Know Thy Judge| Justice L. Nageswara Rao

“Free speech of the citizens of this country cannot be stifled by implicating them in criminal cases, unless such speech has the tendency to affect public order.”

Justice L. Nageswara Rao

Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 258


Born on 08.06.1957 at Chirala, Prakasam District, Andhra Pradesh, Justice L. Nageswara Rao enrolled as an Advocate at Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh in July 1982 after getting a degree in B.Com., B.L., from Nagarjuna University, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

Starting his practice at the District Court, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Justice Nageswara Rao, started practicing in the Andhra Pradesh High Court from January, 1984.

One year later, he started practicing at the Supreme Court of India and continued to do so till 2016, when he was elevated as the Supreme Court Judge.

♦Did you know? Justice Nageswara Rao is the 7th person to be elevated directly from the Bar as a Supreme Court judge.[1]

Justice Nageswara Rao also served as Additional Solicitor General of India from August 2003 to May, 2004 and again from 26.08.2013 to 18.12.2014.

He was took oath as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 13.05.2016.

♦Did you know? Justice Nageswara Rao was offered Supreme Court judgeship in 2014 by then Chief Justice of India RM Lodha. He had, however, turned down offer, citing personal and professional reasons.[2]

Justice Nageswara Rao is due to retire on 07.06.2022.


15 NOTABLE JUDGMENTS 


Kantaru Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Assn, (2020) 3 SCC 52

The 9-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ, hearing the Sabarimala reference has held that the Supreme Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction, after renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected.

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Krishna Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, (2017) 3 SCC 1

Stating that re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes, the 7-judge bench held that the Ordinance making power does not constitute the President or the Governor into a parallel source of law making or an independent legislative authority.

Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J writing down the majority judgment for himself and S.A. Bobde, A.K. Goel, U.U. Lalit and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ, laid down the principles for promulgation of ordinances.

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Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen (2017) 2 SCC 629

Giving a 4:3 verdict, the 7-Judge Bench held that an appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is impermissible under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice sufficient to annul the election in which such an appeal was made regardless whether the appeal was in the name of the candidate’s religion or the religion of the election agent or that of the opponent or that of the voter’s.

Justice Rao joined T.S. Thakur, CJ and Madan B. Lokur, and S.A. Bobde, JJ to give the majority verdict in the 4:3 verdict, while Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Adarsh K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ dissented.

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 Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. The Chief Minister, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 362

The 5-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, S.A. Nazeer, L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ quashed the much in debate Maratha Reservation and has held that the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the State and for appointments in the public services and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 [ 2018 Act] as amended in 2019 granting 12% and 13% reservation for Maratha community in addition to 50% social reservation is not covered by exceptional circumstances as contemplated by Constitution Bench in Indra Sawhney[1]’s case.

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Madras Bar Association v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 962

The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao*, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat has issued extensive directions in relating to selection, appointment, tenure, conditions of service, etc. relating to various tribunals, 19 in number, thereby calling for certain modifications to the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities [Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members] Rules, 2020.

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C. Bright v. District Collector, (2021) 2 SCC 392

The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta* and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has upheld Kerala High Court’s decision holding that Section 14 of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) mandating the District Magistrate to deliver possession of a secured asset within 30 days, extendable to an aggregate of 60 days upon reasons recorded in writing, is a directory provision.

Interpreting Section 14 of the SARFAESI Act, the Court said that

“… the secured creditor has no control over the District Magistrate who is exercising jurisdiction under Section 14 of the Act for public good to facilitate recovery of public dues. Therefore, Section 14 of the Act is not to be interpreted literally without considering the object and purpose of the Act. If any other interpretation is placed upon the language of Section 14, it would be contrary to the purpose of the Act.”

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Rupali Devi. State of Uttar Pradesh,  (2019) 5 SCC 384

The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and SK Kaul, JJ held that woman driven out of matrimonial home can file case under Section 498-A from the place she has taken shelter at. The bench said,

“the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”

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Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttarakhand, (2020) 10 SCC 710

In a case where abuses were hurled by a person of upper caste at a person belonging to Scheduled Caste due to a property dispute between them, the 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta* and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that no offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is made out as the allegations of hurling of abuses is against a person who claims title over the property and not on account of them being a member of the Scheduled Caste.

