The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments passed in September 2023

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.
Supreme Court Lawyers Digest
Supreme Court Lawyers Digest

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 September 2023.

Civil Law

In Hemavathi & Ors. v. V. Hombegowda & Anr, the Court set aside the High Court’s orders on the ground that in the exercise of jurisdiction under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), the High Court cannot entertain an appeal without framing any substantial question of law. The High Court’s order was set aside further on the ground that only one respondent was heard, who was on caveat, and since a serious delay in filing the appeal was casually condoned. The Supreme Court further held that the High Court ought not to have remanded the matter to the trial court for a fresh consideration when the first appellate court had not considered the Regular Appeal on merits. In case the High Court thought it fit to condone the delay in filing the Regular Appeal, then the matter had to be remanded to the first appellate court to consider the Regular Appeal on merits, the Supreme Court said. The Supreme Court clarified that the CPC accords power to the High Court to frame additional substantial questions of law or to mould the substantial questions of law already framed on hearing the parties at the time of final hearing of a Second Appeal.

[BV Nagarathna J., Ujjal Bhuyan]

[Keywords: substantial question of law, Section 100 CPC, non-issuance of notice, condonation of delay]

In Purushottam Bagh Sahkari Awas Samiti Ltd v. Sri Shobhan Pal Singh and Ars. Etc., the Court held that merely living in a particular house by itself would not mean that the said house is under the ownership of the person living therein in his individual capacity or even that it is within the area of operation of the society.

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

[Keywords: Award, arbitrator, ownership, UP Cooperative Societies Act, 1965, residential plot, sale deed]

In A Valliammai v. KP Murali and Ors., the challenge was to a judgment of the High Court affirming a decree of specific performance. The Court relied on Pachanan Dhara v. Monmatha Nath Maity (2006) 5 SCC 340 and held that in order to ascertain whether the first part or the second part of Article 54 of Part II of the Schedule to Limitation Act 1963 will apply, it has to be seen whether any time was fixed for the performance of the agreement to sell, and if so fixed, whether the suit was filed beyond the prescribed period. However, when no time is fixed for performance, the Court will have to determine the date on which the plaintiff had notice of refusal of performance. On facts, the suit was held to have been filed beyond the limitation of three years.

[Sanjiv Khanna J., Bela M Trivedi J.]

[Keywords : Suit for specific performance, willingness and readiness, limitation, refusal of performance, Limitation Act, Article 142 Constitution of India]

In Appaiya v. Andimuthu@ Thangapandi and Ors., the challenge was to a judgment of the High Court which reversed the concurrent judgments of the courts below decreeing the suit of title and possession. Firstly, the Court held that concurrent findings of facts were no guarantee for an imprimatur from the High Court since under certain situations, interference under Section 100 CPC after formulating a substantial question of law is permissible. On appreciation of evidence, the reversal of the concurrent findings by the High Court was set aside.

[BR Gavai., CT Ravikumar J.]

[Keywords : permanent injunction, possession, sale deed, second appeal, substantial question of law, Section 100 CPC, secondary evidence, public document, Evidence Act]

In Rahimal Bathu and Ors v. Ashiyal Beevi, the Supreme Court reiterated the fundamental principle that an application for Revision under Section 115 of the CPC is not maintainable from an order dismissing the review of an appealable decree. In the instant case, the respondent was the plaintiff in the original suit who initially claimed for 1/6th share of her grandmother’s property. The appellants asserted that they had rights on the property on the basis of a gift deed which was proved to be invalid. However, the trial court proceeded to grant the plaintiff only 1/6th of the share as originally prayed for. The plaintiff/ respondent preferred a review application seeking the entire property on account of the specific finding against the appellants. While the review petition was dismissed, a revision application under Section 115, CPC was filed against the order dismissing the review which was allowed by the High Court.  On noting that the decree in question is an appealable decree and that exercise of revisional powers under Section 115 ought to be made sparingly, the Court followed the earlier judgment in Major S.S Khanna v. Brig. F.J Dhillon to hold that the High Court’s exercise of its revision jurisdiction to reverse an appealable decree was incorrect.

[P.S Narasimha J, Manoj Misra J]

[Keywords: revisional jurisdiction, appealable decree, merger of decree, rejection of application for review on merits, Civil Procedure Code]

In Sabbir v. Anjuman, the Supreme Court laid down the dictum that the question of limitation ought to be answered with reference to the specific averments made in the plaint as to how the cause of action accrued to the plaintiff. In the instant case, there was an agreement to sell in 1975 a property between the appellants and the respondent, which stipulated that within eight days from the date of the agreement, the appellant shall obtain the permission to sell the property and upon obtaining such a permission, inform the respondent and execute a sale deed within fifteen days of receipt of the permission. The respondents filed a suit for specific performance of the agreement in 1980 which was granted in their favor. The first appellate court revered the said decree, which in turn was set aside in a second appeal filed by the respondent. The Supreme Court found that upon expiry of the initial eight-day period in the agreement, the onus fell upon the respondent to ensure compliance, and having failed to ensure the same, the suit filed for specific performance could not be held to be maintainable.

[Vikram Nath J, Ahsanuddin Amanullah J]

[Keywords: Limitation, specific performance, due diligence, valid and justifiable reason]

In Lal Bahadur Shastri Educational Society & Anr. v. Delhi Development Authority & Ors., the appellants filed a writ against a DDA notification requiring it to pay FAR charges. They had voluntarily deposited the FAR charges before Court so that it could proceed with their construction. Subsequently, the DDA amended its notification stating that no additional FAR charges would be recovered from Educational Societies/Health Care and Social Welfare Societies having Income Tax Exemption such as the appellants. At this point of time, the writs were withdrawn, and the monies refunded to the appellants. The Bench held that the appellants were not entitled to the interest on the monies refunded because when the writ was filed, the appellant had voluntarily offered to deposit the amount, and the amount was to be paid and recoverable under the extant DDA notifications if the benefit of additional FAR was to be availed. Desirous of availing the same and to proceed with the construction on obtaining the Sanctioned Plan, the appellants had proceeded at ‘breakneck’ speed and were said to have incurred the expenditure by offering to deposit the amount and avail the benefit instead of awaiting adjudication and thereafter availing. Thus, the Bench held that, as on the date the deposit was made, the notification remained valid and there was no declaration that the notification and the demand made were illegal. Thus, the appellants were held to not be entitled to interest.  

[AS Bopanna J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords: FAR charges, refund, interest, Actus Curiae Neminem Gravabit]

Criminal Law

In Rajesh Yadav v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court took exception to the successive judgments of the trial court and the High Court and sentencing the accused persons to death under Sections, 302, 201, 364A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the kidnapping and murder of a fifteen year old boy, presumably for the ransom money demanded from the family of the diseased. The Court noted that the conviction was secured by the prosecution solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence with no direct eyewitnesses to either the kidnap or the murder. Secondly, the court noted that the conviction cannot be sustained as there are glaring inconsistencies in the chain of events projected by the prosecution. Starting with the time at which the deceased went missing, the Court proceeded to enumerate each instance where the investigating authorities and the prosecution failed to build a watertight case, ultimately resulting in the acquittal of the accused since the guilt of the accused could not be established beyond reasonable doubt.

[B.R Gavai J, J.B Pardiwala J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: circumstantial evidence, glaring inconsistencies, beyond reasonable doubt, unbroken chain of events, kidnapping, uncertain motive, lapses in investigation] 

Also Read
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In Jamboo Bhandari v. M.P. State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd and Ors., the accused were convicted under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. On appeal, relying on Section 148, the Sessions Court granted relief under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), subject to the condition that the appellants deposited 20 percent of the amount of compensation. This order was confirmed by the High Court relying on paragraph 8 of Surinder Singh Deswal (2019) 11 SCC 341. On further appeal, the Supreme Court held that when an accused applies under Section 389, CrPC for the suspension of a sentence, he normally applies for grant of relief of suspension of sentence without any condition. Therefore, the High Court was held to have committed an error in proceeding on the premise that deposit of minimum 20 percent amount is an absolute rule which does not accommodate any exception.

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

[Keywords : Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, deposit, suspension of sentence, Surinder Singh Deswal]

In Munna Pandey v. State of Bihar, appeals were filed against orders of conviction for offences under Sections 302 and 376 IPC and Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012. The Court held that nothing in Section 162. CrPC prevented a trial judge from looking into the papers of the chargesheet suo motu and himself using the statement of a person examined by the police recorded therein for the purpose of contradicting such person when he gives evidence in favour of the State as a prosecution witness. It was further held that on a reference for confirmation of sentence of death, the High Court is required to proceed in accordance with Sections 367 and 368, CrPC which obligated the High Court to not only see whether the order passed by the Sessions Judge is correct, but to examine the case for itself and even direct a further enquiry or call for additional evidence to ascertain the guilt or innocence of the convicted person.

