The Lawyer's Digest: Supreme Court Judgments passed in January 2020

Supreme Court Lawyers Digest
Supreme Court Lawyers Digest

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

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

Here are the summaries of judgments passed in January 2020.


In State of Gujarat through Chief Secretary & Another v. Amber Builders, the Court held that on a conjoint reading of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and the Gujarat Public Works Contracts Disputes Arbitration Tribunal Act, 1992, it is evident that a Tribunal constituted under the latter Act could exercise powers vested under Section 17 of the former Act, since there was no inconsistency between the two. [Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.]

Criminal Law

In M.E. Shivalingamurthy v. Central Bureau of Investigation, Bengaluru, the Court relied on the principles laid down in P Vijayan, Sudershan Chakkar, and Debendranath Padhi to hold that at the stage of discharge under Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), the accused can rely only on materials produced by the prosecution. The Court stated that the established principle is to take the material produced by the prosecution, both in the form of oral statements and also documentary material, and act upon it without the same being subjected to questioning through cross-examination and ‘everything assumed in favour of the prosecution’. If a scenario emerges where no offence, as alleged, is made out against the accused, it would then allow the trial court to discharge the accused. [Coram: SK Kaul, KM Joseph, JJ.]

In Sankath Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the two-judge bench held that the incident had taken place in the spur of the moment and was a fall out of an altercation over the excavation of a mound by the brother of the appellant. And therefore, the present case would fall under Part I of Section 304 and not Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). [Coram: DY Chandrachud, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.]

In Padum Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court upheld the conviction of the accused under Sections 467 and 468 of the IPC, while noting that it would be wrong to state that the courts below have relied solely on evidence of the handwriting experts. The Court noted that in the present case, a legitimate presumption is raised against the accused who delivered the instruments and was the only person having knowledge of the same and therefore it was incumbent upon him to explain why he made the alleged signatures on the instruments. [Coram: R Banumathi, AS Bopanna JJ.]

In Shilpa Mittal v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr, the Court examined whether an offence prescribing a maximum sentence beyond 7 years but not providing any minimum sentence or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years can be considered a heinous offence within Section 2(33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act).

The Court noted that although there was a failure to cover this category of offences in the categorization of offences on the JJ Act, the Court could not apply the doctrine of surplusage to remove the word ‘minimum’ in the definition of heinous offences under Section 2(33). The Court noted that the doctrine of surplusage could be applied only when the intent of the legislature is clear and that it cannot be said with certainty that the legislature intended to include this fourth category of offences within the category of heinous offences. The Court noting that between the two possible views, it is inclined to choose the view that is favorable to the children, exercised its powers under Article 142, to direct that from the date when the JJ Act came into force, all offences falling within such fourth category will be dealt as if they fell under ‘serious offences’ under the JJ Act [Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose JJ.]

In State Rep. by the Inspector of Police v. M. Murugesan & Anr., the High Court had directed the constitution of a committee to make recommendations for reforming and rehabilitating convicts in an application for bail under Section 439 of the CrPC. The Court referred to State of Punjab v. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar & Ors, wherein it had deprecated the invocation of jurisdiction in a matter not connected with the case before it. The Court set-aside the order of the High Court, noting that although the object of the order may be laudable, the order was not sustainable in law and could not be issued. [Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta JJ.]

In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Babbu Rathore & Anr, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court to discharge the respondent for offences under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) on the grounds that the investigation had been conducted by an Officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent contrary to Section 9 of POA Act read with Rule 7 of the Rules, 1995. The Court relied on State of MP v. Chunnilal and held that the trial court may proceed further on the charges based on offences under the IPC. [Coram: Indu Malhotra, Ajay Rastogi JJ.]

In Pawan Kumar Gupta v. State of NCT of Delhi, the three judge Bench, dismissing the SLP, stated that though Section 7A of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act) stipulated that an application could be filed before any court at any stage, including the stage after the final disposal of the petition. However, once the convict has already taken the plea beforedifferent courts and the same has been rejected up to the Supreme Court, the convict could not be allowed to re-agitate the same by a fresh application under Section 7A. [Coram: R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, AS Bopanna, JJ.]

In Sardar Ali Khan v. The State of Uttar Pradesh through Principal Secretary, Home Department and Another, the Court invoked Section 482 CrPC to quash criminal proceedings against the 87-year-old appellant, noting that the present criminal case (instituted in 2012) was filed by the complainant/second respondent only to better his civil suit against the appellant whereas no allegation of forgery and impersonation was pleaded in the civil suit itself. [Coram: Mohan M Shantanagoudar, R Subhash Reddy, JJ.]

In State of Kerala v. Rajesh Etc., the Court set aside the order of the High Court releasing the respondents on bail, while noting that the High Court had erred in not giving specific findings as mandated by Section 37(1)(b)(ii) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), which state that bail can be granted only when there are reasonable grounds to believe the accused is not guilty of the alleged crime and that he is not likely to commit any crimes while being released on bail. [Coram: Indu Malhotra, Ajay Rastogi JJ.]

In Kashmira Devi v. State of Uttarakhand, the Court upheld the conviction of the accused mother-in-law under Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC, noting that the third declaration was the only dying declaration to be recorded in the absence of the accused persons and specifically absolved everyone else of ingredients under Section 304B except the mother-in-law. It also noted that the circumstances showed that the in-laws did not allow the victim to be escorted from the Srinagar hospital to Dehradun. [Coram: R Banumathi, AS Bopanna JJ.]

In Ramesan v. The State of Kerala, the Court, relying on Harnam Singh and Bondada Gajapathi Rao, held that an appeal under Section 431CrPC or under Section 394 CrPC would not abate with the death of the accused where a sentence of fine is imposed along with a sentence of imprisonment. The legal heirs of the accused ought to be given an opportunity to make their submissions against the sentence of fine. [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah JJ.]

In Paul v. State of Kerala, the Court, relying on State of UP v. Lakhmi, held that a statement made by the accused under Section 313 CrPC, even if it contains inculpatory admissions, cannot be ignored and the Court may, where there is evidence available, enter a verdict of guilt. The burden of proving that a case falls within the exceptions under Section 300 of the IPC is on the accused. The Court, relying on Rayavarapu Punnayya, also held that Section 304 IPC applies only in cases where culpable homicide is not murder and if the act amounting to culpable homicide satisfies any of the four criteria to bring it under the offence of murder. [Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, KM Joseph, JJ.]

In Dr Nallapareddy Sridhar Reddy v. The State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., the Court, relying on Anant Prakash, CBI v. Karimullah Osan Khan, and Jasvinder Saini, held that under Section 216 of the CrPC, the court is authorised to alter or add charges even after the completion of evidence, arguments, and reserving of the judgment. Such alteration or addition of a charge may be done if in the opinion of the court, there was an omission in the framing of charge or if upon prima facie examination of the material, it leads the court to form a presumptive opinion as to the existence of the factual ingredients constituting the alleged offence. The test to be adopted while deciding an addition or alteration of a charge is that the material must have a direct link or nexus with the ingredients of the alleged offence. The Court also held that the veracity of depositions made by a witness is a question of trial and need not be determined at the time of framing of charge. [Coram: DY Chandrachud, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.]

