Case BriefsSupreme Court

“Society’s perspective is generally formed by the emotionally charged narratives, which need not necessarily be legally correct, properly informed or procedurally proper.”

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Kurian Joseph, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, JJ. partly allowed the appeals while modifying the death sentence to life imprisonment.

The present appeals in the case were filed against the order of the Chhattisgarh High Court which had confirmed the death sentence awarded by the Sessions Judge.

Factual matrix of the case draws a picture of the actual scenarios and events that happened and leads to the capital punishment to the appellant. In accordance with the facts of the case, appellant had entered the house of Anandram Sahu, Firanteen Bai, and Ratna Sahu and caused fatal injuries with a knife. Later, appellant entered the house of Durga Banchhor with a blood-stained knife while assaulting Meera Banchhor and inflicted grievous injuries.

For the above stated set of actions by the appellant, Sessions Court had convicted him for murder under Section 302 IPC, Section 307 IPC i.e. attempt to murder, Section 506(2) IPC for threatening to kill and house trespass under Section 450 IPC. For all the stated offences he was awarded death sentence in view of the case falling in the arena of “rarest of the rare” category. Further, High Court also confirmed the conviction, while stating that “aggravating circumstances in the present case outweighed the mitigating circumstances.”

The learned senior counsel for the appellant prayed that the death sentence imposed be commuted to imprisonment for life by putting forward his submissions.

The Supreme Court while laying down its decision stated that,

“High Court erroneously confirmed death penalty without correctly applying the law laid down in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684; Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar v. State of Maharashtra, (2009) 6 SCC 498.”

Further, it stated that the highest punishment of death sentence in the present case does not fulfill the test of “rarest of rare case” where the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed. Therefore, the Court held that the imposition of the death sentence was not the only option and hence the same needs to be modified to life imprisonment.“Till the time death penalty exists in the statute books, the burden to be satisfied by the judge in awarding this punishment must be high.” Appeals were partly allowed, commuting death sentence to life imprisonment.

Justice Kurian Joseph while delivering the judgment on behalf of the Court stated, “Having regard to the 262nd Report of the Law Commission that the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh has failed to prevent death sentences from being ‘arbitrarily and freakishly imposed’ and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, we are of the view that a time has come where we view the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice. ”

He further observed, “It is also a matter of anguishing concern as to how public discourse on crimes have an impact on the trial, conviction and sentence in a case. The Court’s duty to be constitutionally correct even when its view is counter-majoritarian is also a factor which should weigh with the Court when it deals with the collective conscience of the people or public opinion.”

Interestingly, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, JJ. gave a supplementing opinion in which they agreed with Justice Kurian Joseph on all points except the observation in regard to the death penalty quoted above.[Channu Lal Verma v. State of Chhattisgarh,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2570, decided on 28-11-2018]


Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Single Member Bench of Prem Narain (Presiding Member), partly allowed a review petition filed against the order of the Commission, whereby names of various complainants were included in the order although some of them had withdrawn their complaints while others were not even impleaded in the first place.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether any sort of interference was called for in the review petition filed by the petitioner.

The Commission observed that Section 22(2) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA) is limited to the error apparent on the face of the record. The Commission then referred to the Supreme Court judgments of Union of India v. Sandur Manganese and Iron Ores Ltd., (2013) 8 SCC 337 and S.Bagirathi Ammal v. Palani Roman Catholic Mission, (2009) 10 SCC 464, wherein it was held that the power of review cannot be exercised solely on basis that the parties do not agree with the view of the judgment, as long as the point is already dealt with and answered, parties are not entitled to challenge the impugned judgment in the guise that an alternative view is possible under review jurisdiction. Under the review jurisdiction, rehearing of issues is not allowed but the same issues can be decided just by a perusal of the records and if a prima facie error is detected then it can be corrected using the review jurisdiction. In the instant case, the error was apparent only with respect to certain complainants.

