In this week’s review of Court Judgments, we look SC’s judgments ruling that IT Returns show that the complainant did not have the financial capacity to lend money to the accused, that chargesheet is not public document and cannot be published online or accessed through RTI, that a child adopted by widow after government servant’s death is not entitled to family pension, that though nature of work is same, pay may differ based on educational qualifications.
SC: IT Returns show that the complainant did not have the financial capacity to lend money to the accused
In the case, Rajaram Sriramulu Naidu (D) vs. Maruthachalam (D), the appellant was convicted by the Madras High Court in 2008 in a cheque bounce case and sentenced to a fine of Rs. 7 lakhs in respect of two cheques for an amount of Rs. 3.5 lakhs each. The High Court had reversed the Trial Court’s decision to acquit the accused. Challenging the High Court’s decision, the appellant approached the Apex Court.
The appellants contended that the blank cheques issued in 1992 by way of security for chit funds were misused by the Respondents in 1999. Also, it was argued that the respondents did not have the financial capacity to lend money as alleged looking at the income which was shown in the Income Tax Returns. The certified copies of the Income Tax Returns submitted by an Income Tax Officer established that the complainant had not declared that they had lent Rs. 3 lakhs to the accused. Further, their agricultural income was also not declared in the Income Tax Returns. The Trial Court was highly doubtful as to whether the respondents had lent the money.
Agreeing with the Trial Court, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices B R Gavai and M M Sundresh observed that the defence raised by the appellant satisfied the standard of “preponderance of probability” which means “more probable and rational view of the case”. It noted that the standard of proof for rebutting the presumption under Section 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is that of a preponderance of probabilities and that inference of preponderance of probabilities can be drawn from the materials submitted to the Court and also by reference to the circumstances upon which they rely.
SC: Chargesheet is not public document and cannot be published online or accessed through RTI
In Saurav Das vs. Union of India and Others, the petitioner filed a plea requesting to publish the chargesheets filed in cases on a public platform for easy access by the general public. He added that while publishing copies of FIRs has induced transparency in the criminal justice system, these were based on only allegations whereas disclosing chargesheets were more important as these are filed after due investigation.
A bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar dismissed the plea stating that chargesheet cannot be considered a “public document” as per the Evidence Act. It added that the FIRs are published in the public domain for the interest of the accused so that the innocent accused is not harassed and can get relief from the competent court. However, with respect to chargesheets and their relevant documents, publishing them in the public domain will contradict the Scheme of CrPC and may violate the rights of the accused, victim, and/or the investigating agency. Further, the Bench noted that copies of the chargesheet and the relevant documents along with it do not fall under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
SC: Child adopted by widow after government servant’s death is not entitled to family pension
In Shri Ram Shridhar Chimurkar vs. Union of India, Shridar Chimurkar served as a superintendent in the National Sample Survey Organization at Nagpur and retired in 1993. After his death, his wife adopted the appellant as her son in 1996 and lived in a portion of a house owned by Prakash Motghare, the natural father of the adopted son. Later, in 1998, the widow re-married and relocated to Delhi. The adopted son claimed a family pension payable to the family of the deceased government employee.
However, the government rejected the claim on grounds that children adopted by a widow of a government servant, after the death of the government servant, would not be entitled to receive a family pension as per Rule 54(14) (b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules. He approached the Central Administrative Tribunal, Mumbai, which directed the authorities to consider his claim by considering him the adopted son of the deceased government employee by referring to Sections 8 and 12 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. As per the Act, the widow of a Hindu male is competent to adopt a child without there being a direction/expression of a desire to that effect, by her deceased husband. That is, the child adopted by the widow should also be considered the child of her deceased husband. The matter was then taken to the High Court which reversed the Tribunal’s order following which the matter was taken to the Apex Court.
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a child adopted by a widow of a government servant, after the death of the government servant is included within the scope of ‘family’ defined under Rule 54 (14) (b) of the CCS (Pension) Rules and would therefore be entitled to receive family pension payable under the said Rules. Going through the concerned legislations in-depth, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna noted that the purpose of family pension was to help the dependents of the deceased government servant tide over the crisis and to extend to them some succour. In other words, persons who were not dependents of the government servant at the time of his death were not ‘family’. The Court dismissed the appeal.
SC: Asks other courts and adjudicating authorities to use more reliable and authentic sources of information instead of relying on Wikipedia
In HP India Sales Pvt. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Customs (Import), Nhava Sheva, HP classified the ‘All in One Integrated Desktop Computer’ under ‘Tariff Item 8471 50 00’ as per the prevalent selfassessment procedure. But, during subsequent examination by the Custom Authorities, these were classified under ‘Tariff Item 8471 30 10’, which was later confirmed by the Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Commissioner of Customs (Appeal). These findings were further affirmed by the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT). The method of computing the duty is different for different classifications. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the concerned goods were ‘portable’ or not for classification. Considering various factors such as dimensions, weight, electricity supply, etc, the Bench concluded that the goods were not ‘portable’.
While allowing the appeal, the Apex Court bench of Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath observed that the Commissioner of Customs (Appeal) had extensively referred to online sources like Wikipedia to support their conclusion. The Bench noted that these platforms were a treasure trove of knowledge across the world. However, these sources are based on crowdsourced, and user-generated and can promote misleading information as has been noted by the court on previous occasions also. The Court asked other courts and adjudicating authorities to use more reliable and authentic sources of information.
SC: Though nature of work is same, pay may differ based on educational qualifications
In the Union of India & Other vs. Rajib Khan & Others, the appeal was filed by the Union of India against the Gauhati High Court’s judgement that the Nursing Assistants (the original writ petitioners) in various hospitals under the ‘Border Security Force’ were all entitled to Nursing Allowance. The respondents were all being paid a ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’ and had filed writ petition that they were entitled to the Nursing Allowance like it was being given to the Staff Nurse.
The SC Bench comprising of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravi Kumar referred to past judgements and noted that academic qualifications are a valid criterion for different pay scales for different employees even if the nature of the work is more or less the same. In this case, the Staff Nurse had to complete four years course while the Nursing Assistants need have completed only one year course. Similarly, the required experience was also different for Staff Nurses and Nursing Assistants. Nursing Assistants did not possess any registration certificate issued by the State Nursing Council and the Indian Nursing Council. In short, though the nature of work was on the same lines, the required educational qualification, experience, etc. varied and so the pay was different. The Union of India’s appeal was allowed by the Supreme Court.