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A contemnor does not continue to reap the benefits of his disobedience by simply suffering the punishment meted out to him: Supreme Court

Case title: Amit Kumar Das Vs Shrimati Hutheesingh Tagore Charitable Trust.

Case no.: SLP (Civil) no. 34892 of 2014

Decided on: 30.01.2024

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

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current appeal rests on the high court divisional bench’s contempt proceedings for the contemnor’s act, which was not only illegal and invalid but also deliberate disobedience to the stay order issued in the first appeal. The Division Bench decided that lifting the stay order from the first appeal would be more justifiable than initiating contempt proceedings.

The problem started when the respondent filed a lawsuit seeking property damage, possession recovery, and title declaration. The possession suit has a ruling from the court. The appellant then filed an appeal in the high court after the respondent filed an execution petition.

On March 3, 2010, the high court issued a stay order and told the appellant to deposit the amount of 10 lakhs within two months.

ISSUES:

Is it correct for the court to lift the stay in order to bring forth contempt proceedings?

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant argued that the High Court’s exercise of contempt jurisdiction precluded it from reversing the stay order issued in the appeal. He would point out that the High Court shouldn’t have used this tactic in the contempt case and that the Trust didn’t take any action to request such relief in the appeal.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

Respondent trust argued that the stay order dated 03.03.2010 in the appeal stood vacated automatically in terms of order thereof, as there was a default in the making of deposits as directed in the earlier clauses, and therefore the impugned order does not warrant interference at this stage.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The court referred to the cases of Mohammad Idris vs. Rustam Jehangir Babuji and Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) vs. Baranagore Jute Factory PLC. The courts upheld a principle in these rulings: in addition to penalising a contemnor for disobeying its commands, the Court may make sure that the contemnor does not continue to profit from his disobedience by simply receiving the punishment that has been meted out to him.

The court in this case determined that because of the particular facts of this case, the High Court’s exercise of contempt jurisdiction in vacating the stay order in the appeal did not take on a restitutive or remedial nature. Even the High Court found that the stay order’s status quo condition had been fully violated, and vacating the order had no effect on returning the parties to their pre-violation positions or denying the contemnor the benefit of the already-concluded disobedience.

It is evident that the High Court’s action exceeded the limits of its contempt jurisdiction, and it is therefore unsupportable. In that sense, the contested order is revoked. We believe it is appropriate to remand the case to the High Court so that it can continue with the exercise of contempt jurisdiction, as we have now set aside the High Court’s alternative course of action, even though the High Court refrained from doing so due to this misguided measure, even though it found the contemnor guilty of wilfully violating the status quo condition in the stay order.

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Maintaining a sexual relationship with consent from the inception is not an offence: Supreme Court

Case title: Sheikh Arif vs State of Maharashtra & Ors.

Case no.: Criminal appeal no. 1368 of 2013

Decided on: 30.01.2024

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

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current appeal is in the case of rape based on a false promise of marriage. The second respondent filed a complaint against the appellant at the Sadar Police Station in Nagpur. According to the complaint, the appellant and the second respondent first met in 2011. They became acquainted with each other and entered into a relationship. The second respondent alleges that the appellant attempted to maintain a physical relationship with her but she prevented him from doing so. However, by making a false promise of marriage, the appellant engaged in sexual intercourse with her on multiple occasions.

During sexual intercourse, she became pregnant and had an abortion. She then engaged with the appellant. For the second time, she became pregnant. The second respondent then saw photos of the appellant’s engagement ceremony with another woman on his cell phone. The second respondent stated that she was informed the day before the complaint was filed that the appellant had married another girl. The appellant claims that there was a Nikah between him and the second respondent at Dargah. The appellant’s case is that he was unable to produce the original Nikahnama, but the police seized a copy of it.

ISSUES:

Whether or not the appellant maintained a relationship based on a false promise of marriage?

LEGAL PROVISION:

According to Section 375 of the IPC, if the victim of the alleged rape is over the age of 18, having a sexual relationship with her consent is not a crime.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant’s learned counsel argued that their long-standing relationship with the second respondent was always consensual. He stated that the appellant married the second respondent on January 20, 2017. He argued that the appellant’s prosecution constitutes an abuse of legal process.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The State’s counter-claim stated that the report of a handwriting expert was requested in order to determine the genuineness of the signatures on the Nikahnama. The learned counsel for the second respondent contended that, even if it is assumed that the second respondent consented to the continuation of a physical relationship, this consent was tainted by fraud and misconception. She contended that, despite the Investigating Officer’s repeated requests for the appellant to produce the original Nikahnama, he failed to do so, and thus an adverse inference must be drawn against him. She urged that, in any case, the issues raised could only be addressed during the trial.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court cited the case of Anurag Soni, which held that if the victim’s consent is based on a misconception, it is irrelevant because it is not voluntary consent. If it is established that the victim’s consent was obtained as a result of a false promise to marry, there will be no consent, and the offence of rape will be proven.

