Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Appellate Tribunal for Prevention of Money Laundering Act: The Bench of Manmohan Singh, J. and G.C. Mishra (Member) allowed an appeal filed against the order of Adjudicating Authority directing freezing of accounts.

Respondent herein had filed an application under Section 17(4) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 for extending the debit freeze on 49 accounts which were involved in money laundering in order to locate proceed of crime for the purpose of further investigation. The said application was rejected holding that the same was beyond the scope of Sections 17(1-A) and 17(4) of PMLA.

Section 17(1-A) of the Act states that “where it is not practicable to seize such record or property, the authorized officer may make an order to freeze such property whereupon the property shall not be transferred or otherwise dealt with, except with the prior permission of the officer”. It is well settled that if the statute requires a thing to be done in a particular manner, it must be in that manner otherwise the action is vitiated. On realizing its mistake about freezing, the Adjudicating Authority directed respondent to file a fresh application, and in that application, it passed a fresh order directing freezing of accounts. The present appeal has been filed against this fresh order of the Adjudicating Authority under Section 26 of PMLA.

The Tribunal opined that the Adjudicating Authority had exceeded its jurisdiction in directing the respondent to file a fresh application. Such jurisdiction was not within its domain as the previous application of respondent was decided on merits.  It was concluded that the second application filed by the respondent was not maintainable on the basis of the same material. In view thereof, the impugned order was held to be not sustainable in law and the same was set-aside.[Abhishek Paddar Haripoddar v. Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement, Patna, FPA-PMLA-2323/PTN/2018, decided on 01-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an appeal against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court where it was held that the Wakf Tribunal has no jurisdiction in a matter where the rights of a non-Muslim are in question and that it is only the Civil Court which had the jurisdiction in the such cases, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ noticed that:

“The defendant in written statement has pleaded that the suit property is not Wakf property. When issue in the suit is as to whether suit property is Wakf property or not it is covered by specific provision of Sections 6 and 7 of the Wakf Act, 1995, hence, it is required to be decided by the Tribunal under Section 83 and bar under Section 85 shall come into existence with regard to jurisdiction of Civil Court.”

Background of the case:

  • The Punjab Wakf Board claimed to the owner of a land which it had allegedly let out to one Sham Singh and his wife Kuldeep Kaur for cultivation of the land.
  • The lessee deposited the rent for few years and thereafter initiated litigation against the interest of the Board claiming that the said property was not a wakf property.
  • When the suit was transferred to the Wakf Tribunal after it was constituted, the Board filed an application before the Tribunal for rejection of the plaint on the ground that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit and the Civil Court alone has jurisdiction to entertain the suit. However, the Tribunal held that it is only the Wakf Tribunal which has jurisdiction to try the present suit.
  • Board approached the High Court which held that the Wakf Tribunal has no jurisdiction in a matter where the rights of a non-Muslim are in question.

Considering the abovementioned facts, the Court said that the defendant has specifically denied that suit property is a Wakf property. Thus,

“within the meaning of sub-section (1) of Section 6 question that whether a suit property is a Wakf property or not has arisen. Thus, the suit wherein the above question has arisen ought to be considered by the Tribunal and the High Court clearly erred in allowing the revision filed by the Board.”

It was clarified that as per Section 6 sub-section (1) if any question arises as to whether a Wakf property in the list of Wakfs is wakf property or not, a suit can be instituted in a Tribunal for the decision of the question which decision shall be treated as final.

On the question that whether a suit within the meaning of Section 6 sub-section (1) or Section 7(1) is to be filed within a period of one year of publication of list of Wakfs under Section 5, the Court said:

“The provision contained in proviso to Section 6(1) that no such suit shall be entertained by the Tribunal after the expiry of one year from the date of the publication of the list of Wakfs shall be applicable to every person who though not interested in the Wakf concerned, is interested in such property and to whom a reasonable opportunity had been afforded to represent his case by notice served on 63 him in that behalf during the course of the relevant inquiry under Section 4.”

[Punjab Wakf Board v. Sham Singh Harike, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 142, decided on 07.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ. dismissed a habeas corpus Petition filed by the petitioner-husband praying for a direction to the respondent- wife to produce before the court the minor child who was a permanent resident of Canada and a citizen of US and cause his return along with the respondent-wife to the jurisdiction of the Court of Canada in compliance of the orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner-husband had alleged that the respondent-wife had wrongly removed their son from his custody. The wife had moved from Ontario, Canada, the place where the three of them were residing at that time, to New York. She then shifted to New Jersey and finally to India along with the son, who was 4 years old at that time. The petitioner challenged this and sought for his custody and his documents like passport, etc. A habeas corpus petition was filed by the husband petitioner, demanding that the wife be directed to produce before the court their son, who was a permanent resident of Canada and was a US citizen, in compliance with orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario. The Canadian Court had also directed various law enforcement agencies including INTERPOL to enforce the custody order. A warrant was also issued against the wife, with imposition of cost of $30,000 upon her.

