In one of the best decision ever made by the Apex Court at least to the best of my knowledge in my lifetime, it is most righteous, most rational, most reassuring, most remarkable and most refreshing to learn that the Supreme Court has in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India & Anr in Writ Petition(s) (Civil) No(s).699/2016 that was pronounced on 10 August, 2021 has directed that no prosecution against sitting or former MPs and MLAs will be withdrawn without the permission of the High Court of the concerned state. The Court further directed that Judges hearing the criminal cases against MPs/MLAs in Special Courts should continue in their current posts until further orders of the Supreme Court. This direction will be subject to the retirement or death of the Judges holding the trial of cases against legislators. It must be also apprised here that the Bench comprising of the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Surya Kant which has authored this cogent, commendable, courageous and composed judgment had issued the direction while hearing the plea filed regarding the pendency of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs and expeditious disposal of the same by setting up of Special Courts.
To start with, it is first and foremost pointed out in this extremely brilliant, brief, bold and balanced judgment that, “The Court is convened through Video Conferencing. At the commencement of hearing, Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the Union of India seeks further time to comply with the directions passed by this Court on 10.09.2020, 16.09.2020, 06.10.2020 and 04.11.2020 regarding filing of Status Report regarding pending cases against the legislators(sitting or former).”
As we see, the Bench then observes that, “Finally, two weeks’ time is granted to the learned Solicitor General to file response/affidavit in compliance of the directions given by this Court vide orders dated 10.09.2020, 16.09.2020, 06.10.2020 and 04.11.2020 with a copy in advance to the learned amicus curiae within ten days. We have heard Mr.Vijay Hansaria, learned amicus curiae, Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General as also the learned counsel for the parties.”
Truth be told, the Bench then envisages in the next para that, “At the outset we may note that the learned Amicus has filed his 13th Report dated 09.08.2021. The Report, inter alia, addresses various concerns which are broadly indicated as under:
(I) Misuse of the Prosecutor’s power to withdraw cases under Section 321, Cr.P.C.
(II) Continuity of tenure of Judicial Officers
(III) Jurisdiction of Special Court (M.P./M.L.A.) to try cases against legislators elected from other States
(IV) Jurisdiction of Special Courts with respect to cases triable by Magistrates
(V) Trial of cases where an M.P./M.L.A. is the complainant
(VI) Safe and secure witness examination facility.”
As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in the next para that, “We are inclined to address the first two issues by this order as these issues are of immediate concern and may be easily disposed of. It may not be out of context to state that issues no. 3 and 4 give rise to substantive question of law which may require some elaborate arguments, which will be taken up on a subsequent date.”
MISUSE OF PROSECUTOR’S POWER U/S 321 OF CR.P.C.
Quite significantly, the Bench then remarks in the next para that, “Learned amicus has drawn our attention to various instances across the country, wherein various State Governments have resorted to withdrawal of numerous criminal cases pending against M.P./M.L.A. by utilising the power vested under Section 321, Cr.P.C. It merits mentioning that the power under Section 321, Cr.P.C. is a responsibility which is to be utilized in public interest, and cannot be used for extraneous and political considerations. This power is required to be utilized with utmost good faith to serve the larger public interest. Recently, this Court in State of Kerala Vs. K. Ajith, (2021) SCC Online SC 510, held as under:
“The principles which emerge from the decisions of this Court on the withdrawal of a prosecution under Section 321 of the CrPC can now be formulated:
(i) Section 321 entrusts the decision to withdraw from a prosecution to the public prosecutor but the consent of the court is required for a withdrawal of the prosecution;
(ii) The public prosecutor may withdraw from a prosecution not merely on the ground of paucity of evidence but also to further the broad ends of public justice;
(iii) The public prosecutor must formulate an independent opinion before seeking the consent of the court to withdraw from the prosecution;
(iv) While the mere fact that the initiative has come from the government will not vitiate an application for withdrawal, the court must make an effort to elicit the reasons for withdrawal so as to ensure that the public prosecutor was satisfied that the withdrawal of the prosecution is necessary for good and relevant reasons;
(v) In deciding whether to grant its consent to a withdrawal, the court exercises a judicial function but it has been described to be supervisory in nature. Before deciding whether to grant its consent the court must be satisfied that:
(a) The function of the public prosecutor has not been improperly exercised or that it is not an attempt to interfere with the normal course of justice for illegitimate reasons or purposes;
(b) The application has been made in good faith, in the interest of public policy and justice, and not to thwart or stifle the process of law;
(c) The application does not suffer from such improprieties or illegalities as would cause manifest injustice if consent were to be given;
(d) The grant of consent sub-serves the administration of justice; and
(e) The permission has not been sought with an ulterior purpose unconnected with the vindication of the law which the public prosecutor is duty bound to maintain;
(vi) While determining whether the withdrawal of the prosecution sub-serves the administration of justice, the court would be justified in scrutinizing the nature and gravity of the offence and its impact upon public life especially where matters involving public funds and the discharge of a public trust are implicated; and
(vi) In a situation where both the trial judge and the revisional court have concurred in granting or refusing consent, this Court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution would exercise caution before disturbing concurrent findings. The Court may in exercise of the well-settled principles attached to the exercise of this jurisdiction, interfere in a case where there has been a failure of the trial judge or of the High Court to apply the correct principles in deciding whether to grant or withhold consent.”
Most significantly, what forms the real cornerstone of this extremely commendable, courageous, cogent, creditworthy, composed and convincing judgment is then stated henceforth in the next para wherein it is most aptly stated that, “In view of the law laid down by this Court, we deem it appropriate to direct that no prosecution against a sitting or former M.P./M.L.A. shall be withdrawn without the leave of the High Court in the respective suo-motu writ petitions registered in pursuance of our order dated 16.09.2020. The High Courts are requested to examine the withdrawals, whether pending or disposed of since 16.09.2020, in light of guidelines laid down by this Court.”
It cannot be lightly dismissed that the criminal cases which are pending against sitting and former MPs and MLAs have registered a 17% jump in less than two years which is a clear pointer to the deep, dark, degrading and dangerous nexus of politics with crime and all this notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s five year endeavour to speed up the trials which are long delayed on account of the money, muscle and myriad powers of the elected representatives. The Supreme Court was informed that despite strict monitoring and directions, the number of pending cases against MPs and MLAs increased from 4,122 cases in December 2018 to 4859 in September 2020 On the same day that this ruling was pronounced we saw that another Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice BR Gavai had warned that the nation is “losing its patience” in waiting for lawmakers to cleanse politics by making stronger laws to keep out those with criminal antecedents. Nine parties including the BJP, Congress, JD(U) and RJD have been held guilty of contempt for incomplete disclosure on candidates ahead of 2020 Bihar elections and eight of them also fined. The BJP, Congress, RJD, Janata Dal (U), CPI and Lok Jan Shakti Party were fined Rs 1 lakh for partial non-compliance. Two other parties – CPI(M) and NCP – were found to be in total non-compliance and were fined Rs 5 lakh each for total non-compliance. There were 427 candidates in Bihar State Assembly elections with criminal background. RJD figured on top with 104 candidates with criminal cases pending against them and BJP had 77 such candidates, Congress had 64, LJP had 52, JD(U) at 49 and BSP at 37! In UP, 143 MLAs had criminal cases pending against them with BJP at 114, SP at 14, BSP at 5 and Congress with one. Out of 143 such MLAs in UP there were 105 MLAs against whom cases were registered for heinous offences under various Sections.
CONTINUITY OF TENURE FOR JUDICIAL OFFICER
Back home, the Bench then further goes on to add in the next para that, “This Court vide order dated 16.09.2020 had recorded the submissions of the learned amicus curiae as under: –
“The High Courts would designate a judicial officer for all such cases, who shall try these cases on priority basis. The judicial officer can be allotted other work depending on the workload, number and nature of criminal cases against MPs/MLAs. The judicial officer so designated shall have continuity of tenure for a minimum period of two years.”
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Furthermore, the Bench then states in the next para that, “It may be noticed that during the intervening period, we faced a pandemic which scuttled many Courts in effectively conducting trials, or recording evidence or hearing applications. In this context, the Registrar Generals of all High Courts are directed to furnish the following information in form of the following table :
NAME OF THE JUDGE PLACE/COURT OF POSTING DATE OF PRESENT POSTING NO. OF DAYS/YEARS IN THE PRESENT POSTING NUMBER OF CASES DISPOSED DURING CURRENT POSTING NUMBER OF PENDING CASES BEFORE HIM/HER (DETAILS) STAGE OF PENDING CASES (DETAILS) DETAILS OF ORDERS/ JUDGMENTS RESERVED
Adding more to it, the Bench then further directs that, “In the meanwhile, to ensure expeditious disposal of pending cases, it is necessary for this Court to direct the officers presiding over Special Courts or CBI Courts involving prosecution of MPs or MLAs to continue in their present posts until further orders. This direction, barring transfer of Judicial Officers, will be subject to their superannuation or death. If any further necessity or emergency arises, the Registrar General of the High Courts are at liberty to make an application before us for retention or to relieve those officers.”
Going ahead, the Bench then states in the next para that, “List the matter on 25.08.2021 for arguments on other issues indicated above. In the meantime, the Registry is directed to serve copies of the IAs immediately to the learned amicus curiae, which have been filed recently and not been served to him.”
Finally, the Bench then holds in the last para that, “Liberty is granted to Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the applicant in I.A. Nos. 51582/2021, 51586/2021 and 51587/2021 in WP (C) No. 699/2016 to make request to the High Court of Gujarat to adjourn the case which is stated to be listed for hearing on 23.08.2021.”
