Legal RoundUpSupreme Court Roundups

In the month of August, as Justice NV Ramana bid adieu to the Chief Justiceship of India, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit took over as the 49th Chief Justice of India. On his last working day as the Chief Justice of India, Justice Ramana, while addressing the bar, said that he was leaving the Supreme Court in very able hands. Justice Lalit, who is due to retire in November, 2022, has highlighted three areas that he would like to work on as the new Chief. Read here.

Read: Justice UU Lalit takes oath as the 49th Chief Justice of India: His Journey, Judgments and Focus Areas as the New Chief


Top Rulings


Sections 3 and 5 of the 1988 Benami Property law “still-born” and “unconstitutional”; 2016 Amendment can only apply prospectively

In a big judgment on the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988 [1988 Act], the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJI* and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ has held that Section 3 (criminal provision) read with Section 2(a) and Section 5 (confiscation proceedings) of the 1988 Act are overly broad, disproportionately harsh, and operate without adequate safeguards in place and were unconstitutional from their inception.

Read more…

“Family” includes domestic, unmarried/queer relationships; Child care/maternity leave benefits cannot be denied if women do not fit into “popular imagination” of a family

“Gendered roles assigned to women and societal expectations mean that women are always pressed upon to take a disproportionate burden of childcare work.”

Read more…

‘Nothing survives after filing of Closure Report’; Supreme Court dismisses plea on sanction to prosecute UP CM Yogi Adityanath in 2007 Hate Speech case

Allegedly, a hate speech by CM Yogi Adityanath, who was then a Member of Parliament, had led to the 2007 Gorakhpur Riots.

Read more…

Supreme Court holds ‘Arbitrators cannot unilaterally issue binding and enforceable orders determining their own fees’; Justice Sanjiv Khanna partially dissents

The 3-judge bench of Dr DY Chandrachud*, Surya Kant and Sanjiv Khanna*, JJ  has held that arbitrators do not have the power to unilaterally issue binding and enforceable orders determining their own fees. While Chandrachud, J wrote the majority opinion for Surya Kant, J and himself, Khanna, J wrote a separate opinion where he agreed with the majority opinion of certain parts but disagreed on some.

Read more…

IBC prevails over Customs Act once moratorium is imposed; CBIC has limited jurisdiction, cannot initiate recovery of dues

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and JK Maheshwari and Hima Kohli, JJ has held that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) would prevail over the Customs Act, 1962 to the extent that once moratorium is imposed in terms of Sections 14 or 33(5) of the IBC as the case may be, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) only has a limited jurisdiction to assess/determine the quantum of customs duty and other levies as it does not have the power to initiate recovery of dues by means of sale/confiscation, as provided under the Customs Act.

Read more…

Pre-litigation mediation under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 mandatory; any violation would lead to rejection of plaint

“The Amending Act containing certain Section 12A is a toddler. The law necessarily would have teething problems at the nascent stage.”

Read more…

Also read: ‘Mediation can become a potent alternate dispute resolution device’; Supreme Court lists down the ways to make it possible

State cannot declare a GST rate and make it binding on the bidder; Supplier, being liable to pay GST, must quote the relevant HSN Code

In an important ruling of Goods and Service Tax (GST), the bench of  KM Joseph* and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has directed that, in order to also ensure that the successful tenderer pays the tax due and to further ensure that, by not correctly quoting the GST rate, there is no tax evasion, in all Government contracts, a copy of the document, by which, the contract is awarded containing all material details shall be immediately forwarded to the concerned jurisdictional Officer. Further, for effective compliance of the direction, the tenderers must, in their bids, indicate the details of their Assessing Officers.

Read more…


Unmissable Orders


Bilkis Bano’s rapists walk free: Supreme Court issues notice to Gujarat Government

When on August 15, 2022, her rapists walked out of the prison after serving 15 years’ imprisonment based on Gujarat Government’s remission policy, Bilkis Bano found herself “bereft of words” and “numb”.

Read more…

PM Modi Security Lapse: Justice Indu Malhotra headed Enquiry Committee submits report; Supreme Courts asks Central and Punjab Governments to take further action

After Enquiry Committee headed by Justice Indu Malhotra, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, had submitted the report on the alleged breach of security that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway in Punjab for 20 minutes on 05.01 2022, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has sent the report to the Central and State Government for appropriate action against delinquent officers.

Read more…

Bhima Koregaon| Supreme Court grants permanent bail to Dr. Varavara Rao on medical grounds

Adopting a humanitarian approach, the 3-judges Bench comprising Uday Umesh Lalit, Aniruddha Bose, and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ., had granted permanent bail to Bhima Koregaon accused, Dr. P. Varavara Rao solely on medical grounds.

Read more…

Prophet Remark Row| All FIRs against Nupur Sharma clubbed; Read why Supreme Court refused to form SIT

The bench of Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, JJ has, in a relief to politician and lawyer Nupur Sharma, has transferred all the FIRs filed against her in Prophet Remark case to the IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation.

Read more…

Expert Committee submits report before Supreme Court in Pegasus Spyware case; Matter to be heard after 4 weeks

The Court had, on 27.10.2021, in Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 985 appointed an Expert Committee to look into 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.”

Read more…

‘At least two of the issues require reconsideration’; Supreme Court agrees to hear review petition of PMLA verdict

In the judgment dated 27.07.2022 in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 929, the bench of AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar, JJ has, in 545-pages-long judgments, has dealt with various aspects of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and has upheld the validity of certain impugned provisions by holding that the same have reasonable nexus with the object sought be achieved i.e. combatting the menace of money laundering.

Read more…

Also Read: Your cheat sheet to Supreme Court’s 545 pages long Money Laundering verdict

Supreme Court holds “twin conditions” under Section 45 of PMLA reasonable: Applicability to anticipatory bail, non-cognizable offences discussed; Exception highlighted

Video Explainer: Your cheat sheet to Supreme Court’s 545 pages long Money Laundering verdict 


References


Interpretation of Schedule X of the Constitution vis-à-vis Disqualification; Speaker/Governor’s powers; Judicial Review: CJI led 3-judge bench refers matter to 5-judge Constitution bench

The Court observed that this proposition of law laid down by the Constitution bench in Nebam Rebia case, stands on contradictory reasoning, which requires gap filling to uphold the constitutional morality. Hence, this question must be referred to Constitution bench for the requisite gap filling exercise to be conducted.

Read more…

“Promise of freebies by political parties may push State towards bankruptcy”, says Supreme Court; Refers matter to larger Bench

Supreme Court has referred 4 issues to a larger Bench after observing that the worry of the petitioners that under the guise of electoral promises, fiscal responsibility is being dispensed with, must also be considered.

Read more…

Can accused be tried under NI Act as well as under IPC on similar set of allegations or will it amount to double jeopardy? Larger SC bench to decide

The bench of SA Nazeer and JK Maheshwari*, JJ has called upon a larger bench to decide if on similar set of allegations of fact the accused can be tried for an offence under Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 which is special enactment and also for offences under IPC unaffected by the prior conviction or acquittal or whether the bar of Section 300(1) Cr.P.C. would attract for such trial.

Read more…


Explainers


Can an independent counter claim under Order VIII Rule 6A CPC having nothing to do with the plaintiffs be allowed?

What happens when a candidate, in a competitive exam, uses different language in answer sheet than that filled in application form?


More Stories


Mental capacity & ability to understand consequences of acts not same; Guidelines must be in place for preliminary assessment of children above 16 years of age for trial as adults

“A child with average intelligence/IQ will have the intellectual knowledge of the consequences of his actions. But whether or not he is able to control himself or his actions will depend on his level of emotional competence.”

