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Supreme Court Weekly Round Up [March 22 to March 28 2021]

Nupur Thapliyal
28 March 2021 2:27 PM GMT
Supreme Court Weekly Round Up [March 22 to March 28 2021]
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JUDGMENTS THIS WEEK1. 'Structures Of Our Society Created By Males For Males' : Supreme Court Holds Army's Evaluation Criteria To Grant Permanent Commission For Women Officers ArbitraryCase Title : Lt Col Nitisha and othes v Union of India and othersCitation : LL 2021 SC 181A division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah declared that the...

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JUDGMENTS THIS WEEK

1. 'Structures Of Our Society Created By Males For Males' : Supreme Court Holds Army's Evaluation Criteria To Grant Permanent Commission For Women Officers Arbitrary

Case Title : Lt Col Nitisha and othes v Union of India and others
Citation : LL 2021 SC 181

A division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah declared that the evaluation criteria adopted by the Indian Army to consider the grant of permanent commission for women officers to be "arbitrary and irrational". The Court directed the Army to reconsider the pleas of women Short Service Commission officers for grant of PC within two months in accordance with the fresh directions issued by the Court.

The top court held that the evaluation criteria adopted by the Army to benchmark the women officers with the lowest credentials of their male counter-parts and to freeze their ACR evaluation at the 5th or 10th years of their services to be "arbitrary and irrational", causing women officers "systemic discrimination".

"We must recognize here that the structures of our society have been created by males and for males. As a result, certain structures that may seem to be the "norm" and may appear to be harmless, are a reflection of the insidious patriarchal system.At the time of Independence, our Constitution sought to achieve a transformation in our society by envisaging equal opportunity in public employment and gender equality. Since then, we have continuously endeavored to achieve the guarantee of equality enshrined in our Constitution. A facially equal application of laws to unequal parties is a farce, when the law is structured to cater to a male standpoint....Superficial face of Equality does not stand true to the principles enshrined in the Constitution", the Court observed in the 137-page judgment.

Also Read: 'Not Enough To Proudly Say Women Are Allowed To Serve Army When Their Service Conditions Tell A Different Story' : Supreme Court In Permanent Commission Case

Also Read: Permanent Commission For Women Army Officers- Indirect Discrimination Even Without Discriminatory Intent Must Be Prohibited: Supreme Court

2. Supreme Court Allows Tata Sons Appeal Against NCLAT Order To Reinstate Cyrus Mistry As Chairman

Title : Tata Sons Ltd v Cyrus Mistry and others
Citation : LL 2021 SC 184

In a big win for Tata Sons Ltd, the Supreme Court bench headed by CJI SA Bobde allowed its appeal against the order of the National Company Law Tribunal, which had ordered to reinstate the ousted Chairman Cyrus Mistry.

The Court held that the actions of Tata Sons board against Mistry did not amount to oppression of minority shareholders or mismanagement. The bench also said that it was open for Tatas and Mistry to work out their separation terms.

On December 18, 2019, The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal restored Cyrus Mistry as the Executive Chairman of Tata Group. Allowing Mistry's appeal, the Appellate Tribunal had set aside the judgment of Mumbai bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) that had upheld the appointment of N Chandrasekharan as Chairman in his place. The said NCLAT order was stayed by the Apex Court in January 2020 whereas the judgment was reserved on 17th December 2020.

3. "Call For Justice Not Hate Speech": Supreme Court Quashes FIR Against Journalist Patricia Mukhim

Case Title: Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya & Ors. 
Citation: LL 2021 SC 182

The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara and S. Ravindra Bhat this week quashed the FIR registered against Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim over a Facebook post on violence against non-tribal people in Meghalaya. The Court noted that the Facebook post was directed against the apathy shown by the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, the Director General of Police and the Dorbar Shnong of the area in not taking any action against the culprits who attacked the non-tribals youngsters.

The Court allowed the appeal filed by Mukhim challenging the Meghalaya High Court order which had dismissed her plea to quash the FIR.

"India is a plural and multicultural society. The promise of liberty, enunciated in the Preamble, manifests itself in various provisions which outline each citizen's rights; they include the right to free speech, to travel freely and settle (subject to such reasonable restrictions that may be validly enacted) throughout the length and breadth of India. At times, when in the legitimate exercise of such a right, individuals travel, settle down or carry on a vocation in a place where they find conditions conducive, there may be resentments, especially if such citizens prosper, leading to hostility or possibly violence. In such instances, if the victims voice their discontent, and speak out, especially if the state authorities turn a blind eye, or drag their feet, such voicing of discontent is really a cry for anguish, for justice denied – or delayed. This is exactly what appears to have happened in this case." The Bench held.

