Weekly Legal Updates ( 11 February to 17 February 2024)

Weekly Legal Updates main objective is to update the legal knowledge of law students, lawyers, academicians and other professionals. If we do not update our legal knowledge regularly, our knowledge become redundant.

Stop addressing trial courts as ‘lower courts’: Supreme Court

In the recent past, Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and other judges of the Supreme Court have categorically expressed their displeasure over addressing trial courts as lower courts or subordinate courts.

The Supreme Court has asked its registry to stop referring to trial courts as “lower courts”. “It will be appropriate if the Registry of this court stops referring to the Trial Courts as ‘Lower Courts’. Even the record of the trial court should not be referred to as Lower Court Record (LCR). Instead, it should be referred as the Trial Court Record (TCR),” a bench of justices AS Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said in an order passed on February 8.

The Court was hearing an appeal by two murder convicts challenging an order of the Allahabad high court passed in October 2018 upholding their conviction and life sentence for an incident in 1981. Posting the matter for hearing in August, the court asked the Registrar (Judicial) to take note of this order for future compliance. The bench further directed the registry to supply soft copies of the trial court record to the lawyers appearing for the convict and the state of Uttar Pradesh.

This is perhaps the first time by a judicial order the registry has been asked to stop the practice of referring to trial courts as “lower courts”. In the recent past, Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and other judges of the Supreme Court have categorically expressed their displeasure over addressing trial courts as lower courts or subordinate courts and trying to dispel the impression that district court judges are somewhat inferior to judges of high courts or Supreme Court.

Last month, justice Oka, one of the judges who passed this order, while giving a memorial lecture, expressed his angst over disrespect shown to trial courts. Speaking on the topic “Access to Justice in the context of 75 years of Indian Constitution”, justice Oka said that the judiciary has failed to meet the expectations of common man over the past seven decades.

“One reason for not fulfilling expectation of common man is that we neglected our trial and district courts which are the primary court in our system,” he said, adding, “For years together we used to describe these courts as lower courts or subordinate courts. There can’t be a lower court. Every court is a court.”

He further stated that the real place where common man gets justice is the district courts. “For a common man who cannot afford to have multiple litigation for social, economic reasons, perhaps, these are the courts which are the final courts,” the judge remarked.

Soon after taking over as CJI in November 2022, CJI Chandrachud said, “We should move towards a modern and an equal judiciary,” seeking to inculcate a sense of self-worth in the district judiciary. CJI said, “We have fostered a culture of subordination….A great deal has to be done not only in terms of infrastructure of our district judiciary which is extremely important for which we have to lay the foundation stones today. But we must have to also change our mindset as superior court judges of SC and high courts of how we look at our district judiciary and how we perceive of them.”

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 11 February 2024)

Supreme Court asks Centre to respond to plea by Coast Guard’s woman officer

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response to a petition by a woman short service appointment (SSA) officer of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) seeking parity with male officers for permanent absorption, denied to women officers under the existing rules.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud issued notice on the petition filed by Commandant (junior grade) Priyanka Tyagi whose 14-year tenure as SSA officer ended on December 30 and was released from service after she was denied any interim relief by the Delhi high court on December 21, 2023.

“We will issue notice. Let us see what they (Centre and Indian Coast Guard) have to say,” said the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. Since the petitioner’s plea for permanent absorption has been pending with the Delhi high court since August last year, the bench also considered the option of expediting the high court proceeding.

Senior advocate Archana Pathak Dave, who appeared for Tyagi, argued that the high court should have relied on the top court’s previous decisions and stayed the release of the petitioner, the only woman in her batch to seek permanent absorption.

“I want to continue in service but they released me in December causing me great prejudice. So far no woman SSA officer has been granted permanent absorption as Coast Guard Rules do not permit woman SSAs to change to permanent entry scheme,” Dave said.

In the petition filed through advocate Siddhant Sharma, the officer who joined the Coast Guard as assistant commandant in December 2009, said there was no discrimination between women and male SSAs till November 2009.

On November 13, 2009, the government notified the Assistant Commandant Woman (General Duty) Short Service Recruitment Rules which said that “women officers shall not have the option to change over to permanent entry scheme.”

