SC says IPC Section 304B was incorporated to address dowry-related deaths to send a strong message to society

In this week’s review of court judgments, we look at the Supreme Court’s order that a complaint filed before the expiration of the 15-day period for an NSF check case is not admissible, that the the review power of the courts cannot be used for errors detected by reasoning, that the High Court must give the accused an opportunity to defend themselves and that Section 304B IPC has been incorporated to deal with deaths related to the dot in order to send a strong message to society.

SC: Complaint filed before the expiry of the 15-day period for bad check is not admissible

In Gajanand Burange v Laxmi Chand Goyal in the Supreme Court, the Respondent gave notice to the Appellant alleging that the Appellant took a cash loan of Rs. 2.5 lakhs and provided a check dated 28th October 2005 for the refund. It was mentioned that the bank returned the check to the Respondent due to insufficient funds in the Appellant’s account. The appellant received the notice on November 8, 2005 and the respondent filed a complaint against the appellant on November 22, 2005, before the fifteen-day period had expired.

At trial, the appellant was acquitted while the High Court allowed the respondent’s appeal and convicted the appellant. The questions before the Supreme Court were-

  1. Can knowledge of an offense punishable under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 (NI Act) be taken on the basis of a complaint made before the expiry of the stipulated 15 day period in the notice required to be served on the drawer of the check under section 138(c) of the NI Act?
  2. If not, can the Complainant be permitted to re-submit the Complaint notwithstanding that the one month time limit provided in Section 142(b) for filing such a Complaint has expired ?

The bench consisting of judges DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna noticed that these two issues were resolved by a bench of three judges Yogendra Pratap Singh against Savitri Pandey and another. Referring to this case, the formation of judgment noted that if the notification was received by the applicant on November 08, 2005, the complaint was filed before the expiry of the period of fifteen days. The complaint could only have been filed after November 23, 2005, in accordance with article 142 of the NI law. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and held that the complaint was not admissible before the expiry of the period of fifteen days from the date of its receipt by the applicant. In addition, the court ordered the defendant to file a new complaint within two months and asked the trial court to complete the trial within six months.

SC: The power of revision cannot be used for errors detected by reasoning

S. Madhusudhan Reddy v. V. Narayana Reddy concerned successive appeals and petitions for review concerning the protection of tenancy rights in Mahbubnagar, Telangana, since 1967. In the Supreme Court, the contentions raised on behalf of the appellants were that the petitions for review filed by the respondents were untenable as they failed to satisfy any of the requirements for review under Ordinance XLVII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The appellants who were the legal heir of the original tenants also argued that the High Court should “I have considered the successive petitions for review filed by the Respondents as no new facts have been established nor any errors found.

Referring to statutory provisions, the Supreme Court Bench of CJI N.V. Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli noted that a request for review would stand in the event of (i) the discovery of new and significant issues or evidence that , after the exercise of due diligence, were not known to the petitioner or could not have been produced by him at the time the decree was issued or the order made; (ii) because of an error or apparent error on the record; or (iii) for any other sufficient reason.

The panel also referred to previous judgments and noted that the Court’s appeal and review jurisdiction were different. A judgment can be opened for review if there is an apparent error. However, if an error is identified by the reasoning, it is not an apparent error on the record. Further, he added that an error can be corrected by the Court, but the view cannot be changed simply because a matter may be viewed in different ways. An erroneous decision and an apparent error on the face of the record can be clearly distinguished and the Superior Court can rectify the erroneous decision. Apparent error requires reviewing jurisdiction.

In that case, the Court, allowing the appeal, declared that the second set of petitions for review constituted an abuse of process which should have been dismissed by the High Court.

SC: Criteria for appointment on humanitarian grounds must be strictly adhered to

In Central Bank of India v Nitin case, defendant’s claim for compassionate appointment was dismissed by the Central Bank of India on the grounds that the retired employee’s family had more than 60% of the last salary gross received as income. The respondent then filed a writ petition which was allowed by the Bombay High Court which ordered the bank to consider the respondent’s case based on his seniority in filing the claim.

The Bank then went to the Apex Court which observed that the High Court had ignored the financial criteria for a compassionate appointment under the Compassionate Appointment Scheme. The bench of Supreme Court Justices Indira Banerjee and V. Ramasubramanian also observed that the Respondent deleted his appointment with another bank in the application, which was reason enough to dismiss his application. Allowing the appeal, the bench added that the request for a compassionate appointment is attributable only to the plan developed by the employer for such employment.

Noting that the purpose of compassionate appointment was to enable dependent family members to cope with the death or retirement of the employee, it should be done in accordance with the rules in force. In this case, a financial criterion has been given which must be taken into account for the nomination. If the criteria are not met, the quota can be filled by excluding others who may be in serious financial difficulty.

SC: High Court must give defendants opportunity to defend themselves

In Radheyshyam and Anr. against the State of Rajasthan, the defendants were convicted by the Magistrate Court of an offense punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to life imprisonment. When they appealed to the High Court of Rajasthan, it was noted that the offense fell under the ‘rare of rare’ category and the life imprisonment had been extended until the end of their lives. . The High Court also observed that the trial court did not consider the case to be “the rarest of the rare”. The appeal was brought to the Apex Court by the defendant challenging the trial court’s order and the fact that the defendant was not given an opportunity to defend himself.

The bench of Supreme Court Justices BR Gavai and PS Narasimha held that the High Court itself could have exercised suo moto powers and increased the sentence. However, before doing so, the High Court was required to give notice to the appellants. However, in this case, the High Court did not give the appellants an opportunity to defend themselves before extending the prison sentence. In stating this, the Supreme Court bench allowed the appeal to partially reverse the jail sentence.

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SC: IPC Section 304B has been incorporated to address dowry-related deaths to send a strong message to society

In Ajhola Devi & Anr. against the State of Jharkhand, the father-in-law and mother-in-law of the deceased were convicted by a Magistrates’ Court and a High Court under Section 304B read together with Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code for death due to the dowry. They were sentenced to 10 years in rigorous imprisonment. The appellants went to the Supreme Court asking for a lesser sentence in view of their age.

However, Supreme Court Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna upheld the judgments of the Magistrate Court and High Court. The Court noted that the defendant had come up with the false theory that the deceased had died of diarrhea within a year of the marriage while the dowry claim was established and proven by the prosecution. The bench also observed that 304B was incorporated to deal forcefully with dowry-related deaths to send strong messages to society. She also added that she found no reason to interfere with the decisions of the High Court and the Magistrate’s Court.

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