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Significant Judgments Of Madras High Court In 2020

Akshita Saxena
7 Jan 2021 9:17 AM GMT
Significant Judgments Of Madras High Court In 2020
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Constitutional Rights 1. "Article 21 Includes Right To Have A Decent Burial": Madras HC Takes Cognizance On Mob Attack Against Burial Of Doctor Died Of COVID-19 In the backdrop of disruption during the burial of a doctor who succumbed to a heart attack after acquiring COVID infection, the High Court expressed concern over the incident and emphasized that the Right to burial...

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Constitutional Rights

1. "Article 21 Includes Right To Have A Decent Burial": Madras HC Takes Cognizance On Mob Attack Against Burial Of Doctor Died Of COVID-19

In the backdrop of disruption during the burial of a doctor who succumbed to a heart attack after acquiring COVID infection, the High Court expressed concern over the incident and emphasized that the Right to burial is a Fundamental Right, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

"In the considered opinion of the Court the scope and ambit of Article 21 includes, right to have a decent burial. It prima facie appears that as a consequence of above said alleged acts, a person who practiced a noble profession as a doctor and breathed his last, has been deprived of his right, to have a burial, in a cemetery earmarked for that purpose and that apart, on account of law and order and public order problem created, the officials who have performed their duties, appeared have sustained grievous injuries", observed the Division Bench of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar.

It referred to the Kharak Singh case of 1963 whereby the Apex Court had considered the purview of Article 21 and said, "...The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body or amputation of an arm or leg or the putting out of an eye or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world ... Moreover it is every kind of deprivation that is hit by Article 21, whether such deprivation be permanent or temporary..."

[Case: Suo Moto v. State of Tamil Nadu]

2. 'Revealing Identity Of Covid Patients Will Definitely Lead To Social Stigma': Madras HC

A division bench comprising of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar disposed of a petition seeking to reveal the identity of the COVID-19 affected persons while observing that the same may further aggravate the "social stigma" being attached to the victims. The Court in this case was concerned with the privacy and dignity of Covid-patients, protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.

[Case: K. Narayanan v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu]

3. 'Article 47 Of Constitution Is Not An Enforceable Right': Madras HC Dismisses Plea For Total Prohibition Of Manufacture, Sale & Consumption Of Alcohol

While holding that Article 47 of the Constitution apropos state's responsibility to prohibiting the consumption of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health, is not an "enforceable provision", the division bench of Dr. Justice Vineet Kothari and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana dismissed a writ petition seeking absolute ban on manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The Court observed that Article 47 of the Constitution of India is not an enforceable right of the petitioner and therefore, it does not give rise or any cause of action of the petitioner to seek any Mandamus under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It further said that opening or reopening of the State liquor shops is a matter of State policy, and the Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction.

[Case: R. Dhanasekaran v. Got. Of Tamil Nadu & Ors.]

4. Non-Payment Of Subsistence Allowance To An Employee During Suspension Will Be Antithetical To Article 21

While encompassing the payment of subsistence allowance to a suspended employee under Article 21 of the Constitution, the High Court held that its non-payment shall violate the Fundamental Right of such employee. A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad emphasized that subsistence allowance cannot be denied to employee(s) during the tenure of their suspension.

"The underlying principle for making payment of subsistence allowance is to allow an individual to sustain himself. In the present context of the suspension of an employee, one has to keep in mind that services of an employee have not been snapped and the employer-employee relationship during suspension continues to subsist," the Bench observed.

It further emphasized, "To "subsist" means to manage to stay alive, especially with limited resources or money. The state of living as such is known as subsistence, which is indicative of the fact that one has enough resources to sustain life with basic minimum needs. This means of existence or continuance with meagre resources of livelihood for a salaried employee is known as a subsistence allowance, which is an advance payment to cover immediate living expenses while being kept away from service. It is, therefore, an income that is sufficient to provide bare necessities and is an adequacy of support that exists as a reality while undergoing a compulsory distress. The idea is to preserve sustenance at the minimum economic level to sustain a minimum standard of living."

