Justice AS Bopanna immunity MPs and MLAs demonetization

On 20-05-1959, in the scenic district of Coorg, known for its coffee and spices, Justice Ajjikuttira Somaiah Bopanna was born to late A.N. Somaiah, a prominent politician belonging to the erstwhile Janata Party, who served as a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council1.

Immensely respected within the legal fraternity for ensuring transparency, Justice Bopanna began his legal journey in 1984 and step by step rose up the ladder to eventually ascend to the topmost Court of India.

In his 5-year tenure as a Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Bopanna had been a part of several landmark judgments. As Justice Bopanna bids adieu to the Supreme Court after a stellar tenure as a Judge, we have attempted to gather some interesting facts about Justice AS Bopanna, including some of his important cases as an advocate and notable decisions as the Judge of High Courts and Supreme Court.

*Did you Know? Justice A.S. Bopanna, was given the title of ‘Coorg Person of the Year’ in 2019!2

Career as an Advocate (1984-2005)

Justice Bopanna started his legal career after being enrolled as an Advocate on 21-11-1984 practicing in Civil, Constitutional, Company, Service and Labour matters in the Karnataka High Court and the Civil and Labour Courts. He worked as the Legal Advisor to several Central Public Sector Undertakings and also performed the responsibilities of Addl. Central Govt. Standing Counsel from 1999 till 20053.

Given below are some notable cases wherein, Justice AS Bopanna represented the parties as an Advocate:

Justice AS Bopanna as the Judge of High Courts and the Supreme Court of India [2006-2024]

After a stellar career of 2 decades as an advocate, Justice AS Bopanna was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court on 06-01-2006 and was later elevated as Permanent Judge on 01-03-20074.

*Did you know? Justice Bopanna made a remarkable contribution to prevent piling up of cases in the Courts. During his transfer from Karnataka High Court, the then Chief Justice appreciated Justice A.S. Bopanna’s unparallel contribution to the Bengaluru Mediation Centre5.

After serving his parent High Court as Judge for 12 years, Justice Bopanna was elevated as the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court on 29-10-20186.

Considering Justice Bopanna’s vast credentials as an advocate and a Judge, the Supreme Court Collegium deemed it fit to recommend his name for elevation as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. After quite a lot of back and forth between the Collegium and Centre, the Ministry of Law and Justice eventually approved the Collegium’s recommendation and Justice A.S. Bopanna was elevated as a Judge of Supreme Court and assumed charge on 24-05-20197.

With Justice Bopanna’s retirement, the strength of the Supreme Court has dropped to 32 Judges as against the sanctioned strength of 34 Judges. In April 2024, Justice Aniruddha Bose’s retirement had already created a vacancy among the Supreme Court Judges.

*Did you Know? Justice AS Bopanna, is the first judge from Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka to be elevated to the Supreme Court of India8.

Notable Judgments as the Judge of Supreme Court (2019-2024)

Given below are some notable decisions by Justice AS Bopanna as a Judge:

Immunity for MPs and MLAs to cast votes after taking bribes

[Sita Soren v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 229]

The 7-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of Dr. DY Chandrachud, CJI*, AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, JB Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar and Manoj Misra, JJ. overturned the 5-Judge Bench 1998 verdict in P.V. Narasimha Rao v. State (CBI/SPE), (1998) 4 SCC 626, wherein it was established that the Member of Parliaments (‘MP’) and Member of Legislative Assemblies (‘MLA’) enjoyed immunity if they cast vote in the House after taking bribe for it.

Freedom to make “hurtful statements”?

[Kaushal Kishor v. State of U.P., (2023) 4 SCC 1]

A Constitution Bench of S Abdul Nazeer, AS Bopanna, BR Gavai, V Ramasubramanian & BV Nagarathna, JJ, delivered verdict on the issue relating to freedom of speech of public functionaries and whether the right to life and personal liberty of citizens impedes the same and has ruled against imposing further restrictions on freedom of speech of Ministers.

