Justice Surya Kant

“Corruption poses a serious threat to our society and must be dealt with iron hands. It not only leads to abysmal loss to the public exchequer but also tramples good governance. The common man stands deprived of the benefits percolating under social welfare schemes and is the worst hit.”1

Justice Surya Kant

Justice Surya Kant, born in the quaint town of Hisar, Haryana, emerged from humble beginnings to carve an illustrious career in the legal realm. His journey, marked by dedication, expertise, and a commitment to justice, stands as a testament to his unwavering resolve and passion for the law. We have thus curated some of his important High Court and Supreme Court decisions.

Early Life and Education

Justice Surya Kant was born on 10-02-1962 in Hisar (Haryana). He graduated from Government Post Graduate College, Hisar, in 1981. He furthered his education by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in law from Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, in 1984. A testament to his pursuit of knowledge and academic excellence, Justice Kant achieved the remarkable feat of securing First Class First in his master’s degree in law from the Directorate of Distance Education, Kurukshetra University, in 2011.2

Legal Career

With his academic prowess in hand, Justice Kant embarked on his professional journey by commencing his legal practice at the District Court in Hisar the in 1984. In 1985 that Justice Kant made a pivotal decision to shift his practice to Chandigarh, where he delved into matters concerning the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Specializing in Constitutional, Service, and Civil matters, his expertise garnered attention, leading him to represent various esteemed entities including universities, boards, corporations, and banks.3

On 07-07-2000, when Justice Kant was appointed as the Advocate General of Haryana. His contributions were further acknowledged when he was designated as a Senior Advocate in March 2001.4

  • Did You Know? Justice Kant was appointed as the youngest Advocate General of Haryana on 07-07-2000.5

Judicial Career

Justice Kant held his office as Advocate General, Haryana till his elevation as a Permanent Judge to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 09-01-2004.6

His journey reached new heights when he assumed the role of Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh on 05-10-2018.7 His judicial temperament and commitment to upholding the principles of justice earned him widespread respect within the legal fraternity.8

Recognized for his judicial integrity and astuteness, Supreme Court Collegium recommended Justice Kant’s name for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India.9 Justice Kant was elevated to the highest echelons of the Indian judiciary as a Judge of the Supreme Court on 24-05-2019.10

  • Did You Know? Justice Surya Kant is likely to serve as Chief Justice of India for 1.2 years from 24-11-2025 till his retirement on 09-02-2027.11

Beyond his judicial duties, Justice Kant has been actively involved in various legal forums and organizations. Notably, he served as a Member of the Governing Body of the National Legal Services Authority for two consecutive terms from 23-02-2007, to 22-02-2011. Additionally, his membership in various committees of the Indian Law Institute underscores his dedication to legal scholarship and reform.12 Throughout his career, Justice Kant has been a prominent figure in national and international legal circles, organizing and participating in prestigious conferences that contribute to the discourse on legal matters.

“With human lives pausing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, viral photos show that nature is fighting back. With the flora returning and fauna thriving, it is evident that the pitiable state of global ecology is not a state of our geographical inheritance.”13

Notable Judgements at Supreme Court

  • Did You Know? As a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Surya Kant has written 50+ judgments and has been part of over 450 judgments till date14.

[Kantaru Rajeevaru (Right to Religion, In re-9 J.) v. Indian Young Lawyers Assn., (2020) 3 SCC 52]

A 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., while framing seven issues in the Sabrimala reference opined that the same can be referred to a larger bench in its Review jurisdiction.

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[Mariam Fasihuddin v. State, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 58

In an appeal against Karnataka High Court’s decision whereby, the Trial Court’s order dismissing the accused persons’ application under Section 239 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), seeking discharge from the case under Sections 468, 471, 420, 120-B and 201 read with Section 34 of the IPC and Section 12(b) of the Passports Act, 1967, was upheld, the Division Bench of Surya Kant* and Dipankar Datta, JJ., quashed the impugned First Information Report, set aside the Trial Court and High Court’s decision and directed the husband to pay 1 Lakh costs to the wife within a period of six weeks. The Court held that the continuation of the criminal proceedings against the wife and other accused persons would be an abuse of the process of law, since the elementary ingredients of ‘cheating’ and ‘forgery’ were missing.

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[Afjal Ansari v. State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1676

While hearing an appeal against Allahabad High Court’s decision refusing to grant a stay on Bahujan Samaj Party member Afjal Ansari’s conviction in 2007 Gangster Act case, the three Judges Bench of Surya Kant,* Dipankar Datta,** and Ujjal Bhuyan, JJ., were called upon to decide a stay of Afjal Ansari’s conviction, during the pendency of his Criminal Appeal before the High Court. The Court by a majority of 2:1 granted him interim relief and suspended his conviction and restored his status as a Lok Sabha MP with certain conditions.

“Societal interest is an equally important factor which should be zealously protected and preserved by the Courts and the literal construction of a provision such as Section 389(1) of the CrPC may be beneficial to a convict but not at the cost of legitimate public aspirations, hence, the Courts should balance the interests of protecting the integrity of the electoral process on one hand, while ensuring that constituents are not bereft of their right to be represented, merely on basis of an opinion which is open to further judicial scrutiny.”