[JB Pardiwala J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords : Reference, Death Sentence, Fair Trial, Rape and murder, minor girl, contradictions, duty of Trial Judge, reconsideration]

In Pramod Kumar Mishra v. The State of UP, the challenge was only to the sentence of five years rigorous imprisonment awarded for an offence under Section 307, IPC. The Court, relying, inter alia, on a Constitution Bench judgment in Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P. (1973) 1 SCC 20, held that while imposing a sentence, aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a case are to be taken into consideration. On facts, since thirty nine years had passed since the date of offence and there was old enmity between the complainant and the accused relating to the piece of land where the offence came to be committed, and since the appellant had no criminal antecedents, the sentence was reduced to three years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of ₹ 50,000.

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

[Keywords : attempt to murder, sentence, aggravating and mitigating circumstances, sentencing policy]

In R.Sreenivasa v. State of Karnataka the case concerned an appellant and another person who were accused of murdering the deceased person in pursuance of a common intent. The trial court found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the appellant-accused was last seen with the deceased. However, the High Court disregarded the finding and proceeded to convict the appellant, while not interfering with the acquittal of the second accused. The Court notes that there is discrepancy in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses which led to doubt on whether the the deceased was last seen with the appellant-accused. The prosecution’s version came to be disbelieved by the Court, which held that for a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, the last seen theory can be applied only upon establishing that the accused was last seen with the deceased beyond reasonable doubt. Observing that the chain of circumstances in this case was incomplete, the Court allowed the appeal and acquitted the accused. 

[Vikram Nath J., Ahsanuddin Amanullah J.]

[Keywords: “last seen” theory, chain of circumstances, double presumption, long time-gap]

In N. Ramkumar v. The State, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to reiterate the settled principles of law which govern the conversion of a sentence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code to that under section 304. The instant case concerned an appellant who was convicted, inter alia, for the offence of murder. The charge of murder was subsequently added, upon the death of the deceased, while the complaint initially recorded the offence of grievous hurt. The appellant and the deceased were said to be lovers, and the deceased was injured following an altercation at the home of the deceased, wherein the appellant dashed the head of the deceased against a kitchen slab. The trial court convicted the appellant under Section 302 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, the High Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The limited question before the Supreme Court was whether to affirm the trial court’s sentence or to convert the sentence under the applicable provision of Section 304 (culpable homicide). The Court noted the fine distinction between ‘intent’ and ‘knowledge’ in ascertaining the applicability of Section 302. On facts, the Court observed that the appellant had no intention of killing the deceased. Holding thus, the appeal was partly allowed and the conversion of sentence to that of Section 302 was set aside.

[Ravindra Bhat J., Aravind Kumar J]

[Keywords: grievous hurt, murder, culpable homicide, intent, knowledge, premeditation to cause death, spur of the moment]

In K. Hymavathi v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the appellant approached the Supreme Court, seeking to set aside the order of the High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code which quashed the proceedings under Sections 138 and 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1882 (NI Act) initiated by the appellant against respondent no.2 . The debt in question arose from a promissory note executed in December 2012, and a cheque issued by respondent no.2 in 2017 in furtherance thereof, which was dishonoured. The High Court proceeded to quash the proceedings under the 1882 Act on the premise that there was no legally enforceable debt since the limitation period for the promissory note had expired. The Supreme Court, upon examination of the settled law and the facts of the case reiterated that limitation is a mixed question of law and fact, and that further, under Section 25(3) of the Contract Act as well as Section 139 of the NI Act, there is a presumption that the instrument in question was executed for discharge of a legally enforceable debt unless proven otherwise by the accused. On facts, the court examined the promissory note in question and found that the accused agreed to discharge the debt by December 2016, meaning thereby that the cause of action for limitation purposes arose on the expiry of the said time period, which brings the date of the cheque and date of the complaint within the period of three years prescribed in the Limitation Act. Having found thus, the Court set aside the High Court’s order and remanded the matter to the trial court.

[A.S Bopanna J, Prashant Kumar Mishra J]

[Keywords: legally enforceable debt, promissory note, period of limitation, promise, quashment]

In Ajeet Gurjar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the case before the Supreme Court concerned the examination of whether the requirement under Section 19(1)(i) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (JJ Act) was fulfilled by the Children’s Court in Madhya Pradesh, which was tasked with adjudicating cases of dacoity under a 1981 State Act. The appellant accused, who was a minor at the time of commission of offence under the State Act, was referred to the Children’s court under Section 18(3) of the Juvenile Justice Act by the Juvenile Justice Board for trial, based on a preliminary assessment. Before the Children’s court, the appellant prayed for examination under Section 19(1)(i) which came to be rejected on the strength of such a preliminary assessment undertaken by the Juvenile Justice Board. An application under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code before the High Court by the appellant also came to be rejected. The Supreme Court reiterated that holding of an inquiry under Section 19(1)(i) is not an empty formality as the same can potentially decide whether the accused has to be tried or dealt with as a juvenile under Section 18 of the 2015 JJ Act. Holding thus, the matter was remanded to the Special Court in Gwalior for inquiry under Section 19(1)(i).

[Abhay S. Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: Heinous offence, juvenile, preliminary assessment, further assessment, referred to trial]

In HD Sundara & Ors v. State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court reiterated the principles applicable under Section 378 of the CrPC in an appeal against acquittal. The instant case concerned certain appellants-accused who were convicted under Sections 324 read with 304 of the Indian Penal Code for causing grievous hurt and culpable homicide of the complainant’s brothers. The complainant was the first prosecution witness (PW-1) in the case, and it was found by all the courts that the appellants-accused and the complainant are kin who share a feud. The trial court acquitted the accused while the High Court reversed the acquittal and convicted the accused. The Supreme Court held that while exercising powers under Section 378 of the CrPC, the appellate court is entitled to re-appreciate the evidence. However, in reversing the acquittal, the court must convince itself that the trial court’s finding is perverse based on the material on record, and that the only conclusion possible is guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court noted that the High Court had failed to do so in the given case, as there were no findings on the testimonies of witnesses or on the trial court’s findings. Having held thus, the High Court’s order was set aside and the appellants were released.

[Abhay S. Oka J, Sanjay Karol J]

[Keywords: Appeal against acquittal, presumption of innocence, possible view, reappreciation of evidence]

In Balwinder Singh v. The Narcotics Control Bureau, the Supreme Court had an occasion to reiterate its earlier ruling in the case of Tofan Singh v. State of Tamil Nadu, which laid down the dictum that confessional statements made under Section 67 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) are inadmissible in evidence as the NCB Officials to whom confessional statements are made ought to be treated as “police officers” under Section 25 of the Evidence Act. On facts, the Supreme Court was seized of two appeals filed by Balwinder Singh and Satnam Singh who challenged their respective convictions and sentences under the NDPS Act for the offence of possession of commercial quantities of heroin, which was recovered from a vehicle by NCB officers acting on a tip-off at a checkpoint. In Balwinder Singh’s case, the Supreme Court noted that the conviction was a result of twin confessional statements under Section 67, made by Satnam Singh and Balwinder Singh himself, when he was arrested for a separate NDPS Offence. The top court found that there was no other independent evidence. However, the Court noted that the situation in Satnam Singh’s case is different since there were three prosecution witnesses who affirmed the involvement of Satnam Singh. The Court proceeded to acquit Balwinder Singh and refused to interfere with Satnam Singh’s conviction.

[B.R Gavai J, Hima Kohli J, Prasant Kumar Mishra J]

[Keywords: Confessional statements, foundational facts, initial burden, admissibility in evidence]

In CBI v. RR Kishore, the bench held that Section 6A of the  Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act) is procedural law and does not introduce a conviction or sentence. Thus, the Court held that Article 20(1) of the Constitution does not have any bearing or relevance in the context of declaration of Section 6A of the DSPE Act as unconstitutional. Lastly, the Court held that the declaration of Section 6A of the DSPE Act as unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution would have a retrospective effect and would not apply prospectively from the date of its declaration as unconstitutional. This was so because once a law is declared to be unconstitutional, being violative of Part-III of the Constitution, then it would be “…void ab initio, still born, unenforceable and non est in view of Article 13(2) of the Constitution and its interpretation by authoritative pronouncements."

