Sunday, June 30, 2024

Persons of criminal background inducted as members of Ad hoc committee under Chairman, Bihar State Board of Religious Trust, Petitioner asked to to approach District Judge for relief

Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari, Patna Vs. Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (2024), Justice Rajesh Kumar Verma of Patna High Court directed the petitioner to avail the remedy prescribed under Section 32(3) Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act, 1950. If he files an application before the District Judge, then the District Judge shall pass an appropriate order after considering all the aspects in accordance with law. If any injunction application is filed by the petitioner, then it shall be decided in accordance with law expeditiously. The judgement was passed on June 19, 2024.

The present writ petition was filed for the issuance of an appropriate direction to the respondents for quashing Memo No. 2081 dated September 5, 2023 whereby Chairman, Bihar State Board of Religious Trust constituted an Ad hoc committee in exercise of power given under Section 32 of Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts Act and selected 11 persons in the committee to look after affairs of Shri Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari in complete violation of Guru-Shishya Parampara under which the Thakurbari is run by Mahanh. It sought issuance of a appropriate direction to 14 respondents to annul the constitution of Ad hoc committee vide Notification dated September 3, 2023 wherein even persons having criminal background have been inducted as members in the Ad hoc committee which is in violation of statutory provisions of Bihar State Board of Religious Trust Act, and for which the petitioner mahanth has filed written complaint before authorities on January 10, 2023 where after complaint was filed with regard to mismanagement of Thakurbari. It also sought issuance of direction to the Chairman to not interfere in the functioning of Shri Ram Janki Siya Bihari Kunj Thakurbari which is run by Mahanth on the basis of Guru-Shishya Parampra and it does not require any interference by the Board.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the committee was constituted by the Board without considering the application of the petitioner which suggests that the some of the members of the present committee have criminal background and without considering the same the Board constituted an ad hoc committee. 

The counsel appearing on behalf of the Bihar State Board of Religious Trust submitted that the Board had constituted the ad hoc committee in accordance with law after considering all the aspects including the application of the petitioner. He also submitted that the petitioner is also a part and parcel of the committee. Apart from that, if the petitioner has any grievance against the committee then he may approach under Section 32(3) of the Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act, 1950 before the District Judge.

e-Initiatives of Patna High Court: Supreme Court's archives

e-Initiatives of the High Court

Video Conference Hearings

  • Hearing of cases by way of Studio Based Video Conference was started on March 19, 2020, making Patna High Court the first High Court to do so.
  • On April 11, 2020, a Special Help Line Service was started on for technical assistance to lawyers in joining court proceedings through Video Conference.
  • From May 12, 2020 onwards, all the Courts of Patna High Court started virtual hearing of cases making Patna High Court the first High Court of India to do so.
  • Since March 24, 2020 till 18.04.2022, 1,66,278 cases were instituted, 2,48,482 cases have been heard and 1,21,513 cases have been disposed of in High Court. The data has also been reflected on the official website of Patna High Court. Similarly, District Courts of Bihar have heard 9,29,293 Remand Cases and 8,27,117 Regular Cases during the pandemic period mostly through Virtual mode.
  • “Microsoft Teams” Video Conferencing Software has been provided to all the Judicial Officers of the Bihar for e-hearing of proceedings through Video Conferencing in view of Covid-19 Pandemic situation.
  • “Microsoft Teams” and “Cisco Web-ex” Software have been provided to all the Judges of this High Court for e-hearing of proceedings through Video Conferencing in view of Covid-19 Pandemic situation.
  • On October 8, 2020 “Studio Based e-Courts” were made functional in Patna High Court. The facility extended to District Courts as well, with two “Studio Based e-Courts” in each District and one in each Sub-Division of the State of Bihar to facilitate the Virtual Court proceedings and narrow down the Digital Divide.


  • E-Filing of cases started for the first time in Patna High Court on May 29, 2020. E-filing of 1,69,108 cases have been done on fling portal of Patna High Court including Test and Live Server. The total number of Ld. advocates registered on filing portal is 3510.
  • Temporary AOR numbers were provided to facilitate e-filing of cases by non-AOR’s whereby, 1,458 Advocates registered themselves.


  • About 22,000 files containing more than 17 Lakh pages of pending cases have been digitized to facilitate Virtual Court hearings during the Pandemic period. Also 1,66,278 Cases have been efiled upto 18-04-2022 which are available in digitized form. The digitised files of pending cases are uploaded on the special portal available on the website and each Court and Court Master attached with the Court has been provided credentials to access such documents online. The Technical Assistants attached with the Court Masters have been trained to prepare a master e-Document to facilitate the functioning of the eCourts.

E-Lok Adalat

  • On 12th December 2020 – E-Lok Adalat organized in the District Courts of Bihar in which 40655 Pre-Litigation Cases and 4605 pending cases disposed.
  • On 10th July 2021 – 31,091 Pre-Litigation Cases and 8,593 pending cases of District Courts disposed in e-National Lok Adalat.


  • Live streaming of the Court Proceedings has started on10/12/2021 without spending a single penny utilising the Hardware and expertise of Technical Team under the guidance of Hon’ble the Chief Justice. The Court Proceedings of 4 Courts, including three Division Benches have been live streamed on daily basis on YouTube channel of Patna High Court.

Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS)

  • In June, 2020, ICJS (Integrated Criminal Justice System) has been implemented in all Districts and we have consumed FIRs and Charge Sheet data in CIS application of all 894 Police Stations. All 59 prisons and 3 FSLs are also integrated with ICJS.

Juvenile Justice Webinar

  • On 11th July, 2020, a National level e-Webinar has been organised by the Juvenile Justice Secretariat, Patna High Court which covered important topics related with subject.
  • Several Online sensitisation programme have been organised thereafter by the Juvenile Justice Secretariat, Patna High Court for the stakeholders of POCSO and Children Court.

National Judicial Data Grid

  • 11,86,118 Judgements and Orders of Court uploaded on the National Judicial Data Grid site (NJDG) and the same are also available on
  • Delay reason in pending cases (more than 2 year) has been completed about 94% on the NJDG site and a mechanism for monitoring on regular basis has also been initiated by involving the Nodal Officers in each District.
  • On 01-12-2021, on the basis of initiative taken by Chief Justice, a Live online demonstration of NJDG has been done by Ashish J Shiradhonkar, HOD(eCourts), NIC Pune, where all Judges of this Court and more than 1360 members of District Judiciary participated. This has spread the working knowledge regarding the functionality of NJDG.


  • On June 2, 2021, ePayment facility for online Courts Fee payment has been enabled for High Court and the District Courts with successful integration with OGRAS. 3772 e-transactions have already taken place amounting to Rupees 5,97,931/- as on 18.04.2022.


  • On August, 2020, the facility of NSTEP has been enabled in District Courts to enable real time tracking of service of notices and summons by Courts. 340 Smart phones for Process Servers/Bailiffs have been procured and total 77,138 NSTEP Summons have been Consumed and 41,007 have been delivered in various Judgeships of Bihar.


  • Websites of Juvenile Justice Secretariat (JJS), Bihar Judicial Academy (BJA), High Court Legal Services Committee, Patna (HCLSC) and Bihar State Legal Services Authority (BSLSA) have been developed and hosted on their respective Urls. The special tabs are also available on the website to access the same.
  • Website of Patna High Court made transparent and user friendly by providing special links accessible to all, for –
      • Judicial orders passed during pandemic
      • Status of Criminal Stamp Reporting and Civil Stamp Reporting.
      • Status regarding Covid 19 testing in High Court.
      • Status of Mentioning Slips filed.
      • Status of total e-filing, hearing and disposal.

Other e-Initiatives

  • Online Token Generation for filing of cases was started on November 27, 2019.
  • On August 1, 2020- SECLAN 2.0 was made operational, which provides 2.04 GBPS internet speed to the users in the Patna High Court premises along with Wi-Fi facility.
  • Facility of Online e-Pass Generation has also been initiated for the entry of the Ld. Advocates, Litigants and Staff in order to follow the Covid-19 Guidelines. The same has been synchronised with the Cause List Data so that necessary stakeholders can generate the e-Passes.
  • Web Based VC: MPLS connectivity with Broadband facility has been provided by BSNL as primary connection and by Airtel as secondary connection. MPLS connectivity with speed of 8 MBPS to 34 MBPS has been provided to the each court of the Districts and Taluka to improve the Digital infrastructure.
  • During the pandemic period the Administrative meetings of various Committees of High Court Patna has been conducted through online mode. The Registrars have also been provided with Cisco Webex Licenses. The Full Court references have also been conducted Online through Virtual mode.
  • In October’21 Biometric Attendance System has been initiated and Officers & Staff Management Information System has been inaugurated for effective administration.

e-Sewa Kendra

  • In March, 2021- e-Sewa Kendras have been established at Patna High Court, Patna Civil Court, Bettiah (West Champaran) and Bedauli, Lakhnaur Panchayat (Masaurhi). Further, e-Sewa Kendra has also been made functional at Vaishali, Siwan and Nalanda Districts. A Virtual Display Wall has also been installed in the eSewa Kendra for the digital Display of Case Status in all the Court Rooms of the Hon’ble High Court Patna.


