No disciplinary action against judicial officers for merely passing a wrong order; mere negligence is not misconduct: SC - Business Guardian
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No disciplinary action against judicial officers for merely passing a wrong order; mere negligence is not misconduct: SC



SC seeks Centre’s reply on fresh pleas against CAA

While coming out stoutly in support of a judicial officer, we saw how as recently as on March 15, 2022 the Apex Court in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Abhay Jain vs The High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan and Anr. in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 284 and Civil Appeal No.2029 OF 2022 [Arising Out Of Special Leave Petition [C] NO.6107 OF 2020] while reinstating a judicial officer observed quite clearly, cogently and convincingly that mere negligence cannot be treated as misconduct to terminate services of a judicial officer. The Bench comprising of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran observed that disciplinary proceedings against a judicial officer is not warranted merely because a wrong order has been passed by him/her or the action taken by him could have been different. The Bench clearly held that, “Negligence cannot be treated to be misconduct – Relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer- Every judicial officer is likely to commit mistake of some kind or the other in passing orders in the initial stage of his service, which a mature judicial officer would not do. However, if the orders are passed without there being any corrupt motive, the same should be over-looked by the High Court and proper guidance should be provided to him. (Para 69, 54).” The Bench also made it clear that, “When the Government had, on enquiry, come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the appellant was unsuitable for the post he held on probation, this was clearly by way of punishment and, hence, the appellant would be entitled to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution. (Para 50).”

To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Vineet Saran for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “The appellant, who joined as a judicial officer in 2013, having been discharged from service in the year 2016, filed a Writ Petition in the Rajasthan High Court, which was dismissed by the impugned judgment dated 21.10.2019 passed by a Division Bench of the High Court. Aggrieved by the same, this appeal has been filed by way of this Special Leave Petition.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “Brief facts relevant for the purpose of the present case are that a notification inviting applications for District Judge Examination, 2013 was issued on 19.07.2011. The selection was to be made from amongst the candidates of Advocates’ Quota under the Rajasthan Judicial Services Rules, 2010 (for short ‘RJS Rules’). In the said examination, the result of which was declared on 25.05.2013, the appellant stood first. On 15.07.2013, the appellant was appointed to the post of Additional District Judge under Rule 43 of the RJS Rules read with Article 233(1) of the Constitution of India and as per the Rule 44 of RJS Rules, the appellant was to be on probation for a period of 2 years. By an order dated 16.07.2013, the appellant was posted as an Additional District & Sessions Judge No.2, Bharatpur, on which post he joined on 18.07.2013. Then on 05.05.2014, the appellant was posted as Presiding Officer, Labour and Industrial Tribunal, Bharatpur, on which post he joined on 06.05.2014. He was thereafter, by an order dated 24.02.2015, appointed as Sessions Judge, AntiCorruption Department (ACD), Bharatpur, on which post he joined on 25.02.2015.”

Truth be told, the Bench then reveals in para 4 that, “It was during his posting as Sessions Judge, Anti-Corruption Department, Bharatpur, that a bail was granted by the appellant, which is the genesis of the action which has been taken against the appellant.”

While elaborating on the facts, the Bench then discloses in para 5 that, “In a case under Section 7, 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, three accused namely K.K.Jalia, Alimuddin and Irfan were arrested on 29.12.2014. The said K. K. Jalia, who was the Chairman of the Municipal Corporation, was alleged to have taken a bribe of Rs.5 Lakhs; Alimuddin, who was a Police Constable, was alleged to have taken a bribe of Rs.10 Lakhs; and Irfan, was a nonofficial also alleged to be involved in the case. On 08.01.2015, the predecessor of the appellant dismissed the bail of K. K. Jalia and the bail of Alimuddin was also dismissed on 03.02.2015. The Investigation Officer had sent a letter to the concerned department seeking sanction of prosecution against the said two accused, K. K. Jalia and Alimuddin on 18.02.2015. Charge sheet was filed against all the three accused on 23.02.2015. It was at this stage, on 25.02.2015, that the appellant was appointed as Sessions Judge, Anti-Corruption Department.”

