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Rise of inspections, inquiries and investigations under the Companies Act, 2013

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“No law however, well-conceived or well drafted, can be altogether fool-and-knave proof and it is impossible. for any law to protect the fool from the consequences of his acts or omissions. Nevertheless, we consider that it is the function of law to prevent dishonest and unscrupulous people from creating conditions and circumstances, which will enable them to make fools of others.”

– Bhabha Committee Report [Company Law Committee Report 133(1952)]

INTRODUCTION

In last few decades, there has been a radical shift in the perception towards businesses and companies. A company’s accountability on legal, economic, and social grounds has become vital for its growth and the country’s reputation. In National Textile Workers’ Union and Others v. P.R Ramakrishnan And Others, AIR 1983 SC 75, the Supreme Court of India noted how the doctrine of laissez faire is fading away and that a company is now no longer a mere profit-making enterprise, but it has assumed the role of a social institution. The Court recognised a company as a species of social organisation, with a life and dynamics of its own and exercising a significant power in contemporary society.

There is clear and a close relationship between corporate governance and ethics but conflicts between the two are certain. Such conflicts if not taken care of reduce the confidence of potential investors and affect the global credibility of the Government. Keeping the same in mind, the law on inspection, inquiry and investigation of companies has been tightened. The main objective of an investigation is a form of deeper probe into the affairs of a company. It is a fact-finding exercise to collect evidence and to see if any illegal acts or offences are disclosed and then decide the action to be taken.

Its only efficient and smooth functioning of the corporate that can ensure an adequate return on capital invested by the shareholders. Thus, with the introduction of Chapter XIV (Sections 206 to 229) of the Companies Act, 2013 (“2013 Act”), companies are now forced to introspect and leave no stone unturned. The aforesaid chapter deals with the provisions relating to Inspection, Inquiry and Investigation of the affairs of companies and are thus, very critical towards building an environment of good corporate governance.

DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) in 1999 had set up the Kumar Mangalam Birla Committee (“KMBC”) under the Chairmanship of Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla, member SEBI, to promote and raise the standards of good corporate governance. The primary objective of KMBC was to view corporate governance from the perspective of the shareholders and investors, since they are the raison de etre for corporate governance and also the prime constituency of SEBI.

Before the 2013 Act, the Companies Act,1956 (“1956 Act”) prevailed. The 1956 Act included provisions for organisational, financial and managerial aspects of a company, empowering the Government to inquire the books of accounts of a company. The 1956 Act has been amended from time to time to keep up with the developments however the complexities in the corporates were growing at an alarming rate and proving to be less effective and was not enough.

With the introduction of the 2013 Act, fraud has taken a wider meaning. Fraud has been defined as any act, omission, concealment of any fact or abuse of position committed by any person or any other person with involvement in any manner, with intent to deceive, to gain undue advantage from, or to injure the interests of, the company or its shareholders or its creditors or any other person, whether there is any wrongful gain or wrongful loss.

In relation to the aspects of the 2013 Act on investigation, it refers to a search of the affairs of a company. The main aim is to obtain any evidence or facts regarding any malpractice during business, although these may not be the only reason. Investigations may also be undertaken to identify the profits and losses of a business, the assets and liabilities and so on.

Investigation into the affairs of the Company (Sec. 210),

The investigation is done on the receipt of report of the Registrar or Inspectors under Section 208, on intimation of a special resolution passed by a company that the affairs of the company ought to be investigated, or in public interest, by the inspector appointed by the Central Government, ‘may’ order an investigation into the affairs of the company.

The use of the word ‘may’ indicate that the Central Government can exercise its discretion and need not compulsorily order an investigation.

On the other hand, Section 210(2) is a mandatory provision which states that the Central Government “shall’ order an investigation into the affairs of that company, when an order to this effect is passed by a Court/ Tribunal.

Investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (Sec. 212).

Serious Fraud Investigation Office (“SFIO”) is an investigation agency created under Section 211 of the 2013 Act, to investigate into the affairs of a company upon orders of the Central Government. The SFIO has been armed with the power to arrest, and upon conclusion of investigation, file a complaint along with an Investigation Report (deemed charge sheet).