The Commission held that the names of those complainants, who had withdrawn their complaints and also those who were not impleaded in the complaint, can be deleted from the order; however, the similarly situated complainants can still derive the benefit of the impugned order since it was a class complaint. On the issue of compensation, the Commission held that some of the complainants had taken possession prior to the date till when the compensation was awarded to them, hence in such cases the compensation shall be given to them only up to the date when they were handed over the possession. Resultantly, the impugned order was modified and the review petition was partly allowed.[R.V. Prasannakumaar v. Mantri Castles (P) Ltd., Review Application No. 198 of 2018, order dated 27-11-2018]

Case Briefs

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A review petition was filed before a Single Judge Bench of Sujoy Paul, J., to review an order passed by this court.

Respondent had availed all the remedies available to him under M.P. Panchayat Service (D&A) Rules, 1999 where these rules were created under Section 70 of Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993.

Petitioner submitted that respondent could not have availed the remedy under Section 91 of the Adhiniyam. Rules of 1999 prescribed remedy of revision, which was admitted to have been exhausted by respondent. Once a specific rule dealing with service matters and disciplinary action were framed i.e. Rules of 1999, and respondent had exhausted all the remedies available therein, respondent could not have preferred an appeal under Section 91. Since Section 70 was an enabling provision, the rules framed there under cannot override Section 91 of the main Adhiniyam. Section 91 states that an appeal was maintainable against the orders of Panchayat and other authorities under the Act. Thus revision before government was maintainable.

The High Court was of the view that even if it is accepted that revisional power exercised by the State Government was in fact under the M.P. Panchayat (Appeal & Revision) Rules, 1995 and not under Section 91 of the main Act, the outcome would not change because the power is with the State Government under Section 91 of the Act to interfere with the order passed by an authority under the Act. If a wrong provision is mentioned while exercising the power, it would not stop the Competent Authority to exercise the appellate power. The Court found no reason to review the order passed earlier. Therefore, the petition was dismissed. [Gram Panchayat Khaira Janpadh Panchayat Rewa v. State of M.P., RP. No. 1664 of 2018, dated 14-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of M.K. Hanjura, J., allowed an application filed against the order dismissing the petitioner’s petition under Section 561-A of the CrPC, 1989 [Jammu & Kashmir]. The petitioner sought quashing of the dismissal order primarily on the ground that it was passed behind his back.

The main issue, in this case, was whether a criminal Court can recall or review its decision after the date of its delivery.

The Court applied the ratio laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, (2011) 14 SCC 770, wherein the Supreme Court had held that there is no power of review with the criminal court once the judgment has been rendered. However, 4 exceptions to this general rule were also laid down by the Supreme Court: first, if the judgment is pronounced without jurisdiction; second, if it is in violation of the principles of natural justice; third, if it has been pronounced without giving an opportunity of being heard to the party affected by it; and fourth, where the order is obtained by abuse of the process of the Court. In all these cases the High Court under its inherent jurisdiction can recall its judgment.

The Court held that the petitioner’s case was covered under the above exceptions i.e. the order was passed behind his back and he was not afforded an opportunity of being heard. Hence the impugned order was quashed and recalled by the Court. [Jalal-ud-Din Sofi v. State of J&K,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 519, order dated 24-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The CIC recently reiterated that it does not have the power to review its own orders as the same has not been envisaged in the RTI Act, 2005 or Rules framed under it.

Respondent replied CIC against the show-cause notice issued to him, wherein it was stated that the original RTI application dated 30.12.2015 of the appellant was duly responded by the PIO vide letter dated 30.03.2016. Thereafter, the appellant had filed another application dated 20.04.2016 with additional 09 points, which respondent considered an “After Thought Information”. The letter was not considered a RTI application as the prescribed fee for seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005 had not been paid/enclosed with the letter.

Thereafter, the letter dated 20.05.2016 was marked as First Appeal, which was addressed to the Managing Director & Appellate Authority. Subsequently, respondent claimed to have given a point wise response to the applicant on points which were raised in his letter dated 20.04.2016. Furthermore, it was submitted that the applicant had filed a complaint as CIC/KY/C/2016/900144, Diary No. 133893 dated 10.05.2016 and the same was dismissed by the Commission while citing that no fruitful purpose would be served by proceeding in such cases.

