Mandatory Time Line For Filing Written Statement Is Not Applicable To Non-Commercial Suits: Supreme Court

In a significant development, the Supreme Court most recently on January 20, 2020 in a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled Desh Raj Vs Balkishan (D) Through Proposed LR Ms. Rohini in Civil Appeal No. 433 of 2020 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 6217 of 2019] in exercise of its civil appellate jurisdiction has clarified in no uncertain terms that the mandatory time-line for filing written statement is not applicable to non-commercial suits. It has held that as regards non-commercial suits, the time-line for written statement is directory and not mandatory. A Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI Sharad A Bobde, Justice Surya Kant and Justice BR Gavai have held that the courts have the discretion to condone delay in filing of written statement in non-commercial suits.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 2 of this judgment after granting leave in para 1 by observing that, “This Civil Appeal is directed against order dated 26.11.2018 passed by the Delhi High Court whereby appellant’s revision petition against the order of the Civil Court which closed his right to file written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter “CPC”) and struck-off his defence owing to repeated delays and non-adherence of prescribed deadlines, has been dismissed.”

While dealing with the facts of the case, it is then pointed out in para 3 that, “The appellant and the respondent are brothers and own one floor each of ancestral property bearing No. 142 in Devli Village, Delhi. The ground floor was possessed and owned by the respondent, whereas the first floor was in the name of the appellant.”

While going into the nitty-gritty, it is then enumerated in para 4 that, “It has been claimed that in February 2017, the respondent approached the appellant offering to purchase the first floor of the ancestral property. Subsequently, an agreement to sell was entered into between the parties on 17.03.2017 for total consideration of Rs 7.5 lakhs, of which an amount of Rs 1 lakh was paid as earnest money to the appellant. This agreement was subsequently not honoured and a legal notice was served upon the appellant by the respondent on 13.04.2017, calling upon him to accept consideration and perform his part of the contract.”

While continuing in the same vein, it is then envisaged in para 5 that, “Claiming that the appellant was attempting to sell the suit property to third parties, the respondent later approached the Civil Court praying for a decree of specific performance of the agreement to sell dated 17.03.2017 by directing the appellant to receive the balance sale consideration and execute/register the sale deed in favour of the respondent. Additionally, the respondent sought to permanently injunct the appellant from alienating the property in favour of any third party. Alternatively, recovery of damages of Rs 2 lakhs with pendent lite and future interest @ 18% per annum was sought by the respondent.”

Illustrating further, it is then observed in para 6 that, “The appellant was served on 01.05.2017, and he appeared through counsel on 15.05.2017 wherein the Civil Court granted the appellant 30 days to file his written statement. On 17.07.2017, noting that no written statement had been filed till then, the Court granted the appellant a final opportunity of two weeks to file his written statement. On 18.09.2017, the Court observed that despite the last opportunity having been accorded more than two months ago, no written statement had been filed. Nevertheless, the Court granted another final opportunity, subject to payment of Rs 3,000 costs and the matter was posted for 11.10.2017. On this date, appellant sought multiple pass overs but his Counsel did not appear before the Court. After noticing that despite several opportunities (including one beyond the maximum period of 90 days) the appellant had failed to file any written statement or deposit costs and that the matter could not be adjourned repeatedly, the Civil Court thus closed the appellant’s opportunity of filing written statement and struck off his defence. Even on the next hearing on 03.11.2017, the appellant’s Counsel did not appear or supply a copy of the written statement to the respondent, as noted in the Trial Court’s daily order.”

What’s more, it is then pointed out in para 7 that, “The aggrieved appellant approached the High Court in revision, which noted how he had been granted repeated opportunities and yet the written statement was not filed within 120 days of notice. Relying upon the order of its co-ordinate bench in Oku Tech Pvt Ltd v. Sangeet Agarwal and Others 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6601 wherein it was held that there was no discretion with courts to extend the time for filing the written statement beyond 120 days after service of summons, the Delhi High Court summarily dismissed the petition.”

Needless to say, it is then enshrined in para 13 that, “The judgment of Oku Tech (supra) relied upon the learned Single Judge is no doubt good law, as recently upheld by this Court in SCG Contracts India Pvt Ltd. v. KS Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd., AIR 2019 SC 2691 but its ratio concerning the mandatory nature of the timeline prescribed for filing of written statement and the lack of discretion with Courts to condone any delay is applicable only to commercial disputes, as the judgment was undoubtedly rendered in the context of a commercial dispute qua the amended Order VIII Rule 1 CPC.”

Furthermore, it is then noted in para 14 that, “As regard the timeline for filing of written statement in a non commercial dispute, the observations of this Court in a catena of decisions, most recently in Atcom Technologies Ltd. v. Y.A. Chunawala and Co., (2018) 6 SCC 639, holds the field. Unamended Order VIII Rule 1, CPC continues to be directory and does not do away with the inherent discretion of Courts to condone certain delays.”

To put things in perspective, it is then stipulated in para 15 that, “Let us, therefore, consider whether the appellant has made out a case of exercising such discretionary jurisdiction? The present civil suit had been filed by the respondent for a decree of specific performance of an agreement to sell one floor of an ancestral property located in Devli village, Delhi and permanent injunction against alienation of the same by petitioner to third parties. Counsel for respondent has not contested the non-commercial nature of the dispute, and even independently we are satisfied that the dispute does not fall within the parameters specified under Section 2(c) of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and in particular sub-clause (vii), as the immovable property here is not of a nature which is “used exclusively in trade or commerce”. Hence, the appellant is correct in contending that the High Court overlooked the nature of the dispute and mistakenly applied the ratio of a case rendered in light of a modified version of the Code of Civil Procedure, which would only be applicable to commercial disputes.”

As it turned out, para 16 then minces no words to say: “However, it would be gainsaid that although the unamended Order VIII Rule 1 of CPC is directory, it cannot be interpreted to bestow a free hand to on any litigant or lawyer to file written statement at their own sweet-will and/or to prolong the lis. The legislative objective behind prescription of timelines under the CPC must be given due weightage so that the disputes are resolved in a time-bound manner. Inherent discretion of Courts, like the ability to condone delays under Order VIII Rule 1 is a fairly defined concept and its contours have been shaped through judicial decisions over the ages. Illustratively, extreme hardship or delays occurring due to factors beyond control of parties despite proactive diligence, may be just and equitable instances for condonation of delay.”

While launching a scathing attack on the appellant’s nonchalant approach, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 17 that, “However, it is clear from the facts on record that numerous opportunities had been accorded to the appellant. He was served on 01.05.2017 and entered appearance through counsel on 15.05.2017. As per Order VIII Rule 1 of CPC, the appellant ideally sought to have filed his written statement by 31.05.2017; and at the very latest by 30.07.2017. In addition to two separate deadlines for filing of the written statement within the 90-day timeframe prescribed by the ‘original’ Order VIII Rule 1, the Civil Court even post expiry of the 90-day period again gave one last and final opportunity on 18.09.2017 subject to payment of costs of Rs 3,000. None of these deadlines were complied with. Even on 11.10.2017, when the Court finally closed the appellant’s ability to file the written statement and struck-off his defence from the record, no attempt was made to comply with the process of law.”

Not stopping here, it is then further pointed out in para 18 that, “It was only on 02.11.2017, after a delay of 95 days post the maximum extendable period under the Proviso of Order VIII Rule 1, CPC that the appellant claimed to have filed his written statement. Curiously however, even by the next hearing on 03.11.2017, the appellant had failed to provide a copy of the written statement to the respondent as had been noted by the Civil Court.”

Most significantly, it is then made amply clear by the Bench in para 19 that, “The only defence taken to these repeated and blatant lapses is that the appellant’s counsel was not turning up. No attempt has been made to even proffer a reasoned justification or explanation, and it is clear that appellant is seeking condonation in a casual manner. This ought not to be permitted or encouraged. Courts must act stringently to ensure that all proceedings are decided within reasonable time, and it is but the duty of the judicial system to cultivate a culture of respecting deadlines and time of the Court, its officers as well as of adversaries.”

No less significant is what is then pointed out in para 20 that, “Routine condonations and cavalier attitudes towards the process of law affects the administration of justice. It affects docket management of Courts and causes avoidable delays, cost escalations and chaos. The effect of this is borne not only by the litigants, but also commerce in the country and the public-in-general who spend decades mired in technical process.”

Of course, it is then rightly held in para 21 that, “It is obvious from the record that nothing prevented the appellant from filing the written statement through counsel or in person. He has, thus, failed to give any cogent reason for the delay and is unable to satisfy due diligence on his part though he is right in his submission that the High Court erroneously relied upon the ratio of Oku Tech (supra).”

Finally, while rendering a balanced decision, it is then held in para 22 that, “Having held so, there could be no escape but to dismiss this appeal. However, taking a lenient view given the unique circumstances of the case, and without laying down the discretion being exercised hereinafter, as a precedent, we direct that  the written statement filed by the appellant on 02.11.2017 (as claimed), be taken on record with a copy to counsel for the respondent within one week from today and further subject to payment of costs of Rs 25,000/- to the respondent.” Also, in the last para 23, it is then held that, “The orders of the courts below are thus set aside and the appeal is disposed of in the above terms.”

On the whole, it is a very well balanced and fair judgment where no room for doubt has been left on any score. The 3 Judge Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI Sharad B Bobde, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant have in this notable judgment left no stone unturned to make it pretty clear that the mandatory time-line for filing written statement is not applicable to non-commercial suits. It has held that as regards non-commercial suits, the time-line for written statement is directory and not mandatory. Very rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Supreme Court Issues Slew Of Directions To Curb Air Pollution In Delhi.

Who is not aware of the exceedingly high level of air pollution in Delhi which has attracted a huge media attention even in international fora? Who is not aware that Delhi which is our national capital is sitting on the keg of a huge environmental explosion as the air pollution is mounting very rapidly as we have even seen for ourselves? Who is not aware that this is a matter of utmost concern for each and every Indian?

It is most heartening to note that just recently on January 13, 2020, we saw how none other than the Apex Court itself in MC Mehta Vs Union of India in WP (C) No. 13029/1985 very clearly and convincingly passed a slew of commendable directions to address the menacing problem of air pollution which has reached its zenith now! There is no reason why these commendable directions are not implemented earnestly. Let us discuss them one by one.

It would be instructive to mention here right at the outset that Justice Arun Mishra pronounced the reportable order of the Bench for himself and Justice Deepak Gupta. It needs to be carefully analysed, evaluated and deliberated upon. It says clearly and convincingly that, “The operative portion of the order delivered by the Bench is reproduced hereunder:-

“57.

In view of aforesaid, we inter alia reiterate and/or issue following directions:

(i)                         The decision taken by the High Level Committee constituted by this Court be placed on record along with comprehensive action plan and the action taken thereon so far.

(ii)                      With respect to preventing stubble burning, let a comprehensive plan be prepared and be placed before this court including the action taken. Let Crop Residuary Management be prepared, its use inter alia as fertilizer, cattle food and bio fuel be also worked out. Let the final decision be taken with respect to incentive and disincentive of Rs. 100/- per quintal and the in-situ farming.

(iii) Let the Central Government, State Governments of Punjab, Haryana and U.P. prepare a scheme for making available Combine Harvesters, Happy Seeders, Hydraulically Reversible MB Plough, Paddy Straw Chopper, Mulcher, Rotary Slasher, Zero Till Seed Drill and Rotavators and balers especially dedicated to small and marginal farmers to be made available either free of charge or on nominal rental basis.

(iv) Let the Government of NCT of Delhi/NCR Region and concerned Governments of Haryana and U.P. file reports with respect to various identified hotspots and steps taken for their management and to clear the environmental hazards created by such hotspots.

(v)(a) As proposed in the reply of the Delhi Government, let the Smog Tower at Connaught Place be completed by Delhi Government as proposed in their reply affidavit. Let the Smog Tower be completed within three months.

