The Delhi High Court has observed that the definition of 'public authority' as contained under sec. 2(h) of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has no application in a service matter.
Justice C Hari Shankar was dealing with an application under sec. 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 moved in regular second appeal pending before it.
The application, moved by on Rakesh Kumar Sharma, sought initiation of criminal proceedings against Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetables Private Limited, for committing perjury as per the averments made in its counter affidavit.
As per the affidavit, the provisions of Article 311 of Constitution of India cannot be extended to regulate the condition of service of the appellant. It was also stated that the conditions of service of the Appellant were not governed by any statutory terms and conditions, the employment of appellant with the respondent had been purely on contractual in nature and the Appellant did not acquire any status and thus cannot seek the relief of declaration.
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the averments in the said affidavit exposed the respondents to the rigour of Section 340 Cr.P.C., as they were contrary to the findings of a coordinate Bench of High Court in Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Pvt. Ltd. v. Hatim Ali & Anr.
In the said judgment, the Court was concerned with the question as to whether the respondent was a "public authority" within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
"A bare reading of the decision in Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Pvt. Ltd reveals that the present application is thoroughly misplaced," the Court said.
It observed, "The present case, admittedly, does not deal with the RTI Act. The definition of "public authority" as contained in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act has no application or relevance, whatsoever, in the present case, which is in the nature of a service dispute between the petitioner and the respondent."
The Court also observed that even if the respondent were to have averred that it was not a "public authority", that could not have constituted a basis for invocation of sec. 340 of Cr.P.C.
It also added that as the case relied by the petitioner dealt with the concept of "public authority" under the RTI Act, which was both distinct and distinctive, and had no application to the present case.
"Having said that, a reading of the allegedly perjurious passage from the reply of the respondent, filed in response to RSA 94/2019, reveals that the respondent has not, at any point in the said passage, averred whether it is, or is not, a "public authority". Indeed, the issue of whether the respondent is a "public authority" may not even arise for consideration in the present case, as that is a concept endemic to the RTI Act," the Court said.
While observing that the application was misplaced and liable to be dismissed, the Court was of the view that unjustified invocation of Section 340 Cr.P.C. was prima facie, coercive in nature and was intended to intimidate the opposite party by having criminal proceedings dangling over it.
"This Court has, on earlier occasions, critically commented on the propensity of the civil litigants to invoke Section 340 of the Cr.P.C. in civil matters," it added.
The Court thus dismissed the application with a cost of Rs. 5,000 to be paid by way of a crossed cheque favouring the "Delhi High Court Staff Welfare Fund".
Case Title: RAKESH KUMAR SHARMA v. MOTHER DAIRY FRUIT & VEGETABLES PVT LTD
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 694