Weekly Legal Updates (20 August to 26 August 2023)

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.

Supreme Court to lay down guidelines for courts on summoning govt officers

The Supreme Court Monday agreed to lay down modalities on the summoning of government officials by courts, including on their dress, across the county while responding to the Centre’s request to frame a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

The Centre had earlier submitted a draft SOP containing its suggestions before the SC bench, which is hearing a plea concerning the summoning of two government officials by the Allahabad High Court for alleged contempt of court.

“We will only lay down modalities for the appearance of officers in court including the dress,” Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said while presiding over a three-judge bench.

CJI Chandrachud said the court had gone through the SOP and said there were certain points in it.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the court was probably referring to two points in the SOP — one which said: “Before initiation of contempt proceedings, prayer for review petition on behalf of the government may be entertained by higher courts”.

And the other which said, “In cases wherein a review (Mehta urged the court to read review as appeal petition) has been admitted against a contempt order of a lower court OR in case of High Court….the lower court should take cognizance of the same and not initiate any related contempt proceedings in the instant matter”.

Mehta also told the bench, comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, that these can’t be part of SOP. “Obviously that can’t be in the SOP. That is the discretion of every court… How to exercise that power that can never be the subject of SOP… It cannot be done. I straightaway concede,” he submitted.

Mehta added, “I myself will not insist on some of the issues where Your Lordships have rightly said how to exercise judicial review…that can never be a part of our request for SOP”.

The CJI said, “We will clarify the position and lay down some broad yardsticks for summoning of government officers in court. You have video conferencing etc, so you have other modalities also”.

Mehta said, “There are other suggestions too which I, as an officer of the court, find to be positive”.

Illustrating this, he said that sometimes it is insisted that the chief secretary should be present. “A chief secretary is bound to be in attendance if called by a constitutional court or any court for that matter. But if a joint secretary dealing with the matter comes, he would be in a better position to assist. And the chief secretary remaining out for a day would affect several other works,” he said.

“Ultimately, the CS would be taking a briefing from the concerned secretary of that department,” added CJI Chandrachud.

Agreeing, Mehta said after that three-four officers will have to accompany the chief secretary to answer queries. “Instead, it will be better for the person dealing with the file to come”.

The CJI said Justice Misra had a “valuable suggestion”. “He says you must make a bifurcation between those cases which are pending and those where there has been a judgement passed after adjudication”.

“Matters which are pending, there is no reason then to ask officers to be present before the court unnecessarily because the affidavit can do the task. Once adjudication has taken place and there is non-compliance, then, of course, you are governed by the contempt principles. And we would also lay down some other yardsticks on restraint which should be exercised when summoning officers,” the CJI added.

On what officials wear while appearing in courts, CJI Chandrachud said he had seen a video from a High Court which went viral on YouTube.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 21 August 2023)

Supreme court upholds ‘No seat relinquishment’ for AIQ PG medical courses

The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed that students who secure admission in All India Quota (AIQ) seats for Post Graduate medical courses cannot relinquish these seats after the second
round of counseling for AIQ seats in the National Entrance-cumEligibility Test (NEET). The Court cited the order issued in May 2017 in the case of Dar-Us-Slam Educational Trust v. Medical Council of India regarding this matter.

The All India Quota (AIQ) is a 50% quota of postgraduate medical seats in India that are filled through a centralized counseling process conducted by the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC).

The remaining 50% of seats are filled by the state governments through their own counseling processes.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra presided over the hearing of a writ petition. This petition had been filed by a student who had resigned from a PG medical seat allotted under the NRI quota.

The applicant had gained admission to a three-year postgraduate medical degree programme during the second round of counseling in the NRI quota on 24th February 2022. However, on 26th March 2022, the applicant decided to withdraw from the seat allocated to them. Subsequently, the third round of counseling occurred on 22nd April 2022, and it was followed by a fourth round for stray vacancies on 7th May 2022. The seat remained unoccupied.

In light of the petitioner’s decision, the Court observed that it had resulted in a vacant seat, thereby preventing another deserving student from securing admission. Considering this context, the Court declined to provide any relief to the petitioner.