The High Court, upholding the previously settled law observed that the law has sufficiently developed to rule that despite a pre-existing order for return of a child by a foreign court, the High Court may decline relief for such return. The Court further asserted that the issue should be considered bearing in mind the welfare of the child.

The High Court dismissed the petition of the father stating that the child’s return would not be in his best interests. It observed that if he was forced to go back to Canada in the sole care of his father, it is likely to psychologically disturb him, particularly when he will be required to now adapt to an education system of that country. This would adversely affect his overall growth and grooming as in the absence of his mother.

The Court while dismissing the petition held that  the Court in India are free to decline the relief of return of the child brought within its jurisdiction, if it is satisfied that the child is now settled in its new environment or if it would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable position or if the child is quite mature and objects to its return. The removal of the child from Ajmer, after he has stayed there for a few years now, would not be in his best interests, especially in view of the fact that he is suffering from chronic asthma and amblyopia. It further opined that it cannot hold the wife guilty of contempt as she cannot be solely held responsible for violation of the settlement terms. The Court gave directions allowing the father to maintain contact with his son. Till the time the child attains majority he shall be kept in the custody of his mother in India. [Naveen Sharma v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 63, Order dated 11-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Madhuresh Prasad, J. dismissed a civil writ petition filed by an employee against whom disciplinary proceedings were initiated but no final order had been given in the matter.

The present writ application had been filed challenging the entire proceedings arising out of departmental proceedings which was initiated against the petitioner for certain charges communicated to him under Praptra ‘K’ during the period when he was posted as Circle Officer.

The Court noted that the petitioner had approached it without there being any order of punishment against him. Disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against the petitioner and the enquiry report had been submitted after the conclusion of the proceedings before the Enquiry Officer. Since the final decision was yet to be taken by the disciplinary authorities, thereafter only could the petitioner be aggrieved by the outcome of proceedings.

In view of the above, it was held that at present there was no occasion for this Court to exercise any jurisdiction in favour of the petitioner.[Bishwa Nath Prasad v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 36, Order dated 10-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The writ petition was filed before a Division Bench of Abhinava Upadhya and Dr Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, JJ. where order passed by the Tehsildar, Kairana was challenged.

Petitioner alleged that there was a road accident in front of his house due to which two respondents entered into a dispute with the petitioner in consequence of which FIR was filed against the respondents. Later, a complaint before Tehsildar was filed by the respondents against petitioner alleging that petitioner was involved in the construction of the road on land not belonging to him. Accordingly, Tehsildar had issued a direction to SHO, Kairana to check if the alleged road was constructed. Petitioner had submitted that the above complaint was just to harass him.

Petitioner’s main contention was that Tehsildar, an executive authority could not have passed the above order and in case of any grievance by the respondent the correct forum to be approached was the Court of Civil Jurisdiction.

High Court observed that the dispute raised in this petition was of civil nature and Tehsildar had no jurisdiction to issue a direction to the SHO to interfere with the right of petitioner. Therefore, the impugned order was quashed. [Jagmal Singh v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 109, Order dated 29-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Sunil Gaur, J. refused to invoke the inherent extraordinary jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC.

Petitioners, represented by Akshay Bhatia and Avinash Das Advocates, had prayed for quashing of complaints filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (for dishonour of cheque). The quashing was sought on merits.

N.K. Aggarwal and Priya Pachouri, Advocates appeared for the respondents. It was informed to the Court that notice under Section 251 CrPC had been already framed and petitioners had also given their defence.

Since petitioners had an efficacious remedy to assail the notice framed under Section 251, the High Court refrained from invoking its inherent extraordinary jurisdiction under Section 482. The petitioners were given liberty to assail the notice before the Revisional Court within a period of four weeks. The petition was disposed of accordingly without commenting on merits. [Anand and Associates v. Jugal Kishore Jain, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6708, Order dated 15-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Bench of P.V. Asha, J. dismissed a civil writ petition filed by an Assistant Professor holding that Court cannot interfere with the academic qualifications prescribed for an academic post.

