The Supreme Court , once a hive of activity, remained quiet during the Pandemic, but since the courts started virtual hearings, life has returned to some sort of new normal at the Apex court.
The court rooms have been substituted by virtual mechanisms; paper books by computer files; judges conduct hearings through video conferencing; and technology largely determines success of a hearing, if not the outcome. But the year 2020 was as striking as any other year for the Supreme Court of India. A rundown of the outgoing year shows an assortment of crucial judgments , including a few that changed the landscape of judicial history, as below:
1: Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India
On January 10, a three judge bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and B R Gavai delivered the judgment on a batch of petitions which challenged the legality of the curfew orders and internet shutdown imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of the special status of the state in August 2019. A significant take away from the judgment is its declaration that freedom of speech and expression and also freedom of trade and commerce through the medium of internet are constitutionally protected rights under Articles 19(1)(a) and Articles 19(1)(g), respectively
The Court said : "We declare that the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g)."
The Court observed that indefinite suspension of internet is not permissible and that repeated orders under Section 144 CrPC will amount to abuse of power. The Court also added that the Government should publish all orders of restrictions, and should follow the principles of proportionality to adopt less restrictive measures. The Court observed that the power under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights. The Court said that provisions of Section 144, CrPC. will only be applicable in a situation of emergency and for the purpose of preventing obstruction and annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed. While the judgment is laudable for its reaffirmation of the principles of proportionality, its caution against arbitrary use of Section 144 to curb dissent and its recognition of internet as a medium to exercise fundamental right to free speech and trade and commerce, the Court stopped short of giving a ruling of the legality of the prohibitory orders passed by the administration. The judgment remained as a restatement of principle without tangible relief to the petitioners. It directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all orders of restrictions imposed in the state post the abrogation of the state's special status within a week. 2: Sushila Aggarwal & Ors. v. State (NCT of Delhi) & Anr.
On January 29, a constitution bench of the the Supreme Court held that anticipatory bail should not invariably be limited to a fixed period. But if there are any special or peculiar features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for it to do so, the five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra has held. Justices MR Shah and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat penned separate judgments agreeing with each other. Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran concurred with the conclusion reached by both the judges. The Court also held that life or duration of an anticipatory bail order does not end normally at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court, or when charges are framed but can continue till the end of the trial except in special and peculiar cases. The Constitution Bench also discussed in the judgment the impact of recovery under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 on the bail granted. In this regard, the bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Ravindra Bhat in the case Sushila Aggarwal and others v State of NCT of Delhi and others largely reaffirmed the principles laid down in the case Shri Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia and others v. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 565. 3: 'No Absolute Right Of Appointment For Minority Educational Institutions' : Supreme Court Upholds WB Madrasah Service Commission Act
The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008 observing that there is no absolute and unqualified right of appointment for minority educational institutions. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit delivered the verdict on Monday in the case SK Md Raffique v Managing Committee, Contai Rehmania High Madrasah and others. The case concerned the validity of West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008, which constituted a commission to appoint teachers in madrasas. Later, a writ petition was filed against this verdict contending that it was contrary to the judgment of a 3-judge bench in Chandana Das (Malakar) v. State of West Bengal, passed on September 25, 2019, on minority rights. In Chandana Das case, the bench comprising Justice RF Nariman, Justice R.Subhash Reddy and Justice Surya Kant had held that the fundamental right of Minorities under Article 30 of the Constitution of India to administer educational institutions "cannot be waived". On January 30, a bench headed by the CJI issued notice on the writ petition which sought reference of the issue to a larger bench. 4: JJ Act: Offences Prescribing Max Sentence Of More Than 7 Years But Not Providing Minimum Sentence Are Not 'Heinous Offences', But 'Serious Offences':- Shilpa Mittal v State of NCT of Delhi and Another
The Supreme Court has observed that an offence prescribing a maximum sentence of more than 7 years imprisonment but not providing any minimum sentence, or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years, cannot be considered to be a 'heinous offence' within the meaning of Section 2(33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Invoking Article 142 of the Constitution, the bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose held that category of offences viz., offence where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence or minimum sentence of less than 7 years is provided, shall be treated as 'serious offences' within the meaning of the Act. 5: Keisham Meghachandra Singh v. The Hon'ble Speaker Manipur Legislative Assembly & Ors
The Supreme Court has held that Speaker of the Legislative Assembly should decide on a petition seeking disqualification of a member under Tenth Schedule of the Constitution within a period of three months, in the absence of exceptional reasons. Highlighting the importance of taking a decision within a reasonable time, the SC said ,
"The Speaker, in acting as a Tribunal under the Tenth Schedule, is bound to decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period...a period of three months from the date on which the petition is filed is the outer limit within which disqualification petitions filed before the Speaker must be decided if the constitutional objective of disqualifying persons who have infracted the Tenth Schedule is to be adhered to."