[Case: Registrar & Ors. v. M. Elango]

Transgender Rights

5. [Transgender Victim Viewing Herself As Woman] Prosecution Rightly Invoked Prohibition Of Harassment Of Women Act Against Accused: Madras High Court

A Bench of Justice G. R. Swaminathan observed in a case that the prosecution was right in registering the case under Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002 against the Accused, as defacto Complainant/Victim (Transgender) named Neka who views herself as a woman.

The Court observed that the Supreme Court, in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 483, had held that it is entirely for the transgender person to self-identify her gender and that this self-determination cannot be questioned by others.

[Case: M. Srinivasan v. State & Neka]

Women Protection Laws

6. No Maternity Benefit For Second Delivery Of Third Child After Twins In First Delivery

The Madras High Court held that a woman employee will not be entitled to maternity benefits under the Central Civil Service Rules for the third child in the second delivery after twins in the first delivery. The Rules restricted maternity benefits to those employees with less than two surviving children. The division bench comprising Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, "We find that a second delivery, which, in the present case, has resulted in a third child, cannot be interpreted so as to add to the mathematical precision that is defined in the Rules."

[Case: Union of India v. Asiya Begum]

7. Solitary Allegation Of Intemperate Language Against Female Employee Not Sexual Harassment

The High Court held that solitary allegation of intemperate language against a female employee does not constitute an offence under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (PoSH), 2013. The division bench comprising Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice R. Hemalatha also opined that the PoSH Act is intended to have an equal standing for women and the same cannot be misused by women to harass someone.

[Case: Union of India & Ors. v. X & Ors.]

Media Reporting & Free Speech

8. 'Mere Inaccuracies In Reporting Cannot Justify Initiation Of Prosecution': Madras HC Quashes Criminal Defamation Proceedings Against ET Journalist & Editor

The bench of Justice GR Swaminathan observed that mere inaccuracies in reporting cannot justify initiation of prosecution against a media reporter. The court relied on a US Supreme Court ruling to highlight that "Erroneous statements" were "inevitable in free debate" and it therefore quashed the criminal defamation proceedings instituted against the Journalist Sandhya Ravishankar and her husband, also the Editor and Grievances Redressal Officer of the Economic Times, in connection to an article about illegal beach sand mining of atomic minerals along the southern coastline of Tamil Nadu, published in the 2015 issue of the ET Magazine.

"Where the publication is based upon the facts and statements which are not true, unless the official establishes that the publication was made (by the defendant) with reckless disregard for truth. In such a case, it would be enough for the defendant (member of the press or media) to prove he acted after a reasonable verification of the facts; it is not necessary for him to prove that what he has written is true…," the Court held.

[Case: Grievances Redressal Officer, M/s.Economic Times Internet Ltd. & Ors. v. M/s.V.V.Minerals Pvt.Ltd. & Anr.]

9. "In Democracy Fair Criticism of Govt. Functioning is A Catalyst for Better Administration": Madras HC Quashes Case Against Congress MLA For Allegedly Defaming Then-CM J. Jayalalitha

"In democracy a fair criticism of the government functioning is the catalyst for better administration", observed Dr. Justice G. Jayachandran while dismissing criminal proceedings against Congress MLA, S. Vijayadharani who was accused of defaming the then Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha in a public meeting held on September 27, 2015.

Before the High Court, the petitioner contended that the speech made by her is no way near the definition of defamation and it was only the expression of her view about the affairs of the Government and as a member of Legislative Assembly and as political party representative, she has a right of expression guaranteed under the Constitution.

The Court concluded that the reading of the speech extracted does not carry any sentence of defamation whatsoever. "In this case, the alleged imputations squarely fall within the second exception in Section 499 of IPC", it said.

It added, "It is not defamation to express in a good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further."

[Case: Vijayadharani v. Public Prosecutor]

Migrants' Rights

10. Madras HC Directs State To Provide Ration Supplies To Migrant Workers Regardless Of Ration Cards

Considering the plight of migrant labourers who were starving in the absence of food amid the lockdown restrictions, the bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and VM Velumani directed the State Government to provide ration supplies to migrant labourers, after satisfying that they are really migrant labourers, irrespective of whether they have ration cards or not.

