwritten notes about “attaining salvation”, found in two registers, have foxed the investigators who said that they never saw anything of this sort earlier. It mentioned of ‘badh tapasya’, which indicated that one had to get into a formation like a banyan tree with branches hanging, surprisingly that is exactly how the body formations were found to be. The notes stated as an instruction that, “God would be happy with these acts”. After rigourous investigation 11 diaries were found from the house with the oldest entry dating as back as to 2007 and the latest entry was made last night before the incident took place. The language used in the diaries were instructional, commanding and directing. The Handwriting division, FSL submitted its report stating that the notes were being made by Lalit, Pratibha’s daughter, Priyanka, and Bhuvnesh’s daughter, Neetu. Few became witness stating that the Lalit and his wife were found to be buying the four stools from a shop late at night on 28th June, 2018. Further, on 30th June 2018 at 9:40 pm, Tina was seen to be carrying some newly purchased tools with Neetu. At 10:29 pm, Lalit’s son, Shivam, was seen opening their plywood shop and carrying a small bundle of wires upstairs. Evidence of a ritual that was performed the night before was discovered as well. A leftover ritual cumulus pyre was found. From the ashes that were lying around the pyre, it was clear that the same was used a day prior to the incident. The Chundawats changed their way of life as well. They ceased to consume and prepare non-vegetarian meals. At home, Bhavnesh quit drinking. Pujas became a common occurrence. The number of stores expanded from one to three, including Lalit’s plywood shop, Bhavnesh’s grocery store, and the third one they were opening jointly, as well as the house’s floors. The relatives said the Bhatia family was gearing up for the wedding of Priyanka who got engaged last month. She was among those found dead. The 33-year-old, who worked for an IT company in Noida, discussed her upcoming wedding with cousins the evening before she was found dead. 

Rumours
It is interesting to note that during the further investigation, hearsay and scuttlebutt it was brought to notice that the family of 11 had some interesting affection to the figure 11. The number of diaries found were 11. Secondly, some people of the society specifically mentioned about the 11 pipes jutting outside the wall of the house owing some occult meaning. However, a very different story was portrayed by the neighbours stating that the said family was involved in plywood business and these pipes were installed specifically to make sure the toxic fumes could find easy exit. The Delhi Police, however, have clearly dismissed any link whatsoever between the pipes and the deaths. It was also speculated initially that the family suffered ‘shared psychotic disorder’. According to police, Narayani Devi’s youngest son Lalit Bhatia, 45, plotted the “mass suicide” and wrote down the notes with “instructions” although the majority of the writings were found to be written by Pratibha’s daughter, Priyanka, and Bhuvnesh’s daughter, Neetu, although even his contributions in writings could be denied at face of it. He began writing these notes in 2015. The notes clearly indicated that at some point of time the family had tried to unionize a “Social Assemblage” with Lalit’s father who died in 2007. It appeared that Lalit was in delusion or hallucination that his father was in constant touch with him and was providing instructions which he used to note down and the family seemed to agree and follow the same. There are also reports that avow his liking for spiritual, spectral, supernatural, apparitional, phantasmal and mystical literature apart from stating that he practised reiki, which is a Japanese form of alternative medicine. It is intriguing to mention that post an accident suffering injury Lalit Bhatia lost his voice and sense to communication verbally therefore always used a notepad to communicate with the customers. One of the notes by Lalit predicted doom and advised the family that they would be saved, which when translated read as follows, “in your endmost hours, while your last desire is fulfilled, the sky will be wide-open and the earth will shingle; do not be affright rather start chanting and vocalizing the mantra aloud. I will come to save you and family.” Lalit Bhatia allegedly told the family that he received this pass on from his father. The family was very superstitious and apparently believed that the end of the cosmos was near. The police however accepted that the same was evident that the family was blindly following all these “directions” without any force or whim and negation. One of the last notes read that that the mother would feed rotis (chapati) to each and everyone and the same was corroborated as the family did order 20 rotis from a nearby restaurant but surprisingly did not order any side dishes alongside. This is in furtherance to the fact that FSL found that after testing the faecal matter it was evident that nobody in the family was in stress and had these chapatis. The food was found to be partially digested and FSL found particles of chapatis in intestine. The police also found the restaurant bill in the house. The food was delivered to the family by around 10.40 pm.

