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Important Judgments of Supreme Court: January 2021

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Important Judgments/Orders/Directions of the Supreme Court pronounced in January 2021:

The court has held that there is no infirmity in the grant of “no objection” by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and “approval” by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) and “prior approval” by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) to the Central Vista Project, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on December 10 last year. Thus giving a green signal to the Central Vista project. The majority judges have held that the right to development is a basic human right and no organ of the state is expected to become an impediment in the process of development as long as the government proceeds in accordance with the law

While staying the implementation of farm laws , the court was of the view that the constitution of a Committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers. Further the court states that, “Insofar as the apprehension regarding MSP [Minimum Support Price] being done away with, it is submitted across the Bar that the same may not be dismantled. The learned Solicitor General also confirmed that there are inherent safeguards, in-built in the Farm Laws, for the protection of the land of the farmers and that it will be ensured that no farmer will lose his land.”

The Court ruled in favor of Padia holding that the appellant company had not accepted the contract which was varied by the respondent, Visakhapatnam Port Trust (Port Trust), and hence, there was no concluded contract. The court reinstated that "It is a cardinal principle of the law of contract that the offer and acceptance of an offer must be absolute. when the acceptor puts in a new condition while accepting the contract already signed by the proposer, the contract is not complete until the proposer accepts that condition," the judgment said.

On hearing both parties and perusing the material available on record, the Court allowed the Appeal and set aside the Impugned Order. It held that the division bench of the Gujarat High Court had erred in exercising the discretion available under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, in this case.

The court has observed that the High Courts’ power of interference under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India (“Constitution”), in the context of arbitral proceedings, may be exercised in ‘exceptional rarity’. Clarifying the term ‘exceptional rarity’, the Court pointed out that such interference would be warranted only in cases wherein a party is left remediless under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”) or clear bad faith is shown by one of the parties.

The Court ruled that, “A bare perusal of the relevant legal provisions shows that consent of the minor is immaterial for purposes of Section 361 of IPC. Indeed, as borne out through various other provisions in the IPC and other laws like the Indian Contract Act, 1872, minors are deemed incapable of giving lawful consent. Section 361 IPC, particularly, goes beyond this simple presumption. It bestows the ability to make crucial decisions regarding a minor’s physical safety upon his/her guardians. Therefore, a minor girl’s infatuation with her alleged kidnapper cannot by itself be allowed as a defence, for the same would amount to surreptitiously undermining the protective essence of the offence of kidnapping”.

The Court observed that Article 243W of the Constitution vests Municipalities and local authorities with the performance of functions and implementation of schemes as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in Twelfth Schedule. Item 6 of the Twelfth Schedule includes the subject "public health, sanitation conservancy and solid waste management". Keeping in view, the constitutional obligation to provide lean water, the court decide that it will be appropriate to take suo moto cognizance with regard to the issue of contamination of rivers by sewage effluents and ensure that the mandate is implemented by municipalities as far as discharge of sewage into rivers is concerned.

In a 465-pages long judgment, the court upheld the validity of several provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2020, albeit with directions given in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. While so upholding the impugned amendments, the Bench expressed an observation that: “There is nothing like a perfect law and as with all human institutions, there are bound to be imperfections. What is significant is however for the court ruling on constitutionality, the law must present a clear departure from constitutional limits.”

The apex court has stayed the controversial Bombay High Court judgment wherein the High Court had acquitted the accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, 2012 on the ground that the accused had no sexual intent in committing the offence under POCSO Act because there was no direct physical contact, i.e., skin to skin. The court ordered that “In view of what is stated, we permit the learned Attorney General to file an appropriate petition against the said judgment. In the meantime, we stay the acquittal of the accused in Criminal Appeal No.161/2020 in respect of the offence under section 8 of the POCSO Act.”

A bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao took up the suo moto (SMWP(C) 4/2020) case in April, 2020. They issued comprehensive orders to various authorities to reconsider measures in the best interests of children during the pandemic. In January 2021, the Court followed up on implementation of the trials of online deposition and ensuring education is completed. It also heard the difficulties with the fresh wave of the pandemic. However, no substantive orders were passed.

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