The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments passed in January 2024

The Lawyer's Digest is a collection of concise summaries of judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India over the course of a month.
Lawyer's Digest January 2024
Lawyer's Digest January 2024

The Lawyer's Digest is a collection of concise summaries of judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India over the course of a month.

Topics have been sub-divided into areas of law for ease of reading. Here are the summaries of judgments passed in January 2024.

Criminal Law

In Darshan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Court acquitted the appellant and reversed the concurrent findings of conviction of the appellant for an offence under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It held that in a case of conviction based on circumstantial evidence, there cannot be any gap in the chain of circumstances. If there is any gap in the chain, the accused is entitled to benefit of doubt. Though the trial court convicted both the appellant and another accused for the same offence, the High Court maintained the appellant’s conviction while reversing the conviction of the other accused on the ground that the presence of the co-accused was doubtful. The Supreme Court held that the High Court, having reached the said conclusion qua the other accused, whose acquittal was not challenged by the State, could not have refused to extend the benefit of doubt to the appellant on the same evidence.

[B.R. Gavai J., Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha J., Aravind Kumar J.]

[Keywords : Death by poisoning, circumstantial evidence, benefit of doubt, motive, burden of proof, Section 313 Cr.P.C. statement]

In Satish P. Bhatt v. The State of Maharashtra & Anr., the Supreme Court imposed costs of ₹5 lakhs each on the accused persons while stating that the accused/ convicts, under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881, failed to honour their undertaking before the courts. The Court further held that neither courts nor the complainant was bound by the arrangement arrived at by the accused persons amongst themselves. [Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: cheque bounce, undertaking to court, unscrupulous litigants]

In Ajeet Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., the Court invoked the guidelines of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335 to quash a FIR registered under Section 376 (rape) read with Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC as it was noted that “the allegation that the physical relationship was maintained due to false promise given by the appellant to marry, is without basis as their relationship led to the solemnization of marriage."

[Abhay S Oka J., Pankaj Mithal J.]

[Keywords: rape, false promise to marry, Section 482 CrPC]

In Bharat Sher Singh Kalsia v. State of Bihar & Anr., the Court quashed an FIR filed against the subsequent buyer of a property who bought it based on a power of attorney executed by the owner in favour of X, where X was a relative of the owner. The Court noted that the power of attorney executed by the original owner in favour of X was wide enough to allow X to sell the property. It further held that, in any event, if clauses of a deed/ agreement cannot be reconciled, courts may hold that the latter clauses would give way to the earlier clauses. The Court further noted that “…a suit filed by the land-owners/principals at Dehradun prior to the lodging of the FIR, for the same cause of action, has been dismissed in favour of the appellant, where a specific plea to cancel the Sale Deed stands rejected…”.  

[Vikram Nath J., Ahsanuddin Amanullah J.]

[Keywords: Sections 467, 468, 469 and 471 IPC, misuse of power of attorney, interpretation of agreement, effect of findings of civil court on criminal proceedings]

In Neeraj Sharma v. State of Chhattisgarh, the bench held that the prosecution had been able to prove abduction (Section 362, IPC) as well as kidnapping/ abduction in order to murder (Section 364, IPC) but was unable to prove the fact of ransom. Thus, the prosecution could not prove its case under Section 364A, IPC (kidnapping for ransom etc. in accordance with the tripartite test laid down in Shaik Ahmed v. State of Telangana (2021) 9 SCC 59). The Court reaffirmed that an injured eye witness’ testimony is to be given great weight unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. Given the gruesome nature of the crime committed, the Court noted that a victim was not merely a prosecution witness and that, sometimes, the victim ought to paid substantive compensation which the accused might not be able to afford under Section 357(1), CrPC. Hence, in the present case, the State ought to compensate the victim under Section 357A, CrPC. [Sudhanshu Dhulia J., Satish Chandra Sharma J.]

[Keywords: victim compensation, kidnapping, abduction, ransom]

In Perumal Raja @ Perumal v. State, Rep. by Inspector of Police, the Court reaffirmed that merely because the defence case is false, it would not constitute an additional link in the prosecution case. Further, it doubted the ratio decidendi in a coordinate bench’s decision in Rajesh & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1202 where it stated that formal custody was necessary in order to attract Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872. The Court stated that it was bound by the earlier constitution bench decision in State of U.P. v. Deoman Upadhyaya (1961) 1 SCR 14 and that the word “custody” had to be interpreted more widely and in a more meaningful manner. The bench upheld the conviction of the prime accused based on circumstantial evidence.

[Sanjiv Khanna J., SVN Bhatti J.]

[Keywords: Sharad Birdhichand Sarda, circumstantial evidence, Section 8, 25, 26, 27, 40 to 43, 106 of Indian Evidence Act 1872, murder]

Also Read
Facts sourced from accused who is not in "formal" police custody admissible as evidence: Supreme Court

In State of NCT of Delhi v. Raj Kumar @ Lovepreet @ Lovely, the Court cancelled the default bail granted by the Delhi High Court to an accused, whereby the High Court had relied upon the Hitendra Vishnu Thakur and others v. The State of Maharashtra and others (1994) 4 SCC 602 which had proscribed an extension of time for investigation beyond reasons stated in Section 20(4)(bb) of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987. The Supreme Court stated that the present was a case under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and not TADA and that Section 43D(2)(b) of the UAPA allowed an extension for investigation up to a maximum period of 180 days for three reasons i.e. completion of the investigation, progress in the investigation was explained, specific reasons for detention beyond a period of 90 days. On facts, the Court found the High Court had erred as the GNCTD sanction under Section 39 of the Arms Act 1959 had not been given owing to the absence of the FSL Report.

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: default bail, Section 167(2) CrPC, terrorist activities, Pakistan, State of Maharashtra vs. Surendra Pundlik Gadling and others (2019)5 SCC 178]

In Dinesh Gupta v. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr., the Court held that while the core of the dispute before it was civil-commercial, the private respondent deliberately chose to “pursue criminal charges in a quest to abuse the criminal justice system with a motive to seek personal vengeance rather than seeking true justice” and this “unnecessary turning of a civil matter into a criminal case not only overburdens the criminal justice system but also violates the principles of fairness and right conduct in legal matter” and this misuse “not only damages trust in our legal system but also sets a harmful precedent if not addressed”. In the facts before it, the bench also found that the complainants had deliberately provided the petitioners’/ accused’s address as being in Noida only to attract territorial jurisdiction.

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: malicious prosecution, personal vengeance]

Also Read
Supreme Court imposes ₹25 lakh costs on litigant for initiating criminal proceedings in civil dispute

In Jay Shri & Anr. v. State of Rajasthan, the Court allowed certain anticipatory bail applications while observing that a “mere breach of contract does not amount to an offence under Section 420 or Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, unless fraudulent or dishonest intention is shown right at the beginning of the transaction. This Court has time and again cautioned about converting purely civil disputes into criminal cases. Any effort to settle civil disputes and claims, which do not involve any criminal offence, by applying pressure through criminal prosecution should be deprecated and discouraged."

[Sanjiv Khanna J., Dipankar Datta J.]

[Keywords: malicious prosecution, personal vengeance]

In Kusha Duruka v. State of Odisha, the Court found the petitioner guilty of suppression of facts. It passed a slew of directions to “streamline the proceedings and avoid anomalies with reference to the bail applications being filed in the cases pending trial and even for suspension of sentence” and directed that all bail applications ought to have the following information: 

  1. Details and copies of order(s) passed in the earlier bail application(s) filed by the petitioner which have been already decided.

