Green signal for demolishing illegal construction on forest land: Supreme Court of India

Green signal has been given for the demolition of restaurant-cum-hotel in Bus stand complex of Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh directed by the National Green Tribunal. This decision was taken by Supreme Court of India in the case of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (HPBSM&DA) vs. The Central Empowered Committee Etc. & Ors [Civil appeal no. 5231-32 of 2016] by the bench of Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Indu Malhotra.

In the above cited case, National Green Tribunal came to know about the construction of the Bus Stand Complex disturbing the ecology of the area and also violating the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act and hence NGT had directed the authorities to pay the compensation of Rs. 15 Lacs in terms of Sections 15 and 17 of the NGT Act; and a compensation of Rs. 10 Lacs. And the compensation of Rs. 5 Lacs each had been directed to the state of Himachal Pradesh and its Department of tourism.

Appeal was filed by the Bus stand authorities in the Supreme Court. It was observed that the permission of constructing hotel-cum- restaurant was never been granted by the authorities. However the construction of Bus stand in that space was permitted earlier but extension of the space was breach of environmental norms.

Dismissing the appeal, SC discussed the environmental rule of law and the role of courts in ensuring environmental protection. SC referred to the previous judgment in the case of Bengaluru Development Authority vs. Sudhakar Hegde where it was held that “The role of courts and tribunals cannot be overstated in ensuring that the ‘shield’ of the “rule of law” can be used as a facilitative instrument in ensuring compliance with environmental regulations”.

Hence, rejecting the plea of the authority, bench stated The construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex is illegal and constitutes a brazen violation of law and NGT acted within its mandate in a case of this nature, where the appellant actively allowed the perpetration of a structure in breach of environmental norms. Not looking askance at the construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure, in an area which the NGT rightly describes as the “lap of nature” will put us on the path of judicially sanctioned environmental destruction.”

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Demand for outstanding dues from a borrower is not a ground for Abetment of Suicide under IPC: Bombay High Court

“The demand of outstanding loan amount from the person who was in default in payment of loan amount, during the course of employment as a duty, at any stretch of imagination cannot be said to be any intention to aid or to instigate or to abet the deceased to commit the suicide.” This ratio was laid down by the Bombay High Court presided over by J. V.M. Deshpande & J. A.S. Kilor, in the case of Rohit S/o Nawanath Nalawade Vs. State of Maharahtra & Anr., [Criminal Application No. 1052 of 2018].

The current application is filed by one Rohit for quashing an FIR registered against him under Section 306 of the IPC by the Maharashtra Police. The facts of the case are that the deceased had taken a loan of Rs. 6,21,000/- to purchase a car from Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services. He took the loan for a period of four years and had to pay a monthly installment of Rs. 17,800/-. He initially just paid Rs. 15,800/- and promised to pay the amount later. It is alleged in the FIR that the Applicant did not approve of this request and constantly harassed the deceased by calling him and asking him to pay his dues. The suicide note that was seized too indicates involvement of the Applicant in the crime.

The counsel for the Applicant firstly placed reliance on the judgment of Amit S/o Ashok Naharkar v. State of Maharashtra, & Anr., 2018 SCC Online Bom 1399, and submitted that the Applicant was only asking for his dues and in no way was responsible for abetment of suicide of the deceased. He stated that, “Abetment involves mental process of instigating a person or intentionally aiding a person in doing of a thing and without a positive act on the part of the accused in aiding or instigating or abetting the deceased to commit suicide, the said persons cannot be compelled to face the trial.”

The Division bench of the Bombay High Court quashed the FIR filed against the applicant on the basis that none of the requirement of Section 306 IPC for abetting a suicide were satisfied. The Court observed that, “if we consider the facts of the present case, admittedly, the allegations are only to the effect that the applicant demanded outstanding loan amount from the deceased which was the part of his duty being employee of the Finance Company. In view of that, the demand of outstanding loan amount from the person who was in default in payment of loan amount, during the course of employment as a duty, at any stretch of imagination cannot be said to be any intention to aid or to instigate or to abet the deceased to commit the suicide.”

The Court also placed reliance on the landmark judgment of Santoshkumar vs. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC online Bom 91, in which it was held that “If previous loan amount is outstanding and if the applicant, who is Branch Manager of the said Bank, is refusing to grant any further loan, can be said as act of a vigilant and prudent banker and if he is not granting any further loan, it cannot be termed that by such act he instigated and/or abetted the person to commit suicide”

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NOC cannot be denied on the grounds that it was not applied through a proper channel : Delhi High Court

No Objection Certificate cannot be denied on the grounds that it was not applied for through a proper channel. The High Court bench consisting of J. Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and J. Asha Menon in the matter Krishna Kant Yadav v. Union of India & Ors. [W.P. (C) 8002/2020 & CM No. 26058/2020], issued mandamus directing Indian Air Force to comply with the pleas of the petitioner.

The petitioner, an Airman of the respondents, Indian Air Force (IAF), filed the present writ petition seeking mandamus, directing the respondents, AIF to grant ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) / Discharge Certificate to the petitioner, thereby allowing him to join the post for which he had selected in the recruitment process held by one of the respondents, Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC), i.e. the post of Assistant Labour Commissioner in the Government of State of Uttar Pradesh. The writ petitioner first came up before the court on 15th October, 2020, when a notice thereof was ordered to be issued and the respondents restrained from revoking / cancelling the offer of appointment made to the petitioner, on the ground of non-submission of the NOC by the petitioner.