(b) Let Smog Tower be installed at Anand Vihar as pointed out by Central Pollution Control Board (CBCB). Let Delhi Government provide space of 30 x 30 meters for installation of an experimental tower at Anand Vihar within seven days. The project to be funded by the Union Government, however, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is directed to monitor the project. Let project be completed within three months.

(vi) Let anti-smog guns be used in Delhi and NCR region for the following:

(a) Large construction sites;

(b)      Road construction stretches, particularly during earthwork and compacting;

(c)  Mining activities;

(d)      Large parking sites on unpaved areas and during large public gatherings;

(e)Demolition activites;

(f)    Sprinkling on dust prone traffic corridors.

(g) It be made compulsory to make use of anti-smog guns in Delhi-NCR in the projects that require environmental clearance from the State/Central level on site having built-up area of more than 20,000 sq. mts. including excavation, material handling and other dust generating activities. Let an appropriate policy decision be also taken with respect to cost of installation, duly considering the principle “polluters pay” evolved by this Court.

(vii) The Governments of NCT of Delhi, U.P., Haryana and Rajasthan, are directed to identify the dumped waste of plastic, industrial and other wastes and to ensure that waste is not burnt and is used for processing/incineration and piled up waste is removed on time-bound basis without fail and report be filed within six weeks.

(viii) We direct the Pollution Control Boards of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. to monitor the industrial areas especially at night also and to take stringent action with respect to the industries emitting black smoke from chimneys and it be ensured that the industries comply with the norms and standards for PM/NOx/Sox.

(ix) For construction and demolition, we direct the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and U.P. to file a status report regarding compliance with the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016. Let penal action be taken against the developers found flouting the norms.

(x) We direct the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. to file status report on the penalty imposed and the action taken on the developers for violating the norms regarding construction/demolition activity and whether any developer has been blacklisted. Let various local bodies and Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. also file status reports in this regard.

(xi) With respect to road construction, there has to be sprinkling of water. Let the Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. file a status report with respect to compliance of road construction norms and details of non-compliant portion.

(xii) Let the Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. point out the existing facilities of recycling of construction and demolition waste and the deficit of facilities in this regard.

(xiii) With respect to waste burning, compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 be ensured by the Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. Let a comprehensive plan for waste management be prepared and existing facilities and overall requirement be also worked out.

(xiv)(a). In the reports filed by the Chairman, EPCA indicating the details of his visit to New Friends Colony- Jhilmil Industrial Area, Saboli and Mandoli village –Mandoli Industrial Area, Bhopura Border, Subzi Mandi Sahibabad, Hindon Vihar, Ghaziabad and Sahibabad Industrial Area certain problems have been pointed out and several observations have been made. We direct the concerned authorities of the area, District Magistrate, Ghaziabad, to ensure that all remedial measures are taken by the concerned bodies and report be submitted as to remedial work taken with respect to each and every observation which has been made in the report submitted by the Chairman, EPCA within one month.

(b). With respect to Panipat, the Inspection Report contains (1) Urban Extension Road, (2) Narela Industrial Area, (3) Panipat Industrial Area. Let the Deputy Commissioner ensure that appropriate measures are taken with respect to observations made in the aforesaid orders within one month.

(c) With respect to the visit to Meerut on October 12, 2019, various aspects have been pointed out. Let the District Magistrate, Meerut, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), concerned Pollution Control Board, Municipal Commissioner, Meerut Nagar Nigam and Meerut Development Authority to take appropriate measures within one month.

(d) With respect to Mundka Tikri from the visit dated October 13, 2019, various observations have been made and problems have been pointed out which are required to be attended by the concerned authorities. We direct the concerned authorities of the areas, District Magistrates, Pollution Control Boards, Deputy Commissioners of Municipal Corporations, to take the remedial measures and report pointwise compliance on each and every aspect of Report No. 16 of EPCA Chairman within one month.

(e) With respect to EPCA Chairman visit at Bahadurgarh, the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), City Magistrate, Bahadurgarh, District Magistrate, Bahadurgarh and all concerned officials are directed to take remedial measures and compliance be reported to this Court within one month.

(f) In respect of the field visit of EPCA Chairman to Bhiwadi and other regions of Rajasthan, let the Government, RIICO, District Magistrate, Bhiwadi consider the recommendations made in the report and report the compliance to this Court within one month.

(g) Let the extracts of the reports with respect to aforesaid areas be forwarded to the concerned authorities by the EPCA for prompt compliance.

(xv) With regard to oxy furnace in glass industries, let the DST Technical Committee consider the proposal for installation of oxy furnace in glass industries in Delhi and NCR. Let the consideration be made within two weeks in consultation with the sectoral expert and other concerned stakeholders. Relating costs and modalities be worked out.

(xvi) Let the details be worked out for chemical test methods for smoke emission control in various industrial sectors for meeting prescribed emission norms and entire details be furnished as to their use.

(xvii) Let proper research and development be made in wireless sensors network technology. Let the concerned officials consider further LiDAR (a laser based method) and Spectroscopic monitoring techniques as considered appropriate by them. Let the use of spectroscopy to monitor ambient air quality be considered by various States.

(xviii) Let the Government of NCT of Delhi work out the details with respect to 45% deficit capacity to lift the garbage and waste as there is only 55% capacity available with respect to garbage and waste generated in Delhi. Let it work out a comprehensive plan within three months to have full (100%) capacity to deal with garbage and wastes and place it before this Court, including the implements, tools, manpower and the expenditure required in that connection.

(xix) Let the action taken be reported with respect to the vehicles found plying on kerosene, checks undertaken and action taken report be placed before this Court within a month by the concerned Pollution Control Boards.

(xx) With respect to water quality supplied in Delhi, let the concerned Pollution Control Boards as well as the Indian Bureau of Standards, submit a report of random checking of various samples in Delhi and submit a report in this regard within one month.

(xxi) We direct the various State Governments through Chief Secretaries to inform this Court about the measures taken by them with respect to pouring of sewage and untreated industrial effluents in various rivers and the plan prepared by them and arrangement of funds made by them for the purpose of sewage treatment plants and existing facilities and requirements be pointed out within eight weeks.

(xxii) Let the Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Punjab, Haryana and U.P. show cause why they should not be saddled with the compensation for failure of their machinery and the concerned authorities in taking appropriate steps to prevent stubble burning and other pollution being caused.

(xxiii) With respect to solving traffic congestion, let the Government of NCT of Delhi and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. work out a plan so as to solve the problem of traffic congestion and compliance of the orders passed earlier by this Court with respect to solving the problem of traffic congestion.

(xxiv) Let the concerned Municipal Corporations of Delhi, Government of NCT of Delhi, concerned bodies and Governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P. to take care of potholes and file reports of action taken within three weeks and compliance report with respect to their previous directions be also filed and in case any work is left, let it be completed within three weeks.

Ordered accordingly.”

No doubt, there is an undeclared environment emergency in our country especially in Delhi and adjoining regions. We need to approach it with full seriousness. No wonder that Supreme Court which is the top court too has taken it with full seriousness and to check this Frankenstein monster has issued a slew of directions to check the protracted and ugly problem of air pollution especially in Delhi and adjoining regions. They must be implemented in totality at the earliest!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Investigation In IPC Offences Cannot Be Quashed For Non Investigation Of SC-ST Offences By Competent Police Officer: Supreme Court

It is worth noting that the Supreme Court most recently on January 17, 2020 in State of Madhya Pradesh Vs Babbu Rathore & Anr. In Criminal Appeal No(S). 123 of 2020 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No(S). 11369 of 2019) has clearly and convincingly observed that when the offence complained are both under the Indian Penal Code and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the investigation which is being made by a competent police officer in accordance with the provisions of the Code cannot be quashed for non-investigation of the offence under Section 3 of the Act by a competent police officer. The Apex Court Bench was in concurrence with the High Court’s observation to the extent that an officer below that rank cannot act as investigating officer in holding investigation in reference to the offences committed under any provisions of the SC and ST Act. Very rightly so!

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Ajay Rastogi for himself and Justice Indu Malhotra sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 2 after granting leave in para 1 that, “This appeal is directed against the judgment of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh dated 9th May, 2019 confirming Order of the trial Judge dated 24th July, 2015 whereby the respondents have been discharged from the offences under Sections 302/34, 404/34 of the IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereinafter being referred to as “Act, 1989”) at the advanced stage of the trial when almost all the material witnesses have been examined by the prosecution which has given rise to this appeal.”

To recapitulate, para 3 then discloses that, “The background facts in nutshell are that deceased Baisakhu, in a drunken state met Kamla Prajapati on road to ward no. 10, Pasia, Thana Anuppur, Anuppur, Madhya Pradesh. Kamla Prajapati took him to his house, but the deceased Baisakhu stated that he had to return two hundred fifty rupees to Nasru and requested him to take to his place. Upon insistence of deceased Baisakhu, Kamla Prajapati took him to the house of Nasru where accused Babbu Rathore was drinking liquor. Baisakhu stated that he wanted to have liquor so leaving him there, Kamla Prajapati returned back. When Ujaria Bai, the wife of deceased, went to house of Nasru to inquire about her husband, then Nasru told her that deceased Baisakhu had left with Babbu Rathore. The dead body of Baisakhu was recovered on 14th July, 2011. Information of unnatural death was recorded by police and post-mortem on the body of the deceased was conducted which proved death was unnatural and caused by asphyxia due to strangulation.”

Be it noted, para 4 then states that, “The preliminary investigation confirmed that the deceased was last seen with the present respondents. After registration of FIR, investigation was conducted by the Sub-Inspector and charge-sheet came to be filed against the present respondents for offences punishable under Section 302/34, 404/34 of the IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, 1989. The trial Court took cognizance of the matter and Special Case No. 37/11 was registered.”

To put things in perspective, para 5 then enunciates that, “During proceedings in Special Case No. 37/11, statement of the material witnesses PW2 Narsu, PW4 Kamla Prajapati and PW5 Uparia Bai, wife of deceased Baisakhu were recorded. It appears from the record that at the advanced stage of the trial, a grievance was raised by the respondents that they had been charged under Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, 1989 and since the investigation has been conducted by an Officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police which is the mandate of law as provided under Section 9 of the Act, 1989 read with Rule 7 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 (hereinafter being referred to as the “Rules, 1995”), the very investigation is faulty and illegal and that deserves to be quashed and set aside and in consequence thereof, further proceedings in trial does not hold good and respondents deserve to be discharged.”

As it turned out, para 6 then points out that, “Learned trial Court, while taking note of Section 9 of the Act, 1989 and Rule 7 of the Rules, 1995 held that the investigation has been conducted by an Officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and is without authority and illegal and in consequence thereof, discharged the respondents not from the charges levelled against them under the provisions of the Act, 1989 but also from the provisions of the IPC for which there was no requirement of the investigation to be conducted by an Officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police under judgment dated 24th July, 2015 which came to be challenged before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and dismissed by a cryptic order dated 9th May, 2019.”

More crucially, it is then observed in para 10 that, “By virtue of its enabling power, it is the duty and responsibility of the State Government to issue notification conferring power of investigation of cases by notified police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Rule 7 of the Rules 1995 provides rank of investigation officer to be not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. An officer below that rank cannot act as investigating officer in holding investigation in reference to the offences committed under any provisions of the Act, 1989 but the question arose for consideration is that apart from the offences committed under the Act 1989, if the offence complained are both under the IPC and the offence enumerated in Section 3 of the Act, 1989 and the investigation being made by a competent police officer in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter being referred to as the “Code”), the offences under IPC can be quashed and set aside for non-investigation of the offence under Section 3 of the Act, 1989 by a competent police officer. This question has been examined by a two-Judge Bench of this Court in State of M.P. Vs. Chunnilal @ Chunni Singh 2009 (12) SCC 649. Relevant para is as under:-

“By virtue of its enabling power it is the duty and responsibility of the State Government to issue a notification conferring power of investigation of cases by notified police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police for different areas in the police districts. Rule 7 of the Rules provided rank of investigating officer to be not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. An officer below that rank cannot act as investigating officer.