Read more…

Appropriate High Court for filing an appeal under Section 260A of the Income Tax Act would be the one where the Assessing Officer is situated

“A judicial remedy must be effective, independent and at the same time certain. Certainty of forum would involve unequivocal vesting of jurisdiction to adjudicate and determine the dispute in a named forum.”

Read more…

Employees cannot invoke writ jurisdiction against private educational institution for disputes relating to ordinary contract of service

“Individual wrongs or breach of mutual contracts without having any public element as its integral part cannot be rectified through a writ petition under Article 226.”

Read more…

Assessee cannot claim deduction by merely stating a bad debt as an irrecoverable write off without appropriate treatment in the accounts and non-compliance with Income Tax Act provisions

In the case where the Revenue had challenged Bombay High Court’s judgment affirming Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)’s order for writing off assessee’s ₹ 10 crores as a bad debt, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat* and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ has summarised the law on writing off a bad debt and has held that merely stating a bad and doubtful debt as an irrecoverable write off without the appropriate treatment in the accounts, as well as non-compliance with the conditions in Section 36(1)(vii), 36(2), and Explanation to Section 36(1)(vii) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 would not entitle the assessee to claim a deduction.

Read more…

One cannot seek transfer of execution proceeding under Section 125(3) CrPC to another Court once the order fixing maintenance attains finality

“The question as to whether the petitioner or the first respondent, who is more disabled has itself become a serious matter of challenge. It is not possible for this Court while dealing with a transfer Petition, to undertake a roving inquiry to find out who is more disabled.”

Read more…

Supreme Court sets aside Madhya Pradesh HC’s “utterly incomprehensible” judgment discharging accused in a minor’s rape case for delay in filing FIR

“The facts of this litigation are quite heart-breaking and at the same time, more disturbing is the utterly incomprehensible impugned judgment of the High Court discharging the accused of the offence of rape essentially on the ground of delay in the registration of the FIR.”

Read more…

Judgment Debtor’s right under Rule 60 of Second Schedule of Income Tax Act cannot be taken away on technical ground or bona fide mistake for which he is not at fault

“It is a right available to the judgment debtor after his property is sold in a court auction. Therefore, such a valuable right available to the judgment debtor to save his property should not be affected on the technical ground and/or for the mistake and/or the bona fide mistake for which he was not at all responsible.”

Read more…

Confessions made to Additional SP under Section 12 MCOCA not inadmissible; rank of SP includes SP, Additional SP, DCP

“A difference in the seniority of a particular officer is not the same as a difference in their ranks.”

Read more…

If a High Court converts itself into Executing Court it will be flooded with writ petitions to execute arbitral awards

“We disapprove the entertaining of such writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution to execute the award passed by the Arbitral Tribunal/Court, without relegating the judgment creditor in whose favour the award is passed to file an execution proceeding before the competent Executing Court.”

Read more…

Manipulated laboratory report, broken links of evidence; Supreme Court reverses concurrent findings of Courts below to acquit a murder accused

The Court observed that the chain of evidence has many missing and weak links, and none of the essential ingredients to record conviction in a case of circumstantial evidence; especially in the poisoning case were made out.

Read more…

Financial crunch a valid ground to fix cut-off date for granting actual benefit of revision of pension/pay; Rule 3(3) of Tripura State Civil Services (Revised Pension) Rules, 2009 constitutional

Holding that the cut-off date has been fixed as 01.01.2009 on a very valid ground i.e., financial constraint, it was held that the High Court manifestly erred in striking down the Rule 3(3) of the Pension Rules, 2009 being arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and the decision was liable to be set aside.

Read more…

Supreme Court directs Haryana Discoms to pay compound interest on carrying cost to Adani Power from the date of Change of Law

In a big win for Adani Power Limited, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJI and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli*, JJ has directed Haryana Discoms to pay interest on carrying cost in favour of Adani Power for the period between the year 2014, when the FGD was installed, till the year 2021.

Read more…

Supreme Court directs Bihar to reconsider stipulated percentage for Homeopathic Medical Professionals posts

In an appeal filed to espouse the cause of Homeopathic Medical Professionals, the Division Bench of Uday Umesh Lalit and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., directed the Bihar government to reconsider the stipulated percentage for filling up the posts of Medical Professionals.

Read more…

Prosecution version helps man accused of murdering brother get benefit of provocation exception; SC holds that accused may rely on prosecution case for discharge of burden

In an interesting case, where a man was convicted for murder of his younger brother, the bench of Sanjiv Khanna* and Bela M. Trivedi, JJ has converted the conviction from Section 302 to Part I of Section 304 of the IPC after holding that to discharge the burden the accused may rely upon the case of the prosecution and the evidence adduced by the prosecution in the court.

Read more…

Clearing of prosecution evidence not an absolute bar from re-examining materials/witnesses under Section 311 CrPC

“The statutory provision goes to emphasise that the court is not a hapless bystander in the derailment of justice. Quite to the contrary, the court has a vital role to discharge in ensuring that the cause of discovering truth as an aid in the realization of justice is manifest.”

Read more…

CPC Order XV Rule 5| Mere denial of landlord-tenant relationship doesn’t grant tenant a holiday from duty to pay rent/damages

“In the context of the proposition of denial of relationship of landlord and tenant between the plaintiff and defendant, such a denial simpliciter does not and cannot absolve the tenant of liability to deposit the due rent/damages for use and occupation, unless he could show having made such payment in a lawful and bonafide manner.”

Read more…

Rejecting counter-claim or set-off may lead to parallel proceedings before various fora and offend the very purpose S. 23 of Arbitration Act

The Division Bench of M.R. Shah* and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ., reversed concurrent findings of the Arbitral Tribunal and the Delhi High Court rejecting the National Highway Authority of India’s (NHAI) application to file a counter-claim in a commercial dispute.

Read more…

Right to cross-examination cannot be denied as a punishment for failure to deposit interim compensation under Section 143A NI Act

In a case where an offender under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (NI Act) was denied the right to cross-examine a witness upon failure to deposit the interim compensation under Section 143A of NI Act, the bench of UU Lalit*, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, JJ has held that any such order foreclosing the right would not be within the powers conferred upon the court and would, as a matter of fact, go well beyond the permissible exercise of power.

Read more…

Ready Reckoner Price cannot be the basis for determining compensation for land acquisition: SC declares Bombay HC’s decision per incuriam

By the instant appeal, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) had assailed the impugned order of the Bombay High Court enhancing amount of compensation for the acquired land by mainly relying upon the prevailing Ready Reckoner rates of the land. 

Read more…


Know Thy Judges


Justice N.V. Ramana, from the Hinterlands of Andhra to being the Head of Indian Judiciary, retires

♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana worked as a journalist from 1979-1980 and reported on political and legal matters for the Telegu daily newspaper Eenadu.

Read more… 

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia

♦ Did You Know? Justice Dhulia is the brother of national award-winning film director and actor Tigmanshu Dhulia.

Read more…

 Justice J B Pardiwala

♦ Did You Know? Justice Pardiwala is expected to serve a two-year and three months term as Chief Justice of India from May 3rd 2028 to August 11th 2030.

Read more… 


Images Courtesy:

PM Narendra Modi: Press Information Bureau

CM Yogi Adiytanath: Press Information Bureau

Nupur Sharma: Wikibio

Bilkis Bano: Jan Jwar

Know thy Judge

As Justice NV Ramana bid adieu to the Chief Justiceship of India, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit has taken over as the 49th Chief Justice of India. On his last working day as the Chief Justice of India, Justice Ramana, while addressing the bar, said that he was leaving the Supreme Court in very able hands.