As regards the dissatisfaction of the complainant-appellant with the aforementioned decision, the Commission observed that re-visiting the said orders would amount to reviewing the earlier decision of the Commission which was not envisaged within the provisions of RTI Act, 2005. In this context, the decision of the Delhi High Court in the matter of DDA v. CIC, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 2058 was found pertinent where it was held that once the statute does not provide for the power of review, the CIC cannot, without any authority of law, assume the power of review or even of a special leave to appeal. Hence, in that case, Regulation 23 was held to be ultra vires the provisions of the Act. The Court also referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Patel Narshi Thakershi v. Shri Pradyumansinghji Arjunsinghji, (1971) 3 SCC 844. Later, Regulation 23 of the Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations, 2007, was amended vide notification No. CIC/Legal/2007/006 dated 20.10.2008 to correct this defect. Accordingly, CIC denied intervention in this matter. [Revanna P v. Jerome Kujur, Jt.GM (HR) and CPIO, HMT (International) Ltd., Complaint No. CIC/DOHIN/C/2017/154878-BJ- Final, order dated 19.06.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A review petition filed by the Union of India and the Chief Postmaster General was allowed by a Division Bench comprising of R.M. Borde and A.M. Dhavale, J.

The review was sought of the judgment passed earlier by the same Court, wherein the candidates whose selection to the posts of Postman or Multi-tasking staff was cancelled on grounds of irregularities in the selection process, were ordered to be given posting. The instant petitioners (original respondents) had alleged large-scale irregularities in the selection process and therefore the selection of the respondents (original petitioners) was cancelled. The respondents (original petitioners) filed a writ petition in the Court against cancellation of their selection. The Court allowed the petition and order as mentioned above. The instant petitioners (original respondents) preferred the review of the said judgment.

The High Court considered the submissions made on behalf of the parties and held that the original respondents were inadvertent in bringing out proper facts to the light of the Court. The alleged incidents of mass scale irregularities were not clearly placed before the Court. The High Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in BCCI v.  Netaji Cricket Club, 2005 (4) SCC 741, wherein it was held, “An application for review would also be maintainable if there exists sufficient reason therefore. What would constitute ‘sufficient reason’ would depend on facts and circumstances of the case. The words sufficient reason in Order 47 Rule 1 of the Code is wide enough to include a misconception of fact or law by a Court or even an Advocate.” The Court held that in this case too, the earlier judgment was passed on a misconception of facts as proper facts were not brought to light.  The Court held that it was a fit case where its review jurisdiction required to be exercised. Accordingly, the judgment under review was set aside. The original writ petitions were restored to the file for further consideration. [Union of India v. Prakash, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 927, dated 04-05-2018]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Considering the review petition seeking to review the death sentence and grant an open hearing to Surendra Koli, the chief accused of the ghastly Nithari Killings, the 3 Judge Bench comprising H.L. Dattu, C.J and A.R. Dave and S.A. Bode, JJ. rejected the petition stating that there is no compelling circumstances that indicate a glaring error apparent on the face of record. The Court also lifted the Stay Order on the execution of his death sentence.  

In the instant case the petitioner had been found guilty of brutal rape and murder of several girls and thus had been awarded death sentence by the Allahabad High Court which was upheld by the Supreme Court. However in a recent development the Court in its Order dated 08.09.2014 had stayed execution of the death sentence of the petitioner. Noted senior counsel, Ram Jethmalani appearing for the petitioner put forth the argument before the Court that the present case being exceptional and extraordinary requires Court’s interference by exercising its review jurisdiction. He also contended that had the accused been provided a competent advocate to fight his case during the trial, then the end result would have been different from what it is today.

The Court vehemently rejected the contentions of the counsel for petitioner and observed that a review petition can only be allowed in the presence of an error apparent on record which should also satisfy the Court that such an error would lead to grave injustice. While observing that the District Judges in future should ensure the provision of competent legal assistance to an accused stated that the petitioner’s argument of incompetent legal representation at the trial stage would provide no relief to him at the present stage of proceedings. Surendra Koli v. State of U.P.,2014 SCC OnLine SC 859 decided on 28.10.2014