This was held by a bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Aniruddha Bose and V Ramasubramanian in a case relating to alleged defection in Manipur assembly. As a sequel to this order, the Supreme Court in March restrained Manipur BJP minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar from entering the Legislative Assembly till further orders. The Court also declared that he will cease to be a Minister. This extraordinary order was passed by the becnh headed by Justice Nariman after noting that the Speaker failed to decide on the disqualification petition against Shyamkumar within the time period stipulated in the earlier order. 6: Prathvi Raj Chouhan vs Union of India
On February 10, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018, which was enacted to nullify the effects of the March 20, 2018 judgment of the SC which had diluted the provisions of the Act. 7: A Child In Conflict With Law Cannot Be Kept In Jail Or Police Lockup Under Any Circumstance: SC
A division bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose observed in the suo moto case In re Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in State of Tamil Nadu as follows:
"We make it clear that the Juvenile Justice Boards are not meant to be silent spectators and pass orders only when a matter comes before them. They can take note of the factual situation if it comes to the knowledge of the JJBs that a child has been detained in prison or police lock up. It is the duty of the JJBs to ensure that the child is immediately granted bail or sent to an observation home or a place of safety. The Act cannot be flouted by anybody, least of all the police".
8: Rambabu Singh Thakur vs Sunil Arora and others
Taking note of "alarming" rise of criminalization of politics, the Supreme Court directed that all political parties to publish the details of criminal antecedents of their candidates in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls within 48 hours of selection of the candidate or within two weeks of nomination, whichever is earlier. The information should be published in local newspapers, and uploaded in official websites and social media handles of the parties. Information should contain the nature of crime and stage of trial/investigation. A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat passed the order. 9: Permanent commission for women in Navy and Army:- (Union of India v Lt Cdr Annie Nagaraja)
In a significant judgment on gender equality, the Supreme Court on February 17, 2020 directed that Permanent Commission should be granted to women in the army regardless of their service, in all the ten streams where the Union Government has already taken a decision to grant Short Service Commission to women. The Court also held that absolute exclusion of women from command assignments is against Article 14 of the Constitution and unjustified. Therefore, the policy that women will be given only "staff appointments" was held to be unenforceable by the Court. This was held by a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi in the case The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v Babita Puniya and others. Later in March, in another judgment, the court held that women officers in Navy are also entitled to Permanent Commission at par with men. 10: Land acquisition : No Lapse Of Proceedings Under Old Act If Compensation Is Deposited In Treasury ; SC 5-Judge Bench Upholds Indore Development Authority Decision:- Indore Development Authority v Manoharlal and others etc.
In a highly debatable judgment, a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Friday held that proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 will not lapse if the compensation has been tendered by deposit in treasury. The Court held that land owners cannot insist that the amount should be deposited in Court so as to sustain the land acquisition proceedings under the old Act on the commencement of the new land acquisition law with effect from January 1, 2014. The bench has affirmed the view in the 2018 Indore Development Authority case, overruling the 2014 judgment in Pune Municipal Corporation case. A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Ravindra Bhat had heard the matter. The bench read 'or' in Section 24(2) of the RFCTLARR Act as 'and' to hold that the twin conditions of failure to pay compensation and also to take possession must cumulatively happen for the acquisition proceedings under the old land acquisition law to lapse. 11: Nirbhaya Case : SC Dismisses Final Plea Of Convicts To Stay Execution After Past Midnight Hearing
Hours before the scheduled execution on March 20, the convicts in the Nirbhaya case knocked the doors of the Supreme Court past midnight, hoping for a last minute judicial intervention to extend their lives. But the last ditch effort of the convicts met with no success, as the bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna dismissed the plea, after a special sitting which commenced at around 2.45 AM. At about 3.30 AM, the bench dictated the order dismissing the writ petition filed on behalf of convict Pawan Kumar Gupta, challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President. The Court held that the scope of judicial review over the President's exercise of clemency power was extremely narrow. Two hours later, the convicts were hanged to death at 5.30AM at Tihar jail. 12: SC Extends Limitation For Filing In All Courts/Tribunals With Effect From March 15 Until Further Orders On Account of COVID19:- Indore Development Authority v Manoharlal and others etc.
With the objective of reducing physical filings in courts and tribunals across the countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday passed a general order extending the limitation, whether condonable or not, with effect from March 15, 2020 until further orders.
"To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this Court, it is hereby ordered that a period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings", ordered the bench comprising CJI S A Bobde, Justices L Nageshwara Rao and Surya Kant.
Later, on September 19, clarifying its 23 March order, the Bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian observed that the said order extended only "the period of limitation" and not the period upto which delay can be condoned in exercise of discretion conferred by the statute. The Court held that the expression "prescribed period" appearing in Section 4 of the Limitation Act cannot be construed to mean anything other than the period of limitation. 13: Supreme Court Directs States/UTs To Consider Granting Parole To Prisoners In Lesser Offences To De-Congest Prisons:- Suo Moto Writ Petition in Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons
To avoid overcrowding in prisons in the wake of COVID pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday directed all states and Union Territories to set up high level committees to determine class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde observed that the prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having jail term of up to seven years can be given parole to decongest jails. Similar directions were issued by another bench to reduce the congestion in child care institutions and juvenile homes. 14: 'Ex Post Facto' Environmental Clearance Unsustainable In Law:- Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd. vs Rohit Prajapati & Ors.