Justice Lalit’s father, Justice UR. Lalit, was a former additional judge of the Bombay High Court, Nagpur bench. He joined the bar in 1983 and practiced as an advocate in the Bombay High Court from 1983 to 1985. In 1986, he joined the chambers of Former Attorney General for India, Soli Sorabjee from 1986 to 1992. In 2004, he was designated as a senior advocate and also served as a member of the Supreme Court’s Legal Services Committee for two terms.[1]  As a senior advocate he specialised in criminal cases and was appointed as CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor in all 2G matters, under the Supreme Court’s orders.

Justice Lalit, was the 6th Senior Advocate to be directly elevated to the Supreme Court as a judge. After becoming a Supreme Court judge in 2014, Justice Lalit has delivered over 270 judgments so far,[2]

In the Farewell Function of Justice NV Ramana organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Lalit said,

“It is a tough time for someone like me. Look at the popularity of my predecessor. How am I going to don that mantle now hereafter. I express my complete inability to match and go anywhere near this popularity.”

While he appreciated the contribution of Justice NV Ramana during his tenure as the Chief Justice of India, Justice Lalit especially commended Justice Ramana’s contribution is persuading the State Governments for establishment of the Office of Public Defender/Legal Aid Defence Counsel in each district on the lines of Public Prosecutor’s office. He highlighted that,

“In every State the Government is willing to provide us space for the Offices. We owe this to Justice Ramana’s perseverance.”

Focus Areas as the new Chief Justice of India

Justice Lalit, who is due to retire in November, 2022, has highlighted these three areas that he would like to work on as the new Chief:

Listing of Matters:

“I assure you that we will strive hard to make listing as simple, as clear and as Transparent as possible.”

Mentioning of matters:

“Very shortly we will have a clear-cut regime where any urgent matters can freely be mentioned before the respective Courts.”

Listing of matters before the Constitution Benches and matters referred to 3-judge Benches:

“I have always believed that the role of the Supreme Court is to lay down the law with clarity and consistency and the best possible way to do it is to have larger Benches as early as possible wherever the matters are referred to such benches so that the issues get clarified immediately, the matter has consistency and people are well aware of what exactly are the contours of the peculiar positions of law.”

He added that he will work towards ensuring that the Supreme Court always has at least one Constitution Bench functioning all throughout the year.

Important Judgments as a Supreme Court judge

One of the most important judgments delivered by the benches headed by him, is the POCSO skin to skin verdict, where he, along with Bela Trivedi (who authored the judgment) and S. Ravindra Bhat (who authored the concurring opinion), JJ, set aside the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) judgment that had acquitted the accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, 2012 on the ground that no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration would not amount to ‘sexual assault’. [Read: POCSO| “Touch”, “physical contact” can’t be restricted to “skin to skin contact”; “sexual intent” is the key. SC reverses Bombay HC’s “dangerous precedent”]

Recently, Justice Lalit headed the 3-judge bench that imposed sentence of four months and fine of Rs.2,000/- on Vijay Mallya for contempt of Court after observing that he “never showed any remorse nor tendered any apology for his conduct” of transferring a huge sum of US$40 million to his children instead of repaying his debt of more than Rs. 9000 crores to the banks. [Read: Four months in prison; Rs. 2000 fine for Vijay Mallya for contempt; US$40 million to be deposited by him and beneficiaries at 8% interest per annum]

He was also the part of the 3-judge bench that overruled 1983’s ruling in Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao (1983) 3 SCC 284  and held that there is no universal rule to fill vacancies on the basis of the law which existed on the date when they arose. [Read: No universal rule to fill vacancies on the basis of the law which existed on the date when they arose; Supreme Court overrules 1983’s YV Rangaiah ruling ]

The bench of Justice Lalit and Justice KM Joseph, JJ has dismissed the bail plea of activist Gautam Navlakha arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregoan riots case. [Read: Here’s why Gautam Navlakha was not able to make a case for default bail before the Supreme Court] The bench had, in the same verdict also held that it is open for Courts to order house arrest under Section 167 CrPC..

You can read more about the judgments delivered by Justice Lalit in our Know Thy Judge Post here.

Know Thy Judge| Justice Uday Umesh Lalit


[1] Supreme Court Observer, Judges’ archive 

[2] SCC Online’s ‘Judge only’ feature.

Know thy Judge

 “I feel after 22 years as a Judge, we need to think about writing judgments. The consumer of justice must know what is the end result. That is more interesting. Reasoning and conclusion must be clear.”[1]

 Justice N.V. Ramana, The Chief Justice of India, at the Launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes


The Chief Justice – Mukhya Nyayadhish – The Title is heavy, the Mantle heavier; but it is the Expectations that are the heaviest. The Nation hopes and expects a lot from the one who heads the Supreme Court of India for it is he (or one day a She) who leads the Indian Judiciary collectively.

The Supreme Court of India has borne witness to the leadership of 47 Chief Justices, all who had to face unique scenarios during their tenures. The outgoing Chief Justice, N.V. Ramana, had his fair share of challenging circumstances.

As the Supreme Court of India bids adieu to the 48th Master of Roster, it becomes essential to take a step back and look through Justice N.V. Ramana’s career, perspectives and legacy. It is time to take a moment and Know Thy Chief Justice!


Early Life and Career


♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana worked as a journalist from 1979-1980 and reported on political and legal matters for the Telegu daily newspaper Eenadu.[2]

Justice Nuthulapati Venkata Ramana was born in an agrarian family on August 27, 1957 in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, to Ganapati Rao and Sarojini Devi[3]. Having attained his degree in Science and Law from Acharya Nagarjuna University, Andhra Pradesh. While in college, Justice Ramana was a student activist and fought extensively for civil liberties during the Emergency and lost an academic year. He also participated in the Jai Andhra Movement for a separate Andhra state in the 1970s because of alleged injustices meted out to the people of the Coastal and Rayalaseema regions[4]. By his own admission, Justice Ramana once stated that he wanted pursue an active political career, however, “Destiny had other plans[5]. 


Advocacy [1983- 2000][6]


♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana is a first-generation lawyer having an agricultural background.[7]

Justice Ramana enrolled as an Advocate on 10-02-1983 and started his practice from the Magistrate’s Court at Vijayawada[8]. He later started practicing at the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court; dealing in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service and Election matters. Justice Ramana also specialized in Constitutional, Criminal, Service and Inter-State River laws.

He functioned as Panel Counsel for various Government Organizations and was the Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad. Justice Ramana also served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh.

Some of the prominent cases where Justice Ramana appeared as a Counsel are listed below:


Judgeship- The High Courts [2000-2014][9]


Justice Ramana’s tryst with Judgeship began in the year 2000 when he was appointed as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on 27-06-2000. He served as Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from 10-03-2013 to 20-05-2013.

He had participated in several National and International Conferences held in India and abroad and submitted papers on various topics of legal importance. Justice Ramana was then elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court w.e.f. 02-09-2013.

