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Producing the documents during cross examination is permissible under law: Supreme Court

The case of Mohammed Abdul Wahid Vs Nilofer & Anr. (Special Leave Petition (Civil)No.14445 of 2021), there were two contradictory judgements by the high court of Bombay single bench. The judgements address the difference between a party to a suit and a witness in a suit, as well as when it is permissible to produce documents directly during cross-examination. The court determined that a witness and a party to a suit are not the same, and evidence cannot be produced during cross-examination. On appeal, the division bench upheld the decision. The current petition concerns the validity of Bombay High Court judgements.

The court concluded that neither a witness nor a party to a suit serves a different purpose in the witness box and that Order XVI Rule 21’s “so far as it is applicable” clause does not suggest otherwise. It was noted that neither the Plaintiff nor the Defendant is prohibited from appearing before the court to present evidence by the term “witness.”

In regards to the production of evidence, the court decided that the parties to the lawsuit would also profit from the freedom to produce documents for the two purposes of cross-examining witnesses and refreshing one’s memory. The court noted that if these documents are not used to properly ask questions of and receive answers from either party in a lawsuit, the other party may not be able to adequately prove their case, which could seriously jeopardise the proceedings. As a result, the proposition that the law distinguishes between a party to a suit and a witness for the purposes of evidence is invalid. It is well established law that what is not pleaded cannot be argued, because the other party must be aware of the contours of the case in order to adjudicate it.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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The Apex Court can only intervene in lower court decisions, where the finding is perverse, based on inadmissible evidence, or vital evidence has been overlooked or wrongly discarded: Supreme Court

The judgment revolves around the conviction and sentencing of the case involving alcohol poisoning resulting in fatalities, injuries, and blindness to several individuals.

This case of Sanjeev vs State of Kerala [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1134 OF 2011] originated from an incident on April 4, 2003, where a conspiracy was allegedly hatched to mix methyl alcohol with spirit for unlawful gain. It is purported that the appellants, along with others, conspired to sell the adulterated liquor through an illicit outlet. This concoction led to the death of seven individuals, injuries to several others, and blindness in some.

The prosecution’s case was built upon extensive evidence, including witness testimonies, forensic examinations, and documentary proof. The Trial Court, after careful consideration of the evidence, convicted the accused persons, including the present appellants, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Abkari Act.

Subsequently, the convicted individuals filed appeals before the High Court of Kerala, challenging their convictions. The High Court, after thorough examination of the evidence on record, affirmed the convictions and sentences imposed by the Trial Court.

The appellants, dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, approached the Supreme Court by special leave. Their appeal before the Supreme Court questions the legality and sustainability of the convictions and sentences imposed upon them. Specifically, the appellants contest the findings of conspiracy, the admissibility of evidence, and the legality of the investigation conducted in the case.

In their petition before the Supreme Court, the appellants challenge the sufficiency and reliability of the evidence linking them to the conspiracy and the adulteration of liquor. They also raise procedural irregularities and alleged violations of their legal rights during the investigation and trial process.

The Supreme Court, therefore, is tasked with re-evaluating the evidence presented, assessing the legality of the investigation, and determining whether the convictions and sentences imposed upon the appellants are justified in accordance with the provisions of the Indian legal framework, including the IPC and the Abkari Act.

The issues before the Supreme Court concerned the convictions of A10 and A11 in relation to the illicit liquor business, specifically focusing on the conspiracy, supply, and sale of methyl alcohol leading to deaths and injuries. The Court analyzed testimonies of prosecution witnesses, evidence of transactions involving Biosole, and forensic reports. The laws involved included Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), Sections 302, 307, 326 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 57A of the Abkari Act, which addresses adulteration of liquor. The Court interpreted these laws to establish the elements of conspiracy, knowledge, and criminal liability. It held that the appellants were complicit in mixing methyl alcohol with liquor, endangering lives. Despite arguments and denial, the Court found sufficient evidence supporting the convictions. Additionally, the Court addressed procedural issues regarding the deposition of material witnesses, suggesting amendments to streamline the process. In the end, the Court upheld the convictions, dismissing the appeals and cancelling bail, and acknowledged the passing of one of the appellants, abating their appeal.