The provisions in Section 9 of the Act, Rule 7 of the Rules and Section 4 of the Code when jointly read lead to an irresistible conclusion that the investigation of an offence under Section 3 of the Act by an officer not appointed in terms of Rule 7 is illegal and invalid. But when the offence complained are both under IPC and any of the offence enumerated in Section 3 of the Act the investigation which is being made by a competent police officer in accordance with the provisions of the Code cannot be quashed for non-investigation of the offence under Section 3 of the Act by a competent police officer. In such a situation the proceedings shall proceed in an appropriate court for the offences punishable under IPC notwithstanding investigation and the charge-sheet being not liable to be accepted only in respect of offence under Section 3 of the Act for taking cognizance of that offence.”

(emphasis supplied)

Most crucially, it is then held without mincing any words in para 11 that, “Undisputedly, in the instant case, the respondents were charged under Sections 302/34, 404/34 IPC apart from Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, 1989 and the charges under IPC have been framed after investigation by a competent police officer under the Code, in such a situation, in our view, the High Court has committed an apparent error in quashing the proceedings and discharging the respondents from the offences committed under the provisions of IPC where the investigation has been made by a competent police officer under the provisions of the Code. In such a situation, the charge-sheet deserves to proceed in an appropriate competent Court of jurisdiction for the offence punishable under the IPC, notwithstanding the fact that the charge-sheet could not have proceeded confined to the offence under Section 3 of the Act, 1989.”

To state the obvious, what follows next is stated in para 12 that, “The order impugned is accordingly restricted to the offence under Section 3 of the Act, 1989 and not in respect of offences punishable under the IPC. The Special Case No. 37/11 is restored on the file of the Special Court, District Anuppur (MP) and the trial Court may proceed further and conclude the trial expeditiously in respect of offences punishable under the IPC in accordance with law.”

To conclude, it is a very well reasoned and well concluded apt decision. It has very rightly held that investigation in IPC offences cannot be quashed for non-investigation of SC-ST offences by competent police officer. There can be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

SC Settles Disputes Between National And State Child Rights Commissions Over Powers To Conduct Inquiry

The gravity of seriousness of the situation which arises when two Commissions – National Child Rights Commission and State Child Rights Commissions start squabbling amongst themselves over powers to conduct inquiry can be gauged from this that when the Apex Court was called to decide on it in this latest case titled National Commission For Protection of Child Rights & Ors Vs. Dr Rajesh Kumar & Ors in Civil Appeal No. 7968 of 2019 (@Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 34251 of 2017), it pulled back no punches in lamenting on this ugly fight right from the start of this judgment! This ego clash between two Commissions should not have taken place but they did! The Apex Court has dealt on this in detail in a damning indictment and arrived at the right decision which we will deal later on!

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Deepak Gupta for himself and Justice Aniruddha Bose and delivered on January 13, 2020 sets the ball rolling in para 1 wherein it is observed that, “It’s so sad! We start with a lament because institutions set up to protect children have virtually forsaken them in a fight over their so called jurisdictions.” What more should the Apex Court write right at the outset to express its strongest displeasure on the way in which this ugly squabble broke out between the two top institutions meant to raise their voice in favour of children? The Apex Court has every reason to feel so strongly on this!

Needless to say, it is then pointed out in para 2 that, “India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 which makes it obligatory upon the signatory States to take all necessary steps to protect the rights of the children as set out in the Convention. The Government of India enacted the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. This was repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the JJ Act’).”

To be sure, para 3 then states that, “It was felt expedient to enact a law constituting special commissions to protect the rights of children. Parliament enacted the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the CPCR Act’). The CPCR Act envisages the constitution of a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (hereinafter referred to as ‘NCPCR/National Commission’) under Section 3 and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (hereinafter referred to as ‘State Commissions’) under Section 17. We shall deal with their respective functions and powers at a later stage but there can be no manner of doubt that these two Commissions – one at the National Level and the other at the State level – are expected to function in a spirit of cooperation. We expect such Commissions to consult, discuss and cooperate with each other while exercising their powers and fulfilling the powers and fulfilling the duties enjoined upon them by the CPCR Act. These two institutions are in the nature of siblings. The goal which they both set out to achieve is the same, viz., protecting children from all sorts of abuse, exploitation etc. We see no reason why there should be any disharmony and lack of coordination between these two institutions. This non-cooperation and lack of coordination can only occur when the persons manning the institutions put their own interests over the interest of the children. It is only when those in-charge of such commissions give themselves so much importance that they forget that they are the creation of statute, the only purpose of which is to protect children.”

While continuing in the same vein and pooh-poohing the internecine squabble between the Commissions, para 4 then goes on to state that, “This case is a classic example where in the fight between the State Commission and the National Commission the children have been, all but forgotten. We are sorry that this Court has to spend its time resolving such disputes. This Court as well as the two major parties litigating before us definitely have better things to do.”

To recapitulate, para 5 then goes on to reveal that, “From the material on record, it appears that news reports were published some time in February, 2017 indicating that a child-care institution based in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal had indulged in large scale trafficking of children. The NCPCR took cognizance of these reports on 03.03.2017 and two members of the NCPCR went to Jalpaiguri on 07.03.2017. They requested the State officials to provide them some information which, according to the NCPCR, was not provided. They finally summoned the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Criminal Investigation Department (CID), West Bengal (Respondent no. 1 herein) to appear before the NCPCR. This gentleman, instead of appearing before the NCPCR, chose to file a writ petition challenging the jurisdiction of the NCPCR to summon him. The High Court, by the impugned order dated 29.08.2017, stayed the direction of the NCPCR mainly on the ground that since the State Commission had taken cognizance of the matter on 24.02.2017, the NCPCR had prima facie no jurisdiction.”

Going to the root of the matter, para 16 then states that, “In the present case, the dispute is who started inquiry first – whether it was the WBCPCR or the National Commission. As far as the National Commission is concerned, there is no dispute that it started its inquiry on 07.03.2017 when its members visited Jalpaiguri to inquire into the matter. The stand of the National Commission is that they were, for the first time, informed on 24.07.2017 that the State Commission has taken cognizance and is inquiring into the matter even though they had written various letters to the various officials including the District Magistrate and the police officials in this regard. From the list of dates filed by the WBCPCR, it appears that on 12.07.2016 the Director, Child Rights and Trafficking, West Bengal (for short ‘the Director, CRT’) wrote to the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri seeking a report on the illegal child trafficking there. An inquiry team was formed by the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri on 0912.2016 and a report was sent to the Director, CRT on 11.01.2017. Thereafter, the Director, CRT passed an order that the Specialised Adoption Agency (for short ‘the SAA’), Jalpaiguri is not functioning as  per the provisions of Adoption Guidelines, 2015 and the JJ Act and 15 children from the SAA Jalpaiguri, run by the North Bengal People’s Development Centre (for short ‘the NBPDC’) were transferred to other institutions. On 17.01.2017, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (for short ‘the CARA’) filed a complaint with the CID, West Bengal. On 22.01.2017, a report appeared in local newspaper about this child trafficking racket. On 15.02.2017, a team was constituted by the CID, West Bengal to investigate the complaint made by the CARA. On 16.02.2017, a team of CID, West Bengal went to Jalpaiguri. On 17.02.2017, a letter was allegedly sent by the Chairperson of  the WBCPCR to the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri informing that the State Commission had taken cognizance of the report published in the daily newspaper on 22.01.2017. On 19.02.2017, a formal First Information Report (FIR) was registered in the matter. The report dated 11.01.2017, referred to above, was  sent to the WBCPCR on 24.02.2017. Thereafter, news item again appeared on 26.02.2017 and two women officials of the concerned adoption centre were arrested. Admittedly, NCPCR took note of this instance on 03.03.2017 and on 07.03.2017 two members of the NCPCR visited Jalpaiguri to conduct an inquiry.”

While rapping the WBCPCR on its knuckles, the Bench of Apex Court then in para 17 minces no words to hold that, “We had requested learned counsel appearing for the WBCPCR to provide the file of WBCPCR in relation to this matter, which was provided. After going through the file, all that we can say is that the file is not maintained like an official file. The papers were kept casually. Except for the noting sheet, the other papers were not tagged. The other papers were also not paginated. In such a file, there can be additions and alterations at any stage. We, therefore, cannot place too much reliance on such a poorly maintained file and direct the WBCPCR to ensure that in future, files, especially of complaints, are maintained in a proper manner. According to the documents which form a part of this file, the WBCPCR took suo motu cognizance of the incident on 30.01.2017 on the basis of the newspapers report dated 22.01.2017. It was stated in the noting sheet that the matter be put up for appropriate action. Though this note is dated 30.01.2017 and was put up to the Chairperson, WBCPCR, it appears that the Chairperson wrote that she should be reminded after 10 days for follow up action. The file was again put up before the Chairperson on 13.02.2017. On 14.02.2017 it was ordered that the District Magistrate/District Children Protection Officer (DCPO) may be asked to submit a report. A draft letter was put up which was approved on 16.02.2017 and dispatched on 17.02.2017. The DCPO, Jalpaiguri sent the report through mail dated 24.02.2017. The matter was again placed before the Chairperson, who directed that the report be kept for records. The next noting on the file is of 15.03.2017. This note of 15.03.2017 has been put up with regard to the visit of the Chairperson and Secretary to Jalpaiguri on 10.03.2017 and 11.03.2017 to assist and monitor the situation after the recent cases of child trafficking. Though, the visit is dated 10.03.2017 and 11.03.2017, the note is put up on 15.03.2017 and approved on the same date. We are unable to understand why the note for the visit was not put up prior to the visit. We have perused the report prepared by the Chairperson of the WBCPCR and find that the report is more in the nature of allegations against the members of the NCPCR. The report virtually does not deal with the issue relating to trafficking of the children. We shall deal with this report at a later stage.”

While continuing in the same vein, it is then pointed out in para 18 that, “Even if we accept the record of the WBCPCR to be the gospel truth then also other than using the word ‘takes suo motu cognizance’ on 30.01.2017, the WBCPCR had taken no steps to inquire into the matter, which is the mandate of Section 13(1)(j) of the CPCR Act, till the visit of its Chairperson on 10.03.2017 and 11.03.2017. We make it clear that in every case a personal visit is not required but the manner in which this case has been dealt with leaves much to be desired. We see no reason why, if cognizance was taken on 30.01.2017, it was directed that the matter be placed for reminding the Chairperson to take follow up action after 10 days. These sort of matters brook no delay. Even after the matter was put up, no attempts were made to hold an inquiry. All that was done was to order the District Magistrate/DCPO to submit a report. That report was filed on 24.02.2017 and it was ordered that the report be kept on record. It appears that it is only after the visit of the members of the NCPCR that the WBCPCR actually felt it necessary to itself visit Jalpaiguri and take stock of the situation.” How can all this be overlooked?

Moreover, it is then pointed out in para 19 that, “As pointed above, as far as NCPCR is concerned, on 03.03.2017 a communication was sent by the NCPCR to the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri wherein he was asked to give specific information with regard to the home in question. Thereafter, on 07.03.2017 two members of the NCPCR visited Jalpaiguri and even if the inquiry did not start on 03.03.2017, it definitely started on 07.03.2017. It found various deficiencies especially with regard to non-constitution of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in New Jalpaiguri District from 23.08.2013-28.08.2015. It also found that ad hoc CWC was functioning which is against the provisions of law. Therefore, the NCPCR sent a letter on 16.03.2017 to the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri seeking status of registration of homes, status of CWCs etc. On 23.03.2017, the NCPCR sent another letter to the District Magistrate specifically asking whether the WBCPCR had commenced an inquiry into the matter before the visit of the members of the NCPCR or after the initiation of the inquiry by the NCPCR. To this, no reply was given by the District Magistrate. Then, the NCPCR summoned the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri on 12.04.2017 for personal appearance on 25.04.2017. The District Magistrate did not appear but send some information vide communication dated 21.04.2017. However, in this communication also there is no reply to the specific query as to whether the WBCPCR had initiated an inquiry into the matter. The NCPCR also took no steps for almost two months. On 20.06.2017 the NCPCR sought the following information from the ADGP, CID, West Bengal (respondent no. 1):-

“1. In this case, sale of as many as about 17 children has been mentioned in this case, in which children were sold both in the country and abroad. Since this organization has come in existence, how many children have been adopted through this organization, provide list of those to the Commission.