“The property disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and a person of upper caste will not disclose any offence under the Act unless, the allegations are on account of the victim being a Scheduled Caste.”

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Narendra v. K. Meena, (2016) 9 SCC 455

Dealing with the case where the husband had sought divorce from his wife on the ground that she was forcing him to leave his parents as he was proving them financial support, the Court said that in a Hindu society, it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents.

The Bench of A.R. Dave and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ added that no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income, the Court also said that the persistent effort of the wife to constrain the husband to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and will constitute as an act of ‘cruelty’.

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State of Tamil Nadu v. K Balu, (2017) 2 SCC 281

While stressing upon the alarming statistics on the occurrence of road accidents due to drunken driving the Full Bench comprising of T.S. Thakur, CJ., D.Y. Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao, JJ. prohibited all States and Union Territories from granting licenses for the sale of liquor along national and state highways.

In 2007, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had issued a circular to all the State Governments advising them to remove liquor shops situated along national highways and not to issue fresh licenses. Moreover, the Union Government had formulated for adoption by the States a Model Policy, which provided for a minimum distance from the state/national highways for locating liquor shops. However, an exception was carved out to the effect that the national or state highways would not include such parts of them as are situated within the limits of local authorities.

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Haji Ali Dargah Trust v. Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz, (2016) 16 SCC 788

Giving the Haji Ali Dargah Trust two weeks’ time to restore status-quo ante in regard to women pilgrims entering the sanctum sanctorum at par with men, the 3-Judge Bench of T. S. Thakur, C.J.  and D. Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ said that in case there is any default or neglect on the part of the Trust in complying with the direction of the Bombay High Court, the respondents-writ petitioners shall be free to approach the High Court for appropriate redress in the matter.

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IN RE: TO ISSUE CERTAIN GUIDELINES REGARDING INADEQUACIES AND DEFICIENCIES IN CRIMINAL TRIALS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 329

After noticing common deficiencies which occur in the course of criminal trials and certain practices adopted by trial courts in criminal proceedings as well as in the disposal of criminal cases and causes, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhatt, JJ has directed all High Courts to take expeditious steps to incorporate the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice, 2021 as part of the rules governing criminal trials, and ensure that the existing rules, notifications, orders and practice directions are suitably modified, and promulgated (wherever necessary through the Official Gazette) within 6 months.

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In Re: EXPEDITIOUS TRIAL OF CASES UNDER SECTION 138 OF N.I. ACT 1881, 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.

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Dahiben v. Arvindbhai Kalyanji Bhanusali, 2020 7 SCC 366

The 2-judge bench of Indu Malhotra and L Nageswara Rao, JJ has held that even when the entire sale consideration has not been paid, it could not be a ground for cancellation of the Sale Deed.

The Court relied on the it’s verdict in Vidyadhar v. Manikrao, (1999) 3 SCC 573, wherein it was held that non-payment of a part of the sale price would not affect the validity of the sale. Once the title in the property has already passed, even if the balance sale consideration is not paid, the sale could not be invalidated on this ground. In order to constitute a “sale”, the parties must intend to transfer the ownership of the property, on the agreement to pay the price either in praesenti, or in future. The intention is to be gathered from the recitals of the sale deed, the conduct of the parties, and the evidence on record.

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Anjan Kumar Sharma v. State of Assam, (2017) 14 SCC 359

The bench comprising of L.Nageswara Rao and Navin Sinha, JJ. held that in the absence of conclusive and consistent proof of circumstantial chain of evidence which lead to the only “hypothesis of guilt” against the accused then, only circumstance of last seen cannot be made basis of conviction.

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[1]Emerging trends in judgment writing introduced by Justice L Nageswara Rao, by Sameer, Updated: 18th August 2020, https://www.siasat.com/emerging-trends-in-judgment-writing-introduced-by-justice-l-nageswara-rao-1951146/

[2] L Nageswara Rao recommended for the post of SC judge, by Utkarsh Anand, May 5, 2016, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/l-nageswara-rao-recommended-for-the-post-of-sc-judge-2784921/

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