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“Courts Uphold Melsanthi Selection in Sabarimala: Petition Dismissed Amidst Scrutiny of Draw of Lots Process”

Title: MADHUSOODANAN NAMBOOTHIRI vs. STATE OF KERALA & ORS.

Citation: WP(C) NO. 35545 OF 2023

Coram: HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ANIL K. NARENDRAN

Decided on: 9-11-23

Introduction:

In this case, the petitioner, who is a devotee of Lord Ayyappa and associated with the Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, has filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The petition challenges the selection of the 5th respondent as Melsanthi (chief priest) of the Sabarimala Temple for the year 1199 ME (2023-24). The case appears to involve a dispute related to the appointment or selection of the chief priest at the Sabarimala Temple, and the petitioner is seeking legal intervention to challenge and rectify the selection process. The specific grounds on which the petitioner challenges the selection and the details of the Ext.P2 list of candidates are not provided in the brief introduction.

Facts:

In this case, the petitioner, a devotee of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, has filed a writ petition challenging the selection of the 5th respondent as Melsanthi (chief priest) of the temple for the year 1199 ME (2023-24). The petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus commanding the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Devaswom Commissioner to conduct the draw of lots for the selection of Melsanthi afresh, based on a specified list of candidates. The court took cognizance of the matter and, on November 1, 2023, viewed video clippings from ‘Asianet News’ regarding the draw of lots conducted in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple on October 18, 2023. The court noted that the learned Standing Counsel for the Travancore Devaswom Board needed time to check if the CCTV footage of the draw of lots was available.

On November 2, 2023, the court viewed CCTV footage from the camera installed in the Sopanam of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple. The court directed the learned Standing Counsel to provide a copy of the video to the petitioner’s counsel on WhatsApp. It was observed that the statement of facts in the writ petition lacked specific allegations against the 5th respondent.

On November 3, 2023, the court issued notice on admission to the 5th respondent, and the notice was ordered to be served by a special messenger, returnable by November 7, 2023. On the said date, the 5th respondent entered appearance through counsel.

The court, after hearing arguments from various parties on November 8, 2023, noted that the petitioner argued for a detailed inquiry to determine if any foul play or irregularities occurred during the draw of lots. The petitioner contended that the selection of the 5th respondent was suspicious and should be canceled. The learned Standing Counsel for the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Senior Government Pleader supported the need for a fair and transparent process for drawing lots, considering the upcoming festival. The Senior Counsel for the 5th respondent argued that the writ petition lacked specific allegations against the 5th respondent to vitiate his selection.

The case seems to revolve around allegations of irregularities or impropriety in the draw of lots for selecting the Melsanthi of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, and the court is considering the need for a detailed inquiry into these allegations. The petitioner contends that the selection process was suspicious, while the respondents argue for a fair and transparent process.

Court analysis and judgement:

In the case described, the court considered a writ petition challenging the selection of the 5th respondent as Melsanthi (chief priest) of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple for the year 1199 ME (2023-24). The petitioner raised concerns about the process of drawing lots for the selection and alleged impropriety by the Special Commissioner. The court noted that the paper containing the name of the 5th respondent and the one with the writing ‘Melsanthi’ were folded and rolled by the Special Commissioner with fingers but without using both palms, unlike the procedure followed for other candidates. The court also addressed the issue of returning the paper with the writing ‘Melsanthi’ before putting it in the second pot, explaining it as a standard practice. The court observed that both pots were shaken twice before and after entrusting them to the Melsanthi and Special Commissioner, causing some of the lots to unfold partially. The draw of lots was conducted by a small child considered a representative of the deity in the presence of the Observer appointed by the court, Board officials, and pilgrims.

After considering the pleadings, materials on record, video clippings, and CCTV footage, the court found no reason to interfere with the selection of the 5th respondent. The court rejected the challenge against the selection, even though it acknowledged that the first relief sought in the writ petition was not properly worded. The court also noted the presence of a large number of persons during the draw of lots, emphasizing that entry to the ‘Sopanam enclosure’ during such events should be limited to specific individuals, including the Special Commissioner, President of the Travancore Devaswom Board, Devaswom Commissioner, and the court-appointed Observer.

In conclusion, the court dismissed the writ petition, upholding the selection of the 5th respondent as Melsanthi, and issued directions regarding the regulation of entry to the ‘Sopanam enclosure’ during the draw of lots.

