The Supreme Court fortnightly: 15 important judgments from October 16 to 31, 2023

In this fortnightly series, we capture 15 important judgments delivered by the Supreme Court of India.
Top 15 judgements, October 16-31, 2023
Top 15 judgements, October 16-31, 2023

In this fortnightly series, Bar & Bench brings you 15 important judgments and orders passed by the Supreme Court of India.

Below are our picks for the last two weeks of October 2023.

1. Supreme Court says no to same-sex marriage or civil union; CJI recognizes civil unions in minority opinion

Case Title: Supriyo @ Supriya Chakraborty and Another v. Union of India

In this case, a Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan KaulS Ravindra BhatHima Kohli and PS Narasimha refused to recognize any right to marriage for same-sex couples.

All the judges were unanimous in holding that there is no unqualified right to marriage and that LGBTQIA+ couples cannot claim a right to marriage as a fundamental right.

The Court also unanimously turned down a challenge to the provisions of the Special Marriage Act.

The majority of Justices Bhat, Kohli and Narasimha also held that civil unions between same-sex couples are not recognised under the law and that they cannot claim any right to adopt children either.

However, CJI Chandrachud and Justice Kaul in their separate minority opinions ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to have partnerships recognised as civil unions and claim consequential benefits.

The minority also said that such couples have the right to adopt children.

CJI Chandrachud held that provisions of the Special Marriage Act cannot be struck down or words be read into it to allow same-sex marriages.

Justice Kaul said that Special Marriage Act is discriminatory towards queer couples but concurred with the CJI in holding that it cannot be interpreted to allow same-sex marriages.

Click here to read the majority and minority views.

2. Judge taking up a case not specifically assigned by Chief Justice is gross impropriety: Supreme Court

Case Title: Ambalal Parihar v. State of Rajasthan and Others

In this case, a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal hauled up three litigants for forum shopping and said that a judge taking up a case not specifically assigned by the Chief Justice is an act of gross impropriety.

The Court also urged judges to follow judicial discipline and not take up cases unless they are assigned to them as per the roster prepared by the Chief Justice. It then proceeded to impose costs of ₹50,000 on the three litigants who were found to have indulged in forum shopping.

"The Judges have to follow discipline and ought not to take up any case unless it is specifically assigned by the Chief Justice. A Judge can take up a case provided either the cases of that category have been assigned to him as per the notified roster or the particular case is specifically assigned by the Chief Justice. Taking up a case not specifically assigned by the Chief Justice is an act of gross impropriety," the Court said.

3. Supreme Court issues directions for speedy disposal of civil cases; says time for tacking delays, pendency is now

Case Title: Yashpal Jain v. Sushila Devi and Others

In this case, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat (now retired) and Aravind Kumar called for urgent reforms in the country's judicial system to tackle delays and clear the backlog of civil cases in courts across the country.

The Court stressed on the need to shed procrastination and bureaucratic inefficiency and said that the time is now to act against delays and pendency of cases in courts.

Read the directions here.

4. Centre, states must ensure manual scavenging is completely eradicated: Supreme Court issues 14 directions

Case Title: Dr Balram Singh v. Union of India and Others

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar issued fourteen directions aimed at eradicating manual scavenging in India.

The Court emphasized that the battle against manual scavenging is not merely about wealth, but about human dignity.

Furthermore, the Court underlined the duty of citizens to embrace true fraternity, without which rights are mere illusions.

It was underscored that contracts that do not provide cleaners with necessary gear and devices are unconstitutional.

Among the directions, the Court mandated at least ₹30 lakh as compensation for sewer deaths, at least ₹20 lakh for permanent disablement and at least ₹10 lakh for other disablement cases.

Read the directions here.

5. Supreme Court orders hospitals, sports institutes, stadiums to establish internal complaints committees to report sexual harassment

Case Title: Initiatives for Inclusive Foundation v. Union of India

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta ordered that hospitals, nursing homes, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complexes, games venues, etc. must establish internal complaints committees for reporting sexual harassment at workplace instances.

The Court stated that the Central government may consider amending the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (POSH Rules) to identify one department and create a ‘nodal person’ post within the said department to be responsible for the coordination required in implementing the Act.

Read the directions issued by the Court for the better implementation of the POSH Act here.