Why should grounds of arrest be furnished in writing by ED?

[Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1244]

In a criminal special leave to appeal assailing the Punjab and Haryana High Court decision, whereby the accused persons petition to quash their arrest by Directorate of Enforcement (‘ED’) was dismissed, the Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna and Sanjay Kumar*, JJ. set aside the impugned order and held that ED must provide or furnish the grounds of arrest in writing to the arrested person.

The Court noted that no consistent and uniform practice is followed by the ED regarding how the information of ‘grounds’ of arrest is served. The Court said that it is a fundamental right under Article 22(1) of the Constitution guaranteed to the arrested person that, no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed. The Court also said that the mode of conveying information of the grounds of arrest must necessarily be meaningful to serve the intended purpose of this fundamental right.

‘Automatic termination’ of Indian citizenship upon acquiring another citizenship

In a civil writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India assailing the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (‘the Act, 1955’), whereby the Indian citizenship gets automatically terminated upon acquisition of citizenship of another country, for being ultra vires to Articles 14, 19, 21, and 25 of the Constitution of India, A.S. Bopanna and Sanjay Kumar, JJ. allowed surrender of the passport to the Indian High Commission, London. Regarding the question of ‘renunciation’ of the citizenship, the Court said that it is subject to the outcome of the petition.

Supreme Court directions on POSH Act

[Aureliano Fernandes v. State of Goa, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 621]

With the intent to fulfil the promise that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [PoSH Act] holds out to working women all over the country, the bench of AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli*, JJ has issued extensive directions to ensure the implementation of the law after observing that, “However salutary this enactment may be, it will never succeed in providing dignity and respect that women deserve at the workplace unless and until there is strict adherence to the enforcement regime and a proactive approach by all the State and non-State actors.

V Senthil Balaji’s plea in Cash for Job Scam case

[V. Senthil Balaji v. State, (2024) 3 SCC 51]

In a petition filed Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister Senthil Balaji and his wife, challenging the Madras High Court’s judgment, wherein the Court held that the Directorate of Enforcement (‘ED’) was entitled to take Senthil Balaji into police custody, the division bench of AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh*, JJ. has dismissed the said plea challenging ED custody in the money laundering case and allowed ED to have his custody till 12-08-2023 in connection with the cash-for-jobs scam.

NEET for OCI Students

[Anushka Rengunthwar v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 102]

In a batch of petitions by Overseas Citizens of India (‘OCI’) cardholders seeking parity with Non-Resident Indians (‘NRIs’) and thereby Indian citizens for admission to National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (‘NEET’) and like exams withdrawn through a notification, the Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna* and C.T. Ravikumar, JJ. held that notification dated 4-03-2021 shall have prospective effect and that the petitioners shall be entitled to rights and privileges conferred on them through earlier notifications.

Demonetization Case Judgment

[Vivek Narayan Sharma (Demonetisation Case-5 J.) v. Union of India, (2023) 3 SCC 1]

Six years after the country went through demonetization, that was severely criticised for being poorly planned, unfair and unlawful, the Constitution Bench of S. Abdul Nazeer, B.R Gavai*, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian, B.V. Nagarathna**, JJ. upheld the Centre’s 2016 demonetization scheme in a 4:1 majority and held that demonetization was proportionate to the Union’s stated objectives and was implemented in a reasonable manner. While Gavai, J has written the majority opinion for himself and SA Nazeer, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian, JJ, Nagarathna, J is the lone dissenter who has held that though demonetization was well-intentioned and well thought of, the way it was carried out was improper and unlawful.

“Family” includes domestic, unmarried/queer relationships

[Deepika Singh v. Central Administrative Tribunal, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1088]

In a case relating to maternity leave benefit to a woman not fitting in the popular imagination of a family, the bench of Dr DY Chandrachud* and AS Bopanna, JJ., observed that “familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships.” The Court was of the opinion that the predominant understanding of the concept of a “family” both in the law and in society is that it consists of a single, unchanging unit with a mother and a father (who remain constant over time) and their children, ignores the fact that many circumstances lead to a change in one’s familial structure, and that many families do not conform to this expectation to begin with.