Justice Datta was not in ad idem with the majority regarding the stay on Afjal’s conviction and held that he found no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and order of the High Court. Justice Datta stated that

“While recognizing the importance of the electorate’s representation, it is necessary to maintain a balance between this right and the enforcement of legal accountability within the democratic framework.”

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[Munilakshmi v. Narendra Babu, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1380]

In a criminal appeal against an order passed by the Karnataka High Court, wherein the Court granted regular bail to the man accused of conspiring to murder his wife after she refused to give consent for mutual divorce, the division bench of Surya Kant* and Dipankar Datta, JJ. while setting aside the impugned order, gave the following directions:

  • Directed the accused to surrender not later than one week, and to remain in custody till the conclusion of trial or till this Court releases him on bail in changed circumstances.

  • Directed the Trial Court to recall the witnesses (family members of deceased) for their further cross-examination.

  • Directed the Commissioner of Police, to provide security to the Appellant and her family, including her daughter, round the clock at least till their fresh depositions.

  • Directed the Commissioner of Police to investigate as to whether the Appellant and her family members were threatened, induced, or subjected to any extraneous pressure for retracting their statements.

The Court said that it has a narrow scope of interference in an order granting bail while exercising its power of judicial review and will be invariably reluctant to interfere in such order even if it has a different opinion. However, if it is found that an undertrial has attempted to misuse the concession of bail either by influencing the witnesses or tampering with the evidence or trying to flee from justice, such person can be committed to custody by withdrawing the concession of bail.

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[Yadaiah v. State of Telangana, (2023) 10 SCC 755]

“Acquisition denotes a positive act on behalf of the State to deprive an individual’s enjoyment of a pre-existing right in a property in furtherance of its policy whereas resumption denotes a punitive action by the State to take back the right or an interest in a property which was granted by it in the first place.”

Giving a “final quietus” to a land dispute dating back to 1994, the bench of Surya Kant* and JK Maheshwari has invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice to the parties and has declared a tract of land measuring around 142 Acres in its entirety to be vested in the Telangana Government in favour of the Greyhound Commando Force. The Court further directed that, “No Civil Court or High Court shall entertain any claim whatsoever on behalf of any Assignee, their legal representative, GPA holder or any other claimant under any Agreement to sell or other instruments, claiming direct or indirect interests in the Subject Land”.

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[State of Uttarakhand v. Ravi Kumar, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 655]

In a batch of Civil Appeals related to a series of litigation related to ownership of land equivalent to 28.56 acres situated in Nainital (‘suit land’) between State and private parties, the Division Bench of Surya Kant* and J.K. Maheshwari, JJ., refrained from deciding ownership rights of the suit land casually due to lack of documents in entirety and remanded the appeals back to the High Court for effective adjudication on merits. The Court explained its’ stance that “there are indeed compelling circumstances which have been left unanswered by the courts below, because of which determination of several factual issues have been left in limbo.”

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[Bishambhar Prasad v. Arfat Petrochemical (P) Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 458]

In a batch of petitions filed against the Judgment of High Court of Rajasthan, wherein Arfat Petrochemicals Pvt. Ltd.’s (‘respondent’) petition was allowed and the decision of the Cabinet Committee of the State of Rajasthan and instruction issued to the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Ltd. (‘RIICO’) to cancel a series of permissions and approvals granted/awarded to the respondent in respect of industrial land in Kota, Rajasthan, were set aside. The Division Bench of Surya Kant* and Vikram Nath JJ., held that when the actions of a Committee constituted by Cabinet are validated by the Council of Ministers and the rest of the Council, it ensures that the Rules of Business were followed by the State Government in the course of decision-making process.

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[CBI v. Santosh Karnani, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 427]

In a set of criminal appeals, against the order of Gujarat High Court, wherein the respondent’s application for anticipatory bail was allowed for offences under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Division Bench of Surya Kant* and J.K. Maheshwari, JJ., allowed the appeals and set aside the impugned order of the High Court and said that the Courts must draw a delicate balance between liberty of an individual as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the need for a fair and free investigation, which must be taken to its logical conclusion.

“The nature and gravity of the alleged offence should have been kept in mind by the High Court. Corruption poses a serious threat to our society and must be dealt with iron hands. It not only leads to abysmal loss to the public exchequer but also tramples good governance. The common man stands deprived of the benefits percolating under social welfare schemes and is the worst hit. It is aptly said, “Corruption is a tree whose branches are of an unmeasurable length; they spread everywhere; and the dew that drops from thence, Hath infected some chairs and stools of authority.” Hence, the need to be extra conscious.”

