The Central Board of Trustees of the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation recently approved a proposal to permit provident fund members to withdraw 75% of their accumulations after a period of one month of continuous unemployment instead of two months. The proposal would come into effect when the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act and the Employees' Provident Funds Scheme are amended.
In order to keep pace with rapid economic growth, the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill 2017 proposes to introduce provisions to facilitate the enforcement of contracts. Among other things, the bill proposes to remove the courts' discretionary power to decree specific performance, permit substituted performance by a third party, set up special courts for dealing exclusively with suits relating to infrastructure claims and prevent the courts from granting injunctions in contracts relating to an infrastructure project.
The new Code on Wages 2017 was recently introduced in Lok Sabha and is currently pending approval. The code seeks to integrate, amend and simplify the four central labour laws in order to reduce the multiplicity of definitions given under various labour legislation and foster a conducive labour environment by facilitating ease of compliance, thereby promoting the establishment of more organisations and creating more employment opportunities.
The Supreme Court recently issued two judgments regarding consumer law. In the first, the Supreme Court held that the courts should take a pragmatic view of consumers' rights considering their relative disadvantage with regard to suppliers of goods or services. In the second, the court held that, in the context of a vehicle insurance policy, the mere failure of the vehicle owner to intimate the insurer immediately after the theft of the vehicle should not bar settlement of genuine claims.
In an important recent case regarding contract law, the Supreme Court held that the commercial courts should not seek to interpret the implied terms of a contract. In a second notable case, the court examined whether an increase in coal prices (due to a change in Indonesian law) could be cited as a force majeure event by certain power-generating companies that were sourcing coal from Indonesia. Finally, the court also recently issued an important decision in a suit for damages and wrongful termination.
The most important criminal law Supreme Court judgments in 2017 included a case which held that Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002, on the grant of bail, violates the right to equality and right to life. Elsewhere, the court clarified the criteria for quashing criminal proceedings and issued certain guidelines in order to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Penal Code.
A division bench of the Supreme Court recently decided to examine the correctness of a judgment by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), New Delhi. The NCDRC had held that, among other things, consumer disputes cannot be settled by arbitration. This decision begs the question whether the line of reasoning preferred by the NCDRC is likely to invite more critical scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
Throughout 2017, the Supreme Court issued judgments on public interest litigation cases. These include reviewing the way in which senior advocates are designated, determining whether to constitute a special investigation team and establishing fast-track courts for criminal cases.
In 2017 the Supreme Court delivered several significant judgments which have far-reaching importance in the field of constitutional law. In particular, in one case, the court set aside the practice of talaq-e-biddat, while in another it held that the right to privacy was an intrinsic part of the right to life and other freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
The Payment of Gratuity Act 1972 is a form of social security legislation which prescribes a scheme for the payment of gratuity. For the private sector, gratuity is capped at Rs1 million, whereas central government employees can receive gratuity of up to Rs2 million. There is a proposal to increase the cap for the private sector in order to align it with the central government. Although this is a step forward in ensuring better benefits to eligible employees, it will increase employers' financial burden.
The federal government recently enacted a new act in order to empower disabled individuals and ensure their inclusion in the education and employment spheres. Although the government is primarily responsible for ensuring that disabled individuals receive equal treatment under the act, private organisations have also been made accountable for various obligations.
The Karnataka High Court recently issued a judgment which dealt with the retrospective application of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002. The court held that a person cannot be tried for an offence under the act for the period when the offence was not inserted in the schedule of offences under the act. This would deny the writ petitioner the protection offered by Article 20(1) of the Constitution.
With the growing landscape of global businesses, there is a constant need to deploy employees for international assignments not only for skill development, but also for the business needs of the organisation. In order to abate similar obligations in a host country, India has entered into social security agreements (SSAs) with many countries. SSAs offer various benefits, such as the totalisation of benefits and exemption from dual contributions of social security.
In 2015 the Supreme Court settled the law on contractual penalty clauses. In essence, the term 'contractual penalty clause' refers to a clause in a contract whereby a party in breach of an obligation under the contract is required to pay the other party an amount which is greater than the reasonable proportion of the damage or loss suffered due to such breach.
The Supreme Court recently dealt with the question of whether a special judge designated to deal with cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 is empowered to try offences which do not fall within the act. The court held that that there is no prejudice to a trial before a special judge duly appointed to oversee cases that fall under the act if the object of doing so is to try connected cases before the same court.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 was recently passed by the upper house of Parliament. Key changes include enhanced maternity leave, the introduction of maternity leave for adopting and commissioning mothers and new remote working provisions. The amendments are undoubtedly a positive step towards promoting diversity and the increased participation of women in the workforce in the manufacturing and service industries.
The Supreme Court recently clarified and reaffirmed the legal position surrounding the existence and severability of multiple grounds contained in a detention order passed under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act 1974. The Supreme Court addressed the scope of the definition of 'grounds' in a detention order, holding that grounds are the basic facts on which an order is based in light of subsidiary facts or further particulars.
The Supreme Court recently held that a dishonoured post-dated cheque for repayment of a loan instalment that was described as 'security' in the loan agreement was covered by the criminal liability set out in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. While deciding whether dishonoured cheques issued to discharge existing liability fall under Section 138, the court explained that the question of whether a post-dated cheque is for "discharge of debt or liability" depends on the nature of the transaction.
Although the concept of class action was first introduced into law by way of Section 245 of the Companies Act 2013, it only recently came into force. Specifically, Section 245 has introduced the concept of specialised class action by a company's shareholders and depositors. The enactment of Section 245 is likely to have far-reaching effects on the legal regime as, in addition to empowering shareholders and depositors, it will affect how companies conduct their affairs.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs recently notified, among other things, the constitution of the National Company Law Tribunal and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal and the dissolution of the Company Law Board. This marks an important step towards facilitating business in India, as it seeks to consolidate jurisdiction for various aspects of corporate litigation.