The Court was informed that the State Government had announced that ration supplies would be provided only to card holders, while there are lakhs of migrant labourers, who are without ration cards and they will be put to unnecessary trouble. It was also brought to the notice of this Court that the Government of West Bengal has announced that even migrant labourers, who are without ration cards would be provided with ration materials.

[Case: AP Suryaprakasam v. Superintendent of Police & Ors.]

11. 'It's A Pity To See Migrant Labourers Walking': Madras HC Seeks Action Taken Report From Centre & State On Migrants Relief

A bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha issued directions to the Central Government and the Government of Tamil Nadu to submit an action taken report on the measures taken to alleviate the sufferings of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 lockdown situation.

"It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers", observed the Court. It made a special reference to the Aurangabad train tragedy, where 16 migrant workers were crushed to death by a moving goods train during their journey back to native place.

"Even after the sorrow and sufferings of the migrant workers were reported in the media, nothing happened for the past one month as there was no coordinated effort between the States", the bench lamented

[Case: A.P Suryaprakasham v. Superintendent of Police and Anr.]

12. [Migrant Woman Raped] Unfortunate That Ladies Coming To TN For Getting Employment Are Becoming Victims Of Sexual Assault: Madras HC

The Bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and P. Velmurugam observed that it is very unfortunate to see that ladies who come to Tamil Nadu crossing hundreds of kilometres from neighbouring States, with a fond hope of getting employment are becoming victims of sexual assault.

The Court further directed the Inspector-General of Police (West Zone) to monitor and personally supervise the case with regard to the gang rape of the lady at Palladam and to see that the culprits are appropriately prosecuted. Along with that, the Bench ordered the Government to give appropriate legal assistance as well as compensation to the victim lady under the Victim Compensation Scheme.

This remark was made by the Madras HC in connection to an unfortunate case, wherein a 22-year-old migrant labourer was gang-raped at Palladam in Tiruppur district.

[Read LiveLaw's Report]

Tablighi Jamat

13. [Tablighi Jamaat] Foreigners Have 'Suffered Enough'; Have Right To Return To Their Native Country At The Earliest: Madras HC

A Bench of Justice G R Swaminathan directed the closure of criminal proceedings against 31 foreign nationals who were facing proceedings under the Foreigners Act for participating in the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi in March in violation of visa conditions.

The Court declared that they have a right to their native country at the earliest, and that their continued incarceration amid the pandemic situation was a violation of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. "Merely because the petitioners have contravened the visa conditions, they cannot be seen as criminals. The situation calls for empathy and understanding. The petitioners are yearning "to breath the native air in their own ground," it said.

[Case: Md Kameual Islam & Ors. v. State & Anr.]

Bail Jurisprudence

14. Right To Default Bail Under Section 167(2) CrPC Not Affected By SC Order Extending Limitation: Madras HC

A single bench of Justice G R Swaminathan held that the general order dated 23.03.2020 passed by the Supreme Court to extend the period of limitation for filing cases in view of the COVID-19 lockdown will not affect the right of an accused to default bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC. The Court held that allowing such an interpretation would defeat the fundamental right to personal liberty of a person under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

It is significant to note here that another Single Bench of the High Court subsequently, in S. Kasi v. State through The Inspector of Police, took a contrary view and said that to hold that the SC order is not applicable to the time period for filing final report amounts to "mocking" the Apex Court.

The controversy was finally settled by the Supreme Court in appeal against the latter judgment, where a three-Judge Bench made it clear that its suo moto order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions of the government will not affect the right of an accused to seek default bail. It held,

"The order dated 23.03.2020 cannot be read to mean that it ever intended to extend the period of filing charge sheet by police as contemplated under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Investigating Officer could have submitted/filed the charge sheet before the (Incharge) Magistrate. Therefore, even during the lockdown and as has been done in so many cases the charge-sheet could have been filed/submitted before the Magistrate (Incharge) and the Investigating Officer was not precluded from filing/submitting the charge-sheet even within the stipulated period before the Magistrate (Incharge)."