Furthermore, the Bench then added in para 6 that, “Then on 04.03.2015, the second bail application of the accused Alimuddin was rejected by the appellant. The bail application of K. K. Jalia was rejected by the Rajasthan High Court on 11.03.2015. On 17.03.2015, the second bail application was filed by K. K. Jalia before the appellant. It is noteworthy that the Rajasthan High Court granted bail to the co-accused Irfan (who was a private person) on 16.04.2015, and then on 27.04.2015, bail was also granted to Alimuddin by the Rajasthan High Court.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then observes in para 7 that, “On the second bail application of K. K. Jalia filed on 17.03.2015, the Court fixed 20.03.2015 along with the main file. Then on 18.03.2015, on the main file the case was fixed for 31.03.2015 for filing of sanction of prosecution of K. K. Jalia and till then the judicial custody of remand was extended in the bail matter. On 20.03.2015, the bail matter was adjourned for 31.03.2015. On 31.03.2015, the bail matter was adjourned for 13.04.2015 and in the main file, 13.04.2015 was fixed for filing of prosecution sanction against K. K. Jalia and for arguments on cognizance. On 13.04.2015, on which date the appellant was on leave, the bail matter was again adjourned by the officiating Presiding Officer for 16.04.2015, and on the main file it was noted that no sanction against K. K. Jalia was received and since the appellant was on leave, the case was fixed for 27.04.2015 for filing of sanction of prosecution against K. K. Jalia. On 16.04.2015, a fresh application of bail was filed by the accused K. K. Jalia stating that he was arrested on 27.12.2014 and charge sheet was filed on 23.02.2015, but till date no sanction of prosecution as required under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, had been given, and that the custody of the accused K. K. Jalia was illegal as the accused could not be detained for an indefinite period. On the said date the appellant, in his order, observed that from 23.02.2015 till date i.e. 16.04.2015, there was no document on the file which would indicate that any progress has been made with regard to grant or refusal of sanction, and accordingly, it was directed that such a progress report be filed with regard to the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Department for grant of sanction be submitted on 27.04.2015, and time was also granted to file reply to the bail application by the next date i.e. 27.04.2015. On 17.04.2015, the matter was placed with regard to the attestation of bail of Irfan, who had been granted bail by the Rajasthan High Court on 16.04.2015.”

Going ahead, the Bench then mentions in para 8 that, “On 27.04.2015, on the main file, the investigation officer sought time for filing of sanction against K. K. Jalia and 08.05.2015 was fixed and till then, the judicial custody and remand of K. K. Jalia and Alimuddin was extended. In the bail application of K. K. Jalia, which was also fixed for 27.04.2015 and was taken separately, two letters had been filed. One letter dated 24.04.2015 mentioned that a file for sanction of prosecution of K. K. Jalia was submitted to the State Government, and the other letter dated 27.04.2015, which was addressed to the appellant, mentioned that a meeting to discuss whether the prosecution sanction should be granted or not was held on 23.03.2015, but no decision had been reached, and thus, the file had been sent back to the State Government to take a decision in that regard and the same was still pending. It was also pointed out that the other co-accused Alimuddin (Police Constable) had been granted bail by the Rajasthan High Court on the same date i.e. 27.04.2015. The appellant heard the matter of bail of K. K. Jalia and granted bail to him by a detailed order. On 28.04.2015, the matter for attestation of bail of Alimuddin was taken on the main file as the Rajasthan High Court granted him bail on 27.04.2015. The sanction of prosecution of K. K. Jalia was also received on the main file on 28.04.2015.”

On the face of it, the Bench then states in para 9 that, “It appears from the record that the bail order in the case of K. K. Jalia was called for by the Rajasthan High Court on 27.04.2015 itself and on 02.05.2015 the appellant was directed by the Rajasthan High Court to submit his comments regarding the said order dated 27.04.2015. The appellant submitted his response/comments on 12.05.2015 stating therein that the fact of dismissal of bail by the Rajasthan High Court on 11.03.2015 was neither argued by the Counsel nor the copy of the order was filed or produced, even though time was granted to the prosecution on 16.04.2015 to file the reply to the bail application. In the said reply, it was admitted by the appellant that the fact of dismissal of the bail by the Rajasthan High Court came to his notice from the memo of the second bail application while he was dictating the bail order dated 27.04.2015, and it was stated by the appellant in his reply that since the order of the Rajasthan High Court dated 11.03.2015 was not produced before him, he had thought that there was definitely a change in circumstances from 11.03.2015 as the period of the custody of the accused was nearing four months and also that 48 days had passed from 11.03.2015 to 27.04.2015 and in the absence of prosecution sanction, especially when it could not be known as to when such sanction would be granted, the trial could not start. It was also stated by the appellant that other two co-accused, whose bail application had been rejected by him earlier, had already been granted bail by the Rajasthan High Court. After considering, the explanation of the appellant, the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court directed to initiate departmental enquiry under Rule 16 of Rajasthan Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1958 (for short ‘CCA Rules, 1958).”

