A particularly foul crime imposes a greater caution on the court which must resist the tendency to look beyond the file, and the insinuation that the rich are always the aggressors and the poor always the victims, is too broad and conjectural a supposition. It has been emphasized repeatedly by the Supreme Court that a dispassionate assessment of the evidence must be made and that the court must not be swayed by the horror of the crime or the character of the accused and that the judgment must not be clouded by the facts of the case.
Rathinam v. State of Tamil Nadu, Crl. A. Nos. 905-906 of 2007 With Crl. A. No. 1619/2007; Decided on 6-10-2010 (SC) [Harjit Singh Bedi and R.M. Lodha, JJ.]
WILD-LIFE CRIMES: Sansar Chand case
Interpol says that trade in illegal wild life products is worth about US $20 billion a year, and India is now a major source market for this trade. Most of the demand for wild life products comes from outside the country. The evidence available points out that tigers and leopards, poached in the Indian wilderness, are then smuggled across the border to meet the demand for their products in neighbouring countries. The accused in these cases represents a link in a larger criminal network that stretches across borders.
Sansar Chand has a long history of such criminal activities, starting with a 1974 arrest for 680 skins including tigers, leopards and others. In the subsequent years Sansar Chand and his gang has established a complex, interlinking smuggling network to satisfy the demand for tiger and leopard parts and skins outside India's borders and they are accused in 57 wildlife cases between 1974 and 2005. Sansar Chand has been doing this illegal trade for more than 30 years. He has been held guilty of the offence under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by all the courts. He had, as far back as in 1974, committed his first crime when he was barely 16 years of age.
The Supreme Court has requested the Central and State Governments and their agencies to make all efforts to preserve the wild life of the country and take stringent actions against those who are violating the provisions of the Act, as this is necessary for maintaining the ecological balance in our country.
Sansar Chand v. State of Rajasthan, Crl. A. No. 2024 of 2010; Decided on 20-10-2010 (SC) [Markandey Katju and T.S. Thakur, JJ.]
HAWKING AND VENDING: Fundamental Right
The hawkers' and squatters' or vendors' right to carry on hawking has been recognized as fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. At the same time the right of the commuters to move freely and use the roads without any impediment is also a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution. These two apparently conflicting rights must be harmonized and regulated by subjecting them to reasonable restrictions only under a law. Such an issue cannot be left to be decided by schemes.
Hawking on the streets of Delhi, whose Municipal limits have expanded over the years, has been the subject-matter of several proceedings in the Supreme Court. As held by the Supreme Court, whatever power this Court may have had, it possibly cannot, in the absence of a proper statutory framework, control the ever increasing population of this country. By and large, the hawkers constitute in unorganized poor sector in our society. Therefore, structured regulation and legislation is urgently necessary to control and regulate fundamental right of hawking of these vendors and hawkers. The nature of the problem defies a proper solution by this Court by any judicially manageable standards. The fundamental right of the hawkers, just because they are poor and unorganized, cannot be left in a state of limbo nor can it be left to be decided by the varying standards of a scheme which changes from time to time under orders of this court.
Gainda Ram v. MCD & Ors, I.A. Nos. I, 3 & 4 etc. in WP (C) No. 1699 of 1987; Decided on 8-10-2010 (SC) [G.S. Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly, JJ.]
JUDICIAL SERVICE: Computer Knowldge
The Indian judiciary is taking steps to apply e-governance for efficient management of courts. In the near future, all the courts in the country will be computerized. In that respect, the new judges who are being appointed are expected to have basic knowledge of the computer education. As observed by the Supreme Court, it will be unfair to overlook basic knowledge of computer operation to be an essential condition for being a Judge in view of the recent development being adopted. Therefore, the requirement of having basic knowledge of computer operation should not be diluted.
In Uttaranchal Judicial Service, for the post of Civil Judge, Rule 8 of the Uttaranchal Judicial Service Rules, 2005, lays down the eligibility criterion that a candidate for direct recruitment to the service apart from holding qualification of Bachelor of Law must possess a thorough knowledge of Hindi as well as the basic knowledge of computer education.
Vijendra Kumar Verma v. Public Service Commission, Uttarakhand, C.A. No. 8861of 2010; Decided on 8-10-2010 (SC) [Dr. Mukundakam Sharma and Anil R. Dave, JJ.]
MAINTENANCE: Term 'Wife'
A broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term 'wife' to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a pre-condition for maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125 of the Code.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, gives a very wide interpretation to the term 'domestic relationship' as to take it outside the confines of a marital relationship, and even includes live in relationships in the nature of marriage within the definition of 'domestic relationship' under Section 2(f) of the Act. Therefore, women in livein relationships are also entitled to all the reliefs given in the said Act. According to the Supreme Court, if the above mentioned monetary relief and compensation can be awarded in cases of live-in relationships under the Act of 2005, they should also be allowed in a proceeding under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and accordingly a broad interpretation of the same should be taken.
Considering divergence of judicial opinion on the interpretation of the word 'wife' in Section 125 of the Code, the Court has requested the Hon'ble Chief Justice to refer the question to be decided by a larger Bench.
Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha, 2010 (10) SCALE 602 (SC)
BANKING: Nominee of Depositor, Rights of
Section 45ZA(2) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 merely puts the nominee in the shoes of the depositor after his death and clothes him with the exclusive right to receive the money lying in the account. It gives him all the rights of the depositor so far as the depositor's account is concerned. But it by no stretch of imagination makes the nominee the owner of the money lying in the account. All the monies receivable by the nominee by virtue of Section 45ZA(2) would form part of the estate of the deceased depositor and devolve according to the rule of succession to which the depositor may be governed.
Ram Chander Talwar v. Devender Kumar Talwar, C.A. No. 1684 of 2004; Decided on 6-10- 2010 (SC) [Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha, JJ.]
CONTEMPT OF COURT: Civil Contempt
Contempt of a civil nature can be held to have been made out only if there has been a wilful disobedience of the order and even though there may be disobedience, yet if the same does not reflect that it has been a conscious and wilful disobedience, a case for contempt cannot be held to have been made out. In fact, if an order is capable of more than one interpretation giving rise to variety of consequences, non-compliance of the same cannot be held to be wilful disobedience of the order so to make out a case of contempt entailing the serious consequence including imposition of punishment. However, when the courts are confronted with a question as to whether a given situation could be treated to be a case of wilful disobedience, or a case of lame excuse, in order to subvert its compliance, howsoever articulate it may be, will obviously depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular case; but while deciding so, it would not be legally correct to be too speculative based on assumption as the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 clearly postulates and emphasizes that the ingredient of wilful disobedience must be there before anyone can be hauled up for the charge of contempt of a civil nature.
Dinesh Kumar Gupta v. United India Insurance Co., C.A. No. 8839 of 2010; Decided on 8-10-2010 (SC) [J.M. Panchal and Gyan Sudha Mishra, JJ.]
RITA ARYAN LL.M. (Medalist)