The petition relied on Supreme Court rulings that paved the way for equal opportunity for women short-service commission officers in the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force to be considered for permanent commission on par with their male counterparts and asked why the same rule did not extend to Coast Guard, an armed force since 1978.

During the 14 years that she was in the Coast Guard, Tyagi said she rose from an assistant commandant to deputy commandant and recently, commandant (JG). She was permitted to write the mid-career professional examination for promotion as commandant, and two of her superiors recommended her permanent absorption in 2021 when she completed 12 years. The move was, however, blocked by the defence ministry which said permanent absorption for women SSAs did not apply to the Coast Guard.

Tyagi said she made several attempts to persuade the government but received the final communication on May 26, 2023, informing her that she would be released from service on December 30. Tyagi approached the Delhi high court in August last year.

Her petition said the case was taken up by the high court but the Centre kept buying time claiming that a committee had been formed to study the feasibility of permanent induction of women SSAs. In November, the Centre cited the rules to turn down her request, leading the high court to decline her interim relief.

Tyagi said the government did not change the rules to allow women though the Coast Guard was short of officers and was recruiting retired short-service commission naval officers

as permanent duty officers in the Coast Guard. “It clearly displays discrimination against serving SSA officers of Coast Guard and depriving them of serving the force,” the petition said.

Tyagi, who was posted at the Daman airport air station prior to her release, said she was part of the first-ever all-women crew on Dornier aircraft deployed in 2016 in the Eastern Region for maritime patrolling as captain of the aircraft. She completed 13 months of flying training to qualify as a navigator.

“The petitioner has 4500 flying hours on Dornier aircraft, the highest flying hours as per her seniority in all the forces, including male and female, and has heroically saved over 300 lives at sea,” the petition said.

(Courtesy:-Hindustan Times, 12 February 2024)

Appointment Of Deputy Chief Minister Not Unconstitutional: Supreme Court

The appointment of a Deputy Chief Minister in a state is not unconstitutional, the Supreme Court said on Monday while rejecting a petition.

The practice of appointing a Deputy Chief Minister is adopted in many states to give slightly more importance to senior leaders in the party or coalition of parties in power, said a bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.

“Even if you call someone Deputy Chief Minister, it is still a reference to a minister. A Deputy Chief Minister is the first and most important minister in the state government. It does not violate the Constitution,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said during the hearing.

The petitioner had claimed that the Constitution prescribes no post for a Deputy Chief Minister and that it violates Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution. This sets a wrong example, the petition alleged, questioning the basis to make such an appointment.

Deputy Chief Ministers are often appointed to assist the Chief Minister of a state and to accommodate senior coalition leaders in the cabinet. Some states have more than one Deputy Chief Minister while some have none. Andhra Pradesh has five – the most in an Indian state.

The post of a Deputy Chief Minister is held as equivalent to that of a cabinet minister and enjoys similar pay and perks.

(Courtesy:- NDTV.com, 12 February 2024)

Supreme Court raps AAP for building party office on land allotted to Delhi High Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock and displeasure that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is encroaching on the land originally allotted to the Delhi High Court for its expansion for infrastructure purposes.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, “How can a political party sit tight on that land? What will the High Court use it for? Only for the public and citizens. Why was the land allotted to the High Court then?”

During a brief hearing on the issue of the judicial infrastructure of courts across the country, advocate K Parameshwar told the bench that Delhi High Court officials, who had gone to take possession of the land, were stopped by AAP officials as they have their office there.

Law Secretary to the Government of Delhi, Bharat Parashar, also told the Supreme Court that the said land has been with the AAP since 2016. He said that the Land and Development Officer had already been informed about this and the process to allot another land to the political party is under process.

“It was a bungalow which was occupied by a minister and was later occupied by the political party,” the Law Secretary told the bench.

The court then asked counsel appearing for the Delhi government and Centre to tell the bench as to how the possession of land be given back to the High Court.

At this, the bench said the land must be returned to the Delhi High Court. The court also directed the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government, the Secretary to the Delhi Public Works Department and the Finance Secretary to convene a meeting with the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court to ensure the execution of the directions immediately.