2. In this case, children were given to Non-Resident Indian and foreign couples both, hence this case seems to be case of international trafficking. Record concerning as to how many children have been given to Non-resident and foreign coupes be made available to the Commission.

3. According to newspaper, forged papers and papers of National Adoption Authority have been used in this crime in forged manner. Copies of papers seized by CID, statement & list/copies of evidence be made available to the Commission.

4. List of all the detained/arrested people in this case, copy of First Information Report, copies of all the investigation reports be provided to the Commission. Copy of the statement of detained people.

5. From the year 2013 to 2015 Child Welfare Committees had not been constituted in District Jalpaiguri in place thereof, Ad hoc Committee had been working. The following-mentioned papers/documents relating to this Committee be made available to the Commission:-

i. Copy of order for constituting ad hoc committee.

ii. People included in the ad hoc committee, list of those with their names, posts/designations be made available to the Commission.

iii. Minutes of the meetings convened by ad hoc Committee during its tenure.

iv. Decisions about how many children were taken by Ad Hoc Committee, copies of all the case files concerning with all those.

If any charge sheet has been filed in court, then copy thereof.””

What’s more, it is then added in para 20 that, “On the same day i.e. 20.06.2017, the District Magistrate, Jaslpaiguri, was also directed by the NCPCR to give information pertaining to the constitution of ad hoc committee and members of the ad hoc committee. That very day another communication was sent by the NCPCR to the Department of Women & Child Development, West Bengal, to initiate an inquiry into the matter and inform the NCPCR about the report of the Government. According to the NCPCR, no response was received from any of the authorities. Thereafter, another reminder was sent on 13.07.2017. Left with no option, on 20.07.2017, summons were issued to the ADGP, CID, West Bengal to appear before the NCPCR in person on 25.07.2017 along with relevant documents. A communication was also sent to the Chief Secretary, West Bengal on 22.07.2017 asking for information. The ADGP, CID, West Bengal by letter/fax on 24.07.2017 informed the NCPCR that since WBCPCR has already proceeded with the matter, the NCPCR should stay its hand in the present matter. Meanwhile on 21.07.2017, a report was sent by the CID, West Bengal supplying some information but most of the information was not sent. Thereafter, the NCPCR issued summons to the ADGP, CID, West Bengal on 14.08.2017 to appear before the NCPCR on 29.08.2017. The ADGP, CID, West Bengal challenged these summons by filing a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court. The Advocate General of the State appeared for Dr. Rajesh Kumar, ADGP, CID, West Bengal. The High Court vide impugned order, prima facie, came to the conclusion that since the WBCPCR had taken cognizance of the matter on 24.02.2017, the NCPCR is denuded of its jurisdiction over the subject. The High Court, accordingly, stayed the summons.”

While pooh-poohing the endless tussle which only served to worsen the matters further, para 21 then envisages that, “We are constrained to observe that in this clash of egos between the State Commission (WBCPCR) and the National Commission (NPCPCR) for this entire period, other than the police taking action, nothing was done on the administrative side to set matters right.”

Of course, it is then acknowledged in para 22 that, “The police have acted, a case has been filed, accused have been arrested and we are told that most of the children have been reunited with their parents. We are purposely not commenting on the criminal aspects of the matter. We refrain from doing so because any comment from us may affect the trial of the accused who are entitled to a fair and free trial. In fact, since criminal proceedings in respect to the illegal adoptions had already started, no inquiry could actually be conducted by either of the two Commissions with respect to the same. However, the National Commission was definitely entitled to inquire as to why proper CWCs had not been constituted and under what orders were ad hoc CWCs functioning. The Commissions can also inquire into the factual aspects which led to the trafficking of the children, though not the actual crime itself. In fact, we are of the view that such inquiries are necessary so that such events do not occur in the future. In case, the CWCs had been properly constituted may be this unfortunate situation would not have arisen.”

While castigating the shoddy manner in which the matters were dealt with, it is then stipulated in para 23 that, “Though we are of the view that an inquiry into the alleged illegal adoption could not be conducted because a criminal case had already been registered, at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the manner in which both the State Commission (WBCPCR), the National Commission (NCPCR) and the senior officials of the State CID have dealt with the matter. We have already commented on the lack of alacrity on the part of the WBCPCR which purportedly took cognizance of the matter on 30.01.2017 but no effective steps were taken to inquire into the matter till 10.03.2017 except calling for a report. The members of the NCPCR visited Jalpaiguri on 07.03.2017 and have recorded the statement of CWC members. According to the statements so recorded, one of the accused, who was Secretary of the NBPDC which was running the concerned SAA, prayed for certificates for 20 children to be declared legally fit for adoption whom they placed before Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) without Legally Fit for Adoption (LFA) Certificates from CWC, Jalpaiguri. According to the statements, the members of the CWC were shocked that the legal procedure had not been followed. According to these members, they complained to the various officials but they were compelled to give certificates that the children were legally fit for adoption. In the absence of the parties who have made the statements, we would not like to make any further comment except to state that if any member of a CWC can be compelled or pressurized to give such a certificate then that member has no business of ever being appointed as member of CWC or in any capacity in a child rights institution.”

More significantly, it is then underscored in para 37 that, “As clearly held by us above, both the Commissions have to work for the best interest of the children in a spirit of cooperation. Unfortunately, in this case, there has been no cooperation rather mudslinging at each other. We would like to reiterate and re-emphasise that there are no jurisdictional issues involved.”

Be it noted, it is then held in para 38 that, “In view of the above, we are clearly of the view that Dr. Rajesh Kumar should have furnished the information which appears to now have been furnished by the State authorities. If such information has not been furnished, the present incumbent holding the post of ADGP, CID, West Bengal is directed to furnish the information to the National Commission as well as to Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Calcutta within 15 days from the date of receipt of certified copy of this judgment. The counsel for the State of West Bengal shall inform the present Additional Director General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, West Bengal of these directions.”

Most significantly, it is then held in para 39 that, “As is evident from the facts narrated above, both the State Commission (WBCPCR) and the National Commission have been woefully lax in the matter. Hence we direct that other than the issues which form part of the criminal case, all other matter relating to the issue in hand and larger issues of appointment of CWCs and heads of CWCs, not only as far as this case is concerned, but also for the entire State of West Bengal, should be monitored by the High Court of Calcutta, preferably by a Bench headed by the Chairperson of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Calcutta in a public interest litigation. In furtherance of these directions, we direct the Registry of this Court to send a copy of this judgment to the Registrar General of the Calcutta High Court, who shall place the same before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court for constitution of an appropriate Bench. We request the Bench so constituted to deal with the matter as per the urgency involved and if required, to establish a fool proof mechanism so that such occurrences do not take place in future.”

On a concluding note, the Bench rightly slammed the clash of egos between the State Commission (WBCPCR) and the National Commission (NCPCR) as also the woefully lax approach of them. No doubt, it also very rightly after examining the records concluded that NCPCR had started inquiry before the State Commission (WBCPCR) got involved in this. It also further passed the right directions as mentioned in para 39! No denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Courts At Place Where Wife Resides After Leaving Matrimonial Home Can Entertain Complaints U/s 498A IPC: SC

                                  It would be in the fitness of things to mention right at the outset that in a major significant development, the Supreme Court just recently on January 6, 2020 in a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled Ruhi Vs. Anees Ahmad & Ors in Criminal Appeal No. 7 of 2020 (@ SLP (Criminal) No. 106 of 2017) has once again reiterated that even the Courts at the place where the wife resides after leaving the matrimonial home will have jurisdiction to entertain her complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. This is for the wife benefit so that she has to face minimum inconvenience in travelling etc. Very rightly so!

To start with, this noteworthy judgment delivered by a Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta of the Apex Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost pointing out after granting leave that, “The complaint preferred by the Appellant to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Ghaziabad on 22.5.2014 had been transferred to the Police Station, Welcome Colony, Delhi. FIR No. 645/2014 was registered by the Police Station Welcome Colony, North East, Delhi under Sections 498A, 406 and 34 IPC and under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The 1st Respondent approached the High Court by filing an application for quashing FIR No. 645/2014. The High Court refused to quash the FIR. However, the High Court was of the view that the place of occurrence as per the FIR was Meerut and the Appellant did not reside with Respondent No. 1 at Delhi. In that view, the High Court directed the transfer of the FIR from Police Station, Welcome Colony, Delhi to Police Station Lisadi Gate, Meerut, U.P. which was the place of matrimonial home of the Appellant and the Respondent No. 1.”

To be sure, it is then pointed out by the Bench of Apex Court that, “We are informed by Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, learned senior counsel appearing for the State that the charge-sheet has been filed on receipt of the material pertaining to the investigation conducted by the Delhi Police and the further investigation carried on by the police at Meerut, U.P. Learned counsel for the Appellant submits that the case is at the stage of cognizance to be taken by the Magistrate.”

Moving on, it is then further pointed out by the Bench that, “Learned counsel for the Appellant further submits that the Appellant has been living at Kabir Nagar, Delhi and in accordance with the judgment of this Court reported in Rupali Devi versus State of Uttar Pradesh (2019 (5) SCC 384), it is not necessary that a complaint should be filed only at the place of the matrimonial home. Even the Courts at the place where the wife resides after leaving the matrimonial home will have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”

Of course, it is then stated by the Bench that, “Learned counsel appearing for the 1st Respondent submits that the offences, if any, were committed even at Meerut, U.P., which was the place of matrimonial home of the Appellant and Respondent No. 1 or at Ghaziabad which was the place of parental home of the Appellant.”

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words in stating unequivocally that, “We are unable to accept the submissions of the learned Senior counsel for Respondent No. 1. The point that arises in this case is no more res integra as it is covered by the judgment of this Court in Rupali Devi (supra). It was held by this Court as follows:

“14. …Even if the acts of physical cruelty committed in the matrimonial house may have ceased and such acts do not occur at the parental home, there can be no doubt that the mental trauma and the psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband including verbal exchanges, if any, that had compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at her parental home. Mental cruelty borne out of physical cruelty or abusive and humiliating verbal exchanges would continue in the parental home even though there may not be any overt act of physical cruelty at such place.

15. …The provisions contained in Section 498-A of the Penal Code, undoubtedly, encompass both mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife. Even the silence of the wife may have an underlying element of an emotional distress and mental agony. Her sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would, undoubtedly, be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at the parental home where she has taken shelter. The adverse effects on the mental health in the parental home though on account of the acts committed in the matrimonial home would, in our considered view, amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498-A at the parental home. The consequences of the cruelty committed at the matrimonial home results in repeated offences being committed at the parental home. This is the kind of offences contemplated under Section 179 CrPC which would squarely be applicable to the present case as an answer to the question raised.

16. We, therefore, hold that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.””

In the ultimate analysis, the Bench then rightly goes on to conclude by noting that, “Having considered the submissions made on behalf of the parties, we are of the view that the charge sheet that has been filed at Meerut should be transmitted to a competent court in the Karkardooma Courts, Delhi. The District & Sessions Judge, East District, Karkardooma Courts, Delhi shall assign the case to the concerned Court.”

Finally, it is then held by the Bench that, “In view of the aforesaid, the appeal is allowed. The charge sheet filed pursuant to FIR No. 645/2014, P.S. Lisadi Gate, Meerut, U.P. stands transferred to Karkardooma Courts, Delhi. The prosecution shall be conducted by the Delhi Police.”