It is a matter of utmost grave concern that the amicus curiae Mr Vijay Hansaria highlighted a disturbing trend of state governments attempting to withdraw cases against their party MPs and MLAs, even those booked for serious offences. It would be pertinent to note that the amicus curiae had proposed to the Apex Court that State governments should be allowed to withdraw cases against former or sitting legislators only after the relevant high court’s approval. The suggestion was made by the amicus curiae in a petition relating to fast-tracking of criminal trials against sitting and former Member of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies (MPs/MLAs).
Not just this, he has also submitted a report painting a dismal picture of the status of trial against elected representatives. The report noted four instances wherein the state governments had issued orders to end criminal cases against politicians by using its power under Section 321 of the CrPC. This provision allows a public prosecutor in charge of a case to move a request before the Trial Judge for permission to withdraw further prosecution of a case. If the Trial Judge accepts the request for withdrawal of prosecution, the accused stands discharged (if charges not framed) or acquitted in respect of that particular offences. He said the Uttar Pradesh government has sought to withdraw 76 cases against elected representatives, including the Muzaffarnagar riot cases against Sangeet Som, Kapil Dev, Suresh Rana and Sadvi Prachi. He cited the news report that the “government of Uttar Pradesh is seeking to withdraw prosecution of Sangeet Som, MLA from Sardhana (Meerut)…Suresh Rana, MLA from Thana Bhawan Assembly…Kapil Dev, who represents the Muzaffarnagar Sadar seat in the Assembly and…political leader Sadhvi Prachi”.
But why talk just about UP alone and about the present dispensation alone? This has been happening on a regular scale in different states unabated, unchecked and unaccounted for! In Karnataka, the state government in an order dated August 31, 2020 decided to withdraw 61 cases, many of which were against elected representatives of the State Legislature. Another news report on the Maharashtra government’s decision to withdraw political cases against activists registered before December 31, 2019 was also cited. The amicus curiae said the news report stated that on March 14, 2016, the government issued an order that allowed withdrawal of similar cases registered between May 2005 and November 2014. In Uttarakhand, the amicus said that an application had been filed for withdrawing a murder case against sitting MLA Rajkumar Thukral.
Needless to say, whichever party comes to power, it tries its best to help all those elected representatives of their party or parties which are in alliance with them against whom cases are pending in courts! This alone explains why the Apex Court had to step in when it was faced with a PIL filed by eminent Supreme Court lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay through his high-profile lawyer Vikas Singh who is not just an eminent and senior lawyer of the Supreme Court but is also the President of Supreme Court Bar Association of India.
Of course, there can be no gainsaying the irrefutable fact that Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has done a yeoman’s job in bringing this most neglected yet most burning and serious issue to the forefront thus compelling the Apex Court to take serious note of it and pronounce judgment on it to direct that no case shall be withdrawn without the nod of the concerned High Court! It is also good to note that the Apex Court accepted senior advocate Vijay Hansaria and advocate Sneha Kalita recommendation to adopt video conferencing facilities to examine witnesses and for the release of funds to establish and improve virtual court facilities. It voiced doubts about the government’s resolve to bring politicians with criminal track record to justice. The Bench had also pointed to how central government agencies like the Enforcement Directorate have filed a sketchy affidavits about their cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs.
It must also be mentioned here that the CJI NV Ramana minced just no words in pointing out to the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Government that, “You delay even in filing status reports… This report filed by the ED just mentions some random names and random cases… There are no details about the States or which is the oldest case…” To this, Tushar assured the Apex Court that, “We are committed. There is no reluctance on our part, maybe just a lack of coordination… The government is committed to ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of elected representatives involved in criminal cases.” The Bench then gave the Centre a last opportunity to submit detailed reports on the cases registered by CBI, ED and other central agencies against MPs and MLAs and listed the case for arguments on August 25.
All said and done, it is most reassuring, most refreshing and most remarkable to see that now finally the Apex Court has ruled after a very long wait that States cannot now any longer withdraw the criminal cases of criminal prosecution against MPs and MLAs without the permission of the concerned High Court. For this, a huge credit certainly goes to advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay of the Supreme Court who had filed a PIL on this and also to the senior lawyer of Apex Court and President of Supreme Court Bar Association Vikas Singh and his entire team of lawyers who argued this leading case with sheer eloquence and brilliance thus convincing the Apex Court to rule decisively on this most burning issue. This was the crying need of the hour also as the ruling party was making a mockery of all rules and regulations and flouting them with impunity till now thus making a complete mockery of our entire democratic system but about which we rarely hear much being written even in the media! This alone explains why this has been going on so brazenly, so brashly and so brutally since last 75 years in our country but now not any longer after this historic verdict by the Apex Court! A good beginning has certainly been made. One only hopes that one would see more such rulings in the coming years and all the MPs and MLAs who have criminal cases pending against them are barred straightaway from contesting elections just like candidates are barred from jobs in government services even if one case is lodged against them in any police station! Also, those who misbehave in Parliament and State Assemblies must be barred for life so that no one dares to do so ever and this is most urgently required in the current scenario!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
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Sexual violence and victim’s story: Believed or blamed?
Introduction : “Violence is defined as the use of physical force against another person with a high likelihood of resulting in murder, injury, psychological harm, or other undesirable consequences. Furthermore, it is the intentional or probable intentional use of physical force against oneself, another person, or a group that results in or is likely to result in damage, death, psychological harm, poor development, or deprivation. Physical, sexual, or psychological violence, as well as acts of deprivation or carelessness, are all examples of violence. Sexual violence is without a doubt one of the most deadly forms of violence. Physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner or another criminal is a threat to women all over the globe. Medical injuries, deterioration in mental health, and particular chronic physical illnesses may all result from sexual assault and IPV. In rare instances, such acts of aggression may result in the victim’s handicap or death. Sexual violence occurs in all cultures throughout the globe, but it is defined differently. Physically forcing another person to have sexual intercourse without their permission, having sexual intercourse out of fear of the partner, and/or being forced to perform a sexual act considered degrading are all examples of sexual assault. Although both men and women are victims of sexual assault, women are more likely to be victims, and the offenders are usually male and known to the victim. Because sexual assault is a frequently underreported occurrence, statistics are unlikely to reflect the actual scope of the issue. The data that is accessible is sparse and scattered. For example, police data is often inadequate and restricted. On the other side, data from medico-legal clinics may be skewed toward more violent cases of sexual abuse. Furthermore, the percentage of individuals who seek medical help for acute issues linked to sexual assault is minimal. Shame and humiliation, fear of not being believed, fear of the perpetrator of the crime, fear of the legal procedure, or scepticism that the police would be able to assist them are all reasons for not reporting. Due to severe humiliation and worries about other people’s views, their masculinity, and the fact that they were powerless to prevent the attack, males are much more hesitant to disclose sexual violence. As a result, data on the prevalence of sexual assault against men is particularly scarce. Sexual abuse of children is also frequently unreported. The majority of the information comes from individuals who were asked about their previous experiences.”
Bombay High Court : Sexual violence knows no boundaries, it occurs in every country, across all parts of society, Bharati Dangre, J., while noting a case of sexual harassment caused to a child aged 17 years due to which she took the step of ending her life, rejected the bail of the accused.
THE REASONS FOR THE RISE IN SEXUAL VIOLENCE INCIDENTS IN INDIA ARE AS FOLLOWS
• One of the reasons for India’s sexual violence problem could be the lack of female cops. When a woman is raped, she is more likely to report it to a female cop. In the past, just 7% of female police officers had worked in New Delhi. In fact, there is only one female station house officer in each of Delhi’s 161 district police stations.
• In Indian society, improper dress is blamed for the victim’s situation. This was demonstrated in an Indian judge survey, in which 68 percent of respondents agreed with the same premise. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s also the truth.
• Domestic violence is seen as deserving in Indian society. According to UNICEF, 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of Indian girls believe that beating a wife is justifiable in one of their reports.
• No public safety- In most Indian societies, women who drink, smoke, or go late-night partying are considered as immoral and are the cause of rape. Women in India are obviously not safe in public areas if the general populace believes and accepts this kind of justification for rape. Victims of rape are discouraged from compromising because no family in Indian society is willing to accept that a member of their family has been raped. As a result, victims are frequently advised to avoid the chaos that follows rape in the police station.
• The majority of rapes in India are not even recorded. Despite the fact that laws are being drafted to protect rape victims and provide them with legal rights, there is still a problem with the laws’ execution.
WHAT OBSTACLES DO SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN INDIA FACE IN GETTING JUSTICE?
Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, published in 2021, revealed that rape laws are still poorly implemented, and survivors, particularly those from vulnerable populations based on caste, class, or ethnicity, face numerous barriers to justice, including: Corruption among law enforcement officials, the failure of the police to register cases of sexual violence, the continued use of the two-finger test, difficulties in obtaining support services for survivors, such as compensation and victim and witness protection, pressure from families, community, and panchayat members to enter into extra-legal settlements, and many other issues. Control and patriarchy, as well as masculine entitlement, are at the heart of sexual assault. In India, society still frequently places blame on survivors, forcing survivors and their families to remain silent. This is especially true for people who are already on the margins of Indian society, making them particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. The culture of shame follows survivors into law enforcement, the legal system, and hospitals, silencing their voices even more. 2021 report, Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, you can learn more about the legal and other barriers to justice for survivors in India.
A young girl aged 17 years jumped from the balcony of a flat and succumbed to injuries.
After a span of 96 days of the said incident, mother of the girl lodged a complaint against the applicant attributing to him that he had abetted a commission of suicide by her daughter on a fateful day.
Mother of the deceased got to know through the friend of her daughter that she had been receiving dirty messages from the applicant. On enquiring the same, daughter also showed her mobile phone which had the messages and a folder in the gallery, right after that the deceased barged out of the room. On inspecting, the screenshots were found in the mobile phone and immediately, by keeping mobile on the bed, the informant followed her daughter, who by that time, jumped from the gallery of another bedroom. On realizing the severity of the shocking incident, the informant became unconscious and she was informed that her daughter was taken to the hospital. The informant recollected that in the hospital, her daughter was little conscious and on being inquired as to why she took the extreme step, she murmured that it was because of “Gaurav uncle”. She did not utter anything further and was administered treatment in the hospital. A Chit which was found on the dressing table of the daughter was also given to police and then the CR was registered invoking Sections 306, 354A, 354-B of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 and 8 of the POCSO Act.
FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN ON THE CHIT
“Mummy, I have not told you about one person, Gaurav Uncle in our house. For no reason, he often came close to me and attempted to touch my private parts. I concealed the same from you, but that was my mistake. I kept mum because I thought if I disclose it to you, it would result in quibble. However, he messaged me. Before one week ago, he was talking to me about bad things. The screen shots of the said message are stored in my mobile in the folder ‘SS’. On receipt of the message, I blocked him, but yesterday night, he texted me. I was unable to understand what I should do and how I should disclose it. After you come to know about this, please do not quarrel and let the things continue to remain as they are. You and Papa should not fight. Bye, Take care. Because even if I blocked him on the mobile, I will have to face him some day. I carry no feelings for him in my mind, still he said so and further Kaki narrating it to aunt and no matter how much I tolerate, I will be blamed”
ANALYSIS, LAW AND DECISION
Bench noted that the deceased was a young girl who was hesitant to disclose the ill-intentions of the applicant, who was her own uncle.
The present matter revolved around an intimate relationship of the deceased with her own uncle, which posed a barrier for the victim girl to report the said incident to anyone in the family, but she chose to disclose it to her close friend. The chit which was scribed by the deceased referred to a message and screenshots of which were found in the mobile phone. From the screenshots, it was evident that a message was forwarded by the applicant which was responded to by the deceased by typing that she was not interested in talking to him. The unhappy tone was set and in the note which was scribed, the deceased had opened her mind to her mother where she spoke about his ill-deeds and also offered an explanation as to why she concealed it from her mother.
Court noted that the deceased had expressed her helplessness since she was apprehensive that even if she had blocked him, she would have to face him again and take the blame though she had no feeling in her mind. “screen shots from the mobile make it apparent that the applicant was harassing the deceased and in spite of her strong protest, was seeking something from her, leaving her in a despondent state.”
“The offence of abetment by instigation depends upon the intention of the person who abet and not upon the act which is done by the person who was abetted.”
“Abetment as contemplated under Section 107 of the IPC, may be by instigation, conspiracy or intentional aid and the words uttered in feet of anger or omission without any intention being attributed cannot be termed as instigation.”
The High Court stated that the young girl felt cornered by the conduct and demeanor of her own uncle, which was unexpected since she held him on a high pedestal as her own father and was unable to vent her anguish on account of the close proximity of the family with that of the applicant.
DECEASED SUFFERED THE CONSEQUENCES MUTELY FOR A YEAR
While concluding the matter, Court made certain significant observations that, a child may be subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation at home too.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to create an atmosphere in the Society where parents, teachers and adults in the company of the child can identify signs of abuse and make sure children receive care and protection. In the present matter, the fear of stigma, not being believed and being blamed, found the deceased in a precarious situation and left her isolated and insecure and which persuaded her to end her life. In view of the above stated discussion, the accused does not deserve liberty and another reason would be his close proximity with the family of the deceased and there would be every likelihood that on release he may pressurize them. [Gaurav v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Bail]
Every year worldwide, many drive it, social, cultural, and economic contexts. Sexual violence has a core inequality between men and women. Interventions for resource-poor to objectively examine programmes in both developed and emerging nations. Professionals in the health care assisting sex assault victims medically and psychologically – and gathering help prosecutors. The health- abler in places where case-management protocols and guidelines collecting evidence with well-trained workers and where there is good co-operation legal system Finally, the firm commitment government and civil society involvement, as well as a coordinated response throughout to end sexual violence. In many nations, data on sexuality there is a tremendous need everywhere for sexual research violence.
To sum up, sexual violence undermines peace and security. It prevents women and children from engaging in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation activities. It is a tool of war that may become a way of life, long after the bullets have fallen silent. Violence costs many women their health, livelihood, spouses, families, and social networks. This can undermine the transfer of communal values to subsequent generations. Rape-addicted children can develop into rape-addicted adults. Every year, millions of people are victimised by sexual violence. Interventions are also vital. These are the essential ones. concern main sexual violence prevention, interventions for both men and women strategies to help sexual assault victims to encourage rape perpetrators to be caught and punished, and changing social norms and elevating women.
Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, published in 2021, revealed that rape laws are still poorly implemented, and survivors, particularly those from vulnerable populations based on caste, class, or ethnicity, face numerous barriers to justice, including corruption among law-enforcement officials, the failure of the police to register cases of sexual violence, the continued use of the two-finger test, difficulties in obtaining support services for survivors, such as compensation and victim and witness protection, pressure from families, community, and panchayat members to enter into extra-legal settlements, and many other issues. Control and patriarchy, as well as masculine entitlement, are at the heart of sexual assault. In India, society still frequently places blame on survivors, forcing survivors and their families to remain silent.
REFORMATION IN INDIA’S PUNISHMENT AND SENTENCING POLICY: A SINE QUA NON
“Giving punishment to the wrongdoer is at the heart of the criminal justice delivery system, but in our country, it is the weakest part of the administration of criminal justice.”
– Soman v. State of Kerala
The above mentioned lines are very well depicting the significance of awarding proportionate punishments in the domain of criminal justice system. At the same instance, it is showing its current situation. Nowadays, the problem that is underlying in the criminal law is that the very purpose of punishment is not being fulfilled. Most often, Punishment is considered as the stage where all functionaries as defined by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (2 of 1974) as well as the victim and the convict acquired the central position. It serves as a link between the criminal justice system and the society as “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done”. Punishments play a guiding role in avoiding harm to our society, in proper implementation of morals and values and in attaining a peaceful society.
This is not something that is recently developed. From ancient times, the concept of punishing the person who breaches the rules and regulations were in existence. Since then, this mechanism was used in order to regulate the social order and maintain harmony and peace in the society. Back then, the provisions of punishment and sentences were more stringent so as to set the example, giving it the deterrence effect. With the change in the perspective of the society and development, this notion of punishment became rational and tilted more towards the concept of reforming the convict rather than deterring them. Punishments can be divided into various types such as deterrent, rehabilitative, restorative and retributive. The purpose of each type of punishment is different but the ultimate goal is same, that is, to safeguard the society. All this will become crystal clear when in the initial section of this article, we will carefully analyze the meaning of sentence and punishment and policies, thereof, prevalent in India. This will pave the way for the discussion of major challenges faced by current sentencing policy and the need for well-defined sentencing policy as in England, Whales and America. The concluding section of this write-up will talk about the measures enshrined by the legislature, the judiciary and the committees also focusing upon their suggestions.
PUNISHMENT & SENTENCING: MEANING
Punishment and Sentencing, though, two distinct entities but at the end, they both form the union. Most often, they are used interchangeably which lead to contradictions and confusions. That’s why, here, it becomes essential to know what exactly punishment and sentencing constitutes and how they differ from each other.
According to Britannica, “Punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed (i.e., the transgression of a law or command). Punishment may take different forms ranging from capital punishment, forced labour, flogging, imprisonment and fines.”
Macmillan Dictionary defines the term Sentencing as “an occasion when someone who has been found guilty in a court of law is told what their punishment will be.”
In general parlance, ‘Punishment’ is a method which is legally approved to control the task of crime. ‘Sentences’ are statements contained in the judgments which lay out the punishments for a particular offence according to the law. And, when the sentences get operationalized, it is known as ‘punishment’. The term ‘Punishment’ can be considered as the way of not only penalizing the one who commits any guilt but also a process to prevent the offender repeating further commission of heinous crimes. Thus, it can be rightly said that both sentences and punishments are closely interlinked, where former one is said to be the predecessor in order to actually inflicting the latter one.
SENTENCING AND PUNISHMENT POLICY: FRAMEWORK
Every country has a different set up of criminal justice system. Some are more focused towards harsh punishment that should be inflicted to the perpetrators of the crime where as some nations are concerned about rehabilitating or reforming the convict. Some nations are more concerned about the victims whereas some are concerned about the offenders. However, sentencing and punishing the criminal is most important component of any criminal justice process. For imposing accurate, just and proportionate punishment, a systematic procedure is something must that should be formulated. This structured process adopted by a specific country commonly known as ‘sentencing policy’. The sentencing policy is the culmination of many things like it contains the formula in order to calculate the right or appropriate punishment for a particular offence. Also, it reflects certain principles and other factors which must be taken into account by the court while deciding punishment. Thus, the prime objective of the justice system of any nation is to adopt a fixed regime of sentencing policy which, in turn, regulates all the inhumane activities happening in the society.
Indian justice system stick towards the reformative approach of giving punishment where primary aim of law is to promote rehabilitation, re-educate and reshape the personality of the criminal. Despite of such an inspiring approach, still, there exists no strict set of guidelines for regulating the sentencing policy in India. This is considered as a major lacuna, which not only hampers the basic purpose of criminal justice delivery system but also give rise to numerous violations of various fundamental and human rights. As said by the prominent judge D.P. Wadhva J, “Reformative theory is certainly important but too much stress to my mind cannot be laid down on it that the basic tenets of punishment altogether vanish.” However, the main legislations in India governing the sentencing and punishment system as well as criminal law are The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), The Indian EvidenceAct, 1872,The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC),Probation of Offenders Act, 1958. Some provisions relating to Indian punishment and sentencing are described below-
Section 53, Chapter III of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 specifically states the different kinds of punishments which can be given by the Criminal Court to the offenders liable for various offences. The six mentioned punishments are–
2) Imprisonment for life
3) Imprisonment – Rigorous with hard labour or Simple
4) Forfeiture of property
According to the Section 60 of the IPC, it is the discretion on the part of the competent court to decide the description of the sentences to which an offender is punishable. Further, it lays down the following types-
1) Wholly or partly rigorous; or
2) Wholly or partly simple; or
3) Any part to be rigorous and the rest are simple.
