Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the scope of the powers of the Chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Bench of R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ said:

“The Chairman, like the Chief Justice of the Higher Courts or the Chief Judge of subordinate courts, may be higher in order of protocol and may have additional administrative duties and responsibilities. However, the Chairman, acting judicially, is equal to any other Member.”

In the case at hand, the CAT Chairman had stayed the proceedings pending before a Division Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court. The High Court had, hence, quashed the said order by the CAT Chairman.

Going through the provisions of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the Court noticed:

“A careful reading of Section 25 of the Act makes it clear that the Chairman deciding the question of whether a matter should be transferred from one Bench to another cannot grant interim stay of proceedings, there being no power conferred on the Chairman under the said section to pass such interim stay.”

It further elaborated on the scope of the powers of the CAT Chairman by stating that the Chairman may constitute Benches, shift members from one Bench to another, constitute Single Benches, Division Benches and even larger Benches, allocate business to the Benches and even transfer cases from one Bench to the other,

“but having done so he cannot interfere with the functioning of the Benches or tinker with its orders by passing interim orders in a transfer petition.”

Stating that an interim order passed by a court, on consideration of the prima facie case made out by an applicant, should ordinarily have been vacated by a Bench of coordinate strength after giving open notice to the applicant, the bench said:

“If the Chairman was of the considered opinion that there was urgency in the application for vacating the interim order, the Chairman ought to have assigned the application for vacating and/or vacation of the interim order to a Bench of two or more Members to consider whether the interim order should continue or be vacated. The Chairman could also have exercised his power to suo motu transfer the proceedings to another Bench without prior notice. The order of stay of the proceedings before the Nainital Bench is without jurisdiction and unsustainable in law.”

The Court upheld the decision of the High Court and held that the order of the Chairman of CAT staying proceedings before the two-member Bench was without jurisdiction and unsustainable in law as the CAT Chairman, being one amongst equals, could not have stayed proceedings pending before a larger Bench. [All India Institute of Medical Sciences v. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 118, decided on 01.02.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where it was being contended that the Additional District Magistrate had no jurisdiction to pass order under the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ held that in the Statutory Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990, there is no provision, which prohibit passing an order by an officer lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Noticing that the Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990 clearly contemplate exercise of the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 by an Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate, the bench said:

“under Section 13 there is no limitation on the State Government while specially empowering an officer of the State to exercise the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 and further under Section 18, the powers and duties of District Magistrate can be directed to be exercised or performed by Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate for such areas as may be specified in the order.”

The Court was hearing the appeal against the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in which it was held that the Additional District Magistrate, Gwalior had no jurisdiction to pass an order externing the respondent for a period of one year from the district concerned. The High Court had relied upon the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Vs. Gurbachan Singh, (1965) 2 SCR 845 , wherein it was held that the order could not have been passed by any authority lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Holding this reliance to be erroneous, the Court explained that the said case dealt with the Statutory Scheme under the Defence of India Act, 1962 according to which detention order can be passed by the authority empowered by the rules to apprehend or detain with restriction that the authority empowered to detain not being lower in rank than that of a District Magistrate. Hence, in that case the Constitution Bench had held that Additional District Magistrate being not the District Magistrate was incompetent to pass the impugned order.

Considering that in the present case the Adhiniyam, 1990, in fact, empowered the Additional District Magistrate to pass orders, the Court said that the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Case was not applicable and hence, the judgment of the High Court was set aside. [State of Madhya Pradesh v. Dharmendra Rathore, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 93, decided on 29.01.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding the matter regarding the Court’s power to remit or pardon, the bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ held that the argument that when a pardon or remission can be given under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution by the constitutional authority, this Court can exercise the similar power under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is absolutely based on an erroneous premise. It further said that Article 32 of the Constitution can be only invoked when there is violation of any fundamental right or where the Court takes up certain grievance which falls in the realm of public interest litigation.

In the present case, the petitioner convicted under Section 21 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), had prayed for the issue of writ of mandamus commanding the Government to grant remission to them. It was contended that Chapter XIX of the New Punjab Jail Manual, 1996 lays down remission and award to the convicts depending upon good conduct and performance of duties allotted to them while they are undergoing sentence, but the benefit under the Chapter XIX of the Manual is not made available to the convicts under the NDPS Act on the ground that Section 32-A of the NDPS Act bars entitlement to such remission. However, it was further contended that the constitutional validity of Section 32-A of the NDPS Act and Section 433-A CrPC has been upheld in Dadu v. State of Maharashtra, (2000) 8 SCC 437 and Maru Ram v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 107, respectively, and that the said provision does not come in the way of executive for exercising the constitutional power under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution, hence, the denial to grant remission is totally arbitrary.

The Court, hence, held that the constitutional power engrafted under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution is different than the statutory power enshrined under Section 433-A CrPC. The petitioners do not have a right to seek remission under the Code because of Section 32A of the NDPS Act. However, they can always seek relief either under Article 71 or 161 of the Constitution, as the case may be, as it is in a different domain. Stating that the Article 32 of the Constitution of India enables a citizen to move this Court for enforcement of his fundamental rights, the Court held that the argument to invoke Article 142 in conjunction with Article 32 of the Constitution is absolutely fallacious. [Tara Singh v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 631, decided on 29.06.2016]