Supreme Court Monthly Digest: June 2020

Akshita Saxena

19 Aug 2020 5:13 AM GMT

  • Supreme Court Monthly Digest: June 2020

    1. Electricity Dues, Where They Are Statutory In Character Under Electricity Act, Cannot Partake The Character Of Dues Of Purely Contractual Nature: SC Oder dated June 1, 2020 The Supreme Court clarified that electricity dues, where they are statutory in character under the Electricity Act and as per the terms & conditions of supply, cannot be waived in view of the provisions...

    1. Electricity Dues, Where They Are Statutory In Character Under Electricity Act, Cannot Partake The Character Of Dues Of Purely Contractual Nature: SC

    Oder dated June 1, 2020

    The Supreme Court clarified that electricity dues, where they are statutory in character under the Electricity Act and as per the terms & conditions of supply, cannot be waived in view of the provisions of the Act itself, more specifically u/s 56 of the Electricity Act, 2003 (in pari materia with Section 24 of the Electricity Act, 1910), and cannot partake the character of dues of purely contractual nature.

    The bench comprised of Justice SK Kaul and Justice KM Joseph observed that where, as in cases of the E-auction notice in question, the existence of electricity dues, whether quantified or not, has been specifically mentioned as a liability of the purchaser and the sale is on "as is where is, whatever there is and without recourse basis", there can be no doubt that the liability to pay electricity dues exists on the Respondent-auctioneer.

    [Case: Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Co. Ltd v. M/S Srigdhaa Beverages]

    2. Supreme Court Paved A Way For The Execution Of A Foreign Award Emanating From A Two-Tier Arbitration Mechanism

    Order dated June 2, 2020

    The Supreme Court paved the way for the execution of a Foreign Arbitral Award in India arisen out of a two-tier arbitration mechanism by permitting the same between Centrotrade Minerals and Metals Inc. and Hindustan Copper Limited. Their arbitration clause provides— (i) dispute between the parties is to be settled by a Sole Arbitrator under the aegis of the Indian Council of Arbitration; (ii) parties would have a right to appeal to a Second Arbitration in London under the aegis of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

    A bench comprising of Justice RF Nariman, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice V. Ramasubramaniam held that two-tier arbitration agreement is valid and legally permissible under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 and the parties may opt for such a mechanism for resolving their disputes.

    [Case: M/S. Centrotrade Minerals & Metals Inc. v. Hindustan Copper Ltd.]

    3. Unsafe To Convict An Accused Solely On The Basis Of Uncorroborated Testimony Of Accomplice: SC

    Order dated June 3, 2020

    The Supreme Court has held that it would be unsafe to convict an accused solely based on uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. The bench comprising of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, KM Joseph & V. Ramasubramanian said that an accomplice, to be believed, he must be corroborated in material particulars of his testimony. The Court upheld the convictions for the abduction and murder of Tamil Nadu politician and Ex MLA, MK Balan in 2001.

    [Case: Somasundaram @ Somu v. The State Rep. By The Deputy Commissioner of Police]

    Also Read: When Abduction Is Followed By Murder, Court Can Presume That Abductor Is The Murderer : SC

    4. Plea To Change 'India' As 'Bharat': SC Refuses Interference; Asks Centre To Treat Writ Petition As Representation

    Order dated June 3, 2020

    The Supreme Court disposed of a PIL to change the name of the country as "Bharat" from "India" and asked the Central Government to treat the writ petition as a representation and to take a decision on the same. A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna & Hrishikesh Roy observed that the Court cannot pass any directions to amend the Constitution for such name change.

    [Case: Namah v. Union of India]

    5. [Article 113 Limitation Act] Limitation Period Begins To Run When The Right To Sue Accrues And Not When It 'First' Accrues

    Order dated June 5, 2020

    The Supreme Court held that in cases governed by Article 113 of the Limitation Act, the period of limitation begins to run "when the right to sue accrues" and not when the right to sue "first" accrues. A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Indira Banerjee and Dinesh Maheshwari said that the fact that the plaintiff had eventually sent a legal notice on 28.11.2003 and again on 7.1.2005 and then filed the suit on 23.2.2005 gave rise to a cause of action.

    The bench referred to two earlier decisions: Union of India & Ors. vs. West Coast Paper Mills Ltd. & Anr (2004) 2 SCC 747 and Khatri Hotels Private Limited & Anr. Vs. Union of India (2011) 9 SCC 126.

    [Case: Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd. v. The Central Bank of India & Anr.]

    6. Rent Control Act: HC Cannot Interfere With Finding Of Fact In Revisional Jurisdiction Unless There Is Perversity Or Misappreciation of Evidence: SC

    Order dated June 8, 2020

    The Supreme Court reiterated that the High Court, in its revisional jurisdiction conferred by Section 20 of the Kerala Building (Lease and Rent Control) Act, cannot interfere with the finding of fact by Appellate Authority, unless there is perversity or mis-appreciation of evidence by it.