Psychology Autopsy
A higher-ranking senior doctor from the department of psychiatry at AIIMS Delhi suggested then that a “psychological autopsy” be conducted in the case to get to the bottom of the mystery. In layman’s term, a psychological autopsy would mean interacting with the victims’ relatives, friends and acquaintances to find if there was any pattern in the events outside the night of incident which could have been a catalyst in the action of the same, this could have been anything like were reading the same book or were part of any cult or were undergoing any treatment or maybe influenced by any occultist. People who are very emotionally and unstable are gullible, compromising, defenseless or vulnerable are prone to get into into suicide or self-annihilation pacts. Generally there are antithetical commonalities in such cases, whether of age, faith, religious belief or some other aspect. In this case we saw the entire array of age groups with three generations of people living together, the mind-set, outlook and the emotional status of individual who is aged 15 years is very different to the one who is aged 80 years. This is something really overwhelming noting the number of 11 deaths in the family. There is another theory which few clinical psychologists tend to believe i.e. apocalyptic theology. Mass or organized religion or cult self-annihilation and suicides happen more often than not in class or group that feel perplexed, confused and stuck in their living and beingness and they disbelieve the control that they can actually exercise in consequences of their life and leave it to the dismay of their lords (cult). Thence, they oftentimes consider that death is the only organic phenomenon possible.

Conclusion
The National Mental Health Policy of India says, “Poverty and mental ill-health are intimately connected in a negative vicious cycle and those from lower socio-economic categories are more sensitive to mental-health problems.” It pledges to enhance funding and ascertain the accessibility and availability of sufficient qualified and abled workers. The biggest problem with this is stigmatization of these kind of malady status which the policy is designed to combat but certainly fails to have any certain impact in the society. The preponderance of psychic morbidity is found to be overflowing in metropolitan cities and upcoming towns, where there is a higher propensity and relative cardinal frequency of dementia praecox, schizophrenic psychosis, mood disorderliness, and neurotic or stress-related diseases. The reasons behind the same could be fast-paced lifestyles, continuous and never-ending stress cycle, vicious city life, breakdown of support structures, loss of family members like in this case and issues of economic disequilibrium. The Burari death incident questioned the very macrocosm of the Indian society. This question becomes stronger and spine-chilling knowing the fact that the 11-membered family who killed themselves where educationally good and financially well-off, pointing out that the modern education and lifestyle definitely is either creating a void in human brain or rather enhancing the existing one or maybe unable to fulfill the desire of that one hooked corner of the human desire which they end up trying to achieve through unfavorable, planned and atrocious routes like these. The Bhatia Family was the perfect representation and example of the ‘Ideal Indian family’ which had its own hidden secrets for a lasting period of 11 cursed years. Mental illnesses are stigmatized, discredited and shamefaced across all social and economic classes. Resultant, patients themselves are hesitant to seek medical assistance. In India, there is virtually too less of a forensic psychiatric infrastructure and training available. The majority of psychiatric units lack a particularised forensic psychiatry ward. In an nonpareil perplexing and unclear case like this where there are no offenders found, no witnesses of the incident and no victims ideally, it is by and large very gnarly and knotty to reach a substantial and appreciating conclusion amidst wildfire rumours, irrational and superstitious beliefs. The Burari death case is somewhat like that therefore even though the police investigators, forensics, crime branch and other state actors involved did reach the conclusion that the entire case was a matter of accidental death although horrifying but simple to its determination, surviving family members and kin groups refused to concur the same till date. 

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Legally Speaking

NCLAT: Withdrawal Of Resolution Plan Will Have Disastrous Effect.

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NCLAT: Withdrawal Of Resolution Plan Will Have Disastrous Effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUPREME COURT

T

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Delhi high court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Supreme Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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