  2. Details of any bail application(s) filed by the petitioner, which is pending either in any court, below the court in question or the higher court, and if none is pending, a clear statement to that effect has to be made. In case it is mentioned on the top of the bail application or any other place which is clearly visible, that the application for bail is either first, second or third and so on, so that it is convenient for the court to appreciate the arguments in that light. If this fact is mentioned in the order, it will enable the next higher court to appreciate the arguments in that light.

  3. The registry of the court should also annex a report generated from the system about decided or pending bail application(s) in the crime case in question. The same system needs to be followed even in the case of private complaints as all cases filed in the trial courts are assigned specific numbers (CNR No.), even if no FIR number is there.

  4. It should be the duty of the Investigating Officer/any officer assisting the State Counsel in court to apprise him of the order(s), if any, passed by the court with reference to different bail applications or other proceedings in the same crime case. And the counsel appearing for the parties have to conduct themselves truly like officers of the Court.

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: unclean hands, stream of justice, material non-disclosure, mislead court, suppression of material facts, maxim supressio veri, expression falsi]

Also Read
Supreme Court issues directions to tackle deceptive bail pleas; says litigants today mislead courts

In Atmaram Singh v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, the Supreme Court reiterated its dictum laid down in the case of Yogesh Jain v. Sumesh Chadha, in relation to the scope and extent to which the High Court can exercise its powers to quash the proceedings under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which were initiated pursuant to Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. In the instant case, the High Court proceeded to quash the summons issued against an accused on the ground that the underlying debt incurred in favour of the appellant complainant is time-barred. However, the Court held that the question of whether the debt is barred by limitation is a mixed question of fact and law, requiring the parties to adduce evidence. Holding thus, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the High Court’s order quashing the proceedings.  

[Vikram Nath J, Satish Chandra Sharma J]

[Keywords: Quashing of criminal proceedings, limitation, mixed question of fact and law, adducing of evidence] 

In Mariam Fasihuddin v. State of Karnataka & Ors, respondent no.2 filed a complaint of cheating and forgery against the appellant wife, for fraudulently obtaining his signatures on a sponsorship form which were then used to obtain a passport for the couple’s minor child. The trial magistrate rejected the appellant’s application for discharge under Section 239 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and proceeded to frame the charges, including the charge of forgery which was initially dropped in the chargesheet and later added on the basis of a report from a private agency filed initially by respondent no.2. The Court noted that the appellant’s act did not result in any benefit thereof to the appellant nor any loss to the respondent. Consequently, the Court held that charges under Section 420 must fall. As regards the charge of forgery, the Court noted that the State FSL report was inconclusive, and that the private report filed by the respondent no.2 was unreliable as well as available with the trial magistrate since the very beginning, obviating a need to file a supplementary chargesheet. As a result, the Court proceeded to set aside the Revisional Court’s order and quashed the proceedings initiated against the appellant. 

[Surya Kant J, Dipankar Dutta J]

[Keywords: Sections 420 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, deceitful act, unlawful act, cheating, forgery, essential ingredients, conduct of the husband, supplementary chargesheet, private investigation report, Inconclusive report] 

In Ramalingam & Ors v. N. Viswanathan, as per the respondent, the respondent’s mother was hit with a stick on her chest by the appellants resulting in her death. However, the medical examiner’s post-mortem report found that there were no external injury marks on the deceased’s chest. The magistrate discharged the accused appellants on the basis of the report provided by the Investigating Officer, and no protest petition was filed thereat. Subsequently, the respondents filed a private complaint to the magistrate under Section 200 of the CrPC which also came to be dismissed as the death was not homicidal. The respondent thereafter approached the High Court in a criminal revision application. The High Court set aside the order passed by the magistrate under Section 227 discharging the appellants and remanded the matter for trial. Noting that the magistrate, while discharging the appellants did not conduct a trial, and that the medical examiner’s report was conclusive in finding that the death was not homicidal, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s order and discharged the accused. 

[Abhay S. Oka J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: Section 227 of the Criminal Procedure Code, discharge, homicidal death, protest petition, private complaint, no external injuries, remanded to trial]

In Sachin Garg v. State of UP, the Supreme Court reiterated the proposition that commercial disputes between the parties cannot be conflated by invoking the procedure for criminal justice. In the instant case, the appellant was the head of factory of Exide Industries, a manufacturer of batteries which was in business with respondent no. 2 - which manufactures DA Gas (a raw material). The dispute initially concerned a sum of ₹9,36,693 /- which the appellant maintained as the variation due to the change of prices in the purchase order amendments executed at the behest of respondent no.2. Thereafter, respondent 2 made a complaint to the magistrate for offences under Sections 406, 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. Summons were issued by the magistrate and appellant’s application under Section 482, CrPC for quashing of summons was rejected by the High Court. The Supreme Court found that none of the essential ingredients for criminal breach of trust were made out. Further, the charge of criminal intimidation was also found to be unsubstantiated except for a bald allegation in the complaint. Consequently, the Supreme Court quashed the criminal complaint case against the appellant.

[Aniruddha Bose J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: criminal breach of trust, criminal intimidation, sections 405,406 and 506 of Indian Penal Code, bald allegation, commercial dispute, prior commercial relationship]

In Shatrughna Atmaram Patil & Ors v. Vinod Dodhu Chaudhary. the appellants were the purchasers of the premises where the respondents were tenants. The appellants purchased the land from the erstwhile owners and executed a sale deed thereof. However, one of the appellant-purchasers, the eldest brother, died soon after the purchase of the property, allegedly on the instigation of the respondent tenants. There was no case under Section 306, IPC (abetment of suicide) registered against the tenants. However, the tenants were summoned by the police officers for questioning, and during the said process, the premises were unlawfully demolished by the appellants with the connivance of the police officers. The six accused police officers have also made the respondents sign certain papers by which they voluntarily renounced the possession of the proceedings. During pendency of the matter, the respondents received a compensation from the appellants and thus wished to withdraw their complaint. However, the Court found fault with the conduct of the six police officers, and directed them to pay  ₹6 lakhs in total to the Armed Forces battle officers fund. 

[Vikram Nath J, Satish Chandra Sharma J]

[Keywords: unlawful demolition, role of the police officers, Application for quashing of complaint, receipt of compensation]

In Sheikh Arif v. State of Maharashtra, the appellant, inter alia, was accused under Sections 376 (rape) and 377 (unnatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code, for rape on a false promise of marriage. The Court found that the appellant and respondent no.2 complainant were in a physical relationship since 2012 till 2018 when the complaint was made. In the interim, there were two pregnancies, the first resulting in an abortion and the second being retained on the assurance of the appellant that he would marry the complainant. The Court found that it cannot be believed that the appellant and respondent engaged in physical relationship for four years between 2012 to 2017 on the basis of a false promise to marry. Further, the factum of engagement between the couple was admitted, even though the contention of the appellant that there was a marriage was not accepted. In light of the said findings, the Court proceeded to quash the proceedings instituted against the appellant, on the condition that the appellant pays a sum of ₹5 lakhs to the complainant, along with the sum of ₹10 lakhs deposited by the appellant in the High Court. 

