• Team Judgments Within

Important Judgments of Supreme Court: January 2020 - September 2020

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

The year 2020 was as striking as any other year for the Supreme Court of India, from crucial judgment strengthening people's rights to creating judicial history. With this, one more list of landmark judgments adds up to the course of various law entrance examination.

Here's a quick run through into the important judgments of the Supreme Court India dated from January 2020 to September 2020 for the CLAT PG and other law examinations:

In this case, the court analysed that “It is not by the death of the father or other coparcener that rights accrue. It is by the factum of birth. It is only when a female of Class I heir is left, or in case of her death, male relative is left, the share of the deceased coparcener is fixed to be distributed by a deemed partition, in the event of an actual partition, as and when it takes place as per the proviso to unamended section 6.”

“Underlying the statement that it is a “greater challenge” for women officers to meet the hazards of service “owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families” is a strong stereotype which assumes that domestic obligations rest solely on women. Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.” On these lines, the court has ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service.

In the 180 page long verdict, the court has struck down the curb on trading in virtual currency, cryptocurrency and bitcoins in India. The court observed that“When the consistent stand of RBI is that they have not banned Virtual currencies (VCs) and when the Government of India is unable to take a call despite several committees coming up with several proposals including two draft bills, both of which advocated exactly opposite positions, it is not possible for us to hold that the impugned measure is proportionate.

The Court while hearing the contempt petition which brought the Court’s attention to a disregard of the directions of a Constitution Bench of this Court in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224, directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics.

The bench upheld the constitutional validity of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, and said that a court can grant anticipatory bail only in cases where a prima facie case is not made out. The court observed that ‘atrocities like forcing the eating of inedible matter, dumping of excreta near the homes or in the neighbourhood of members of such communities and several other forms of humiliation, which members of such scheduled caste communities are subjected to, far outweigh the petitioners’ concern that innocent individuals would be subjected to what are described as arbitrary processes of investigation and legal proceedings, without adequate safeguards’

In a reference dealing with the interpretation of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872 that deals with admissibility of electronic records, the court held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record. The court further held that, “The clarification referred to above is that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced. This can be done by the owner of a laptop computer, computer tablet or even a mobile phone, by stepping into the witness box and proving that the concerned device, on which the original information is first stored, is owned and/or operated by him”

The Court rejected Pawan’s plea of juvenility and held that the said plea has already been duly considered and rejected by the Courts before and there was no need to go into it again. While dismissing the plea file by Pawan Kumar Gupta challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President on the ground that his plea of juvenility had not been finally determined and this aspect was not kept in view by the President of India while rejecting his mercy plea. The convicts were hanged till death.

A single judge bench of the apex court has held the ongoing investigation by the CBI to be lawful and further directed 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. Such enabling order will make it possible for the CBI to investigate the new case, avoiding the rigors of Section 6 of the DSPE Act, requiring consent from the State of Maharashtra.

After Vikas Dubey, a history-sheeter and gangster-turned-politician, was killed in a police encounter on July 10, 2020, the Supreme Court gave a go ahead to Inquiry Committee headed by Former SC judge Justice B S Chauhan. Later, the court refused to scrap the Judicial Committee constituted to look into the killing of Vikas Dubey and said that the allegations of bias made against the members of the Commission merely on the basis of newspaper reports and nothing more, are liable to be rejected outright.

In a 108-pages long verdict, the apex court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets. It held, “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’. The court sentence him with 1 rupee fine and ordered, “If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country. However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Re.1/­ (Rupee one).”

The 9-judge bench of the Supreme Court, hearing the Sabarimala reference has held that the Supreme Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction. The bench had, on February 6, 2020, reserved it’s order on the said legal issue while hearing the Sabarimala reference after renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected. The Court also framed 7 seven questions that are to be decided by the 9-judge bench in the Sabarimala reference and has proposed a day-to-day hearing in the matter from February 17, 2020.

