Born on 20th May, 1959, Justice Ajjikuttira Somaiah Bopanna is respected for ensuring transparency. He was enrolled as an advocate on November 21, 1984 and practised Civil, Constitutional, Company, Service and Labour matters in the High Court as well as the Civil and Labour Courts. He also worked as legal advisor to Central Public Sector Undertakings and worked as Additional Central Government Standing Counsel from 1999 onwards till 2005. Later on, he was appointed as an Additional Judge of the High Court of Karnataka on January 6, 2006 and became a permanent judge on March 1, 2007. On October 29, 2018 Justice A. S. Bopanna was elevated as Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court. He was elevated as a judge of the Supreme court of India on May 24, 2019. He is due to retire on May 19, 2024.
♦Did you know? Justice Bopanna has made a remarkable contribution to prevent pilling up of cases in the Courts. During his transfer from Karnataka HC the then Chief Justice had appreciated Justice A. S. Bopanna’s unparallel contribution to the Bengaluru Mediation Centre
♦Did you know? Justice Bopanna has served as one of the members of Board of governors of Karnataka Arbitration Centre.
Career as an Advocate [1984-2005]
Enrolled as an Advocate on 21-11-1984, Justice Bopanna had practised Civil, Constitutional, Company, Service and Labour matters in the High Court of Karnataka as well as in the Civil and Labour Courts. He had also worked as Legal Advisor to all Central Public Sector Undertakings and worked as Addl. Central Govt. Standing Counsel from 1999 onwards till 2005.  Here are some of the notable cases represented by Justice Bopanna:
Bharat Gold Mines Ltd. v. Sundareshan, 2000 SCC OnLine Kar 346
Tata Consultancy Services v. State of Karnataka, 2003 SCC OnLine Kar 559
Ansys Software Pvt. Ltd., In re, 2004 SCC OnLine Kar 562
G. Naravana Rao v. V.R. Nagmani, 1996 SCC OnLine Kar 397
Equipment v. G.M, Bangalore Telephones, 1996 SCC OnLine Kar 374
♦Did you know? Justice Bopanna is the son of the late A.N. Somaiah, a prominent politician belonging to the erstwhile Janata Party, who served as a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council a few decades ago.
Important Judgments at the High Court of Karnataka [2006-2018]
♦Did you know? Justice Bopanna, the first judge from Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka to be elevated to the Supreme Court of India, is the ‘Coorg Person of the Year, 2019’.
Rahul Chandra Kone v. Jahanvi, 2017 SCC OnLine Kar 1700
The Single Judge Bench comprising of A.S. Bopanna, J., decided a set of writ petitions filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, wherein the petitioner husband; residing abroad, was granted permission to appear in the Court through Skype.
The matter related to a marriage dispute between the petitioner-husband and the respondent-wife. The matter was initially filed before the Family Court by the wife against the husband. The petitioner-husband in the instant petition prayed to quash the order of the Family Court whereby the petitioner was directed to appear in person before the Court in Bangalore. The petitioner submitted that he was residing in the USA and had difficulties in traveling to India and appearing before the Family Court.
Tammanna v. Renuka, 2009 SCC OnLine Kar 123
The 7-Judges Bench comprising of P.D. Dinakaran CJ and S.R. Bannurmath, V. Gopala Gowda, V.G. Sabhahit, K.L. Manjunath, A.S. Bopanna and A.N. Venugopala Gowda, JJ. held that the power of the Single Judge under Section 8 of the Karnataka High Court Act is traceable and subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 CPC. Therefore, since Section 8 of the Karnataka High Court Act remained unamended, the insertion of Section 9(xii) and 10(iv-a) of the Karnataka High Court Act as amended by Amendment Act 12 of 1973 to the Karnataka High Court Act by itself would not render Section 8 redundant in the statute book.
D. Sudhakar v. D.N. Jeevaraju, 2011 SCC OnLine Kar 46
The Bench of Mohan Shantana Goudar, S. Abdul Nazeer and A.S. Bopanna, JJ. held that the elected members are duty bound to adhere strictly to the democratic norms without making themselves subject to the wrath of the Tenth Schedule. The election promises and pledges held out to the electorate at the time of election have to be maintained. Any deviation of the same would amount to betrayal of the electorate who has reposed confidence in the elected member. The Bench stated,
“We hope and trust that the elected members of the House would realise the avowed object of the Tenth Schedule in order to prevent unholy atmosphere in the House and also in the society.”