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[Afjal Ali Sha v. State of W.B., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 282]

In a criminal transfer petition requesting the transfer of case with charges under Section 302 read with Section 120-B of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Sections 25 and 27 of Arms Act, 1959 (‘Arms Act’) from State of West Bengal to some other State, the Division Bench of Surya Kant* and J.K. Maheshwari, JJ. concluded that there is no legal necessity to transfer the trial outside West Bengal since the petitioner’s apprehensions can be effectively redressed through appropriate directions. The Court reasoned that more than 90 witnesses were yet to be examined, transfer of trial to another state will cause serious impediment and the prosecution case will be prejudiced.

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[Juhru v. Karim, (2023) 5 SCC 406]

In a Criminal Appeal challenging the Punjab & Haryana High Court’s judgment ordering summoning of appellants as additional accused under Section 319 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 while setting aside the Trial Court’s order, the Division Bench of Surya Kant* and J.K. Maheshwari, JJ., modified the High Court’s judgment sustaining the summoning of the appellant residing in the same house in a case of dowry death, while setting aside the same for other appellants due to lack of evidence of meddling with the affairs of the deceased.

The Court directed the Trial Court to follow the guidelines extensively iterated by the Constitution Bench in Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab, (2023) 1 SCC 289, to be followed by the Court while exercising the powers under Section 319 CrPC, as pointed below:

  • To pause the trial before passing of the order on acquittal or sentence, if evidence or application under Section 319 CrPC is filed.

  • To first decide the need or summon the additional accused and pass orders.

  • To pass order for summoning under Section 319 CrPC before proceeding further with the trial.

  • To apply its mind for trying such summoned accused separately, or along with the other accused.

  • To commence fresh trial only after securing presence of summoned accused, if joint trial is decided.

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[Ashish Mishra v. State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 86]

In a special leave petition filed against the judgment and order passed by the Allahabad High Court, the Division bench of Surya Kant and J.K Maheshwari, JJ. grants interim bail to Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra in an unfortunate and grave incident at Lakhimpur Kheri which led to the loss of eight lives, consisting of four protesting farmers, one journalist and three others

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[Tejesh Suman v. State of Rajasthan, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 76]

In a special leave petition filed against the judgment and order of the Rajasthan High Court, wherein the Court had vacated the interim protection awarded to the petitioner, because he was taken into custody in another matter, the division bench of Surya Kant and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ. ordered that the impugned order, being interlocutory in nature, shall not be treated as precedent for cancellation of bail granted to the petitioner in other cases, and the pending cases shall be decided by the High Court as per its own merits and in accordance with law. However, the question of law that “whether anticipatory bail would be maintainable if a person is already arrested and is in custody in relation to another offence” was kept open to be decided in an appropriate case.

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[Hewlett Packard India Sales (P) Ltd. v. Commissioner of Customs (Import), (2023) 7 SCC 799]

While dealing with a case where the Commissioner of Customs (Appeal) had referred to Wikipedia for coming to the conclusion in a case under the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985., the Division bench of Surya Kant* and Vikram Nath, JJ., cautioned the adjudicating authorities against completely relying on such online sources.

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[CCE v. Merino Panel Product Ltd., (2023) 2 SCC 597]

In an appeal originated from the order passed by the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal setting aside the show cause notice issued by the appellant/Revenue to the respondent/ Assessee, on the ground that it had invoked an incorrect method of valuing related party transaction, the division bench of Surya Kant* and J.B. Pardiwala , JJ., held that the circular of 01-07-2002 is not contrary to the intent of the Central Excise Act, 1944 and Central Excise Valuation (Determination of Price of Excisable Goods) Rules, 2000 and the object behind it is to merely use “reasonable means” as outlined under Rule 11 of the CEVR, in conformity with S. 4(1)(a) of the CEA and R. 9 of the CEVR, so as to reach the assessable value of goods for determination of excise duty.

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[Singapore Airlines Ltd. v. CIT, (2023) 1 SCC 497]

In an appeal filed by Singapore airlines against the judgment passed by the Delhi High Court holding that the airlines is required to deduct tax at source under S. 194-H of the Income Tax Act, 1961, on the supplementary commission accrued to travel agents by the airlines to sell airline tickets, the division bench of Surya Kant* and MM Sundresh, JJ., held that if a relationship between two parties as culled out from their intentions as manifested in the terms of the contract between them, indicate the existence of a principal agent relationship as defined under Section 182 of the Contract Act, then the definition of “Commission” under Section 194-H of the IT Act stands attracted and the requirement to deduct TDS arises. Further, it overruled CIT v. Qatar Airways, 2009 SCC OnLine Bom 2179.

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[In re TN Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1318]

In a writ petition and interlocutory applications filed seeking clarification of the judgment passed by this Court, wherein it was ordered that, there should be no development within 1 Km of the eco-sensitive zone (‘ESZ’) around the national park, sanctuary or protected area, that was later modified, allowing ongoing projects to continue, the full bench of B.R. Gavai, Surya Kant, J.B. Pardiwala, JJ., upheld the eco-sensitive zone notifications for Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Thane Flamingo Creek Sanctuary.