From the foregoing discussion, it is thus quite abundantly clear that the Apex Court Bench comprising of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta have by this latest, landmark and extremely laudable decision sought to send a loud and clear message that even the Courts at the place where the wife resides after leaving the matrimonial home will have the jurisdiction to entertain her complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Relevant case laws have already been discussed above in detail. The Apex Court Bench in this notable case has rightly sought to reiterate the time tested position as has already been stated above! There can be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Housing Rights of Lepers:- A Disgruntled Indian Legal Pledge

Dushyant Mainali

 

     Overture of Poor State of Lepers and Stigma attached.

Since ages, Lepers are the most neglected section of the society as Leprosy is a disease, which still strikes fear in the societies as a mutilating, disfiguring, contagious and incurable disease. Because of the horrifying nature of the enigmatic physical disfigurement and since no cure was discovered until the 20th century, leprosy has, for centuries, been a highly stigmatizing disease. Though leprosy is not a disease of the poor, yet it affects poor to a much greater extent because of their social and economic vulnerability. The stigma attached to leprosy leads to loss of employment even before manual labor becomes more difficult due to disability, which often results from late or no treatment.   It also leads to exclusion from society, causing physical and emotional distress that even to this day in some parts of India uphold the belief that leprosy is a divine curse, a punishment of the past sins, and a result of immoral sexual behavior. These beliefs reinforce the image of the ‘leper’ as being physically and morally unclean, to be blamed for contracting the disease and therefore to be ostracized. The repulsive physical image, the fear of infection and the belief that it is incurable are the root causes of the inhuman treatment that is often meted out to those who have leprosy. Thus already the lepers are facing neglect of the society and authorities despite early British mission efforts in India.

The Lepers who are the most neglected community of the society reside totally as destitute in towns and specially in places of holy pilgrimage of Hindus and by begging and by getting the eatables given by the pilgrims at charity they anyhow lead their life. Being the most neglected section of the society, Government and administration does not care to provide any kind of facilities including housing the lepers reside in an isolated state mostly bound to encroach public lands by making temporary huts and jhuggis which are commonly known as Kushtha Ashrams or Leper Colonies.

 

·       Guidelines and Commitments for Rehabilitation of lepers

These poorest lepers in the most of the states, for there being no welfare plans are bound to live in inhuman conditions without proper arrangements for living and without any assistance being given by the State whereas the Community Based Rehabilitation Guidelines (CBR)[i] framed by the National Leprosy Eradication Programme, Directorate General of Health Service (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare) admit:-

“Rehabilitation includes all measures aimed at reducing the impact of disability for an individual, enabling him or her to achieve independence, social integration, a better quality of life and self –actualization. Rehabilitation can no longer be seen as a product to be dispensed; rather rehabilitation should be offered as a process in which all participants are actively and closely involved”

These guidelines framed by the National Leprosy Eradication Programme  describe the rehabilitation of lepers as providing them a better quality of life and the same have not been followed by the State Governments.

 

·       Suggestions of Rehabilitation by NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) held a national conference on leprosy and in its background note[ii] it has given suggestions after a national seminar and has given various suggestions including:-

·            State Governments must take steps to improve living conditions in the colonies where people affected by leprosy reside.

·            Leprosy affected and cured persons and their families should live a dignified life. For this, they need to be empowered with basic human rights life right to education, right to work, right to health, right to food right to housing and other economic, social and cultural rights. They have access to all the rights without facing any kind of discrimination

·            There are no leprosy  specific schemes and these should be designed. There is no scheme for allotment of land to them.

·       Specialized bodies with responsibilities to Act.

It is a documented fact that there are several guidelines framed by the

National Leprosy Eradication Programme which is a centrally sponsored Health Scheme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India. The National Leprosy Eradication Programme is headed by the Deputy Director of Health Services (Leprosy) under the administrative control of the Directorate General Health Services Govt. of India. While the NLEP strategies and plans are formulated centrally, the programme is designated to be implemented by the States/UTs. The Programme is also supported as Partners by the World Health Organization, The International Federation of Anti-leprosy Associations (ILEP) and few othe Non-Govt. Organizations. Schemes and guidelines framed by the Mission have to be followed by the states through their State Leprosy Officers, but the same are not being taken care of by most of the state Authorities.Often in mass level demolition drives slums of lepers are demolished   and as they are bound to encroach on public land but after demolition of the houses the lepers and their families are rendered homeless and are bound to suffer in the open-air in adverse weather putting their life at risk.

 

·          Recognition of Leper’s Legal Problems by Law Commission of India.

Law commission of India in its Report No. 256 of April 2015 titled as “Leprosy Affected Persons and the Laws applicable to them”[iii] at page 48 recommends:-

(iii) Provisions enabling the government to undertake affirmative action in the following areas be introduced:

·  Health

·  Ownership of property

·  Social Welfare

·  Education

·  Employment

·  Awareness and training

·  Participation of Persons affected by Leprosy in the formulation of policies

·  Setting-up of a Central and State Commission on Leprosy…,

The report of the Law Commission in its paragraph 7.10 states:-

 

7.10 The key aspects that require attention in the context of such a legislation include the following:

 

(i)          Measures against discrimination

(ii)        Land Rights

(iii)      Right to Employment

(iv)       Educational and training opportunities

(v)        Appropriate use of Language

(vi)      Right to Freedom of Movement

(vii)    Concessions during treatment

(viii)  Social Awareness

(ix)      Welfare Measures

 

The report recognizes a major problem of Lepers that due to their untouchability and seclusion and there being no rehabilitation scheme they are bound to encroach the lands and evicted and it’s a cyclic problem as Govt. has not taken care to rehabilitate these poor destitute Lepers.

The Report of Law Commission in its Page 41emphasised the problem as:-

(ii) Land Rights.

 

7.10.3 As has been noted previously, the long-standing practice of moving Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members from mainstream society into clusters near hospitals needs to be curbed. These clusters have come to be known as Leprosy colonies, and are usually established outside the city limits. This practice reinforces segregation and deprives the Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members from owning or possessing property. These colonies are either established on government land including forest and railway lands or private land given for the purpose of establishing such colonies by private individuals or institutions.

 

7.10.4 As noted previously, there are at present about 850 colonies in India. It has also been estimated that no new Leprosy colonies have come up in the last 14 years, although people diagnosed with the disease continue to migrate to existing colonies. Further, people who have been living in the colonies for years together wish to continue residing there with their families including children. However, in spite of their continued residence in these colonies, many Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members still do not have any land rights and live under the constant threat of eviction. The lack of ownership and title to land also discourages Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members from developing the colony.

 

All the lepers residing across the different states, wherever demolition and eviction drives are conducted to remove encroachment from public land are the worst sufferers as they have no means to rehabilitate themselves and state administration after demolishing their shelters never cares to rehabilitate them or to address any of their plights and sorrows.

·       Judicial acknowledgment of Right to Shelter

 

Supreme Court in Olga Telis & Ors. vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Others[iv] observed:

“32. As we have stated while summing up the petitioners’ case, the main plank of their argument is that the right to life which is guaranteed by Article 21 includes the right to livelihood and since, they will be deprived of their livelihood if they are evicted from their slum and pavement dwellings, their eviction is tantamount to deprivation of their life and is hence unconstitutional. For the purposes of argument, we will assume the factual correctness of the premise that if the petitioners are evicted from their dwellings, they will be deprived of their livelihood. Upon that assumption, the question which we have to consider is whether the right to life includes the right to livelihood. We see only one answer to that question, namely, that it does”.

 

In Shantistar Builders vs. N.K Totame[v] the Apex Court observed as:

“9. Basic needs of man have traditionally been accepted to be three-food, clothing and shelter. The right to life is guaranteed in any civilized society. That would take within its sweep the right to food, the right to clothing, the right to decent environment and a reasonable accommodation to live in. The difference between the need of an animal and a human being for shelter has to be kept in view. For the animal it is the bare protection of the body; for a human being it has to be a suitable accommodation which would allow him to grow in every aspect – physical, mental and intellectual”

 

In ,Chameli Singh vs. State of UP[vi], the Supreme Court has held.: –

“8. In any organised society, right to live as a human being is not ensured by meeting only the animal needs of man. It is secured only when he is assured of all facilities to develop himself and is freed from restrictions which inhibit his growth. All human rights are designed to achieve this object. Right to live guaranteed in any civilised society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter. These are basic human rights known to any civilized society.”

 

Thereafter in plethora of judgments the Supreme Court kept on amplification of the Right to Shelter. In a summarized manner A reference can be made to:-

 

Ø U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Friends Coop. Housing Society Ltd. (1996):[vii] The Supreme Court affirmed that: “The right to shelter is a fundamental right, which springs from the right to residence under Article 19 (1) (e) and the right to life under Article 21.”

 

Ø People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India and Others:[viii] In this case, a series of orders were passed for ensuring food to the needy under various schemes. The case also included the issue of homelessness and resulted in several landmark orders regulating shelters for the homeless across India.

 

 

·      Right to Housing as a Human Right.

The above judicial dictums are in conformity with the right to housing which has been recognized as a human right under Article 25(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights[ix]  states:

“Article 25 (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

 

·       Milestone  Judgement in Pankaj Sinha in 2018

Finally a landmark was erected when the Supreme Court of India on 14th September 2018 pronounced Judgment in Pankaj Sinha Vs. Union of India[x] The Supreme Court in this petition of a visually challenged Lawyer ordered that awareness be spread about the free treatment available for leprosy patients and directed the central and state governments to formulate rehabilitation schemes for those suffering from the disease. A bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued a slew of directions to the Centre and the states and asked them to ensure proper treatment of leprosy patients and end discrimination against them. It directed that a massive awareness campaign be carried out by the government on curability of leprosy, adding that patients should not be isolated by the family or community as the person can lead a normal life. The bench directed to “end stigma” against leprosy patients and to make sure they get adequate medical care and rehabilitation measures.

 

 

The most prescience lies inside direction (xiv) of this judgment which directs:-

“The Union and the State Governments must pro-actively plan and formulate a comprehensive community based rehabilitation scheme which shall cater to all basic facilities and needs of the leprosy affected persons and their families. The scheme shall be aimed at eliminating the stigma that is associated with persons afflicted with leprosy.”

This direction commands towards cater all basic facilities to the lepers which we all know essentially includes housing which is the prime trouble being faced by the lepers since ages and was never resolved despite several commitments by the statutory bodies.

 

·       Uttar Pradesh lead the way by  Leper Houses Move

The state of  Uttar Pradesh became pioneer in India by providing free houses to lepers under its Chief Minister Housing Scheme. Within a short duration of such announcement on 22nd December 2019 in keys of newly built houses were provided to 500 lepers in a function held at Lok Bhawan Lucknow. This is the first effective step towards housing of lepers, which any of the State Government has taken post directions in Pankaj Sinha Vs. Union of India[xi] for formulation of comprehensive community based rehabilitation scheme for leprosy affected persons.

 

·       Conclusion

Unfortunately unlike Uttar Pradesh other State Governments till date have not even initiated any scheme to provide adequate housing to the lepers.The brunt of inaction of State Governments in rehabilitation is being faced by lepers who are bound to reside in slums on encroached lands. The Hon’ble Surpeme Court has declared “Right to Shelter” as a fundamental right being part of Right to Life in Article 21 of the Constitution of India but in most of the states of India it is being violated by the Government in regard of these neglected classes of lepers. Government authorities have not understood till date that the Right to Life `is not a Right to mere animal existence.

The inaction on the part of the State Governments in not implementing the welfare schemes for the lepers including providing housing for them is a failure of the State Governments is putting the lepers and their families of in great hardships in their existing slums due to the extreme weather conditions making their survival difficult. The  lepers affected by demolition of their housing due to demolition drives, do not have electricity, water supply, medical facilities and the monsoon results in breeding of mosquitoes further endangering their lives. These destitute lepers are exposed to dengue, malaria, chikungunya and other mosquito borne diseases as they are exposed to other infections and diseases. On account of the lack of adequate housing, the Lepers are forced to live on the road, which adversely affects the safety and security of their women, increasing their vulnerability to violence and abuse. The elderly persons of their community face extremely vulnerable condition. To comply with the  fortitude which Supreme Court has shown in its dictum passed in Pankaj Sinha case[xii] it is high time that on war foot effective steps be taken to improve living of  lepers by providing them right of housing and shelter and rehabilitation which is most momentous pictogram of  dignified life which is a declared integral constituent of Right to Life .