The operating model adopted for the functioning of the SFIO drew inspiration from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In the United Kingdom, the Serious Fraud Office collaborates with other agencies (such as the Financial Conduct Authority and the Economic Crime Directorate) for tackling corporate fraud and in the United States of America the Corporate Fraud Task Force does the job.

INVESTIGATION INTO THE AFFAIRS OF THE COMPANY IN OTHER CASES (SEC. 213)

The National Company Law Tribunal (“Tribunal”), a quasi-judicial body in India that adjudicates issues relating to Indian Companies, can order investigation of cases after giving reasonable opportunity of being heard to the concerned parties.

The investigation can be ordered where there is reasonable cause to believe that business of the company is being conducted with intent to defraud or otherwise for an unlawful purpose or in a manner oppressive to any of its members, or where persons engaged in the formation of company or its affairs have been guilty of fraud or other misconduct towards the company or any of its members or even when the members of the company have not been given all the information with respect to its affairs including information relating to calculation of commission payable to a managing or other director or manager of the company.

An application can be made by not less than one hundred members or members holding not less than one-tenth of the total voting power in the case of a company having share capital or not less than one-fifth of the persons on the company’s register of members in case the company has no share capital.

INVESTIGATION OF OWNERSHIP OF A COMPANY (SEC. 216)

The Central Government may if it has reason to believe or shall upon the direction of the Tribunal that the affairs of the company ought to be investigated as regards membership of company, appoint one or more inspectors to investigate and report on matters relating to the company and its membership for determining the true persons:

(a) who are or have been financially interested in the success or failure

(b) who are or have been able to control the policy of the company.

Central Government shall appoint one or more inspectors if the Tribunal directs by an order that the affairs of the company ought to be investigated. While appointing an inspector, the Central Government may define the scope, the matters and the period of investigation and in particular limit the investigation to matters connected with particular shares or debentures.

The scope of the Chapter XIV-Inspections, Inquiries and Investigations is very wide. It includes within its purview the senior managerial personnel such as Managing Director, Chief Finance Officer etc., retired employees and even the past employees. Irrespective of when the tenure of employment ended, they can be called upon to provide information pertaining to their tenure. If the inquiry or inspection reveals that the business of the company has been/is being carried on for “fraudulent/unlawful” purpose, every officer of the company who is in default can be prosecuted for “fraud” under Section 447 of the 2013 Act. The same was held in an Order by National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), in Mr. Lagadapati Ramesh Vs. Mrs. Ramanathan Bhuvaneshwari (dated 20.09.2019) that if the Tribunal is satisfied that there are circumstances suggesting that either of the conditions given in Section 213 of the 2013 Act are corresponding, that is either the business of the company is being conducted with intent to defraud its creditors, members, any other person or in a manner oppressive to any of its members, that the company was formed for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose or by any persons concerned in the formation of the company or the management of its affairs have in connection therewith been guilty of fraud, misfeasance or other misconduct towards the company or towards any of its members etc. In such cases, the Tribunal after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties concerned, and if the affairs of the company ought to be investigated by an Inspector or Inspectors appointed by the Central Government, pass the order, and in such case, the Central Government is bound to appoint one or more competent persons as Inspectors to investigate into the affairs of the company in respect of such matters and to report thereupon to it in such manner as the Central Government may direct. If after investigation any of the abovementioned is proved then, every officer of the company who is in default and the person or persons concerned in the formation of the company or the management of its affairs shall be punishable for fraud in the manner as provided in section 447 of 2013 Act.

