ROLE OF VIRTUAL ARBITRATION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

In the light of the onset of #Covid-19, resulting in physical #distancing for an indeterminate period, in-person activities have become impossible. In person court hearings and #arbitrations has become impossible. However, when one door closes another always opens.

Due to such restrictions, the framework of in-person arbitrations seems the next best alternative method viz., #videoconferencing or virtual hearings. #Virtualarbitration as the name suggests means a resolution of disputes by using technology. Such virtual hearings will have to comply with several laws and in particular the #InformationTechnologyAct, 2000. Under the current challenging circumstances, it seems there is no option but to explore virtual arbitration and courts to ensure access to justice and adjudication of disputes.

As the #lockdown in India has been increased by several weeks people are now looking at alternate ways of resolving their legal issues as the pandemic continues indefinitely. There is now a scramble for exploring options to use #technology to reduce physical interface and maintain distancing. One such option that is being looked at very seriously by the Indian Legal System is advent of virtual hearings be it arbitrations or court proceedings.

The #SupremeCourt has already paved the way for virtual courts vide its guidelines for Courts functioning through video conferencing on 06.04.2020. Though virtual courts were being used as an experiment it is a system that will stay. Though #virtualcourts may not be a panacea in every case it can be considered as a viable option for some types of matters where the evidence is not very difficult to handle. Currently it seems the only viable option.

Currently the most effective, efficient and accessible platform for dispute resolution is arbitration. It is a device whereby the settlement of a question, which is of interest for two or more persons, is entrusted to one or more other persons; the arbitrator(s), who derive their power from a private agreement, not from the authorities of a State, and who are to proceed and decide the case on the basis of such an agreement.

This available avenue for adjudication of disputes can be conducted virtually. Such virtual arbitrations can be conducted either fully or in piecemeal depending on the parties and the arbitral tribunal. As parties are allowed to make their own rules for conducting arbitration they can decide whether they should use virtual arbitration for the entire dispute or only for preliminary issues.Such virtual adjudications will save time and money. It will also lead the way for simplifying the process as interface time can be reduced. It will also restrict adjournments and delays in the matter.

The use of technology as part of legal proceedings is ordinary. In many jurisdictions we have seen some witnesses providing evidence remotely by video-conferencing. As India, is digitally very advance, entrepreneurs can come up with a number of online platforms which are capable of hosting a virtual hearing. Such platforms also allow sharing of documents and its review by the parties. The virtual arbitrations can be done through virtual break out rooms and private chat features, either for one-to-one conversations or as a group is also available on such platforms.

Though, virtual arbitration provides a number of advantages such as low costs and saving of time it is not the ultimate solution. It cannot be denied that virtual hearings will not be appropriate in all circumstances. Some factors which make virtual hearings probably unviable are:

Lengthy Hearing: Anyone who has participated in a lengthy video conference will attest that it is more difficult to maintain focus virtually than it is meeting in person. Delays and disruptions, possibly arising from technology failures, may be amplified over a prolonged period.

Atmosphere for witnesses: Witnesses tend to be more relaxed giving evidence by video link. Where a witness’s evidence is contentious, the cross-examiner might be unfairly disadvantaged by not being able to see the witness in the flesh and to be seen in the flesh by them. This cuts both ways, with a party’s own witnesses and also their opponent’s witnesses.

Sitting hours: In a cross-border dispute with various time zones, some or all parties may be forced to sit at unsociable hours, potentially creating an imbalance.

Availability of internet: A fast, reliable and secure internet connection for each participant is a necessity. While this is ordinarily taken for granted in many parts of the world, internet performance is not guaranteed during this pandemic as telecommunication networks come under increasing strain.

The pandemic has now opened a new avenues and virtual arbitration is being considered as a valuable option. The ability to design a flexible dispute resolution process and to anticipate what issues may arise in a virtual setting has to be examined carefully.Parties to a legal proceeding should weigh up all the factors and work out what is best for them.

