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Supreme Court Weekly Round Up May 3 to May 9, 2021

Nupur Thapliyal
9 May 2021 2:03 PM GMT
Supreme Court Weekly Round Up May 3 to May 9, 2021
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Supreme Court Weekly Round Up April 3 to April 9, 2021

JUDGMENTS THIS WEEK1. Supreme Court Strikes Down Maratha Quota; Says No Exceptional Circumstance To Grant Reservation In Excess Of 50% Ceiling LimitCase: Dr Jaishree Laxmanrao Patil v Chief Minister [CA 3123 of 2020] Citation : LL 2021 SC 243A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down the Maratha quota in excess of 50% ceiling limit as unconstitutional. The Court unanimously...

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JUDGMENTS THIS WEEK

1. Supreme Court Strikes Down Maratha Quota; Says No Exceptional Circumstance To Grant Reservation In Excess Of 50% Ceiling Limit

Case: Dr Jaishree Laxmanrao Patil v Chief Minister [CA 3123 of 2020]
Citation : LL 2021 SC 243

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down the Maratha quota in excess of 50% ceiling limit as unconstitutional. The Court unanimously held that there were no exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of reservation to Marathas in excess of 50% ceiling limit as a Socially and Economically Backward Class.

The Court has held by 3:2 majority that the 102nd Constitution Amendment has abrogated the power of states to identify "Socially and Educationally Backward Classes(SEBCs)".

The majority judgment held that after the introduction of Articles 338B and 342A to the Constitution "the final say in regard to inclusion or exclusion (or modification of lists) of SEBCs is firstly with the President, and thereafter, in case of modification or exclusion from the lists initially published, with the Parliament".

The Court also held that alteration of the content of state legislative power in an oblique and peripheral manner would not constitute a violation of the concept of federalism or basic structure of the Constitution.

This pronouncement was given in the case Dr Jaishree Laxmanrao Pati v The Chief Minister and others, in which a constitution bench was considering the validity of Maratha reservation and 102nd Constitution Amendment.

Read Also: States Have No Power To 'Identify' Socially & Educationally Backward Classes After 102nd Constitution Amendment : Supreme Court Holds By 3:2 Majority

Read Also: 'To Change 50% Reservation Limit Is To Have A Society Which Is Not Founded On Equality But Based On Caste Rule': SC Refuses To Revisit Indra Sawhney Judgment

2. "Encroachment Of State Legislature Upon The Domain Of Parliament": Supreme Court Strikes Down West Bengal Housing Industry Regulation Act

The bench of Justices Chandrachud and M. R. Shah this week struck down the West Bengal Housing Industry Regulation Act, 2017( WBHIRA), holding it to be unconstitutional in view of the 2017 Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA) which is the central legislation on the identical subject-matter.

However, with a view to prevent any chaos in the real estate industry in the state, the Court in exercise of its powers under Article 142, clarified that all sanctions and registrations previously granted under the HIRA prior to the date of this judgment shall continue to prevail

The Court also added that the striking down of the 2017 state Act would not revive the 1993 Act which was in force in the state for the regulation of promotion of construction as the same stood impliedly repealed by the enactment of the RERA.

3. Supreme Court Upholds Constitutional Validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act; Reads Down Sections 4, 7 and 10

Case: Indian School, Jodhpur Vs. State Of Rajasthan [CA 1724 OF 2021]
Citation: LL 2021 SC 240

The bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari upheld the constitutional validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016. However, in doing so, the Court read down Sections 4, 7 and 10 of the Act.

"The dispensation envisaged under Section 6 of the impugned Act of 2016 is not intended to undermine the autonomy of the school Management in the matter of determination of fee structure itself. What it envisages is that the school Management may determine its own fee structure, but may finalise or give effect to the same after interacting with the SLFC", the Court said.

In the appeals filed before the Apex Court, the private unaided schools in the State of Rajasthan had assailed the validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 20163 , in particular Sections 3, 4, 6 to 11, 15 and 16 and the Rules framed thereunder titled Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Rules, 2017 , in particular Rules 3, 4, 6 to 8 and 11 thereof being ultra vires the Constitution and abridge the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. The Rajasthan High Court had earlier upheld the vires of the Act.