[Sanjay Kishan Kaul J., Sanjiv Khanna J., Abhay Oka J., Vikram Nath J., JK Maheshwari J.]

[Keywords: Subramanian Swamy vs. Director, Central Bureau of Investigation and another, (2014) 8 SCC 682, Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946, Article 20 of the Constitution]

Also Read
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In Harilal Etc.v. State of Madhya Pradesh (Now Chhattisgarh), the bench acquitted the accused persons based on the following factors: 

(a) There was no clear motive proved against the accused except that there was some incident concerning a lady of the village.

(b) The eyewitnesses stated that the deceased was assaulted in front of the house of one of the accused persons but the site plan did not disclose the house of the stated accused person. Further, it was clear from the site plan as well as the testimonies of the eye witnesses, informant and the police witness that the body was found near a temple about 300 feet away from the place where the deceased was allegedly assaulted. The prosecution could not explain as to how the dead body reached there and the ocular account had no explanation though some drag marks were noticed by the investigating officer.

(c) As per seizure memorandum, amongst other articles, a lathi was seized by the police from the place where the dead body was lying. But the prosecution was silent as to whose lathi it is.

(d) The articles, that is, the lathi and clothes, seized at the instance of the accused, were stained with blood. However, the serologist report could not confirm its origin. 

(e) The eye witness set up a story that he narrated the incident to the informant, that is, the Kotwarin (village Chowkidar) of a neighbouring village. However, the latter stated that she was not informed by any eye witness but rather she arrived at the spot as a reaction to the commotion.

The bench further held that in the absence of a proper explanation concerning a delayed FIR, courts must be on guard. 

[JB Pardiwala J., Manoj Mishra J.]

[Keywords: murder, Section 302 IPC, exceptions to Section 300 IPC, Section 304 Part I IPC, delayed FIR]

In Sunil v. State of NCT of Delhi, the bench found the conviction of the appellants to be unsustainable under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC but upheld the conviction under Section 307 IPC since the prosecution was unable to establish prior enmity. The bench also reiterated that to enable an accused to explain the circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, all the incriminating circumstances appearing against him in the evidence must be put to him. However, the failure in putting those circumstances to the accused would not ipso facto vitiate the trial unless it is shown that such non-compliance has prejudiced the accused. 

[Hrishikesh Roy J., Manoj Misra J.]

[Keywords: prior enmity, attempt to murder, murder, common intention]

In Rupesh Manger (Thapa) v. State of Sikkim, the bench held that an accused can avail the benefit of Section 84 IPC only if s/he could prove legal insanity and not merely medical insanity. In the circumstances before it, the bench held that the accused could avail the benefit under Section 84 IPC as, after the accused attacked the deceased with a sharp-edged weapon which was later snatched by a witness, the accused was “trying to take out the windpipe from the neck of the deceased which was already cut” and that such action was “weird and abnormal.” 

[JB Pardiwala J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords: unsound mind, Section 84 and 302 IPC, legal insanity and medical insanity, Chapter XXV of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973]

In Religare Finvest Limited v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr., the bench held that a transferee entity cannot be fastened with corporate criminal liability for offences which the amalgamating entity was accused of. The bench summed up the law regarding criminal liability of a company as below:

(a) Corporate criminal liability is recognized where it can be attributable to individual acts of employees, directors or officials of a company or juristic persons.

(b) Corporate criminal liability is recognized even if its conviction results in a term of imprisonment.

(c) Corporate criminal liability cannot be transferred ipso facto, except when it is a penalty proceeding.

(d) Corporate criminal liability is not necessarily a defined legal proceeding which may be transferred to the transferee company.

[S Ravindra Bhat J., Aravind Kumar J.]

[Keywords: quashing petition, vicarious criminal liability, Section 482 CPC, company liability]

Also Read
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In Phulel Singh v. State of Haryana, the bench doubted the dying declaration as it might have been tutored since an application was filed to record the dying declaration by the relatives of the deceased three days after the FIR was registered. Further, it was noted that the doctor had admitted that the executive magistrate had recorded the dying declaration of the deceased on November 8, 1991 at 16.40 hours (4.40 PM) whereas the doctor’s opinion regarding the deceased person's fitness was given only at 18.00 hours (6 PM). The doctor had further admitted that he failed to mention in the bed-head ticket that he had attested the statement of the deceased at 16.40 hours on November 8, 1991. The bench further noted that the High Court could not have disbelieved the same dying declaration as regards the father-in-law but not with respect to the husband.

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

[Keywords: Section 304B of the IPC, dowry, dying declaration]

Also Read
Dying declaration discarded to acquit a person cannot be basis for convicting co-accused: Supreme Court

In Javed Shaukat Ali Qureshi v. State of Gujarat, the Court held that where a hundred people surrounded an auto during mob violence and where there was no time available for the witness to observe the distinctive features of the accused, such testimony could not be said to be wholly reliable. The Court also held that when a coordinate bench of the Supreme Court had held that the testimony of certain witnesses was unreliable, the benefit of the same ought to be given to others accused of the same offence. The Court also held that an order refusing special leave to appeal by a non-speaking order would not attract the doctrine of merger.

[AS Oka J, Sanjay Karol J]

[Keywords: mob, Sections 396, 149, 395, 307, 435, 201 of the IPC, life imprisonment, reduction in sentence by the High Court, testimony of sole witness, Vadivelu Thevar v. State of Madras, AIR 1957 SC 614]

In PACL v. CBI, the Court, while rejecting an application for bail, held that the accused ought to approach jurisdictional courts and cannot seek omnibus relief before the Supreme Court. The Court also held that although co-accused had been granted bail, where subsequent cases had been registered against the applicants, they were not entitled to bail.

[AS Bopanna J, MM Sundresh J]

[Keywords: Sections 120B, 409, 411, 420, 467, 468, 471, 474 of the IPC, Sections 4, 5, and 6 of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Scheme (Banning) Act 1978, interlocutory application seeking bail, siphoning]

In Makkella Nagaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Court held that the question of juvenility can be raised before any court and at any stage. In this case, the ASJ, upon a direction of the Supreme Court, had verified that the convict was 16 years 7 months old at the time of the offence. The convict was also found to have been incarcerated for over 12 years. The Supreme Court proceeded to direct the release of the convict.

[BR Gavai, PS Narasimha, Sanjay Kumar]

[Keywords: verification of claim of juvenility, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, convicted under S. 302 read with S. 34 of the IPC, life imprisonment]

In Harendra Rai v. State of Bihar, the Court held that where the offence pertained to 1995 and the accused was 28 years old at that time, it would be inappropriate to award death sentence. The Court also awarded a compensation of ₹ 10 lakhs each to the deceased victims.

[SK Kaul J, AS Oak J, Vikram Nath J]

[Keywords: Ss. 302, 307 of IPC, death penalty, S. 357 CrPC ]

In Joseph v. State of Kerala, the Court held that the remission policy prevailing on the date of conviction is to be applied and if a more liberal policy exists on the day of consideration, then the latter would prevail. The Court also held that it was incorrect to issue policy directives or guidelines over and above the act and rules framed and to undermine the latter.

[S Ravindra Bhat J, Dipankar Datta J]

[Keywords: Ss. 302 and 392 IPC, Art. 32 of the Constitution, premature release, Travancore – Cochin Prison Act 1950, Kerala Prisons and Correctional Services (Management) Act 2010, S. 433-A CrPC ]

Also Read
Supreme Court objects to Kerala policy excluding certain convicts from remission; orders release of man in jail for 26 years

In P Sarangapani (Dead) v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Court held that the death or non-availability of the complainant at the time of trial could not be said to be fatal to the prosecution nor a ground to acquit the accused.

[Bela Trivedi J, Dipankar Datta J]

[Keywords: Prevention of Corruption Act 1988]

In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra, the Court directed Directors General of Police (DGPs) to communicate to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs their suggestions for the preparation of appropriate guidelines and the MHA to consider such opinions and those of other stakeholders to create a comprehensive manual on media briefing by the police when a criminal investigation is in progress, particularly in crimes involving a degree of public interest.

Also Read
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Income Tax

In Principal Commissioner of Income Tax-10 v. M/s Krishak Bharti Cooperative Ltd., the bench held that the Article 8(bis) of the Omani Tax Laws exempts dividend tax received by the assessee from its permanent establishment in Oman and by virtue of Article 25, the assessee is entitled to the same tax treatment in India as it received in Oman. The objective of the same was held to be attraction of investment in Oman.

[BV Nagarathna J., Prashant Kumar Mishra J.]