[Abhay S. Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: Sections 376 and 377 of the Indian Penal Code, false promise to marry, abortion, consensual relationship, admitted engagement, gross abuse of the process of law] 

The case of Central Bureau of Investigation V. Kapil Wadhawan and Anr. concerned an appeal by the CBI to challenge a judgment of the Delhi High Court which upheld the order of a Special Judge (PC Act) granting default bail under Section 167(2), CrPC on the ground that the investigation with respect to some of the accused named in the FIR was pending, though report under Section 173(2) (charge sheet) against respondents (accused) along with the other accused was filed within the prescribed limit. It was held that the benefit of proviso appended to Section 167(2) would be available to the offender only when a charge sheet is not filed and the investigation is kept pending against him. Once, however, a charge sheet is filed, the said right ceases. Charge sheet having been filed in this case (DHFL scam case), and the cognizance having been taken by the Special Court, it was held that the respondents could not have claimed the statutory right of default bail under Section 167(2) on the ground that investigation with respect to the other accused was pending.

[Bela M. Trivedi J., Pankaj Mithal J.]

[Keywords : Dewan Housing Finance Corporation, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, default bail, criminal conspiracy, cognizance, Dinesh Damia v. CBI] 

Also Read
DHFL scam: Supreme Court cancels default bail granted to Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan

In Bilkis Yakub Rasool V. Union of India and Ors., the Court set aside the order passed by the government of Gujarat granting remission to the persons convicted for committing rape on Bilkis Bano in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots. It was held that: 

  1. the writ petition filed under Article 32 to challenge the decision to grant remission was maintainable, and it was not mandatory for the petitioners to file a petition before the High Court under Article 226. 

  2. In view of Section 432(7) read with Section 432(1) and (2) of the CrPC, it was held that the government of Gujarat had no jurisdiction to entertain the prayers seeking remission of the convicts, since it was not the ‘appropriate Government’ within the meaning of the said provisions.

  3. The judgment dated May 13, 2022 passed by the Supreme Court earlier was declared to be a ‘nullity’, having been sought by suppression of material facts and misrepresentation. 

[Nagarathna J., Ujjal Bhuyan J.]

[Keywords: Remission, Doctrine of usurpation of powers, personal liberty, Article 21, rule of law, fraud unravel everything] 

Also Read
Bilkis Bano rape case: Supreme Court orders re-imprisonment of eleven convicts within two weeks

In State of Haryana V. Mohd. Yunus and Ors., the issue concerned conviction of the accused under Section 302 as also under Section 323 of the IPC. It was held that for trial under Section 302, IPC, if a witness is branded as untrustworthy having allegedly twisted the facts and made contrary statements, it is not safe to impose conviction on the basis of statement made by such witness. When there is an effort to falsely implicate one accused person, statement made by such an eyewitness cannot be relied without strong corroboration. The factum of previous enmity between the parties was also noted. However, conviction under Section 323, IPC was maintained in view of the consistent evidence on record.

[MM Sundresh J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords : eye witness, delay in registration of FIR, interested witness, independent witness, criminal revision] 

In Nara Chandrababu Naidu V. The State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr., the appellant was aggrieved by the initiation of criminal proceedings against him and his detention by the State CID for various offences under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, alleged to have been committed between 2015 and 2019, when he was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The primary allegation was facilitation of diversion of public money. One of the judges held that if an enquiry or investigation is intended in respect of a public servant on the allegation of commission of offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 after Section 17A thereof becomes operational, at least prima facie in discharge of his official duty, previous approval of the authority under Section 17A(a) (b) or (c) shall have to be obtained, in absence whereof, the action initiated under the 1988 Act shall be illegal.  Since such permission was not taken, it was held that the appellant could not be proceeded against under the 1988 Act. However, the other judge on the Supreme Court bench dismissed the appeal, reasoning that the object of the 1988 Act as also of Section 17A, i.e., to combat corruption and protecting honest public servant, ought to be kept in mind. Therefore, if Section 17A is made retrospectively applicable to a pending enquiry, the same would defeat the purpose of the Act, and that the benefit of Section 17A could not be extended to a public servant for his acts which are not in discharge of his official duties. Thus, since there was a divergence of opinions, the matter was referred to Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India for constitution of a larger bench.  

[Aniruddha Bose J., Bela M. Trivedi J.]

[Keywords : Public Servant, Prevention of Corruption Act, prior consent, procedural provision, retrospective effect, Large Bench, divergence of opinions]

Also Read
Supreme Court rejects plea by N Chandrababu Naidu to quash FIR in Skill Development scam but delivers split verdict on Section 17A PC Act

In Raja Naykar V. State of Chhattisgarh, the Court reiterated that the principle that the accused ‘must be’, and not merely ‘may be’ guilty before a court can convict an accused. Suspicion, howsoever strong, cannot take the place of proof beyond reasonable doubt. On facts, it was held that the dead body was found much prior to the recording of the memorandum of the appellant under Section 27 of the Evidence Act (concerning proving of evidence received from accused). Therefore, only that part of the statement which leads to recovery of the dagger and the rickshaw (used to dispose of the dead body) would be relevant. The FSL report did not indicate that the blood group of the blood on the dagger matched with that of the deceased, and it was also held to be unbelievable that the owner of the rickshaw would remain silent for 3-4 days after his rickshaw disappeared. Therefore, the said recoveries were held to be not material. Accordingly, the appellant was acquitted. 

[BR Gavai J., Sandeep Mehta J.]

[Keywords : Section 27 Evidence Act, recovery, suspicion, beyond reasonable doubt, conviction] 

In Pramila v State of Chattisgarh, the Supreme Court held that where a boy under the age of 18 years committed an offence when the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was applicable, and where such accused had undergone eight years incarceration, a sentence of more than as prescribed under the 1986 act ought to be set aside. 

[AS Oka J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: Juvenile Justice Act, age]

Also Read
23 years after murder, Supreme Court acquits woman who was juvenile at the time of offence

In Mohd. Julfukar v. The State of Uttarakhand, the Court held that where two persons were in a consensual relationship and residing together, and later acrimony led to an FIR being registered under Sections 376, 377, and 506, IPC, and the parties engaged in consensual relations after a forced marriage, and where the victim informed the court that the parties had obtained divorce and resolved their dispute, the criminal proceedings would not be in the interest of justice and may be quashed.

[BR Gavai J, Sandeep Mehta J]

[Keywords: Ss. 376 and 506 IPC, consensual relationship, habeas corpus filed by the father of the ‘victim’]

In Pradeep Kumar v. State of Haryana, the Court due to inconsistencies in the statement of a witness, a chance witness, and in the FSL report between a terikot pant and a jeans pant, acquitted the accused.

[BR Gavai J, PS Narasimha J]

[Keywords: S. 302 r/w S. 34, rigorous imprisonment, circumstantial evidence]

In Shadakshari v. State of Karnataka, the Court noted that it was settled that Section 197, CrPC would not cover every act or omission of a public servant while in service and applies only to acts done in the discharge of official duties. Thus, even if sanction was not granted for investigation of allegations of fabrication of documents, the High Court was incorrect to quash such investigation.

[Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: Quashing, complaint, FIR, fabrication of documents, sanction to prosecute]

In Jitendra Kumar Mishra @ Jittu v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, the Court held that where the presence of a witness (who was also a relative) was neither found in the statement of the witnesses who discovered the deceased, nor in the dying declaration, when such witness claimed to have attempted to save the deceased, and two other witnesses who were with the deceased at the time of the incident and turned hostile, and where medical reports suggested an injury which would kill a person within fifteen minutes but the witnesses could have reached him only after 15-25 witnesses, the accused ought to be acquitted.