Also Read: Free Speech Of Citizens Cannot Be Stifled By Implicating Them In Criminal Cases: Supreme Court

4. State Govt A 'Party Interested' Under Section 406 CrPC; Entitled To Seek Transfer Of Case From Another State : Supreme Court

Case Title : State of UP vs Jail Superintendent(Ropar) and others
Citation : LL 2021 SC 185

The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan allowed the appeal filed by the Uttar Pradesh Government's plea seeking transfer of BSP MLA Mukhtar Ansari from Ropar Jail in Punjab to Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur Jail.

In allowing Uttar Pradesh Government's appeal, the Supreme Court, while not delving into whether the petition was maintainable under Article 32,held that a State as "party interested" under Section 406 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Observing that in a criminal administrative system, the State was a prosecuting agency, working for and on behalf of the people of the State, it could be deemed to be a "party interested" as the terms were of a "wide import and, therefore, have to be interpreted by giving a wider meaning".

"The words such as 'aggrieved party', 'party to the proceedings' and 'party interested' are used in various Statutes. If the words used are to the effect 'party to the proceedings' or 'party to a case', it can be given a restricted meaning'. In such cases, the intention of the legislature is clear to give restricted meaning. But, at the same time, the words used as 'party interested', which are not defined under the Code of Criminal Procedure, have to be given a wider meaning" The Court observed.

Also Read: Supreme Court Allows UP's Plea To Transfer Mukhtar Ansari From Punjab Jail

5. Arbitration Reference Not Maintainable If Filed After Admission Of Insolvency Resolution Petition U/s 7 IBC: Supreme Court

Case: Indus Biotech Private Limited vs. Kotak India Venture (Offshore) Fund [Arb. Petition (Civil) 48/2019]
Citation: LL 2021 SC 187

Supreme Court bench headed by CJI SA Bobde observed that in any proceeding which is pending before the Adjudicating Authority under Section 7 of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, if such petition is admitted upon the Adjudicating Authority recording the satisfaction with regard to the default and the debt being due from the corporate debtor, any application seeking reference to arbitration under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act made thereafter will not be maintainable.

"In a situation where the petition under Section 7 of IB Code is yet to be admitted and, in such proceedings, if an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is filed, the Adjudicating Authority is duty bound to first decide the application under Section 7 of the IB Code by recording a satisfaction with regard to there being default or not, even if the application under Section 8 of Act, 1996 is kept along for consideration. In such event, the natural consequence of the consideration made therein on Section 7 of IB Code application would befall on the application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996.", The bench observed.

In this case, the appellant filed a petition under Section 7 of IB Code before the NCLT seeking appointment of Resolution Professional. In the said proceedings, the respondent, filed a Miscellaneous Application under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act seeking a direction to refer the parties to arbitration. NCLT allowed the said application and also dismissed the petition under Section 7 IBC observing that that there is no default.

6. Insolvency Process Maintainable Against Corporate Guarantor Even If Principal Borrower Is Not A 'Corporate Person' : Supreme Court

Case: Laxmi Pat Surana vs. Union Bank Of India [CA 2734 OF 2020]
Citation: LL 2021 SC 186

The bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari held that the principal borrower need not be a "corporate person" for insolvency process to be initiated against a company which stood as its guarantor.

"Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 can be initiated by a financial creditor against a corporate person in respect of guarantee to the loan amount secured by person not being a corporate person, in case of default in payment of such a debt", the Court held.

The bench observed that the principal borrower may or may not be a corporate person, but if a corporate person extends guarantee for the loan transaction concerning a principal borrower not being a corporate person, it would still be covered within the meaning of expression "corporate debtor" in Section 3(8) of the Code. 

"For, the obligation of the guarantor is coextensive and coterminous with that of the principal borrower to defray the debt, as predicated in Section 128 of the Contract Act." The Court observed.

IMPORTANT APEX COURT UPDATES

1. Maratha Quota Case : Supreme Court Constitution Bench Reserves Judgment After 10 Days Of Hearing

After a marathon hearing over a period of 10 days, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court this week reserved the judgement in a batch of pleas challenging the Maharashtra SEBC Act, 2018, which provides for reservation for Marathas in jobs and education. The 5-Judge Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, L. Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat heard the matter which began on 15th March.

The pleas before the Constitution Bench challenges the Bombay High Court judgment passed in June 2019, and submits that the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, which provides for 12% and 13% quota to the Maratha community in education and jobs respectively, violated the principles laid in the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India (1992) as per which the Apex Court capped the reservation limit at 50%.

On September 9, 2020, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred the cases to a larger Bench to determine the issue whether State Government has the power to declare a class as Socially and Economically Backward after the Constitution (102nd) amendment.

