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In a clear, cogent, commendable, composed and convincing judgment titled Neha vs Vibhor Garg in CR No. 1616 of 2020 and CR No. 2538 of 2020 (O&M) that was delivered finally on 12.11.2021, the single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Lisa Gill of the Punjab and Haryana High Court while hearing a matrimonial dispute matter has held categorically that recording of telephonic conversations of the wife without her knowledge amounts to infringement of her privacy and the transcripts of such conversations cannot be accepted as evidence by Family Courts. It must be mentioned here that the husband had filed for divorce from the woman in 2017 to whom he was married in 2009 and the couple has a daughter. We thus see that the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bench set aside the 2020 Bhatinda Family Court order which had allowed the husband to prove the telephonic conversation between him and his wife to make out a case of cruelty against his wife. The husband had filed a divorce suit under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

In hindsight, we saw earlier also how Justice Arun Monga of the Punjab and Haryana High Court had in 2020 asserted quite unequivocally that, “The act of clandestinely recording conversation would, rather, amount to infringement of privacy rights.” In no uncertain terms, Justice Arun had also very rightly underscored that, “An undercover conduct of the husband to record private spousal conversation without knowledge of the other is an infringement of privacy and can hardly be appreciated.”

To put things in perspective, the Single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Lisa Gill of the Punjab and Haryana High Court said that though a Family Court is not bound by strict rules of evidence, it is not at liberty to accept a CD containing secret recordings of wife’s telephonic conversation in evidence which is a clear cut infringement of the right of privacy of the wife. Justice Lisa Gill also said quite emphatically, elegantly, eloquently and effectively that, “Recording of telephonic conversation of the wife without her knowledge is a clear cut infringement of her privacy…it cannot be said that as the Family Court is not bound by strict rules of evidence, it is at liberty to accept the CD in evidence which is a clear cut infringement of the right of privacy of the wife.” Very rightly so!

It may be recalled that the Punjab and Haryana High Court was hearing two petitions – one that was filed by the husband and the other filed by the wife. The wife had challenged an order of the Bathinda Family Court clearly allowing the husband to finally reproduce telephonic recordings of their conversation. The husband on the other hand, had sought expeditious disposal of his divorce petition.

Needless to say, the main issue that was before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to adjudicate upon was whether the order of the Family Court allowing the husband to produce recordings of the conversations between him and the wife was against the fundamental right to privacy of the wife. The petitioner-wife minced just no words to argue vehemently that the evidence sought to be led by the husband was completely beyond pleadings and, therefore, absolutely impermissible. It was pointed out that the pleadings did not refer to any such conversations which were sought to be proved. It was also submitted that therefore, the evidence was wrongly allowed by the Family Court.

As it turned out, the Bench stated at the outset that even if the general averments in the petition about cruelty were proven by the evidence requested to be supplied, the CDs in question could not be admitted in evidence. The Bench also went on to say in this regard that recording the wife’s telephonic discussion without her consent is a clear cut breach of her privacy.

To start with, the single Judge Bench of Justice Lisa Gill who authored this extremely learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in the opening para that, “This matter is being taken up for hearing through video conferencing due to outbreak of the pandemic, COVID-19. This order shall dispose of CR No.1616 of 2020 and CR No. 2538 of 2020. CR No. 1616 of 2020 has been filed by the petitioner (wife) arrayed as respondent in the petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (for short ‘the Act’) filed by the husband before the learned District judge, Panchkula, challenging order dated 29.01.2020, passed by the learned Principal Judge/Family Court, Bathinda, whereby the husband has been allowed to prove the Compact Disc (for short ‘CD’) pertaining to conversation between him and the wife subject to the condition of its correctness.”

Furthermore, the Bench then states that, “CR No. 2538 of 2020 has been filed by the husband, seeking direction to the learned Family Court to expedite proceedings in the petition under Section 13 of the Act, in a time bound manner. This revision petition was directed to be listed along with CR No. 1616 of 2020.”

