The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments Passed in June 2021

The Lawyer's Digest is a collection of concise summaries of all the judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India over the course of a month.
The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments Passed in June 2021
Supreme Court Lawyers Digest

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

Topics have been sub-divided into areas of law including arbitration, criminal law, consumer law, service and administrative law, etc. for ease of reading.

Here are the summaries of judgments passed in June 2021.

Criminal Law

In Shaik Ahmed v. State of Telangana, the challenge was to a judgment of the High Court whereby a challenge to the conviction and sentence of the appellant under Section 364A, Indian Penal Code (IPC), for an offence of kidnapping for ransom, was dismissed. Two main legal issues arose. The first was as to whether the essential ingredients of Section 364A were proved beyond reasonable doubt for securing a conviction under the Section. The second was whether each and every ingredient of Section 364A was required to be proved for securing such conviction.

It was held that for covering an offence under Section 364A, apart from fulfillment of the first condition, the second condition, i.e., “and threatens to cause death or hurt to such person” also needs to be proved if the case is not covered by subsequent clauses joined by “or”. It was so held because the first and the second condition were separated by a conjunction “and”. Thus, in addition to the first condition, either condition (ii) or (iii) has to be proved, failing which conviction under Section 364A cannot be sustained. On the facts, the Court held that even though the conviction under Section 364A was unsustainable, the offence of kidnapping had been fully proved. Thus, the appellant was convicted under Section 363, IPC. [Key Words: disjunctive and conjunctive words, conviction, essential ingredients, kidnapping for ransom] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R. Subhash Reddy, J.]

Service Law

In State of Kerala and Ors v. Leesamma Joseph, the question before the Court, inter alia, was to assess whether the respondent could be promoted by being given the benefit of reservation as she was a person with disability, even though she was not appointed under the person with disability quota, but on compassionate grounds on the demise of her brother during service. Dismissing the appeal, the Court held that since there was no dispute as to the extent of the respondent’s disability, it would be unconstitutional to not consider the respondent for a promotion under the person with disability quota.

The Court further held that the source of recruitment is immaterial at the time for consideration of promotion and that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 made no distinction between a person who had entered service as a person with disability or a person who subsequently acquired disability after being in service, which would be like the present case, where the respondent had entered service on compassionate appointment. [Key Words: person with disability, reservation in promotion, unconstitutionality, Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, mode of recruitment] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., R. Subhash Reddy, J.]

In Abhishek Kumar Singh v. G. Pattanaik & Ors., the Court held that there was no willful disobedience of the orders of High Court, as it was open to the respondents to issue an order to reengage the petitioners on the same posts from the date of order and to pay them regular salary month by month thereafter, or as and when it would accrue to them. Furthermore, there was no wilful disobedience as it was virtually impossible to afford the petitioners an opportunity of hearing, owing to the fact that the respondents concluded that it was not possible to segregate tainted from the untainted candidates, the Court said.

The Court concluded that there was nothing wrong in respondents issuing the termination order without affording prior opportunity to the petitioners and similarly placed persons. Other writ petitions were remanded to the High Court to examine the arguments regarding the justness and validity of the termination order on other grounds. [Key Words: recruitment, cancellation of recruitment, opportunity to be heard, natural justice, contempt][Coram: AM Khanwilkar J., BR Gavai, J.]

Taxation

In Union of India v. M/s Raj Grow Impex LLP, the Court held that the residuary powers of the Appellate Authority or the Appellate Tribunal were not those of revision strictu sensu. Relying on an earlier judgment of Agricas, the Court held that an applicant does not have a vested right to an export or import license and the grant of such license depends upon prevalent policy. Where the goods were peas/pulses, and the import of it had been restricted to a particular quantity which could be made only against a license, any import beyond the specified quantity was impermissible and prohibited.

Where such goods were imported beyond the permissible quantity without license, they would be ‘prohibited goods’ for the purpose of the Customs Act. [Key Words: prohibited goods, liability for absolute confiscation, interim relief, Section 129D(2) , 2(33), 11(1), 111(d) Customs Act 1962, Section 35ECentral Excise Act 1944, Section 3 of the FTDR Act][Coram: AM Khanwilkar, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J., Krishna Murari, J.]

IBC

In Bikram Chatterji & Ors. V. Union of India and Ors., the Supreme Court of India held that earlier orders of the Court on the issue of whether the Company (La-Residentia Developers Pvt Ltd) ought to be declared as a part of the Amrapali Group of Companies could not be recalled. Where construction was on-going and was stopped only when the matter was taken up by the Supreme Court, such project could not be handed over to the NBCC. [Key Words: Amrapali, Homebuyers][Coram: UU Lalit, J., Ashok Bhushan, J.]

Constitutional Law

In G Mohan Rao & Ors. V. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors., the Court held that where a State legislation became void due to repugnancy under Article 254 of the Constitution, such law could be revived by enacting a subsequent amendment which substantively changes the basis of voidness and applies it retrospectively. [Key Words: Structure of Governance, Land Acquisition Act 1894, Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act 1978, Tami Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act 1997, Tamil Nadu Highways Act 2001, Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, ][Coram: AM Khanwilkar, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.]