“In the order of this Court in Dar-Us-Slam Educational Trust v. Medical Council of India, it was clearly specified that after the second round of counseling for All India Quota seats, students who secure admission in these seats should not be permitted to relinquish them,” the Court said in its order. In the case Dar-Us-Slam Educational Trust v Medical Council of India, the Court’s ruling was:
“After the second round of counseling for All India Quota seats, students admitted to these seats should not be allowed to vacate them. This ensures that only a limited number of seats return to the State Quota, and that All India Quota seats are filled exclusively by students from the All India merit list. Furthermore, students securing admission in Deemed Universities following the second round of counseling conducted by the DGHS will not be eligible to participate in any other counseling.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 22 August 2023)

15 years old car ban: Delhi High Court rules in favour of releasing vehicles

The Delhi High Court today ruled in favor of releasing seized “end of life” cars on the condition that the owners give an undertaking that they will not ply the vehicles on the roads. Additionally, the owners of these vehicles need to ensure that these vehicles are either permanently parked in private spaces or removed from the city limits. The court’s decision came after a host of individuals filed a petition, challenging the Delhi government’s policy of seizing ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles that are over 15 years old for petrol and a decade old for diesel.

The petitioners argued that the policy has violated their right to property. The ruling comes as a relief of thousands of car owners in the national capital whose cars were seized.

Additionally, Justice Prateek Jalan, who was dealing with the petitions, has urged the Delhi government to work on a policy for handling such vehicles, emphasizing a balance between property rights and environmental concerns.

Breach of the undertaking submitted by the car owners will invite court action. Furthermore, the owners will need to provide a proof of ownership/lease of private spaces where the vehicles will be parked.

Earlier this week, Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot issued orders to the transport department to stop seizing and scrapping the ‘end-of-life’ cars that are parked and are not being used by the owners. Several owners had raised their concerns after their vehicles, which were parked on roads, were towed away by the authorities.

Gahlot also said that the seizure drive from Delhi’s transport department had no approvals from the government.

(Courtesy:- The Times of India, 22 August 2023)

Antilia bomb scare case: Supreme Court grants bail to ex-cop Pradeep Sharma

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to former Mumbai Police officer Pradeep Sharma, who was arrested in connection with the Antilia bomb scare case and the killing of businessman Mansukh Hiran. The Bombay high court had refused him bail in January.

On February 25, 2021, a gelatine-laden SUV was found near billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s residence ‘Antilia’ in south Mumbai. Businessman Mansukh Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV, was found dead in a creek in neighbouring Thane on March 5, 2021.

Sharma’s lawyer submitted the only allegation against the former police officer was that he had helped his former colleague Sachin Waze – the main accused in the Antilia bomb planting case and the killing of Hiran – in eliminating Hiran.

Known as an “encounter specialist”, Sharma was a member of the Mumbai Police’s encounter squad that killed over 300 criminals in numerous encounters.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Sharma, submitted that Sharma was a decorated police officer who retired after 37 years of service.

“Waze wanted to have some recognition and be in spotlight. They wanted to plant an explosive outside the house of an industrialist in Mumbai so he procured gelatin sticks. The deceased is Mansukh Hiran.

“In conjunction with Hiran, he got his car and showed it as a stolen car, put gelatin sticks and parked it outside the industrialist’s house. This was done with an intention that he will recover the car and he will be in spotlight that he has discovered an attack. The high court records this I (Sharma) am unconcerned with all this,” Rohatgi said.

He said there was no direct evidence to link Sharma to Sachin Waze.

“I am a retired police officer. I met Waze at Malabar (Hill) police station. He called me and is known to me. Second time I met him at police commissioner’s office. Is it possible to hatch a conspiracy to murder someone at police commissioner’s office?” Rohatgi submitted.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 23 August 2023)

High court-appointed advocate panel begins inspection of manholes in Mumbai

The Bombay High Court-appointed panel of advocates Wednesday started its inspection to check if all the manholes in the city are being covered with lids.

The high court had ordered a ward-wise survey of all manholes in Mumbai and appointed a 24-member advocate committee accompanied by civic officials for it. For each municipal ward, one advocate has been appointed.

On Wednesday, the inspection occurred in the G-South ward covering Worli, Prabhadevi and Lower Parel areas in South Mumbai. According to civic officials, a team of officials is accompanying the advocate who is carrying out physical verification of all the spots with manholes in that particular ward.

“Based on findings, each advocate will prepare a joint report with the civic officials, and the collective report of all the 24 wards will be submitted to the high court in three weeks,” said an official.

The civic officials on August 21 submitted a certificate to the municipal commissioner and the government-appointed administrator, Iqbal Singh Chahal, stating all the manholes in Mumbai had been covered with lids and there were no open manholes at their respective wards.