Another issue that arises with the reading of these provisions is whether there exist any grounds in ordering inspection and what is the prima facie satisfaction that such grounds exist. The same was dealt with in M/s. Hyderabad Pollution Controls Ltd v Union of India, Writ Petition Nos. 10201 of 2017 & 12296 of 2019. The High Court of Telangana noted that recording satisfaction to take action means to form an opinion which again is traceable to the nature of allegations against the person/Company or both. Non recording of reasons for satisfaction in the order itself or if not manifestly appear from the order, is not fatal and the impugned order cannot be invalidated on that ground alone when the allegations are serious in nature touching upon the very functioning of the Company that too by a share-holder group of 50% of the Company. It was further held that in a petition for prevention of oppression and mismanagement and where there is a prayer to investigate into the affairs of the Company, though sometimes it is called a motivated complaint, if there are serious many allegations made in it, there is no reason why inspection, inquiry be not ordered against such a Company.

SERIOUS FRAUDS INVESTIGATION OFFICE

The SFIO as it existed under the 1956, Act, operated without a statutory backing. Although the SFIO did not have statutory backing under the 1956 Act, Section 235 of the 1956 Act allowed a member of a company to make an application for investigating the company’s affairs. Section 210 of the 2013 Act broadly corresponds to Section 235 of the 1956 Act and allows for an investigation into the affairs of a company.

PROCEDURE

The procedure for investigation by the SFIO is laid down under Section 212 of the 2013 Act. Section 212(1) of the 2013 Act provides that without prejudice to the provisions of Section 210 of the 2013 Act, where the Central Government “is of the opinion” that it is necessary for the SFIO to investigate into the affairs of a company, as per the grounds provided under Section 212(1) of the 2013 Act, the Central Government may, by order, assign the investigation of the said company to the SFIO. The Madras High Court in the case of Church of South India v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 332 held that the words ‘is of the opinion’ imposes a jurisdictional duty on the Central Government to form an opinion on the necessity of an investigation by the SFIO. Any order passed by the Central Government without forming an “opinion” under Section 212 of the 2013 Act shall lack merit. The investigation report filed with the Court for framing of charges shall be deemed to be a report filed by a police officer under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (popularly called the ‘charge-sheet’) (“CrPC”). It is pertinent to note that in K. Veeraswami v. Union of India, (1991) 3 SCC 655, the Supreme Court of India held that the final investigation report filed by an investigating officer under Section 173 of the CrPC is nothing more than an opinion of the investigating officer and shall not constitute legal evidence.

POWERS

The investigator of the SFIO, has certain powers vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“CPC”) with respect to discovery and production of books of accounts and other documents and the summoning of and enforcing of attendance of persons. Another point to be noted is that tendering false statement under oath to registrar could constitute the offence of ‘perjury’. Besides, statements given to SFIO, depending on facts are also admissible. As was held in Punjab & Haryana High Court in Siddharth Chauhan vs SFIO, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 4986 that although the investigating officer is bound by several conditions and restriction prescribed under the Companies Act; but at the same time, he has also been conferred the power to record the statement on oath and certain powers of Civil Court for enforcing attendance and seeking documents etc.

In complex cases involving allegations of fraud, which are usually based on textual evidence, ironically an accused person will also prove his innocence using the same textual evidence. In JP Srivastava & Sons (Rampur) Ltd v. Gwalior Sugar Co. Ltd 2002 CLC 1792 MP there was a petition for the prevention of oppression and mismanagement, the finding of facts by the Company Law Board (as it then existed) was that even the preliminary requirements were not satisfied. The Court refused to interfere as it found that the finishing was based on the evidence that was already in records.

CONCLUSION

Many a times companies are incorporated for carrying out of acts which may not necessarily be legal in the strictest sense or for evading liabilities and responsibility under a certain legislation. These activities impact the other members such as creditors, depositors and the financial system in general. It is with the intent to nail such persons hiding behind the corporate veil that the 2013 Act includes provisions on the investigation of companies. It is with the intent to bring out all the misconducts and frauds in light, while creating examples for all that the 2013 Act attempts to include all possible areas and loopholes and leave no stone unturned. It also provides vide powers to the inspectors and Tribunals to perform their duties. These provisions are, thus, very critical towards building an environment of good corporate governance. Corporate governance if implemented properly has immense benefits for all stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, employees, and community at large. Whether the authority acting under a statute has the duty to act judicially depends on the express provisions of the statute read along with the nature of the rights affected, the manner of the disposal and the effects of the decision on the persons affected. With this arises a duty to act judicially in all circumstances. Every citizen is protected against the exercise of the arbitrary authority of the state or government. Thus, any case or investigation should be decided on the facts and evidence before it and not on any extraneous consideration. The 2013 Act seems to create a sense of respect for law in those sectors of business community which are not scrupulous about business approaches and practices, but not to cause unnecessary worry to well-run and law-abiding companies by ordering investigations merely based on complaints unsupported by facts or reasonable doubt.

