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In Criminal Appeal No. 3619 of 2023 -SC- Supreme Court rules simple injuries not enough for attempted murder conviction
Justice Vikram Nath & Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah [28-11-2023]

Read Order: Sivamani and Anr V. State Represented by Inspector of Police, Vellore Taluk Police Station, Vellore District


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: The Supreme Court has reduced the conviction of two appellants in an attempt to murder case, finding that the evidence did not support a conviction under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).


The presented appeal challenged the final order and judgment, passed by the Madras High Court, wherein the High Court had confirmed the appellants' conviction under Section 307 of the IPC and the imposition of a fine of Rs.1000 each. However, it reduced the original sentence of 10 years rigorous imprisonment to 5 years.


In the said case, the prosecution's case involved an alleged dispute between the Complainant/PW1 and Accused No.1, which stemmed from a civil case concerning a lane between their houses. It was claimed that there was enmity between the parties due to this dispute. The prosecution detailed an incident where Accused No.1, instigated by the appellants and other accused, allegedly assaulted PW1 in his grocery shop. The appellants were subsequently caught by villagers and handed over to the police.


The defence argued that the convictions under Section 307 of the IPC were not justified as the injuries were found to be simple in nature and not on any vital part of the body. It was also contended that there was no intention to kill, no pre-planning, and the injuries sustained were not severe, suggesting that the appellants should have been tried under lesser charges such as Sections 323 and 324 of the IPC.


However, the State's counsel argued that the appellants, armed with knives, demonstrated a clear intention to kill, and it was only by providence that the lives of the victims were saved.


The division bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah referred to the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v Saleem [LQ/SC/2005/681], wherein the court had held that to sustain a conviction under Section 307, IPC, it was not necessary that a bodily injury capable of resulting in death should have been inflicted. As such, non-conviction under Section 307, IPC on the premise only that simple injury was inflicted did not follow as a matter of course. In the same judgment, it was pointed out that "…The court had to see whether the act, irrespective of its result, was done with the intention or knowledge and under circumstances mentioned in the section."


The bench also noted that while grievous or life-threatening injury was not necessary to maintain a conviction under Section 307, IPC, the intention of the accused could be ascertained from the actual injury, if any, as well as from surrounding circumstances. Among other things, the nature of the weapon used and the severity of the blows inflicted could be considered to infer intent.


After careful consideration of the case's facts, circumstances, and the arguments presented by both parties, the bench was convinced that the impugned judgment of the High Court needed intervention. It was noted that there was no allegation of repeated or severe blows, and the injuries sustained by victims were simple in nature, favouring the appellants.


In conclusion, the impugned judgment was varied only to the extent that the conviction of the appellants stood modified to that under Sections 323 and 324 of the IPC, and the sentence imposed was reduced to the period already undergone. The fine imposed was maintained.


Accordingly, the present appeal was disposed of.

In Civil Appeal No. 7871 of 2023 -SC- Supreme Court reverses Uttarakhand High Court ruling: 18-month diploma by National Institute of Open Schooling not equivalent to 2-year regular diploma for primary teacher recruitment
Justice B.R. Gavai & Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra [28-11-2023]

Read Order: Jaiveer Singh and Others V. The State of Uttarakhand and Others


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the 18-month Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed.) conducted through the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) is not a valid qualification for applying against the regular posts of Assistant Teachers (Primary) in the State of Uttarakhand.


The judgment comes in response to a series of appeals challenging an order of the Uttarakhand High Court, which had ruled that the 18-month D.El.Ed. was equivalent to the 2-year regular D.El.Ed. and was therefore a valid qualification for the posts of Assistant Teachers (Primary).


The division bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra however, disagreed with the High Court's ruling. The Court held that the 18-month D.El.Ed. was introduced as a one-time window for in-service teachers to acquire the minimum qualifications between the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the outer limit of 1st April 2019.


The bench further remarked that the government cannot amend or override statutory rules through administrative instructions. However, if the rules are silent on a specific matter, the government has the authority to fill in the gaps and supplement the rules by issuing instructions, provided these instructions are not inconsistent with the existing rules


The bench held that even if the 18 months D.El.Ed. Diploma by NIOS through ODL mode was assumed to be equivalent to the 2 years Diploma in Elementary Education, the State cannot be prohibited from prescribing minimum qualifications that are higher than that. This was supported by the decision in the case of S. Satyapal Reddy and Others v. Govt. of A.P. and Others [LQ/SC/1994/506], where the court had emphasized the power of the Governor under proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution to make rules regulating recruitment, including the prescription of qualifications for appointment to an office or post under the State.


