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Supreme Court Monthly Digest: May 2020

Akshita Saxena
29 July 2020 5:09 AM GMT
Supreme Court Monthly Digest: May 2020

1. 'Common Parlance', 'Popular Meaning', 'Marketability' Tests Applicable Only If Tariff Entry Classifiable In More Than One Head: SC

Order dated May 1, 2020

The division bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose dismissed the Delhi Central Excise Commissioner's appeals against the 2008 decision of the CESTAT holding that "car matting" would be chargeable to duty at 8% under the heading "Carpets and Other Textile Floor Coverings", and not at 16% under "Vehicles other than Railway or Tramway Rolling-Stock and Parts and Accessories Thereof".

The Court laid down that the "common parlance test", "marketability test" and "popular meaning test", which are all "tools for interpretation to arrive at a decision on proper classification of a tariff entry", would be required to be applied only "if a particular tariff entry is capable of being classified in more than one heads". In the present case it observed, car mattings are suitable for use "solely" with the vehicle.

[Case: Commissioner Of Central Excise, Delhi-III v. M/S. Uni Products India Ltd.]

2. SARFEASI Act Applicable To Cooperative Banks : SC Constitution Bench

Order dated May 5, 2020

"The co­operative banks under the State legislation and multi­ State co­operative banks are 'banks' under section 2(1)(c) of Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002", held the Constitution Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose.

The bench unanimously held that the Parliament had the legislative competence to bring cooperative banks under the ambit of SARFAESI Act.

It thus rejected the argument that 2013 amendment to the SARFAESI Act adding 'mutli-state cooperative bank' in Section 2(1)(c)(iva) was a "colourable exercise of power". It also upheld the 2003 notification issued under the Banking Regulation Act 1949 by which co­operative bank was brought within the class of banks entitled to seek recourse to the provisions of the SARFAESI Act.

[Case: Pandurang Ganpati Chaugule and others V. Vishwasrao Patil Murgud Sahakari Bank Limited]

Also Read: Cooperative Banks Must Comply With Banking Regulation Act And Other Laws Related To Banking: SC

3. Order XXIII Rule 3A CPC: Bar To File Separate Suit Challenging Compromise Decree Applies To Stranger Also: SC

Order dated May 6, 2020

The Supreme Court held that the bar under Order 23 Rule 3A Civil Procedure Code to challenge a decree passed on a compromise in a separate suit, also applied to a stranger to the proceedings. A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi examined the intent behind amending Order 23 and observed that "Finality of decisions is an underlying principle of all adjudicating forums. Thus, creation of further litigation should never be the basis of a compromise between the parties"

[Case: Triloki Nath Singh v. Anirudh Singh]

4. HC May Decline To Entertain A Writ Petition Which Raises Complex Questions Of Facts: SC

Order dated May 6, 2020

"The High Court may decline to entertain a writ petition when it raises complex questions of facts," a division bench comprised of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari reiterated.

The bench noted that when the petition raises questions of fact of complex nature which may for their determination require oral and documentary evidence to be produced and proved by the concerned party, the High Courts should be loath in entertaining such writ petitions and instead must relegate the parties to remedy of a civil suit.

[Case: Punjab National Bank v. Atmanand Singh]

5. Accused Can Challenge Conviction In Appeal Filed By The State Even If He Did Not Prefer A Formal Appeal: SC

Order dated May 6, 2020

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari observed that an accused can challenge the finding and order of conviction in the appeal filed by the State, even though the said accused had not preferred a formal appeal.

The Court accepted the contention that the accused had a right to challenge the finding of guilt and conviction under Section 326 and 148, IPC, recorded against him, even though the said accused had not preferred a formal appeal against the impugned judgment. Court relied on Chandrakant Patil vs. State through CBI, Sumer Singh vs. Surajbhan Singh & Ors., State of Rajasthan vs. Ramanand vis-à-vis the settled legal position which predicates that in the appeal filed against the sentence on the ground of its inadequacy, the accused may plead for his acquittal or for reduction of the sentence.

[Case: State of Rajasthan v. Mehram]

6. HC Cannot Disregard Statutory Limitation Period To Entertain Writ Petition Challenging Order Passed By Statutory Authority: SC

Order dated May 6, 2020

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari observed that a High Court cannot disregard the statutory limitation period to entertain writ petition, assailing orders passed by statutory authorities, which were not appealed against before the expiry of the maximum limitation period.

The Court held, "the powers of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution are wide, but certainly not wider than the plenary powers bestowed on this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution. Article 142 is a conglomeration and repository of the entire judicial powers under the Constitution, to do complete justice to the parties".