Vanita Bhargava (Partner), Shivank Diddi (Senior Associate) and Natasha Syal (Associate) are part of the Dispute Resolution practice of Khaitan & Co LLP, New Delhi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TELANGANA HIGH COURT: PLACE OF RESIDENCE OF THE ARBITRATOR WOULD NOT BE THE SEAT OF ARBITRATION

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The High Court of Telangana in the case M/s S. Square Infra v. Garneni Chalapathi Rao observed and held that the place of residence of the arbitrator would not determine the seat of arbitration.

The Single bench comprising of Justice P. Sree Sudha observed and held that merely because an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad has been appointed, it does not mean that only the Courts at Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration agreement.

Facts of the Case:

In the present case, after the dispute arouse between the parties, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner for nomination an arbitrator who is residing in Hyderabad. To its said notice, petitioner replied and declined the appointment of the arbitrator for the reason that there was no dispute which required the appointment of an arbitrator.

A suit was filled by the respondent before the VII Additional District Judge Sangareddy, seeking for relief of permanent injunction. An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and the parties referred to the arbitration.

An application was filled by the respondent under section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act before the Principal District Judge, Sangareddy, Subsequently, an application was filled by the petitioner for transferring the application from the Court at Sangareddy to Court at Hyderabad.

Contentions made by Parties:

On the following grounds, the petitioner sought the transfer of application.

An arbitrator residing in Hyderabad was nominated to respondent. However, only the courts in Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of the arbitration.

It was stated that the nomination of an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad amounted to designating Hyderabad as the Seat of Arbitration.

On the following grounds, the respondent countered the submissions of the petitioner:

An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the A&C Act before the Court at Sangareddy. However, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act, only the court at Sangareddy would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration.

Court Analysis:

The Court held that the seat of arbitration would not be decide by the place of residence of the arbitrator.

The argument of the petitioner was rejected by the court that since the respondent had initially nominated an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad, the Hyderabad Court would have the jurisdiction.

The court stated that merely because a party has nominated an arbitrator who resides in Hyderabad, the same would not designate Hyderabad as the Seat of arbitration in absence of any designation of the seat under the arbitration agreement.

It was further stated by the court that the application filled by the petitioner filled under Section 8 application before the Court at Sangareddy consequent to which the parties were referred to arbitration. Therefore, the Court would have the jurisdiction, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act.

The Transfer petition was dismissed by the Court.

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DELHI HIGH COURT REMANDS IN THE MATTER BACK TO ASSESSING OFFICER AFTER SETTING ASIDE: JUST 3 DAYS’ TIME GRANTED TO RESPOND TO THE INCOME TAX NOTICE

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Shubham Thakral Vs ITO, the Delhi bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora observed and remanded the matter back to the assessing officer as just 3 days’ time was granted to respond to the income tax notice.

In the present case, the petitioner/assessee assailed the notice under Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018–19.

It was contended by the assessee that only three days’ time was granted to the assessee to respond, as against the mandatory statutory period of at least seven days. However, despite of the fact that the annexure attached to the notice gave the petitioner eight days to respond, the e-filing submission portal was closed earlier, in violation of Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act.

Furthermore, the petitioner relied on the decision of Delhi High Court, in the case of Shri Sai Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd versus ITO, the Delhi High Court in the case held that under Section 148A (b), a minimum time of seven days has to be granted to the assessee to file its reply to the show cause notice.