4. State Regulation Of Profiteering By Schools Does Not Violate Managements' Fundamental Rights Under Article 19(1)(g) : Supreme Court

Case: Indian School, Jodhpur Vs. State Of Rajasthan [CA 1724 OF 2021]
Citation: LL 2021 SC 240

A bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari held that State's regulation of profiteering by education institutions cannot be held to be violating the managements' fundamental right to trade and profession under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The observation came while upholding the constitutional validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016. As per the Act, the fees of private unaided schools must be determined by a School Level Fees Committee(SLFC), which includes a representative of the school management, five parents, three teachers and the principal. Further, the Act establishes regulatory commissions which can determine if the fee structure evolved by the schools has elements of profiteering.

"Setting up of an independent final adjudicatory authority especially created for considering the question as to whether the fee structure proposed by the school Management results in profiteering or otherwise, it does not impinge upon the fundamental right of the school Management guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution." The Court held.

5. Evidence Act - Proviso 6 To Section 92 Will Not Apply If The Document Is Straightforward With No Ambiguity : Supreme Court

Title : Mangala Waman Karandikar (D) TR. LRS vs.Prakash Damodar Ranad
Citation : LL 2021 SC 247

Bench comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose has held that the proviso 6 to Section 92 of the Evidence Act will not apply if a document is straightforward, without any ambiguity in meaning. 

Section 92 of the Evidence Act bars giving oral evidence with respect to the contents of a written document. However, proviso 6 to Section 92 allows the admission of facts external to the document which shows in what manner the language of a document is related to existing facts.

The Supreme Court was considering an appeal in which the question was whether the agreement in the case should be interpreted as a license to run a business or a license to occupy the rented premises in which the business was located.

6. Orders Framing Charges Or Refusing Discharge Neither Interlocutory Nor Final; Not Affected By Bar U/Sec 397 (2) CrPC: Supreme Court

Case: Sanjay Kumar Rai Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [CrA 472 OF 2021]
Citation: LL 2021 SC 246

The bench headed by CJI NV Ramana has held that orders framing charges or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature and are therefore not affected by the bar of Section 397 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Court observed thus while allowing appeal against the Allahabad High Court order which dismissed a Criminal Revision Petition against a Trial court order dismissing a discharge application. The High Court was of the view that it lacked jurisdiction under Section 397 of Cr.P.C to interfere with CJM order. It relied on Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2018) 16 SCC 299 to hold that interference in the order framing charges or refusing to discharge is called for in rarest of rare case only to correct the patent error of jurisdiction.

7. 'Citizens Have Right To Know What Transpires In Judicial Proceedings' : Supreme Court Upholds Media's Freedom To Report Court Hearings

Title : Election Commission of India v MR Vijaya Bhaskar
Citation : LL 2021 SC 244

In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the freedom of media to report the oral observations and discussions made by judges and lawyers during a court proceeding. A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah held that freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) extends to reporting judicial proceedings as well.

The bench was delivering its judgment in a petition filed by the Election Commission of India seeking to restrain media from reporting oral remarks made by judges, after the Madras High Court orally said that the ECI "should probably be booked for murder" for being "singularly responsible for COVID second wave" by allowing election rallies.

"The concept of an open court requires that information relating to a court proceeding must be available in the public domain. Citizens have a right to know about what transpires in the course of judicial proceedings", the 31-page judgment authored by Justice DY Chandrachud stated.

Read Also: Real Time Reporting Of Court Hearing In Social Media Not A Cause Of Apprehension; A Virtual Extension Of 'Open Court' : Supreme Court

IMPORTANT APEX COURT UPDATES

1. Supreme Court Constitutes National Task Force To Formulate Methodology For Scientific Allocation Of Medical Oxygen To States, UTs

A division bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has constituted a 12 member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for scientific allocation of liquid medical oxygen to all the States and Union Territories in order to deal with the dearth of oxygen supply amid the second Covid wave.

The Task Force which will be at liberty to draw upon the human resources of the Union Government for consultation and information and may also constitute one or more sub-groups on specialised areas or regions for assisting it, before finalising its recommendations.

The Court constituted the task force after noting deficiencies in the Centre's formula for oxygen allocation, which is based on hospital-beds in a state. The Court had earlier flagged that this formula required a re-look as it did not take into account individuals who may not have secured hospital admission, but are in need of oxygen support.

Read Also: Supreme Court Directs Audit Of Medical Oxygen Supplied To States/UTs To Ensure Accountability

Read Also: No Material Produced By Centre To Show Increasing Delhi's Oxygen Allocation By 210 MT Will Reduce Other States' Quota :Supreme Court

2. No Arrests In Violation Of Arnesh Kumar Verdict; HPCs Should Release All Prisoners Who Were Released Earlier : SC Passes Directions To De-Congest Prisons

Taking note of the surge of the second wave of COVID pandemic, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices L Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant has passed a slew of directions to de-congest prisons.

