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Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Fairness: Non-Disclosure in Employment Cases Requires Individualized Assessment and Contextual Evaluation

TITLE: RAVINDRA KUMAR V. STATE OF U.P. & ORS

CITATION: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5902 OF 2012

DECIDED ON: 22 FEBRUARY 2024.

CORAM: JUSTICE J.K. MAHESHWARI AND JUSTICE K.V. VISWANATHAN

 

Justice J.K. Maheshwari, Justice K.V. Viswanathan states that “our opinion on the peculiar facts of the case, we do not think it can be deemed fatal for the appellant. Broad-brushing every non-disclosure as a disqualification will be unjust and the same will tantamount to being completely oblivious to the ground realities obtaining in this great, vast and diverse country. Each case will depend on the facts and circumstances that prevail thereon, and the court will have to take a holistic view, based on objective criteria, with the available precedents serving as a guide. It can never be a one size fits all scenarios.”

 

Brief Facts:

Ravindra Kumar had applied for the position of Constable, and during the course of his application, became involved in a criminal case. Subsequently, he was acquitted of the charges. However, the central issue arose from his non-disclosure of this criminal case in the verification form. As a result, his employment was cancelled by the authorities. The case presented the question of whether the non-disclosure warranted the cancellation of his employment.

Court’s Observation and Analysis:

The Supreme Court of India conducted a thorough analysis of the case, emphasizing the need for an individualized assessment in such matters. The court highlighted the importance of considering specific factors, including the nature of the office, timing and nature of the criminal case, and the overall character of the candidate. Drawing from precedent, the court cautioned against adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, arguing that non-disclosure should not automatically lead to disqualification. The judgment underscored the significance of a nuanced examination of circumstances.

The court delved into legal principles, placing particular emphasis on the employer’s exercise of power in a reasonable manner and the necessity of a fair and reasonable decision-making procedure. The judgment explored the concept of suppression of material information and stressed the need for a holistic view based on objective criteria. Special circumstances were deemed crucial, with the court urging a comprehensive consideration of all relevant aspects.

Ultimately, the court allowed the appeal, setting aside previous orders and directing the authorities to appoint Ravindra Kumar in the Constable position. The judgment specified entitlement to notional benefits but excluded arrears of salary for the period of non-service. This decision highlighted the court’s commitment to fairness, reasonableness, and a contextualized evaluation of each case, steering away from a rigid application of rules in assessing the impact of non-disclosure on employment.

 

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Written by- Komal Goswami

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The supreme court court overturned the high court’s order to dismiss the contempt application due to noncompliance.

Case title: Domco Smokeless Fuels Pvt Ltd vs State Of Jharkhand

Case no.: SLP(Civil) No(s). 34194 of 2016

Decided on: 22.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice B.R Gavai, Hon’ble Justice Sandeep Mehta

 

Hon’ble Justices stated that, “the claim of the appellant for refund pertaining to the third period, i.e. 1st January, 2007 till March, 2008 stands concluded with the rejection of SLP(Civil) No. 21019 of 2010 vide order dated 9th September, 2010 passed by this Court. Admittedly, the appellant has not been refunded the amount for the period running from 1st January, 2007 till March, 2008 and, therefore, the learned Single Judge was not justified in discharging the respondents in the contempt case without ensuring payment of the refund amount with interest to the appellant herein.”

 

BRIEF FACTS:

In an online auction run by the respondent, the appellant alleges to have paid more than the price announced in exchange for the lifting of coal shipments. After the coal was removed, the appellant and other similarly situated companies sought a refund of the amount they paid in excess of the notified price. However, the appellant’s request for a refund was denied, so it filed a Writ Petition in the Jharkhand High Court, claiming a refund of the excess price paid by it over and above the notified price for the respondent Company’s e-auction of lifting coal consignments.

The appellant filed a case for the violation of order passed in Writ Petition by the High Court of Jharkhand, citing non-payment of the amount collected in excess of the notified price as well as interest.

The appellant has approached this Court to challenge the order issued by the Single Judge bench of the High Court of Jharkhand, which dismissed the appellant’s contempt application alleging noncompliance with the court’s order.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION:

The court stated on the high court’s order that the appellant had not received the refund for the period from January 1st, 2007 to March 1st, 2008, and that the learned single judge was therefore not justified in dismissing the respondents in the contempt case without guaranteeing that the appellant would receive the refund amount plus interest.

The court allowed the appeal, ruling that the respondents failed to diligently comply with orders issued by both the Jharkhand High Court and this Court. As a result, it hereby orders that the appellant be entitled to interest at 12% per annum on the refund amount from January 1st, 2005 to December 11th, 2005. The already paid interest of 3.5% per annum will be taken out from the differential amount. The appellant is also entitled to a refund of the excess amount paid from January 1, 2007 to March 1, 2008, with interest at 12% per annum, in the same terms provided by this Court.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

 

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NCDRC overstepped its authority and jurisdiction by disregarding the Agreement’s binding covenants: Supreme court

Case title: Venkataraman Krishnamurthy vs Lodha Crown Buildmart Pvt. Ltd.