The court has now slated the hearing for February 19.

Earlier also, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Delhi government over the inordinate delay in giving funds for infrastructure projects in the Delhi High Court.

(Courtesy:- India Today, 13 February 2024)

SC Collegium recommends appointment of 13 additional HC judges as permanent judges

The Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud on Tuesday recommended appointment of 13 additional judges of three high courts as permanent judges.

The Collegium, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B R Gavai, in a meeting held today recommended the names of Justices Boppana Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Chakravarthi and Tallapragada Mallikarjuna Rao for appointment as permanent judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court against two existing vacancies.

Additional Judge Justice Duppala Venkata Ramana’s name has been recommended as a permanent judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court against one existing vacancy.

“On February 24, 2023, the collegium of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh unanimously recommended that the three Additional Judges whose names are set out above be appointed as permanent Judges of that High Court. The Chief Minister and the Governor of Andhra Pradesh concurred with the above recommendation.

“A Committee of two judges of the Supreme Court constituted by the Chief Justice of India in terms of the Resolution dated October 26, 2017 of the Supreme Court collegium has assessed the judgments of the above Additional Judges. The Committee has rated the quality of their judgments as ‘good’,” the collegium said.

In another decision, the collegium has recommended the appointment of 10 additional judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as permanent Judges.

The judges whose names have been recommended are — Justices Kuldeep Tiwari, Gurbir Singh, Deepak Gupta, Amarjot Bhatti, Ritu Tagore, Manisha Batra, Harpreet Kaur Jeewan, Sukhvinder Kaur, Sanjiv Berry, and Vikram Aggarwal.

“On October 6, 2023, the Collegium of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana unanimously recommended for appointment of the Additional Judges whose names are set out above as permanent Judges of that High Court. The Chief Ministers and the Governors for the States of Punjab and Haryana have not conveyed their views on the above recommendation…

“In terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, the Judges of the Supreme Court conversant with the affairs of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana were consulted with a view to ascertain the suitability of the above Additional Judges for being appointed as permanent Judges. They have concurrently opined that all the Additional Judges are fit and suitable for confirmation as permanent Judges,” the collegium said.

(Courtesy:- Indian Express, 13 February 2023)

Defamation complaint against Tejashwi Yadav quashed by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the defamation complaint against RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav over his alleged “only Gujaratis can be thugs” remark. A bench of Justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan granted the relief to Yadav after noting that he has withdrawn his statement. “We have quashed the complaint,” the bench said.

The top court on January 29 had directed Yadav to file a “proper statement” withdrawing his alleged remark that “only Gujaratis can be thugs”. Yadav on January 19 filed an affidavit in the apex court
withdrawing his alleged “Gujarati thugs” remark.

The top court, while hearing the RJD leader’s plea, had earlier stayed the proceedings in the criminal defamation complaint and issued notice to the Gujarat resident who had filed it in an Ahmedabad court.
The Gujarat court had in August conducted a preliminary inquiry against Yadav under section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and found sufficient grounds to summon him on the complaint filed by Haresh Mehta, a local businessman and activist.

According to the complaint, Yadav, while talking to the media in Patna in March 2023, had said, “Only Gujaratis can be thugs in the present situation, and their fraud will be forgiven.”

Mehta claimed Yadav’s comments defamed all Gujaratis.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 13 February 2024)

Appointment of CEC, ECs: Supreme Court refuses to stay new law again

The Supreme Court on Tuesday again refused to grant any interim stay on the law that provides for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) by a panel not comprising the Chief Justice of India.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta issued a notice to the Centre on a plea filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and tagged it with two similar pending petitions by Congress leaders Jaya Thakur and Sanjay Narayanrao Meshram.

The pleas have challenged the constitutional validity of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, which was passed by Parliament during the Winter Session in December last.

Tuesday, appearing for the NGO, Advocate Prashant Bhushan urged the court to stay Section 7 of the Act, contending that it violates Article 14 (equality before law) and the basic features of the Constitution.