Reference

  1. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/10853/10853_2020_0_1_21588_Judgement_06-Apr-2020.pdf

Lakshmi Vishwakarma

Associate

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

Edited by

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

RBI ISSUES MEASURES TO REVIVE THE ECONOMY OF INDIA

On 17-04-2020, the Reserve Bank of India (#RBI) issued certain measures to revive the struggling economy of India. The Governor of RBI, Shri. Shaktikanta Das, announced the following measures, through an online address, to overcome various challenges that have arisen due to the #Covid19 outbreak and the #Lockdown situation in the country:

1- Targeted long-term repo operations:

The RBI would provide long term #loan of Rs. 50,000/- Crores to banks, so that small and mid-size corporates, non-banking financial #companies (NBFCs), micro finance institutions (MFIs), etc, can avail funds from #banks.

2- Refinancing facilities for financial institutions:

In view of the prevailing financial crisis due to Covid19 outbreak, the RBI has recently reduced the rate at which it lends money to commercial banks, i.e., #RepoRate, to 4.4%, on 27-03-2020. This is to encourage commercial banks to borrow more money from RBI and re-finance it to third-party borrowers.

The RBI has decided to provide a Refinance Facility of Rs. 25,000/- Crores to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) at prevailing Repo Rates. This would enable #NABARD to provide funds to regional rural banks (RRBs), cooperative banks and MFIs, at affordable credit rates and terms.

Further, the RBI would provide a Refinance Facility of Rs. 15,000/- Crores to the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) at prevailing Repo Rates. This would enable SIDBI to provide funds to third party borrowers, at affordable credit rates and terms.

Additionally, the RBI would provide a Refinance Facility of Rs. 10,000/- Crores to the National Housing Bank (NHB) at prevailing Repo Rates. This would enable NHB to provide funds to housing finance companies (HFCs), at affordable credit rates and terms.

3- Reduction of Reverse Repo Rate

In view of the prevailing financial crisis due to Covid19 outbreak, the RBI has recently reduced the rate at which it borrows money from commercial banks, i.e., the Reverse Repo Rate, to 3.75%. This would encourage commercial banks to provide loans and make investments in productive sectors of the economy, rather than provide loans to the RBI.

4- Increasing the limit of #loans to States and UTs

The RBI has increased the limit of temporary loan facilities that State Governments and Union Territories (UTs) Governments can avail from RBI, i.e. Ways and Means Advances (WMAs), by 60%. This would encourage them to undertake measures to contain and prevent the spread of Covid19 Pandemic in their respective States and UTs.

5- Extension of review and resolution period

The RBI has directed lenders to review and resolve the borrowers’ non-performing account (NPA), within 30 days of default of repayment, which has now been extended by 90 days, in view of the Coronavirus crisis.

6- Restriction on distribution of dividend

The RBI has directed scheduled commercial banks and cooperative banks to refrain from distributing dividends out of profits earned in 2019-20, until further orders. This would enable banks to preserve capital and support the economy.

7- Lowering of Liquidity Coverage Ratio requirement

Liquidity ratios measure a bank’s ability to meet the short-term financial obligations and liquidity disruptions in the market. But due to the prevailing cash crunch in the society, the RBI has reduced the Liquidity Coverage Ratio requirement for scheduled commercial banks from 100% to 80%.

8- Loans to commercial real estate projects

The RBI has allowed NBFCs to provide loans to commercial real estate projects, where the commencement of operations have been delayed due to reasons such as outbreak of Covid19, which are beyond the control of the promoters of such projects.

Thus, the RBI has issued the aforesaid measures to maintain adequate liquidity in the system, ease the financial stress and facilitate the normal functioning of the markets, during these challenging times. Further, Prime Minister, Shri. Narenda Modi, said that these RBI measures would help to improve credit supply in the economy and would also help small businesses, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), farmers and the needy, to deal with the outcome of the Covid19 crisis. 

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT MORTGAGED PROPERTY CAN BE REDEEMED ONLY BY PROCESS OF LAW

A #mortgage is a #transfer of one’s interest in immovable #property as a #security for a #loan. A person lent money with or without security. The essential feature of a mortgage is that it is a conveyance of legal interest in a property, with a provision for #redemption i.e., upon repayment of loan, the conveyance shall become void. The provisions related to mortgage are contained in Sections 58 to 61 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (#TPA).

The most important, fundamental and basic right possessed by the mortgagor is the right to redeem the mortgage. This right is not merely a contractual right, it is a legal/statutory right given to the mortgagor by Section 60, of TPA. This section allows the mortgagor to #redeem his property without any impediment.

