Supreme Court Monthly Digest: December 2020

Enika Vania

Important Judgements/Orders:

1. High Courts Having No Commercial Division Competent To Consider Cancellation Of Design Under Section 22(4) Of Designs Act: Supreme Court

Order dated December 1, 2020

The Supreme Court discussed the interplay between the Designs Act, 2000 and the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi held that it is not necessary that a suit involving the issue of cancellation of design under Section 22(4) of the Designs Act should be heard by a High Court having a Commercial Division. It held that a High Court without original civil jurisdiction and a commercial division is also competent to consider such a case.

The Court was hearing an appeal against High Court order stating that since the Commercial Courts Act 2015 has an overriding effect, the suit has to be considered by a Commercial Court and not the High Court as envisaged by the Designs Act. The Apex Court noted that there is no provision in the 2015 Act either prohibiting or permitting the transfer of the proceedings under the Designs Act to the High Courts which do not have ordinary original civil jurisdiction.

[Case: SD Containers, Indore v. M/s Mold Tek Packaging]

2. [Doctrine Of Legitimate Expectation] State Must Discard The Colonial Notion That It Is A Sovereign Handing Out Doles At Its Will: Supreme Court

Order dated December 1, 2020

The state must discard the colonial notion that it is a sovereign handing out doles at its will, remarked the Supreme Court. The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra observed that the doctrine of substantive legitimate expectation is one of the ways in which the guarantee of non-arbitrariness enshrined under Article 14 finds concrete expression.

The Court was hearing an appeal against a Jharkhand High Court order, holding the State Government to its promise to give the benefit of an exemption of 50 per cent in electricity duty for a period of five years, for self-consumption or captive use, to all new and existing industrial units setting up captive power plants in the State. While confirming the High Court’s verdict, the Top Court said that the scope of the doctrine of legitimate expectation is wider than promissory estoppel because it not only takes into consideration a promise made by a public body but also official practice, as well.

[Case: State of Jharkhand v. Brahmputra Metallics Ltd., Ranchi]

3. Ensure CCTV Cameras Are Installed In Each And Every Police Stations: Supreme Court Directs States/UTs

Order dated December 2, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that the State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every Police Station functioning under them. A Bench of Justices RF Nariman, KM Joseph and Aniruddha Bose observed that these directives shall be implemented in letter and in spirit as soon as possible. The court also directed the Central Government to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of central agencies like CBI, NIA etc.

The court issued these directives while disposing SLP filed by one Paramvir Singh Saini, which raised issues regarding audio-video recordings of statements and the installation of CCTV cameras in police stations generally.

[Case: Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh]

4. Dowry Death – No Conviction Under Section 304B IPC If Unnatural Death Is Not Established: Supreme Court

Order dated December 2, 2020

The Supreme Court held that the offence of dowry death under Section 304B of IPC cannot be made out if the cause of death has not been established as unnatural. The Court also held that it has to be shown that the deceased wife was subjected to cruelty or harassment in connection with demand for dowry soon before her death.

Holding that these factors were not established, a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, KM Joseph and Aniruddha Bose set aside the conviction and life sentence awarded by the Uttarakhand High Court to three persons (husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law of the deceased wife) under the said provision.

[Case: Sandeep Kumar v. State of Uttarakhand]

5. Supreme Court Upholds Levy Of GST On Lottery, Betting & Gambling

Order dated December 3, 2020

The Supreme Court upheld the levy of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on lotteries, betting and gambling. A three-judge bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subash Reddy and MR Shah held that Lottery, betting and gambling are well known concepts and have been in practice in this country since before independence and were regulated and taxed by different legislations. When Act, 2017 defines the goods to include actionable claims and included only three categories of actionable claims, i.e., lottery, betting and gambling for purposes of levy of GST, it cannot be said that there was no rationale for including these three actionable claims for tax purposes.

The Petitioner in this case had argued that ‘lottery’ was in the nature of an actionable claim. The definition of ‘goods’ under Article 366(12) of the Constitution include only “materials, commodities and articles” and not “actionable claims”. However, the definition of ‘goods’ under Section 2(52) of the GST Act includes ‘actionable goods’. This is also contrary to the definition of ‘goods’ under the Sale of Goods Act, 1930, which also excludes ‘actionable claims’.