In light of this, the bench found that the High Court had erred in directing the State Government to consider the candidates who did not qualify as per the Uttarakhand Government Elementary Education (Teacher) Service Rules 2012 and as per the advertisement based on the Service Rules, especially when the 2012 Service Rules and the advertisements were not under challenge. It was held that the High Court could not have issued such a mandamus contrary to such Service Rules.


The bench also referred to the case of Devender Bhaskar and Others v. State of Haryana and observed that prescribed eligibility qualification for admission to a course or for recruitment to or promotion in service are matters to be considered by the appropriate authority. It emphasized that it is not for courts to decide whether a particular educational qualification should or should not be accepted as equivalent to the qualification prescribed by the authority.


The Court found that the High Court erred in holding that the 18-month Diploma conducted by NIOS through the ODL mode was equivalent to the 2 years regular Diploma. It was emphasized that there was no material placed on record to support such a conclusion, particularly in regard to the recommendation of such a qualification by the Expert Body NCTE. Additionally, the communication dated 6th September 2019 of NCTE, the directives of MHRD, and the recognition order dated 22nd September 2017 all indicated that the 18-month Diploma was provided as a one-time window for in-service teachers to acquire the minimum qualifications between the 2017 Amendment Act and the outer limit of 1st April 2019.


Consequently, the Court allowed the appeals, the impugned judgment and order dated 14th September 2022 passed by the Uttarakhand High Court were quashed and set aside, and the writ petitions filed by the original writ petitioners were dismissed.


In Civil Appeal No. 3641 of 2023 -SC- Appointment through ‘Limited Departmental Competitive Examination’ is different from ‘Normal Promotion’, rules Supreme Court
Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice Pankaj Mithal [28-11-2023]

Read Order: Pavnesh Kumar V. Union of India & Ors


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: The Supreme Court has upheld the Border Security Force's (BSF) decision to declare a constable medically unfit for promotion to the post of Sub-Inspector (GD) through Limited Departmental Competitive Examination (LDCE) 2018-19.


Briefly stated, the appellant, who was working as a constable with the BSF, had applied for the post of Sub-Inspector General Duty (GD) through LDCE. However, he was declared medically unfit for the position, and even a review medical examination by a Board of three doctors upheld this decision. The appellant, dissatisfied with being declared medically unfit for the position, filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court seeking the quashing of the medical result of the review examination and a direction to the respondent BSF to treat him as medically fit. Unfortunately for the appellant, the High Court dismissed the said writ petition.


The counsel for the appellant argued that despite initially being found medically fit on 16.12.2019 after a small surgery, the appellant was subsequently declared medically unfit on 23.12.2019. This decision was upheld in a review medical examination on 27.02.2020. It was contended that the BSF lacked the authority to reconsider his fitness status after initially finding him fit.


The division bench, comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal, held that the appellant's argument, asserting that he was declared medically fit on 16.12.2019 and, therefore, the subsequent declaration of unfitness was not justified, lacked merit. The bench clarified that the appellant was never declared medically fit for the post of Sub-Inspector (GD) through LDCE. While the appellant underwent routine annual medical check-ups as a constable and was declared in medical category SHAPE-I, this was merely an eligibility condition for applying to the Sub-Inspector (GD) post through LDCE.


The bench opined that the appellant did not qualify in the detailed medical examination (stage-V) for the Sub-Inspector (GD) post, which took place on 23.12.2019. Despite the appellant undergoing a minor surgery for the reported medical deficiencies, the subsequent review medical examination by a board of three members upheld the decision of unfitness. The bench emphasized that the appellant's medical examination on 16.12.2019 was part of routine annual check-ups and not a component of the LDCE selection process for the Sub-Inspector (GD) post. Therefore, the appellant did not successfully qualify all five stages of the examination as advertised for the Sub-Inspector (GD) post through LDCE.


Further, the appellant raised the argument, that the appointment through LDCE was akin to a fast-track promotion and not a fresh appointment. Hence, the contention was that the recruitment rules and guidelines applicable to the normal mode of promotion should have been applied, and there should not be different medical standards.


However, the bench observed that the appointment through LDCE was considered an accelerated promotion but concluded that it cannot be equated with the normal mode of promotion. The bench pointed out that the advertisement itself unequivocally stated that applications were invited for selection to the post of Sub-Inspector (GD) in BSF through LDCE, which implied that it was not a normal promotion but rather a selection to the higher post from among the eligible candidates working on the lower post. Consequently, the bench rejected the submission that the normal rules of promotion or medical examination should have been applied in this case.


Furthermore, the bench observed that the selection process was to be conducted in accordance with the terms specified in the advertisement. The selection scheme outlined in the advertisement explicitly mandated clearing the examination in all five stages, including the detailed medical examination.