    In the instant case, the bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha & BR Gavai noted that the High Court had interfered with the findings of fact by the First Appellate Authority. Bench stated that Interfering with this finding of fact, again, without any perversity or mis-appreciation of evidence by the Appellate Authority would clearly be outside the High Court's ken in its revisional jurisdiction.

    [Case: Addissery Raghavan v. Cheruvalath Krishnadasan]

    7. Amrapali : SC Asks Banks To Release Balance Funds To Homebuyers, Despite Accounts Being Declared NPAs

    Order dated June 10, 2020

    In a relief to thousands of home buyers of the stalled Amrapali project, the Supreme Court directed all financial institutions to disburse their balance funds and restructure the amounts. A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra & U U Lalit ordered that the banks and financial institutions shall release loans to home buyers, whose loans have been sanctioned, notwithstanding the fact that their accounts are declared as NPAs.

    [Case: Bikram Chatterji v. Union Of India]

    8. [Motor Accident] Compensation Should Not Be Elusive: SC Fixes 75% Functional Disability For Man Who Had To Amputate Lower Limb

    Order dated June 10, 2020

    Disapproving a High Court judgment which reduced the percentage of functional disability of a man who had to amputate lower limb due to an accident, the Supreme Court observed that compensation for loss of future earning should not be elusive.

    A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Navin Sinha & BR Gavai observed that compensation for loss of future earnings has to be proper and just so as to enable the person to live a life of dignity, with compensation not being elusive.

    "PW.3 had assessed the physical functional disability of the left leg of the appellant at 75% and total body disability at 37.5%. The High Court has considered it proper to assess the physical disability at 25% of the whole body only. There is no discussion for this reduction in percentage, much less any consideration of the nature of permanent functional disability suffered by the appellant," the bench observed.

    [Case: Sri Anthony alias Anthony Swamy v. The Managing Director, KSRTC]

    9. Bar On 'Transfer/Assignment' Of Agricultural Land To Non-Agriculturist Applicable To Testamentary Disposition Also: SC

    Order dated June 15, 2020

    The Supreme Court ruled that Section 63 of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 debars an agriculturist from parting with his agricultural land to a non-agriculturist through a "Will".

    The three-judge bench headed by Justice U. U. Lalit, in dismissing the appeals against the impugned Gujarat High Court judgment, also held that Section 43(1) of the Tenancy Act restricts transfer of any land or interest purchased by the tenant under Sections 17B, 32, 32F, 321, 320, 32U, 33(1) or 88E or sold to any person under Section 32P or 64 of the Tenancy Act through the execution of a Will by way of testamentary disposition.

    The Court said that if a testamentary disposition which does not have the element of consideration is to be permitted, and if it is assumed that Sections 43 and 63 of the Act do not get attracted, the land can be bequeathed to a total stranger and a non-agriculturist who may not cultivate the land himself; which in turn may then lead to engagement of somebody as a tenant on the land. In such a situation, the legislative intent to do away with absentee landlordism and to protect the cultivating tenants, and to establish direct relationship between the cultivator and the land would then be rendered otiose.

    [Case: Vinodchandra Sakarlal Kapadia V. State of Gujarat & Ors.]

    10. Death Penalty Cannot Be Imposed By Giving Retrospective Effect To POCSO Amendment To An Offence Committed Prior To Amendment: SC

    Order dated June 15, 2020

    The Supreme Court refused to apply retrospectively the imposition of death sentence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, included with effect from 6th August, 2019.

    The bench of Justices S. K. Kaul & K. M. Joseph was hearing a special leave petition preferred by the State of Telangana on the limited issue that the death sentence imposed by the Trial Court has been modified by the High Court to a life sentence albeit with a rider that the respondent-convict shall not be released till his last breath. It was the submission of the counsel for the petitioner-state that a signal goes to the society by imposition of the death sentence.

    "We fail to see how retrospective effect can be granted when the punishment is to operate prospectively and logically so. Even otherwise, the punishment of not being released till his last breath is punitive enough to send a signal to the society and it cannot be that only the death sentence can send a right signal," the Court said.

    [Case: State of Telangana v. Polepakka Praveen @ Pawan]

    11. Contingent Clause In Rent Deed To Increase Rent Each Year Cannot Be Read To Mean That Tenancy Was For More Than One Year Period: SC

    Order dated June 17, 2020

    The Supreme Court observed that merely because a Rent deed contains a clause which binds the tenant to increase the rent by certain percentage each year, it cannot be read to mean that the tenancy was for a period of more than one year.