Some of the prominent cases during Justice Ramana’s tenure in the High Courts are as follows-

DDA v. All India Naval Draughtsman, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 2093

DDA floated a scheme for 7000 expendable houses vide a resolution dated 27-08-1996, whereby 50% of the flats were proposed to be offered to the general public while 50% were proposed to be offered to PSUs/Govt. Organisations; discount was announced for those individuals who would make payment on a cash down basis and the said discount will not be provided to the PSUs/Govt. Organisations. The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J., and Jayant Nath, J., held DDA is not entitled to recover any additional sums from the allottees. The Demand cum Allotment Letter clearly stipulated that the terms and condition in the brochures for the scheme would apply to the respondent/allottees and the brochures nowhere stipulated that the discount is confined only to allottees other than PSUs/ Government Organisations but infact clearly provided for discount to an allottee who made 100% payment before possession.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shahid Balwa v. Directorate of Enforcement, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 2208

The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J., and Jayant Nath, J., observed that cross-examination of witnesses is an integral part and parcel of the principles of natural justice. Refusal would normally be an exception. It was further observed that if the credibility of a person who has testified, is in doubt or if the version or the statement of the person who has testified is in dispute, then normally right to cross-examination would be inevitable; if some real prejudice is caused to the complainant, the right to cross-examine witnesses may be denied.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 570

The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J. and Manmohan, J., observed that Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2013 was within the legislative competence of the Parliament and in fact, by the impugned Amendment and Validation Act, 2013, the Parliament has by explicit words overruled the intent which had been read by implication by the Courts into Section 62(5) and consequently, changed the basis of “Court’s decision” and is, thus, valid.

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B. Archana Reddy v. State of A.P., 2005 SCC OnLine AP 892

The 5 Judge Bench of Bilal Nazki, A.C.J. and Goda Raghuram, V.V.S. Rao, N.V. Ramana and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ., observed that reservations under Arts. 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution result in reduction in the number of seats available, in academic courses and posts in public services, on the basis of merit. There is every need, therefore, to ensure that only “the backward classes” and none else are extended the benefits of such reservation.

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P. Srinivasa Rao v. P. Indira, 2001 SCC OnLine AP 1034

The 3- Judge Bench of S.B. Sinha, C.J. and Ramesh Madhav Bapat and N.V. Ramana, JJ., observed that the Civil Court can exercise such inherent powers with the only limitation that it should not be inconsistent with other provisions of the CPC or contrary to any other law. It was held that granting interim maintenance in a suit for maintenance is not inconsistent with any provision of the CPC or contrary to any other law.


The Supreme Court of India [2014-2022]


Justice Ramana was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India w.e.f. 17-02-2014[10]. He served as a Judge for 7 years. Eventually his name for the position of Chief Justice of India was recommended by the then outgoing CJI, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde. On 24-04-2021, Justice Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India.

♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana was the third Judge to recuse himself from hearing the plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI Director. He sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI director.

Notable Judgments

Judgments rendered by any court of law have the capacity to pave the path for change. Whether such changes are for the better or worse, that however is for the time to tell.

Justice Ramana has time and again stressed upon the need for writing simple clear judgments which can be understood by all and sundry. Very recently, while speaking at the Launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes by EBC, Justice Ramana urged the judges to try being less complex while writing down their judgments, so that the consumer of justice may know what is the end result.[11]

Being a Judge of the Supreme Court already is a tricky path to traverse considering the balance of various interests. It is even trickier when one is a Chief Justice of the topmost Court of the land. Within the legal fraternity, “Justice Ramana is seen as a conventional judge, who is restrained in his speech. He is known to talk less and for clarity of thought in his orders and judgments and adhering to the principle of judicial discipline and the rule of precedent.[12] .

The following are some of the significant decisions rendered by Justice N.V. Ramana- as a Supreme Court Judge and as Chief Justice that will help you to map the course of Justice Ramana’s tenure in the Supreme Court-

IBC and Customs Act

In Sundaresh Bhatt v. Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, [C.A. No. 7667/2021], the Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Hima Kohli and C.T. Ravikumar held that The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will prevail over the Customs Act. Once moratorium under IBC is declared, Customs authorities have only limited jurisdiction to assess the quantum and they cannot take steps to recover the dues.

Definition of Freebies

In Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, [Writ Petitions (Civil) Nos. 43 of 2022], Bench led N.V. Ramana, CJ*., stated that Freebies by political parties before election might create a situation where the State is pushed towards bankruptcy. Noting that the issue is complex and requires extensive debate, the matter was referred to a 3-Judge Bench.

Pegasus Spyware Case

In Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, [Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s).314/2021], the 3- Judge Bench of the Court comprising of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., deliberated over the Report submitted by the Expert Committee concerning Pegasus Spyware.  The Court listed the matter after four weeks for further hearing.

The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 985 appointed an Expert Committee to look into 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.”

Bilkis Bano Matter

In Subhashini Ali v. State of Gujarat, [Writ Petition (Criminal) No.319/2022], the Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath, JJ., issued notice to the Gujarat Government on the release of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Court has also directed that the 11 released men be impleaded as parties in the plea challenging the decision of the Gujarat Government.

Prime Minister’s Security Breach During Punjab Visit

The Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, [Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).13/2022] deliberated upon the Report of the Enquiry Committee headed by former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Indu Malhotra, and considered their recommendations. The Registry was directed to send a copy of the Report to the Central Government and the State Government for further action.

PMLA Judgment Review

The Bench of NV Ramana, CJ., Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice CT Ravikumar, JJ., in Karti P Chidambaram v. The Directorate of Enforcement, [R.P.(Crl.) No.219/2022 in T.C.(Crl.) No.4/2018], while hearing the matter concerning the review of “PMLA Judgment” in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 929 , the Bench decided that Two Issues in the judgment requires reconsideration.  

Interpretation of Tenth Schedule of the Constitution

The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Subhash Desai v. Principal Secretary, [WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 493/2022], referred the question relating to interpretation of Schedule X of the Constitution pertaining to disqualification, as well as the powers of the Speaker and the Governor and the power of judicial review thereof, to the 5-judge Constitution Bench.

Benami Property

In a big judgment on the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Union of India v. Ganpati Dealcom Pvt Ltd, [CIVIL APPEAL No. 5783 of 2022] held that Section 3  read with Section 2(a) and Section 5 of the 1988 Act are overly broad, disproportionately harsh, and operate without adequate safeguards in place and were unconstitutional from their inception. The Court observed that both these provisions were still-born law and never utilized in the first place.

Hate Speeches

In Parvez Parwaz v. State of U.P., [SLP(Crl) No. 6190/2018] wherein the denial of sanction to prosecute Yogi Adityanath (Chief Minister, UP) for an alleged hate speech, was challenged; the 3- Judge Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Hima Kohli and C.T. Ravikumar*, JJ., stated that there is no necessity to go into the legal questions relating to the issue of sanction. The appeal was dismissed and the legal questions regarding the issue of sanction were left open.

Sedition Law

To remove the Sedition law or not remove it, that was the question considered in S.G. Vombatkere v. Union of India, (2022) 7 SCC 433. The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., however 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.

Chief Justice Under RTI

The 5-judge constitution Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ., and N.V. Ramana, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ., in Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, (2020) 5 SCC 481 has held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information. In the 250-pages long judgment, Justice Sanjiv Khanna wrote the majority opinion for the Bench and Justices N.V. Ramana and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud gave separate but concurring opinions. N.V. Ramana, J., stated that- “Right to information should not be allowed to be used as a tool of surveillance to scuttle effective functioning of judiciary.” Stating that transparency cannot be allowed to run to its absolute, considering the fact that efficiency is equally important principle to be taken into fold, Justice Ramana talked about a 2-step process to ascertain whether the information should be disclosed. He laid down non-exhaustive lists of considerations that need to be considered while assessing both the steps.

Internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370

In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) 3 SCC 637, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana*, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai, JJ., directed the J&K administration to review all orders imposing curbs on telecom and internet services in the state in a week and put them in public domain. “The existing Suspension Rules neither provide for a periodic review nor a time limitation for an order issued under the Suspension Rules. Till this gap is filled, the Review Committee constituted under Rule 2(5) of the Suspension Rules must conduct a periodic review within seven working days of the previous review, in terms of the requirements under Rule 2(6).