SC’s Historic verdict on Right to Safe Abortion

[X v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2023) 9 SCC 433]

An unemployed unmarried woman found out in June that she was pregnant and in the same month her partner abandoned her. The Delhi High Court held that she does not have a right to a safe abortion as her case was “clearly not covered” in any of the categories mentioned under Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 (MTP Rules).

When the matter reached before the Supreme Court on 21-07-2022, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, JJ, in a progressive take, held that a woman cannot be denied the right to a safe abortion only on the ground of her being unmarried. It observed that after the 2021 Amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act), the phrase ‘married woman’ has been replaced by ‘any woman’ and the word ‘husband’ has been replaced by ‘partner. Which goes on to show that the legislature did not intend to leave out unmarried women from the scope of the Act.

Note: In this decision, the Court used the term “woman” as including persons other than cis-gender women who may require access to safe medical termination of their pregnancies.

Clarification of principles of Conclusion of Trial

[Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab, (2023) 1 SCC 289]

The 5-Judge Bench of the Court comprising of S. Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna*, V. Ramasubramanian and BV Nagarathna, JJ., held that the connotation “conclusion of trial” cannot be reckoned as the stage till the evidence is recorded, but, is to be understood as the stage before the pronouncement of the judgment, since on the judgment being pronounced the trial comes to a conclusion.

Information held on the judicial side of the Court cannot be accessed under the RTI Act regime

[Chief Information Commr. v. High Court of Gujarat, (2020) 4 SCC 702]

In an application filed by respondent 2 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 seeking information pertaining to certain appeals decided by the High Court along with all relevant documents and certified copies, Respondent 2 not being a party in any of the matters in respect of which the information was sought, a full judge bench of R Banumathi*, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., held that information held on the judicial side is ‘personal information’ of the litigants and courts hold it as a trustee for the litigants in order to adjudicate upon the matter and administer justice.

Formation of Opinion under SEBI Rules

[Kavi Arora v. SEBI, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1217]

In a special leave petition against the impugned judgment passed by the Bombay High Court, whereby, the Court dismissed the writ petition filed by the petitioner to sought directions against Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to forthwith furnish the documents relied upon by them to issue Show Cause Notice to the petitioner, the division bench of Indira Banerjee* and A.S. Bopanna, JJ. has observed that there was no procedural irregularity, at least till the stage of notice fixing a date of hearing and the High Court rightly did not interfere with the proceedings at the stage of the Show Cause Notice, thus, there is no infirmity in the impugned judgment of the High Court of dismissing the writ petition.

Future Group and Amazon Case

[Future Coupons (P) Ltd. v. Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC, (2022) 6 SCC 121]

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, JJ has granted liberty to Future Retail Limited (FRL) to approach the Delhi High Court by filing an application seeking continuation of the NCLT proceedings beyond the 8th Stage i.e. Meeting of Shareholders and creditors.

Supreme Court explains: ‘What is dowry demand?’

[State of M.P. v. Jogendra, (2022) 5 SCC 401]

In a case where the Madhya Pradesh High Court had held that demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a dowry demand, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli*, JJ found the said observation erroneous and held that the word “Dowry” ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature.

OBC Reservation in NEET

[Neil Aurelio Nunes (OBC Reservation) v. Union of India, (2022) 4 SCC 1]

In a detailed judgment, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna, JJ has upheld the Constitutional validity of the reservation for OBC candidates in the AIQ seats for PG and UG medical and dental courses and noticed that while an open competitive exam may ensure formal equality where everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, however, widespread inequalities in the availability of and access to educational facilities will result in the deprivation of certain classes of people who would be unable to effectively compete in such a system.

TATA vs Mistry Case

[Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. v. Cyrus Investments (P) Ltd., (2021) 9 SCC 449]

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.”