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Written by- Aditi

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Supreme Court Verdict Illuminates the Path of Trust and Transparency in Fire Insurance Disputes

In the realm of risk and uncertainty, individuals and organisations seek solace in the bastion of insurance – a covenant forged on the bedrock of trust. Trust serves as the cornerstone, forming the essence of the insurer-insured relationship. The fundamental principle is that insurance is governed by the doctrine of uberrimae fidei – there must be complete good faith on the part of the insured. The heart & soul of an insurance contract lies in the protection it accords to those who wish to be insured by it. This understanding encapsulates the foundational belief that insurance accords protection & indemnification, preserving the sanctity of trust within its clauses.

In Case of NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO. LTD. & ORS. APPELLANTS VERSUS M/S. MUDIT ROADWAYS [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 339 OF 2023] Facts of The case involves a civil appeal between the New India Assurance Co. Ltd. and M/s. Mudit Roadways over a fire insurance claim. M/s. Mudit Roadways had purchased multiple insurance policies covering their warehouse premises. A fire erupted in the warehouse, with conflicting reports attributing it to an electrical short circuit or negligence during welding work. The insurance company denied the claim, asserting that the warehouse wasn’t covered and alleging negligence on the part of the insured. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) ruled in favor of M/s. Mudit Roadways, directing the insurance company to pay Rs. 6,57,55,155, citing deficiency in service.

The court’s analysis in this civil appeal between the New India Assurance Co. Ltd. and M/s. Mudit Roadways reveals a meticulous examination of the intricacies surrounding a disputed fire insurance claim. The judgment delves into conflicting reports on the cause of the warehouse fire, emphasizing the importance of the surveyor’s report in establishing facts. Legal principles governing the introduction of new grounds for repudiation are highlighted, underscoring the need for transparency during hearings. The court places significance on trust and good faith in insurance contracts, suggesting that the insurance company’s denial without clear evidence may constitute a breach of trust. The coverage dispute is carefully addressed, with the court leaning towards an electrical short circuit as the probable cause, supporting the insured’s position. Additionally, the judgment comprehensively explores financial aspects, including the applicability of customs duty and the issue of unjust enrichment.

Ultimately, the court dismisses the appeal, favoring M/s. Mudit Roadways, and orders the insurance company to pay the specified sum with interest, while directing the customs duty component to be discharged directly to the Customs Department. This analysis reflects a thorough and balanced consideration of legal principles, factual evidence, and financial intricacies, ensuring a just resolution in favor of the insured party.

 

 

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Written by- Komal Goswami

 

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Judicial Scrutiny Essential for Administrative Decisions on Procedural Lapses: Supreme Court

The key issue at the heart of this judgment revolves around the maintainability of curative petitions filed by the appellants following the dismissal of their review petition by the Supreme Court. Specifically, the dispute centers on the refusal of the Registrar (J-IV) of the Supreme Court to register these curative petitions, citing non-compliance with procedural requirements outlined in the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.

This case of M/s Brahmaputra Concrete Pipe Industries etc. etc. Appellant(s) versus The Assam State Electricity Board and Others [Civil appeal no. 8450 of 2016] originated with a suit instituted by the appellants under “The Interest on Delayed Payments to Small Scale and Ancillary Industrial Undertakings Act, 1993” (the 1993 Act). The appellants’ suit was initially decreed by the Civil Judge, Senior Division, Tinsukia, Assam (Trial Court). However, the High Court dismissed the suit on appeal, primarily on the grounds of its maintainability under the 1993 Act. The High Court held that the suit could not be maintained for transactions predating the operationalization of the Act on 23.09.1992.

