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Social media, free expression and competition law

The situs of the agitation, as opposed to the issue, perhaps explains the kind of attention that is being showered on it. The absence of similar agitations in other parts of the country for the most part doesn’t seem to matter much because other parts of the country are not Delhi.

J. Sai Deepak

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These last few days the role of social media platforms, in particular Twitter, has been the subject of intense scrutiny owing to certain controversial hashtags/trends finding traction in the backdrop of the farmers’ agitation. I don’t intend to comment on the legality or propriety of any particular trend; however, I am certainly interested in understanding the role of such platforms which ostensibly empower the voice of the common person and widen the circle of participation in public discourse. In a few pieces under this column, I have written in some detail on the need for greater consultation with the public in matters of law and policy, and I see no reason to depart from that position even in the context of the farm laws which find themselves at the heart of a storm in Delhi.

The situs of the agitation, as opposed to the issue, perhaps explains the kind of attention that is being showered on it. The absence of similar agitations in other parts of the country for the most part doesn’t seem to matter much because other parts of the country are not Delhi, and if such agitations were limited to other parts of the country, it is anybody’s guess if they would have received similar attention. Coming back to the discussion at hand, social media platforms have certainly made it possible for several causes to find greater eyeballs than they otherwise would have. Prior to the advent of social media, mainstream print and electronic media’s monopoly over news and opinion was unparalleled, and the fact that access to such platforms wasn’t within the reach of the average citizen is undeniable. Therefore, social media has certainly democratized access to public megaphones which, notwithstanding the noise they generate, are necessary particularly in Bharat given its sheer diversity.

Having said that, the time has come to examine certain assumptions we take for granted in the context of social media. Previously, presumption of neutrality was imputed to both print and electronic media which has been severely undermined not just prospectively but also retrospectively. In other words, I am not sure if the media was ever neutral. The lack of options on the political front gave the impression of political stability, which spilt over even on the media front. However, with emergence of viable alternative political options, the perception of neutrality too has worn off. Dare I say that social media platforms are witnessing a similar phase since people are no more willing to put stock in their claim of neutrality. The claim of being mere “intermediaries” doesn’t find as many enthusiastic takers as it did, say a decade ago.

Given that some of these platforms virtually enjoy monopolies in their respective spaces/relevant markets with no viable substitutes, it may be possible to treat them as essential facilities which have acquired a position of dominance. Therefore, they attract the attendant obligations under the Competition Act, the foremost and most obvious of which is a bar against abuse of dominant position. Sure, such platforms may claim that they thrive on User Generated Content (UGC) and unlike mainstream media, do not exercise any form of editorial control over with the content prior to its transmission/publication/dissemination. This may be true only to the limited extent of the initial publication of the content since the larger question is of the treatment of the content post publication by the platforms. In other words, to assume that editorial control can be exercised only prior to the publication of content may not be valid given the nature of such platforms and their exercise of ex post facto editorial control which is typically provided for and codified in their privacy policy and terms of use.

Since individuals may not have the bargaining power needed to push back against the inconsistency of such platforms and a standard civil action for contractual violation of the terms of use may not be the most effective and expeditious of remedies, to my mind, the Competition Act seems like an option worth considering. I say this in light of the inquisitorial powers the Act vests in the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the broad in rem nature of the enquiry envisaged the Act. Apart from the nature of the proceeding, the sheer sweep of reliefs that may be granted by the CCI, which include compelling a platform to reshape its practices in accordance with the framework under the Act, make this remedy all the more attractive. And the icing on the cake is the fact that the Act enables any person to initiate a proceeding. In other words, one need not be strictly an aggrieved party to set the ball rolling against a social media platform either for anti-competitive practices or for abuse of its dominant position, provided of course it enjoys a dominant position in the relevant market. The Act goes a step further since it envisages suo motu initiation of proceedings by the CCI itself without the need for a prime mover outside of the CCI.