The petitioner, an Assistant Professor working on contract basis in the faculty of Dairy Sciences and Technology of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University filed the instant petition challenging the First Statute relating to qualification for the post of Assistant Professors in the said University.

Petitioner’s contention was that the qualification prescribed for appointment as Assistant Professor in the concerned faculty was vague and made with malafide intention to give appointment to certain persons. Respondent submitted that the petitioner was challenging the statute only because she is an MBA holder with B.Sc in Computer Science and NET qualified without any basic qualification/ degree in Dairy Science and Technology.

The Court examined the provisions of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University Act, 2010 and opined that UGC Regulations as well as Clause 140 of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University First Statutes provided that the qualification for appointment to the post of Assistant Professor should be good academic record with at least 55% marks at the Masters Degree level in a relevant subject from an Indian University or equivalent degree from an accredited foreign university with pass in NET. The discipline in question is Dairy Business Management. Admittedly, the petitioner had no qualification having any relevancy in dairy.

Relying on the Judgment of Apex Court in Dr Basavaiah v. Dr H.L. Ramesh, (2010) 8 SCC 372 it was held that the qualifications as to academic requirement had been prescribed by the government with the help of experts in the field. Therefore, this Court was not supposed to interfere with such matters which had already been dealt with by competent persons having sufficient expertise in the field. [Rekha U. Menon v. Vice-Chancellor, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 7702, Order dated 19-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This case was filed before a Bench of Rohit Arya, J., where petitioner who was a sarpanch was suspended.

Petitioner contended that he was suspended by the impugned order on the ground that a case had been registered for the commission of offence under Sections 7, 13(1)(d) and 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It is under Section 39(1)(a) of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Avam Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993 that the competent authority had the power to suspend an office bearer of Panchayat if any charges are framed under any criminal proceedings under Chapters V-A, VI, IX. Thus, impugned order was without jurisdiction and illegal since no charges were framed against the petitioner.

High Court found substantial force in the submission made by the petitioner regarding the scope of Section 39 of the Act.  Thus, Court was of the view that impugned order was without authority and exceeded the powers under Section 39(1)(a) of the Act. Therefore, the impugned order was set aside. [Vinod v. Panchaya and Social Justice, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 137, dated 14-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Petitioner had filed this petition before a Bench of Subodh Abhyankar, J., under Article 226 of the Constitution of India against the order passed by the respondent.

It was directed by the respondent that preference should be given to the warehouses of MP Warehousing and Logistic Corporation if allotment of warehouses occurs and after exhausting the same, other warehouses of private parties may be used, which were taken on rent. Petitioner submitted that he had taken a loan from SBI for construction of a warehouse and since the order of preference to the warehouses of MPWLC only was passed, petitioner could suffer undue loss despite entering into an agreement with the Warehousing Corporation. Thus, impugned order was not justified.

High Court found the arbitration clause in the agreement between petitioner and respondents according to which the validity of impugned order is a dispute and petitioner should have gone for arbitration. Accordingly, since there was an alternate remedy available, the present petition was dismissed as the Court could not invoke its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. [Gupta Warehouse v. State of MP, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 98, dated 03-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Madhuresh Prasad, J., allowed the writ petition which was filed against the act of arbitrary stoppage of the salary of the panchayat teachers.

The facts of the case are that petitioners were appointed as panchayat teachers in the year 2010 and they continued till April 2017. From the month of May, 2017 their salary had been arbitrarily stopped without issuing any order in respect thereof.

The respondents asserted that the petitioners’ degrees of integrated course from Central Board of Higher Education, New Delhi were not recognized in view of the letter issued by the Principal Secretary and as such the very appointment of the petitioners as panchayat teacher was bad.

The Court held that there was nothing in the counter affidavit to show that prior to withholding of such salary/stoppage of salary with effect from May, 2017 the petitioners were ever afforded any opportunity of being heard in the matter. It is trite law that when an order is violative of the principles of natural justice, the plea of alternative remedy would not be a bar to exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in such matter.

The Court observed that whether the petitioner’s degree obtained in 2010 on basis of which petitioners were appointed as panchayat teacher was recognized or not was an issue which was required to be looked into by the authority before inflicting such harsh penal consequence.[Kanchan Kumari v. State of Bihar, 2018 SCC OnLine Pat 2293, Decided on 06-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: This petition was filed before a Single Judge Bench comprising of Pankaj Bhatia, J., against the order of suspension whereby the petitioner has been placed under suspension pending inquiry in terms of the powers conferred under Rule 4 of the U.P. Government Servant (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1999.