A 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, JJ., in Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT OF J&K), (2020) 5 SCC 746, constituted a three-member committee to look into demand for allowing 4G mobile internet in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Noticing that since the issues involved affect the State and the Nation, the Court found it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The 5-judge Constitution Bench of NV Ramana, SK Kaul, R. Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., Shah Faesal v. Union of India, (2020) 4 SCC 1, refused to refer the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 to a larger bench.

Post-Conviction Mental Health of Accused

In ‘X’ v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 7 SCC 1, The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana*, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee, JJ., held that it needs to be understood that prisoners tend to have increased affinity to mental illness. Moreover, due to legal constraints on the recognition of broad-spectrum mental illness within the Criminal Justice System, prisons inevitably become home for a greater number of mentally ­ill prisoners of various degrees. There is no overlooking the fact that the realities within the prison walls may well compound and complicate these problems.

Interpretation of Taxing Statutes

The Five-Judge Constitution Bench speaking through N.V. Ramana, J*., in Commr. of Customs v. Dilip Kumar and Co., (2018) 9 SCC 1 invalidated the ratio of Sun Export Corpn. v. Collector of Customs, (1997) 6 SCC 564, and laid at rest the controversy regarding the interpretation of an ambiguous provision exempting tax. The Bench noticed that there was distinction between interpreting a charging section and an exempting section. In case of ambiguity in a charging section, the interpretation has to be made in favour of the assessee.

Taxation

A 9-judge bench, by 7:2 majority in Jindal Stainless Ltd v. State of Haryana, (2017) 12 SCC 1 upheld the validity of the entry tax imposed by the States on goods imported from other States. The Bench held that taxes simpliciter are not within the contemplation of Part XIII of the Constitution and that the word ‘Free’ used in Art. 301 does not mean “free from taxation”. T.S. Thakur, CJ* and Dr.  A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde*, Shiva Kirti Singh*, N.V. Ramana*, R. Banumathi*, A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ, giving the majority view said that States are well within their right to design their fiscal legislations to ensure that the tax burden on goods imported from other States and goods produced within the State fall equally.

Notional Income for Homemakers

In Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2021) 2 SCC 166, where the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant*, JJ., had increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs after a motor vehicle accident claimed the lives of a man and his pregnant wife, leaving behind his parents and 2 children aged merely 3 and 4, Justice N.V. Ramana took the liberty to write a concurring opinion with respect to the issue of calculation of notional income for homemakers and the grant of future prospect with respect to them, for the purposes of grant of compensation.

Dowry Death

The bench of NV Ramana, CJ*., and Aniruddha Bose, J., in  Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, (2021) 6 SCC 1, stated that judges need to be extra careful while conducting criminal trials relating to Section 304-B, IPC. The Court went on to summarise the law under Section 304­B, IPC read with Section 113­B, Evidence Act and the guidelines to be followed by the Courts while conducting trials in such cases.

In Gurmeet Singh v. State of Punjab, (2021) 6 SCC 108,- a case related to dowry death, where it was argued by the accused that without any charges under Section 498A, IPC a conviction under Section 304-B, IPC cannot be sustained, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., rejected the contention and explained,

“Although cruelty is a common thread existing in both the offences, however the ingredients of each offence are distinct and must be proved separately by the prosecution. If a case is made out, there can be a conviction under both the sections.”

In State of M.P. v. Jogendra, (2022) 5 SCC 401, 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 to be 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.

Evidence

Explaining the scope of Section 92 Proviso (6) of the Evidence Act, 1872, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., in Mangala Waman Karandikar v. Prakash Damodar Ranade, (2021) 6 SCC 139, held that the said proviso can be resorted to only in cases where the terms of the document leave the question in doubt. “But when a document is a straightforward one and presents no difficulty in construing it, the proviso does not apply. In this regard, we may state that Section 95 only builds on the proviso 6 of Section 92”. The Court was of the opinion that if the contrary view is adopted as correct it would render Section 92 of the Evidence Act, otiose and also enlarge the ambit of proviso 6 beyond the main Section itself.

S.P. Velumani Graft Case

In the case where the Madras High Court had ordered an enquiry and obtained a report without   furnishing a copy thereof to Tamil Nadu Minister SP Velumani in a corruption case and unceremoniously closed the writ petition, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ.,* and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in S.P. Velumani v. Arappor Iyakkam, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 663 held that when the State has not pleaded any specific privilege which bars disclosure of material utilized in the earlier preliminary investigation, there is no good reason for the High Court to have permitted the report to have remained shrouded in a sealed cover.

Public Interest Litigation

The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ* and A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Esteem Properties Pvt. Ltd. v. Chetan Kamble, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 246, urged the Courts to be cautious when examining locus standi in Public Interest Litigations in order to ensure that frivolous or private interests are not masqueraded as genuine claims.

The Court observed that,

“Although the jurisprudence of Public Interest Litigation has matured, many claims filed in the Courts are sometimes immature. Thousands of frivolous petitions are filed, burdening the docket of both this Court and the High Courts. Noble intentions behind expanding the Court’s jurisdiction to accommodate socially relevant issues, in recent decades, have been critically analyzed”.

Contracts and Tenders

On the question as to ‘whether time is of the essence in a contract’, the bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ* and Surya Kant, J., in Welspun Specialty Solutions Ltd. v. ONGC, (2022) 2 SCC 382, held that merely having an explicit clause may not be sufficient to make time the essence of the contract. The same has to be culled out from the reading of the entire contract as well as the surrounding circumstances.

In a case where the process of cancellation of a tender was initiated without affording a chance to be heard to the lessees and the tender was cancelled “because of the possibility of larger profits”, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Vineet Saran and Surya Kant, JJ., in City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd v. Shishir Realty Private Limited, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1141, held that when a contract is being evaluated, the mere possibility of more money in the public coffers does not in itself serve the public interest.

State Legislature

A 5-judge Constitutional Bench of Jagdish Singh Khehar, Dipak Misra, Madan B. Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose and N.V.Ramana, JJ., in Nabam Rebia, and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker, (2016) 8 SCC 1, quashed the order of the Governor, preponing the 6th session of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly by a month without consulting the Chief Minister, Council of Ministers or the Speaker, on account of being violative of Article 163 read with Article 174 of the Constitution of India.

Jahangirpuri Demolitions

the 3-judge bench of N.V Ramana, CJ., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind v. NDMC, stayed the demolition drive undertaken by the NDMC at Jahangirpuri.

Prison Conditions During Covid-19

In Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 376, The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ., and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJ., issued directions to contain the spread of coronavirus in the overcrowded prisons of India.

Defense of Unsound Mind

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant, JJ., in Mohd. Anwar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2020) 7 SCC 391 held that in order to successfully claim defense of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the accused must show by preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong.

Challenges and Reforms

The challenges before Chief Justice Ramana were multifold. When he took charge as the CJI, the country was severely reeling under the socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic; the judiciary itself was staring at ever rising number of pending cases and judicial vacancies.

In order to resolve some of these issues, Justice Ramana launched ‘Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records’ (FASTER)- a software to transmit court orders through a swift and secure electronic mode. Justice Ramana stated that the objective of FASTER is to eliminate the situation where release of prisoners gets delayed even after they have been granted bail and the delays were solely due to jail authorities not getting the certified hard copies of the bail orders[13].

The advent of the deadly Covid-19 wreaked havoc upon the journalists who were reporting SC judgments for benefit of the common man. Justice Ramana thus launched an app to provide the media access to Supreme Court video links. The step was appreciated for encouraging transparency[14]. Justice Ramana revived the public relation office of the Supreme Court by ensuring the availability of text of speeches[15].