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Written By: Gauri Joshi

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Landmark Decision: Court Upholds Social Welfare Nature of Provident Fund Act, Dismisses Appeals

Title: THANKAMMA BABY vs. THE REGIONAL PROVIDENT FUND COMMISSIONER, KOCHI, KERALA

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4619 OF 2010

Coram:  ABHAY S. OKA, J.

Introduction:

The case revolves around whether the appellant’s establishment, engaged in manufacturing, assembling, and selling umbrellas, falls under the category of ‘trading and commercial establishments’ as per the 1962 notification issued under the 1952 Act. The appellant argues that it does not, based on the interpretation of the relevant clauses and legislative intent, while the respondent argues.

Facts:

In the case presented, the main issue revolves around the interpretation of clause (b) of sub-Section (3) of Section 1 of the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (the 1952 Act). The appellant, engaged in manufacturing, assembling, and selling umbrellas, received a notice from the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, alleging that the 1952 Act applied to the appellant. The notice claimed that the appellant’s business fell under the category of ‘trading and commercial establishments’ as notified by the Central Government in 1962.

A Section 7A inquiry was conducted by the respondent, who concluded that the 1962 notification covered the appellant’s case. The appellant filed a Review Petition, which was rejected, and an appeal to the Appellate Authority was also dismissed. Subsequently, a Writ Petition was filed, but the learned Single Judge dismissed it. The Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, in a Writ Appeal filed by the respondent, confirmed the order of the Single Judge.

The appellant’s counsel argued that establishments covered by clause (a) of sub-Section (3) of Section 1 pertain to factories engaged in industries specified in Schedule I of the 1952 Act. Therefore, according to the appellant’s submission, clause (a) is applicable only to factories engaged in Schedule I industries, and factories not specified in Schedule I cannot be covered by clause (b) of sub-Section (3). The counsel asserted that clause (b) of sub-Section (3) does not refer to factories and, based on legislative intent, ‘any other establishment’ in clause (b) should not include a factory. The counsel also referred to a decision of the Apex Court in the case of Regional Provident Fund Commissioner v. Shibn Metal Works in support of the argument. On the other hand, the counsel for the respondent contended that all levels of authority, including the respondent, appellate authority, Single Judge, and Division Bench, have unanimously ruled against the appellant. The argument was based on the assertion that the appellant’s business involves manufacturing and assembling umbrellas and selling them. Therefore, the respondent’s counsel argued that the appellant falls under the category of trading and commercial establishments specified in the 1962 notification.

Court analysis & Judgement:

In the judgment, it appears that the court, likely the Supreme Court or a relevant higher court, considered and rejected the appellant’s argument regarding the interpretation of clause (b) of sub-Section (3) of Section 1 of the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (the 1952 Act). The Constitution Bench, after considering clause (a) of sub-Section (3) of Section 1, held that the Central Government has the power to specify establishments or classes of establishments not covered by the industries listed in Schedule I of the 1952 Act.                                The court rejected the argument that a notification under clause (b) could only be issued in respect of factories engaged in industries not covered by Schedule I. The judgment emphasized the social welfare nature of the legislation, describing it as a measure of social justice. In interpreting the legislation, the court adopted a purposive approach to give effect to the legislature’s intention. The court concluded that the notification under clause (b) could be issued for factories engaged in any industry not specified in Schedule I. Therefore, the contention that factories not covered by industries in Schedule I are exempt from the coverage of clause (b) was rejected. The judgment affirmed the views of the learned Single Judge and Division Bench of the Kerala High Court.

As a result, the appeals were dismissed, and no costs were awarded. The judgment also mentioned that if the appellant had incurred any monetary liability based on the orders of the respondent confirmed by the High Court, the appellant was granted three months to pay the necessary amount. This suggests that the appellant might have financial obligations resulting from the legal proceedings, and the court allowed a grace period for payment.

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A Husband Can’t Be Exempted From His Duty To Maintain His Wife Just Because He Lost His Job: High Court Of Karnataka

Citation: WP No. 20801 Of 2022

Coram: Hon’ble Mr Justice M.Nagaprasanna

Decided On: 25th Day Of October, 2023

Introduction:

This writ petition is filed under articles 226 and 227 of the constitution of India praying to quash the order passed by the PRL. Judge, family court at Mysuru in m.c.145/2022 dated 03.09.2022 on I.A.II vide annexure-e. The petitioner is before this Court calling in question an order dated 03.09.2022 passed in M.C.No.145/2022 on an application filed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘the Act for short) seeking interim maintenance from the hands of the husband.

