Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

“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.”

Supreme Court: Noticing that 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), the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJ has directed each State/Union Territory 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.

The said committee would comprise of:

  • Chairman of the State Legal Services Committee,
  • Principal Secretary (Home/Prison) by whatever designation is known as,
  • Director General of Prison(s)

Giving example, the Court said that the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners who have been convicted or are undertrial for offences for which prescribed punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum.

The Court, however, left it open for the High Powered Committee to determine the category of prisoners who should be released as aforesaid, depending upon the nature of offence, the number of years to which he or she has been sentenced or the severity of the offence with which he/she is charged with and is facing trial or any other relevant factor, which the Committee may consider appropriate.

The Court, further, directed,

  • prison specific readiness and response plans must be developed in consultation with medical experts. “Interim guidance on Scaling-up COVID-19 Outbreak in Readiness and Response Operations in camps and camp like settings” jointly developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Health Organisation (WHO), published by Inter-Agency Standing Committee of United Nations on 17 March, 2020 may be taken into consideration for similar circumstances.
  • monitoring team must be set up at the state level to ensure that the directives issued with regard to prison and remand homes are being complied with scrupulously.
  • the physical presence of all the undertrial prisoners before the Courts must be stopped forthwith and recourse to video conferencing must be taken for all purposes.

“Looking into the possible threat of transmission and fatal consequences, it is necessary that prisons must ensure maximum possible distancing among the prisoners including undertrials.”

  • the transfer of prisoners from one prison to another for routine reasons must not be resorted except for decongestion to ensure social distancing and medical assistance to an ill prisoner.
  • there should not be any delay in shifting sick person to a Nodal Medical Institution in case of any possibility of infection is seen.

[IN RE : CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN PRISONS,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 344, order dated 23.03.2020]


Also read:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)| No in-person hearings in SC till further notice; Extremely urgent matters to be heard via video conference

Coronavirus (COVID-19)| SC restricts it’s functioning to avoid mass gatherings in Courts; Only urgent matters to be heard

Coronavirus (COVID-19)| SC extends limitation period for filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals, etc.

COVID-19| SC takes suo motu cognisance of nonavailability of mid-day meals for children due to Coronavirus shutdown

COVID-19| SC takes suo motu cognisance of overcrowding and infrastructure of prisons in the wake of Coronavirus

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJ invoked its power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India and extended limitation period of appeals from high courts or tribunals on account of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In order to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this Court, the Court directed,

“a period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings.”

The said order of the Court came after taking suo motu cognizance of the situation arising out of the challenge faced by the country on account of COVID-19 Virus and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under Special Laws.

The order of the Court order is binding on all Courts/Tribunals and authorities.

Earlier today, the same bench had said that it was mulling a shutdown amid rising coronavirus cases in the country. The Court opted to hold video-conference to hear extremely urgent matters in an unprecedented move.

[IN RE: COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 343, order dated 23.03.2020]


Also read:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)| No in-person hearings in SC till further notice; Extremely urgent matters to be heard via video conference

Coronavirus (COVID-19)| SC restricts it’s functioning to avoid mass gatherings in Courts; Only urgent matters to be heard

COVID-19| SC takes suo motu cognisance of nonavailability of mid-day meals for children due to Coronavirus shutdown

COVID-19| SC takes suo motu cognisance of overcrowding and infrastructure of prisons in the wake of Coronavirus

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an appeal preferred under Section 125 of the Electricity Act, 2003, the 3-Judge Bench of Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ held that the Act is a special legislation within the meaning of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act and, therefore, the prescription with regard to the limitation has to be the binding effect and hence, the delay cannot be condoned taking recourse to Article 142 of the Constitution.

In the present case, it was argued by the respondents that the appeal was barred by 71 days and hence, the Court erred in condoning the delay of 71 days in view of the language employed in Section 125 of the Act. Accepting the contention of the respondents, the Court noticed that as per Section 125 of the Act, this Court, if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within the period of 60 days from the date of communication of the decision or order of the appellate tribunal to him, may allow the same to be filed within a further period not exceeding 60 days. Hence, this Court has the jurisdiction to condone the delay but a limit has been fixed by the legislature, that is, 60 days. The Bench held that when the statute commands that this Court may condone the further delay not beyond 60 days, it would come within the ambit and sweep of the provisions and policy of legislation. It is equivalent to Section 3 of the Limitation Act.

