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Review: Telangana HC acquits a TRS MP in an election-related offence

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In this roundup of court judgements, we look at Constitutional Courts’ remarks & directions on queerphobic MBBS content, investigations under UAPA, principles of natural justice, misuse of public funds, and an election bribery case.

Kerala HC: Directs medical education board to look into queerphobic MBBS course content

In the case Queerythm & Anr. Vs. National Medical Commission & Ors, the Kerala high court directed the Undergraduate Medical Education Board to act on a representation made by two NGOs representing the queer community seeking the removal of discriminatory and inhuman references about the LGBTQIA community in MBBS textbooks.

The plea was filed by two NGOs named “Queerythm” and “Dhisha”. They primarily challenged the curriculum and contents of the medical textbooks. The writ petition was filed to expose the discriminatory remarks and inhuman references used in the medical textbooks prescribed for Medical Courses in India which stereotypes the Queer community’s sexual or gender identities as an offence, mental disorder, or perversion. Such references are made in the textbooks even though the queer community’s rights are recognized by the Supreme Court of India and decriminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults.

The research wing of the petitioner organizations made detailed research among the medical textbooks prescribed for studies and references under the Kerala University of Health Sciences. They found that many textbooks under the university were perpetuating queerphobia, providing unscientific data and contains inhuman, derogatory remarks against the transgender community and sexual minorities.

The Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly orally remarked that this was a “serious issue” and directed the ‘Undergraduate Medical Education Board’ to take immediate action on the petition. Before doing so, the ‘Undergraduate Medical Education Board’ was also directed to obtain the remarks and views of the Kerala University of Health Sciences, Thrissur. Such exercise shall be done within 8 weeks.

In an earlier order regarding the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, the Madras High Court had also called for the revamp of the MBBS curriculum to avoid stereotypical references about the LGBTQIA community.

Supreme Court: Magistrates cannot extend the time to complete investigation in UAPA cases

In the Sadique & Ors. Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, Supreme Court held that magistrates would not be competent to extend the time to complete investigations in Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) cases. The only competent authority to consider such request would be “the Court” as specified in Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA.

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The appellants were arrested on in December 2013, under Sections 307, 34, 467, 468, 481 and 120-B of IPC, Sections 25 and 27 of the Indian Arms Act, Sections 3,10,13,15,18, 19,20,23,38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

On 20 March 2014, while dealing with an application moved on behalf of the Investigating Machinery under Section 43-D(2)(b) of the UAPA, an appropriate extension was granted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Bhopal.

On completion of 90 days of their actual custody, applications on behalf of appellants were moved under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking bail on the ground that no charge-sheet was filed by the Investigating Agency within 90 days. The High Court by its judgment (which is presently under challenge) rejected the prayer. It was observed by the High Court that since the CJM, Bhopal had passed an appropriate order on 20 March 2014, the period available for the Investigating Machinery to complete the investigation stood extended to 180 days.

After considering various provisions of the relevant statutes, the Supreme Court concluded that “so far as all offences under the UAPA are concerned, the Magistrate’s jurisdiction to extend time under the first proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) is non- existent”. Consequently, the only competent authority to consider such request would be “the Court” as specified in the proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA.

In view of the above, the apex court accepted the plea raised by the appellants and held them entitled to the relief of default bail. The apex court directed that appellants are to be produced before the concerned Trial Court within three days and shall be released on bail subject to such conditions as the Trial Court may deem appropriate to impose to ensure their presence and participation in the pending trial. 

Allahabad HC: Quashed order canceling retailer’s license for selling beef, hurting sentiments

In the case Ikrar Husain Vs. State of U.P. And 3 Others, Allahabad High Court quashed an order of a Food Safety Officer who canceled the retailer license of a man, named Ikrar Husain, on the grounds of selling buffalo meat, thereby hurting the sentiments of a particular community.

The retailers’ license held by Ikrar Husain was obtained under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and was otherwise valid up to 21 January 2022.

The Bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta and Justice Deepak Verma held that the order had been passed in violation of principles of natural justice. The court noted that no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner before passing the order.

In conclusion, the high court quashed the order of the Food Safety Officer, with liberty reserved in favour of the respondents to pass a fresh order after notice and opportunity of hearing to the petitioner. 