Petitioner submitted that charge sheet had already been filed against the petitioner which is required to be replied. The reason why he failed to file reply was non-availability of required documents. It is to be noted that the inquiry against the alleged misconduct was pending. 

High Court observed that nothing was mentioned to show that suspension order was without jurisdiction or was mala-fide exercise of power. Hence, the Court found no reason to interfere with the order of suspension. However, the respondent was directed to provide the necessary documents to the petitioner which he requires to file a reply in the disciplinary enquiry. [Anil Kumar Srivastava v. State of U.P., 2018 SCC OnLine All 3213, order dated 21-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Devan Ramachandran, J. dismissed a civil writ petition calling into question the statutory competence of a Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) to act under the provisions of Section 14 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002.

Learned Senior Counsel on behalf of the petitioner, Mr. K.P. Dandapani, submitted that Section 14 of SARFAESI Act vests jurisdiction to assist the secured creditor in taking possession of a secured asset, only with a Metropolitan Magistrate or a District Magistrate, within whose jurisdiction any such secured asset is situated or found. Since Ernakulam district was not a metropolitan area under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, therefore, the CJM would not have jurisdiction to act under Section 14 of SARFAESI Act.

The Court noted that the present issue was pending consideration of Supreme Court in a case titled P.M. Kelukutty v. Young Mens Christian Association numbered as SLP No. 4665 of 2016. However, relying on the judgments of Division Bench of this Court in Muhammed Ashraf v. Union of India, 2008 SCC OnLine Ker 201 and Radhakrishnan V.N. v. State of Kerala, ILR 2008 (4) Ker 863 it was held that a Chief Judicial Magistrate is also authorized by law to act under the provisions of Section 14 of the SARFAESI Act.

In view of the above, the petition was dismissed and petitioners were granted liberty to approach the competent statutory forum for invoking alternative remedies as per law.[Pouly v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 5415, decided on 15-11-2018]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: While disposing of a petition, a Single Judge Bench comprising of Yogesh Khanna, J. set aside the directions given by a Civil Judge to the Commissioner of Police to organise training programmes for police officials.

The Civil Judge was dealing with a civil suit (property dispute) between two private parties. During the course of proceedings, the parties settled the dispute. The suit was disposed of and decree sheet was ordered to be prepared. Aggrieved thereby, the Commissioner of police preferred the present appeal.

A short question before the High Court was, “In a list between two private parties, can a trial court travel beyond the pleadings to pass such like directions since it is not exercising writ jurisdictions?”

The Court relied on its earlier decision in University of Delhi v. Neelam Gaur, 2002 SCC OnLine Del 500 and observed, “a Civil Court does not possess inherent power to give directions of general nature having far-reaching effect, whatever laudable object such directions may seek to achieve viz., giving training to its officers by the petitioner, such directions ought not to have been passed especially, when the lis before the court did not require passing such directions.” Resultantly, the Court set aside the order of the Civil Judge so far it related to the directions given to the petitioner herein. [Commissioner of Police v. Gayatri, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13048, dated 18-12-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of A.K. Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah, JJ. disposed of a matter concerning execution of conveyance deed and set aside the orders passed by Bombay High Court for want of jurisdiction.

The present proceeding arose out of a suit filed by original plaintiffs– purchasers of flats in the building developed by the defendant Trust. The plaintiffs filed a suit before the trial court for directing the Trust to perform its obligations including execution of conveyance deed of the plot where the subject building was developed. The trial court decreed the suit of plaintiffs. Aggrieved by the same, the Trust approached the High Court. Before the High Court, the plaintiffs filed Note for speaking to Minutes for clarification of certain details on record. The High Court dismissed the appeals and petitions filed by the Trust. However, it is pertinent to note that the impugned order was passed by the High Court below the Note. Aggrieved by orders of the High Court, the Trust preferred the present appeals. The Supreme Court quashed the impugned orders on certain grounds including, inter alia, for want of jurisdiction.