Section 7 of the Act says that the CEC and ECs shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.

Bhushan also told the court that the provision was contrary to a Constitution Bench judgment, which had on March 2 last year, months before the law came into being, ruled that the CJI be there on the panel.

“Sorry, we cannot grant you interim relief in the matter… constitutional validity matters never become infructuous. We know our parameters for granting interim relief,” Justice Datta told Bhushan, when he submitted that the prayer may become infructuous in view of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The court also declined the prayer for listing the matter next week, saying it will take time. “We have to now examine in terms of the judicial review powers…we have to go into all those aspects,” the court said. The SC had on January 12 refused to stay the law while taking up the pleas by Thakur and Meshram. All three petitions will now be heard together in April.

(Courtesy:- Indian Express, 14 February 2024)

Bilkis Bano Case: Why Gujarat Govt Wants Supreme Court To Delete Remarks From Judgment

The Gujarat government has moved the Supreme Court against the January 8 judgment that quashed remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. The Gujarat government wants the top court to delete “adverse remarks” made by the Supreme Court against it in the verdict that sent the 11 convicts back to jail. The Supreme Court had said that the Gujarat government usurped power not vested in it and aided the convicts.

What Were The “Adverse Remarks”?

The bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan concluded that the apex court in the May 2022 judgment was misled by suppression of facts by the convict. It ruled that the use of power by Gujarat to grant relief to the convicts after the May 2022 ruling amounted to usurpation of power of the Maharashtra government.

The judgment said that the Gujarat government has acted in tandem with the convicts in misleading the Supreme Court.

“This is exactly what this court had apprehended at the previous stages of this case and had intervened on three earlier occasions in the interest of truth and justice by transferring the investigation to CBI and the trial to Special Court in Mumbai. Exercise of discretion by the State of Gujarat is nothing but an instance of usurpation of jurisdiction and an instance of abuse of discretion.” The January 8 verdict by the top court read.

The bench of Justice BV Nagarathna while passing the verdict said that if really the State of Gujarat had in mind the provisions of law and the judgments of this court, and had adhered to the rule of law, it would have filed a review petition before this court by contending that it was not the appropriate Government to grant remission.

In its review petition, the state government has said that the observation by the top court that the State of Gujarat “acted in tandem and was complicit with the accused” has caused great prejudice to the State.

The petition filed by the state government seeks deletion of these remarks saying that the observation that the state acted in tandem and was complicit with convicts who misled the court is highly unwarranted and against the record of the case.

In May 2022, another Supreme Court bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath held that the Gujarat government had the jurisdiction to decide the remission as the offence took place there. This judgment was found to be “bad in law” in the January 8 judgement as it ignored precedents set by previous judgments and the statutory mandate. The bench of Justice Nagarathna held that the Supreme Court was misled by convict no. 3 Radheshyam Shah to pass the judgment’s that paved the way for the release of 11 convicts.

Radheshyam Shah, one of the convicts, moved the top court seeking directions to the Gujarat government to consider remission for the 11 convicts. The Supreme Court in the January 8 judgment found that Shah suppressed material facts including the Gujarat High Court order that had disposed of his petition twice and asked him to approach the Maharashtra government. He also suppressed the opinion of the Gujarat judge and made misleading statements.

Shah invoked the apex court’s jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution. However, it was found that he did not mention his application before the Maharashtra government. He also concealed adverse opinions by the CBI and the district judge’s opinion.

The apex court held that the May 2022 judgment was passed as Shah misled the Supreme Court that there was a divergence of opinion between the Bombay High Court and the Gujarat High Court and found that Gujarat government was complicit and worked in tandem with him to mislead the Supreme Court.

A divergence of opinion between the two high courts lays the ground for a writ petition to be accepted in the Supreme Court.

The bench headed by Justice Nagarathna held that the earlier ruling of May 2022 was invalid in law.

The Gujarat government has now filed a petition against the judgment saying it acted only as per the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court in the May 2022 judgment.

The Gujarat government has also submitted that the May judgment by the top court shows that it had told the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court that it was the Maharashtra government that had power to decide on remission pleas since the trial happened in Maharashtra.