Meaning of redemption: The property mortgaged is only a security for the payment of the money lent; the mortgagor is entitled to get back his property on payment of the principal and interest after the expiry of the due date for the repayment of the mortgagee money. This right of the mortgagor is called the right of redemption. It involves two things:-

  • Re-transfer of the interest which had been originally transferred to the mortgagee, and
  • Delivery of the possession.

Right of redemption is a statutory right of a mortgagor. Hence, it may be extinguished the way it has been provided under Section 60, TPA. Accordingly, a mortgage can be extinguished either by act of the parties or by a decree of a court.

Recently, a two Judge Bench of #SupremeCourt of India, passed a Judgment dated 17.04.2020, inCivil Appeal 4594 of 2010 titled as Shankar Sakharam Kenjale (Died) through LRs v Narayan Krishna Gade and another holding that the principle of right to redeem a mortgage can be extinguished only by a process known to law.

The brief facts of the case, pertains to an inam/watan land which was governed by the Bombay Hereditary Offices Act, 1874.The original watandar put one Ramchandra as a permanent tenant of the land in 1947, who mortgaged the land for the period of 10 years, to the Appellants herein. During the said period, the Bombay Paragana and Kulkarni Watans (Abolition) Act, 1950 was passed, which abolished all watans and resumed the land to the Government (Abolition Act). The said Act, empowered the holder of the watan to seek re-grant of the land upon payment of the requisite occupancy price. The original watandar did not apply for re-grant on the ground that he was in possession of the land, and he got the re-grant eventually. The Mortgagor filed a suit for redemption of mortgage and recovery of possession of the land upon receipt of the mortgage money. In result, the Trial Court dismissed the suit, holding that the Mortgagor’s right to redemption was extinguished by the Abolition Act. Thereafter,first appeal against the said order of the Trial Court was dismissed and in second appeal before the High Court was allowed. The High Court hold that the Mortgagor’s right to redemption was not lost.

Consequently, the instant appeal before the Supreme Court was filed against the judgment dated 08.06.2009 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay in Second Appeal No. 439 of 1987 (Impugned Judgment). Vide the Impugned Judgment, the High Court set aside the findings of the Trial Court and the First Appellate Court and directed the Trial Court to draw a preliminary decree of redemption of mortgage in favour of the Respondents herein.

The Bench of Supreme Court dismissed the said appeal, upholding the reasoning of the High Court. Following the principle that the right to redemption can be lost only by way of process of law, the Apex Court relied on the precedents covering the same issue namely Jayasingh Dnyanu Mhoprekar and Another v. Krishna Babaji Patil and Another, [(1985) 4 SCC 162] and Namdev Shripati Nale v. Bapu Ganapati Jagtap and Another, (1997) 5 SCC 185.

The Court observed that the right of redemption is invaluable in the sense that it cannot be denied to the mortgagor even though he may by express contract abandon his right to redeem the property. It also observed that equity insists upon the principle that a mortgage is intended merely to afford security to the lender and thus an agreement which prevents redemption is void. The right of redemption cannot be taken away.

The Judgment emanates from the legal principle applicable to all kind of mortgages that “Once a mortgage always a mortgage’’.  A mortgagor’s right to redeem the property, and the subject of the mortgage, has been recognized as fundamental to the transaction of a mortgage. If the right to redeem the property is denied to the mortgagor, the same would amount to appropriation of the title by the mortgagee.This would result in the infringement of the right of the mortgagor and would, therefore, tend to frustrate the transaction.

In view of the above the Court held, that the denial of a right to redeem the property, or delaying the exercise of this right to redeem for an extensive period, or creating other contractual barriers against the exercise of the right to redeem, cannot be acceptable in equity or in law. Accordingly, the instant appeal was dismissed.

Lakshmi Vishwakarma

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

Edited by

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer

VERIFY NEWS ON COVID19 BEFORE PANIC

In recent times, Indians have shown #nationalpride by cooperating with the Prime Minister’s directions of obeying complete #Lockdown. Such a #nationalist approach by a greater majority of Indians displays unity and #patriotism at its best. It is truly commendable that a nation having a population of 1.3 Billion people have been united in fighting the #Pandemic. By all counts, India has done very well in fighting the Pandemic, as our figures of #Covid19-positive patients are very low compared to most countries. The death rate is also low and most of the deaths have been in cases, where patients already have some major disease and Covid19 has only aggravated the situation culminating in death.

