Are you abusing the process of court?

Conduct of a litigant before court.

Whenever a person approaches a Court of Equity, in the exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction, it is expected that he will approach the said court not only with clean hands but also with a clean mind, a clean heart and clean objectives.

Thus, he who seeks equity must do equity. The legal maxim “Jure Naturae Aequum Est Neminem cum Alterius Detrimento Et Injuria Fieri Locupletiorem”, means that it is a law of nature that one should not be enriched by causing loss or injury to another.

The judicial process cannot become an instrument of oppression or abuse, or a means in the process of the court to subvert justice, for the reason that the court exercises its jurisdiction, only in furtherance of justice. The interests of justice and public interest coalesce, and therefore, they are very often one and the same. A petition or an affidavit containing a misleading and/or an inaccurate statement, only to achieve an ulterior purpose, amounts to an abuse of process of the court.

[Source: V.Chandrasekaran vs Administrative Officer, decided on 18 September, 2012 by Supreme Court.]

The quest for personal gain has become so intense that those involved in litigation do not hesitate to seek shelter of falsehood, misrepresentation and suppression of facts in the course of court proceedings. A litigant who attempts to pollute the stream of justice, or who touches the pure fountain of justice with tainted hands, is not entitled to any relief, interim or final. Continue reading “Are you abusing the process of court?”

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What is cause of action?

A plaint before it can be entertained and registered as suit, it must plead cause of action.

What is cause of action?

While scrutinizing the plaint averments, it is the bounden duty of the trial Court to ascertain the materials for cause of action. The cause of action is a bundle of facts which taken with the law applicable to them gives the plaintiff the right to relief against the defendant. Every fact which is necessary for the plaintiff to prove to enable him to get a decree should be set out in clear terms. It is worthwhile to find out the meaning of the words “cause of action”. A cause of action must include some act done by the defendant since in the absence of such an act no cause of action can possibly accrue.

In A.B.C. Laminart Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. vs. A.P. Agencies, Salem (1989) 2 SCC 163, Supreme Court explained the meaning of “cause of action” as follows: Continue reading “What is cause of action?”

Urdu terms used in land revenue records in India

Revenue Vocabulary:

Revenue records of agricultural lands were first formalized during the Mughal rule under the King Akbar. His revenue minister Raja Man Singh is said to have created the system of accounting of agricultural land in India and till date the same system of book keeping of agricultural records is maintained. While the most records have switched to writing in Hindi but the record keepers still use Urdu words to describe various facts. These are the frequent words and phrases used in the Revenue records:

राजस्व भाषा:

1 आबादी देह→ गॉंव का बसा हुआ क्षेत्र ।

2 मौजा→ ग्राम Continue reading “Urdu terms used in land revenue records in India”

Scope of power of attorney in Criminal Prosecution

Criminal Complaints through a Power of Attorney

The complaint in this case was a summary complaint under section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1888.

Whether a Power of Attorney holder can sign and file a complaint petition on behalf of the complainant ?

Supreme Court has answered the question in affirmative but subject to a few riders. The attorney acts as an agent of the complainant and therefore has to act in the name of principal:

“The power of attorney holder is the agent of the grantor. When the grantor authorizes the attorney holder to initiate legal proceedings and the attorney holder accordingly initiates such legal proceedings, he does so as the agent of the grantor and the initiation is by the grantor represented by his attorney holder and not by the attorney holder in his personal capacity. Therefore, where the payee is a proprietary concern, the complaint can be filed by the proprietor of the proprietary concern, describing himself as the sole proprietor of the payee, the proprietary concern, describing itself as a sole proprietary concern, represented by its sole proprietor, and the proprietor or the proprietary concern represented by the attorney holder under a power of attorney executed by the sole proprietor. However, we make it clear that the power of attorney holder cannot file a complaint in his own name as if he was the complainant. In other words, he can initiate criminal proceedings on behalf of the principal.”

Necessity of personal knowledge of attorney

Continue reading “Scope of power of attorney in Criminal Prosecution”

Family Court Act (Bare Act)

THE FAMILY COURTS ACT, 1984

(No.66 of 1984)
[14th September, 1984]

An Act to provide for the establishment of Family Courts with a view to promote conciliation in, and
secure speedy settlement of, disputes relating to marriage and family affairs and for matters
connected therewith.