Justice Ramana also agreed to a long-pending demand of the Supreme Court Bar Association to ensure the nomination of lawyers practising in the SC for appointment as High Court judges, by allowing the Bar body to form a search committee[16].


Opinions of Note


Justice N.V Ramana has been an opinionated Judge. Given his background as a student activist and a desire to enter into active politics, his being opinionated is hardly a surprise. Bolstered by his experiences in life and law, Justice Ramana’s views were reflective of his thought process and the desire to lead the judiciary towards a better and inclusive future.

Justice Ramana’s perceptions and views on several matters of importance have been a major highlight of his Chief Justiceship-

Law Reports and Legal Reporting

During the launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes, Justice Ramana stressed upon the need for accurate reporting of judgments and court proceedings. He requested the judges’ fraternity to focus on simplicity in judgments where the ratio and decision is clear. Justice Ramana further emphasised that the reporting of law judgements is necessary because the people of India should be aware of their constitutional rights. He also implored that focus should be on making law reports reasonably priced and their availability in regional languages.

There is a need for accurate reporting, otherwise people are confused. The majority of reports don’t know what order, proceedings, judgment, oral observations are. It is very unfortunate. Suppose a judge asks a negative question, immediately it is reported”.

A Judge’s Life

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of ‘Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture’ on the topic “Life of a Judge”, organised by the National University of Study & Research in Law, Ranchi; Justice Ramana pointed out that a Judge’s life is tough one- “A person who has no connection with the profession cannot even imagine the number of hours that go into preparation. We spend many hours reading the paper-books and making notes for matters listed the next day. Preparation for the next day begins soon after the court rises, and will go on beyond midnight on most days. We continue to work even during weekends and court holidays to do research and author pending judgments. In this process, we miss out on many joys of our lives. Sometimes, we miss out on important family events”.[17]

Media Trial

Justice Ramana expressed his laments on the rising instances of media trials, stating that these instances are taking democracy backwards- “Of late, we see the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy”.[18]

Judiciary, Democracy and Constitution

While speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of new J&K High Court complex at Srinagar, Justice Ramana highlighted the importance of a functioning judiciary for a healthy democracy. “For the functioning of a healthy democracy, it is imperative that the people feel that their rights and dignity are protected and recognised. Expeditious adjudication of disputes is the hallmark of a healthy democracy. Denial of justice would ultimately lead to anarchy”. He also stressed on the importance of digitization of for better dispersion of judicial functions – “The judiciary must be at its innovative best to ensure that the challenges to its working are met with just and Constitutional measures. Technology has been a strong aid to the judiciary. Now, virtual courts are bridging the gaps of accessibility by reducing time, cost and distance. But in a country like India, where a vast digital divide still exists, much needs to be done in order to harness the full potential of technological innovations”[19]

Expressing disappointment over the state of affairs in all the Three Estates of the State, Justice Ramana stated that “In India, a party in power believes that every governmental action is entitled to judicial endorsement and the Opposition parties expect the judiciary to advance their political positions and causes, but the judiciary is answerable to the Constitution and Constitution alone”.[20]


Bidding Adieu!


♦Did you Know? For the first time ever, the proceedings before the Ceremonial Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana, on his last working day in the Supreme Court was live-streamed![21] 
The measure of respect that Justice Ramana had accumulated during his tenure at the Supreme Court was well revealed before the world when for the first time ever, a Supreme Court Proceeding, (especially a Ceremonial Bench proceeding) was live-streamed[22]. Those attending the proceedings were full of emotions and admiration for the retiring Chief Justice.

Attorney General of India, K.K Venugopal stated that “This is not the right age to retire for the judge of the Supreme Court or of the High Court. But this is not in my hands. The Lordships have started a new era”.  

Meanwhile Senior Advocate, Dushyant Dave tearfully expressed that Justice Ramana had been a ‘Citizens’ Judge’.

Senior Advocate, Kapil Sibal stated that, “I have competed 50 years with SC and many Chief Justices come and go. There is another family you take care of that is the Bar and my Lords have taken their proper care”. Expressing his gratitude to the outgoing Chief Justice, Mr. Kapil Sibal eloquently pointed out –

When the sea is calm the ship will sail. You have maintained the balance in turbulent times. That the give is called to answer. You have maintained the high standards of the judiciary”.

President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Vikas Singh stated that Justice Ramana has ensured the maintenance of Supreme Court’s prestige and has strived to protect the constitutional rights of the people.

Senior Advocate, Vibha Dutt Makhija expressed her appreciation for the work does by Justice Ramana for the women in judiciary.

Thanking the members of the Bar and the Bench, Justice Ramana once again stressed upon the importance of deploying modern technologies for effective functioning of the Supreme Court. He also expressed his apologies for not being able to focus on the issue of pendency and listing of matters. Conveying his gratitude and hoping for betterment of the Bar and the Bench, Justice Ramana stated-

I am not the last or the first person who has worked for the development of this institution. Several great people have contributed a lot to the judiciary and we need to work together for the success of Indian Judiciary”.


Legacy


Chief Justice N.V. Ramana oversaw a nation that had reeled and then rallied from a deadly pandemic. When Covid-19 brought everyone on its toes and stopped the Nation on its tracks, Justice Ramana held on tightly to reins of the judiciary and his measures allowed the courts to function seamlessly. There can be no doubt that Justice Ramana’s judgments and opinions gave lot for the legal and non-legal fraternity to ponder on.

Coming from a humble background, Justice Ramana rose through the ranks and created his own niche within the ‘Legal Multiverse’. We are eager to see what the future holds for him. Whatever his next journey will be, we are sure that it will be equally illuminating.


†Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt Ltd

* Judge who authored the judgment/ wrote a concurring opinion

[1] CJI stresses on need for simple and accurate legal reporting, Live Law

[2] Justice NV Ramana, SC Observer

[3] First Generation Lawyer, Justice NV Ramana, ANI

[4] CJI Desgnate Justice NV Ramana, Hindustan Times

[5] Wanted to Join Politics- Jusitice NV Ramana, Outlook India

[6] Chief Justice and Judges, Supreme Court of India

[7] First Generation Lawyer, Justice NV Ramana, ANI

[8] ‘Wanted to join active politics’- Justice Ramana, Outlook India

[9] Chief Justice and Judges, Supreme Court of India

[10] Chief Justice and Judges, Supreme Court of India

[11] CJI stresses on need for simple and accurate legal reporting, Live Law

[12] CJI Desgnate Justice NV Ramana, Utkarsh Anand, Editor (Legal), Hindustan Times

[13] CJI launches FASTER, The Statesman

[14] Virtual Access To the SC, Supreme Court Observer

[15] CJI Ramana- A Determined Reformer, Deccan Herald

[16] CJI Ramana- A Determined Reformer, Deccan Herald

[17] “Wanted to join active politics”- Justice Ramana, Outlook India

[18] ‘Media Taking Democracy Backwards’- CJ Ramana, NDTV

[19] J&K HC New Complex

[20] ‘Judiciary answerable to the Constitution alone’- CJI Ramana, The Hindu

[21] Live Proceedings of CJI Ramana’s last working day, Live Law

[22] Live Streaming of SC Proceedings, Supreme Court of India

New releasesNews

SCC Pre 69 Volumes were released by the Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana on August 10, 2022 at The Claridges, New Delhi.  Justice BV Nagarathna, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Mr Arvind P Datar, Senior Advocate were the special guests for the evening.  