However, despite this great display of national pride and patriotism, there are a few who have enjoyed in being mischief makers and in spreading false news about the Pandemic. Sadly, the #socialmedia, which is such a powerful tool in today’s world, has been misused by few people in spreading false, bogus, misleading and #confusingnews, without realizing the repercussions. One cannot overrule that some of this #falsenews is the outcome of a vicious mind that is doing it intentionally, maliciously and knowingly to create panic and frustration in people.

However, it is also possible that some of the false news may not have been posted with mala fide intentions, but is the result of ill-informed people, who have not been able to sift the wheat from the chaff. It is possibly the work of people who believe ignorance is bliss and they are smart to create news and send incorrect information for the fun of it. Such #pranksters should know that they are liable under the law for spreading fake news and incorrect information.

It is time that people know that the law does not permit spreading of such false news and knowledge regarding the Pandemic. People indulging in such nefarious activities must know that they are liable under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 as amended thereof (IPC) that makes them accountable and they can be prosecuted against. Under the #IPC, such persons can be prosecuted and can be imprisoned for up to three years or with fine or with both.

The Pandemic falls under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 as amended thereof. This means that any person spreading false news, rumors or knowledge regarding the Pandemic, is liable to be punished under the law and can be #prosecuted for up to 6 months of #imprisonment or #fine, which can run into thousands of Rupees.

Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act 2005 as amended thereof, also makes such persons liable to be proceeded under the law. This Section states that any person who makes or circulates a #falsealarm or warning about a disaster or its severity or magnitude, thereby, causing panic amongst public, shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or with fine.

In recent times, the Cyber Crime Cell has been picking up people who have been using the social media to spread false news or spread of untested treatments and diets regarding the Pandemic. Even news agencies including the big names have been reprimanded for spreading false and unverified news regarding Covid19.

This Article has been written in public interest with a request to fellow Indians to show the same level of national pride and patriotism that has been shown in dutifully following the Lockdown by abstaining from spreading false news and rumors that can increase the panic and frustration in the mind of the masses.

There is no doubt that the Lockdown has been difficult, yet the unity of Indians has made the Lockdown a huge success and has ensured that Covid19 does not become a national #disaster in our country. The Author implores fellow Indians to abstain from spreading false news and rumors in #nationalinterest.

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Legal Consultant

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

DELHI GOVERNMENT ISSUES DIRECTIONS AGAINST MALPRACTICES OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS DURING COVID19 PANDEMIC

The Government of National Capital Territory (NCT) of #Delhi has recently issued an #Order dated 17-04-2020 against the following #malpractices and unprofessional conduct of certain private unaided #schools of Delhi:

1- The Delhi Government noticed that some private unaided schools have arbitrarily increased the #schoolfees for the Academic Session of 2020-21, without taking into consideration the unfavorable conditions prevailing in the society, due to the #Covid19 outbreak and the #Lockdown situation.

2- The said schools have failed to take prior approval of the Director (Education), Delhi, before increasing the school fees and demanding a lump sum as an advance payment.

3- Further, the private unaided schools have also refused to provide access to online learning materials to students, until parents pay the illegally increased school fees.

4- The said schools are either paying less or no #salaries to their teaching and non-teaching staff, during the ongoing Lockdown situation.

The Delhi Government made the following observations in this regard:

1> That several businesses/professions have ceased to work, in order to meet the #socialdistancing norms of the Covid19 crisis. Thus, some parents are unable to pay the illegally increased school fees of their wards.

2> That the schools have violated the provisions of the Delhi School Education Act, 1973 and Rules thereof, by demanding school/tuition fees in advance.

3> That the teaching and non-teaching staff of such schools is facing severe financial difficulties, due to the non-payment of full salaries.

4> That the private unaided schools are under direct control of charitable societies or trusts. Therefore, they should indulge in charity, and not in profiteering.

5> That the private unaided schools are capable of arranging funds for salaries, and curricular activities, as there would be no expenditure on co-curricular and sports activities, transportation and other development related activities.

