Know Thy Judge| Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

 

“ (…)Judgments of Courts are to be based on reason, and discuss fairly, what is argued. Judges, unlike other sections of members of the public cannot meet unjustified personal attacks or tirades carried out against them, or anyone from their fraternity; no clarifications can be issued, no justification is given; propriety and canons of judicial ethics require them to maintain silence.”

  – Justice Ravindra Bhat,

 CPIO, Supreme Court v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal,

2009 SCC OnLine Del 2714.


As a Judge at Supreme Court


  • Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India, (2020) 4 SCC 727; While clarifying the position of anticipatory bail in cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, S.Ravindra Bhat, J., in his concurring yet separate judgment brought into light, the forgotten sayings of greatest reformers of the Indian History reflecting upon the evil of caste distinctions.

“Kabir, the great saint poet, for instance, in his composition, remarked:

If thou thinkest the Maker distinguished castes:

Birth is according to these penalties for deeds.

Born a Sudra, you die a Sudra;

It is only in this world of illusion that you assume the sacred thread.

If birth from a Brahmin makes you a Brahmin,

Why did you not come by another way?

If birth from a Turk makes you a Turk,

Why were you not circumcised in the womb?…

       Saith Kabir, renounce family, caste, religion, and nation, and live as one”

Guru Nanak, for instance, stated [Guru Granth Saheb, p. 83]:
   “Caste and dynastic pride are condemnable notions; the one Master shelters all existence. Anyone arrogating superiority to himself halt be disillusioned. Saith Nanak : superiority shall be determined by God.”

Making significant observations on the principle of Fraternity, Justice Bhat observed that,

“When the Framers of the Constitution began their daunting task, they had before them a formidable duty and a stupendous opportunity : of forging a nation, out of several splintered sovereign States and city States, with the blueprint of an idea of India. What they envisioned was a common charter of governance and equally a charter for the people. The placement of the concept of fraternity, in this context was neither an accident, nor an idealised emulation of the western notion of fraternity, which finds vision in the French and American Constitutions and charters of independence. It was a unique and poignant reminder of a society riven with acute inequalities : more specifically, the practice of caste discrimination in its virulent form, where the essential humanity of a large mass of people was denied by society—i.e. untouchability.”  Read More

  • Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 178;  Hearing a contempt petition against a PIL on public disclosure of criminal antecedents of politicians, a Division Bench of RF Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., observed,

It shall be mandatory for political parties [at the Central and State election level] to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the court concerned, the case number, etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.”  Read More

  • Rajendra Diwan v. Pradeep Kumar Ranibala, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1586; While holding Section 13(2) of the Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act as unconstitutional, a full judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., observed,

While exercising power under Article 136 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court does not re-appreciate evidence which has been appreciated by the Trial Court and the High Courts, unless extraordinary circumstances exist. It is only where the High Court has completely missed the real point requiring adjudication or has missed or ignored the relevant material, would the Supreme Court be justified in getting into evidence for the purpose of preventing grave injustice to a party.” Read More

  • Mukesh Singh v. State (Narcotic Branch of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine SC 700; A full judge Constitution bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ 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.” Read More

  • Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 571; In a reference dealing with the interpretation of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872 that deals with admissibility of electronic records, the three judge bench of RF Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record. Read More

As a Judge at Delhi High Court


  • Sanjeet Singh Kaila v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8170; A Division bench presided by Justice Bhat, held that though the members of the Armed forces consent to the risk that comes with their enrollment in the forces, one is still entitled to a safe workplace with standard equipment.

In the words of Justice Bhat,

“(…) none can be insensible to the piquancy in the pageant of life; more so, those who enlist in the service of their country in its armed forces. Yet to fling that to their teeth when accused of exposing them to more than the risks they had bargained (as the HAL does, here) is to belittle their spirit of sacrifice, which this court finds insensitive, even offensive. A soldier or an air warrior like the petitioner can be expected to be aware of the “normal” risks that he undertakes to accept in the course of a career that is removed from the ordinary. That assumption of risk at the same time raises the threshold bar on his employer and those assigned by the employer to maintain the standards in respect of the workplace and the technical equipment, which such officers and warriors have to handle and live with.” Read More

  • BGP Products v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 12928; Striking down a government notification made under Section 26A of the Drugs Act, to restrict the manufacture and usage of an essential drug likely to be affecting the health of pregnant woman and youth mothers, Justice Bhat observed,

This court notices that the decision of prohibiting a country wide existing manufacturing base for Oxytocin, a life-saving drug (through the over hundred private licensed units spread across the country), for over three decades or so, on the one hand and reserving it to the public sector through a single manufacturing entity, which has no previous record in its production, is thus fraught with potential adverse consequences. One of the important directive principles of State Policy (Article 47) is the that “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties..”. Maternal welfare too is considered a directive principle (Article 42).Correspondingly, the right of women, generally and pregnant women and young mothers in particular, to have a safe post-partum recovery and avoid risk of haemorrhaging that can be potentially fatal, is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The potential impact may or may not be direct; even if it leads to a few incidents, that would be a grave consequence contrary to public interest.”   

  • CPIO, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2714; While directing the CPIO to release the information sought by the respondent applicant about the declaration of assets (and not the contents of the declarations, as that was not sought for) and holding the office of the CJI as a‘public authority’, significant remarks were made by Justice Ravindra Bhat, about the office of judges and exemption provided under Section 8(1)(j) RTI Act, 2005.

“In this Court’s opinion Section 8(1)(j) is both a check on the power of requiring information dissemination (having regard to its potential impact on individual privacy rights) as well as a mechanism whereby individuals have limited control over whether personal details can be made public. This safeguard is made in public interest in favour of all public officials and public servants. There can be no manner of doubt that Supreme Court and High Court Judges are public servants (K. Veeraswami established that). They are no doubt given a high status, and afforded considerable degree of protections, under the Constitution; yet that does not make them public servants any less. If that is the true position, the protection afforded by Section 8(1)(j) to Judges is of no lesser quality than that given to other public servants, in this regard. To hold otherwise: would be incongruous, because, members of the higher judiciary are held to self imposed obligatory Constitutional standards, and their asset disclosures are held (by this judgment), to be “information” held by the CJI, a public authority, under the Act; yet, they would be deprived of the protection that the same enactment extends to all those covered by it.”

  • Bayer Corporation v. Union of India, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2469; Rejecting the claim of Bayer that the drug manufactured and sold by Cipla under the name of ‘Soranib’, was infact a spurious drug under 17-B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and not a generic drug as contended, Justice Bhat held,

This Court is constrained to observe that the present litigation was what may be characterized as a speculative foray; an attempt to ‘tweak’ public policies through Court mandated regimes.”

The instant case discusses at length about patent linkage in Indian context and how imperative it is to balance monopoly rights of any patent holder and the public at large.

  • Mini Appa Kanda Swami v. M.Indra, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5312; The Division Bench comprising of S. Ravindra Bhat and Deepa Sharma, JJ., held that demand for privacy by the spouse is not cruelty and also reiterated that High Court lacks the jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage on the doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown” under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

“The Court further made observation, as to determination of cruelty for divorce stating, While considering whether a particular conduct constitutes cruelty or not, the social status of parties, cultural background, physical and mental conditions, customs and traditions etc. have to be considered. Mental cruelty can be assessed from the continuous unprovoked conduct of a spouse which causes embarrassment, humiliation, and anguish so as to render the other spouse’s life miserable and unendurable. This conduct should be of such gravity that the wronged party cannot be reasonably asked to put up with such conduct and continue to live with the other party.”  Read More


*Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 

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