Good & Bad : 50 Important Supreme Court Judgments Of 2019

Manu Sebastian

23 Dec 2019 5:09 AM GMT

  • Good & Bad : 50 Important Supreme Court Judgments Of 2019

    As the year 2019 draws to a close, here is a recap of the major judgments of Supreme Court in 2019 (in order of chronology).1. Alok Verma v Union of India : CBI Director's DivestmentThe case was relating to the legality of the overnight order passed by the Centre stripping Alok Verma of the powers of CBI Director. A three judges bench comprising the then CJI Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K...

    As the year 2019 draws to a close, here is a recap of the major judgments of Supreme Court in 2019 (in order of chronology).

    1. Alok Verma v Union of India : CBI Director's Divestment

    The case was relating to the legality of the overnight order passed by the Centre stripping Alok Verma of the powers of CBI Director. A three judges bench comprising the then CJI Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph held that approval of the Selection Committee under Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was necessary to divest an incumbent of powers of CBI Director. The top court also noted that the term 'transfer', as used in section 4B of the DSPE Act, cannot be understood in its traditional sense and must be interpreted as including actions which impact the functioning of the CBI Director.

    A comment on the case may be read here.

    (Case : Alok Verma v Union of India, WP(c) No.1309/2018, decided on 08.01.2019)

    2. Blanket ban on Maharashtra dance bars overturned

    A two judges bench of Justices  A K Sikri (since retired) and Ashok Bhushan held that there cannot be a total prohibition of dance bars in Maharashtra. The Bench also relaxed the stringent conditions imposed by the Government for getting license for dance bars.

    The Court however upheld several provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016. The Court approved the definition of 'obscenity' in the Act as not vague, and also the ban on throwing currency notes and money on the performers. The complete prohibition on serving alcohol in the dance bars was quashed as disproportionate.

     (Case : Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) v State of Maharashtra, WP(c) No.576/2016, decided on 17.01.2019)

    3. Reservation in teaching posts to be applied subject-wise in Universities

    The Supreme Court rejected Centre's challenge against a 2017 judgment of Allahabad High Court which had held that reservations in teaching posts in Universities are to be applied by taking subject/discipline as the unit, instead of university.

    A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Indira Banerjee refused leave to appeal to Ministry of Human Resources Department to challenge the High Court judgment delivered in the case Vivekanand Tiwari v Union of India on April 7, 2017.

    On February 27, the same bench dismissed Centre's review against the decision.

    In Monsoon Session, Parliament passed a bill -"The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers' Cadre) Bill, 2019"- to treat 'University/ College' as the unit of reservation roster for teaching posts instead of 'Department/ Subject', to overturn the effect of this decision.

    (Case : Union of India v Vivekanand Tiwari, SLP(c) 3525/19, decided on 22.01.2019)

    4. Will NDPS trial be vitiated if complainant and Investigating Officer is the same? SC doubts earlier decision

    A two judge bench of Supreme Court expressed its disagreement with the view taken by a three-judge bench in Mohan Lal vs. State of Punjab where it held that that the accused is entitled to acquittal if informant and the investigator in NDPS cases is the same person.

    The bench comprising Justice UU Lalit and Justice MR Shah made this observation while hearing an SLP (Mukesh Singh vs. State) filed against conviction in an NDPS matter. The counsel for the accused placed reliance on MohanLal vs. State of Punjab to contend that since the investigation in the present case was conducted by the Police Officer who himself was the complainant, the trial was vitiated and as such the petitioner-accused is entitled to acquittal.

    The matter was therefore referred to larger bench. A Constitution Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra is considering the matter at present.

    (Case : Mukesh Singh v State, SLP(Crl) 39528/18, referred to larger bench on 17.01.2019)

    5. Constitutionality of IBC upheld

     A two judges bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha rejected a bunch of petitions which challenged the constitutional validity of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016. The Court held that distinction between operational creditors and financial creditors were based on intelligible differentia. The Court also upheld the validity of Sections 12A (prescribing threshold for CoC approval for withdrawal of resolution application) and 29A (on bar of 'related persons' in participating in resolution bids).

    (Case : Swiss Ribbons Pvt Ltd & Anr v Union of India, WP(c) 99/2018, decided on 25.01.2019)

    6. CBI Addl.Director Nageswara Rao held guilty of Contempt of Court

    The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi  held CBI Additional Director M Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt of court for transferring the investigating officer heading the probe in Muzaffarpur shelter home case in violation of the orders of the Court.