(* Author is an Advocate from Uttarakhand, fighting the legal battle of the displaced leper families of  Haridwar, Uttarakhand)

[i] http://nlep.nic.in/pdf/cbr.pdf
[ii] background note and recommendations made by National Human Rights Commission on 17.04.2015 https://nhrc.nic.in
[iii] http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report256.pdf
[iv] (1983) 5 SCC 545
[v] (1990) 1 SCC 520
[vi] (1996) 2 SCC 549
[vii] (1997) 11 SCC 121.
[viii] People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, W.P. (C) No. 196 of 2001
[ix]https://www.un.org › universal-declaration-human-rights
[x] 2018 0 AIR(SC) 4297
[xi] Ibid
[xii] Ibid

Unfortunate That Provisions For Probation Are Not Much Utilized By Courts: Allahabad HC

Allahabad HC : Grants Probation In 28 Years Old Case For Attempt To Homicide

In a latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment titled Ramdas Harijan & Ors. Vs. State of UP in Criminal Appeal 2012 of 2003 reserved on December 11, 2019 and delivered on January 6, 2020, the Allahabad High Court has very rightly gone the extra mile and asked the courts to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed. It very rightly lamented that provisions for probation are not much utilized by the Courts. All the Courts must be careful on this score always!

To start with, Justice Siddharth sets the ball rolling in para 1 of this noteworthy judgment by first and foremost observing that, “Heard Sri Santosh Kumar Singh, learned counsel for the appellants, Sri Gopal Ji Rai, learned counsel for the informant and Sri Gyan Narayan Kanojia, learned A.G.A. for the State and perused the record.”

To put things in perspective, it is then pointed out in para 2 that, “This criminal appeal has been preferred by Ramdas Harijan son of Jagnoo, Sonarase son of Jagnoo, Ramjanam son of Ramdas, Ram Jeet son of Sonarase, Ramesh son of Shyam Lal and Suryabhan son of Banarsi against the judgment and order dated 03.05.2003 passed by Additional Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court No. 3), Ghazipur in Sessions Trial No. 43 of 1994 (State vs. Ramdas Harijan and others) convicting and sentencing the appellants for offence under Section 323/149 IPC for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment, under Section 147 IPC for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment and under Sections 325/149 IPC for a period of five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5,000/-, in default of payment of fine to undergo four months additional imprisonment and under Section 308/149 IPC for a period of five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5,000/-, in default of payment of fine to undergo four months additional imprisonment. All the sentences have been directed to run concurrently.”

As it turned out, para 3 then brings out that, “During the pendency of this appeal appellant nos. 1 and 2, Ramdas Harijan and Sonarase both sons of Jagnoo, have died and the appeal has been dismissed as abated against them by the order dated 30.5.2019 passed by this court. Now the appeal survives only regarding appellant nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6.”

   Be it noted, para 4 then envisages that, “The prosecution case is that informant, Ram Adhar, son of Pardesi and the accuseds are the residents of village Kudila, Police Station – Bhudkuda, District – Ghazipur. On 26.09.1991 when the informant was making his hut on his abadi land the accuseds Ramdas, Sonarase, Shyam Lal, Ram Janam, Ramjeet and Ramesh, came armed with lathi-danda with common intention and stated that the abadi belongs to them. Suryabhan son of Banarasi came running on the spot and exhorted the accused to beat the informant. On this they started beating the informant with lathi. On his alarm members of his family, namely, Pardesi, Doma Ram, Km. Rita, Km. Sita, Smt. Geeta, Smt. Shyamdei, Smt. Kalawati, Smt. Vidya Devi, Km, Sumitra, daughter of Doma Ram, ran towards the informant and they were also caused injuries by the accuseds. On account of injuries inflicted by the accuseds, mother of informant, Vidya Devi and his grand-mother suffered fractures in hand. Both became unconscious and fell down. Bhuri Ram son of Chauthi, Kashi son of Ramnath, etc., and many persons of the village saw the incident. Informant took his mother in a cot along with other injured to police station. The accuseds set the hut of the informant on fire. The information of the incident was given at the police station Bhudkuda on 26.06.1991 and on its basis FIR was registered at 17:30 hours as Case Crime No. 150 of 1991, under Sections 147, 323, 325, 504, 308 IPC against the accuseds.”

What’s more, it is then stated in para 5 that, “The investigation was entrusted to the S.H.O., Sri J.P. Bharti. The injureds were examined by the doctor and number of injuries were found on the body of the injureds. The Investigating Officer submitted charge sheet against the accuseds. Before framing of charge accused, Shyam Lal, died and charges were framed against the remaining accuseds under Sections 147, 308/149, 325/149, 323/149 and 504 IPC. The accuseds denied the charges and sought trial.”

It would be pertinent to mention here that it is then observed in para 12 that, “After hearing the counsels for the parties this court finds that the offence under Sections 323 and 325 IPC can be compounded by the person to whom the hurt is caused. The offence under Section 308 IPC is not compoundable. In the present case only one of the injured, the informant, has filed his affidavit while the other injureds, namely, Smt. Vidya, Smt. Shyamdei, Smt. Geeta, Doma Ram, Km. Reeta, Km. Sumitra, Km. Sita, Smt. Kalawati and Pardesi, have not filed any affidavit praying that the offences caused against them by the appellants may be compounded. The affidavit of the informant shows that it has been filed only on his behalf and not on behalf of any of the injureds as their pairokar. In view of the above position of the record the compounding of the offences under which the appellants have been convicted cannot be allowed.”

On expected lines, what next follows more significantly is that it is then observed in para 13 that, “However keeping in view the fact that the incident took place about 28 years ago, the parties are neighbours residing in the same village, informant has filed affidavit before this court that their relations have become normal and they are residing peacefully in the village, he does not wants the enmity to be revived, this court feels that the appellants should be given benefit of Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 in this appeal while upholding the judgment and order of the trial court.”

Most significantly, it is then observed about Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act which deals with power of court to release certain offenders on probation of good conduct as elaborated upon in para 14 and similarly about Section 360 of Code of Criminal Procedure which deals with order to release on probation of good conduct or after admonition as elaborated upon in para 15 in clear and convincing language  by stating unequivocally in para 16 that, “These statutory provisions very emphatically lay down the reformatory and correctional object of sentencing and obligates the trial court as well as appellate courts to give benefit of probation in fit cases as provided under law. Unfortunately, this branch of law has not been much utilized by the courts. It becomes more relevant and important in our system of administration of justice where trial is often concluded after a long time and by the time decision assumes finality, the very purpose of sentencing looses its efficacy as with the passage of time the penological and social priorities change and there remains no need to inflict punishment of imprisonment, particularly when the offence involved is not serious and there is no criminal antecedent of the accused persons. The facts and given circumstances in each case, the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed, the motive for commission of the crime, the conduct of the accused, the nature of weapons used and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts which would enter into the area of consideration. It is, therefore, the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.”

To substantiate what has been stated in para 16, we then see that relevant case law are quoted as we see for ourselves in para 17 that, “In the case of Subhash Chand and others vs. State of U.P., 2015 Lawsuit (Alld) 1343, this court has emphatically laid down the need to apply the law of probation and give benefit of the beneficial legislation to accused persons in appropriate cases. This court issued following directions to all trial courts and appellate courts:

It appears that the aforesaid beneficial legislation has been lost sight of and even the Judges have practically forgotten this provision of law. Thus, before parting with the case, this Court feels that I will be failing in discharge of my duties, if a word of caution is not written for the trial courts and the appellate courts. The Registrar General of this Court is directed to circulate copy of this Judgment to all the District Judges of U.P., who shall in turn ensure circulation of the copy of this order amongst all the judicial officers working under him and shall ensure strict compliance of this Judgment. The District Judges in the State are also directed to call for reports every months from all the courts, i.e. trial courts and appellate courts dealing with such matters and to state as to in how many cases the benefit of the aforesaid provisions have been granted to the accused. The District Judges are also directed to monitor such cases personally in each monthly meeting. The District Judges concerned shall send monthly statement to the Registrar General as to in how many cases the trial court/appellate court has granted the benefit of the aforesaid beneficial legislation to the accused. A copy of this order be placed before the Registrar General for immediate compliance.””

Moving on, para 18 then states that, “In addition to the above judgment of this Court, this Court finds that the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of State of Maharashtra Vs. Jagmohan Singh Kuldip Singh Anand & others (2004) 7 SCC 659, giving the benefit of Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 to the accuseds has observed as below:

“The learned counsel appearing for the accused submitted that the accident is of the year 1990. The parties are educated and neighbours. The learned counsel, therefore, prayed that benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 may be granted to the accused. The prayer made on behalf of the accused seems to be reasonable. The accident is more than ten years old. The dispute was between the neighbors over a trivial issue of claiming of drainage. The accident took place in a fit of anger. All the parties educated and also distantly related. The accident is not such as to direct the accused to undergo sentence of imprisonment. In our opinion, it is a fit case in which the accused should be released on probation by directing them to execute a bond of one year for good behaviour.”

While continuing in the same vein, it is then further added in para 19 that, “Similarly, in Jagat Pal Singh & others Vs. State of Haryana, AIR 2000 SC 3622, the Hon’ble Apex Court has given the benefit of probation while upholding the conviction of accused persons under Sections 323, 452, 506 IPC and has released the accused persons on executing a bond before the Magistrate for maintaining good behaviour and peace for the period of six months.”

Now coming to the concluding paras, para 20 holds that, “In the light of above discussion, I find no illegality, irregularity or impropriety nor any jurisdictional error in the impugned judgment and order of the court below. The conviction recorded by the court below under Sections 147, 323/149, 325/149, 308/149 IPC is upheld and is not required to be disturbed.” It is then rightly held in para 21 that, “However, instead of sending the appellants to jail, they shall get the benefit of Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act. Consequently, the appellants shall file two sureties to the tune of Rs. 25,000/- coupled with personal bonds to the effect that they shall not commit any offence and shall observe good behaviour and shall maintain peace during the period of one year. If there is breach of any of the conditions, they will subject themselves to undergo sentence before the court below. The bonds and sureties aforesaid be filed by the accused persons within two months from the date of the judgment as per law and Rules.” Finally, it is held in para 22 that, “Accordingly, this appeal is partly allowed regarding sentences of the appellants.”

In conclusion, the Allahabad High Court has very rightly underscored that it is unfortunate that provisions for probation are not much utilized by the Courts. It very rightly grants probation in 28 year old case for attempt to homicide. All the courts must pay heed to what the Allahabad High Court has laid down in this latest and laudable judgment wherein it has itself cited many relevant case laws decided by the Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court also! No denying or disputing!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Parents Not Entitled To Claim Filial Consortium Under Motor Vehicle Act On Death Of A Married Son: Bombay HC

 

In a significant development, we saw how just recently on January 3, 2020, the Bombay High Court in exercise of its civil appellate jurisdiction in IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Co. Ltd., Branch Office, Near Naval Petrol Pump, Daffrin Chowk, Solapur

Versus

1. Smt. Jyoti Ajay Avatade, Age 30 years, Occupation: Household,

2. Aryan Ajay Avatade, Age 5 years, Occupation: Nil

3. Anuj Ajay Avatade, Age 2 years, Occupation: Nil

4. Pandharinath Gundiba Avatade, Age 65 years, Occupation: Nil

5. Mainabai Pandharinath Avatade, Age 60 years, Occupation: Household

All resident of Patil Galli, 58/1, Dongaon North, Dongaon Taluka, North Solapur – 413002.