No objections were raised by the department/respondent to the matter being returned to the Assessing Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with the law. Accordingly, the court set aside the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018-19. The Assessing officer was directed by the court to pass a fresh reasoned order in accordance with the law after considering the reply of the petitioner, which was directed to be filed within a week.

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ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT: ADVOCATES SHOULDN’T ADVISE CLIENTS TO REAGITATE MATTERS IF THERE IS NO ERROR APPARENT ON FACE OF RECORD

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The Allahabad High Court in the case Malhan and 17 Others Vs. State Of U.P. And Another observed and stated that an advocate should be given such a piece of advice when there is no error apparent on the face of the record nor was there any reason why the matter be re-agitated it was finally decided.

The bench comprising of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Justice Vivek Varma observed while dealing with the civil review application wherein the bench observed the concerned advised his client to make a chance by filling the instant review application after a period of six year.

In the present case, a civil review petition was filled along with the application under section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963., the application was filled for seeking condonation of delay in filling the application, the application was filled with a delay of six years i.e., 1900 days.

It was stated by the applicant that the review application could not be filled due to the blockage of public transportation on account of the COVID-19 guidelines.

Moreover, the court observed that the appeals were disposed of by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and only in 2020-2021, the pandemic struck India and furthermore, it cannot be said that due to the COVID guidelines the public transportation was blocked and however, the applicant could not come to Allahabad Court to file review.

Further, it was stated that the court asked the counsel for the review applicants to explain the delay in filling the review application, to which the council gave a strange reply that the counsel had advised the clients that they must take a chance by filling this review application after a period of six years.

Following this, the Court observed:

The court noted that an advocate should not give such an advice when there is no error apparent on the face of record nor was there any other reason that when the matter was finally decided, why the matter be re-agitated.

It was stated that the court has no reason to condone the delay of six years as the same was not explained as to why this review application is filed after such an inordinate delay.

The Court opined that the lapse in approaching the court within the time is understandable but a total inaction for long period of delay without any explanation whatsoever and that too in absence of showing any sincere attempt on the part of suiter, this would add to his negligence and the relevant factor going against him.

The court observed that careless and reckless is shown by the review applicant in approaching the court and due to the condemnation of delay in the application with a token cost of Rs.10,000/, the court dismissed the application.

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SUPREME COURT CRITICISES HIGH COURT: POSTING ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA AFTER TWO MONTHS CAN’T BE APPRECIATED

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The Supreme Court in the case Sanjay versus The State (NCT of Delhi) & ANR observed and stated that in the case where personal liberty is involved, the court is expected to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other. Further, the top court observed that posting of an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

The bench comprising of Justice C. T. Ravikumar and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a June 2 SLP against the Delhi High Court in a petition filed under section 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for seeking anticipatory bail in a 2022 FIR, a notice is issued. It was stated that the learned APP for the state is present and accepts the notice and seeks time to file status report. The High Court in the impugned order stated that Let the status report be filed by the state prior to the next date with an advance copy to the learned counsel for the petitioner. The matter is to be list on 31.08.2022.

It was noted by the bench comprising of Justice Ravikumar and the Justice Dhulia that in the captioned Special Leave Petition, the grievance of the petitioner is that the application for anticipatory bail moved by the petitioner, being Crl. M.A. No. 11480 of 2022 in Bail Application No. 1751 of 2022 without granting any interim protection, was posted to 31.08.2022. on 24.05.2022, the bail application was moved on.

However, the bench asserted that the bench is of the considered view that in a matter involving personal liberty, the Court is expected to to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other.

It was declared by the bench that at any rate posting an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

Further, the bench requested to the High Court to dispose off the application for anticipatory bail on its own merits and in accordance with law expeditiously, preferably within a period of three weeks after reopening of the Court. Adding to it, the bench stated that if the main application could not be disposed off, for any reason, within the stipulated time, relief sought for in the interlocutory and on and on its own merits, the application shall be considered.

While disposing of the SLP, the bench directed in its order that we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein, Till such time.

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