[AS Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: S. 302 r/w S. 34, dying declaration]

In Gurdev Singh Bhalla v. State of Punjab, the Court held that where there were consistent statements of witnesses, minor discrepancies, such as on the amount of money demanded as a bribe, would not take away the prima facie evidence on record to make a triable case.

[Vikram Nath J, Rajesh Bindal J]

[Keywords: S. 319 CrPC, sanction under the Prevention of Corruption Act]

In Suresh Garodia v. The State of Assam, the Court found that the delay of 34 years in lodging a rape case, on the basis of a bald statement that the prosecutrix was a minor at the time of commission of the offence, itself was a ground to quash proceedings, especially when material on record demonstrated that the relationship was consensual and especially when there was no explanation in the FIR for the delay.

[BR Gavai J, Sandeep Mehta J]

[Keywords: quashing, Ss. 376 / 506 IPC, cognizance]

In Ajitsinh Chehuji Rathod v. State of Gujarat, the Court held that the power to record additional evidence under Section 391 CrPC should only be exercised when the party making such request was prevented from presenting the evidence in the trial despite due diligence being exercised or that the facts giving rise to such prayer came to light at a later stage during pendency of the appeal and where non-recording of such evidence may lead to failure of justice. Therefore, where a party sought to prove that a cheque issued contained signatures were not genuine could have summoned certified copies of the specimen signature from the bank or requested the concerned bank official to give evidence, such person could not have raised a request for a handwriting expert at the stage of appeal.

[BR Gavai J, Sandeep Mehta J]

[Keywords: S. 482 CrPC, S. 319 CrPC, S. 138 NI Act, handwriting expert]

In Krishan v. State of Haryana, the Court held that where recovery was made a month and four days after the occurrence and from a public place, the recovery could not be held to be on the ‘appellant’s insistence’, despite there being no independent witnesses recorded in the panchnama (even though they were present at the scene).

[AS Oka J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: S. 302 IPC and S. 25 Arms Act]

In Dashrath Sahu v. State of Chattisgarh, the Court held that Section 3(1)(xi) of the Prevention of Atrocities Act required that the offence of outraging of modesty required a commission with the intention that the victim belonged to a Scheduled Caste.

[BR Gavai J, PK Mishra, J, Sandeep Mehta J]

[Keywords: S. 320 CrPC, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989]

Preventive Detention / COFEPOSA

In Sarfaraz Alam v. Union of India and Ors., the appeal was filed by the brother-in-law of the detenue who was aggrieved by the detention order passed by the respondents on the premise that the grounds of detention were not served on him. Though the Court reiterated the position in law with respect to the constitutional mandate of communicating the grounds of detention in a language that the detenue understands, on facts, the detenue was held not entitled to any relief as he had suppressed the facts as proved in his refusal to receive the grounds of detention. The Panchnama clearly indicated his adequacy in English since he had not only signed the document in English but also made his objection with respect to receipt of the grounds of detention. 

[M.M.Sundresh J., Aravind Kumar J.]

[Keywords : COFEPOSA Act, detention order, grounds of detention, Article 22(5) Constitution of India] 

Service Law

In Priyanka Prakash Kulkarni v. Maharashtra Public Service Commission, the Court held that where a candidate did not possess a certificate of her non creamy layer status and thus applied as an unreserved candidate, and where such person subsequently - due to a change in the rules determining NCL status - obtains such a certificate and submits the same, she ought to be treated as NCL.

[Vikram Nath J and Satish Chandra Sharma J]

[Keywords: female reservation subject to domicile and non-creamy layer NCL status]

In Radhey Shyam Yadav and Anr. Etc. v. State of UP & Ors., the Court had to ask the question as to whether the State was justified in stopping the salaries of the three appellants after they joined as teachers in 1999 and worked till 2005.  The bench, following the Constitution bench in Sivananda C.T. and Others v. High Court of Kerala and Ors. 2023 SCC Online SC 994, stated the appellants could not be prejudiced arbitrarily without any proof when they had no blameworthy conduct and were bona fide applicants from the open market. The alleged mischief, even according to the State, was at the end of the school and its manager. The State was granted liberty to investigate the committee of management of the school and recover one-third of the arrears which the State had to pay the appellants.

[J.K. Maheshwari J., K.V. Viswanathan J.]

[Keywords: corruption, sanction, Vivek Kaisth and Anr. v. The State of Himachal Pradesh and Ors., 2023:INSC:1007]

In State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. v. Association of Retired Supreme Court and High Court Judges at Allahabad & Ors., the Court held that Article 229(2) pertains only to the service conditions of ‘officers and servants’ of the High Courts and does not include judges of the High Court (both sitting and retired judges). It was further held that a High Court, under Article 226 of the Constitution, cannot usurp the functions of the executive and direct the executive to “exercise its rule-making power in the manner directed by it." The power of the High Court to initiate contempt proceedings could not be used to “obstruct parties or their counsel from availing legal remedies”. The bench also evolved a Standard Operating Procedure to be followed before summoning public officials before courts.

[Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud CJI., JB Pardiwala J., Manoj Mishra J.]

[Keywords: ‘Domestic Help to Former Chief Justices and Former Judges of the Allahabad High Court’, ‘Rules for providing Domestic Help to Former Chief Justices and Former Judges of Allahabad High Court’, Article 229]

Also Read
Supreme Court lays down rules for summoning government officials; asks courts not to humiliate them

In State of Assam v. Binod Kumar & Ors, the appellant approached the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Gauhati High Court which struck down Rule 63(iii) of the Assam Police Manual as invalid. The said provision empowers the Deputy Commissioner of Police to act as the Reporting Authority for the preparation of Annual Confidential Reports and Annual Performance Appraisal Reports of the Superintendents of a district. The reports prepared by the DCP are forwarded to the Deputy Inspector General who is the Reviewing Authority, after which the final step involves the Inspector General accepting the reports. The Court noted that the said mechanism originated from the Police Act, 1861 which was repealed and replaced with the Police Act, 2007 in the State of Assam. The Court, on a holistic reading of the 2007 Act, arrived at the finding that the Deputy Commissioner is no longer in-charge of the internal working and discipline of the force within a district. Noting further that Superintendents are governed by the IPS Service rules of 2007, under which the benefits to which they are entitled cannot be deprived, the Court upheld the order of Gauhati High Court. 

[Aniruddha Bose J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: Reporting Authority, Reviewing Authority, Accepting Authority, Annual Confidential Reports, Annual Performance Appraisal Reports, internal organization and discipline of the police force, harmonious construction.]

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In Dr. Balbir Singh Bhandari v. State of Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court was called upon to answer the question of whether the benefit of promotional pay scale granted to an employee can be recovered upon his superannuation, when such benefit is subsequently withdrawn. The appellants were a batch of Ayurveda and Unani practitioners who were first engaged for one year in 1988 by the undivided State of Uttar Pradesh. However, an order dated August 4, 2011 made them entitled to revised pay scale upon completion of eight years of continuous service and a further revision upon completion of fourteen years of continuous service. Noting that the order revising pay scales in the instant case applied only to Ayurveda and Unani practitioners, and that there is another order issued by the Financial Department of the respondent which entitled all service cadres to three financial revisions upon completion of 10, 18 and 26 years, the Court found no fault with the State’s decision to revoke the order dated August 4, 2011 and initiate the recovery proceedings against the salaries granted to the appellants. 