In light of the presented facts and circumstances, the Court found no merit in the appeal. The appellant's medical condition had not undergone any review, and the declaration of him being ‘medically unfit’ was not in contradiction to any previous assessments because he had never been declared medically fit during the examination process for the selection to the position of Sub-Inspector (GD) through LDCE.


Thus, the judgment and order of the High Court, which dismissed the writ petition and upheld the decision of the Medical Board declaring the appellant as medically unfit, were considered free from any legal or factual errors.

In Writ Petition (Civil) No. 872 of 2022 -SC- Supreme Court recognizes states' efforts to combat lumpy skin disease in cattle; Concludes proceedings
Justice Surya Kant & Justice Dipankar Datta [20-11-2023]

Read Order: Ashutosh Bansal V. Union of India & Ors


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: In a positive development for animal welfare, the Supreme Court has acknowledged the efforts taken by various states to prevent and control the spread of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) among cattle.


The Court's decision came in response to a petition filed by a social activist seeking a writ of mandamus directing the Government of India to take more comprehensive measures to protect cows and cattle from LSD. The petitioner had also requested the Court to mandate the formulation of policies addressing the spread of LSD and promoting sustainable programs for indigenous cows.


On 31.10.2022, a notice was issued to the Government of India with the specific purpose of ascertaining whether the Union of India had developed a National Health Plan to prevent and address the epidemic of Lumpy Skin Disease Virus (LSDV) among cows and other cattle.


In their counter-affidavits, both the Union of India and the Animal Welfare Board of India asserted that the matter in question fell under the jurisdiction of the states. They further mentioned that they have issued guidelines and policy circulars from time to time, whereunder around 8.16 crore cattle have since been vaccinated.


Additionally, the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, and the Government of NCT of Delhi submitted their respective counter-affidavits, detailing the measures they have taken to prevent the spread of the LSDV among cows. They also outlined the allocation of funds for cattle vaccination.


Following a comprehensive review of the submissions, the division bench, comprising of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta, expressed satisfaction with the measures taken by the states. They noted that all states had taken measures, such as, timely treatment of infected cows, preventing the spread of LSDV, vaccination of cows and other animals, disinfection of urinal areas, minimal transportation of animals with health checkups, establishment of test laboratories, and the constitution of Animal Welfare Boards/Committees to implement guidelines and policy circulars.


In light of these developments, the bench decided to close the proceedings, while also offering the petitioner the liberty to approach the Central or State Governments in the future for any related concerns.


The Court further granted the petitioner the liberty to submit a comprehensive representation to the Union of India, focusing on policies for sustainable programs for indigenous cows, utilization of cow urine and dung, and proper implementation and coordination of Pashu Aadhar numerical database.


With the above observations, the present writ petitions were disposed of.

In Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No.4496/2023 -SC- Supreme Court denies anticipatory bail to IPS officer accused of impersonating HC Chief Justice
Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah & Justice Augustine George Masih [22-11-2023]

Read Order: Aditya Kumar V. The State of Bihar & Anr


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: The Supreme Court has denied anticipatory bail to an IPS officer accused of impersonating the then Chief Justice of the Patna High Court to influence judicial decisions.


In the present case, the Special Leave Petition was filed against the Impugned Judgment dated 21.03.2023, passed by the Patna High Court. The High Court had declined pre-arrest bail to the petitioner, Aditya Kumar, accused of offenses under Sections 353, 387, 419, 420, 467, 468, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Sections 66C and 66D of the Information Technology Act, 2000.


The allegations revolved around the petitioner, conspiring with others to gain undue benefits, such as favourable postings or dropping of disciplinary proceedings. The case centred on the creation of a WhatsApp account using SIM cards obtained by the co-accused, featuring a picture of the then Chief Justice (now a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court). The petitioner was accused of making calls and messages through this WhatsApp account to the then Director General of Police, Bihar, seeking favourable decisions.


The counsel for the petitioner asserted that since being granted interim protection by the Court on 12.05.2023, the petitioner cooperated with the investigating agency as required. He highlighted that, based on local newspaper reports in Bihar, a Charge Sheet was likely to be submitted, indicating the completion of the investigation. The petitioner argued that surrender or custody would serve no purpose at that stage. The petitioner contended that the allegations in the FIR were based on statements by co-accused, lacking direct evidence against him. It was emphasized that the FIR sections, at most, justified charges under the I.T. Act, and the IPC sections did not apply to him. The petitioner questioned the absence of the DGP, who received the calls, as an accused and noted an attempt to make him a witness, suggesting an effort to find a scapegoat. The petitioner urged the court to consider that custodial interrogation was unnecessary, and serious allegations alone should not mandate surrender and incarceration.Top of Form


On the opposing side, the counsel, representing the State of Bihar and the Economic Offences Unit (the investigating agency), argued that the petitioner couldn't be considered a mere co-accused but rather the main beneficiary and mastermind of the entire crime. The State contended that compelling evidence, including tower locations of mobile phones, linked the petitioner physically with the co-accused. It was contended that the petitioner alone possessed the knowledge of where he had kept his mobile handset, essential for further investigation.


