Caretaking responsibilities and ownership rights

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: May 9 2012, 07:40am hrs
Ongoing public projects shouldnt be stalled unless in public interest

Dismissing Tejas Constructions & Infrastructure Ltds plea seeking to stall a water supply project in Pune, the Supreme Court has held that government projects set up for serving the public cannot be allowed to stop midway as this would add to the peoples woes. The Central government-sponsored project, which is to be completed this year, is meant to benefit the scarcity-hit population in the town and, therefore, interference in the matter at this late stage would put the people to great hardship, it said, adding that the courts in such situations should only intervene when the overwhelming public interest requires interference. In this case, Tejas Constructions had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court, challenging the allotment of the project, involving design, construction and commissioning of a single integrated water supply at Sendhwa (MP), to PC Snehal Construction Company.

Tejas, which had failed to bag the contract, had raised objections as to the eligibility of the successful bidder on the ground that it did not have the requisite technical experience. Besides, it alleged that Snehal had failed to submit certified copies of audited balance-sheets and that the net-worth certificate produced from a chartered accountant did not satisfy the requirements. The HC had dismissed its objections and the same was endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Merely listing an item online, even if obscene, not grounds for prosecution

The Supreme Court has quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against auction portal eBay India Pvt Ltd and its chief Avinash Bajaj for allegedly permitting the sale of an MMS clip showing two Delhi school students in a sexual act, the circulation of which had caused a furore in 2004. It quashed the cases registered against Bajaj under Section 292 (sale, etc, of obscene material) of IPC and under Sections 67 and 85 of the Information Technology Act 2000 on the ground that the company was not made a party to the case and only the director of the company was roped in for the alleged offence. While Section 67 bans publishing obscene information in electronic form, Section 85 allows the prosecution of a person responsible for the violation. Bajaj, the then managing director of baazee.com (now eBay India), was arraigned for allowing the MMS clip, recorded on a mobile phone camera, to be uploaded on the companys auction site in 2004. Bajaj, a US citizen, had subsequently sold baazee.com to eBay in 2004. Challenging the Delhi High Court judgment that quashed proceedings under IPC but permitted prosecution under the I-T Act, Bajaj contended that mere listing could not be construed as a crime under the Act as Section 67 does not define the term obscenity, and liability cannot be fixed on him for merely the listing of the 2.37 minute clip video clip, even if it was obscene. However, the state government had opposed his plea by saying that Bajaj was responsible for the illegal display of the clip both in official as well as in his personal capacity.

Taking care of piece of land for long time doesnt create right of ownership

Long term possession of land by caretakers or agents does not give the right of ownership of the property to them, the Supreme Court has ruled while dismissing a watchmans claims for ownership of a plot on the basis that his family looked after the property for two generations. Watchman, caretaker or a servant employed to look after the property can never acquire interest in the property irrespective of his long possession. The watchman, caretaker or a servant is under an obligation to hand over the possession forthwith on demand, the apex court said in the case of A Shanmugam vs Ariya Kshatriya Rajakula Vamsathu Madalaya Nandhavana Paripalanai Sangam. The apex court also imposed costs on Shanmugam for raising frivolous litigation. It is a matter of common experience that the courts otherwise scarce resources are spent in dealing with non-deserving cases and unfortunately those who were waiting in the queue for justice in genuine cases usually suffer, it said. According to the court, this case is a typical example of delayed administration of civil justice in our courts. A small suit, where the appellant was directed to be evicted from the premises in 1994, took 17 years before the matter was decided by the high court We have to ensure that unscrupulous litigant is not permitted to derive any benefit by abusing the judicial process, it said.

indu.bhan@expressindia.com