It cannot be lost on us that the Bench then observes in para 47 that, “Moreover, it is not disputed that the ACRs were not communicated to him within reasonable time. In this context, a 3-Judge Bench of this Court in Sukhdev Singh vs Union of India [(2013) 9 SCC 566] has held that:

“In our opinion, the view taken in Dev Dutt [Dev Dutt vs Union of India] that every entry in ACR of a public servant must be communicated to him/her within a reasonable period is legally sound and helps in achieving threefold objectives. First, the communication of every entry in the ACR to a public servant helps him/her to work harder and achieve more that helps him in improving his work and give better results. Second and equally important, on being made aware of the entry in the ACR, the public servant may feel dissatisfied with the same. Communication of the entry enables him/her to make representation for upgradation of the remarks entered in the ACR. Third, communication of every entry in the ACR brings transparency in recording the remarks relating to a public servant and the system becomes more conforming to the principles of natural justice. We, accordingly, hold that every entry in ACR-poor, fair, average, good or very good-must be communicated to him/her within a reasonable period.” (emphasis supplied)

Hence, in light of the above, the non-communication of the ACRs to the appellant in the present case is arbitrary and as has been held by this court in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India [(1978) 1 SCC 248], such arbitrariness violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India.””

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then holds in para 50 that, “The present case of the appellant is squarely covered by the abovementioned Constitution Bench judgements of this Court. Since the Government had, on enquiry, come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the appellant was unsuitable for the post he held on probation, this was clearly by way of punishment and, hence, the appellant would be entitled to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution. Moreover, in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the substance of the termination order reveals that the discharge was by way of punishment. Hence, the question that whether the action of non-confirmation of the appellant is in accordance with Rules 45 and 46 of the RJS Rules is answered in the Negative.”

Be it noted, the Bench then clearly holds in para 69 that, “In light of the above judicial pronouncements, we hold that the appellant may have been guilty of negligence in the sense that he did not carefully go through the case file and did not take notice of the order of the High Court which was on his file. This negligence cannot be treated to be misconduct. Moreover, the enquiry officer virtually sat as a court of appeal picking holes in the order granting bail, even when he could not find any extraneous reason for the grant of the bail order. Notably, in the present case, there was not a string of continuous illegal orders that have been alleged to be passed for extraneous considerations. The present case revolves only around a single bail order, and that too was passed with competent jurisdiction. As has been rightly held by this Court in Sadhna Chaudhary (supra), mere suspicion cannot constitute “misconduct”. Any ‘probability’ of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material, and this requirement has not been fulfilled in the present case. These observations assume importance in light of the specific fact that there was no allegation of illegal gratification against the present appellant. As has been rightly held by this Court, such relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer.”

It is also worth noting that the Bench then points out in para 70 that, “Additionally, the High Court in the impugned order has erroneously stated that there must have been some oral complaint which resulted in the explanation being sought by the Respondent. This, it is held, was based on conjectures and is in stark contravention to the proposition laid down in the above referred judgements, especially given the fact that the High Court had itself recorded that there was no written complaint against the appellant. Lastly, reliance placed by the High Court in the impugned order on Director Aryabhatta research Institute of Observational Sciences (supra) is misconceived as the facts of the said case are distinguishable on facts since in the said case, the enquiry was only a preliminary enquiry prior to the initiation of a formal inquiry and furthermore, there were many letters of the management regarding unsatisfactory performance, of which the delinquent officer was intimated in advance.”