A division bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi reiterated that the concept of 'ex post facto' Environmental Clearance (EC) is against the fundamental principles of environmental jurisprudence.
"...environment law cannot countenance the notion of an ex post facto clearance. This would be contrary to both the precautionary principle as well as the need for sustainable development", the court reiterated in light of the observations made in Common Cause v. Union of India.
15: Supreme Court Quashes RBI Ban On Banking Services To Cryptocurrency Dealers:- Internet and Mobile Association of India vs Reserve Bank of India
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court lifted the curbs imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on regulated entities such as banks and NBFCs from dealing with virtual currencies and from providing services to crypto businesses. The Court held that the RBI's circular, which prevented regulated entities from providing banking services to those engaged in the trading or facilitating the trading in VCs, was liable to be set aside on the "ground of proportionality".
"When the consistent stand of RBI is that they have not banned VCs and when the Government of India is unable to take a call despite several committees coming up with several proposals including two draft bills, both of which advocated exactly opposite positions, it is not possible for us to hold that the impugned measure is proportionate", the Court observed.
16: [COVID-19] Supreme Court Issues Slew Of Directions To Implement Video Conferencing In All Courts Across The Country:- In Re: Guidelines for Court Functioning through video conferencing during Covid-19 Pandemic
Highlighting the immense need to observe social distancing alongside unhindered access to justice, a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao issued a slew of directions in order to streamline the functioning of courts via video conferencing. 17: Governor Can Direct Floor Test Even While House Is In Session : Supreme Court Approves MP Governor's Decision:- Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Ors. vs Speaker Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly & Ors.
While hearing a petition filed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other BJP leaders seeking immediate floor test in the MP assembly following the resignation of 22 Congress MLAs, the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta held that a Governor can direct floor test even while house is in session. The Court therefore affirmed its order passed on May 19 to hold floor test in the MP assembly for proving the majority of the previous government led by Kamal Nath. 18: Free COVID-19 Testing Only For Persons Under Ayushman Bharat Scheme And EWS Categories; Supreme Court Allows Private Labs To Charge Others:- Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India & Ors.
In modification of its previous order directing free testing for COVID-19 in both government and private laboratories, the SC bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat directed that free testing will be available to persons eligible under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana as already implemented by the Government of India, and any other category of economically weaker sections of the society as notified by the Government for free testing for COVID-19. 19: 100% ST Reservations For Teacher Posts In Scheduled Areas Unconstitutional: SC:- Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao & Ors. vs State of A.P. & Ors.
A Constitution bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose held that 100 per cent reservation of teachers belonging to the Scheduled Tribe category at schools situated in "Scheduled Ares" is constitutionally invalid. The Bench also quashed the Government order issued under the hand of Governor of State of Andhra Pradesh which had affirmed absolute reservation for ST teachers and imposed costs on both Andhra Pradesh & Telangana Government's, seeking reasons from the Government's for breaching the 50% ceiling in reservations. 20: NDPS - Quantity Of Neutral Substances In Mixture Must Be Taken Into Account With Actual Drug Weight To Determine 'Small Or Commercial Quantity' : SC:- Hira Singh & Anr. Vs Union of India & Anr.
While overruling an earlier 2008 decision titled E. Micheal Raj v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control Bureau, bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee and M R Shah held that the quantity of neutral substances in a mixture containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances must be taken into account along with the actual weight of the offending drug while determining 'small or commercial quantity' under the NDPS Act. 21: Deemed University Covered Under Prevention Of Corruption Act : SC:- State of Gujarat v. Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah
Supreme Court held that a 'deemed university' will come under the ambit of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Bench of Justices N V Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi set aside a judgment of the High Court of Gujarat, which had allowed the discharge of trustees of a deemed university, from prosecution in a corruption case. The Apex Court observed that the High Court was in fact incorrect in holding that a "Deemed University" is excluded from the ambit of the term "University" under Section 2(c)(xi) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. 22: Article 30 Doesn't Prevent State From Imposing Reasonable Regulations To Make Administration Of Minority Institutions Transparent : SC:- Christian Medical College Vellore Association v. Union of India & Ors.
Supreme Court upheld the validity of National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admissions to medical and dental courses. Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M R Shah further re-stated principles governing minority educational institutions under Article 30 of the Constitution, noting that the right conferred on religious and linguistic minorities to administer educational institutions of their choice is not an "absolute right" and is not free of "regulation" from the State. 23: A Citizen Must Have Some Standing Or Knowledge Before Questioning Capability & Integrity Of A Judge: SC Holds 3 People Guilty of Contempt For Making Scandalous Allegations Against Judges:- Re: Vijay Kurle & Ors.