Also Read: 'We Cannot Take This 16% Reservation Lightly', Says Supreme Court On Maratha Quota[Hearing Day 8]

Also Read: 'All Reservations May Go And Only EWS May Remain; But That's A Matter Of Policy' : Supreme Court In Maratha Quota Case [Day 9]

Also Read: Maharashtra Law Granting Maratha Quota Constitutional, Centre Tells Supreme Court [Day 7]

2. Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Electoral Bonds, Says Sufficient Safeguards Already There

The Supreme Court this week refused to stay the release of the fresh set of electoral bonds from April 1 for the assembly polls in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry. The Court dismissed the application filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms seeking stay of the bonds.

Since the bonds were allowed to be released in 2018, 2019 and 2020 without interruption, and sufficient safeguards are there, there is no justification to stay the electoral bonds at present, the Court said in its order.

"...in the light of the fact that the Scheme was introduced on 2.1.2018; that the bonds are released at periodical intervals in January, April, July and October of every year; that they had been so released in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 without any impediment; and that certain safeguards have already been provided by this Court in its interim order dated 12.4.2019,we do not see any justification for the grant of stay at this stage.Hence both the applications for stay are dismissed", the Court said.

Also Read: Cull Out Information From Bond Purchaser & Political Party; Do 'Match The Following' :SC Says Electoral Bond Anonymity Can Be Pierced

3. Supreme Court Dismisses Andhra CM's Complaint Against Justice Ramana After Confidential In-House Enquiry

In a significant development, the Supreme Court this week dismissed the complaint made by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Jagan Mohan Reddy to the Chief Justice of India that Justice NV Ramana was trying to influence the state judiciary to destabilize the state government.

The information regarding the dismissal of the complaint was given in a statement published in the Supreme Court website. As per the statement, the complaint was dismissed "on due consideration" after being dealt with under the in-house procedure.

It was on October 6 last year that the Andhra Chief Minister sent the complaint to the Chief Justice of India. Few days later, the details of the complaint were made public in a press conference held by the Chief Minister's Secretary Ajeya Chellam IAS. The Andhra CM's complaint alleged that Justice N V Ramana was influencing the judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court in "politically sensitive" matters for passing adverse orders against the state government.

4. Supreme Court Refuses To Entertain Param Bir Singh's Plea Seeking CBI Probe Against Anil Deshmukh, Asks Him To Approach Bombay High Court

Supreme Court bench comprising of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Subhash Reddy this week asked Former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh to approach Bombay High Court with his plea seeking CBI investigation in the alleged corrupt malpractices of Anil Deshmukh, Home Minister of Government of Maharashtra.

During the hearing, the Bench posed two questions to the petitioner. The Bench asked why a petition as been filed before Supreme Court under Article 32 rather than an Article 226 petition before the High Court. The Court further asked the petitioner as to why Mr Anil Deshmukh, the person against whom they have made serious allegations hasn't even been impleaded as a party.

5. Bhima Koregaon Case: Supreme Court Reserves Order On Gautam Navlakha's Plea For Default Bail

The Bench comprising of Justice UU Lalit and Justice KM Joseph reserved its order on a plea filed by senior journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, against an order of the Bombay High Court denying him default bail in the Bhima Koregaon case. The Bench said that it will release the order after 7th April, as Justice Joseph is not available until then.

During the hearing, the Bench observed that the first two days, the period of seeking transit remand for Navlakha, will "definitely be accounted" to calculate period of custody. However, the question remains as to whether the period of house arrest can be considered under Section 167 (2) of CrPC.

Navlakha's plea before the top Court comes after a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik refused to interfere in his criminal appeal filed against an order of the special court, which rejected his application for default bail in June, last year. He is in prison since his surrender on April, 14 2020.

6. Supreme Court Reserves Orders On Plea Against Deportation of Rohingya Refugees In Jammu

A bench comprising CJI SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramaniam reserved for orders a plea seeking directions for release of the Rohingya refugees who have been detained in Jammu and to restrain the government from deporting them to Myanmar.

The Court was hearing an interim application filed by a PIL petitioner Mohammad Salimullah seeking protection of Rohinya refugees who came to India following persecution in Myanmar.

The Original Petitioner in the main Rohingya Case Mohammed Salimullah has approached the Supreme Court of India with the plea seeking directions for release of the Rohingya refugees who have been detained in Jammu and to refrain the government from implementing any orders on deporting them. The plea has also sought directions to UNHCR to intervene and assess the protection needs of the refugees and grant them refugee cards.

The application has sought release of the detained Rohingya refugees immediately and direction to the Union Territory government and the Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant Refugee identification cards through the FRRO for the Rohingyas in the informal camps. They have urged the Court to direct the Union Government to refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the Rohingya refugees who have been detained in the sub jail in Jammu.

