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Bombay HC acquits a person convicted for corruption due to lack of evidence

Title: Ambadas s/o Ramaji Sahare v. State of Maharashtra

Decided on: 22.08.2023

+ CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.610 OF 2004

CORAM: KISHORE C. SANT, J

Facts of the Case:

The appellant (accused) has challenged judgment and order of conviction and sentence under Sections 7 and 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, dated 13.9.2004 .

Damodhar Nathuji Dhurve, the Informant, owned few acres of  land on which were teak-wood trees. He needed permission of the Forest Dept.  to cut those trees and for such permission, he was in need of 7/12 extract, map, and certificate from Talathi and, therefore, he approached to the office of the accused for obtaining the above said documents. He intimated the purpose of his visit to the office of the accused and requested the documents. The accused allegedly asked him to give Rs.300 for those documents. The informant tried to negotiate with him the amount, but when he did not agree, the informant approached ACB and through a trap designed by ACB the accused was caught.  He was later convicted for offences mentioned above and this was challenged by him.

Issues

Whether the prosecution has proved the demand and acceptance of the bribe by the accused from the informant and whether interference is called for in the judgment and order of conviction impugned.

Contentions:

The appellant claimed that amount Rs.224.45 was due against the informant towards the fees of reimbursement and the amount is paid towards the said fees. The accused also pointed out that the informant was involved in construction of a mosque illegally on the land of the gram panchayat. The demand is not proved. Mere recovery of the amount is not sufficient to prove the charges. Insofar as the demand and the acceptance are concerned, kotwal PW2 Maroti Kathane, who was working with the accused, has not supported. The sanction order is also not as per the requirement. The sanction order is invalid and, therefore, the conviction deserves to be set aside. The prosecution has also examined Kotwal PW3 Manohar Hikare, whose evidence shows that when he entered into the office of the accused, only the informant was present and except the informant no other person was present.

On the other hand, the Respondent supported the judgment and order of conviction passed by learned Special Judge and submitted that the prosecution has proved the demand and acceptance.

Decision:

Court found that the prior demand by the accused is not proved by the prosecution, a doubt is created as to demand of the amount as a gratification as the admission given by shadow pancha PW4 Dilip Ganvir shows that the accused has communicated to informant PW1 Damodar Dhurve that the amount is towards fees and also asked the informant to take receipts and asked him to sit for taking such receipts. These admissions sufficiently create doubt as to the prosecution case .

The appeal was allowed. The impugned order was set aside and the appellant was acquitted of the charges.

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Written by- Aparna Gupta, University Law College & Dept. of Studies in Law

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Bombay High Court declares compensation to the claimants of an “untoward incident” on the Railways

Title: Ramesh Laxmanrao Dighade & Ors. v. UoI

Decided on: 25/07/2023

+ FIRST APPEAL N O . 1422 OF 2019

CORAM: SMT. M.S. JAWALKAR, J

Facts of the case

The present appeal is filed being aggrieved by the judgment and award dated 10/05/2018, passed by the learned Railway Claims Tribunal which dismissed the claim application of the appellants.

Amol Ramesh Dighade, a newly appointed member of the State Reserve Police Force, tragically died in a railway accident. He was on his way to Daund for training and had boarded the Nagpur-Bhusawal passenger train. Due to overcrowding, he sat near the toilet where he was hit by fellow passengers and fell off the moving train, resulting in his death.

The claimants, who are the family of the deceased, filed a claim petition seeking compensation from the railway authorities for the untimely demise of Amol Dighade. The respondent railway, however, contested the claim, arguing that the incident did not fall under the definition of an “untoward incident” as per the Railway Act. They claimed that the deceased was not a bona fide passenger, implying that the railway was not liable to provide compensation.

Issues:

1)Was the incident leading to Amol Dighade’s death an “untoward incident” as defined by the Railway Act?

2) Was Amol Dighade a bona fide passenger of the train, and thus eligible for compensation?

Contentions:

The claimants argued that the deceased was indeed a bona fide passenger, as evidenced by the valid railway ticket found on his body. They pointed out that the initial burden of proof had been met and that the railway’s assertion of suicide lacked sufficient evidence. They cited legal precedents that emphasized the need for a liberal interpretation of the Railway Act to ensure compensation for victims of railway accidents. Section 124-A of the Railway Act imposes strict liability or no-fault liability on railways in case of railway accidents.

The railway authorities contended that the incident did not constitute an “untoward incident” under the Section 123(c) of the Railway Act. They maintained that the deceased’s death was either a result of suicide or a breach of safety guidelines, implying that it was not the responsibility of the railway to provide compensation. It was contended that since the body was cut into pieces , it was a suicide. Also, none of the passengers complained of such happening. Thus, they believed that they should not held liable for suicide or run over of someone.