[Abhay S. Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: superannuation, revised pay scales, regularization, recovery proceedings, special class with different treatment]

In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Vijaykumar Tiwari & Ors, the State preferred an appeal against the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court allowing the respondent’s writ petition for a mandamus order. In the writ petition, respondents, who were Masters Students in an Ayurveda course, prayed that their stipend be paid at par with that received by the post graduate students pursuing allopathy. Noting that the role and duties performed by both classes of students is different, and noting that the issue was settled by the judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Gujarat and Others v. Dr. P.A. Bhatt and Others, 2023 SCC Online SC 503, the Court proceeded to allow the appeal and set aside the High Court’s order. 

[B.R Gavai J, Sandeep Mehta J]

[Keywords: Writ of Mandamus, revision of stipend, Masters in Ayurved, Post Graduate in Allopathy, comparable duties]

In Vasisht Narayan Kumar v. State of Bihar, the appellant applied for the position of Head Constable pursuant to the State Recruitment Announcement in 2017. The appellant satisfied the qualification criteria applicable to his category, and passed the Physical Evaluation. However, the appellant found that he failed to qualify as the date of birth entered by him was incorrect and not matching with his 10th pass certificate. The Court recorded that the appellant did not derive any benefit from the incorrect recording of the date, and that the error had crept in inadvertently as he applied for the recruitment from a cyber-café near his village and could not accurately provide his date of birth. His petition before the single judge and appeal before the division bench of the High Court came to be dismissed. The Supreme Court relied on the judgment of Ajay Kumar Mishra vs. Union of India & Ors., [2016] SCC OnLine Del 6563 to hold that the appointing authority must adjudge the gravity of the error recorded in the application form if the candidate otherwise meets the qualification criteria. The Court proceeded to set aside the High Court’s order and directed the respondent to consider the recruitment of the appellant in light of the judgment. 

[J.K Maheshwari J, K.V Viswanathan J]

[Keywords: incorrect date of birth, inadvertent error, no benefit from the error, gravity of the error, consideration of recruitment] 

Transfer of Property

In Kanwar Raj Singh & Ors v. Smt. Gejo, the Supreme Court examined the date from which a compulsorily registrable instrument for sale of immoveable property would take effect under Section 47 of the Registration Act, 1906. In the instant case, the appellant was the vendor who sold an extent of 71 kanals of land to the respondent. The sale deed recorded that the entire extent of 71 kanals was sold for the agreed upon consideration. However, prior to registration of the sale deed, the extent of land was changed to 1/3rd of the extent mentioned in the sale deed, and the appellant subsequently transferred 2/3rds of the said extent to his wife. The respondents succeeded in obtaining a decree of declaration of title with respect to the entire extent of land, which was set aside in first appeal and restored in second appeal. The Supreme Court observed that the sale would take effect from the date of execution of the sale deed and not the date of registration since the entire consideration was admittedly paid on the date of execution. Having found thus, the Court refused to intervene and dismissed the appeal

[Abhay S. Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: Section 47 of the Registration Act, 1906, Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, date of completion of sale, payment of entire sale consideration, unilateral change by pen] 

Consumer Law

In Ansal Crown Heights Flat buyers Association (Regd.) v. M/s Ansal Crown Infrabuild Pvt Ltd, the Court reiterated that merely because of a moratorium under IBC, debtors, such as homebuyers are not prohibited from initiating actions against the directors and officers of the corporate debtor.

[AS Oka J, Ujjal Bhuyan J.]

[Key words: NCDRC, development of flats, IBC, developer undergoing insolvency when NCDRC passed orders directing it to repay buyers who did not want to wait further for possession, moratorium, Anjali Rathi v. Today Homes and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd]

In PC Jain v. Dr RP Singh, a matter pertaining to medical negligence, the Ethics Committee of the Medical Council of India found a doctor to be in violation of Professional Misconduct, Etiquette and Ethics Regulation, 2002 in the treatment of the appellant and the MCI had affirmed the recommendation of the Ethics Committee and removed his name from the Indian Medical Register for 6 months. The doctor had not challenged the same. As the doctor had misrepresented to the NCDRC that he had deposited ₹2 lakhs, the victim had been contesting the litigation for 20 years, and the NCDRC had allowed the doctor’s appeal ex-parte. The Supreme Court directed that the victim be entitled to the compensation of ₹2 Lakhs @ 12 percent per annum interest, with effect from the date of filing of the complaint till the date of actual payment.

[BR Gavai J, Mehta J]

[Keywords: medical negligence]

In Reliance Life Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr. v. Jaya Wadhwani, it was held that an insurance policy is effective from the date of issuance of the policy and not the date of proposal or the date of issuance of the receipt. The bench noted that the “…date of proposal cannot be treated to be the date of policy until and unless on the date of proposal, initial deposit as also the issuance of policy happens on the same date where, for example, the premium is paid in cash then, immediately, the policy could be issued. Merely, tendering a cheque may not be enough as till such time the cheque is encashed, the contract would not become effective. The drawer of the cheque may, at any time, after issuing, stop its payment or there may not be enough funds in the account of which the cheque is issued and there could be many other reasons for which the cheque could be returned without being encashed”.

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: date of issue of policy, insurance for suicide]

Insolvency Law

In Bharti Airtel Limited and Another v. Vijaykumar V. Iyer and Others, the bench held that insolvency set off and legal set off, in terms of Regulation 29 of the Liquidation Regulations and in terms of Order VIII Rule 6 CPC respectively, are inapplicable to the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process subject to two exceptions: (a) where the contractual set off takes place before commencement of CIRP and (b) there is a genuine and clearly set out “‘equitable set-off’, or transactional set off, when the claim and counter claim in the form of set-off are linked and connected on account of one or more transactions that can be treated as one.

[Sanjiv Khanna J., SVN Bhatti J.]

[Keywords: Section 25(2)(a), 30(2)(b)(ii), 53, 238 of IBC, set off: statutory or legal set-off, common law set-off, equitable set-off, contractual set-off and insolvency set-off, Order VIII Rule 6 CPC, insolvency set off, “mutual dealings”, Regulation 29 of Liquidation Regulations, anti-deprivation principle, UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law]

In DBS Bank Limited Singapore v. Ruchi Soya Industries Limited and Another, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court doubted the ratio of another coordinate bench in India Resurgence ARC Private Limited v. Amit Metaliks Limited & Another, 2021 SCC Online SC 409 and stated that the latter’s ratio was in discord with the ratio of the three-judge benches in Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta & Ors. (2020) 8 SCC 531, Jaypee Kensington Boulevard Apartments Welfare Association & Others. v. NBCC (India) Limited & Others (2022) 1 SCC 401. It held that Section 30(2)(b)(ii), IBC provides an assurance to the dissenting creditors, whether financial or operational, that they will receive as money the amount they would have received in the liquidation proceedings and that this ensures that dissenting creditors receive the payment of the value of their security interest. It was noted that "on the resolution plan being approved, an unwilling secured creditor does and must forgo the security, albeit such an unwilling secured creditor is entitled to the value of the security as payable on the liquidation of the corporate debtor. The provision is enacted to protect the minority autonomy of creditors. It should not be read down to nullify the minimum entitlement. Section 30(2)(b)(ii) forfends the dissenting financial creditor from settling for a lower amount payable under the resolution plan.

[Sanjiv Khanna J., SVN Bhatti J.]