In Duleshwar & Anr. V. The State of M.P. (Now Chattisgarh), the Court, relying on Masalti v. State of UP, held that even the testimony of a single witness may be sufficient to establish the identity of an accused as a member of an unlawful assembly, but when the size of assembly is quite large and many persons depose in general terms, the test of consistency of more than one witness must be adopted. In a test of consistency, it is the consistent account of the incident and the same cannot be overstretched to search for repetition of name of each of the accused in every testimony. [Coram: AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari JJ.]

In Sushil Sethi v. The State of Arunachal Pradesh, the Court, relying on Vesa Holdings, held that where there are no specific allegations in a complaint that the accused had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of entering into the contract, no prima facie case of the offence under Section 420 is made out. Relying on Maksud Saiyed, the Court held that the vicarious liability of the Director and Managing Director of a company would arise only if such provision exists in the statute and that it is obligatory for the complainant to make requisite allegations that would attract the provisions constituting vicarious liability. [Coram: Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah JJ.]

In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Yogendra Singh Jadon, the Court held that the power under Section 482 of the CrPC cannot be exercised where allegations are required to be proved in a court of law and set aside orders of the High Court quashing charges against the respondent. [Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta JJ.]

In Sushila Aggarwal and others v. State (NCT of Delhi) and another, the Court was called upon to resolve the apparent conflict between Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia, and Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre on the one side and Salauddin and Sunita Devi on the other, on whether the protection granted under Section 438 CrPC should be limited to a fixed period to enable the person to surrender before the trial Court and seek regular bail, and whether the life of anticipatory bail should end at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court.

The Court, relying on the decision of the Constitution Bench in Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia held that the protection granted to a person under Section 438 CrPC should not invariably be limited to a fixed period, that normal conditions under Section 437(3) read with Section 438(2) should be imposed, and if there are specific facts or features in regard to any offence, it is open for the court to impose any appropriate conditions.

On the second question, the Court held that the life of an anticipatory bail order can continue till the end of the trial unless there are special features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail. The Court also clarified certain points to be kept in mind by courts when dealing with applications under Section 438 CrPC. [Coram: Arun Mishra, MR Shah, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, S Ravindra Bhat, JJ.]

In Ahmad Ali Quraishi and Another v. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Another, the Court held that the case before it fell in category VII of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal as evident from the fact that there was a pre-existing property dispute between the parties which explained as why the Section 156(3) application was filed belatedly on August 29, even though the alleged incident took place on July 19. It was further noted that as per police records, it had visited the spot in lieu of another incident and before the alleged concerned incident took place where the police had initiated proceedings under Sections 151, 107, 116 CrPC against both parties. It was reaffirmed that rejection of an application under Section 156(3) did not preclude a complainant from filing a Section 200 CrPC complaint.

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah JJ.]

In Vicky @ Vikas v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi), the Court chose to exercise its powers under Section 427 CrPC, despite the fact that the convictions were not part of one transaction and held that the sentences ran concurrently. The Court was guided by factors such as the Probation Officer’s report, his age, his family condition etc.

[Coram: R Banumathi, AS Bopanna JJ.]

In Govind Prasad Kejriwal v. State of Bihar & Another, the Court allowed the appeals exercising powers under Section 482, as it found that the criminal case was essentially only civil in nature. It held that while it was correct that in exercise of its powers under Section 202 CrPC, the Magistrate was required to take a broad view. However, the Magistrate (under Section 202) was required to consider whether even a prima facie case was made out or not, and whether the criminal proceedings initiated are an abuse of process of law or the Court or not and/or whether the dispute is purely of a civil nature or not and/or whether the civil dispute was tried to be given a colour of criminal dispute or not.

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah JJ.]

In Basheera Begam v. Mohammad Ibrahim, the Court, rendering a lengthy 87- page judgment wherein it extensively dealt with the contradictory nature of the witness testimonies, upheld the impugned order of the High Court which had overturned the finding of conviction by the Trial Court. In this case, it was reaffirmed that:

a) Statements made to the police under Section 161 CrPC are inadmissible as evidence.

b) Expert witnesses should not be accepted unconditionally as they have be fallible. This principle was affirmed in the context of the science of identification of handwriting.

c) If a conviction is to be sustained on circumstantial evidence, the circumstnaces ought to lead only to the accused’s guilt and not be explainable by any other hypothesis.

d) An appeal against acquittal will be treated differently from an appeal against conviction as, in the former, interference would be warranted by perversity is proven.

[Coram: R Banumathi, Indira Banerjee, JJ.]

Consumer Law

In The Branch Manager, Indigo Airlines, Kolkata and Another v. Kalpana Rani Debbarma and Others, the Court overturned the judgments of the District Consumer Forum, the State Consumer Commission and the National Consumer Commission while holding that the pleadings could not establish a deficiency in service on part of the airlines. It stated that the conditions of carriage required the passengers to reach the boarding gate 25 minutes before departure and the case of the respondent would fall under the category of “no-show” and not “denied boarding".

[Coram: AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]

In Star India (P) Ltd. v. Society of Catalysts & Anr, the question before the Court was whether the Har Seat Hot Seat contest of Kaun Banega Crorepati was a collusion between Airtel and Star India and amounted to an unfair trade practice under Section 2(1)(r)(3)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act.

The Court held that this provision requires the offering of gifts or prizes with the intention of not providing them as offered and the creation of the impression that the gift or prize is being given free of charge in spite of the cost of the item actually being covered either fully or partly by the amount charged in the relevant transaction. The Court held that since Airtel was merely a sponsor/advertiser and Star India would be independently liable for the prize money out of its pocket, irrespective of the revenue earned by Airtel. Under the agreement between Airtel and Star India, there was no provision for revenue sharing between the parties. Thus, the NCDRC had no basis to hold that the appellants paid the prize money out of the revenue collected from the SMSs and that there was no other cogent material on record to render a finding of unfair trade practice.

[Coram: Mohan M Shantanagoudar, R Subhash Reddy, JJ.]

Service Law and Administrative Law

In Balkrishna Ram v. Union of India and Another, the question before the Court was whether an appeal from an order of Single Judge of the High Court in a case relating to armed forces personnel, ought to be transferred to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) or be heard by the High Court itself. Relying upon paragraphs 36, 78 of L Chandrakumar as also Sections 14(1) and 34 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, the Bench held that the AFT was not accorded the powers of the High Court under Article 226. The Court reiterated that the High Court had the jurisdiction to entertain all matters pertaining to the AFT under its writ jurisdiction. The Court noted that the rule of alternative remedy was only a rule of discretion and not jurisdiction. Paragraph 194 of Rojer Mathew was cited in support.

[Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.]

In Indian Bank and Others v. Promila and Another, the Court followed its decisions in Canara Bank v. Mahesh Kumar and State of Himachal Pradesh v. Parkash Chand to reiterate that it did not have the powers to substitute or replace a scheme of compassionate appointment, as it was bound by the scheme as applicable on the date of death.

[Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, KM Joseph, JJ.]

In State of Odisha & Others v. Ganesh Chandra Sahoo, the Court reversed the decision of the High Court, which substituted the punishment of discharge with that of compulsory retirement of the respondent. The two-judge bench stated that the High Court could not have relied on Rajinder Kumar v. State of Haryana wherein the delinquent employee was absent for only 37 days. The respondent herein had absented himself for 7 years and also continuously evaded the Commandant’s orders to present himself for medical examination.

[Coram: DY Chandrachud, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.]