The event also witnessed the presence of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Vikram Nath, Justice JK Maheshwari, Justice CT Ravi Kumar and Justice AK Sikri, sitting and former Judges of the Supreme Court of India. Justice Rajiv Shakdher, Judge, Delhi High Court, Justice KK Lahoti, Former Acting Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court and Senior Advocates Siddharth Luthra and Neeraj Kishan Kaul, members of the Editorial Board of SCC were also present for the event.  Messages by Mr KK Venugopal, Attorney General for India, Mr Abhishek Singhvi, MP and Senior Advocate and Mr KK Viswanathan, Senior Advocate were read out by Mr Sumeet Malik, Associate Editor, SCC during the release as they could not make it because of bad health.  


Over a period of time, Supreme Court Cases has earned an enviable reputation of being the most accurate and reliable reporting of law in India. This reputation has been painstakingly built over years of hard work and quality control. Eastern Book Company, the parent company of SCC, was established in 1942 by Mr. CL Malik and PL Malik and the baton to lead the organisation was subsequently passed on to Mr Surendra Malik. Over the span of 50 years, he has held a tight leash over the quality of law reports and digests produced by EBC. So particular is Mr Malik about his workmanship, that every single judgment published by SCC has 27 copy-editing inputs in order to make it as readable and user-friendly as possible. It can be safely said that till a couple of years ago he had read almost every judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India. Today  EBC, under his stewardship and of Mr. Sudeep Malik, Associate Editor, SCC, has embarked on reporting and publishing Supreme Court judgments since the inception of the Supreme Court.  


Chief Justice NV Ramana after releasing the volumes congratulated SCC and EBC and stated that what they had achieved was owing to the hard work and contribution of three generations of the Malik family. He stressed on the need for accurate reporting of judgments and court proceedings. “There is a need for accurate reporting. Otherwise people are confused. Majority reports don’t know what is order, proceedings, judgment, oral observations. It is very unfortunate. Suppose a judge asks a negative question, immediately it is reported, he said. He implored upon Mr Surendra Malik, Chief Editor, SCC to start a daily reporting service for accurate reporting of judgments since SCC has the expertise to be able to do it. His Lordship was informed of the SCC Online Blog which already carries analytical reports of judgements delivered.  

The Chief Justice requested the judges’ fraternity to focus on simplicity in judgments where the ratio  and decision is clear. The Chief Justice emphasised  that the reporting of law judgements is necessary because the people of India should be aware of their constitutional rights. He also implored that focus should be on making law reports reasonably priced and in regional languages. His Lordship’s speech can be viewed here:

Justice BV Nagarathna on the occasion of the release of the SCC Pre 69 volumes stated that the series is highly relevant from a historical and academic point of view.  She suggested to  SCC to venture further in the history of legal reporting in India.  She applauded SCC for well edited and annotated legal reporting and for improving the accessibility of law to the public. Mr Arvind P Datar, while speaking at the launch, said that SCC Online is perhaps the most user friendly database for legal research. Mr. Sudeep Malik, Associate Editor, SCC emphasized on the importance of pre 69 volumes by stating that “Life of the law of precedents is not binding precedents, but persuasion.”  

Supreme Court Cases™ (SCC™), the most cited law report will now commence from 1950. Reporting for the years 1950 to 1968 will be completed over the next five years. Judgments for this period will be head-noted with the same hallmark quality for which SCC™ is now known for and will have some unique features. Some judgments hereto delivered by the Supreme Court never reported before, find their place in this report series. 

Appointments & TransfersNews

The President appoints Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Judge of the Supreme Court, to be the Chief Justice of India with effect from August 27, 2022.

Hot Off The PressKnow thy JudgeNews

The Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana has named Justice Uday Umesh Lalit as his successor. Set to become the 49th Chief Justice of India, Justice Lalit will retire in November, 2022.
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, was the 6th Senior Advocate to be directly elevated to the Supreme Court as a judge. As a senior advocate he specialised in criminal cases and was appointed as CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor in all 2G matters, under the Supreme Court’s orders.

Justice Lalit’s father, Justice UR. Lalit, was a former additional judge of the Bombay High Court, Nagpur bench. He joined the bar in 1983 and practiced as an advocate in the Bombay High Court from 1983 to 1985. In 1986, he joined the chambers of Former Attorney General for India, Soli Sorabjee from 1986 to 1992. In 2004, he was designated as a senior advocate and also served as a member of the Supreme Court’s Legal Services Committee for two terms.[1]

A DNA India report[2], described that his “strength as an advocate were his thoroughness with the case, patience in explaining legal questions and the sober demeanour in presenting the case before the bench”.

After become a Supreme Court judge in 2014, Justice Lalit has delivered 276 judgments[3]. Interestingly, Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the Ramjanmbhoomi-Babrui Masjid Land dispute, after it was pointed out that he had represented former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, in a related matter.

One of the most important judgments delivered by the benches headed by him, is the POCSO skin to skin verdict, where he, along with Bela Trivedi (who authored the judgment) and S. Ravindra Bhat (who authored the concurring opinion), JJ, set aside the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) judgment that had acquitted the accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, 2012 on the ground that no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration would not amount to ‘sexual assault’. [Read: POCSO| “Touch”, “physical contact” can’t be restricted to “skin to skin contact”; “sexual intent” is the key. SC reverses Bombay HC’s “dangerous precedent”]

Recently, Justice Lalit headed the 3-judge bench that imposed sentence of four months and fine of Rs.2,000/- on Vijay Mallya for contempt of Court after observing that he “never showed any remorse nor tendered any apology for his conduct” of transferring a huge sum of US$40 million to his children instead of repaying his debt of more than Rs. 9000 crores to the banks. [Read: Four months in prison; Rs. 2000 fine for Vijay Mallya for contempt; US$40 million to be deposited by him and beneficiaries at 8% interest per annum]

He was also the part of the 3-judge bench that overruled 1983’s ruling in Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao (1983) 3 SCC 284  and held that there is no universal rule to fill vacancies on the basis of the law which existed on the date when they arose. [Read: No universal rule to fill vacancies on the basis of the law which existed on the date when they arose; Supreme Court overrules 1983’s YV Rangaiah ruling ]

The bench of Justice Lalit and Justice KM Joseph, JJ has dismissed the bail plea of activist Gautam Navlakha arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregoan riots case. [Read: Here’s why Gautam Navlakha was not able to make a case for default bail before the Supreme Court] The bench had, in the same verdict also held that it is open for Courts to order house arrest under Section 167 CrPC..

You can read more about the judgments delivered by Justice Lalit in our Know Thy Judge Post here.

Know Thy Judge| Justice Uday Umesh Lalit

 


[1] Supreme Court Observer, Judges’ archive 

[2] Uday Lalit among four new judges to assume charge in Supreme Court, DNA India, Published on August 13, 2014

[3] SCC Online’s ‘Judge only’ feature.

by Shubham Priyadarshi
Op EdsOP. ED.

Introduction

On 10-12-2021, in a televised interview, the former Chief Justice of India (hereinafter “CJI”), Justice Ranjan Gogoi, when asked about whether there exists corruption in the Supreme Court of India (hereinafter “the Court”), he was quoted as saying, “corruption is as old as society. It has become a way of life, an acceptable way of life. And Judges do not fall from heaven.” This statement invited comments, which criticised the former CJI. There has also been a call for initiation of contempt proceeding against him for the comments he made, because if that is not done, the ultimate result could be the eternal erosion of public faith in the institution of the judiciary.2

This incident is but one manifestation of the problem that permeates through the exercise of the power of contempt, and it is the power of contempt that is the subject of this article, which is structured as follows: the author will first elucidate the meaning of the term “contempt”, and trace the origin of the power; second, the author shall briefly mention the characteristics of the pre-independence statute and why the provision of contempt of court was incorporated as a reasonable restriction in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India3 (hereinafter, “the Constitution”); third, the author shall discuss the Report of the Sanyal Committee and the provisions of the existing statute, and why a challenge thereto would not have made much of a difference; fourth, the author shall enumerate the conditions, as laid down by the Court, to determine the validity of a reasonable restriction, and show that the statutory status quo criminalising contempt of court cannot be reasonably accommodated in the present constitutional scheme; and finally, the author shall discuss that one of the important purpose which is sought to be achieved through contempt proceedings can and has always been achieved by another method.

