The Supreme Court took a tough stand last week on those who issued cheques without sufficient balance in the bank by stating that if compensation was not paid, the court could order further imprisonment. In this case, the drawer of the cheque was sentenced to undergo three months’ imprisonment and to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the payee. If the compensation was not paid, the accused person had to undergo a further two months’ imprisonment. The convict appealed to the Madras high court against the order of additional imprisonment. The high court, while confirming the conviction, was of opinion that no separate sentence could be awarded in default of payment of compensation when the substantive sentence of imprisonment is awarded. The high court, therefore, set aside the sentence in default of payment of compensation. Both parties appealed to the Supreme Court. It set aside the high court ruling on the default sentence in the judgment, R Mohan vs A K Vijay Kumar. The court said: “Deterrence can be infused into the order only by providing for a default sentence.”
Liberal damages in road death
The Supreme Court last week stated that compensation in motor vehicle accident claims will depend on the age of the person who lost life in the mishap and not on the age of the dependents who lost their bread-winner. In this case, Amrit Bhanu vs National Insurance Co., the victim of negligent driving was 26 years old. The insurance company paid only Rs 3.2 lakh following its surveyor’s report. His parents and sister moved the tribunal which awarded Rs 8.66 lakh. The insurance company challenged the order in the Chhattisgarh high court. It reduced the amount to Rs 6.68 lakh. The dependents appealed to the Supreme Court. It raised the compensation to Rs 9.54 lakh. The deceased was 26 years old at the time of the mishap and he could have worked for at least 17 years more, the court said. It calculated the compensation taking into account his contribution to the family, which would be half his earnings.
Preventive detention justified
In economic offence cases, preventive detention is justified if the act is “prejudicial to state security”. It is not necessary that the act must be punishable by any law. “An act may not be declared as an offence under law but still for such an act, which is an illegal activity, the law can provide for preventive detention if such an act is prejudicial to state security,” the Supreme Court declared last week in the case, Dropti Devi vs Union of India. In this case, the mother of a Cofeposa detainee, accused of indulging in ‘hawala’ dealings, challenged the constitutional validity of Section 3(1) of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act. It was argued that after the repeal of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, conviction under it would no longer be relevant for initiating proceedings under the Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act. Therefore, the provision for detention was unconstitutional, it was contended. The Supreme Court rejected the argument and stated that the provision for detention did not violate the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution.
Trade mark curb on rice exporter
The Delhi high court last week restrained Swadi Product UK Ltd from using the trade mark “Swadi Homemade” or any other mark which may be deceptively similar to the mark of M/s Friends Overseas. The injunction order will also cover any logo/label/packaging or any other deceptively similar marks in respect of rice, cereals, pulses or any such items, within India. Friends Overseas claimed that it has wide reputation in England for its products and the rival exporter was ‘passing off’ its products and confusing the consumers. Swadi Product, on the other hand, contended that the contested trade mark was a common Punjabi word meaning “tasty”; it was descriptive, which cannot be claimed exclusively by anyone. It had also registered the mark in England. The high court stated that registration of the mark in UK would not be relevant in this case.
Panchayat wins against power company
The Bombay high court has set aside the orders of the Maharashtra State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority in regard to environmental clearance to a power project of Hindustan Electricity Generation Corporation and asked SEAC to reconsider the application of the company. SEAC had acted in a “casual manner”, the judgment said in a petition moved by Navlakh Umbre Panchayat, near Pune, challenging the sanction granted to the company for a 355 MW project. It had also alleged that the company had started development work even before the environment clearance was granted.