In Mangilal Kajodia v. Union of India and Others, the Court passed an order under Article 142 modifying the order of the Central government, holding that although the petitioner would not be entitled to payment of arrears of salary for the period he was out of service, the Kendriya Vidyalaya Samiti (KVS) should issue a separate order fixing his salary having regard to the notional increments from the date he would have been entitled to the increment in the year 2009, while taking into consideration the relevant increments which accrue thereafter. The Centre had initially resolved to treat the petitioner’s absence as dies non, as instead of joining his new post at KVS Kargil, the petitioner refused to join and litigated citing harassment for uncovering corruption.

[Coram: RF Nariman, S Ravindra Bhat, JJ.]

In Union of India v. W. Sep. Virendra Kumar, the Court set aside an order of the AFT dismissing the respondent after noting that the AFT did not have the jurisdiction to direct re-trial on grounds except those mentioned in Section 16(2) of the Army Act, 1954.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Ajay Rastogi, JJ.]

In Shamsher Singh Sandhu v. Union of India, the appellant continued to work at the rank of Inspector General until he was reverted to the rank of Deputy Inspector General without issuance of show cause, or provided any opportunity of being heard. As a result of the various orders passed during the litigation, the appellant acted as an Inspector General till superannuation i.e. for nearly four years. The Court invoked its powers under Article 142 to direct that the retiral dues be computed and released on the basis that the appellant has retired from service in the substantive rank of Inspector General.

[Coram: DY Chandrachud, Ajay Rastogi, JJ.]

In Om Pal Singh v. Disciplinary Authority and Others, the order of dismissal was set aside and a punishment of reduction in time scale of pay was imposed without disturbing the findings of the Inquiry Officer against the appellant. The Court reiterated JK Synthetics, noting that it was for the Disciplinary Authority to take a decision as to the period of suspension and that in case of reinstatement as a consequence of imposition of a lesser punishment, neither back-wages nor continuity of service nor consequential benefits follow as a natural or necessary consequence of such reinstatement because "award of back wages for the period when the employee has not worked may amount to rewarding the delinquent employee and punishing the employer for taking action against the misconduct committed by the employee, which should be avoided."

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In Mohd. Rashid v. The Director, Local Bodies, New Secretariat & Ors. , where an advertisement calling for direct recruitment to the post of Upper Division Clerks/Head Clerks was challenged, the Court, while dismissing the appeals, held that municipal bodies may fill up the posts either by way of direct recruitment after the posts are not filled by way of promotion and/or deputation.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In Rajneesh Khajuria v. M/s. Wockhardt Limited & Anr., where the respondent had terminated the appellant when he did not report to his transferred posting, the Court relied on State of Punjab v. Khemi Ram to hold that the mere fact that the employee did not receive the order of transfer would not render the termination fake. The Court also noted that where the transfer is in accordance with the terms of employment, no mala fide can be attributed to it. It was further noted that a plea of unfair labour practice would be unsustainable without impleading the person alleged to be acting with malice. The Court also stated jurisdiction of the Industrial Court is to decide complaints relating to unfair labour practices, except those under Item 1 of Schedule IV, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Labour Court, per the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act 1971.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In Union of India & Others v. Brig. Balbir Singh, the Court relied on Confederation of Ex. Servicemen Associations to hold that an army officer posted as Chief Engineer in the Military Engineering Services could not seek parity of grade pay with his civilian counterparts in the Indian Defence Services, even if the performed similar functions since the members of the Armed Forces were a distinct and distinguishable class. The respondent was governed by the Military Engineer Services (Army Personnel) Regulations, 1989 and not the Indian Defence Service of Engineers (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2016.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In Dr. Vijayakumaran C.P.V. v. Central University of Kerala & Others, the Court relied on the parameters set out in Pavanendra Narayan Verma, to hold that an order of termination that adverts to report of the Internal Complaints Committee, and also the recommendations of the Executive Committee to proceed against the appellant as per service rules could not be said to be termination simplicitor.

[Coram: AM Khanwilkar, Hemant Gupta, Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]

In Sanjay Marutirao Patil v. Union of India, the Court relied on Harjeet Singh Sandhu to hold that reducing the appellant’s rank by way of a summary court martial, and subsequently terminating his services on the basis of the same allegations in exercise of Section 20 of the Army Act, 1950 would not amount to double jeopardy, as the power of dismissal under Section 20 was different and independent of a summary court martial.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, MR Shah, JJ.]

In Chairman/Managing Director, U.P. Power Corporation Limited. & Others v. Ram Gopal where the respondent had challenged his termination after a delay of 12 years in 1990, the Court relied on Alok Kumar Srivastava to state that the High Court could not have relied on the case of Shyam Behari, a case where the judgment was not in rem but only based on the special facts of that case, to either draw parity or condone the delay on part of the respondent.

[Coram: SA Bobde, CJ, BR Gavai, Surya Kant, JJ.]

In M/s. Pawan Hans Limited & Ors. V. Aviation Karmachari Sanghatana & Ors., the Court, relying on Regional Provident Fund Commissions v. Sanatan Dharam Girls Secondary School, held that the two conditions for determining whether a company is exempt from the applicability of the Employees’ Provident Funds And Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPF Act) under Section 16(1) was whether the establishment belongs to or is under the control of the Central or state government, and whether the employees of such establishment are entitled to the benefit of contributory provident fund or old age pension in accordance with any scheme or rule framed by the Central or state governments.

As the appellant’s PF Trust Regulations were not framed by either government and as they were not applicable to all employees of the company, the company was not exempt under Section 16. Second, Clauses 1.3 and 2.5 of the PF Trust Regulations define employee to include any employee and as per Section 2(f) of the EPF Act, the definition of employee is inclusive and includes any person engaged either directly or indirectly and thus the respondent union and all other similarly situated contractual employees would be entitled to the benefit of provident fund under the PF Trust Regulations or the EPF Act. Third, the benefits shall not extend to employees who have superannuated, expired or have ceased to be in the employment of the appellant on the date of the judgment.

[Coram: UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra, JJ.]

In Union of India v. Chandra Bhushan Yadav, the Court first relied on Ajmer Singh and Section 5 of the CrPC and held that the CrPC is not applicable in respect of matters covered by the Air Force Act, as it was special law and therefore it was not mandatory to report such offences to civil police for the registration of an FIR. Second, that where the accused refuses to cross-examine witnesses, there is no violation of Rule 156 of the Air Force Rules, and third, relying on Ex Flt. Lt. GS Bajwa, the Court held that where a convening order has the approval of a competent authority and is signed by the Senior Staff Officer, it cannot be termed as unauthorized under Rule 43.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Deepak Gupta, JJ.]

In Governing Body Swami Shraddhanand College v. Amar Nath Jha & Anr., the Court held that the rejection of the appointment of the respondent as the Vice-Principal of the appellant college, on the grounds that there was no prior approval, was unjustified. This, when the Governing Body had considered him suitable and not ineligible in any other manner and when the Governing Body had resolved to appoint the respondent as the Vice-Principal and had sent the communication for approval much earlier.

[Coram: R Banumathi, AS Bopanna, JJ.]

In Union of India & Ors. V. R. Karthik, the Court held that under Section 15 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, the Tribunal exercises jurisdiction, powers and authority against any order, decision, finding or sentence passed by a court martial or any matter connected therewith or incidental thereto and that Section 15(6) of the Act empowers the Tribunal to substitute findings of the court martial including in disciplinary proceedings, to set aside punishments imposed by court marital which it finds disproportionate to the misconduct. The Supreme Court, in appellate jurisdiction, must be slow in interfering with the Tribunal’s order.