    The Court sentenced him till the rising of the Court and imposed a fine of Rs. one lakh, after noting that the transfer orders were passed by him despite knowing that the SC had ordered that the investigation team should not be changed.

    (Case : Nivedita Jha v State of Bihar and others, SLP(c) No. 24978/18, decided on 12.02.2019)

    7. Forest Rights Act : Eviction of over 1 million forest dwellers ordered; later stayed

    A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee directed states to ensure the eviction of all those persons from forestland whose claims under the Forest Rights Act have been rejected. The order would have impacted over 1 million forest dwelling tribals.

    The order led to a lot of controversy and confusion, as most states were yet to streamline the claims and appeals processes under the Forest Rights Act. Later, on an application by the Central Government, the same bench stayed the eviction order. The matter is at present pending, and the Court has sought for data from states regarding claims under FRA.

    (Case : Wildlife First and others v MoEF and others, WP(c) No.109/08, ordered on 21.02.2019)

    8. Anil Ambani held for contempt in Reliance -Ericsson case

    A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran held Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Communications, guilty of contempt of court for defaulting payments to Ericsson as per the undertaking given to the Court.

    The three Reliance Companies - RCom, Reliance Telecom and Reliance InfraTel- were also held guilty of contempt, and fine of Rs One Crore each was imposed on them.

    The Court granted an opportunity to Reliance companies to purge contempt by paying Rs.453 crores to Ericsson within 4 weeks. Later, Ambani avoided prison by clearing the dues.

    Meanwhile, another controversy had occurred, when the order issued by Court on January 7 requiring personal presence of Ambani and other officers was found to be tampered with.

    Though the bench had specifically made it clear that personal appearance is not dispensed with, the copy of the order uploaded in the official website of the top court stated personal appearance is dispensed with.

    This led to an internal enquiry, resulting in the summary dismissal of summarily dismissed two court masters, Manav Sharma and Tapan Kumar Chakraborty.

    A comment on Reliance-Ericsson case may be read here.

    (Case : Reliance Communication Ltd and Others v State Bank of India and others, WP(c) 845/2018, decided on 20.02.2019) 

    9. Teachers entitled to gratuity; SC recalls initial order

    Correcting its earlier erroneous judgment, the Supreme Court has held that the teachers are entitled to invoke Payment of Gratuity Act for claiming gratuity from his/her employer.

    On January 7, 2019 the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice AM Sapre and Justice Indu Malhotra held that, a teacher, irrespective of the type of educational institute he/she is working, is not an 'employee' under Section 2(e) of the Payment of Gratuity Act and, therefore, has no right to invoke the Act for claiming gratuity from his/her employer.

    On January 8, Live Law published an article on why this judgment denying gratuity to teachers is 'Per Incuriam'. It had quoted the 2009 amendment and 1997 notification and some high court judgments post 2009 amendment.

    On January 9, the bench headed by Justice Sapre suo motu listed the appeal and passed order observing that it finds prima facie error in this judgment. It then stayed the operation of the judgment and directed the registry to post the appeal for rehearing.

    (Case : Birla Institute of Technology v State of Jharkhand, Case Civil Appeal No. 2530/2012, decided on 07.03.2019)

    10. When contempt is in the face of the court : Advocate Mathews Nedumpara's case

    A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran held Advocate Mathews Nedumpara guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to three months imprisonment and barred him from practicing in SC for one year.  It was held that the sentence will remain suspended so long as he abides by his undertaking that he will not attempt to browbeat any judge of High Court or Supreme Court.

    The Court's action was triggered by Nedumpara's reference to Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman while alleging that only relatives of judges were being designated as senior advocates. Despite the cautioning by the court, he repeated the reference. When questioned about it, he denied having done so. When the others present in the Court confirmed his action, he attempted to justify his references.

    The Court's finding was not based on his solitary action of taking the name of Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman. Rather, the Court took into account several past orders passed by the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court deprecating the rough conduct of Nedumpara in Court.

    The Supreme Court followed the dictum that when contempt is in the face of court, summary procedure can be followed to inflict punishment "then and there".

    (Case : National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and others vs Union of India, WP(c) 191/2019, decided on 12.03.2019)

    11. Ambit of 'Accidental Insurance' defined

    Explaining the ambit of 'accidental insurance', the Supreme Court observed that where a disease is caused or transmitted by insect bite/virus in the natural course of events, it would not be covered by the definition of an accident.

    But, in a given case or circumstance, the affliction or bodily condition may be regarded as an accident where its cause or course of transmission is unexpected and unforeseen, the bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta observed while dealing with what it called an 'interesting question of law'.