The court noted that the second respondent was admittedly older than 18 when the relationship began. It also stated that at the time the complaint was filed, the second respondent was 24 years old.

Despite the fact that the second respondent claimed it was a forced relationship, she did not file any complaints until the complaint date. According to the second respondent, the appellant and the second respondent held an engagement ceremony in July 2017. As a result, on the facts of the case, it is impossible to accept that the second respondent maintained a physical relationship with her from 2013 to 2017 based on a false promise to marry.

Now, when it comes to the Nikahnama, it is true that the original could not be produced. However, the seizure panchnama indicates that a carbon copy of the Nikahnama was taken. The police officers present at Nikah recorded the statement of one Burhanuddin. He confirmed the fact that the appellant and the second respondent performed Nikah together.

The doctor who treated the appellant and second respondent claimed that the second respondent informed her that the appellant was her husband.

Finally, the court found that the appellant’s physical relationship with the second respondent was consensual. In fact, she attended the engagement ceremony without protest. However, she denies that she married the appellant. Taking the prosecution’s case as true, it is impossible to accept that the second respondent maintained a physical relationship solely because the appellant made a promise of marriage.

As a result, the impugned judgement and order, as well as the charge sheet filed on the basis of the same, are quashed and set aside, and all future proceedings in the case are quashed.

 

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The accused’s intention is an essential factor for conviction in SC/ST atrocities cases: Supreme Court

Case title: Dashrath Sahu Vs State Of Chattisgarh

Case no.: SLP(Crl.) No(s). 6367 of 2023

Decided on: 29.01.2024

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

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant was convicted of offences punishable under Sections 451, 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act. He received a one-year sentence of simple imprisonment and a fine.

The appellant filed a challenge to the said judgement in the High Court of Chhattisgarh. During the course of the appeal, the accused appellant and the prosecutrix/complainant appear to have reached an amicable settlement. The High Court accepted the compromise application for the offences punishable under Sections 354 and 451 IPC and acquitted the accused, but rejected it for the offence punishable under Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act, stating that it is not compoundable and the minimum sentence is six months. As a result, the accused appellant’s sentence of simple imprisonment for one year on that count was reduced to six months.

The appellant filed the present appeal after being dissatisfied with the order dated March 21, 2023.

ISSUE:

whether the rejection of the application under Section 320 CrPC and the appellant’s conviction for the offence punishable under Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act were legitimate and justified?

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act of 1989 addresses punishments for atrocities of assault or the use of force with the intent to dishonour or outrage the modesty of any SC/ST women.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court ruled that the section, taken literally, makes it quite evident that the offence of outraging modesty has to be committed with the knowledge or intent that the victim was a member of the Scheduled Caste.

According to the FIR and the prosecutrix’s sworn testimony, the accused did not commit the offending act with the intention of doing so against a Scheduled Caste member.

The court cited the case of Masumsha Hasanasha Musalman Vs. State of Maharashtra, in which the court ruled that the language of Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act is pari materia because it also states that the offence must be committed against a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe with the intent that it was done on the basis of caste.

As a result, the accused appellant’s conviction for the offence under Section 3(1)(xi) of the SC/ST Act, which was recorded by the trial Court and upheld by the High Court, is set aside and quashed.

 

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The High Court erred in analysing the evidence and restoring the application of the writ petition: Supreme Court

Case title: J.N Puri Vs State Of Uttar Pradesh

Case no.: SLP(Civil.) No(s). 24776 of 2020

Decided on: 29.01.2024

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

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The current appeal stems from a decision by the high court’s divisional bench on the issue of the respondents’ acquisition of his land in 1987. The appellant claims that he is still in possession of the land. The writ petition was dismissed for a lack of prosecution.

The appellant filed an application for the restoration of the writ petition. It appears that the aforementioned restoration application was not pursued for an extended period of time, prompting the appellant to file yet another Writ Petition in 1999, this time requesting that the restoration application be pursued and an appropriate order issued. The high court has once again denied the restoration petition.