The Supreme Court held that a citizen must have some standing or knowledge before questioning the capability of or integrity of a Judge of the Highest Court and cautioned that the right to criticize Judgments delivered by any court, including the Supreme Court, does not encompass the right to question the "bona fides" of a judge or to raise questions with regard to their competence. A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose made these observations while holding Vijay Kurle (State President, Maharashtra & Goa, Indian Bar Association), Rashid Khan Pathan (National Secretary, Human Rights Security Council) & Nilesh Ojha (National President, Indian Bar Association) guilty of contempt. 24: SARFEASI Act Applicable To Cooperative Banks : Supreme Court Constitution Bench:- Pandurang Ganpati Chaugule and others V. Vishwasrao Patil Murgud Sahakari Bank Limited
"The cooperative banks under the State legislation and multi State cooperative banks are 'banks' under section 2(1)(c) of Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002", held the Constitution Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose. The bench unanimously held that the Parliament had the legislative competence to bring cooperative banks under the ambit of SARFAESI Act, 2002 It thus rejected the argument that 2013 amendment to the SARFAESI Act, 2002 adding 'mutli-state cooperative bank' in Section 2(1)(c)(iva) was a "colourable exercise of power". It also upheld the 2003 notification issued under the Banking Regulation Act 1949 by which cooperative bank was brought within the class of banks entitled to seek recourse to the provisions of the SARFAESI Act. 25: Sabarimala Reference: SC Gives Reasons For Holding That Questions Of Law Can Be Referred To Larger Bench In Review:- Kantararu Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Association
The Supreme Court passed an order detailing reasons for reference of questions of law, to a larger bench in a review petition. The 9-judge bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde had dismissed objections regarding the maintainability of reference in Sabarimala Review Petitions on February 10. On that occasion, the bench had stated that it will give reasons for the conclusion later. It has now given out the following reasons:
- Limitations in Order XLVII of the Supreme Court Rules are not applicable to Orders/Judgments in Writ Petitions;
- Reference can be made in a pending Review Petition;
- No matter is beyond Jurisdiction of Superior Court of Record;
- Article 142 justifies the Reference;
- Not necessary to refer to facts to decide pure questions of law;
- Article 145(3) Proviso that reference to a larger bench can be made only in Appeals and not in any other proceedings is not applicable to references made by a bench of five or more Judges.
26: Supreme Court Refuses To Pass Orders For 4G Restoration In J&K; Asks Special Committee To Examine Issues Raised By Petitioners:- Foundation for Media Professionals v. Union of India
The Supreme Court refused directed Constitution of Special Committee comprising secretaries of Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Chief Secretary of J&K to examine contentions raised in pleas seeking restoration of 4G internet in J&K. A bench of Justices NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy & B.R. Gavai observed that even though the Court recognized that the Union Territory had plunged into a crisis, and the court was cognizant to the concerns related to ongoing pandemic and hardships, there was a need to ensure that national security and human rights are balanced. 27: India's Freedom Will Rest Safe As Long As Journalists Can Speak To Power Without Being Chilled By A Threat Of Reprisal: SC in Arnab Goswami's case:- Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India & Ors.
In a writ petition seeking quashing of FIRs filed by Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, the Supreme Court observed that to allow a journalist to be subjected to multiple complaints and to the pursuit of remedies traversing multiple states and jurisdictions when faced with successive FIRs and complaints bearing the same foundation, has a stifling effect on the exercise of his freedom. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah further reiterated that decisions have held that the right of a journalist under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to speak and express, but the society must never forget that one cannot exist without the other and free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position. The court therefore refused Goswami's prayer to quash the FIR. It also declined to transfer the probe to CBI and said that the accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency. The dictum in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case (Romila Thapar vs Union of India) was cited in this regard. 28: 'Patent Illegality' A Ground Available To Set Aside Domestic Arbitral Awards Made After 2015 Amendment : SC:- Patel Engineering Ltd. v. North Easter Electric Power Corporation Ltd.(NEEPCO)
The Supreme Court observed that an arbitral award can be set aside under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 if it is patently illegal or perverse. A bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi, Indu Malhotra and Aniruddha Bose observed that ground of patent illegality is a ground available under the statute for setting aside a domestic award made after the 2015 amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. While confirming the High Court view, the Apex Court dealt with the history of 'Patent illegality' ground. It observed that such a ground for setting aside a domestic award was first expounded in the judgment of Saw Pipes Ltd. Later the ground of "patent illegality" for setting aside a domestic award has been given statutory force in Section 34(2A) of the 1996 Act, it noted 29: Suo Moto Extension Of Limitation Or Lockdown Will Not Affect Right Of Accused To Default Bail : SC:- S. Kasi v. State Thr. Inspector, PS Madurai
The Supreme Court held that its suo motu order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions of the government will not affect the right of an accused to seek default bail under Section 167(2) of the CrPC. Holding thus, a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and V Ramasubramanian set aside the judgment of a single bench of the Madras High Court in S Kasi v. State, which had held the time to file charge sheet under Section 167(2) CrPC will also get extended on account of the SC order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions. The bench upheld the judgment of another single bench (of Justice G R Swaminathan) in the case Settu vs The State, which had held that SC order extending limitation did not affect right to default bail. 30: SC Nullifies Post-March 31 Sale Of BS-IV Vehicles ; Bars Registration Of Such Vehicles:- MC Mehta v. Union of India
The Supreme Court recalled its March 27 order which allowed sale of 10% of unsold BS-IV vehicles for ten days after the lockdown, in areas except Delhi-NCR, after noting that the automobile dealers sold such vehicles during the lockdown in violation of the order. Following the recall of the order, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, S. Abdul Nazeer & Indira Banerjee held that such vehicles sold during lockdown should not be treated as sold, and that the consideration received should be refunded to the purchasers. The Court also ordered that no such vehicle, sold after March 31, should be registered. 31: [Suo Motu Limitation Extension] SC Allows Service Through Instant Tele-Messenger Services Like Whatsapp, Email & Fax In a major development in terms of modes of service, a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna & Subhash Reddy allowed service of summons & notices through instant tele-messenger services like Whatsapp as well as via email & fax. The order was passed after Court noticed the difficulty in visiting post offices amid the pandemic. The Court clarified that all methods are to be employed to prove a valid service on a party. 32: Padmanabha Swamy Temple : SC Delegates Powers Of "Ruler Of Travancore" To Administrative Committee As Suggested By Ex-Royal Family:- Sri Marthanda Varma & Anr. v. State Of Kerala & Ors.
