If mighty and powerful always get away from the clutches of law...

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: Aug 8 2012, 08:54am hrs
Disturbing trend of witnesses turning hostile

Expressing concern over the recent trend of witnesses turning hostile in high profile cases, the Supreme Court said that this disturbing factor is eroding faith in the judicial system. Reasons are many for the witnesses turning hostile, but of late, we see, especially in high profile cases, there is a regularity in the witnesses turning hostile, either due to monetary consideration or by other tempting offers which undermine the entire criminal justice system and people carry the impression that the mighty and powerful can always get away from the clutches of law thereby eroding peoples faith in the system, it said. Besides, persons driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol should not get away with minor punishment and fine, it added. The apex courts remarks came while deciding the infamous BMW hit-and-run case, convicting 34-year-old Sanjeev Nanda under the stringent provision of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for mowing down six people, including three policemen, in 1999. The apex court directed Nanda, grandson of former Naval Chief SM Nanda, to perform community service for two years and also asked him to pay R50 lakh to the Centre which will be used for compensating victims of road accidents in which erring drivers could not be traced.

Misappropriation of essential goods

No leniency should be shown to those involved in diversion and misappropriation of essential commodities meant for public distribution in the country, the Supreme Court has said, while restraining courts from taking lenient view in awarding sentence to such offenders on the ground of sympathy or delay. The apex court dismissed an appeal filed by a fair price shop owner, Sadhupati Nageswara Rao from Andhra Pradesh, challenging his conviction and a six-month jail term for misappropriating 67.65 quintal of rice meant for public distribution under the Food-For-Work Scheme in 2002. The sessions court had upheld the sentence, which was also endorsed by the high court. Stating that distribution of essential commodities under any scheme of the government is intended to benefit the public at large, the court said, We are of the view that persons dealing with the property of the government and entrusted with the task of distribution under FFWS, it is but proper on their part to maintain true accounts..

Clarity on compensation

Dismissing the Oriental Insurance Companys plea, the Supreme Court has ruled that compensation for personal injury suffered by a worker arising out of or in the course of employment has to be calculated from the date of accident under the Workmens Compensation Act, 1923. The apex court in the case of Oriental Insurance Company vs Siby George also said that even interest on delayed payment becomes due from the date of the industrial accident. In this case, the Commissioner for Workmens Compensation had in November 2008 directed payment of simple interest at the rate of 12% per annum from the date of the accident.

Even the Kerala High Court had endorsed the Commissioners order in 2009 as the petition was barred by limitation. In light of the decisions in Pratap Narain Singh Deo and Valsala by a four-judge bench in 1975, it is not open for the insurer to contend that the payment of compensation would fall due only after the Commissioners order or with reference to the date on which the claim application is made, the court said. It also said that the decisions by a two-judge bench in Mubasir Ahmed and Mohd Nasir (as cited by the insurer) took a contrary view to the earlier decisions of 1975 but do not express the correct view and do not make binding precedents.

In the case of Pratap Narain Singh Deo vs Shrinivas Sabata, the top court had held that an employer becomes liable to pay compensation as soon as the personal injury is caused to workmen by the accident which arose out of and in the course of employment. Thus, the relevant date for determination of the rate of compensation is the date of the accident and not the date of adjudication of the claim, it reiterated.