The Court was of the opinion that while passing the order below the Note, the High Court traveled beyond its jurisdiction in regard to the scope of deciding a Note for speaking to Minutes. It explained, “A Note for speaking to Minutes is required to be entertained only for the limited purpose of correcting a typographical error or an error through oversight, which may have crept in while transcribing the original order. Once, the judgment/order is pronounced and if any party to the same wants any rectification of any typographical error and any clerical mistake regarding the date or number, such a party may apply to the concerned Court for correcting such an error in the judgment/order. However, a Note for speaking to the Minutes cannot be considered at par with a review application or in a given case, with an application for clarification/modification of an order. A Note for speaking to the Minutes can never be considered to be an application of such a nature.” It was held that while passing the impugned order below the Note, the High Court virtually modified its original order passed in the first appeal. Such a course was not open to the High Court and therefore the order was liable to be set aside. For such and other reasons, the impugned orders of the High Court were set aside. [Akhil Bhartvarshiya Marwari Agarwal Jatiya Kosh v. Brijal Tibrewal,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2816, decided on 14-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Division bench comprising of Dr Ravi Ranjan and Madhuresh Prasad, JJ. while hearing a civil writ petition quashed the order of Gram Kutchery holding the same to be outside the scope of its jurisdiction.

Facts of the case were that the respondent filed an application before the Gram Kutchery, Mahui alleging that the petitioner had encroached upon Ram Janki temple land without having any right over it. The Gram Kutchery passed an order directing petitioner to vacate the said land. The order was carried in appeal before the first appellate authority – Full members of Gram Kutchery –which rejected the petitioner’s appeal. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner preferred the instant appeal.

Submission on behalf of the petitioner was that Gram Kutchery’s order had the effect of deciding right to possess the lands in question and such an adjudication touching upon the title of lands was beyond its competence. Whereas the respondent submitted that the petitioner had  wrongfully encroached upon the said land and therefore Gram Kutchery was well within its jurisdiction to pass the impugned order. 

The Court observed that the question as to whether the petitioner had any right to possess the subject land or whether his possession was illegal could only be decided by examining his right, title and interest vis-a-vis of the private respondent. Section 110 of the Panchayat Raj Act, 2006 did not contemplate such a jurisdiction on the Gram Kutchery. The power to remove encroachments did not vest in it. Even otherwise, scope of Section 110 of the Act did not include determination of complicated issues of law and title. 

In view of the above, the Court held that the Gram Kutchery’s exercise of jurisdiction under Section 110 of the Act was grossly illegal and without jurisdiction. The writ petition was allowed and impugned order was quashed.[Bhola Sah v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 2030, decided on 06-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sanjay Kumar, J. set aside a trial court order abating a title suit ruling that declaration of voidability of a document is within the jurisdiction of a Civil Court.

Petitioner before this Court was the plaintiff in a title suit filed in trial court for cancellation of registered sale deed allegedly executed by her father in favour of the respondent-defendant. The petitioner’s submission before trial court was that the land in dispute is joint family property and that her aged had lost his consciousness for the last six months before his death. The respondent-defendant taking advantage of his mental condition executed the sale deed by committing fraud and forgery. The trial court, noting the submissions of the petitioner, abated the said suit in terms of Section 4(c) of Bihar Consolidation of Holdings and Prevention of Fragmentation Act, 1956. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed for quashing the said order.

The High Court noted that the petitioner’s father neither received any consideration money nor executed any document nor affixed his thumb impression on the purported sale deed. The court relied on full bench decision in Ramkrit Singh v. State of Bihar, 1979 SCC OnLine Pat 30 and observed that if a document has to be set aside, civil suit would be maintainable; but a mere declaration of title or a mere declaration that the document is void can be done by the consideration authority. In the instant case, the purported sale deed was voidable and therefore it was within the jurisdiction of civil court to cancel or set aside the said document.

The Court noted that cancellation of purported sale deed was sought by petitioner on the grounds of fraud and forgery which could be determined only after recording evidence of the parties. As such, the impugned order was set aside and trial court was directed to proceed with the suit. [Gangotri Devi v. Bhukhan Singh,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1984, decided on 02-11-2018]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division bench comprising of Dinesh Maheswari and S.G. Pandit, JJ. while hearing a civil writ petition declined to exercise its jurisdiction under public interest litigation since the petition involved the determination of questions of fact.

The instant writ petition was filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India praying to call for records pertaining to the case on hand and seeking a direction against the respondent State to clear the road by removing encroachments made on public roads.

The court, on the day of preliminary hearing, stated that it was not persuaded to entertain the present petition as a public interest litigation (PIL) because though the petition alleged several encroachments on public pathway and roads but none of the alleged encroachers had been impleaded as a party to the said petition, not even in a representative capacity. Further, it was noted that the matter involved questions of fact which could not be determined in the PIL jurisdiction of the Court.