Skin-to-Skin Judgment

[Attorney General for India v. Satish, (2021) 4 SCC 712]

The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., 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, which is likely to set “a dangerous precedent”.

Plea by Nirbhaya Case Convicts

[Pawan Kumar Gupta v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2020) 2 SCC 803]

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.

Hathras Gang Rape

[Satyama Dubey v. Union of India, (2020) 10 SCC 694]

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. Read more…

Assault by Kirpan

[Sahib Singh v. State of Punjab, (2019) 12 SCC 637]

In a matter of grievous hurt under Section 326 of Penal Code, 1860 for assault by several accused, wherein, the appellant was specifically named by the eyewitnesses having assaulted the deceased with kirpan, the Bench of R. Banumathi and A.S. Bopanna, JJ. refused to interfere with and affirmed the conviction.

Important Judgments as Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court (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.

[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.

[Assam State Agriculture Marketing Board v. Tinsukia Trading Company (P.) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 1581]

The appellants in the instant case 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. The Division Bench of A.S. Bopanna, CJ. and Arup Kumar Goswami, J. interpreted the meaning of ‘Agricultural Produce’ of Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1972. Read more…

Important Judgments as Judge of Karnataka High Court (2006-2018)

[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. Read more…

[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.

[Sri Doddananjappa v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine Kar 6416]

In a Writ Petition under Article 226 of Constitution of India seeking direction to the respondents in a Land Acquisition matter to compute and pay/disburse the compensation, A.S. Bopanna J. directed the authorities to conduct verification to the extent of total land and the land acquired and said that “If the petitioner’s property was acquired but had not been included in the final notification, acquire the property in accordance with law and pay compensation to the petitioners”.

[D. Sudhakar v. D.N. Jeevaraju, 2011 SCC OnLine Kar 46]

The Bench of Mohan Shantanagoudar, 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 Court noted that election promises and pledges held out to the electorate at the time of election must be maintained and any deviation would amount to betrayal of the electorate who have 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.”

However, the judgment was reversed by the Division Bench of the Supreme Court in D. Sudhakar v. D.N. Jeevaraju, (2011) 6 SCC 381.

A Legacy of Compassion

*Did you Know? As Judge of Supreme Court, Justice A.S. Bopanna authored 90+ Supreme Court Judgments and was part of over 600 decisions9.

Hailing from the family of coffee planters10, Justice A.S. Bopanna has spent nearly 40 years immersed in Law in the capacity of an advocate and later as a Judge. His judicial career of nearly 2 decades boasts of efforts to prevent pendency of cases and encourage transparency. During his tenure as Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Bopanna had been a part of pathbreaking cases such as Immunity of MPs and MLAs; extent of Freedom of Speech by politicians; Demonetization judgment and the historic verdict on Right to Safe Abortion, to name a few.

Justice Bopanna’s career as a Judge has been praised by many for his meticulous approach and cool temperament. During his time as a Judge and Chief Justice in the High Courts of Karnataka and Gauhati respectively and later as Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice A.S Bopanna has truly followed and upheld the Socratic philosophy of “hear courteously; answer wisely; consider soberly and decide impartially11.

As Justice AS Bopanna bids adieu to the Supreme Court, there is indeed no doubt that he is leaving behind a rich legacy of hard work, knowledge, compassion and humility that will be cherished by both the Bar and Bench. The legal fraternity is eager to know and see what the future has in store for Justice Bopanna; until then, we wish him a very Happy Retirement!


2. Supra

3. Justice A.S. Bopanna, Gauhati High Court.

4. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ajjikuttira Somaiah Bopanna (kar.nic.in)

5. Karnataka High Court bids adieu to Justice A S Bopanna (newindianexpress.com)

6. Justice A.S. Bopanna, Gauhati High Court.

7. Justice Ajjikuttira Somaiah Bopanna | Supreme Court of India | India (sci.gov.in)


9. www.scconline.com


11. HC bids farewell to Justice A S Bopanna (deccanherald.com)

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