[Coram: L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In The Chief Regional Officer The Oriental Insurance Co Ltd v. Pradip and Anr., the Court, relying on Chairman and Managing Director, Food Corporation of India FCI v. Jagdish Balaram Bahira held that where a candidate had been appointed to a reserved post, the invalidation of the claim to belong to the reserved group for which the post was reserved would render the appointment void ab initio and that government resolutions and administrative circulars cannot override constitutional or statutory norms.

[Coram: DY Chandrachud, KM Joseph, JJ.]

In Shripal Bhati & Anr. V. State of U.P. & Ors., the Court considered the validity of the recruitment on deputation and subsequent absorption under the NOIDA Service Regulations, 1981. The Court held that Regulation 16, when read as a whole and harmoniously, provides that recruitment to any post can be made by deputation, whereas a contrary reading would render Regulations 16(2)(ii) and (iii) redundant. Further, as deputation as a source of recruitment is available, the absorption of a deputationist is legal, especially when the absorption is pursuant to the relevant rules under an order of the State government. The Court relied on Jasbhai Motibhai Desai and held that unless injury is suffered personally, a person cannot be said to be aggrieved and has no locus standi. The Court also observed that an employee can be put in a position which results in his being an employee neither of the authority to which he was deputed nor of the parent department.

[Coram: Mohan M Shantanagoudar, Krishna Murari, JJ.]

In State of Odisha v. Gobinda Behera, the Supreme Court allowed the state’s appeal holding that the respondent was under an obligation to inform the state authorities that there was a criminal case against him when he was seeking employment as a constable in the state police. The Court noted that even the criminal case was quashed in exercise of the High Court’s Section 482 jurisdiction on the basis of a compromise between the parties, much after the order of discharge.

[Coram: DY Chandrachud, KM Joseph, JJ.]

Constitutional Law

In Sk. Md. Rafique v. Managing Committee, Contai Rahamania High Madrasah and Others, the Court upheld the constitutional validity of Sections 8, 10,11, and 12 of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008, under which the State Government held the power to appoint teachers to the minority institutions. Referring to its past decisions, the Court the case laws into three categories (decisions up to TMA Pai Foundation (2002) 8 SCC 481, decision in TMA Pai Foundation, decisions after TMA Pai Foundation) for purposes of analysis. The two-judge bench stated that as long as the intent of the Act was to achieve excellence, the State would not only be within its right to formulate policies for employment but also make the employments directly. The judgment was caveated at paragraph 50 where it was stated that ‘it needs to be clarified that if the minority institution has a better candidate available than the one nominated under a regulatory regime, the institution would certainly be within its rights to reject the nomination made by the authorities but if the person nominated for imparting education is otherwise better qualified and suitable, any rejection of such nomination by the minority institution would never help such institution in achieving excellence and as such, any such rejection would not be within the true scope of the Right protected under Article 30(1) of the Constitution.

[Coram: Arun Mishra, U.U.Lalit, JJ]

In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, the Court examined the constitutional validity of the executive powers used to restrict internet services in Jammu and Kashmir. The three-judge bench concluded as follows:

  1. The State and its authorities be directed to publish all its orders in force and any future orders under Section 144 CrPC for the suspension of telecom services (including internet) to enable aggrieved persons to challenge it before the High Court or any other forum.

  2. Freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g). All restrictions thereto have to be under Articles 19(2) and 19(6) and meet the test of proportionality.

  3. An order suspending internet services is impermissible under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 if intended to be indefinite.

  4. Any order suspending internet issued under the Suspension Rules, must adhere to the principle of proportionality and must not extend beyond necessary duration.

  5. Any order suspending internet under the Suspension Rules is subject to judicial review based on the parameters set out in the judgment itself.

  6. The existing Suspension Rules neither provide for a periodic review nor a time limitation for an order issued under the Suspension Rules. Till this gap is filled, the Review Committee (as constituted under Rule 2(5) of the Suspension Rules) must conduct a periodic review within seven working days of the previous review, in terms of the requirements under Rule 2(6).

  7. The State/competent authorities are to review all orders suspending internet services immediately.

  8. Orders not in accordance with the judgment, must be revoked. Any future order must be in accordance with the judgment.

  9. The State/concerned authorities are directed to consider allowing government websites, localized/limited electronic banking facilities, hospitals services and other essential services, in those regions, wherein the internet services are not likely to be restored immediately.

  10. The power under Section 144 CrPC, being remedial as well as preventive, is exercisable not only where there exists present danger, but also when there is an apprehension of danger. However, the danger contemplated should be in the nature of an “emergency” and for the purpose of preventing obstruction and annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed.

  11. The power under Section 144 CrPC cannot be used to suppress legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights.

  12. An order passed under Section 144 CrPC should state the material facts to enable judicial review of the same. The power should be exercised in a bona fide and reasonable manner, and the same should be passed by relying on the material facts, indicative of application of mind.

  13. While exercising the power under Section 144, CrPC, the Magistrate is duty bound to balance the rights and restrictions based on the principles of proportionality and thereafter, apply the least intrusive measure.

  14. Repetitive orders under Section 144 CrPC would be an abuse of power.

  15. The Respondent State/competent authorities are to review immediately the need for continuance of any existing orders passed under Section 144 CrPC in accordance with law laid down above. [Article 19 of the Constitution of India, Section 144 of CrPC]

[Coram: N.V.Ramana,J., R.Subhash Reddy, J.,B.R.Gavai, J.]

Siddaraju v. State of Karnataka and Others, was referred to the present three-judge bench by order of reference dated 03.02.2017, 2017 SCC Online SC 1940 on the question of conflict between Rajiv Kumar Gupta (2016) 13 SCC 133 and Indra Sawhney 1992 Supp (3) 215 insofar as the Union argued that Rajiv Kumar Gupta allowed reservation in promotions, the larger bench in Indra Sawhney prohibited reservations in promotions. The Court held that that Rajiv Kumar Gupta could not be faulted as it was correct in stating that Indra Sawhney was dealing with reservation under Article 16(4) whereas it was dealing with Article 16(1). Moreover, even the reference before three-judge bench stood answered in National Federation of the Blind v. Sanjay Kothari, Secy. Deptt. of Personnel and Training 2015 (9) SCALE 611 wherein the contempt petition arising out of Union of India and Another v. National Federation of the Blind and Others (2013) 10 SCC 772 was decided. [The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, Article 16 of the Constitution of India]

[Coram: R.F.Nariman, Aniruddha Bose, V.Ramasubramaniun,JJ.]

In Keisham Meghachandra Singh v. The Hon’ble Speaker Manipur Legislative Assembly & Ors., the Court, relying on SA Sampath Kumar SLP(C) NO. 33677/2015, Rajendra Singh Rana (2007) 4 SCC 270, and Paragraphs 110, 111 of Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu (1992) Supp. (2) SCC 65 and held that a failure to exercise jurisdiction vested in a Speaker is not covered by paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule and when a Speaker does not decide a petition within a reasonable time, the jurisdiction of the HC in exercise of its power of judicial review is attracted. Further, the Court also held that paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule protects the exclusive jurisdiction that vests in the Speaker to decide disqualification petitions and the exception is only qua interlocutory disqualifications which may have grave, immediate, and irreversible repercussions and that Kihoto does not interdict judicial review in aid of the Speaker arriving at a prompt decision on disqualification. [Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, Judicial Review]

[Coram: R.F.Nariman, Aniruddha Bose, V. Ramasubramaniun,JJ.]