Notable Judgments at the High Court of Gauhati [2018-2019]
Union of India v. Bichitra Sarmah, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 3498
The Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna, C.J. and Arup Kumar Goswami, J. held that when the incident of firing had occurred accidentally and no other motive was alleged in the charge sheet, the disciplinary authority’s decision to ultimately impose the punishment on the basis of the conclusion of the Enquiry Officer that such firing was an attempt to commit suicide, would not be justified.
Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board v. Tinsukia Trading Co. (P) Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Gau 1581
The Division Bench comprising of A.S. Bopanna, CJ. and Arup Kumar Goswami, J. interpreted the meaning of ‘Agricultural Produce’ of Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1972.
The appellants were levying a cess on Mustard Oil imported from outside the State of Assam which was contended by the respondents to be unjustified and accordingly they sought for a refund of the amount collected by the respondent as cess.
Utpal Das v. Rinki Sarkar, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 1048
A Bench of A.S. Bopanna, CJ and Sanjay Kumar Medhi, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the appellant-husband against family court’s order granting alimony of Rs 2.5 lakhs to the respondent-wife.
Undisputed facts of the case are that the parties were formerly married to each other. Some marital disputes arose and the husband filed a petition seeking divorce which was granted by the family court. Subsequent to the divorce decree, the wife filed a petition under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking permanent alimony of Rs 15 lakhs. Partly allowing the wife’s application, the family court awarded her alimony of Rs 2.5 lakhs. Aggrieved thereby, the husband filed the present appeal.
Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 1023
The Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna, C.J. and Arup Kumar Goswami, J. held that even if the contention that the processing is to be done at the refinery and only thereafter VAT would be payable is taken note of, when as per the decision of the hon’ble Supreme Court, the same is also incidental to the purchase, irrespective of the fact as to whether the same is included in the invoice or not it would get attracted. The value of the VAT also would, therefore, get included in the import value for the purpose of processing the entry tax as it would fall under “other charges incidentally levied on the purchase of such goods” which is paid or payable.
Union Public Service Commission v. Nityananda Borkakoty, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 3511
The Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna, C.J. and Sanjay Kumar Medhi, J. held that there is no dispute to the proposition of law that a Selection Committee does not act as a mechanical body and can make its own assessment of the respective merits of the candidates apart from the ACRs. In our view, a Selection Committee has to be given that much of independence and liberty to make its own assessment based on the relevant materials on record and cannot be bound by the remarks in the ACRs only. If such a narrow view is taken, the Selection Committee would be rendered to a mere mechanical body and there would be no necessity of appointing experts in the same which is not the object of holding the selection. However, at the same time, the assessment has to be made on the basis of the relevant materials before the committee and if the committee relies upon any irrelevant materials or extraneous consideration, such selection would not be in accordance with law. Though the fact of not communicating the adverse remark of ‘Unfit’ to the respondent No. 1 might not per se have a bearing in the Selection Committee meeting, the said remark was undoubtedly a relevant factor which had played a role in the minds of the members of the Selection
Remarkable Judgments as the Judge of Supreme Court
Mechanical Conversion of Complaints
Expeditious Trial of Cases Under Section 138 Of N.I. Act 1881, In Re, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 325
Noticing that the summary trials of complaints filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 are being routinely converted to summons trials in a “mechanical manner”, the Constitution bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has directed the High Courts to issue practice directions to the Magistrates for recording cogent and sufficient reasons while doing so.
Deportation of Rohingya Refugees
Mohammad Salimullah v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 296
“Right not to be deported, is ancillary or concomitant to the right to reside or settle in any part of the territory of India.”
The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has directed that Rohingyas in Jammu, on whose behalf the present application is filed, shall not be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed.
Tata v. Cyrus Controversy
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. v. Cyrus Investments Private Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 272
In a long awaited verdict in the Tata-Mistry Row, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has upheld the removal of Cyrus Mistry as Chairman by the Tata Sons and has also answered all questions in favour of Tata Sons. The Court said that NCLAT has, by reinstating Mistry without any pleading or prayer, “has forced upon the appellant an Executive Chairman, who now is unable to support his own reinstatement.”
