2017 SCC Vol. 7 August 7, 2017 Part 1

Contempt of Court — Nature and Scope — Contempt by court, Judge, Magistrate or other person acting judicially — Criminal contempt of gravest nature by sitting High Court Judge: Open denouncement in public, baseless/unsubstantiated allegations and extremely disparaging letters to constitutional functionaries and illegal orders passed by contemnor Judge (Justice C.S. Karnan) against about 33 former and sitting Judges (named) of Supreme Court and High Court. His ridicule of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court remained unabated. Against 7 Judges of present Bench, he ordered (a) initiation of criminal cases, (b) restrained them from travelling abroad and (c) sentenced them to 5 yrs’ rigorous imprisonment without following any procedure and in spite of Supreme Court having withdrawn all his powers. Contemnor Judge could not substantiate even a single allegation despite repeated opportunities given for the same. Contemnor Judge shielded himself from actions, by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an underprivileged caste. By assuming the above position, he levelled obnoxious allegations against innumerable Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, but mostly against Judges of the Madras High Court, but could not substantiate even one allegation. It was held that contemnor sitting Judge is liable to be punished for contempt for his unsavoury actions and behaviour. His actions constitute contempt of Supreme Court, and of the judiciary of the grossest and gravest nature. Hence, contemnor sitting Judge is convicted for contempt of court and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment w.e.f. 9-5-2017. [In Re, Hon’ble Shri Justice C.S. Karnan, (2017) 7 SCC 1]

Income Tax Act, 1961 — S. 139-AA — Mandatory seeding of Aadhaar numbers in PAN database: Obligation of all assessees to provide Aadhaar number or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form while applying for PAN or while filing income tax return does not violate Arts. 14 or 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. However, validity of S. 139-AA r/w Aadhaar Act vis-àvis various aspects of right to privacy/Art. 21 of the Constitution would still have to be tested before Constitution Bench before whom related issues are already pending. Moreover, penal consequences under S. 139-AA(2) proviso i.e. deletion of PAN in case of non-linking of Aadhaar cannot be applied retrospectively to existing PAN card holders. S. 139-AA(2) proviso read down to mean that it would operate prospectively. PAN card of assesses who are not Aadhaar card holders not to be treated as invalid for time being. This is to enable them to facilitate transactions which fall within ambit of R. 114-B, Income Tax Rules, 1962. Requirements of S. 139-AA would be applicable to new applications for PAN card and those who had already enrolled in Aadhaar. Furthermore, pending adjudication of privacy/Art. 21 of the Constitution issues by the Constitution Bench, penal provisions under S. 139-AA(2) proviso partially stayed. In the interregnum, Parliament given liberty to consider whether there is a need to tone down S. 139-AA(2) proviso. [Binoy Viswam v. Union of India, (2017) 7 SCC 59]

Human and Civil Rights — Aadhaar Scheme — Proof of Identity — Aadhaar based e-KYC: In this case petitioner prayed for mobile phone subscriber verification scheme through Aadhaar which would ensure 100% verification and as Government already in process of finalising such a scheme through Aadhaar based e-KYC, prayer made in writ petition was substantially complied with, hence, no further directions are required. It is expected that Government should seriously take effective steps in this regard. Said Scheme would effectively tackle the problem of fake or unverified phone subscriber and would thus help in checking domestic criminal activity as well as international terrorist activity. [Lokniti Foundation v. Union of India, (2017) 7 SCC 155]

Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 — S. 4 — Workability of 2013 Act in light of the fact that there was no recognised Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha — Whether Selection Committee named in S. 4 for recommending Chairperson and Members of Lokpal, had thereby been rendered incapable of functioning — Relevance of S. 4(2) which empowered Selection Committee to function despite any vacancy: Said proposed amendment only aims at a more efficient working of the 2013 Act and therefore, is clarificatory and not an attempt to cure some inhibition in law to the appointment of the Chairperson/Members of the Lokpal. Said proposed amendment to 2013 Act besides other things, seeks inclusion of leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha in the Selection Committee, when there is no recognised LoP. Thus, even if there is no LoP in present Lok Sabha, remaining members of Selection Committee can recommend appointments as per express provision of S. 4(2). 2013 Act is workable as it stands and Selection Committee can proceed to function as per law. Hence, there is no requirement to issue any directions in this regard, nor is it necessary to read down S. 4(1)(c). [Common Cause v. Union of India, (2017) 7 SCC 158]

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