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 October 2020.
In Amar Singh v. The State (NCT of Delhi), the Bench struck down the finding of conviction of the accused by stating that though a court may act on the testimony of a single eye-witness under Section 134 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, but in case of doubts, corroboration can be insisted on as it is not the number of the witnesses which is a relevant consideration but the quality thereof. In the present case, the Court found the behaviour of the prime witnesses (brothers of the deceased) to be inherently improbable. [Key Words: ocular testimony, medical evidence] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Aniruddha Bose, J., Krishna Murari, J.]
In Bikramjit Singh v. The State of Punjab, the Bench agreed with the Petitioner when the “Special Court” had been set up as an exclusive court to try all offences under UAPA such as the scheduled offences relatable to the NIA Act, it was the Special Court alone which had the exclusive jurisdiction to extend the period of 90 days to 180 days under Section 43-D(2)(b) of the UAPA. The Bench came to this finding on the basis of the fact that the NIA 2008 had done away with the differentiation between courts trying offences punishable with imprisonment below 7 years and above 7 years as “as all scheduled offences i.e. all offences under the UAPA, whether investigated by the National Investigation Agency or by the investigating agencies of the State Government, are to be tried exclusively by Special Courts set up under that Act. In the absence of any designated Court by notification issued by either the Central Government or the State Government, the fall back is upon the Court of Sessions alone”.
The Bench further noted that in case an application for default bail is made on expiry of the period of 90 days (where application could be oral) before the charge sheet was filed, the right to default bail was activated. It was irrelevant if the criminal court either does not dispose of the application before the charge sheet is filed or disposes of the application wrongly. In this case, it was found that the right under Section 167(2) was activated since the ilaqa magistrate had extended custody under Section 167 when it never had the power to do so. [Key Words: Sections 2(o), 2(p), 2(k), 2(l), 2(m), 2(1)(d), 43-D(2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, Sections 6, 26(b), 167, Part II of First Schedule of the CrPC, Sections 2(g), 2(h), 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 22, of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008, “if already not availed of”, default bail, “court”, special court, scheduled offence, Punjab Government Notification dated 10.06.2014, personal liberty, indefeasible right to bail] [Coram: RF Nariman, J., Navin Sinha, J., KM Joseph, J.]
In M Ravindran v. The Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the question of when the right to bail would accrue under Section 167(2) arose. The Supreme Court, first, relying on Rakesh Kumar Paul (2017) 15 SCC 67, Sanjay Dutt, and Uday Mohanlal Acharya, held that once a charge sheet is filed, the accused is deemed to have waived his right to bail and S. 167(2) ceases to apply. Second, the Court held that when the accused has exercised his right under S. 167(2) and indicated his willingness to furnish bail, he cannot be detained on the subterfuge of the prosecution filing a police report or additional complaint on the same day that the bail application is filed. Third, the Court held that an accused is deemed to have exercised his indefeasible right upon filing of the bail application, though his actual release from custody is subject to compliance with the order granting bail. Fourth, the Court held that the application for extension of time under custody made by the Public Prosecutor can be filed only prior to the filing of the application for default bail by the accused. [Key Words: Accrual of right to bail, when such bail availed, “if already not availed of”, default bail,] [Coram: UU Lalit, J., Moham M Shantanagoudar, J., Vineet Saran, J.]
In Saravanan v. State represented by the Inspector of Police, the Bench held that whilereleasing the accused on default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2) CrPC., the High Court could not have imposed a condition of deposit of amount. The Bench also held that the bail condition directing the accused to report before the concerned police station daily at 10:00 am for interrogation, until further orders, was unsustainable as it was too harsh. [Key Words: indefeasible right, Sections 167, 437 CrPC] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R Subhash Reddy, J., MR Shah, J.]
In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, the Bench disagreed with the High Court and cancelled the interim bail granted (on grounds of health) to the accused as it was unable to see any shortcomings in the medical treatment offered by the State. The Bench noted that there was neither satisfaction recorded by the High Court as to inadequate medical treatment being administered nor any observation that the accused required any further treatment by any particular medical institute for which the accused was required to be granted interim bail on medical grounds. [Key Words: humane treatment, bail, medical grounds, POCSO, King George Medical University, Minister, rape] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R Subhash Reddy, J., MR Shah, J.]