Section 235 of CrPC talks about judgment of acquittal or conviction under which it ensures that first accused will have an opportunity of last say then the judge after adjudicating upon relevant mitigating and aggravating factors shall pass sentence on him.
Section 354(1)(b) of the CrPC impose duty on judges to record the reasons for the decision of awarding a particular sentence and clause (3) of the same section states that whenever the conviction is for an offence punishable with life imprisonment or death penalty, special reasons must be recorded for passing such sentence.
SENTENCING POLICY: CHALLENGES AND ISSUES
Prima Facie, the existing sentencing policy does not seem to contain any flaws in it. However, a careful study shows that there are many challenges faced by this unregulated policy of sentencing. Let’s throw some light on the issues faced due to the lack of pronounced sentencing policy in India. The defects can be broadly categorized into following heads –
• Absence of fixed punishment: Under the Indian Criminal Law, the pattern that is prescribed for the punishments of all crimes contains only minimum and maximum penalty for a particular sort of offence. Due to this, a wide gap is generated which majorly affects the administration of sentencing. Exactlywhat sentence should be given from this gap to the offender solely depends on the judge’s discretion. Thus, judge while deciding the cases and awarding the punishments enjoys the latitude of power.
• Discretion of Judge: In India, no doubt several general factors such as severity, liability, guilty mind, etc. must be taken into account by judges while concluding cases. However, final decision is based on the judge’s personal experience, prejudice and considerations. Here, it is not wrong to refer judge as a king because the ultimate discretion lies in his hand only.
• Lack of consistency and faulty rationales: Due to the lack of structured guidelines, many times conflicts and contradictions arises when the courts awards different sentences in cases having almost same circumstances, using different reasoning. This leads to the inconsistency.
• Lack of binding force: While the court from case to case attempt to create a framework to limit discretion of judges and prevent arbitrary award of sentences but the larger bench observed that guidelines mandated by judiciary would go against the intent of legislature. This is the reason why, the apex Court highlighted that guidelines are indicative rather than exhaustive in nature. Therefore, courts have not followed their own sentencing guidelines strictly.
• Immense Disparity and Discrepancy: It has been noticed that in many cases judges imposes the different type of sentence on offenders while being tried under the same offence. This is because of the fact that every judge has their own considerations and reasons to believe whether a particular factor constitutes aggravating or mitigating circumstances for a particular case. Thus, due to the discrepancy and disparity, there exists an imbalance in the criminal justice system which is highly undesirable. As a result of it, offenders spend unnecessary time in prison.
• Indefinite and Scattered procedure: In India, the procedure of criminal law is disintegrated into enormous sections such as CrPC has 484 sections, 2 schedules which in turn contains 56 forms and IPC has more than 500 sections which increase the burden that is already present on the judges due to vast range of pending cases.
• Not defined reliable standards of proof: When it comes to produce sentencing material upon which Court will rely for giving the sentence to the accused still the Courts in India have not well established reliable standards of proof.
• Extracting sentencing material: Indian Courts have placed the whole burden of producing the sentencing material on the parties. If any of the party is not able to produce the sentencing material then the Court without any hesitation take the ex-parte decision. In many instances, the decision is delivered after only considering aggravating factors because of the simple reason that the defence have not produce sentencing material on mitigating circumstances with respect to the accused.
• Ambiguity in the quantum of sentences: In hierarchy of the judicial system, the quantum of sentences entirely changes from up and down. In absence of any proper guidelines, the Trial Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court mostly differ in awarding sentences, thereby causing confusion.
These challenges throw a serious concern on the part of the Indian legislature. This gives a red signal to the Parliament and other authorities to formulate a well-structured sentencing policy to safeguard the rights of the parties involved in a particular case.
NEED FOR STRUCTURED SENTENCING POLICY
From the above presented material, it can rightly be inferred that in India, there lies a huge disparity, inconsistency, arbitrariness and unguided discretionary power when it comes to deciding the punishment and awarding a sentence for a particular offence. It is an undisputable fact that there is a dire need of regulated sentencing policy for curtailing number of lacunas that are already discussed above. There exist the need of well-defined policy for sentencing and punishment even after the completion of the trial while determining the probation period of offenders. Section 360 and section 361 governs the principle of releasing the convicts on the basis of good behaviour and conduct and also states that special reasons must be recorded for the same. Here again, there is noclear-cut definition of ‘good conduct’, it varies from one jail authority to the other and also depends on the circumstances and type of offence committed by the offender. The implementation of the same legislation over two persons resulting in the different consequences despite of having same set of circumstances violates the right to equality defined under article 14 of Indian Constitution. When the person detained in the custody for a longer term than required, it violates another constitutional right. Thus, here, it becomes important to implement the policy which is well regulated, formulated and structured.
Apart from the members of legal fraternity such as lawyers, advocates, judges, activists, various committees also recognized the need for a statutory sentencing policy. On various occasions, several committees have emphasized on the need of well-regulated policy for governing the sentencing and punishment system in India. The committees also stated that punishment should not be harsh rather it must be moderate enough to be effective. The reports of the committees suggest various other aspects which will improve the sentencing and punishment mechanism. In general, committees have pointed out the need to adopt such system that will ensure certainty during the whole process of giving sentences. Let’s briefly take alook on the report published by various committees –
In 2000, the Ministry of Home Affairs established the Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, popularly known as the Malimath Committee for giving recommendations on the prevalent system of criminal justice. In March 2003, Committee issued the report which is of the view that despite of having provisions of maximum and minimum punishment in the Indian Penal Code, the judge enjoys the wide discretion within the statutory limit while inflicting sentences. With regard to selecting the most appropriate sentence, there is no proper guidance provided anywhere for the judges. The members of committee went on to criticize this unguided power and felt the need to minimize it to the some extent by using the law force and authority. Further, the Committee also noticed the fact that not every judge has the same set of mind and attitude while deciding the sentences, for instance, something may be grave for one judge but at the same time may not be as grave for other one. For the depth study of this matter, committee asserted that there is a requirement of an expert committee, which will evaluate the whole concern. This committee consisted of experts pointed out the need for a new code which classify the offences other than the parameters of cognizable and non- cognizable and a policy having the goal of social welfare should be adopted.
The Law Commission of India in its 47th report by reasserting the same states that an appropriate sentence is a culmination of different numerous factors such as the nature and circumstances under which offence is committed; the age, background, mental health, character, education, etc. of the offender; prior criminal record of the offender; prospective of rehabilitation, training or treatment and so forth. Further, the commission recommended for a committee that must be statutory in origin, to lay out the regulation under the Chairmanship of a former judge of Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court, whosoever experienced in criminal law and with such other member as necessary. The summary of the report states that there should be a punishment harsher than imprisonment for life but at the same time it must kept in mind that it should be lenient than capital punishment.
Later, the Committee on Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice, popularly known as the Madhava Menon Committee also recognized the need to have a radical change in the law of sentencing. The committee in its report states that there is a need to re-think on the philosophy of sentencing in the criminal justice administration. Equality in every aspects of sentencing must be pursued vigorously. In news report of October 2010, the Law Minister stated that Government of India is in a stage of preparation where it is planning to establish ‘a uniform sentencing policy’ similar to the policy of that USA and UK. However, even after all such recommendations, no effort has been taken towards its creation.
JUDICIAL VIEWS ON SENTENCING POLICY
While the legislature has not given any particular guidelines regarding the sentencing and punishment, the higher Courts from time-to-time have enunciated certain principles regarding this. The Indian Courts, over the period of time, through inconstant and faulty decision making process have indirectly pointed out the need for a sentencing policy. The Courts recognizing the absence of any such regulatedpolicy have provided judicial guidance by setting out certain factors that courts must look into while deciding punishments.
In Soman v. State of Kerala the Court put emphasis on the principles such as proportionality, deterrence and rehabilitation that need to be taken into consideration while giving judgment. Here, proportionality factor also contains the mitigating, aggravating and such other factor. Also,the Court noted that it is not good that our criminal legislation has no legislative or judicially laid down regulations to guide the court trial.
Further, most importantly the court in the State of M.P v. Bablu Natt said that the imposition of the principles laid down in the above case vary from case to case and depend on facts and circumstances of each case.
Moreover, the apex court in the Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v. the State of Maharashtra acknowledge these above mentioned principles but at the same time held that since they are not absolute rules, the judiciary cannot be restrained with them.
In the case of State of Punjab v. Prem Sagar,it was pointed out by Justice S.B. Sinha that our legal system has so far not been able to develop certain principles as regards of sentencing and even the apex Court just made observations to this regard and left the matter untouched whereas other developed countries have done so.
In the famous case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Hon’ble Supreme Court apart from the constitutionality of death penalty also addressed on the issue of lack of sentencing guidelines. The majority is of the opinion that it is upon the legislation to standardize the sentencing discretion if it deems fit. However the Court went ahead and formulated the guidelines for imposing death penalty and specifically defining the term ‘special reasons’ in Section 354(3) of CrPC thus set forth the doctrine of ‘rarest of rare case’.
Later, the court in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v.Mehtab, pointed that there is a development of guidelines by judiciary, but the implementation is so far from reality which raises the major concern regarding the methodology of sentencing in India. Also,it stated that the development of a strict policy would lead to an obstruction of justice. So it is important to have a look on a larger picture which will improve our justice system and a major method through which same can be achieved is the development and implementation of a uniform sentencing policy.
