Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Valmiki Mehta, J. dismissed a regular first appeal filed under Section 96 CrPC, against the judgment of the trial court whereby appellant’s suit was rejected as barred by res judicata.

The suit for declaration, partition, possession and permanent injunction was filed by the appellant relating to the property purported to be received by him on the partition of the property after the death of his father. The respondents filed an application under Order VII Rule 11 CPC pleading that identical issue of ownership of the suit property had been raised and decided against the appellant in an earlier suit for injunction. The trial court held that the question of ownership of the suit property was directly in issue in the said injunction suit. The instant suit was rejected by the trial court as barred by res judicata. Aggrieved thus, the appellant was in appeal.

The High Court, in order to settle the issue, referred to various decisions of the Supreme Court and observed that once in a suit for injunction, title is in issue and decided, the said finding of the title will operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit where title is an issue. The Court was of the view that since the claim of ownership of appellant in the suit property was already decided against the appellant in the earlier suit, therefore, the trial court was justified in dismissing the present suit being barred by res judicata. In view of the discussion as mentioned hereinabove, the High Court held the appeal to be sans merit. The appeal was held to be an abuse of process of law and was dismissed with costs amounting to Rs 25000. [Randhir Singh v. Satish Kumar,2018 SCC OnLine Del 9879, dated 16-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Dipak Misra, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. sat to decide an appeal filed by the Wild Life Warden. The Hon’ble Bench held that elephant tusk is a Government property and declaration to that effect is to be found under Section 39(1)(c) of Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.

It was alleged against the respondent that he had unauthorizedly collected and stored elephant tusks and unlicensed gun and other accessories. Consequently, criminal proceedings were initiated against him under Kerala Forest Act, 1961. However, the respondent was acquitted in the case. Assistant Wild Life Warden ordered confiscation of the above-mentioned items along with the jeep of the respondent. The order was appealed against by the respondent and the matter finally reached  Kerala High Court, wherein the learned Single Judge held that elephant tusk was not a forest produce as it was not mentioned as such in the Act of 1961. Feeling aggrieved the Wild Life Warden approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court limited its decision on the issue as to whether elephant tusk is the property of the Government. The Hon’ble Bench referred to Section 39(1)(c) of the Wild Life Act 1972 which inter alia declares that any article related to an animal hunted in a sanctuary or a National park, is a property of the Central Government. In accordance with the stated provision, the Court held that there was not an iota of doubt that elephant tusk is the property of the Government. Having concluded thus, the Court found it immaterial to decide whether elephant tusk is a forest produce under the Act of 1961. [Wild Life Warden v.  Komarrikal Elias, Civil Appeal No. 4952 of  2008, dated 08-05-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: While hearing upon the present matter wherein the issue was related to few people perpetuating fraud by way of producing false receipts with official stamps, thereby resulting into serious losses being accrued by the parties, the Central Information Commissioner, M. Sridhar Acharyulu, held that the concerned public authority (the Post Office) has failed miserably to initiate any inquiry or action against its staff members who generated such fraudulent receipts. The Commissioner further berated the public authority for their failure to take any action by stating that such callousness would seriously affect the rights of parties and will create hurdles in adjudication. Therefore the Commission directed respondent to provide details of the date on which documents were removed and also directed the SSPO/CPIO to show why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon them for not giving a proper reply to the appellant’s RTI and for not attending the second appeal.

As per the facts of the matter, the appellant filed a RTI seeking to know whether he was sent a legal notice via registered post regarding sale of his property and provide any record in respect of issuance of said registered post. The appellant contended that he never intended to sell his property, however a lawyer created a false record of sale, and even though no notice was received by him, but a proof of service was created which resulted in ex parte proceeding against him, depriving him of his property. It was further stated that receipt in question issued by the post office did not bear any signature and because of such forged service proofs, people like him are losing their valuable properties in court litigation as, on the basis of this receipt the opposite party claimed it to be a legal notice. On filing RTI with the Post Office, the concerned authority informed the appellant that record of registered article has been weeded out due to lapse of time period as per departmental rule, hence, the information cannot be provided

The Commission agreeing with the issues raised by the appellant questioned the District Court Post Office as to how they can issue a receipt without any signature. Therefore the appellant was right in seeking an explanation and details of action against this kind of issuance of receipts. The Commission also observed that this small level fraud is widespread all over the country causing serious loss to the parties discrediting the system of law and adjudication only because of inaction of the administrators of Post Office against falsification of service proof. The Commission noted that the miserable tactics of dealing with the issue was also revealed in the authority’s reply to the RTI filed by the appellant. It was held that certain unscrupulous elements in the Post Office have effectuated this fraud of producing wrongful receipts with official stamps and the public authority has easily escaped from its duty of accountability as there was no signature or name of the person who prepared that receipt. [Ashok Kumar v. PIO, District Court Post Office, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 735, decided on 18.05.2017]


Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that the property of a person who died during pendency of trial for misappropriation could not be attached by the State under Clause 3 of the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance of 1944, the bench comprising of  S.A. Bobde and Amitava Roy JJ, set aside the orders of attachment and held the findings recorded by Learned Single Judge of High Court to be perverse.

