In a coal mine disaster of 1996, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a manager and the agent for criminal negligence, but reduced their jail sentence to a fine. The incident was 20 years old, the manager was now an invalid and 75 years old, while the agent was negligent only to a degree, it held. The other accused had already been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment and fined. A mining sirdar had asked 17 loaders to continue work despite warnings by workers from the earlier shift that the roof was about to collapse. The roof did collapse, killing four and severely injuring several others. A probe found the coal mine authorities had violated the system support rules under the mines and minerals Act. A criminal complaint was made before the chief judicial magistrate of Dhanbad who found seven persons guilty, including four public servants who violated the rules and warnings. Their appeals were dismissed by the Jharkhand High Court. Two convicts moved the Supreme Court; but it dismissed their appeals in a long judgment in the case Binoy Kumar vs State of Jharkhand.
CCI probe can’t be stalled
When the Competition Commission of India (CCI) forms a prima facie opinion
that certain firms have formed a cartel and asks its director general to probe the allegation, it is an administrative decision. It is a direction to one of its departments and does not involve adjudicatory function. The firms against which the probe is being conducted has no right to inspect documents and evidence against them at that stage, the Delhi High Court ruled last week in the appeals of Premier Rubber Mills and Somi Conveyor Beltings Ltd. In these cases, the commission, on its own, ordered a probe by the director general as it felt the firms had been indulging in a bid-rigging cartel in the market for conveyor belts and exchanged commercial and confidential price sensitive information among themselves prior to submission of bids. The firms told the high court their application for permission to inspect documents and get certified copies was rejected on the ground of confidentiality. Their right to defend themselves had been arbitrarily denied, they argued. They also challenged the regulations related to the investigation. The high court rejected all their contentions and allowed the investigation by the director general to proceed.
High court intervenes in ITC’s trademark suit
The Calcutta High Court ruled last week that it has jurisdiction to decide a trade mark suit moved by ITC Ltd against a cooperative bank in a “nondescript” Kerala town. The name of the bank is Irinjalakuda Town Co-operative Bank, abbreviated as ITC Bank. The corporation with its registered office in Kolkata alleged infringement of its trade mark and accused the bank of trying to pass off its services as that of the big corporation. It asserted that the website of the bank is accessible everywhere and that the cheques or drafts carrying the name "ITC Bank" are being issued and can be encashed at all banks situated within the jurisdiction of the Calcutta High Court. Similarly, the debit cards issued can be used at ATMs everywhere. The bank submitted that the high court could not claim jurisdiction in this case as it operated in Kerala. The high court rejected its defence.
Banker’s gratuity can’t be withheld
The Bombay High Court last week ordered payment of gratuity to a bank employee who was prematurely terminated 20 years ago, alleging financial irregularities. In this case, Nannubhai Desai vs UCO Bank, the court noted that the bank had not issued a show-cause notice to the employee, it had not proved the extent of financial loss and no criminal or civil suit had been filed against him. The court also noted that the Payment of Gratuity Act is a welfare legislation and the employer is not empowered to forfeit gratuity. “Forfeiture of gratuity has serious consequences and any order providing for such forfeiture is a quasi-judicial order. It goes without saying, it must be passed after following principles of natural justice which call for an impartial and fair inquiry after giving adequate notice and affording sufficient opportunity to show cause to the delinquent employee,” the judgment said.
GAIL’s challenge to rules dismissed
The Delhi High Court last week dismissed the petition of Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) challenging a set of regulations dealing with tariff, distribution networks and laying of pipelines passed under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act. In this writ petition, GAIL vs Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, the public sector undertaking pleaded that 12 tariff orders issued by the board fixing tariff for gas pipelines should be held illegal as the board has no power to do so. The high court rejected the contention.