    (Case : The Branch Manager, National Insurance Co Ltd v Smt Mousumi Bhattacharjee and others, Civil Appeal 2614/19, decided on 26.03.2019)

    12. Saravana Bhavan's founder held guilty in murder case

    The Supreme Court upheld the life sentence awarded to P Rajagopal - the founder of famous South Indian restaurant chain Saravana Bhavan - and five of his aides for murder of Santhakumar in 2001.

    The bench of Justices N V Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee dismissed the batch of appeals filed by accused against the 2009 judgment of Madras High Court.

    The crime was committed with the motive of Rajagopal to take Jeevajothi, the wife of deceased Santhakumar, as his third wife. Rajagopal had got an advise from his astrologer that his business will flourish if he married Jeevajothi.

    Rajagopal was given time till July to surrender to serve the sentence. Before that, the 72 year old died due to cardiac arrest on July 18.

    (Case : Pattu Rajan and others v State of Tamil Nadu, Criminal Appeal No.680-681 of 2009, decided on 29.03.2019)

    13. Official Secrets Act does not bar placing of documents in Court for adjudication : Rafale preliminary objection

    The Supreme Court overruled preliminary objections raised by the Centre against the Court relying on documents from Ministry of Defence in order to decide the Rafale case. The Attorney General argued that the documents were protected under the Official Secrets Act, and were unauthorizedly published by media.

    A bench of the then CJI Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph held that OSA will not bar the Court from receiving in evidence the documents. The criminal proceedings under the Act for unauthorized publication can be pursued independently; but that will not affect the evidentiary value of the documents, if they are otherwise relevant.

    Justice K M Joseph wrote a separate but concurring judgment holding that RTI Act has considerably diluted OSA.

    (Case : Yashwant Sinha and othes v CBI and others, RP No.46/2019, decided on 10.04.2019)

    14. Free speech cannot be gagged by fear of mob violence: West Bengal cinema ban overturned

    The Supreme Court ordered Rs 20 lakhs compensation to the makers of the Bengali film ""Bhobhishyoter Bhoot", which had suffered an 'unofficial' ban from the West Bengal government.

    The police authorities had coerced the movie screens to withdraw the film citing law and order issues. The makers of the film complained that the movie was targeted for being critical against the government.

    A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta held that free speech cannot be gagged by fear of mob violence.

    "The police are not in a free society the self-appointed guardians of public morality. The uniformed authority of their force is subject to the rule of law. They cannot arrogate to themselves the authority to be willing allies in the suppression of dissent and obstruction of speech and expression", the Court added.

    (Case : Indibility Creative Pvt Ltd and others vs Govt of West Bengal and others, WP(c) No. 306/2019, decided on 11.04.2019)

    15. CJI Sexual harassment conspiracy : Probe ordered

    In an unusual suo moto proceeding, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Misra, R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta held that former SC judge Justice A K Patnaik will hold enquiry regarding alleged conspiracy by fixers and disgruntled employees against CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The allegations were raised by Advocate Utsav Bains, after an ex-SC staff alleged in media that the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi had sexually harassed her. A panel comprising three SC judges constituted by the top court to probe the sexual harassment allegations later gave a clean chit to the CJI. The complainant had stayed away from the probe citing likelihood of bias. The report of the panel was not made public.The enquiry proceedings were widely criticized by several lawyer bodies as opaque and unfair.

     Though there are reports that Justice (Retd.) Patnaik has submitted the enquiry report, its details are not made public.

     (Case : In re matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary- mentioned by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, SMW(c) 1/2019, ordered on 25.04.2019)

    16. Karnataka law on reservation of SC/STs in promotions upheld

    The Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act 2018.

    The said enactment provided for consequential seniority to persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes promoted under the reservation policy of the State of Karnataka.

    The bench comprising Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud observed that this law has cured the deficiency noted in the earlier BK Pavitra judgment in respect of the 2002 law, and it does not amount to a usurpation of judicial power by the state legislature. The Reservation Act 2018 is a valid exercise of the enabling power conferred by Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution, the bench added.

     (Case : B K Pavitra and others v Union of India, M.A No. 1151/2018 in C.A No.2368/11, decided on 10.05.2019)

    17. Maradu flats demolition order

    The Supreme Court ordered the razing down of four high rise apartments in Maradu, Kochi on finding that they were built in violation of CRZ norms.

    A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha noted that when the construction has been raised by the builders , the area was within CRZ-III as per the 1991 CRZ notification. The Court did not accept the builders' plea that the area has been subsequently notified as CRZ-II (where such constructions are arguably permissible), when the CZMP as per 2011 notification was finalized.