“Each ward officer inspected manholes and submitted a report stating on Monday morning that all the manholes had been covered. Also, one needs to understand that keeping the manholes covered is dynamic, and the data gives a report till Monday. If any maintenance hole gets damaged or goes missing tomorrow, that will not be counted under this report,” Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, had told The Indian Express on Monday.

According to the civic body’s official figures, 74,682 manholes in Mumbai fall under its jurisdiction. The BMC has installed protective grills in 6,308 manholes, while the rest are being covered with conventional concrete covers and metal discs. In his response to the Bombay high court, Chahal also said that by 2024, all the manholes in Mumbai will have protective grills fixed in them.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 23 August 2023)

Kenyan court orders mediation in Meta labour dispute

A Kenyan court has given Facebook’s parent company Meta (META.O) and content moderators suing it for unfair dismissal 21 days to resolve their dispute out of court, a court order showed on Wednesday.

The 184 content moderators are suing Meta and two subcontractors after they say they lost their jobs with one of the firms, Sama, for organising a union.

The plaintiffs say they were then blacklisted from applying for the same roles at the second firm, Luxembourg-based Majorel, after Facebook switched contractors.

“The parties shall pursue an out of court settlement of this petition through mediation,” said the order by the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which was signed by lawyers for the plaintiffs, Meta, Sama and Majorel.

Kenya’s former chief justice, Willy Mutunga, and Hellen Apiyo, the acting commissioner for labour, will serve as mediators, the order said. If the parties fail to resolve the case within 21 days, the case will proceed before the court, it said.

“We are pleased to be moving into a mediation phase as we believe it is in the best interest of all parties to come to an amicable resolution,” Sama said in a statement.

A Majorel spokesperson said the company could not comment on matters involving pending or active litigation.

Meta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A judge ruled in April that Meta could be sued by the moderators in Kenya, even though it has no official presence in the east African country.

The case could have implications for how Meta works with content moderators globally. The U.S. social media giant works with thousands of moderators around the world, who review graphic content posted on its platform.

Meta has also been sued in Kenya by a former moderator over accusations of poor working conditions at Sama, and by two Ethiopian researchers and a rights institute, which accuse it of letting violent and hateful posts from Ethiopia flourish on Facebook. Those cases are ongoing.

Meta said in May 2022, in response to the first case, that it required partners to provide industry-leading conditions. On the Ethiopia case, it said in December that hate speech and incitement to violence were against the rules of Facebook and Instagram.

(Courtesy:- Reuters, 23 August 2023)

Karnataka autorickshaw union moves High Court to be impleaded in Ola, Uber excess fare case

A Karnataka autorickshaw union has filed an application to be impleaded as a respondent in a case regarding the fare charged by ride-sharing platforms as well as licence for three-wheeler rides on such platforms. The president of the union under the banner of ‘Karnataka Chalakara Okkoota’ filed the application on Monday.

The application refers to the 2022 interim order of the Karnataka High Court, which had held that ride-sharing platforms could only charge 10 per cent over and above the basic fare as a service charge.

The union alleged that after adhering to these norms for some time, Uber and Ola had begun charging excess rates, ignoring the interim order.

The union further claimed that these ride-sharing platforms were instead collecting charges ranging from 20 to 33 per cent and had thereby committed contempt of court.

Ending with a plea for suo motu contempt proceedings or directions for government action, the union said that it would deposit 48 ride receipts of the alleged violations for the perusal of the court.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 24 August 2023)

PayPal moves Delhi High Court against order holding it as payment system operator under money laundering law

American online payment gateway PayPal on Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court against an order which ruled that it was a “payment system operator” under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and has to thus comply with “reporting obligations” under it.

Senior counsel appearing for PayPal argued before a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma that the order passed by a single judge of the high court was “wrong”.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the appellant, also said that the single judge’s order cannot be sustained in view of a recent decision of the high court on the issue of payment system operator. The bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula, listed the appeal for further hearing in September.

The Delhi High court has recently rejected PILs seeking to cease the operations of Google Pay as it was not a “payment system provider”. The court said Google Pay is a “mere third-party app provider” which requires no authorisation from the RBI.

On July 24, the single judge had set aside a penalty of Rs 96 lakh imposed on PayPal by Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) — India for alleged non-compliance with the “reporting obligations” under the law against money laundering. It had also ruled that PayPal was liable to be viewed as a “payment system operator” and has to thus comply with “reporting obligations” under it.