In Umesh Kumar Sharma v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors., the Bench held that transfer powers under Section 406 CrPC were to be invoked sparingly only when “fair justice is in peril”. However, while invoking its powers, the court had to be satisfied that “impartial trial is not possible” and the apprehension had to be based on some credible material. In such a case, not only was the convenience of the accused important, but also that of the complainant, witnesses, prosecution as also the larger issue of the trial being conducted under the jurisdictional court. In the case before it, the Bench held that the cases pending against the accused could not be said to be on account of his journalistic activities. [Key Words: Section 406 CrPC, Order XXIX of the Supreme Court Rules 2013, sting operation, investigative journalism, blackmail, malicious prosecution, role of public prosecutor] [Coram: Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Gurcharan Singh vs. State of Punjab, the Court allowed the appeal and overturned the conviction of the appellant under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. The Court observed that the trial court had erred in convicting the appellant without establishing mens rea. The Court reiterated the necessary ingredients as set out in SS Chheena vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan (2010) 12 SCC 190 and relied on Mangat Ram vs. State of Haryana (2014) 12 SCC 595 to state that there was no evidence of any over act or omission on part of the appellant, the trial court and the High Court had erred in relying on conjecture and speculation in deciding the appellant’s guilt. [Key Words: Section 306 IPC, abetment to suicide, mens rea] [Coram: NV Ramana J., Surya Kant J, Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Ankita Kailash Khandelwal and Ors. vs State of Maharashtra and Others, the Court while considering an appeal against the order of the High Court wherein the High Court had declined to relax a condition of bail imposed on the appellants particularly prohibiting them from entering the police station limits and medical college, where the appellants were enrolled and accused of abetting the suicide of a fellow student. The Court reiterated Sumit Mehta (2013) 15 SCC 570 and Kunar Kumar Tiwari (2018) 16 SCC 74 on the manner of conditions to by imposed under Section 437 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and to state that the appellants are presumed to be innocent until their guilt is proved and as such are entitled to liberties granted under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court also noted that the order of suspension passed by the dean of the medical college was without reference to the report of the Anti-Ragging Committee. The Court allowed the petition and permitted the appellants to return to the medical college subject to certain conditions imposed by it. [Key Words: Section 437 (3) CrPC, Conditions of bail, ragging] [Coram: UU Lalit, J., Vineet Saran, J., Ajay Rastogi, J.]
In Parvez Noordin Lokandwalla vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr., the appellant was aggrieved by the order of the High Court refusing to modify the condition of his bail, restricting him from travelling beyond the police station limits of Thane. The Court reiterated Sumit Mehta (2013) 15 SCC 570 and Kunar Kumar Tiwari (2018) 16 SCC 74 to state that conditions imposed Section 437 (3) CrPC must pear a proportional relationship to the purpose of imposing conditions. The Court observed that the appellant’s co-accused had been enlarged on bail and the appellant had kept in close contact with India. The Court also observed that there was various litigation pending between the appellants family and the complainant’s family. The Court noted that the appellant sought to travel to U.S.A in order comply with the conditions of his Green Card. The Court allowed the petition and permitted the appellant to travel to U.S.A subject to conditions imposed by it. [Key Words: Section 437 (3) CrPC, Conditions of bail, right to travel] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In Satya Deo vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court considered the repealing provision of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015 (‘2015 Act’), in Section 111 and the non-obstante clause in Section 25 of the 2015 Act read with Section 6 of the General Clauses Act 1897, to state that an accused cannot be denied his right to be treated as a juvenile when he was less than eighteen years of age at the time of commission of the offence, a right which he acquired and has fructified under the of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000 (‘2000 Act’). The Court relied on Mumtaz v. State of U.P (2016) 11 SCC 786 to reiterate the applicability of Section 20 of the 2000 Act, enabling the Court to determine the juvenility of the appellant as on the date of the commission of the offence. The Court noted that the report of enquiry by the District & Sessions Judge finding the appellant to be below the age of 18 years on the date of the offence was not under dispute. The Court upheld the conviction of the appellant, set-aside the sentence of life-imprisonment and remitted the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board for appropriate orders under Section 15 of the 2000 Act. [Key Words: Section 25 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015, effect on pending proceedings, effect of repeal] [Coram: S Abdul Nazeer, J., Sanjiv Khanna, J.]