May be the time has come to lay down a few behavioural standards for social media platforms so that public discourse is not subverted in the name of free speech through promotion of select strains of thought and speech, which undermines the fundamental expectation of diversity in a democracy. Or at least, such platforms must wear their leanings on their sleeve so as to enable the consumer to make an informed choice in what is supposed to be a free market of ideas.

J. Sai Deepak is an Advocate practising as an arguing counsel before the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi.

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Legally Speaking

AN ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE BODIES CAN ESTABLISH A CAPTIVE POWER PLANT PRIMARILY FOR THEIR OWN USE UNDER THE ELECTRICITY ACT: SUPREME COURT

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The Supreme Court in the case Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Ltd. vs Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission observed that a captive power plant primarily for their own use can be established by an association of corporate bodies.

The requirement would be that the consumption of SBIPL and SBMPL together should not be less than 51% of the power generated. Admittedly, the joint consumption by SBIPL and SBMPL is more than 51% and under the provisions of the said Act, the use of electricity by it would be for captive use only even an association of corporate bodies can establish a power plant. Since SBMPL holds 27.6% of the ownership, the requirement of not less than 26% of shares is fulfilled by SBMPL as SBMPL holds 27.6% equity shares in SBPIL.

The fourth proviso to sub­section (2) of Section 42 of the said Act would also reveal that surcharge would not be leviable in case open access is provided to a person who has established a captive generating plant for carrying the electricity to the destination of his own use and under Section 9 of the said Act, could be an individual or a body corporate or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, it is clear that the person will get benefit even an association of corporate bodies can establish a captive power plant it has been seen. The definition of “person” is wide enough to include any company or body corporate or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, or artificial juridical person it should be primarily for the use of the members of such co­operative society or association is the requirement, the Bench observed while referring to the provisions of the Electricity Act.

The BPIL, the respondent contended and supported the impugned judgment that no permission is required from the Commission for supply of electricity for its own use. Thereafter the appellant Company contended that unless SBPIL consumes 51% of the aggregate electricity generated by it, it will not be entitled to get the benefit under Section 9 of the said Act, in an appeal filled before the Apex Court.

An appeal was dismissed by the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity filed by the Company further The Commission held that SBPIL was entitled to supply electricity to its sister concern SBMPL and the same would qualify to be treating as own consumption and within the ambit of Section 9 read with Section 2(8) of the Electricity Act, 2003 and Rule 3 of the Electricity Rules, 2005 SBPIL submitted a petition for providing open access and wheeling of power through the transmission system of the Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Ltd (Company) for captive use by SBMPL to the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the commission. A Captive Generation Plant is established by SBPIL, and is a sister concern of SBPIL Shri Bajrang Power and I spat Ltd and Shri Bajrang Metallics and Power Ltd, SBMPL.

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Where the crime was committed the remission or premature release policy of the state has to be considered: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in the case Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, Lala Vakil vs State of Gujarat observed that where the crime was committed has to be considered in the remission or pre­mature release in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State.

While allowing the writ petition the court observed and contended that Once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be 6 considered including remission or pre­mature release in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court, as the case may be. The court further stated that under Section 432(7) CrPC the appropriate Government can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments.

the appropriate Government in the ordinary course would be the State of Gujarat. But the case was transferred in exceptional circumstances by this Court for limited purpose for trial and disposal to the neighboring State i.e., the State of Maharashtra by an order dated 06.08.2004. ordinarily, the trial was to be concluded in the same State and in terms of Section 432(7) CrPC as the crime in the instant case was admittedly committed in the State of Gujarat, observed by the Apex Court.

he application for pre­mature release has to be filed in the State of Maharashtra and not in the State of Gujarat, as prayed by the petitioner by judgment impugned dated 17.07.2009 As His petition filed in the High Court of Gujarat was dismissed taking note of Section 432(7) CrPC on the premise that since the trial has been concluded in the State of Maharashtra. Thereafter He had filed his petition for pre­mature release under Sections 433 and 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 stating that he had undergone more than 15 years 4 months of custody.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed and noted that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of the appropriate Government.

