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“De Minimis Non Curat Lex: The Supreme Court emphasised that Law does not concern itself with trifles

Case title: Vashist Narayan Kumar vs The state of Bihar & Ors.

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 1 of 2024

Decided on: 02.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice J.K Maheshwari, Hon’ble Justice K.V Viswanathan

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant applied for the position of police constable and took the written and physical examinations. He provided his educational certificates/mark sheets, as well as his caste certificate, for document verification. On June 11, 2018, the final results indicated that he had failed. The only reason was that his date of birth was 08.12.1997 on the online application form, but 18.12.1997 on the school mark sheet.  After failing to receive a response, the appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court. The High Court dismissed his writ petition challenging this decision.

ISSUES:

Whether the error in the uploaded application form was material or trivial, and was the State justified in declaring the appellant to have failed as a result?

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant contended that he derived no advantage because he was eligible regardless of which date was used; the error also had no bearing on the selection, and he produced educational certificates that reflected his correct date of birth despite being unaware of it.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The respondent contended that the advertisement contained all of the clauses stating that if the information provided by the candidates was incorrect or misleading, the application form would be rejected, and criminal action would be taken. It also stated that candidates must enter the correct date of birth as shown on their 10th board certificate. The clause also stated that candidates must correctly fill out their name, father’s name, address, and other information on the application form. It states that if any discrepancy is discovered while reviewing the documents, the candidate’s candidature will be cancelled.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court determined that the appellant successfully completed all stages of the selection process. The error in the application was trivial and had no bearing on the selection process. The State’s exaggeration of the situation was unjustified.

The court stated that they did not believe the appellant could be penalised for this minor error that had no bearing on the final outcome. Errors of this nature, as seen in the present case, do not constitute misrepresentation or wilful suppression.

The court emphasised the principle of De minimis non curat lex, which states that trivial errors or omissions are exceptions because the law does not deal with trifles.

 

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The repudiation of insurance policy by insurance company is not valid: Supreme Court.

Case title: Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co.Ltd vs Mukul Aggarwal & Ors.

Case no.: Civil Appeal No.1544 of 2023

Decided on: 20.11.2023

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, Hon’ble Justice Rajesh Bindal

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

An accident caused irreparable damage to Mukul Aggarwal’s (Respondent’s) BMW 3 Series 320D. His insurance claim with Bajaj General Insurance (Bajaj) was denied due to a delay in submitting the claim, a failure to respond to insurer letters, discrepancies in accident descriptions, and the discovery of bloodstains in the vehicle. Aggarwal filed a complaint with the SCDRC, which ruled in his favour and required Bajaj and BMW to indemnify him for the car’s replacement under BMW Secure Advance. The NCDRC upheld the decision, dismissing appeals by Bajaj and BMW. BMW and Bajaj filed Civil Appeals with the Supreme Court, challenging the NCDRC’s decision.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

According to sub-clause (i) of Clause (d) of Subsection (1) of Section 2 of the consumer protection Act, 1986, any user of the goods other than the person who purchases the goods is also a consumer under the Act.

The Commissions found that the insurer and the dealer were conducting business from their offices in Delhi, citing clause (b) of sub-section (2) of Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 . The National Commission observed that the State Commission, by hearing the complaint, granted permission to file it.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

BMW’s counsel argued that the owner had no cause of action to file a complaint against BMW. The reason for this is that the insurer repudiated the policy. BMW was not liable unless the insurer was at fault. He claimed that the claim had not been settled under the insurer’s policy. He went on to say that neither the State Commission nor the National Commission found any flaws in BMW’s service.

The insurer’s submission is that the fact remains that the insured did not immediately notify the insurer of the accident. He pointed out that the owner suppressed material facts about the nature of the accident. He stated in the Forensic Investigation Report that blood stains were discovered on the car’s dashboard and driver’s seat, as well as beer bottles in the vehicle. As a result, he argued that there was every reason to reject the policy on the grounds stated in the letter of repudiation.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The owner’s counsel argued that because the State and National Commissions made concurrent findings of fact, this Court should not interfere with them. The learned counsel supported the State Commission’s reasons for concluding that the repudiation of the policy was illegal. They supported the challenged decisions.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The Supreme Court found fault with the Insurer’s and BMW’s services. The Court emphasised the importance of clear evidence in determining liabilities based on the insurance and BMW Secure policy terms. On the issue of policy repudiation by the insurance company, the Court stated that the primary basis for repudiation was a significant delay in notifying the insurer of the accident. The Bench did, however, note that there is evidence that the accident was reported to police. The insurer neither disputed the accident nor claimed that it was caused by the driver’s reckless and negligent driving. Furthermore, the insurer did not claim that the driver was prosecuted for such behaviour. As a result, the Court ruled that the insurer’s repudiation of the insurance policy was invalid.

