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Review of Judgments and orders passed by the High Court in May.
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.
In Salar Jung Museum v. Design team Consultants Private Limited, the Court observed that unlike in the case of a jurisdictional issue which completely obliterated the jurisdiction of the arbitrator, a party which had participated in the arbitration proceedings without demur could not, at the stage of challenging the award Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (‘Arbitration Act’), question the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal to entertain certain claims unless there was a statutory bar against such consideration by the arbitral tribunal.
In Union of India v. Satish Builders, the Court reiterated that even if a particular escalation methodology is absent from a contract, the same can always be utilized by the arbitrator for computation of amount payable once damages have been awarded under Section 73 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (‘Contract Act’).
In Pondicherry University v. B.E. Billimoria & Company Limited, the Court upheld the finding by an arbitral tribunal that a prolongation of a contract on account of the default of a party would plausibly vest a right in the counter-party to not pay interest on the mobilization advance availed of by it for the said period of delay.
In SMS Limited v. Konkan Railway Corporation Limited, the Court proceeded to set aside an award inasmuch as the methodology of computation of damages by the arbitral tribunal was based upon purely imaginary and impermissible parameters, and did not advert to any industry-standard or widely accepted benchmark.
In Spentex Industries Limited v. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, the Court observed that proceedings which were substantially for recovery of outstanding legal fees could not be said to be completely bereft of a commercial element and would, therefore, be labeled as “commercial” within the meaning of Sections 44 and 45 of the Arbitration Act.
In Ashi Limited v. Union of India, and Italian Thai Development Company Limited v. MCM Services Limited, the Court reiterated that an arbitral tribunal could not award past and pendente-lite interest under Section 31(7) of the Arbitration Act when there was a specific bar thereagainst in the contract between the parties.
In Rajesh Gupta v. Mohit Lata Sunda, the Court impleaded a non-signatory subsequent purchaser as a party to an arbitration inasmuch as it found that through its purchase of the concerned property, the said party had stepped into the shoes of one of the original signatory parties and was the equivalent of an assignee. In a similar vein, in Distribution Logistics Private Limited v. BPB Builders Private Limited, the Court held that once a third-party had taken over the business of a signatory-party and the document by which the business was transferred made a specific reference to the earlier agreement containing an arbitration clause with the signatory counter-party, then the third-party would step into the shoes of the original signatory-party, and would be entitled to maintain an arbitration against the signatory counter-party.
In Jupiter Rubber Private Limited v. Union of India, while upholding the levy of liquidated damages (‘LD’), the Court held that an arbitral tribunal was entitled to reduce the rate of LD from the contractual rate to a reasonable level especially when the damage caused was not capable of being proved. The Court further observed that an arbitral tribunal, in terms of Section 31(7)(a) of the Arbitration Act, had ample power to award interest even when the contract between the parties was silent as to such an entitlement.
In National Highways Authority of India v. Hindustan Construction Company Limited, the Court held that a determination as to deemed approval of a component of the work upon exercise of certain authority by a designated entity, was a matter which fell purely within the realm of interpretation of the contract and would not be lightly interfered with by a Court in exercise of limited jurisdiction under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act.
In Shon Randhawa v. Ramesh Wangal, the Court observed that inasmuch as the grant of relief of specific performance was a discretionary and equitable remedy, when the arbitral tribunal had provided cogent reasons to decline the same by observing that such a course of action would result in the resurrection of an untenable partnership between parties whose relationship had completely broken down, then the said conclusion would not be lightly interfered with by a Court in exercise of limited jurisdiction under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act.
In Rategain Travel Technologies Private Limited v. Ujjwal Suri, the Court referred to the order passed by the Supreme Court in the matter of In re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, and observed that in light of the same, in all cases where the time-limit for passing of the award had expired during the period of the lockdown, a petition under Section 29A of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, was not required to be filed and the time stood automatically extended as a result of the order of the Supreme Court.
In AVR Enterprises v. Union of India, the Court held that the pre-deposit requirement under Section 19 of the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 (‘MSMED Act’) would apply only to proceedings initiated under section 18 of the MSMED Act, and would not apply to an award published by an arbitral tribunal appointed by the parties de-hors the mechanism under the MSMED Act.
In AAIC Builders Solutions Ltd. v. Archaeological Survey of India, the Court held that when there was a reference in the eventually concluded tender to certain standard-form terms and conditions which, in turn, contained an arbitration clause, then an arbitration agreement would undoubtedly be said to exist between the parties.
In Ashwani Minda v. U-Shin Limited, the Court reiterated that in the case of an international commercial arbitration seated outside India and with the applicable rules being that of an arbitral institution located in the said foreign country, the applicability of Part I of the Arbitration Act would be excluded. The Court further held that having approached the emergency arbitrator for urgent relief and having failed in the same, the party concerned was estopped under the doctrine of election from trying to maintain a subsequent petition under Section 9 of the Arbitration Act for the very same relief.
In Cardio Fitness India Private Limited v. Sportsfit World Private Limited, the Court reiterated that even if a contract could be said to be null and void on account of an alleged fraud, the arbitral tribunal would still be couched with the jurisdiction to arbitrate upon the validity of the contract, owing to the arbitration clause contained therein having an independent existence.
In Turner Morrison Limited v. Rani Parvati Devi, the Court reiterated that when there was a specified interest rate in the contract, then the arbitral tribunal was bound to award the same without any reduction in the pre-reference and the pendente lite stage.
In Galaxy Infra and Engineering Private Limited v. Pravin Electricals Private Limited, while reiterating that an arbitration agreement need not necessarily be signed by the parties, the Court found that the various e-mails exchanged between the parties had, in fact, resulted in a concluded arbitration clause in terms of Section 7 of the Arbitration Act.
In Geoenpro Petroleum Limited v. Geophysical Institute of Israel, the Court observed that the award of a claim in the nature of a commission, which was completely de-hors the payment terms in the contract, could not be sustained, and the finding of the arbitral tribunal in this regard was liable to be interfered with.
In Tata Advanced Systems Limited v. Telexcell Information Systems Limited, the Court observed that mere non-mentioning of the relevant provision viz. Section 17 of the Arbitration Act, would by itself not be fatal to the validity of certain interim directions passed by an arbitral tribunal. However, the Court further held that if the defect was one of substance and not form i.e., the essential parameters of prima-facie case, irreparable injury, dissipation of assets etc. were not even pleaded in the application, then the arbitral tribunal would be completely amiss in granting the interim relief.
In Mcarbon Tech Innovation Private Limited v. Rajesh Razdan, the Court held that when the arbitral tribunal had taken into account all the relevant circumstances and the relevant underlying provision i.e., Order XXXVIII Rule 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (‘CPC’) and had come to a clear prima-facie finding that the respondent was suffering heavy loss and was seemingly on the course of winding up its business, then the discretion adopted by the arbitral tribunal in this regard in ordering certain security to be provided pending the adjudication of the disputes was not susceptible to interference.
In Sirius Global Limited v. South Eastern Railway, the Court reiterated that the statutory arbitration mechanism under the MSMED Act would override the arbitration clause in the contract between the parties.
In Score Information Technology Limited v. Central Organization, Ex-Serviceman Contributory Health Scheme, the Court held that the interpretation of a term of a contract as to whether the same merely provided for a facilitative role or imposed a more onerous executory obligation on a party was something which fell squarely within the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal, and would not be lightly interfered with by a Court in exercise of limited jurisdiction under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act.
In Parsvnath Developers Limited v. Rail Land Development Authority, while observing that there is no bar in law to multiple invocations of an arbitration clause, the Court held in the context of jurisdiction under Section 11 of the Arbitration Act that issues of res judicata or estoppel or of claims being allegedly barred under the principles of Order II Rule 2 of the CPC would touch upon the merits of the claims, and could accordingly only be decided by the arbitral tribunal.
In National Highways Authority of India v. IJM-Gayatri JV, the Court set aside the grant of a claim for loss of profit in a prolonged contract inasmuch as it found that none of the essential parameters of establishing the said claim had either been pleaded or substantiated before the arbitral tribunal.
In Magic Eye Developers Private Limited v. Green Edge Infra Private Limited, while allowing an application under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act and relegating the parties to arbitration, the Court noted the fact that the non-signatory defendants were also group companies of the signatory defendants and that the concerned averments in relation to the non-signatory defendants had not been contested at all by the said non-signatory defendants in their relevant pleadings.
In Nangia Construction India Private Limited v. National Building Construction Corporation, it was held that even though the Court would largely defer to the wisdom of the arbitral tribunal, the same would not extend to a conclusion which was based purely on speculative reasons and without any supporting evidence.
In Inter Ads Exhibition Private Limited v. Busworld International Cooperative Vennootschap Met Beperkte Anasprakelijkheid, the Court reiterated that an injunction under Section 9 of the Arbitration Act could not be granted to revive or restore a contract which is specifically determinable in nature, and which has been duly terminated by the counter-party.
In V4 Infrastructure Private Limited v. Jindal Biochem Private Limited, the Court while reduced the awarded rate of interest awarded from 18% to 9% inter-alia on the ground that the claimant’s initial main prayer was for a grant of specific performance but which was midway changed to one exclusively for refund of the earnest money, while the very same claimant had declined the offer for refund of the said amount at an initial stage in the proceedings.
BANKING AND FINANCE
In Leighton India Contractors Private Limited v. DLF Limited, the Court held that an exceptional case of special equities justifying restraint of invocation of unconditional bank guarantees was made out when the action of encashment was manifestly unjust in the totality of circumstances emanating from the clauses of the contract, the clauses in the bank guarantees and the correspondence between the parties.
In Halliburton Offshore Services Inc. v. Vedanta Limited, while reiterating that the scope of interference with invocation of an unconditional bank guarantee was very limited, the Court further held that the outbreak of a pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for non-performance of a contract when the contractual deadlines admittedly stood breached much before the outbreak.
In Aspen Buildtech Limited v. Epicuria Gallery Private Limited, the Court held that when a plaintiff files an application under Order 23 Rule 1(1) & (3) of the CPC seeking to withdraw the suit with liberty to file a fresh suit, then the application had to be either allowed or dismissed in-toto, and the plaintiff could not be permitted/directed to withdraw the suit without the concomitant grant of liberty to file a fresh suit.
In Jasmeet Singh Marwah v. Nuway Organic Naturals India Limited, while considering an application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC for rejection of a plaint on the ground of limitation, the Court held that in terms of the limited scope of scrutiny envisaged under the provision, the plaintiff’s assertion in the plaint regarding the date of knowledge of the sale deed which was sought to be impugned in the suit would be accepted as being sufficient to set the matter down for trial.
In Negolice India Limited v. Prabhat Bhaskar / Prabhatbhaskar.com, the Court held that when the identification of the exact amount of land occupied by the plaintiff was relevant to determine if the relevant publication, which was alleged to be defamatory, was factually correct or not, then the provisions of Order XI Rule 12 and 14 of CPC would be squarely attracted and the impugned order for discovery and production of the entire sale deed and site plan of the concerned plot of land was justified.
In Neeru Dhir. v. Kamal Kishore Dhir, while setting aside the order of rejection of a suit under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC, the Court held that when there was a controversy as to whether the suit premises was purchased in the name of one party but allegedly from the exclusive contributions made his/her family member for the benefit of all the family members, the real test would be the source of the funds, the nature and status of possession of the property after purchase, the overall conduct of the parties after the property was acquired etc. The Court opined that it would therefore be imperative to weigh the evidence and the matter had to be set down to trial.
In Ram Bhateri Sharma v. Mahabir Steel Rolling Mills, the importance of a Court being mindful of connected litigations between the parties and engaging with the same before arriving at a determinative finding was emphasized, so as to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and conflicting findings in the future.
In Baldev Singh v. Ram Chander, the Court, after a review of the conflicting judicial precedent on the issue, held that at a stage before an application praying for permission to withdraw a suit or an appeal is finally decided, the Court could not be said to be bereft of jurisdiction to consider an objection against the withdrawal of the suit or the appeal and the mere filing of an application would not by itself defeat this inherent jurisdiction.
COMPANY LAW AND INSOLVENCY
In Kuber Securities Limited v. C.R.B. Capital Markets Limited (In Liquidation), the Court indicated that once a particular application seeking a certain relief before the Company Court had been unconditionally withdrawn, then a subsequent application seeking the very same relief as in the original application would be barred by the principles enshrined under Order XXIII Rule 1 of the CPC.
In Monsanto Holdings Private Limited v. Competition Commission of India, the Court held that the Competition Commission had the requisite jurisdiction to examine an agreement so as to come to a conclusion as to whether its scope and purport was limited to legitimately restraining infringement of patents protecting the rights granted to a patentee, or whether the same was onerous and anti-competitive. The Court further clarified that Section 3(5) of the Competition Act, 2002 does not permit a patentee to include onerous and unfair conditions under the guise of protecting its rights. Additionally, the Court held that wherever there is a statutory regulator specific to the field, then there could be no general rule that a complaint must be first brought before the said regulator, and it could not be said that any examination of a complaint by the CCI would be contingent on the findings of the regulator.
In Tata Sponge Iron Private Limited v. Union of India, the Court held that in the light of the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution, even a decision pertaining to the encashment of bank guarantees by a public authority must be informed by reason and must engage with the factors brought out by the aggrieved party in its reply to the show-cause issued by the public authority concerned.
In Metro Waste Handling Private Limited v. SDMC, the Court held that though a writ petition for recovery of money may not lie in the ordinary course, however, where the factual position was undisputed and where the collection of money was without authority of law, then the power to refund can always be exercised.
In Sarmukh Singh v. GNCTD, the Court observed that even though the strict rigor of Order II Rule 2 of the CPC does not apply to writ proceedings, it was impermissible for a party to repeatedly file writ petitions containing similar facts and averments, after confining and limiting the relief sought in the earlier proceedings.
In Dheeraj Kumar v. Union of India, while reiterating that a claim of compensation in case of a breach of public duty by an instrumentality of the State resulting in deprivation of life would be maintainable under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Court directed grant of compensation for the grave injury suffered by the petitioner leaving him in a vegetative state on account of the improper and negligent tying together of police-barricades resulting in a serious accident.
In Kanak Exports v. Union of India, while reiterating that there was no right to negative equality under Article 14 of the Constitution, the Court further held that an entity which had already suffered an adverse order in relation to its lack of entitlement under a particular government scheme, and which order had attained finality after several levels of appeal, could not be allowed to re-agitate its eligibility under the guise of a subsequent revised application.
In Apeejay School, Sheikh Sarai v. Office of District Magistrate (South), the Court held that a serious and debilitating action of sealing of the premises of a school without any prior show-cause notice or opportunity of hearing was singularly unsustainable.
In Sudhakar Tiwari v. New India Insurance Limited, the Court reiterated that a writ petition impugning the denial of an insurance claim is maintainable in certain circumstances and it could not be said as a general rule that the parties were required to be relegated to alternate remedies.
In Binty v. Union of India, the Court while reiterating the separation of powers, held that it could not grant a direction in a public interest litigation which would amount to bringing forth an entirely new law and creating consequential obligations, merely on the ground that there is a legislative void.
In Shri Rajesh Kumar Gulati v. National Agricultural, the Court reiterated that in terms of Section 60 of the Contract Act, when there was no specific instruction as to the exact identity of the debt against which a particular payment was to be adjusted, then it was entirely for the creditor to apply its discretion and to adjust the same against any element of the debt due to it.
In Amit Bhargava v. The State (NCT of Delhi), the Court observed that taking into consideration the uncertainty surrounding the virulence of COVID 19 and the conflicting medical opinion on the gestation period of the virus, it could not be said in all cases that the period of home quarantine of a suspected COVID-19 patient should be limited to 14 days alone. The Court further noted that a show-cause notice was not required to be issued to a person for alleged breach of quarantine or lock-down instructions prior to the issuance of a simpliciter warning notice in the absence of any civil or criminal consequences threatened in the latter.
In Lalit Kumar Gupta v. North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Court requested the Central Administrative Tribunal (‘CAT’) to examine the feasibility of commencing hearings through video-conferencing so that the matters of urgent nature which fell within the CAT’s jurisdiction could be taken up without further delay.
In Mahanagar Gas Limited v. Petroleum & Natural Gas Regulatory Board, the Court directed that no course of action could be taken against the petitioner, which was an appellant before the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (‘APTEL’), against an order of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (‘PNGRB’) till the Petroleum and Natural Gas Bench of the APTEL became functional again.
In Sanjay Saxena v. Vikram Vasudeva, though having entertained an application for review on the ground of connectivity issues during the virtual-court hearing, the Court ultimately rejected the appeal on the merits with exemplary costs, and commented adversely on the conduct of the party and the counsel during the virtual-court hearing.
In Anil K. Aggarwal v. Union of India, the Court refused to pass a blanket order requiring public sector enterprises engaged in non-essential goods and services to completely shut operations on account of the Covid-19 outbreak, and observed that it would not ordinarily enter into the domain of the categorization of an essential or non-essential service during the pandemic.
In O.P. Gupta v. Union of India, the Court observed that grossly unreasonable and onerous restrictions on inter-state movement imposed on account of the Covid-19 outbreak would be violative of Articles 19(1)(d) and 301 of the Constitution of India.
In S.K. Rout v. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Union of India, the Court while turning down a prayer to extend hazard and risk pay to health workers deployed on Covid-19 duty reiterated that it could not grant a direction in a public interest litigation which would amount to bringing forth an entirely new law and creating consequential obligations.
In Hansraj v. State of Delhi, the Court directed the district courts not to insist on the requirement of filing of the signed/attested vakalatnama, signed and attested affidavits or applications in the case of bail matters where the applicant was in jail and/or of the family members of such an applicant were residing out of Delhi.
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE
In Madhu Koda v. State Through CBI, the Court held that the repeal of Section 13 by the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Act, 2018 (‘PC Amendment Act’) would not have the effect of excluding the said offence with retrospective effect. The Court further observed that that mere arbitrary or unreasonable exercise of official power to confer any benefit or pecuniary advantage to an unconnected party, may be not be sufficient to impute that the exercise of such power is culpable misconduct under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) of the PC Act, and that where the concerned third person, who has acquired a valuable thing or pecuniary advantage, was unconnected with the public servant, it would be difficult to accept that the conduct of the public servant is culpable.
In Pankaj v. State, the Court observed that where the investigating officer had merely asked the complainant to identify the culprit amongst the persons in a Test Identification Parade (‘TIP’) proceedings and there was no evidence of the fact that the identification of the accused was specifically done at the behest of the said officer, then there was no illegality in the said identification.
In Rahul @ Mayank v. State, while rejecting an appeal against conviction for the offences under Sections 376(2)(n)/354-C/506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’),, the Court observed that even where it could be demonstrated that the prosecutrix had willingly accompanied the accused to the place of the incident, in this case a guesthouse, it would not ipso facto indicate her consent for the sexual intercourse which transpired thereafter. The Court observed that various factors such as the consistent testimony of the prosecutrix in this regard as also the fact that the statement of the accused that he has deleted the video of the sexual intercourse was found false inasmuch as the same was recovered from his mobile phone, would be enough to sustain the case of the prosecution.
In State (GNCT of Delhi) v. Mukim Ali @ Jumman Ali, the Court in relation to Section 308 of the IPC held that in order to establish whether the offender had the intention or knowledge to commit the act in question, it was necessary to not only see the nature of injuries and the weapons used but also the surrounding circumstances.
In Okafor Chukwuka Ugochukwu v. Narcotics Control Bureau, the Court overturned a conviction under Sections 21(c), 23(c) and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (‘NDPS Act’) on account of a litany of grave errors and infirmities in the prosecution’s case, including the failure to establish that the integrity of the sample was maintained. The Court reiterated that the prosecution was required to establish the complete chain as to the movement of the sample in order to establish that the same had remained intact. The Court further held that a confessional statement is required to be tested for its evidentiary value by examining whether the same could be said to be voluntary. The Court further observed that the fact that the accused had not retracted their statements immediately on being produced before a magistrate, when they admittedly did not have any legal assistance, could not be held against them when it was otherwise admitted that they had retracted their statement on the very first occasion after they were provided legal assistance.
In Naresh Tyagi v. State of NCT of Delhi, the Court reiterated that in spite of Section 18 and 18 A of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, where it was apparent that no prima-facie case is made out, or it appears that the complaint is malicious or mala-fide or a person apprehends false implication and arrest, pre-arrest bail can be granted under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘Cr.P.C.’).
The Court in The State (NCT of Delhi) v. Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, reiterated once the Court deems it appropriate to grant bail to an accused and thus, allow him some freedom through the concession of bail during trial, it would require very cogent and overwhelming circumstances for the Court to withdraw that concession. The Court also called upon the government to consider modern technology-driven tracking systems to keep track of under-trails similar, to the one used in certain foreign jurisdictions. The Court further noted that though the process of extradition of the accused took a long time, the fact that the co-accused had been on bail since the year 2000 and even the charges not having been framed against the accused till date, combined with the prevalence of COVID-19 was sufficient to grant relief to the accused. The Court also, after a conspectus of the relevant precedent on the issue, enumerated the following principles to be kept in mind while adjudicating on the question of setting aside a grant of bail:
“a) Where the court granting bail ignores relevant material and takes into account irrelevant material of substantial nature and not trivial nature;
b) Where the court granting bail overlooks the position of the accused qua the victim especially if the accused is in some position of authority such as a policeman and there is prima facie, a misuse of position and power, including over the victim;
c) Where the court granting bail ignores the past criminal record and conduct of the accused while granting bail
d) Where bail has been granted on untenable grounds;
e) Where the order granting bail suffers from serious infirmities resulting in miscarriage of justice;
f) Where the grant of bail was not appropriate in the first place, given the very serious nature of the charges against the accused which disentitles him for bail and thus cannot be justified;
g) When the order granting bail is apparently whimsical, capricious and perverse in the facts of the given case.”
In Firoz Khan v. State (NCT of Delhi), the Court held that the decision whether to grant bail to an accused cannot be seen from the prism of sending a message to society, and that the said decision must only be driven by germane considerations such as whether the process of investigation and prosecution would be aided in any manner by keeping the accused in judicial custody. The Court further noted that it needs to be borne in mind that the years lost by an under-trial could not be returned to the accused if he/she were to be ultimately found to be innocent.
In Malvinder Mohan Singh v. State, the Court rejected an application for bail, while reiterating the criteria laid down for grant of bail for undertrial prisoner on account of the COVID-19 outbreak as determined by the High-Power Committee of the High Court of Delhi vide minutes of meeting dated 18.04.2020.
In Jahan Singh v. CBI- The State, while overturning a judgment of conviction for the offence under Sections 7 and 15 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (‘PC Act’) the Court inter-alia observed that a major contradiction appearing in relation to the date on which the alleged demand was made, as compared to the case set up in the charge sheet and the evidence recorded during trial would be fatal to the case of the prosecution.
In Sai Girdhar Raj Kumar v. Arun Kapoor, the Court held that an executive director could not claim to be immune to proceedings under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 particularly when there was nothing on record to demonstrate that he had resigned from the accused company, and which resignation had been accepted prior to the issuance of the cheque in question.
In Sandeep Deshwal alias Sanu v. State of NCT of Delhi, the Court reiterated that a proceeding under Section 8 of the PC Act could be maintained against a private person as the only accused, and it was not mandatory that a public servant should also be specifically named as a co-accused.
In Sita Ram v. CBI, the Court overturned a conviction under the PC Act inasmuch as it found that the solidarity testimony of the complainant to prove the essential elements of demand and acceptance was riddled with contradictions, as also in view of the dubious and motivated role played by the main investigating officer in the case.
In Pawan v. State, while reiterating that a knife, of whatsoever size is a deadly weapon within the meaning of Section 397 of the IPC, the Court specifically recorded that a knife of a total length of 37 centimeters, out of which the length of its blade was of 27 centimeters, and length of the handle was 10 centimeters, was definitely a deadly weapon.
In Rajinder @ Raju v. State, the Court held that when the alibi of the accused as regards the absence from the site of the incident in the form of a biometric attendance record was specifically contradicted by an injured eye-witness who had ascribed a specific role to him, then the matter would require trial and the relief of quashing of the FIR could not be granted under such circumstances.
In Aditya Kumar Bhandari v. Serious Fraud Investigation Office, the Court while granting bail to a director of a company that has been accused of financial fraud, observed that the said director’s overall lack of involvement in the transaction in question as also the lack of evidence demonstrating any unjust enrichment on account of the transaction, would entitle the said person to grant of bail.
In Sandeep v. State through CBI, the Court reiterated that when there were triable issues arising out of diametrically opposite factual allegations, then a challenge to an order framing charges could not be interfered with at a preliminary stage.
In Shyam Kishor v. The State, the Court reiterated that in spite of the presumption in law of the culpability of the husband in a case of dowry death under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, this would not operate as a complete bar and the Court would still be entitled to examine relevant parameters and release the accused on bail, if a case was made out in this regard.
In Mohd. Nashruddin Khan v. Union of India, the Court allowed an amendment to a Habeas Corpus petition laying a pre- execution/pre-arrest challenge to a detention order and permitted the addition of a challenge to the notification issued under Section 7(1) (b) of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (‘COFEPOSA’) inasmuch as it found that the said notification was not entirely alien to the subject matter of the petition and on the contrary was inter-linked to the detention order issued under Section 3(1) of the COFEPOSA.
In Subhash v. State, the Court reiterated that mere suggestions put to a witness during a cross-examination would not amount to substantive evidence.
In Anil Mittal v. State (NCT of Delhi), while examining the scope and ambit of Section 267 of the Cr.P.C., the Court observed that an order passed under the said provision required the concerned officer to produce the accused before the concerned Court only if the said officer was entitled to keep the accused in custody under some valid authority.
DISABILITY LAW AND MENTAL HEALTH
In Bhavya Nain v. High Court of Delhi, while recognizing that bi-polar disorder was a serious, lifelong and permanent mental illness that could at best be suppressed with medication but not completely cured, the Court further held that the entire purpose behind the legislature providing for reservations for persons with mental illness was to ensure that they are able to lead a life with dignity, and merely because the concerned person may require lifelong medication and treatment to manage and overcome the illness, the same could not be a ground to deny him/her an opportunity to avail of the otherwise available post in question.
In Divyesh J. Pathak v. National Board of Examinations, the Court reiterated that the doctrines of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel are not strictly applicable to the field of education, and certain relevant aspects such as tenure of training etc. could be amended if it could be demonstrated that the decision was taken on account of an unprecedented and unforeseen event.
In Ojasvini Agrawal v. Union of India, the Court while noting the distinction between possession of requisite qualifications and submission of proof of possession of requisite qualifications, held that being unable to complete an internship on the basis of the fear of contracting COVID-19 would not be a ground to extend an otherwise mandatory deadline particularly when the student concerned did not actually contract COVID-19.
In Ramjas School v. Directorate of Education, the Court held that when a school had been allotted land without any clause in the allotment letter requiring the school to take prior approval of the Directorate of Education (‘DoE’), before increasing its fees in any academic session, then no such prior approval could be mandated. The Court, however, further clarified that the DoE would have the jurisdiction to interfere with such an increase in fees if it came to a positive finding, after following the requisite statuary mechanism in this regard, that the proposed increase in fee would result in profiteering.
In Aarzoo Aggarwal v. University of Delhi, the Court observed that while adjudicating a case pertaining to use of unfair means in an examination, the past merit of the student is completely irrelevant, particularly when the malpractice was further compounded by rank suppression of relevant facts before the Court.
In Bhavya Arora v. Union of India, the Court observed that the breach of a deadline to fill an online form for participation in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (‘NEET’) could not be sought to be overcome by reference to relaxations provided much later in time on account of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Shri Ram College of Commerce v. Sahil, the Court held that when there was a specific stipulation in the relevant regulations that the seats reserved for the SC/ST category would be filled in by SC/ST candidates only, and that in the absence of any such candidates the seats would be left vacant, then, the OBC candidates could not be directed to be accommodated even if there were vacant seats in the SC/ST category.
INSURANCE AND MOTOR VEHICLES ACT
In Sudhakar Tiwari v. New India Insurance Limited, the Court while reiterating that exclusion clauses in insurance contracts are to be restrictively construed, observed that it was not an uncommon phenomenon that cancer, even if successfully treated, could subsequently recur in another part of the body. The Court, therefore, held that the insurance company could not seek to avoid coverage by vaguely stating, without any certainty or correlation and in the admitted absence of the disease in the interregnum, that the recurrent cancer was an ailment for which the insured had symptoms prior to opting for enhancement of the policy.
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.