  • The following Rules related with the eCourts Project and allied activities have been formulated and notified to strengthen IT infrastructure including IT Manpower in the State of Bihar:
  • “Rules for Electronic Filing (e-filing), 2021”.
  • “Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts, 2020”.
  • “Patna High Court I.T. Technical Cadre Rules, 2021”.
  • “Patna High Court Officers and Staff (Recruitment, Appointment, Promotion and Other Conditions of Service and Conduct) Rules 2021”.

Artificial Intelligence & Software

  • On October 7, 2021, Artificial Intelligence Committee was constituted in Patna High Court and the Translation Department started working through SUVAS software on regular basis.
  • On November 1, 2021, Officers and Staff Management Information system (OSMIS) has been developed and inaugurated under the guidance of the Chief Justice for effective and efficient e-Administration of High Court. This software contains details of all the Staff and Officers of the Patna High Court including their age, gender, educational qualification and posting history.
  • OnDecember 1, 2021“District Information, Report & Communication Tracker” (Direct), has been inaugurated by the Chief Justice, which will prove another mile stone in achieving the goal of paperless, transparent and efficient administration of Justice. This software solves the problem of physical data management and has been developed to facilitate tracking of the relevant information by the Judicial Officers. It is very helpful as all the relevant data/report related with the Monitoring Cell of Judgeships as well as that of individual Judicial Officers will be available in electronic form. The Judicial Officers can also raise issues related with High Court Administration and track the progress on line.
  • Apart from the aforementioned, 55 other Softwares have been developed in-house, for various Judicial and administrative need in the march towards paperless Court. The brief details and functionality of these Softwares are as follows:
  1. File Movement & Tracking System (e-Karyalay):- This software aims to achieve the target of Paperless Courts. In this software each and every file along with the notes and orders are moving digitally. The highlights are as under:-

All the “Noting” will move digitally.