[Keywords: right of dissenting creditors, UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on the treatment of dissenting creditors, liquidation value]

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In State Bank of India v. The Consortium of Mr. Murari Lal Jalan and Mr. Florian Fritsch, there was disagreement between the Successful Resolution Applicants “SRAs” and the Consortium of Lenders regarding the fulfilment of conditions precedent which were recorded in Clause 7 of the approved resolution plan. The Corporate Debtor in the present case was Jet Airways. Clause 7 of the approved resolution plan, inter alia, required the Air Operational Permit to be issued to the Resolution Applicants by DGCA. On January 13, 2024, the NCLT, in an IA filed by the SRAs, found that the SRAs were compliant with the conditions precedent listed in the Resolution Plan. A batch of appeals arising from the said order were filed by the appellant banks which are pending in NCLAT. However, the appellant filed an affidavit before the NCLAT to the effect that there will not be any opposition for the extension of time if there is an infusion of ₹350 crores. In response, the SRAs proposed to pay the amount in three tranches, one of which was by way of a Performance Bank Guarantee (“PBG”) of ₹150 crores. The NCLAT accepted the proposal of the SRAs, which was appealed by the banks since ‘infusion’ does not entitle the SRAs to invoke the PBG. The Court found that NCLAT could not have directed for the adjustment of the PBG as against the requirement of the lenders for infusion of ₹350 crores. Having found that the PBG adjustment issue is to be decided at the stage of recording implementation of the approved Resolution Plan, the Court directed the SRAs to pay the amount of ₹150 crores by January 31, 2024.

[D.Y Chandrachud CJ, J.B Pardiwala J, Manoj Misra J]

[Keywords: Performance Bank Guarantee, satisfaction of condition precedent, implementation of Resolution Plan, carrying costs, application for exclusion and extension of time] 

Civil Procedure

In JN Puri v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court held where an applicant had filed an application seeking restoration of their writ petition on the grounds that the name of his advocate was not printed in the cause list and one of the judges before whom it was listed had himself appeared on behalf of the other party in previous proceedings and thus the appellant was under a bona fide belief that the matter would be deferred on account of recusal, and where the restoration application was not taken up for a significant period of time and the applicant was constrained to move a miscellaneous application for the same, and where the division bench of the High Court in collateral proceedings had recorded that the underlying proceedings were pending and the applicant discovered the conclusion of the matter only upon an RTI application in 2019, then the recall and review applications filed subsequently ought not to be dismissed.

[BR Gavai J, Mehta J]

[Keywords: civil procedure]

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In Brij Narayan Shukla (D) Thr. Lrs. v. Sudesh Kumar alias Suresh Kumar (D) Thr. Lrs. & Ors., the facts were broadly such that X, being the erstwhile landowner, filed a case for arrears of rent against Y in 1944 which ended in a settlement regarding land parcel A. Later, X sold a land parcel B to Z in 1966 by way of a registered sale deed. Z started constructing in land parcel B in 1975 when Y obstructed construction alleging that Y is the owner due to the settlement in 1944. The Supreme Court stated that Y could not allege that it had perfected its title from 1944 on account of adverse possession as the “suit of the year 1944 was for the arrears of rent and not relating to any dispute of possession” and since Y was a tenant and its possession “was permissive as against the then landlords” and since there “was no question of them claiming any adverse possession from 1944."

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: adverse possession]

In Raja Gounder and Others v. M. Sengodan and Others, the Court reiterated that a statement made by a person is not only evidence against himself/ herself but also against those claiming under him/ her. Further, Section 18 of the Evidence Act lays out conditions to be satisfied for treating a statement as an admission. It was further reiterated that children from void marriage shall be entitled to a share in their parent’s properties.

[MM Sundresh J., SVN Bhatti J.]

[Keywords: admission, Section 17 and 18 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, Revanasiddappa and another v. Mallikarjun and others (2023) 10 SCC 1]

In Mary Pushpam v. Telvi Curusumary, it was reaffirmed that “when a decision of a coordinate Bench of same High court is brought to the notice of the bench, it is to be respected and is binding subject to right of the bench of such co-equal quorum to take a different view and refer the question to a larger bench” and that it was the "only course of action open to a bench of co-equal strength, when faced with the previous decision taken by a bench with same strength”. Furthermore, the Court held that, if in a suit for possession, the property is not described and defined properly with accuracy, such a suit for possession “with respect to such a property would be liable to be dismissed on the ground of its identifiability."

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: judicial discipline and propriety, doctrine of precedents, judicial indiscipline, doctrine of merger]

In Alagammal & Ors v. Ganesan & Ors, the respondents were buyers who entered into an agreement of sale for immoveable property for a consideration of ₹22,000. The agreement stipulated that the entire sale consideration ought to be paid within six months of the date of agreement. The respondents failed to pay the balance consideration nor did they issue a legal notice within the said period calling upon the appellant nos. 1-3 to perform the agreement. A suit filed by the respondents for specific performance came to be rejected by the trial court, and the first and second appellate courts reversed the trial court’s order. The Supreme Court noted that the judgment in KS Vidyanadam v Vairavan (1997) 3 SCC 1 applied squarely in the case and that a suit for specific performance cannot be sustained without the readiness and willingness of the plaintiff to perform within the stipulated period. 

[Vikram Nath J, Ahsanuddin Amanullah J]

[Keywords: agreement to sell, readiness and willingness, delay of six years in serving legal notice, sale to third parties, time is of essence] 

In Baitullah Ismail Shaikh v. Khatija Ismail Palhankar, the appellant landlords filed an appeal against the judgment passed by the revisional court, which set aside the decree of eviction granted by the trial court and first appellate court in the appellant’s favour. The eviction proceedings commenced following the notice issued by the Municipal Corporation stating that the building is an old structure at the verge of collapse, posing risk to the occupants. Five grounds for eviction were urged by the appellant in the trial court under the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999. However, the trial court sustained the eviction only on the ground of bona fide need and the requirement of demolition. The revisional court found that the trial court and the first appellate court did not specify whether part-vacating the building was possible. Applying the doctrine of ‘comparative hardship” the Court found that the appellant’s suit failed to disclose the immediate need of the suit premises for the purpose of demolition. Holding thus, the Court upheld the revisional court’s order and dismissed the appeal. 

[Aniruddha Bose J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: Suit for eviction, Section 16 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999, bona-fide need, immediate requirement, part-vacating, comparative hardship] 

In Asma Lateef and Anr. V. Shabbir Ahmad and Ors., the question was whether the order dated August 5, 1991 suffered from a jurisdictional error so grave that the decree drawn up subsequently was incapable of execution by the executing court, and an objection that it is inexecutable was available to be raised under Section 47, CPC. On perusal of the aforesaid order, it was held that the order did not reveal any adjudication leading to the determination of the rights of the parties in relation to any of the matters in controversy in the suit, and therefore, the decree drawn up was held not to be a formal expression of an adjudication / determination so as to conform to the requirements of a decree within the meaning of Section 2(2), CPC. The Court concluded that the trial court had no authority to decree the suit in exercise of its power under Order VIII Rule 10, CPC. 

[BR Gavai J., Dipankar Datta J., Aravind Kumar J.]

[Keywords : Judgment and decree, Order VIII Rule 10 CPC, lack of jurisdiction, error in the exercise of jurisdiction, execution] 

Tax

In M/s KP Mozika v. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd, the Court held that the transfer of the right to use will involve not only possession but also control of the goods by the user. Where substantial control remains with the contractor and is not handed over to the user, there would be no transfer of the right to use vehicles, and such a transaction would be of the nature of rendering service in terms of Section 65 (105) of the Finance Act, and thus such contracts would not be covered by sales tax or VAT.