Most significantly, the Bench then states what forms the cornerstone of this notable judgment in para 71 that, “To conclude, we are of the firm view that in the present case there was no material to showcase unsatisfactory performance of the appellant in terms of requirement under Rule 45 and 46 of the RJS Rules, 2010. Moreover, the appellant’s discharge was not simpliciter, as claimed by the respondent. The non-communication of the ACRs to the appellant has been proved to be arbitrary and since the respondent choose to hold an enquiry into appellant’s alleged misconduct, the termination of his service is by way of punishment because it puts a stigma on his competence and thus affects his future career. In such a case, the appellant would be entitled to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution. Moreover, the adverse comments in the ACR for the year 2015 could not have been the basis on which the appellant was discharged from service. The appellant was never granted an opportunity to improve and there was no intimation to him about his performance being unsatisfactory. Importantly, no verifiable complaint was filed against the appellant that could form the basis of the disciplinary proceeding against him. After perusing all the relevant record, we hold that the appellant was competent to pass the bail order dated 27.04.2015 and that the Respondent has not been able to prove the presence of any extraneous consideration or ulterior motive on the part of the appellant. It should also be highlighted here that neither the bail order dated 27.04.2015 was ever challenged by the State before any Court of law, nor was any complaint received against the appellant regarding the said bail order. This is not the case where there are strong grounds to suspect the appellant’s bona fides. Even if appellant’s act is considered to be negligent, it cannot be treated as “misconduct”.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 72 that, “Accordingly, the Appeal is Allowed and the impugned order of the High Court dated 21.10.2019 is set aside and the discharge order dated 27.01.2016 is quashed. Keeping in view that the appellant has not worked as judicial officer after he was discharged, we direct that while the appellant be reinstated with all consequential benefits including continuity of service and seniority, but will be entitled to be paid only 50% backwages, which may be paid within a period of four months from today.”

In sum, the Apex Court has drawn the right, rational and robust conclusion for which it must be applauded. The Apex Court has very rightly held that mere negligence cannot be termed misconduct. Justice UU Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran deserves all the praise under the sun for doing justice with a Judge himself who clearly became a victim in this case even though he was never tainted with any allegation of corruption of any kind. All kudos to both Justice Lalit and Justice Saran for doing so and for not getting straightaway swayed by what the Rajasthan High Court held! Of course, all High Courts must adhere to what the Apex Court has held in this case so clearly, cogently and convincingly!

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Legally Speaking

Supreme Court holds off on decision in Baba Ramdev contempt case



The Supreme Court has deferred its decision on a contempt notice issued against yoga guru Ramdev, his associate Balkrishna, and their company Patanjali Ayurved in connection with a case involving misleading advertisements. The bench, comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, stated, “Orders on the contempt notice issued to respondents 5 to 7 (Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Balkrishna, and Ramdev) are reserved.” The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority (SLA) informed the court that manufacturing licenses for 14 products of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Pharmacy have been suspended immediately. The Supreme Court noted that the counsel representing the firm had requested time to submit an affidavit detailing the actions taken to retract the advertisements of Patanjali products and to recall the medicines.

Highlighting the importance of public awareness and responsible influence, the court emphasized that Baba Ramdev wields significant influence and should employ it responsibly. It awaits an affidavit from Patanjali outlining the measures implemented to withdraw the existing misleading advertisements of the company’s products, with instructions for submission within three weeks.

During the proceedings, Indian Medical Association (IMA) President R V Asokan extended an unconditional apology to the bench for remarks made against the top court in a recent interview with news agency PTI. Justice Kohli conveyed to Asokan that public figures cannot criticize the court in media interviews. However, the court indicated its disinclination to accept the apology affidavit submitted by the IMA president at present. In an earlier hearing on May 7, the apex court had denounced Asokan’s statements as “very, very unacceptable.” The court reiterated its stance that celebrities and social media influencers are equally liable for the products they endorse, warning that if such products are found to be misleading, they could face repercussions.

The case stems from a plea filed in 2022 by the IMA alleging a smear campaign by Patanjali against the Covid-19 vaccination drive and modern medical systems. As the legal proceedings unfold, the Supreme Court continues to emphasize the importance of accountability and responsible conduct in advertising and public discourse. The case underscores the need for stringent regulations to curb misleading advertisements and ensure consumer protection. With the demand for transparency and ethical practices on the rise, the judiciary plays a pivotal role in upholding standards of integrity in commercial communications.