    The bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and V. Ramasubramanian clarified, "clause which binds the tenant to increase the rent by 10% each year, which was contingent on tenancy to continue for more than a year, but that clause cannot be read to mean that the tenancy was for a period of more than one year."

    [Case: Siri Chand (Deceased) Thr. LRS. V. Surinder Singh]

    12. [Motor Vehicles Act] Person In Whose Name Vehicle Stands Registered On The Date Of Accident To Be Treated As 'Owner': SC

    Order dated June 18, 2020

    The Supreme Court observed that it is the person in whose name the motor vehicle stands registered, who would be treated as the owner of the vehicle, for the purposes of the Motor Vehicles Act. While deciding and allowing the appeal, the bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi & Indira Banerjee observed that the National Commission overlooked Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 where 'owner' has been defined to mean—

    "a person in whose name a motor vehicle stands registered and, where such person is a minor, the guardian of such minor, and in relation to a motor vehicle which is the subject of a hire purchase agreement, or an agreement of lease or an agreement of hypothecation, the person in possession of the vehicle under that agreement"..

    [Case: Surendra K. Bhilawe v. New India Assurance Co. Ltd.]

    13. [Section 25 CPC] 'First Past The Post' Principle Cannot Be Applied While Deciding A Transfer Petition: SC

    Order dated June 18, 2020

    The Supreme Court observed that the "First past the post" principle cannot be applied while considering a petition for transfer under Section 25 of the CPC. The Court was considering a petition seeking transfer of a suit for partition and certain other ancillary reliefs instituted in the Delhi High Court. The contention was that the suit for partition can be clubbed together with a Testamentary proceeding pending before the Bombay High Court. Objecting to this plea, the respondents' contention was that the suit for partition having been instituted before the Testamentary Petition, it must be allowed to proceed first and the Testamentary Petition could be transferred to Delhi High Court, if necessary.

    Justice Aniruddha Bose observed that such petitions are to be decided on consideration of the ends of justice. "The "First past the post" is not the principle that can be applied in proceedings of this nature," he held.

    [Case: Shamita Singha v. Rashmi Ahluwalia]

    14. Can Family Court Entertain Maintenance Petition Under Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act? SC Delivers Split Verdict

    Order dated June 18, 2020

    The Supreme Court gave a split verdict on the issue whether a Family Court has the jurisdiction to entertain a petition for maintenance under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

    Justice R. Banumathi opined that the Family Court has no jurisdiction and application under Section 3(2) of the Act by the divorced wife has to be filed before the competent Magistrate having jurisdiction if she claims maintenance beyond the iddat period.

    Justice Indira Banerjee on the other hand expressed a view that a rigid, constricted reading of the 1986 Act for Muslim Women, to denude the Family Courts constituted under the Family Courts Act of jurisdiction to decide an application thereunder, is impermissible in law.

    A larger bench will be constituted to decide the issue.

    [Case: Rana Nahid @ Reshma @ Sana v. Sahidul Haq Chisti]

    15. Accused Is Entitled To Be Heard In A Revision Petition Against Dismissal Of Protest Petition: Supreme Court

    Order dated June 18, 2020

    The Supreme Court reiterated that an accused person has the right to be heard before a court hearing a revision petition against the order of dismissal of complaint, filed against him. The bench of Justice Navin Sinha & Justice Indira Banerjee set aside the order dated October 8, 2007, passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, whereby the Magistrate's order for dismissal of complaint against the Petitioner-accused was set aside, without giving him an opportunity of hearing.

    [Case: SS Deshmukh v. SA Talekar & Ors.]

    16. Power U/s 482 CrPC Can Be Exercised To Quash Criminal Proceedings Which Are Ex Facie Bad For Want Of Sanction: SC

    Order dated June 18, 2020

    The Supreme Court observed that the power under Section 482 of CrPC can be exercised to quash criminal proceedings which are ex facie bad for want of sanction, frivolous or in abuse of process of court.

    A bench of Justices R. Banumathi & Indira Banerjee observed that, sanction for prosecution was a legal requirement which empowers the Court to take Cognizance (of police excesses during custody in this case) and the High Court ought to have exercised its power to quash the complaint instead of remitting the appellant to an application under Section 245 of the CrPC to seek discharge.

    The bench also reiterated the following settled principles regarding sanction under Section 197 of CrPC:

    • Sanction of the Government, to prosecute a police officer, for any act related to the discharge of an official duty, is imperative to protect the police officer from facing harassive, retaliatory, revengeful and frivolous proceedings.
    • Every offence committed by a police officer does not attract Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
    • An offence committed entirely outside the scope of the duty of the police officer, would certainly not require sanction.
    • To decide whether sanction is necessary, the test is whether the act is totally unconnected with official duty or whether there is a reasonable connection with the official duty.