[AS Oka J, Rajesh Bindal J]

[Keywords: Assam general Sales Tax Act 1993, Assam Value Added Tax Act 2003]

In M/s Mangalam Publications, Kottayam v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Kottayam, the bench held that mere change of opinion, on the basis of a subsequent and subjective analysis, could not be a reason to reopen assessment as it was not even the revenue’s case that the disclosures by the assessee, though not supported by certain documents, were false. In the case before it, the revenue had reopened the assessment but the bench held that the revenue could not have passed an order under Section 143(3) without it being preceded by a notice, enquiry and hearing under Sections 142(1), 142(2), 142(3) and 143(2). The Court further differentiated between an invalid return and a defective return while holding that the returns filed by the assesee could not be called invalid as they were not even stated to be defective by the revenue. It was noted that the revenue had the "discretion to intimate the assessee about the defect(s) and it is only when the defect(s) are not rectified within the specified period that the assessing officer may treat the return as an invalid return." It was the express case of the assesee that it could not file complete records as many documents had been seized by the Revenue, the Court further noted.

[BV Nagarathna J., Ujjal Bhuyan J.]

[Keywords: reassessment under Section 142, 143, 147, 148, 260A of Income Tax Act 1961, “reason to believe”, “change of opinion”, “for reasons to be recorded by him in writing, is of the opinion”]

Arbitration

In SV Samudram v. State of Karnataka and Anr., the issue was whether the High Court was justified in confirming an order passed under Section 34(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, whereby the award passed by the arbitrator was modified and the amount awarded was reduced. The Court relied upon its judgment in National Highways Authority of India v. M. Hakeen (2021) 9 SCC 1 which had held that a Court, under Section 34, would have no jurisdiction to modify an arbitral award, as reiterated in Larsen Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Co. v. Union of India (2023) SCC Online SC 982. In the present facts, the award pertained to the year 2003, i.e., prior to the amendment of 2015. Be that as it may, the Court found that the order passed under Section 34 modifying the award, did not at all state as to under which ground(s) mentioned in Section 34 did the Court find sufficient reason to interfere. Reappreciation of the matter of evidence was held to be impermissible. However, though the reduction of interest of 18 percent per annum as granted by the arbitrator, to 9 percent by the High Court was held to be without any legal basis. Yet, the Court upheld the same in exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

[Abhay S. Oka J., Sanjay Karol J.]

[Keywords : modification of award, Section 34 Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, reduction of interest, public policy of India, pre-2015 amendment, Article 142 Constitution of India]

Constitution

In Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. and Ors. v. MB Power (Madhya Pradesh) Ltd and Ors., the challenge was to the judgment of the High Court which, in effect, directed the appellant, a State entity, to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement with the successful bidders in the tender. It was held that the decision making process, as adopted by the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) was totally in conformity with the principles laid down by the Court including in Tata Cellular v. Union of India (1994) 6 SCC 651, who, after considering the competitive rates offered in the bidding process in various States came to a conclusion that the rates quoted by SKS Power (L-5 bidder) were not market aligned. The said decision as approved by the State Commission, following a fair process, and therefore, the same ought not to have been interfered with, the top court said.

[B.R. Gavai J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords : Power Purchase Agreement, public interest, judicial review and intervention in tender matters, discretionary power, instrumentality of state, commercial decision] 

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The case of S Rajaseekaran v. Union of India and Ors. concerned the issuance of interim directions for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, relating to grant of compensation in case of hit and run motor accidents, particularly in terms of Section 161 thereof. The following, amongst other interim directions were issued:

  1. If the particulars of the vehicle involved in the accident are not available at the time of registration of the report regarding the accident by the jurisdictional Police Station and if, after making reasonable efforts, the particulars of the vehicle involved in the accident could not be ascertained by the Police within a period of one month from the date of registration of accident report, the officer-in-charge of the Police Station shall inform in writing to the injured or the legal representatives of the deceased that compensation can be claimed under the Scheme

  2. The officer in charge of the Police Station, within one month from the date of the accident, shall forward the FAR to the Claims Enquiry Officer as provided in sub-clause (1) of clause 21 of the Scheme

  3. A Monitoring Committee shall be constituted at every district level consisting of the Secretary of the District Legal Service Authority, the Claims Enquiry Officer of the district, and a police officer not below the level of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

[Abhay S. Oka J., Pankaj Mithal J.]

[Keywords : Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, compensation, hit and run cases, Claims Enquiry Officer] 

The case of Sanjay Kundu V. Registrar General, High Court of Himachal Pradesh and Ors., arose out of a judgment passed by the High Court on a complaint made by a complainant alleging that he was facing serious threats emanating from two persons, ‘X’ a former IPS officer, and ‘Y’, a senior advocate. The complainant said he was also continuously receiving calls from the office of the DGP (petitioner) pressurising him to settle a dispute with Y. The Court set aside the order passed by the High Court, directing transfer of the DGP into another posting so that the investigation was not influenced. It was so directed since the DGP was held to be under the administrative control in the hierarchy of service, and further, since he had not been heard before his transfer pursuant to the High Court order. Further, the Supreme Court directed formation of a SIT to independently investigate the complaint made to the Registrar General by the complainant.

[Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud CJI., J B Pardiwala J., Manoj Misra J.]

[Keywords : audi alteram partem, post decisional hearing, abuse of official position, civil dispute] 

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Matrimonial

In Prakash Chandra Joshi V. Kuntal Prakashchandra Joshi @ Kuntai Visanji Shah, the issue was whether a decree of divorce can be granted on the ground of marriage having irretrievably broken down. The family court, as also the High Court, dismissed the petition of the husband seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion, both of which were decided ex parte since the wife refused to contest the proceedings in India. The wife had deserted the petitioner 13 years ago and settled in Canada. Neither did she respond to several communications sent by the husband to her, nor to the court summons. On the facts, relying on Shilpa  Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan, the Court considered it to be a fit case for granting divorce in exercise of its power under Article 142(1) of the Constitution of India in order to do complete justice. 

[B.R. Gavai J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords : Divorce, matrimonial dispute, cruelty and desertion, irretrievable breakdown of marriage, Article 142(1), complete justice] 

Environmental Law

In Re: T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India and Ors., the bench passed a slew of direction regarding the functioning of the Central Empowered Committee which are as under: 

  1. The CEC shall formulate guidelines for the conduct of its functions and internal meetings. The CEC shall formulate the operating procedures delineating the roles of its members and the Secretary of the CEC.

  2. The CEC shall formulate guidelines about the public meetings that it holds, ensure the publication of meeting agenda in advance on its website, maintain minutes of meetings, and set out rules regarding notice to parties.

  3. The CEC shall formulate guidelines for site visits and, if necessary, hearing the public and affected parties therein.

  4. The CEC shall formulate guidelines fixing time limits for site visits, preparation of reports, and also the manner of preparation of reports.

  5. These guidelines/ regulations must be accessible for anyone to seek. They shall be posted on the official website of the CEC, the Court added.

In the stated judgment, the Court went on to give an overview of the State machinery in place to protect the environment and environmental rights and highlighted the institutional features that ought to be a party of such “bodies, authorities, regulators, and executive offices entrusted with environmental duties.

[BR Gavai J., Pamidighantam Sri Narsimha J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords: MC Mehta, environmental justice, environmental rule of law, United Nations, ‘Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report’, accountability as a principle of administrative law]

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In Container Corporation of India v. Ajay Khera and Ors., the bench was concerned with vehicular pollution in Delhi, particularly air pollution caused by the entry of non-destined diesel vehicles in Delhi. It was looking into the management of Inner Container Depots in Delhi where non-destined diesel heavy-duty vehicles were parked. It, inter alia, passed a slew of directions as under:

  1. The Union of India is to formulate a policy of phasing out heavy-duty diesel vehicles and replacing them with BSVI vehicles. 