7. Supreme Court Dismisses Plea By Sushant Singh Rajput's Sister To Quash FIR Against Her Based On Rhea Chakraborty's Complaint

The Supreme Court this week dismissed a petition filed Sushant Singh Rajput's sister Priyanka Singh challenging the Bombay High Court's refusal to quash FIR filed against her by Mumbai Police on actor Rhea Chakraborty's complaint.

"We are not inclined to entertain the petition", a bench headed by CJI Bobde told Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who was appearing for Priyanka.

The Bombay High Court had observed that there was a prima facie case found against Priyanka Singh, the sister of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, in the FIR lodged against her at the instance of Rhea Chakraborty alleging criminal conspiracy and abetment to suicide of Sushant Singh.

8. West Bengal Coal Mining Case: Supreme Court Grants Interim Protection to Anup Majee

The Supreme Court granted ad interim protection from arrest to the prime accused in the West Bengal coal scam probe, Anup Majee, conditional on him joining in the investigation before the CBI and cooperating in the same.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna further clarified that this order is passed without expression of any opinion on the merits of the rival contentions, only as a pro-tem measure in view of the forthcoming Holi recess.

The Supreme Court this week commenced the hearing on the challenge to the order of the Calcutta High Court whereby it allowed the CBI to investigate a case pertaining to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in West Bengal, without the State's consent.

The Single Judge Bench of the Calcutta High Court had ruled that the probe beyond the Railway areas (in the State of West Bengal), shall be conducted by the CBI only subject to specific consent being granted by appropriate authorities of the State of West Bengal. In an appeal preferred by CBI, a Division Bench of the High Court stayed the Single Judge's order and allowed CBI to investigate the case without any hindrance. The case pertains to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in connivance with officers of the Eastern Coalfield Limited, Railways, C.I.S.F. and some other private persons including the writ petitioner (Anup Majee).

9. Supreme Court Grants Relief To Mamata Banerjee's Election Agent SK Supian, Stays High Court Order Reviving Cases Against Him In Nandigram Violence

Supreme Court this week granted interim relief to Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's election agent SK Supian in relation to matter of revived FIRs against him in Nandigram violence case.

A division Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Krishna Murari has ordered an ad-inetrim stay on the High Court's order dated 5 March 2021 issued in response to a PIL. The FIRs in which SK Supian was named in relation to the Nandigram violence were withdrawn by the West Bengal government in 2020.

The special leave petition has been filed against an order dated 5th march 2021 issued in a PIL whereby orders were issued to re-instate the criminal cases against Supian. The Additional chief Judicial Magistrate Contai, through an order dated 10th feb 2020 had discharged the petitioner from case initiated against him. There Court observed that while there were other similar matters discharging accused persons from proceedings, the Court is not concerned with them at this stage.

10. Breaking: Supreme Court Stays Recovery Of Rs. 27 Cr Penalty Imposed On NDTV, Prannoy Roy And Radhika Roy By SEBI

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah this week stayed the recovery of the penalty of Rs 27 crore imposed by the SEBI on December 24, 2020 on NDTV promoters, Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy, as well as on their holding company for allegedly violating various securities norms by concealing information from shareholders regarding certain loan agreements.

The bench also directed the appellants cooperate in the expeditious disposal of the appeals against the SEBI order by the SAT, which are listed for final disposal on April 6.

In a relief to Prannoy & Radhika Roy, the Supreme Court had on February 15 exempted them from making deposit before the Securities Appellate Tribunal(SAT) for hearing their appeals against the penalty of over Rs 16.97 crores imposed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) in a different case related to insider trading.

11. Supreme Court Issues Notice On Subramanian Swamy's Plea Challenging Provisions Of Places of Worship Act

The Supreme Court issued notice on a PIL filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenging the Constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.

A Bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde and Justice AS Bopanna issued notice and tagged the matter with Ashwini Upadhyay's plea seeking similar relief.

Swamy in his plea alleged that the Places of Worship Act is a barrier, depriving the Petitioner(s) the right to pray at a place where, due to foreign oppression and invasion a Hindu Temple of a certain significance according to faith and belief of Hindus was/is converted, inviting this Court to interpret in lieu of the well documented history and review in checking the constitutional validity of such Act.

12. Supreme Court Stays Cases In High Courts On OTT Content Regulation

The Supreme Court this week stayed proceedings of cases pertaining to regulation of content on online media streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar etc pending before the High Courts.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Chandrachud issued the direction while hearing Central Government's transfer petition seeking transfer of cases pending in different High Courts for regulation of OTT platforms.

The Bench was hearing a batch of pleas filed for regulation of content on these online media streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar etc by the government.

The Court observed that it will not transfer it today as service is not complete. The Bench has decided to hear the matter in second week after Holi, and asked SG Mehta to ensure that service be completed in meantime by taking all requisite steps.

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