  • Each and every Administrative file is computer traceable.
  • Keeps track of time elapsed by every individual in performing the work.
  • Contains a digital seal of each and every user, thus making the signature legible and identifying the Person who has prepared/made notes/minutes.
  • Obviated the need of digitization of administrative files wherever same has been implemented.
  • Contains dashboard for Registry Officers which shows which employee has done how much work on dailybasis.
  • Helps enormously in efficient use of resource & manpower management.
  1. Judicial File Tracking System: – Many times, it happens that the dealing assistant is full day busy in search of a particular file and is very tough to locate. This software can keep track of every movement of Judicial Files. It also maintains the history of when and where the file has actually moved. Hence, any Judicial File can be located on a single button click, thus, saving time and manpower.
  1. e-Dakiya: – This is an android based application meant for Process Serving. This application is directly connected with GPS. Major features are as following:-
  • Process server can take the digital (computerized) signature on the hand held device / mobile.
  • Can take Photograph of the person being served.
  • GPS position i.e. Latitude & Longitude are automatically captured in the back end.
  • Data could be saved easily on the server.
  • Concerned authority can know as to when and where the Process Server has actually delivered/visited for Process Serving.
  1. e-Meeting: – All the meetings of various committees of Patna High Court can be traced from anywhere inside the premises. Provision for digital storage of all the Agenda and its compliance as well printing of Minutes has also been made to keep a digital copy of the all the meetings held in High Court. The features of the software are as following:-
  • Centralized booking of meeting, hence, minimizing the possibility of multiple meetings being fixed for same member, time and location.
  • Paperless meetings can be held where the respective Sections can upload Agenda, additional Agenda if any and Minutes for any specific meetings.
  • Progress of steps being taken by registry in respect of specific minutes can be monitored.
  • Search for Agenda or Minutes possible by single click.
  1. Patna High Court Employee Management System:- This is a web based application, which contains the details of all the employees of Patna High Court viz. Their:-
  • Personal Details
  • Professional background
  • Family details
  • Leave details
  • Annual Career Progression
  • Increment details
  • Pay slips
  • Annual confidential reports
  • Permanent confidential reports
  • Allegations & proceedings if any
  • Promotion Details
  • Transfer & Postings
  • Chronological memo issued
  • Terminal benefits etc.
  1. e-HR: – This application is hosted on LAN network of Patna High Court, which provides many facilities as mentioned below:-
  • All the employees can mark their attendance online.
  • Keeps track of time elapsed by an employee in Patna High Court premises.
  • Can mark their auto generated application for leave request online.
  • Auto forwarding / rejection of leave applications at different hierarchy levels.
  • Auto generation of Daily, Weekly and Monthly working hours report of each and every employee.
  • Dashboard for Registry Officers by which sitting in their Chambers, they can see which employee is present in which department and the time of marking attendance and can analyse the working hours of them which may assist them to a great level in maintaining discipline at work of employees with regard to timely presence in office and working hours.
  • Eliminated the use of manual attendance registers and leave applications. Hence, an effort towards paperless Courts.
  1. Comprehensive Budget Management & Information System: – This software is one stop solution of all the budget related information of Patna High Court. This software has various features like:-
  • Auto generated centralized bill number generation.
  • High Court expenses Passbook which contains all the details of expenses, head details, money credited for High Court budget, etc. in Patna High Court just as in banks.
  • Auto pay bill generation for pay expenses. Travelling allowance details claimed by various officials.
  • Conveyance allowance details.
  • GPF details.
  • LTC details.
  • Leave Salary.
  • Office expenses.
  • Liveries expenses.
  • Gratuity
  • GIS
  • Electric charges expenses.
  • Sumptuary expenses etc.
  1. Comprehensive Section Management & Information System: – This software provides inter-departmental communication system with various other features to cater the needs of various departments of Patna High Court:-
  • Inter department mailing facility
  • Centralized Index Register
  • Roaster details of all the employees
  • Duty Chart of employees
  • Ongoing works/projects, etc.
  1. Vigilance Automation System:- We were facing many problems as to many complains/allegations are received of same type against same officer out of which some are exactly the same and due to this our manpower had to take extra and multiple efforts for the same complaint/allegation. We made a software which keeps track of all the pending and disposed allegations against a particular officer and reflects whether any similar allegation has been filed against the said officer or not and if yes then its current status. Hence, saving time and efforts of manpower. It also helps in instant generation of vigilance report against a particular officer as and when required.
  1. Online Grievance Redressal System: – This software logs the grievances and the same is directly reflected on the dash board of respective department / officer who in-turn takes necessary step towards redressal of the grievance and replies back within the stipulated time.
  1. District Court Infrastructure Management System:- This is a software which keeps track of all the relevant details of District Court Infrastructure:-
  • Condition of Court buildings
  • Condition of Court Rooms
  • Condition of Toilets
  • Condition of Drinking Water Facility
  • Condition of Litigant Shed
  • Franking Machine
  • Server Room
  • Information Centre
  • Filing Centre.
  • Ramp for Handicapped
  • Lifts/Canteen, etc.
  • Availability of Land
  • Availability of Canteen
  • Condition of Quarters, etc.
  1. Automated Quarter allocation system: – This software contains the details of each and every quarter under High Court Pool viz. its occupancy details. This also reflects unoccupied quarters as well as the quarters which are going to get vacated in near future. Also, contains complete waitlist for the candidates and the wait listed applicants may tentatively know the prospective quarter which may be assigned to them.
  1. Protocol Automation: – Protocol department deals with the travelling of all the Judges and Registry members. This software helps maintain the log and all particular travelling details. This software contains the features of auto generation of letters to be communicated to various authorities with respect to travelling of Judges and Registry members. Also, capable of tracking complete history of travel itinerary incurred in the same.
  1. E-Statistics: – This is a web based software having facilities of auto generation of graphical statistics of High Court. Various kinds of report generation viz. filing, pendency, disposal, old cases, etc. on various parameters viz. Nature wise, Subject wise, Time Period wise, Judge wise, etc.
  1. Online display board: – This software helps people know especially sitting in the outside world to know which case is currently being taken up in which Court.
  1. Android Application for Online Display Board:- Using this software, the Court’s Progress, Cause list and case status can be viewed on mobile phone itself.
  1. Online Cause Title:- Facility for filing Online Cause Title has been provided to Lawyers and the said data being fed by the A.G. (Advocate General) Office is also being fetched in the system directly hence reducing work pressure of data entry operators involved.
  1. Advocate & their Clerks MIS: – This software contains all the particulars of the Advocates including their mobile number and e-mail address via which various communications are made and the registered clerks associated to them. Also, with the help of this software, Identity cards are issued to the registered advocate clerks and it automatically flashes the list of advocates without clerks and the details of the clerks whose registration has expired or is going to expire in near future.
  1. Patna High Court Online Recruitment Management System: – This is a comprehensive recruitment management system whereby the recruitment process is completely automated. Each and every stage of recruitment is fully computerized:-
  • Publication of Advertisement.
  • Online filling up of forms.
  • Online Payment of application fees.
  • Online Scrutiny of applications.
  • Auto generation of selected and rejected list after scrutiny.
  • SMS & E-mail of every step to respective candidate.
  • Auto generation of Admit Card.
  • Auto & Random generation of Roll Numbers.
  • Auto allocation of Examination Centers.
  • Auto generation of attendance sheets.
  • Final Publication of Result.
  1. Online Typing Test: – This is a web based application and by using this, we have successfully conducted many examinations. This application not only logs the data typed by the candidate, but also gets locked itself at the end of time line provided and generates instant result on the screen of the candidate so that he/she gets to know his performance as soon as he ends the examination bringing complete transparency in the recruitment system. Also, we are using this software to give training to our already recruited stenographers and data entry operators.
  1. Online Objective Test: – This is web based software. We have successfully conducted examinations through this software. Examination containing objective type questions can be conducted. The questions get randomly generated on each Computer Screen. After the end of examination, the software is capable of auto generation of Results, Merit List, etc.
  1. KOHA (Provided by E-Committee, New Delhi): – This software as recommended by E-Committee, New Delhi is in use in Patna High Court for the Integrated Library Management System. All the cataloguing of books is being currently done in the software. Soon we are going to implement the same full-fledged i.e. for all kinds of library related activity like requisition of book, issue of book, etc.
  1. E-Court Monitoring System for E-Committee, New Delhi: – E-Committee Supreme Court of India requires quarterly data of the progress of E-Court Project in the state of Bihar. For that they have provided a format which consist of 55 Columns in the excel Sheet. That Excel Sheet is communicated to each and every district and every district send their report and at High Court the excel sheet is again consolidated and sent to E-Committee, Supreme Court of India. To save time and manpower and having records, we developed a software via which the district courts can feed the data online which will be consolidated automatically and can be downloaded in the specified format. We can also share the view only right with E-Committee for viewing the same online.
  1. SMS Log System:- This is the module via which we can keep track of the number of SMSs sent from different District Courts of Bihar which will help us in payment of the said SMSs.
  1. Quarterly Transmission to Supreme Court: – This is a software which keeps track of all the relevant details of District Court Infrastructure:-
  • Details of Owned Court Halls
  • Details of Owned Court Halls on Rent
  • Details of Owned Court Halls under Construction
  • Details of owned Court Complexes
  • Details of Court Complexes on Rent
  • Details of Court Complexes under Construction
  • Details regarding up gradation of Court Complexes
  • Details of Owned Residential Accommodation for Judicial Officers
  • Details of Residential Accommodation on Rent
  • Details of Residential Accommodation under Construction.
  • Details of Funds Allocated for Infrastructure
  • Details Regarding Monitoring of Infrastructure Creation.
  1. Vacancy Monitoring in Subordinate Courts: – This is a software to keep track of all the relevant vacancy details of District Court.
  1. Judicial Officers Database Management System: – This application keeps comprehensive details of all the Judicial Officers of the state Judiciary. Following information are available for all the Judicial Officers:-
  • Judicial Officers of Bihar Judiciary
  • Personal Details
  • Professional background
  • Trainings Undergone
  • Transfer & Posting History
  • Allegations if any
  • Proceedings if any
  • Awards & Recognitions if any
  • Leave details
  • Auto generated list of Judicial Officers due for transfer.
  1. Patna High Court Payroll Management System: – Payroll software facilitates generation of salary slips for Judges, Officers of registry and employees of Patna High Court. It incorporates all the 6th Pay Commission guidelines into Payroll software for employees of Patna High Court. The features of the software are as following :-
  • Auto generated computerized pay slips.
  • Auto calculation of Arrears.
  • Complete details of loans or advance of employees.
  • Auto deduction of taxes.
  • Auto calculation of income tax etc.
  1. Centralized Letter Receiving System: – This is a single window portal for all the communications for instance, letter, case diary, etc. to Patna High Court by any means, viz. Post, Fax, E-mail, Special Messenger, etc. Each any every communication to and from the Court is traceable electronically. This has helped enormously in reducing the delay especially in Judicial departments as any judicial communication like lower court record, case diary, etc. is immediately flashed on the dashboard of dealing assistant and is reflected on the websites as well for information to lawyers and litigants as and when it is received in the High Court.
  1. On Window Automated Certified Copying System: – This software instantly delivers the certified copies of all the judgements and orders since computerization, on window on a nominal payment on per page basis. This software automatically calculates the amount to be paid for each judgement or order, hence, eliminating manual calculation. This has got a great response and has enormously saved the time and effort of Courts manpower and litigants.
  1. Computerized Decree Management System:- All the decree prepared in Patna High Court are now computerized and are easily available on LAN and can well be integrated on public portal for public viewing.
  1. Automated file allocation system for Stamp Reporting: – This is an application which runs in the back end and allocates the files randomly to stamp reporters, hence bringing the transparency in the Court’s work.
  1. E-mail of Judgement & Order: – All the Judgement & Orders are communicated to lower courts with the help of automated software. As soon as the Order is uploaded, with a single button click it is communicated to lower courts via e-mail with computerized signature of attesting authorities, thus eliminating the delay in communication and saving the time and manpower effort.
  1. Auto generated Computerized Order Sheets: – Initially there was a traditional practice whereby the Order-sheets were printed and then the case particulars were written in hand. We eliminated this manual intervention and now the Order-sheet is directly printed containing all the relevant case particulars with the notes, seal and computerized signature of the dealing assistant.
  1. Auto generated Computerized Case File Stickers:- As per traditional practice, files were printed and on the top of the file case particulars are written in hand. We eliminated this manual intervention by introduction of stickers and a module which prints all the relevant particulars and same gets pasted on the case file top.
  1. Centralized Memo Management System: – With the help of this software, all the memos/letters issued are electronically generated with a unique centralized number to them. Hence, any issued memo or letter can be viewed any time with a single click and the same is displayed on the dashboard of Issue section who delivers the same as per the generated particulars as well as is visible on the dashboard of respective departments.
  1. Fax Section Information Management System :- The special features of this module are
  • Capturing of fee receipt details
  • Capturing of additional fee receipt details (if any)
  • Generation of list for additional fax fee holders
  • Ready List of cases ( to be sent through fax)
  • Defective List of cases (fee + disposal date /order date mismatch etc.)
  • Printing of Judgements / Orders ( to be sent through fax)
  • Acknowledgement of ready cases sent through fax
  • Generation of List of Judgements / Orders already sent through fax
  • Defective List of cases (Non pronounced judgements / orders etc.)
  • Update facility for fee receipt information
  • Query Facility
  • Message to Concerned Secretaries / PA’s for pronounce of Judgements/ Orders which are yet to be pronounced.
  1. Online Requisition of Stationary Items: – This is software hosted on LAN of Patna High Court. It facilitates all the Hon’ble Judges, Officers of Registry and Staffs of Patna High Court to make requisition for stationary items online and the same is reflected on the dashboard of Purchase Cell which in turn against the requisition made provides the Stationary to all the concerned.
  1. Automated Visitor Pass System: – All the litigants who come to court for hearing of their cases now get photograph included visitor pass for entering into the court.
  1. E-mail of respective Cause list to AOR’s:- This software is used to send daily cause list to respective A.O.R.’s of this Court only for there respective case listed.
  1. E-mail of Reminders to District Courts:- This software automatically generates reminders and express reminders in the prescribed format and sends through e-mail to respective District Courts for non-receipt of various documents. Recently, e-mail ids of ADC, DM and SP has also been incorporated in the said software.
  1. Computer and Peripheral Inventory Management Software for High Court & District Courts:- This software can keep track of all the computer hardware and peripheral purchased in Patna High Court or supplied to the district courts with details such as date of issue, to whom issued, serial number, date of return if any, availability of stock, etc.
  1. Judgement Writing and Information System:- This software mainly aims to enable PA’s / Stenographers to write the Judgements and orders dictated to them by Judges to type the judgements and orders so dictated in the prescribed format as specified by the Court, mail it to respective district court and upload the same on the website of Patna High Court.
  1. Case Indexing and File Movement: – This software enables the departments to index the Judicial Files and keeps track of the files which are being sent to the Digitization department from Record rooms so that the files can’t get misplaced and a proper record can be maintained.
  1. Writ Disposal Automated System: – This software is designed to ease work of the staffs of Writ Disposal Department to eliminate manual redundant work and save their time.
  1. Software to assist Standing Committee: – A unique and one of its kind software which has been developed to assist Standing Committee in evaluation and Transfer Posting of Judicial Officers which has brought a great transparency in the whole procedure and is currently in its phase of implementation.
  1. E-Court Project Monitoring System:- This is a software developed for pin pointed monitoring of E-Courts project viz. software that contains the details of each and every aspect of E-Courts implementation, issues arising and its resolution thereof with graphical analysis of the overall progress.
  1. Issue tracker: – A comprehensive software to keep track of the ongoing projects, current developments and future steps to be taken with accountability.
  1. Library Information System: – This is software developed which makes ready available data of the books, journals, etc. in the district courts. Challenges and Bottlenecks:- Although Patna High Court has marched ahead a long way in terms of computerization but still, it is necessary to keep motivating staffs of Patna High Court to continue with the pace and usage of computerization and motivating the older generation for the usage of computerization.
  1. POCSO Module:- This software has been developed to facilitate Juvenile Justice Boards across the State to submit online data related to pendency, disposal, etc. for submitting before Patna High Court.
  1. Interactive Digitized Register:-This software was developed to facilitate maintenance of digital Register in the district courts for data regarding details of accused against whom warrants have been issued or who are absconding.
  1. Online Questionnaire module: – Many times, it happens that we need to seek different types of data from Judicial Officers of the State. This software enables online data fetching from judicial officers to reflect onto the dashboard of respective department.
  1. Criminal Appeal Module: –Earlier various types of forms were sent manually to the district Courts relating to release from jail, etc. This software enables auto generation of various forms related to criminal appeal department for needful.
  1. Online JWIMS: –With the outbreak of global pandemic, it was getting difficult for PA’s / Secretaries to come to the Court premises and upload Judgements and Orders. Therefore, we developed a system through which PA’s / Secretaries are uploading the Judgements and Orders directly from their home on to the website of Patna High Court.
  1. Patna High Court Official Mobile Application: –With the growing usage of mobile phones and need for mobile app, a dedicated mobile app exclusively for Patna High Court has been developed with limited features for advocates and litigants so that they are not be required to go over again and again on the website for information but can get it from a resident app in their own mobile phones.

Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software (SUVAS)

Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software (SUVAS) SUVAS has been developed at the initiative of the Supreme Court of India in collaboration and with technical support from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India aided by experts from IIT and IIIT. It is a machine assisted translation tool trained by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This Tool is especially designed for Judicial Domain and at present, has the capacity and capability of translating English Judicial documents, Orders or Judgments into nine vernacular languages scripts and vice versa. This is the first step towards introduction of Artificial Intelligence in Judicial Domain. SUVAS was presented to the President of India, on the occasion of Constitution Day on November 26, 2019 at a programme organised by Supreme Court of India to mark the celebration of the momentous event. 

The work covers translating judgments related to cases arising under the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India in relation to the following subject categories:
1.Labour matters;
2.Rent Act matters;
3.Land Acquisition and Requisition matters;
4.Service matters;
5.Compensation matters;
6.Criminal matters;
7.Family Law matters;
8.Ordinary Civil matters;
9.Personal Law matters;
10.Religious and Charitable Endowments matters;
11.Simple money and Mortgage matters;
12.Eviction under the Public Premises(Eviction) Act matters;
13.Land Laws and Agriculture Tenancies; and
14.Matters relating to Consumer Protection.

The translation is functional from English language into Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu languages. It has been rolled out in the relevant High Courts.
(b)    The Official Multilingual Mobile App of Supreme Court of India, provides updates about the legal proceedings in six languages i.e. English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.
(c)     At present the Official Mobile App of Supreme Court is not separately equipped with accessibility of information to visually impaired.
(d)     Through computerization of 16,845 District and Subordinate Courts and ICT use under the eCourts Project Phase-II, several services have been provided to litigants, lawyers and Judiciary which facilitate expeditious delivery of judicial services. eCourts services such as details of case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders and final judgments are available to litigants and advocates through eCourts web portal, Judicial Service Centers (JSC) in all computerized courts, eCourts Mobile App, email service, SMS push and pull services. Integration of eCourts Services through Common Service Centers (CSCs) has been successfully completed. eCourt CNR Service has been enabled through Digital Seva Portal in all CSC locations across the country. National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) for District and Subordinate Courts, created as an online platform under the Project, provides information relating to judicial proceedings/decisions of computerized district and subordinate courts of the country. Currently, all stakeholders including Judicial Officers can access case status information in respect of over 12.97 crore pending and disposed cases and more than 11.15 crore orders / judgments pertaining to these computerized courts. Video Conferencing facility has been enabled between 3240 court complexes and 1272 corresponding jails.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Judgement of Additional Sessions Judge, Araria set aside, the appellants accused of the offence of attempt to rape, acquitted

In Laxhmi Yadav Vs. State of Bihar (2024), the appeal was preferred by the appellants on being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment of conviction passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Araria, whereby and whereunder the appellants/ convicts were convicted under Sections 376/511 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  

Section 376 of IPC elaborates the punishment for rape . The word "rape" is defined under Section 375 of IPC. The punishment for committing rape is rigorous imprisonment for ten years which may extend to life imprisonment. Section 376 elaborates three sub-sections and five sub-parts. Section 376 (1) mentions the punishment for rape. Section 376 (2) states that if the persons in authority commit rape, they will also be liable to the same punishment. Section 376 (3) states that if any person rapes a woman under the age of 16 years , he will be liable to be punished for twenty years. The offence under Section 376 is a non-bailable and cognisable offence, which means that the accused can't avail bail as a matter of right. The bail to the accused would be granted at the court's discretion. 

Section 511 of the IPC deals with the punishment for attempting to commit offences that are not specifically covered under other sections. Section 511 reads: “Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.”

This section underscores the principle that an attempt to commit a crime is, in itself, a punishable act. It highlights the importance of intent and action towards the commission of a crime, even if the crime is not completed. By penalizing attempts, Section 511 aims to curb criminal activities at their inception, thereby enhancing the overall safety and security of society.

The counsel for the appellants, Vipul Sinha, the Amicus Curiae submitted that admittedly, all the material prosecution witnesses are closely related to the informant and are highly interested. During the course of investigation, not a single independent witness has come forward to claim himself/herself to be the eye witness to the occurrence of attempt to rape on September 15, 2000 at 6 A.M. but a complaint was filed on the next day. This created doubt over the authenticy of the prosecution version. The parties were on litigating terms from before as the proceedings under Sections 107 and 144 Cr.P.C were also initiated against them from before. Hence, to settle the personal vendetta with the accused appellants, this false case was registered against them. He pointed out that the recovered clothes were not sent for any chemical examination neither from bare perusal of the records, it appears that the victim/complainant was medically examined. 

The Court's order noted that "all the prosecution witnesses are highly interested witnesses. The offence relates to attempt of rape which comes within the purview of cognizable offence and for the cognizable offence, it is prerequisites that F.I.R should be registered. But in the instant case, instead of registering an F.I.R, a complaint was filed by taking a plea that Officer-in-charge had not the registered the F.I.R. Section 154(3) of the Cr.P.C facilitates that any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information under cognizable offence, he/she may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence. Hence, this Court finds lacuna for not lodging the F.I.R in this case."

The Court's judgement records that according to the evidence of the victim, the appellants Laxmi Yadav and Bidhyanand Yadav caught hold her and torn her blouse but the said blouse has not been exhibited as material exhibit. From perusal of the prosecution evidence, it is also apparent that the victim sustained injuries on her person at the time of occurrence but there is no medical evidence on record to support and corroborate the prosecution case in respect of the fact that the victim has sustained injuries on her person.

The judgement concluded that there was an inordinate delay of one day in registering a case without explaining the delay. The prosecution has failed to establish its case beyond the shadow of all reasonable doubts with respect to the manner and motive of the occurrence. There is contradiction in the evidences of the prosecution witnesses and most of the witnesses are highly interested witnesses. Hence, the appellants are entitled to get the benefits of doubt.