The appellants appealed the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court, arguing for the maintainability of their suit under the 1993 Act. However, a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s decision on 23.01.2019, finding no evidence of transactions qualifying for relief under the Act. Subsequently, the appellants’ review petition challenging this judgment was also dismissed by the Supreme Court on 18.12.2019, following an open court hearing.

The appellants then sought recourse through curative petitions, alleging errors in the judgments rendered by the Supreme Court. However, the Registrar (J-IV) declined to register these curative petitions, citing non-compliance with procedural requirements, specifically Rule 2(1) of Order XLVIII, Supreme Court Rules, 2013. This rule mandates that curative petitions must aver that the grounds therein were raised in the review petition and dismissed by circulation. Since the review petition was disposed of in open court rather than by circulation, the curative petitions were declined for registration under Rule 5 of Order XV of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.

The appellants challenge the refusal of the Registrar (J-IV) to register their curative petitions following the dismissal of their review petition by the Supreme Court. They contend that procedural irregularities should not bar them from seeking redress for alleged errors in the judgments passed against them.

The Court analyzed the constitutional provisions relevant to its jurisdiction, particularly Articles 137 and 145, which empower the Court to review its own judgments and make rules for its procedure, respectively. Additionally, the Court delved into the interpretation of its inherent powers under Articles 129 and 142, which were cited as the basis for the curative jurisdiction.

The central legal interpretation pertained to the validity and prerequisites for filing curative petitions. The Court scrutinized the requirements laid down in the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra, particularly emphasizing the need for specific averments regarding the grounds raised in the review petition and its dismissal by circulation. This requirement was incorporated into the Supreme Court Rules 2013 under Order XLVIII.

Furthermore, the Court addressed the Registrar’s role in handling curative petitions, specifically whether the Registrar possessed the authority to dismiss a petition solely due to the absence of averments regarding the review petition’s dismissal by circulation. The Court concluded that such a decision fell within the judicial domain and required determination by a Bench of the Court rather than the Registrar.

The legal framework encompassed not only constitutional provisions but also procedural rules outlined in the Supreme Court Rules 2013, particularly Order XLVIII. The Court’s interpretation emphasized the necessity for judicial scrutiny of curative petitions, underscoring the importance of adherence to procedural requirements while acknowledging the Registrar’s limited role in determining the petition’s validity.

The Supreme Court’s analysis delved into the procedural framework regarding the handling of curative petitions by the Registry, particularly in cases where a review petition had been dismissed after oral arguments in open Court. The Court emphasized that determining the validity of a curative petition, especially in light of the specific requirements outlined in Order XLVIII Rule 2(1) of the 2013 Rules, was inherently a judicial exercise rather than an administrative one.

The Court highlighted the inadequacy of the Registry’s authority to dismiss a curative petition solely due to the absence of certain averments, such as the one regarding the dismissal of the review petition by circulation. It elucidated that such decisions needed judicial scrutiny and could not be delegated to administrative bodies like the Registry. Drawing from Order LV Rule 2 of the 2013 Rules, the Court underscored the necessity for applications seeking excuse from compliance with procedural rules to be addressed to the Registrar initially. The Registrar, in turn, would seek instructions from the Judge in chambers, and if necessary, direct the matter to be heard in open Court.

Further reasoning entailed the delineation of the proper course for handling curative petitions arising from review petitions dismissed after open Court hearings. The Court elucidated that such petitions must include a plea for exemption from compliance with procedural rules, particularly Rule 2(1) of Order XLVIII, and be placed before the chamber judge for instructions. However, in cases where review petitions were dismissed by circulation, the usual course of circulation to a Bench of senior-most Judges would be followed.

Ultimately, the Court set aside the impugned order that declined registration of the curative petition, citing its contravention of procedural rules. However, given the substantial lapse of time since the filing of the curative petitions and after reviewing the case documents, the Court refrained from entertaining the curative petitions. This decision was rooted in the assessment that the appellant failed to demonstrate sufficient grounds for invoking the curative jurisdiction.