(Courtesy:- ABP Live, 14 February 2024)

Supreme Court introduces new ground rules to seek adjournments

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a circular tightening provisions relating to circumstances under which lawyers may seek adjournment of cases and imposed a bar on seeking two consecutive adjournments.

The new guidelines also require lawyers to get the consent of the opposing side before circulating a request for an adjournment, prohibit two consecutive adjournments in a case and mandate that the party seeking an adjournment will not only have to list a specific reason for making the request but also indicate the total number of adjournments already sought in the case.

The radical changes sought to be introduced by the new guidelines come two weeks after Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud spoke about the challenges presented by the “adjournment culture” in his foundation day lecture on the Supreme Court’s 75th year of establishment on January 28.

Wednesday’s circular started with a quick list of circumstances when the court will not entertain a request for an adjournment.

“Circulating letters for adjournment in fresh and regular hearing matters is not permitted.” In matters where notice has been issued, the top court’s instruction said, “No letters for adjournment shall be entertained in cases relating to bail/anticipatory bail, where an exemption from surrendering has been granted, where interim order is operating in favour of the party who seeks adjournment, and where suspension of sentence has been sought for.” In all other cases, the letter of adjournment will be entertained a day before the case list’s publication.

The new rules also stipulate that “letters (for adjournment) can be circulated by one party/counsel to the case only once.”

The circular makes it mandatory to obtain consent/no objection of advocates/parties appearing on the opposite side before moving a letter of adjournment. “Two consecutive adjournments, irrespective of which party is seeking an adjournment, shall not be permitted without the matter being listed before the Court.”

When a matter does get adjourned, it will have to be listed before the court within the following four weeks and no request to mention the matter to seek to advance the given date will be permitted, the circular said.

The circular also introduced a form that will need to be filled out to standardise the information that will need to be shared.

In his January 28 address, CJI Chandrachud deprecated the adjournment culture in courts.

“Our ability to remain relevant as an institution requires us to recognise challenges and begin difficult conversations. First, we must emerge out of the adjournment culture to a culture of professionalism and second, we have to ensure that the length of oral arguments does not interminably delay judicial outcomes.”

He further said, “The 75th year since the founding provides an opportunity to meet these challenges and step into the future with an honest assessment of our progress.”

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 14 February 2024)

SC collegium recommends transfer of 3 HC judges

The Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud has recommended to the Centre the transfer of three high court judges on their request. In a meeting held on Tuesday, the collegium, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, accepted the request of Calcutta HC judge Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya seeking a transfer to any other high court.
“By a communication dated February 12, 2024, Ms Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya has sought a transfer from the High Court at Calcutta to any other High Court for personal reasons. The Collegium accedes to the request and resolves to recommend that Ms Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya be transferred, in the interests of the better administration of justice, to the High Court for the State of Telangana,” the collegium said.
It also accepted the request of Justice Anu Sivaraman who has sought a transfer out of the State of Kerala.
“The collegium accedes to the request and resolves to recommend that Ms. Justice Anu Sivaraman be transferred, in the interests of the better administration of justice, to the Karnataka High Court,” it said.

In another decision, the collegium said that it received a communication dated February 12, 2024, from Justice Sujoy Paul seeking a transfer on the ground that his son is practising in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.
“The Collegium accedes to the request and resolves to recommend that Mr Justice Sujoy Paul be transferred, in the interests of the better administration of justice, to the High Court for the State of Telangana,” the collegium said in a resolution uploaded on the apex court website.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 14 February 2024)

Electoral bonds scheme ‘unconstitutional’: Supreme Court strikes down poll funding system

The Supreme Court holds that anonymous electoral bonds scheme is violative of the right to information under Article 19(1)(a).

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday said the electoral bonds scheme has to be struck down as “unconstitutional”. It has delivered a unanimous verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the legal validity of the central government’s electoral bond scheme which allowed for anonymous funding to political parties.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud held that the anonymous electoral bonds scheme is violative of the right to information under Article 19(1)(a). The bench had on November 2 last year reserved its verdict in the matter.

