Best Judgments of Supreme Court in 2013
Denying patent rights to Novartis, the Apex Court gave its verdict, countering the infamous ‘ever greening’ of patent rights, interpreting section 3(d) of the Patents Act, 1970. In this case, Novartis had patented imatinib, which was exemplified in Example 21 of the Zimmerman patent. Novartis argued that the claimed invention involved a twofold step over Zimmerman, firstly from imatinib to imatinibmesylate, the salt form; and secondly to the β crystalline form of imatinibmesylate.
Though the Court concluded that the beta crystalline form cannot be said to have been ‘anticipated’ from imatinib free base of the Zimmerman patent of 1993 or from publication onimatinibmesylate in relation to cancer research in 1996, the Apex Court pronounced that there was no “therapeutic efficacy” for the drug. The Court clarified that all/any advantages or beneficial properties do not amount to efficacy under Section 3(d), but only those properties that that have a direct relation to the efficacy of the drug itself. The increase in bio-availability (the rate of absorption the blood), has to proportionately improve the therapeutic efficiency to make the drug qualify the protection under Section 3(d). On the interpretation of Section 2(1)(j) and (ja) and Section 3, the Court, speaking through Justice Aftab Alam, held that if they are read together, even though a product or a process may satisfy the test of invention under 2(1)(j) and (ja), it may still be held not patentable under Section 3 of the Act.
The Supreme Court, through Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan, has held that “live-in or marriage like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin”, though it may be socially unacceptable. The court, was examining the ambit of Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which defined “domestic relationship” as a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related…through a relationship in the nature of marriage …”. Holding that “relationship in the nature of marriage” means a relationship which has some inherent or essential characteristics of a marriage though not a marriage legally recognized, the court recognized relationships between an adult woman and adult male, both unmarried, and also, that of an unmarried adult woman who unknowingly enters into a relationship with a married adult male, the disruption of such a relationship by failure to maintain a women involved in such a relationship amounts, was declared to amount to “domestic violence” within the meaning of Section 3 of the Act. The court also recognized the need to protect the women, who, it opined, are most often, the ones adversely affected by such relationships and asked the Parliament to frame laws to protect them.
A landmark judgment in the history of medical negligence in India, where the Apex Court awarded an unprecedented compensation of Rs. 5.06 crores to the aggrieved widower, Kunal Saha, with interest from the date of filing of complaint in 1999 to the date of payment.
Opining that the doctors, hospitals, the nursing homes and other connected establishments are to be dealt with strictly if they are found to be negligent with the patients, the Court said, “the central and the state governments may consider enacting laws wherever there is absence of one for effective functioning of the private hospitals and nursing homes”. The law on the awarding of compensation under different heads of ‘losses’ was also examined in detail.
The petitioner alleged that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the country are below international standards and are susceptible to hacking, and the Court directed the introduction of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system (VVPAT), by which, a printout will be given to the vote to appraise him/her that his/her vote has been rightly registered. The same will then be deposited in a box which can only be used by the ECI in case of an election dispute.
In the instant case, the Supreme Court laid down that the “paper trail” is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections, so as to ensure the accuracy of the voting system. “The fullest transparency in the electoral system and the confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of EVMs with VVPAT system”. The ECI was directed to introduce the same in gradual stages or geographical-wise, in the ensuing general elections. The area, State or actual booth(s) are to be decided by the ECI. Furthermore, the Government of India was directed to provide financial assistance for procurement of units of VVPAT.
A three judge Bench of the Supreme Court directed the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territories to provide 3% reservation on total number of vacancies in the cadre strength for persons with disabilities in all government jobs, as per Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The Court had to mainly decide on the scope and ambit of reservation, whether it extend to both identified and unidentified posts.
The bench identified that “[e]mployment is a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities. It is an alarming reality that the disabled people are out of job not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning rather it is social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining the workforce …The Union of India, the State Governments as well as the Union Territories have a categorical obligation under the Constitution of India and under various International treaties relating to human rights in general and treaties for disabled persons in particular, to protect the rights of disabled persons. Even though the Act was enacted way back in 1995, the disabled people have failed to get required benefit until today.” The Apex Court extended the period for computation of the number of vacancies available in all the institutions/departments and further identify the posts for disabled persons to a period of three months, from the one month allowed by the High Court.
The apex court noticed that even though the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition on Sex- Selection) Act, 1994 was enacted, and despite the fact that the Union of India has constituted the Central Supervisory Board and most of the States and Union Territories have also constituted State Supervisory Boards, Appropriate Authorities, Advisory Committees etc. under the Act, their functioning is far from satisfactory. Several directives were issued by the Court alleviate the declining sex-ratios in the country including seizure and sale of the machines which have been used illegally and contrary to the provisions of the Act and the Rules thereunder, disposal of all pending cases under the Act within a period of six months and setting up of Special Cell by the State Governments and the Union Territories to monitor the progress of various pending cases and take steps for early disposal.