Indian criminal justice has no doubt adopted the mechanism of sentencing as a restorative justice. But it is not considered much by the judges. Indian system, depending upon its convenience often fluctuatesbetween the three theories of punishment, namely, deterrence, retributive and reformative. This itself shows that justice system, particularly criminal, is in a state of ambiguity and is also directionless. There is a huge docket explosion in the statistics of the crime rate all over the world and India is no exception. Apart from this, India has also been experiencing an alarming increase in delay and arrears of pending cases. There are many reasons responsible for this problem. One of the major concerns is requirement of a fixed sentencing and punishment policy, a concept on which this whole article is based.
As we have already discussed, in detail, the number of infirmities faced by the current sentencing and punishment policy. There exists an exigency to fix those shortcomings to get an effective policy. There is a need for a policy which strikes balance between the rights of an accused and the rights of the citizens. So this is the high time that legislature must come forward to prepare a road map and take vital steps to draft a systematic and clear policy. While formulating a policy, the legislature should also take aid from the successful policies of various other jurisdictions such as US, UK and embed it in India according to the Indian needs. It is also mandated that this draft must be in the line to the proposals and work done by the Malimath Committee, the Madhava Menon Committee and the Law Commission of India in this regard. It is important to note that legislature cannot do this task in isolation. The judiciary would also play an important role in this exercise by ensuring that discretion power vested with them must be used in the interest of justice and should not be misused.
The criminal law mostly contemplated as an expression of the relationship between the society and its subjects. Therefore, it becomes necessary to revise this law through the principled and guided amendments. As said by Justice Chandrachud, “The need of the hour to mitigate the problem of pendency is to think out of the box”. Thus, policy makers must take immediate steps to counter the problems arising from indefinite punishment and sentencing system so that the people of the nation don’t lose their faith in the judiciary and also judiciary serve justice properly. With the help of this article, an endeavour is made to build a proper legislation for executing just and fair sentence and removing any kind of disparity before, after and during the trial.
Young police officer lynched to death by mob has put humanity, spirit of Kashmiriyat to shame: J&K & Ladakh HC
‘It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part, thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.’ If bail is given even in such cases then who will fear the ‘rule of law’?
In a brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment titled Peerzada Mohammad Waseem Vs Union Teritory of J&K in CrlA(D) No.10/2021 that was reserved on 26.08.2021 and then finally pronounced on 02.09.2021, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has denied bail to a man accused of lynching a Deputy SP of 3rd Battalion Security after observing that his act has put humanity and spirit of Kashmiriyat to shame. While calling it a heinous and serious offence, Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar observed most candidly, commendably, cogently and convincingly that, “It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.” If bail is given even in such cases then who will fear the “rule of law”? The best example to cite here is what happened in Kashmir Valley in 1990 when lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were either killed or forced to leave as refugees in their own country as their houses were burnt, women were raped and still we saw little action on the ground! This was when Kashmiriyat was worst vandalized and burnt in reality as we all saw for ourselves!
To start with, this learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment authored by Justice Sanjay Dhar for himself and Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “Through the medium of instant appeal under Section 21(3) of the National Investigation Agency Act (hereinafter referred to as the NIA Act), appellant has challenged the order dated 12.05.2021 passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, TADA/POTA (Special Judge Designated under NIA Act), Srinagar, whereby bail application of the appellant has been dismissed.”
While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then puts forth in para 2 that, “The facts giving rise to the filing of the instant appeal are that on 22.06.2017, while the holy festival of Shabe Qadar was being observed in Jamia Masjid, Nowhatta, the appellant and the co-accused raised inflammatory slogans against the Government of India and they caught hold of deceased Mohammad Ayoub Pandit Dy. S. P. of 3rd Battalion Security, who had been deployed in the area to supervise the manpower for access control at Jamia Masjid on the occasion of Shabe Qadar. The deceased was beaten up, dragged and lynched to death by the mob, of which the appellant was a part. His pistol was also snatched and the dead body was dragged and left at Batagali Nowhatta. Police registered FIR No.51/2017 for offences under Section 302, 148, 149, 392, 341 RPC read with 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and investigation of the case was set into motion. After conducting investigation of the case, the challan was presented before the trial court against 20 accused. Out of these, 17 accused were arrested and produced before the trial court at the time of presentation of challan whereas one accused Sajad Ahmad Gilkar was killed in an encounter prior to presentation of the challan. Two more accused including appellant herein absconded and they could not be produced before the Court at the time of presentation of the challan.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “In terms of order dated 12.12.2017, the learned trial court framed charges for the offences mentioned in the charge sheet against 17 accused who had been produced before it at the time of presentation of the challan. During pendency of the trial, the appellant was also arrested and produced before the trial court. Charges against him for offences under Section 302, 148, 392, 341 RPC read with Section 13 ULA(P) Act were framed by the trial court in terms of its order dated 16.05.2019. The appellant/accused pleaded not guilty and trial against him also commenced.”
While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “It appears that after recording of statements of some of the prosecution witnesses, the appellant/accused moved an application before the trial court for grant of bail on the ground that material prosecution witnesses to the extent of his case have turned hostile and, as such, he deserves to be enlarged on bail. The bail application came to be dismissed by the learned trial court vide its order dated 16.09.2020. The appellant preferred an appeal against the said order before this Court which was registered as CrlA(D) No.17/2020. Vide order dated 26.02.2021 passed by this Court, the order of learned trial court was set aside and the appellant was given liberty to move a fresh application before the trial court.”
As we see, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, “It appears that the appellant moved another application before the trial court on similar grounds as were projected by him in his earlier bail application and the same has been rejected by the learned trial court vide the impugned order dated 12.05.2021.”
Be it noted, the Bench then points out in para 9 that, “The contention of learned counsel for the appellant that the appellant was impleaded as an accused at the time of filing of supplementary challan and he was not an accused in the original challan is factually incorrect. In the first charge sheet itself filed by the Investigating Agency before the trial court, the name of appellant is shown in Column No.2 indicating therein that the said accused has not been arrested. In fact, after the presentation of the challan, the learned trial court has, vide its order dated 16.10.2017, issued general warrants of arrest against two accused including the appellant herein after recording satisfaction that there are no immediate prospects of his arrest. So, it is not a case where appellant/accused has been implicated in the case after presentation of the charge sheet but it is a case where involvement of the appellant/accused is based upon the evidence collected by the investigating agency which forms part of the first challan itself.”
Furthermore, the Bench then hastens to add in para 10 that, “The record further shows that the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant that he has moved an application before the learned trial court in terms of Section 272 of J&K Cr. P. C, wherein he has admitted the remaining part of the evidence which the prosecution proposes to lead in support of its case, is also factually incorrect. We could not lay our hands on any such application on the trial court record nor there is any interim order of the trial court evidencing the said fact.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then remarks in para 11 that, “That takes us to the merits of the contention of the appellant that material witnesses who have deposed about the involvement of the appellant having turned hostile, as such, no amount of evidence that may be led by the prosecution in support of its case would lead to his conviction. In this regard, a perusal of the trial court record shows that protected witnesses Mark E, F and K, who, during investigation of the case, have in their statements recorded under Section 164 of Cr. P.C, deposed about the involvement of appellant in the occurrence being part of the unlawful assembly, have turned hostile when their statements were recorded before the Court. All these three witnesses have admitted having made statements under Section 164 Cr. P. C before the Magistrate in which they have implicated the appellant/accused. Protected witnesses Mark F and K have stated that they made these statements under pressure from police whereas protected witness Mark E has stated that he does not recollect what was stated by him. These three witnesses have been cross-examined by the prosecution as well as by the defence. The question arises as to whether at the time of considering the bail application, it is open to this Court to give a finding even on prima facie basis with regard to reliability and evidentiary value of the statements of these witnesses.”
Quite significantly, the Bench then makes it a point to state in para 12 that, “At the stage of granting bail, a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate documentation of the merit of the case cannot be undertaken. What is the effect of statements of hostile witnesses would be a moot point to be decided during the course of trial of the main case and cannot be decided during bail proceedings. The mere fact that material witnesses have turned hostile, in our opinion, by itself is not sufficient to grant bail because of the simple reason that this Court cannot imagine what would happen till the disposal of the case. If the Court were to accept or to rely upon the evidence of the prosecution recorded by the trial court, it would amount to appreciation of evidence on record which is impermissible in these proceedings. Till the completion of evidence and the trial, appreciation of evidence at the time of granting or rejecting bail, this Court cannot step into the shoes of the trial court for the purposes of appreciating the material on record.”
Adding more to it, the Bench then makes it clear in para 13 that, “What would be the effect of prosecution evidence led so far, is an issue which cannot be determined by this Court and the same has to be determined by the learned trial court at the conclusion of trial. Even the Investigating Officer, who is a star witness in the case, is yet to be examined and without examining him, this Court cannot even frame a prima facie opinion as to the merits of the prosecution case. It is a settled law that conviction of an accused can be based even on the statements of hostile witnesses and the Investigating Officer provided the same inspire confidence. This question can be determined only by the trial court and not by this Court in these proceedings.”
As an aside, the Bench then brings out in para 14 that, “Learned counsel for the appellant has contended that the appellant has been in custody for quite some time now and in the face of the fact that material witnesses have turned hostile, it may work harshly against the appellant if he is kept in custody till the remaining evidence of the prosecution is recorded, particularly when there are no chances of his conviction.”
Truth be told, it cannot be just glossed over that the Bench then specifically points out in para 15 that, “A perusal of the trial court record shows that it is only in May, 2019, that charges have been framed against the appellant/accused and until that date, he was absconding. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the normal work of trial courts got seriously hampered and in spite of this, a large number of witnesses have already been examined by the prosecution in the case. Therefore, it cannot be stated that there has been any delay in trial of the case.”
Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this remarkable, robust and rational judgment is then illustrated best in para 16 wherein it is held that, “Apart from the above, we also need to take into account the gravity of the offence and the circumstances in which the offence has been committed by the accused including the appellant herein. It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part, thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.”
Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then holds in the last para 17 that, “For the foregoing reasons, we do not find any merit in this appeal and the same is, accordingly, dismissed.”