In his judgment dated June 19, 2024, Justice Sunil Kumar Panwar set aside the judgement of conviction dated August 24, 2006 and order of sentence dated August 25, 2006 passed by the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Araria, in Sessions Trial No. 643/2001 and 92/2001 and acquitted all the appellants of all the charges after getting the benefits of doubt.

Patna High Court endorses judgement of Special Land Acquisition Judge on enhanced compensation of the acquired land

In the State of Bihar Vs. Parmanand Rai (2024), Justice Nawneet Kumar Pandey's judgement endorsed the judgement and order of Special Land Acquisition Judge-II on enhanced compensation of the acquired land on June 20, 2024. The appeal was filed and registered on March 9, 1989. The appellant, the State of Bihar, preferred the appeal (First Appeal No.102 of 1989) being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment and order dated 31.08.1988, passed by the Special Land Acquisition Judge-III, Patna in L.A.Case No. 7 of 1985, whereby the court below enhanced the compensation of the land acquired, after the case was referred by the Collector under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Sheela Sharma was the counsel for the respondent. There were four respondents. The case was listed over 30 times since February 2011 till February 2024 before different judges.  

In its order the Court recorded that State of Bihar withdrew the appeal as the valuation of the first appeal is less than Rs.3,00,000. The permission of withdrawal was accorded by the High Court. vide order dated February 13, 2015 and the appeal was dismissed as withdrawn, but as the respondents had already filed cross-objection and it was admitted, the cross-objection was registered for hearing at the prayer of both the parties.

Notably, Supreme Court has held in Hari Shankar Rastogi Vs. Sham Manohar (2005) that cross objection is in the nature of an Appeal", the cross-objection survives even when the Appeal is withdrawn. The cross objections have all the trappings of a regular appeal. 

Cross-objection is nothing but an appeal, a cross-appeal at that. It may be that the respondent wanted to give quietus to whole litigation by his accepting the judgment and decree or order even if it was partly against his interest. When, however, the other party challenged the same by filing an appeal statute gave the respondent a second chance to file an appeal by way of cross-objection if he/she is still feel aggrieved by the judgment and decree or order.

The fact of the case is that the raiyati land of a number of raiyats of village Garhochak and Samaspur, P.S. Fatwah, District Patna, were acquired vide notification dated August 16, 1980 under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act. A notification of declaration as per Section 6 of the Act was issued on July 16, 1982 on determining the compensation of the land at the rate of Rs. 26,666/- per acre for Grade-1 land and Rs. 15,484/- for Grade-2 land. The awardees were not satisfied with the awarded amount of compensation and they made objection before the Collector. The Collector referred the matter for adjudication of adequate compensation to the court below under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act. The claim of the awardees was that the immediate market value of the land, at the time of acquisition, was Rs. 20,000/- per katha as the acquired land was suitable for residential as well as commercial purpose due to its location at Patna-Ranchi Road. The Land Acquisition Officer in his report had opined that the lands of Garhochak and Samaspur are similar in nature in respect of the site and situation and, as such, determined the compensation of land, under acquisition, of Garhochak and Samaspur at the rate of Rs.26,666/- per acre for Grade-1 land and Rs. 15,484/- for Grad-2 land. The land Acquisition Officer had based his assessment on Ext.A, which is the sale statement obtained from the Registry Office on the basis of the sale deed dated March 31, 1980 with respect to plot no. 286, area 3.75 decimals sold for Rs.1000/- as mentioned in Schedule-II of the sale statement. 

The main contention raised on behalf of the cross objectors is that the Collector committed illegality in assessing the quantum of compensation on the basis of sale statement obtained from the Registry Office. As per the submission of the counsel for the cross-objector, the sale statement cannot be relied upon, as per the observation of the Supreme court in the case of The Collector, Raigarh Vs. Dr. Hrisingh Thakur and another, reported in AIR 1979 SC, page 472. It was also submitted that a number of exemplar sale deeds were given in evidence by the awardees to show that the value of the land, at the time of acquisition, was much higher than the awarded amount. It was argued that, although the court below did not agree with the rate of the amount awarded by the Collector and the court below enhanced the compensation on the basis of Ext.1/C, which is also an exemplar sale deed, the court below should have taken into the account Ext.1/D which is also an exemplar sale deed dated May 1, 1981 executed by Ghamandi Paswan in favour of Awadh Prasad in respect of plot no. 20, area 0.6 decimals for Rs. 20,000/-. The counsel submitted further that as per the decision of the Supreme Court reported in the case of Anjani Molu Dessai vs. State of Goa and another (2010 13 SCC 710), the exemplar sale deed of the highest value should be taken into consideration, as such, the compensation should have been determined on the basis of Ext.1/D, as it was for the highest consideration money. 

The counsel for the State of Bihar submitted that the awarded amount was exorbitant and it is liable to be decreased, but this appeal was dismissed as withdrawn on technical ground

The High Court's judgement records: "12 reference cases under Section 18 of the (Land Acquisition) Act were disposed of by the impugned judgment and award."

So far as the submission of the counsel for the cross-objectors that the exemplar sale deed Ext. 1/D should have been taken into account for ascertaining the compensation amount, as the amount mentioned in Ext. 1/D was the highest, but the learned court below found that the land appertaining to Ext. 1/D was situated in better location and due to this reason he declined to take into account the Ext. 1/D for determining the quantum of compensation. The High Court's judgement reads: "In my view also, Ext. 1/D should not be taken into consideration for determination of the compensation as it was subsequent to the notification under Section 4(1) of the Act. The notification under Section 4(1) of the Act was published on 16.08.1980, whereas the sale deed (Ext.1/D) is of 05.01.1981." It noted that the court below determined the compensation of the land on the basis of exemplar sale deed Ext. 1/C filed on behalf of the awardees. The High Court concluded that the court below "has rightly determined the compensation of the acquired land on the basis of exemplar sale deed Ext.1/C given by the awardees in evidence, as the location of the acquired land was similar to the land appertaining to Ext.1/C. I do not see any reason to interfere with the judgment and order of the learned court below dated 31.08.1988, passed by the Special Land Acquisition Judge-III, Patna in L.A.Case No. 7 of 1985. The cross-objection is accordingly dismissed."

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Treasury Officer, Madhepura directed to pay final pension, final gratuity to Panchayat Sevak: Justice Nani Tagia, Patna High Court

Justice Nani Tagia of Patna High Court has directed Treasury Officer, Madhepura to pay Jagdish Prasad Yadav (70), the petitioner from Muraliganj, Madhepura his final pension as well as final gratuity as fixed by the Accountant General, Bihar. The judgement was delivered on June 19, 2024. The case was filed on October 3, 2023 and registered on October 18, 2023. Mallika Mazumdar, the counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner was aggrieved because of non-payment of retiral dues after having retired from the post of Panchayat Sevak on June 30, 2013. The petitioner has been moving from pillar to post for payment of pensionary benefits for nearly for a decade.

Prior to this, the respondents namely, District Panchayati Raj Officer, Madhepura, Sub Divisional Officer, Madhepura, Treasury Officer, Madhepura and Block Development Officer, Kumarkhand filed a supplementary counter affidavit stating that as per Bihar Treasury Rules, the petitioner has to appear in person before the Treasury Officer, Madhepura with his copy of PPO/GPO and only thereafter the pension and the balance gratuity will be paid to the petitioner” The supplementary counter affidavit revealed that the Accountant General, Bihar has fixed the final pension and gratuity amount of the petitioner.

Earlier, Justice Purnendu Singh had passed an order on November 6, 2023. He directed the District Magistrate, Madhepura "to call for the service particulars relating to the petitioner from the concerned Block Kumarkhand, Madhepura and ensure that the retiral dues is paid without fail. In case of failure, this Court will be forced to impose cost as well as the concerned respondents will be held liable to pay the compensation to the petitioner for having caused delay in making payment of pensionary benefits to which the petitioner is entitled for in accordance with law. The above exercise for payment of retiral benefits along with interest on account of delay in making payment for nearly a decade must be carried on within a period of eight weeks from the date of communication of this order."

Subsequently, on January 9, 2024, Justice Harish Kumar had passed an order which recorded that "substantive amount under the head of GPF, Earned Leave and GIS has been paid to the petitioner but till date the petitioner has not been accorded the pension and final gratuity." The order stated: "Let a counter affidavit be filed on behalf of the Accountant General, Bihar showing issuance of final authority letter for payment of final gratuity and pension." From February 17, 2024, the case was heard by Justice Tagia. The High Court missed the opportunity of taking the respondents, the erring officials to task for harassing the petitioner, a senior citizen.