While upholding the rights of the erstwhile Royal Family of Travancore as the shebait of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, the Supreme Court also directed that the powers of 'the Ruler of Travancore' under the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act (TC Act) with respect to temple administration be delegated to the Administrative Committee constituted by the court. Notably, the proposals regarding the Administrative Committee and the delegation of powers to it came from the family itself. The Supreme Court upheld the rights of erstwhile royal family of Travancore in the administration of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram. Allowing the appeal filed by members of the Travancore family, a bench of Justices UU Lalit & Indu Malhotra reversed the finding of the High Court of Kerala that the rights of family ceased to exist with the death of the last ruler of the Travancore in 1991. The death of the last ruler will not result in escheat of the rights in favour of the government, the Court held. 33: Certificate Under Section 65B(4) Evidence Act Is A Condition Precedent To The Admissibility of Electronic Evidence: SC:- Arjun P. Khotkar v. Kailash K. Gorantyal & Ors.
The Supreme Court has held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record. The bench headed by Justice RF Nariman further held that, in a fact-circumstance where the requisite certificate has been applied for from the person or the authority concerned, and the person or authority either refuses to give such certificate, or does not reply to such demand, the party asking for such certificate can apply to the Court for its production under the provisions aforementioned of the Evidence Act, CPC or CrPC. The bench has also clarified that that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced. The court said that the judgment in Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer & Ors. (2014) 10 SCC 473 need not be revisited, subject to the above clarifications. The bench also overruled the 2018 decision delivered by a 2-judge bench in the case Shafi Mohammad vs State of Himachal Pradesh. 34: FCRA - Organizations Supporting Public Causes Without Political Affiliations Not Barred From Accepting Foreign Contributions : SC:- Indian Social Action Forum v Union of India
The Supreme Court held that organizations supporting public causes without political affiliations are not banned from accepting foreign contributions in terms of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 2010 and Rules made thereunder. 35: Supreme Court Passes Directions For Welfare Of Migrant Workers Who Lost Job Due To Lockdown
The Supreme Court had come under a lot of criticism for its inaction on the plight of migrant workers during lockdown. The Court had summarily closed several PILs filed during March-April on migrants issue accepting the statements of Central Government. In the last week of May, the Court took suo moto cognizance of the migrant workers issue. Later, the Court passed a slew of directions to the Centre and States for smooth transportation of migrants back to their native places, for ensuring employment opportunities after their return etc. 36: No Coercive Action Against Employers On MHA Order For Full Payment Of Wages : SC:- Ficus Pax Private Ltd v Union of India and others
The Supreme Court interfered with the order passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 29 which had directed employers not to deduct wages of their employees during lockdown. The Court directed that no coercive action should be taken against employers for the violation of the MHA order. The Supreme Court batted for negotiations between establishments and workers on the full payment of wages, regardless of the direction issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 29.
"No industry can survive without the workers. Thus employers and employee need to negotiate and settle among themselves. If they are not able to settle it among themselves, they need to approach the concerned labour authorities to sort the issues out", the order said.