    The bench later ordered the Government to pay an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakhs to the flat owners, and constituted a committee headed by former Kerala HC judge Justice K Balakrishnan Nair to ascertain the liability of builders.

    (Case : Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority vs State of Kerala and others , Civil Appeal No. 4784-4785/2019, decided on 08.05.2019)

    18. Liability for consuming liquor in a private vehicle

    The Supreme Court has held that a private vehicle is not exempted from the definition of 'public place' under the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act 2016.

    This means that consumption of liquor within a private vehicle in a public place will be an offence under the prohibition laws in Bihar.

    "as per Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 even a person consumes liquor outside the State of Bihar and enter into the territory of Bihar and is found drunk or in a state of drunkenness, he can be charged with offences under Section 37(b)", the Court said.

    (Case : Satvinder Singh @ Satvinder Singh Saluja and others v State of Bihar, Crl Appeal No. 951/2019, decided on 01.07.2019)

    19. Sec 148 NI Act has retrospective effect

    The Supreme Court has held that Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act as amended, shall be applicable in respect of the appeals against the order of conviction and sentence for the offence under Section 138 of the N.I. Act, even in a case where the criminal complaints for the offence under Section 138 of the N.I. Act were filed prior to 2018 amendment Act i.e., prior to 01.09.2018.

    (Case : Surinder Singh Desawal v Virender Gandhi, Crl Appeal 917-944/2019, decided on 29.05.2019)

    20. Section 143A NI Act has no retrospective effect

    Settling a confusion in prosecution of cheque bounce cases, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act on payment of interim compensation to the complainant during the pendency of the case has no retrospective application.

    This means that Section 143A will apply to only those complaints filed after the 2018 amendment to the NI Act which inserted the provision.

    (Case : G J Raja v Tej Raj Surana,   decided on 30.07.2019)

    21. Restoration of convictions in Haren Pandya murder case

    A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran restored the convictions in murder case of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya.

    The Gujarat High Court had acquitted all the 12 convicts after observing that CBI had "botched up" the investigation. The bench also dismissed with costs of Rs 50,000 a PIL filed by NGO 'Centre for Public Interest Litigation' (CPIL) which has sought court-monitored fresh investigation into the killing.

    (Case : CBI vs Mohd. Parvez Abdul Kayyum, Crl Appeals No, 140-151/2012, decided on 05.07.2019)

    22. Karnataka Assembly case : Round 1

    In the first round of Karnataka assembly imborglio, the Supreme Court passed an interim order holding that the fifteen rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to attend assembly proceedings, and that they were at liberty to skip attending house.

    The bench of CJI Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose also refused to fix a time frame for the Speaker to decide on the resignations submitted by the MLAs. 

    The MLAs had approached the Court contending that the Speaker had not acted on their resignations. Speaker maintained that their resignations were a method to circumvent the consequences of their defection.

    The SC bench comprising the then CJI Googi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose held that the interim order was passed to maintain 'constitutional balance'.

    Critical comment on the order may be read here and here.

    (Case : Pratap Gouda Patil and others v State of Karnataka and others, WP(c) 872/2019, decided on 17.07.2019)

    23. Cancellation of Amrapali's RERA Registration

    In a major relief to thousands of homebuyers, the Supreme Court cancelled the registration of Amrapali group under Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, and directed the National Building Construction Corporation take over its pending construction projects in Greater Noida and Noida.

    The bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit found that Amrapali group had siphoned off homebuyers money with the connivance of Greater Noida and Noida authorities.

    The Court has directed the Enforcement Directorate to initiate action under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act against Amrapali directors and authorities, and update the Court with progress of probe with periodic reports.

    (Case : Bikram Chatterji and others v Union of India and others, WP(c) No.940/17, decided on 23.07.2019)

    24. Magistrate has power to direct accused to give voice samples

    The Supreme Court held that a judicial magistrate can direct an accused to provide his voice samples for investigation even without his consent.

    A three-judges bench led by the CJI thus settled the confusion which arose out of the split verdict in the 2012 verdict by a two judges bench in Ritesh Sinha v State of UP.

    The CJI-led bench said that in the absence of specific powers in the Code of Criminal Procedure, inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution should be invoked to confer such power on the Magistrate.

    A critical comment on this judgment may be read here.

    (Case :Ritesh Sinha v State of UP, Crl Appeal No. 2003/2012, decided on 02.08.2019)

    25. Person can maintain suit to claim title by adverse possession

    In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court held that any person who has perfected title by way of adverse possession, can file a suit for restoration of possession in case of dispossession.