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Adopt roster based reservation for preferential candidates as followed by JIPMER: Supreme Court directs all AIIMS institutes

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The Supreme Court in the case Students Association AIIMS Bhopal And Or’s. v. AllMS and Or’s observed and directed all AIIMS Institutes to adopt roster-based reservation followed by Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry (JIPMER) as a plea was filled in the Court seeking direction to AIIMS to have a defined criteria for arriving at seat matrix for institutional preference candidates in INI-CET examination.

the order of the Apex Court in the case AIIMS Students’ Union v. AIIMS And Or’s, would not be applicable if It emphasized that if the roster-based system is implemented the actual roster points for AIIMS would be different from JIPMER as the same would depend on the percentage of seats decided to be allocated to the preferential candidates but It stated that the reservation would be similar to the one adopted by JIPMER AIIMS New Delhi was willing to provide a roster-point based reservation for its institutional preference candidates, by way of an affidavit 20th January 2022 the Bench was apprised that pursuant to a meeting held on 28th June 2020 as prescribed the relevancy:

It shall not be too wide with the one for the general category candidate, that the margin of difference between the qualifying marks for the Institute’s candidate.

The one who has secured marks at the common entrance PG test less than the one secured by any other candidate belonging to reserved category enjoying constitutional protection such as SC, ST etc. cannot be the AIMS graduate the last student to qualify for admission.

appearing on behalf of AIIMS, Advocate, Mr. Dushyant Parashar, New Delhi was asked to get instructions from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and Jodhpur so that the Court can pass appropriate orders on the next date of hearing. As that apart from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and AIIMS, Jodhpur, all other AIIMS before the Apex Court has agreed to implement the roster-based reservation system followed by JIPMER Puducherry for their institutional preference candidates, the Court was informed at the last date of hearing.

the petition had been filed seeking direction to AIIMS to disclose how the seats for institutional preference candidates are to be allotted in the view of the same the petitioners claim that in the INI-CET examination conducted in July, 2021, only 4 seats (1.87%) in AIIMS, New Delhi were allotted to institutional preference candidates. Rivetingly, the petitioners note that no seats were allocated to any other AIIMS for admission of institutional preference candidates.

the Bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and the justice A.S. Bopanna observed and noted that to record in the order that the roaster system would be applicable from this year. Mr. Parashar informed it that since new software is to be put in place for counselling, it might cause some delay. The bench further stated that the court will order it to apply this year but in case of delay AIMS can come later.

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‘The crime committed has to be considered in the remission or premature policy of the state’

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The Supreme Court in the case Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, Lala Vakil vs State of Gujarat observed that where the crime was committed has to be considered in the remission which is applicable in the State and the pre­mature release in terms of the policy

The Court noted while hearing the writ petition that in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be 6 considered including remission or pre­mature release, as the case may be, in the instance case. under Section 432(7) CrPC, there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments, can be either the Central or the State Government of the appropriate government.

in terms of Section 432(7) CrPC, the trial was to be concluded in the same State and ordinarily in the State of Gujrat the crime in the instant case was admittedly committed. by an order 06.08.2004., the case was transferred in exceptional circumstances by this Court for limited purpose for trial and disposal to the neighbouring State i.e., the State of Maharashtra, observed by the bench of Apex Court.

As mentioned by the petitioner in the plea that by judgment impugned dated 17.07.2019., the application for pre­mature release has to be filed in the State of Maharashtra and not in the State of Gujarat and His petition filed in the High Court of Gujarat was dismissed taking note of Section 432(7) CrPC on the premise that since the trial has been concluded in the State of Maharashtra. under Sections 433 and 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the petition was filled by the petitioner for premature release further the petitioner stated that that he had undergone under the custody of more than 15 years 4 months.

Section 302, 376(2) (e) (g) and reading it with Section 149 IPC, Shah was found guilty for the offence, the offence committed by him in the State of Gujrat.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of that appropriate government.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of that appropriate government.