While elaborating on the facts, the Bench then observes that, “Brief facts of the matter as emanating from CR No. 1616 of 2020 are that petition under Section 13 of the Act was filed by the respondent-husband seeking divorce on various grounds. Marriage between the parties was solemnized on 20.02.2009. A daughter was born out of the wedlock on 11.05.2011 and petition seeking divorce filed in the year 2017. An amended petition was filed on 03.04.2018. Husband submitted his affidavit by way of evidence in chief on 07.12.2018. When the matter was listed for cross-examination, an application was moved by the husband on 09.07.2019 seeking permission to submit his supplementary affidavit by way of examination-in-chief along with CD and transcriptions of conversations so recorded in the memory cards/chips of the respective mobile phones. Reply was filed to the application. Application dated 09.07.2019 was allowed by the learned Family Court vide impugned order dated 29.01.2020 while observing that the husband is allowed to prove the CD pertaining to the conversations between him and his wife subject to the condition of correctness and that strict principles of evidence are not applicable to the proceedings before the Family Court keeping in view Section 14 and 20 of the Family Court Act.”

Of course, the Bench then mentions that, “Aggrieved therefrom, CR No. 1616 of 2020 has been filed by the wife.” After hearing the learned counsel for the parties, the Bench then while noting this and also that the files have been gone through with their able assistance goes on to observe that, “Respondent-husband in this case filed a petition under Section 13 of the Act, seeking dissolution of marriage by decree of divorce on various grounds. Admittedly, there is no mention of the conversations recorded by the husband between the years 2010 to 2016 in the said petition. There is no mention on these conversations in the amended petition filed on 03.04.2018 as well. It is further a matter of record that in the affidavit filed by the husband by way of examination-in-chief, there is again no mention of these conversations. It is only on 09.07.2019 that an application is moved by the husband to submit his supplementary affidavit by way of examination-in-chief along with memory cards/chips of the respective mobile phones, CD and transcript of alleged conversation/s so recorded in memory cards/chips of the respective mobile phones. It is stated in application dated 09.07.2019 that various conversations between the husband and his wife from November 2010 to December 2010, August 2016 to December 2016, were recorded and stored/procured by him. These conversations were further recorded on CD for convenience. It is further averred that due to inadvertence, specific mention of these conversations has not been made in the earlier affidavit. It is thus evident that the husband was well aware of these conversations which could very well have formed part of the pleadings at the very outset, but clearly did not find mention. Furthermore, there was no averment regarding these conversations in the amended petition or even in the affidavit dated 07.1.2018 tendered in examination-in-chief. Moreover, even if it is accepted that the general averments in the petition regarding cruelty would very well cover the evidence sought to be produced, in my considered opinion the CD’s in question cannot be permitted in evidence. This is so for various reasons as delineated in the following paras.”

As we see, the Bench then stipulates that, “Before proceeding further it is relevant to note that without doubt provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, have been diluted by Section 14 of the Family Court Act, which reads as under:-

“A Family Court may receive as evidence any report, statement, documents, information or matter that may, in its opinion, assist it to deal effectually with a dispute, whether or not the same would be otherwise relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act.””

To be sure, the Bench then holds that, “Clearly, the technicalities and procedures otherwise followed by the Civil and Criminal Courts may not be applicable to proceedings before the Family Court. There is in-fact no quarrel with argument of learned counsel for the respondent that a Family Court is not bound by strict rules of evidence.” While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then hastens to add that, “At the same time, it cannot be ignored that acceptance of the CD in question shall amount to a clear breach of fundamental right of the petitioner-wife i.e., her right to privacy, as has been upheld in various judicial pronouncements. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties Vs. Union of India, (1997)1 SCC 301, has observed as under:-