    The bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah observed that plea of acquisition of title by adverse possession can be taken by plaintiff under Article 65 of the Limitation Act and there is no bar under the Limitation Act, 1963 to sue on aforesaid basis in case of infringement of any rights of a plaintiff.

    (Case : Ravinder Kaur Grewal and others v Manjit Kaur, Civil Appeal No.7764/2012, decided on 07.08.2019)

    26. Treating homebuyers as financial creditors under IBC not unconstitutional

    Dismissing a bunch of petitions filed by nearly 200 realtors, the Supreme Court upheld the amendments made to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in 2018 to treat homebuyers as financial creditors.

    A bench of Justices R F Nariman, Sanjiv Khanna and Surya Kant held that the amendments do not violate Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and rejected the argument that they are 'arbitrary, unreasonable, excessive and disproportionate'.

    (Case : Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd and another v Union of India, Writ Petition (C) No. 43/2019, decided on 09.08.2019)

    27. Rape-death of minor girl : Death penalty upheld with 2 : 1 majority

    The Supreme Court (2:1) upheld the death sentence awarded to a man involved in gang rape of a ten year old girl and thereafter murdering her and her brother.The appeal filed by Manoharan against the High Court judgment was heard by a three judge bench comprising of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sanjeev Khanna. However, Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented with the confirmation of death sentence and opined that the case does not fall under the category of 'rarest of rare' case, but would fall within the special category of cases, where the appellant should be directed to suffer sentence for life i.e. till his natural death, without remission/commutation.

    (Case : Manoharan v State, Crl Appeal No. 1174-1175/2019, decided on 21.08.2019)

    In another decision rendered on October 3, a bench  confirmed by 2:1 majority death penalty to a man found guilty for murder and rape of a two year old girl.

    While the majority comprising Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant upheld the death penalty confirmed by the Bombay High Court in the case Ravi v State of Maharashtra, Justice Subhash Reddy dissented.

    28.  Kashmir habeas orders

    In the habeas corpus petition filed by CPI(M) Secretary Sitaram Yechury challenging the detention of former J&K MLA M Y Tarigami, the Supreme Court passed an order 'allowing' Yechury to travel to Srinagar to meet the detenu. The bench consisting of the then CJI Gogoi, Justices Abdul Nazeer and S A Bobde, did not ask the Centre about the grounds under which Tarigami was placed under detention.

    Critical comments on the SC order may be read here, here and here.

    (Case : Sitaram Yechury vs Union of India, WP(Crl) No.229/2019, decided on 28.08.2019)

    29. NGOs 'Substantially Financed' by Government amenable to RTI Act

    In an important judgment delivered today, the Supreme Court has held that non-governmental organisations [NGO] substantially financed, whether directly or indirectly, by the appropriate government fall within the ambit of 'public authority' under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

    The bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose held so, while considering appeals  filed by colleges or associations running the colleges and/or schools.

    (Case : D.A.V. College Trust And Management Society vs. Director Of Public Instructions, C.A 9828/2018, decided on 17.09.2019)

    30.  Police cannot attach immovable property under Section 102 CrPC

    The Supreme Court has held that police does not have the power to attach immovable property during investigation under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

    The judgment was delivered by the bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. However, police does have authority to freeze moveable properties of the accused, clarified the bench. The Court held that the expression 'any property' appearing in Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure would not include 'immovable property'.

    (Case : Nevada Properties Pvt Ltd v State of Maharashtra, Crl Appeal No.1481/2019, 24.09.2019)

    31. Article 137 Limitation Act applies to IBC

    The Supreme Court has held that Article 62 of the Limitation Act would only apply to suits and not to "an application" which is filed under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which would fall only within the residuary Article 137.

    The bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice Surya Kant was considering an appeal against the NCLT order [upheld by NCLAT] that admitted a Section 7 application on the ground that, as per article 62, the limitation period was 12 years from the date on which the money sued has become due.  

    (Case : Gaurav Hargovindbhai Dave v Asset Reconstruction Company (India) Ltd and others, C.A No. 4952/2019, decided on 18.09.2019)

    32. Sec 3J Of National Highways Act, to the extent it excludes solatium & interest as per Land Acquisition Act, unconstitutional

    The Supreme Court has declared Section 3J of the National Highways Act 1956, to the extent it excludes solatium and interest as per Land Acquisition Act 1894 to acquisitions done under the NH Act to be unconstitutional.