In Karulal & Ors. Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Court upheld the conviction of the appellants under Section 148, 302 r/w 149 of IPC and dismissed the appeal. The Court after considering the evidence in detail, relied on its judgments in Dalip Singh vs. State of Punjab 1 AIR 1953 SC 264 and Khurisd Ahmed vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir (2018) 7 SCC 429 to state that if found truthful, conviction can be based on the testimony of related witness. The Court also noticed its observations in Sushil & Ors. Vs. State of U.P (1995) Supp 1 SCC 363 to state that if the evidence is trustworthy, then past enmity by itself will not discredit the testimony. [Key Words: Related Witness, past enmity, reliability of testimony, Section 148, 302 of IPC] [Coram: NV Ramana, J., Surya Kant, J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Miss ‘A’ vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court set-aside the order passed by the High Court and restored the order of the trial court, whereby the trial court had dismissed the application of the accused seeking copies of the appellant’s statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC. The Court held that the trial court was right to apply Shivanna (2014) 8 SCC 913 stating that the accused is not entitled to copies of the statements recorded under Section 164 CrPC, until the police have filed a report under Section 173 CrPC. The Court further stated that it is only after the exercise of the power under Section 190 CrPC, i.e. taking of cognizance and issuance of process that the accused is entitled to copies of documents as provided in Section 207 and 208 of the CrPC. [Key Words: Section 207 CrPC, Rights of the accused, Statement under Section 164 CrPC] [Coram: UU Lalit, J., Vineet Saran, J., S Ravindra Bhat, J.]
In Chunthuram v. Chhattisgarh, a judgment of the High Court upholding convictions under Sections 302 and 34 of the IPC where one co-accused was acquitted was challenged. The Supreme Court held first, that where the alleged weapons of assault recovered on the statement of the accused were not linked to the crime, they could not be used as key evidence in support of the prosecution. Second, when relevant forensic evidence was withheld by the prosecution, an adverse inference will have to be drawn against the prosecution. Third, Test Identification Parade (“TIP”) evidence is not substantive evidence but could only be used in corroboration of statements. Fourth, where TIP is held in the presence of police officers, it would be banned pursuant to Section 162 CrPC. Fifth, where no distinguishing factor to link the clothes presented as exhibits with the accused except a vague averment that the accused had been seen wearing those clothes on many occasions were also held to not be sufficient to link the accused with the crime. The Court also reiterated that where a view pointing to the innocence of the accused is possible, the same must be adopted. Thus, the Court acquitted the appellant. [Key Words: Acquittal of accused when co-accused acquitted, nexus between statement of accused and recovery of weapon, value of Test Identification Parade] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Krishna Murari, , J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Rajesh Dhiman v. State of Himachal Pradesh, judgments of the High Court which reversed acquittals for offences under the NDPS were challenged. The Supreme Court held that first, the mere fact that the investigating officer was also the complainant would not entitle an accused to acquittal and that it was necessary to demonstrate either actual bias or real likelihood of bias. Second, the Court held that High Courts could reverse acquittals and award appropriate sentence, including where there are patent errors of law, grave miscarriage of justice, or perverse findings of fact. [Key Words: Section 50 NDPS, Power of High Court to reverse acquittal] [Coram: NV Ramana, J., Surya Kant, J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Raveen Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, a judgment of a High Court reversing acquittal under Section 20 of the NDPS Act was challenged. The Supreme Court held that first, there was no bar on a High Court set aside a finding of acquittal by a lower court. Second, the Court held that courts should be cautious while relying on any evidence which the witness had not been confronted with despite an opportunity to do so. Third, the Court, relying on Hira Singh 2020 SCC OnLine SC 382 held that it is the total quantity of the mixture, including the neutral substance which is relevant for the purpose of sentencing and determining whether the threshold of ‘commercial quantity’ was met. [Key Words: Determination of ‘commercial quantity’ under NDPS, Drugs][Coram: NV Ramana, J., Surya Kant, J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
In Rajasthan v. Heem Singh, the Supreme Court, first, relying on Suresh Pathrella (2006) 10 SCC 572 reiterated that while the standard of proof in a criminal case if proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the proof in a departmental proceeding is preponderance of probabilities. Second, the Court held that the verdict of a criminal trial does not conclude disciplinary enquiries against the accused. [Key Words: Standard of proof in departmental proceedings] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, vide a 151-page judgment, the Bench overruled its own judgment in S.R. Batra v. Taruna Batra (2007) 3 SCC 169 as incorrectly interpreting Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. It held as follows:
1. The expression “means and includes” in Section 2(s) of the 2005 Act indicates the legislative intent that the definition is exhaustive and shall cover only those which fall within the purview of definition and no other.
2. The different kinds of orders or reliefs which can be granted on an application filed by aggrieved person demonstrates that all orders contemplate providing protection to the women in reference to the premises in which aggrieved person is or was in possession. Thus, Section 2(s) has to be given its normal and purposeful meaning.