The Court evaluated the compensation, assigning a specific amount to the insurer and providing a reasonable estimate for BMW. The Supreme Court granted the appeal in part, setting aside the operative portion of the State Commission’s Order.

 

 

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A registered sale deed where the full consideration is paid would operate from the date of its execution: Supreme Court

Case title: Kanwar Raj Singh vs Gejo

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 9098 of 2023

Decided on: 02.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, Hon’ble Justice Pankaj Mithal

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current appeal stems from a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The appellant sued for a declaration. She sought a declaration of ownership over the land measuring 71 kanals 8 marlas (“suit property”), citing the executed and registered sale deed. According to the case of the original plaintiff, Smt. Gejo, the first defendant made an interpolation in the sale deed before it was registered, adding that only one-third of a share measuring 23 kanals and 8 marlas was sold. The first defendant contested the suit, claiming that what was sold was the area of 23 kanals and 8 marlas, which was his one-third share of the suit property.

The trial court ruled in favour of the suit. On appeal to the District Court, the Additional District Judge granted the appeal and determined that the correction in the sale deed was genuine and not fraudulent. The plaintiff sought a second appeal before the High Court. The appeal was allowed by the impugned judgement, and the Trial Court’s decree was restored.

ISSUE RAISED:

Can a compulsorily registerable document, once registered under the Registration Act, operate from a date prior to its registration?

LEGAL PROVISIONS INVOLVED:

According to Section 47 of The Registration Act of 1908, a registered document is effective from the time it would have begun to operate if no registration was required. Thus, when a compulsorily registerable document is registered in accordance with the Registration Act, it can begin to operate on a date prior to its registration. The date of the operation will vary depending on the nature of the transaction.

Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act of 1984 defines a sale. A sale is a transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised, or a partial payment and partial promise.

Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act requires that all sale deeds for property worth more than Rs. 100/- be registered. Thus, a vendor-executed sale deed becomes an instrument of sale only after it is registered.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS:

The learned counsel contended that the sale took effect on the date the sale deed was registered, not the date it was executed. He contended that the sale deed conveys the same information as the registered sale deed. He claimed that even the agreement for sale signed prior to the execution of the sale deed refers to the sale of a third of the first defendant’s share, not the entire property.

The counsel relied on a Constitution Bench decision in the case of Ram Saran Lall v. Domini Kuer and contended that, under the said decision, the sale was completed when the sale deed was registered, and thus the description of the property recorded in the registered sale deed will prevail.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The court ruled that the consideration was paid in full on the date the sale deed was executed. The sale deed was registered with an interpolation concerning the description/area of the property sold. The first defendant admitted that the interpolation occurred after the execution but before the registration. According to Section 47 of the Registration Act, a registered sale deed in which the entire consideration is paid becomes effective on the date of execution. As a result, the original sale deed will be effective. Therefore, the court concluded that the high court’s decision was correct and dismissed the appeal.

 

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Unscrupulous Litigants Should Not Go Scot-Free: Supreme Court

Case title: Dinesh Gupta vs The state of Uttarpradesh

Case no.: S.L.P.(Crl.) No.3343 of 2022

Decided on: 11.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Vikram Nath, Hon’ble Justice Rajesh Bindal

FACTS OF THE CASE:

Owner of M/s D.D. Global Capital Pvt. Ltd., Karan Gambhir has filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Sushil, Rajesh, Dinesh, Baljeet Singh, and other individuals. Among the private limited companies implicated are BDR, Gulab Buildtech, and Verma Buildtech. To reverse the summons order and FIR, Dinesh and Rajesh Gupta filed a petition in High Court. According to the complaint, Karan’s business gave Gulab Buildtech and Verma Buildtech short-term loans that were later converted into debt equity with the promise of large returns.

