In the COVID-19 affected 2020, where the Supreme Court was functioning in virtual mode throughout except for the first three months of the year, several substantial points of law were settled by answering long pending references.
Also, some new points of public importance were referred to larger bench. Here is a look at some of such important judgments(in no particular order).
1. Judicial Officers Cannot Seek Direct Recruitment To Post Of District Judges Against Quota For Advocates
In the case Dheeraj Mor v Hon'ble High Court of Delhi, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court answered a reference to hold that judicial officers who are in service cannot seek direct recruitment to the post of District Judges as the said route is meant for practising advocates only.
The reference was made by a two-judge bench in 2018 observing that it was a substantial question of law involving public importance.
Answering the reference, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat noted that eligibility under Article 233(2) of the Constitution requires 7 years of continuous practice. "Only practising candidates can avail the quota. It is exclusively for them", the court said.
"Article 233(2) nowhere provides eligibility of in-service candidates for consideration as a District Judge concerning a post requiring 7 years' practice as an advocate or a pleader. Requirement of 7 years' experience for advocate or pleader is qualified with a rider that he should not be in the service of the Union or the State", the Court said in the judgment.
2.Landlord-Tenant disputes arbitrable unless covered by rent control laws
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court answered a reference to hold that landlord-tenant disputes are arbitrable unless covered by specific rent contorl laws.
The judgment delivered by a three judge bench in the case Vidya Drolia and others v Durga Trading Enterprises also decides several issues such as tests for arbitrability, who determines arbitrability, scope of enquiry under Sections 8/11, meaning of 'existence of arbitration agreement' etc.
The bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari overruled the view in Himangni Enterprises vs Kamaljeet Singh Ahluwalia.
Other reports based on the judgment :
3. [Domestic Violence Act] Wife Entitled To Claim Right Of Residence Which Belongs To Relatives Of Husband Also: Supreme Court Overrules Its 2006 'SR Batra' Judgment
A wife is also entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household belonging to relatives of the husband, the Supreme Court held in an important judgment overruling the 2006 judgment in SR Batra v. Taruna Batra.
"In the event, shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions mentioned in Section 2(s) are satisfied and the said house will become a shared household," the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah held in the case Satish Chander Ahuja v Sneha Ahuja.
It added, "The living of woman in a household has to refer to a living which has some permanency. Mere fleeting or casual living at different places shall not make a shared household. The intention of the parties and the nature of living including the nature of household have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as shared household or not. As noted above, Act 2005 was enacted to give a higher right in favour of woman. The Act, 2005 has been enacted to provide for more effective protection of the rights of the woman who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The Act has to be interpreted in a manner to effectuate the very purpose and object of the Act."
This judgment did not came out a reference but is included in this list as it laid down an important point of law by overruling a previous decision on the Supreme Court.
4. Confession made to NDPS officers not admissible in evidence -SC rules by 2:1 majority in Tofan Singh case
Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Navin Sinha held thus, while Justice Indira Banerjee gave a dissenting opinion in the case Tofan Singh v State of Tamil Nadu.
5. Daughters Have Coparcenery Rights Even If Their Father Was Not Alive When Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 Came Into Force: SC
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that a daughter will have a share after Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, irrespective of whether her father was alive or not at the time of the amendment.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra today pronounced the judgment in a batch of appeals that raised an important legal issue whether the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, which gave equal right to daughters in ancestral property, has a retrospective effect.
"Daughters must be given equal rights as sons, Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not", Justice Mishra said while pronouncing the judgment today. The bench also comprising of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah, overruled the contrary observations made in Prakash v. Phulavati and Mangammal v. T.B. Raju.
This was in the case Vineeta Sharma v Rakesh Sharma while answering a reference.
The question was referred to the bench in view of the conflicting verdicts rendered in two Division Bench judgments of this Court in Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016) and Danamma @Suman Surpur & Anr. v. Amar & Ors(2018).
6. Certificate Under Section 65B(4) Evidence Act Is A Condition Precedent To The Admissibility of Electronic Evidence
The Supreme Court has held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record.
The bench has also clarified that that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced. The court said that the judgment in Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer & Ors. (2014) 10 SCC 473 need not be revisited, subject to the above clarifications.
The bench also overruled the 2018 decision delivered by a 2-judge bench in the case Shafi Mohammad vs State of Himachal Pradesh.
The bench headed by Justice RF Nariman further held that, in a fact-circumstance where the requisite certificate has been applied for from the person or the authority concerned, and the person or authority either refuses to give such certificate, or does not reply to such demand, the party asking for such certificate can apply to the Court for its production under the provisions aforementioned of the Evidence Act, CPC or CrPC.