6. Supreme Court rejects plea to abort 27-week-old pregnancy after a week of deliberations

Case Title: X v. Union of India and Others

In this case, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra rejected a plea to abort a pregnancy that had crossed the threshold of twenty-four weeks under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act) in view of a medical report that the foetus is viable.

The Court said that it cannot go beyond the law as per which termination of pregnancy beyond twenty-four weeks is permissible only in case of foetal abnormalities or to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Since this case did not fall under either of the exceptions, the plea was rejected. The three-judge bench gave its verdict after a division bench that earlier considered the matter arrived at a split verdict.

7. Rape and murder case: Supreme Court sets aside death sentence of accused; slams trial court for hasty fifteen-day trial

Case Title: Naveen @ Ajay v. State of Madhya Pradesh

In this case, a three-judge bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and Prashant Kumar Mishra set aside the death sentence and conviction of a man in a rape and murder case, on concerns that he was found guilty after a hasty trial that lasted just fifteen days.

The Court criticized the trial court for conducting the trial in such a hasty manner. It, therefore, sent the matter back to the trial court for a fresh trial.

The Supreme Court also directed that a senior counsel be engaged to defend the accused when the matter is heard afresh by the trial court.

In its judgment, the Court further emphasised that it was important for courts to maintain 'judicial calm' to ensure a fair trial.

8. Supreme Court acquits woman accused of killing her newborn; says High Court, trial court disregarded her privacy

Case Title: Indrakunwar v. State of Chhattisgarh

In this case, a division bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Sanjay Karol acquitted a woman accused of killing her own newborn baby whom she had allegedly conceived after she had physical relations with a co-villager.

The Court said that there was no evidence to prove that the deceased child belonged to the woman or that she had killed the child. It, therefore, criticised the courts below including the Chhattisgarh High Court for finding the woman guilty without any solid evidence and for overlooking her right to privacy.

The top court at the outset noted that the judgment under challenge made only general and sketchy observations, especially with regard to evidence and witnesses.

From the statements, it noted that some of the witnesses pointed to the accused only because she was the sole woman in the area without a husband.

9. Ban on donor gametes for gestational surrogacies contrary to Surrogacy Act: Supreme Court

Case Title: Arun Muthivel v. Union of India and Others

In this case, a division bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan said that a complete ban on using donor gametes (eggs or sperm) in gestational surrogacies is against the Rules under the Surrogacy Act.

The Court made the observation while granting relief to a woman who could not produce her own eggs. It proceeded to allow her to opt for gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate mother carries a child to whom she is not genetically linked, on behalf of another couple) by using a donor egg.

The Court observed that Rule 14 of the Surrogacy Rules allows for gestational surrogacy where an intending mother is unable to conceive using her own gametes (eggs or ova).

10. Courts cannot assume witness has good reputation just because he is educated or God-fearing: Supreme Court

Case Title: Harvinder Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh

In this case, a division bench of Justices MM Sundresh and JB Pardiwala set aside the conviction of a man in a murder case, while observing that courts cannot assume that a witness has good reputation only because he is educated and God-fearing.

The Court observed that courts of law cannot form opinions on such notions. It explained that it is the "conduct of a witness" under Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act that is relevant to determining a witness' reputation.

The High Court had earlier found the accused guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. To do so, the High Court relied on the statement of a prosecution witness after noting that the witness was an educated and God-fearing person.

The Supreme Court criticised this approach. In its judgment, the top court also distinguished between "character" and "reputation."

11. Supreme Court orders appointment of 50-year-old as postal assistant 28 years after he applied for the post

Case Title: Union of India vs Uzair Imran and Others

In this case, a division bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Dipankar Datta ordered the Union Department of Posts to offer the job of a postal assistant to a man who had first applied for the post in 1995.

The Court also noted that the Central government was responsible for the matter dragging on for two decades.

It found that the (now) 50-year-old job aspirant had been discriminated against and arbitrarily denied the post, days after he was selected by the authorities only on account of an "executive order." Therefore, the Court proceeded to exercise its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to order that he be appointed as a postal assistant within one month, initially on probation.

12. Omission in framing charges does not disable court from convicting accused for proven offence: Supreme Court

Case Title: Paranagouda and Another v. State of Karnataka

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar ruled that mere omission or defect in the framing of charges does not prevent a trial court from convicting an accused for an offence that is found to have been proved by the evidence on record.