The Supreme Court said political parties are relevant units in the electoral process and information about funding of political parties is essential for electoral choices. The court also directed the State Bank of India or SBI to not issue any more of these bonds.

The decision is seen as a setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been the largest beneficiary of the system it introduced in 2017. The SBI shall submit details of electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, to date to the Election Commission, the Supreme Court said.

“In a very significant judgment which will have a long-term effect on our electoral democracy, the Supreme Court has struck down the electoral bonds scheme and all the provisions that were made to bring it into effect in the income tax act, in the companies act, etc. everything has been struck down. They have held that this violates the fundamental right to information of citizens to know about who is contributing this much money to political parties,” advocate Prashant Bhushan told reporters on the Supreme Court’s verdict.

The scheme, which was notified by the government on January 2, 2018, was pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of efforts to bring in transparency in political funding.

According to the provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds could be purchased by any citizen of India or entity incorporated or established in the country. An individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.

Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than 1 per cent of the votes polled in the last elections to the Lok Sabha or a state legislative assembly were eligible to receive electoral bonds.

According to the notification, electoral bonds shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with an authorised bank.

In April 2019, the apex court had declined to stay the electoral bonds scheme and made it clear that it would accord an in-depth hearing on the pleas as the Centre and the Election Commission had raised “weighty issues” that had “tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country”.

The Constitution bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, had on October 31 last year commenced hearing arguments on the four petitions, including those filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

During the hearing in the matter, the apex court had underscored the need for reducing the cash component in the electoral process.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 15 February 2024)

If doctors can be sued over poor service, why not lawyers, asks SC

There are at least 1.3 million lawyers, according to statistics with Bar Council of India, apex body to regulate legal education and profession in India.

Why can’t lawyers be sued for poor service if doctors can be brought before consumer courts for negligence? The Supreme Court raised this question on Wednesday as it began hearing a clutch of petitions about whether legal representation for a fee can be classified as a “service” under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

“You (lawyer) have to also employ your skills and knowledge in the facts of that case… like a doctor does with a patient. How is it any different from a doctor?” asked a bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal, as it started to consider several petitions that questioned the views taken by the national consumer commission in 2007.

In its 2007 judgment, the commission held that advocates do come under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act and can be dragged to a consumer court by their clients for deficiency in service. The judgment declared that the legal services rendered by lawyers would come within the ambit of Section 2(1)(o) of the 1986 Act that defines “service”, making them liable under the law.

“Undisputedly, lawyers are rendering service. They are charging fees. It is not a contract of personal service. Therefore, there is no reason to hold that they are not covered by the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act,1986,” the consumer commission held in its 2007 judgment that was stayed by the top court in April 2009.

Commencing the arguments on behalf of the appellants that comprised several lawyer bodies, senior counsel Narender Hooda objected to the rationale of the 2007 judgment, arguing lawyers stand on a completely different footing from any other professionals, including doctors.

“The first duty of a lawyer is towards the court since he has to act as an officer of the court. There is no one-to-one relationship that a lawyer has with his clients. Further, success in a case does not depend only on the skills of a lawyer but it will depend on courts,” argued Hooda.

Disagreeing, the bench replied: “If a lawyer does not remain present in the court and an ex parte decree is passed against his client. The lawyer does not even tell his client why the case was dismissed. Who will be responsible for this? For this kind of negligence, the court doesn’t come in the picture at all.”

While Hooda said that there is already a mechanism under the Advocates Act to conduct an inquiry against lawyers for misconduct, the bench retorted: “Negligence and misconduct are two different concepts. How do you differentiate your profession from doctors? They also have their own regulations under the Medical Council of India Act and still they come under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act.”

Responding, Hooda said that attributing negligence or deficiency to lawyers will expose them to two different actions – one, under the Advocates Act, and second, under the consumer law.

The bench, however, replied: “In that case, a court can always decide whether it’s professional misconduct or negligence. There’s a difference between professional misconduct and professional negligence and the court can adjudicate that depending on the facts of a case.”