3. The definition of shared household given in Section 2(s) cannot be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of the joint family of which husband is a member or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share.
4. Proceedings under the 2005 Act or any interim/final order passed under Section 19 thereof does not preclude right of initiating or continuing any civil proceedings which relate to the subject matter of the order passed under the 2005 Act. This was consistent with Section 26 of the 2005 Act.
5. The order passed by the criminal court under the 2005 Act is relevant as under Section 43 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 for the civil court, but it is not binding on the latter court.
6. Power under Order XII Rule 6 is discretionary.
[Key Words: Section 11, Order I Rule 10 and Order XII Rule 6 of CPC, gratuitous license, domestic relationship, shared household, “save in accordance with the procedure established by law”, General Recommendation No.XII of the United Nations Committee on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of discrimination against women, right of occupation of matrimonial home, Sections 125, 145 and 300 CrPC, Sections 40 to 44 of Indian Evidence Act 1872, Section 498A IPC, aggrieved person, “means and includes”, “person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived”] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R Subhash Reddy, J., MR Shah, J.]
In Ritika Sharan v. Sujoy Ghosh, the Court held that the primary consideration in child custody cases must be the welfare of the child. The Court used its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to permit a mother to take her child with her to Singapore, which was her place of employment. The Court held that where the child indicates an intention to reside with his mother and where the mother has been looking after the welfare and care of the child, custody may be granted to the mother. [Key Words: Child custody, welfare of child paramount, Expression of interest by child to reside with one parent] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indu Malhotra, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In Smriti Madan Kansagra v. Perry Kansagra, a question of how the guardianship of a child is to be decided was under question. The Supreme Court, first, relying on Gaurav Nagpal (2009) 1 SCC 42 held that the term ‘welfare’ used in S. 13 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act must be interpreted widely and that the moral and ethical welfare must also weigh with the Court. Second, the Court held that to decide the best interest of the child, the court should look at factors such as the age of the child, nationality of the child, whether the child is of an intelligible age and capable of making an intelligent preference, etc… While the financial resources of either of the parents would be a relevant criterion, it would not be the sole determinative factor. As the Court found no merits in the allegations raised by the appellant mother and as the child formed an intelligent preference for the father, the Court granted custody to the father under S. 17(3) of the Act. The Court also directed the parties to procure a mirror order from the courts in Kenya, where the father, and consequently the child, would now reside. However, Justice Hemant Gupta offered a dissenting opinion. [Key Words: Factors for determining welfare of child, Determination of Guardianship] [Coram: UU Lalit, J., Indu Malhotra, J., Hemant Gupta, J.]
In Amit Sahni vs. Commissioner of Police & Ors., the three-judge bench of the Court relied on Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan v. Union of India & Anr. (2018) 17 SCC 324 to state that the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19 (1) (b) of the Constitution of India are to be balanced with competing rights and are subject to reasonable restrictions pertaining to sovereignty of India and public order. The Court held that occupation and especially indefinite of public ways as occupied during the Shaheen Bagh Protests or any other protests is impermissible. The Court went on to hold that demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone. [Key Words: Constitution of India, Civil Liberties, Dissent, Right to Protest, Shaheen Bagh, Manner of protest] [Coram: SK Kaul J, Aniruddha Bose J., Krishna Murari J.]
In IBBI v. Lalit Kumar Jain, the Supreme Court transferred Writ Petitions on the constitutionality of certain provisions which apply to personal guarantors of corporate debtors from various High Courts to the Supreme Court, in order to avoid conflicting decisions by multiple High Courts. [Key Words: Constitutionality of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, Applicability of IBC to personal guarantors] [Coram: Nageswara Rao, J., Hemant Gupta, J., Ajay Rastogi, J.]
In Balaji Baliram Mupade v. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court held that where oral orders are pronounced, the judgment including reasons must be made available at the earliest in order to facilitate any aggrieved party to seek redressal from a higher Court. [Key Words: Making available of judgments where oral orders pronounced] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
Service Law and Administrative Law
In Anand Yadav and Others v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others, the Bench stated that while the University Grants Commission’s role was to determine and specify the nomenclature of decrees, the National Council for Teacher Education was the authority for teacher education. Cautioning courts not to declare judgments as precedents without looking in the “ratio decidendi”, the Court held that the employer was in the best position to judge who to employ and the Court was not expected to sit in judgment over decisions of experts as the matter of education was best left to educationists. In the present case, the Court held that while MA (Education) was a degree in the discipline of education, the M.Ed. degree was a practioner’s degree. It was affirmed that in view of the duration and curricular inputs, the M.Ed. also qualified as a master’s programme in education. [Key Words: MA (Education), M.Ed., precedent, ratio decidendi] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Aniruddha Bose, J., Krishna Murari, J.]
