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Important Judgments of Supreme Court: October 2020

Important judgments of October 2020:

Upholding the wife’s right to residence in the shared household belonging to not just husband but also his relatives, the court stated that “The right to residence under Section 19 is not an indefeasible right of residence in shared household especially when the daughter-in-law is pitted against aged father-in-law and mother-in-law. The senior citizens in the evening of their life are also entitled to live peacefully not haunted by marital discord between their son and daughter-in-law. While granting relief both in application under Section 12 of Act, 2005 or in any civil proceedings, the Court has to balance the rights of both the parties.”

While granting the permanent Commission for women in naval forces, the court held that, ‘All SSC officers in the Education, Law and Logistics cadres who are presently in service shall be considered for the grant of PCs. The period of service after which women SSC officers shall be entitled to submit applications for the grant of PCs shall be the same as their male counterparts. Women SSC officers of the ATC cadre in Annie Nagaraja’s case are not entitled to consideration for the grant of PCs. In exercise of the power conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution, we direct that as a one-time measure, SSC officers in the ATC cadre in Annie Nagaraja’s case shall be entitled to pensionary benefits.’

The top court said that the judgment does not need further reconsideration. It said, “We have perused the Review Petition and record of the Civil Appeal and are convinced that the order of which review has been sought, does not suffer from any error apparent warranting its reconsideration”, The Bench remarked, “We have considered the earlier judicial pronouncements and recorded our opinion that the Constitutional scheme comes with a right to protest and express dissent but with an obligation to have certain duties. The right to protest cannot be anytime and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of public places affecting the rights of others”

The Court held that there is a fundamental right granted to an accused person to be released on bail once the conditions of the first proviso to Section 167(2), CrPC are fulfilled. The Court has held that right to default bail is not merely a statutory right under the first proviso to Section 167(2) of the CrPC, but that it is part of the procedure established by law under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, it is a fundamental right granted to an accused person to be released on bail once the conditions of the first proviso to Section 167(2), CrPC are fulfilled.

Court observed that, “Whenever a plea of breach of natural justice is made against the State, the said plea, if found sustainable, sounds in constitutional law as arbitrary State action, which attracts the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Judged by the touchstone of these tests, it is clear that Respondent No.1 has been completely in the dark so far as the cancellation of the award of tender in his favour is concerned, the audi alteram partem rule having been breached in its entirety. We, therefore, uphold the impugned judgment of the High Court on the ground that natural justice has indeed been breached in the facts of the present case, not being a case of admitted facts leading to the grant of a futile writ, and that prejudice has indeed been caused to Respondent No.1.”

By a 2:1 majority, the Court holds that officers of the central/state government, inquiring into NDPS cases, are indeed ‘police officers’ and statements given to them are not admissible at trial. The Court construed the term ‘police officer’ common-sensically and adopted a ’substance over form’ test. It held, that even if an officer is not designated as such, she may still be regarded as a ‘police officer’ if she otherwise exercises powers which are typically investigative in nature; for instance, the power of search, seizure, arrest, etc

The Court noticed that the Allahabad High Court has adequately delved into the aspects relating to the case to secure fair investigation and has also secured the presence of the father, mother, brother and sister-in-law of the victim and appropriate orders are being passed, including securing reports from various quarters. Hence, the Court did not find it necessary “to divest the High Court of the proceedings and take upon this Court to monitor the proceedings/investigation.”

Relying on its 2018 verdict in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation the court stated that, “Whatever stay has been granted by any court including the High Court automatically expires within a period of six months, and unless extension is granted for good reason, within the next six months, the trial Court is, on the expiry of the first period of six months, to set a date for the trial and go ahead with the same.”

The Court has directed that all the Writ Petitions that are pending in the High Courts pertaining to the challenge to the Notification dated 15.11.2019, by which Part III of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 and other provisions in so far as they relate to personal guarantors to corporate debtors have been brought into force, be transferred to the Supreme Court. Stating that transfer of the Writ Petitions to this Court would avoid conflicting decisions by the High Courts, the Court said, “The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is at a nascent stage and it is better that the interpretation of the provisions of the Code is taken up by this Court to avoid any confusion, and to authoritatively settle the law. Considering the importance of the issues raised in the Writ Petitions which need finality of judicial determination at the earliest, it is just and proper that the Writ Petitions are transferred from the High Courts to this Court.”

In the Shaheen Bagh protests matter, the court held that while there exists the right to peaceful protest against a legislation, public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely. According to the supreme court bench, “Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone. The present case was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters. We cannot accept the plea of the applicants that an indeterminable number of people can assemble whenever they choose to protest.”

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