Judges Library

Significant Judgements

According to the website of the High Court of Orissa1 , the judges of the High Court delivered, in all, total 2168 judgments in 2022. In this chapter, a summary of the judgments delivered by each of the judges which make a significant contribution to the development of the law has been set out. On account of paucity of space, this has been limited to two judgements per judge. Furthermore, this is not an exhaustive list of the significant judgments delivered in 2022 by the Orissa High Court.

CHIEF JUSTICE DR. S. MURALIDHAR

M/S. M. G. Mohanty and Anr. v. State of Odisha and Ors.

Case Number: WP(C) No. 3523 of 2022 and batch

Coram: Dr. S. Muralidhar CJ and Justice R. K. Pattanaik

Date of decision: 8th April, 2022

The question of law before the Court concerned the interpretation as well as interplay of the provisions of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (CC Act) with the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (A & C Act). The petitions also questioned a Notification dated 13th November, 2020 issued by the State of Odisha through its Principal Secretary, Law Department in establishing the Court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) for the purposes of exercising jurisdictions and powers under the CC Act.

The question was whether for the purposes of the dealing with applications under Sections 9, 14, 34 and so on of the A & C Act, jurisdiction can be conferred on a judicial officer subordinate to the rank of a District Judge, i.e. the Principal Civil Judge in the district notwithstanding Section 2(1)(e) of the A & C Act? An incidental question was whether the power exercised by the State Government under Section 3(3) read with Section 10(3) and 15(2) of the CC Act can override Section 42 of the A & C Act?

The Court concluded that for a domestic arbitration, there was no bar contained in Section 50 of the A & C Act to maintain an appeal under Section 13(1) of the CC Act. In the present case, the petitions which were transferred to the Commercial Court were under Sections Section 9 or Section 14 or Section 34 of the A&C Act, which were covered under Section 15(2) of the CC Act. So the question of applicability of either Section 13(1) of the CC Act or Section 50 of the A&C Act, therefore, did not arise.

The Court further held that “commercial disputes have been identified as a special category for the purposes of the legislation. It is not possible to accept the plea on behalf of the Petitioners that while A&C is a special law, the CC Act is a general law. This cannot be a mere matter of perception of the Petitioners. Here we have two special laws one being the A&C Act which is earlier and the CC Act which is later. Therefore, the principle of ‘generalia specialibus nonderogant’, has no application whatsoever, in the present context.”

1 High Court of Orissa, Case statistics of the High Court in 2022 accessed from https://www. orissahighcourt. nic.in/2022.pdf

The Court then held that there was no apparent conflict between the A&C Act and the CC Act for being resolved. The objective of both enactments was the speedy resolution of the disputes. As far as the challenge to the vires of Section 10 of the CC Act was concerned, indeed no ground had been made out to show how Section 10 of the CC Act was ultra vires the legislative powers of the Parliament or how it was ‘manifestly arbitrary’. The identification of commercial disputes as distinct from ordinary civil disputes was based on an intelligible differentia and subjecting them to a special expedited procedure can neither be considered to be arbitrary nor ultra vires the A&C Act. All these provisions provided rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the CC Act i.e. the expeditious resolution of commercial disputes.

This judgment has been upheld by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated 19th October, 2022 in Jaycee Housing Private Limited and Ors. v. Registrar (General), Orissa High Court, Cuttack and Ors. (2023) 1 SCC 549.

Sambara Sabar v. State of Odisha

Case Number: WP(C) No. 11860 of 2015

Coram: Dr. S. Muralidhar CJ and Justice M.S Raman

Date of decision: 3rd November, 2022

The Petitioner after losing his daughter-in-law and grandchild came before this court inter alia for the appointment of a Maternal Death Review Board (MDRB) comprised of independent members and a direction for payment of compensation by the State under the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS). The case of the Petitioner was that the death of the baby at birth as well as the mother, in a case of maternal mortality, was due to medical negligence which could have been avoided.

The Court during the course of hearing requested the Odisha State Commission for Women (OSCW) to constitute an enquiry team to examine the documents, record the statements of the Petitioner, his family members and the concerned treating doctors, the place of treatment, the medical case records and make an assessment of the veracity of the claims of either party on the basis of the materials gathered.

Pursuant to above directions, OSCW made an inquiry and submitted its report before the Court. The Court proceeded on the basis of the conclusions reached by the Enquiry Committee that the death of the deceased was due to the collective negligence of the treating doctors both at Primary Health Centre and at the District Health Hospital.

The Court further observed that the victim was a poor tribal woman to whom the State health care system failed to extend the appropriate health benefits. It was unfortunate that the benefits of the multifarious schemes, which were meant to cater the needs of the poor and vulnerable, could not reach in time.

The Court while going through the existing legal regime referred the order passed in People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (W.P.(C) No.196 of 2001) where specific direction was given to the State Government and the Union Territories to implement NMBS, ICDS and AAY, which were meant for the poorest of the poor and also referred the judgment of Delhi High Court in Laxmi Mandal v. Harinagar Hospital (2010 SCC OnLine D elhi 2234). The Court observed that there was an acute failure of the entire team of doctors at each level of the health care system in Odisha to provide timely and adequate care, which resulted in the inevitable death. There was a clear violation of the fundamental right to health of the deceased, which constituted an integral part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court directed the Government of Odisha to pay to the family members Rs.10 lakhs as compensation within a period of six weeks. For the acts of negligence of the doctor, concerned health workers and staff, the Court directed the Government to take appropriate steps. The Court issued a series of directions to the State Government to formulate a Comprehensive Action Plan and Policy within a period of four months, which would contain both preventive and remedial action points, in the short and medium term to address the issue of maternal deaths.