[Keywords: Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty, Oman, India, avoidance of double taxation, Omani tax laws, “incentive”, permanent establishment]

In Commissioner of Income Tax v. Jasjit Singh, the question in dispute before the Supreme Court was the date of commencement of the six-year period under Section 153A of the Income Tax act for abatement. It was the stand of the revenue that the assessments for the preceding six years from the date of the search and seizure of the main assessee under Section 132 ought to be presented, while the respondent assessees contended that that the relevant date for reckoning the six year period under Section 153A commences from the date on which material pertaining to search and seizure of the main assessee were forwarded to the Assessment Officers of the respondent-assessees. The ITAT held in favour of the respondent-assessees. The Supreme Court observed that the Assessing officer concerned with the search party/main assessee may take his own time to forward the material recovered to the Assessing Officers having jurisdiction over the third-party respondent-assessees. In such a situation, relating back to the date of search for the purpose of reckoning the six-year period under Section 153A would result in grave prejudice to the third-party assessees, when the intention of the legislature was to confine the assessments/reassessments to six years, following which the proceedings will stand abated. Holding thus, the revenue’s appeal was dismissed.

[Ravindra Bhat J, Arvind Kumar J]

[Keywords: Abatement, third-party assessees, search and seizure, date of forwarding materials to A.Os exercising jurisdiction]

In Kerala State Co-operative Agricultural and Rural Development Bank Ltd v. Assessing Officer, Trivandrum, the Supreme Court reiterated that Section 80P of the Income Tax Act is a benevolent provision which ought to be interpreted liberally. The instant case concerned whether the appellant Bank was entitled to claim a deduction on the profits gained on its business of banking services to its members, which are in turn co-operative societies.  The assessment order disallowed the claimed deduction holding that the appellant/assessee is neither a primary agricultural credit society nor a primary co-operative agricultural and rural development bank. The said finding was affirmed by the ITAT which, however, observed that the appellant is entitled to benefits under the NABARD Act. The appeal against the ITAT order before the High Court was dismissed. The Supreme Court first found that Section 80P excludes only those co-operative banks which function at par with commercial banks offering services to public at large. Next, having reference to the definition of a banking company and a co-operative bank in the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, the NABARD Act 1981 and the RBI Act of 1934, the Court concluded that the appellant was not a cooperative bank under the said statutes. Holding thus, the Court concluded that the appellant is not hit by the exclusions contemplated in Section 80P and ordered that the claimed deductions be allowed.

[B.V Nagarathna J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: Banking company, cooperative bank, agriculture credit society, rural development bank, benevolent legislation]

In Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited v. Commissioner of Income Tax Bangalore and Anr., the bench held the Settlement Commission may grant immunity under Section 245H if the Commission is satisfied that the applicant has (a) has made full and true disclosure of his income and the manner in which such income was derived, and (b) has co-operated with the Commission in the proceedings before it. It further held that requirement that in every case, the material disclosed by the assessee before the Commission must be something apart from what was “discovered” by the Assessing Officer, appeared to be "an artificial requirement." The bench also noted that  "frequent interference with the orders or proceedings of the Settlement Commission should be avoided" since it tended to "erode the confidence of the bonafide assessees, thereby leading to multiplicity of litigation where settlement is possible."

[BV Nagarathna J., Ujjal Bhuyan J.] 

[Keywords: Settlement Commission, reassessment, Section 245C, Section 245D, Section 245H of the Income Tax Act 1961, immunity to assessees]

Insolvency

The case of Axis Bank Ltd v. Naren Sheth and Anr. concerned an order admitting an application under Section 7 of the IBC after condoning some delay. The question was as to whether the respondent was entitled to benefit of Section 18 of the Limitation Act (effect of acknowledgement in writing) and the applicability of Section 5. On facts, it was held that though the declaration as NPA by the Bank was on June 28, 2013, there was an acknowledgement of a debt in the balance sheet for FY 2014-15, ending on March 31, 2015, as well as in each of the three One Time Settlement (OTS) proposals in March 2017, January 2018 and May 2019.  The petition under Section 7 was filed on January 22, 2020. The Court held that the acknowledgement of debt in the balance sheet, as also in the three OTS proposals, would extend the limitation for filing of the application under Section 7 of the IBC. 

[Vikram Nath J., Ahsanuddin Amanullah J.]

[Keywords : Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Section 7, Delay, Limitation Act, acknowledgement in writing, financial creditor]

In Eva Agro Feeds Ltd v. Punjab National Bank, the appellant approached the Supreme Court after being aggrieved by an order of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (“NCLAT”), which had set aside the order of the Kolkata Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (“NCLT"). The appellant approached the NCLT against a decision of the Liquidator for the Corporate Debtor cancelling the e-auction concluded in the appellant’s favour for one of the Corporate Debtor’s assets, at a stage where earnest money deposit had been made. The sole reason which was averred for the cancellation of the e-auction in appellant’s favour was that the Liquidator was of the opinion that such an auction ought to fetch a higher price. It was noted by the Court that the Liquidator did not challenge the NCLT order before NCLAT and had in fact taken steps to ensure compliance with the NCLT order. However, the respondent approached NCLAT against the NCLT order, seeking to set aside the e-auction on grounds of the MD of the appellant being a related party. This meant that the appellant was precluded from participating in the liquidation process, the respondent contended before the appellate tribunal. The Supreme Court, upon holistic consideration of the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 along with the Liquidation Regulations, 2016 concluded that the Liquidator’s order cancelling the e-auction in appellant’s favour was unreasoned and could not be sustained by the NCLAT’s order.

[B.V Nagarathna J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: e-auction, earnest money deposit, unreasoned order, related party, disclaimer clause]

In Balwantbhai Somabhai Bhandari v. Hiralal Somabhai Contractor, the Supreme Court reiterated the principles governing the issue of contempt notice. The case concerned the judgment of the Gujarat High Court holding the appellants guilty of contempt for violating a status quo order passed by the single judge, which was made pursuant to the senior counsel for the appellant contemnors assuring the respondent that the subject property will not be alienated. However, thirteen sale deeds were executed in the interregnum resulting in the impugned order. The Supreme Court reiterated that contempt of court would be established when the disobedience in question is wilful. Interpreting the words “wilful disobedience” and “undertaking” and applying to the facts of the present case, the Supreme Court found that the senior counsel’s undertaking to the parties which resulted in the single judge’s order was an ‘undertaking”, and that the breach of the same resulted in civil contempt. Further, the High Court’s direction holding the contemptuous transactions as non-est was also upheld by the top court.

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

[Keywords: Contempt of Court, wilful disobedience, undertaking to the court, contemptuous transactions]

In M/s RPS Infrastructure Limited v. Mukul Kumar and Anr., the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) was initiated while an appeal challenging an arbitral award under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 was pending. The Supreme had to answer the question of whether the appellant’s claim could be included in the resolution plan, when the resolution plan had already been approved by the Committee of Creditors. It was held that the Resolution Professional had made sincere efforts to ascertain the debtor’s dues but was thwarted to an extent by the corporate debtor. In view of this fact, the bench held that the Resolution Professional was right in not condoning the appellant’s delay in making the claim as the insolvency process was timebound and the appellant’s delay was of 287 days. It was noted that the appellant was a commercial entity which was litigating against the corporate debtor for a while and thus should have been vigilant enough to find out whether the debtor was undergoing CIRP. It was held that a public announcement through newspapers, under Section 15 of the IBC and Regulation 6 of the IBBI Regulations, would constitute deemed knowledge on the appellant and, in any event, a commercial party like the appellant cannot take the plea of being unaware. It was further held that just because the  Adjudicating Authority had yet not approved the plan, it did not imply that the plan can go back and forth, thereby making the CIRP an endless process.

[Sanjay Kishan Kaul J., Sudhanshu Dhulia]

[Keywords: deemed knowledge, belated claim, Essar Steel, corporate insolvency resolution plan, resolution plan]

In R Raghavendran v. C Raja John, the Court clarified certain observations in the Bafna Pharmaceuticals case. In the Bafna case, it was held that in the case of an MSME, a settlement proposed by the promoter of a corporate debtor can be considered to enable the promoter to retain control over the corporate entity, provided the proposed settlement was before the constitution of the Committee of Creditors (CoC) or in terms of Section 12A of the Code (dealing with withdrawals). In the same case, it was observed that in "exceptional cases" the promoter may not have to be made to compete with other resolution applicants. In the R Raghavendran case, however, the Court found that there were no special reasons to opt for such a route and that the NCLAT had simplicitor held that there is no need to call for proposals from other resolution applicants in the case of an MSME. Opining that this approach was not correct, the Court set aside the NCLAT order. However, the Court granted the applicant (promoter) two months time to persuade the financial creditors to agree to an OTS.