In The Home Secretary (Prison) & Ors. V. H. Nilofer Nisha, concerning a scheme of the Government of Tamil Nadu under Article 161 of the Constitution for considering pre-mature release of convicted prisoners, the Court held that persons detained pursuant to conviction, could not seek relief under the writ of habeas corpus. The Court also held that it is not for the writ court to decide whether a prisoner is entitled to parole or remission and that these matters are in the domain of the government. [Habeas Corpus, Article 161 of the Constitution]

[Coram: S.Abdul Nazeer, Deepak Gupta, JJ.]

In State of MP v. MP Transport Workers Fedn., there was a challenge to certain provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment) and Misc. Provisions Act, 2002 as ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution as it took away the power to try offences under labour laws from the labour ourts and conferred it on regular criminal courts. The Court held that as for over 10 years the process had been as pursuant to this Act and no grievances had been raised against the same and there was no representation on behalf of the respondents. Thus, the Court set aside the impugned order and upheld the constitutionality of the Act. [Constitutionality of Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment) and Misc. Provisions Act 2002]

[Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul,K.M.Joseph, JJ.]

In Mukesh Kumar v. Union of India and others, the Court while deciding a writ petition filed by Mukesh Kumar, a death-row convict challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President, relying on Epuru Sudhakar (2006) 8 SCC 161 held that where all relevant records as required by Shatrughan Chauhan (2014) 3 SCC 1 were placed before the President, it cannot be contended that relevant materials were not placed or that there was failure to consider relevant circumstances. The Court also stated that it is not incumbent upon the Jail Superintendent to give his recommendations, as the relevant column of the Nominal Roll uses the phrase ‘recommendations of the Jail Superintendent, ‘if any’. The Court, relying on Maru Ram (1981) 1 SCC 107 also held that where power is vested in a very high authority, it must be presumed that the said authority would take into consideration all aspects of the matter and merely because the mercy petition was rejected quickly, it cannot be assumed that the matter was proceeded with pre-determined mind. Further, relying on the affidavit filed by the DG, Prisons the Court held that where a convict can come out of his single room and mix with other prison inmates, it is not a violation of the restrictions on solitary confinement laid down in Sunil Batra (1978) 4 SCC 494. [Articles 32, 72 of the Constitution of India]

[Corma: R. Banumati, Ashok Bhusan, AS. Bhopanna, JJ.]


In Shirpur Education Society through its Principal v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors., in an appeal against a judgment of the High Court declining the appellant’s claim to admit students in a course owing to conflicts between the Pharmacy Council of India (‘PCI’) and the All India Council for Technical Education (‘AICTE’), the Court held that as the appellants had taken the precaution of approaching the High Court in a timely manner by filing writ petitions for each academic year, interests of the students who were admitted up to and inclusive of the academic year 2018-19 and who had graduated would have to be protected and directed the PCI to give due recognition to such students. The Court also held that in violation of earlier orders, the appellant college had admitted students in excess of the notified intake capacity and did not extend any protection to them. The Court declined to answer the question of which body, AICTE or PCI would be primarily responsible for the regulation of pharmaceutical regulation in India, as it was pending before another Bench. [Protection of Student Interests, Admission in excess of notified intake capacity]

[Coram: R.F.Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat,JJ.]

Environmental Law

In Hanuman Laxman Aroskar v. Union of India, The Government of India moved an application before the Supreme Court seeking that the directions of the 40th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee be taken on record so that the Supreme Court’s embargo imposed on the Environmental Clearance for an airport at Mopa, Goa could be lifted (pursuant to Hanuman Laxman Aroskar (2019) 15 SC 401.The Court passed detailed directions allowing the development of the programme subject to the Concessionaire (GMR) carrying out the same on a zero-carbon basis.

[Coram: D.Y.Chandrachud, Hemant Gupta,J J.]

In Chowgule and Company Private Limited v. Goa Foundation, the Court was asked to ascertain the meaning of the terms ‘manage their affairs’ and ‘mining operations’ as stated in paragraph 154.6 of Goa Foundation II (2018) 4 SCC 218 wherein it was stated that miners hit by Goa Foundation I (2014) 6 SCC 590 were ‘directed to stop all mining operations with effect from 16.3.2018’. While the Petitioners contended that ceasing ‘mining operations’ from 16.03.2018 did not preclude them from transporting extracted ores where royalty had been paid, the Respondents contended that transportation of ores constituted ‘mining operations.’ Agreeing with the Appellant’s contention, the Court held that the Appellants were permitted transportation of already mined iron ore lying ore lying unused at various sites in Goa, if royalty was already paid. [iron ore, mining, plain and literal interpretation, Goa, Rule 12(1)(gg) of the Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules 2016]

[Coram: S.A.Bobde, CJI., B.R.Gavai, Surya Kant, JJ.]

Insurance Law

In Mohammed Siddique & Another v. National Insurance Company Limited and Others, the Court reversed the decision of the High Court reducing the amount of compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (‘MV Act’). The two-judge bench noted that having more than one pillion rider would not amount to contributory negligence as contributory negligence could be invoked only if it could be proved that “but for the violation of the law, either the accident could have been averted or the impact could have been minimized”. The Court also noted that the High Court erred in applying the multiplier of 14 instead of 18 by imagining a conflict between Trilok Chandra (1996) 4 SCC 362 and subsequent judgments, when Munna Lal Jain (2015) 6 SCC 347 had settled the law in favour of taking the age of the deceased as the consider consideration for the multiplier.

[ Coram: N.V.Ramana, V. Ramasubramanian, JJ.]

In Ramkhiladi & Anr. V. The United India Insurance Company & Anr, the Court cited Ningamma v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. (2009) 13 SCC 710 to state that a borrower of the vehicle steps into the shoes of the owner and therefore a claim against the owner of the vehicle and its insurer, who are not third-parties to the vehicle under Section 163A of the MV Act would not be maintainable. The Court also noted that in terms of the insurance contract, the owner of the vehicle too would be entitled to a compensation of Rupees One Lakh and directed that the same be paid to the Appellant along with an interest of 7.5 per cent per annum from the date of the claim petition till realization. [Section. 163A Motor Vehicles Act].

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, M.R.Shah, JJ.]

In National Insurance Company Limited v. Birender and Ors. , the Court relied on Manjuri Bera v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. & Anr. (2007) 10 SCC 643 to hold that a major son who is earning and not fully dependant on the deceased would be covered under the expression ‘legal representative’ as under Section 155 of the MV Act. It also relied on National Insurance Company Limited v. Pranay Sethi (2017) 16 SCC 680 to hold that for the purposes of computation of compensation, the gross salary (less tax amount) should be considered as the income of the deceased. The Court went on to hold that where the dependants are eligible and avail financial assistance under the Haryana Compassionate Assistance to the Dependants of Deceased Government Employees Rules 2006, the compensation must be reduced to an extent commensurate with such assistance. [Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, Haryana Compassionate Assistance to the Dependents of Deceased Government Employees Rules 2006]

[Coram: A.M. Khanwilkar,Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]

In Sangrur Sales Corporation v. United India Insurance Company Limited & Anr. , the Court relied on United India Insurance Co Ltd v. Pushpalaya Printers (2004) 3 SCC 694 to hold that in the event of ambiguity, terms of an insurance contract which is beneficial to the insured and is consistent with the purpose for which the policy was taken must be preferred. [Insurance, Interpretation of Contracts]

[Coram: D.Y. Chandrachud, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.]