    "We, therefore, declare that the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act relating to solatium and interest contained in Section 23(1A) and (2) and interest payable in terms of section 28 proviso will apply to acquisitions made under the National Highways Act. Consequently, the provision of Section 3J is, to this extent, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and, therefore, declared to be unconstitutional", held the bench consisting of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Surya Kant.

    (Case : Union of India & ors v. Tarsem Singh and ors, C.A No. 7064/2019, decided on 19.09.2019).

    33. Centre's review against dilution of SC/ST Act allowed

    A three judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai allowed Centre's petition seeking review of its March 20, 2018 judgement which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.

    The Court observed that powers under Article 142 of the Constitution could not have been exercised to pass directions against the statute.

    The two-judges bench should not have framed guidelines as it is within legislature's domain to do so, the Court said. It observed that the protective nature of the Act was necessary in view of the abuses to which people from marginalized communities are being subjected to.

    (Case : Union of India v State of Maharashtra and others, RP(c) No.228/2018 in WP(c) No.416/2018, decided on 01.10.2019)

    34. Levy of sales tax/service tax on supply of food and drinks by incorporated clubs

    The Supreme Court held that there is no levy of sales tax on the supply of food and beverages by members' clubs, whether incorporated and unincorporated, to its members.

    Answering a reference in the case State of West Bengal v Calcutta Club Ltd, a three judges bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Surya Kant and Rama Subramanian held that the "doctrine of mutuality" , as propounded in the case CTO v. Young Men's Indian Assn., (1970) 1 SCC 462, continued to operate even after the 46th amendment to the Constitution which inserted Article 366(29-A).

    The Court also held that services given by an incorporated club to its members are exempted from service tax.

    (Case : State of West Bengal v Calcutta Club Ltd and Chief Commissioner of Central Excise & Service and others v Ranchi Club Ltd, Civil Appeal 4184/2009, decided on 04.10.2019)

    35. Magistrate Can Invoke Power U/S 156(3) CrPC even at post-cognizance stage, SC says 43 Yr old precedent wrongly decided

    A three judge bench of the Supreme Court has virtually overruled a 43 year old precedent and held that Magistrate can invoke power under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure even at post-cognizance stage.

    The bench headed by Justice RF Nariman held that this judgment was rendered without adverting to the definition of "investigation" in Section 2(h) of the CrPC.

    It observed that the finding in law in the said judgment that the power under Section 156(3) CrPC can only be exercised at the pre-cognizance stage is erroneous.

    A critical comment on the case may be read here.

    (Case : Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya and others v The State of Gujarat and others, Crl Appeal No. 478-479/2017, decided on 16.10.2019)

    36. Bail granted to P Chidambaram in CBI case in INX Media scam

    On October 22, the Supreme Court granted bail to Senior Advocate, Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the case registered by CBI in connection with INX media case. The bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna allowed the appeal against Delhi High Court judgment holding that he was not a "flight risk" and that there was no possibilities of tampering of evidence or intimidation of witnesses by him, as the investigation had progressed. The Court had earlier denied him bail. 

    (Case : P Chidambaram v CBI, Crl Appeal No. 1603/2019, decided on 22.10.2019)

    37. Justice Arun Mishra's non-recusal from Indore Development Authority case

    In a controversial order, Justice Arun Mishra stated that he will not recuse from heading the Constitution Bench which was formed to decide the correctness of the interpretation give to Section 24(2) of the new Land Acquisition Act by the 2018 Indore Development Authority case. The petitioners in the case sought his recusal contending that there was apprehension of bias as Justice Mishra had authored the 2018 judgment, which was under reference.

    Justice Mishra said that it was for the judge to decide whether to recuse or not and that it will not be in the interests of justice to recuse.

    A comment on the case may be read here.

    (Case : Indore Development Authority and others v Manohar Lal and others, SLP(c) No.9036-38/2019, decided on 24.10.2019)

    38. SC Allows Centre's Plea To Recover Adjusted Gross Revenue Of Rs 92k cr From Telecom Companies

    In a setback to telecom service providers, the Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Centre's plea to recover adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of about Rs 92,000 crore from them.

    A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, upheld the definition of adjusted gross revenue formulated by the Department of Telecom (DoT).

    (Case : Union of India v Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, C.A No.6328-6399/2015, decided on 24.10.2019)

    39. Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute

    In an unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court held that the entire disputed land of 2.77 acres in Ayodhya must be handed over for the construction of Ram Mandir. At the same time, the Court held that an alternate plot of 5 acres must be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board for construction of mosque. This direction was passed invoking powers under Article 142 of the Constitution. The Court observed that the destruction of Babri mosque in 1992 was a violation of law. The act of placing idols beneath the central dome of the mosque in 1949 was an act of "desecration", observed the Court.

