Indian Judiciary

Stamps in NCLT

First question that popped into my mind when a client engaged me to appear in National Company Law Tribunal, Chennai, was how to I procure local stamps required to file my Vakalath. Each state have their own court-fees stamps and advocate/clerk’s-welfare-stamps. So, will NCLT Chennai accept Kerala Stamps? Answer is YES..! They will.

The NCLT court-registry is totally ignorant about the required Vakalath Stamps. They are concerned only with the fees prescribed in the Schedule to the Tribunal Rules. All other legal formalities are beyond their comprehension. All you need is a colourful Vakalath, with lot of stamps, affixed all over it.

If this issue is examined on the legal side, stamps should be affixed as per the State Rules where the document is executed. But when the same document is taken to a different State, one has to provide for the differential stamp-value as well, or else the document will be impounded. In Kerala, the court fees stamps and other stamps required in a Vakalath are of much higher in value than that of Tamil Nadu. So, even legally speaking, Kerala Vakalath with Kerala Stamps, should be accepted in Tamil Nadu as well !

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B Kamal Pasha – Oru adaar judge

It was during my initial years of practice that I first met Justice B Kamal Pasha, when he was officiating as Principles Sessions Judge, Ernakulam. It was an appeal against conviction under S. 379IPC (Crl App 687/11), and I was seeking suspension of sentence within 5days of imprisonment. He said – nothing doing, that appellant/accused will steal again. I submitted that the accused is recently married, showed the wedding card, and stated that he is expecting a child within 7months – a reformed man. This moved the judge, and he immediately suspended the sentence, without even seeking the report of the prosecutor. (Years later, his brother – B Kalam Pasha J, allowed that appeal and set aside the conviction). The rare empathy showed by Justice Kamal Pasha, in the form of interim suspension of sentence, saved the appellant’s marriage, and my career in criminal law (I am more of a civil guy).

Thereafter, I have consistently appeared before Justice B Kamal Pasha, in Sessions Court and after his elevation, in High Court. J Pasha is a man of simple common sense. He will decide cases on logic and fairness, rather than on strict letters of law. Because of this, in High Court, it was dangerous to appear before him in criminal matters, and more easy to handle in civil jurisdiction. Bold, outspoken and upright, he loved dictating judgments in open court – like a king. Though he had a questionable affinity for limelight and newspaper-recognition, he was a good judge overall.

On his day of retirement, I write this, because he has avowed that he will not take up any government posts hereafter. That is a decision, many good judges shy away from taking, but is a need of the hour to protect the system. He also retired with a blast. In his retirement speech, he criticized the collegium nominees sent for elevation to the Kerala High Court. I had goosebumps, when he said that aloud, in full court reference. It is a matter which many lawyers whispered to each other but never dared to air it in public. Pasha was classic Basha, the character Rajanikanth portrayed, on his day of retirement.

Anyway, I wish Justice B Kamal Pasha, all happiness and peace in his retired life.!
(I am sure he is not done yet, and we will hear more from him)

NGT Chennai, moved to a swanky renovated palace

National Green Tribunal, Southern Zonal Bench at Chennai is moved from TNPCB’s old office to KalasMahal, Ezhilagam, Chepauk from 1st September 2017. The building is an architectural brilliance, an old palace renovated artistically. 

Here is the google map location of the place, which is otherwise difficult to find.
https://goo.gl/maps/keXAaYzLE9u

Outnumbering of Original Petitions in Family Courts

Anyone who has ever gone to a Family Court, will know that it is not the best place for litigation. There is no decency or ethics, neither among lawyers nor between litigants. This is mostly due to deficiencies in the legal system and unreasonable laws biased in favour of the women.

Here I am concerned with a related matter, about docket multiplication. When a couple approaches a family court for divorce and other related reliefs, there would be numerous cases filed on their behalf.

The husband would be filing for restitution of conjugal rights, custody of children etc, whereas wife usually files for divorce, maintenance, return of gold ornaments etc. Currently, all these are separate cases, having separate proceedings and docket numbers. There would be minimum three original petitions and one miscellaneous case (apart from 498A and domestic violence criminal cases), when a warring couple decides to fight it out in family court. As a topping to the chaos, all these cases are granted separate docket numbers, like OP, MC, MP etc.