[Case: Assistant Commissioner (CT) LTU, Kakinada v. M/s. Glaxo Smith KlineConsumer Health Care Limited]

7. [Public Service Recruitment] Judicial Review Should Be Rarely Exercised If Provision For Revaluation Of Answer Sheets Is Absent: SC

Order dated May 6, 2020

The Supreme Court reiterated that that the scope of judicial review under Article 226 in matters concerning evaluation of candidates-particularly, for purpose of recruitment to public services is narrow.

The bench comprising of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat discouraged the High Court for setting aside the results of the main examination conducted by Bihar Staff Selection Commission to vacancies in Class III posts in various departments of the Government of Bihar and directing re-evaluation, especially in the absence of a provision permitting the same.

"We are of the opinion that the unilateral exercise of re-valuation undertaken by the High Court has not solved, but rather contributed to the chaos. No rule or regulation was shown by any party during the hearing, which justified the approach that was adopted," it said.

[Case: Bihar Staff Selection Commission v. Arun Kumar]

8. Babri Demolition Case : SC Extends Deadline For CBI Court To Deliver Judgment Till August 31, 2020

Order dated May 8, 2020

Supreme Court extended the deadline for Special CBI Court, Lucknow to deliver judgment till August 31, 2020 criminal case pertianing to the the demolition of Babri Masjid. On July 19, 2019, the same bench of Justices RF Nariman and Surya Kant had directed the Trial Court to complete the recording of evidence within six months and deliver judgment within nine months.

The Court had also directed the UP Government to issue administrative orders to extend the tenure of the Special Judge of CBI Court, Lucknow, who is holding the trial, till the delivery of judgment. On May 6, the trial judge, Sri Yadav, wrote to the SC seeking extension of time stating that even recording of evidence has not been completed.

[Case: State through CBI v. Kalyan Singh]

9. States Can Consider Home Delivery Of Liquor/Indirect Sale To Facilitate Social Distancing: SC

Order dated May 8, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that the State can consider selling liquor via Home Delivery and/or inculcate indirect sales during the Coronavirus induced lockdown.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai made this remark while hearing a petition challenging the opening of liquor shops by various State Governments. The bench observed that passing orders on the plea under Article 32 was not feasible and added that States must effectuate social distancing while selling liquor by considering the other viable options.

[Case: Guruswamy Nataraj v. Union of India]

10. Sabarimala Reference: SC Gives Reasons For Holding That Questions Of Law Can Be Referred To Larger Bench In Review

Order dated May 11, 2020

The Supreme Court passed an order detailing reasons for reference of questions of law, to a larger bench in a review petition.

The 9-judge bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde had dismissed objections regarding the maintainability of reference in Sabarimala Review Petitions on February 10. On that occasion, the bench had stated that it will give reasons for the conclusion later.

It has now given out the following reasons:

  • Limitations in Order XLVII of the Supreme Court Rules are not applicable to Orders/Judgments in Writ Petitions;
  • Reference can be made in a pending Review Petition;
  • No matter is beyond Jurisdiction of Superior Court of Record;
  • Article 142 justifies the Reference;
  • Not necessary to refer to facts to decide pure questions of law;
  • Article 145(3) Proviso that reference to a larger bench can be made only in Appeals and not in any other proceedings is not applicable to references made by a bench of five or more Judges.

[Case: Kantararu Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Association]

11. 'Usually Court Not Required To Examine Merits Of Interpretation Provided In Award By Arbitrator, If Such Interpretation Was Reasonably Possible': SC

Order dated May 11, 2020

While setting aside an arbitral award, the Supreme Court held that courts may not examine the merits of interpretation provided in the award by the arbitrator, unless they were of the view that such an interpretation was reasonably not possible. A bench of Justices NV Ramana, MM Shantanagoudar & Ajay Rastogi acknowledged the settled position under Section 34 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act according to which a Court can set aside an Award only on the grounds at provided in the Act, adding that the Court cannot interfere in the plausible view taken by the Arbitrator, which is supported with reasoning.

[Case: South East Asia Marine Engineering & Constructions Ltd. v. Oil India Ltd.]

12. SC Refuses To Pass Orders For 4G Restoration In J&K; Asks Special Committee To Examine Issues Raised By Petitioners

Order dated May 11, 2020

The Supreme Court refused directed Constitution of Special Committee comprising secretaries of Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Chief Secretary of J&K to examine contentions raised in pleas seeking restoration of 4G internet in J&K.