Justice delayed is Justice denied, Orders of Divisional Commissioner Koshi Division, Saharsa, District Magistrate, Supaul quashed, set aside by Justice Bibek Chaudhuri, Patna High Court

Justice Bibek Chaudhuri of Patna High Court set aside the orders of Divisional Commissioner Koshi Division, Saharsa and District Magistrate, Supaul in Manju Devi W/o Late Prabhakar Kumar Singh Vs. State of Bihar on June 19, 2024. In this case of the original writ petitioner (since deceased), when he was posted in the office of S.D.O. at Nirmali Police Station, he was apprehended by the S.H.O. of the Police Station on February 5, 2018 based on the allegation that he contravened Section 37 (a) and 37 (c) of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. After his arrest he was in Judicial custody for few days. As per the relevant provision of the Service Code, the original petitioner was suspended from service as he was in incarceration for more than 48 hours. Subsequently, he was released on bail and on his prayer the order of suspension was revoked and he was directed to join his service. However, on the same ground that he consumed alcohol in contravention of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 Act, a departmental proceeding was initiated. Simultaneously, a criminal case was also initiated. In the meantime, the District Magistrate, Supaul passed an order in conclusion of the disciplinary proceeding on January 11, 2020.  

The original petitioner had The petitioner had invoked the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. He had challenged the order of the disciplinary authority, whereby the disciplinary authority had dismissed him from his service on the ground that he took a specific defence that at the relevant point of time he was suffering from cold and cough and he took cough syrup containing certain percentage of alcohol and on suspicion he was arrested. It is also stated that no scientific examination was done by the Medical Officer or any other authority to conclusively ascertain as to whether he consumed alcohol or not on February 5, 2018. His blood and urine samples were not taken for examination of percentage of alcohol in his blood or urine. Therefore, on the basis of breathe analyzer report a person cannot suffer major penalty like dismissal from service.

The Court recorded that breathe analyzer report is not a conclusive proof of consuming liquor by a person. It relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Bachubhai Hassanalli Karyani Vs. State of Maharashtra, reported in 1971 (3) SCC 930, which held that no conclusion with regard to consumption of alcohol by a person can be made on the facts that the appellant’s breathe was smelling of alcohol, that his gait was unsteady, that his speech was incoherent and that his pupils were dilated. Consumption of alcohol can only be ascertained by way of blood and urine test by a person suspected to have consumed alcohol.

The Supreme Court had found that the blood and urine examination of the appellant was not done and finally held that mere smelling of alcohol is not enough to hold that the petitioner consumed alcohol on the date of his apprehension.

The High Court noted that in the present case there was also no allegation that at the time of arrest the gait of the original petitioner was unsteady, he was speaking incoherently or that his pupils were dilated. 

Justice Chaudhuri concluded: "I have no other alternative but to hold that the disciplinary authority failed to consider the observation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and based his order of punishment of the original petitioner of breathe analyzer report which cannot be said to be a conclusive report of consumption of alcohol." The order reads: "This Court is not in a position to uphold the impugned order dated 11th January, 2020, communicated on 15th January, 2020, passed by the District Magistrate, Supaul against the original petitioner as well as the order passed in appeal by the Commissioner based on the order dated 11th January, 2020. Accordingly, both the orders are quashed and set aside."

By the time this judgement was delivered on June 19, 2024, Saharsa resident, Prabhakar Kumar Singh, the original petitioner was dead. The case was filed on February 8, 2022 and registered on February 15, 2022. The original petitioner died on May 19, 2022.

It was only after his death that the case came up for hearing for the first time before Justice Madhuresh Prasad on December 2, 2022 through virtual mode. The order recorded that counsel for the State did not join the virtual Court proceedings. The order reads: "Matter is adjourned to be listed in the physical Court proceedings on 08.12.2022." It was listed on December 8, 2022 but was carried forward and was listed for hearing on December 15, 2022. It was listed on December 15, 2022 but was carried forward and was listed for hearing December 22, 2022. It was listed on December 22, 2022 but was carried forward and was listed for hearing January 12, 2023 but was listed for hearing on November 29, 2023. On November 29, 2023, Justice Mohit Kumar Shah had directed the Registry "to substitute the legal heirs of the deceased petitioner in place of the deceased petitioner" over 18 months after the death of Prabjakar Kumar Singh. Pramod Mishra, Suraj Kumar and Vijay Kumar Mukul are mentioned as the counsels for the petitioner. 

Notably, Advocate Pramod Mishra filed Vakalatnama for Manju Devi, the petitioner on July 6, 2022. The Court's website states that Advocate Pramod Mishra had also filed reply to counter affidavit for the State of Bihar on December 9, 2023. Advocate Babita Kumari had filed counter affidavit on behalf of Respondents, namely, District Magistrate, Supaul, Deputy Development Commissioner, Supaul, Sub- Divisional Officer, Nirmali, Supaul and Circle Officer, Kishanpur, Supaul on November 22, 2022.    

The hearing was adjourned and listed for hearing on December 13, 2023. His wife Manju Devi pursued the case after the death of the original petitioner. It was listed for hearing on January 3, 2024, January 9, 2024, January 16, 2024, January 23, 2024, January 30, 2024, February 6, 2024, February 13, 2024, February 20, 2024, February 27, 2024, March 5, 2024, March 12, 2024, March 20, 2024, April 5, 2024, April 9, 2024, April 16, 2024, April 23, 2024, April 30, 2024, May 16, 2024 and May 17, 2024. 

It is a classic case of justice being denied to the original petitioner due to delay. 

Patna High Court sets aside order of Appellate Authority under Bihar Goods and Services Tax Act

Patna High Court set aside an order of the Appellate Authority under Bihar Goods and Services Tax Act and restored the appeal before the Appellate Authority on June 19, 2024 in Aastha Traders Vs. State of Bihar (2024). It drew on its own judgement in Purushottam Stores Vs. State of Bihar decided on April  25, 2023. 

The Court looked at the provisions of the sub-sections (8), (9), (10), (11) and (12) of Section 107 of the Bihar Goods and Services Tax Act to observe that "the Appellate Authority has a duty and an obligation under the statute to look into the merits of the matter and also examine the grounds raised by the appellant, even if there is no presence recorded of the appellant before the Appellate Authority and decide the issue on merits. The Appellate Authority by dismissing the appeal for non-prosecution would be abdicating its powers especially looking at the provisions where the Appellate Authority has been empowered to conduct such further enquiry as found necessary to decide the appeal, which decision also shall be on the points raised."

The petitioner had challenged the appellate order which dismissed the appeal for non-prosecution. The appeal was filed in time but the appellate authority merely for the reason of the absence of the petitioner or the authorised representative, had rejected the appeal.

 The Court's direction reads: "The petitioner shall appear before the Appellate Authority on 15.07.2023. The Appellate Authority or its office shall fix a date of hearing on the said date, with due acknowledgment taken from the appellant; if the date of hearing is issued from the office, proceed with the hearing on the date fixed and dispose of the appeal on merits within three months from the date of last hearing. We also direct the petitioner to cooperate in the hearing of the appeal and even if there is absence of the appellant or his authorized representative on the date of hearing, the Appellate Authority shall consider the appeal on merits and pass a speaking order."


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bihar law increasing reservation for SCs, STs & OBCs to 65%, violates Articles 14, 15, 16 of Indian Constitution: Patna High Court

Drawing on  the decision of 9-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217, Patna High Court's bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar set aside the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act, 2023 and the Bihar Reservation (in Admission to Educational Institutions) Amendment Act, 2023 as ultra vires the Constitution and violative of the equality clause under Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution, on June 20, 2024. The 87-page long judgement was authored by Justice Chandran.  

The Court concluded that the enhancement of reservations beyond the 50% limit is bad in law based on the principles of equality emanating from the Constitution, as laid down by the wealth of precedents which are equally binding on the Court and the State. The Court referred to the the 50% rule brought in by the verdict in Indra Sawhney case, which has been accepted by the Union Parliament while introducing clause (4-A) in Article 16, and which has been upheld in K. Krishna Murthy v. Union of India, (2010) 7 SCC 202.

The High Court drew from the decision in Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. State of Maharashtra, (2021) 8 SCC 1 is relied on, which reaffirmed the maximum of 50% in reservations as laid down in Indra Sawhney case; binding under Article 141. The prayer for reference of Indra Sawhney case to a larger bench was rejected clearly finding that the thumping majority of five judges out of nine was in favour of the reservations being limited to 50% while three dissenting judges held that reservation can only be lesser than 50%. Only one of the judges differed from this and found it possible even above 50%. 

