Verdict corner: A self-employed person cannot be called unskilled

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: Dec 19 2013, 07:12am hrs
Geographical curbs on sale unjust

In a matter related to trademark Kohinoor, the Supreme Court has said that imposing geographical restrictions on the sale of goods with disputed trademark would be unjust and would lead to complications and litigations. While upholding the Delhi High Courts judgment that allowed Sant Ram & Co to sell rice under the trademark in the entire state of Uttar Pradesh, the apex court said that restricting the trademark to a few cities would create a lot of complications and litigation as to the exact boundary of a particular or district. It would also be impossible for rival Sant Ram to ensure that its products are not sold to retailers outside the six cities as directed by the Assistant Registrar of Trademarks in 1993, it added.

In this case, Satnam Overseas vs Sant Ram & Co & Anr, the former had moved the Registrar for rectification of entry in respect of trademark Kohinoor rice, which was registered in the latters name, on the ground of non-usage for a period in excess of five years. The Registrar had allowed the product to be sold only in six cities of UP. Sant Ram & Co then moved the HC against the rectification orders that restricted the use of trademark only in few cities. The HC permitted it to sell rice under the trademark for the entire state. Satnam Overseas then moved the Supreme Court, which dismissed its appeal, saying that putting geographical restrictions was rightly held to be unjust by the HC.

On the self-employed persons

Finding faults with the decision of the courts below, the Supreme Court in the case Pushkar Mehra vs Brij Mohan Kushwaha ruled that a self-employed person cannot be called unskilled, thus compensation for his death in a road accident cannot be calculated as per the minimum wage laws. In this case, a widow along with the family of a 54-year-old trader, who was killed in a road accident, had moved the motor accident tribunal claiming compensation of R25 lakh. The tribunal had awarded R3.84 lakh after observing there was rash and negligent driving. It computed the deceased income at R2,895 per month as per the wages for unskilled labour under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. On appeal, the Delhi High Court stated that the compensation was more than adequate.

But the apex court said that the tribunal and the HC should have taken the wages of the deceased to be that of a skilled worker or clerical and non-technical supervisory staff as he was self-employed and running his own business. Citing the March 2010 order of the Government of NCT of Delhi, the top court awarded a total compensation of R9.60 lakh with interest @ 9% after noting that it would be just and proper to take R7,020 per month as the income of the deceased.

SC relief to builders

Setting aside a Punjab and Haryana High Court order, the Supreme Court said that apartment owners cannot claim any undivided interest over facilities like schools, hospitals, community centres and other community buildings except the right of user as ownership rights vest on the coloniser. In this case, DLF Ltd vs Manmohan Lowe and others, DLF had requested the Silver Oaks Condominium Association to take over the responsibility of maintaining all the dwelling units, areas, with the common areas and facilities along with other assets, plant and machinery and equipment. However, few apartment owners sought quashing of a 2001 declaration on the ground that the same was not in conformity with Section 3(f) of the Haryana Apartment Ownership Act, 1983 and that the common areas and facilities should also include shops or parking areas, community centres and other common facilities, thereby depriving the apartment owners of their rights over the same.

The HC had held that the apartment owners were entitled to undivided interest in common areas and common facilities and would be vitally affected if those areas are not declared as common areas. The HC also held that the competent authority was under an obligation to decide the objections of the apartment owners to the declaration filed by the coloniser. Rejecting the plea of flat owners that the Silver Oaks Apartments at Gurgaon is gated colony and hence the development works undertaken inside the premises are parts of common areas, the Supreme Court said that the ownership right over the land earmarked for schools, hospitals, community centres and other community buildings referred to in the Development Act vests on the coloniser (DLF).