As the court awaits the submission of the affidavit from Patanjali, stakeholders across industries are keenly observing the developments, anticipating their implications on advertising practices and regulatory enforcement in the country.

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Australia fights Musk’s platform over control of online content



In a courtroom battle that underscores the complex interplay between global tech giants and national regulatory frameworks, Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, finds itself at odds with Australian law over the removal of graphic content depicting a terrorist attack.

At the heart of the dispute lies a fundamental question: to what extent should a platform like X be compelled to adhere to the laws of a specific country when it comes to content moderation? The legal showdown commenced as the eSafety Commissioner of Australia sought the removal of 65 posts showcasing a harrowing video of an Assyrian Christian bishop being stabbed during a sermon in Sydney, classified as a terrorist incident by authorities.

Tim Begbie, representing the cyber regulator, argued that while X has policies in place to remove harmful content, it cannot claim unilateral authority to decide what is acceptable under Australian law. He contended that X’s resistance to globally removing the posts challenges the notion of reasonableness within the scope of Australia’s Online Safety Act.

X’s stance, guided by its mission to uphold free speech, underscores a broader philosophical debate surrounding the jurisdictional reach of national laws in the digital realm. The company maintains that while it has blocked access to the posts for Australian users, it refuses to implement global removal, asserting that the internet should not be governed by the laws of a single nation.

However, Begbie argued that geo-blocking, the solution proposed by X, is ineffective due to the widespread use of virtual private networks (VPNs) by a significant portion of the Australian population.

Amidst the legal wrangling, X’s lawyer, Bret Walker, contended that the company had taken reasonable steps to comply with Australian laws while balancing the principles of free expression. He emphasized the importance of allowing global access to newsworthy content, cautioning against the suppression of information on a global scale. The implications of such an approach, he argued, extend beyond Australia’s borders, potentially setting a precedent for censorship on a global scale.

As the case unfolds in the Federal Court, Judge Geoffrey Kennett has issued a temporary takedown order for the posts, extending it until June 10 pending a final decision. The outcome of this legal battle is poised to have far-reaching implications, not only for the regulation of online content in Australia but also for the broader discourse surrounding internet governance and free speech in the digital age.

Beyond the legal arguments, the case underscores the evolving dynamics between tech platforms and regulatory authorities, highlighting the challenges of reconciling competing interests in an increasingly interconnected world. With the proliferation of digital platforms and the rise of social media, questions surrounding content moderation, censorship, and the balance between freedom of expression and societal harm have come to the forefront of public discourse.

In the digital era, where information knows no borders and online platforms wield immense influence over public discourse, the case of X versus Australian law serves as a microcosm of the broader tensions between technology, governance, and individual rights. As societies grapple with the complexities of the digital age, the need for robust legal frameworks, ethical guidelines, and international cooperation becomes ever more apparent.

As the legal battle between X and Australian authorities unfolds, it underscores the intricate relationship between technology, law, and societal norms in the digital age. At stake is not just the removal of graphic content depicting a heinous act but also the broader principles of free speech, censorship, and the jurisdictional reach of national regulations in a globalized world.

The outcome of this case carries significant implications for the future of online content moderation and regulation. On one hand, proponents of free speech argue that platforms like X should have the autonomy to determine their content policies without being unduly influenced by the laws of individual countries. They contend that a global approach to content moderation ensures consistency and prevents the fragmentation of the internet along national lines.

On the other hand, proponents of regulation argue that national laws play a crucial role in safeguarding citizens from harmful content and upholding community standards. They assert that while platforms may operate globally, they must abide by the laws of the countries in which they operate, particularly when it comes to content that poses a threat to public safety or incites violence.

Amidst these competing interests, the case highlights the need for a nuanced approach to content moderation that balances the principles of free speech with the protection of users from harm. It also underscores the importance of international cooperation and dialogue in addressing cross-border challenges in the digital realm.

Beyond the legal realm, the case has broader implications for the future of internet governance and the regulation of online platforms. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, policymakers around the world face the daunting task of crafting regulations that are effective, enforceable, and adaptable to the ever-changing digital landscape.

