Just calls, be it human rights or wildlife protection

In June, Justice N Anand Venkatesh made it clear that the limitation period prescribed in Registration Act, 1908, does not apply for registration of orders passed by a civil court.

Published: 02nd January 2022 05:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd January 2022 05:43 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

MADURAI: Though physical hearings were not restored completely and the State was still grappling with the pandemic, 2021 was an eventful year for the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

Important observations and judgments

Hearing a PIL challenging National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) decision to close a suo motu case it initiated over Tuticorin police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee criticised the State government and the NHRC in June, asking, “Can we kill people, throw money at them and say our job is done? Is that the society we want to build?”

In August, a bench of Justices N Kirubakaran (since retired) and B Pugalendhi attempted to free the “caged parrot” CBI by suggesting enactment of a special Act to give the agency statutory status. The same bench, allowing a PIL filed by Madurai MP Su Venkatesan seeking a direction to the Centre to use English alone in all communication with States and MPs, directed the Centre to strictly follow the Official Languages Act, 1963.

After a student was denied NEET quota, as she studied Classes 11 and 12 in a private school under the government’s Adi Dravidar scholarship, Justice V Parthiban, in March, told TN government to make the reservation more inclusive.

In June, Justice N Anand Venkatesh made it clear that the limitation period prescribed in Registration Act, 1908, does not apply for registration of orders passed by a civil court. The same judge, in August, refused to grant relief to a man who, seven years after his acquittal in a rape case, sought a direction to remove his name from the judgment due to social stigma. The judge cited various reasons for his decision, including the poor criminal justice system in India and lack of statutory backing. An appeal against this order is pending.

A bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and K Murali Shankar quashed the law providing 10.5% internal reservation for vanniyakula kshatriyas on November 1. It is now before the Supreme Court.Exercising its suo motu revisional powers, the HC convicted a man of abetting a woman’s suicide without an appeal or revision being filed. Justice B Pugalendhi convicted the man on November 29 while hearing an appeal filed by him against his conviction for two other offences in the case.

Justice GR Swaminathan, in December, ruled that Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is a prayer song and not an anthem and there is no statutory or executive order that required people to stand when it is played. A few days later, the State government passed an order making it a State song and mandated that everyone stand when it is played.

Going beyond the call of duty

On September 11, Justice R Suresh Kumar heard a medical aspirant’s plea physically around 9 pm on Saturday, a holiday, and allowed her to write NEET on Sunday. The girl was denied permission due to mistakes in her hall ticket. Similarly, on December 18 (a Saturday), Justice GR Swaminathan took up a woman’s plea alleging illegal detention of her sons. The judge heard the matter and dictated the order through his mobile phone while he was on his way to Tirunelveli by car. 

Protecting rights

Justice GR Swaminathan, in February, ordered the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of Madurai Sub-Zone to pay `1 lakh compensation to the family of an accused for violating his right to speedy trial. A bench of Justices MM Sundresh (who was later elevated to the Supreme Court) and S Ananthi held that a person who wears glasses for regular functioning cannot be deemed unfit for a post when the notification does not specify such visual standards and the work can be done by wearing glasses.

Justice Swaminathan, while quashing a sedition case against YouTuber M Maridhas on December 14, said social media personalities commenting on public affairs are also entitled to the right to freedom of speech and expression enjoyed by journalists and media. The judge later also suggested inclusion of “duty to laugh” in the Constitution when he came to the rescue of a CPI (ML) man who was booked for posting a “funny” photo caption on social media. The HC has also upheld the people’s “right to protest” on several occasions.

For rights of the disabled

Holding the State health department accountable for “unfair” and “arbitrary” denial of medical admission to an eligible disabled aspirant for the year 2018-2019, Justice GR Swaminathan in January directed it to pay `2 lakh to the aspirant. Observing that disabled Indian women are often discriminated against both as women and people with disability, Justice Murali Shankar, in June, refused to reduce punishment imposed on three people for attempting to rape a woman with speaking and hearing disability.

Green warriors

In February, a special bench ordered a CBI probe into poaching of elephants in TN. Justices MM Sundresh and N Sathish Kumar passed the order after perusing a report filed by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. The bench also criticized State authorities for “feigning ignorance” despite receiving the WCCB’s report. In September, the bench directed authorities to identify and remove invasive plant species in TN forests. Another bench directed the State to form a high-level committee to conduct survey and notify patta lands near rivers that contain sand as protected sites.


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