In this edition of the Court judgements review, we look at the Supreme Court’s order that the victims in ‘hit and run’ cases should be informed about the compensation scheme, Allahabad HC’s order that anyone possessing knowledge about the commission of a cognizable offence has the authority to file an FIR, Kerala HC’s ruling that employers must be considerate when transferring working women, among others.
SC: The victims in ‘hit and run’ cases should be informed about the compensation scheme
In the case, S Rajaseekaran vs. Union of India and others, the Supreme Court heard the issue of effective implementation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 dealing with the grant of compensation in hit-and-run accident cases. The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal observed that the number of people who avail compensation under the scheme is very low. As per the annual report on Road Accidents in India, the Court noted that there were 67,387 hit-and-run accidents in 2022 alone. However, during the last five years, there were 660 deaths in hit-and-run cases, and 113 injury cases for which compensation of 184.60 Lakhs was disbursed, indicating how only a small proportion of the victims utilized the scheme.
While passing the order, the Bench issued the following directions:
- If the police can’t find details about the vehicle involved in an accident when they file the accident report, and even after a month of trying, they still can’t find the information, they should inform the injured person or the family of the deceased about the compensation claim under the scheme. Contact information of the person in charge of handling claims should also be provided to them.
- Within a month of the accident, the police officer in charge should send the accident report to the Claims Enquiry Officer, including the names of the victims. If no claim application is received within a month, the Claims Enquiry Officer should inform the District Legal Service Authority to reach out to potential claimants and assist them in filing their claims.
- A district-level Monitoring Committee should be established, comprising the Secretary of the District Legal Service Authority, the Claims Enquiry Officer, and a Deputy Superintendent of Police to supervise the Scheme’s implementation and ensure compliance with specified directions.
- The Claims Enquiry Officer must send a report with recommendations and other documents to the Claim Settlement Commissioner within one month of receiving the completed claim application.
Further, the Supreme Court Bench also proposed revising the compensation amounts from Rs. 2 lakh for death and Rs. 50,000 for grievous injuries in hit-and-run cases. The matter has been posted for 22 April 2024 for further consideration.
Allahabad HC: Anyone possessing knowledge about the commission of a cognizable offence has the authority to file an FIR
During an inspection by the Additional District Co-operative Officer, the petitioner in the case, Ajay Rai vs. the State of Uttar Pradesh was allegedly involved in illegalities that led to his suspension. A subsequent inquiry, prompted under the Uttar Pradesh Co-operative Societies Act, 1965, revealed a misappropriation of more than Rs.16 Lakhs following which an FIR was filed against the petitioner. The petitioner challenged the FIR in the High Court, arguing that it violated a Government Order from 2000 that stated that the Regional Deputy Commissioner, Co-operative, Varanasi, should register such FIRs. Additionally, it was contended that the necessary approval from the Registrar, Co-operative, was not obtained as mandated by Sections 103 and 105 of the 1965 Act.
Justice Vivek Kumar Birla and Justice Vinod Diwakar of the Allahabad High Court observed that in this case, the Assistant Commissioner-cum-Assistant Registrar, Co-operative had authorized the Additional District Co-operative Officer to file the FIR and so, the petitioner’s contention lacked legal merit. Emphasizing the importance of an FIR, the Bench added that anyone aware of a cognizable offence, including victims, witnesses, or even police officers, has the authority to file an FIR. The universal authority to file an FIR is a foundational principle that ensures that anyone with information about potential criminal acts can access the criminal justice system, it stated while dismissing the petition.
Bombay HC: Man accused of raping a 13-year-old girl granted bail as the relationship was out of love and not lust
Nitin Damodar Dhaberao vs. State of Maharashtra is a bail application by the applicant who was booked for rape and related offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The victim in the case was 13 years old. Her father had reported that she went missing after leaving her home to retrieve a book in August 2020. When found, she revealed that she was in a romantic relationship with her neighbour, who promised marriage. Later, in August 2020, she disclosed being in Bangalore with him during a call with her grandmother. The case was registered, and the neighbour was arrested.