[Sanjay Kishan Kaul J, Sudhanshu Dhulia J]

[Keywords: MSME, NCLAT, IBC, resolution professional, contempt petition against the resolution professional, Saravana Global Holdings v. Bafna Pharmaceuticals Ltd]

Education

In Pallavi v. Union of India, a medical aspirant had challenged the abrupt change of her status from OCI candidate to "Indian national" during PG-medical course admissions. The Court held that since the candidate had obtained an OCI registration card in 2015, the rejection of her candidature after permitting her to appear in the written examinations and then issuing a notification withdrawing her rights was not supportable in law.

[J Ravindra Bhat, Aravind Kumar J]

[Keywords: NEET (PG), rejection of candidature after being allowed to sit for the written examination, Overseas Citizen of India, US National, Anushka Rengunthwar v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 102, Foreigners Act 1946, Citizenship Act 1955]

Service Law

In BC Nagaraj v. State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court held that where the government had failed to produce certain notifications before the High Court in a similar matter involving similarly placed persons and where the High Court had held that certain benefits of a pay scale were applicable to such similarly placed persons, the government could not later choose to rely on such a notification to deny the pay scale benefits to the petitioners.

[AS Oka J, Pankaj Mithal J]

[Keywords: Government grade colleges, UGC pay scale, superannuation, State of Karnataka v. Puttaswamy]

In Union of India v. Jogeshwar Swain, the appellant challenged a judgment of the Delhi High Court which had allowed a petition filed by the respondent to be reinstated to the 128th Battalion of the BSF. The respondent had challenged a dismissal order passed by a Summary Security Force Court (“SSFC”) convened under the BSF Rules, 1969. After the respondent's plea was allowed, the same was challenged before the Supreme Court by the Central government. The allegation levelled against the respondent was that he had taken pictures of a lady doctor while she was taking a bath. However, the camera reel containing the alleged photos was not recovered from the respondent’s quarters. During the SSFC trial and preparation of the record of evidence, charges were framed and the respondent’s plea was recorded as “guilty." However, the High Court had observed that the Minutes of the relevant session were not signed, and that the recording of the guilty plea was not in accordance with Rule 142 of the BSF Rules. Having found thus, the Supreme Court decided not to interfere with the judgment of the Delhi High Court and dismissed the appeal.

[J.B Pardiwala J, Manoj Misra J]

[Keywords: understanding of the nature of charge, plea of guilty, lack of cogent evidence, absence of eyewitness, record of evidence]

In LR Patil v. Gulbarga University, Gulbarga, the Court relied, inter alia, on Sitikantha Mishra v. Union of India (2015) 3 SCC 670 to hold that ‘lien’ of a government servant only ceases to exist when he / she is appointed on another post ‘substantively’ or confirmed or absorbed permanently. Otherwise, his / her lien would continue on the previous post. The Court also held that if the government servant is ‘relieved’ to accept a new appointment without proper permission, then it cannot be termed as ‘resignation’ of public service.

[JK Maheswari J., KV. Vishwanathan J.]

[Keywords : Relieving, Resignation, termination, public servant, lien, substantive appointment]

In Samir Kumar Majumder v. The Union of India and Ors., the appellant challenged an order of the High Court which denied him absorption as an assistant teacher in the Higher Secondary Section and rejected his claim for continuity of service. While noting that the appellant had never made a claim for absorption as an assistant teacher in the earlier round of litigation, the top court held that his claim was barred by constructive res judicata. However, the Court granted the benefit of continuity of service to the appellant since on completion of three months of continuous service as substitute teacher, he acquired temporary status.

[JK Maheshwari J., KV Vishwanathan J.]

[Keywords : absorption, continuity of service, primary teacher, Doctrine of constructive res judicata, interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium]

In State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors v. Bhupendra Yadav, it was held that if a candidate had fairly disclosed information in the verification form for the post of constable regarding his involvement in a criminal case (involving moral turpitude), he cannot be said to have withheld material information during the police selection process. The Court relied on the judgment in Avtar Singh v. Union of India (2019) 8 SCC 471 to hold that the employer is well within his right to examine the fitness of a candidate. However, in a concluded criminal case, the employer must keep in mind the nature of the offence and whether the acquittal is honourable one or if it was based on the benefit of doubt. Factually, since this was not a case of clean acquittal, and since the respondent was acquitted on the basis of a compromise in a POCSO case, and since the prosecution witnesses had turned hostile, the judgment of the High Court judgment in favour of the respondent was set aside.

[Hima Kohli J., Rajesh Bindal. J.]

[Keywords : compromise, compounding, standard of rectitude, benefit of doubt, clean acquittal, Constable, suppression, honest disclosure]

In Rajnish Kumar Rai v. Union of India, the Supreme Court was seized of a Special Leave Petition filed by a petitioner who sought to transfer his case from the Hyderabad bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) to Ahmedabad bench. The Principal bench in Delhi had initially rejected the petitioner’s plea for transfer, which was challenged before the Gujarat High Court. The High Court, purporting to follow the judgment of the Supreme Court in Union of India v. Alapan Bandhopadyay (2022) 3 SCC 133 refused to interfere with the Principal bench’s order on account of lack of territorial jurisdiction. On facts, it was admitted that it was the petitioner himself who filed the application before the Hyderabad bench of the CAT, which was in the final stage of arguments by the time the matter reached the Court. Despite the correctness of Alapan Bandhopadyay being in doubt, the Court noted that no contrary decision was made by the larger bench. In view of the facts of the case, the High Court’s order did not warrant interference, the top court concluded.

[Aniruddha Bose J, Bela Trivedi J]

[Keywords:  Territorial jurisdiction, hardship, transfer application]

In Malik Mazhar Sultan & Ors v. U.P Public Service Commission & Ors, the Supreme Court passed an order in a 2022 Interlocutory Application (IA) filed in a 2006 case. The main matter was filed in order to reform the process of recruitment of judges for judiciaries. In 2007, the Supreme Court evolved a system whereby the process of selection, insofar as it was consistent with the Civil Services rules of the respective States, was entrusted to a Selection Committee chaired by judges of the respective High Courts. The instant matter pertained to the State of Haryana, where the State moved an application to permit recruitment via the Public Service Commissions in accordance with the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial Branch) Rules 1951 (rules applicable to Punjab). The Court examined the application, as well as the events between 2007 and the present, during which time even the Haryana government had taken definitive steps to ensure that the process of recruitment is headed by the Selection Committee. The Court opined that the application was devoid of merit. With respect to the specific number of vacancies for which the State sought recruitments via the Public Service Commission, the Court appointed a Selection Committee headed by three judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Chief Secretary, the Advocate General and the chairman of Haryana Public Service Commission.

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

[Keywords: Judicial Service recruitment, vacancies, Selection Committee, past practice, modification based on objective data]

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In Cpl Ashish Kumar Chauhan v. Commanding Officer, the Supreme Court, in a rare instance, exercised its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to undertake a findings of facts. The instant case arose from an appeal from National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) wherein the appellant filed a complaint against the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army (respondents) for negligence and deficient service. The NCDRC had rejected the complaint stating that medical care provided by Army to its personnel does not constitute a “service” under Consumer Protection Act. The appellant had served as a regular airman in the IAF. During a posting in Pathankot in 2002, the appellant was infused with blood supplied by a designated ad-hoc military blood bank. It was only after considerable amount of time in 2015 that the appellant discovered that he is diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The respondent constituted a medical board which attributed the likely reason for the condition to be the transfusion he received in 2002. However, the appellant’s repeated attempts to retrieve his case sheet and medical documents were repelled by the respondent. The Supreme Court, upon embarking on an examination of facts, and the jurisprudence on medical negligence, found that it was a fit case of medical negligence which warranted the court’s intervention, and proceeded to award a compensation of ₹ 1,54,73,000 under various heads, including mental agony and requirement of future care.