    Later, the SC dismissed a string of review petitions filed against the verdict.

    A comment on the judgment may be read here.

    (Case : M Siddiq (d) through Lrs v Mahant Suresh Das and others, C.A No. 10866-10867/2010, decided on 08.11.2019)

    40. RTI applicable to the office of CJI

    In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court held that the office of Chief Justice of India is a public authority under the Right to Information Act.

    The Constitution Bench comprising the then CJI Ranjan Googi, Justices Ramana, Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna upheld the the 2010 judgment of Delhi HC which had held that RTI Act was applicable to CJI's office.

    The Court has however underlined the importance of maintaining confidentiality in some aspects of judicial administration, and has qualified the right to information on the grounds of public interest.

    Penning his separate but concurring opinion while dismissing the appeal against Delhi HC judgment that held office of CJI is under purview of RTI Act, Justice DY Chandrachud observed that the basis for the selection and appointment of judges to the higher judiciary must be defined and placed in the public realm.

    (Case : Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court v Subash Chandra Agarwal, Civil Appeal No. 10044 of 2010, decided on 13.11.2019)

    41. Strikes Down Rules Framed By Centre Under Section 184 Finance Act 2017 For Tribunals; Aadhar-Money Bill question referred.

    Upheld the constitutional validity of Section 184 of the Finance Act 2017, which empowers the Central Government to frame rules relating to appointment and service conditions of members of various tribunals. At the same time, the five judges bench struck down the Rules already framed by the Central Government under Section 184, and directed the formulation of new rules.

    The Constitution Bench also doubted the correctness of 2018 decision which treated Aadhaar Act as 'money bill' and referred the point to larger bench.

    (Case : Rojer Mathew v South Indian Bank Ltd, Civil Appeal No.8588/2019, decided on 13.11.2019)

    42. SC Upholds Disqualification Of 17 Karnataka MLAs; Resignation Not To Affect Impact Of Defection

    The Supreme Court  upheld the decision of former Karnataka Speaker's decision to disqualify 17 rebel MLAs on the ground of defection. However, in partial relief to the MLAs, the apex court held that the duration of disqualification cannot be till the end of the term of the house. This means that they can re-contest in the upcoming by polls scheduled to take place in December.

    A significant point in the Supreme Court's judgment in the Karnataka MLAs disqualification case is the discussion on the interplay between resignation and disqualification of a legislator. The apex court held that resignation of a legislator will not efface the effect of disqualification if defection has taken place before the date of resignation.

    (Case : Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil V.Hon'ble Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly, WP(c) No. 992/2019, decided on 13.11.2019)

    43. SC Keeps Sabarimala Review Pending Till Larger Bench Decides Issues Of Essential Religious Practices

    The Supreme Court by 3 :2 majority, decided to keep the review petitions in Sabarimala matter pending until a larger bench determines questions related to essential religious practices. The majority of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra expressed that the issue whether Court can interfere in essential practises of religion needed examination by larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented.

    [Sabarimala] Remember That The "Holy Book" Is The Constitution Of India; Justices RF Nariman & DY Chandrachud Dissent

    Let every person remember that the "holy book" is the Constitution of India, remarked Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, also speaking for Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, in his dissent against the majority decision to refer the issues to larger bench. The judges opined that most of the arguments raised in the review petitions were already argued during the hearing of the writ petitions and were dealt with in the judgment of 28th September 2018. The judge still dealt with the arguments that was made by various parties during the hearing of review petitions.

    (Case : Kantaru Rajeevaru V. Indian Young Lawyers Association, RP(c) No. 3358/18 in WP(c) No. 373/06, decided on 14.11.2019)

    Critical comments on the Sabarimala review order may be read here, here and here.

    44. SC Dismisses Rafale Review Petitions

    The Supreme Court dismissed the review petitions filed against the December 14, 2018 judgment which declined to order probe into the corruption allegations regarding the deal to procure 36 Rafale jets by Indian Government form French company Dassault Aviation. The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph observed that the review petitions filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie lacked merits.

    Rafale Verdict Will Not Stop CBI From Taking Lawful Action On Petitioners' Complaint : Justice K M Joseph

    Justice K M Joseph observed in his separate judgment in the Rafale review that the main verdict will not stand in the way of CBI taking lawful action on the complaint raising corruption allegations on the Rafale deal, subject to getting approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

    The same bench also closed the contempt case against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi for 'chowkidhar chor hain' remarks, accepting his apology.