Be it enacted by Parliament in the Thirty-fifth Year of the Republic of India as follows:

CHAPTER I – PRELIMINARY

1. Short title, extent and commencement. – 1) This Act may be called the Family Courts Act,
1984.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint, and different dates may be appointed for different States.
2. Definitions.- In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,
a. “Judge” means the Judge or, as the case may be, the Principal Judge, Additional
Principal Judge or other Judge of a Family Court;
b.”notification” means a notification published in the Official Gazette;
c. “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act;
d. “Family Court” means a Family Court established under Sec.3;
all other words and expressions used but not defined in this Act and defined in the Code
of Civil Procedure, 1908(5 of 1908), shall have the meanings respectively assigned to
them in that Code.

CHAPTER II – FAMILY COURTS

(3) Establishment of Family Courts.-(1) For the purpose of exercising the jurisdiction and
powers conferred on a Family Court by this Act, the State Government after consultation with the High Court, and by notification,-
a. shall, as soon as may be after the commencement of this Act, establish for every area in
the State comprising a city or town whose population exceeds one million, a Family
Court;
b. may establish Family Courts for such other areas in the State as it may deem necessary.

(2) The State Government shall, after consultation with the High Court specify, by notification, the local limits of the area to which the jurisdiction of a Family Court shall extend and may, at any time, increase, reduce or alter such limits.

Continue reading “Family Court Act (Bare Act)”

Witness in court through attorney

Is power of attorney holder, a competent witness to depose on behalf of the principal?

Attorney is a mere legal representative or an agent. Without anything more s/he can not have personal knowledge of the acts done by the principal, directly. Can such an attorney be competent witness?

Agent/ attorney under Civil Procedure code 1908, Order 3 Rule 1 & 2.

There was a divergence of opinion in different High Courts on the above question which was settled by Supreme Court as under:

The question whether the appellants have any independent source of income and have contributed towards the purchase of the property from their own independent income can be only answered by the appellants themselves and not by a mere holder of power of attorney from them. The power of attorney holder does not have the personal knowledge of the matter of the appellants and therefore he can neither depose on his personal knowledge nor can he be cross-examined on those facts which are to the personal knowledge of the principal. Order III, Rules 1 and 2 CPC, empowers the holder of power of attorney to “act” on behalf of the principal. In our view the word “acts” employed in Order III, Rules 1 and 2 CPC, confines only in respect of “acts” done by the power of attorney holder in exercise of power granted by the instrument. The term “acts” would not include deposing in place and instead of the principal. In other words, if the power of attorney holder has rendered some “acts” in pursuance to power of attorney, he may depose for the principal in respect of such acts, but he cannot depose for the principal for the acts done by the principal and not by him. Similarly, he cannot depose for the principal in respect of the matter which only the principal can have a personal knowledge and in respect of which the principal is entitled to be cross-examined.
[Source: Janki Vashdeo Bhojwani v. Indusind Bank Ltd., (2005) 2 SCC 217.]

Corruption: Procedure for investigation

Investigation into the complaints against Public Servants
for abuse of their Official position:

Necessity of investigation into allegations of corruption:

The adverse impact of lack of probity in public life leading to a high degree of corruption is manifold. It also has adverse effect on foreign investment and funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank who have warned that future aid to under-developed countries may be subject to the requisite steps being taken to eradicate corruption, which prevents international aid from reaching those for whom it is meant. Increasing corruption has led to investigative journalism which is of value to a free society. The need to highlight corruption in public life through the medium of public interest litigation invoking judicial review may be frequent in India but is not unknown in other countries.
[See R v Secretary of State for Foreign andCommonwealth Affairs, (1995) 1 WLR 386.]

Of course, the necessity of desirable procedures evolved by court rules to ensure that such a litigation is properly conducted and confined only to mattes of public interest is obvious. This is the effort made in these proceedings for the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution in exercise of powers conferred on this Court for doing complete justice in a cause. It cannot be doubted that there is a serious human rights aspect involved in such a proceeding because the prevailing corruption in public life, if permitted to continue unchecked, has ultimately the deleterious effect of eroding the Indian polity. As a result of the aforesaid discussion, we hereby direct as under:

Procedure for investigation laid down by Supreme Court of India:

I. CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (CBI) AND CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION (CVC)

1. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) shall be given statutory status.
2. Selection for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner shall be made by a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition from a panel of outstanding civil servants and others with impeccable integrity to be furnished by the Cabinet Secretary. The appointment shall be made by the President on the basis of the recommendations made by the Committee. This shall be done immediately.
3. The CVC shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of the CBI. While Government shall remain answerable for the CBI’s functioning, to introduce visible objectivity in the mechanism to be established for over viewing the CBI’s working, the CVC shall be entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over the CBI’s functioning. The CBI shall report to the CVC about cases taken up by it for investigation; progress of investigations; cases in which chargesheets are filed and their progress. The CVC shall review the progress of all cases moved by the CBI for sanction of prosecution of public servants which are pending with competent authorities, specially those in which sanction has been delayed or refused.
4. The Central Government shall take all measures necessary to ensure that the CBI functions effectively and efficiently and is viewed as a non-partisan agency.
5. The CVC shall have a separate section in its Annual Report on the CBI’s functioning after the supervisory function is transferred to it.
6. Recommendations for appointment of the Director, CBI shall be made by a Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner with the Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) as members. The views of the incumbent Director shall be considered by the Committee for making the best choice. The Committee shall draw up a panel of IPS officers on the basis of their seniority, integrity, experience in investigation and anti – corruption work. The final selection shall be made by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) from the panel recommended by the Selection Committee. If none among the panel is found suitable, the reasons the reasons thereof shall be recorded and the Committee asked to draw up a fresh panel.
7. The Director, CBI shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation. This would ensure that an officer suitable in all respects is not ignored merely because he has less than two years to superannuate from the date of his appointment.
8. The transfer of an incumber Director, CBI in an extraordinary situation, including the need for him to take up a more important assignment, should have the approval of the Selection Committee.
9. The Director, CBI shall have full freedom for allocation of work within the agency as also for constituting teams for investigations. Any change made by the Director, CBI in the Head of an investigative team should be for cogent reasons and for improvement in investigation, the reasons being recorded.
10. Selection/extention of tenure of officers upto the level of Joint Director (JD) shall be decided by a Board comprising the central Vigilance Commissioner, Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) with the Director, CBI providing the necessary inputs. The extension of tenure or premature repatriation of officers upto the level of Joint Director shall be with final approval of the Board. Only cases pertaining to the appointment or extension of tenure of officers of the rank of Joint Director or above shall be referred to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for decision.
11. Proposals for improvement of infrastructure, methods of investigation, etc. should be decided urgently. In order to strengthen CBI’s in-house expertise, professionals from the revenue, banking and security sectors should be inducted into the CBI.
12. The CBI Manual based on statutory provisions of the Cr. P.C. provides essential guidelines for the CBI’s functioning. It is imperative that the CBI adheres scrupulously to the provisions in the Manual in relation to its investigative functions, like raids, scizure and arrests. Any deviation from the established procedure should be viewed seriously and severe disciplinary action taken against the concerned officials.
13. The Director, CBI shall be responsible for ensuring the filing of chargesheets in courts within the stipulated time limits, and the matter should be kept under constant review by the Director, CBI
14. A document on CBI’s functioning should be published within three months to provide the general public with a feedback on investigations and information for redress of genuine grievances in a manner which does not compromise with the operational requirements of the CBI.
15. Time limit of three months for grant of sanction for prosecution must be strictly adhered to. However, additional time of one month may be allowed where consultation is required with the Attorney General (AG) or any other law officer in the AG’s office.
16. The Director, CBI should conduct regular appraisal of personnel to prevent corruption and/or inefficiency in the agency.

III. ENFORCEMENT DIRECTORATE

1. A Selection Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner and including the Home Secretary, Secretary (Personnel) and Revenue Secretary, shall prepare a panel for appointment of the Director, Enforcement Directorate. The appointment to the post of Director shall be made by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) from the panel recommended by the Selection Committee.
2. The Director, Enforcement Director like Director, CBI shall have a minimum tenure of two years. In his case also, premature transfer for any extraordinary reason should be approved by the aforesaid Selection Committee headed by the Central Vigilance commissioner.
3. In view of the importance of the post of Director, Enforcement Directorate, it shall be upgraded to that of a Additional Secretary/Special Secretary to the Government.
4. Officers of the Enforcement Directorate handling sensitive assignments shall be provided adequate security to enable them to discharge their functions fearlessly.
5. Extensions of tenure upto the level of Joint Director in the Enforcement Directorate should be decided by the said Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
6. There shall be no premature media publicity by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate.
7. Adjudication/commencement of prosecution shall be made by the enforcement Directorate within a period of one year.
8. The Director, Enforcement Directorate shall monitor and ensure speedy completion of investigations/adjudications and launching of prosecutions. Revenue Secretary must review their progress regularly.
9. For speedy conduct of investigations abroad, the procedure to approve filing of applications for Letters Rogatory shall be streamlined and, if necessary, Revenue Secretary authorised to grant the approval
10. A comprehensive circular shall be published by the Directorate to inform the public about the procedures/systems of its functioning for the sake of transparency.
11. In-house legal advice mechanism shall be strengthened by appointment of competent legal advisers in the CBI/Directorate of Enforcement.
12. The Annual Report of the Department of Revenue shall contain a detailed account on the working of the Enforcement Directorate.