In Gurshinder Singh v. Shriram General Insurance Co., the three-judge bench being called upon to resole the conflict between Om Prakash vs. Reliance General Insurance & Anr. (2017) 9 SCC 724 and Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Parvesh Chander Chadha (2018) 9 SCC 798, the Court confirmed Om Prakash noting that the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (‘CPA’) being a beneficial legislation has to be construed pragmatically. The Court noted that the object behind the second part of the Condition No.1 of the Standard Form for Commercial Vehicles Package Policy dealing with theft or criminal act other than accident is so that if the police are informed, the steps for recovery can immediately initiated. Therefore, where the insured has lodged the FIR immediately after the theft of the vehicle, mere delay in informing the insurer cannot be a ground to deny the claim of the insured. [Theft, FIR, interpretation of insurance contract]

[Coram: S.A. Bobde, CJI., B.R. Gavai, Surya Kant JJ.]

In Oriental Insurance Company Limited v. M/s J.K. Cement Works, the Court rejected the Appellant’s argument that a contract of insurance for flood and inundation of goods would not include heavy and extraordinary rains. The Court noted that ‘flood’ and ‘inundation’ were often used synonymously to refer to the act of water overflow over land which is generally dry.

[Coram: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, R. Subhash Reddy, JJ.]

In Shree Ambica Medical Stores and Others v. The Surat People’s Cooperative Bank Limited the Court observed that the mere act of submitting the signed insurance proposal along with the money, does not conclude a contract of insurance. In the present case, the insurer had specifically refunded part of the premium while excluding storm, tornado, flood and inundation perils, i.e. STFI perils and also communicated such exclusion to the appellant. Therefore, damage of goods due to flooding was not covered under the insurance contract.

[Coram: D.Y. Chandrachud, Ajay Rastogi, JJ.]

In Urmila Devi and Others v. Branch Manager, National Insurance Company, the three-judge bench allowing the appeal held that on a conjoint reading of Section 173 of the MVA, Rule 249 of the Bihar Motor Vehicle Rules, and Order XLI Rule 22 of the CPC would reveal, that there was no restriction on the right to appeal of any of the parties, and that any party aggrieved by any part of the Award would be entitled to prefer an appeal. Moreover, if any respondent has not appealed from part of decree, apart from supporting the findings in its favour, it is also entitled to take any cross objections to the decree which he could have taken by way of appeal. This interpretation was adopted as an anomalous situation could not be allowed to arise where an appellant could raise any ground but respondent could not file an cross objection when the latter might not have appealed merely to give a quietus to the litigation. It was also reiterated that Sub-rule 4 stated that cross objections would be heard independently even in case an appeal failed.

[Coram: S.A. Bobde, CJI., B.R. Gavai, Surya Kant JJ.]

Specific Performance, Contract, Code of Civil Procedure, Transfer of Property

In Ambalal Sarabhai Enterprise, Limited v. KS Infraspace LLP Limited and Another, the Court relied on Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Gondal and Ors. vs. Girdharbhai Ramjibhai Chhaniyara and Ors. (1997) 5 SCC 468 to hold that there was no concluded contract as there were prolonged negotiations and no mutuality was established between the parties. The Court also relied on Dalpat Kumar (1992) 1 SCC 719 stating that the grant of an injunction was an equitable relief where conduct of the party desiring the injunction assumed importance apart from a prima facie case, balance of convenience, irreparable injury (reliance on Motilal Jain v. Ramdasi (2000) 6 SCC 420). In this case, the plaintiff was unable to satisfy the court as to the reason for its delay in instituting the suit. [Sections 36, 37 of the Specific Relief Act 1963, Order XXXIX CPC]

[Coram: Navin Sinha, Krishna Murari, JJ.]

In Gajaraba Bhukhubha Vadher & Others v. Sumara Umar Amad (D) through Legal Heirs and Others, the Court remitted the matter back to the High Court noting that the High Court had erred in not adjudicating the accompanying application of the Appellants seeking leave to file the Second Appeal since they were not parties to the civil suit (being subsequent purchasers) but had substantial interest in the property. [Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Section 52 of Transfer of Property Act, 1882]

[Coram: R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna, Hrishikesh Roy, JJ.]

In A. Mahalakshmi v. Bala Venkatram (D) Through LR & Anr, the Court relied on Celina Coelho Pereira v. Ulhas Mahabaleshwar Kholkar (2010) 1 SCC 217 to hold that where there is no genuine partnership and exclusive possession is given to a person other than the tenant, it amounts to sub-letting and was a ground for eviction. [Sections 2(6), 10(2)(i), 10(2)(ii)(a)(b) and 102(iii) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960]

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, M.R. Shah, JJ.]

In K. Lubna & Ors. V. Beevi & Ors., the Court followed its decision in M. Meeramytheen & Ors. V. K. Parameswaran Pillai (2010) 15 SCC 359, to hold that if a tenant sub-lets even a part of the premises, the owners/lessors are entitled to a decree of eviction for the entire premises. [Sections 2(i), 11(2), 11(3), 11(4)(i), 11(4)(ii) of the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1965, Sub-letting and lease]

[Coram: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, K.M. Joseph, JJ.]

In Shri Uttam Chand (D) through LRs. V. Nathu Ram (D) through LRs & Ors., the Court relied on M Siddiq (D) through LRs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors. (2019) SCC OnLine SC 1440, T. Anjanappa & Ors. V. Somaliganappa & Anr. (2006) 7 SCC 570 to reiterate that Animus Possidendi is a requisite of adverse possession, i.e. the such possession was to be hostile to the true owner of the property.

[Coram: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

In Desh Raj v. Balkishan (D) Through Proposed LRs Ms. Mohini , the Court held that the unamended Order VIII Rule 1 (as applicable to the case before it) was only directory and did not do away with the inherent discretion of courts to condone certain delays, including delay in filing written statement. The High Court had erred in applying Oku Tech 2016 SCC Online Delhi 6601, whereas the law was governed by Atcom Technologies (2018) 6 SCC 639.

[Coram: S.A. Bobde, CJI., B.R. Gavai, Surya Kant JJ.]

In M/s Fair Communication and Consultants and Another v. Sukendra Kerdile, Where the appellant-defendant in a suit for recovery, contended that the court could not have gone into the question of determining the actual consideration from the sale of plaintiff’s property (the proceeds of which were loaned to the appellant-defendant), because such an argument would be based on a prohibited transaction under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act 1988 (‘Benami Act’), the Court rejected the contention after noting that appellant has not proved any transaction to be Benami, or state that someone other than the purchase was the real owner and nor was the interest in the property, a subject matter of the suit.

[Coram: R.F. Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ.]

In Varadarajan v. Kanakavalli and Others, the three-judge bench of the Court relied on V. Uthirapathi (1998) 3 SCC 148, Daya Ram AIR 1965 SC 1049, Muthukrishna Ayyar ILR 26 Mad 230, Dashrath Rao Kate (2010) 1 SCC 677, Mohinder Kaur AIR 1981 P&H 130, Jaladi Suguna (2008) 8 SCC 521, Suresh Kumar Bansal (2010) 2 SCC 162 , to hold that where the appellant-applicant had claimed to be the legal representative of the successful plaintiff with the support of a registered will and in the absence of a rival claimant, it was not justifiable on part of the High Court to dismiss the application under Order XII, Rule 5 of the CPC. The Court further stated that the jurisdiction to determine who is a legal heir is summary and did not operate as res judicata.