Also Read: Article 32 Is An Important & Integral Part Of Basic Structure Of Constitution: Supreme Court

[Case: Skill Lotto Solutions v. Union of India & Ors]

6. Dismissal Of SLP Has No Consequence On Question Of Law: Supreme Court

Order dated December 3, 2020

A Supreme Court bench comprised of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi observed that the dismissal of special leave petition is of no consequence on the question of law.

In this case, a Division Bench of the High Court had set aside the Single Bench judgment that allowed the writ petitions for the grant of 9/16 years’ time bound revised promotional scale to the petitioners. The division bench had followed the dictum of the judgment in Bhakra Beas Management Board v. Krishan Kumar Vij to hold that the petitioners are not entitled to relief sought. Before the Apex Court, it was contended that some other employees have been granted benefit by virtue of the orders passed by the High Court and the Special Leave Petitions were dismissed.

In this context, the bench observed: “We find that some other employees have been granted benefit by virtue of the orders passed by the High Court. However, the principle laid down in the aforesaid judgments run counter to the subsequent judgment of this Court in Krishan Kumar Vij. The Special Leave Petition in many of these cases were dismissed but the such dismissals would not be a binding precedent for this Court.

[Case: Inderjit Singh Sodhi v. Chairman, Punjab Electricity Board]

7. ‘Victim Could Not Understand The Good And Bad’: Supreme Courts Upholds Conviction Of Man Accused Of Raping A Mentally Disabled Girl

Order dated December 3, 2020

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man accused of raping a mentally disabled girl with low IQ. While considering the appeal filed by accused, a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah noted that there is no dispute that the accused had sexually intercourse with the victim and that the victim delivered a baby child and that the accused is found to be the biological father of the baby child delivered by the victim.

The court further noted that the deposition of doctors revealed that the IQ of the victim was 62 which was based on the history and mental state examination of the victim and merely because the victim was in a position to do some household works cannot discard the medical evidence that the victim had mild mental retardation and she was not in a position to understand the good and bad aspect of sexual assault.

[Case: Chaman Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh]

8. Magistrate Can Order Registration of FIR U/S 156(3) For Offences Under Mines & Minerals Act, No Bar U/S 22: Supreme Court

Order dated December 3, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that the bar under Section 22 of the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, is not attracted when a Magistrate, in exercise of powers under Section 156(3) of CrPC, orders/ directs the concerned Incharge/ SHO of the police station to lodge/ register crime case/ FIR even for the offences under the MMDR Act and the Rules.

Section 22 prohibits Courts from taking cognizance of any offence punishable under MMDR Act or any rules made thereunder except upon complaint in writing made by a person authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or the State Government. A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah clarified that the said bar shall be attracted only when the learned Magistrate takes cognizance of the offences under the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder and orders issuance of process/summons for the offences under the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder

[Case: Jayant v. State of Madhya Pradesh]

9. Long Delay In Lodging FIR A Valid Consideration To Grant Anticipatory Bail: Supreme Court

Order dated December 3, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that a long delay in lodging FIR can be a valid consideration for grant of anticipatory bail. A bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, MR Shah observed thus while allowing the anticipatory bail plea of former Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab, Sumedh Singh Saini who had sought the bail relation to the 1991 Balwant Singh Multani murder case.

The Court noted that the impugned FIR in this case was lodged by the brother of the deceased after a period of almost 29 years from the date of alleged incident.

[Case: Sumedh Singh Saini v. State of Punjab]

10. Supreme Court Upholds Land Acquisition Notifications For Chennai-Salem 8 Lane Expressway

Order dated December 8, 2020

The Supreme Court upheld the notifications issued for acquiring land for the Chennai-Salem eight-lane greenfield expressway project. Partly allowing the appeals of the Union of India and the National Highways Authority of India, the top court reversed the Madras High Court judgment to the extent it quashed the land acquisition notifications. The Court said that it has negatived the challenge against the notifications issued under the National Highways Act.

The prime issue in the case was whether prior environmental clearance was necessary before acquiring lands for the highway project. A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari observed that it is not necessary for the Central Government or the National Highway Authority of India to apply for prior environmental/forest clearances or permissions at the stage of planning or taking an in­ principle decision to formalize the project of constructing a new national highway manifested in notification under Section 2(2), including until the stage of issuing notification under Section 3A of the National Highways Act.