The Court made the observation while convicting the parents in-law of a woman for driving her to commit suicide through dowry harassment under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Notably, the accused were convicted for this offence even though Section 306 IPC was not part of the charges framed against the two accused.

In the same ruling, the top court also observed that a person can be convicted of the offence under Section 498A of IPC (cruelty to wife) even if s/he is acquitted under Section 304B of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

13. Supreme Court acquits rape accused in 23-year-old case after finding act was consensual, girl was above age of consent

Case Title: Manak Chand v. State of Haryana

In this case, a three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, CT Ravikumar and Sudhanshu Dhulia set aside the conviction of a rape accused in a 23-year-old case after noting that act in question was consensual and the girl had attained the age of consent at the time of the incident.

The Court noted that the testimony of the girl in question did not inspire confidence either.

The incident in question took place in 2000 at the matrimonial home of the alleged survivor's sister. The case of the prosecution was that the families initially tried to settle the matter and get the accused Manak Chand and the girl married.

The top court in its judgment stated that the survivor's age was not examined properly by the courts below. It noted that the age had been determined on the basis of a school register and transfer certificate but the latter was not produced before the Court.

Further, the same register had noted that the girl had come to school on the day of the alleged incident but this fact was ignored by the courts below.

14. Supreme Court restores 2019 election of BJP's Dasanglu Pul to Arunachal Pradesh Assembly

Case Title: Dasanglu Pul v. Lupalum Kri

In this case, a division bench of Justices AS Bopanna and PS Narasimha restored the 2019 election of Arunachal Pradesh legislator Dasanglu Pul to the State Legislative Assembly from Hayuliang constituency.

The Court set aside a Gauhati High Court order that had quashed her election. Pul is the widow of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister (CM) Kalikho Pul, who had three wives.

The Supreme Court had earlier granted Dasanglu interim relief by way of a May 12 order, thereby allowing her to participate but not vote in legislative assembly proceedings. By the May 12 order, the top court had also said that no bye-election could be conducted to the seat in question.

In its final order, the apex court restored Dasanglu's election.

15. Supreme Court upholds verdict holding Telangana VAT (Second Amendment) Act unconstitutional

Case Title: State of Telangana and Others v. Tirumala Constructions

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar upheld a Telangana High Court verdict that had concluded that the Telangana Value Added Tax (Second Amendment) Act, 2017 was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled that the amendments in Telangana were correctly held void for want of legislative competence.

The Telangana High Court had in July 2022 held the Telangana Value Added Tax (Second Amendment) Act, 2017 unconstitutional

The bench noted that Telangana's amendment act could not have been given effect to post the enactment of the GST regime.

Other important orders/observations

1. "This will be reminder to all tribunals": Supreme Court relies on CCTV footage to debunk NCLAT member's claims

Case Title: Orbit Electricals Private Limited v. Deepak Kishan Chhabaria

In this case, a three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud sounded a note of warning to tribunals against judicial impropriety and attempts to defy the apex court's orders.

The Court issued the warning after it found that a bench of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had acted in wilful disobedience of the orders passed by the Supreme Court in the Finolex case.

The Supreme Court's censure eventually led to the resignation of an NCLAT judicial member.

2. Antrix v Devas: Supreme Court upholds setting aside of ICC order that directed Antrix to pay $560 million

Case Title: Devas Employees Fund US LLC v. Antrix Corporation Limited and Others

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat (since retired) and Aravind Kumar put quietus to litigation that lasted almost a decade and refused to uphold an arbitral award of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) that had directed Antrix Corporation Limited to pay damages of over US$ 560 million with interest to Devas Multimedia Private Limited.

The Court refused to interfere with a Delhi High Court order in this regard.

The ICC had directed Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to pay damages to Devas.

However, the award was set aside by Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of the High Court on the ground that it suffered from patent illegalities and fraud, and was in conflict with the public policy of India. A division bench of the Delhi High Court had in March upheld the single-judge order, which in turn was upheld by the Supreme Court.

3. Supreme Court denies bail to Manish Sisodia in Delhi Excise Policy Scam case

Case Title: Manish Sisodia v. Central Bureau of Investigation

In this case, a division bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti denied bail to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in connection with the cases related to Delhi excise policy scam.

