• Team Law Within

Important Judgments of Supreme Court: May 2021

Important Judgments/Orders by the Supreme Court of India passed in the month of May 2021:

Scrapping off the Maratha Reservation, the court held that ‘We have found that no extraordinary circumstances were made out in granting separate reservation of Maratha Community by exceeding the 50 percent ceiling limit of reservation. The Act, 2018 violates the principle of equality as enshrined in Article 16. The exceeding of ceiling limit without there being any exceptional circumstances clearly violates Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution which makes the enactment ultra vires.’

The court held that “Considering the significance of such legislation, a strict interpretation would defeat the very object for which it was enacted. Therefore, it is safe to deduce that when the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”. Rather, they left its determination in the hands of the courts. Therefore, Courts should use their discretion to determine if the period between the cruelty or harassment and the death of the victim would come within the term “soon before”. What is pivotal to the above determination is the establishment of a “proximate and live link” between the cruelty and the consequential death of the victim.”

The Court said that this new-age trend is a "celebration of our constitutional ethos which bolsters the integrity of the judiciary by focusing on its functions". It held that such real-time reporting is an extension of freedom of speech and expression that media possesses. Social media forums give a wider audience to real-time updates. As we understand the rights of the media to report and disseminate issues and events, including court proceedings that are a part of the public domain, it is important to contextualize that this is not merely an aspect of protecting the rights of individuals and entities on reporting, but also a part of the process of augmenting the integrity of the judiciary and the cause of justice as a whole.

Upholding the Allahabad High Court’s Verdict, Each and every aforesaid ground has been elaborately dealt with by the High Court and on reappreciation of the entire evidence on record the High Court has specifically come to the conclusion that the findings recorded by the learned trial Court are perverse and thereafter the High Court has interfered with the judgment and order of acquittal passed by the learned trial Court • The High Court has rightly observed that where there is clinching evidence of eyewitnesses, mere non-examination of some of the witnesses/independent witnesses and/or in absence of examination of any independent witnesses would not be fatal to the case of the prosecution.

The Court held that, ‘It is fundamental in criminal jurisprudence that every person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, for criminal accusations can be hurled at anyone without him being a criminal. The suspect is therefore considered to be innocent in the interregnum between accusation and judgment. History reveals that the burden on the accuser to prove the guilt of the accused has its roots in ancient times.’

While hearing appeals on a decision of High court regarding conviction under section 302 r/w section 34 of IPC, the Supreme Court held that the dying declaration is admissible in evidence on the principle of necessity as there is very little hope of survival of the maker, and if found reliable, it can certainly form the basis for conviction. The court also noted that, in this case, the prosecution had sufficient time to call a Judicial/Executive Magistrate to record the dying declaration. Further, the police officer admitted that he did not seek an endorsement from the doctor as to whether the injured was in a fit state of mind to make a statement, before he proceeded to record the statement

A Bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Indira Banerjee observed that the existence of an arbitration clause does not debar the court from entertaining a writ petition. It reiterated that relief under Article 226 of the Constitution of India may be granted in a case arising out of contract. "It is well settled that availability of an alternative remedy does not prohibit the High Court from entertaining a writ petition in an appropriate case. The High Court may entertain a writ petition, notwithstanding the availability of an alternative remedy, particularly (1) where the writ petition seeks enforcement of a fundamental right; (ii) where there is failure of principles of natural justice or (iii) where the impugned orders or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or (iv) the vires of an Act is under challenge", the Court held.

Stating that High Courts should avoid passing orders that are not capable of being implemented, a Bench of Justices Vineet Saran and BR Gavai noted, "…we are of the opinion that the High Court should normally consider the possibility of the implementation of the directions given by it, and such directions which are incapable of being implemented should be avoided". The Bench went on to note that the "Doctrine of Impossibility" was equally applicable to Court orders as well. It was further recorded that High Courts should normally refrain from issuing directions matters which have transnational and international ramifications, especially when such matters of national level were being considered by the Top Court in separate proceedings.

The Supreme Court on May 4 told the state of UP to not deem as ineligible for consideration for premature release those life convicts who have not specifically applied for the relief, and obligated the state government to conduct periodical assessments to identify those who are so entitled. The bench noted that the policy having statutory force under Article 161 will naturally apply to all persons sentenced to life imprisonment. The bench has further held that "Having been framed subsequent to the U.P. Jail Manual,1956 and the U.P. Prisoners Release on Probation Rules,1938 will take precedence over the latter"

The Court noticed that if the House Arrest order is perceived as an order passed under Section 167 then there would not be any detention beyond 24 hours of the arrest which could be illegal. “The appellant was an accused in a FIR invoking cognizable offences. He stood arrested by a Police Officer. He was produced before a Magistrate. A transit remand, which was a remand, under Section 167, was passed. Police custody followed. The High Court ordered that the appellant be kept in house arrest. The setting aside of the Order of transit remand will not wipe out the Police custody or the house arrest.” While the Court agreed that the house arrest was, undoubtedly, perceived as the softer alternative to actual incarceration, it clarified that, “That house arrest, in turn, involved, deprivation of liberty and will fall within the embrace of custody under Section 167 of the CrPC, was not apparently in the minds of both this Court and the High Court of Delhi. This is our understanding of the orders passed by the court.”

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