Also Read: Prior Environmental Clearance Not Required For Notifying Acquisition Of Land For National Highway: Supreme Court

[Case: Project Director, Project Implementation Unit v. PV Krishnamoorthy & Ors.]

11. Acceptance Of Gift Can Be Inferred By Implied Conduct Of Donee: Supreme Court

Order dated December 8, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that acceptance of a gift can be inferred by the implied conduct of the donee. Such inference can be ascertained from the surrounding circumstances such as taking into possession the property by the donee or by being in the possession of the gift deed itself, the bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant observed.

[Case: Daulat Singh Thr. LR’s v. State of Rajasthan]

12. Standard Of Proof In Motor Accident Claim Cases Is One Of Preponderance Of Probabilities, Reiterates Supreme Court

Order dated December 8, 2020

The Supreme court observed that the standard of proof in Motor Accident Claim Cases is one of preponderance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt. One needs to be mindful that the approach and role of Courts while examining evidence in accident claim cases ought not to be to find fault with non­-examination of some best eye­witnesses, as may happen in a criminal trial; but, instead should be only to analyze the material placed on record by the parties to ascertain whether the claimant’s version is more likely than not true, the bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose observed.

[Case: Anita Sharma & Ors. v. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. & Anr.]

13. Charge Under Section 149 IPC Can Be Altered To Section 34 IPC If Common Intention Among Accused Is Proved: Supreme Court

Order dated December 10, 2020

The Supreme Court held that it is permissible to alter a charge under Section 149 of IPC to a charge under Section 34 IPC if the facts prove that the crime has been committed in furtherance of a common intention. The Bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose observed that Section 149 IPC provides for vicarious liability of members of an unlawful assembly for the crime committed by any member of the assembly in furtherance of the common object and makes them liable for the same punishment. The condition for invoking this Section is that there should be five or more persons in the assembly.

[Case: Bijender v. State of Haryana]

14. Universities Can Stipulate Enhanced Norms And Standards For Granting Affiliation Than Those Prescribed By AICTE: Supreme Court

Order dated December 10, 2020

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian observed that the Universities, though cannot dilute the standards prescribed by AICTE, have the power to stipulate enhanced norms and standards. The Court observed thus while allowing APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University’s appeal against the Kerala High Court judgment which directed it re-consider the application for affiliation of a new B.Tech course, submitted by a college.

[Case: APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University & Anr. v. Jai Bharath College of Management & Engineering Technology & Ors.]

15. No Blanket Bar To Grant Anticipatory Bail In Cases Of Illegal Quarrying/Mining, Smuggling of Sand, Minerals: Supreme Court

Order dated December 11, 2020

The Supreme Court clarified that a blanket restriction cannot be placed on anticipatory bail in cases of illegal quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals, and that each case has to be considered on merits. The bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy headed by Justice S. K. Kaul, in the course of hearing a SLP arising out of an October 16 decision of the Madras High Court denying anticipatory bail to the petitioner, noted that the High Court had, on September 3, held that no anticipatory bail shall be granted to the offences involving illegal quarrying/transportation of mines and minerals.

[Case: S. Mohamed Shahul Hameed v. State Rep. By Inspector of Police]

16. Closure Report Cannot Be Filed Merely Because Informant Did Not Supply Adequate Materials To Investigate: Supreme Court

Order dated December 14, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that a closure report cannot be filed merely on the ground that the investigation was not possible as the informant had not supplied adequate materials to investigate. A fair investigation is a necessary concomitant of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, said the bench of Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Krishna Murari while setting aside closure reports against some accused in a murder case. The court observed that it is the statutory as well as constitutional duty of the police to investigate on receiving report of the commission of a cognizable offence.

In this case, the police had filed a closure report against one of the accused on the ground that there was no concrete evidence of conspiracy against him and that the informant had not placed any materials before the police direct or indirect with regard to the conspiracy.

[Case: Amar Nath Chaubey v. UOI]

17. Landlord-Tenant Disputes Under Transfer Of Property Act Arbitrable Except When Covered By Rent Control Laws : Supreme Court

Order dated December 14, 2020

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court overruled its 2017 judgment in Himangni Enterprises case to hold that landlord-tenant disputes are arbitrable except when they are covered by specific forum created by rent control laws. A three-judge Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Krishna Murari and NV Ramana observed, “Landlord-tenant disputes are arbitrable as the Transfer of Property Act does not forbid or foreclose arbitration.