In conclusion, every Indian must feel proud that this notable judgment by Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has made it absolutely clear that there has to be zero tolerance for mob lynching. Kudos to them for this! The Court very rightly refused bail to the offender. If they are not deal most firmly then we will only see the rise of Talibani forces in our country also whom even hard line Muslims like the most famous AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi demands should be declared a terror organization!
Of course, it goes without saying that Owaisi has hit the “biggest and tightest slap” with “full force” on the ‘face’ of all such “Muslim Maulvis” and “other Muslims” and so called “secular leaders” who are welcoming Taliban like former CM Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti among others who are demanding that India maintain bilateral relations with Taliban as they have become a reality now! Shame to UN if it watches all this like a mute and helpless spectator! Violence in any form can never be justified and if India starts justifying Taliban then this will ensure the return of hardline Islam in India just like it existed prior to the advent of Britishers during Aurangzeb’s rule among others which India can never afford under any circumstances as it will ensure that democracy is buried and India is converted into a hard line Islamic state or India is partitioned again and again which no true Indian no matter whether he is a Hindu or Muslim or anyone else would ever justify under any circumstances just like imposing monogamy on Hindus alone in 1955 can never be justified under any circumstances and this my best friend Sageer Khan resented most!
It is high time and monogamy also must be imposed on one and all straightaway as the population explosion is rocking our country and hitting us hard which alone explains why Sageer Khan felt most strongly that it should be abolished for one and all as this will ensure that India progresses, prospers and emerges powerful! Even Delhi High Court had recently called for uniform civil code! If uniform civil code is going to take time then why can’t polygamy be outlawed just like Pandit Nehru most commendably outlawed polygamy and polyandry for Hindus in 1955 even though Dr BR Ambedkar in his Hindu Code Bill favoured retention of polygamy among Hindus in his Hindu Code Bill 1951 due to which I term Pandit Nehru as “Real Father And Real Reformer Of Hindus”?
It merits no flogging again and again that law must be same for one and all as Sageer Khan used to often underscore so that no Hindu like eminent film actor Dharmender among others are forced to convert to Islam just for the sake of marrying and same was the case of son of former Haryana Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhajan Lal! Kowtowing in front of “hardline Islam” which Taliban preaches will definitely destroy our nation as Sageer Khan often pointed out way back in 1993-95 and now even Owaisi just recently has gone all out in making it absolutely clear and thundering that Taliban is a “terror organization” which has to be mocked with full force and it must be declared so by the Centre right now without wasting any time! Very rightly so!
Non-communication of right to make representation against detention order violates constitutional right: MP HC
While fully, firmly and finally endorsing the Constitutional right to make representation against the detention order, the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court has in a learned, latest, laudable and landmark judgment titled Lokendra Singh v/s The State of Madhya Pradesh & Others in Writ Petition No. 12166/2021 delivered just recently on September 6, 2021 has quashed a detention order on the ground that it did not contain a stipulation informing the detenue about his right to prefer a representation against his detention by the detaining authority. It must be mentioned here that a Division Bench comprising of Justice Sujoy Paul and Anil Verma relied on a catena of judicial precedent to support their observations which they drew and they shall be discussed later on. It must also be apprised here that it was the petitioner’s case that the detention order did not mention that a representation can be sought before the same authority, thereby violating a valuable right of the petitioner under Article 22 of the Constitution of India.
To start with, the Division Bench comprising of Justice Sujoy Paul and Anil Verma of Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court who authored this brief, brilliant, balanced and bold judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in the opening para that, “The singular point raised by the petitioner is that in the detention order dated 07.06.2021, the learned District Magistrate has not mentioned that detenue – Narendra Thakur can prefer representation against the detention order before the same authority namely District magistrate thereby violating a valuable right of the petitioner flowing from Article 22 of the Constitution of India. This point is squarely covered by a recent Full Bench Judgment of this Court passed in W.P. No.22290/2019 (Kamal Khare v/s The State of Madhya Pradesh) which is followed in W.P. No.9630/2021 (Gurubachan Singh Saluja v/s The State of Madhya Pradesh & Others) by this Court.”
It certainly cannot be just glossed over that the Division Bench then very rightly points out in the next para that, “Shri Vivek Dalal, learned Additional Advocate General for the respondents / State fairly admitted that the detention order does not contain any such stipulation that petitioner can prefer representation against the detention order before the same authority. He further agreed that on this ground, Full Bench in Kamal Khare (supra) has held that the detention order stands vitiated because of infringement of said right.”
Quite significantly, the Bench then observed in the next para that, “This Court in Gurubachan Singh Saluja (supra) followed the Full Bench decision and opined as under:-
“6) In one of the aforesaid matters (WP No.9792/2021), this Court held as under:-
31) Indisputably, the detention order does not contain any stipulation that the detenu has right to prefer representation before the same authority namely, District Magistrate. The reliance is placed on the recent Full Bench judgment of this Court passed in the case of Kamal Khare (supra). To counter this argument, the bone of contention of learned AAG was that the said Full Bench decision is distinguishable. Full Bench judgment is based on a constitution bench judgment in the case of Kamleshkumar Ishwardas Patel v. Union of India, (1995) 4 SCC 51. In Kamleshkumar (supra), the Apex Court was dealing with the provisions of COFEPOSA Act and the PIT NDPS Act and not with NSA Act. Hence, the said constitution Bench judgment could not have been relied upon.
32) We do not see much merit in this argument because similar argument was advanced by the Govt. before Full Bench in the case of Kamal Khare (supra) which is reproduced in extenso in para-14 of the said judgment. The similar argument could not find favour by the Full Bench.
33) In Kamleshkumar (supra), Apex Court opined as under:-
“6. This provision has the same force and sanctity as any other provision relating to fundamental rights. (See: State of Bombay v. Atma Ram Shridhar Vaidya [1951 SCR 167, 186 : AIR 1951 SC 157] .) Article 22(5) imposes a dual obligation on the authority making the order of preventive detention: (i) to communicate to the person detained as soon as may be the grounds on which the order of detention has been made; and (ii) to afford the person detained the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order of detention. Article 22(5) thus proceeds on the basis that the person detained has a right to make a representation against the order of detention and the aforementioned two obligations are imposed on the authority making the order of detention with a view to ensure that right of the person detained to make a representation is a real right and he is able to take steps for redress of a wrong which he thinks has been committed. Article 22(5) does not, however, indicate the authority to whom the representation is to be made. Since the object and purpose of the representation that is to be made by the person detained is to enable him to obtain relief at the earliest opportunity, the said representation has to be made to the authority which can grant such relief, i.e., the authority which can revoke the order of detention and set him at liberty. The authority that has made the order of detention can also revoke it. This right is inherent in the power to make the order. It is recognised by Section 21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 though it does not flow from it. It can, therefore, be said that Article 22(5) postulates that the person detained has a right to make a representation against the order of detention to the authority making the order. In addition, such a representation can be made to any other authority which is empowered by law to revoke the order of detention.
14. Article 22(5) must, therefore, be construed to mean that the person detained has a right to make a representation against the order of detention which can be made not only to the Advisory Board but also to the detaining authority, i.e., the authority that has made the order of detention or the order for continuance of such detention, which is competent to give immediate relief by revoking the said order as well as to any other authority which is competent under law to revoke the order for detention and thereby give relief to the person detained. The right to make a representation carries within it a corresponding obligation on the authority making the order of detention to inform the person detained of his right to make a representation against the order of detention to the authorities who are required to consider such a representation.
38. Having regard to the provisions of Article 22(5) of the Constitution and the provisions of the COFEPOSA Act and the PIT NDPS Act the question posed is thus answered: Where the detention order has been made under Section 3 of the COFEPOSA Act and the PIT NDPS Act by an officer specially empowered for that purpose either by the Central Government or the State Government the person detained has a right to make a representation to the said officer and the said officer is obliged to consider the said representation and the failure on his part to do so results in denial of the right conferred on the person detained to make a representation against the order of detention. This right of the detenu is in addition to his right to make the representation to the State Government and the Central Government where the detention order has been made by an officer specially authorised by a State Government and to the Central Government where the detention order has been made by an officer specially empowered by the Central Government, and to have the same duly considered. This right to make a representation necessarily implies that the person detained must be informed of his right to make a representation to the authority that has made the order of detention at the time when he is served with the grounds of detention so as to enable him to make such a representation and the failure to do so results in denial of the right of the person detained to make a representation.”
34) The Full Bench after considering the constitution Bench judgment opined as under:-
“20. The Supreme Court in Life Insurance Corporation of India v. D.J. Bahadur and Others, (1981) 1 SCC 315 dealing with the aspect whether the Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956 is a special statute qua the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 when it came to a dispute regarding conditions of service of the employees of the Life Insurance Corporation of India held that the Industrial Disputes Act would prevail over the Life Insurance Corporation of India Act as the former relates specially and specifically to industrial disputes between the workmen and employers. Relevant discussion in paragraph No.52 of the report would be useful to reproduce hereunder:-
“52. In determining whether a statute is a special or a general one, the focus must be on the principal subject-matter plus the particular perspective. For certain purposes, an Act may be general and for certain other purposes it may be special and we cannot blur distinctions when dealing with finer points of law. In law, we have a cosmos of relativity, not absolutes – so too in life. The ID Act is a special statute devoted wholly to investigation and settlement of industrial disputes which provides definitionally for the nature of industrial disputes coming within its ambit. It creates an infrastructure for investigation into, solution of and adjudication upon industrial disputes. It also provides the necessary machinery for enforcement of awards and settlements. From alpha to omega the ID Act has one special mission – the resolution of industrial disputes through specialised agencies according to specialised procedures and with special reference to the weaker categories of employees coming within the definition of workmen. Therefore, with reference to industrial disputes between employers and workmen, the ID Act is a special statute, and the LIC Act does not speak at all with specific reference to workmen. On the other hand, its powers relate to the general aspects of nationalisation, or management when private businesses are nationalised and a plurality of problems which, incidentally, involve transfer of service of existing employees of insurers. The workmen qua workmen and industrial disputes between workmen and the employer as such, are beyond the orbit of and have no specific or special place in the scheme of the LIC Act. And whenever there was a dispute between workmen and management the ID Act mechanism was resorted to.”