Facts:

The petitioner is the husband and the respondent is wife. The two get married on 02.03.2020. It transpires that the relationship between the husband and the wife flounders and on floundering of such relationship, the parties were before the Family Court in M.C.No.145/2022. The issue in the lis does not concern the proceedings before the concerned Court. The wife files an application under Section 24 of the Act seeking interim maintenance at the hands of the husband and also files an affidavit of assets and liabilities, as is required in law. The concerned Court grants an interim maintenance of Rs.10,000/- to the wife. It is this order that is called in question by the petitioner before this Court.

petitioner contends that the husband has lost his job and the Court comes to conclude that an amount of Rs.50,000/- is earned by the husband erroneously and therefore, in the light of him not having a job as on date cannot be directed to be paid a maintenance of sum of Rs.10,000/-, which has become difficult for him to even consider such payment.

Court’s Judgement and Analysis:

The submission of the learned counsel that the husband has lost his job and cannot be directed to pay maintenance is noted only to be rejected, as the husband being an able bodied man is expected to work and take care of the wife. Any interference of the order that is impugned would run foul of the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Apex Court in the case of ANJU GARG AND ANOTHER Vs. DEEPAK KUMAR GARG. Considering that the petition of the husband was dismissed.

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Written by- Sushant Kumar Sharma

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Doctrine Of Forum Conveniens Is To Be Invoked To Determine The Most Appropriate Forum For Adjudication Of A Dispute: High Court Of Delhi

Title: Riddhima Singh V Central Board Of Secondary Education & Ors.

Citation: LPA 729/2023

Coram: Hon’ble The Chief Justice And Hon’ble Mr. Justice Tushar Rao Gedela

Decided On: 01.11.2023

Introduction:

The present LPA arises out of judgement dated 12.09.2023 passed in W.P.(C) No. 8383/2023 whereby the Ld. Single Judge dismissed the writ petition filed by the Appellant herein on grounds of forum non-conveniens without expressing any opinion on the merits of the matter.

Facts:

Appellant was a student in Respondent School (the „Respondent School‟). However, on 02.04.2018, the Appellant‟s father received a message from the Respondent School that due to non-payment of fees for the academic year 2017-2018, the Appellant was debarred from attending the Respondent School. Being aggrieved, the Appellant preferred W.P.(C) 6007/2019 (the „First Writ Petition‟) before this Court seeking issuance of directions against Respondent No. 1 („CBSE‟) to permit the Appellant to appear for Class X and Class XII examinations. During the pendency of the aforenoted writ proceedings, this Court, through interlocutory orders, directed the Respondent School to readmit the Appellant and directed the school to conduct Grade VII and Grade VIII examinations for the benefit of the Appellant. Both the examinations were conducted by the Respondent School and was cleared by the Appellant. It is pertinent to note that the Grade VIII examinations were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vide judgement dated 04.06.2021, the First Writ Petition was dismissed by the Ld. Single Judge on grounds that this Court was not the most appropriate forum to adjudicate the dispute. The Court considered that the Appellant was a resident of Uttar Pradesh and that the Respondent School was also located in Uttar Pradesh. As the grievances of the Appellant primarily pertained to the Respondent School, the Court held that the mere inclusion of CBSE as a respondent was not sufficient to enable this Court to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Aggrieved the Appellant preferred a review petition against this judgement which was also dismissed with costs of INR 30,000 imposed on the Appellant.

Subsequent to the events of the First Writ Petition, the Appellant preferred the underlying writ petition seeking compensation from CBSE for alleged “intentional harassment, mental trauma of holding back the Petitioner in Class VII for two academic years in violation of RTE Act.” Without adjudicating on the merits of the matter, the Ld. Single Judge dismissed the writ petition on the grounds of non-conveniens, noting that the Appellant has attempted to found territorial jurisdiction in Delhi merely because CBSE is headquartered in Delhi.

Learned Counsel for the Appellant contends that the Ld. Single Judge erred in not considering that Clause 18.3.2 of the CBSE Affiliation Bye-Laws explicitly states that the legal jurisdiction for suits filed against the CBSE shall be the Union Territory of Delhi.