Moreover, the case raises important questions about the role of tech companies in shaping public discourse and influencing democratic processes. With social media platforms serving as key channels for information dissemination and political engagement, the decisions made by companies like X have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of democratic societies.

Ultimately, the resolution of this case will have significant implications not only for X and its users but also for the broader digital ecosystem. It will shape the future trajectory of online content moderation, influence regulatory approaches to technology platforms, and set precedents for how governments and tech companies interact in the digital age.

As the legal proceedings continue, stakeholders from across sectors will closely monitor developments, recognizing that the outcome of this case has the potential to reshape the digital landscape for years to come. Whether it leads to greater clarity in content moderation policies, a re-evaluation of regulatory frameworks, or a deeper understanding of the complexities of governing the internet, the case of X versus Australian law represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over the future of online governance and free speech in the digital age.

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Legally Speaking

Supreme Court Framed Issues To Consider, Hearing In July 2024: Challenge To Surrogacy Law



SC seeks Centre’s reply on fresh pleas against CAA

The Supreme Court in the case Arun Muthuvel v. Union of India has elucidated the issues it will consider in a batch of petitions challenging provisions of the Surrogacy Regulation Act, 2021 and the Surrogacy Regulation Rules, 2022. The bench comprising of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice AG Masih passed the order recording the following issues:

  1. Whether the prohibition of commercial surrogacy as stated under Section 4(ii)(b) and Section 4(ii)(c) of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 is constitutional?
  2. Whether the right of a couple to avail surrogacy being restricted to married couples between the age of 23 to 50 years and in case of female and between 26 to 55 years in case of male as it is being provided as stated under Section 4(iii)(c)(I) read with Section 2(1)(h) of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, is constitutional?
  3. Whether the right of a single woman to avail surrogacy being restricted to only widows or divorcees between the ages of 35 to 45 years as it is provided being under Section 2(1)(s) of the Surrogacy, the Regulation Act 2021, is constitutional?
  4. Whether the right of an intending couple to avail surrogacy being restricted to only those couples who do not have a surviving child as provided as stated under Section 4(iii)(c)(II) of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021, is constitutional?
  5. Whether individuals who initiated the process of availing surrogacy which being prior to the enactment of the Surrogacy, the Regulation Act, 2021 have any right to avail surrogacy in a manner which being beyond the scope of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021, save for cases falling within the ambit of Section 53 of the Act?

The petitioner in the plea highlighted an additional issue which relates to exclusion of single men from the purview of Surrogacy Regulation Act.

Therefore, the lead petition in the matter has been filed by an infertility specialist from Chennai, Dr. Arun Muthuvel, through Advocate Mohini Priya and Advocate Ameyavikrama Thanvi.

Therefore, while highlighting various contradictions in the Surrogacy Regulation Act and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act, 2021, thus, the petitioner in the plea points out that the twin legislations inaugurated a legal regime that was discriminatory and was violative of the constitutional rights of privacy and reproductive autonomy.

The Supreme Court in the case observed and has agreed to hear the petition wherein it challenges against the two Acts. In September last year, several other petitions and applications were filed wherein similar questions were raised, such as whether it was constitutional to exclude unmarried women from the ambit of the Surrogacy Act, or whether limiting the number of donations made by an oocyte donor under the ART Act would amount to unscientific and irrational restrictions.

The bench in the case observed and has expressed reservations about hearing the challenges to both the Acts simultaneously, as the linkage between the provisions of the two Acts could not be ascertained in the present matter. Further, the said court decided that issues wrt the Surrogacy Regulation Act will be heard first, followed by those which relate to the ART Act.

The court asked the parties to file written submissions on the foregoing issues. It has also been clarified by the said court that the petitioners need not restrict their submissions to the issues recorded by the court. Any ‘related’ issue may also be raised during the proceedings.

Accordingly, the court listed the matter for further consideration on July 30, 2024.

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Legally Speaking

SC ruling on spectrum allocation doesn’t affect satellites



SC seeks Centre’s reply on fresh pleas against CAA

The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the government’s application seeking clarification on administrative allocation of spectrum for non-mobile services is not expected to impact the allocation of satellite spectrum as outlined in the Telecom Bill, according to highly placed sources. In February 2012, the Supreme Court had upheld that auctions were the preferred method for allocating scarce public resources like telecom spectrum.