A three-judge bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice Augustine George Masih referred to the case of Sumitha Pradeep v Arun Kumar [LQ/SC/2022/1363], where the Court had emphasized that the absence of a need for custodial interrogation alone did not constitute sufficient grounds for granting anticipatory bail. While custodial interrogation can be a relevant aspect, the Court had highlighted that the primary consideration should be the prima facie case against the accused. The Court had stressed the importance of evaluating the nature of the offense and the severity of the punishment before deciding on anticipatory bail.


Having considered the matter, the bench opined that the petitioner was not entitled to anticipatory bail due to the seriousness and gravity of the alleged offenses and apparent non-cooperation. Thus, the impugned judgment was affirmed and upheld.


Further, the Court expressed serious concern about the integrity and public faith in the judicial system and ordered further directions and actions. The Registrar General of the Patna High Court was directed to submit complete details, in a sealed cover, regarding the actions taken by the High Court in response to a previous reference made to the Chief Justice for appropriate decisions on the administrative side. Additionally, the investigating agency was instructed to provide the entire up-to-date Case Diary, with flagged relevant portions, in a sealed cover on the next date.


The Registrar General of the Patna High Court was given a deadline to submit the report by December 9, 2023, and the case was designated as part-heard, with the next hearing scheduled for December 12, 2023. Furthermore, the Registry was instructed to add 'Patna High Court through its Registrar General' as Respondent No. 3 and to notify the relevant parties accordingly for compliance with the order.

In Criminal Appeal No. 3563 of 2023 -SC- Supreme Court sets aside High Court order permitting splitting of trial of 31 accused in criminal case, deems it premature given ongoing investigation
Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice Pankaj Mithal [21-11-2023]

Read Order: S. Mujibar Rahman V. The State Rep. By Inspector of Police & Anr


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 29, 2023: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has overturned a High Court order that split the trial of 31 accused in a criminal case. The Apex Court determined that the High Court failed to consider the Magistrate's reasons for not splitting the trial and that the decision to split the trial was premature given that further investigation was ongoing.


In summary, a First Information Report was registered against 31 accused for offenses under Sections 395, 397, 212, 120B, and Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Public Property Damages Act. The Judicial Magistrate's order, dated 16th June 2019, revealed that despite efforts, the presence of some accused could not be secured, and the non-bailable warrants and summons had not been executed, with a report from the police department expressing their inability to do so. Consequently, the magistrate rejected the prayer made by the second accused invoking Section 317(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.).


Subsequently, the second accused filed a Revision Application before the High Court challenging the Magistrate's order. The High Court, in its impugned judgment, highlighted the prolonged pendency of the case since 2016 and the failure of the police to serve summons and nonbailable warrants to certain accused persons, leading to only 20 out of 31 accused attending the Court. The High Court allowed the splitting of the trial.


After perusing the impugned judgment, the division bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal observed that the High Court had failed to consider the reasons recorded by the Magistrate. Additionally, the High Court did not take into account that the Judicial Magistrate had permitted further investigation on 13th February 2019. Therefore, the bench held that when the High Court permitted the splitting of the trial, it overlooked these crucial aspects. The first aspect was the Magistrate's dissatisfaction with the police's efforts to procure the presence of all accused, and the second was the order for further investigation. The bench concluded that the High Court should not have permitted the splitting of the case at this stage.


Ultimately, the appeal was allowed, and the impugned judgment and order from 23rd February, 2021 were set aside, restoring the original order of the Judicial Magistrate.


The appeal was accordingly allowed.

In Civil Appeal No. 339 of 2023 -SC- Supreme Court upholds Principle of Uberrimae Fidei, Orders New India Assurance to honour commitment in Rs. 6.57 crore fire insurance claim
Justice Hrishikesh Roy & Justice Sanjay Karol [24-11-2023]

Read Order: New India Assurance Co. Ltd. & Ors V. M/s. Mudit Roadways


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 28, 2023: The Supreme Court has recently dismissed an appeal filed by New India Assurance Co. Ltd., upholding the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (NCDRC) order directing the insurance company to pay Rs.6,57,55,155 for a fire insurance claim.