I have always wondered why a particular couple is not given a single docket number, so that it is easy for the lawyers and registry to handle their cases. I know, all these cases would not originate all at once, but during different periods of time. But still, if a couple is given one main docket number, and is allowed to file interlocutory applications for maintenance, custody of children etc, then it is more easy for everyone to handle the case file.

Anyhow, at the end, joint trial of all the connected cases would be ordered by the Family Court. So why cant these separate original petitions, of a single family, be consolidated into one? Postings, personal appearance, counselling etc become easy that way.

One original petition intimating arise of the matrimonial dispute, and everything else under it as interlocutory applications. It would be a civilised way of conducting litigation in an otherwise adverse environment.

The N-th procedure to correct Data Bank

I can’t really remember all those methods that were formulated to correct the data bank under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. There have been numerous. All those procedures were either replaced or repealed, before any application could reach a logical conclusion.

If I remember correctly, first it was the Thasildar under the Kerala Land Tax Act who was empowered to correct the Basic Tax Register (and in course the data bank), if it was found that the land in reality is not a Paddy Land. Later, his power was curtailed, and the Kerala High Court assumed this role in its original jurisdiction. But when number of cases that are filed got out of control, the Kerala High Court decided to relegate the function to the Local Level Monitoring Committee or the Revenue Divisional Officer, depending on the entry in the data bank. Thereafter, in the year 2015, the UDF Government brought in the controversial Section 3A for correction of data bank by the District Collector. But again, this section was repealed after the Kerala High Court warned of it being struck down as unconstitutional.

Sometime in the year 2016, somebody informed the Kerala High Court that there is a Center for Remote Sensing at Thiruvananthapuaram, which has taken satellite pictures of all of Kerala, and it could reveal how the land was lying as on the year 2008. So now, the Kerala High Court has again assumed the responsibility of correcting the data bank, after calling for report from this “Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre, Thiruvananthpuaram” through the Agricultural Officer, who is the convener of the Local Level Monitoring Committee. This is the procedure in currently in vogue for correcting the data bank, but now it is learned that a new notification has come into effect.

I haven’t seen the official notification, but the newspaper report is enclosed here under for reference. According to that report, one has to go directly to the Local Level Monitoring Committee, for correction of mistakes in the data bank, within 90days from 1st June 2017. The time limit of 90days is prescribed only for the Kerala High Court to strike it down.

For me, one thing is very clear. The Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, is an unruly gal, wandering here and there without any resolve, and yet to enter her teenage. When she is a teenager, I bet, all including the Kerala Government, Environmental Activists and Kerala High Court would vie to tame her, and get her attention, with their own pieces of advice.

So, according to me, it is better to wait and watch, and see how this girl grows up into a woman, instead of rushing in for her immediate attention.

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PS: The amendment GO (P) No. 34/2017/Revenue dated 30/5/2017 (SRO 301/2017) is embedded hereunder

Candlelight Justice

This was the state of affairs in Wakf Tribunal, Ernakulam, today morning (on 26.5.2017). No electricity, no ventilation light. The judge was given a candle, to see minimum. The lawyers were given their colonial gown. Everyone had super fun, courtesy the unforgiving summer.

Vacation Court’s inherent infirmity – “What is the urgency?”

Today I moved a civil revision petition against order of a trial court holding that a suit for compensation is maintainable and the parties should suffer trial. The revision petition was moved before the vacation bench of the Kerala High Court. In my initial evaluation of the case, it should have received the interim order staying further proceedings in court below, without much ado. However, the vacation judge decided to ask the most difficult and tricky question – “What is the urgency? Why cant it be heard on the reopening date?”

Well, I wasn’t prepared for such a question, to be honest. I was hoping for questions on merits of the case, why the suit should not go to trial or what is wrong with the impugned order of the court below.

I fumbled on this query of the learned vacation judge. I said that since the suit is listed for trial, it is in the best interest of parties that it is stayed beforehand rather than keeping the parties guessing till the 11th hour. Either way, considering my sad face and loss for answers, the compassionate judge granted me the interim order as prayed for.

On retrospection, I believe, I didnt say the truth about the urgency in moving the vacation bench. Its purely my financial urgency. The urgency is not for the client or for the case, but for me and my purse alone.

It is an accepted fact that summer vacations are drought season for all lawyers. It is to tide over the said financial crisis that I moved the vacation bench. The learned lordships with so vast experience should know it better than any of us. Still they ask this tricky question, “What is the urgency”, as if they don’t know the real answer. Time for judicial reforms of (at least) vacation courts, I guess.