The petitioner relying on CPL N.K. Jhakar v. Union of India [W.P. (C) No. 9088/2008], argued that “holding that not applying through proper channel cannot be a ground for denying NOC/Discharge Certificate”. The respondents on the other hand pleaded that firstly the court did not have jurisdiction to entertain this petition and that the petitioner had other statutory remedy under Section 26 of the Air Force Act, 1950 for redressal of his grievance. The respondents further argued that “considering the functionality of the respondents IAF, it requires well trained and experienced manpower and each Airman is trained for specific role and his continuance in the service is essential not only to make good the expenditure incurred on him by the nation on his training but also to man all the required posts at all levels, to achieve desired operational preparedness at all times”. Additionally it was stated by the respondents that “permission to apply for civil post as well as grant of NOC are privileges and hence cannot be claimed as a matter of right”.

The court, placing heavy reliance on the case of Subhash Chand v. Union of India [MANU//DE/0794/2020], stated that “the respondents IAF cannot be permitted to impose the condition of Skill Grade ‘A’ which has been struck down in Subhash Chand supra by making it impossible for an Airman to apply for prior permission because of not having Skill Grade ‘A’ and then contend that the Airman is not entitled to NOC/discharge on the said ground”. The SC further found that “Though the respondents IAF has pleaded that the condition of possessing Skill Grade ‘A’ for seeking NOC / Discharge Certificate, after 7 years of service, was introduced as an incentive to Airmen to upgrade their skill and which is pleaded to be in the interest of operational preparedness of the respondents IAF, but surprisingly, there is no condition, that an Airman, after upgrading his skill grade to Level ‘A’, will serve the respondents IAF for any minimum period during which he will contribute with Skill Grade ‘A’ to the benefit of the respondents IAF. Thus, technically it follows that an Airman, the very next day or shortly after upgrading his skill grade to Grade ‘A’, would be entitled to be discharged from the respondents IAF, much before his initial term of engagement of 20 years. We could have understood that if the incentive given to upgrade to Skill Grade ‘A’ were to benefit the respondents IAF in any way”. The SC hence, allowed the petition and issued Mandamus as pleaded by the petitioner.

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No legal proposition that evidence of police officers, unless supported by independent witnesses, is untrustworthy of acceptance: Delhi High Court

There is no legal proposition that if the evidence provided by the police officers is not supported by independent witnesses, it is untrustworthy of acceptance. The Delhi High Court presided over by J. Vibhu Bakhru laid down this ratio in the case of Mohd. Musa vs. State [CRL.A. 271/2017].

In this case, the appellant was convicted for committing an offence punishable under Section 413 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by Additional Session Judge, Karkardooma Courts. The appellant was accused guilty in nearly fourteen cases of possessing and selling stolen goods and vehicles when he was caught with a stolen bike at a vehicle checking point. He contended that the accusations were falsely implicated and the police planted stolen vehicles at his resident for recovery, to get off with the burden of solving numerous cases. There was no witness with the police to support their contentions and accusations on thirteen more cases after the appellant pleaded not-guilty before the court.

The Delhi High Court contended, “The fact that no independent witness had been joined in the recovery proceedings also does not indicate that the case set up by the prosecution is false.” The court further held, “The contention that the appellant cannot be considered as a habitual offender as he has not been convicted is also erroneous. The appellant is involved in a number of cases as is apparent from the SCRB Report. The same indicates that the appellant is involved in as many as thirty cases and most of the same are under Sections 379/411 of the IPC. Before the concerned ACMM, the appellant had pleaded guilty in the said cases. His statements were made voluntarily and without any force or coercion, to the effect that he was guilty of committing the offences under Sections 379/411/34 of IPC.”

The Court relied on the judgment of Kalpnath Rai v. State: AIR 1998 SC 201, in which the Supreme Court had held, “there is no legal proposition that evidence of police officers, unless supported by independent witnesses, is untrustworthy of acceptance”. The Supreme Court further held, “in cases where independent witnesses have not been joined, an added duty is placed on the court to adopt greater care while scrutinizing the evidence of police officials.”

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Stay issued on three farm laws passed by the Central Government: Supreme Court of India

The three controversial farm laws i.e., Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act 2020, Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act & Amendment to Essential Commodities Act, introduced by the Centre in 2020 are stayed by the Supreme Court of India until further orders. Due to these laws’ farmers all over the country especially in North India have expressed their dissent and are protesting against it. The Supreme Court presided over by CJI SA Bobde, J AS Bopanna & J V Ramasubramanian laid down this order on 12/01/2021.

The Supreme Court carefully analyzed the arguments put forward by the Central Government made through Attorney General KK Venugopal. The Central Government received information that the Khalistanis have infiltrated the protest. The Centre have further submitted that the laws are Constitutional and within the legislative competence. Whereas the Farmer’s Union have submitted that the three farm laws are illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional. They further submitted that, “They will pave the way for cartelization and commercialization of agriculture produced and if allowed to stand will completely ruin our country as the corporates can, with one stroke, export our agriculture produce without any regulation.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday have issued a stay on all the three laws until further orders and has further directed for a formation of a four-member committee in order to hear all the parties and stakeholders. The Committee will make a report on all the submissions made by the parties and stakeholders so that the Court gets a clear picture regarding the validity and constitutionality of the laws. The four-member committee comprises of Bhupinder Singh Mann (National President of Bharatiya Kisan Union), Dr. Pramod Kumar Joshi, Ashok Gulati (Agricultural Economist) and Anil Ghanwat (President of Shetkari Sanghatana).

The Supreme Court further elaborating on the report stated that, “Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the Committee. The Committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us.”

[Detailed Order of the Supreme Court will be uploaded soon.]

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