The Bench based its decision on the fact that landlord-tenant disputes are not actions in rem but pertain to subordinate rights in personam that arise from rights in rem. It further held that an award passed in such disputes can be executed and enforced like a decree of the civil court.

Also Read: Allegations Of Fraud Arbitrable When They Relate To Civil Dispute: Supreme Court Overrules ‘N Radhakrishnan’ Judgment

Also Read: Expression ‘Existence Of Arbitration Agreement’ In Section 11 Of Arbitration Act Includes Aspect Of Validity Of Agreement : Supreme Court

[Case: Vidya Drolia & Ors. v. Durga Trading Corporation]

18. 114 Evidence Act- Adverse Inference Can Be Drawn Against Party Who Does Not Appear In Person To Depose: Supreme Court

Order dated December 14, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that adverse inference can be drawn against a party who does not appear in person to depose. The bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Krishna Murari observed thus while allowing appeal against the concurrent findings by the Trial Court and the High court dismissing a suit filed by plaintiff seeking the relief for permanent injunction.

In appeal, the court noted that the original defendant did not appear in person to depose, and be cross-examined in the suit and instead his younger brother deposed on the basis of a power of attorney. “No explanation was furnished why the original defendant did not appear in person to depose. We find no reason not to draw an adverse inference against defendant in the circumstances”, the bench said.

[Case: Iqbal Basith & Ors. v. N. Subbalakshni & Ors.]

19. Summary Eviction Procedure Under Senior Citizens Act Cannot Be Invoked To Defeat Right Of Residence Of Woman In A Shared Household As Per DV Act: Supreme Court

Order dated December 15, 2020

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee 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 Court was hearing an application filed by a senior citizen couple under the provisions of the Senior Citizens Act, seeking eviction of their daughter in law and grand-daughter from a residential house.

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 observed.

[Case: S Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District]

20. Homeopathy Can Be Used In Preventing & Mitigating COVD-19 As Per AYUSH Ministry Guidelines: SC Modifies Kerala HC Judgment

Order dated December 15, 2020

Homeopathy medicine is contemplated to be used in preventing and mitigating COVID-19 as is reflected by the advisory and guidelines issued by the Ministry of AYUSH, the Supreme Court observed while modifying some observations made by the Kerala High Court. The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah observed that the High Court is right in its observation that no medical practitioner can claim that it can cure COVID-19.

[Case: Dr. AKB Sadbhavana Mission School of Homeo Pharmacy v. Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH]

21. Selective Leaks During Investigation To Media Affect Rights Of Accused And Victims: Supreme Court

Order dated December 17, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that selective disclosures to the media during investigation of crime affect the rights of the accused and the rights of victims. The bench of Justices 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. The Court also directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to further investigate the case.

[Case: Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Anita Agarwal]

22. Vote Cast By Lawmaker Prior To His Conviction On Same Day Cannot Be Termed Invalid: Supreme Court

Order dated December 18, 2020

The Supreme Court held that a vote cast by a lawmaker prior to his conviction in a criminal case on the same day cannot be termed as invalid. A bench comprising CJI SA Bobde, Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna observed that holding a legislator disqualified even before he was convicted “would grossly violate his substantive right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty“.

The issue in this case was related to the vote cast by then Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Amit Kumar Mahto in 2018 Rajya Sabha election at 9.15am prior to his conviction and sentence at 2.30pm on March 23 in a case relating to unlawful assembly, mischief etc. Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia, the BJP candidate who lost the Rajya Sabha election by a single vote, challenged the election result arguing that Mahto’s vote should not have been counted as he incurred disqualification on the same day due to the conviction in the criminal case.

[Case: Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia v. Dhiraj Prasad Sahu & Anr.]

23. Court Cannot Alter Presidential Order On Scheduled Tribes: SC Reverses Bombay HC Judgment Declaring ‘Gowari’ As ST

Order dated December 18, 2020

The Supreme Court held that a High Court cannot look into the evidences to find out and decide that a particular tribe is part of Scheduled Tribe which is included in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. The caste ‘Gowari’ and ‘Gond Gowari’ are two distinct and separate castes, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah observed while it set aside the Bombay High Court that had held that the Gowari community cannot be denied benefits of a Scheduled Tribe status.