The Centre had filed a miscellaneous application in December last year seeking a clarification on the matter of administrative allocation of spectrum, which was mentioned in court last week. However, the SC registrar refused to accept the plea, arguing that it was seeking a review of the 2012 order and that there was no ‘reasonable cause’ to entertain it.

Government sources emphasized that this decision would not change the existing laws governing spectrum allocations for satellite communications, as clearly stated in the Telecom Bill. Sources clarified that the application did not seek to amend the 2012 judgment on 2G spectrum allotment nor did it seek permission for administratively allocating spectrum. Spectrum will continue to be auctioned for mobile services, while for the 19 specific use cases cited in the Telecom Bill, it will be allocated administratively.

The government had filed the miscellaneous application at the Supreme Court to explain its intentions before tabling the bill in Parliament, emphasizing that it was not seeking any permission from the court. The application aimed to seek appropriate clarifications from the court regarding the CPIL judgment in 2012, to establish a spectrum assignment framework that includes methods of assignment other than auction in suitable cases, to best serve the common good. In 2012, the SC had criticized the ‘first-come, first served’ method for spectrum allocation, known as the CPIL judgment, and had quashed the 2G spectrum allotted by the United Progressive Alliance government.

Since then, the government has been issuing spectrum administratively in certain cases where auctions are not technically or economically preferred or optimal. The Telecom Bill’s First Schedule lists satellite spectrum and 18 other sectors where administrative allocations will be compulsory, including law enforcement, public broadcasting, in-flight and maritime connectivity, the Indian Army and Coast Guard, and radio backhaul for telecom services. Government sources noted that all stakeholders were consulted on the issue, and the government was confident of its legal standing as outlined in the Telecommunications Act.

The SC, in a presidential reference, did not specify that all spectrum should be auctioned, only that for mobile services. The Supreme Court’s decision not to accept the government’s application seeking clarification on spectrum allocation for non-mobile services does not alter the framework outlined in the Telecom Bill. While auctions remain the preferred method for mobile services, administrative allocations will continue for specific use cases, including satellite spectrum, as delineated in the bill.

The rejection of the application underscores the importance of adherence to established legal procedures and the judiciary’s role in upholding regulatory frameworks. Moving forward, the government remains committed to transparent and efficient spectrum allocation, balancing the imperatives of economic efficiency and public interest in the telecommunications sector.

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Legally Speaking

Legal Victory for Ankiti Bose: Limits Imposed on Defamatory Content Regarding Former Zilingo Chief



A legal dispute has unfolded involving B2B fashion startup Zilingo, with former CEO Ankiti Bose on one side, and co-founder Dhruv Kapoor and former COO Aadi Vaidya on the opposing side.

A recent court decision in Delhi has brought focus to a legal dispute involving Ankiti Bose, the former CEO of Zilingo, a prominent technology platform. The court issued an ex parte order in Bose’s favor, instructing certain parties, including Zilingo co-founder Dhruv Kapoor and former COO Aadi Vaidya, to refrain from making defamatory statements against Bose. This decision underscores the importance of protecting reputational rights against unfair reporting.

The court’s ruling cited a prima facie case in Bose’s favor, acknowledging her legal right to safeguard her reputation from damaging remarks. It emphasized that failure to act promptly could lead to irreparable harm to Bose’s reputation. The order specifically bars Kapoor and Vaidya from making any further defamatory postings against the former CEO.

This legal action stems from a broader conflict within Zilingo, a B2B fashion startup that has faced financial struggles since its inception in 2015. Bose’s departure from the company was contentious, marked by allegations of misconduct and underperformance. She subsequently filed a First Information Report (FIR) accusing Kapoor and Vaidya of sexual harassment and business irregularities. In response, the accused have dismissed these claims as retaliatory, asserting that Bose’s actions were prompted by her dismissal from the company.

The litigation highlights the complexities of corporate disputes and the broader implications for individuals and businesses. Beyond the legalities, it reflects the challenges faced by startups navigating internal strife amidst financial difficulties. Zilingo’s trajectory, from inception to liquidation, encapsulates the turbulent landscape of the tech industry and underscores the importance of legal protections for individuals like Bose seeking to safeguard their professional standing amidst controversy. The court’s intervention serves as a reminder of the gravity of reputational issues in the modern corporate environment, particularly amidst the complexities of startup dynamics and leadership disputes.