6> That the Government is empowered by the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Delhi Epidemic Diseases, Covid19 Regulations 2020, to take all such measures that are required to contain or prevent the spread of a dangerous epidemic disease, and that are to be observed by the public or any class of person.

Therefore, the Delhi Government directed all private unaided schools of Delhi to collect only the pre-fixed amount of school/tuition fees from parents, provide online learning materials to all students without any discrimination, and to, further, pay the fixed monthly salary to its entire teaching and non-teaching staff. Further, in case of failure to comply with these directions, the concerned person shall be #punished with #imprisonment of one year, extendable to 2 years, or with #fine, or with both.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

LAW OF DAMAGES

In the aftermath of #Coronavirus, there will be several contracts that will be #breached. These two Episodes deal with #damages as a #remedy available to aggrieved party, in cases of such breach.

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services is a multi-city commercial and business boutique #LawFirm that provides advice in different aspects of #ContractLaw and has expertise in enforcement of such contracts in case of breach thereof.

Thus, it is our endeavor to bring before you the Fifth and Sixth Episode of our #YouTube Series called ‘TIL Legal Fundamentals’ and to enable contracting parties to understand the law of damages in India.

To know more about Law of Damages in India, please refer to the links below:

Part 1 on Law of Damages-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nO9Ga4qenQ&t=8s

Part 2 on Law of Damages-

VIDEO CREDITS:

Starring- Adv. Sushila Ram Varma

Written and Edited By: Team, The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

Category: Legal

HIGHLIGHTS OF GOVERNMENT MEASURES TO TACKLE COVID19 CRISIS

During the recent #Covid19 #Pandemic, the #Government of India has taken several measures to control the spread of #Coronavirus in India (Pandemic). Various #Ministries have been taking the following #measures to contain the spread of the Pandemic and further, facilitate the services of uninterrupted supply of #essentialcommodities, and #medicalfacilities to health care centers and #hospitals, etc:

1- The Government has sanctioned Rs. 15,000 Crores towards development of COVID-19 related medical treatment and diagnostic facilities, procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs, prevention and vigilance over future disease outbreaks, setting up of laboratories, conducting research on pandemics, etc.

2- The Government has imposed a nation-wide lockdown, whereby, restrictions on travelling, socializing, attending courts and offices, meetings at public places, etc have been imposed.

3- Social/religious gathering/processions and circulation of objectionable contents on social media platforms have been prohibited and #socialdistancing has been implemented.

4- In view of the #lockdown condition in the country, all courts hearings have been postponed, except in cases of urgent and, bail matters, etc. The courts have also encouraged hearings in such matters through video conferencing. 

5- The State Governments have also been enabled and empowered to take measures, to tackle the spread of Coronavirus Disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

6- The Government has granted exemption from levy of basic customs duty and health cess, on the import of ventilators, face masks, surgical masks, personal protection equipment (PPE) Covid-19 test kits, and any other inputs for manufacture of the said items. The said basic customs duty exemption shall be available till 30-09-2020.

7- Micro, small and medium enterprises (#MSMEs) are being encouraged to mass manufacture ventilators, masks, sanitizers, PPE, corona testing kits, etc, in conformity to medical standards. The Government has also planned to extend monetary support to such MSMEs.

8- Bulk buyers/retailers have now been enabled to purchase agricultural produce directly from farmers, in order to decongest markets and mandis.

9- Adequate amount of fertilizers are being made available to farmers for the upcoming Kharif season.

10- Railways are operating parcel trains to supply essential commodities across the country, which include perishable products, seeds, milk and dairy products, food grains, salt, sugar, edible oil, coal and petroleum products, etc. Railways are also providing cooked meals to the poor and needy, with the help of non-Government organizations (NGOs).

11- Public and private airline operators such as such as Air India, IAF, Pawan Hans, Indigo, etc are transporting medicines and essential commodities to all parts of the country.

12- The Indian Navy has supplied and distributed ration packets, consisting of food items, to the stranded migrant laborers.

13- Sanitation workers in various cities are disinfecting public places, solid-waste carrying vehicles, shops, check-posts, public utility buildings such as banks, hospitals, vegetable markets, etc.