III. NODAL AGENCY

1. A Nodal Agency headed by the Home Secretary with Member (Investigation), Central Board of Direct Taxes, Director General, Revenue Intelligence, Director, Enforcement and Director, CBI as members, shall be constituted for coordinated action in cases having politico-bureaucrat- criminal nexus.
2. The Nodal Agency shall meet at least once every month.
3. Working and efficacy of the Nodal Agency should be watched for about one year so as to improve it upon the basis of the experience gained within this period.

IV PROSECUTION AGENCY

1. A panel of competent lawyers of experience and impeccable reputation shall be prepared with the advice of the Attorney General Their services shall be utilised as Prosecuting Counsel in cases of significance. Even during the course of investigation of an offence, the advice of a lawyer chosen from the panel should be taken by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate.
2. Every prosecution which results in the discharge or acquittal of the accused must be reviewed by a lawyer on the panel and, on the basis of the opinion given, responsibility should be fixed for dereliction of duty, if any, of the concerned officer. In such cases, strict action should be taken against the officer found guilty of dereliction of duty.
3. The preparation of the panel of lawyers with approval of the Attorney General shall be completed within three months.
4. Steps shall be taken immediately for the constitution of an able and impartial agency comprising persons of unimpeachable integrity to perform functions akin to those of the Director of Prosecutions in U.K. On the constitution of such a body, the task of supervising prosecutions launched by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate shall be entrusted to it.
5. Till the constitution of the aforesaid body, Special Counsel shall be appointed for the conduct of important trials on the recommendation of the Attorney General or any other law officer designated by him.
The learned amicus curiae had urged us to issue directions for the appointment of an authority akin to the Special or Independent Counsel in the United States of America for the investigation of charges in politically sensitive matters and for the prosecution of those cases and to ensure that appointments to sensitive posts in the CBI and other enforcement agencies and transfers therefrom were not made by the political executive. We are of the view that the time for these drastic steps has not come. It is our hope that it never will, for we entertain the belief that the investigative agencies shall function far better now, having regard to all that has happened since these writ petition were admitted and to the directions which are contained in this judgment. The personnel of the enforcement agencies should not now lack the courage and independence to go about their task as they should, even where those to be investigated are prominent and powerful persons.

[Source: Vineet Narain Vs. Union of India. (Supreme Court of India)]

Comment: This is an elaborate procedure laid down for investigation. However the procedure works when the human beings follow the procedure with letter and spirit. But since the laying down of procedure, high functionaries in all departments above were found to be not diligently following the procedure. Many resigned due to this reason. It is wondered how the Jan Lokpal or Public Ombudsman, if created by legislation is going to work honestly. How honest persons of integrity will be appointed as Ombudsman if they could not be found for aforesaid mechanism?

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in United Kingdom.

Public Interest Litigation travels to United Kingdom.

Public Interest Litigation is a creation of Supreme Court of India which in 1970’s taking notice of various wrongs, especially the matters of illegal detention of prisoners in prisons in all over India. Later the Public Interest Litigation expanded to all other aspects of administration as well which hitherto-before were the matters in the exclusive domains of executive of Indian Government. It appears the erstwhile colonial masters could not resist the temptation of Public Interest Litigation, as well.

Public Interest Litigation, is a relaxation of rule of Locus Standi where by,
the absence of personal interest by the petitioner is over looked by Court.

It would, in my view, be a grave lacuna in our system of public law if a pressure group, like the federation, or even a public spirited taxpayer, were prevented by outdated technical rules of locus standi from bringing the matter to the attention of the court to vindicate the rule of law and get the unlawful conduct stopped. The Attorney General, although he occasionally applies for prerogative orders against public authorities that do not form part of central government, in practice never does so against government departments. It is not, in my view, a sufficient “answer to say that judicial review of the actions of officers or departments of central government is unnecessary because they are accountable to Parliament for the way in which they accountable to Parliament for the way in which they carry out their functions. They are accountable to Parliament for what they do so far as regards efficiency and policy, and of that Parliament is the only judge; they are responsible to a court of justice for the lawfulness of what they do, and of that the court is the only judge.