Nos. 2 and 3 being minor through their mother – Appellant No. 1

6. Mr. Bhagvant Shankar Patil, Age Adult, Occupation: Business, Resident of 30, Brahmachaitanya Nagar, Vijaypur Nagar, Solapur.

In First Appeal No. 1239 of 2016 with Civil Application No. 3457 of 2016 in First Appeal No. 1239 of 2016, has very rightly held that parents of a married son are not entitled to claim filial compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act. While partly modifying the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Solapur, the single-Judge Bench of Justice RD Dhanuka of Bombay High Court struck off the amount awarded to the deceased parents towards filial compensation since the said deceased was not a bachelor at the time of his death and so the parents would not be entitled to claim any filial consortium. Very rightly so!

          To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this notable judgment wherein it is observed that, “By this first appeal filed under section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the appellant (original opponent no. 2) has impugned the judgment and award dated 3rd December, 2015 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Solapur (for short “Tribunal”) in MACP No. 173 of 2013 allowing the claims filed by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 partly. By consent of the appellant and the respondent nos. 1 to 5 the first appeal is heard finally at the admission stage.”

To be sure, it is then pointed out in para 2 that, “The appellant was the original opponent no. 2, whereas the respondent nos. 1 to 5 were the original applicants before the Tribunal. The respondent no. 6 was the original opponent no. 1 before the Tribunal and was the owner of the Maruti Van (hereinafter referred to as “the offending vehicle”).”

While elaborating further, it is then enunciated in para 3 that, “The respondent no. 1 is widow of the deceased Ajay Avatade. The respondent nos. 2 and 3 are the children of the said deceased Ajay Avatade. The respondent nos. 4 and 5 are the parents of the said deceased. It was the case of the respondent nos. 1 to 5 that the said deceased Ajay Avatade was an agriculturist and milk vendor. On 6th February, 2012, at about 7.00 p.m., the said deceased was proceeding on his motorcycle bearing registration No. MH – 13 AW 5393 towards his village Dongaon. When he reached near Mahadev Swami Wasti, one Maruti Van bearing registration No. MH – 13N – 7917 came from the opposite direction in rash and negligent manner and gave dash to the motorcycle of the said deceased. The said deceased fell down and sustained severe injuries and succumbed to the said injuries in the hospital. It was the case of the respondent nos. 1 to 5 that the said offending vehicle gave a dash by coming towards its wrong side and was in a high and excessive speed. The said accident was the outcome of the rash and negligent driving on the part of the driver of the offending vehicle. The said offending vehicle was insured with the appellant.”

Suffice it to say, para 4 then discloses that, “The respondent nos. 1 to 5 filed the claim application and claimed Rs. 50.00 lacs from the respondent no. 6, who was the owner of the offending vehicle and the appellant. The respondent no. 6 failed to file any written statement. The appellant however, filed its written statement and resisted the claim petition contending that the said deceased himself was driving his motorcycle in rash and negligent manner. There was breach of the terms and conditions of the policy availed by the respondent no. 6 from the appellant and thus the appellant was not liable to pay any compensation to the respondent nos. 1 to 5. The Tribunal framed five issues for determination. The respondent nos. 1 to 5 examined the respondent no. 1 and also examined three more witnesses who produced various documentary evidence also on record to prove their case. No evidence was led by the appellant and the respondent no. 6 before the Tribunal.”

Be it noted, para 5 then states that, “The Tribunal rendered a finding that the death of the said deceased was caused due to accident dated 6th February, 2012 involving the motorcycle driven by the said deceased and the offending vehicle due to the rash and negligent driving by the driver of the offending vehicle. It is held by the Tribunal that the said deceased had not contributed any negligence while driving his motorcycle. The Tribunal awarded the compensation in the sum of Rs. 25,42,000/- with interest at the rate of 9% p.a. from the date of application till realization. The Tribunal also apportioned the amount payable to the respondent nos. 1 to 5. Insofar as the respondent nos. 2 and 3 are concerned they being minor, the Tribunal directed that an amount of Rs. 7,00,000/- each and interest thereon be kept in fixed deposits in any nationalized bank of the choice of the respondent no. 1 till they would attain the age of majority. The appellant has impugned the said judgment and award dated 3rd December, 2012 in this First Appeal. The respondent no. 6 did not file any appeal against the said judgment and award.”

It would be imperative to now mention here what para 16 stipulates that, “The Tribunal framed five issues. The respondent nos. 1 to 5 had examined 4 witnesses before the Tribunal to prove their case and produced several documents including medical record. The evidence produced by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 including the spot panchnama indicates that there was head on collusion as could be seen from the fact that both the vehicles were substantially damaged. The witnesses examined by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 proved that towards left side of the road there was a ditch. It was thus not possible for the said deceased to use the kaccha road. Though various suggestions were put to the witnesses examined by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 by the appellant, the appellant admittedly did not examine the driver of the offending vehicle to prove the contributory negligence of the said deceased.”

To put things in perspective, it is then held in para 17 that, “In my view, the finding thus rendered by the Tribunal that the death of the said deceased was caused on account of accident dated 6th February, 2012 by the offending vehicle due to rash and negligent driving of the driver of the offending vehicle does not warrant any interference. It is also rightly held that the said deceased had not contributed to the said accident, in any manner whatsoever. I do not find any infirmity with the said finding rendered by the Tribunal.”

On a different note, it is then pointed out in para 23 that, “As far as the quantum of claim for compensation based on various judgments and based on the evidence led by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 is concerned, both the parties tendered their respective calculation before this Court. There is no dispute that the respondent nos. 1 to 5 would be entitled to claim 40% of the yearly income after applying multiplier of 15 towards future prospect. There is also no dispute that two of the respondents who are children of the said deceased would be entitled to claim Rs. 40,000/- each towards parental consortium and all the respondents would be entitled to claim Rs. 70,000/- towards conventional heads.”

Most significantly, it is then observed in para 24 that, “In so far as the filial consortium claimed by the respondent nos. 1 to 5 is concerned, in my view, since the said deceased was not a bachelor at the time of his death, the parents would not be entitled to claim any filial consortium. The Supreme Court in case of Magma General Insurance Co. Ltd. (supra) has held that in case where the parents have lost their minor child, or unmarried son or daughter, the parents are entitled to be awarded loss of consortium under the head of Filial Consortium. In my view, the said part of the said judgment would clearly apply to the facts of this case. Thus, claim towards filial consortium demanded by the respondent nos. 4 and 5 cannot be considered.”

In conclusion, it may well be said that while partly modifying the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Solapur, the single-Judge Bench of Justice RD Dhanuka of Bombay High Court struck off the amount awarded to the deceased parents towards filial compensation and observed what has already been illustrated in para 24 as mentioned above! Reliance was placed by the Bombay High Court in this noteworthy judgment on Magma General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Nanu Ram @ Chuhru Ram & Ors., AIR 2018 SC 892, whereby the Supreme Court had held that only in cases where the parents have lost their minor child, or unmarried son or daughter, the parents are entitled to be awarded loss of consortium under the head of filial consortium as has also been mentioned in para 24. No denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Bail – If Case Diary And Other Materials Disclose Prima Facie Case Then Bar Under Proviso To Section 43D(5) Of UAPA Will Be Attracted: Chhattisgarh HC

It is imperative to mention right at the outset that in a latest ruling, the Chhattisgarh High Court has as recently as on December 20, 2019 in Abhay Nayak v. State of Chhattisgarh in CRA No. 1213 of 2019 held quite explicitly that on reading the case diary or any other material placed on record, if a prima facie case is made out against the accused, then the proviso to Section 43D(5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 will get attracted and the accused shall not be enlarged on bail. This is primarily because doing anything which goes against the supreme national interests and foments terrorism in any manner cannot be lightly dismissed. It has to be taken most seriously and this alone explains why in such cases bail is not granted!

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra for himself and Justice Gautam Chourdiya sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “These three connected appeals under Section 21 (4) of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (for short ‘the NIA Act’) would call in question three separate orders passed by the trial Court (NIA Court) rejecting the appellant’s prayer for his release on bail under Section 439 of the Cr.P.C.”

To recapitulate, it is then pointed out in para 3 that, “The prosecution case, in brief, is that on 28-1-2017 an information was received by the concerned police that on the road between village Bastanar-Dankapara towards village Kandoli a banner has been put on along with pamphlets containing anti national contents. On receipt of the information the team of a Kodenar police led by the Station House Officer reached to the place and found a banner and anti national contents and few naxal pamphlets written in English propagating naxal movement. When the near by places were searched the police team found an explosive like material and few wires, which were further dug out with proper security. On this search a 7 kg Tiffin Bomb with 20 meters long wire and pamphlets were found. The pamphlets were having signature of ‘Vikalp’ as Spokesperson, Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee CPI (Maoist) and Abhya as Spokesperson, Central Committee CPI (Maoist). This organisation has been banned by the Government of Chhattisgarh. Dehati Nalsi was recorded and on return the subject crime was registered at Police Station Kodenar primarily under Section 120-B of the IPC; Sections 4 & 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908; and Sections 38 & 39 (2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.”

To be sure, para 4 then states that, “During further investigation, it came to the knowledge that the Police Station Darbha has also registered Cr. No.7/2017 and seized pamphlets and literatures containing propagation of naxal movement. The Investigating Officer found email ID and mobile number written over the seized articles, which were further investigated on which one person named ‘Abhay Nayak, R/o Bangalore’ was suspected as a person who has committed the offence.”

Going forward, it is then elaborated upon in para 5 that, “When the police team went to Bangalore (Karnataka) it got information that the appellant is not available in the country, but is travelling abroad with unknown location. Thereafter, Bastar Police issued Look Out Circular. The Immigration Bureau, New Delhi, informed the Superintendent of Police, Bastar that the appellant has been taken into custody. He was enquired by Bastar Police at Delhi and thereafter, upon his consent, Laptop, Mobile, Hard Disk, Pen Drive, etc. were recovered and brought to Bastar for further investigation. In his confessional statement the appellant admitted that for propagating naxal activities he acts as a Blogger and Spokesman via its Blog and Social Media sites i.e. Twitter, Google+, Yahoo, etc. to increase urban naxal cadre and influence urban youths. The appellant was arrested on 1-6-2018 and his residence was searched. The appellant was thereafter searched for two other offences.”

After hearing both the sides, it is then observed in para 10 that, “A perusal of the material available in the case diaries would reveal that the hand written diary seized from the residence of the appellant containing objectionable and anti national contents about the Indian Police and Para Military Force was sent to the State Examiner of Questioned Document, Government of Chhattisgarh (Hand Writing Expert) on 23-6-2018. The Hand Writing Expert’s report received by the police on 30-6-2018 mentions that all the writings have been written by one and the same person. Diary also reveals that when the appellant’s blog was data analysed by the Cyber Police Team of Bastar, the appellant was found to have officially created ‘CPI Maoist Naxalite’ blog and continued blogging on the site. Thereafter, he wrote his blogs as ‘abhay naxal revolution’, to hide his overtly and expressly Maoist connection. The appellant was also found to use fake ID number, proxy server and TOR to run his blog, which he did to hide his identity from the Government surveillance. The blog posts and proxies have been annexed with the return filed by the State.”

What’s more, it is then also pointed out in para 11 that, “Record also contains material that on thorough examination of appellant’s e-mail ID, after seeking permission from the Special Court, Jagdalpur, various folders with naxal contents and anti national contents including press release, propaganda and audio video attachments having anti national and provocative contents were found. Mail from superior naxal cadres like Vikalp and Gudsa Usendi and connection with RDF (Revolutionary Democratic Front) and other anti national organization was also found. The scrutiny also revealed that the appellant is working with Rona Wilson, G.N. Saibaba, etc.”