37: Supreme Court Transfers Sushant Singh Rajput Death Case To CBI:- Rhea Chakraborty v Union of India and others
In a highly debatable exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, a single bench of the Supreme Court, while exercising powers under Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, transferred the investigation of Sushant Singh Rajput death case to the CBI. A single bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy ordered the transfer without finding any wrong doing by the Mumbai police. While stating that the steps so far taken by the Mumbai Police cannot be faulted, the Court said that investigation must be handed over to an "independent agency not controlled by either of the two-state governments"
considering the apprehension of unfair investigation raised. 38: Supreme Court Convicts Advocate Prashant Bhushan For Contempt Of Court For His Tweets Criticizing Judiciary The most criticized judgment of the Supreme Court in 2020 was its verdict holding Advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets criticising judiciary. A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari formed the opinion that his tweets shook public confidence in judiciary and thereby amounted to scandalizing the court. The hearings in the case witnessed dramatic scenes when Prashant Bhushan refused to apologize and affirmed the views expressed in his tweets. He filed a detailed affidavit in the court explaining the reasons for his views. However, the judgment did not address the points raised in Bhushan's affidavit or the arguments made by his lawyer Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave in court. Though the bench repeatedly urged Bhushan to apologize, he stood his ground stating that he was willing to undergo any punishment for his views. Attorney General K K Venugopal requested the bench not to punish him. Ultimately, the bench sentenced Bhushan to a fine of Rupees One. 39: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea To Transfer PM CARES Funds To NDRF; Says Fresh National Disaster Plan For COVID-19 Not Needed The Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation which sought transfer of the funds from PM CARES to National Disaster Rel Fund. A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah also held that there was no need for a fresh national disaster relief plan for COVID-19, and that the minimum standards of relief as issued under the Disaster Management Act prior to COVID-19 were enough. The bench also clarified that the Centre will be free to transfer the funds to NDRF as it deems appropriate and that individuals are at liberty to donate to NDRF. 40: Daughters Have Coparcenery Rights Even If Their Father Was Not Alive When Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 Came Into Force: SC:- Vineeta Sharma v Rakesh Sharma
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that a daughter will have a share after Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, irrespective of whether her father was alive or not at the time of the amendment. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra today pronounced the judgment in a batch of appeals that raised an important legal issue whether the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, which gave equal right to daughters in ancestral property, has a retrospective effect. "Daughters must be given equal rights as sons, Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not", Justice Mishra said while pronouncing the judgment today. The bench also comprising of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah, overruled the contrary observations made in Prakash v. Phulavati and Mangammal v. T.B. Raju. 41: Supreme Court settles conflicts between UGC and State Disaster Management Authority:- Praneeth K and others v University Grants Commission
The Supreme Court harmonized the conflicts between the directions issued by the UGC regarding conduct of final semester exams and the directions issued by the State Disaster Management Authorities in different states to cancel exams in view of the pandemic situation. The Court held that the State Disaster Management Authority can direct the cancellation of exams taking note of the pandemic situation. However, the SDMA cannot give a direction that students should be promoted without exams as that is a matter pertaining to the UGC. The Court held that States may seek extension of the September 30 deadline for exams based on the SDMA directions. 42: "Covid 19 Is Not A Public Emergency As Per Factories Act": SC Quashes Gujarat Govts' Notification Extending Work Hours Under Factories Act Without Overtime Pay:- Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha and another v State of Gujarat
The Supreme Court has quashed the notification issued by the Gujarat Labour and Employment Department granting exemptions to all factories in Gujarat from provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 relating to daily working hours, weekly working hours, intervals for rest and spread overs of adult workers as well as from payment of overtime wages at double rates viz. Section 59. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, KM Joseph & Indu Malhotra has held that the pandemic situation cannot be a reason to do away with statutory provisions that provide dignity and rights for workers by the Gujarat Government. In this context, the bench has stated that the pandemic is not a "public emergency" within the meaning of Section 5 of the Factories Act threatening security of the country. 43: Protests can be held only at designated places : SC judgment on Shaheen Bagh protests:- Amit Sahni v Union of India and others
In yet another debatable judgment, the Supreme Court held that the protests must be carried out only in designated places. The Court made this pronouncement in the petitions seeking the removal of Shaheen Bagh protests against CAA-NRC. During the pendency of the case, the Court had appointed interlocuters to mediate with the protesters. In March, with the onset of COVID-19, the protesters, mostly Muslim women, had vacated the site. Months after the protests had ceased, the Supreme Court in October delivered the judgment on the legitimacy of the mode of protest. "Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area"
, said the bench comprising Justices S K Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari. 44: High Courts Can Grant Bail Under Article 226 In Appropriate Cases - Arnab Goswami case While ordering the release of Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswmai from prison, the Supreme Court held that High Courts can grant bail even in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constittution in appropriate case. A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee observed "the High Court should not foreclose itself from the exercise of the power when a citizen has been arbitrarily deprived of their personal liberty in an excess of state power". 45: Confession made to NDPS officers not admissible in evidence -SC rules by 2:1 majority in Tofan Singh case:- Tofan Singh v State of Tamil Nadu
The Supreme Court held by 2:1 majority that officers of the Central & State agencies appointed under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act are police officers and therefore the 'confessional' statements recorded by them under Section 67 are not admissible. Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Navin Sinha held thus, while Justice Indira Banerjee gave a dissenting opinion. 46: Merely Because The Investigation Officer And Complainant Are The Same The Trial In NDPS Cases Will Not Be Vitiated And Accused Cannot Be Acquitted On That Ground : SC Constitution Bench A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that it cannot be held as a general proposition that an accused under NDPS Act is entitled to an acquittal merely because the complainant is the investigating officer. "Merely because the informant and the investigating officer is the same, it cannot be said that the investigation is biased and the trial is vitiated"