    (Case : Yashwant Sinha & Ors. V. Central Bureau Of Investigation, RP(Crl) No. 46/2019 in WP(Crl_) No.298/2018, decided on 14.11.2019

    Critical comment on the Rafale review order may be read here.

    45. Essar Insolvency : SC Sets Aside NCLAT Order; Uphlods Resolution Plan Of Arcelor Mittal

    In a landmark decision having wide impact on the IBC regime, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal by Committee of Creditors in Essar Steel insolvency to set aside the order of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal. The judgment pronounced by Justice R F Nariman held that there was no equality between financial creditors and operational creditors. The Adjudicating Authority cannot substitute the commercial wisdom of the CoC.

    The Court has also held that the time limit of 330 days for resolution to be not mandatory. It is open to the NCLT to extend the timeline if required.

    (Case : Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Ltd V. Satish Kumar Gupta & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 8766-67/2019, decided on 15.11.2019)

    46. Maharashtra Assembly : Urgent Floor Test Ordered To Curtail Horse Trading, To Protect Democratic Values

    The Supreme Court ordered urgent floor test in Maharashtra Assembly for proving the majority of Devendra Fadnavis-led government. The Court observed that urgent floor test was necessary to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading and also to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable Government.

    "In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so, the bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna said in the order.

    (Case : Shiv Sena and others v Union of India and others, WP(c) No. 1393/2019, decided on 26.11.2019)

    47. SC Strikes Down Section 87 Of Arbitration & Conciliation Act Inserted By 2019 Amendment

    In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court struck down Section 87 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, which was inserted through the 2019 amendment Act passed by the Parliament last monsoon session. The judgment was delivered in the case which was heard by a bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Surya Kant and V Ramasubramanian.

    The bench held the provision, which brought back the automatic stay provision,  to be "manifestly arbitrary" and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

    (Case : Hindustan Construction Company Ltd v Union of India, WP(c) No. 1074/2019, decided on 27.11.2019)

    48. Contents Of Memory Card Will Be 'Document' And Not 'Material Object' ;

    The contents of a memory card in relation to a crime amount to a 'document' and not a 'material object', held the Supreme Court while deciding Kerala actor Dileep's plea for handing over copy of the visuals of the alleged sexual crime committed on a Kerala actress in February 2017.

    The SC bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheswari overturned the view taken by the High Court of Kerala that the memory card was a material object, and hence it will not come under the ambit of Section 207 CrPC

    In cases involving issues of privacy and identity of the complainant or witnesses, such as sexual offences, the Court said that a balanced approach needs to be taken. The right to fair trial of the accused and the right to privacy of the victim should be balanced.

    (Case : P Gopalakrishnan @ Dileep v State of Kerala and others, Crl Appeal No.1794/2019, decided on 29.11.2019)

    49. Denial of bail on findings based on sealed cover documents presented by prosecution is against fair trial : Chidambaram Bail In INX Media case

    In the judgment granting bail to P Chidambaram in the INX Media case after 105 days of custody, the Supreme Court made certain pertinent observations regarding the practice of courts relying on sealed cover documents produced by prosecution during bail hearings.

    The SC observed that recording of findings based on the sealed cover documents submitted by the prosecution as if the offence has been committed, and using of such findings to deny bail would be against the concept of fair trial.

    "It would be against the concept of fair trial if in every case the prosecution presents documents in sealed cover and the findings on the same are recorded as if the offence is committed and the same is treated as having a bearing for denial or grant of bail", said a bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.

    (Case : P Chidambaram v Directorate of Enforcement, Crl Appeal 1831/2019, decided on 04.12.2019)

    50. State Legislature Cannot Enact Law Which Affects Jurisdiction Of Supreme Court: SC Constitution Bench

    The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that Section 13(2) of the Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act, 2011, is unconstitutional as the State Legislature lacked legislative competence to enact a provision providing direct appeal to Supreme Court of India.

    The Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Ravindra Bhat was considering the reference made to it in Rajendra Diwan vs. Pradeep Kumar Ranibala. It approved the view taken in HS Yadav vs. Shakuntala Devi Parakh, by the bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

    (Case : Rajendra Diwan v Pradeep Kumar Ranibala, Civil Appeal No.3613/2016, decided on 10.12.2019)

    [Correction : The initial report mentioned that the SC had barred Advocate Mathews Nedumpara from practicing in SC for three years, as punishment for contempt of court. In fact, the bar was only for one year. The error has been corrected]







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