14- Bharat Padhe Online Campaign has been launched for sourcing ideas from students, and teachers, etc, about ways to improve online education system in India.

15- The Government has launched ‘Integrated Government Online Training’ Programme for front line workers during this Pandemic, i.e. doctors, nurses, paramedics, police and volunteers, anganwadi workers, hygiene workers, etc.

16- Government and private hospitals and health care centers are allotting isolation wards and beds for treatment of Covid-19 affected patients.

17- The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a digital IR thermometers and Oxygen Enrichment Units (OEUs) to test patients for Covid19.

18- The Government is also considering development of new treatments, therapies and vaccine technologies for treatment of Covid19 affected patients.

19- In addition to these Government measures, various private companies, entrepreneurs, individuals and start-ups are also coming forward to manufacture cost-effective masks, sanitizers and other equipments and also supply essential commodities to the needy.

Thus, the Government has been taking continuous measures to fight the war against Covid19 and implement a robust emergency response system to tackle this crisis.

Meanwhile, the Government believes that the country would soon have to fight another war on the economy front, as various start-ups, MSMEs, and other business enterprises have been badly affected due to loss of business and withdrawals of contracts, etc during the lockdown and Covid19 crisis. Thus, the Government is planning to consult with various industry experts and concerned Ministries before taking any steps to revive the economic conditions of the country.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

THE REALITY OF VIRTUAL COURTS

With the advent of the #Corona #Pandemic, all of us have had time to sit back and do a rain check on our lives and the systems that we follow. The #reality #check shows some #flaws in our #system that can be easily modified. Such modifications will not only lead to an easier lifestyle but will also save Mother #Earth from the constant abuse caused by mankind that has contributed to the pollution, be it land, air, water or noise #pollution.

Being in the #legalprofession for 25+ years, the one modification that I feel our country can benefit by is the starting of virtual courts. #Virtualcourt is a concept of online filing and presenting arguments, and online adjudication of cases (Virtual Court).

During the Pandemic, the #SupremeCourt and some of the higher courts have already paved the way for this by allowing litigants to file maters online and have Virtual Court hearings. This experiment on a small scale has clearly established that it is a way forward for the Indian Judicial System. It has also shown people (judiciary, lawyers, court registries and litigants) how the entire process can be simplified. Without a doubt, all concerned persons have been able to save a very valuable asset and that is time.

While I understand that considering the size of the Judicial System, it may not be easy to implement in a short time. However it is certainly doable. Having a digital system and Virtual Courts will certainly save time and money for all, as it will cut down on costs of filing and travelling. Additionally, a system of Virtual Courts can ensure a speedier trial as judges can insist that all pleadings be complete before trial (evidence and arguments) start.

What enforcement of this system would require is a pro-active and visionary Government, which luckily India has at this point of time. Possibly, the timing of Corona coincides with the tremendous pressure on the Judiciary of mounting litigations that seem to continue forever. The second requirement for this system would be a strong digital platform, which fortuitously

India already has. Hence, there is nothing that should stop the making of Virtual Courts a reality in India.

If the Indian legal system takes lessons from the Judicial System of advanced countries, we can restrict the use of courts to only trials and final arguments. This will substantially reduce the pressure on courts and in all likelihood; they will function more efficiently and quickly.

Probably, the most important aspect of Virtual Courts is that it would expose the lethargy and sluggishness of some of the departments as well as incompetent parts of the Judiciary. This would obviously ensure accountability of one and all making it a transparent, efficient and competitive Judicial System.

Now that several countries have started putting the blame of the Coronavirus on China, there would be a shift in manufacturing activities from China to other parts of the world. India is one country that can benefit by such a shift in the paradigm of business. This crisis could really make the ‘Make in India’ Policy a reality, helping the Indian economy to grow, stabilize and become a leading developed country. However, such growth can only take place if our legal system functions in an efficient manner. The current trend has put off so many foreign businesses from working in India. Though there is change on paper ground realities speak another story.

It is our fervent request to the #PrimeMinister to consider Virtual Courts as a reality. Such a step will accelerate India’s economic growth.