However, after receiving information from the Registry of the High Court of Uttarakhand under the RTI Act that the appellant’s writ petition had been dismissed on default on February 26, 1992, the appellant filed a recalling and restoration application, along with an application seeking condonation for the delay in filing the above recalling application, which was dismissed by the High Court.

Furthermore, a review application was filed against the above order, which was also dismissed.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

According to the counsel for the appellant, the application for restoration was filed on March 23, 1992, which is one month after the writ petition for non-prosecution was dismissed.

They drew the Court’s attention to paragraph 5 of the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the State of Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand, which admits the factum of filing the application dated March 23, 1992, seeking restoration to its original number.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court held that the High Court of Uttarakhand erred in stating that the application for restoration of the writ petition, which was dismissed for non-prosecution by order dated February 26, 1992, was filed seven years later after taking into account all of the available evidence.

According to the State of Uttar Pradesh’s counter-affidavit, paragraph 5, the restoration application was submitted within a month. No one ever gave the application a fair hearing.

The case has been brought back before the High Court of Uttarakhand, which will restore the appellant’s writ petition and expeditiously decide the case on its merits after providing all parties with a chance to be heard.

 

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Supreme Court Issues New Guidelines and Principles for Environmental Bodies

Case title: In Re: T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs Union Of India And Ors.

Case no.: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 202/1995

Decided on: 31.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice B.R Gavai, Hon’ble Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, Hon’ble Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The Central Empowered Committee’s institutionalisation and reconstitution are the subject of the current writ petition. On May 9, 2002, this Court issued an order mandating the CEC’s formation. The CEC functioned as a body ad hoc.

In accordance with Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change subsequently published a Notification on September 5, 2023, creating the CEC as an ongoing entity.

The court stated that the CEC would continue to operate in accordance with any orders and directives that it may issue from time to time, even as it approved the Notification.

In Part I of the ruling in this case, the court described the CEC’s establishment, purpose, and institutionalisation. The court endeavoured to formulate new principles in Part II for the efficient oversight of diverse entities, establishments, and authorities instituted to safeguard our woodlands, fauna, surroundings, and ecosystem.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The court directed the CEC to take the necessary actions to advance institutional accountability, efficiency, and transparency in its operations:

  • Guidelines for its operations and internal meetings will be developed by the CEC. Operating procedures outlining the responsibilities of the CEC Secretary and its members must be developed by the CEC.
  • The CEC must create guidelines for public meetings, publish agendas on its website in advance, maintain meeting minutes, and establish rules for notice to parties.
  • The CEC will create guidelines for site visits and may conduct public hearings with affected parties.
  • The CEC will establish guidelines for setting time limits for site visits and report preparation, as well as the method of preparation.
  • The court ordered that these guidelines/regulations be easily accessible to all. They will be made available through the CEC’s official website.

In order to effectively oversee the numerous organisations, committees, and authorities set up to safeguard our forests, wildlife, ecosystem, and environment, the court issued some guidelines. The following institutional characteristics must be present in the organisations, authorities, regulators, and executive offices charged with environmental duties:

  • Clarify the composition, qualifications, tenure, appointment, and removal procedures for these authorities. Furthermore, appointments must be made on a regular basis to ensure continuity, and these bodies must be staffed with individuals who possess the necessary knowledge, technical expertise, and specialisation to function efficiently.
  • Authorities and bodies require adequate funding and clear financial transparency.
  • Clearly define the mandate and roles of each authority and body to avoid overlap and duplication of work. Establish a method for constructive coordination among institutions.
  • It is imperative for authorities and bodies to publish rules, regulations, and guidelines on their website, preferably in regional languages. In place of office memos, the authority or body may issue comprehensive guidelines in a standardised format and notify those in place of having the authority to create rules or regulations.
  • These bodies must establish detailed rules and regulations, as well as procedures for granting permissions, consents, and approvals.
  • The bodies and authorities are required to announce procedures for public hearings, the decision-making process, the right of appeal prescription, and deadlines.
  • By outlining the precise division of tasks and responsibilities among their officers, these bodies must specify the accountability mechanism.
  • The way these authorities operate needs to be frequently and methodically audited

The court concluded by saying that it is the responsibility of constitutional courts to guarantee that these environmental bodies have the resources and strong infrastructure necessary to carry out their duties. The constitutional courts will supervise these organisations’ operations, making sure that the ecology and environment are not only preserved but also improved.

 

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