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Legally Speaking

Supreme Court In Patanjali Case: Concerned With All FMCG/Drugs Companies Affecting Lives Of Children And Elderly Through Misleading Ads



The Supreme Court in the case Indian Medical Association v. Union Of India observed and has clarified against Patanjali over publication of misleading advertisements that it was not dealing with Patanjali as a standalone entity; rather, the Court’s concern, in public interest, extended to all those Fast Moving Consumer Goods, FMCGs or drugs companies which take consumers of their products for a ride through misleading advertisements. The bench comprising of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah in its order stated that, this court must clarify that we are not here to gun for a particular party, or a particular agency or a particular authority.

This being the absolute Public Interest Litigation, PIL since it is in the larger interest of the consumers, the public to know which way they are going and how and why they can be misled and how […] is acting to prevent that misuse. Thus, at the end, this is also as we said a part of the process of rule of law. If that is violated, then it affects […].

The court in the case observed that the implementation of laws regulating misleading ads in relation to medicines require deeper examination, as the products are used for babies, school going children and senior citizens based on the ads: Further, the court stated that this court is of the opinion that the issue which relates to implementation of the relevant provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act and the Rules, the Drugs and Cosmetic Act and the Rules, and the Consumers Act and the relevant Rules needs closer examination in the light of the grievances raised by the petitioner…not just limited to the respondents before this court but to all similarly situated or placed FMCGs who have […] misleading advertisements, and taking the public for a ride…affecting the health of babies, school going children and senior citizens who have been consuming products on the basis of the said misrepresentation.

The court while taking into account the misleading ads issued in electronic media impleaded the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Information Technology, and Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Therefore, the same was being done with a view to examine the steps taken by these Ministries to prevent abuse of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954 (and the Rules), the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940 (and Rules) and the Consumer Protection Act. Accordingly, the court listed the matter for further consideration on May 07, 2024.

Background Of The Case:

The Court raps Uttarakhand authorities The said court also came down heavily on the State of Uttarakhand for the failure of its licensing authorities to take legal action against Patanjali and its subsidiary Divya Pharmacy. The bench also asked why it should not think that the authorities were ‘hand in glove’ with Patanjali or Divya Pharmacy.

The court in its order stated that it was ‘appalled’ to note that apart from ‘pushing the file’, the State Licensing Authorities did nothing and were merely trying to ‘pass on the buck’ to ‘somehow delay the matter.’ The court stated that the State Licensing Authority is “equally complicit” due to its inaction against Divya Pharmacy despite having information about t heir advertisements violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act.

Further, the court stated that it was refraining from issuing contempt notices to other officers. Further, the court directed that all officers holding the post of Joint Director of the State Licensing Authority, Haridwar between 2018 till date shall also file affidavits explaining inaction on their part.

Background of the Case:

The contempt case was initiated wherein the petition is filed by the Indian Medical Association against Patanjali’s advertisements attacking allopathy and making claims about curing certain diseases. On the Supreme Court reprimand, the Patanjali on last November had assured that it would refrain from such advertisements. The court in the case noted that the misleading advertisements continued, thus, the Court had issued contempt notice to Patanjali and its MD in February.

The court in march considering that reply to the contempt notice was not filed, the personal appearance of the Patanjali MD as well as Baba Ramdev, who featured in the press conferences and advertisements published after the undertaking, was ordered by the said Court. Therefore, the Patanjali MD filed an affidavit wherein it is stated that the impugned advertisements were meant to contain only general statements but inadvertently included offending sentences. Further, the court stated that the advertisements were bona-fide and that Patanjali’s media personnel was not ‘cognizant’ of the November order (wherein the undertaking was given before the Supreme Court).

The affidavit filed also contained an averment that the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act was in an “archaic state” as it was enacted at a time when scientific evidence regarding Ayurvedic medicines was lacking. On the last date of hearing, both Baba Ramdev and MD Balkrishna were physically present in Court. The court expressed its reservations about MD Balkrishna’s affidavit, calling it “perfunctory” and “mere lip service”. The court gave last opportunity to the alleged contemnors for filing a proper affidavit.

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