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[Babanrao Rajaram Pund v. Samarth Builders & Developers, (2022) 9 SCC 691]

In an issue revolving around the importance of the words “final and binding” in an arbitration agreement, the Division bench of Surya Kant* and Abhay S Oka, JJ., held that when the arbitration agreement luminously discloses the intention and obligation of the parties to be bound by the decision of the tribunal, the lack of express mention of the words “final and binding” does not mean that a valid arbitration clause does not exist.

“Even if we were to assume that the subject-clause lacks certain essential characteristics of arbitration like “final and binding” nature of the award, the parties have evinced clear intention to refer the dispute to arbitration and abide by the decision of the tribunal. The party autonomy to this effect, therefore, deserves to be protected.”

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[N.V. Sharma v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1003]

In a relief to politician and lawyer Nupur Sharma, the Divison bench of Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, JJ., transferred all the FIRs filed against her in Prophet Remark case to the IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation. The Court also clarified that the directions in the present order will also extend to any other FIRs/complaints which may be registered/entertained against Nupur Sharma in future in respect of the same subject matter.

Should such an eventuality arise, the investigation of those FIRs/complaints shall also stand transferred to the IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation.”

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[S.G. Vombatkere v. Union of India, (2022) 7 SCC 433]

In the petitions challenging the Constitutionality of S. 124-A of the Penal Code 1860 dealing with the offence of Sedition, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ., Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., urged the State and Central Governments to restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the sedition law is under consideration.

“…we expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the Governments.”

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[Jagjeet Singh v. Ashish Mishra, (2022) 9 SCC 321]

In the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, where the Allahabad High Court had granted bail to the accused Ashish Mishra despite the fact that the ‘victims’ had got disconnected from the online proceedings and could not make effective submissions, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant* and Hima Kohli, JJ while deciding whether a ‘victim’ as defined under Section 2(wa) CrPC is entitled to be heard at the stage of adjudication of bail application of an accused., held that a ‘victim’ within the meaning of CrPC cannot be asked to await the commencement of trial for asserting his/her right to participate in the proceedings.

“He/She has a legally vested right to be heard at every step post the occurrence of an offence. Such a ‘victim’ has unbridled participatory rights from the stage of investigation till the culmination of the proceedings in an appeal or revision.”

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[Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, (2022) 3 SCC 521]

After a massive security lapse that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on January 5, 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ observed that the matter cannot be left to be resolved through one-sided enquiries and a judicially trained independent mind, duly assisted by officers who are well acquainted   with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court who has seized the record,   would be best placed to effectively visit all issues and submit a comprehensive report. The Court, hence, formed a committee to be chaired by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Supreme Court Judges.

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[N. Raghavender v. State of A.P., (2021) 18 SCC 70]

The 3-Judge Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., Surya Kant* and Hima Kohli, JJ., held that the Bank is not the trustee of the money that a customer deposits in a bank and the same is not held by the former on trust for him. The money so deposited becomes a part of the banker’s funds who is under a contractual obligation to pay the sum deposited by a customer to him on demand with the agreed rate of interest. Such a relationship between the customer and the Bank is one of a creditor and a debtor.

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[Surinder Singh v. State, (2021) 20 SCC 24]

Explaining the principles of sentencing policy, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant* and AS Bopanna, JJ., held that while there are practical difficulties in achieving absolute consistency in regards to sentencing, the awarding of just and proportionate sentence remains the solemn duty of the Courts and they should not be swayed by nonrelevant factors while deciding the quantum of sentence.

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[Bijendar v. State of Haryana, (2022) 1 SCC 92]

In a case where the Trial Court and Punjab and Haryana High Court had shifted the burden of proof on the accused merely for the reason that there has been a rise in the incidents of dacoity, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant* and Hima Kohli, JJ., held that the Trial Court and the High Court have erroneously drawn adverse inference against the accused, in spite of the Prosecution having lamentably failed to adequately dispense with its burden of proof to depict culpability of the accused.

“It may not be wise or prudent to convict a person only because there is rampant increase in heinous crimes and victims are oftenly reluctant to speak truth due to fear or other extraneous reasons.”

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[Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 985]

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., appointed an Expert Committee to investigate the truth or falsity of the allegations in the Pegasus Spyware case, “taking into account the public importance and the alleged scope and nature of the large-scale violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country.”

While the Supreme Court was initially reluctant in interfering in the matter due to lack of material placed before it, here’s why it eventually decided to step in.

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[State of M.P. v. Mahendra, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 965]

In a case where the accused had lured minor girls aged 8 and 9, took them inside the room, closed the doors and rubbed his genitals against those of the victims, the Division bench of Surya Kant* and Hima Kohli, JJ., held that these acts were deliberately done with manifest intention to commit the offence of rape and were reasonably proximate to the consummation of the offence.

The Court held that since the acts of the respondent exceeded the stage beyond preparation and preceded the actual penetration, he was guilty of attempting to commit rape as punishable within the ambit and scope of S. 511 read with S. 375 IPC as it stood in force at the time of occurrence. The incident dates back to year 2005.

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[Vipin Kumar Dhir v. State of Punjab, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 854]

While explaining the principles governing cancellation of bail, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant* and Hima Kohli, JJ., held that it is necessary that ‘cogent and overwhelming reasons’ are present for the cancellation of bail.