The single judge’s order came on a petition by PayPal challenging the penalty imposed on it by the FIU.

PayPal cited the RBI guidelines to state that it only operates as an Online Payment Gateway Service Provider and is “not covered within the definition of a payment system operator or financial institution and in turn, not covered under the definition of a reporting entity under the PMLA”.

Courtesy:- The Telegraph Online, 24 August 2023)

Kerala High Court annoyed with CPM’s move to continue party office construction 

Expressing displeasure over the CPM’s move to continue the construction of the party office in Santhanpara defying its order, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the Idukki district collector to file a report on the action taken on the illegal construction.

The High Court on Tuesday directed the Idukki district collector to stop the illegal construction activities forthwith. Ignoring the order, the construction activities continued even at night, the amicus curiae informed the court. Following this, the court directed the government pleader to appear before it at 12 noon on Wednesday. 

The pleader said that the Idukki district collector has been directed to issue a memo to stop the construction. The pleader also submitted that the district police chief had also been communicated about the court order. The Idukki district collector could not receive a copy of the High Court’s order on Tuesday which caused the delay, said the government pleader. The court posted the case for further hearing on August 24.

An all-party meeting to address the views of residents in Idukki on the district collector’s order that imposed curbs on construction activities in 13 panchayats in Idukki was held in Munnar on Wednesday. The meeting was held under the leadership of Munnar panchayat authorities. 

District Collector Sheeba George had imposed restrictions on construction activities in 13 panchayats based on an interim order issued by the High Court directing the District Disaster Management Authority to take steps to regulate the development activities in the ‘hazard zone’ in consultation with the local bodies. 

However, the order sparked protests among residents settled in the 13 panchayats. A meeting comprising traders, party representatives, various organisational representatives and panchayat officials was held to hear the concerns of the residents. 

At the meeting, traders in Munnar demanded the cancellation of the order. They said that the collector issued the order without considering public opinion. “The order brings only the Munnar region under the hazard zone to impose regulations. When the authorities make efforts for environmental conservation, steps should also be taken to solve the residents’ concerns,” they said. 

Political party representatives who took part in the meeting said that the local people settled in Munnar and traders in the hill town are living without causing any harm to the environment. “However, it is unfair to blame the residents for the illegal construction activities that the outsiders undertake in the hill town. If the collector is imposing curbs on construction activities, the residential areas should be excluded from the purview of the order,” they said. 

The Idukki district collector informed the Kerala High Court that the Santhanpara village officer has issued a stop memo to halt the construction of the CPM office. “The village officer again issued a stop memo on August 23 and same has been served to the area secretary of the CPM at 10.30 AM.,” stated the report filed by the collector. In the stop memo, the village officer said that the CPM violated the order issued by the government and High Court. Hence, all construction activities are banned on the land. Legal action would be taken against the office-bearers as it amounts to contempt of court, stated the stop memo.

(Courtesy:- The Indian Express, 24 August 2023)

Court orders Halle Berry to pay $8000 a month as child support after divorce from Olivier Martinez

The divorce agreement between Hollywood star Halle Berry and her ex-husband Olivier Martinez has been finalised after eight long years. According to a report by Page Six, Los Angeles Superior Court has ordered Berry to pay $8000 a month to Martinez in child support for their 9-year-old son, Maceo.

According to the court documents, Berry has been ordered to pay for her son’s “private school tuition, school uniforms, and school supplies,” but the payments will be made directly to the school and not to Martinez. Additionally, Berry will have to pay for her son’s health insurance and 100 percent of all uninsured medical expenses, including therapy.

Moreover, Berry has to pay 4.3 percent of any income which is above $2 million, and that would be considered “additional child support” for Maceo.

Meanwhile, Berry has expressed desire to contribute $55,000 toward Martinez’s attorney’s fees.

As per the divorce agreement, both Berry and Martinez will get physical custody of their son for half of the week — Monday to Wednesday or Wednesday to Friday — with alternating weekends. And the couple have agreed upon a schedule for the same.

Notably, Berry and Martinez had filed for divorce in October 2015 but the proceedings took lot of time due to their unresolved child custody issues.

The couple had got married in July 2013. After their split in 2015, they released a joint statement which read, “It is with a heavy heart that we have come to the decision to divorce.

“We move forward with love and respect for one another and the shared focus for what is best for our son. We wish each other nothing but happiness in life, and we hope that you respect our, and most importantly our children’s privacy, as we go through this difficult period.”