To this, Hooda contended: “It’s different from doctors. When a doctor operates on a patient inside an operating theatre, nobody is watching. But a lawyer conducts his operation, it is in full public glare…Every unhappy client will then pursue a case before the consumer court.”

But the bench commented: “Every argument you are making is true for doctors too. But they (doctors) are made to face cases before consumer courts…and then you cannot prevent anyone from filing a frivolous or false case. That’s true for all professions and professionals.”

Adjourning the case to Thursday for hearing it further, the court told Hooda that he would have to explicate how lawyers are different from doctors in providing services. Senior counsel V Giri, who assists the court as amicus curiae, will also present his views on Thursday.

There are at least 1.3 million lawyers in India, according to statistics with the Bar Council of India, the apex body to regulate legal education and profession in the country.

The 2007 judgment by the national consumer commission said that a lawyer may not be responsible for the favourable outcome of a case because the result does not depend upon only a lawyer’s work. The commission also held that a lawyer and a client have a bilateral contract. “On receipt of fees, a lawyer would appear and represent the matter on behalf of his client. To hold that contract is unilateral is to ignore the fact that even after discussion, the client may not engage the advocate or the advocate may refuse to accept the brief. Hence, such a contract can never be said to be unilateral,” stated the commission.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 15 February 2024)

PIL filed in Supreme Court for CBI investigation into Sandeshkhali violence

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court, requesting a court-monitored investigation by the CBI or SIT into the recent violence in Sandeshkhali village, West Bengal. The PIL, filed by lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, also demands compensation for the victims and action against the West Bengal Police officials for their alleged negligence.

The plea further seeks the transfer of the investigation and subsequent trial outside the state. Additionally, it calls for a three-judge committee to conduct an inquiry, similar to the one conducted in the Manipur violence case.

Sandeshkhali is a village located in the North 24 Parganas district, has been witnessing protests following allegations of sexual abuse by a local TMC leader. Several women in the area have accused Shajahan Sheikh, the Trinamool Congress strongman, and his supporters of land-grabbing and coercive sexual assault.

Shajahan has been absconding after a mob, allegedly affiliated to him, attacked Enforcement Directorate officials who has gone to search his premises in connection with a corruption case.

(Courtesy: The Times of India, 16 February 2024)

Class-IV employee cannot be sacked merely for sending representations directly to top authorities: SC

A class-IV government employee cannot be sacked merely because he sent representations directly to superior authorities bypassing the proper channel, the Supreme Court has held.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and P K Mishra made the observation while setting aside the termination of an employee of district judiciary.

Chhatrapal was dismissed for sending direct representations to the Registrar General of the Allahabad High Court and other officials of the Uttar Pradesh government, including the chief minister.

“A Class-IV employee, when in financial hardship, may represent directly to superiors but that by itself cannot amount to major misconduct for which punishment of termination from service should be imposed,” the bench said.
It said even otherwise, the appellant has cited examples of other employees of the Bareilly district court who sent representations directly to senior authorities but no action was taken against them.

The top court ordered Chhatrapal’s reinstatement after setting aside the order of the Allahabad High Court.

The high court had in 2019 dismissed his writ petition challenging the dismissal, saying it was devoid of merit.
Chhatrapal was appointed on a permanent basis as an orderly, a class IV post, in the Bareilly district court.

He was later transferred and posted as process server in the Nazarat of an outlying court of Bareilly. Though he joined the Nazarat Branch, he was being paid the remuneration of an orderly. Nazarat Branch, is the process serving agency responsible for delivery and execution of various processes like summons, notices, warrants etc. issued by courts.

After he made several direct representations to senior authorities, he was placed under suspension in June 2003 and a departmental enquiry was initiated against him.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 17 February 2024)

Homemaker’s work no less than salary-earning spouse’s: Supreme Court

According to the bench, the worth of a woman looking after the household is of a “high order” and her contributions are hard to quantify in monetary terms.

The value of a woman’s work at home is no less than that of someone who brings a salary from office, the Supreme Court held on Friday, terming the contribution of a “homemaker” invaluable.