It was found that M. Nagaraj v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 212 also did not lay down any ratio that ceiling of 50% reservation can be exceeded by showing contemporary data regarding backwardness. The Commission which approved the reservation in excess of 50%, impugned in the cited decision, was found to have completely misconstrued the ratio of a number of Constitution Bench decisions, while taking the view that ceiling of 50% can be breached merely on the basis of quantifiable data. The decision in M. Nagaraj case was factored in where tests were laid down to judge the validity of affirmative action, which the impugned legislation herein fails to pass. The mere existence of power to implement an affirmative measure cannot justify an over-breadth, especially when there is a breach of the 50% limit.

The has recorded that there was absolutely no thought or deliberation, which went into such excessive reservation being granted and there was not even a reference to the Backward Commission constituted by a statute.  The National Backward Commission was not been consulted, which has a mandate as per Article 338 of the Constitution.

It also noted that the 50% reservation has a history of 120 years, it having been first legitimized by Rajarshi Sahoo Maharaj of Kolhapur who brought in quotas in the appointments to the government; a full 48 years before independent India adopted the Constitution. 

It was pointed out that equality forms a basic structure of the Constitution and to breach the 50% limit in granting reservations would cause interference to the basic structure.

Among other things the senior counsel of the petitioner referred to proofing error in the preamble of the amendment Act wherein "The affirmative measure has been wrongly termed a ‘major’ and for data, the word ‘date’ has been used."

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sedition:Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) incorporated in Section 150 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS)

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 reads: "Sedition.—Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government estab­lished by law in India, shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. Explanation 1.— The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. Explanation 2.— Comments expressing disapprobation of the meas­ures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section. Explanation 3.— Comments expressing disapprobation of the admin­istrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section."

It is noteworthy that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been incorporated in Section 150 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS).

Section 150 of BNS reads: "Acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India-Whoever, purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by electronic communication or by use of financial mean, or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers sovereignty or unity and integrity of India; or indulges in or commits any such act shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.––Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures, or administrative or other action of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means without exciting or attempting to excite the activities referred to in this section."

BNS repeals 22 provisions of the IPC. It modifies 175 existing provisions and incorporates nine new Sections. BNS has 356 provisions.

In S.G. Vombatkere Vs. Union of India, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of India, Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra held that as the challenge to the constitutionality of Section 124-A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 required reviewing the judgement of a Constitution Bench in Kedar Nath Singh Vs State of Bihar (1962), it would not be appropriate for a smaller bench to do the same. The petitions have been referred to a larger Constitution Bench. The order was passed on September 12, 2023. The case is mentioned as a Seven Judges Bench Matter on the Court's website.

The order reads: "There is a challenge in this batch of petitions to the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code 18601 on the ground that it is ultra vires Article 19(1)(a) and Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The constitutional validity of Section 124A IPC was tested on the basis of a challenge that it was ultra vires Article 19(1)(a) in Kedar Nath Singh Vs State of Bihar. The Constitution Bench upheld the provisions of Section 124A. 

The essence of the reasoning of the Court is contained in paragraphs 25 and 26. Paragraph 26 of the judgment is extracted below :-
“26. In view of the conflicting decisions of the Federal Court and of the Privy Council, referred to above, we have to determine whether and how far the provisions of Sections 124-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code have to be struck down as unconstitutional. If we accept the interpretation of the Federal Court as to the gist of criminality in an alleged crime of sedition, namely, incitement to disorder or tendency or likelihood of public disorder or reasonable apprehension thereof, the section may lie within the ambit of permissible legislative restrictions on the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. There can be no doubt that apart from the provisions of clause (2) of Article 19, Sections 124-A and 505 are clearly violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. But then we have to see how far the saving clause, namely, clause (2) of Article 19 protects the sections aforesaid. Now, as already pointed out, in terms of the amended clause (2), quoted above, the expression “in the interest of … public order” are words of great amplitude and are much more comprehensive then the expression “for the maintenance of”, as observed by this Court in the case of Virendra v. State of Punjab. Any law which is enacted in the interest of public order may be saved from the vice of constitutional invalidity. If, on the other hand, we were to hold that even without any tendency to disorder or intention to create disturbance of law and order, by the use of words written or spoken which merely create disaffection or feelings of enmity against the Government, the offence of sedition is complete, then such an interpretation of the sections would make them unconstitutional in view of Article 19(1) (a) read with clause (2). It is well settled that if certain provisions of law construed in one way would make them consistent with the Constitution, and another interpretation would render them unconstitutional, the Court would lean in favour of the former construction. The provisions of the sections read as a whole, along with the explanations, make it reasonably clear that the sections aim at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. As already pointed out, the explanations appended to the main body of the section make it clear that criticism of public measures or comment on Government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. It is only when the words, written or spoken, etc. which have the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in to prevent such activities in the interest of public order. So construed, the section, in our opinion, strikes the correct balance between individual fundamental rights and the interest of public order. It is also well settled that in interpreting an enactment the Court should have regard not merely to the literal meaning of the words used, but also take into consideration the antecedent history of the legislation, its purpose and the mischief it seeks to suppress [vide (1) Bengal Immunity Company Limited v. State of Bihar and (2) R.M.D. Chamarbaugwala v. Union of India]. Viewed in that light, we have no hesitation in so construing the provisions of the sections impugned in these cases as to limit their application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.”

The petitioners have sought a reference of the correctness of the decision in Kedar Nath Singh (supra) to a larger bench principally for the following reasons :
(i) The provisions of Section 124A conflate the State with the Government. Article 19(2) authorises the State to impose reasonable restrictions on the right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The State cannot be equated with the Government. Hence, a ‘disaffection’ towards Government cannot necessarily be read as seditious in character in relation to the State;
(ii) Though the Government has introduced a legislation in Parliament for the purpose of replacing the existing Penal Code which has been referred to a Standing Committee, the enactment of a new law will not obviate the need to adjudicate upon the constitutional validity of Section 124A for the simple reason that any new legislation of a penal character cannot have retrospective effect;
(iii) Section 124A is a pre-constitutional enactment and does not carry the same presumption of constitutionality as a law enacted after the Constitution was adopted;
(iv) The provisions of Section 124A have only been tested on the anvil of Article 19(1)(a). In view of the development of law that has taken place in the six decades since the judgment of the Constitution Bench in Kedar Nath Singh, it would be necessary to re-evaluate the validity of Section 124A on the basis of the doctrines which have evolved in those years particularly having a bearing on the ambit of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution; and
(v) The provisions of Section 124A were made cognizable for the first time by the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. Hence, even during colonial times, the provision was non-cognizable in nature.

The Court's order records that R Venkataramani, Attorney General for India and Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India requested the Court to defer considering whether a reference should be made to a larger bench, since Parliament is in the process of re-enacting the provisions of the Penal Code and the Bill has been placed before a Standing Committee.

The Court's order reads: "We are not inclined to accept the request for deferring the consideration of the constitutional challenge in this batch of matters. The provisions of Section 124A of the IPC continue to remain on the statute book. Even if the new law which is proposed to be placed by the Government before the legislature results in a modification of the existing provision of Section 124A, there is a presumption that a penal statute would have prospective and not retrospective effect. Existing prosecutions under Section 124A will likely be governed by that provision. Consequently, the validity of the prosecutions which have been launched or would be launched so long as Section 124A continues to remain on the statute would have to be assessed under it. The issue of the validity of the provision for the period that it continues to operate would, therefore, need to be determined. The decision of the Constitution Bench in Kedar Nath Singh (supra) which has been referred to above read down the provision of Section 124A. The Court held that the provision of Section 124A read as a whole along with the Explanations, makes it reasonably clear that it aims at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. Viewed in this light, the Court held that the provisions of Section 124A would be consistent with Article 19(1)(a). In the course of its discussion of the validity of the statutory provision, the Constitution Bench also came to the conclusion that:"'The Government established by law' has to be distinguished from the person's for the time being engaged in carrying on the administration. "Government established by law" is the visible symbol of the State. The very existence of the State will be in jeopardy if the Government established by law is subverted.' On this aspect, it has been submitted on behalf of the petitioners that the above observations do not make a distinction between the State which falls within the ambit of Article 19(2) of the Constitution and the Government, which does not."