“Conventionally, there can be supervening circumstances which may develop post the grant of bail and are non-conducive to fair trial, making it necessary to cancel the bail.”

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[PLR Projects (P) Ltd. v. Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 332]

Taking note of the existing 220 vacancies in the High Courts, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobe, CJ and SK Kaul and Surya Kant, JJ stressed upon the importance of the Chief Justices of the High Courts making recommendations in time and opined that there is no such impediment to initiate a new process without waiting for the result of the earlier recommendations.

The Court noted that the vacancies are known and the norms permit making recommendations up to six months in advance. However, even recommendations for 220 existing vacancies appear not to have been made much less for vacancies, which are going to arise in the next six months.

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[Kalamani Tex v. P. Balasubramanian, (2021) 5 SCC 283]

A 3-Judge Bench comprising of N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant* and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., upheld the judgement of High Court of Judicature at Madras, whereby the order of acquittal of the Judicial Magistrate was reversed and the appellants had been convicted under Section 138 of the NIA, 1881. The Bench expressed,

“Once the appellant 2 had admitted his signatures on the cheque and the Deed, the trial Court ought to have presumed that the cheque was issued as consideration for a legally enforceable debt.”

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[Union of India v. K.A. Najeeb, (2021) 3 SCC 713]

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Surya Kant* and Anirudhha Bose, JJ., refused to interfere with the bail granted by Kerala High Court to KA Najeeb arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 but has imposed the condition that Najeeb shall mark his presence every week on Monday at 10 a.m. at the local police station and inform in writing that he is not involved in any other new crime. He shall also refrain from participating in any activity which might enrage communal sentiments.

“In case the respondent is found to have violated any of his bail conditions or attempted to have tampered the evidence, influence witnesses, or hamper the trial in any other way, then the Special Court shall be at liberty to cancel his bail forthwith.”

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[Shah Faesal v. Union of India, (2020) 4 SCC 1]

In a writ petition filled under Article 32 of the Constitution of India pertaining to two Constitution Orders issued by the President of India in exercise of his powers under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, a Full judge Constitution bench of NV Ramana, SK Kaul, R. Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ, held that no cause was made out to refer the matter to a larger bench as there is no conflict between the judgments in the Prem Nath Kaul v. State of J & K, AIR 1959 SC 749 and the Sampat Prakash v. State of J & K, AIR 1970 SC 1118. The Court observed that

“Judgments cannot be interpreted in a vacuum, separate from their facts and context. Observations made in a judgment cannot be selectively picked in order to give them a particular meaning.”

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[Ravi v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 9 SCC 622]

“A civic society has a ‘fundamental’ and ‘human’ right to live free from any kind of psycho fear, threat, danger or insecurity at the hands of anti-social elements.”

While relying on California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, where it was observed that “qualitative difference of death from all other punishments requires a correspondingly greater degree of scrutiny of the capital sentencing determination”, a 3-judge bench comprising of R. F. Nariman, Surya Kant* and R. Subhash Reddy JJ., upheld (2:1) the death penalty awarded to an accused for rape and murder of a two- year old girl.

The Court observed that the Sentencing Policy needs to strike a balance between (a) deterrent effect and (b) complete reformation for integration of the offender.

“The Legislature has impliedly distanced itself from the propounders of “No-Death Sentence” in “No Circumstances” theory and has re-stated the will of the people that in the cases of brutal rape of minor children below the age of 12years without murder of the victim, ‘death penalty’ can also be imposed.”

The Court shedding the light on duty of the Court and expectation of the people of the country, observed that “The society legitimately expects the Courts to apply doctrine of proportionality and impose suitable and deterent punishment that commensurate(s) with the gravity of offence.”

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[Rajesh Dhiman v. State of H.P., (2020) 10 SCC 740]

“If two reasonably probable and evenly balanced views of the evidence are possible, one must necessarily concede the existence of a reasonable doubt. But, fanciful and remote possibilities must be left out of account.”

While analysing the issues (1) whether bias was caused by complainant also being the investigating officer, (2) whether alternate version has been established and what is the effect of lack of independent witnesses and (3) whether High Court erred in reversing acquittal in appeal, a 3-judge bench comprising of NV Ramana, Surya Kant,* Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., held that firstly, the mere fact that the investigating officer was also the complainant would not entitle an accused to acquittal and that it was necessary to demonstrate either actual bias or real likelihood of bias. Secondly, if alternate version has been established, the evidence given must only be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of an ordinary person and in the present case, the appellant failed to make out a case with alternate version. Moreover, it was held that ­non-examination of independent witnesses would not ipso facto entitle one to seek acquittal. Thirdly, the Court held that High Courts could reverse acquittals and award appropriate sentence, including where there are patent errors of law, grave miscarriage of justice, or perverse findings of fact.

[Raveen Kumar v. State of H.P., (2021) 12 SCC 557]

“The Supreme Court in exercise of its powers under Article 136 ordinarily examines only whether the High Court has failed to correctly apply principles governing appeals against acquittal.”