The deceased Ramachandraiah, who was the husband of Appellant No. 1, and father of Appellant No. 2 and 3, was prosecuted along with one co-accused for misappropriation of property under Sections 409 and 468 read with Section 471 of the Penal Code, 1860. Subsequent to his death awaiting trial, his co-accused was acquitted of guilt, but the Trial Court adduced from the material on record that Ramchandraiah was solely responsible for the alleged crimes, although beyond the pale of adjudication. Thereafter the State sought to attach the property of the deceased via application under the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 1944, in which interim attachment was granted by the District Judge under Clause 4, and later made absolute. This attachment was contested by Appellant under Section 482 of the CrPC, failing which Appeal was made to this Court.

The Court held that while Clause 4  allowed attachment pending conviction, Clause 3 of the aforesaid amendment required the Government to make application for attachment to the District Judge of the place of habitual residence or business, which required the focal person to be in existence. Further, if the orders of attachment were to cease operating upon acquittal, the same must occur if prosecution abates, or conviction is rendered impossible by death of the person whose property is sought to be attached. The oft-reiterated concept of presumption of innocence till proven guilty was reiterated again.

The Court signified a ‘gross miscarriage of justice’ had occurred at various stages. Firstly, a fortiori, criminal proceedings may not continue against a deceased who does not exist and cannot be convicted. Secondly, the finding that the deceased accused alone was responsible for the crime was null and void. Lastly, such a conviction could not be the basis of an attachment proceeding.[U. Subhadramma v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 654, decided on 04-07-2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In a judgment, a bench comprising of VM Kanade and CB Colabawalla, JJ  has ruled that a widow, even after she has remarried, has the rights over her former husband’s properties. In the present case, the petition was filed by a man against his former sister-in-law who had claimed the right over her deceased husband’s properties after she married another man.

The brother of the deceased relied  on the provisions of the  Hindu Widows’ Re-marriage Act, 1856, which stated the limited right and interest which a widow had in her deceased husband’s property would cease to exist if she remarries without express permission, and the next heirs of her deceased husband, or other persons entitled to the property, shall thereupon succeed to the same.

The Court ruled that provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 would prevail over the repealed Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856. There was no provision in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which was pari materia with section 2 of the Hindu Widows’ Re-Marriage Act, 1856. The Court further observed that even after remarriage  she would qualify as Class I heir and the husband’s kin would still be a Class II heir.  It was further observed that a woman doesn’t lose rights over her dead husband’s properties – moveable and immoveable even if she remarries. Sanjay Purshottam Patankar vs. Prajakta Pramnod Patil, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 3487, decided on 25th June, 2015


High Courts

Kerala High Court: In the instant case before the Court, where the petitioner- an environmental educator, challenged the order of the State Government to lease out 2 / 5.5 acres of the land of the Government School to the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority (TRIDA) for construction of a bus-bay and shopping complex, a division bench of Ashok Bhushan CJ and A.M. Shaffique J refused to quash the order of leasing out of the land and directed TRIDA to construct bus-bay and shopping complex on the land of Government School without hampering functioning of the school and green cover of the area.

The Counsel for the petitioner P.B. Sahasranaman, contended that the transfer of the land of Government School to TRIDA violates Section 5 B of the Kerala Education Act, 1958. The Counsel further contended that the construction of bus-bay and commercial complex will affect the environment as it would involve cutting of trees at large scale. Per Contra, the Counsel for the respondent contended that the construction activities will not reduce any facility now enjoyed by the school and that the same will not cause any hindrance to the working of the school.

After perusal of Section 5 B of the Kerala Education Act, 1958, the Court observed that the provision talks only about restriction on the transfer of land appurtenant to a Government School vested with local authority under Section 5A of the Act, however, in the present case, the Government School does not vest with any local authority, and therefore Section 5B of the said Act is not applicable in the instant case. Accordingly, the Court refused to interfere in the decision of the State Government to transfer land of the Government School to TRIDA for construction of bus-bay and shopping complex, and directed the respondents to cut less than ten trees and plant thrice the number of trees, which are cut in the area leased out so as to maintain sufficient green cover in the area; not cause any hindrance to the functioning of the school and construct ten class rooms in lieu of the building which shall be demolished in the process of construction of complex, as undertaken by them in the statement filed in the writ petition. Anitha S. v. State of Kerala2015 SCC OnLine Ker 12900, decided on 07.07.2015