The Supreme Court last week dismissed a batch of writ petitions moved by six mining companies of Jharkhand and cleared the way for grant of lease of iron ore mines to public sector undertakings. The grant of lease was not possible for six years due to litigation and stay orders. The companies, including Monnet Ispat & Energy, Adhunik Alloys and Ispat Industries, challenged the notifications allowing public sector units to engage in mining, excluding private firms. The judgment said: “In our view, the state of Jharkhand was fully justified in declining the grant of leases to the private sector operators, and in reserving the areas for PSUs on the basis of notifications of 1962, 1969 and 2006. All that the state government has done is to act in furtherance of the policy of the statute [Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act] and it cannot be faulted for the same.”
‘Urgent’ land acquisition quashed
The Supreme Court last week quashed acquisition of land belonging to a company because the Uttar Pradesh government could not justify the urgency for the action. The government argued that it wanted 250 acres for planned development of industrial area in Dehradun through the State Industrial Development Corporation. Garg Woollen Ltd moved the Allahabad High Court and argued that it had already taken a huge loan and started setting up an industry. The high court dismissed its petition. Allowing the appeal of the company, the Supreme Court said that the power to take over land on an urgent basis is an extraordinary power and such provision can be invoked “only when the purpose of acquisition cannot brook the delay of even a few weeks or months.” Invoking the urgency clause does not preclude a hearing to the land owner either. He can challenge the acquisition on the ground that there was no public purpose involved and it was done mala fide or without application of mind.
Detenu freed due to delays
Any unreasonable and unexplainable delay in considering the representation of a person held under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act will be illegal and the detenu will be entitled to be released on that ground alone, the Supreme Court stated last week in the judgment Rashid Kapadia vs Medha Gadgil. There was a delay of one month from receiving his representation and its rejection by the authority. This delay was held “fatal” to the detention order. Setting aside the judgment of the Bombay High Court against the detenu, the Supreme Court remarked that the right of a person, “who is preventively detained, to make a representation and have it considered by the authority concerned as expeditiously as possible, is a Constitutional right under Article 22(5).”
Compassion in cheque bounce case
The Supreme Court last week set aside the sentence of two years imprisonment on a woman who issued two dishonoured cheques on compassionate grounds. The woman, 66, had obtained a loan for Rs 1 lakh, and issued the bounced cheques in repayment. The payee moved the criminal court invoking Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and it ordered jail and fine of Rs 1.2 lakh. It was found that the woman, Nihali Devi of Delhi, had lost her two sons, and the daughter died of cancer when the case was pending. The court stated that the lapse was not deliberate and she wanted to repay the loan, but was prevented by tragic circumstances. Therefore the Supreme Court substituted the jail sentence with a fine of Rs 25,000.
Airline must disclose conditions
The National Consumer Commission last week dismissed the appeal of Lufthansa German Airlines and asked it to refund the amount of the tickets which was withheld by it to a family. The family went to the US with return tickets. One of them fell ill and had to return urgently for treatment. However, the airline rejected the return tickets on the ground that they were travelling under an ‘excursion fare scheme’. Under the scheme refund was also not allowed. The passengers were not told about this condition earlier and they had to use another airline by paying extra money. They moved the consumer forum in Chennai, which asked the airline to refund the amount. It appealed, arguing that the scheme did not permit refund and there was a ‘code word’ indicating the condition. The commission pointed out that the passengers were not told about this condition, and the tickets or jacket did not contain anything like it. The commission remarked that “reference to the code word in the tickets, to say the least, is at best information for the internal consumption and management of the airlines and a consumer cannot dream of the implications behind each letter.”