The applicant contended that the victim had voluntarily left her parents’ house due to a love affair with the accused and there was no intention to breach any promise. Further, she also admitted a love relationship with the applicant. The Bombay High Court Bench of Justice Urmila Joshi-Phalke observed that the victim’s consent was irrelevant due to her age. Nonetheless, the statements recorded by the investigating officer indicated that the girl had voluntarily left her home. The court concluded that the alleged incident seemed to stem from a consensual relationship between two young individuals rather than being a case of forceful assault. The bail application was allowed on certain conditions.
Calcutta HC: The right of a person to live a life of dignity cannot be deprived merely because he is a convict
In Mahuya Chakraborty vs. the State of West Bengal and others, the petitioner’s husband was serving a life sentence and was in custody for more than 2 decades. She had filed a plea before the State Sentence Review Board, West Bengal (SSRB) for early release of her husband. However, the Board denied the plea. She approached the High Court contending that the SSRB wasn’t properly formed and the reasons for rejection didn’t align with the stance taken by the Supreme Court and other High Courts on remission.
The bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya acknowledged that the grounds for rejection did not seem comprehensive. It emphasized the established principle that the goal of punishment in modern criminal jurisprudence is reformative, not retributive. It pointed out that the Apex Court had outlined various considerations beyond the nature of the crime and the likelihood of recurrence, none of which the SSRB had considered in this case. Despite opposition from the victim’s family regarding the plea for early release, the court emphasized that there must be substantial reasons to justify such opposition.
Asking SSRB to reconsider the petitioner’s application by forming a proper Board, the Court added that the right of the petitioner under Article 21 to live a life of dignity cannot be deprived merely because the petitioner’s husband was convicted. It also added that the convict had already served a significant time behind bars and subjecting them to further denial of an opportunity to reintegrate into mainstream society would amount to a form of double punishment, even if they meet the eligibility criteria.
Kerala HC: Employers must be considerate when transferring working women
In the case, Kala vs. the Employees State Insurance Corporation, two working women were moved from Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Ernakulam to the hospital in Kollam. The employees challenged these transfer orders at the Central Administrative Tribunal in Ernakulam which decided not to intervene. Unhappy with the Tribunal’s decision, the petitioners brought the matter to the Kerala High Court. The petitioners argued that they had to take care of their children and aged parents and the said transfer order would cause inexplicable difficulties.
The Bench comprising Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Shoba Annamma Eapen acknowledged the petitioners’ caregiving duties for their ailing parents, the difficulty of relocating with working husbands, and the potential disruption to their children’s education if moved during the academic year. It observed that working women play a major role in taking care of their children and aged parents and may find it difficult to maintain a work-life balance in an unfamiliar environment. The Bench asked employers to be open-minded and show empathy when issuing transfer orders in such situations.
The court also noted that the matter was under consideration by the Central Administrative Tribunal. Until the Tribunal reached a decision, the court directed that the status quo should be maintained.
Delhi HC: The authority to grant admission to EWS/DG/CWSN category is conferred on DoE and the school cannot refuse admission
The case, Ojas Satyawali through his mother Bhawna Pathak vs. Directorate of Education dealt with a plea filed by a 7-year-old boy belonging to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) who was denied preferential admission in a school under EWS/DG category.
When the matter was first raised in court, the respondent school contended that there was a discrepancy in the residential address entered in the registration form and that in the Aadhar card. It was also contended that a spot-verification was carried out by the school, revealing that they did not reside at the said address. However, the Court passed an order in 2023 directing the school to grant admission to the minor in Class 1 in the EWS/DG category for the 2023-2024 academic session.
The Delhi High Court Bench of Justice C Hari Shankar added that the authority to grant admission to the EWS/DG/CWSN category was with the Department of Education (DoE). The Bench emphasized that the DoE was responsible for verifying and ensuring that the child in question is eligible for preferential admission in this category. If the DoE confirms eligibility, the school in question cannot reject admission to the child. Allowing the petition, the bench stated that it is crucial to prioritize the welfare of the child, and the law does not permit a situation where, despite the DoE’s approval, the school denies admission to the child.