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Delhi High Court Surprised At Govt. Making False Claims Before Court With Impunity; Refers Plea For National Litigation Policy To PIL Bench [READ JUDGMENT]

While referring the plea to a PIL Bench, the Court observed that these false claims are being raised since there is no accountability of any government officer making such claims

By: Nidhi N. Anand, Ramaiah College of Law

While expressing its shock at the number of false claims/defenses raised by the government in various cases, the Delhi High Court remarked that the same is done with impunity owing to the lack of accountability of government officers who raise such frivolous claims.

The single bench of Justice JR Midha, while referring the plea seeking implementation of the National Litigation Policy to the PIL Bench,  observed that courts seldom take action against such officers raising false claims.

The order said that “All these cases shocked the conscience of this Court. It seems that the fake claims are raised with impunity due to the fact there’s no accountability of any Government officer for raising the fake claims and Courts seldom take any motion against the person concerned for raising fake claims/defenses.”  Additionally, the court urged the government to take action in opposition to officials accountable for making such fake claims in court.

Justice Midha opined “This Court is of the prima facie view that whenever a false claim is raised by the Government, it causes immense injustice to the litigant seeking justice; it also puts an unnecessary burden on the Court and the Government also suffers but the concerned officer who has raised the false claim does not suffer any action. If the facts given by the officers are found to be false/incorrect by the Court, the Government shall consider taking action and the copy of the judgment be kept in the ACR file of the officer. This will ensure that the officer is held accountable for the actions taken by him in the Court case.” 

It was observed that despite announcements being made by the government in 2010, no National Litigation Policy exists in place at present.

The court, relying on statistics available on Legal Information Management & Briefing System (LIMBS), a web-based portal set up through the Union Ministry of Law and Justice,  gathered that there were 4,79,236 instances wherein the government became a party, while 2,055 compliance cases and 975 contempt cases had been pending as on June 8, 2021. It was further seen that the Finance Ministry has the highest number of cases (1,17,808), while Railways has the second-highest pendency, with 99,030 cases.

The court then went on to peruse the cases wherein the government had made false claims to the High Court. It was seen that in one such case which related to the demise of 3 people who had been sleeping at the pavement outside a railway station, the Railway Claims Tribunal had granted compensation to the families of the victims. Surprisingly, as per the record produced before the Court, the Senior Divisional Operational Manager (Coaching) had asked the DGM (Law) to attempt to avoid the FIR being followed up through the High Court and to ensure that the function of the Government of NCT of Delhi must be eliminated. The revelation blew a shock to the Court’s conscience which proceeded to grant reimbursement of Rs.18 lakh to the petitioners.

In the present case, Senior Advocate AS Chandhiok, who was appointed as Amicus Curiae for the Railways case, made submissions on accountability in government litigation. He said that the governments’ indifference has time and again compelled the citizens to approach courts for seeking relief. Therefore, Governments/Public Sector Undertakings have been enjoying the distinction of being the largest litigants before the courts.

The Amicus Curiae further submitted that the 13th Finance Commission had opined the necessity of all state governments to frame state litigation policies that will aim at facilitating responsible litigation while encompassing steps to review existing cases and withdrawing cases recognized as frivolous and vexatious.

But the Central Govt.’s standing counsel, Kirtiman Singh, apprised the court of the non-existence of a litigation policy at present as he went on to state that the 2010 Policy had never been implemented.

Lastly, the Court placed reliance on the National Litigation Policy that was formulated in 2010 and reviewed in 2015. The same was highlighted by the Supreme Court in Union of India vs. Pirthwi Singh, wherein it was observed “The website of the Department of Justice shows that the National Litigation Policy, 2010 is being reviewed and formulation of the National Litigation Policy, 2015 is under consideration. When this will be finalized is anybody’s guess. There is also an Action Plan to Reduce Government Litigation which was formulated on 13th June 2017.

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Patna High Court Issues Directions to Obligate Govt. of Bihar to Provide Valid Data on Death Due to COVID-19 [READ ORDER]

The Government of Bihar is greatly unwilling to put in the public realm, the accurate data of deaths that occurred in Bihar during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Patna High Court observed.

By: Sachin Jain, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi

The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar reminded the State Government that the right to information as embodied in Article 19 of the Constitution of India is also a part of Article 21.

The Bench also put forward questions, firstly, as to whether more than ten crore people of the State of Bihar have a right to know, on a digital platform, the number of deaths that occurred in Bihar during the time of Covid-19, and secondly, whether the Government has a corresponding duty to disclose as mandated by law.

The Patna High Court also noted that even after continuous affirmations, the Digital Portal maintained by the Bihar Government, the valid statistical data was not being uploaded sometimes.