In Vinod Dua v. Union of India & Ors. the Supreme Court undertook a detailed discussion on Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and partly allowed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. Thereby quashing the FIR registered against a journalist for uploading a show on Youtube after the first COVID-19 national lockdown.

The Court held that “a citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder; and that it is only when the words or expressions have pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that Sections 124A and 505 of the IPC must step in”.

It further held that there was nothing in the appellant’s show which violated the orders issued by the State. However, the second prayer for directions to be issued as in the case of medical professionals in Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab, was rejected after considering a number of decisions, opining that by doing so it would amount to encroachment upon the field reserved for the legislature. [Key Words: Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, sedition, Section 124A IPC, Public Order][Coram: UU Lalit, J., Vineet Saran, J.]

In Jigya Yadav (Minor) (Through Guardian/Father Hari Singh) v. C.B.S.E. (Central Board of Secondary Education) & Ors. the Supreme Court allowed a batch of 22 petitions in which concerning questions relating to correction/change in name/surname/date of birth of candidates or their parents in the certificates issues by the CBSE. The questions were raised in light of the CBSE Examination Byelaws which were amended in 2007 to require, inter alia, a declaration from a Court for any change of name. The Court took note of its recent judgments in National Legal Services Authority (2014), Navtej Singh Johar (2018), and KS Puttaswamy (2017), wherein it was held that an individual’s identity is intrinsically linked to their dignity, that one’s name was one of the foremost indicators of identity and that a change of identity would not be regarded as formally or legally complete until and unless the State and its agencies take note thereof.

The Court observed that even the UIDAI allows changes in the Aadhar card upon fulfilment of required conditions, as well as similar provisions existing under the Passports Act, 1967. The Court examined the difference between a “change” and a “correction” of name and concluded that for a correction, there is no reason for the CBSE to turn down such request except reasonable period of limitation and keeping in mind the period for which the CBSE has to maintain its record under the regulations. The Court concluded that the provision regarding change of name post publication of examination results was excessively restrictive and imposed unreasonable restrictions on the exercise of rights under Article 19 of the Constitution, by requiring an order from the Court as the CBSE could not ignore public documents in terms of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

However, when the request for change is due to the acquired name by choice at a later point of time, it was held to be reasonable to require a declaration from a competent Court. Accordingly, the petitions were allowed with directions to the CBSE to issue the petitioners fresh certificates. [Key Words: Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, reasonable restrictions, change of name on certificate issued by CBSE, CBSE Examination Byelaws, Indian Evidence Act 1872][Coram: AM Khanwilkar, J., BR Gavai, J., Krishna Murari, J.]

Limitation Act

In Silpi Industries v. Kerala State Road Transparent Corporation & Anr., the Court held that the Limitation Act shall apply to proceedings under the MSMED Act. The Court also held that where there is a provision for filing counter claims and set off under the Act, it cannot be denied in proceedings before the Facilitation Council under the MSMED Act. [Key Words: Indian Limitation Act 1963, Sections 18(3) and 32 of the MSME Development Act 2006, ][Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J, R Subhash Reddy, J.]

COVID-19

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Court issued a slew of directions to the Union and State governments to provide certain relief measures, such as the running of community kitchens, implementing the One Nation One Ration Card scheme, provision of dry rations, etc… [Key Words: Covid, migrant labourers, ][Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J, MR Shah, J.]

In Reepak Kansal v. Union of India and others, the Bench directed that:

i. The National Disaster Management Authority should recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance caused by the loss of life to COVID-19 in line with Section 12(iii) of Disaster Management Act 2005;

ii. Appropriate guidelines should be issued by the authorities which would mention that the deceased’s death was caused by COVID-19;

iii. The Union of India should act on the recommendations of the Finance Commission in its XVth report, particularly paragraph 8.131 thereof in consultation with other stakeholders and experts.

[Key Words: notified disaster, pandemic, “shall” and “may”, economic impacts of disaster, scope of judicial review] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., MR Shah, J.]

Hindu Law

In R. Janakiammal v. S.K. Kumarasamy (Deceased) Through Legal Representatives And Others, the Court reiterated that if a compromise decree was void/voidable, it would not be deemed to be lawful and the bar under Order XXIII Rule 3A would operate on that basis. However, the party to the consent decree could only challenge the said decree as void or voidable before the same court which recorded the compromise and not by way of a separate suit. The Court also held that Hindu law permitted reunion and a Hindu joint family could revert and reunite to being a joint family, even after a partition. In the facts before the Court, it was found that the joint family was partitioned on paper only to avoid the ceiling legislations. [Key Words: compromise decree, Order XXIII Rule 3 and 3A CPC, void, voidable, free consent, Hindu joint family, reunion of family] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R Subhash Reddy, J.]

About the authors: Subhro Prokas Mukherjee, Tanveer Oberoi and Sahil Tagotra are advocates practicing in Delhi. Abhinav Hansaraman works with a law firm in Bombay and the views expressed are personal.

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