April 22, 2015 3:35:06 am
It’s not often that you see a dead man standing, but that’s what Chief Justice of India H L Dattu witnessed on Monday. Standing before the bench he was heading was 65-year-old Gulshan Kumar, with a judicial order that had declared him dead almost six years ago.
“Please see this order, your Lordship, and here I am in front of you. How can I be declared dead? Please have another judicial order declare me alive,” said Kumar.
The former Indian Air Force staffer added that he had been practising as an advocate in the apex court when a bench recorded in 2009 that he was “no more”.
Taken aback at first, Justice Dattu read the order and looked at Kumar. He then smiled and said that the bench that had declared Kumar dead did not exist anymore as the judges involved had retired.
“Please have this order corrected,” Kumar pleaded, adding he had two more petitions pending in Supreme Court that he wanted to be listed.
During the brief hearing that followed, Kumar alleged that nobody had bothered to check at his address whether he was dead or not, and that the 2009 order was passed on the basis of a submission by the counsel on the opposing side.
Justice Dattu accepted his plea and said that he would pass appropriate orders in his cases.
Kumar was referring to a case in which he had been booked for criminal intimidation. He had questioned its validity claiming that an earlier interpretation of the law had been applied, which labelled his offence as “cognisable and non-bailable”.
But while hearing the case on May 29, 2009, a bench led by Justice V S Sirpurkar recorded: “It is reported at the Bar that the concerned appellant who is also Advocate-on-Record of this Court is no more. In view of the death of the concerned person the matter has become infructuous. The appeal is accordingly disposed of as having become infructuous.”
Asked why he had waited for six years for the correction, Lucknow-based Kumar told The Indian Express: “For a really long time, I did not know that I had been declared dead. Ever since I got to know about it through the court website, I have been trying to come to Delhi but that became possible only now because of some other exigencies. Moreover, it did not impact anyone else but me and it is never too late to be declared alive.”
Kumar added that he had challenged the validity of a notification issued under Section 10 of Criminal Amendment Act of 1932, which made the offence of criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the IPC cognisable and non-bailable.
However, he said, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 categorised intimidation as non-cognisable and bailable, making it a lesser offence that did not require immediate arrest.
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