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Seeking reduction of qualifying the percentile for admission in ayurveda course: A plea in Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in the Case Amit Kumar v UOI & Or’s observed in Ayurveda course in view of large number of vacancies and for seeking reduction of qualifying percentile for admission, an ayurveda aspirant who appeared in NEET 2021 has approached the Court.

the court had observed that lowering the minimum marks and reducing the percentile for admission to first year BDS Course would not amount to lowing the standards of Education and further the Court directed to lower the percentile mark by 10 percentiles for admission in first year of BDS Course for academic year 2020-2021, with regards to substantive the contentions made by the petitioner by referring the judgement passed in the case in Harshit Agarwal & Or’s v Union of India.

the percentile may also be reduced for Ayurveda programme enabling the Petitioner to take admissions then If percentile is being reduced/considered for reduction for BDS course was further stated by the petitioner in the plea, while referring to an order dated 04.29.2022. Thereafter the top Court had asked Centre to consider lowering the percentile for BDS Courses.

Seeking the Centre’s response in a plea by filing a counter affidavit, noted by the Top Court specifying the above-mentioned information:

after deducting the admission granted for MBBS Courses (BDS Courses), the total number of Candidates.

in All India Quota and State Quota, the totals number of vacant seats.

in government colleges on one hand & private/deemed colleges on the other hand, the number of seats which are remaining.

the petition was filed through AOR Neeraj Shekhar and for the petitioner Advocate Shivam Singh appeared.

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Bank case rejected by Supreme Court against farmer

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The Supreme Court in the case Bank of Maharashtra & Or’s v Mohanlal Patidar observed an order given by the High Courts of directing the bank the OTS proposal given by a farmer who had availed a loan from the bank, the court further pulled up the Bank of Maharashtra for challenging the order.

The Bank shall complete remaining formalities and provide all consequential benefits flowing therefrom to the petitioners, the court further stated that it is needless to emphasize The OTS proposal given by the petitioners in both the cases shall be accepted by the Bank and ‘sanction letters’ be issued forthwith, the court allowed the petitioner plea.

The petitioner not only promptly challenged the said order, it is noteworthy that petitioner never acceded to the unilateral decision dated 25th August 2021 and even otherwise the letter dated 25th August 2021 is held to be illegal by us, clause-7 of policy cannot take away the fruits of OTS benefits, within two months from the date of issuance of order dated 22th September 2021, the petitioner filled the instant petition and further the court directed we are unable to give stamp of approval to the impugned orders and action of the Bank, observed by the bench comprising of Justice Sujoy Paul and the justice Dwarka Dhish Bansal while setting aside the impugned orders of the bank.

In an order dated 03.09.2021 it was stated and it showed that the petitioner was required to pay minimum 10% of the OTS amount within stipulated time and that he had deposited Rs.35,00,000/- out of Rs.36,50,000/- within the stipulated time, it was argued before the court by the counsel.

As full and final settlement of the dues, he will be required to deposit Rs.50.50 lakhs as he was informed by the Asset Recovery Branch of the Bank.

Whole law comes into place when a matter of farmers come as the down payment were also accepted and it was further stated by the bench in an oral remark You don’t file cases against the ones who loot 1000s of crores.

The respondent had obtained a loan and intended to pay it in terms of a One Time Settlement which was quantified as Rs 3650000/-. in furtherance thereof the respondent had deposited Rs 35,00,000 with the bank, in the above-mentioned matter.

The bank had miserably failed to accept the same and on the contrary, decided to enhance the compromise amount to Rs.50.50 lakhs unilaterally which was contrary to the OTS scheme, contended by the counsel further the counsel stated that the bank had miserably failed to accept the same and on the contrary, decided to enhance the compromise amount to Rs.50.50 lakhs unilaterally which was contrary to the OTS scheme.

The bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and the justice Surya Kant observed and remarked while dismissing the plea assailing Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order dated 02.21.2022 Such a litigation in Supreme Court will spoil the families of farmers financially, Go after bigger fish.

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