The High Court had previously held that Gond Gowari was completely extinct before 1911 and no trace of it was found either in the Maratha Country of C.P. and Berar or in the State of Madhya Pradesh prior to 1956 and that there did not exist any tribe as Gond Gowari as on 29-10-1956, i.e. the date of its inclusion as 28th Item in Entry No.18 of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 in relation to the State of Maharashtra and it was Gowari community alone shown as Gond Gowari, therein.

[Case: State of Maharashtra v. Keshao Vishwanath Sonone]

24. ‘Election Process Can’t Be Interfered With’: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Against Consecutive Reservation Of Panchayat President Posts In Kerala

Order dated December 24, 2020

A vacation bench of the Supreme Court dismissed a plea which challenged the reservation notification issued by the State Election Commission for local body heads on the ground that it lead to successive/consecutive reservations of the posts of Panchayat Presidents and Municipality Chairpersons. “Election process can’t be interfered with in the middle“, a bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Hemant Gupta observed while dismissing the petition.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

Important Updates:

1. “Not Maintainable”: Supreme Court Dismisses PIL Seeking Removal Of Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy

Order dated December 1, 2020

The Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking appropriate action against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy for making public allegations against Justice N V Ramana, the second senior judge of the Supreme Court. A bench of Justices SK Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy observed,

“The petitioners have made a dual prayer. The first prayer seeks to say that a senior most sitting judge of the HC or the CBI should look into the scandalising remarks made by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The second prayer is for issuance of writ of quo- warranto and that in view of the statements made by him he is not entitled to hold the office of Chief Minister. The second prayer legally would not be maintainable. In so far as the first prayer is concerned, it seems that the petitioner is himself not clear as to what he wants. The issue raised with regard to the communication between the CM of Andhra Pradesh and CJI in public domain is already being referred to the bench which is dealing with this aspect. Though pertinent, we see no purpose in entertaining the present petition and hereby dismiss it.”

[Case: GS Mani v. UOI]

2. Supreme Court Dismisses Chanda Kochhar’s Challenge Against ICICI Bank Terminating Her Services

Order dated December 1, 2020

Noting that the only controversy involved is that of the bank having earlier accepted her resignation and subsequently, terminated her, the Supreme Court observed that the issue being of the contractual relationship between a private bank and its employee, it did not call for invocation of the writ jurisdiction, and dismissed former ICICI bank MD Chanda Kochhar’s plea. The order was passed by a bench of Justices SK Kaul and Dinesh Maheshwari.

[Case: Chanda Kochhar v. ICICI]

3. Plea For Stringent Bail Provisions, Reverse Onus, Death Sentence For Rape: Supreme Court Asks Govt. To Consider

Order dated December 2, 2020

A bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose refused to entertain a writ petition seeking a direction to the Government to bring certain reforms and amendments in the law to make it stringent and deterrent in cases of rape with grievous injury, gang rape and rape/gang-rape with murder.

While disposing of the petition, the Court granted liberty to the Petitioners to make a representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Women and Child Development regarding the issues and said that it ‘hopes and trusts that they shall consider the same and take appropriate action on that’.

[Case: Kirti Ahuja & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.]

4. ‘Why Can’t Road Take A Turn Around A Tree?’ Asks CJI On Plea To Cut Trees For Road Development

Order dated December 2, 2020

Why can’t the road take a turn around the tree? That will only mean that speed will be slow. If the speed is slow, it will lower accidents and will be safer,CJI SA Bobde observed while hearing an application filed by UP Government for cutting trees for Krishna Goverdhan road project in Mathura. The Public Works Department of Uttar Pradesh Government and the UP Bridge Corporation had filed an application before the Top Court for felling 2,940 trees for the project.