A bench of Justices NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy & B.R. Gavai observed that even though the Court recognized that the Union Territory had plunged into a crisis, and the court was cognizant to the concerns related to ongoing pandemic and hardships, there was a need to ensure that national security and human rights are balanced.

[Case: Foundation for Media Professionals v. Union of India]

Also Read: Better Internet Desirable During Pandemic Lockdown; But Can't Ignore Terrorism Concerns : SC In J&K Pleas For 4G

13. SC To Monitor Beautification Of 18th Century Garden 'Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh'; Sets Aside NGT Ban On Social Functions There

Order dated May 11, 2020

While setting aside the blanket ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal on organising social functions like marriages and other events in 'Sisodia Rani Ki Bagh', an 18th-century historical site near Jaipur, Rajasthan, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat held that the monument may be used for multi-purpose activities between 8 AM and 8 PM. The Court also said that it shall monitor the beautification and developmental works of the site.

[Case: The Director, Dept. of Archeology & Museums, Jaipur & Anr v. Ashish Gautam & Ors.]

14. Secondary Evidence Can Be Permitted To Be Produced If The Party Establishes Factual Foundation For The Same: SC

Order dated May 13, 2020

The Supreme Court held that a court can permit a party to produce secondary evidence if a factual foundation for producing it is established.

A bench comprising Justices Navin Sinha & Krishna Murari observed that merely an admission in evidence and making exhibit of a document, does not prove it automatically unless the same has been proved in accordance with the law.

[Case: Jagmail Singh & Anr. v. Karamjit Singh & Ors.]

15. India's Freedom Will Rest Safe As Long As Journalists Can Speak To Power Without Being Chilled By A Threat Of Reprisal: SC

Order dated May 19, 2020

In a writ petition seeking quashing of FIRs filed by Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, the Supreme Court observed that to allow a journalist to be subjected to multiple complaints and to the pursuit of remedies traversing multiple states and jurisdictions when faced with successive FIRs and complaints bearing the same foundation, has a stifling effect on the exercise of his freedom.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah further reiterated that decisions have held that the right of a journalist under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to speak and express, but the society must never forget that one cannot exist without the other and free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position. The court therefore refused Goswami's prayer to quash the FIR.

It also declined to transfer the probe to CBI and said that the accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency. The dictum in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case (Romila Thapar vs Union of India) was cited in this regard.

[Case: Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India & Ors.]

Also Read: SC Rejects Arnab Goswami's Plea To Quash FIR By Maharashtra Police And Transfer Probe To CBI

Also Read: Displeasure Of Accused About The Manner In Which Investigation Proceeds Not A Ground To Transfer Investigation To CBI: SC

16. To Constitute Civil Contempt, It Must Be Established That Disobedience Is Wilful, Deliberate And With Full Knowledge Of Consequences : SC

Order dated May 19, 2020

The Supreme Court declined to initiate civil contempt proceedings against the Food Corporation of India, observing that the alleged disobedience was neither wilful nor deliberate.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari reiterated the precedent in Ram Kishan vs. Tarun Bajaj & Ors (2014) 16 SCC 204 according to which the "wilful" disobedience of a contemnor has to be established. Court observed that "It is well­-settled principle of law that if two interpretations are possible, and if the action is not contumacious, a contempt proceeding would not be maintainable".

[Case: The Workmen through the Convenor FCI Labour Federation v. Ravuthar Dawood Naseem]

17. Unfair Disposition Or Unjust Exclusion Of Legal Heirs In A Will Can Be Regarded As A Suspicious Circumstance: SC

Order dated May 19, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that an unfair disposition of property or an unjust exclusion of the legal heirs, particularly the dependants, is regarded as a suspicious circumstance. A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari observed that the circumstances extrapolating "suspicious circumstances" taken into account by the Trial Court and the High Court, by itself and standing alone, cannot operate against the validity of the propounded Will. On the other hand, quality and nature of each of these factors and the cumulative effect and impact of all of them upon making of the Will with free agency of the testatrix would be relevant for consideration.

[Case: Kavita Kanwar v. Pamela Mehta & Ors.]

