The Supreme Court of India has pronounced numerous judgments in the month of August, 2020. In this write-up, some of the important judgments are briefly discussed.
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, held that in a case where the informant himself is the investigator, that cannot vitiate the investigation on the ground of bias or the like factor and the question of bias or prejudice would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. It was held that merely because the informant is the investigator, by that itself the investigation would not suffer the vice of unfairness or bias and therefore on the sole ground that informant is the investigator, the accused is not entitled to acquittal and the matter has to be decided on a case to case basis. The Bench also held that a contrary decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab, (2018) 17 SCC 627 and any other decision taking a contrary view that the informant cannot be the investigator and in such a case the accused is entitled to acquittal are not good laws and they are specifically overruled.
· Tamil NaduMedical Officers Association v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 196of 2018 (Decided on 31/08/2020).
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose, held that the State is empowered to make reservation in the seats of the postgraduate medical courses, more particularly, for inservice doctors and the Medical Council of India is devoid of such power. The Bench held that the occupied filed of Union legislation in exercise of power under Entry 66, List I is related to minimum standards of medical education and the State is providing the inservice quota without impinging the prescribed minimum standards and it is a settled proposition of law that in case of two entries overlapping, the interpretation must be in furtherance of achieving the ultimate object. It was held that any interpretation which would negate or become nugatory the other entry, is to be avoided and there must be a harmonious reading between the two entries. There shall not be any conflict between the power of the Union and the State, while exercising the powers under Entry 66 List I by the Union and under Entry 25 List III by the States. It was held that the Medical Council of India which has been constituted under the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 is the creature of the statute in exercise of powers under Entry 66 List I and has no power to make any provision for reservation, more particularly, for inservice candidates by the concerned States, in exercise of powers under Entry 25 List III.
· Praneeth K v.University Grants Commission (UGC) and Others, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 724 of2020 (Decided on 28/08/2020).
A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah, held that the State Governments or State Disaster Management Authority in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal students should be promoted on the basis of earlier year assessment and internal assessment, which being contrary to UGC Guidelines, has to give way to the UGC Guidelines. The Court also held that the Disaster Management Act, 2005 empowers the State Disaster Management Authority as well as the State Government to take measures for prevention and mitigation of a disaster and the action taken by the authorities under the Disaster Management Act have been given overriding effect to achieve the purpose and object of the Act, 2005. The Bench observed that saving of human life has been given paramount importance under the Act, 2005.
· State of Punjabv. Davinder Singh, Civil Appeal No. 2317 of 2011 (Decided on 27/08/2020)
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose, on the question of sub-classification of Scheduled Castes, observed that reservation was not contemplated for all the time by the framers of the Constitution and on the one hand, there is no exclusion of those who have come up, on the other hand, if sub-classification is denied, it would defeat right to equality by treating unequal as equal. It was observed that the important question is how to trickle down the benefit to the bottom rung, reports indicate that benefit is being usurped by those castes (class) who have come up and adequately represented and it is clear that caste, occupation, and poverty are interwoven. The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative difference between different classes to take ameliorative measures. The Bench held that E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of A.P., (2005) 1 SCC 394, is required to be revisited by a larger Bench, in view of further development and the amendment of the Constitution, which have taken place and requested the Hon'ble Chief Justice to place the matters before a Bench comprising of 7 Judges or more as considered appropriate.
· Nazir Mohamed v.J. Kamala and Others, Civil Appeal Nos. 2843-2844 of 2010 (Decided on27/08/2020).
A Bench of Justices Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, held that when no substantial question of law is formulated, but a Second Appeal is decided by the High Court, the judgment of the High Court is vitiated in law. Formulation of substantial question of law is mandatory and the mere reference to the ground mentioned in Memorandum of Second Appeal cannot satisfy the mandate of Section 100 of the CPC. The High Court cannot allow a second appeal, without discussing the question of law.
A Bench of Justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and K.M. Joseph, held that the flat buyers are entitled to compensation for delayed handing over of possession and for the failure of the developer to fulfil the representations made to flat buyers. The Court held that a failure of the developer to comply with the contractual obligation to provide the flat to a flat purchaser within a contractually stipulated period amounts to a deficiency.
· Rhea Chakrabortyv. State of Bihar, Transfer Petition (Crl.) No. 225 of 2020 (Decided on19/08/2020).
A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy held that considering the contour of the power under section 406 CrPC, it must be concluded that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred. The Court held that the Patna Police had lawful jurisdiction to register the FIR as the complaint lodged by the actor's father contained allegations of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money. The Court invoked the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution and observed that no impediment can be seen for exercise of plenary power. The Court, while according approval for the ongoing CBI investigation, held that if any other case is registered on the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death, the CBI is directed to investigate the new case as well.
· Vineeta Sharmav. Rakesh Sharma, Civil Appeal Diary No. 32601 of 2018 (Decided on 11/08/2020).
A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah, held that daughters have equal coparcenary rights by birth and the provisions contained in substituted Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confer status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after amendment in the same manner as son with same rights and liabilities and the rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier with effect from 9.9.2005 with savings as provided in Section 6(1) as to the disposition or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20th day of December, 2004. The Bench held that since the right in coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005 and the statutory fiction of partition created by proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as originally enacted did not bring about the actual partition or disruption of coparcenary. The daughters are to be given share in coparcenary equal to that of a son in pending proceedings for final decree or in an appeal.
· Hari KrishnaMandir Trust v. State of Maharashtra and Others, Civil Appeal No. 6156 of 2013(Decided on 07/08/2020).
A Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, held that the High Courts exercising their jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India not only have the power to issue a Writ of Mandamus or in the nature of Mandamus but are duty bound to exercise such power where the Government or a public authority has failed to exercise or has wrongly exercised discretion conferred upon it by a Statute, or a rule, or a policy decision of the Government or has exercised such discretion malafide, or on irrelevant consideration. The Bench held that in appropriate cases, in order to prevent injustice to the parties, the Court may itself pass an order or give directions which the government or the public authorities should have passed had it properly and lawfully exercised its discretion.
· EXL Careers v.Frankfinn Aviation Services Private Limited, Civil Appeal No. 2904 of 2020(Decided on 05/08/2020).
A Bench of Justices R.F. Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, held that in cases dealing with transfer of proceedings from a Court having jurisdiction to another Court, the discretion vested in the Court by Sections 24(2) and 25(3) either to retry the proceedings or proceed from the point at which such proceeding was transferred or withdrawn, is in marked contrast to the scheme under Order VII Rule 10 read with Rule 10-A where no such discretion is given and the proceeding has to commence de novo. The Court held that Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. v. Tejparas Associates and Exports Pvt. Ltd., (2019) 9 SCC 435, does not lay down the correct law and over-ruled the same.
(Muneeb Rashid Malik is a final-year law student at Lloyd Law College, Delhi (NCR) and can be reached at [email protected])