In summary, the Supreme Court’s judgment emphasized the need for adherence to procedural rules while handling curative petitions, with a clear delineation of the respective roles of the Registry and the judiciary. While setting aside the impugned order, the Court declined to entertain the curative petitions due to the appellant’s failure to establish a compelling case for reevaluation under the curative jurisdiction.

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Written by- Aditi

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Supreme court decision: limitation act not binding in jogighopa act appeals

 

The current case involves the Limitation Act of 1963, which is a law that specifies the time frame during which a legal action can be filed in court. The Act governs civil litigation, appeals, and applications and establishes separate statutes of limitation for different sorts of proceedings. The Act’s objective is to eliminate stale and interminable litigation while also ensuring prompt justice.

 

The case is about a disagreement between two businesses registered under the Companies Act of 1956. The Appellant had provided items to the Respondents and generated bills that were only partially paid. Subsequently, the Respondents were deemed a “sick company” under the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1935, and the government issued the Jogighopa (Assam) Unit of Ashok Paper Mills Limited (Acquisition Transfer of Undertaking) Act, 1990, to revitalize the business. The Appellant filed a claim for the unpaid sum under Section 16 of the Jogighopa Act, and it was partially awarded without interest.

The complainants appealed the Gauhati High Court’s decision to dismiss their appeal against the Commissioner of Payments’ order under the Jogighopa Act as precluded by limitation. They contended that Article 116 of the Limitation Act, 1963, does not apply to the appeal under the Jogighopa Act since the Commissioner is not a court and the order is not a decree or order under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. They further contended that, in the lack of any mandated limitation, they submitted the appeal within a reasonable time frame and with sufficient reasons for delay. The respondents supported the Gauhati High Court’s decision to uphold the order of the Commissioner of Payments under the Jogighopa Act. They contended that Article 116 of the Limitation Act of 1963 applies to the Jogighopa Act appeal because the Commissioner has civil court powers and the order is governed by the Code of Civil Procedure of 19081. They further claimed that the appellants submitted the appeal more than three years late and without grounds, causing prejudice to the respondents.

In the light of the case, the Hon’ble Bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Sanjay Karol arrived at the verdict that “Consequent to the discussion made hereinabove, i.e., neither the general nor the specific statute providing for an appeal from an order of the Commissioner of Payments within a specified period of time, the Claimant – Appellants’ appeal cannot be said to be barred by time. The same would therefore, be maintainable.

 The Jogighopa (Assam) Unit of Ashok Paper Mills Limited (Acquisition Transfer of Undertaking) Act, 1990, is not governed by the prescription of limitation under Article 116 of the Limitation Act, 1963, as the appeal thereunder, from an order of the Commissioner of payments cannot be said to be an appeal under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for the Legislature of the State of Assam has been categorical in limiting the application of the code to certain aspects of the Act only.

Given that the Jogighopa Act allows for a Judge of the High Court to be the Commissioner of Payments and then categorically provides for an appeal to lie therefrom, Division Bench of the High Court further evidences the sui generis nature of the appeal procedure provided therein.

 In the absence of any particular period of time being prescribed to file an appeal, the same would be governed by the principle of ‘reasonable time’, for which, by virtue of its very nature, no straitjacket formula can be laid down and it is to be determined as per the facts and circumstances of each case. In the present lis, having regard to the sequence of events, as taken note of above-the Claimant – Appellants cannot be said to have transgressed the boundaries of reasonable time in filing their appeal before the District Judge.

The appeal is allowed in the aforesaid terms. The file is restored to the docket of the concerned District Judge for him to proceed in accordance with law and in light of the discussions made herein.

The same be decided possibly within a period of three months from the date on which a copy of this judgment and order is received by the District Judge, as is necessitated by the attending facts and circumstances. Parties to bear respective costs.”

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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