[Case: Settu v. The State]

15. Interim Bail In Habeas Petition Challenging Detention Only In Exceptional Circumstances: Madras HC

A division bench comprising of Justices TS Sivagnanam and Pushpa Sathyanarayana observed that interim bail in habeas corpus petitions challenging preventive detention can be granted only in exceptional circumstances, when it is made out that the intervention of the court is indispensable.

"...it is amply clear that this Court while dealing with habeas corpus petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution, wherein, the validity of the detention orders are sought to be questioned, has jurisdiction to grant interim bail, but the exercise of the said jurisdiction is inevitably circumscribed by the considerations which are special to such proceedings", the Court added.

The order is significant with respect to a recent finding of the Supreme Court in the Arnab Goswami case that high courts have power to grant bail by invoking article 226 in suitable cases.

[Case: Govt of Tamil Nadu v. S. Indramoorthy]

Lockdown

16. ''State Has Statutory And Vicarious Liability To Protect Citizens": Madras HC Dismisses PIL Questioning The Legality Of Lockdown With Rs. 50,000 Cost

A Division Bench of Justice R. Subbiah and Justice Krishnan Ramasamy dismissed, with exemplary costs, a PIL contending that there is no provision in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 or the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to impose a lockdown. "The power to impose the lockdown is very much available under the aforesaid Acts. The lockdown is one of the measures taken up by the respondents to curb and restrict the spread of the pandemic," the court observed.

The bench further emphasised "the State had a statutory as well as vicarious liability to protect its citizens. It is in this direction that the respondents have passed orders imposing lockdown and restricted the movement of the citizens. While so, the question of infringement of fundamental rights will not arise."

[Case: M. Immanvuel v. Government of India & Ors.]

17. 'Virtual Court Is Boon For Legal Fraternity; Even Moffusil Advocate Can Comfortably Present Case Anywhere': Madras HC On Objection To Hearing Via VC

"This Virtual Court is a boon to the entire Legal Fraternity", observed the bench of Justice B. Pugalendhi while hearing an advocate's objection regarding the listing of cases for final hearing via video conferencing. "Fortunately, in Tamil Nadu, we are having good internet connectivity facility in almost all places, including some remote villages", asserted the Single Judge.

The bench proceeded to state that in fact, in the past two months, this Court has also witnessed Counsel representing their cases sitting in Car. Even while travelling in their Car, Counsel are comfortable in placing their cases before the Court. Counsel, who are interested in their cases, even if they are staying in remote places, are reaching out to a place where they are having connectivity and are presenting their case comfortably. "When this system of Virtual Courts are comfortable for admission for the learned Counsel, this Court fails to understand why it is difficult for them to conduct the final hearing cases", wondered the Single Bench.

[Read LiveLaw's Report]

Taxation

18. Madras HC Upholds Sec 234F Of Income Tax Act Prescribing Fees For Delayed Filing Of Returns

A division bench comprising Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad upheld the constitutionality of Section 234F of the Income Tax Act 1961, which prescribes fees for delayed submission of returns. The validity of this provision, inserted as per the Finance Act 2018, was challenged on the ground that the "fee" for delayed returns is a "penalty" in disguise.

According to the petitioners, the charges prescribed in the section are in the nature of "penalty", and therefore it can be imposed only after a fact-finding procedure. It was also contended that the charges cannot be termed as "fee" as there was no element of 'quid pro quo'.

"Permitting filing of returns after the date is a privilege. The authorities have to correlate the returns of various assessment in order to finalise the refunds and for that it has to deploy personnel. It cannot be said that no services is rendered accepting the returns after the due date", the bench held.

[Case: K Nirail Mathi Azhagan v. Union of India & Anr.]

19. Time Limit For Availing Transitional Input Tax Credit Under GST Mandatory: Madras HC

A Division Bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ruled that the time limit for availing Transitional Input Tax Credit (ITC) is mandatory in nature, not directory. The Court also observed that the ITC is a form of concession not a property, in which right can be vested. The time limit prescribed to avail such a concession under Rule 117 must be followed in a mandatory nature.