The Court held that authorities should not make arrests in violation of the guidelines laid down in the 2014 judgment in the case Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar, which had held that arrests should be an exception in cases where the offences are punishable with less than 7 years imprisonment.

The Court also directed that the High­ Powered Committees constituted by the State Governments/Union Territories shall consider release of prisoners by adopting the guidelines (such as inter alia, SOP laid down by NALSA) followed by them last year, at the earliest. All those inmates who were granted parole, pursuant to Supreme Court's earlier orders, should be again granted a parole for a period of 90 days in order to tide over the pandemic.

Read Also: 'Some Prisoners Might Not Be Willing To Be Released Due To Their Social Background': Supreme Court Issues Directions To Prison Authorities For Protection Of Inmates From COVID

3. No Question Of Expunging Judges' Oral Remarks Which Are Not Part Of Judicial Record : Supreme Court In ECI Case

A division bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has observed that there cannot arise a question of expunging oral remarks of judges, which are not part of judicial record.

The bench said so while disposing a petition filed by Election Commission of India against the oral remarks made by the Madras High Court that the ECI should probably be booked for murder for allowing election rallies during the COVID pandemic.

"These oral remarks are not a part of the official judicial record, and therefore, the question of expunging them does not arise. It is trite to say that a formal opinion of a judicial institution is reflected through its judgments and orders, and not its oral observations during the hearing", the Court observed.

4. 'High Court Correctly Examined Demand' : Supreme Court Rejects Centre's Challenge Against Karnataka HC Direction To Increase Daily Oxygen Quota For State As 1200 MT

The Supreme Court this week rejected the challenge made by the Central Government against the direction issued by Karnataka High Court to increase the daily quota of liquid medical oxygen for the State of Karnataka as 1200 MT.

"It is a well-calibrated, well-considered judicial exercise by the High Court", Justice Chandrachud told the Solicitor General at the very outset.

Observing that the "High Court has correctly examined the demand," the bench said that it will not interfere with the High Court's direction.

The bench said that the High Court did not pass the order in a reckless manner as it was based on the State's projection of oxygen demand, which was a minimum of 1100 MT. The High Court had first directed the Centre to consider the State's demand, and passed the order on the next day, after noting that the oxygen quota was not adequately increased. Meanwhile, a tragedy occurred in a COVID facilitiy in Bengaluru, where around 22 patients died due to lack of oxygen.

5. Plea Against Central Vista Project : Supreme Court Asks Delhi High Court To Consider Petitioners' Request For Early Hearing

The bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari this week permitted the petitioners challenging the construction activities of the Central Vista project amid the COVID19 second wave to make a request before the Delhi High Court for an early listing of the case.

"We hope and trust that the High Court shall consider the request of early hearing and pass an order", the bench said.

Calling it "relentless, unmindful and reckless act" of the Union of India and Central Public Works Department, the plea states that such an act of carrying on the Project posing threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi has "the potential of being a super spreader and is in clear breach and violation of the Orders passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority."

6. Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee Takes Stock Of Child Care And Protection During COVID 19 Second Wave

Supreme Court's Juvenile Justice Committee, in coordination with UNICEF held a review meeting this week to take stock of actions taken by various states on child care, protection and wellbeing of the children during the second wave of the COVID-19.

According to the press release dated 8th May issued by Supreme Court's Public Relations Office, the meeting was held with the Chairpersons and Members of Juvenile Justice Committees of various High Courts, and attended by the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Govt. of India and officials of Departments of Women and Child Development/Social Welfare Departments, Health Department from various states and union territories.

Justice Bhat, Chair of the Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee emphasised the need to step up the measures to ensure better care, protection, and well-being of the children during the second wave of COVID-19.

7. Supreme Court Stays Kerala High Court Judgment That Allowed Live-In Couple To Reclaim Their Surrendered Biological Child

The bench comprising of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari stayed the operation of a Kerala High Court judgment that restored the custody of a surrendered child to his biological parents, a couple in a live-in relationship.

The Court stayed the landmark ruling following an appeal preferred by a couple to whom the child had been surrendered.

The couple in their plea asserts that the custody of the child was given over to the biological parents without duly giving them notice. They aver that despite having complied with all the procedures attendant to adopting a child, the Child Welfare Committee was taking steps to restore the rights of the biological child in favour of the biological parents.

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