You can’t fell thousands of trees…in the name of Krishna,‘ the CJI observed orally. The counsel for the authority told the bench that the tree loss will be compensated by afforestation and by payment to the tree fund of the forest department. In this regard, the CJI observed that the valuation of the trees cannot be done solely on the basis of the timber value. He told the authorities to evaluate the value of trees by taking into account the amount of oxygen that the trees would have produced in their remaining life span.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

5. Supreme Court Stays Gujarat HC Order Directing Persons Not Wearing Masks To Do Community Service At COVID-19 Centres

Order dated December 3, 2020

The Supreme Court stayed the Gujarat High Court order which had directed the State of Gujarat to come up with a policy or order that would direct for those caught without a face cover/mask to be compulsorily sent to COVID-19 care centres for community service. While staying the order, a Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah remarked that the Gujarat High Court direction was disproportionate and may lead to health problems. The top court however asserted that masks are compulsory & violators should be penalized as per law.

[Case: State of Gujarat v. Vishal Awtani]

6. Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Inclusion Of Govt Nominees In Trust To Build Mosque At Ayodhya

Order dated December 4, 2020

The Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking for directions to the Central Government to create a trust consisting of government nominees belong to the Sunni Muslim Community for building of the mosque on the land in Ayodhya allotted to UP Sunni Waqf Board. A Bench of Justices RF Nariman and KM Joseph heard the arguments of Advocate Hari Shankar Jain and proceeded to dismiss the plea.

The land had been allotted to the Board in pursuance of the judgment and order dated 9th November, 2019, in the Ayodhya dispute case. The petitioners argued that the presence of government nominees in the Trust was necessary to ensure that funds are not misappropriated and that to maintain peace and tranquility in the region. Additionally, the petitioners argued that since the Ramjanmabhoomi trust has a provision for inclusion of such nominees, the Islamic Trust should have it as well.

[Case: Shishir Chaturvedi & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.]

7. Supreme Court Refuses To Quash FIRs Against Journalist Amish Devgan For Remarks Against Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti

Order dated December 7, 2020

The Supreme Court refused to quash FIRs registered against Journalist Amish Devgan for his remarks against Sufi Saint Moinnuddin Chisthi. A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar & Sanjiv Khanna however, clubbed all FIR’s filed against Devgan and transferred them to Ajmer. The July 8 stay on investigation and coercive action against the journalist will continue.

Also Read: Hate Speech Repudiates Right To Equality In A Polity Committed To Pluralism: Supreme Court

Also Read: Persons Of Influence Have To Be More Responsible In Speech : Supreme Court In Amish Devgan’s Case

[Case: Amish Devgan v. UOI]

8. Public Examinations: Supreme Court Deprecates Practice Of Re-evaluation And Scrutiny Of Answer Sheets By Courts

Order dated December 7, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that assessment of the questions and answer key of public examinations by the courts itself is not permissible. The bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi was considering an appeal filed against a Rajasthan High Court judgment in which it had examined the correctness of the questions and Answer Keys of an examination conducted by Rajasthan Public Service Commission to the post of Senior Teacher (Grade II) in Social Science and held that the answer key to 5 questions was erroneous.

Courts should be very slow in interfering with expert opinion in academic matters. In any event, assessment of the questions by the courts itself to arrive at correct answers is not permissible. The delay in finalization of appointments to public posts is mainly caused due to pendency of cases challenging selections pending in courts for a long period of time. The cascading effect of delay in appointments is the continuance of those appointed on temporary basis and their claims for regularization. The other consequence resulting from delayed appointments to public posts is the serious damage caused to administration due to lack of sufficient personnel,” the Court said.

[Case: Vikesh Kumar Gupta v. State of Rajasthan]

9. Executive Acting In Breach Of Judgments Would Be Invitation To Anarchy: Supreme Court Pulls Up Centre For Not Making Appointment In CERC

Order dated December 7, 2020

We have shown considerable restraint in this matter. Our restraint seems to be misunderstood!“, remarked the Supreme Court bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul while it pulled up the Central Government for not appointing law member in Central Electricity Regulatory Commission [CERC].

Expressing its anguish, the court observed that the ‘Government does not seem to be interested in coming to the aid of the consumers or making the Commission functional, which is not an unusual scenario seeing the functioning of the other Tribunals and Commissions, on account of lack of appointments to deal with the matter.

[Case: KK Agarwal v. Sanjiv Nandan Sahai & Anr.]