Case no.: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 971 OF 2023

Decided on: 22.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose, Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Kumar

 

Hon’ble Justices stated that, “it was not open to the NCDRC to apply its own standards and conclude that, though there was delay in handing over possession of the apartment, such delay was not unreasonable enough to warrant cancellation of the Agreement. It was not for the NCDRC to rewrite the terms and conditions of the contract between the parties and apply its own subjective criteria to determine the course of action to be adopted by either of them.

 

BRIEF FACTS:

The complainants, who planned to buy an apartment in a Mumbai building that the respondent company was going to build, were the appellants. The complainants received a flat as a result of the parties’ execution of an Agreement to Sell. The sale consideration was to be paid in four instalments of “application money” in accordance with the payment schedule, with the remaining sum due when fit outs started. According to the agreement, the complainants were to receive possession of the flat by June 30, 2016, or within a grace period of one year, so they could fit it out.

The complainants went to the NCDRC, claiming that the company had terminated the agreement and failed to deliver possession of the flat for fit outs by the specified date. In addition to reimbursement for the money they had paid, they prayed for damages for the harassment, mental anguish, and torture they had endured, as well as reimbursement for the costs of the lawsuit. The complainants were before the supreme Court because they were unhappy NCDRC order.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court ruled that the contract condition required payment of delay compensation, and that if the delay lasted more than twelve months after the end of the grace period, the allottee could terminate the contract and receive a refund of his payment. The contract condition, however, stated that the refund would be made without any interest.

The Court went on to say that the appellants’ desire to avoid the additional tax liability resulting from the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax regime could not be used against them or attributed to them as an underhanded reason for withdrawing from the agreement.

After analysing the evidence and the parties’ agreement, the court concluded that the NCDRC exceeded its authority and jurisdiction by ignoring the binding covenants in the Agreement and introducing its own logic and rationale to determine what the parties’ future course of action, particularly the appellants, should be.  

The court orders the respondent-company to refund the deposited amount of Rs. 2,25,31,148 in twelve equal monthly instalments via post-dated cheques, with simple interest at 12% per annum, from the date of receipt of the amount or parts thereof until actual repayment.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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Supreme court upholds taxation of enemy property , asserts it’s not property of the union

Title: LUCKNOW NAGAR NIGAM & OTHERS VERSUS KOHLI BROTHERS COLOUR LAB. PVT. LTD. & OTHERS

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2878 OF 2024 (Arising out of S.L.P. (Civil) No.17402 of 2017

Dated on: 22.2.2024

Coram:  HON’BLE JUSTICE B.V NAGRATHNA & JUSTICE UJJAL BHAYUN

 

The Lucknow Nagar Nigam has filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision to relieve the respondent from paying property tax on enemy property vested in the Custodian under the Enemy Property Act, 1968.Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan decided the dispute and rendered the ruling.

 Brief facts of the case

The lawsuit revolves around a building called House on Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Lucknow, which has historical significance as an enemy property Enemy property is defined as any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm. Enemy includes any country that committed an act of aggression against India, and its citizens and companies. The property was originally owned by the Raja of Mahmudabad, who moved to Pakistan in 1947, and has since been the subject of legal contention. The property is currently occupied and used for profit by the respondent-assesses.
Historically, the Municipal Corporation assessed property taxes under Rule No. 174 ‘ka’ of the Act of 1959. However, the revelation of commercial activity on the grounds resulted in a reassessment based on capital value. This resulted in a series of legal processes, with the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property for India declaring the property as enemy property in 2002. the taxes had to be paid to the property by the custodian.

Legal conflicts ensued between the Municipal Corporation, tenants, and the Custodian’s office. Despite efforts by the Raja’s son, Raja Mohammed Amir Mohammad Khan, to secure the release of enemy properties, possession surrender orders were issued. During these procedures, in 2011, the Municipal Corporation issued a recovery notice requesting payment from the assesses.
The assesses challenged the property’s taxation and filed a writ petition requesting relief, citing the property’s status as an enemy property. In 2017, the High Court granted the writ petition, quashing the recovery order and directing representations for any prior payments paid by the respondent.