In Anil Bharadwaj v. The Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh and Others, the Bench reiterated that the mere inclusion in a select list does not accord an indefeasible right to the candidate. In this case, the Appellant was held unsuitable to be appointed as a District Judge due to a pending criminal case against him. It was held that merely because he was acquitted more than a year after his candidature was cancelled was not a good ground for the State to be directed to re-consider his appointment. This was so because the Appellant could not prove that the cancellation of this candidature was mala fide or arbitrary. [Key Words: Madhya Pradesh Uchchatar Nyayik Seva (Bharti Tatha Seva Sharten) Niyam 1994, selection process, subsequent acquittal, district judge] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., MR Shah, J.]
In Navin Chandra Dhoundiyal v. State of Uttarakhand and Others, the Bench held that various Allahabad High Court and Uttarakhand High Court judgments have rightly interpreted Statute No. 16.24 of Kumaon University as prescribing that superannuating teachers were to be treated as re-employed or allowed to continue in the larger interest of the pupils. It noted that the alternate view was lead to disruption in teaching as the likely delay in filling vacancies caused mid-season would be disruptive. The Bench also stated that “long standing or established status quo brought about by judgments interpreting local or state laws, should not be lightly departed from, even by” the Supreme Court. [Key Word: local laws, superannuation] [Coram: Uday Umesh Lalit, J., S. Ravindra Bhat, J.]
In Rajasthan State Road Development and Construction Corporation Ltd. v. Piyush Kant Sharma and Others, the Bench held that the High Court erred in passing an interim order restraining the Corporation from floating an electronic tender from hiring computer operators. It was observed that the High Court failed to observe that there was no regular sanctioned post of computer operator in the Corporation, there was no employer-employee relationship between the Respondents and the Corporation and further that the Respondents were employees appointed by a contractor on contractual basis and worked with the appellant Corporation on contractual basis. [Key Words: sanctioned post, contractor] [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, J., R. Subhash Reddy, J., M.R. Shah, J.]
In Commissioner of Police & Anr. Vs. Umesh Kumar, the Court allowed the appeals and set aside the judgments of the High Court issuing a writ of Mandamus, wherein it had directed that the Respondents were to be appointed as constables in the Delhi Police. The Court relied on Punjab SEB vs. Malkiat Singh (2005) 9 SCC 22to state that although the Respondents were included in the first merit list, the result of the recruitment exam and the merit list were kept in abeyance by the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal. Since the Respondents were not included in the revised merit list after correcting defects and neither were they issued offers of appointment, they did not have a vested right of appointment in their favor. [Key Words: Recruitment, revised merit list, vested right of appointment] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In Nilay Gupta vs. Chairman NEET PG Medical and Dental Admission/Counselling Board 2020 and Principal Govt. Dental college & ors., the appellants were aggrieved by the by the removal of reservation under NRI quota for admissions to PG courses by the State NEET Board at the stage of counselling. While the Single Judge of High Court allowed the original writ petition and directed that the petitioner be admitted in terms of the earlier notified NRI quota, the Division Bench of the High Court set aside the judgement of the Single Judge. The Court upheld the judgement of the Division Bench of the High Court. The Court held that its decision in in P.A. Inamdar (2005) 6 SCC 537 had stated that 15% quota for NRIs was permissible but not compulsory. The Court reiterated its decision in TMA Pai Foundation (2002) (8) SCC 481 a part of the private colleges’ autonomous decision making, they could set apart some percentage of seats for admission to students of their choice. Thus, the Court held that the NRI quota is neither sacrosanct not inviolable. However, the Court observed that there should have been reasonable notice of the decision to do away with the NRI quota. The Court noticing the special circumstances surrounding the case, a special round of counselling be held for the benefit of NRI applicants as prescribed by the Court. [Key Words: NEET, NRI Quota, Admissions, Private Educational Institutions] [Coram: L Nageswara Rao, J., S Ravindra Bhat, J.]
In State of Tamil Nadu v. Union of India, the Supreme Court, on the question of whether a direction could be issued for the implementation of the reservation to OBC Candidates for admission to under-graduate medical courses for this year for all India Quota seats in colleges in the State of Tamil Nadu, held that pursuant to the suggestion of the Medical Counselling Committee, this measure could be implemented from the next academic year as the admission process for this year has already commenced and would cause undue hardship. [Key Words: Reservation for OBC Candidates in UG Medical Courses under All India Quota][ Coram: Nageswara Rao, J., Hemant Gupta, J., Ajay Rastogi, J.]