[Coram: A.M. Khanwilkar, Hemant Gupta, Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]

In H.P. Puttaswamy v. Thimmamma & Others, the Court that as per Section 32 (and subject to Sections 31, 88, 89) of the Registration Act 1908, there was no necessity of the presence of a purchaser of immoveable property before the appropriate authority under the Registration Act 1908 at the time of effecting the registration of a deed of conveyance.

[Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.]

In Sukhwinder Singh v. Jagroop Singh and Another, the Court held that the purchaser should demonstrate his “ready and willingness” not only by showing financial capacity but also efforts taken to intimate the seller to pay the remainder of the consideration as under Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (‘SRA’). The Court also observed that the courts below were wrong to observe that the seller had failed to enter appearance because he was in collusion with the subsequent purchaser who was also the second defendant. The Court also stated that the trial court was wrong to conclude the subsequent purchaser must have known about the prior agreement to sell between the parties merely because all of them reside in the same village.

[Coram: R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna, JJ.]

In Ghat Talab Kaulan Wala v. Baba Gopal Dass Chela Surti Dass (Dead) by LR Ram Niwas, the Court held that Section 92 of the CPC applies suits against a trust either for the removal of a trustee, appointment of a new trustee, or vesting any property and not for suits where the trust is the plaintiff and that the procedure under Section 92 does not apply to suits by trusts against its Sevadar. The Court also held that the rights of a legal representative cannot be wider than the rights of the deceased whom he represents.

[Coram: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, JJ.]

Practice and Procedure

In Om Prakash v. Suresh Kumar, while modifying the impugned judgment purely on the facts before it, the Court stated that the Appellants could not be allowed to contend that it was not bound by the admission made by its counsel before the Court as the same was done without the Appellant’s instructions. Rejecting the Appellant’s argument as also his reliance on Himalayan Coop. Group Housing Society (2015) 7 SCC 373, the Court noted that the tenor of the statement before the High Court made it obvious that it was an unequivocal statement made by a counsel who was undisputedly engaged in the High Court concerning the subject matter of dispute.

[Coram: A.M. Khanwilkar, Ajay Rastogi, JJ.]

In Kapico Kerala Resorts Pvt. Limited v. State of Kerala and Others, the three-judge bench referred to Khoday Distilleries (2019) 4 SCC 376 and Kunhaymmed (2000) 6 SCC 359, to hold that the Petitioners before it were bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Vaamika Island (2013) 8 SCC 760. The petitioners had argued that the decision in Vaamika Island was confined to Vettila Thuruthu island and not Nediyathuruthu island (to which the appeals in Kapico related). After noting that the findings in Vaamika were common and applicable to the present Petitioner, the Court further stated that while it was true that the decision in Vaamika Island was rendered at the SLP stage and further that the Supreme Court had refused leave, yet the High Court’s findings were affirmed. The Court stated that ‘If detailed reasons given by the High Court or a subordinate Court, find acceptance by this Court, in specific terms, the question of scrutinising them for finding out whether they were in the passing or in detailed focus, does not arise. Such an exercise would tantamount to reviewing the decision.’ [Kerala Coastal Zone Regulation Plan 2009 and 2018, Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 1991 and 2011]

[Coram: R.F. Nariman, J., Aniruddha Bose, J., V. Ramasubramanian, J.]

Family Law

In M. Arumugam v. Ammaniammal and Others, the Court followed Gurupad Khandappa Magdum (1978) 3 SCC 383, CWT v. Chander Sen (1986) 3 SCC 567, Appropriate Authority v. Arifulla (2002) 10 SCC 342 to hold that after the death of an intestate Karta, his interest in the coparcenary property would devolve as per the provisions of Section 8 of the the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (‘HSA’) since he left behind a number of female Class I heirs. The Court further noted that a Karta was the manager of the joint family property and not the guardian of the minor members of the joint family. On death of a coparcener, notional partition takes place and the heirs succeed as tenants-in-common. The property so devolved is no longer joint family property. When one holds such property qua natural guardian, the same can be disposed of. However, such action would be voidable as under Section 8 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and is susceptible to challenge within 3 years of the minor attaining majority.

[Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.]

In Yashita Sahu v. State of Rajasthan, pursuant to an order for custody of the child obtained by the husband from a court in the United States of America (‘USA’) directing both the mother and child to return to the USA, the husband had filed a writ of Habeus Corpus before the High Court, which directed the mother and child to travel to the USA at the husband’s cost. The writ being challenged, the Court held the writ to be maintainable with respect of the child even when the child was in the custody of another parent but stated there could be no direction issued to an adult spouse to live with the estranged spouse under writ jurisdiction.

[Coram: Deepak Gupta, Aniruddha Bose, JJ.]

Land Acquisition

In Vidya Devi v. The State of Himachal Pradesh & Others, where the land of an illiterate widow was expropriated in 1967 when right to property was a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 31 of the Constitution, without due process of law and without awarding any compensation. The Court rejected the State’s arguments of oral consent, delay and laches, and adverse possession. The Court held that the cause of action was a continuing one owing to compulsory expropriation without legal sanction or due process. The Court imposed costs of INR 10,00,000/- and directed that compensation be paid in accordance with acquisition proceedings carried out in 2008 qua the adjoining lands.

[Coram: Indu Malhotra, Ajay Rastogi, JJ.]

In The Executive Engineer, Nimna Dudhna Project, Selu v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors, the Court relied on Dhiraj Singh v. State of Haryana (2014) 14 SCC 127 and K Subbarayudu v. Special Deputy Collector (LA) (2017) 12 SCC 840 to hold that although a delay of five years in filing the first appeals seeking enhancement of compensation for land acquired could be condoned, no interest could be imposed for this period on a public body for a fault not attributable to them.

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, M.R. Shah, JJ.]

In Chanabasappa v. Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd., the Court, relying on Karigowda (2010) 5 SCC 708 and interpreting Section 23(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 held that to determine compensation, the Court should consider the market value of the land and the damage sustained by reason of taking of any standing crops or trees and other damages at the time of taking possession. The Court also held that where an area has come in submergence prior to the notification under Section 4, the appellant shall be entitled not only to damages for that period and also to interest under Section 34 from the date of notification under Section 4 till the award.

[Coram: Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, JJ.]

Land Ceiling, Town Planning, Rent Control and Tenancy

In Kirpal Singh and Others v. Kamla Devi and Others, the Court upheld the judgement of the division bench of the High Court, stating that the Appellants were not bona fide subsequent purchasers of the surplus land since they chose to buy the surplus land many years after the same being vested in the State and nor have they alleged fraud against the respondents. The appellants could not be accorded the benefit under Sections 8(3) and 9(3) of the 1972 Act as Section 33(2)(ii) provided that the repeal of the 1953 Act would not affect the proceedings for determination of surplus areas pending immediately before the commencement of 1972 Act under the provisions of 1953 Act.

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, Navin Sinha, JJ.]

In Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited v. R. Chandramouleeswaran and Others, the three-judge bench affirmed the decision of the High Court in holding that tenants would not be entitled to the benefit of Section 9 of the Madras City Tenants’ Protection Act, 1921 unless there were in actual physical possession of the building constructed by them.

