Court, Stories, Supreme Court

Review: Karnataka HC Says That Nominal Punishments for Negligent Driving Will Encourage Offenders


In this edition of Court Judgements, we look at the Delhi HC’s comments that ‘Virtual touch’ education should also be included along with ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ education for minors, SC’s order that elected members of municipality council cannot be removed at the whims and fancies of the civil servants or their political masters, Karnataka HC’s comments that nominal punishments for negligent driving will encourage offenders, and SC’s ruling that conviction should not be overturned solely because a prosecution witness became hostile, among others.

Delhi HC: ‘Virtual touch’ education should also be included along with ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ education for minors

The bail applicant in Kamlesh Devi vs. State of Delhi was accused of helping the main accused, her son, in kidnapping and committing a sexual assault upon a 16-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution. The 16-year-old girl was kidnapped by a person whom she met on a social media application and was kept in a room in Madhya Pradesh and was sexually assaulted for around 20-25 days, according to the FIR. She was also married off to another co-accused in return for money.

The Delhi High Court bench of Justice Swarna Kantha Sharma while dismissing the plea, noted the challenges posed by the modern virtual world, where virtual interactions among teenagers could lead to unforeseen dangers such as human trafficking for prostitution and other criminal activities prevalent in cyberspace. The bench also added that traditionally, minors were taught ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ in the physical realm but now ‘virtual touch’ education is vital, covering online behaviour, recognizing predators, and privacy protection. Further, parents, guardians, and educators play key roles in promoting digital literacy and safe online conduct and empowering children to make informed decisions and protect themselves from online threats. It also called to integrate ‘virtual touch’ education alongside traditional safety teachings in educational programs by schools, colleges, and legal authorities, ensuring minors are equipped to navigate cyberspace safely.

SC: Elected members of municipality council cannot be removed at the whims and fancies of the civil servants or their political masters

Two cases, Makarand alias Nandu vs. State of Maharashtra and Nitin vs. State of Maharashtra challenging the Bombay High Court’s orders were heard together by the Supreme Court despite separate factual backgrounds, as they were connected by a common issue: the Urban Development Minister’s authority in disqualifying elected Municipal Councillors/Office Bearers. Both the appellants were debarred from contesting in the Municipality elections for six years, with one case involving illegal construction and the other favouring a tender over the lowest bidder. The Bombay High Court had refused to interfere with the Maharashtra Government’s orders.

The Supreme Court bench of Justices Surya Kant and PS Narasimha observed that in both cases, the allegations of misconduct were not backed by strong evidence and that the action taken was unfair, unjust, and founded upon irrelevant considerations.

The bench stated that the elected members cannot be removed at the whims and fancies of the civil servants or their political masters only because some such elected members are found to be inconvenient within the system. Further, it noted that public officeholders like Municipal Council members deserve respect and autonomy in their duties, within the limits set by law. Misconduct by an elected member typically pertains to actions taken after assuming office, although pre-election misconduct may also be considered if directly linked to the representative and not previously scrutinized during nomination. In the first case, the Court found the action against the appellant unjustified and beyond permissible jurisdiction. Similarly, in the second case, the Bench noted that the action taken was a ploy to remove the member. Observing this, the Court quashed the orders and allowed the appeals. It also quashed the disqualification and debarment orders of the Minister-in-Charge.

Karnataka HC: Nominal punishments for negligent driving will encourage offenders

In the case, Santosh Poojari vs. the State by Mudigere Police, the accused was an ambulance driver. Due to his rash and negligent driving, he crashed into a car, the driver of which succumbed to grievous injuries resulting from the collision’s impact. Three others were also injured in the incident that took place back in 2011. Upon investigation, the Trial Court punished the ambulance driver with a fine and imprisonment for six months. Dissatisfied with the conviction order, the accused appealed to the Karnataka High Court.

The Karnataka High Court Bench of Justice Umesh M Adiga stated that there was no reason to interfere with the Trial Court’s order. It noted that the accident was considered one without any intention because of which severe punishment was not prescribed. It added that if the courts impose nominal punishments for such offences, it encourages offenders like the accused to commit more such offences instead of deterring them. The appellant’s request to reduce the punishment to only a fine was dismissed. Considering the gravity of the offence, the court held that the benefit of The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 was not applicable in this case. The revision petition was dismissed.

Kerala HC: Denying a rape victim the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy would force her into motherhood against her will

In the case XXX vs. Union of India, a 16-year-old girl rape victim approached the court through her mother seeking termination of her pregnancy. According to her, she was sexually abused by her 19-year-old lover and became pregnant. When appearing before the court, she was 28 weeks pregnant.

Justice Kauser Edappagath of the Kerala High Court reviewed the evolution of abortion laws in India, highlighting that until the 1960s, abortion was prohibited. It acknowledged the enactment of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) in 1971, which legalized safe abortions based on recommendations from the Shantilal Shah Committee. Furthermore, the Court noted amendments to the Act in 2021, extending the permissible period for abortions to 24 weeks from the previous 20 weeks. This extension applies to specific categories of women, including survivors of rape, incest, minors, women undergoing changes in marital status (widowhood or divorce), women with disabilities, those facing foetal anomalies, and individuals residing in emergency, disaster, or humanitarian situations.

He stated that the right of a woman or a girl to make autonomous decisions about her own body and reproductive functions is at the very core of her fundamental right to equality and privacy. He added that reproductive rights include the right to choose whether and when to have children, the right to choose the number of children and the right to access safe and legal abortions. In this case, he noted that courts had the power to permit abortions after 24 weeks, going beyond the MTP Act’s limit, under Article 226’s broader powers.

The court observed that unplanned pregnancies resulting from sexual abuse are harmful, causing trauma to both the physical and mental well-being of the victim. These pregnancies are not chosen or planned, adding to the distress of the sexual assault itself. Stating that denying a rape victim the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy would force her into motherhood against her will, infringing upon her human right to live with dignity as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the court allowed the petitioner to terminate her pregnancy.

SC: Conviction should not be overturned solely because a prosecution witness became hostile

The case, Selvamani vs. the State represented by the Inspector of Police, stemmed from an incident where the victim, an employee at a shoe company, was gang-raped by the accused persons. The trial court convicted the accused based on the victim’s testimony, medical evidence, and other witnesses. They were found guilty under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Women Harassment Act. They were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment and fines for these offences.

They filed different appeals in the Madras High Court arguing that during cross-examination, some witnesses turned hostile. The defence contended that this inconsistency weakened the prosecution’s case. The appellant added that the victim and her family did not fully support the prosecution’s version during cross-examination. However, the High Court, after reviewing the case and considering the arguments presented, upheld the trial court’s decision. They then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, after careful scrutiny, upheld the lower court’s decision. Despite some witnesses turning hostile, the court found sufficient evidence, including the victim’s initial statement, medical reports, and corroborative testimonies, to support the prosecution’s case. The court highlighted the importance of not dismissing evidence based solely on witness hostility, emphasizing the need for a thorough examination of all available evidence. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed, affirming the conviction of the accused by the Trial Court, and upheld by the High Court.


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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