1. KERALA PUTS NEW LIBEL LAW ON HOLD
The Kerala government has decided not to put into immediate effect the ordinance revising the Kerala Police Act, 2011, seeking to empower the police to prosecute persons spreading defamatory content. The ordinance has introduced a new provision, Section 118-A, to the Kerala Police Act, 2011.
The amendment proposes three years of imprisonment and a fine of up to ₹10,000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person. The drastic amendment to the Kerala Police Act, 2011, would give the local law enforcement more powers to curb defamation. The ordinance would allow whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies.
Opposition parties, journalists’ bodies and civil rights activists see it as a threat to the freedom of the press and free speech in the State. It is argued that the amendment would reverse the course on media freedom, muzzle free speech and jeopardize civil liberties. It is opined that conferring power on the police to gauge mental injury, loss of reputation and such matters due to dissemination of information would result in widespread abuse.
2. PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION PURELY ON THE BASIS OF NEWSPAPER REPORT IS NOT MAINTAINABLE: KERALA HIGH COURT
CASE NAME: M. V. Arun v. The District Collector & Ors.
The Petitioner, an active social worker filed a public interest writ petition to issue a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to complete the reconstruction work of the Perumbuzha bridge within a time-bound period as the regulations for the transport of vehicles through Perumbuzha bridge severely affected the public at large. To substantiate his case, he produced a report that appeared in the Malayala Manorama Daily newspaper on 11.08.2020 regarding the dilapidated condition of the bridge. The Kerala High Court held that the instant writ petition filed as a Public Interest Litigation does not satisfy the requirements laid under Rule 146A of the Rules of the High Court of Kerala which requires a PIL litigant to specify the specific cause and to swear to his/her lack of personal interest in the outcome of the case and also relying on the precedents of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Kerala HC emphasized that writ petitions cannot be entertained merely on newspaper reports.
3. NO QUOTA FOR ADMISSION IN SUPER SPECIALTY MEDICAL COURSES: SC
The Supreme Court on 27.11.20 directed the counselling for super-speciality medical courses in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to be held for the academic year 2020-2021 without providing reservation for in-service doctors. The Supreme Court bench led by Justice L. Nageswar Rao ordered that since the admission process is at the final stages, the reservations for the in-service doctors cannot be permitted. The process for admission to super speciality medical courses started on August 3. It was made clear to all the candidates that there shall be no reservation. The government of TN published an order reserving 50% seats for in-service doctors. The Court observed such reservation would be detrimental to the interests of the meritorious doctors. The bench, however, did not express any opinion on the validity of Government Order. It would delve into the question of law in detail on February 2021.
4. PROCEEDINGS UNDER SECTION 34 OF ARBITRATION AND CONCILATION ACT NOT MAINTAINABLE AGAINST FOREIGN AWARD: SC
NAME OF THE CASE: Noy Vallesina Engineering SpA v. Jindal Drugs Limited & Ors.
In this case, Jindal filed a petition before the Bombay High Court challenging the partial award under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act, 1996. Though the single bench dismissed this petition, the division Bench held that proceedings under section 34 of the Act could be validly maintained to challenge the foreign award citing the Supreme Court decisions Bhatia International v. Bulk Trading S.A. &Anr.
On appeal the Apex Court noted that this understanding was revisited in Bharat Aluminium v. Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc, in which it was held that Arbitration Act, 1996 has accepted the territoriality principle which has been adopted in the UNCITRAL Model Law. Section 2(2) makes a declaration that Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996 shall apply to all arbitrations which take place within India. Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996 would have no application to international commercial arbitration held outside India. Therefore, such awards would only be subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts when the same are sought to be enforced in India in accordance with the provisions contained in Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996. The provisions contained in the Arbitration Act, 1996 make it crystal clear that there can be no overlapping or intermingling of the provisions contained in Part I with the provisions contained in Part II of the Arbitration Act, 1996.
Taking note of other judgments which followed BALCO, the bench observed that hat the proceedings under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act is not maintainable to challenge a foreign award.
5. WON’T INTERFERE IN PERSONAL RELATIONS, SAYS ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT :
The right to live with a person of his or her choice irrespective of religion is intrinsic to the right to life and liberty. Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of two individuals, the Allahabad High Court has noted.
The Court made the observations while quashing the FIR against a Muslim man and his family from Kushinagar district by the father of his Hindu wife.
A Division Bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal also stated that a recent single-judge order of the court dismissing a writ filed by an inter-faith married couple seeking police protection on grounds that the conversion just for the purpose of marriage was unacceptable, was not laying good law.
In the Kushinagar case, petitioner Salamat Ansari filed a writ seeking the quashing of an FIR against him under Sections 363, 366, 352 and 506 of the IPC and Section 7 and 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Mr. Ansari submitted that the couple were adults and had performed nikah on September 19, 2019, as per Muslim rites and rituals. The girl, Priyanka Kharwar, renounced her Hindu identity and embraced Islam and the couple had been living together peacefully for the past one year. Justice Naqvi further stated that an individual, on attaining adulthood, was statutorily conferred a right to choose a partner, which, if denied, would not only affect his or her human right but also his or her right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“We say so for the reason that irrespective of the conversion being under clout, the mere fact that the couple was living together, the alleged relationship can very well be classified as a relationship in the nature of marriage distinct from the relationship arising out of marriage, in view of the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005,” the court said.
6. 2018 AMENDMENT TO PREVENTION OF CORRUPTION ACT HAS NO RETROSPECTIVE EFFECT: DELHI HIGH COURT
CASE NAME: Central Bureau of Investigation v. A. Raja & Ors.
The former Telecom Minister A. Raja and others contended the CBI’s appeal against their acquittal in the 2G spectrum case has become infructuous with the 2018 amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act. The accused were prosecuted under section 13(1)(d) of the said Act but the 2018 amendment substituted the said provision. The Delhi HC relying on the precedent Madhu Koda v. State through CBI held that 2018 amendments in PC Act cannot be applied to the offences prior to the changes in the provisions of the Act.