10. No COVID-19 Posters Outside Patients Homes Without Direction From Competent Authority Under DMA : Supreme Court

Order dated December 9, 2020

The Supreme Court held that affixing of COVID-19 posters outside the homes of patients can be done only if there is a direction from the competent authority under the National Disaster Management Act. a Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, BR Gavai and MR Shah noted that the Centra has already clarified this stand on the issue and directed the States and Union Territories to follow the same.

[Case: Kush Kalra v. UOI]

11. Supreme Court Vacates 2-Yr Old Blanket Ban Restraining Other Courts From Hearing Disputes Related To BCCI, State Cricket Associations

Order dated December 9, 2020

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi vacated the Supreme Court’s nearly two-year old blanket ban restraining other courts from hearing disputes related to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and state cricket associations. The apex court, on March 14, 2019, had restrained all other courts across the country from entertaining or proceeding with any matter pertaining to cash-rich BCCI and state cricket associations till the court-appointed mediator and senior advocate P S Narasimha submitted his report on pending disputes.

[Case: BCCI v. Cricket Association of Bihar & Ors.]

12. Maratha Quota : Supreme Court Constitution Bench To Start Final Hearing From Jan 25; Stay Order Continues

Order dated December 9, 2020

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat decided to hear from January 25 the challenge against the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which provided for a quota to Marathas in jobs and education. The bench refused to pass any order to lift the stay put by a three-judge bench in September this year on making appointments and admissions under the Maratha quota. The stay order was passed by the 3-judge bench which referred the appeals to the larger bench.

[Case: Jaisrilaxmanrao Patil v. State of Maharashtra]

13. Tax Audit Limit For Chartered Accountants: Supreme Court Transfers To Itself Pleas Challenging Constitutional Validity Of ICAI Guidelines

Order dated December 9, 2020

The bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah transferred to itself the writ petitions pending before Kerala, Madras and Calcutta High Courts which challenge the constitutional validity of guidelines issued by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) limiting the number of Tax Audits of Chartered Accountants.

The guidelines which are impugned in the High Court and consequent disciplinary proceedings initiated against various chartered accountants throughout the country is an issue of public importance affecting Chartered Accountants as well as the citizens who have to obtain compulsory tax audits. We are satisfied that to settle the law and to clear the uncertainty among tax professionals and citizens, it is appropriate that this Court may transfer the writ petition, to authoritatively pronounce the law on the subject, the Top Court reasoned.

[Case: Institute of Chartered Accountants of India v. Shaji Poulose]

14. Supreme Court Agrees To Examine Whether Probing Constitutionality Of Declaration Of 1975 Emergency Is Feasible After 45 Years

Case dated December 14, 2020

The Supreme Court agreed to examine whether a simplictor declaration that Emergency of 1975 was unconstitutional and that whether it would be feasible or desirable to probe this issue after a passage of 45 years. A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari & Hrishikesh Roy issued notice on the petition by a 94 year old and granted leave to the petitioner to amend the petition on the aspect of the restricted issue.

[Case: Vinita Sarin v. UOI]

15. ‘Whether Mandatory Sacramental Confessions Before Priests In Churches Violates Article 21 & 25 Of Constitution’: Supreme Court Issues Notice

Order dated December 14, 2020

The Supreme Court issued notice on a petition challenging the alleged practice of mandatory sacramental confessions in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde issued notice notice on petition filed by Mathew Mathachan and CV Jose who seek protection of their rights as well as the rights of similarly placed persons within the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

16. “Suit is Withdrawn, All Questions Of Law Shall Remain Open”: Supreme Court Disposes Ex SCBA Secy. Ashok Arora’s Plea Against His Suspension

Order dated December 15, 2020

A Bench of Justices Khanwilkar and BR Gavai disposed of SCBA’s erstwhile Secretary Ashok Arora’s plea against his suspension as having become infructuous, while observing that “all questions of law shall remain open“. With feuding leaders of the Supreme Court Bar Association consenting for a settlement, the Delhi High Court had earlier closed a suit filed by Arora challenging the decision of the SCBA to suspend him from the post of secretary, observing that when the bar gets divided, it also weakens the bench which gets strength from lawyers.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

18. Actor Sexual Assault Case Involving Dileep : Supreme Court Dismisses Kerala Govt Plea For Change Of Trial Judge

Order dated December 15, 2020

The Supreme Court bench of Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari dismissed the special leave petition filed by the State of Kerala seeking the change of the judge holding trial in the 2017 actor sexual assault case in which prominent Malayalam film actor Dileep is accused as a conspirator. The bench remarked that the allegations of bias raised by the state government against the trial judge are unwarranted and observed that such allegations will affect the morale of the judge.