A 3-judge bench comprising of NV Ramana, Surya Kant,* Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., while relying on Hira Singh v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 382, held that for the purpose of sentencing and determining whether the threshold of ‘commercial quantity’ was met, the total quantity of the mixture, including the neutral substance is relevant.

The Court clarifying the moot point whether High Court can set aside a finding of acquittal, held that there was no bar on a High Court set aside a finding of acquittal by a lower court.

“There is no difference of power, scope, jurisdiction or limitation under the CrPC between appeals against judgments of conviction or of acquittal. An appellate court is free to reconsider questions of law as well as fact, and re appreciate the entirety of evidence on record. There is, nonetheless, a self-restraint on the exercise of such power, considering the interests of justice and the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence. In practice, appellate courts are reluctant to interfere with orders of acquittal, especially when two reasonable conclusions are possible on the same material.”

The Court also opined that courts should be cautious while relying on any evidence which the witness had not been confronted with despite an opportunity to do so.

[Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2021) 2 SCC 166]

“…the conception that housemakers do not “work” or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.”

While deciding a motor vehicle claim and taking account into gendered nature of housework, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana,* SA Nazeer and Surya Kant,* JJ., increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs and held that “any compensation awarded by a Court ought to be just, reasonable and consequently must undoubtedly be guided by principles of fairness, equity, and good conscience.”

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[Rohtas v. State of Haryana, (2021) 19 SCC 465]

“The duty of the prosecution is to seek not just conviction but to ensure that justice is done. The prosecution must put forth the best evidence collected in the investigation.”

While deciding a criminal appeals, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Surya Kant* and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., held that usually the ‘common intention’ is indirectly inferred from conduct of the individuals and rarely through direct evidence and that the appellants are individually guilty for the offence of attempted murder, without the aid of Section 149 IPC because

The Court also explained the difference between Sections 34 and 149 of the IPC and held that “Although both Section 34 and 149 of the IPC are modes for apportioning vicarious liability on the individual members of a group, there exist a few important differences between these two provisions. Whereas Section 34 requires active participation and a prior meeting of minds, Section 149 IPC assigns liability merely by membership of the unlawful assembly. In reality, such ‘common intention’ is usually indirectly inferred from conduct of the individuals and only seldom it is done through direct evidence.”

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[Pravin Kumar v. Union of India, (2020) 9 SCC 471

“Judicial review is an evaluation of the decision making process and not the merits of the decision itself.”

While dismissing an appeal, a 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant,* JJ., held that the employer always retains the right to conduct an independent disciplinary proceeding, irrespective of the outcome of a criminal proceeding. 

The Court while analysing the issue whether strict rules of evidence can be applied to disciplinary proceedings, held that strict rules of evidence and procedure of a criminal trial are inapplicable to disciplinary proceedings. The Court also observed that though strict rules of evidence are inapplicable to disciplinary proceedings, but sometimes under certain circumstances it becomes necessary and enquiry officers put questions to witnesses in such proceedings in order to discover the truth

Discussing the scope of Judicial Review in service matters, the Court opined that “Constitutional Courts while exercising their powers of judicial review would not assume the role of an appellate authority. Their jurisdiction is circumscribed by limits of correcting errors of law, procedural errors leading to manifest injustice or violation of principles of natural justice.”

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[Jitendra Singh v. Ministry of Environment, (2020) 20 SCC 581]

“Protection of such village-commons is essential to safeguard the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of our Constitution.”

While deciding an appeal for forcible possession of a common, local village-pond by the respondent industrialists ,the Division Bench of Arun Mishra and Surya Kant,* JJ., held that ponds are public utilities meant for common use and that schemes which extinguish local water bodies albeit with alternatives are violative of Constitutional mandate provided under Art. 21 of the Constitution of India therefore are liable to be struck down.

“Waterbodies, specifically, are an important source of fishery and much needed potable water. Many areas of this country perennially face a water crisis and access to drinking water is woefully inadequate for most Indians. Allowing such invaluable community resources to be taken over by a few is hence grossly illegal.”

[CBI v. Sakru Mahagu Binjewar, (2019) 20 SCC 102]

“A real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking a life through law’s instrumentality. That ought to be done save in the rarest of rare case when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.”

A 3-judge bench comprising of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Surya Kant,* JJ., dismissed an appeal filed by the CBI challenging commutation of death penalty by the High Court in a murder case.

Relying on Swamy Shraddananda v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 13 SCC 767, the Court held that Section 57 IPC does not in any way limit the punishment of imprisonment for life to a term of 20 years. Therefore, he upheld the commutation of a death penalty to 25-years ‘actual imprisonment’.

[In Re: Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Prisons, (2021) 12 SCC 819]

“Having regard to the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it has become imperative to ensure that the spread of the Corona Virus within the prisons is controlled.”

The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJ., noticing the issue of overcrowding of prisons is a matter of serious concern particularly in the present context of the pandemic of Corona Virus (COVID – 19), directed that the States/Union Territories to constitute a High Powered Committee to determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or an interim bail for such period as may be thought appropriate.