The Court said,
“The relief of reinstatement granted by the Tribunal, was too big a pill even for the complainant companies, and perhaps Cyrus Mistry, to swallow.”
Hathras Gang Rape
Satyama Dubey v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 874,
The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has, “in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure”, directed that the security to the victim’s family and the witnesses in the Hathras Gang Rape case shall be provided by the CRPF within a week.
The case pertains to the brutal gang-rape and assault of a 19-year¬old girl, resident of Hathras village in Uttar Pradesh. Though she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, she breathed her last and she was cremated in the middle of the night without the presence of her family members.
Sale of electoral bonds Scheme
Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 266
The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V, Ramasubramanian, JJ has refused to interfere with the scheme of sale of electoral bonds by the Political Parties challenged on the ground that it allows the donors of political parties to maintain anonymity which is not healthy for a democracy. The Court said that even though the Scheme provides anonymity, it is intended to ensure that everything happens only through banking channels and that,
“All that is required is a little more effort to cull out such information from both sides (purchaser of bond and political party) and do some “match the following”. Therefore, it is not as though the operations under the Scheme are behind iron curtains incapable of being pierced.”
ED’s power to freeze bank accounts
OPTO Circuit India Ltd. v. Axis Bank, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 55
The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna* and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has held that under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, though the Directorate of Enforcement is vested with sufficient power to freeze the accounts; such power is circumscribed by a procedure laid down under the statute.
“It certainly is not the requirement that the communication addressed to the Bank itself should contain all the details. But what is necessary is an order in the file recording the belief as provided under Section 17(1) of PMLA before the communication is issued and thereafter the requirement of Section 17(2) of PMLA after the freezing is made is complied.”
No sexual assault if no ‘skin to skin’ contact Controversy
Attorney General for India v. Satish, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 42
The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has stayed the controversial Bombay High Court judgment wherein the High Court had acquitted the accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, 2012 on the ground that the accused had no sexual intent in committing the offence under POCSO Act because there was no direct physical contact, i.e., skin to skin.
The said order came after Attorney General for India K. K. Venugopal brought to the Court’s notice that the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has passed a judgment dated 19.01.2021 is likely to set “a dangerous precedent”.
Rakesh Vaishanv v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 18
The 3-Judge Bench of S.A. Bobde, CJ and A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., stays the implementation of farms laws until further orders.
Three categories of petitions have been filed before the Court, all revolving around the validity or otherwise of three Farm Laws namely:
- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
Protection of the Great Indian Bustard
M.K. Ranjitsinh v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 326
The 3-Judge Bench comprising of S. A. Bobde, CJ., A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., addressed the instant PIL addressing the issue of protection of two species of birds namely the Great Indian Bustard (‘GIB’) and the Lesser Florican, which is on the verge of extinction. The Bench remarked,
“…keeping in view, the sustainable development concept and on striking a balance the protection of the rare species of birds is essential to be made, the effort being to save every bird while at the same time allowing transmission of power in an appropriate manner.”
Validity of Pre-disqualification Vote of MLA
Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia v. Dhiraj Prasad Sahu, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1039,
In an interesting case where a Member of the Legislative Assembly cast his vote in an election to the Rajya Sabha in the morning and got convicted in the afternoon thereby becoming disqualified, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has held that the such vote would remain valid. If held otherwise, such situation will create endless confusion and needless chaos.
Youth Bar Association of India v. Union of India, WP(C) No. 000849 of 2020
In the petition seeking for standard operating procedures for implementation of pre-litigation mediation under Section 12A of Commercial Courts Act, 2015, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has admitted the application for intervention made by Bridge Mediation, a policy think tank based out of New Delhi, seeking the creation of a committee of experts to guide on the ground level issues arising out of the implementation of Section 12A of Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
Segmented Offers by Airtel and Vodafone
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India v. Bharti Airtel Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 910
The 3-judge bench of SA, Bobde, CJ* and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has directed telecom giants Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea to disclose information/details regarding segmented offers to TRAI. It asked TRAI to ensure that such information is kept confidential and is not made available to the competitors or to any other person.
Nirbhaya Death Row Convicts
Pawan Kumar Gupta v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 340
Putting the last nail in the coffin for the Nirbhaya death row convicts who were hanged this morning, the 3-judge bench of R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ dismissed 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.
† Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.