7.Anticipatory Bail Cannot Be Limited To A Fixed Period Except In Special And Peculiar Circumstances
The Supreme Court held that proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 will not lapse if the compensation has been tendered by deposit in treasury. The Court held that land owners cannot insist that the amount should be deposited in Court so as to sustain the land acquisition proceedings under the old Act on the commencement of the new land acquisition law with effect from January 1, 2014.
Answering a reference, a constitution bench of the the Supreme Court has held that the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Act 2002 is applicable to cooperative banks. "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.
10. Merely Because The Investigation Officer And Complainant Are The Same The Trial In NDPS Cases Will Not Be Vitiated And Accused Cannot Be Acquitted On That Ground
In Mohanlal, it was held by a three judge bench that the trial of cases under NDPS Act will be vitiated if the informant and the investigating officer is the same person. "It is therefore held that a fair investigation, which is but the very foundation of fair trial, necessarily postulates that the informant and the investigator must not be the same person. Justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done also. Any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion has to be excluded. This requirement is all the more imperative in laws carrying a reverse burden of proof.", it was held in the said judgment.
11. Medical Council Of India Has No Power To Make Any Reservation For In-Service Candidates; States Have
A Constitution bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose held that 100 per cent reservation of teachers belonging to the Scheduled Tribe category at schools situated in "Scheduled Ares" is constitutionally invalid. The Bench also quashed the Government order issued under the hand of Governor of State of Andhra Pradesh which had affirmed absolute reservation for ST teachers and imposed costs on both Andhra Pradesh & Telangana Government's, seeking reasons from the Government's for breaching the 50% ceiling in reservations.
13.Consumer Forum Has No Power To Extend Time Beyond 45 Days For Opposite Party's Version
In this case, A 5-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat that the time period for filing opposite party's version in Consumer case cannot be extended beyond the period of 45 days prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act. The Court held that Consumer Protection Act 1986 did not empower the Consumer Forum to extend the time beyond the period of 45 days. The time period prescribed under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act is mandatory, and not directory, held the judgment.
14.NDPS - Quantity Of Neutral Substances In Mixture Must Be Taken Into Account With Actual Drug Weight To Determine 'Small Or Commercial Quantity'
While overruling an earlier 2008 decision titled E. Micheal Raj v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control Bureau, bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee and M R Shah held that the quantity of neutral substances in a mixture containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances must be taken into account along with the actual weight of the offending drug while determining 'small or commercial quantity' under the NDPS Act.
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court referred a batch of writ petitions, challenging the 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) introduced by 103rd Constitution Amendment passed by the Parliament last year, to a five-Judge bench(Janhit Abhiyan and others v Union of India and others and connected cases).
A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Subhash Reddy and Justice BR Gavai said that the matter involves "substantial questions of law" that should be considered by Bench of five Judges.
"It is the case of the petitioners, that the very amendments run contrary to the constitutional scheme, and no segment of available seats/posts can be reserved, only on the basis of economic criterion. As such, we are of the view that such questions do constitute substantial questions of law to be considered by a Bench of five Judges."
The Court added,
"Whether the impugned Amendment Act violates etc. basic structure of the Constitution, by applying the tests of 'width' and 'identity' with reference to equality provisions of the Constitution, is a matter which constitutes substantial question of law..."
Further, on the plea of ceiling of 50% for affirmative action the Court said,
"It is the case of the respondent-Union of India that though ordinarily 50% is the rule but same will not prevent to amend the Constitution itself in view of the existing special circumstances to uplift the members of the society belonging to economically weaker sections. Even such questions also constitute as substantial questions of law to be examined by a Bench of five Judges…"
2. Maratha Reservation - referred to 5-judge bench
The issues are :
1. What is the scope and ambit of right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution of India?
2. What is the inter-play between the rights of persons under Article 25 of the Constitution of India and rights of religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution of India?
3. Whether the rights of a religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution of India are subject to other provisions of Part III of the Constitution of India apart from public order, morality and health?
4. What is the scope and extent of the word 'morality' under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India and whether it is meant to include Constitutional morality?
5. What is the scope and extent of judicial review with regard to a religious practice as referred to in Article 25 of the Constitution of India?
6. What is the meaning of expression "Sections of Hindus" occurring in Article 25 (2) (b) of the Constitution of India?
7. Whether a person not belonging to a religious denomination or religious group can question a practice of that religious denomination or religious group by filing a PIL?
Also Read :Supreme Court Constitution Bench Judgments Of 2020