  2. Process of exploring the possibility of finding better sources, including CNG/Hybrid/Electric, for the use of heavy-duty vehicles to be continued.

  3. A plan for optimal utilisation of inner container depots around Delhi to be formulated.

[Abhay S Oka J., Pankaj Mithal J.]

[Keywords: Inland Container Depot, air quality index, Inland Container Depot, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority]

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In State of Himachal Pradesh and Others v. Yogendra Mohan Sengupta and Another, in an elaborate judgment of 100 pages, the bench stated that the draft development plan for 22,450 hectares of Shimla Planning Area had, prima facie, complied with legislative and procedural rigours. It frowned upon the National Green Tribunal staying the plan. The Court held that under the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act 1977, the exercise of power for the preparation, finalization and approval of development plan is a power exercised by the delegatee for enacting a subordinate piece of legislation. Invoking the doctrine of separation of powers, the bench further held that the NGT could not have restrained the government from exercising its powers under the TCP Act to enact a piece of delegated legislation or directed it to use its powers in a particular manner. Elaborating upon what constitutes a binding precedent, the bench concluded by stating that paragraph 47 of Mantri Techzone Private Limited v. Forward Foundation and Others 2019 INSC 315 did not constitute a binding precedent. The Court further held that continuation of the proceedings by the NGT during the pendency of the writ petitions before the High Court was not in conformity with the principles of judicial propriety. 

[BR Gavai J., Aravind Gupta J.]

[Keywords: separation of powers, administrative law, sinking and sliding area, Balancing the need for Development and Protection of the Environment, Rajeev Suri, L. Chandra Kumar]

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In TN Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India and Ors., the challenge revolved around the criteria issued by the State of Goa for the identification of ‘forests’ in the State. While dismissing the appeal, it was held as follows:

  1. Firstly, the existing criteria for identification of private forests in the State of Goa are adequate and valid, hence, they require no alteration. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change guidelines, as well as the Scheduled Tribes & other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, are clear and unambiguous, as they have exempted the application of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, on areas that are less than 1 hectare and where not more than 75 trees have to be cut

  2. Secondly, appellant’s attempt to take a contrary stand on the issue of criteria for the identification of forests, namely, suggesting a change in criteria for the identification of deemed forests under private ownership was noticed. On the one hand, the appellant was challenging the criteria adopted by the Sawant and Karapurkar Committees for the identification of, inter alia, private forests and on the other hand, the appellant relied on the same criteria adopted by these two committees for the identification of forests, including private forests, before the Tribunal. This was held to be impermissible.

  3. Thirdly, the Court vide its earlier order dated December 12, 1996 had expressly delegated the task of identifying forest areas to Expert Committees to be constituted by State Governments, thereby recognising that there can be no uniform criteria for such identification across the country.

[B.R. Gavai J., Aravind Kumar J., Prashan Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords : Forests, Expert Committee, National Green Tribunal, Sawant Committee, Karapurkar Committee] 

In Veena Gupta v. Central Pollution Control Board, the Supreme Court criticized the approach of the National Green Tribunal in passing an adverse order against the appellants in a suo motu proceeding without granting the appellant any notice. The impugned order passed by the National Green Tribunal recorded that the appellant had not been served. However, the tribunal proceeded to direct the appellant to pay compensation for the purported hazardous activities undertaken in the project site in which the appellant is the project proponent. A review petition filed by the appellant before the tribunal also came to be dismissed. Citing that the practice of passing ex-parte adverse orders has proven to be a counterproductive force in the Tribunal’s mission to safeguard environment, the Supreme Court allowed the appeals and set aside the orders passed by the tribunal. 

[P.S Narasimha J, Aravind Kumar J]

[Keywords: ex-parte order, no opportunity of hearing, no notice, counterproductive force, unilateral decision making] 

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Contempt of Courts

In Amit Kumar Das v. Hutheesingh Charitable Trust, A division bench of the High Court found the appellant to be in contempt and proceeded to vacate the stay order passed by the single judge in his favour. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the High Court, in exercise of its contempt jurisdiction can vacate a stay order. The Court relied on earlier judgments to hold that courts have the power to pass directions for restitutive measures upon finding wilful disobedience by the contemnor, but on facts held that the order passed by the High Court in the present case did not meet the said standard. Noting that vacation of the stay order did not result in restitution of status quo, and had enabled the respondent to execute the decree, the Court set aside the impugned order, and recommended that an appropriate order be passed in contempt proceedings aimed at restitution of status quo between the parties. 

[Aniruddha Bose, J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: Contempt proceedings, wilful disobedience, status quo order, restitutive measures, exceeded the jurisdiction] 

In Gulshan Bajwa v. Registrar Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court noted that the sole appellant, a practicing advocate, committed multiple acts of contempt, wherein he made unsubstantiated allegations against judges, verbally threatened the advocates appearing on the other side and wilfully chose not to appear in the suo motu contempt proceedings initiated by the courts. The appellant was found guilty of criminal contempt by the High Court and was sentenced to three months of civil imprisonment along with a fine of ₹2,000. The appellant’s prayer to grant a stay on the order was granted, and thereafter the stay was vacated in lieu of the conduct of the appellant. The Supreme Court found that the order finding the appellant guilty of contempt was extremely detailed, and that tolerance shown to the appellant resulted in bolder acts of contempt. However, the sentence was modified by the top court in view of the appellant’s advanced age. 

[Vikram Nath J, P.S Narasimha J]

[Keywords: Contempt of courts act, suo moto proceedings, unsubstantiated allegations, successive acts of contempt] 

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Administrative Law

In Delhi Development Authority v. Hello Home Education Society, the Court stated that as regards the justiciability of file noting is concerned, the law was well settled that “mere notings and in-principle approvals do not confer a vested right.” The Court found the writ petition to suffer from delay and laches inasmuch as the petitioner-society approached the High Court after a period of 11 years in 2014 after a rule change in December 2014. It was affirmed that there is no limitation period prescribed for filing writ petitions.

[Vikram Nath J., Rajesh Bindal J.]

[Keywords: file notings, land allotment for school, delay and laches]

Societies Law

In Adv Babasaheb Wasade & Ors. v. Manohar Gangadhar Muddeshwar & Ors., the bench invoked the doctrine of necessity, stating that had the Working President “not convened the meeting, the elections of the executive body would have been in limbo for an unreasonable amount of time” and thus “the convening of the meeting by the Working President upon the requests by the 16 surviving members was a 'necessity' at the time." The Court further held that the objectors were not entitled to notice for meetings and elections inasmuch as they ceased to be members under Section 15 of the Societies Registration Act on account of default of payment of membership fees.

[Vikram Nath J., Ahsanuddin Amanullah J.]

[Keywords: doctrine of necessity, Section 15 of the Societies Registration Act 1860, Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, Mul, Charles II, Glorious Revolution]

About the authors: Subhro Prokas Mukherjee, Sahil Tagotra, Abhinav Hansaraman and Venkata Supreeth K are advocates mainly practicing in Delhi before the Supreme Court of India.

Subhro Prokas Mukherjee, Sahil Tagotra, Abhinav Hansaraman and Venkata Supreeth K
Subhro Prokas Mukherjee, Sahil Tagotra, Abhinav Hansaraman and Venkata Supreeth K