In the recent past, the Allahabad high court had quashed detention under the National Security Act, 1980 (NSA) against 3 men who have been accused of cutting small pieces of beef for selling purposes in a house in secrecy. The court held that cutting cow beef in pieces in the secrecy of their own house can at best be described as a matter affecting law and order and not public order. Our earlier review describes the case in length.

Madras HC: Interdicts state from printing photos of Chief Ministers on textbooks, schoolbags

In the case Oveyam Ranjan Vs. The State of Tamil Nadu and ors, the high court held that the practice of displaying photographs of Chief Ministers or other public functionaries on school bags, textbooks and stationery is abhorring and represents the misuse of public funds. Accordingly, the high court has directed that the practice must be discontinued with immediate effect.

The high court was hearing a writ petition, filed in the public interest, seeking directions to ensure that the unused stocks of textbooks, school bags and stationery used by children, and which carry the names and photographs of previous Chief Ministers should not be wasted since considerable public funds have been expended for the purpose.

It was submitted by the Advocate-General that a statement has been made on the floor of the State Assembly recently to the effect. The present dispensation will ensure that school bags, textbooks and stationery bearing the photographs or other signs of previous Chief Ministers will continue to be used till exhausted. It was also submitted on behalf of the State that the Chief Minister does not desire his photographs to be published in such material in the future. 

The high court noted that accordingly, no further order need be made except directing the State that extreme care and caution be taken to ensure that public funds are not expended for publicity purposes of political leaders, including in hoardings and other material. 

Telangana HC: Acquits MP Maloth Kavitha in cash-for-vote case

In a cash-for-vote case against sitting MP Maloth Kavitha, the Telangana high court acquitted Maloth Kavitha of the said offences. 

The high court was hearing an appeal against the order passed by the Special Sessions Judge for Trial of Criminal Cases relating to elected MPs and MLAs.

The petitioner MP Maloth Kavitha was found guilty by the trial court of the offences punishable under Section 171-E read with Section 171-B of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and accordingly convicted and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for a period of six months and to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000. The above sections deal with the offence of bribery.

In 2019, Maloth Kavitha was contesting as Member of Parliament from Mahaboobabad Parliamentary constituency during the Parliamentary Elections of 2019. On receipt of credible information, the members of police went near a Ration Shop in S.C. Colony, Burgampahad and found a worker distributing money to voters and seized cash of Rs.9,400. The worker confessed to the police officials that he was distributing money on behalf of the MP candidate Maloth Kavitha.

After considering the oral and documentary evidence on record, the Trial Judge found the worker and MP guilty of the offences with which they were charged and accordingly convicted and sentenced.

The MP appealed in the high court against the above order submitting that the confession of the worker is not admissible under Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, since it was recorded in the presence of police officials. It was further submitted that there are discrepancies in the evidence of the investigating officers about the presence of voters and seizure of money.

On close scrutiny of the entire evidence available on record, the high court noted that except for the confession of the co-accused worker, there is no evidence about the involvement of the appellant Maloth Kavitha. The bench highlighted that it is well settled that under Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, a confession made in the presence of a police officer is inadmissible in evidence.

The court also noted that there are several contradictions and omissions in the evidence with regards to the alleged distribution of money to the voters, which are fatal to the case of the prosecution. None of the persons who are said to have received the amount have been examined. There is absolutely no evidence on record to show that Maloth Kavitha has given the amount or directed the worker to distribute the money to the voters, except the alleged confessional statement which is inadmissible.

Therefore, the high court concluded that there is absolutely nothing on record pointing out the guilt of the appellant Maloth Kavitha for the offence punishable under Section 171-E read with Section 171-B of I.P.C. The court hereby set aside and acquitted Maloth Kavitha of the said offences. 

In several judgements, the Supreme Court has directed fast-tracking cases against MPs and MLAs. In September 2020, the SC asked the High Courts to formulate an action plan to rationalize the disposal of these pending criminal cases against sitting MPs and MLAs. The number of criminal cases pending against the sitting MPs and MLAs was 4,122 in December 2018 which increased to 4,859 in October 2020, according to the report filed by the amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria in the Supreme Court. 

On 10 August 2021, the SC directed that Judges hearing the criminal cases against sitting or former MPs and MLAs should continue in their current posts until further orders of the Supreme Court, subject to retirement/death. One of the earlier stories describes this in length.

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