WEEKLY ROUND-UP OF MAJOR DECISIONS OF THE COURTS IN INDIA AS ALSO LEGAL POLICY DEVELOPMENTS

i. Issue of inheritance rights of an illegitimate child still not settled-The Supreme Court in a recent case noted that the question whether an illegitimate child had a right to inherit from her father’s ancestral property is yet to be settled. In the present case, two issues arose, I.e., firstly, whether in terms of Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, right of an illegitimate child to succeed to the property of her father would include the right to include the right to succeed to the ancestral property in the hands of the father; and secondly, whether the father could have willed away his interest in the ancestral property, and whether such disposal could be challenged by an illegitmate child. The Court then noted that the first issue had already been referred to a larger bench of three judges, but that is still to be decided [Jitendra Kumar v. Jasbir Singh, Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 18858 of 2019, date of order: 21.10.2019]

ii. Beneficial amendments in the criminal law can be applied in the pending cases: In an important decision, the Supreme Court held that if the amendment in a criminal law is beneficial to the accused persons, it could be applied with respect to earlier cases as well as the pending ones in the court. It was noted that “insofar as the Central Amendment Act reduces the punishment for an offence punishable under Section 16(1)(a) of the Act, there is no reason why the accused should not have the benefit of such reduced punishment. The rule of beneficial construction requires that even ex post facto law of such a type should be applied to mitigate the rigour of the law. The principle is based both on sound reason and common sense.” [Trilok Chand v. State of Himachal Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 1831 of 2010, date of order: 01.10.2019]

iii. Examination of Medical expert is must in a medical negligence criminal case –The Supreme Court reiterated that in a medical negligence case, the doctor cannot be charged, unless a medical expert has been examined. Overturning a Bombay High Court order, which quashed the disharge order passed in revision by the Sessions Court under Section 304A, IPC, the Supreme Court held that “a private complaint may not be entertained unless the complainant has produced prima facie evidence before the Court in the form of a credible opinion given by another competent doctor to support the charge of rashness or negligence on the part of the accused doctor.” Noting in the present case no medical expert was examined, the Supreme Court remanded the matter back to the trial court. [Aruna & Anr. V. Mukund & Ors., Criminal Appeal No. 2063 of 2010, date of order: 03.10.2010]

iv. Air Pollution in Delhi declared as a public health emergency: The Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (‘EPCA’), a panel appointed by the Supreme Court to examine ways to reduce pollution in Delhi, declared on 01.11.2019 public health emergency in Delhi-NCR, and prohibited all costruction activity till 5th November, since the pollution level reached ‘severe plus’ category. The Panel has sought sought directions from the Court to the NCR states to take steps to stop burning of waste, toxic emissions from industries and dust from construction sites.

v. Petition challenging the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 dismissed: The Madras High Court dismissed a petition filed by Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi (DMSK), a Tamil Nadu-based group, challenging the validity of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019. The petition contended that the Union legislature cannot legislate on those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List, which are not in accordance with subjects in the Instrument of Accession. Dismissing the said plea, the Madras High Court held that the Petitioner was not a permanent resident of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir so had no locus standi to challenge the law. In any case, the cases were pending before the Supreme Court for adjudication.

vi. Punjab & Haryana High Court issued mandatory directions for proper functioning of prisons in Punjab: In a significant ruling, the Punjab & Haryana High Court issued several directions to the State of Punjab, in order to ensure proper functioning of the jails. The directions include maintaining proper ventilation and hygienic conditions in the kitchens, providing sufficient food to all jail inmates, keeping inmates suffering from contagious diseases from other inmates, and maintain proper medical records of the jail inmates, amongst others. The High Court also directed the State to ensure that “no inmate in the jail suffers physical or mental torture. The Superintendent of Jail/Deputy Superintendent of Jail shall be personally responsible for the safety of inmates in the jail.” [Dr. Swarandeep Singh v. State of Punjab, Criminal Writ Petition No. 24167 of 2017, date of order: 31.10.2019]

vii. No right of victim to appeal against inadequate sentence: The Delhi High Court held that a victim has no right to appeal against a sentencing order on the ground that it was inadequate, and ought to be more. The High Court held that the victim could invoke her right under the proviso to Section 372, CrPC only in three circumstances, i.e., acquittal of the accused, convicting the accused of a lesser offence, and imposition of inadequate compensation. The law does not contemplate an appeal against a court order imposing an indequate/lesser sentence. [Ashok Malhotra v. State of NCT, Criminal Writ Petition No. 2576 of 2018, date of judgment: 01.11.2019]

viii. Delhi High Court issued notice on a PIL on the PMC Bank scandel –The Delhi High Court sought the response of the Central Government, Reserve Bak of India and other authorties on a PIL relating to the issue of insurance, and safeguards for the depositors of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (‘PMC’) Bank. The petition contends that approximately 1500000 bank depositors around the country including Delhi have been restrained from withdrawing their hardearned money from PMC Cooperative Bank, and yet the deposited amount not secured. [Bejon Kumar Misra v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 11543/2019, date of order: 01.11.2019]
Prepared by Amritananda Chakravorty (amritananda.c@gmail.com) and Mihir Samson (mihirsamson@gmail.com), Delhi based practicing Advocates.

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