Furthermore, the bench clarified that it was not only concerned with the right of the individual to upload information on the portal, rather, but it was also concerned with “Whether the functionaries authorized under the Statutes are uploading the information and whether such information, of course maintaining the confidentiality of the identity of the deceased, is made known through the Digital Portal to the general public or not. To this, there is no answer.”

Considerably, the Advocate General on June 12, submitted that no public representatives are responsible or answerable for providing information to be uploaded on the portal and that there is also no mandate of law anywhere to publish data of deaths on the portal. The court finely remarked this objection legally unsustainable while observing the provisions of the Statutes (Acts) and the Bihar Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1999.

“We are not unmindful that the information of fatalities arising out of Covid-19 is in the public domain. If that were so, then what is the reluctance to upload general information concerning all deaths that occurred during this period, be it for whatever reason,” the court observed.

The Bench also emphasized that the provisions of the Right to Information Act put a great duty on all public authorities to provide and communicate required information unless it is protected by law. The data collection process for the births and deaths is a crucial exercise, especially during this Pandemic time. 

“Also, in maintaining the correct statistics so that we as a Nation can be prepared for the Third Wave of COVID Pandemic,” added the Court.

The Court underlined that various digital access programmes as initiated by the Government of India and Government of Bihar that are existing or ongoing mainly initiated to align them with the principles of Digital India.

Greatly, the Court emphasized that “Neither the Government, be it the State Government or the Union, nor us, including the common man can shirk their responsibilities in the dire situation that the entire Nation is facing during this pandemic.”

The Bench, while citing that even if it is hypothetically assumed that Rules are not available to provide for making the information available to the general public, observed that it could come out with such legislation, subordinate, delegated or otherwise as it has legislative power and competence under Entry 30, List III, Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Concluding the above discussion, the Court issued the following directions:

  • The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (Act No. 18 of 1969) and also the Right to Information Act, 2005, gives a right to a person in almost unequivocal terms of their access to information and therefore, the Digital Portals should be made accessible to the general public with regular and timely updates.

It is needless to say that private information of deceased individuals will still be protected under the Right to Privacy read into Article 21 of the Constitution but has to be balanced with ‘General public awareness and information dissemination.

  • The Government of Bihar is under an obligation to the citizens of India, more so the residents of the State, to provide information on the Digital Portal regarding the number of deaths, be it for whatever the reason, that has occurred during the COVID 19 Pandemic.
  • The State is under a duty under the Registration Act to facilitate the right of any person to cause a search, and for that to happen, the Digital Portal maintained by different entities must be updated immediately.
  • The concerned authority to take steps to integrate ease of access, in consonance with the larger aims of the Digital India program and others highlighted in our order.
  • The information to be updated regularly on the digital portal shall be done in line with the right to privacy, recognized under the Constitution.

Elected representatives upon whom an obligation has been placed, by relevant statutes/orders, as discussed, are duty-bound to disclose the number of deaths that occurred in their constituencies within twenty-four (24) hours.

  • The state is obligated to provide accurate information to fight the infodemic on the one hand and heal the systemic neglect on the other.
  • The Government of Bihar shall take all necessary action for sensitizing the general public, especially in the rural areas, of their Constitutional and Statutory right of uploading and obtaining information on the digital portal.
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Delhi High Court Restrains WhatsApp & Telegram From ‘Illegally Circulating’ Copies of E-Newspapers Of Times Of India & Navbharat Times [READ ORDER]

The news articles published on these websites as well as in newspapers constituted “original literary work” which is protected under Section 14 of the Copyright Act. In the case titled Bennett Coleman Co Ltd v. WhatsApp & ors, the Delhi High Court has restrained social networking platforms WhatsApp and Telegram and certain other individuals from allegedly illegally circulating e -papers of Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (Times of India and sister publication Navbharat Times) on their respective platforms

By: Surbhi Kumari, Amity University, Patna

WhatsApp and Telegram are two online messaging platforms which provide online services to its users. It is the case of the plaintiff that the newspaper The Times of India belongs to the plaintiff and is India’s most widely circulated English daily which came into being on 03.11.1838 and is rated amongst the world’s six best newspapers and also attracts a daily circulation of more than a million copies. Other newspaper brands owned by the plaintiff are The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Sandhya Times etc. Plaintiff is stated to be the registered proprietor of several trademarks. The plaintiff has also commenced offering its print publication in digitised format i.e. E-papers, on its website on a subscription model.

In June, 2020 the plaintiff became aware of unauthorized and illegal circulation/distribution of the plaintiffs proprietary e-newspapers by users of the platform of Defendant No.1 as well as by various websites providing the plaintiffs e-newspaper for free download.