The bench refused to refer the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 to a larger bench. Holding that there is no conflict between the judgments in the Prem Nath Kaul case and the Sampat Prakash case, the bench said that judgments cannot be interpreted in a vacuum, separate from their facts and context. Observations made in a judgment cannot be selectively picked in order to give them a particular meaning. It noted, “the Constitution Bench in the Prem Nath Kaul case did not discuss the continuation or cessation of the operation of Article 370 of the Constitution after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of the State. This was not an issue in question before the Court, unlike in the Sampat Prakash case where the contention was specifically made before, and refuted by, the Court. This Court sees no reason to read into the Prem Nath Kaul case an interpretation which results in it being in conflict with the subsequent judgments of this Court, particularly when an ordinary reading of the judgment does not result in such an interpretation.”

The court observed that, the protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr.PC should not invariably be limited to a fixed period. The Normal conditions under Section 437(3) read with Section 438(2) should be imposed; if there are specific facts or features in regard to any offence, it is open for the court to impose any appropriate condition (including fixed nature of relief, or its being tied to an event) etc. Additionally, The life or duration of an anticipatory bail order does not end normally at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court, or when charges are framed, but can continue till the end of the trial. Again, if there are any special or peculiar features necessitating the court to limit the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for it to do so.

The court held that the land owners who had refused to accept compensation or who sought reference for higher compensation, cannot claim that the acquisition proceedings had lapsed under Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (Land Acquisition Act, 2013). The bench also held that under the provisions of Section 24(1)(a) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, in case the award is not made as on 1.1.2014, the date of commencement of Act of 2013, there is no lapse of proceedings. Compensation has to be determined under the provisions of Act of 2013.

The Court observed that “Reservation was not contemplated for all the time by the framers of the Constitution. 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” and held that the 5-Judge Bench decision in E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of A.P., (2005) 1 SCC 394, is required to be revisited.

According to the court that term ‘banking’ relating to co­operatives can be included within the purview of Entry 45 of List I, and it cannot be said to be over inclusion to cover provisions of recovery by co­operative banks in the SARFAESI Act.”

The judgment of the Court came in a reference made in view of conflicting decisions in Greater Bombay Coop. Bank Ltd. v. United Yarn Tex (P) Ltd., (2007) 6 SCC 236, Delhi Cloth & General Mills Co. Ltd. v. Union of India, (1983) 4 SCC 166, T. Velayudhan Achari v. Union of India, (1993) 2 SCC 582 and Union of India v. Delhi High Court Bar Association, (2002) 4 SCC 275.

The court held that the Government Office Ms. No.3 dated 10.1.2000 issued by the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh providing 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribe candidates out of whom 33.1/3% shall be women for the post of teachers in the schools in the scheduled areas in the State of Andhra Pradesh is unconstitutional. The court said that, “It was least expected from the functionary like Government to act in aforesaid manner as they were bound by the dictum laid down by this Court in Indra Sawhney and other decisions holding that the limit of reservation not to exceed 50%.”

According to the court the District Forum has no power to extend the time for filing the response to the complaint beyond the period of 15 days in addition to 30 days as is envisaged under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The court in this case has held that the accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) is not entitled to an acquittal as a blanket rule merely because the complainant is the investigating officer. The Court said 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. The matter has to be decided on a case to case basis.”

The Court observed that By virtue of Entries 33 and 34 List III of seventh Schedule, both the Central Government as well as the State Government have the power to fix the price of sugarcane. The Central Government having exercised the power and fixed the “minimum price”, the State Government cannot fix the “minimum price” of sugarcane. However, at the same time, it is always open for the State Government to fix the “advised price” which is always higher than the “minimum price”, in view of the relevant provisions of the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966, which has been issued in exercise of powers under Section 16 of the U.P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1953.

While answering the question, whether by providing centralised examination system – NEET for admission to MBBS, PG, BDS and MDS by virtue of the provisions made in the Act and regulations, there is a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(g), 25, 26, 29(1) and 30 of the Constitution of India, The Court held that rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions. It is open to regulating the course of study, qualifications for ensuring educational standards. It is open to imposing reasonable restrictions in the national and public interest.

It is held by the court that under Article 233, a judicial officer, regardless of her or his previous experience as an Advocate with seven years’ practice cannot apply, and compete for appointment to any vacancy in the post of the stipulated qualifications subsequent District Judge; her or his chance to occupy that post would be through promotion, in accordance with Rules framed under Article 234 and proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India.

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