Appellants arguments

Firstly, it was argued that the property in question, while in the custody of the Custodian of Enemy Property, did not belong to the Union Government. They noted that the lack of legislation specifically stating the property as belonging to the Union Government demonstrated that the Custodian’s responsibility was restricted to management rather than ownership. They also emphasized the transient nature of the Custodian’s control over enemy possessions, implying that ownership did not rest permanently with the government. Furthermore, they invoked constitutional rules governing the acquisition of private property, arguing that the Union Government must follow due procedure and offer fair compensation if it claims possession. The appellants also contended against the applicability of Article 285 of the Constitution, claiming that it only applied to properties directly. They also used legal precedents to support their argument that concessions made by municipal governments could not bind the state against its plenary jurisdiction to raise taxes. Finally, they asked the court to overturn the High Court’s verdict in light of their arguments.

Respondents’ arguments

They Respondents maintained that the property in question, which was declared enemy property and vested in the Custodian, was immune from state taxation under Article 285 of the Constitution. This immunity, they argued, was supported by judicial precedents and specific provisions of the Enemy Property Act of 1959. Furthermore, they stressed the clarity brought about by the 2017 Amendment Act on the property’s status, as well as the fact that declaring it enemy property was a legitimate exercise of police power. Overall, the respondents encouraged the court to uphold the challenged verdict, which accurately evaluated the law and facts of the case.

Court analysis and judgement

The Supreme Court ruled that enemy property vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India under the Enemy Property Act of 1968 did not constitute the property of the Union of India, and so is not free from state taxation under Article 285 of the Constitution. The Court further ruled that the respondent, as a lessee of the enemy property, cannot claim the exemption and must pay property tax and other local taxes to the appellant, the Lucknow Nagar Nigam. The Court based their ruling on the following grounds:
The Enemy Property Act of 1968 does not transfer ownership of the enemy property to the Custodian or the Union, but rather vests the property in the Custodian for preservation and management until government decided otherwise. 

The Custodian acts as a trustee or fiduciary for the enemy property, not as an owner. The Custodian cannot dispose of enemy property without the prior approval of the Central Government.
The enemy property remains the property of the enemy subject or the enemy firm unless the Central Government acquires it through a particular notification under Section 12 of the Act.
The enemy’s property does not fall under Article 285 of the Constitution, which exempts Union property from state taxation. Article 285 only applies to property owned by the Union, not property vested in the Union or its officers for a specified purpose.

The responder, as a private person and not an agency of the Union, is not entitled to the benefits of Article 285 and must pay local taxes in accordance with municipal legislation. The respondent cannot avoid tax duty by claiming that he occupies enemy property as the Custodian’s lessee. As a result, the contested HC order was reversed, allowing the appellant to levy taxes beginning with the current fiscal year. No refunds for previously paid taxes were issued to ensure conformity with applicable regulations.

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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Supreme Court Endorses Existing Government Initiatives, Declines Mandate for Community Kitchens

Title: ARUN DHAWAN V UNION OF INDIA

Citation: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.1103 OF 2019

Dated on: 22.2.2024

Coram:  HON’BLE JUSTICE BELA MTRIVEDHI AND JUSTICE PANKAJ MITTHAL

The Supreme Court decision made by Justices Bela Mtrivedhi and Justice Pankaj Mitthal of India on a writ suit filed by certain social activists seeking directives to adopt the concept of Community Kitchens to battle hunger, malnutrition, and starvation in the country. The Court considered the different initiatives and programs undertaken by the Central and State Governments under the National Food Security Act of 2013, which aims to provide food and nutritional security to the people, and delivered directives accordingly.

 

Brief facts of the case

The issue arose from a petition under Article 32, which asked the Supreme Court to direct States and Union Territories to establish Community Kitchens to combat hunger. Despite court orders, governments defended existing projects such as the Poshan Abhiyan, underlining their commitment to combating malnutrition and famine. The central government mentioned measures like the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and the National Food Security Act of 2013 (NFSA). The petitioners proposed a constitutional duty to maintain fundamental sustainability. The petitioners also sought orders against the National Legal Services Authority for developing a scheme under Article 50(1)A of the Constitution and against the Central Government for establishing a National Food Grid beyond the boundaries of the Public Distribution Scheme.

The governments stated that there had been no reported deaths from famine or malnutrition, emphasizing their commitment to fighting these challenges through current programs. The petitioners contended that, while governments had established numerous plans, they still owed a constitutional duty to secure the basic survival of human life, regardless of whether hunger, malnutrition, or famine resulted in death.

Court Analysis and Judgement

 

The Supreme Court ruled that, despite the petitioners’ claims and the court’s previous directions, states would not be required to install Community Kitchens. The court noted the comprehensive framework given by the National Food Security Act of 2013 (NFSA), which aims to secure food and nutritional security using a rights-based approach.
It mentioned the many programs already in place, such as Poshan Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal, and others, which were created to combat hunger and malnutrition. The court recognized the national and state governments’ attempts to execute these initiatives.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court denied the petition, finding that the NFSA offers a strong legislative framework for providing food security and nutritional support. It left space for states to explore.

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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