[Coram: N.V. Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna, Krishna Murari, JJ.]

In Vaijnath s/o Yeshwanta Jadhav Deceased by LR and Others v. Afsar Begum, Wife of Nadimuddin, Deceased by L.Rs and Others, the Court relied on Unnikrishnan (2014) 4 SCC 434 to reiterate that even an erroneous decision, if rendered by a proper forum but not assailed before a superior forum, will attain finality inter parties. The Court also relied on Shyam Sunder Sarma (2005) 1 SCC 436, it was further held that even if an appeal is dismissed on a preliminary ground like limitation, it must held that such dismissal, when it confirms the decision of the trial court on the merits itself, amounts to the appeal being heard and finally decided on the merits whatever may be the ground for dismissal of the appeal.

[Coram: Ashok Bhushan, Navin Sinha, JJ.]

In N. Motilal and Others v. Faisal Bin Ali, the Court considered whether during the pendency of contractual tenancy i.e. during the currency of agreed rent between the landlord and the tenant, is the landlord is precluded from making an application for determination of fair rent? Answering in the negative, the Court, heavily relying upon the majority opinion by Justice Alagiri Swamy in the 5 judge bench in M/s. Raval and Co. 1974(1) SCC 424 [as approved by 7 judges in V. Dhanapal Chettiar (1979) 4 SCC 214], stated that the encroachment on the freedom of contract between the landlord and tenant has been envisaged for protecting both the tenant and landlord.

[Coram: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, K.M. Joseph, JJ.]

In Mohandas and Others v. The State of Maharashtra and Others, the Petitioners argued that because the act of reserving the property under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966 took place in 1984 and no acquisition effected, the Petitioners were entitled to succeed in their notice under Section 127 so as to free the property from the reservation. Rejecting the contention on an elaborate consideration of judgments and provisions relating to the 1966 Act, the Court noted that Petitioner could not prove any statutory violation of the 1966 Act inasmuch as the final Development Plan came into force on 24.08.1984, declaration for acquisition issued on 03.09.1992, the draft revised draft Plan publication made on 29.11.2007, final revised development plan published on 15.05.2012. In the absence of the Petitioner making out a case for de-reservation as per Section 127, the Court asked itself if it ought to exercise its powers under Article 142. Answering in the negative, the Court noted that the Petitioners purchased the property in 2006, knowing that the land was subject to reservation. Moreover, because the revised plan came into force in 2012, the Court held that the Petitioners would have to wait for merely two years at most for acquisition.

[Coram: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, R. Subhash Reddy, JJ.]

In Uttar Bhartiya Rajak Samaj Panchayat Banganga Rajak Samaj Co-operative Housing Society (Proposed) and Another v. State of Maharashtra Through Secretary and Others, the facts were such that the Slum Rehabilitation Authority issued a Letter of Intent (valid of three months) in January 2005 wherein the Appellant No. 2/developer was given permission to carry out the rehabilitation, subject to the Appellants acquiring the necessary Coastal Regulation Zone clearances. During the pendency of the proceedings before the Coastal Zone Management Authority, the State issued a notification under Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act 1966 directing that the Appellants were to pay a premium proposed to be undertaken on lands owned by the Government, Semi-Government Undertakings and local bodies. Rejecting the contention of the Appellants that they should not be financially prejudiced by a later directive, the Supreme Court noted that in case delay occurred in obtaining environmental clearance, nothing prevented the Appellants from making appropriate representation so as to keep the terms of the Letter of Intent alive.

[Coram: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, R. Subhash Reddy, JJ.]


In Union of India v. Reliance Communication Limited & Anr, the Court upheld the order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Authority (‘TDSAT’), directing the Union of India to refund the excess amounts encashed through bank guarantees furnished by the Respondent, upon its failure to pay the spectrum charges. The Court rejected the Union’s contentions that the Respondents had defaulted and made short payments with respect to later dues after noting that the Respondents had furnished separate bank guarantees to the Union, securing it for the later period.

[Coram: R.F. Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ.]


In Maharashtra Seamless Limited v. Padmanabhan Venkatesh and Others, the Court relied on Satish Kumar Gupta 2019 SCC Online SC 1478 to hold scheme of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘IBC’) while holding that the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (‘NCLAT’) exceeded its jurisdiction in directing the successful resolution applicant to increase its bid. It stated that the commercial wisdom of the Committee of Creditors (‘CoC’) should not be interfered with and that the liquidation value was only meant to guide the CoC and was not a minimum value to be met for resolution. The Court also stated that Section 12-A was applicable only to applications invoking Sections 7, 9 and 10 of the IBC and not available for a successful resolution applicant to exit the resolution process. [Coram: R.F. Nariman, Aniruddha Bose, V. Ramasubramanian, JJ.]

In Standard Chartered Bank v. MSTC Ltd., the Court, relying on International Asset Reconstruction Company of India Limited (2017) 16 SCC 137 held that under the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act 1993, review petitions are dealt with in Section 22(2)(e) read with Rule 5A and Section 24 which applies provisions of the Limitation Act to application made to a Tribunal applies only to original applications to recover debts made by banks and financial institutions under Section 19 and not to applications for review. The Court also relied on Kamlesh Verma (2013) 8 SCC 320 to hold that a review petition is not a part of the original proceedings and that per Section 22(1) of the Act, the DRT is not bound by the CPC and that Section 20 of the Act is part of a complete and exhaustive code. [Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act 1993 and Debt Recovery Tribunal (Procedure) Rules 1993]

[Coram: R.F. Nariman, V. Ramasubramanian, JJ.]


In Nirmal Kumar Parsan v. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes & Ors., the Court, relying on State of Kerala v. Cochin Coal Company Ltd. (1961) 2 SCR 219 held that ‘sale in the course of import’ required that there must be a sale, that goods must actually be imported, and that the sale must be part and parcel of the import. Where the appellants had failed to establish that said goods had been imported and not crossed the customs station, the Court held that such sale cannot be read as in the course of import under Sections 5 and 2(ab) of the CST Act and as such is amenable to the levy of sales tax under the 1954 and the 1994 Acts.

[Coram: A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]

In M/s. Granules India Ltd. v. Union of India and Ors., the Court allowed the appeal stating that State Authorities cannot contend that they were unaware of their own notification which extended exemption from payment of customs duty under the Advance License Scheme. [Coram: Navin Sinha, Krishna Murari, JJ.]

Election Law

In Chandeshwar Saw v. Brij Bhushan Prasad and Others, setting aside thejudgment of the division bench of the High Court, the Court reiterated that there was nothing stopping the Court or Tribunal from ordering a recount and that Section 140 (‘Grounds on which a candidate other than the returned candidate may be declared to have been elected’) of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act 2006 was attracted in the present case. [Coram: A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ.]


In Haryana Power Purchase Centre v. Magnum Power Generation Limited & Anr., the Court held that where for the years in question, fixed cost had been demanded by the appellant and the respondent had collected the same from the consumer but not paid it over to the appellant, resulting in an unjust windfall for the respondent, the respondent must pay the fixed costs to the appellant. [Coram: R.F. Nariman, V. Ramasubramanian, JJ.]

Abhinav Hansaraman is a student at NLU Delhi. Vikramaditya, Samith Sagaranahalli, Subhro Prokas Mukherjee and Sahil Tagotra are advocates practicing in Delhi.

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