, the bench observed while specifically overruling Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab (2018) 17 SCC 627. 47: Is Sub-Classification Permissible Within SC-ST Reservation? SC 5 Judge Bench Refers Matter To Larger Bench; Says 'EV Chinnaiah' Decision Needs Reconsideration A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday held that the decision of a coordinate bench in E V Chinnaiah vs State of Andhra Pradesh requires to be revisited and referred the matter to the Chief Justice for placing it before an appropriate larger bench. The bench expressed the view that once a State Government has the power to make reservation, it also has the power to make sub-classifications and that such sub-classification will not amount to tinkering with the reservation list. 48: Medical Council Of India Has No Power To Make Any Reservation For In-Service Candidates; States Have: SC Constitution Bench:- Tamil Nadu Medical Officers Association v Union of India
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that Medical Council of India has no power to make any reservation for in-service candidates in Post Graduate Medical Course in any particular state. The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose observed that the power of Medical Council of India Act is referable to Entry 66, List 1, which is a limited source of power to lay down standards. It held that the Medical Council of India regulations providing for reservation for in-service candidates in PG Medical Courses are ultra vires the Medical Council of India Act. The Court has however clarified that the judgment will apply only prospectively and will not affect any admissions already made. The Court further observed that States can make regulations to provide reservation for in-service doctors in PG medical course and suggests that States may ask such beneficiaries to serve in rural, hilly and tribal areas for five years. 49: Supreme Court asks Centre to amend Tribunal Rules 2020 A three judge bench of the Supreme Court found the Tribunal Rules 2020 to be problematic. However, the bench refrained from striking the rules down after the Attorney General agreed to the suggestions made by amicus curiae Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar and undertook to amend the rules. The bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao observed that the amendments are necessary to ensure the independence and efficiency of tribunals. Significant in the judgment passed in the case Madras Bar Association v Union of India are the directions to constitute a National Tribunals Commission and to allow lawyers having at least 10 years practice to become judicial members in tribunals. 50: Hate Speech Repudiates Right To Equality In A Polity Committed To Pluralism : Supreme Court:- Amish Devgan v Union of India
The judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in the present case contains an elaborate discussion on the concept of 'hate speech'. The judgment delivered by a bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjay Khanna discusses the distinctions between 'hate speech' and 'free speech', the need to criminalize 'hate speech' and the tests to identify it. "In a polity committed to pluralism, hate speech cannot conceivably contribute in any legitimate way to democracy and, in fact, repudiates the right to equality"
, the judgment authored by Justice Khanna observed. 51: Right To Default Bail Is Enforceable Even If Charge Sheet/Report Seeking Extension Of Time Is Subsequently Filed: Supreme Court:- M. Ravindran vs. The Intelligence Officer
The Supreme Court has observed that where the accused has already applied for default bail, the Prosecutor cannot defeat the enforcement of his indefeasible right by subsequently filing a final report, additional complaint or report seeking extension of time. 52: Prior Environmental Clearance for Land Acquisition for National Highway - Supreme Court explains:- The Project Director, Project Implementation Unit vs. P V Krishnamoorthy and others
The Supreme Court upheld the land acquisition notifications for the proposed Chennai -Salem eight lane national highway by holding that prior environmental clearance is not needed at the stage of notification under Section 3A of the National Highways Act. Reversing the judgment of the Madras High Court, the top court held that the stage where prior environmental clearance is required is before issuing declaration of acquisition under Section 3D of the Act. 53: [Domestic Violence Act] Wife Entitled To Claim Right Of Residence Which Belongs To Relatives Of Husband Also: Supreme Court Overrules Its 2006 'SR Batra' Judgment:- Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja
A wife is also entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household belonging to relatives of the husband, the Supreme Court held in an important judgment overruling the 2006 judgment in SR Batra v. Taruna Batra. "In the event, shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions mentioned in Section 2(s) are satisfied and the said house will become a shared household"
, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah. It added, "The living of woman in a household has to refer to a living which has some permanency. Mere fleeting or casual living at different places shall not make a shared household. The intention of the parties and the nature of living including the nature of household have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as shared household or not. As noted above, Act 2005 was enacted to give a higher right in favour of woman. The Act, 2005 has been enacted to provide for more effective protection of the rights of the woman who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The Act has to be interpreted in a manner to effectuate the very purpose and object of the Act." 54: Landlord-Tenant disputes arbitrable unless covered by rent control laws A three judge bench of the Supreme Court answered a reference to hold that landlord-tenant disputes are arbitrable unless covered by specific rent control laws. The judgment delivered by a three judge bench in the case Vidya Drolia and others v Durga Trading Enterprises also decides several issues such as tests for arbitrability, who determines arbitrability, scope of enquiry under Sections 8/11, meaning of 'existence of arbitration agreement' etc. The bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari overruled the view in Himangni Enterprises vs Kamaljeet Singh Ahluwalia. 55: Install CCTVs In All Police Stations; Victims Of Human Rights Violations By Police/NIA/CBI/ED Have The Right For CCTV Footage Of Interrogation: Supreme Court:- Paramvir Singh Saini vs. Baljit Singh
In a path-breaking Judgment, the Supreme Court has directed that in case of any human right violation by investigating agencies like police, CBI, NIA, ED Etc, the victims have the right to get the copy of CCTV footage of interrogation and also to approach the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence. The Supreme Court has directed the Central Government to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of Central Agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) The court observed that it should also be installed in the offices of any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest. 56: Court Cannot Impose Condition Of Deposit of Money While Granting Default/Statutory Bail U/s 167(2) CrPC: Supreme Court:- Saravanan v. State
A Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah held that while granting default bail/ statutory bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC, condition of deposit of amount cannot be imposed. The only requirement for getting the default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. is that the accused is in jail for more than 60 or 90 days, as the case may be, and within 60 or 90 days, as the case may be, the investigation is not completed and no chargesheet is filed by 60th or 90th day and the accused applies for default bail and is prepared to furnish bail, the Court observed. The court also added that the circumstances while considering the regular bail application under Section 437 Cr.P.C. are different, while considering the application for default bail/statutory bail. 57: Denial of legitimate expectation can be a circumstance leading to arbitrariness and violation of Article 14 The judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in the case State of Jharkhand and others v Brahmaputra Metallics Ltd Ranchi and others is a good reference to understand the concepts of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel. The judgment pronounced by a bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra also illustrates how the doctrine of legitimate expectation can be used against arbitrary State action to claim relief. Denial of legitimate expectation can be a circumstance leading to arbitrariness and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, the judgment held. 58: Eviction order under Senior Citizens Act cannot defeat rights under Domestic Violence Act The Supreme Court has held that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act has no overriding effect over the right of residence of a woman in a shared household within the meaning of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The right of a woman to secure a residence order in respect of a shared household cannot be defeated by the simple expedient of securing an order of eviction by adopting the summary procedure under the Senior Citizens Act, the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee observed in the case S Vanitha vs. Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District. 59: CBI Investigation Can Be Ordered Even After Submission Of Chargesheet In An Appropriate Case: Supreme Court:- Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla vs. Anita Agarwal
The Supreme Court has observed that there is no embargo on it to transfer an investigation to the CBI after submission of the charge-sheet. The bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee observed thus while cancelling anticipatory bail granted to in-laws of a deceased woman in a dowry death case and also directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to further investigate the case. 60: All Stay Orders On Civil/Criminal Proceedings Passed By Courts, Including HCs, To Automatically Expire Within 6 Months Unless Extended For Good Reasons: SC The Supreme Court has reiterated that whatever stay has been granted by any court including the High Court on civil or criminal proceedings will automatically expire within a period of six months, unless an extension is granted for good reason within the next six months. The bench headed by Justice RF Nariman, said that the High Courts are subordinate judicially to the Supreme Court and the directions issued in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Private Limited. vs. Central Bureau of Investigation ought to be followed. 61: Candidates Belonging To Reserved Categories Eligible For General Category Vacancies Based On Merit: Supreme Court:- Saurav Yadav vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
The Supreme Court has observed that the candidates belonging to reserved category, are eligible to fill general/open category vacancies also. The bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy held that this principle should also be followed while filling vacancies in horizontal reservations in open category. The Court has disapproved the view taken by some High Courts that, at the stage of accommodating candidates for effecting horizontal reservation, the candidates from reserved categories can be adjusted only against their own categories under the concerned vertical reservation and not against the "Open or General Category. 62: Judicial Officers Cannot Seek Direct Recruitment To Post Of District Judges Against Quota For Advocates : SC:- Dheeraj Mor vs Hon'ble High Court of Delhi
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that civil judges are not eligible to seek direct recruitment to post of District Judges in bar quota. Eligibility under Article 233(2) of the Constitution requires 7 years of continuous practice. "Only practising candidates can avail the quota. It is exclusively for them", Justice Arun Mishra, dictating the order, said.
"Article 233(2) nowhere provides eligibility of in-service candidates for consideration as a District Judge concerning a post requiring 7 years' practice as an advocate or a pleader. Requirement of 7 years' experience for advocate or pleader is qualified with a rider that he should not be in the service of the Union or the State", the Court said in the judgment.
63: Consumer Complaint By Allottee Against Builder Not Barred By RERA Act: Supreme Court :- Imperia Structures Ltd. vs Anil Patni
The Supreme Court has held that a complaint before Consumer Fora by allottees against builders is not barred by the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016. The Court also held that period for allotment of flat to a homebuyer has to be reckoned from the date of the buyer agreement and not from the date of the registration of the project under the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA Act). A division bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran said that entitlement of the Complainants must be considered in the light of the terms of the Builder Buyer Agreements. 64: Supreme Court Issues Guidelines On Payment Of Maintenance In Matrimonial Matters:- Rajnesh vs Neha & Anr.
The Supreme Court issued guidelines on payment of maintenance in matrimonial matters. A bench comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy held that maintenance in all cases will be awarded from the date of filing the application for maintenance. The court said that for payment of Interim Maintenance, the Affidavit of Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities, shall be filed by both parties in all maintenance proceedings, including pending proceedings before the concerned Family Court / District Court / Magistrates Court, as the case may be, throughout the country. The model affidavit is annexed as Enclosures I, II and III of the judgment. 65: New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. In this case, A 5-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat that the time period for filing opposite party's version in Consumer case cannot be extended beyond the period of 45 days prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act. The Court held that Consumer Protection Act 1986 did not empower the Consumer Forum to extend the time beyond the period of 45 days. The time period prescribed under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act is mandatory, and not directory, held the judgment.