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[Bhagwan Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, (2020) 14 SCC 184]

“A gun licensed for self-protection or safety and security of crops and cattle cannot be fired in celebratory events, it being a potential cause of fatal accidents.”

Partly allowing an appeal, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ., BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., opined that celebratory firing of guns licensed for self-protection needs to stop. The Court held that “appellants cannot escape the consequences of carrying the gun with live cartridges with the knowledge that firing at a marriage ceremony with people present there was imminently dangerous and was likely to cause death.”

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[Closure of Mid-Day Meal Scheme, In re, (2020) 12 SCC 213]

“While dealing with one crisis, the situation may not lead to creation of another crisis.”

Taking Sou Motu cognizance on non-availability of mid-day meals for children due to the closure of schools due to coronavirus spread, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ., BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., directed the States to come out with a uniform policy with the measures preventing spread of COVID-19 and also ensuring that the schemes for providing nutritional food to the children and nursing and lactating mothers are not affected.

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[Prahaladbhai Jagabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, (2020) 3 SCC 341]

Relying on Babu Singh v. State of U.P., (1978) 1 SCC 579, a 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ., BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., in the interests of justice, directed the release of appellants on bail. The Court observed that “punitive harshness should be minimized and restorative devises to redeem the man, even through community service, meditative drill, etc. should be innovated.”

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[In re: Assessment of the Criminal Justice System in response to Sexual Offences, (2020) 18 SCC 540]

“The need for speedy trial of the cases relating to offence of rape has been emphasized again and again this Court.”

Taking Sou Motu cognizance on assessment of the criminal justice system in response to sexual offences, a 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ., BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., noted that while the Nirbhaya gang rape case of 2012 has shocked the conscience of the nation but “the Nirbhaya case is not an isolated case where it has taken so long to reach finality. In fact, it is said that it has been one of the cases where agencies have acted swiftly taking into account the public outrage.”

The Court has called for records and status reports from all the States on various aspects of the criminal justice system in cases of sexual offences and held that previous sexual experience and in effect habituation to sexual intercourse is now irrelevant for the purpose of medical examination.

“Per-Vaginum examination commonly referred to as ‘Two-finger test’ has been held to be of no consequence and violative of the dignity of woman.”

The Court further held that, Forensic examination and report play important role during investigation as well as trial for linking the culprit with crime. Similarly, Medical treatment and examination of victim also plays a very important role.

“The sampling for the purpose of DNA test as well other forensic tests like forensic odontology is essential in cases relating to rape.”

“Medical treatment and examination of the victim is a very important aspect not only for the immediate relief to the victim but also provides intrinsic evidences for the trial.”

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[Manoharan v. State, (2020) 5 SCC 782]

Dismissing the review petition filed by Appellant to review it’s 2:1 verdict awarding death sentence, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Surya Kant* and Sanjiv Khanna,* JJ., held that the dissent by one Judge is not a bar for upholding death penalty.

The Court held that in the present case the appellant misused societal trust and the crime was not a crime a passion but a well crafted crime. The Crime committed by the Appellant were grave and shock the conscience of this Court and society that we cannot commute the sentence and without any doubt it will fall under rarest of the rare category.

“It was not in the spur of the moment or a crime of passion; but craftily planned, meticulously executed and with multiple opportunities to cease and desist.”

Agreeing with the Justice Surya Kant on the dismissal of review petition and upholding of the conviction of the accused, Justice Khanna held that there is no good ground and reasons to review his observations and findings in the minority judgment.

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Notable Judgements at High Court

[Kulwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, 2007 SCC OnLine P&H 792]

“The power to do complete justice is the very essence of every judicial justice dispensation system. It cannot be diluted by distorted perceptions and is not a slave to anything, except to the caution and circumspection, the standards of which the Court sets before it, in exercise of such plenary and unfettered power inherently vested in it while donning the cloak of compassion to achieve the ends of justice.”

Over-ruling the majority view in Dharambir v. State of Haryana, 2005 SCC OnLine P&H 190 and approving the minority view expressed by V.K. Bali, J., a 5-judge bench comprising of Vijender Jain,* C.J., P. Sathasivam, Rajive Bhalla, Surya Kant and Mahesh Grover, JJ., while deciding the issue “Whether the High Court has the power under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. to quash the criminal proceedings or allow the compounding of the offences in the event of the parties entering into a compromise in the cases which have been specified as non-compoundable offences and in particular, in view of the provisions of Section 320 of the Cr.P.C.?”, held that the compromise is an essential condition for harmony in the society, it is the soul of justice and if the power provided under Section 482 CrPC is used to enhance such a compromise to reduces friction then it truly is “finest hour of justice”.

“The power under Section 482 of the CrPC cannot be a hostage to one class or category of cases. That would be a complete misconstruction of the intent of the Legislature, who placed its utmost faith in the inherent power of the High Court to break free the shackle of other provisions of the Code, to give effect to any order under it or to prevent the abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. The wide amplitude of this provision of law cannot be diminished by any myopic interpretation and any straightjacket prescription.”