[Case: M/s PR Mani Electronics v. Union of India]

Orders in Criminal Matters

20. 'Already Undergoing Sentence' Under Section 427 CrPC Means Physical Detention Pursuant To Execution Of Warrant Of Sentence : Madras HC

Justice G R Swaminathan interpreted the word "already undergoing a sentence" under Section 427 of CrPC, with an attempt to balance it with the fundamental right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. the provision deals with the situations where an offender already undergoing a sentence is sentenced for another offence. The Court held that a person can be said to "already undergoing sentence" only if he is under physical detention in execution of a warrant for sentence under Section 425 CrPC.

In the present case, the Court was dealing with a petition filed by a 60-year old man under Section 482 CrPC seeking a direction for concurrent running of sentences in 5 cases. All the sentences were pronounced on the same day, in respect of offences of theft and house breaking committed against five optical shops on the same date. He was sentenced to three years simple imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.5,000/- for each of the offences in each case.

The Magistrate Court, while delivering the sentence, did not specify if the sentences will run concurrently. This would have meant that the sentences will run consecutively, resulting in a fifteen year term in prison altogether. The issue before the Court was whether the situation will attract Section 427(1) at all and whether "consecutiveness" will automatically kick in.

The Court held that "for Section 427 (1) of Cr.Pc to apply, the condition precedent must be that the person convicted and sentenced on the subsequent occasion was already undergoing a sentence of imprisonment in the previous case. If he was not so undergoing a sentence in the previous case, Section 427 (1) will not apply at all."

[Case: Sheik Madhar v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.]

21. Appeal Against Acquittal In Cheque Bounce Cases Can Be Filed Only Before High Court U/s 378(4) CrPC: Madras HC Full Bench

A full bench of the High Court comprising Justices MM Sundresh, V Bharathidasan and N. Anand Venkatesh held that the appeal against acquittal of the accused in a cheque bounce case can be filed only before the High Court under Section 378(4) of Cr.PC.

"As against an order of acquittal passed by a Magistrate on a complaint, an appeal will lie only before the High Court, under Section 378 (4) of Cr.PC. In such cases, the complainant has to seek for Special leave under Section 378 (5) of Cr.PC. The decision rendered in S.Ganapathi case is declared as a judgement per-incuriam, since it has been decided without reference to the binding authority in Damodar S.Prabhu and Subash Chand," observed the Court.

The bench also clarified the impact of this decision on the cases decided by the Courts of Session during the interregnum and gave guidelines for th same. Justice Anand Venkatesh gave a concurring judgment and noted that 13 High Courts have held that a complainant can file an Appeal against acquittal only before the High Court under Section 378 (4) of Cr.PC.

Read full report for complete guidelines.

[Case: K.Rajalingam Vs. R.Suganthalakshmi]

22. Acceptance Of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Not A Ground To Quash Case Under Sec 138 NI Act

In a significant ruling, the Madras High Court held that acceptance of the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Plan under Section 31 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 cannot be a ground for quashing the prosecution initiated under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 against the corporate debtor and its officials.

"No clause in the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Plan even if accepted by the adjudicating authority/appellate Tribunal can take away the power and jurisdiction of the criminal court to conduct and dispose of the proceedings before it in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure," single-Judge bench of Justice GR Swaminathan held.

[Case: Ajay Kumar Bishoni v. M/s Rap Engineering]

23. 'When A Person Can Be Considered As A History Sheeter': Madras HC Issues Directions

"In all the cases where a person has to be treated as an habitual offender, or one addicted to crime, or a known deprecator of law without a case pending against them when the police propose to history-sheet him, he should have been either notified as a habitual offender under the Tamil Nadu Habitual Offenders Act, 1948, or should have been one against whom an Order has been made under Sec.110 Cr.P.C.," the bench of Justice N. Seshasayee held.

The court has issued 10 directions to be followed by the Police personnel, in the matter of history-sheeting, until statutory alternatives for the same are notified.

Access Full report to read directions

[Case: Thirumagan & Anr. v. Superintendent of Police, Madurai & Ors.]

24. [Offences Under The POCSO Act] Sessions Court Can't Entertain Anticipatory Bail Pleas; Only Special POCSO Courts Are Empowered To Do So: Madras HC

The Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and V. Bharathidasan ruled that the Special courts, as designated under the provisions of POCSO Act alone are empowered to entertain pre-arrest bail petitions in respect of offences under the POCSO Act; and Sessions Court cannot entertain such applications.