Decision:

After considering the facts, circumstances, and evidence presented by both parties, the judge concluded that the initial dismissal of the claim petition by the Railway Tribunal was erroneous. The presence of a valid railway ticket recovered from the deceased’s body was deemed sufficient evidence to establish that Amol Dighade was a bona fide passenger. The judge emphasized that a liberal interpretation of the Railway Act should be applied to ensure compensation for victims of railway accidents. The judge held that the incident was an “untoward incident” under the act, and ruled in favour of the claimants.

The judge allowed the appeal, quashed the earlier judgment, and ordered the respondent (Union of India) to pay compensation of Rs. 8,00,000 to the claimants. The judge highlighted the importance of practical evidence over theoretical possibilities in determining liability in such cases.

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Written by- Aparna Gupta, University Law College & Dept. of Studies in Law

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Bombay High Court dismisses a petition under Sec. 127, MRTP Act for unreasonable delay

Title: Shri. Parag Prakash Mutha v. Kashinath Barku Bhalsingh & Ors

Decided on: 18.08.2023

WRIT PETITION NO. 662 OF 2023

CORAM: CORAM: SANDEEP V. MARNE, J.

Facts of the Case

The case revolves around a land dispute. The said property was Gat No.570/2 situated at Village- Kolwadi, Taluka-Haveli, District-Pune was originally owned by one Shri. Laxman Bhairu Bhole and others. The same was purchased by Shri. Kashinath Barku Bhalsingh by way of registered sale-deed dated 23 September 1986. Later he sold the suit to Petitioner-Plaintiff by way of registered sale-deed dated 26 November 1992. Petitioner-Plaintiff claims that he was put in vacant and peaceful possession of the suit land.

By way of registered sale-deed dated 3 October 2018, the legal representatives of Shri. Kashinath Barku Bhalsingh sold the suit land in the name of Respondent Nos. 2 to 4. The petitioner filed a case seeking to declare him as the true owner, however, he later entered into a compromise agreement with the respondents where he decided to give up his rights in respect of the suit land for consideration of Rs.80 Lacs.

After finding out about this compromise deal, the parents of the petitioner, filed another suit that the suit property was actually purchased by the Father of the petitioner in the petitioner’s name when he was merely 11 years old at that time and that the suit was also instituted by the family in the name of Petitioner-plaintiff, as the sale-deed stood in his name. The Petitioner agreed to gift various properties (including the suit property) in the name of his mother and for that purpose executed a Power of Attorney in father’s name; before the gift-deed of the suit property could be executed, Petitioner-plaintiff surreptitiously entered into compromise deed.

Issues

Whether Respondent no. 5 and 6 can be parties to the current suit?

Contentions:

The Petitioner contends that Respondent Nos. 5 and 6 are not necessary parties to the suit. That Suit filed by Petitioner-Plaintiff does not and cannot involve the issue of ownership by Respondent Nos.5 and 6 in the suit property and that the impleadment application is filed with the ulterior objective of frustrating such a compromise. Addition of them, will change the nature of the suit.

The Respondents contended that they are the true owners of the property and that the suit is a family decision only in the petitioner’s name. The property was purchased with the father’s money and therefore, he is a necessary party

Decision:

The case pleaded by them in their impleadment application is altogether different. The impleadment is sought on twin premises, firstly that the father purchased the property in the name of Petitioner-plaintiff and therefore father is the real owner. Therefore, mere avoidance of multiplicity of litigation could not have been a reason to direct impleadment of Respondent Nos. 5 and 6 as parties to the suit as their entry not only creates complication in the suit but changes its very nature and creates complications in the pending suit. The Trial Court has not considered all these aspects while passing the impugned order, which suffers from various infirmities as discussed above. As a result, the impugned order dated 10 January 2022 passed by the Trial Court was set aside.

The petition  was allowed.

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Bombay HC: Sweepers employed through contractors are “employees” eligible for permanency benefits

Title: Municipal Corporation of City of Jalgaon v. Miraj Mahila Audyogik Cooperative Society Ltd., & Ors.

Decided on: 22.08.2023

+ WRIT PETITION NO. 9740 OF 2018

CORAM: KISHORE C. SANT, J

Facts of the Case:

The petitioner in this petition is a Municipal Corporation established under the provisions of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949. Respondent Nos.1 to 4 are labour contractors, who were engaged by the petitioner. Respondent No.5 is the Union of workers working as Safai Kamgars and Scavengers in petitioner-Corporation.

Challenge is raised to a judgment and order dated 26.09.2017 passed by the learned Industrial Tribunal, Jalgaon in which directions are given to the petitioner to treat 645 persons as direct employees of the Corporation and to give them all the benefits of a permanent employee.

The learned Industrial Tribunal held that there is direct relationship as employer and employee between the petitioner and the sweepers as per list. It is a case of the petitioner that the Corporation had engaged labour contractors to supply labours for various services in the Corporation and there is no direct relationship as employer and employee between the sweepers and the Corporation.