It was submitted that news articles/contents published on plaintiff’s website as well as in its newspapers constitute “the original literary work” within the meaning of copyright thereby being entitled copyright protection under Section 14 of the Copyright Act. The plaintiff stated that its publications, including those on epaper.timesofindia.com and epaper.navbharattimes.com, were widely considered as being of high repute, and have a valid and subsisting copyright and trademark.

Lastly, it was argued that the plaintiff being exclusive owner of the copyright in the said literary work, therefore, possessed all rights to it in any material forms and the defendants were illegally circulating copies of e-newspaper owned by the plaintiff which violates the rights of the plaintiff. The Court was also informed that the e-papers were based on a subscription model whereby a consumer could subscribe to the same upon paying a fee.

It was the plaintiff’s grievance that due to access and permission granted by WhatsApp and Telegram, numerous channels and groups had been created by known and unknown administrators/users for unauthorizedly and illegally uploading the e-papers in PDF form on a daily basis.

The interim order was passed by a single-judge Bench of Justice Jayant Nath in a suit preferred by Bennett Coleman, which owns the publications. In view of the above, the Court opined that the plaintiff had made out a prima facie case in its favour for grant of a temporary injunction.

The plaint was directed to be registered as a suit and summons were issued to the parties including WhatsApp and Telegram. The matter will be heard next on August 18. Advocates Ashish Verma and Arnav Sanya appeared for Bennett Coleman.

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Invitation to an Open House Talk with Nithya Shanti: On happiness and mental well-being

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

In today’s world, mental health problems can affect everyone, irrespective of their age, social class, and financial situation it impacts every element of your life, from your performance at work to your relationships with your significant other, family members and friends. Being ‘successful’ in life does not make you immune to suffering mental health issues. While it’s easy to link success with happiness, and happiness with sound mental health, this isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.

So we are back with a follow up talk with Mr. Nithya Shanti.

  • He is an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher, seminar leader and educator, committed to the enlightenment with people in a joyful and transformational way.
  • In his last session, Nithya invited us all to take a step back and reflect. He made us realize the importance of the “pause”. Let us continue absorbing some more of these practical teaching.

You are invited to a Zoom webinar, a follow up Talk with Mr. Nithya Shanti.

Topic: Open House Talk: Session II – With Nithya Shanti: On happiness and mental well-being

When: September 6, 2020 (Sunday) 10:30 AM India

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

https://zoom.us/j/94795113339?pwd=MCthV0IzcTVUZ2IxazBjY2NwMldJUT09

Passcode: 460853

For a preview of what is in store for you, do have a look at the attached Video. Bring your friends and family in and hope you have another wholesome experience with us. 

You are also invited to explore some of the teachings from the last session, which can be accessed at the following link:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1F82_BxdllaSHXHVwuw8yxlzdt7DGSggo?usp=sharing

Uncategorised

No appeal can be maintained by victim under Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the ground of inadequate sentence, the Supreme Court held [READ ORDER]

In its recent verdict, the Supreme Court has held that appeal filed by victim seeking enhancement of sentence under Section 372 CrPC is not maintainable. 

By Nishantika Sood

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy noted, upheld the Delhi High Court judgment which dismissed the appeal filed by a victim under Section 372 CrPC seeking enhancement of sentence imposed on the convict by the Trial Court. The accused, in this case, was convicted for offence punishable under Sections 364A, 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code. The father of the deceased boy, filed appeal before the High Court challenging the order of sentence seeking enhancement of sentence to death penalty.

The victim contended before the bench that, in view of proviso to Section 372, CrPC which gives right to prefer appeal to the victim, when the accused is convicted for lesser offence, there is no reason to restrict the scope of appeal only for a lesser offence but not for lesser sentence. 

Referring to proviso to Section 372 CrPC, the bench said that, so far as victim’s right of appeal is concerned, same is restricted to three eventualities, namely, acquittal of the accused; conviction of the accused for lesser offence; or for imposing inadequate compensation. It observed:

“While the victim is given opportunity to prefer appeal in the event of imposing inadequate compensation, but at the same time there is no provision for appeal by the victim for questioning the order of sentence as inadequate, whereas Section 377, Cr.PC gives the power to the State Government to prefer appeal for enhancement of sentence. While it is open for the State Government to prefer appeal for inadequate sentence under Section 377, Cr.PC but similarly no appeal can be maintained by victim under Section 372, Cr.PC on the ground of inadequate sentence. It is fairly well settled that the remedy of appeal is creature of the Statute. Unless same is provided either under Code of Criminal Procedure or by any other law for the time being in force no appeal, seeking enhancement of sentence at the instance of the victim, is maintainable.”

The Court observed that the High Court rightly relied on the judgment in National Commission for Women v. State of Delhi & Anr. to dismiss the appeal, as not maintainable.

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