With the aforesaid observations and noting, the court dismissed the present petition with a liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to appropriate remedies in accordance with law. [Chaitanya Mandal v. State of Karnataka,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 1755, decided on 23-10-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Member Bench of Anup K Thakur, C. Viswanath, Members, dismissed a complaint at the stage of maintainability, which was filed for claiming deficiency of services on the part of the opposite party.

The complainant had booked a residential apartment in one of the projects of the opposite party and the complainant had paid almost the entire cost of the prospective flat in installments. The opposite party failed to construct the flat and hence the complainant alleged deficiency in services on the part of opposite party.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether the complaint was maintainable before the Commission.

The Commission observed that as per Section 21(a)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain consumer complaints wherein the sum of goods and services along with compensation claimed by the complainant exceeds Rs. 1,00,00,000/-. In the present case, the total cost of flat along-with interest claimed by the complainant was below the mark of Rs. 1,00,00,000/-. However, the complainant had claimed an amount of Rs. 45,00,000/- for mental agony, which was almost at par with the cost of the flat itself.

The Commission held that the amount of compensation claimed by the complainant for mental agony suffered is highly unreasonable and in the absence of the same, the cost of the flat along with the interest does not cross the mark of Rs. 1,00,00,000/- and hence this case does not come under the jurisdiction of the Commission. Resultantly the complaint filed by the complainant was dismissed. [Aanchal Garg v.  Amahagun India (P) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 379, order dated- 09-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of S.M. Kantikar and Dinesh Singh, Members, allowed an appeal filed against the order of Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission whereby the appellant’s petition was dismissed at the stage of maintainability itself.

The appellant had filed a complaint against the respondents for medical negligence. One of the respondents had prescribed a medicine for appellant’s husband; however, the pharmacist (OP-2) gave the wrong medicine. The appellant’s husband died because of taking the wrong medicine.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether the present dispute amounts to a consumer dispute and hence whether it can be adjudicated upon under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Commission observed that the State Commission had cited the case of Bright Transport Co. Ltd. v. Sangli Sehkari Bank Ltd., II (2012) CPJ 151 (NC) wherein it was held that complaints which are based on allegations of fraud, forgery, etc. and trial of which would require voluminous evidence and consideration are not to be entertained by the consumer fora. However, in the instant case the appellant had neither alleged fraud nor did she allege forgery on the part of respondents.

The Commission held that it was a case of medical negligence and deficiency in services and it does not require recording of voluminous evidence and consideration, as may make the adjudication of this case unfeasible or prescribed in consumer fora. The allegations of medical negligence and deficiency of services is a complaint within the meaning of Section 2(1)(c) of the 1986 Act and would convert into a “consumer dispute” within the meaning of Section 2(1)(e) if the opposite parties dispute or deny the allegations contained in the complaint. [Vimla v. Ashwani Gupta, First Appeal No. 1062 of 2018, order dated 05-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge bench comprising of Rashid Ali Dar, J. while dealing with a civil revision petition filed against the order of trial court allowing withdrawal of suit, upheld the trial court order on the finding that there were sufficient grounds for granting leave for withdrawal.

Factual matrix of the case revolves around a property dispute wherein the respondent-plaintiff, due to wrong counseling of advocate, filed a suit for injunction in the trial court instead of a suit for partition, declaration, and possession. Since the suit would fail for this formal defect, the respondent filed an application for leave to withdraw the suit and the same was granted by the trial court. It is against this order that the instant revision petition was filed by the petitioner-defendant.

At the outset, the court observed that the jurisdiction sought to be invoked by the petitioner was barred in terms of proviso to Section 115 of CPC since the application moved for withdrawal of suit, if decided otherwise, would not have terminated the proceeding. Further, the court noted that the words ‘formal defect’ and ‘other sufficient grounds’ under Order XXIII Rule 3 of CPC had been liberally interpreted by many courts and the only restriction on the exercise of this power is, that a defect which affects the merits of the case and which may or may not be fatal to the case cannot be allowed to be removed.

The High Court observed that the petitioner-defendant could be reasonably compensated for the delay in having the proceedings concluded expeditiously or for the filing of the fresh suit after granting of leave. Moreover, the leave granted by the trial court did not put the petitioner-defendant in an irremediable situation which could not be compensated by costs.

On the aforesaid reasoning, the revision petition was dismissed for being without merit. However, the petitioners were granted liberty to move a formal motion before the trial court for granting of reasonable costs subject to which the fresh plaint of respondent – plaintiff may be taken on record. [Ghulam Nabi Bhat v Haneefa,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 665, decided on 18-09-2018]