Civil Procedure Code
In Ferrodous Estates (Pvt.) Ltd. v. P. Gopirathnam (Dead) & Others, the Bench held as follows:
1. An appeal is a continuation of a suit, as a result of which a change in law will become applicable on the date of the appellate decree, provided that no vested right is taken away thereby.
2. A suit for specific performance filed within limitation cannot be dismissed on the sole ground of delay or laches as “mere escalation of land prices after the date of the filing of the suit cannot be the sole ground to deny specific performance”.
3. An exception to the above stated rule is where immovable property is to be sold within a certain period, time being of the essence, and it is found that owing to some default on the part of the plaintiff, the sale could not take place within the stipulated time.
4. Once a suit for specific performance has been filed, any delay because of the court process cannot be put against the plaintiff as a matter of law in decreeing specific performance.
5. It is within the discretion of the Court, regard being had to the facts of each case, as to whether some additional amount ought or ought not to be paid by the plaintiff once a decree of specific performance is passed in its favour, even at the appellate stage. [Key Words: effect of repeal, Pontius Pilate, Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act 1963, “hardship on the defendant”, “circumstances existing at the time of the contract”] [Coram: RF Nariman, J., Navin Sinha, J.]
In Raghunath (D) by LRs. v. Radha Mohan (D) through LRs. & Ors., the question before the Bench was whether the limitation for the right of pre-emption commenced from the first sale deed after coming into force of the Rajasthan Pre-Emption Act 1966 or from other subsequent sale on the basis of Article 97 of the Limitation Act 1963. The Bench opined that the right of pre-emption was exercisable for the first time when the cause of such a right arises, in a situation where the plaintiff/pre-emptor chooses to waive such right after the 1966 Act becoming operations. Section 9 of the said 1966 Act operates as a bar on his exercising such right on a subsequent transaction relating to the same immovable property. The Bench noted that a pre-emptor has two rights: the inherent/primary right to the offer of a thing about to be sold and the secondary/remedial right to follow the thing sold i.e. the right of substitution of the original vendee. [Key Words: Mohammedan law of property in Northern India, weak right] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Aniruddha Bose, J., Krishna Murari, J.]
In Sugandhi (D) by LRs. & Anr v. P. Rajkumar Rep. by his Power Agent Imam Oli, the Bench held that the courts below ought to have allowed the Defendant to produce documents under Order 8 Rule 1A(3) as cogent reasons were stated for not producing the documents along with the written statement i.e. the documents were missing and were traced only at a later stage. The Bench held that if the “procedural violation does not seriously cause prejudice to the adversary party, courts must lean towards doing substantial justice rather than relying upon procedural and technical violation. We should not forget the fact that litigation is nothing but a journey towards truth which is the foundation of justice and the court is required to take appropriate steps to thrash out the underlying truth in every dispute.” [Key Words: substantial justice, procedural violation, handmaid of justice][Coram: S Abdul Nazeer, J., Sanjiv Khanna, J.]
Transfer of Property
In Dharmendra Kumar Singh v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that the right of extension of a lease flows either from a statutory provision or from the terms of the lease. A mere period of obstruction due to judicial interdiction does not extend the lease, when the terms of the lease do not provide such relief. The Court noted that the government was only liable to refund the security deposit and advance royalties it had received. [Key Words: Extension of lease period due to judicial interdiction, liability of government in case of suspension of lease][Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Hrishikesh Roy, J.]