    [Case: D. Devaraja v. Owais Sabeer Hussain]

    17. Suo Moto Extension Of Limitation Or Lockdown Will Not Affect Right Of Accused To Default Bail : SC

    Order dated June 19, 2020

    The Supreme Court held that its suo motu order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions of the government will not affect the right of an accused to seek default bail under Section 167(2) of the CrPC.

    Holding thus, a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and V Ramasubramanian set aside the judgment of a single bench of the Madras High Court in S Kasi v. State, which had held the time to file chargesheet under Section 167(2) CrPC will also get extended on account of the SC order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions. The bench upheld the judgment of another single bench (of Justice G R Swaminathan) in the case Settu vs The State, which had held that SC order extending limitation did not affect right to default bail.

    [Case: S. Kasi v. State Thr. Inspector, PS Madurai]

    Also Read: Judicial Discipline Ordains That Coordinate Bench Cannot Take Contrary View; Can Only Refer To Larger Bench : SC

    18. SC Refuses To Interfere With Calcutta HC Order Directing Action Against Bank of Baroda; Says 'It Is Open To RBI To Modify HC Direction'

    Order dated June 22, 2020

    The Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by Bank of Baroda (BoB) against the February 10 order of the Calcutta High Court, which had directed the Reserve Bank of India to consider taking steps against the BoB, including cancellation of its license, for not honouring its commitments on an unconditional bank guarantee.

    Though the SC dismissed the BoB's appeal, it granted liberty to the RBI to take such action as necessary, in modification of the peremptory directions of the Calcutta HC. This means that the compulsory tone of the Calcutta HC direction has been diluted by a bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta & Aniruddha Bose. The top court has now left the matter to the discretion of the RBI.

    [Case: Banks of Baroda v. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. & Ors.]

    19. Interim Orders In Writ Petitions Involving Contractual Matters Should Be Passed Only After Carefully Weighing Public Interest: SC

    Order dated June 24, 2020

    The Supreme Court has reiterated that passing any interim orders in writ petitions involving contractual matters, the courts must carefully weigh conflicting public interests. It held that only when it comes to a conclusion that there is an overwhelming public interest in entertaining the petition, the court should intervene.

    A bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta & Aniruddha Bose observed that grant of interim stay order impinges upon the grant of contract by the state and is not in public interest that too without recording any reasons.

    [Case: Rajasthan State Warehousing Corporation Vs. Star Agriwarehousing And Collateral Management Limited]

    20. HC Cannot Convert Itself Into Court Of Appeal While Considering Petitions Under Article 227: SC

    Order dated June 26, 2020

    The Supreme Court reiterated that while hearing a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, a High Court cannot convert itself into a court of appeal. A bench of Justices Navin Sinha & BR Gavai observed that the High Court ignored the legal position expounded in a three judge bench judgment in Achal Misra vs. Rama Shanker Singh wherein it was specifically held, that even if a party does not challenge the vacancy order by way of writ petition, it is still open to it to challenge the same order along with the final order passed under Section 16 in the revision under Section 18 of the U.P. Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972.

    [Case: Mohd. Inam v. Sanjay Kumar Singhal & Ors.]

    21. [Tamil Nadu General Sales Tax] Purchase Tax Leviable On Purchase Turnover Of Empty Bottles Purchased In Course Of Beer/IMFL Manufacture Business: SC

    Order dated June 29, 2020

    The Supreme Court held that under Section 7-A of the Tamil Nadu General Sales Tax Act, 1959, purchase tax is leviable on the purchase turnover of empty bottles purchased by the assessee in the course of its business of manufacture and sale of Beer and IMFL.

    The bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar & Dinesh Maheshwari held that purchase turnover of the empty bottles purchased by the assessee from the unregistered dealers under bought note is eligible to purchase tax under Section 7-A of the Tamil Nadu Act; and the assessee cannot escape such liability on the strength of the Clarifications/Circulars dated 09.11.1989 and 27.12.2000.

    [Case: The Commercial Tax Officer V. Mohan Breweries & Distilleries Ltd.]

    22. Awarding Compensation Towards 'Loss Of Love & Affection' As A Separate Head In Addition To 'Loss Of Consortium' Not Justified: SC

    Order dated June 30, 2020

    The Supreme Court observed that there is no justification to award compensation towards loss of love and affection as a separate head, in addition to awarding compensation for loss of consortium.

    The bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, Indu Malhotra & Aniruddha Bose observed that loss of love and affection is comprehended in loss of consortium, which is a legitimate conventional head. "In Magma General (supra), this Court gave a comprehensive interpretation to consortium to include spousal consortium, parental consortium, as well as filial consortium," the bench recalled.

    [Case: United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Satinder Kaur @ Satwinder Kaur & Ors.]

    Supreme Court Monthly Digest: May 2020

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