Sisodia has been in custody since February 26 this year. He is being probed by both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

4. Supreme Court denies bail to wife of alleged conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar, Leena Paulose in ₹200 crore extortion case

Case Title: Leena Paulose v. State of NCT of Delhi

In this case, a division bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi refused to grant bail to Leena Paulose, wife of alleged conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar, in connection with a ₹200 crore extortion case in which she is also an accused.

The Court passed the order after noting that there was no material before it to show that there was any change of circumstances since the bail plea was last rejected by the Delhi High Court.

5. Supreme Court directs states to fill up up State Information Commission vacancies

Case Title: Anjali Bhardwaj and Others v. Union of India and Others

In this case, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra directed all State governments to fill up long-pending vacancies in their respective Information Commissions.

The Court remarked that the persistence of such vacancies would defeat the object of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act).

6. AoRs signing off on frivolous petitions: Supreme Court calls for comprehensive plan after PIL filed challenging Articles 20, 22

Case Title: PK Subramanian v. Secretary Department of Law and Justice and Another

In this case, a three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sudhanshu Dhulia and PK Mishra called for a comprehensive plan for reformation and improvement of the Advocate-on-Record (AoR) system after noting that AoRs have simply been reduced to signing counsel who sign off on briefs without reading the contents of the petition being filed.

The Court made strong observations after a public interest litigation (PIL) petition came up before it seeking declaration of fundamental rights under Article 20 and 22 of the Indian Constitution as unconstitutional.

7. Supreme Court questions suspension of Raghav Chadha from Rajya Sabha, says exclusion of opposition member serious

Case Title: Raghav Chadha v. Rajya Sabha Secretariat and Others

In this case, a three-judge bench of bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra took a critical view of the continuing suspension of Member of Parliament (MP) Raghav Chadha from Rajya Sabha and called the exclusion of a member of the political opposition from the house a "serious matter".

The Court also questioned whether the Privileges Committee could issue such an order to indefinitely suspend a member of parliament (MP).

8. Supreme Court CJI Bench says Centre's recall application in abortion case was not abuse of process of law

Case Title: X v. Union of India and Others

In this case, a three-judge bench of bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra took a favourable view of the Central government's decision to directly request the Chief Justice of India (CJI)-led bench to recall an order passed by another (division) bench that had initially allowed the termination of a pregnancy.

The Court observed stated that it has no doubt that the Central government had no intention to abuse the process of law by making the irregular mention and filing a recall application. The three-judge bench was prompted to issue the clarification after the Central government's counsel was criticised for the irregular mention by the division bench.

9. Litigants may lose confidence if legal process moves at snail's pace: Supreme Court in 43-year-old case

Case Title: Yashpal Jain v. Sushila Devi and Others

In this case, a division bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar, while pronouncing its judgment in a 43-year-old case, expressed concern that the public may lose confidence in the legal process if such delays continue.

The Court expressed anguish that there were even 50-year-old cases still pending before certain courts.

The Court proceeded to issue several directions to improve this state of affairs.

10. Meritorious lawyers backing out of judgeship because Centre processing Collegium resolutions selectively affecting seniority: Supreme Court

Case Title: The Advocates Association Bengaluru v. Barun Mitra and Another

In this case, a three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sudhanshu Dhulia and Manoj Misra observed that meritorious lawyers recommended by the Collegium for High Court judgeship often back out because the Central government processes names selectively thereby affecting potential seniority of the candidates.

In observing so, the Court said that when the Collegium recommends a certain number of persons for judgeship and the Centre appoints only a few, it ends up disturbing the seniority of the persons recommended.

Weeks before he was due to retire, the case was later deleted from the causelist of cases to be heard by a bench led by Justice Kaul (now retired). Justice Kaul clarified that he did not have a role to play in the deletion. However, he hinted that the Chief Justice of India might be aware of the deletion and suggested that certain matters are better left unsaid.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - October 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - September 16 to 30, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - September 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - August 16 to 31, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - August 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - July 16 to 31, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - July 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court during summer vacation - June 1 to 30, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - May 16 to 30, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - May 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - April 16 to 30, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - April 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - March 15 to 31, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - March 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - February 15 to 28, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - February 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - January 15 to 31, 2023 here.

Read the Supreme Court fortnightly - January 1 to 15, 2023 here.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news
www.barandbench.com