Practice and Procedure
In the State of Madhya Pradesh and Others v. Bherulal, the Bench termed the State’s argument as “preposterous” when it sought to argue that filing delay ought to be condoned where the state has a good case on merits even though it has the power to dismiss cases on filing delay. Depreciating the conduct of the state as the SLP was filed with a delay of 663 days, the Bench imposed costs on the state and directed and directed that the same be recovered from the officers responsible. [Key Words: certificate cases, inordinate delay, government inefficiencies, wastage of judicial time] [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, J., Dinesh Maheshwari, J.,]
In T.K.David vs. Kuruppampady Service Co-Operative Bank Ltd. & Ors., the petitioner filed an SLP against the dismissal of his review petition by the High Court, wherein he had sought the review of its judgment dated 11.03.2015 in Writ Appeal. The petitioner had already challenged the judgement dated 11.03.2015 by way of SLP which came to be dismissed by the Court and the subsequent curative petition also came to be dismissed. The Court relied on its judgments in Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. Yashwant Singh Negi (2013) 2 SCR 550 and reiterated its judgment in Bussa Overseas and Properties Private Limited and Anr. Vs. Union of India and Anr. (2016) 4 SC 696 to state that an SLP challenging the order passed in review of judgment would not be maintainable if the judgment under review itself is not in review. In the present case, the Court noted that the order dismissing the SLP against the judgment under review already being final between the parties, the same judgment could not be challenged in the present SLP and thus, the present SLP was not maintainable. [Key Words: Maintainability of SLP, Challenge of review order, finality of order] [Coram: Ashok Bhusan, J., R Subash Reddy, J., MR Shah, J.]
In Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha & Anr. Vs the State of Gujarat, the petitioners approached the court under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging notifications dated 17 April 2020 and 30 July 2020 issued by the Respondent under Section 5 of the Factories Act 1948 exempting factories registered under Act from the application of Section 51, 54, 56 relating to weekly hours, daily hours and over-time wages for the specified period. The Court allowed the petition and set-aside the notifications. The Court examined the power under Section 5, which could be exercised in an ‘public emergency’ and the meaning of ‘public emergency’ as set out in the explanation to Section 5, which defined it as a threat to the security of India or part of the territory thereof. The Court referred to the meaning of ‘security of India’ as set out in Romesh Thapar (1950) 1 SCR 594 before concluding that the situation caused by COVID-19 as unprecedented as it may be, would not constitute a threat to the ‘security of India’ The Court reiterated the objective of the Factories Act 1948 and labour laws in the scheme of the Constitution of India and further stated that the notifications are an affront to the workers’ right to life and right against forced labour that are secured by Articles 21 and 23 of the Constitution. [Key Words: Section 5 Factories Act, Covid-19, public emergency, suspension of labour laws, Article 21, working hours, over-time wages] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indu Malhotra, J., KM Joseph, J.]
In Chowgule and Co. Private Limited v. Goa Foundation and Others, the Bench directed that
1. The lessee mining companies be granted time up to end of January 2021 for the removal of the minerals excavated/mined on or before 15.03.2018 subject to payment of royalties and other charges;
2. The quantity of mineral to be removed by each of the lessees would be determined by the concerned officials with reference to the records of the State Government maintained at the relevant point of time;
3. In case the minerals cannot be removed by January 2021, the State Government would invoke its powers under Rule 12(1)(hh) of the Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules 2016.
[Key Words: illegal mining, royalty, Goa Foundation I (2014) 6 SCC 590, Goa Foundation II (2018) 4 SCC 218, Goa Foundation III 2020 SCC OnLine SC 103] [Coram: S.A. Bobde, CJI, A.S. Bopanna, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]
In Hospitality Association of Mudumalai v. In Defence of Environment and Animals and Others etc., the Bench observed that the Wildlife Trust of India classified elephants as “keystone species” as their nomadic behaviour had important consequences for the environment: landscape architects, seed dispersal, food chain, nutrition and the umbrella effect. Accepting the High Court’s judgment and rejecting the Petitioner’s challenge, the Supreme Court held that the State Government had the power to notify “elephant corridors” which stemmed from its powers under the Wildlife Act to notify sanctuaries and other protected areas, as also Entries 17A and 17B of the Concurrent List. The Bench also constituted a three-member committee to investigate the claims of the resort owners that the State Government has acted beyond the Supreme Court’s orders in sealing the resorts. [Key Words: Nilgiris, elephant corridor, Project Elephant, illegal resorts, elephant-human conflict, Indian Forest Act 1927, Wildlife Act, migratory path, Private Forests Act 1949, eco-sensitive zone, precautionary principle, Articles 21, 47, 48A and 51A(g) of the Constitution] [Coram: SA Bobde, CJI, S. Abdul Nazeer, J., Sanjiv Khanna, J.]