The prosecution had sought for transfer of the case alleging bias on the part of the judge. Later, the victim too approached the High Court supporting the prosecution plea for transfer. The victim alleged that the judge allowed her to be harassed and humiliated during the cross-examination by defence lawyers. According to the victim, the judge was hostile and was not sensitive to her trauma as a survivor of a horrific sexual crime.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

19. “Do You Want To Abolish Personal Laws, How Can We Encroach On It”: SC Issues Notice ‘With Caution’ On PILs For Uniform Law For Divorce, Maintenance and Alimony

Order dated December 16, 2020

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of CJI SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian issued notice on two PILs seeking uniformity in the personal laws regulating divorce, maintenance and alimony for Indian citizens. Senior Advocate Pinky Anand appearing for the petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay prayed that these personal laws and religious practices are discriminatory under Art. 14, 15 and 44 of Indian Constitution as well as other rights conferred under International Instruments.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

20. “High Court Held It As Bad Law”: Supreme Court Rejects Plea Against Allahabad High Court’s Order Disapproving “Religious Conversion For Marriage”

Order dated December 16, 2020

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court bench including Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice. V Ramasubramanian dismissed the petition filed by Advocate Aldanish Rein for setting aside an Order passed by Allahabad High Court which held that conversion solely for the purpose of marriage are not valid in the eyes of Law.

The bench showed its reluctance in interfering with the order of the High Court and suggested the Petitioner to exhaust his appropriate remedy by approaching the High Court and not under Art. 32 of the Constitution. The bench then dismissed the petition by recording the petitioner’s admission that the impugned order has been held as bad in law by a Division Bench of Allahabad High Court in Salamat Ansari v. State of UP.

[Case: Aldanish Rein v. UOI]

21. Farmers Protests Can Continue Without Impediment And Breach Of Peace By Protestors And Police: Supreme Court

Order dated December 17, 2020

The Supreme Court refrained from passing any substantive directions in the PILs seeking removal of farmers protests as there was no appearance for the farmers unions who were added as respondents in the case. The bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian reiterated its suggestion to constitute a committee to facilitate talks between the protesting farmers and the Central Government to resolve the disputes over the recently passed farm laws.

[Case: Rakesh Vaishnav & Ors. v. UOI & Ors. ]

22. ‘We Find It Disturbing’: Supreme Court Stays Andhra High Court’s Attempt To Examine ‘Constitutional Breakdown’ In AP

Order dated December 18, 2020

The Supreme Court stayed the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court whereby it had decided to examine if there is a “constitutional breakdown” in the State of AP. “We find it disturbing“, commented the CJI SA Bobde about the High Court order. The bench issued notice on the petition. The matter will be listed after Christmas vacations. The development comes after a High Court Division Bench led by Justice Rakesh Kumar rejected an application filed by the State Government seeking recall of the said order.

[Read LiveLaw’s Report]

23. Tablighi Jamaat: Supreme Courts Asks Centre To Facilitate Return of 36 Foreigners Who Were Acquitted

Order dated December 18, 2020

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai & Krishna Murari asked the Centre to assist foreign nationals to head back to their countries after being absolved of all charges for allegedly flouting Covid-19-related guidelines by participating in the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin. The court further noted that the aforementioned observation would not come in the way of the concerned Department, if they intend to question the correctness of the discharge/acquittal. “Subject to that, the representation can be taken forward by the Nodal Officer expeditiously,” said the bench.

[Case: Maulana Ala Hadrami & Ors. v. UOI]

24. Order Extending Limitation Due To COVID19 Still Operative’: Supreme Court Directs NCDRC To Take On Record A Written Statement Filed Belatedly

Order dated December 21, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that its order of 23rd March 2020 extending limitation for filing in courts and tribunals is still operative. The bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat observed thus while setting aside an order passed by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which declined to take a written statement on the ground that it has no power to extend the time for filing the response to the complaint beyond 45 days.

[Case: M/S SS Group v. Aaditya J. Garg & Anr.]

Supreme Court Monthly Digest : November 2020

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