18. 'Patent Illegality' A Ground Available To Set Aside Domestic Arbitral Awards Made After 2015 Amendment : SC

Order dated May 22, 2020

The Supreme Court observed that an arbitral award can be set aside under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act if it is patently illegal or perverse. A bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi, Indu Malhotra and Aniruddha Bose observed that ground of patent illegality is a ground available under the statute for setting aside a domestic award made after the 2015 amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

While confirming the High Court view, the Apex Court dealt with the history of 'Patent illegality' ground. It observed that such a ground for setting aside a domestic award was first expounded in the judgment of Saw Pipes Ltd. Later the ground of "patent illegality" for setting aside a domestic award has been given statutory force in Section 34(2A) of the 1996 Act, it noted

[Case: Patel Engineering Ltd. v. North Easter Electric Power Corporation Ltd.(NEEPCO)]

19. Retirement Of One Partner Amounts To Dissolution Of Partnership Firm Consisting Of Only Two Partners: SC

Order dated May 26, 2020

The Supreme Court held that when there are only two partners and one has agreed to retire, then the retirement amounts to dissolution of the firm. A bench of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari also discussed the distinction between 'retirement of a partner' and 'dissolution of a partnership firm' emphasisin that when there are only two partners and one has agreed to retire, then the retirement amounts to dissolution of the firm [Ref. Erach F.D. Mehta v. Minoo F.D. Mehta]

[Case: Guru Nanak Industries, Faridabad v. Amar Singh (Dead) Thr. LR's]

20. [Section 157 CrPC] Mere Delay In Forwarding FIR To Magistrate By Itself Is Not A Ground To Acquit The Accused: SC

Order dated May 26, 2020

The Supreme Court reiterated that the delay in sending the FIR to the Magistrate in compliance of Section 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot, in itself, be a ground to acquit the accused.

A bench of Justices NV Ramana, Mohan M. Shanthanagoudar and Sanjiv Khanna noted the judgment Jafel Biswas v. State of West Bengal wherein the effect of delay in compliance of Section 157 of the Code and its legal impact on the trial was examined. In the said decision, it was held that mere delay in sending the report itself cannot lead to a conclusion that the trial is vitiated or the accused is entitled to be acquitted on this ground.

[Case: Ombir Singh v. State of UP]

21. Employee Can Be Dismissed In Disciplinary Inquiry Completed After Retirement If Rules Permit It: SC Holds By 2:1 Majority

Order dated May 27, 2020

The Supreme Court [2:1] has observed that disciplinary enquiry against an employee can continue even after the retirement of the employee and major punishment like dismissal or removal can be imposed, if the relevant Service Rules permit it.

Overruling the decision in Jaswant Singh Gill v. Bharat Coking Coal Ltd., (2007) 1 SCC 663, the majority of the bench Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah, referred to a three judge bench decision in State Bank of India v. Ram Lal Bhaskar, (2011) 10 SCC 249, and said,

"Several service benefits would depend upon the outcome of the inquiry, such as concerning the period during which inquiry remained pending. It would be against the public policy to permit an employee to go scot­ free after collecting various service benefits to which he would not be entitled, and the event of superannuation cannot come to his rescue and would amount to condonation of guilt."

Justice Ajay Rastogi dissented.

[Case: Chairman-cum-MD Mahanadi Coalfield Ltd. v. Rabindranath Choubey]

22. SC Delivers Split Verdict On Time Of Retirement When Person Joined Service As A Minor

Order dated May 28, 2020

A Bench comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi arrived at a split decision in a matter regarding whether the age of an individual or the number of years served on the job would determine the basis of retirement in cases where the person was employed before attainment of majority (in reference to Rule 73 of the Bihar Service Code).

As per Justice Banerjee, any decision to amend the age of retirement could only have been done with the amendment of Rule 73 of the Bihar Service Code in accordance with law. Furthermore, this could not be done merely by a resolution of the Bihar School Examination Board.

Justice Ajay Rastogi, per contra, observed that only the person who attains the age of majority will be competent to enter into a valid contract of service. Therefore, the Appellant could not have entered into service below the age of attaining majority, if there was no express provision of minimum age at the entry level under the Bihar Service.

Due to the difference in opinions of the two judges, Justice Banerjee directed for the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice of India for reference to a larger Bench. Justice Rastogi directed for the dismissal of the Appeal.

[Case: Gopal Prasad v. Bihar School Examination Baord & Ors.]

23. No Law That The Person Accompanying Principal Culprit Shares His Intention In Respect Of Every Act Which The Latter Might Eventually Commit: SC

Order dated May 29, 2020

The Supreme Court has observed that there is no law that a person accompanying the principal culprit shares his intention in respect of every act the latter might eventually commit. The bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph made this observation while allowing an appeal filed by a theft and murder accused. Referring to Section 34 IPC, the bench observed that the principle which underlies criminal liability for the acts of another therein, is the shared intention or the common intention to commit an offence.

[Case: Sonu @ Sunil V. State of Madhya Pradesh]

Also Read: [Theft And Murder] Not Safe To Draw An Inference That The Person In Possession Of Stolen Property Was The Murderer: SC

Supreme Court Monthly Digest : April 2020



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