In Sri Muniraju Gowda P.M. v. Sri Munirathna & Ors., the Bench held that in order for Section 101 of the Representation of People Act 1951 to be attracted it was necessary that the election Petitioner proves that (a) s/he received a majority of the valid votes, or (b) that but for the votes obtained by the returned candidate by corrupt practices, s/he would have obtained the majority of the valid votes. The Bench reiterated and cautioned that the “rule for the exclusion of the votes secured by corrupt practices by the returned candidate in the computation of the total votes and the consequential declaration of the candidate who secured the next highest number of votes as duly elected, can be applied only when there are just two candidates at an election.” [Key Words: material facts, returning officer, corrupt] [Coram: SA Bobde, CJI, AS Bopanna, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]
In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Sudhir Kumar Singh and Others, the private respondents pleaded “illegal and arbitrary” termination of their tender after completion of over one year of a two-year term, and stated that the order of cancellation was bad in law due to the breach of the principles of natural justice in general, and audi alteram partem in particular. Agreeing with the private respondents, the Bench analysed the various judgments of the Supreme Court to summarise the Indian legal position as regards audi alteram partem as follows:
i. Natural justice was a flexible tool in the hands of the judiciary to reach out in fit cases to remedy injustice. The breach of the audi alteram partem rule was, by itself, not enough to conclude that prejudice was caused.
ii. Where procedural and/or substantive provisions of law embody the principles of natural justice, their infraction per se does not lead to invalidity of the orders passed. This was because prejudice must be caused to the litigant, except in the case of a mandatory provision of law which is conceived not only in individual interest, but also in public interest.
iii. No prejudice is caused to the person complaining of the breach of natural justice where such person does not dispute the case against him/her/ it. Examples of not disputing include estoppel, acquiescence, waiver and by way of non-challenge or non-denial or admission of facts, cases in which the Court finds on facts that no real prejudice can therefore be said to have been caused to the person complaining of the breach of natural justice.
iv. In cases where facts can be stated to be admitted or indisputable, and only one conclusion is possible, the Court does not pass futile orders of setting aside or remand when there is, in fact, no prejudice caused. This conclusion must be drawn by the Court on an appraisal of the facts of a case, and not by the authority who denies natural justice to a person.
v. The “prejudice” exception must be more than a mere apprehension or even a reasonable suspicion of a litigant. It should exist as a matter of fact, or be based upon a definite inference of likelihood of prejudice flowing from the non-observance of natural justice.
[Key Words: ex parte appraisal of complaints, cancellation of tender, “public law element”, adequate opportunity, no opportunity] [Coram: RF Nariman, J., Navin Sinha, J., KM Joseph, J.]
In Branch Manager, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company Ltd. And Others vs. Dalbir Kaur, the Court set aside the judgment of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and allowed the appeal of the insurer. The Court relied on Life Insurance Corporation of India vs Asha Goel 2001) 2 SCC 160 and P.C. Chacko vs Chairman, Life Insurance Corporation of India (2008) 1 SCC 321 to reiterate that insurance contracts are governed by utmost good faith and suppression of material facts by the insured was a ground for repudiation of the insurance contract under Section 45 of the Insurance Act 1938. The Court noted that the insured in the present case had suppressed in his insurance proposal, the material fact of him being admitted to a hospital for treatment of ailments in close proximity to his death. [Key Words: Insurance, material facts, suppression, Section 45 Insurance Act 1938] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indu Malhotra, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In M/s Magma Fincorp Ltd. Vs. Rajesh Kumar Tiwari, the Court allowed the appeal and set-aside the impugned orders of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the District Consumer Forum, by relying on Charanjit Singh Chadha (2001) 7 SCC 417 and K.L. Johar AIR 1965 SC 1082 to reiterate that in a Hire-Purchase agreement the financier would continue to be the owner of the financed object till the conditions under the agreement are fulfilled and the option of purchase be exercised by the potential purchaser. Thus, where admittedly, the complainant had not paid the instalments under the agreement, the financier/ appellant’s act of repossessing the subject vehicle would not constitute deficiency in service or unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. The Court also noted that in the present case, the Hire-Purchase agreement between the parties contained an implicit term requiring the financier to give notice to the complainant before repossession. The Court held that the financier had infarct issued a notice but to the wrong address and that did constitute a deficiency in service. The Court therefore directed the financier/ appellant to pay Rs. 15,000/- to the complainant towards damages. [Key Words: Hire-Purchase Agreement, Deficiency of Service, Consumer Protection Act 1986, Notice of repossession] [Coram: DY Chandrachud, J., Indira Banerjee, J.]
In L&T Housing Finance Limited v. Trishul Developers, the Supreme Court held that minor technical objections such as a SARFAESI notice being signed under the name of L&T Finance Limited and L&T Housing Finance Ltd would not render the SARFAESI proceedings illegal.
[Key Words: Technical irregularities and legality of SARFAESI proceedings] [Coram: L Nageswara Rao, J., Hemant Gupta, J., Rastogi J.]