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

SUPREME COURT DIRECTS RELEASE OF PRISONERS: STATES COMPLY

#SupremeCourt of India in a suo motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1/2020 titled as In Re: Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons,passed an Order dated 23.03.2020 to deal with the issue of overcrowding in #prisons in the wake of #COVID19 pandemic. The 4 Judges Bench vide its Order directed all State and Union Territories to set up High-Level Committees to determine the class of prisoners who can be released on #parole for four to six weeks.

The Court while expressing its concerns over the crowded prisons observed that there are 1,339 prisons in the country housing approximately 4,66,084 inmates. The Court observed that as there is a lot of movement in the prison due to staff, visitors and lawyers there is a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19 to the prison inmates.

The Bench issued notice to all the State and Union Territories and directed the constitution of High-Level Committees which will work in consultation with State Legal Service Authority to determine which class of prisoners could be released on parole or on interim bail, for such period as it may think appropriate. However, the Bench had given an example that “…the Sate and Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are under trial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum.”

Consequently, in a recent case of V. Krishnamurthy vs State of Tamil Nadu and Others(WP No. 7482/2020), the Petitioner had approached the High Court at Madras, seeking enforcement of the directions given by the Supreme Court vide its Order dated 23.03.2020.

In this matter, the Government of State of Tamil Nadu informed the High Court of the steps taken by it to decongest prisons as well as to ensure the safety of those who are presently in #Jails.It was submitted that around 4182 prisoners who were involved in various offences were released by the Principal District Judges on Bail, by involving the Undertrial Review Committee and Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority.The Government further submitted that a High Powered Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Justice Vineet Kothari, Judge of the Madras High Court had been constituted, which also made recommendations to ensure welfare of all prisoners. Accordingly, the Government submitted that it has duly acted upon the directions of the Apex Court. The High Court expressed its satisfaction on the measures taken by the State and accordingly the matter was disposed off.

In another case titled as Mushtaq Ahmad Peer v. State of J&K &Ors.(CRA No. 34/2018), before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir,wherein an application for parole was moved by the Petitioner, who was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of sixteen years by a Special Anti-Corruption Court in connection to a cash-for-paper scam.

The administration of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir informed the High Court that the High Powered Committee constituted by it for determination of class of persons who may be released on interim bail to decongest prisons due to the threat of pandemic has suggested on 07.04.2020 that,

“…a person, who has been convicted in one case and has spent more than ten years (eight years, 5 in case of woman) in jail, except the cases vis-à-vis militancy, NDPS Act, POCSO Act or offence against women or acid attack or foreign national, can be considered for grant of special parole.

Nevertheless, the Bench of the J&K High Court noted that the Head of Prisons Department had been appointed as the “competent authority” under the Jammu and Kashmir Suspension of Sentence Rules, 2020 to grant “emergency parole” or “regular parole” to a prisoner, as the case may be.

Accordingly, the High Court ordered the Applicant to avail of the above remedy by approaching the High Powered Committee, comprising of Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee, Head of Prisons and Director General of Prisons.

The Government of Uttar Pradesh has also decided to free 11,000 prisoners lodged in 71 prisons in the State due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The High-Level Committee directed that undertrials lodged in 71 Jails of the State in crimes, whose maximum punishment is of 7 years, be given 8-weeks interim bail on a personal bond, and immediately freed from the prison. 

Therefore, in compliance with the Order of the Supreme Court, several States and Union Territory have started taking actions ensuring the implementation of the Order. The High-Level committees are being formed and exercise to control the spread of pandemic in prisons has already been undertaken by the Authorities. Similar steps have been taken by the Governments of State of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and UTs of Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Puducherry in compliance of the Supreme Court Order dated 23.03.2020.

Lakshmi Vishwakarma

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

Edited by

Sushila Ram

Chief Legal Consultant

The Indian Lawyer

REMEDIES FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT

In the aftermath of #Coronavirus, there will be several #contracts that will be #breached.

Thus, it is our endeavor to bring before you the Fourth Episode of our #YouTube Series called ‘TIL Legal Fundamentals’ and enable contracting parties to understand the #remedies available to #aggrievedparty in cases of such #breach.

To know more, please find the link below:

VIDEO CREDITS:

Starring- Adv. Sushila Ram Varma

Written and Edited By: Team, The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

Category: Legal License: Standard YouTube License