As held, it is highly unfair, unjust and inappropriate to compute the compensation payable to the dependants of a deceased wife/mother, who does not have regular income, by computing her services with that of a housekeeper or a servant or an employee, who works for a fixed period. The gratuitous services rendered by wife/mother to the husband and children cannot be equated with the services of an employee and no evidence or data can possibly be produced for estimating the value of such services. It is virtually impossible to measure in terms of money the loss of personal care and attention suffered by the husband and children on the demise of the housewife.
The approach adopted by different Benches of Delhi High Court to compute the compensation by relying upon the minimum wages payable to a skilled worker did not commend approval of the Supreme Court of India holding that it is more unrealistic to compare the gratuitous services of the housewife/mother with work of a skilled worker.
Arun Kumar Aggarwal v. National Insurance Company , Civil App. No. 5843 of 2010; Decided on 22-7-2010 (SC) [G.S. Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly, JJ.]
WOMEN COMMISSIONS: Extent of Power
The State Commissions for Women may receive complaints in relation to the matters specified therein and on receipt of such complaints take up the matter with the authorities concerned for appropriate remedial measures. The State Commissions are not empowered to take up the role of a court or an adjudicatory tribunal and determine the rights of the parties. The State Commission is not a tribunal discharging the functions of a judicial character or a court.
The State Commission for Women is broadly assigned to take up studies on issues of economic, educational and healthcare that may help in overall development of the women of the State; gather statistics concerning offences against women; probe into the complaints relating to atrocities on women, etc. and upon ascertainment of facts take up the matter with the concerned authorities for remedial measures; help women in distress and guide in enforcement of their legal rights. However, no power or authority has been given to the State Commission to adjudicate or determine the rights of the parties.
Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor, Secretary , Orissa State Commission for Women , Civil App. Nos. 6222-6223 of 2010; Decided on 3-8-2010 (SC) [Aftab Alam and R. M. Lodha, JJ.]
DNA TEST: Powers of Courts
In a matter where paternity of a child is in issue before the court, the use of DNA test is an extremely delicate and sensitive aspect. When there is apparent conflict between the right to privacy of a person not to submit himself forcibly to medical examination and duty of the court to reach the truth, the court must exercise its discretion only after balancing the interests of the parties and on due consideration whether for a just decision in the matter, DNA test is eminently needed. DNA test in a matter relating to paternity of a child should not be directed by the court as a matter of course or in a routine manner, whenever such a request is made. The court has to consider diverse aspects including presumption under Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act; pros and cons of such order and the test of 'eminent need' whether it is not possible for the court to reach the truth without use of such test. Any order for DNA test can be given by the court only if a strong prima facie case is made out for such a course.
Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women , Civil Appeal Nos. 6222-6223 of 2010; Decided on 3-8-2010 (SC) [Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha, JJ.]
CONTEMPT OF COURT: Suo Motu Cognizance
Merely because the information regarding the allegedly contemptuous statements made by a Senior Counsel and published by a magazine was furnished to the court by the Amicus Curiae , the proceeding cannot lose its nature or character as a suo motu proceeding.
In the instant case, the Amicus Curiae filed an application in an ongoing proceeding to bring to the knowledge of the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India certain statements made by Shri Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, in an interview given to the Tehelka magazine deliberately aimed at tarnishing the image of the judiciary as a whole, and, in particular, a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, in the eyes of the public. The Supreme Court has held that the Amicus Curiae was entitled to place the information in his profession before the court and request the court to take action.
Amicus Curiae v. Prashant Bhushan , Contempt Pet. (Crl) No. 10 of 2009 in I.A. Nos. 1324, 1474, 2134 of 2007; Decided on 14-7-2010 (SC) [Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H.L. Dattu, JJ.]
MINORITY SCHOOLS: Right to Appoint Teachers
A linguistic minority has constitution and character of its own. It has been held that founders of the minority institution have faith and confidence in their own committee or body consisting of the persons selected by them. Thus, they could choose their managing committee as well as they have a right to choose its teachers. Minority institutions have some kind of autonomy in their administration. This would entail the right to administer effectively and to manage and conduct the affairs of the institution.
Every linguistic minority may have its own socio- economic and cultural limitations. It would have a right to choose teachers, who possess the eligibility and qualifications, as provided, without really being impressed by the fact of their religion and community. Linguistic and cultural compatibility can be legitimately claimed as one of the desirable features of a linguistic minority in relation to selection of eligible and qualified teachers.
Sindhi Education Society v. The Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi , C.A. No. 5489 of 2007; Decided on 8-7-2010 (SC) [Dr. B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar, JJ.]
DISABILITY PENSION: Military Service
The Medical Board is an expert body and they take into consideration all relevant factors and essential practice before arriving at any opinion and its opinion is entitled to be given due weight, merit credence and value.
The employee was enrolled in the Territorial Army as a Sepoy. At the time of joining service the appellant employee was put through the medical test and was found medically fit. While serving in the Army, he contacted a disease known as 'Unspecified Psychosis' which is a psychiatric disorder. On the recommendations of the Medical Board which assessed the appellant's disability as 40%, he was invalidated from the service. According to the Medical Board, the disease of the appellant was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military service. The claim of the appellant for grant of disability pension was rejected by the competent authority. The Supreme Court confirmed the findings of the Medical Board holding that the appellant was not entitled to the disability pension.
Om Prakash Singh v. Union of India , C.A. No. 5655 of 2010; Decided on 20-7-2010 (SC) [Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma, JJ.]
FRIVOLOUS, VEXATIOUS SUITS: Compensatory Costs
The provision relating to compensatory costs (Section 35A of the Code of Civil Procedure) in respect of false or vexatious claims or defences has become virtually infructuous and ineffective, on account of inflation. Under the said section, award of compensatory costs in false and vexatious litigation, is subject to a ceiling of Rs. 3,000. As held by the Supreme Court, this requires a realistic revision. As observed, Section 35B providing for costs for causing delay is seldom invoked. It should be regularly employed, to reduce delay.
The lack of appropriate provisions relating to costs has resulted in a steady increase in malicious, vexatious, false, frivolous and speculative suits. The prevalent view among litigants and members of the Bar is that the costs provided for in the Code and awarded by courts neither compensate nor indemnify the litigant fully in regard to the expenses incurred by him. As held by the Apex Court, there is an urgent need for the legislature and the Law Commission of India to revisit the provisions relating to costs and compensatory costs contained in Sections 35 and 35A of the Code.
Vinod Seth v. Devinder Bajaj , C.A. No. 4891 of 2010; Decided on 5-7-2010 (SC) [R.V. Raveendran and R.M. Lodha, JJ.]
RITA ARYAN LL.M. (Medalist)