30. Now coming to the question as to what would be the effect of not informing the detenu that he has a right of making representation, apart from the State Government and the Central Government, also to the detaining authority itself, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Kamlesh Kumar Ishwardas Patel (supra) even examined this aspect in paragraph No.14 of the report and categorically held as under:-
Please read concluding on thedailyguardian.com
“14. Article 22(5) must, therefore, be construed to mean that the person detained has a right to make a representation against the order of detention which can be made not only to the Advisory Board but also to the detaining authority, i.e., the authority that has made the order of detention or the order for continuance of such detention, who is competent to give immediate relief by revoking the said order as well as to any other authority which is competent under law to revoke the order for detention and thereby give relief to the person detained. The right to make a representation carries within it a corresponding obligation on the authority making the order of detention to inform the person detained of his right to make a representation against the order of detention to the authorities who are required to consider such a representation.”
33. In view of the above, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Kamlesh Kumar Ishwardas Patel (supra) analyzed the effect of not informing the detenu of his right to make a representation to the detaining authority itself in paragraph No.47 of the report and held that this results in denial of his right under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India, which renders the detention illegal. The relevant paragraph No.47 is reproduced hereunder:-
“47. In both the appeals the orders of detention were made under Section 3 of the PIT NDPS Act by the officer specially empowered by the Central Government to make such an order. In the grounds of detention the detenu was only informed that he can make a representation to the Central Government or the Advisory Board. The detenu was not informed that he can make a representation to the officer who had made the order of detention. As a result the detenu could not make a representation to the officer who made the order of detention. The Madras High Court, by the judgments under appeal dated 18-11-1994 and 17.1.1994, allowed the writ petitions filed by the detenus and has set aside the order of detention on the view that the failure on the part of the detaining authority to inform the detenu that he has a right to make a representation to the detaining authority himself has resulted in denial of the constitutional right guaranteed under Article 22(5) of the Constitution. In view of our answer to the common question posed the said decisions of the Madras High Court setting aside the order of detention of the detenus must be upheld and these appeals are liable to be dismissed.”
35) Another Division Bench in WP No.5866/2015 (Salma vs. State of MP) opined as under:-
“On the last date of hearing opportunity was granted to the learned counsel for the State to examine the law laid down b the Apex Court, which has been made applicable in the various cases by the Division Bench of this Court, in the matter of compliance of provisions of Article 22 (5) of the Constitution of India in the matter of detention itself, intimating the detenu that he/she is entitled to make a representation before the Detaining Authority himself against the order of detention. Such law was considered and made applicable in view of the law laid down by the Apex Court in the matter of State of Maharashtra and others Vs. Santosh Shankar Acharya (2000) 7 SCC 463, vary same law was made application by this Court in W.P. No.1830/2015, W. P. No.3491/2015, W .P. No.3677/2015 & W. P. No.3683/2015 in the following manner :
Notably, both these points have been considered by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Maharashtra and others vs. Santosh Shankar Acharya (2000) 7 SCC 463 in para 5 and 6 in particular. The Supreme Court following the dictum in the case of Kamleshkumar restated that noncommunication of the fact to the detenu that he could make a representation to the detaining Authority so long as order of detention has not been approved by the State Government in case the order of detention has been issued by the Officer other than the State Government, would constitute infringement of right guaranteed under Article 22(5) of the Constitution and this ratio of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Kamlesh kumar would apply notwithstanding the fact that same has been made in the context of provisions of COFEPOSA Act. In para 6 of the reported decision, the Supreme Court rejected the similar objection canvassed by the learned counsel for the State relying on Veeramanâ s™ case and noted that the said decision does not help the respondents in any manner. Inasmuch as, in that case the Court was called upon to consider the matter in the context of situation that emerged subsequent to the date of approval of the order of detention by the State Government and not prior thereto. In none of the cases on hand the observation in the case of Veeramani will have any application. Suffice it to observe that the detention order and the disclosure of the fact that detenu could make representation to the detaining Authority before the State Government considered the proposal for approval has abridged the right of detenu under Article 22(5) of the Constitution. As a result, the continued detention of the detenu on the basis of such infirm order cannot be countenanced.
These petitions, therefore, must succeed. The impugned detention orders in the respective petitions are quashed and set aside and respondents are directed to set the petitioners/detenu at liberty forthwith unless required in connection with any other criminal case.” Emphasis supplied
36) In view of these authoritative pronouncements, there is no manner of doubt that the detenu had a valuable right to make a representation to the detaining authority and denial of this opportunity vitiates the impugned order. Resultantly, impugned order of detention dated 10/05/2021 is set aside.
37) In view of foregoing analysis, the impugned order of detention cannot sustain judicial scrutiny.
38) Before parting with the matter, we deem it proper to observe that the main grievance of detenue/complainant was that the District Magistrate while passing the order of detention did not inform him about his valuable right to prefer a representation against the detention order before the same authority namely District Magistrate. Full Bench recognized the said right of the detenue in light of the constitutional bench judgment in the case of Kamleshkumar Ishwardas Patel (supra). Thus, in the fitness of things, it will be proper for the State to ensure that henceforth in the order of detention, it must be mentioned that the detenue has a right to prefer a representation before the same authority.” Emphasis Supplied
7) In view of the Full Bench decision in Kamal Khare (supra) which was followed by Indore Bench in aforesaid matter, we deem it proper to set aside the impugned orders of detention.” Emphasis Supplied.”
Finally, the Division Bench then holds that, “In view of dicta of Full Bench in Kamal Khare (supra), the impugned order dated 07.06.2021 has become vulnerable and is accordingly set aside. The Writ Petition stands allowed.”
In a nutshell, it can thus be said that the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Sujoy Paul and Justice Anil Verma have made it absolutely clear that the non-communication of ‘right to make representation against detention order’ violates Constitutional right under Article 22 of the Constitution of India. It was rightly mentioned that the Constitutional Bench in Kamleshkumar Ishwardas Patel case noted that Article 22(5) must be construed to mean that the person detained has a right to make representation against the order of detention. This representation can be made not only to the Advisory Board but also to the detaining authority and any other authority that is competent under law to revoke the order for detention and thereby give relief to the person detained.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
One contract, two arbitrations: Res Judicata in international arbitration contradicting public policy
Speed is the essence of arbitration. Parties opt for arbitration believing that it is a timelier dispute resolution cog. Unfortunately, however, this is often not the case. Complex, commercial arbitrations take momentous time to finish off and prosperous parties would then have to corroborate with challenges to the tangibility as well as enforcement of the arbitral award. Arbitrations are an increasingly civil element of long-term commercial relationships. However, the confidentiality of arbitral proceedings means there is a little publicly available aisle in the contour of awards to work for us to understand the complex legal and practical issues that arise in subsequent proceedings when an earlier tribunal has rendered a decision on a particular matter.
So, in general words resolution of the disputes emanating under the international commercial contract via the rotation of arbitration is known as International Commercial Arbitration. In addition, the 1996 Arbitration & Conciliation Act discerns ICA specifically as arbitration of a legitimate linkage which shall be contemplated commercially if either of the bands is a foreign national or an inhabitant or a foreign person in a commercial context, in accordance with section 2(1) (f) for International Commercial Arbitration. It is used as a better alternative to litigation, and the complete process is controlled primarily by the parties themselves instead of following the national legislation or an established procedure rules. Most of the international commercial contracts contain a dispute resolution clause that specifies that if any dispute arises under the contract, it could be resolved through arbitration, rather than litigation.
The rule of res judicata is the enormous regulation which is solidified in all refined countries by the authorised structures. The precepts of the res judicata should be blended to arbitral tribunals since arbitral courts are an alternative to courts and when an award is required to be included in the country’s lawful order.
OVERVIEW: COMMON LAW STILL MUDDIED WATERS OF COURT, SOMEWHAT
That’s an interest that is in principle, Common to all disputes whether common law, civil law, or even international or any other system form whether in litigation or arbitration. However, an international arbitration difficulty arises when you try to drill down in any given case on precisely what has been decided, and what can be revisited the multiplicity of governing laws that have a bearing on rescue gives rise to complexities that tribunals need to resolve as part of their mandate. Questions of rescue as they commonly arise in long term legal relationships can take many forms, including international projects, a natural resource can check concessions partnerships shareholder agreements and various other long-term investments. Unfortunately, the private and confidential nature of arbitration means that judicial guidance is in the way of the waters.
OBLIGATORY LAWS APPLICABLE TO ARBITRATION: A STANDPOINT
Indian laws procure for dispute resolution of any international commercial disputes through arbitration and conciliation act 1996 arbitration involving a foreign party, and with its seat in India will be considered as an ICA. In this case, the first part of the 1996 act of arbitration and conciliation will apply. If the seat is outside India, however, part two of the Act would apply rather than part one. This mechanism aims to nail the commercial disputes between the foreign and Indian entities within the framework of the Indian arbitration laws. Now being an international or domestic arbitration, the arbitration is of two types, number one, institutional arbitration. Secondly, in ad hoc arbitration, the parties agree to have an arbitral institution, administer the dispute. These institutions establish their own arbitration rules which would apply to their arbitration procedures. These rules supplement the existing provisions of the Arbitration Act in matters of procedure, and the other details, as the legislation permits the dispute dealt by There may also be general and specific in nature, the arbitration Institute’s have fixed the arbitrators fees, administrative expenses, qualified arbitration panels rules governing the arbitration proceedings, etc, which exalted in smooth and orderly conduct of arbitration in India.