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 24 August 2023)

Demolition near Krishna Janmabhoomi: SC refuses to extend status quo order against railways

The Supreme Court has refused to extend the stay on a demolition drive near Mathura’s Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi. The Railways said the petitioner had no locus standi as he was not affected by the demolition and did not reside in the disputed area. The Railways alleged that the petitioner tried to link the demolition to a legal battle related to the Krishna Janmabhoomi. The court has directed the petitioner to respond to the Railways’ allegations. The demolition was carried out to vacate land for the conversion of the line between Mathura and Vrindavan from narrow gauge to broad gauge.

The top court also questioned the locus standi of petitioner Yakub Shah, who challenged the demolition exercise at Nai Basti, after the Railways said he was not among those affected and does not reside in the disputed area.

The Railways also alleged that the petitioner tried to link the demolition activity to a legal battle related to the “disputed” Krishna Janmabhoomi, which is located adjacent to the Shahi Eidgah mosque.

“There will be no further extension of the interim order passed on August 16,” a bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi said, as it posted the matter for Monday and directed Shah to respond to the Railways’ allegations that crucial facts were suppressed by him while approaching the top court.

On August 16, the top court had ordered status quo on the drive for a period of 10 days after the aggrieved residents complained that a civil suit filed by them is pending consideration before a Mathura court.

However, on August 14, Prashashti Srivastava, public relations officer for Agra Division, North Central Railways, said the demolition drive was completed and a total of 135 houses were razed in two phases on grounds of encroachment. He said the land was being vacated to transform the line between Mathura and Vrindavan from narrow gauge to broad gauge.

Appearing for the Railways, solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta raised questions over the petition. “It is an admitted position that the present eviction drive does not even remotely pertain to any property of the petitioner. He has filed a suit in the representative capacity. The petitioner has deliberately and willfully suppressed the fact that his property is not the subject matter of the eviction drive undertaken by the Railways under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971,” he said.

The Railways said the petitioner tried to make “false assertions” and “sensational” claims by saying the drive was carried out without following due procedure.

“This (demolition) has been linked to a disputed religious premises to give the action taken by respondent a communal overtone,” the Railways said, adding that this was done to “outrage” the court for the purpose of obtaining interim relief.

The Railways was referring to the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple dispute where Hindu litigants are laying claim to 13.37 acres of land around the Shahi Idgah mosque as the birthplace of Hindu deity Krishna. Multiple suits have been filed in different courts of Mathura, demanding that the mosque, which abuts the temple, be removed and the land returned to the temple Trust.

The Railways said a detailed hearing was given to nearly 135 occupants sought to be evicted pursuant to which fresh eviction notices were issued in June. In these entire proceedings, the petitioner’s property was not involved, it said.

“Pursuant to the eviction notices, demolition of the encroached portion of Railway’s land has already taken place. The instant writ petition has become infructuous and on this ground is liable to be dismissed,” it said in its affidavit.

The Railways accused the petitioner of misleading the court, which amounted to “grossest abuse of Article 32” of the Constitution, which allows the top court to issue writs to enforce fundamental rights.

Pulling up the petitioner, the bench said: “You are not on railway land. It seems we should introduce a class action suit for contradicting PILs filed before the same bench,” it said.

Senior advocate Prashanto Chandra Sen, who appeared for Shah, said: “I will satisfy this court by Monday. Railways has nowhere shown it is the owner of the land in question. There is a suit filed by the residents pending on this issue.”

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 26 August 2023)

Supreme Court grants bail to banned outfit PFI leader in money laundering case

The Supreme Court granted bail to banned group Popular Front of India (PFI) leader Abdul Razak BP in a money laundering case.

A bench of Justices SA Bopanna and MM Sundresh, while ordering the release on bail, said that the accused would surrender his passport in court.

He will not go out of Uttar Pradesh without the permission of the court, the bench added.

The court mandated that Abdul would appear before the investigating officer of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) once a week.

Abdul had filed an application in the Supreme Court after being denied bail by the Allahabad High Court. He is accused of collecting more than Rs 20 Cr from abroad as well as within the country to facilitate activities of PFI.

This money was allegedly being used for anti-national activities. 

(Courtesy:- India Today, 27 August 2023)

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Legal News in this Weekly Legal Update are compiled by Team www.deepakmiglani.comThe News/Story has not been edited by team www.deepakmiglani.com

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