The factual matrix of the case was that the respondent, M/s. Mudit Roadways, had purchased various insurance policies to cover its premises. The claimant had leased the premises from M/s. Platinum Logistics for warehousing purposes. The claimant had paid Rs. 44,02,562 to New India Assurance for safeguarding custom-bonded goods and covering the risk of fire, etc. During the pendency of the insurance policies, a fire broke out at the insured warehouse. The respondent informed the Insurance Company and the Customs authorities about the incident. Upon receiving the Survey and Investigation Reports, the Insurance Company rejected the respondent's claim, citing two reasons: 1) The insured premises was unaffected by the fire, and 2) The fire resulted from the insured's negligence during roof construction in a secure customs-bonded warehouse with hazardous chemicals. Construction work in the warehouse increased the risk, leading to the cessation of insurance coverage under Clause 3 of the policy's terms and conditions.


However, the NCDRC ruled in favour of the claimant, concluding that the insurance policy covered the claimant’s warehouse. On the second issue, the NCDRC noted the time lag between the welding work and the fire incident and observed that the Forensic report was inconclusive. The other reports suggesting an electrical short circuit as the cause of the fire were found to be more acceptable. Adverting to the roofing work done by the insured, the NCDRC held that it did not significantly increase the risk, and therefore, Clause no. 3 was inapplicable.


The division bench, comprising of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Sanjay Karol, highlighted that an insurance company cannot introduce new grounds for repudiation during the hearing that were not included in the original repudiation letter.


The bench, after examining the policy documents, the Leave & License Agreement, and various communications from the customs, police, fire, and electricity departments, concluded that the insured premises identified and insured by the insurance company was at Survey No. 9/3. There was no indication that the area where the fire occurred was not covered by the insurance policy.


The bench further observed that the insured had undertaken essential repair work on the rooftop to prevent water leakage to the warehouse. This repair work, in the court's assessment, was not considered an alteration that would increase the risk of loss or damage, as argued by the insurance company. Consequently, the bench found no infirmity with the NCDRC's view on the matter.


The bench also noted that the conclusion of the Forensic Investigator, attributing the cause of the fire to sparks from rooftop welding, appeared illogical. The investigator's oversight of other potential causes, such as a short circuit, was noted. Additionally, there was a lack of evidence that sparks fell on flammable chemicals due to activities undertaken by workers. Out of the nine reports, seven suggested a short circuit as the likely cause of the fire, while two inferred negligence on the insured's part for inadequate precautions during warehouse construction.


The bench concluded that the significant time gap between the welding work and the fire lacked a logical explanation. As a result, the basis for repudiation appeared unreasonable and was deemed unacceptable.


Additionally, the bench observed that the surveyor’s report could not be considered a sacred document, and contrary evidence, including an investigation report, was subject to rebuttal. The key question was whether the investigation report was indispensable or if the survey report alone was sufficient to determine the cause of the fire. Thus, the bench held that the surveyor’s report, although comprehensive otherwise, was inconclusive on the aspect of identifying the actual cause of the fire. Given that the surveyor’s report only relied on the findings of the Forensic Examiner, it was deemed unsafe, to rely on the said report.


The bench also, in reference to Canara Bank v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. [LQ/SC/2020/180], highlighted that the precise cause of a fire, whether attributed to a short-circuit or any alternative factor, remained immaterial, provided the claimant was not the instigator of the fire. This case emphasized the fundamental principle that an insurance company’s obligation to the insured was of much greater import.


The bench remarked, “In the realm of risk and uncertainty, individuals and organisations seek solace in the bastion of insurance – a covenant forged on the bedrock of trust. Trust serves as the cornerstone, forming the essence of the insurer-insured relationship.”


The bench emphasized the fundamental principle that insurance is governed by the doctrine of uberrimae fidei, requiring complete good faith on the part of the insured. The insurer assumes a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and honour their commitment, particularly when the insured had not been negligent.


Accordingly, the appeal of the Insurance Company was dismissed. However, the Court, while dismissing the appeal, added that to avoid any confusion, the customs duty component of the claim should be discharged directly to the Customs Department.

In Civil Appeal No. 4929/2023 -SC- Supreme Court upholds NCLAT’s decision: CCDs in highway project treated as equity, not debt
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia & Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah [09-11-2023]

Read Order: M/s. IFCI Limited V. Sutanu Sinha & Ors


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 28, 2023: In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by M/s. IFCI Limited, upholding the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) that Compulsorily Convertible Debentures (CCDs) issued in relation to a highway project should be treated as equity and not debt.


