Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Bench comprising of A.A. Sayed and A.S. Oka, JJ. disposed of the petitions which contains one of the main issue of providing proper infrastructure to the Courts and Tribunals. Pleadings were made via PILs  regarding issue of mandamus as the provisions of the Fire and Prevention Act, 2006 are not being implemented, there are consequential directions made against the Mumbai Municipal Corporation to ensure that sufficient infrastructure is made available for protecting the Courts and Court record, the State Government was also directed to issue an order of separation of cadres and recruit suitable Registrar and other staff for smooth and effective functioning of District Fora as well as the State Commission. One more issue which arises is as regards the making of all the court complexes in the State friendly for differently abled persons.

The present premises available to the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal being grossly insufficient, the petitioners have filed affidavit of their Secretary setting out the requirements of the Cooperative Courts and the Cooperative Appellate Courts, for issuing a writ of mandamus and directing the State of Maharashtra to provide adequate space to the State Commission, directing the State Government to take steps for implementation of recommendation in respect to the salary of State Commission and a prayer under Article 226 of the Constitution for issuing a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to pay equal salary to all the members of the District Forum on the basis of the doctrine of “equal pay for equal work” was also accepted by the Court.

The Court held that the process of filling in vacancies must be commenced four months prior to the date of expiry of tenure of the President or Member, as the case may be and appointments of the Presidents and Members of the State Commission as well as District Fora should be made under the supervision of High Court.[Mumbai Grahak Panchayat v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 726, order dated 05-05-2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of the fact that at present, thirty four Debt Recovery Tribunals and five Appellate Tribunals are functioning in the country which suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure, manpower and resources, the Court said that the legislative changes to provide for expeditious disposal of proceedings before the Debt Recovery Tribunals may not by themselves achieve the intended object so long as the infrastructure provided to the Tribunals is not commensurate with the burden of the work and nature of judicial duties.

The Court noticed that though the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 provides for the disposal of recovery applications within one hundred and eighty days, cases have remained pending for years together. In order to deal with the large pendency of cases, the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 11.05. 2016. The Bill has eventually been passed by both the houses of Parliament on 16.08.2016. The Court, however, that having due regard to the important adjudicatory function which is entrusted to these Tribunals, the efficacy of parliamentary legislation will depend in a large measure on the efficiency with which the Tribunals discharge their duties. Hence, the Court directed the Union of India to file affidavit dealing with the following issues:

  • Whether the timelines set down in the amended legislation are capable of being achieved with the existing infrastructure including judicial personnel and staffing pattern of the Debt Recovery Tribunals and Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals;
  • The underlying basis, if any, upon which the revised timelines have been stipulated and whether any scientific study has been conducted on the availability of infrastructure;
  • What steps the Union government intends to adopt to enhance the infrastructure of Debt Recovery Tribunals and the Appellate Tribunals in terms of physical infrastructure, judicial manpower and non-judicial personnel required for the efficacious functioning of the Tribunals;
  • The specific plan of action including time-schedules within which the existing infrastructure would be upgraded so as to achieve the time frame for disposal indicated in the amended legislation; and
  • Empirical data on the pendency of cases for more than ten years and the list of corporate entities where the amount outstanding is in excess of Rs.500 crore.

The 3-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ has directed the Union Government to file affidavit within 4 weeks from the date of this order. [Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 13, decided on 03.01.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the petition dealing with the welfare of the mentally ill persons, the Court said that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 postulates a dispensation mandating the appropriate Government to establish institutions for the care of mentally challenged persons and maintenance and management thereof with a view to create an equal opportunity and social security to them.

In the present case, inadequate medical treatment, medical services and access to Doctors, skewed ratio of staff to look after the inmates, overcrowding, poor distribution and consumption of dietary, clothing, bedding and other items and also about the abuses of various kinds to the mentally challenged persons residing in the mental asylums and nursing homes, was highlighted.

The Court said that the Central/State Coordination Committee is primarily responsible for ensuring compliance of the mandate regarding the infrastructure and other facilities to be provided in the Homes established under the 1995 Act and also for overseeing that the same are properly maintained from time to time and comply with the policies and programmes designed for achieving equality and full participation of persons with disabilities. The provisions of the 1995 Act provide for checks and balances for which hierarchy of Authorities have been created to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with opportunity of full participation and equality in the region. The bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar, J said that the six months’ time frame given to the Central Coordination Committee and the concerned State Coordination Committee is sufficient to enable them to take necessary remedial measures and ensure that deficiencies in the respective institutions established under the 1995 Act are cured within such period.

The Court added that the Secretary of the Union of India, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare shall be personally responsible for monitoring and overseeing the progress and action taken by the Central Coordination Committee in respect of establishments registered under the 1995 Act and under the control of the Central Government. The Court said that similar procedure is to be followed in case of hospitals and nursing homes established under the Mental Health Act, 1987.

The Court asked the Chairperson of the State Coordination Committee to submit compliance report not later than eight months in the Registry of this Court after providing advance copy thereof to the Central Coordination Committee. The Central Coordination Committee shall then submit State/Union Territory wise report with the comments, if any, within ten months in the Registry of this Court. [Reena Banerjee v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1437, decided on 08.12.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Reverting back the matter relating to the validity of a circular issued by the Government of J&K which adverted to the provisions of Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 which prohibits a government servant from taking up any assignment without the permission of the competent authority, the Court asked the High Court of J&K to constitute a Committee of medical experts and administrators to look into the issue of availability of infrastructure and facilities in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the facilities for the treatment of patients.

The writ petition filed before the High Court sought a prohibition on private tutoring by government teachers. In addition, the respondents also prayed for a complete ban on private practice by government doctors including those working in medical colleges. The Division Bench held that Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 does not empower the government to issue general instructions of this nature allowing teachers in government schools to pursue private assignments. The grievance of the State of J&K in the present appeal was that the directions issued by the High Court proceeded on the basis that the circular also regulated government medical doctors engaging in self-employment or other activities. It was urged that the rules governing private practice by government doctors were not placed before the Court. Hence, without considering those rules, the High Court has issued a blanket direction erroneously on the basis that the circular of 11 August, 2005 also covered the services of medical doctors.

The Court was of the opinion that quite apart from the issue of whether government doctors should be allowed to engage in private practice, there are other and, perhaps more fundamental aspects which would arise from the Public Interest Litigation that was instituted before the High Court. Stating that the quality of medical care in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a matter which should receive attention and oversight in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, the 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ said that the following issues need to be taken care of:

  • The availability of adequate infrastructure in government hospitals;
  • The availability of essential equipment for treatment;
  • The availability of staff-medical, para medical and of a supporting nature;
  • Enforcement of conditions of hygiene to secure proper medical treatment facilities; and
  • The availability of essential medicines.

The Court further said that the Committee shall submit a report on the state of public – government hospitals in the state and covering among other things, the areas which have been emphasised above. The High Court would be at liberty, after scrutinizing the report of the Expert Committee and upon hearing the relevant stakeholders including the state, to issue appropriate directions and monitor compliance. The hospitals which are conducted by the state and by public agencies cater to medical needs of the poorest strata of society. The need for ensuring proper medical care of a requisite standard has to be duly addressed. [State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Vichar Kranti International, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1160 , decided on 21.10.2016]