Court’s Analysis and Judgement:

The principle emerging from Shristi Udaipur is squarely applicable to the facts of the present case. In essence, the basis of the Appellant‟s claim for compensation is the loss of an academic year due a delay in examinations for Grade VIII. As the responsibility for conducting the examinations fell on the Respondent School, it is plain that the most vital part of the cause of action arose in Uttar Pradesh, where the Respondent School is located. Moreover, it must also be noted that the Appellant is a resident of Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, on a holistic examination of these circumstances, as the Appellant has failed to produce any material establishing that the grievance caused to her is directly attributable to the actions of the CBSE.

doctrine of forum conveniens is invoked to determine the most appropriate forum for adjudication of a dispute and this exercise is undertaken not only for the convenience of the parties but also in the interest of justice. Therefore, this Clause cannot be read in a matter that would permit all cases filed against the CBSE, regardless of the existence of a more appropriate forum, to be adjudicated in the Union Territory of Delhi; the existence of such a clause cannot exempt Courts from invoking the doctrine of forum conveniens especially in cases like the present where no direct actions of the CBSE have been impugned by the Appellant. So the court did not find any eason to interfere with the Impugned Judgement. Accordingly, the present LPA was dismissed.

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Written by- Sushant Kumar Sharma

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Throwing On Another Person Any Liquid Or Substance Other Than ‘Acid’ Not An Offence U/S 326B IPC: Delhi High Court

Title: Rashmee Kansal v. The State and Others
Citation: W.P.(CRL) 712/2022

Coram: JUSTICE AMIT BANSAL

Introduction:

In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court provided a crucial clarification regarding interpreting Section 326-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court emphasised that for an offence to be established under this section, it is essential that a person throws or attempts to throw ‘acid’ on another person. Importantly, the court specified that Section 326-B is exclusively tailored to address acid attacks and does not encompass incidents involving any other liquid or substance. This clarification offers a distinct understanding of the scope and application of Section 326-B, particularly in cases involving the throwing or attempted throwing of harmful substances on individuals.

Facts:

The case involves a respondent accusing her sister-in-law, the petitioner, of throwing a hot liquid at her, which allegedly landed on her right shoulder, blouse, and saree. Justice Amit Bansal, presiding over the matter, highlighted that if the liquid were indeed ‘acid,’ there would likely be external injuries and traces of the acid on the respondent’s body.

The petitioner sought the quashing of the FIR, claiming shared residency on a common property with the respondent. The petitioner argued that the FIR was a tactic to harass her, citing an ongoing property dispute between them. Additionally, it was noted that two complaints had been previously filed against the respondent by other occupants of the property.

In response, the respondent contested the existence of a property dispute and criticised the police investigation. The court considered an FSL report indicating that samples of the liquid substance collected from the property were Hydrochloric acid. However, the court noted that there was no evidence to demonstrate that the substance was thrown directly at the respondent’s body.

Court analysis and judgement:

In this case, the court provided a thorough analysis leading to the decision to quash the FIR. The central point of consideration was Section 326-B of the IPC, which specifies that an offense is established only if a person throws or attempts to throw ‘acid’ on another person and not any other liquid or substance. This legal criterion set the framework for evaluating the allegations.

The court took into account crucial medical evidence, including the discharge summary that indicated no external injury on the respondent at the time of hospital admission. Additionally, the PCR Form recorded the doctor’s statement asserting the absence of acid signs, categorizing it as a case of an old illness. These medical findings played a pivotal role in the court’s determination. Regarding the charge of criminal intimidation, the court observed a lack of substantive allegations in the FIR to substantiate the offense, providing a comprehensive legal analysis.

The legal representation included Mr. Sunil K. Mittal, Mr. Anshul Mittal, Mr. Harshit Vashisht, and Mr. Sarthak Sharma, Advocates for the petitioner, and Mr. Yasir Rauf Ansari, ASC (Crl.) with Mr. Alok Sharma and Mr. Rohan Kumar, Advocates for the respondents. The court, based on its analysis, quashed the FIR, highlighting that the substance thrown was not confirmed to be ‘acid’ and suggested that the allegation stemmed from an ongoing property dispute between the parties. This judgment analysis underscores the court’s meticulous consideration of legal criteria, medical evidence, and the context surrounding the allegations.

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