The dispute revolved around a highway project in which the appellant, IFCI Limited, invested through CCDs. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had awarded the project to IVRCL Chengapalli Tollways Ltd (ICTL) through a Concession Agreement. ICTL, a subsidiary company of IVRCL, received a term loan facility from a consortium of lenders, and the remaining project was to be financed by IVRCL through equity infusion, including the issuance of CCDs. The conversion of the CCDs into equity was scheduled for December 2017, but the formal issuance of shares did not occur after that date. The appellant had agreed to subscribe to the CCDs, which included a ‘put option’, allowing for the sale of the CCDs to a third party in the event of default by ICTL, with IVRCL retaining the principal obligation.


However, the project encountered financial difficulties, and despite a one-time settlement being suggested and agreed to, the terms were not honoured. Corporate guarantees of IVRCL were invoked by the appellant, leading to the initiation of the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) by both the appellant and the State Bank of India. The appellant's claim, asserting the amount owed as a debt, was rejected by the Resolution Professional on the grounds that the CCDs were to be treated as equity, not debt. The rejection was upheld by the National Company Law Tribunal and subsequently by the NCLAT. The judgment of the NCLAT was based on the understanding that Compulsorily Convertible Debentures, by their nature, do not involve the repayment of the principal amount and are considered as ‘equity’ rather than debt, particularly if they are compulsorily convertible into shares.


The core argument presented by the counsel for the appellant was that the appellant had been left in a precarious position. If its investment were to be considered as equity, according to the waterfall principle, it would receive no proceeds. Consequently, while other creditors benefited, the appellant did not. The counsel argued that, in practice, the appellant was neither treated as a shareholder nor as a financial creditor, leaving the appellant without a legal remedy.


A three-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah held that the appellant had been provided security under the Debentures Subscription Agreement, but the obligations rested with the sponsor company. Therefore, it was challenging for the court to understand how the obligation lay with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), i.e., ICTL.


The bench emphasized that the complexities inherent in commercial documents were contingent upon the specific nature of the businesses involved. The agreements in question were characterized as not being typical layman's agreements, as they were scrutinized by experts, and each party was deemed to have had a comprehensive understanding of their respective obligations and the potential benefits stemming from the agreements.


Further, the bench, referring to Nabha Private Limited Vs. Punjab State Power Corporation Limited [LQ/SC/2017/1463], emphasized the principle that contracts should be interpreted as they are written, without adding implied terms unless absolutely necessary. The bench clarified that a contract should not be supplemented or added to by the court.


The bench observed that in the present case, the crucial issue crystallized in the impugned judgment was whether CCDs could be treated as a debt instead of an equity instrument. It was noted that treating CCDs as a debt would constitute a breach of the concessional agreement and the common loan agreement, as the investment was clearly in the nature of debentures compulsorily convertible into equity. The observation highlighted that there was no stipulation indicating that these CCDs would assume the character of financial debt upon the occurrence of a specific event.


The bench also took note of a significant aspect mentioned in the impugned order. It was highlighted that the terms of the various agreements prohibited the corporate debtor from incurring further debt without the consent of the assignees. The bench observed that no such approval was sought or obtained, and the amount in question was treated as equity rather than debt.


Furthermore, the bench also acknowledged the NCLAT’s consideration of the remedy available to the appellant. The NCLAT expressed the view that the appellant did not avail the remedy within the stipulated time, emphasizing the time-bound nature of processes under the Code. The rejection of the appellant's claim occurred on 09.08.2022, and the appellant attempted to raise the issue again on 30.11.2022, after a lapse of three months from the initial rejection.


The Court observed that its jurisdiction was derived from Section 62 of the Code. According to this section, any person aggrieved by an order of the NCLAT had the right to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, limited to a question of law arising from such order under the Code. The Court noted that this jurisdiction was restricted, resembling a second appeal, and had a specific timeframe for filing, i.e., within forty-five days from the date of receiving the order.


The law does not envisage unlimited tiers of scrutiny and every tier of scrutiny has its own parameters. Thus, the lis inter se the parties has to be analyzed within the four corners of the ambit of the statutory jurisdiction conferred on this Court,” remarked the bench.


Thus, the Court, upon reviewing the appeal, concluded that there were no significant legal questions raised and held that the findings of the lower courts were in accordance with settled legal principles.


Accordingly, the present appeal was dismissed.Top of Form

In Criminal Appeal No. 3512 of 2023 -SC- Supreme Court quashes FIR in fuel adulteration case citing prosecution's failure to provide expert report
Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice Pankaj Mithal [24-11-2023]

Read Order: Suresh & Ors V. State of Madhya Pradesh


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 28, 2023: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has quashed an FIR registered against three individuals, accused of fuel adulteration, due to a lack of substantial evidence and the prosecution's failure to produce an expert report on the nature of the liquid in question.