Despite purportedly forging a share pledge agreement, the complainant was able to secure a sizeable shareholding. Unannounced approval of amalgamation plans decreased the company’s ownership stake. Lawsuit after the accused disregarded the complainant’s requests for loan repayment. IPC Sections 420, 467, and 120-B are the subject of a charge sheet that the police have filed. The appeals took place after the High Court denied the petitions to set aside the summoning order and FIR.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant contended that a purely civil dispute involving financial transactions between corporations is being framed as a criminal case. Despite the fact that the company has no connection to Gautam Budh Nagar and that all transactions between the parties took place in New Delhi, the complaint was filed in Gautam Budh Nagar.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

They claimed that the accused, working together, defrauded the complainant of crores of rupees by falsely promising higher returns. The High Court’s order contains no errors. The appeals are well-deservedly dismissed.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court determined that if the FIR in question is pursued further, it will constitute an absolute abuse of court process. This is a clear case of malicious prosecution. Regardless of the commercial nature of the dispute, a criminal complaint was filed and a FIR was registered. Abuse of power and legal machinery undermines public trust in the judiciary. FIR and criminal proceedings were quashed, and the complainant was fined ₹25 lakhs to prevent future abuse of judicial remedies.

The court ruled that the respondents should be subject to stringent terms and conditions, including costs. It’s time to firmly examine any lawsuits that have been started and are riddled with deceit, secrecy, and forum shopping. Even state actions or the conduct of government servants who are parties to such malicious litigation should be severely reprimanded. Turning a civil matter into a criminal case not only overburdens the criminal justice system, but also violates the principles of fairness and proper legal conduct.

 

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Power to record additional evidence should only be exercised when the party was prevented from presenting the evidence in the trial: Supreme Court

Case title: Ajitsinh Chehuji Rathod vs State of Gujarat & Anr.

Case no.: SLP(Crl.) No(s). 16641 of 2023

Decided on: 29.01.2024

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

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current SLP appeal is based on a Gujarat High Court order. The appellant was charged with violating Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, alleging that a cheque in the amount of Rs. 10 lakhs issued by the appellant in favour of the complainant Shri Mahadevsinh Cahndaasinh Champavat was dishonoured “for insufficient funds and account dormant” when presented in the bank.

During the trial, the appellant filed an application with the learned trial Court requesting that the cheque be sent to a handwriting expert for comparison of the handwriting and signature appearing on it, claiming that his signatures had been forged on the cheque in question. The trial Court denied the application and convicted the appellant. On appeal, the high court rejected and upheld the conviction. As a result, the Supreme Court is hearing the appeal.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

The appellant filed the appeal with an application under Section 391 CrPC. According to Section 391 of the CrPC, the power to record additional evidence should only be exercised when the party making such request was prevented from presenting the evidence in the trial despite due diligence, or when the facts giving rise to such prayer were discovered at a later stage during the pendency of the appeal and that non-recording of such evidence may result in the failure of justice.

The NI Act’s Section 118 Subclause (e) clearly presumes that endorsements made on a negotiable instrument are made in the order that they appear on the document. Therefore, the holder of the disputed cheque, who is the complainant in this instance, benefits from the presumption that the endorsements on it are authentic.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS:

After comparing the admitted signature of the accused appellant with the signature on the disputed cheque, the appellant filed an application to have the handwriting expert’s opinion. In the aforementioned application, there was also a request to summon the relevant Post Office officer in order to support the defence’s argument that the accused appellant never received the notice required by Section 138 of the NI Act.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court ruled that a certified copy of a bank-issued document is admissible under the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act of 1891 even without any formal proof. Thus, we believe that if the appellant wanted to prove that the signatures on the cheque issued from his account were not genuine, he could have obtained a certified copy of his specimen signatures from the Bank and made a request to summon the concerned Bank official in defence to give evidence about the genuineness or otherwise of the signature on the cheque.

The court stated that, despite having the opportunity, the accused appellant did not question the bank official examined in defence to establish his plea of purported mismatch of signature on the cheque in question, and thus, they are of the firm opinion that the appellate Court was not required to come to the appellant’s aid and assistance in collecting defence evidence at his behest. The presumptions under the NI Act, while rebuttable, work in favour of the complainant. As a result, it is up to the accused to rebut such presumptions by presenting appropriate defence evidence, and the Court cannot be expected to assist the accused in gathering evidence on his behalf. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed.

 

 

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