[Jasvir Singh v. State of Punjab, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 22479]

Justice Surya Kant* while deciding whether jail inmates have a right to have a conjugal life and procreation within the jail premises and whether such right comes under Art. 21 of the Constitution of India, dismissed the petition on the ground that the present jail infrastructure does not permit conjugal visits in jail, but the petitioner have sufficient condition to opt for parole.

Discussing the role of Court regarding protecting the rights of prison-inmates, the Court observed that “the Judiciary as the principal executor and promoter of the rule of law has to have major stakes in respect of the conditions prevailing in the prisons. The duty of the Courts towards jail reforms has become heavier than before after the enforcement of our Constitution as Article 21 guarantees dignified life to one and all including the prison-inmates.”

The Court held that the right to procreation survives incarceration and the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India grants inmates the right to have conjugal visits or avail of artificial insemination.

“The right to conjugal visits or procreation or for that matter the right to secure artificial insemination as a supplement, are also, thus, subject to all those reasonable restrictions including public order, moral and ethical issues and budgetary constraints which ought to be read into the enjoyment of such like fundamental right within our Constitutional framework.”

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[Viresh Shandilya v. Union of India, 2004 SCC OnLine P&H 1054]

In a PIL filed under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India regarding handing over the investigation of the “Burail Jail Break Case” to the CBI, a Division Bench comprising of Binod Kumar Roy, C.J. and Surya Kant,* J., declined to accept a blanket ban on these facilities as it would deprive not only the majority of inmates who are mere “under-trials” from the amenity of viewing TV but also will cause adverse effects upon the reformatory methods required to be adopted in the model jails even in relation to the ‘convicts’.

“In our view, the “under-trials” as well as the “prisoners” lodged in the Model Jail Burail too have a right to information and the television can play a crucial role in that regard and to bring them in the mainstream of the civilized society, it will be too hard and anti-thesis of international conventions if a complete ban on viewing of TV is imposed.”

[Madan Lal v. State of H.P., 2018 SCC OnLine HP 1495]

Examining the issue whether the petitioner, as an interim measure be allowed the basic amenities of water and electricity, the Division Bench of Surya Kant,* CJ. and Ajay Mohan Goel, J., reiterated that right to water and electricity supply is an integral part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

“Potable water or electricity are integral part of Right to Life within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. These are basic necessities for human being and can well be termed as essentials of human rights.”

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[Sharwan Kumar v. State of H.P., 2018 SCC OnLine HP 1695]

Considering the petitioner’s concern regarding disposal of waste of the slaughtered birds or to ensure that it does not cause any nuisance to the adjoining area, the Division Bench of Surya Kant,* CJ. and Ajay Mohan Goel, J., directed the respondent authorities to ensure that the prescribed rules and conditions for setting up a slaughterhouse are meticulously complied with.

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[Anil Bansal v. State of H.P., 2018 SCC OnLine HP 1617]

In a PIL filed under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India regarding non-availability of legal aid to inmates of the jail, the Division Bench of Surya Kant,* CJ. and Ajay Mohan Goel, J., directed the respondent authorities to provide legal aid with immediate effect to jail inmates.

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[Subhash Chand v. State of Haryana, 2007 SCC OnLine P&H 627]

A 3-judge bench comprising of Vijender Jain, C.J., Rajive Bhalla and Surya Kant,* JJ., held that the refusal to accept the highest bid cannot foreclose the right of the highest bidder to put the action of the competent authority to judicial scrutiny, however, in those cases heavy onus will lie on the petitioner to establish his allegations as the State action shall always be presumed to be in accordance with law.

“The highest bidder who had a legitimate expectation to acquire ownership of the property, unless his bid was found to be suffering from any legal infirmity, has an indefeasible right to knock at the doors of an appropriate forum including a Constitutional Court and to question the legality of the decision of the competent authority on grounds like it being contrary to the Statute or the rules or the Constitution.”

The Court also held that the State Government cannot refuse to confirm the highest bid without assigning any valid reason and/or by giving erratic, irrational or irrelevant reasons.

* Judge who has penned the judgment.

** Judge who has penned the dissenting judgment.

1. CBI v. Santosh Karnani, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 427

2. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant, Supreme Court of India.

3. Supra.

4. HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SURYA KANT, Advocate General Haryana.

5. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant, Supreme Court of India.

6. Judges elevated to the Supreme Court, High Court of Himachal Pradesh.

7. Supra.

8. https://hphighcourt.nic.in/pdf/Full_Court_Reference_JusticeSuryaKant.pdf

9. SC Collegium Recommendation | Appointment of Justices Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Surya Kant as Judges of Supreme Court, SCC Blog.

10. Surya Kant, Supreme Court Observer

11. Next 8 Chief Justices of India, Supreme Court Observer.

12. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant, Supreme Court of India.

13. Webinar on Environment & the Economy: Re-Imagining Key Concepts and Precepts, SCC OnLine Blog.

14. scconline.com

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