The Court was of the opinion that the entire Chapter XXXIII of Cr.P.C., which deals with bail and bonds, are applicable to the proceedings before the Special Court, there cannot be any doubt that Section 438 of Cr.P.C., which deals with Anticipatory Bail, is also applicable to a Special Court.

[Case: Reference sought by District Judge, Karur]

Civil Orders

25. Madras HC Frames Guidelines For Conducting 'Jallikattu'

The Division Bench of the Madras High Court, Justices M.Duraiswamy and T.Ravindran framed guidelines for conducting the much debated festival 'Jallikkattu'. It directed for the formation of two Committees, that shall inter alia ensure that the event is conducted in an orderly manner.

Some of the directions include: (i) There should be sufficient space for stationing the bulls and it must be ensured that the bulls are medically examined before taking part in the event; (ii) Sufficient police force must be mobilized to give security to the place of event; (iii) entire event shall be video-graphed and the same shall be produced before the Court's Registry; (iv) bull run area should be protected by putting up strong double barricade and it should function as a wall to separate the gallery from the area; etc.

Access the Full Report to read further directions

[Case: KM Thiruppathy v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu & Ors.]

26. Retired Employees Can Form Unions Under Trade Union Act 1926

The Single Bench of Justice S. Vaidyanathan held that even retired employees of an institution have the right to form an association/ trade union under the Trade Unions Act 1926. The court set aside the order of the Deputy Commissioner of Labour who had refused to allow retired employees of the Karur Vysya Bank to form an association to espouse their grievances, relating to pension and other benefits. However, the court clarified that the retired employees would not be permitted to "join hands" with the Association of current employees.

It held that the nature of grievances faced by either of the employees is on a different path and both cannot be mingled together for espousing the same to the industry with which they are actually connected.

[Case: Karur Vysya Bank Retirees' Association v. Deputy Commissioner of Labour]

27. Appointment Of Independent Directors In Social Audit Of MGNREGA Must To Eliminate Government Influence

Quashing a Government Order and subsequent notification, calling for applications to fill up the post of Director at Social Audit Society of Tamil Nadu (SASTA), the Madras High Court held that social activists and persons experienced with working at grass root level in rural areas towards implementation of social welfare schemes shall be more suited for the post. The Judgment rendered by Justice A Anand Venkatesh held that only an independent Director who cannot be influenced by the Government or any local body and one who has sufficient experience in social audit will be able to do justice to the post.

[Case: Sattanathan v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.]

28. Section 6 Of MGNREGA Not Unconstitutional

The High Court held that Section 6 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 is not violative of Articles 14 (Equality before Law), 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) and 23 (prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor) of the Constitution.

It was contended that the persons engaged in similar nature of work are getting the minimum wages in other Government Departments and therefore fixing minimum wages under the MGNREG Act 2005 is ultra vires the Constitution of India.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad held that the purpose of the MGNREG Act, 2005 is to extend a helping hand to the unemployed youth and not to force unwilling labour on any person.

"The argument on the strength of Article 14 of the Constitution of India is also not well-founded, as the nature of the claim, the work and the projects that are to be executed have been clearly explained by the respondents to be of a different nature and not a regular workforce engaged for performing any regular work. The two classes, therefore, being different, we do not find this to be a case attracting Article 14 of the Constitution of India," it added.

[Case: R Gandhi v. Union of India]

29. "Law Is An Art & A Science"; Madras HC Allows Unprecedented Compromise Between Pvt Insurer & Claimants In 23 Motor Accident Claim Petitions

A Single Bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh passed an unprecedented "unusual" order allowing private insurer Cholamandalam MS General Insurance to execute transfer of 23 different Motor Accident Claim petitions pending before various tribunals in the State of Tamil Nadu to the High Court under Section 24 of CPC, in order to facilitate a compromise arrived at in consultation with accident victims/families.