In the case at hand, the appellants had sought the quashing of an FIR registered against them under Sections 420 and 120­B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Sections 3 and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. They invoked the jurisdiction of the Madhya Pradesh High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, however, the High Court, through the impugned judgment, dismissed the petition for quashing the FIR.


The case originated from events on October 7, 2021, when Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) issued invoices for the transportation of 9 Kilolitres each of petrol and diesel to MP Bombay Auto Service Petrol Diesel Pump. Allegedly, due to valve failure, the fuel was transferred to another tanker. On October 11, 2021, the police intercepted the truck while unloading at the pump, seizing the liquid. Samples were sent to various laboratories, and on October 14, 2021, an FIR was registered. The appellants received arrest memos on October 13, 2021. The BPCL Quality Assurance Laboratory submitted a test report, stating conformity with specifications and thereafter, a show cause notice under Section 6(b) of the Essential Commodities Act was issued to the third appellant, resulting in a fine.


The prosecution's case was based on the allegation that a hydrocarbon mixture, resembling petrol and diesel, was found in a seized tanker and was being sold by the appellants as genuine fuel. However, the division bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal noted that despite the passage of more than two years since the samples were sent for testing, no expert report on the nature of the liquid in the tanker had been produced.


The bench also highlighted the lack of conclusive evidence regarding the nature of the liquid found in the seized tanker. It was noted that no material forming part of the charge sheet had been presented to demonstrate that the liquid in the tanker was neither diesel nor petrol, but a mixture of hydrocarbons. The absence of such substantive evidence raised doubts about the validity of the allegations and the basis for the charges.


The allegation of cheating is also made on the footing that thousands of customers were supplied with the said mixture instead of petrol or diesel. Unless there was a material forming part of the charge­sheet to show the nature of the liquid, no offence is made out,” said the division bench.


Further, the bench pointed out that the prosecution’s lack of effort to obtain the report even after being notified by the court, led to an adverse inference being drawn against them.


Thus, considering the absence of substantiated evidence and the extended delay in obtaining expert reports, the Court concluded that the continuation of the prosecution would amount to an abuse of the process of law.


As a result, the Court allowed the appeal, set aside the High Court's judgment, and quashed the FIR and charge sheet.

In Criminal Appeal No. 2333 of 2010 -SC- Trial Court's failure to present material circumstances to accused under Section 313 CrPC vitiates NDPS conviction, rules Supreme Court
Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice Pankaj Mithal [24-11-2023]

Read Order: Nababuddin @ Mallu @ Abhimanyu v. State of Haryana


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 28, 2023: The Supreme Court has set aside the conviction of an accused in a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) case. The decision was based on the failure of the Trial Court to present two crucial circumstances to the accused during his examination under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.). This omission was deemed to have caused serious prejudice to the accused's defence, leading to the entire trial being vitiated.


In summary, the accused-appellant, along with two co-accused, was convicted by the Special Judge under the NDPS Act for the offense under Section 15 of the NDPS Act. The Special Judge concluded that the prosecution had successfully proven that the accused were in conscious possession of 205 kilograms of poppy straw without a license or permit. The Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the conviction of the appellant and the other two individuals.


The appellant's counsel had argued that the accused no. 2 had visited the railway station to inquire about parcels on behalf of the owner. When accused no. 2 did not return, the appellant went to the railway station to inquire about him. The counsel stressed that the railway receipt for the parcels was presented by accused no. 2, not the appellant. Additionally, the counsel asserted that the prosecution's claim that the railway receipt was in the appellant's name was not addressed during the appellant's examination under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. The counsel also highlighted that the allegation that the appellant approached the station supervisor to inquire about the parcel was not raised during the appellant's examination under Section 313 of Cr.P.C.


On the other hand, the counsel representing the State argued that the material circumstances, about which the appellant raised concerns, were indeed presented to the appellant. The counsel contended that the railway receipts were in the name of the appellant, and the appellant's visit to the railway station with accused no. 2 to inquire about parcels containing contraband indicated not only his involvement but also constructive possession of the contraband, given that the railway receipt was in his name.


The division bench, comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal, carefully reviewed the appellant's interrogation under Section 313 of the CrPC. The bench observed that a crucial circumstance against the appellant, related to his visit to the railway station and inquiry with the station supervisor about contraband parcels, was not brought to his attention during the examination under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C.