[S. Ravindra Bhat J, Dipankar Dutta J]

[Keywords: Medical Negligence, lack of jurisdiction, informed consent, medical advice, social stigma]

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In Sweety Kumari and Ors v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the legal position that the factum of eligibility is different from the factum of proof, and in cases where a candidate appearing for recruitment for a position in civil services is otherwise eligible by means of qualifying the entrance test, his/her candidature cannot be denied solely on the ground of non-availability of the proof of qualifications during the interview. In the present batch matters, all the appeals were preferred by appellants who have appeared for the 30th, 31st and 32nd Bihar Judiciary Services recruitment exams. The appellants were declared to be meritorious in their respective categories. However, their candidature was not confirmed by the respondent owing to non-production of original character certificates and law degrees. The Supreme Court observed that, firstly, the production of original documents is not a mandatory condition under the BPSC Rules. Then the court took notice of the decision by a coordinate bench in Aarav Jain v. Bihar Public Service Commission whereby the respondent’s contention of non-submission of original document as a ground for rejecting candidature was repelled. The dictum in Aarav Jain was extended by the Court to all the appellants in the case as against future vacancies in their respective categories.

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

[Keywords: factum of eligibility, proof of eligibility, non-submission of original documents, mandatory condition]

In The State of Punjab v. Jaswant Singh, the Court held that there was no error with the Superintendent of Police invoking his power under the Punjab Police Rules to discharge a constable who was serving on probation for having absented himself without intimating the authorities and where the SSP Training had recommended that the candidate had not shown any interest in training.

[JK Maheshwari J, KV Viswanathan J]

[Keywords: discharge from service during probation, Punjab Police Rules 1934]

Administrative Law

In Chen Khoi Kui v Liang Miao Sheng, the Court held that there was no infirmity in the High Court’s reliance upon Section 22 of the Bengal General Clauses Act 1899 to rule that the power to issue an order includes the power to rescind such order.

[Aniruddha Bose J, Sudhanshu Dhulia J]

[Keywords: whether the registrar of society empowered to grant registration under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act 1961 has the power to cancel such registration where no specific provision to cancel or review his decision exists in the legislation, Pei May school society, Chinese tannery]

Family Law

In Derha v. Vishal, the Court held that a party could not take contrary pleadings on appeal and that the mere allotment of a share in property upon partition would not convert the nature of the property from being coparcenary.

[CT Ravikumar J, Sanjay Kumar J]

[Keywords: Mitakshara coparcenary, issue of succession, agricultural land, house properties, partition of coparcenary properties, Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956, Gurupad Khandappa Magdum v. Hirabai Khandappa Magdum]

In Meena Pradhan v. Kamla Pradhan, the Court held that the requirements of Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act would have to be categorically complied with for the execution of a will to be proven in terms of Section 68 of the Evidence Act. The Court also laid down the principles for proving the validity and execution of a will. Further, the Court also observed that allegations of bigamy or a second marriage are not relevant while deciding on the validity of a will.

[AS Oka J, Sanjay Karol J]

[Keywords: divorce, will, death of testator, S. 276 of the Indian Succession Act]

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Miscellaneous

In First Global Stockbroking Pvt Ltd v. Anil Rishiraj, the Court held that Section 49(3) of the FEMA saved the existence of Sections 56 and 57 of the FERA and that competent courts could take cognizance of such offences within the 2 year sunset period as provided under FEMA.

[AS Oka J, Sanjay Karol J]

[Keywords: Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999, FEMA, Enforcement Officer, S. 120-B IPC, Difference in schemes of FEMA and FERA, cognizance of offences, sunset period of 2 years under S. 49(3) of FEMA]

Constitutional Law

In Sita Soren v. Union of India, the Constitution bench constituted a seven-judge bench to hear reference concerning the judgment in PV Narasimha Rao v. State (1998) 4 SCC 626 on the issue as to whether a legislator enjoys immunity under Articles 105(2) read with 194(2) of the Constitution of India from prosecution for accepting bribes to vote in Parliament or an Assembly. This was done, inter alia, for the reason that the object of Article 105(2) or Article 194(2) did not prima facie appear to be to render immunity from the launch of criminal proceedings for a violation of criminal law which may arise independently of the exercise of the rights and duties as a Member of Parliament or the State Legislature.

[Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud CJI., AS Bopanna J., MM Sundresh., JB Paridwala., Manoj Misra J.]

[Keywords : Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution of India, reference, immunity for Parliamentarians, bribe for votes, Article 19, criminal law, seven Judge Bench]

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In South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors, the Court held that the impact of Article 243-ZC of the Constitution is that Part IXA has no application to a Scheduled Area. The inapplicability of Article 243X did not denude the State legislature the power to enact legislation for the State. A Scheduled Area, governed by Article 244 of the Constitution, is subject to the provisions contained in the Fifth Schedule which govern the administration and control of Scheduled Areas or Scheduled Tribes. Paragraph 5 confers a power on the Governor to direct either that Parliamentary or State law shall not apply in the Schedule Area or that it would apply subject to such exceptions or modifications as may be specified. However, no such notification has been produced apart from the notification dated February 29, 2003 specifying the Scheduled Areas. In this view of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s findings.

[DY Chandrachud CJI, JB Pardiwala J, Manoj Misra J]

[Keywords: Section 132 of the Madhya Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act 1956, terminal tax, Madhya Pradesh Municipal Limits Rules 1956, Article 244 of the Constitution, Scheduled Areas and Schedules Tribes]

In NHPC & Ors. v. State of Himachal Pradesh, the appellants approached the Supreme Court after their challenge to the vires of the 1997 Amendment to the Himachal Pradesh Passengers and Goods Taxation Act, 1955 failed in the High Court. The appellants submitted that the 1997 Amendment was brought in solely with the objective to remove the basis of another judgment by the division bench of the High Court in 1997, which had held that provision of gratis services by the appellants for the transportation of its employees and family did not come under the purview of the 1955 Act. The Court examined and reiterated the settled position of law stating that the legislative device of abrogation, while constitutionally permissible, can only be employed with a view to bringing the law in line with the judicial decisions. However, if retrospective legislation is enacted solely with the object of circumventing a judgment, then the same can be held as a colorable piece of legislation. On facts the Court examined the defects in the 1955 Act as pointed out by the 1997 judgment and the way the 1997 Amendment had sought to rectify them. The Court concluded that the 1997 Amendment was an act of valid abrogation of the 1997 Judgment of the High Court

[B.V Nagarathna J, Ujjal Bhuyan J]

[Keywords: Validation of tax declared illegal, legislative competence, gratis services, colorable legislation, abrogation]

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In BTL EPC Ltd v. Macawber Beekay Pvt. Ltd, the Supreme Court reiterated the contours of a High Court’s writ jurisdiction under Article 226, when confronted with matters arising from tenders. In the instant case, the tender in question was issued by BHEL for an Ash Handling Plant in favour of the appellant. The respondent, one of the tenderers whose bid was rejected, filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court assailing the award of the tender to the appellant on the ground that the appellant collaborated with an entity sharing land border with India which was not registered, as required under an Office Memorandum dated July 23, 2020. The High Court quashed the tender. The Supreme Court, on finding that the parties proceeded on the notion that the appellant was the sole bidder, reiterated that High Courts must defer to the understanding of the author of the tender document, who is best placed to interpret the terms therein, and laid down the rule of restraint in exercising writ jurisdiction in commercial matters. In holding so, the Court set aside the High Court’s judgment.

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

[Keywords: perversity, malafides, arbitrariness, unsuccessful bidder, sole bidder, consortium]

In Life Insurance Corporation Ltd v. Dravya Finance Ltd, the appellant approached the Supreme Court against a judgment of the Bombay High Court, which held that the service charge imposed by the appellant for registration and recording of transfers and assignments made by the insureds under Section 38 of the LIC Act was unconstitutional. The appellant submitted that such a levy of a service charge does not fall foul of Article 265 of the Constitution since it is in pursuance of carrying out the business of Insurance and that processing of such transfer/assignment notices entail significant administrative costs. The Supreme Court noted the High Court’s findings, stating that the levy of service charge by the appellant was in the nature of a fee and not a tax. Further, it was found that such a levy of fee is unsubstantiated by the provisions of Section 38. Further, the Court took notice of the IRDAI Regulations of 2015 which allow an insurer to levy a fee for issuing acknowledgment of assignments/ transfers which is limited in scope. Holding thus, the Court found no error with the High Court’s judgment.

[Abhay S. Oka J, Sanjay Karol J]

[Keywords: Service charge, fee, tax, assignment and transfer, registration, record, Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1938]

Consumer Protection Law

In Rohit Choudhary v. M/s Vipul Ltd, the issue before the Supreme Court concerned the interpretation of the term “commercial purpose” as defined under Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act ,1986. The facts involved a complaint filed by the appellant before the NCDRC for non-delivery of office commercial space by the respondent within the stipulated time. The said complaint was dismissed in limine by NCDRC on the ground that the proposed transaction was carried out for commercial purposes, and thus the appellants were not consumers. It was found by the NCDRC that the appellant was engaged in the business of dealership for Reliance Industries, and was involved in the business of investing in properties. On construing the statements of the appellant before NCDRC, which states that the subject property was purchased in order to earn his livelihood, the Supreme Court found that the NCDRC erred in dismissing the complaint by finding that the instant transaction was for a commercial purpose. In exercise of its plenary powers and by balancing equities, the Court directed that the sums paid by appellant towards the instalments be refunded along with interest.