Referring to the pandemic of Covid-19 at the very outset, Court observed- "These are unusual times. This is an unusual order. It is sheer force of circumstances, which the entire world is witnessing, not just Chennai or India alone, that has impelled and compelled this court to take note and come to the rescue of the litigants and in particular, the innocent motor accidents victims. The peculiar scenario in which the viral Pandemic has placed us in, has necessitated and warranted the exercise of available jurisdiction of this Court, to aid the cause of justice."

[Case: M/s Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. N. Pratibhan & Ors.]

30. Judicial Independence Prerequisite To Rule Of Law; Advocates Throwing Mud On Judges Attacking Institution And Themselves: Madras HC

Repeated requests for recusal of the Single Judge advanced on behalf of the accused prompted the High Court to observe "Judicial independence is defined as a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of fair proceedings".

A Single Bench of Justice Pugalendhi proceeded to observe that in discharging the duties, Judges often face several difficulties, but unmindful to the same, they do their duty with due diligence. He said, 'Advocates throwing mud on the Judge must realise they are attacking the Institution, and themselves'.

[Case: Anshul Mishra v. District Collector, Madurai & Ors.]

31. S. 29, HMA Saves Rights Recognised By Custom': Madras HC Upholds Defence Of Customary Divorce As Valid In Departmental Proceedings For Bigamy

The Single Bench of Justice RMT Teekaa held that it is well established by a long chain of authorities that the prevalence of customary divorce in the community to which parties belong, contrary to general law of divorce must be specifically pleaded and established by the person propounding such custom.

The Court noted that it is not disputed that as per Hindu Law, divorce was not recognised as a means to put an end to marriage which was always considered to be a sacrament with only exception where it is recognised by custom. After coming into force the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, they can seek to put an end to their marriage by either obtaining a declaration that the marriage between them was a nullity on the grounds specified in Section 11 or to dissolve the marriage between them on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 13 of the Act. While, Section 29 of the Act saves the rights recognized by custom or conferred by special enactment to obtain the dissolution of marriage, whether solemnized before or after commencement of the Act.

[Case: Sudalaimani v. The Deputy Inspector General of Police]

32. Madras HC Issues Guidelines For Settlement Of Just Accident Compensation Under MV Act

The Bench compromising Justice SM Subramaniam issued detailed guidelines for the settlement of just compensation, so as to minimize false claims and illegal practices in the matter of settlement of accident claims. The Bench noted that the facts in a Claims Petition must be "unambiguous". It stressed,

"Even in case there is a loss of memory or the claimant due to the injury, unable to provide the correct vehicle number, at least the Police Investigation should reveal the accident occurring time and the place specified as in the Claim Petition. If the charge sheet of the Police is not corroborating with the facts stated in the Claim Petition, then the Tribunal ought not to have considered the Claim Petition at all."

Access the Full Report to read further direction.

[Case: United India Insurance Company Limited v. Shanmugam & Ors.]

33. Death Due To Electrocution: Madras High Court Applies Strict Liability Principle Against TANGEDCO To Order Compensation

The Bench of Justice G R Swaminathan ordered compensation to the parents of a 22 years old boy, who died due to electrocution after stepping on snapped live wire. It also ordered the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) to pay a compensation of Rs.13,86,000/- to the bereaved family and offer a job of Junior Assistant, on compassionate grounds, to the deceased's brother.

The order is significant inasmuch as the Court has adopted a unique method with respect to payment of compensation in case of death by electrocution and has even ordered compassionate employment in terms of a Supreme Court's ruling on restoration of status quo ante.

[Case: G. Sendhattikalaipandian v. Inspector of Police & Anr.]

34. 'India Most Depressed Country In The World': Madras High Court Seeks Response From Central Authorities Over Mental Health Facilities

Taking note of the "inadequate treatment facilities" for mental health patients, a Division Bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalendhi called upon the Central health authorities to answer the specific queries raised by the Court on this issue. The Bench was "shocked" that India is the most depressed country in the world and yet, it spent only 20 paisa per month per patient in the year 2018-2019.

It noted that even though understanding the mental health problems, the Central Government enacted the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, no sufficient awareness programmes had been conducted to implement the same in spirit.

[Case: KR Raja v. State of TN]


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