The bench, in discussing the significance of the examination of the accused under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C., cited a judgment from the case of Raj Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi) [LQ/SC/2023/618]. In this judgment, the Court had observed that the Trial Court has the duty to present each material circumstance from the evidence against the accused in a specific, distinct, and separate manner. The failure to do so was considered a serious irregularity, and it could vitiate the trial if it could be demonstrated that such failure prejudiced the accused.


The bench observed that in the present case, a serious prejudice was caused to the appellant's defence as the only material circumstances pleaded by the prosecution were not presented to him during the examination under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. Despite the appellant not raising the issue earlier, the omission was deemed significant and fundamental to the appellant's case. According to the bench, it constituted a serious and material illegality committed by the Court.


Thus, the bench held that subjecting the appellant to examination under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. after more than twenty-two years of incarceration would result in prejudice. The failure to present two relevant circumstances to the appellant during this examination was considered fatal to the prosecution's case. Consequently, the Court determined that the appellant's conviction could not be sustained on this ground.


Consequently, the Court allowed the present appeal, resulting in the setting aside of the Trial Court and High Court judgments, but specifically in relation to the present appellant. Notably, the convictions of the other two accused were not disturbed.

In CRL.M.C. 2520/2023 -DEL HC- FIRs for serious offenses like ‘extortion’ cannot be quashed based on settlement: Delhi High Court
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma [24-11-2023]

Read Order: Vishesh Aggarwal & Ors. V. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr.


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 28, 2023: The Delhi High Court has refused to quash an FIR alleging extortion and assault, holding that the allegations were too serious to be quashed at the investigation stage.


The present petition was filed on behalf of the petitioners seeking quashing of FIR, registered for the offences punishable under Sections 323/341/384/506/34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).


In summary, the case involved an FIR registered based on the complaint of Daulatram, who alleged that several individuals, including the accused/applicant Vishesh, had physically assaulted his employee Sukhwinder and attempted to extort money from him. Daulatram claimed ownership of a property in Delhi with multiple tenants, including the accused/applicant, and had issued eviction notices due to the building being declared dangerous by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. However, instead of vacating the premises, the accused began threatening the complainant. The complaint further alleged that the accused physically assaulted the complainant and his employee, with some of the accused allegedly armed with sharp-edged weapons.


The counsel for the petitioner stated that a compromise had been entered into between the parties at the very initial stage of the investigation, i.e., before filing the charge sheet. The APP for the State argued that the allegations against the accused persons were serious, involving physical assault on the complainant and extortion of money through threats to him and his family. It was asserted that the present case, characterized by such serious nature, could not be quashed during the ongoing investigation, despite a settlement being reached between the parties.


The single-judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma opined that the allegations levelled in the FIR were serious in nature, including, among other things, the commission of an offense under Section 384 of the IPC, which deals with the offense of extortion. Such allegations could not be treated as a mere private dispute between two parties. If found true during the course of the investigation or trial, they were considered offenses against society at large. Therefore, FIRs with such serious allegations could not be quashed merely based on settlement agreements reached between two parties.


The bench also noted that in the case of State of Haryana v. Chaudhari Bhajan Lal [LQ/SC/1990/744], the Hon'ble Supreme Court had cautioned that the High Court, in the exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or Section 482 Cr.P.C., might interfere in proceedings related to cognizable offenses to prevent the abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. However, such power should have been exercised sparingly and that too in the rarest of rare cases.


In the present case, the bench held that a bare perusal of the FIR made it clear that there were serious allegations of extortion of money by the accused/applicant. The accused had allegedly assaulted the complainant and his employee, further threatening to initiate false criminal cases against them and their family members if the demand for payment of money was not met. The allegations in the FIR were deemed sufficient for the police to conduct further investigation against the accused. The bench also expressed the view that, applying the principles laid down in the case of Bhajan Lal, the FIR could not be quashed since the investigation was still pending, and the chargesheet was yet to be filed. It was emphasized that it was the duty of the police and the investigating officer to inquire into and investigate the serious allegations in the FIR to ascertain the truth.


Further, the bench noted that the police must be permitted to complete the investigation unless, on the face of it, the allegations seemed to be inherently absurd or improbable. Pronouncing a conclusion based on uninvestigated facts that the complaint did not deserve investigation and amounted to an abuse of the process of law would be premature. It was emphasized that, during or after the investigation, if it was found that there was no substance in the complaint made by the complainant, the investigating officer could file an appropriate report before the Magistrate. The report could then be considered by the Magistrate in accordance with the law.


Thus, considering the overall facts and circumstances of the case, along with the allegations and material available on record, the Court found no reason to quash the FIR at the present stage of the investigation.


Accordingly, the present petition was dismissed.