“18. The right to privacy-by-itself has not been identified under the Constitution. As a concept it may be too broad and moralistic to define it judicially. Whether right to privacy can be claimed or has been infringed in a given case would depend on the facts of the said case. But the right to hold a telephone conversation in the privacy of one’s home or office without interference can certainly be claimed as “right to privacy”. Conversations on the telephone are often of an intimate and confidential character. Telephone-conversation is a part of modern man’s life. It is considered so important that more and more people are carrying mobile telephone instruments in their pockets. Telephone conversation is an important facet of a man’s private life. Right to privacy would certainly include telephone-conversation in the privacy of one’s home or office. Telephone-tapping would, thus, infract Article 21 of the Constitution of India unless it is permitted under the procedure established by law.”” As a corollary, the Bench then holds that, “Thus, recording of telephonic conversation of the wife without her knowledge, is a clear cut infringement of her privacy.”

In addition, the Bench then clearly also points out that, “Furthermore, it cannot be said or ascertained as to the circumstances in which the conversations were held or the manner in which response elicited by a person who was recording the conversations, because it is evident that these conversations would necessarily have been recorded surreptitiously by one of the parties. A Coordinate Bench of this High Court in Deepinder Singh Mann Vs. Ranjit Kaur, 2015 (5) RCR (Civil) 691 in this respect has observed as under:-

“3. As an aside I would say that there are voice changing software available on the Net waiting to be downloaded to be applied in hiding or creating identities, creating true or false evidence, making room for impersonation, deceit and the like, which may be hard to crack without special detection by experts specially trained in this evolving field of investigation when experts are not easily found or available presently in courtrooms which remain severely handicapped and ill equipped with newfangled tools for use or misuse of modern science and technology and to easily apply to a case in hand the repercussions of which may be far reaching and beyond one’s ken.

Read concluding part on www.thedailyguardian.com

It would be a rather dangerous trend to allow people to be fixed or exposed on Audio CDs obtained by malfeasance, in its object of collecting evidence and the secretive means adopted to achieve a lawful or an unlawful end. The computer age is a dangerous age. The mobile phone or electronic gadgets should not be readily allowed to be used as an instrument of torture and oppression against a wife in a matrimonial action unless the court in satisfied that it might tilt the balance between justice and injustice in its cumulative judicial experience, wisdom and discretion in decision making. A married woman too has a valuable right to her privacy of speech with her husband in the confines of the bedroom. Couples speak many things with each other unwary that every word would be weighed one day and put under the judicial scanner. Courts should be very circumspect in such matters before allowing such applications as presented in this case. The Courts cannot actively participate in approving mischief and invite invasion of privacy rights not called for in deciding a case where parties are free to adduce evidence aliunde which may or may not be sufficient to obtain a decree of dissolution of marriage. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.””

Going ahead, the Bench then holds that, “The caution which has been sounded is indeed to be heeded. To permit a spouse to record conversations with an unsuspecting partner and to produce the same in a court of law, to be made the basis of deciding a petition under Section 13 of the Act, would indeed not be feasible. It is rightly observed in Deepinder Singh’s case (Supra) that couples speak many things with each other, unaware that every word would be weighed in a Court of law. Moreover, the court would be ill-equipped to assess the circumstances in which a particular response may have been elicited from a spouse at a given point of time, notwithstanding the right of cross-examination.”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then specifies that, “In Dr. Tripat Deep Singh Vs. Dr (Smt.) Paviter Kaur, 2018 (3) RCR (Civil) 71, it was held that conversations between husband and wife in daily routine cannot be made the basis of or considered for deciding a petition under Section 13 of the Act. The Coordinate Bench of this High Court in the said case has observed as under:-

“16 The conversation between husband and wife in daily routine, in the considered opinion of this court, cannot be made basis or can be considered for deciding the petition under section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, inasmuch as quarrel on trivial matters between them in our Society is a routine matter. More so, recording of conversation between the husband and wife and production of a CD thereof, would not be sufficient to ascertain as to under what circumstances, the conversation was recorded, what was the atmosphere and circumstances prevailing in the family at that moment, would be relevant to take into consideration the conversations recorded in the CD to extract the truth.””