According to a bench of justices Suryan Kant and KV Viswanathan, the worth of a woman looking after the household is of a “high order” and her contributions are hard to quantify in monetary terms. At the same time, the top court added, tribunals and courts ought to calculate the notional income of “homemakers” based on their work, labour and sacrifices in cases of motor accident claims.

“The role of a homemaker is as important as that of a family member whose income is tangible. If the activities performed by a homemaker are computed one by one, there cannot be any doubt that the contribution is of a high order and is invaluable. In fact, it is difficult to compute her contributions only in monetary terms,” stated the bench in its order on Friday.

The court was hearing a motor accident case arising out the unfortunate death of a woman from Uttarakhand in a road accident in 2006. As the vehicle in which she was travelling was not insured, the liability fell on the owner of the vehicle to pay her family the compensation. A motor accident claims tribunal awarded her family— her husband and minor son — damages of ₹2.5 lakh. The family appealed in the Uttarakhand high court for higher compensation, but their plea was dismissed in 2017.

In its order, the high court noted that she was a “homemaker” and therefore, the compensation had to be fixed based on her life expectancy and a bare minimum notional income. The high court found no infirmities in the tribunal’s order that treated the woman’s notional income as less than that of a daily labourer.

But on Friday, the Supreme Court disapproved of this stance, while hearing the appeal against the high court order. It berated the high court for adopting an outdated approach. “How can a homemaker’s income be treated as less than that of a daily wager? We don’t accept such an approach,” the bench said.

The bench highlighted the amount of time and efforts that is dedicated to household work by individuals. The top court further criticised the high court for a spree of factual errors in its judgment – the high court got the type of vehicle wrong; the age of the deceased woman wrong and called her minor son an adult person.

The bench then proceeded to enhance the compensation to ₹6 lakh, directing it to be paid to the family of the deceased woman within six weeks. “One should never underestimate the value of a homemaker,” it further remarked.

The Supreme Court order on Friday takes forward the jurisprudential leap that seeks to acknowledge the value of women engaged in household work without a salary and, when appropriate, monetise them. According to the 2011 Census, nearly 159.85 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation, as compared to only 5.79 million men.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 17 February 2024)

NEET MDS 2024: Supreme Court issues notice on exam postponement plea

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice in response to a writ petition requesting the rescheduling of NEET MDS 2024 examination, scheduled for March 18, 2024. The petition also seeks to direct the extension of the eligibility cut-off by revising the internship completion dates.
A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra heard the case. The All India Students’ Union (AISU) sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, and the National Board of Examination in Medical Sciences (NBEMS), requesting the rescheduling of the NEET MDS exam.

NMC had announced the internship cut-off date for the National Eligibility Entrance Test – Postgraduate (NEET PG) to be August 15, whereas the last date for NEET MDS is March 31. The NEET MDS 2024 registration deadline is February 19.

In 2023, the Telangana High Court disposed of a writ petition seeking the rescheduling of NEET MDS 2023, noting, “Before parting with the case we also make it clear from the next academic year the respondent shall take steps to see that all the candidates who have completed MBBS/BDS course across the country a uniform cut off date be fixed and enough care is taken to ensure that sufficient time is granted to all the students to prepare for NEET.”

Many candidates have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to postpone the NEET PG 2024 exam from March 3 to July 7, considering it discriminatory, especially when compared to the NEET MDS exam. Appealing for parity, candidates argue that in past NEET MDS exams have been held simultaneously with NEET PG, prompting a plea for alignment with the NEET PG schedule to ensure an adequate preparation period.

A group of aspirants have filed a petition in the apex court seeking the postponement of the NEET MDS 2024 exam to July. They seek alignment with the NEET PG schedule to allow for adequate preparation time. The Supreme Court has provisionally scheduled the case regarding the postponement for February 16.

Taking cognizance of the matter, the Supreme Court bench agreed to issue a notice; however, it showed reluctance to provide interim relief, stating that it is “only a matter of cut-off.” The matter is now scheduled for a tentative hearing on February 21, 2024.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 17 February 2024)

*Disclaimer: – Always check with the original copy of judgment from the Court website.

Legal News in this Weekly Legal Update are compiled by Team www.deepakmiglani.com

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