The order noted: "At the point in time when the Constitution Bench ruled on the validity of the provision, the challenge on the ground that Section 124A violated Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution was tested only on the anvil of that article. This must be read in the backdrop of the constitutional position as laid down by this Court at the relevant time, which was that a challenge to the validity of a statutory provision on the ground that it violated a specific article in Part III, say Article 19(1)(a), would have to be adjudged on the basis of whether the law was sustainable with reference to Article 19(2) of the Constitution. There was no challenge on the ground that Section 124A violated Article 14 nor did the Constitution Bench have occasion to consider the validity of the provision against a constitutional challenge on the basis of Article The position as it has evolved in constitutional jurisprudence is that the fundamental rights do not exist in silos. There is, in other words, a coalescence of several of the rights protected by Part III. Article 14, which presents an overarching principle of reasonableness permeates Articles 19 and 21 as well. 13 The submissions which have been urged on behalf of the petitioners would warrant consideration by a Bench of at least five Judges of this Court. In our view, the appropriate course of action for a three Judge Bench of this Court would be to direct that the papers be placed before the Chief Justice of India so that, if so considered appropriate, the batch of cases can be heard by a Bench of five or more Judges, since the decision in Kedar Nath Singh’s case (supra) was rendered by a Constitution Bench." 

The order of September 12, 2023 concluded saying, "We accordingly direct the Registry to place the papers before the Chief Justice so that an appropriate decision can be taken on the administrative side for the constitution of a larger Bench in the present case."

Prior to that in pursuance of Supreme Court's order, the Government initiated the process of re-examining the provisions of Section 124A of the IPC. R Venkataramani, Attorney General for India informed the Court about it. The Court was hearing nine petitions challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124 A of the IPC relating to the offence of sedition.

Notably, in Common Cause Vs. Union of India (2016) had passed an order on September 5, 2016 saying, "we are of the considered opinion that the authorities while dealing with the offences under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code shall be guided by the principles laid down by the Constitution Bench in Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar [1962 (Suppl.) 3 SCR 769] Except saying so, we do not intend to deal with any other issue as we are of the considered opinion that it is not necessary to do so."

On May 9, 2022, an affidavit was filed in the Court on behalf of Union of India, averring as under: 

“3. I state and submit that so far as Section 124A is concerned, there are divergence of views expressed in public domain by various jurists, academicians, intellectuals and citizens in general. While they agree about the need for statutory provisions to deal with serious offences of divisive nature affecting the very sovereignty and integrity of the Country, acts leading to destabilizing the government established by law by means not authorised by law or prohibited by law. Requiring a penal Provision for such purposes is generally accepted by everyone in legitimate State interest. However, concerns are raised about its application and abuse for the purposes not intended by law.

4. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India has been cognizant of various views expressed on the subject and has also periodically, in various forums, expressed his clear and unequivocal views in favour of protection of civil liberties, respect for human rights and giving meaning to the constitutionally cherished freedoms by the people of the country. He has repeatedly said that one of India’s strengths is the diverse thought streams that beautifully flourish in our country.

5. The Hon’ble PM believes that at a time when our nation is marking ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (75 years since independence) we need to, as a nation, work even harder to shed colonial baggage that has passed its utility, which includes outdated colonial laws and practices. In that spirit, the Government of India has scrapped over 1500 outdated law since 2014-15. It has also ended over 25,000 compliance burdens which were causing unnecessary hurdles to people of our country. Various offences which were causing mindless hindrances to people have been de-criminalised. This is an ongoing process. These were laws and compliances which reeked of a colonial mind set and thus have no place in today’s India.

6. The Government of India, being fully cognizant of various view being expressed on the subject of sedition and also having considered the concern of civil liberties and human rights, while committed to maintain and protect the sovereignty and integrity of this great nation, has decided to re-examine and re-consider the provision of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which can only be done before the Competent Forum.

7. In view of the aforesaid it is this respectfully submitted that this Hon’ble Court may not invest time in examining the validity of Section 124A once again and be pleased to await the exercise of reconsideration to be undertaken by the Government of India before an appropriate forum where such reconsideration is constitutionally.”

In its order Supreme Court observed: "In view of the above, it is clear that the Union of India agrees with the prima facie opinion expressed by this Court that the rigors of Section 124A of IPC is not in tune with the current social milieu, and was intended for a time when this country was under the colonial regime. In light of the same, the Union of India may reconsider the aforesaid provision of law."

It wrote: "This Court is cognizant of security interests and integrity of the State on one hand, and the civil liberties of citizens on the other. There is a requirement to balance both sets of considerations, which is a difficult exercise. The case of the petitioners is that this provision of law dates back to 1898, and pre-dates the Constitution itself, and is being misused. The Attorney General had also, on an earlier date of hearing, given some instances of glaring misuse of this provision, like in the case of recital of the Hanuman Chalisa. Therefore, we expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the Governments."

The Court's direction reads: In view of the clear stand taken by the Union of India, we deem it appropriate to pass the following order in the interest of justice:
a. The interim stay granted in W.P.(Crl.)No.217/2021 along with W.P.(Crl.)No.216/2021 vide order dated 31.05.2021 shall continue to operate till further orders.
b. We hope and expect that the State and Central Governments will restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the aforesaid provision of law is under consideration.
c. If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A of IPC, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned Courts for appropriate relief. The Courts are requested to examine the reliefs sought, taking into account the present order passed as well as the clear stand taken by the Union of India.
d. All pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of IPC be kept in abeyance. Adjudication with respect to other Sections, if any, could proceed if the Courts are of the opinion that no prejudice would be caused to the accused.
e. In addition to the above, the Union of India shall be at liberty to issue the Directive as proposed and placed before us, to the State Governments/Union Territories to prevent any misuse of Section 124A of IPC.
f. The above directions may continue till further orders are passed."

On November 22 2023, the Court passed an order appointing Prasanna S. and Pooja Dhar as nodal counsel. The order reads: "The nodal counsel shall prepare a common compilation of case law, documents and written submissions filed by the parties in terms of the Circular dated 22 August 2023 issued for regulating the course of submissions in larger Bench cases. Parties shall file all submissions by 31 December 2023 with the nodal counsel. The nodal counsel shall prepare soft copies of the common compilations duly indexed in terms of the above circular. The common compilation shall be e-filed on or before 9 January 2024. The common compilation shall be made available to all the parties. The compilation shall be in the electronic form and shall be emailed to The Registry shall notify the date for hearing of the reference in the month of January 2024." The case was filed on June 24, 2021. It was verified and registered on June 28, 2021.  The case is pending for final hearing before a 7-judge bench. 

Now, the Constitution Bench will have to adjudicate on the constitutionality of Section 150 of BNS along with the constitutionality of Section 124A of the IPC. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Supreme Court sets aside Patna High Court's order in anticipatory bail case under Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act from Aurangabad

On March 21, 2024, Supreme Court's bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Augustine  George Masih set aside the order of Patna High Court passed on December 12, 2023 by Justice Anjani Kumar Sharan rejecting the application for anticipatory bail from Aurangabad in Chandan Kumar Vs. State of Bihar (2023)

Prior to this the petitioner had approached the High Court apprehending his arrest in Amba P.S. Case No. 149 of 2021 registered for the offences punishable under Section 30 (a) of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2018. Altogether 2541.600 litres of foreign liquor was recovered from the truck. It came ti light that the consignment belonged to the petitioner and his associates. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that petitioner was quite innocent and had committed no offence. No incriminating article was recovered from the conscious physical possession of the petitioner. He had no concern either with the seized liquor or the place of recovery or any trade of liquor. The allegation levelled against him is general and omnibus. He was not apprehended on the spot. He had not consumed liquor. There was nothing on record to indicate the complicity of the petitioner barring the confessional statement of the apprehended person which has no evidentiary value in the eye of law. The High Court had concluded: "Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, as petitioner has one criminal antecedent of similar nature, I am not inclined to enlarge him on anticipatory bail. The prayer for anticipatory bail of the petitioner is hereby rejected."

The Supreme Court's order in Chandan Kumar Vs. State of Bihar (2024) recorded that two co-accused have been granted anticipatory bail and three other co-accused are on regular bail. The counsel for the appellant submitted that there is nothing to connect the appellant vis-a-vis the recovery made from the truck and even though the appellant’s name may have been mentioned in the FIR, he was not at the spot when co- accused were apprehended along with foreign liquor. He, therefore, submitted that this is a fit case where anticipatory bail may be granted. 

The Court concluded:"Considering the circumstances on record, in our view, the appellant is entitled to the relief claimed under Section 438 of the Code. We, therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the order passed by the High Court dated 12.12.2023. We direct that in the event of arrest of the appellant, the Arresting Officer shall release the appellant on bail subject to furnishing cash security in the sum of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty-Five Thousand only) with two like sureties."