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Review of Judgments and orders passed by the High Court in June.
With its vast and varied case-docket, the High Court of Delhi has occasion to pronounce verdicts on diverse subjects and myriad areas of law. This two-part monthly column attempts to offer a brief over-view of the important pronouncements of the High Court of Delhi over the period of the relevant month in review.
While an attempt has been made to ensure the widest possible coverage of the various judgments rendered, comprehensive analysis and critique of the individual judgments is eschewed for the sake of brevity.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
In Sun Pharma Laboratories Limited v. BDR Pharmaceuticals International Private Limited, the Court rejected the argument of the defendant that despite the likelihood of confusion in the name, there should be no injunction merely on account of the fact that it’s drug was sold in the form of a lotion or cream as opposed to the plaintiff’s drug which was sold in the form of a tablet or in an injectable form. The Court noted that in the case of medicinal products, a stricter approach should be adopted to completely rule out the possibility of deception or confusion in the minds of the average consumer.
In P.T. Ved Prakash Beverages v. Crystal Beverages, while permitting the release of allegedly infringing goods which had been seized by the Local Commissioner (‘LC’) appointed by the Court, the Court noted that the soft drinks in question had already become unfit for sale and consumption on account of the shelf life having expired and only the release of bottles was being sought for in order to salvage some value. The Court observed that when the contents of the reports of the LC, including a description of the label and the exact number of soft drink bottles so recovered, were undisputed then the rationale of the Trial Court that all of the soft drink bottles were required to be preserved as evidence could not be accepted. The Court, however, issued certain directions such as retention of a sample soft drink bottle as also videography of the entire handover procedure so as to balance equities.
In Shree Ganesh Rolling Mills (India) Limited v. Jindal Rolling Mill Limited, the Court reiterated that the purpose of the law of infringement and passing off was not only geared towards protecting the rights of rights-holders alone but was also aimed at protecting consumers from being misled. The Court further held that even in case where, owing to complex issues at play, it was not possible for the Court to come to a prima-facie conclusion as to infringement, or the lack thereof, at the preliminary stage, it should nonetheless put in place certain interim measures to ensure that the parties do not continue to use the identical mark so as to avoid the possibility of confusion among the general public and to ensure distinction in the market, while balancing the rights of both contesting parties pending the trial.
In Apex Shoe Company Private Limited v. Baldev Singh, the Court deprecated the attempt of a defendant in a suit for infringement of trademark and passing off, to file a highly belated application for amendment and seek to bring on record a challenge to the validity of the mark in the written statement, after not having sought to raise this ground for several years when the proceedings were ongoing.
LABOUR AND SERVICE LAW
In Amit Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, while rejecting a challenge to the competitive examination held for a post within the Central Armed Police Forces (‘CAPF’) on the allegation that the examination was vitiated by mass irregularities, the Court held that considering the fact that the examinations in question require immense planning and resources to undertake as also the fact that there are various candidates who are invested in the results of the same, therefore, a challenge to the same cannot be made in a cavalier fashion and cannot be based upon mere conjectures and surmises.
In Vikas v. Union of India, the Court construed Rule 219.4 of the Railway Protection Force Rules, 1987 and in doing so held that with regard to the period of limitation of one year prescribed therein for initiation of powers by the revisional authority, such powers would be deemed to have been initiated on the date of issuance of the show-cause notice and not on the date of issuance of the charge-sheet as was sought to be contended by the petitioner.
In Dhiren Kumar Mohanty v. Union of India, the Court held that even if a fresh seniority list was published, the same would not result in a fresh cause of action or wipe away the delay and laches which the petition otherwise suffered from, if the position in the said seniority list which the petitioner was aggrieved by had in fact existed therein for several years prior thereto and there was no such significant change in circumstances reflected in the fresh seniority list. The Court further observed that revision of a seniority list after many years when vested rights had accrued in favor of various other persons would not be permissible.
In Durga Prasad v. Union of India, the Court observed that when the writ petition as originally filed only made a grievance with regard to further time for subjecting oneself to medical examination, then once the said extension had been granted during the pendency of the petition, any grievance with regard to the ultimate result of the examination on the merits could not be sought to be agitated in the said writ petition.
In Kapil Kumar Raghav v. Union of India, the Court observed that in the case of the armed forces, interference with the orders of transfers also results in the wider ramification that the legitimate expectation of persons who have been posted in conflict areas or on the borders for a long period of time and who would be desirous of returning to a posting in an urban area, would be compromised.
In Comdt. S.K. Singh v. Union of India, the Court held that once an employee had superannuated in terms of a particular rule with which he/she was fully satisfied, then, at a subsequent date, he/she could not turn around and seek to challenge the constitutionality of the rule merely because in an ancillary litigation certain observations had been made in relation to the validity of the said rule.
In Vikas Dhankhar v. Union of India, the Court observed that when the transfer Order in question was squarely contrary to the applicable policy in this regard, then it would be appropriate for the Court to direct reconsideration of the said order by the concerned department.
In Rajkumar Verma v. Chief General Manager, State Bank of India, the Court while reiterating that a government servant holding a transferable post cannot claim a vested right to remain posted at a particular place, further held that an exception in a transfer policy based on exigency of service when invoked by the organization concerned, without any malafide, would override all other considerations.
In Ritu Hooda v. Directorate of Education, the Court held that when a person had admittedly been appointed on a post and had also rendered service pursuant to the said appointment, he/she could not be denied the salary and other emoluments for the said period merely because the selection process had come under cloud and cancellation thereof was being contemplated.
In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Manmod Shankar, the Court reiterated that the past conduct of a workman is material and could be taken into account not only for determining the punishment to be inflicted but also for deciding whether to award back wages or not.
In Shashank S. Mangal v. Government of NCT of Delhi, while noting the urgent need for effective enforcement and implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, the Court further directed collection of requisite data to ensure efficient operationalization of the Act.
MATRIMONIAL DISPUTES, CUSTODY AND MAINTENANCE
In Anshu Malhotra v. Mukesh Malhotra, the Court observed that the principle enshrined under Order 23 Rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (‘CPC’) which proscribes an appeal being filed against a consent decree would also apply on all fours to a mutual consent decree of divorce passed by a Family Court and that in light of the same read with Section 96 (3) of the CPC, an appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘HMA’) would not be maintainable against a decree of dissolution of marriage by mutual consent. The Court in this regard disagreed with the judgments of the High Courts of Punjab and Haryana, Bombay, Gujarat, Allahabad, Kerala and Madras which had held to the contrary.
In Sudhir Kumar v. Urmila, the Court observed that in the appropriate circumstances, the Family Court was entitled to ignore the salary certificate issued by a private employer and instead fix monthly maintenance by taking into consideration the minimum wages payable.
In Amanpreet Sandhu v. U. K. Shandilya, the Court held that when it was evident from the records that the estranged wife was living separately in a household with her husband and her in-laws were residing in a distinct accommodation, even though the said accommodations may have been in physical proximity with each other, it could not have been said that there was a shared household between the wife and her in-laws.
In Vishal Singh v. Priya @ Pihu, the Court observed that the mere fact that the wife in the initial days of the marriage preferred to remain in her room and did not show great initiative in doing household work, could not by any stretch of imagination be termed as cruel behavior so as to provide an entitlement for divorce under Section 13 of the HMA.
MEDIA LAW, CENSORSHIP, AND DEFAMATION
In Sasikala Pushpa v. Facebook India, the Court rejected a suit for injunction against media outlets from publicizing the meetings conducted by the plaintiff behind closed doors with certain persons by observing that considering the fact that the plaintiff was a politician and a public personality, the public had an interest in knowing as to the identity of the person who the plaintiff was meeting particularly when the concerned person belonged to a political party completely opposed to the party to which the plaintiff belonged. The Court further held that this was also an extension of the right of the electorate in terms of knowing the dealings and interactions of the concerned politician. Yet further, the Court observed that the plaintiff had not pleaded any public interest in the said meetings being kept hidden.
In Abhishek Buildcon Private Limited v. New Delhi Municipal Council, the Court reiterated that mere inaction for a long period of time in seeking the eviction of a party does not lead to any presumption in law that there was a valid subsisting lease or any related right in that regard in favor of the party sought to be evicted.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION
In Usha Devi Sharma v. MCD, the court observed that even though the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (‘RTI Act’) were indeed laudatory, a certain undesirable practice was being adopted by certain applicants by obtaining answers under the RTI Act to targeted questions, which though technically correct, would confuse matters to the benefit of the applicant. It was held that Courts should therefore be careful while construing the consequences of such responses on the rights and liabilities of the parties.
TAX, EXCISE AND CUSTOMS
In Additional Director General (Adjudication) v. It’s My Name Private Limited, the Court held that in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 130 of the Customs Act, 1962 (‘Customs Act’), an appeal would not lie against an order directing provisional release of seized gold artifacts inasmuch as there has been no final determination as regards the liability for the items, especially when such provisional release was clearly recognized under Section 110-A of the said Act. The Court further held that statements recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act could not be pressed into service to impugn an order of provisional release inasmuch as these statements, though admissible in evidence, can be said to acquire relevance only once they are through cross-examination after formal admission into evidence by the adjudicating authority.
In Team HR Services Private Limited v. Union of India, the Court observed that when amounts deposited with the authority concerned, under protest pursuant to a demand, ultimately resulted in the said demand being set aside in the appellate proceedings initiated by the assessee, then there was absolutely no justification whatsoever for the department to refuse to refund the amount with interest. The Court further observed that this refusal to refund the money was not only contrary to Article 265 of the Constitution but was also in violation of the mandate of Section 72 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (‘Contract Act’).
In Allied Engineers and Builders Private Limited v. Muthoot Finance Limited, the Court held that the obligation to pay the Goods and Services Tax (‘GST’) to the concerned department by the landlord is not impacted at all by the tenant seeking to avail any credit for the said payment and yet further, that the right of the landlord for recovery of the said due would depend upon the clauses in the lease agreement executed between them. The Court further held that in the absence of any provision of law which puts the onus on the tax authority to disclose certain information, no such information could be sought for by the filing of a writ petition.
In SKH Sheet Metals Components v. Union of India, while allowing a prayer for filing of the form GST Tran - I beyond the stipulated period of time, the Court dwelled in detail upon the difficulties being faced by tax payers under the GST regime and the complete apathy shown by the tax authorities to the genuine difficulties faced on account of the transformative new system and technology at play. The Court also held that the phrase “technical difficulty on common portal” is to be read widely and Rule 117(1-A) of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Rules, 2017, has to be given an extremely wide interpretation so as to protect the interests of the tax payers.
In Inox Leisure Limited v. PVR Limited, the Court held that the concept of tortious inducement/interference with binding agreements can constitute a cause of action to file a suit for damages or injunction.
TENDER AND BLACKLISTING
In RK Jain and Sons Hospitality Private Limited through its Director v. Union of India, the Court reiterated that it was always open to an authority to impose stringent conditions as part of the tender as long as the said conditions were geared towards ensuring better quality and also at ensuring that the contractor had the requisite financial means to be able to execute the contract in a satisfactory manner.
Dr. Amit George is an Advocate practicing before the High Court of Delhi. The author would like to place on record his appreciation for the assistance provided by Advocates Rishabh Dheer, Amol Acharya, Bharat Rayadurgam and Piyo Harold Jaimon.