[S. Ravindra Bhat J, Aravind Kumar J]

[Keywords: commercial purpose, maintainability, earning livelihood by self-employment]

In Prakash Bang v. Glaxo Smithkline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the appellant approached the Supreme Court against the order of the NCDRC dismissing his complaint for deficiency of service against the respondent. The appellant had  sought compensation of ₹ 90 lakhs from the respondent on account of muscular myositis. It is the complainant’s case that the myositis resulted from the administration of the Hepatitis-B vaccine developed by the respondent. However, there was no proof regarding the purchase of the respondent’s vial and its administration, save and except the evidence tendered by the appellant’s doctor before NCDRC. Noting that the allegations in the complaint were unsubstantiated, and that the statistical probability of developing myositis from the respondent’s vaccine was extremely low, the Supreme Court upheld the NCDRC order and dismissed the appeal.

[A.S Bopanna J, Prashant Kumar Mishra J]

[Keywords: medical opinion, deficiency of service,  preponderance of evidence, discharge of initial burden]

Motor Vehicles

In Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd v. Rambha Devi, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court found it fit to revisit the decision of a three-judgment bench in the case of Mukund Dewangan v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd on the question of whether a person holding a driving licence in respect of a “light motor vehicle” could, on the strength of such licence, be entitled to drive a “transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class” having unladen weight not exceeding 7,500 kgs. The Court had elucidated the policy considerations that the Union government ought to weigh in, in light of the fact that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had already issued directions to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Mukund Dewangan's case. Having observed thus, the Court granted the Union of India a period of two months before the matter can be heard again.

[Dr. D.Y Chandrachud CJ, Hrishikesh Roy J, P.S Narasimha J, Pankaj Mithal J, Manoj Misra J]

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Property Law

In M/s Paul Rubber Industries Pvt. Ltd v. Amit Chand Mitra, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the position that an unregistered lease deed which is compulsorily registrable under Section 49 of the Registration Act cannot be looked into by the Court. However, the factum of lease can be determined on the strength of other evidence on record. In the present case, the appellant, who lost before the trial court and the High Court, sought to establish that the lease in dispute is a lease for ‘manufacturing purposes’ within the meaning of Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. The appellant challenged the decision of the trial court to look into an unregistered instrument to determine the purpose of the lease, which prescribed a five-year period, thus bringing it within the rigours of Section 49 of the Registration Act. The Supreme Court opined that the factum of lease can always be ascertained by the court, regardless of whether it is an unregistered lease, on the basis of other evidence on record.  Holding thus, the appeal was dismissed.  In the same vein, the Court determined that since the lease was executed for a five-year period with an option for renewal, it is compulsorily registrable and the deeming provision under Section 106 of the 1882 Act shall not come to appellant’s aid.

[Aniruddha Bose J, Vikram Nath J]

[Keywords: unregistered lease, manufacturing purposes, factum of lease, purpose of the lease, collateral purpose, admissibility]

Hindu Law

In Revanasiddappa & Anr. v. Mallikarjun & Ors., the bench answered a reference and held that the children of voidable or void marriages had a right to the parents’ share in the Hindu joint family property under the Mitakshara system.  

[DY Chandrachud J., JB Pardiwala J., Manoj Misra J.]

[Keywords: rights in or to properties of parties, joint Hindu family, coparcenary, Mitakshara, Hindu Succession Act 1956]

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In Smt. Roopa Soni v. Kamalnarayan Soni, the Supreme Court reiterated the contours of Sections 13(1) and 13(1-A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, as amended in 1976. The stated objective of the 1976 Amendment, the Court held, was to liberalize the provision of divorce, while ensuring the protection required to the estranged wife. Reiterating that a broad and contextual approach is required to ascertain cruelty, which necessarily involves an element of subjectivity, the Court restated the need for social justice adjudication. The provisions of Section 13 (1) are to be applied bearing in mind the status of the party opposing the petition. On the facts of the case, the Court noted that the appellant and respondent have been living away for 15 years and that the trial court had refused the grant of divorce on pedantic and hyper-technical grounds. The Court allowed the appeal and granted the decree of divorce.

[Sanjiv Khanna J, M.M Sundresh J]

[Keywords: Cruelty, liberalized grant of divorce, protection of estranged spouse, fault theory, socio-economic stigma]

Election Law

In Union Territory of Ladakh v. Jammu and Kashmir National Conference & Ors, the challenge arose from the order of the division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in a Letters Patent Appeal, which refused to interfere with the single judge’s order which allowed the respondent no.1 party to contest the  Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) elections with its plough symbol under the Election Symbols Order, 1968. The appellant contested before the Supreme Court to state that the Election Symbols Order, 1968 has no applicability to LAHDC elections as the same do not come under the purview of the Election Commission of India. Noting that respondent no.1 was a recognized State party prior to the dissolution of the Statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, with a recognized plough symbol, the ECI had recommended that the respondent no.1 claim and represent to the appellant authorities on the strength of Paragraph 10 of the Election Symbols Order 1968. The Supreme Court, upon examination of the chronology of events, concluded that prior to the issue of the impugned gazette notification which deprived the plough symbol to respondent no.1, there were a series of representations. Yet no decision was taken by the authorities prior to issuing the impugned notification. Holding thus, the Court held that there is no bar in the Constitution which prevented the single judge from passing the order. Noting that courts have powers to set the clock back in order to render complete justice, the notification for election to LAHDC was set aside and the process was ordered to be started afresh.

[Vikram Nath J, Ahsanuddin Amanullah J]

[Keywords: approbate and reprobate, level playing field, unjustified prejudice, recognized symbol, independent decision, Election Symbols Order 1968]

Also Read
Supreme Court orders Ladakh administration to notify LAHDC polls afresh; allots plough symbol to National Conference

Intellectual Property Law

In Brihan Karan Sugar Syndicate Pvt. Ltd v. Yashwantrao Mohite Krushan Sahkari Sakhar Karkhana, the appellant was a decree-holder in a suit for trademark infringement and passing off instituted by it against the respondent. Both the entities were engaged in producing country liquor and the trial court had found that the branding of respondent’s product was deceptively similar to that of the appellant’s product. The respondent instituted a suit in the High Court to stay the execution of the decree, which was allowed. On appeal, the Supreme Court observed that in a passing off action, the plaintiff is not required to prove that he is a long user to establish reputation. Rather, reputation is discerned from the volume of sales and extent of advertisement. At this juncture, the Court observed that the High Court made a specific finding that the appellant-plaintiff’s reputation was not proved, as the figures of sales and advertisement produced during the trial were not examined. For this reason, the Supreme Court did not interfere with the High Court’s decision granting a stay on the injunction against passing-off. As regards infringement, the Court found that there was acquiescence on the plaintiff’s part. Noting that the appeal against the decree is pending, the Supreme Court dismissed the present appeal challenging the interim stay granted by the High Court. 

[Abhay S. Oka J, Rajesh Bindal J]

[Keywords: Infringement, passing-off, reputation, acquiescence, proof of contents]

Labour Law

In Commanding Officer, Railway Protection Force Mumbai v. Bhvnaben Dinshbhai Bhabor, the Supreme Court examined the correctness of the Gujarat High Court’s order in appeal, which in turn was passed in an appeal under Section 30 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 by the Workmen Compensation Commissioner. The respondent was the legal heir of the deceased, who was a constable aged 25 years at the time of his death which was during the course of his employment. The appellant resisted the grant of compensation on the ground that the deceased person worked in the Railway Protection Force (RPF), which is deemed to be an armed force of the Union government, thus excluding the applicability of the 1923 Act. On a holistic reading of the 1923 Act, the Railways Act 1890, the Railway Protection Force Act of 1957 and the Railways Act of 1989, the Supreme Court arrived at the conclusion that mere declaration in the 1957 Act that the RPF is an armed force of the Union government is insufficient to take it away from the purview of the 1923 Act. Holding thus, the appeal was dismissed.

