Steering society one judgment at a time

From ensuring a uniform retirement age in the armed forces and removing gender discrimination in promotions, to declaring that the term Chur Chur Naan cannot be trademarked, the Delhi High Court has had to intervene in almost every aspect of society in 2019

With the year coming to an end, The Hindu takes a look at some of the important verdicts and decisions of the Delhi High Court.

It was a year of significant reforms in the services sector, especially the Central Armed Forces, as the HC set straight rules on age of retirement and gender discrimination in promotion.

Observing that discrimination in the age of retirement among members of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) would hit morale, the court in January directed the Centre to fix a uniform age of retirement for all personnel and officers of the CAPFs.

Retirement age

The CAPFs include forces such as the Assam Rifles (AR), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guard (NSG) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).

The age of superannuation in the CAPFs has been a bone of contention for many years. Among the CAPFs a differential treatment was given to those belonging to the AR and the CISF, where all members in all ranks retire at the age of 60. But, in the BSF, CRPF and ITBP two classes have been created where officers above the rank of Commandant retire at 60 and all other ranks retire at 57.

Following the High Court’s decision, the Centre issued a notification in August fixing the retirement age for all CAPF personnel at 60.

In March, the HC, in a significant verdict towards gender equality in promotion in Armed forces, ruled that there cannot be “hostile discrimination” towards female officers in the CRPF in the matter of promotions. It rejected the Centre’s stand that in the absence of any vacancies in the female cadre, it was not possible to grant promotions to female officers. “This cannot be a rigid immutable number but has to be flexible to ensure that a female SI (Sub Inspector) who is up for promotion is not denied that promotion,” the HC remarked.

Over 21 female CRPF SIs had moved the court contending that though the force maintained a combined seniority list of female and male SIs, their further promotions as Inspector and then Assistant Commandants (ACs) is much later than their male counterparts.

They argued that their selection into the force was through a common examination with common selection along with the male counterparts. They contended it was incumbent on the Centre to issue a common seniority list for male and female SI (General Duty).

A junior male SI cannot be allowed to “steal march” over his senior female SI in the combined seniority list only because there is a vacancy against which he can be accommodated whereas there is no vacancy available at that time for the female SI to be promoted as Inspector, the HC said.

Faculty appointment

In May, the HC ordered that the members of the selection panel on faculty appointment, including names recommended by the Vice-Chancellor, have to get approval of the Academic Council (AC) and the Executive Council (EC).

The HC rejected the argument made by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) that the selection of teachers relates to its administration and therefore falls within the exclusive province of the EC, whereas the jurisdiction of the AC relates to matters on ‘education and examination’.

Five JNU professors had challenged the legality of an amendment made in the Regulation M-18, which defined the procedure for creation of a database of experts for the panel, pursuant to the 269th EC meeting in September 2017. The amended Regulation M-18 had done away with the role of the AC in the approval process for the panel of experts.

Cadre-allocation policy

In May, the High Court directed the Centre to undertake exercise for cadre allocation of IAS and IPS officers belonging to the 2017 batch, after quashing its latest cadre-allocation policy.

The HC decision came on plea by some successful IAS and IPS candidates contending that they have not been allocated the cadres as per their declared policy of merit-cum-preference.

The HC noted that the Cadre Allocation Policy-2017 was unreasonable and arbitrary since the more meritorious candidates have been denied the cadres to which they were otherwise entitled according to their preference.

“There can be no gain saying that the common thread running in the said Cadre Allocation Policy-2017 is to reward merit. The more meritorious candidates are entitled to consideration for allocation of cadres before the less meritorious candidates are considered,” it added.

Chur Chur Naan

Most trade mark infringement cases are intensely fought and this one was no different, but it resulted in a very different outcome. In May, the HC ruled that there cannot be any monopoly on the terms ‘Chur Chur Naan’ and ‘Amritsari Chur Chur Naan’ as they are generic.

The HC ruling came while adjudicating the plea of a Paharganj-based eatery, which claimed exclusive rights in the expression ‘Chur Chur Naan’, against a rival food outlet in the area, which uses a similar expression for its name.

The HC said that expressions such as Naan, Chur Chur Naan, Amritsari Chur Chur Naan, are similar to expressions such as Amritsari Kulcha, Malabar Parantha, Hyderabadi Biryani, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Chettinad Chicken, Murthal ke Paranthe, Mangalore idli, etc., and such other food products which are used in common parlance by the general public.

“The word ‘Chur Chur’ merely means ‘crushed’ and ‘Chur Chur Naan’ means ‘Crushed Naan’ and nothing more. It is incapable of acquiring trade mark signification,” the HC had noted.

Senior advocates

In August, the Delhi High Court did away with the previous practice of designating ‘senior advocate’, where a joint proposal from three senior advocates was needed for an advocate to be considered for being designated a senior advocate.

The fresh rule notified by HC has left unchanged the portion related to suo motu initiation by the High Court for designating an advocate as a senior advocate. But, amended the rules to allow an advocate to apply for senior advocate designation himself or herself. “Any advocate who fulfils the eligibility conditions prescribed hereinbefore may submit a written application for being designated as Senior Advocate to the Registrar General..,” states the new rule.

Earlier, the rules mandated that three senior advocates designated by HC, with not less than five years individual standing at the Bar, as senior advocate, may jointly make a proposal to the HC for designation of an advocate as senior advocate.

The decision has led to a bump in the number of advocates applying to get senior advocate designation.

Rape charges

In a significant verdict that will have implications on a large portion of rape cases in India, the Delhi High Court in November ruled that the offence of rape falls under the category of “heinous and serious crime”, which cannot be quashed even if the parties have settled dispute or got married.

A large chunk of the rape cases in India are reported against offenders who were known to the victims.

The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that out of a total of 32,559 cases of rape reported across the country in 2017, in one-third, or 10,553 cases, the victim and offender were either friends, online friends, live-in partners or separated.

The HC verdict came on a petition by a man seeking to quash an FIR for rape registered against him by his live-in partner. The woman had complained that despite her repeated insistence on marriage, he refused and in August 2013, he left her following an altercation. Thereafter she registered the FIR.

During the course of the trial, they got married. In the petition before the HC, the victim gave a ‘No objection’ affidavit for quashing of the FIR. The man argued that since the matter had been amicably settled, the continuation of the case would render the compromise meaningless.

The HC, however, remarked that, “even when there is a settlement, the view of the offender and victim will not prevail since it is in the interest of society that the offender should be punished to deter others from committing a similar crime”.

The judge also referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court which said: “Heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed though the victim or the family of the victim have settled the dispute”.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:29:24 AM |

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