The appeal was listed before the Bench on 29.1.2010 on which date this Court condoned the delay and admitted the appeal. In light of the said facts it was contended that when the delay in review was condoned by this Court, the parties should not be permitted to raise a preliminary objection. The Court, however, rejected the said contention and said that if the delay is statutorily not condonable, the delay cannot be condoned. There is no impediment to consider the preliminary objection at a later stage. [ONGC v. Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Ltd, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 223, decided on 01.03.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the appellants had challenged the order cancelling the admissions to Medical Institutes in the wake of the VYAPAM Scam and had sought for direction allowing them to complete their education to satisfy the demands of justice as the future of 634 students was at stakes, the 3-judge bench of J.S. Khehar, CJ and Kurian Joseph and Arun Mishra, JJ said that the actions of the appellants, are founded on unacceptable behaviour, and in complete breach of the rule of law and hence, refused to invoke Article 142 of the Constitution.

The present controversy arose after the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board cancelled the results of the appellants admitted to the MBBS course during the years 2008 to 2012, on the ground that the appellants had gained admission to the course, by resorting to unfair means, during the Pre-Medical Test. The manipulation by which the appellants obtained admission involved, not only a breach in the computer system, whereby roll numbers were allotted to the appellants, to effectuate their plans. It also involved the procurement of meritorious candidates/persons, who would assist them, in answering the questions in the Pre-Medical Test. The appellants’ position, next to the concerned helper, at the examination, was also based on further computer interpolations. Not only were the seating plans distorted for achieving the purpose, even the institutions where the appellants were to take the Pre-Medical Test, were arranged in a manner, as would suit the appellants, again by a similar process of computer falsification.

On 12.05.2016, the bench of J. Chelameswar and A.M. Sapre, JJ had given a split decision and had placed the matter before the Chief Justice of India. Chelameswar, J was of the view that the knowledge of the appellants would be simply rendered useless for the society in the sense their knowledge cannot be utilized for the welfare of the society, said that the appellants be allowed to complete their education. Sapre, J, on the other hand, said that grant of any equitable relief may be construed as awarding premium to the appellants of what they did.

Agreeing with the view taken by Sapre, J, the Court said that the actions of the appellants constitute acts of deceit, invading into a righteous social order. Rejecting the argument that individual benefits, that may be drawn by the appellants, may be drastically curtailed, and their academic pursuit be regularised, for societal benefit, the Court said that national character cannot be sacrificed for benefits – individual or societal. It was held that even the trivialist act of wrong doing, based on a singular act of fraud, cannot be countenanced, in the name of justice. The present case, unfolds a mass fraud. The course suggested, if accepted, would not only be imprudent, but would also be irresponsible. It would encourage others, to follow the same course. The bench said that “If we desire to build a nation on the touchstone of ethics and character, and if our determined goal is to build a nation where only the rule of law prevails, then we cannot accept the claim of the appellants, for the suggested societal gains.” [Nidhi Kaim v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 123, decided on 13.02.17]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The matter where the appellants had challenged the order cancelling the admissions to Medical Institutes in the wake of the VYAPAM Scam, has been placed before the Chief Justice of India owing to the split decision given by the bench of J. Chelameswar and A.M. Sapre, JJ on the issue that whether Article 142 of the Constitution be invoked in order to allow the appellants to complete their education to satisfy the demands of justice as the future of 634 students was at stakes.

Chelameswar, J, considering that the knowledge of these appellants would be simply rendered useless for the society in the sense their knowledge cannot be utilized for the welfare of the society, said that the appellants be allowed to complete their education. However, he added that it would serve the larger public interests, by making the appellants serve the nation for a period of five years as and when they become qualified doctors, without any regular salary and attendant benefits of service under the State, nor any claim for absorption into the service of the State subject of course to the payment of some allowance (either in cash or kind) for their survival. He also suggested that they serve the Indian Armed Services and that they be handed over the certificates of their medical degrees only after they complete the abovementioned five years.

Sapre, J., on the other hand, said that no case was made out for passing any directions under Article 142 of the Constitution as grant of any equitable relief may be construed as awarding premium to the appellants of what they did. It would demoralize the meritorious students who could not secure the admission on their merit due to the appellants’ entry in the Colleges by illegal means. He, however, said that the State may consider permitting the appellants and other candidates alike the appellants to appear in the competitive examination whenever it is held and consider granting age relaxation to those candidates who crossed the age limit, if prescribed. He was of the view that it is the collective responsibility of the Government (Central/States), educational bodies/Institutions to ponder over and evolve a uniform policy in a comprehensive manner to firmly deal with such activities in the larger public good. [Nidhi Kaim v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 547, decided on 12.05.2016]