[B.V Nagarathna J, Manoj Misra J]

[Keywords: railway servant, armed forces of the union, legislative intent, compensation, employer, workmen]

Land Laws

In Loonkaran Gandhi (D) Thr. L.Rs v. State of Maharashtra, the case concerned the acquisition of the appellant landowner’s land in 1970 vide an award in 1986 under the Nagpur Improvement Trust Act, 1936 (“NIT Act”). Though the Special Land Acquisition Officer (“SLAO”) kept the appellant’s case separately while publishing the order in 1986, it was borne on the record that the appellant’s land was also used to construct a road for public use in 1970. There was some confusion initially as to whether the appellant’s land fell for acquisition when it was not specifically mentioned in the acquisition notices issued under the NIT Act between 1974 to 1977. As a result, compensation for the acquisition of the appellant’s land was never determined until 2013 when the matter reached the Supreme Court. The Court noted that provisions of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 shall apply to proceedings under the NIT Act, save and otherwise where expressly provided to the contrary in the NIT Act, 1936. In the appellant’s case, the Court at the time of issuing notice, noted an inordinate delay of 17 years between the grant of award by SLAO to other landowners in 1986 and the award in 2013 to the appellant. The Court noted that an ex-parte award with respect to appellant came to be passed only in 2013 after the Court took cognizance.  Upon attributing the delay to the respondents, the Court proceeded to mould the relief in exercise of its plenary jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution and ordered the for grant of compensation to the appellant as per the market value of the land prevailing on the date of the ex-parte award in 2013.

[Surya Kant J, J.K Maheshwari J]

[Keywords: Compensation due to delay, date of preliminary notification, inordinate delay, eminent domain, absolute power and deprivation of the rights]

In Shirdi Nagar Panchayat v. Kishore Sharad Borawake, appeals were preferred by the appellants against a common impugned order passed by the High Court which had partly allowed a petition filed by the respondents. In the said petition, the respondents had sought to challenge a notification from 2004, wherein their land was converted from green zone into development zone areas, subject to the twin conditions that 10 percent of the space is allotted to the Municipal Council as ‘open space’ and 10 percent as amenity space. The respondents acted in line with this notification when they sought approval for developing their lands. The land assigned to that extent stood mutated in the Municipal Council’s name. It was only in 2012, when the government sought possession of the assigned land, that the respondents sought to contest the same. Having failed to do so, the respondents moved a plea in the High Court in 2018 which came to be partly allowed. On appeal, the Supreme Court observed that since the respondents took advantage of the 2004 notification by developing their lands, they cannot now be allowed to challenge the same by doctrine of election. The impugned order was quashed and set aside.

[B.R Gavai J, S.V.N Bhatti J]

[Keywords: doctrine of election, approbate and reprobate, condition precedent for surrender, delay and laches]

Also Read
Supreme Court invokes Article 142 of Constitution to protect 100-year-old trees in property dispute

Writs

In Ameena Begum v. The State of Telengana and Ors., the challenge was to dismissal of a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus against an order of preventive detention. Importantly, the Court laid down the principles on which a Constitutional Court must test the legality of an order of preventive detention, that is, whether:

(i) the order is based on the requisite satisfaction, albeit subjective, of the detaining authority;

(ii) in reaching such requisite satisfaction, the detaining authority has applied its mind to all relevant circumstances, which is not based on material extraneous to the scope and purpose of the statute;

(iii) power has been exercised for achieving the purpose for which it has been conferred;

(iv) the detaining authority has acted independently or under the dictation of another body;

(v) the detaining authority, by reason of self-created rules of policy or in any other manner not authorized by the governing statute, has disabled itself from applying its mind to the facts of each individual case;

(vi) the satisfaction of the detaining authority rests on materials which are of rationally probative value, and the detaining authority has given due regard to the matters as per the statutory mandate;

(vii) the satisfaction has been arrived at bearing in mind existence of a live and proximate link between the past conduct of a person and the imperative need to detain him;

(viii) the ground(s) for reaching the requisite satisfaction are such which an individual, with some degree of rationality and prudence, would consider as connected with the facts relevant to the subject-matter of the inquiry;

(ix) such grounds are not vague but are precise, pertinent and relevant which, with sufficient clarity, inform the detenu the satisfaction for the detention, giving him the opportunity to make a suitable representation; and

(x) the timelines, as provided under the law, have been strictly adhered to.

On facts, the detenu’s actions were found not to be such as to disturb public order, but merely targeting particular individual. Hence, the detention order was set aside.

[Surya Kant J., Dipankar Datta J.]

[Keywords : Preventive Detention, Goonda, public order, law and order, personal liberty, Articles 21 and 22, Constitution of India]

In Fulmati Dhramdev Yadav and Anr v. New India Assurance Company Ltd and Anr., the Court held that under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, an appeal to the High Court under Section 30, against the order of Commissioner is permissible only if there exists a substantial question of law. Since the High Court did not frame any substantial question of law, and the view taken by the Commissioner was held to be a possible view, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court order and restored the order passed by the Commissioner. It was further held that since the 1923 Act was a social welfare legislation, it ought to be given beneficial construction.

[Abhay S Oka J., Sanjay Karol J.]

[Keywords : Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, substantial question of law, possible view, perversity social welfare legislation, beneficial construction]

Mining

In State of West Bengal and Anr v. M/S Chiranjilal (Mineral) Industries of Bagandih and Anr., the Court held that Raiyat land is to be used for cultivation, etc., and not for mining, and that the rights of ‘Raiyat’ in respect of the land in terms of Section 4(2A) of the West Bengal Land Revenue Act, 1955 (WBLR Act) does not permit any other person to quarry sand from his holding, dig or use, earth or clay of his holding for the manufacture of bricks or tiles except with previous permission in writing of the State government. If the said condition was breached, the prescribed authority may levy a monetary penalty. The Court also said that Section 4-B of the WBLR Act, 1955 stipulates that every ‘Raiyat’ holding any land shall maintain and preserve such land in a manner that there is no change, or the area is not diminished. The Court, thus, directed the State to grant a mining lease in favour of the respondent.

[Sanjiv Khanna J., Aravind Kumar J.]

[Keywords : WBLR Act, MMDR Act, Riayat land, cultilation, mines and minerals, revenue records, mining lease]

Arbitration

In Batliboi Environmental Engineers Ltd v. Hindustan Petroleum Company Ltd, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the first principles governing the award of damages for loss of profit in a contract due to delay. In the instant case, the High Court had set aside the arbitral award between the parties in an application under Section 37. The arbitral award rejected the respondent’s counter-claims, and allowed three of the four claims made by the appellant, which included damages for overhead/ profit and profitability, idling costs and compensation for extra work. On the award of claim for loss of profit/profitability, the Supreme Court noted that the award was bereft of any reasoning for the quantum awarded under the claim for loss of profit, nor was any applicable formula discussed. The Court clarified that in the computation of damages for loss of profit, the task falls upon the arbitral tribunal to choose an appropriate formula for computation (Hudson’s, Eichlay’s or Emden’s formulae) upon examining the assumptions in each formula and satisfying itself that the same assumptions can be ascertained in the facts and circumstances of the case at hand. Noting that the award was perverse for its lack of reasoning on the basis for award of damages, the Court traversed the law under section 34 of the 1996 Act (as it stood prior to the 2015 Amendment) to conclude that the High Court had rightly set aside the award.

[Sanjiv Khanna J, M.M Sundresh J]

[Keywords: Damages for loss of profit, perverse, fundamental policy of Indian Law, double recovery, windfall, analysis and examination]

Banking Law

In Celir LLP v. Bafna Motors (Mumbai) Pvt. Ltd, the question that arose before the Supreme Court was whether a bank can be directed to allow a borrower to redeem his/her mortgage once the auction proceedings for the same under SARFAESI Act had attained finality. Noticing that there are conflicting High Court judgments on the issue of cessation of right to redemption under the amended Section 13(8) of the SARFAESI Act, the Court holistically analysed the SARFAESI Act and proceeded to lay down that once the notice for auction is issued under Section 13(8) as amended in 2016, the borrower’s right to redemption stands extinguished (in contrast with the unamended Section 13(8), where the borrower’s right to redeem is alive till the date of transfer to the auction purchaser). The Court also affirmed that Section 13(8) of the SARFAESI Act, being a special legislation, must prevail over the general provision for the right of redemption under Section 60 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. The court also noted that the High Court could not have maintained the writ since an alternative remedy under SARFAESI Act was available to the borrowers.

[Dr. D.Y Chandrachud CJ, J.B Pardiwala J]

[Keywords: right to redemption of mortgage, publication of auction notice, available alternative statutory remedy, illegitimate conduct, mischievous borrower]

Also Read
[SARFAESI Act] Borrower who fails to pay dues before auction notice cannot redeem mortgage: Supreme Court

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