Not stopping here, it is then more damningly also pointed out in para 12 that, “The data analysis also found that the appellant tried to contact other naxal sympathizers including foreigners and journalists for arranging interview with superior naxal cadres either directly or through virtual media. He has been visiting foreign countries for last one year to promote the naxal ideology and improve naxal movement in India. The investigating police have also found that appellant’s blog post ‘naxalrevolution.blogpost.com’ is a mirror website of ‘naxalrevolution-lal salam’, which is totally a Maoist social networking platform.”

More significantly, the Chhattisgarh High Court Bench comprising of Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Gautam Chourdiya then rightly holds that, “The law is, thus settled that while considering the prayer for grant of bail the material collected by the prosecution thus far need not be discarded nor its admissibility or otherwise is to be considered at this stage. If the case diary and other materials disclosed that the accusation against the accused is, prima facie, true, the bar under the proviso to sub-section (5) of Section 43D of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 would be attracted.”

Moving on, it is then observed in para 16 that, “In the case at hand, there is material collected by the Investigating Officer which furnishes reasonable ground for believing that the accusation against the appellant is, prima facie, true. Thus, no case for inferring with the trial Court’s order is made out.”

Finally, this commendable and laudable judgment concludes in para 17 wherein it is observed that, “As a sequel, all the criminal appeals, sands substratum, are liable to be and are hereby dismissed.” Very rightly so!

No doubt, it is a very well written judgment and a well concluded judgment. It rightly placed reliance on National Investigation Agency v Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, (2019) 5 SCC 1, wherein the Apex Court had observed that, “The totality of the material gathered by the Investigating Agency and presented along with the report and including the case diary, is required to be reckoned and not by analyzing individual pieces of evidence or circumstance.” Support to Naxal movement which is a violent and committed to  terrorism in order to overthrow democracy in India cannot be justified under any circumstances! The UAPA Act rightly ensures that those accused of promoting Naxal ideology are not granted bail! This is what the Chhattisgarh High Court too has ensured in this latest, landmark and extremely laudable case also! Very rightly so! Naxal violence brooks no tolerance and there has to be no compromise on this at any cost and under no circumstances!

Sanjeev Sirohi

People Have Right To Criticize Dispensation Running The Country, Being Legislature, Executive Or Judiciary: Calcutta HC

                                  It is most pleasing, most refreshing and most heartening to note that the Calcutta High Court just recently on December 3, 2019 in a notable judgment titled Sanmay Banerjee Vs. State of West Bengal and others in W.P. No. 21526(W) of 2019 in exercise of Constitutional writ jurisdiction on the appellate side has very rightly in no uncertain terms held most categorically, clearly and convincingly that people have every right to criticize dispensation running the country, being legislature, executive or judiciary! It held that, “It is not clear at all as to how the criticism of the State Government and its functionaries and a Member of Parliament could be deemed to be publication of a statement likely to cause fear or alarm to the public at all, let alone whereby such person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.” Very rightly so!

To start with, Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the Calcutta High Court who authored this noteworthy and highly commendable judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing that, “The petitioner claims to be a freelance journalist and a whistleblower, who runs two vernacular newspapers and You Tube channels. It is the contention of the petitioner that due to his exposure of corruption in political quarters, he has earned the wrath of the ruling party and has been constantly subjected to threats. The cause of action of the present writ petition arose when the petitioner was allegedly picked up around 7.30-7.45 p.m. on October 17, 2019 without any prior notice, by the Officer-in-Charge of the Khardah Police Station, along with hoodlums of the local ruling party, and was subjected to tremendous torture within the precincts of the Khardah Police Station and mercilessly beaten up the petitioner against all established norms of human rights. Ultimately, the petitioner was taken into custody by the Purulia District Cyber Crime Police Station at around 4.30 a.m. and purportedly arrested in connection with Purulia District Cyber Crime Police Station Case No. 2 of 2019 dated September 23, 2019 under Sections 465/469/500/504/505(1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as “the IPC”),  read with Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as “the IT Act”).”

To recapitulate, it is then pointed out that, “During interrogation, the petitioner was allegedly asked to admit that he had manipulated and manufactured documents, including some forged appointment letter issued by the West Bengal Board of Primary Education. The Inspector-in-Charge of the Khardah Police Station, it is alleged took the lead role in perpetuating torture upon the petitioner, which will easily be revealed from the CCTV footage of the Khardah Police Station of the relevant date. Although the petitioner was produced ultimately before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Purulia on October 18, 2019, the bail application of the petitioner was rejected and October 20, 2019 was fixed as the date for production of the petitioner. On the latter date, the Chief Judicial Magistrate granted bail to the petitioner. According to the petitioner, he had to be admitted to a hospital under acute mental and physical condition after his release on bail and had to be treated in the hospital till November 3, 2019.”

After listening both sides, the Calcutta High Court then observes that, “The first feature of the present case, which defies logic, is that the complainant, on the basis of whose allegations the FIR-in-question was registered, was in no way connected with the alleged offences, nor the victim of any of those. The complainant was an Assistant Public Prosecutor of the State in the Raghunathpur Court.”

Needless to say, it is then pointed out that, “A bare perusal of the offences with which the petitioner was charged shows that all offences under the IPC were non-cognizable offences, apart from Section 469 of the IPC, which was cognizable but bailable. As such, the police could not, of its own, commence investigation on any of such allegations. That apart, a bare perusal of the sections mentioned in the FIR reveals that those do not stand a moment’s scrutiny, at least on the complaint of the Assistant Public Prosecutor, who was in no way connected with the matter.”

Be it noted, it is then stated that, “The first charge slapped on the petitioner was under Section 465 of the IPC, which pertains to commission of forgery. The next offence alleged, under Section 469 of the IPC, pertains to forgery being committed, intending that the document or electronic record forged shall harm the reputation of any party, or knowing that it is likely to be used for that purpose.”

Furthermore, the Calcutta High Court then states quite the ostensible saying “It is evident that, by merely viewing the You Tube channels-in-question, the complainant could not have any idea about whether the document shown therein were forged or forged for the purpose of harming the reputation of anybody. The complaint lodged does not indicate any basis whatsoever for the wild apprehension of the complainants that such documents were forged.”

What’s more, it is then pointed out that, “As far as Section 500 of the IPC is concerned, the same relates to defamation of another and is even compoundable by the person defamed, if she/he agreed to have the charge dropped against the accused. Section 504 of the IPC provides about intentional insult with the intent to provoke breach of the peace. Such insult has to be intentional, giving provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence.”

What is really baffling is now stated by the Calcutta High Court that, “Pertaining to both the aforesaid sections, being Sections 500 and 504, the persons against whom the defamation or the insults were allegedly committed, have not come up with any allegation whatsoever in that regard. It begs explanation as to how the Assistant Public Prosecutor of the Raghunathpur Court could have an inkling of an idea as to whether the statements were perceived to be defamatory by the recipients of such alleged defamatory statements or insults, or would cause the victims of the acts to break public peace or commit any other offence. No basis for such bald allegation has also been disclosed in the complaint.”

To be sure, it is then clarified that, “Next taking into consideration Section 505(1)(b) of the IPC, which is one of the other provisions under which the investigation was apparently started by the police, the same relates to publication or circulation of any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or likely to cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.”

What seems quite incomprehensible is now stated by the Court that, “It is not clear at all as to how the criticism of the State Government and its functionaries and a Member of Parliament could be deemed to be publication of a statement likely to cause fear or alarm to the public at all, let alone whereby such person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.

While clearing the air on “State” and “Government”, it is then observed that, “In this context, it has to be noted that there is a common misconception of identifying the ‘State’ with the ‘Government’. This may be a fallout of the failure of the Indian polity to implement the Constitutional vision as to separation of powers between the three wings of the Government, in particular among the Legislature and the Executive. ‘State’, as commonly understood, is a body or association of people which comprises a polity and is an independent political entity having sovereignty. There may be different forms of governance in running the State. However, unlike the political fiction of a ‘State’, generally having geographical boundaries, a Government is a dispensation which runs the bureaucratic administration of the State at a particular point of time and cannot be identified with the State itself.”

While pointing out the most fundamental difference, it is then stated that, “Particularly in a multi-party democracy like India, it is often seen that the ideologies of political parties in control of the State machinery acquire pre-dominance over the actual will of the public, although on paper elected representatives of the people run the Government. As such, it would be an infinitely risky proposition to equate the State with the Government in power, since that would be the very antithesis of a democracy.”

Most importantly, the Calcutta High Court then minces no words to state unambiguously that, “The people always have a right to criticize the dispensation running the administration of the country, being the Government or the Executive. Even the Judiciary and the Legislature are not exempt from fair criticism. That is what the freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined in the Constitution, is all about.”

But it is also added further in the same vein that, “However, to say that transmission made in a website channel, making certain allegations against some persons, who happen to be Ministers or Members of Parliament, does not and cannot tantamount to a publication or circulation of a statement instigating people to commit an offence against the ‘State’, or against the ‘public tranquility’. Such allegations are of personal nature and, if aggrieved, the persons concerned could very well have approached the police authorities with legitimate complaints. In the absence of any such complaint by the said persons, it would be attributing to the said functionaries of the Government or a Member of Parliament the sovereignty associated with the concept of ‘State’, which was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution or law-makers.

Having said this, it is then underscored that, “In fact, it is criticism which helps in good governance and keeps a leash on public functionaries, providing a touchstone for the Executive to test the worth of their public endeavours.”

Doubtless, it is then rightly held that, “In such view of the matter, the inclusion of Section 505(1)(b) of the IPC in the FIR is ex facie not maintainable.”

No doubt, it is also very rightly held that, “No ingredients in the acts of the petitioner, as alleged in the complaint and FIR, satisfies the criteria of Sections 500 and 504 of the IPC. As such, there is no basis to the allegations of defamation or intentional insult, as envisaged in Sections 500 and 504, in the complaint, on the basis of which the police started investigation.”

Adding further weight to the above, it is then held while pooh-poohing the ground of a valid FIR that, “Taking into account Sections 465 and 469, the question of the complainant having direct knowledge or even indirect information about any forgery being committed, merely on perusal of a video clipping on a social media, is incredible to even the most gullible among us. Such allegations are baseless, in so far as they relate to forgery of documents which the complainant did not even have the scope of going through. The complaint did not even disclose any basis of the complainant’s source of knowledge or reasons for apprehension, as to the documents shown on the petitioner’s social media channels being forged. Hence, all the offences under the IPC, on which investigation was started against the petitioner, were ex facie baseless and could not be the ground of a valid First Information Report.”

What also cannot be easily brushed aside is that the Calcutta High Court while rapping the knuckles of the police clearly, categorically and convincingly held that, “It was the choice of the petitioner, for the time being at least, not to take such action against the Judicial Magistrate, which does not ipso facto absolve the police authorities from their illegal action in detaining the petitioner on frivolous grounds, that too on the complaint of a person who, on the face of it, could not have any direct knowledge of the allegations made, more so since the allegations were baseless on the face of it and were not even maintainable against the petitioner in the context of the petitioner’s actions, on the basis of which such offences were alleged.”

More damningly, the Court further holds that, “Moreover, the action of the police in the present case appears to be patently mala fide and reeks of political rather than legal motivation, in view of all the persons who were alleged to be victims of the petitioner’s act in the complaint belonging to the present ruling dispensation of the state and the complaint being lodged by an Assistant Public Prosecutor of the Raghunathpur court, who ought not to be affected in any manner with, or even any basis of knowledge of, the offences alleged, particularly those of forgery, unless the complainant perceived an allegiance owned by him to his political nominators.”

In essence, this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment serves to send out a very loud and clear message to one and all especially those sitting in power that people have every right to criticize dispensation running the country, being legislature, executive or judiciary! This is what makes this judgment so special! The Calcutta High Court rightly came to the rescue of the journalist named Sanmay Mukherjee and restrained the State authorities from taking any action against him in connection to a forgery and defamation case as there was no substance in those allegations! The contention of Sanmay that the police action was in complete violation of the law of the land as laid down by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar & Anr., (2014) 8 SCC 273, as he was not given any notice under Section 41A of CrPC which police was supposed to give! Very rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi