The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments passed in June 2020
Supreme Court Lawyers Digest

The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments passed in June 2020

A summary of Judgments passed by the Supreme Court in June, 2020.

The Lawyer's Digest is a collection of concise summaries of all the judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India over the course of a month.

Topics have been sub-divided into areas of law including arbitration, criminal law, consumer law, service and administrative law, etc. for ease of reading.

Here are the summaries of judgments passed in June 2020.

Arbitration

In M/s. Centrotrade Minerals and Metals Inc v. Hindustan Copper Limited, the Court brought an end to the Centrotrade series of judgments by rendering its third and final judgment [earlier ones at (2006) 11 SCC 245, (2017) 2 SCC 228]. The issue before the Court was whether the Respondent had adequate opportunity to present its case before the Arbitrator. Analysing Article V(1)(b) of the New York Convention and following Vijay Karia 2020 (3) SCALE 494, the Court held that Hindustan Copper Limited had adequate opportunity to present its case and an ex parte award could be enforced. [Key Words: Section 48(1)(b) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996] [Coram: R.F. Nariman, J., S. Ravindra Bhatt, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

Criminal Law

In D. Devaraja v. Owais Sabeer Hussain, the question before the Court was whether the High Court ought to have exercised its powers under Section 482 CrPC instead of directing the accused-Appellant policemen to apply for discharge before the Trial Court when admittedly there was no sanction to prosecute under Section 197 CrPC. The Court held that the test for ascertaining whether sanction is necessary or not is “whether the act is totally unconnected with official duty or whether there is a reasonable connection with the official duty.” Noting that there were divergent decisions of the Court on the question of the stage at which “the Trial Court has to examine whether sanction has been obtained and if not whether the criminal proceedings should be nipped in the bud”, the Court held that “whether sanction is necessary or not may have to be determined at any stage of the proceedings” because even though the complaint may not disclose whether the act constituting the offence was done or purported to be done in the discharge of official duty, but the facts subsequently ascertained may establish necessity for sanction. [Key words: Sections 197 and 245 of CrPC, Section 170 of Karnataka Police Act 1963] [Coram: R. Banumathi, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]

In Subhash Sahebrao Deshmukh v. Satish AtmaramTalekar, the Court relied upon Manharibhai Muljibhai Kakadia (2012) 10 SCC 517 to state that in a revision petition preferred by the complainant before the Additional Sessions Judge challenging Magistrate’s dismissal of complaint under Section 203/200/202, the accused is entitled to be heard at the revision stage under Section 401(2) CrPC [Key words: Sections 156(3),173, 190, 202, 203, 398, 399, 401CrPC] [Coram: Navin Sinha, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]

In Jinofer Kawasji Bhujwala v. State of Gujarat, in case of an FIR involving offences under Sections 406, 409, 420, 465, 468, 471 and 120B of the IPC read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Supreme Court granted bail to the Appellant, on the grounds that the trial had not commenced since six months and that a period of nine months had passed from the date of filing of the charge sheet. The arguments of the prosecution around the potential threat to national security and tempering of witnesses were also rejected. An additional condition of surrender of the passport of the Appellant was imposed. [Key words : Regular Bail, Delay in commencement of trial] [Coram : Ashok Bhushan, J., M.R. Shah, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

In S. Kasi v. State Through Inspector of Police, the issue was whether the Appellant was entitled for grant of bail as per Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. due to non-submission of charge sheet within the prescribed period by the prosecution. The Court held that the prosecution can file a charge sheet after 60 / 90 days, but without filing a charge sheet, they cannot detain an accused beyond the said period. While granting default bail to the accused, the Supreme Court set aside the view of the Single Judge that the restrictions, which have been imposed during period of lockdown by the Government of India, should not give right to an accused to pray for grant of default bail even though charge sheet has not been filed within the time prescribed under Section 167(2) of the Cr.P.C. [Key words : Regular bail, Charge Sheet, period of lockdown] [Coram : Ashok Bhushan, J., M.R. Shah, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

In Somasundaram @Somu v. The State Rep. By The Deputy Commissioner of Police, a three judge bench considered six appeals against conviction where a previous two judge bench differed qua one of the appeals in (2016) 6 SCC 355.

The brief facts of the case, according to the prosecution, was that A1 and A2 were close associates, A12 was the wife of A2. A3 belonged to the AIADMK Party and all the other accused were henchmen of A3. In November 2011, at A1’s instance, A12 spoke to A3 over the phone while imitating Sasikala. A12, imitating Sasikala and representing herself to be Sasikala, asked A3 to help A1 in carrying out the abduction of the deceased for money, and to murder the deceased if the money was not paid consequent to abduction.

In an elaborate 205-page judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions while reiterating the following principles of law:

  1. Abetment is a substantive offence and its punishment varies according to circumstances. If the act which is abetted is done in pursuance to the abetment, the punishment is graver [refer to Section 109 IPC] as the punishment is for the offence which is committed based on the abetment. The offence of abetment is punishable even if the act which is abetted is not committed as stated in Sections 115 and 116 IPC. There are several other aspects relating to offences including Section 114 IPC which provide cumulative punishment for the act abetted and for the act done.

  2. The core ingredients of abetment are contained in Section 107 IPC: instigation, conspiracy or the intentional aiding by any act or illegal omission, and finally the doing of the thing. The law does not permit the abettor to escape punishment for abetment even if the actual player who commits the offence is not criminally liable for the actual act which results in the commission of an offence [refer to illustrations in Explanation III of Section 108 IPC]. Thus, there need not be meeting of minds between all the persons involved in a conspiracy and it is sufficient if a person is engaged in the conspiracy following which the offence is committed [refer to Explanation V to Section 108 of the IPC]. Ergo, it is not necessary that the persons involved in the conspiracy even know one another’s identity. There can be multiple persons liable merely on the basis of their guilty minds and acts/omissions.

  3. The dichotomy between Section 133 and illustration (b) of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 was no longer res integra. Authoritative judicial pronouncements have cautioned against conviction based on uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice, as a rule of prudence. The corroboration must be in relation to the material particulars of the testimony of an accomplice, but not very material circumstance needs to be independently confirmed.

  4. An accomplice may become an approver under Section 306 CrPC- resulting in exposure under Section 308 CrPC.

  5. Statements under Section 164 CrPC did not constitute substantial evidence and can only be used for contradiction and corroboration.

  6. There was a clear difference between kidnapping and abduction. In case of abduction, as with any other offence, there could be the actual offender, who abducts. Any other person could be roped in with the aid of Section 120A of the IPC or Section 109 of the IPC (abetting). Also, principle of vicarious liability, under Section 34 of the IPC or a charge under Section 149 of the IPC, if proved, could visit another with criminal liability.

  7. The accused cannot contend that non-production of the deceased’s body was fatal to the prosecution when they have been proved to have not only committed the act of murder but also “attempted to efface the most important evidence relating to the same, viz., the corpus delicti”. This was because the abduction followed by murder in appropriate cases can enable a court to presume that the abductor is the murderer. The principle is that after abduction, the abductor would be in a position to explain what happened to his victim and if he failed to do so, it is only natural and logical that an irresistible inference may be drawn that he has done away with the hapless victim. This was in line with Section 106 Indian Evidence Act.

  8. The Trial court was wrong to presume that the there was no criminal liability fastened to the acts of A12 as it can be presumed that the duty of Indian wives was to accede to their husbands even if the husbands were to commit criminal acts.

[Key words: Sections 120A, 107, 108, 109, 141 and 149 IPC, Section 133 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, accomplice evidence, accomplice, approver, abetment, instigation, Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in a criminal SLP, Sections 201, 347, 362, 364, 365, 387 IPC] [Coram: R.F. Nariman, J., K.M. Joseph, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

Consumer, Motor Vehicles and Insurance Law

In Surendra Kumar Bhilawe v. The New India Assurance Company, the Court noted the difference between the definition of owner in Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and Section 2(19) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1939, and stated that while the latter prescribed that an owner was a person who was in possession of a motor vehicle, the 1988 Act defined an owner as the person in whose name the registration existed. The NCDRC’s decision was reversed on the ground that even on the date of accident, i.e. more than 3 years after the alleged transfer, insurance premiums were paid by the Appellant, insurance policy was issued in the Appellant’s name, there existed no “No Objection” from the financier bank to the change in owner name. [Key words: meaning of owner, Sections 19 and 20 of Sale of Goods Act 1930, Sections 10, 23 and 24 of the Indian Contract Act 1872, 157 of Motor Vehicles Act 1988] [Coram: R. Banumathi, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]

In M.H. Maheshwari & Ors v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. & Anr, the Court reversed the High Court judgment inasmuch as it contravened paragraph 59.3 of Pranay Sethi (2017) 6 SCC 680 when it could not have reduced the compensation by granting future prospects at 15% while accepting the age group of the deceased between 40 and 50 years. Moreover, the High Court had maintained the multiplier of 13, as directed by the Tribunal, but reduced the compensation only on ground of the deceased’s age. [Key words: Sarla Verma, Pranay Sethi, multiplier, future prospects, age of the deceased][Coram: N.V. Ramana, J., R. Subhash Reddy, J., Surya Kant, J.]

In Rajendra Singh and Others v. National Insurance Company Limited and Others, the Court disagreed with the High Court in the context of the motor vehicles insurance claim inasmuch as the Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s decision of deducting 50% towards contributory negligence simply because the horse cart in which the deceased were travelling was in the middle of the road. The Court stated that the deceased persons could not be held liable for the horse cart being in the middle of the road if they were mere passengers. Even though income of the first deceased (thirty year old mother of the second deceased/ten year old daughter) could not be ascertained, the Court fixed the notional income at INR 5000 per month on account of gratuitous services rendered in the household. [Key words: notional income of minor child, notional income of housewife, Lata Wadhwa, contributory negligence, future prospects][Coram: Navin Sinha, J., B.R. Gavai, J.]

In United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Satinder Kaur @ Satwinder Kaur &Ors, the Supreme Court directed all Tribunals and High Court to award compensation for loss of consortium, being a legitimate conventional head, and not award compensation towards loss of love and affection as a separate head. The Court held that the Constitution Bench in Pranay Sethi had recognised only three conventional heads under which compensation can be awarded: loss of estate, loss of consortium, funeral expenses. The Court reversed the judgment of the MACT on the ground that the deceased’s income could not be assumed to be constant over a 14-year period while living in Doha, Qatar. The Court also reversed the High Court judgment for relying upon a letter purportedly written by the employer stating the deceased’s salary to the Counsellor, New Zealand Consulate when the same was not attested in accordance with Diplomatic & Consular Offices Oaths and Fees Act 1948. The letter was not relied upon as the employer’s name did not match and the salary was expressed in USD even though the employer was a Qatari company. Contrary to Sarla Verma, the Bench held that 50% of the income ought to be deducted and not 1/4th as the deceased had to maintain a separate establishment in a foreign country with high cost of living. [Key words: conventional heads, Magma General Insurance (2018) 8 SCC 130] [Coram: S. Abdul Nazeer, J., Indu Malhotra, J., Aniruddha Bose, J.]

Labour law, Service Law and Administrative Law

In Nirbhay Kumar v. State of Bihar etc. etc., writ petitions were filed under Article 32, seeking appointment to the post of Sub-Inspector of Police in the State of Bihar, claiming parity with 133 candidates who were appointed under earlier orders of the Supreme Court itself by subjecting them only to the medical test and not the physical test. Rejecting the Writ Petition, the Court held that the earlier order passed by it regarding appointment of 133 candidates was passed in peculiar background in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 142, and the same shall not be treated as a precedent. Therefore, the Writ Petitioners were not permitted to take benefit of the said earlier order. [Key words: Article 142, precedent] [Coram : Ashok Bhushan, J., M.R. Shah, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

Constitutional Law

In Ficus Pax Private Ltd. &Ors v. Union of India, the question before the Court was whether the MHA order dated 29.03.2020 passed under Section 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act 2005, compelling employers to make full payment of their employees’ wages till 17.05.2020 even though the establishments were under closure due to the lockdown, was sustainable under Articles 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution. Adjourning the matter to the last week of July, the Court directed that the parties negotiate to see if adversarial litigation could be avoided and further directed that the Union of India file more complete affidavits. The Court noted that vide its order dated 04.06.2020, it had already directed that no coercive action be taken against the employers pursuant to the Order dated 29.03.2020. [Key words: Disaster Management Act, Corona Lockdown, compulsory pay] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., M.R. Shah, J.]

Specific Performance, Contract, Code of Civil Procedure, Transfer of Property, Limitation, Court Fee, Evidence

In Shamita Singha & Anr. v. Rashmi Ahluwalia & Anr., the Court transferred a civil suit (praying for partition of the family properties) instituted prior in time before the Delhi High Court to the Bombay High Court where the Petitioners had filed a testamentary suit later in time. Despite agreeing that the probate court (Bombay High Court) was not competent to determine the title of a property, the suit was transferred because if the Letters of Administration was granted in Bombay, then the assets of the deceased would not remain available as the partible estate of the deceased. Moreover, if the civil suit succeeded independently in the Delhi High Court, there would be every chance of inconsistent findings rendered by two High Courts. [Key words: probate, partition, transfer of suit] [Coram: Aniruddha Bose, J.]

In Addissery Raghavan v. Cheruvalath Krishnadasan, the Court stated that because it could not be said that there was any perversity in the finding of facts by both the Rent Commissioner (Trial Court) and the first Appellate Authority, thus the High Court was precluded from interfering vide its revisional jurisdiction merely on the ground that the Appellate Authority misconstrued a statutory provision. [Key words: scope of revisionary jurisdiction, Kerala Building (Lease and Rent Control) Act] [Coram: R.F. Nariman, J., Navin Sinha, J., B.R. Gavai, J.]

In Mohd. Inam v. Sanjay Kumar Singhal, the Court held that in view of the three-judge decision in Achal Misra (2005) 5 SCC 531, Section 105(1) CPC and Order XLIII Rule 1A CPC, an interlocutory order which had not been appealed from, either because no appeal lay or even an appeal lay, an appeal was not taken, can be challenged in an appeal from a final decree or order. Reversing the judgment of the High Court, it held that as per the Constitution Bench in HPCL v. Dilbahar Singh (2014) 9 SCC 78, the High Court exceeded its powers of revision under the UP statute as the said power did not entitle it to interfere with findings of fact and that the “…consideration or examination of the evidence is confined to find out as to whether the finding of facts recorded by the court/authority below is according to law and does not suffer from any error of law”. It was further held that only such findings could be reversed which were arrived at without consideration of material evidence or were so grossly erroneous that it would result in miscarriage of justice.

[Key words: Sections 16(1)(b) and 18 of U.P. Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act 1972, scope of revision] [Coram: Navin Sinha, J., B.R. Gavai, J.]

In Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd. v. The Central Bank of India & Anr., the central question was whether the suit could have been rejected on the ground that it was barred by limitation by invoking Order VII Rule 11(d) of the CPC. The Court noticed the judgments inter alia in Ram Prakash Gupta (2007) 10 SCC 59, Church of Christ Charitable Trust (2012) 8 SCC 706 and Syed Jalal (2017) 13 SCC 174, to uphold the power of the Court to reject the suit if the pleadings in the plaint disclosed that the same was beyond limitation. However, on facts, it held that the plaint filed was within limitation since Article 113 uses the words “when the right to sue accrues”, which is different from the expression used in other Articles such as Article 58 (when the right to sue “first” accrues), Article 59 (when the facts entitling the plaintiff to have the instrument or decree cancelled or set aside or the contract rescinded “first” become known to him) and Article 104 (when the plaintiff is “first” refused the enjoyment of the right). In any event, the factum of suit being barred by limitation, ordinarily, would be a mixed question of fact and law. [Key words: Rejection of Plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d)] [Coram : A.M. Khanwilkar, J., Indira Banerjee, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.]

Family Law

In Rana Nahid @ Reshma @ Sana & Anr v. Sahidul Haq Chisti, the question before the Court was whether the family court had jurisdiction to try a divorced Muslim woman’s application for maintenance under Section 3 of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986.Answering in the negative, Banumathi, J., held that an application under Section 3(2) of the 1986 could only be moved before the FirstClass Magistrate having jurisdiction as Section 7(1)(b) of the Family Courts Act 1984 conferredlimited jurisdiction only ona District Court. Thus, an application under 1986 Act could be moved only before the FirstClass Magistrate and not be moved before the Family Courtswhich were District Courts.

Banerji, J., held that a rigid interpretation of Sections 3(2), 3(3), 3(4), 4(c), 4(2) and 7 r/w the definition of “Magistrate” in Section 2(c) should not be used to bar the jurisdiction of the Family Courts (being district courts) to entertain maintenance applications by divorced Muslim women. Adopting the purposive rule of statutory interpretation, it was held that it was never the intention of the 1986 Act to preclude Muslim from availing the litigation friendly procedures of the Family Courts Act 1986.

[Key words: family courts, split decision, maintainability of maintenance petitions in family courts, casus omissus] [Coram: R. Banumathi, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]

For a slightly more detailed discussion, do see:

https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/division-bench-split-now-larger-bench-of-supreme-court-to-decide-on-jurisdiction-of-family-courts-to-hear-maintenance-pleas-by-muslim-women

Land Ceiling, Town Planning, Rent Control and Tenancy

In Vinodchandra Sakarlal Kapadia v. State of Gujarat, the issues were whether Section 63 of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands, Act, 1948 debars an agriculturist from parting with his agricultural land to a non-agriculturist through a “Will”, so also, whether Section 43(1) of the Tenancy Act restricts transfer of any land purchased by the tenant, or sold to any person under Section 32P or 64 of the Tenancy Act through the execution of a Will by way of testamentary disposition. The Court relied upon the earlier judgments in Sagappa (1998) 7 SCC 294 and Jayamma (2004) 7 SCC 459 which had dealt with the question whether prohibition against transfer of agricultural holdings applied to testamentary disposition, in order to uphold the legislative intent of prohibiting transfer. It held that the provisions of the Act confer the advantage of statutory purchase upon a cultivating tenant, and see that the tiller of the land is conferred ownership with respect to the lands cultivated by him as well as the dwelling house occupied by him. Thus, it was held that a cultivating tenant, if his holding is otherwise not beyond the ceiling limit, would be given the right to own the land cultivated by him. [Key words: prohibition against transfer of agricultural holdings] [Coram : U.U. Lalit, J., Indu Malhotra, J., A.S. Bopanna, J.]

In Siri Chand (Deceased) Thr. LRs. V. Surinder Singh, two issues arose. The first was whether the rent note dated 27.07.1993 was a document which required compulsory registration under Section 17(1)(d) of the Registration Act, 1908. The Court held that since the tenancy note did not define the period of tenancy, therefore, it did not require compulsory registration since the tenancy did not exceed a period of one year. On the second issue, the Court held that the Appellate Court could not have set aside the decree of eviction without recording the finding that there was no default on the part of the payment of rent and house tax, etc. [Key words: Registration of rent note, decree of eviction] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., M.R. Shah, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

Insolvency

In Bikram Chatterji v. Union of India, the Court passed a slew of orders in a number of applications inter alia directing that:

  1. The Project Management Consultant NBCC is exclusively answerable to only the Supreme Court and not in other court/tribunal/quasi-judicial body by way of proceedings brought about by any stakeholder. It will provide monthly updates but not be required to answer to any stakeholders.

  2. The sale of balance FAR shall be available within the sanctioned plan. Development authorities will not take into account any cost consideration and will provide FAR as may be available due to existing/proposed metro line and sanction their plans accordingly within a fixed timeframe of 30 days after submission of details/designs. Qua purchasable FAR, if any amount is payable to Noida and Greater Noida Authorities it shall be paid after the sale of the FAR.

  3. The transactions carried out by the Corporate Debtor and its directors did not inspire much confidence. There was not much room to question the correctness of the Forensic Audit report and the Directors were given adequate opportunities to respond.

  4. The rate of interest on the outstanding premium and other dues to be realized be fixed at the rate of 8% per annum. The Noida and Greater Noida Authorities ought to do a restructuring of the repayment schedule so that amount is paid and Noida and Greater Noida Authorities are able to realize the same. As to reasonable time frame, this was subject to further hearings. [Key words: Amrapali insolvency] [Coram: Arun Mishra, J., Uday Umesh Lalit, J.]

Taxation

In State of Orissa v. M/s B. Engineers & Builders Ltd. & Ors., the Petitioner raised questions concerning the nature and implication of the sales tax, levied in relation to the works contracts executed by the contractor under the Orissa Sales Tax Act, 1974 as amended in terms of the Constitution (Forty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1982. Dismissing the appeal, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court whereby it disapproved the Circular dated 07.11.2011 on the ground that the claim for reimbursement was being made of the tax that was levied on the turnover of the works contracts, and not of the tax paid by the contractor on the materials procured by it. It upheld the levying of the sales tax after necessary deductions, and in accordance with the decision of the Constitution Bench in Gannon Dunkerley (1993) 1 SCC 364, for which the contractor was held entitled to claim reimbursement under Clause 45.2 of the GCC. The Court further held that the clarification Circulars could not take away the effect of statutory provisions. [Key words: Sakes Tax] [Coram : A.M. Khanwilkar, J., Indira Banerjee, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.].

In Ramnath & Co. v. CIT, the short point was whether the income received by the Appellants in foreign exchange, for the services provided by them to foreign enterprises, qualifies for deduction under Section 80-O of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Relying on a plethora of judgments, the Court held that for bringing any particular foreign exchange receipt within the ambit of Section 80-O for deduction, it must be a consideration attributable to information and service contemplated by Section 80-O, and in case of a contract involving multiple activities, every consideration received therein in foreign exchange will not ipso facto fall within the ambit of Section 80-O. On facts, it held that the services of the appellant were that of an agent, and were rendered in India, and even if certain information was sent by the appellant to its principals, the information did not fall in the category of such professional services or information which would justify its claim for deduction under Section 80-O [Key words: Deduction of foreign exchange under Section 80-O]. [Coram : A.M. Khanwilkar, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.]

In The Commercial Tax Officer & Anr. v. Mohan Brewaries & Distrilleries Ltd., involved the interpretation of Section 7-A of the Tamil Nadu General Sales Tax Act, 1959 (Act), and specifically, whether purchase tax is leviable on the purchase turnover of empty bottles purchased by the assessee in the course of its business of manufacture and sale of beer. Relying inter alia on the Constitution Bench judgment in Nandanam Construction (1999) 115 STC 427, the Court held that the consumption of empty bottles for manufacture or otherwise, as also use of such goods for manufacture or otherwise, are acts covered under clause (a) of Section 7-A(1) of the Act. It further held that the empty bottles have not been “consumed in the manufacture” of other goods for sale nor have they been “consumed otherwise”. However, they have been used for bottling, and covered by the term “used otherwise”, therefore, the use of empty bottles for bottling takes the turnover of their purchase within the net of Section 7-A. Hence, such turnover was exigible to purchase tax. [Key words: Purchase Tax, manufacture and consumption] [Coram : A.M. Khanwilkar, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.]

Electricity

In Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Co Ltd. & Anr. v. M/s Srigdhaa Beverages, the issue was whether the liability towards previous electricity dues of the last owner could be mulled on to an auction purchaser (the Respondent). The Court noticed that the auction purchaser, bidding in an ‘as is where is, whatever there is and without recourse basis’, would have made enquiries about the dues in all respects, and was, therefore, clearly put to notice on this behalf. It relied upon Paschimanchal Vidyut (2009) 1 SCC 210 to reiterate that a condition for clearance of dues cannot per se be termed as unreasonable or arbitrary. It held that the electricity dues, where they are statutory in character under the Electricity Act, cannot partake the character of dues of purely contractual nature, and, thus, cannot be waived. Thus, the Respondent auction purchaser was held liable for the previous electricity dues. [Key words: Liability of auction purchaser, statutory dues] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., K.M. Joseph, J.]

Government Contract/Tenders/Public Procurement

In Rajasthan State Warehousing Corporation v. Star Agriwarehousing and Collateral Management Limited and Ors., it was held that SLPs were maintainable against interim orders. It was further held that in contractual matters, the grant of interim order to restrain the successful bidders from executing the contract is not in public interest especially when the tender was for storage of food articles in the warehouses of the State Government undertaking. It was further noted that the interim order was not in public interest as it was done so without recording any reasons. [Key words: interim order, public interest] [Coram: Hemant Gupta, J., Aniruddha Bose, J.]

Election Law

In Laxmi Singh & Ors. v. Rekha Singh & Ors., sixty four out of the ninety two elected members of the Zila Panchayat, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh moved a no confidence motion against the Panchayat Adhyaksha, the first Respondent. Forty eight out of fifty one members voted in favour of the Motion, and the same was, therefore, passed by majority. On challenge, the High Court set aside the approving of the Motion on the ground that some of the members violated the rule of secrecy of ballot in contravention of Section 28(8) of the UP Khshettra Panchayat and Zila Panchayat Adhiniyam, 1961 and Rule 4 of the UP (Zila Panchayats) (Voting on Motions of Non-confidence) Rules, 1966, which provide for secrecy of ballot. A legal question partly arose as to whether secrecy of ballot, being a privilege, adjunct to the principle of purity of elections, could be voluntarily waived. However, the said question was not decided since the counsel for the Respondent, accepted the suggestion of a fresh voting, though the same was directed to be done on the earlier Motion, and not a fresh one. [Key words: Waiver of the privilege of secret ballot] [Coram : N.V. Ramanna, J., Sanjiv Khanna, J., Krishna Murari, J.]

Miscellaneous

In The Inspector General of Registration, Tamil Nadu & Ors. v. K. Baskaran, raised three questions touching upon the interpretation of Section 47A of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and the Tamil Nadu Stamp Rules, 1968. The Court held as follows:

i. The directions issued by the appellate authority (Inspector General of Registration) in asking any deputy officer to conduct the site inspection, did not amount to delegation of his functions, and therefore, not violative of Rule 11-A of the Rules so as to vitiate the entire proceedings, since the essential function of decision making was not delegated.

ii. Rule 7 of the Rules prescribing 3 months' time for the Collector to pass an order determining the market value of the properties and the duty payable on the instrument from the first notice is not mandatory, but purely directory.

iii. The appellate authority has the power under Section 47A of the Act to enhance the market value of the property while deciding the appeal filed by the registrants, subject to the limitations of time bar of five years and the principles of natural justice. [Key words : Delegation of essential functions] [Coram : U.U. Lalit, J., Indu Malhotra, J.]

In Re: The Proper Treatment of Covid 19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in the Hospitals, etc., the issue concerned deficiencies, shortcomings and lapses in patient care of Covid-19 is different hospitals in NCT of Delhi and other States. After hearing the parties, the Supreme Court issued the following eleven directions:

i. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shall constitute Expert Committees consisting of: a) Senior Doctors from Central Government hospitals in Delhi, b) Doctors from GNCTD hospitals or other hospitals of Delhi Government, c) Doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, d) Responsible officer from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

ii. The Expert Committee shall inspect, supervise and issue necessary directions to all Government hospitals, Covid hospitals and other hospitals in NCT of Delhi taking care of Covid patients; The Expert Committees shall ensure that at least one visit in each hospital be done weekly.

iii. The above team may, in addition to normal inspection, shall also conduct surprise visits to assess the preparedness of the hospitals. The expert team after visiting may issue necessary instructions for improvement to the hospital concerned and also forward its report to the Government of NCT of Delhi and the Union of India.

iv. All States shall also constitute an expert team of Doctors for inspection, supervision and guidance of Government hospitals and other hospitals dedicated to Covid-19 in each State who may inspect, supervise the hospitals in the State and issue necessary directions for the improvement to the concerned hospital and report to the Government. Chief Secretary of each State shall ensure that such Committees are immediately constituted and start their works within a period of seven days.

v. CCTV Footage shall be made available by the hospitals in NCT of Delhi to the supervising expert team or to any other authority or body as per directions of the Union of India for screening the footage and issuing necessary directions thereon.

vi. In Government hospitals of GNCT, Delhi which are Covid dedicated hospitals, where CCTV cameras have not been installed, steps shall be taken to install CCTV Cameras in the wards.

vii. The Chief Secretaries of other States shall also take steps regarding installation of CCTV Cameras in Covid dedicated hospitals where Covid patients are taking treatment to facilitate the management of such patients.

viii. All Covid-dedicated hospitals shall permit one willing attendant of the patient in the hospital premise, who can remain in an area earmarked by the hospital.

ix. All Covid dedicated hospitals shall create a helpdesk accessible physically as well as by telephone from where wellbeing of patients admitted in the hospitals can be enquired.

x. The Union of India, Ministry of Home Affairs may issue appropriate directions in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 to all States/Union Territories to uniformly follow the revised discharge policy dated 08.05.2020 with regard to discharge of different categories of patients as categorised in the revised discharge policy.

xi. The Union of India may issue appropriate guidelines/directions to all the States/Union Territories with regard to prescribing reasonable rates of various Covid related facilities/test etc., which need to be uniformly followed by all concerned.

[Key words : Proper treatment of Covid patients in hospitals] [Coram : Ashok Bhushan, J., Sanjay K. Kaul, J., M.R. Shah, J.]

Abhinav Hansaraman, Vikramaditya, Subhro Prokas Mukherjee
, Samith, Sahil Tagotra
Abhinav Hansaraman, Vikramaditya, Subhro Prokas Mukherjee
, Samith, Sahil Tagotra
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