Section 8(4) of Representation of the People Act, 1951, which provides immunity for the MPs and MLAs from disqualification “until three months have elapsed from that date or, if within that period an appeal or application for revision is brought in respect of the conviction or the sentence, until that appeal or application is disposed of by the court”, was struck down as unconstitutional. The same was struck down as lacking ‘legislative competence’ by placing reliance on, inter alia, Article 102(1)(e) and Article 191(1)(e) of the Constitution. It was held that the Parliament has no power to enact a law to defer the date from which the disqualification will come into effect in case of a sitting Member.
The Apex Court clarified that it is mandatory under Section 154(1) of the Cr. PC for an officer in-charge of a police station to reduce in writing either himself, or under his direction on every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence being given to him orally. Thus, there is no latitude for conducting any kind of preliminary enquiry before registering the FIR. The decision came to be made by a five judge bench which was referred to by a smaller bench for in-depth consideration of the issue.
The appellant had paid 1/10th of the court fee at the time of filing the civil suit before the sub judge. On application for extension of time by the appellant for paying the balance court fee, the same was rejected and the file was closed by the learned sub Judge. The Apex Court held that, in the light of Section 149 of the Civil Procedure Code which vests discretionary power on the Court to allow a party to make up the deficiency of court fee payable on plaint, appeals, applications etc., and considering that the usual practice of the Court is to provide a favourable opportunity to the petitioner unless there are manifest grounds of malafide. Also, it was decided that the appellant did not deserve the dismissal of the original suit by the Court for non- payment of court fee. He rather deserved more compassionate attention from the Court of sub Judge in the light of the directive principle laid down in Article 39A of the Constitution of India which is equally applicable to district judiciary.
It may be noted that, Article 39A mandates that the State shall provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities and the allied provision, Section 12(h) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which provides that every person who has to file or defend a case shall been titled to legal services under this Act if that person is in receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Government if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court.
The Apex Court, in a landmark verdict, laid down that a positive right ‘not to vote’ is a part of expression of a voter in a parliamentary form of democracy and it has to be recognized and given effect to. The Election Commission was directed to provide None of the Above (NOTA) option in EVMs and ballot papers to citizens, to express that right.“This is the basic requirement if the lasting values in a healthy democracy have to be sustained, which the Election Commission has not only recognized but has also asserted”, the Court opined.
A perusal of section 79(d) of the Representation of Peoples Act, Rules 41(2) &(3) and Rule 49-O of the Rules make it clear that right of notto vote has been recognized both under the RP Act and the Rules. Consequently, it was held that Rules 41(2) & (3) and 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules are ultra vires Section 128 of the Representation of Peoples Act and of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution to the extent they violate secrecy of voting.
Abhay Singh v. Union of India & Ors.
In this Judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that vehicles fitted with red beacons will be allowed only for constitutional authorities and limited classes of high functionary, thus restricting the unrestrained use of red beacons as a symbol of VIP culture.
The apex court bench also asked the government to make appropriate amendments in the Motor Vehicles Act to make the fine amounts a deterrent. There must be definite lists of officers under the category “high functionary” will have to be provided by the appropriate governments, stating who can have red beacons to enable their functioning and “any and every officer cannot be given a red beacon”. The Supreme Court has asked all authorities to enforce these directions within a month. Besides banning the use of red beacon light with flashers on all vehicles except those used by high dignitaries holding constitutional post, the apex court has also banned pressure horns, multiple sound emitting horns and musical horns in vehicles. It said only during emergency situations, will blue lights be used which can be fitted on ambulances, police and army vehicles, and fire extinguisher vehicles among others.
Two of the most discussed and controversial Judgments of 2013 are:
In this Judgment, Supreme Court invalidates NEET undertaken by Medical Council of India. The Apex court held that Medical Council of India’s (MCI) and Dental Council of India’s (DCI) notification for holding common entrance test called National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) for MBBS, BDS and post-graduate medical courses is ultra vires to the Constitution.
Justice Altamas Kabir delivered the majority judgment along with Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice Anil R Dave delivered a separate dissenting judgment.
The Supreme Court mainly deliberated on whether MCI and DCI have the authority to conduct an All India Entrance Examination, which will form the basis of admissions into the MBBS as well as Post graduate courses in all medical colleges and institutions all over the country.
In this Judgement, Supreme Court setting aside Delhi High Court judgment which had decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults in private. The apex court bench delivered the verdict on petitions of anti-gay right activists, social and religious organizations against the 2009 verdict of the high court which decriminalized gay sex. The apex court while pronouncing the verdict said that it is for legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC. There is no constitutional infirmity in section 377 of IPC which makes gay sex an offence punishable with up to life imprisonment. The apex court while hearing the appeal had expressed disappointment over the Parliament not discussing such important issues and blaming judiciary instead for its overreach. It also criticized the Centre for its non-serious approach on decriminalization of homosexuality.
Union of India filed a review petition and it is pending.
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