FINAL AWARD: INITIATING ARBITRATIONS UNDER MULTIPLE ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS
The filing of arbitrations established in multiple arbitration agreements, incorporated in two (or more) diverse agreements, in a single arbitration proceeding may be conceivable, but must be accomplished with caution.
ADR is an undertaking to ad lib machinery which ought to be competent of rendering substitute to the conventional outlines of untangling confrontations. The genealogy of the alternative resolution of disputes may be described in India. Corpses like the Panchayat, a group of people in a geriatric or persuasive hamlet who agree on a quarrel among locals, are still not exceptional today. The appointed judicial agent was the Kazi, which adjudicated disagreement between persons under the Principles of Muslim Law in Indian culture. There are several instances documented where the Kazi decided on a matter outside the law by getting the parties to approve a solution reached through conciliation without really adding that colour to the judgement. The 1996 Arbitration and Conciliation Act is a Parliament attempt to adopt an overall strategy to the settlement of alternatives to disputes in India. It is an act that enables conflict settlement either through arbitration or conciliation. In connection with international arbitration, the doctrine of res judicata might be combined. Res judicata fits in with the symposia on “post-award issues” solely to the extent that it concerns the repercussions of arbitrative awards. In this context, questions are arising as to whether a given arbitral award is res judicata in the same arbitrage (whereas the question arises of the effects in the subsequent phases of the same arbitrations of partial or interim awards), other arbitrations (whether or not based on the same arbitration agreement) and proceedings before domestic courts. Additional aspects of the doctrine which do not involve awards and which are therefore beyond the scope of this discussion are the res judicata effects of domestic judgments (for example findings of nullity or ineffectiveness of an Arbitrative Agreement) in arbitral or domestic courts and the res judicata effects in Arbitration Process.
The Final Award is the climactic ruling in an arbitration that has significant sequels, in the perception that it is the climax of an animosity, or a dispute shelved to an arbitral tribunal or a sole arbitrator, and it will concuss the contracts between the parties and may not chiefly be played against. In addition to stapling the legal or factual antagonisms between the parties, the Final Award may also speculate upon the version of contract stints or distinguish the respective liberties and obligations of the parties to a contract.
In other words, the arbitrator’s judgement on the application of the concept should also be respected by the court.
But while analysing circumstances of res judicata and restricting their powers accordingly, Arbitrators should meticulously do their analyses, since their wrong conclusion in relation to a prior award or judgement would likewise contradict public policy.
Obliviating the oral regime
‘Judgments cannot be treated as mere counters in the game of litigation.’
The above excerpt from the judgment of Lord Atkinson in ‘Somasundaran vs. Subramanian; AIR 1926 PC 136’, encapsulating the sanctity and solemnity of the court orders and judgments, was quoted with approval by Justice Chinnappa Reddy in ‘State of Maharashtra vs. Ramdas Shrinivas Nayak; (1982) 2 SCC 463’, where the Supreme Court was seized of the questionwhether the State of Maharashtra could be allowed to resile from the concession made before the High Courtas recorded in the judgment. During the course of hearing before the Court, Shri A.K. Sen, who hadappeared for the State of Maharashtra before the High Court, protested that he never made any such concession and invited the Court to peruse the written submissions made by him in the High Court. However, the Supreme Court declined the request and categorically observed that, “we cannot and we will not embark upon an enquiry. We will go by the judges’ record.”. The Court mentioned that the “Matters of judicial record are unquestionable” and that it is restrained by judicial decorum and public policy from launching an inquiry as to what transpired in the High Court. It was further observed by the Court that, “We are bound to accept the statement of the Judges recorded in their judgment, as to what transpired in court. We cannot allow the statement of the judges to be contradicted by statements at the Bar or by affidavit and other evidence. If the judges say in their judgment that something was done, said or admitted before them, that has to be the last word on the subject.”. The Supreme Court accorded utmost precedence to the judicial record; not allowing it to be contradicted by either the lawyer or the litigant, except the judge herself.
The recent judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Courtdated 31st August 2021 in ‘Salimbhai HamidbhaiMenon vs. Niteshkumar Maganbhai Patel & Anr.; 2021 SCC OnLine SC 647’, embarks on the same spirit and principle enunciated in R.S. Nayak(supra), and observes that, “Judges speak through their judgments and orders. The written text is capable of being assailed. The element of judicial accountability is lost where oral regimes prevail. This would set a dangerous precedent and is unacceptable.”. This observation came to be made by the Court apropos the procedure followed by the High Court in issuing an oral direction restraining the arrest of the first respondent. While the text of the order of that particular date did not contain any such direction, however, the subsequent order passed by the High Court adverted to such oral direction and directed immediate release of the accused. The Supreme Court found it ‘irregular’ and observed that a specific judicial order was necessary for grant of an interim protection against arrest to the accused. It also observed that, “Oral observations in court are in the course of a judicial discourse. The text of a written order is what is binding and enforceable.”. The Supreme Court, in this matter, has gone even a step further from R.S. Nayak(supra) and said that even a Judge cannot contradict the judicial record and are accountable for their actions.
Albeit, the Supreme Court has confined itself to the shortcomings of issuing oral direction in a criminal proceeding and the concomitant necessity of a written order, and has distinguished a criminal proceeding from a civil proceeding based on the infusion of interests of State and society in prosecution of the former, the same yardstick has been consistently applied by the Supreme Court in civil cases also. The principle is well settled that statements of fact as to what transpired at the hearing recorded in the judgment of the court, are conclusive of the facts so stated and no one can contradict such statements by affidavit or other evidence. If a party thinks that the happenings in Court have been wrongly recorded in a judgment, it is incumbent upon the party, while the matter is still fresh in the minds of the Judges, to call the attention of the very Judges who have made the record. That is the only way to have the record corrected. If no such step is taken, the matter must necessarily end there.
In ‘Associated Tubewells Ltd. v. R.B. GujarmalModi; AIR 1957 SC 742’, the Supreme Court had deprecated the practice of referring to a conversation which took place in Court but not found a place in the written order, stating that,
“3. We cannot, however, part from this matter without placing on record our very strong disapproval of the course that the advocate — a very Senior Counsel of this court — has adopted in making this application. In the review application he has referred in detail as to what, according to him, happened in court on the prior occasion and what each Judge said in the course of the arguments. The review application sets out at length what the presiding Judge said and expressed in the course of the arguments and what his views were and what the other Judges of the Bench said and expressed and what the view of each was. These statements are followed by a confident assertion how and why the application was dismissed.
5. Judges of this Court cannot be dragged into a controversy as to whether the statements ascribed to them are correct, or express correctly and fully what they had in view. …. ..It is not consistent with the dignity of the Court and the decorum of the Bar that any course should be permitted which may lead to controversy as to what a Judge stated in Court and what view he held. Such matters are to be determined only by what is stated in the record of the Court. That which is not so recorded cannot be allowed to be relied upon giving scope to controversy. To permit the atmosphere of the Court to be vitiated by such controversy would be detrimental to the very foundation of the administration of justice.”
The Supreme Court, with its earlier judgments, had set the tone for the course to be followed by the judges in abstaining from issuing oral directions. Now, with its latest pronouncement in Salimbhai(supra), the Supreme Court has decisively and succinctly laid down thereasons for eschewing such conduct, and observed that,“Oral directions of this nature by the High Court are liable to cause serious misgivings. Such a procedure is open to grave abuse. Most High Courts deal with high volumes of cases. Judicial assessments change with the roster. Absent a written record of what has transpired in the course of a judicial proceeding, it would set a dangerous precedent if the parties and the investigating officer were expected to rely on unrecorded oral observations.”.
A couple of months ago, the author also has had the misfortune of being caught up in such an ugly spectacle. There was no written order/direction by the Ld. Judge, yet the Counsel for the other side insisted than an oral direction was indeed issued. To the great dismay and discomfiture of the author, the Ld. Judge observed that this is a long-standing practice of this (Delhi) High Court that, at times, the Court issues oral directions and the parties abide by such directions. Hopefully, with the latest pronouncement of the Supreme Court, such things would cease in all High Courts, including the Delhi High Court. It can be very embarrassing for the Court and the Counsel. Your humble author can only add that in this day and age of virtual hearings, the written orders assume even a greater significance. It requires no gainsaying that VC is prone to frequent disturbances and disconnections, and this could potentially and occasionally lead to oral directions of the Court or oral undertaking of the Counsels going unnoticed, unheard or unregistered by the parties concerned. And when such oral directions/undertakings are not recorded in the written order, it may lead to a myriad of consequences and complexities; one such we have already seen in Salimbhai(supra). This may well change with the live transcription or telecast of court proceedings, as is done in the Central and State legislature/s and jurisdiction of other democracies like Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany and US. While web portals like Bar&Bench, LiveLaw etc. have been transcribing the court proceedings in a few matters, there has been no occasion for the Court/lawyers hitherto to rely upon or refer to such transcriptions as means of confirming the oral directions/observations made by the Court. It’s anybody’s guess whether the Courts would repose their faith and trust in these online transcripts, or introduce a Court approved transcription/recording of proceedings. But until then, Hon’ble Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has sounded a cautionary note for all Courts to follow, and rightly so.
The Court mentioned that the “Matters of judicial record are unquestionable” and that it is restrained by judicial decorum and public policy from launching an inquiry as to what transpired in the High Court. It was further observed by the Court that, “We are bound to accept the statement of the Judges recorded in their judgment, as to what transpired in court. We cannot allow the statement of the judges to be contradicted by statements at the Bar or by affidavit and other evidence. If the judges say in their judgment that something was done, said or admitted before them, that has to be the last word on the subject.”. The Supreme Court accorded utmost precedence to the judicial record; not allowing it to be contradicted by either the lawyer or the litigant, except the judge herself.
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