Issues:

Whether sweepers were the “employees” of the Corporation although they were employed through contractors?

Contentions:

The petitioner has approached this Court mainly contending that the labour contractors were given contract by inviting open tenders by publishing advertisement in the local newspaper. The State Government had taken a conscious decision to permit local self-bodies to engage contract workers. The direction to give equal pay for equal work as given to the regular workers is not justified. The finding of the learned Tribunal that since there was no signature of the Commissioner on the contract, said contract cannot be treated as a valid contract, is against the law. Condition No.11 of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 provides that the employees engaged through contractor will have no right to get regular service by absorption. The salary was paid through the contractor. The control over the labour was of the contractors and not of the Corporation. It is also contended that if the judgment is to be implemented there will be huge financial burden upon the Corporation.

On the other hand, the Respondents argued that so called contract does not bear signature of the Commissioner. The contract is signed by the Deputy Commissioner as an attesting witness. There is no order produced on record to show that the power to enter into contract on behalf of the Corporation was delegated to the Deputy Commissioner. The Contract is against the provisions of sections 73, 74 and Chapter 5 of the Schedule-D of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act. The Corporation and the Contractors both do not have license under the CLRA Act. The work of the employees is supervised, controlled and monitored by the Corporation. The work is also assigned by the Corporation only. The muster of the employees is maintained by the Corporation. Even the wages are calculated and fixed by the Corporation. The work is of continuous nature. Respondents deposed that all the workers are entitled to get benefits of permanency.

Decision:

Court finds that the learned Tribunal has rightly come to a conclusion that the work was of permanent nature. There is no license held either by the Corporation or by the contractors as required under the CLRA Act. Supervision and entire control over these workers were with the petitioner Corporation. Though the contractors were changed, the labours/workers remained the same.

This Court finds that the learned Presiding Officer by way of the impugned order has rightly declared that the alleged Labour Contractors mentioned in cause title are a camouflage. There exists employer-employee relationship between the first party and the sweepers enlisted with the Memorandum of Demand Exh.U-1.

The petition is dismissed.

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Bombay High Court dismisses a petition under Sec. 127, MRTP Act for unreasonable delay

Title: Gopal Kashinath Lad (Kele) v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.

Decided on: 22.08.2023

WRIT PETITION NO. 10044 OF 2018

CORAM: RAVINDRA V. GHUGE & Y.G. KHOBRAGADE, JJ.

Facts of the Case

The case revolves around a land acquisition dispute. The said property was owned by Tukaram Bhai and  others. This property was marked for Children’s playground. Later, Tukaram Bhai executed a Notarized Power of Attorney in favour of Rajendra Vasantrao Sonar.  Mr. Sonar issued a purchase notice on 29/12/2000 u/s 127 of the MRTP Act claiming to be the owner of the petition land and referred to this notarized Power of Attorney. Thereafter, on 15/06/2001, the Respondent No. 4 Municipal Council Dhule submitted a proposal to the collector for acquisition of land pursuant to the purchase notice. Therefore, the development authority acted upon the purchase notice. However, the Respondent No. 4 has not taken step to acquire the land within the period of 24 months, therefore, the reservation lapses and the land is free from acquisition.

The Respondents pray for the dismissal of petition. Mr. Sonar had not shown a copy of power of attorney nor the 7/12 extract to show that, on the day of issuance of purchase notice his name was mutated with the revenue record. Thus, the current petitioners have no relation with the disputed land. The current petitioners purchased the land in 2006 under sale-deed from the original owner Shenphadu Bhoi and others. However, the petitioner prayed for the release of land from reservation on the basis of notice dated 29/12/2000 issued by Mr. Rajendra Sonar, the Power of Attorney holder, who was the owner and in possession of the land. Further, the present petitioner never issued purchase notice after execution of registered sale deed dtd. 11/07/2006 in his favour.

In the Second development plan, the disputed site again got reserved for a children’s playground. The petitioners claim for the lapse of reservation u/s 127 of MRTP Act.  The Respondents claimed that if the person who issued the notice under Sec. 127 of the Act, fails to establish his title, interest, possession over the reserved land under the development plan and as such said notice found defective, it does not create right in his favour. Therefore, it cannot be accepted that, the petitioner stepped into shoes of the original owner.

Decision:

After examining the evidence and arguments presented by both sides, the court found that when objections for the second development plan were called neither the Petitioner nor the erstwhile owners raised any demand for deemed de-reservation of the petition property. In the year 2005, second revised plan was published, but no objection was received for reservation of the land for children’s playground. After lapse of 17 years from service of notice, reservation of petition land does not lapse under Section 127 of the M.R.T.P. Act.

The petition was dismissed.

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