What’s more, the Bench then also pointed out that, “Andhra Pradesh High Court in Smt. Rayala M. Bhuvaneswari Vs. Napaphander Rayala, 2007 (31) RCR (Civil) 664, specifically held that the act of recording conversation without knowledge of the wife is illegal and amounts to infringement of right to privacy and even if, the chips in question are true, they are not admissible in evidence. Similar was the view expressed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Anurima @ Abha Mehta Vs. Sunil Mehta s/o Chandmal, 2016 AIR (M.P) 112.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then notes that, “Argument raised by learned counsel for the respondent with reference to Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, has been succinctly dealt with by the Rajasthan High Court in Vishal Kaushik Vs. Family Court and another 2015(9) R.C.R (Civil) 831 while observing as under:-

“22. Aspect about admissibility of evidence with reference to provisions of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 has indeed been diluted by Section 14 of the Family Court Act. The question, which still arises in the present case, is whether conversation tape recorded by the husband without wife’s consent or without her knowledge, can be received in evidence and be made use of against her? That question has to be answered in an affirmative no, as recording of such conversation had breached her “right to privacy”, one of the facets of her ‘right to liberty’ enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The exception to privileged communication between husband and wife carved out in Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, which enables one spouse to compel another to disclose any communication made to him/her during marriage by him/her, may be available to such spouse in variety of other situations, but if such communication is a tape recorded conversation, without the knowledge of the other spouse, it cannot be, admissible in evidence or otherwise received in evidence. The argument that this would defeat right of fair trial of the petitioner-husband, proceed on the fallacious assumption of sanctimony of the method used in such recording and in that process, ignores the right of fair trial of the respondent-wife. In a case like present one, husband cannot be, in the name of producing evidence, allowed to wash dirty linen openly in the Court proceedings so as to malign the wife by producing clandestine recording of their conversation.””

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to hold aptly that, “Keeping in view the factual matrix of the case, it cannot be said that as the Family Court is not bound by strict rules of evidence, it is at liberty to accept the CD in evidence which is a clear cut infringement of the right of privacy of the wife. The decision of Rajasthan High Court in Preeti Jain Vs. Kunal Jain and another, 2016 AIR (Rajasthan) 153, relied upon by learned counsel for the respondent-husband is not relevant in the given facts and circumstances of this case, as the same relates to a matter where the husband sought to adduce video clippings recorded through pinhole camera for establishing extra marital affair of his wife. Moreover the aspects as discussed in the foregoing paras have not been discussed therein. Therefore, acceptance of the CD by the learned Family Court allegedly containing conversations between the husband and wife recorded surreptitiously without the consent or knowledge of the wife and allowing the husband’s application is unjustified. No other argument has been raised.”

Finally, the Bench then aptly concludes by rightly holding that, “Accordingly, impugned order dated 29.01.2020, Annexure P-4, passed by the learned Family Court, Bathinda, is set aside. Consequently, application dated 09.07.2019 filed by the respondent-husband, is dismissed. Keeping in view the facts and circumstances, learned Family Court is directed to take steps for expeditious disposal of the petition filed under Section 13 of the Act, preferably within six months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order. Accordingly, CR No. 1616 of 2020 filed by petitioner-wife is allowed and CR No. 2538 of 2020, filed by respondent-husband, is disposed of.”

In conclusion, the single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Lisa Gill of Punjab and Haryana High Court has been most forthright in holding commendably that secretly recording the wife’s telephonic conversation sans her knowledge is definitely a clear cut infringement of her right to privacy and therefore it cannot be accepted as evidence. We have discussed the relevant case laws also. Thus the Bathinda’s Family Court order in favour of husband was so very rightly quashed! No denying it!

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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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