[Source: R v Inland Revenue Commissioners, ex parte National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd [1982] AC 617 (by Lord Diplock at 644E G,)]

“The first stage test, which is applied upon the application for leave, will lead to a refusal if the applicant has no interest whatsoever and is, in truth, no more than a meddlesome busybody. If, however, the application appears to be otherwise arguable and there is no other discretionary bar, such as dilatoriness on the part of the applicant, the applicant may expect to get leave to apply, leaving the test of interest or standing to be re applied as a matter of discretion on the hearing of the substantive application. At this second stage, the strength of the applicant’s interest is one of the factors to be weighed in the balance.”

[Source: (Sir John Donaldson in R v Monopolies and Mergers Commission, ex parte Argyll Group Plc [1986] 1 WLR 763. At 773H) which was followed in R v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, (1995) 1 WLR 386]

Scope of Writ Appeal

Scope of Intra Court Appeals:

Gavel with a watch.

Letter patent appeal:

High Courts in India have same powers to issue the prerogative writs which English Law provides. The issue of writ is considered to be a matter of discretion which is to be exercised on sound principles of law. But once the discretion has been exercised by a single Judge of the court, it is subject to an Appeal to Division Bench of High Court, popularly called as Letters Patent Appeal. Scope of this intra court appeal has been circumscribed by Supreme Court of India in following words:

“While deciding intra court appeals against the exercise of discretion by a Single Judge, the Appellate Court would not interfere with the exercise of discretion by the Court of First Instance and substitute its own discretion, except where the discretion has been shown to have been exercised either arbitrarily, or capriciously or perversely or where the Court has ignored settled principles of law regulating grant or refusal of interlocutory injunction. Appeal against exercise of discretion is said to be an appeal on principle.”

[Source: Wander Ltd. v. Anton India Pvt. Ltd. (1990 (Suppl) SCC 727)]
The scope of intra-court appeal was considered by Supreme Court of India (in Baddula Lakshmaiah v. Sri Anianeya Swami Temple (1996) 3 SCC 52), and it was indicated that a Letters Patent Appeal, as permitted under the Letters Patent, is normally an intra-court appeal whereunder the Letters Patent Bench, sitting as a court of Correction, corrects its own orders in exercise of the same jurisdiction as was vested in the Single Bench. Such is not an appeal against an order of a subordinate Court. In such appellate jurisdiction the High Court exercises the powers of a court of Error.
It is unfortunate that despite the above authoritative pronouncements about the scope of appeals to division bench, very often the High Court travels beyond the scope and without pointing out the error in judgement of court below, pass a fresh judgement. This manner of exercise of power is not only unjust and illegal but is also contrary to judicial discipline.

 

Comment: It appears that jurisdiction of court in writ appeal is more akin to review than an appeal. Review is tethered to discovery of new facts or an apparent error of record but appeal is entirely a rehearing of the case. Therefore a writ appeal is not a rehearing but merely an exercise to correct an apparent error not to substitute opinion of division bench with the opinion of single judge.

Public Interest Litigation: Ground rules in India

Public Interest Litigation: Directions by Supreme Court.

Rules for filing Public Interest Litigation:

Directions by Supreme Court of India:

In order to preserve the purity and sanctity of the PIL (Public Interest Litigation), it has become imperative to issue the following directions:-

(1) The courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PIL and effectively discourage and curb the PIL filed for extraneous considerations.

(2) Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with the public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each High Court to properly formulate rules for encouraging the genuine PIL and discouraging the PIL filed with oblique motives. Consequently, we request that the High Courts who have not yet framed the rules, should frame the rules within three months. The Registrar General of each High Court is directed to ensure that a copy of the Rules prepared by the High Court is sent to the Secretary General of this court immediately thereafter.

(3) The courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining a Public Interest Litigation

(4) The court should be prima facie satisfied regarding the correctness of the contents of the petition before entertaining a PIL.

(5) The court should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition.

(6) The court should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest, gravity and urgency must be given priority over other petitions.

(7) The courts before entertaining the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) should ensure that the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury. The court should also ensure that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind filing the public interest litigation.

(8) The court should also ensure that the petitions filed by busybodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs or by adopting similar novel methods to curb frivolous petitions and the petitions filed for extraneous considerations.

[Source: State of Uttranchal v. Balwant Sigh Chaufal, AIR 2010 SC2550: 2010 (3) SCC 402 (Supreme Court of India)]