Comprehending the meaning and tracing the origin

Judiciary has been considered the custodian of the Constitution and is entrusted with deciding disputes arising from adverse claims. To effectively perform the duties entrusted to the sentinel, the dignity and authority of the court as an institution must be respected and protected. However, juxtaposed with the other two branches of the Government, the courts appear to be the weakest, as they control neither the sword nor the purse. And thus, to compel obedience where it is not otherwise forthcoming but is nevertheless necessary, the courts have been vested with the power to punish those recalcitrant entities who flout the directions (of the court), referred to as power to punish for contempt.4

In general parlance, contempt is either a feeling or an act manifesting that feeling through which one does not respect someone or something.5 A perusal of legal literature gives us the following meaning of contempt of court, as understood in common law:

An act or omission calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice. This covers criminal contempt (that is, acts which so threaten the administration of justice that they require punishment) and civil contempt (disobedience of an order made in a civil cause.6

Reference to common law is necessary because if one traces the origin of the concept of contempt of court, leading back to the annals of the House of Lords and the alleyways of England. The phrase contemptus curiae has been used in English Law for eight centuries.7 Law conferred the power to enforce discipline within its precincts and punish those who failed to comply with its orders. In other words, the contempt jurisdiction was evolved to meet the need of tackling intheface contempt. In the twelfth century, the contempt of the king’s writ was mentioned as an offence in the laws of King Henry I. In the same laws, there was mention of pecuniary punishment for contempt or disregard of orders. In England, for centuries, contempt of court has been a recognised expression and initially applied to defaults and wrongful acts.8 Because of the increase in the number and the complexity of disputes, the judiciary took over the role as the final arbiter of justice from the sovereign. The courts thus came to be considered representatives of the king. And in the same way that the king could not be abused or scandalised because the king was understood to have been an incarnation of God and wielder of divine justice, and no one would have the thought of obstructing a proceeding with impunity, the same considerations applied to the courts.9

Justification of contempt of court in modern times is found in the observations of Wilmot, J. in Rexv. Almon10. In that case, Almon was a bookseller who was tried in 1765 for publishing an alleged libel about Lord Mansfield. One of the charges Almon made against Lord Mansfield related to a court action involving Wilkes. Due to some confusion, the action was abandoned, and the opinion was never delivered. However, at a later point in time, Wilmot, J.’s son got his father’s opinion published, which has become one of the most crucial pieces of observation on the topic:

The power which the courts in Westminster Hall have of vindicating their own authority is coeval with their first foundation and institution; it is a necessary incident to every court of justice, whether of record or not, to fine and imprison for a contempt to the court acted in the face of it… and the issuing attachments by the Supreme Courts of Justice in Westminster Hall for contempt out of court stands upon the same immemorial usage as supports the whole fabric of the common law; it is as much the lex terrae and within the exception of Magna Carta as the issuing [sic] any other legal process whatsoever. I have examined very carefully to see if I could find out any vestiges or traces of its introduction but can find none. It is as ancient as any other part of the common law; there is no priority or posteriority to be discovered about it and therefore (it) cannot be said to invade the common law, but to act in an alliance and friendly conjunction with every other provision which the wisdom of our ancestors has established for the general good of society.11

The present position in England is reflected by Spycatcher case12. The Daily Mirror levelled criticism in the harshest manner against the Judges when they had imposed an embargo on the memoir of a former intelligence officer on the ground that it revealed sensitive information. The paper wasnot held in contempt, despite calling Judges old foolsand posting a photo of them upside-down to represent that they were not thinking straight. When asked about it, Lord Templeman said that Judges in England took no notice of personal insults unless it was done with malice. Recently, in the fallout of the Brexit case, The Daily called the Judges enemy of the people and still wasnot held in contempt.13

Unfortunate incorporation of a colonial practice as reasonable restriction

In an unfortunate, albeit not an unexpected development, while elsewhere, there was discussion about tackling the arbitrariness in power to punish for contempt,14 in colonial India, it was given a new lease of life through the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926. One of the avowed objectives of this legislation was to address the issue of uncertainty and ambiguity concerning the exercise of contempt jurisdiction with respect to subordinate courts to the respective High Courts.15 However, the Act did not merely clear (some) confusion concerning contempt of subordinate courts, it also provided a legislative base for officers of the British Raj to curtail criticisms, irrespective of merits of same, which were being levelled against the malfunctioning judiciary. Despite certain inherent infirmities in the language of the 1926 Act,16 it remained in force till the framing of the Constitution.

This led to a potentially conflictingsituation. The Constitution contains the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. In addition, Article 13(1) of the Constitution17mentions that if there were to be any existing law (immediately before the commencement of the Constitution), insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of Part III of the Constitution (fundamental rights), that law would be unconstitutional to the extent of the inconsistency. It is self-explanatory that criminalising contempt of court curtails the right contained in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. To avoid this conflict, a suggestion was put forth that the phrase “contempt of court” must be added as a reasonable restriction in Article 19(2) so that the 1926 Act remains constitutionally permissible.18 Moreover, under Articles 12919 and 21520 of the Constitution, both the Supreme Court and the High Courts were given the status of a court of record. Once a court is made a court of record, it is a legal necessity which flows from the fact of its being a court of record, that both will have the power to punish for contempt of itself.21

However, apprehensions were raised by members of the Constituent Assembly, with one member questioning the prudence behind the incorporation of contempt of court as a restriction in the following words:

First of all, let me state that this is not a consequential amendment. This is a fundamental proposition…. We know about this contempt of court, how the Judges have been exercising their powers in the past, as if they are infallible, as if they do not commit mistakes…. I cannot understand why my lawyer friends are very lenient to the Judges. After all, Judges do not have two horns; they are also human beings. They are liable to commit mistakes. Why should we show so much leniency to them? We must safeguard the interest of the public.22

The last statement is most significant. India was ushering into a new era in which we, the people,gave the Constitution to ourselves. But the Constitution incorporated a colonial practice that restricted the most cherished liberty, and how the courts have interpreted the provisions has only accentuated an already existing problem.

Exacerbating the problem

After the Constitution came into force, the Contempt of Courts Act, 195223 was enacted to repeal and replace the 1926 Act. The 1952 Act, while largely re-enacting the provisions in the 1926 Act, made two critical changes: first, by defining the expression “High Court” to include courts of Judicial Commissioners, the 1952 Act cleared the ambiguity regarding the power of High Courts to punish the contempt of subordinate courts; second, the 1952 Act gave more teeth to the courts by making it clear that the High Court (including the courts of Judicial Commissioners) would have jurisdiction to inquire into and try contempt of itself or any court subordinate to it, irrespective of whether the person alleged to be guilty of contempt was within or outside such limits.24

In July of 1961, a committee was set up under the chairpersonship of H.N. Sanyal, the then Additional Solicitor General, to submit a report, inter alia, on whether the provision relating to power for punishing for contempt of court was in accordance with constitutional limitations and if not, how the same can be achieved. The Committee, in its report, mentioned that the law of contempt must be harmonised with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and personal liberty. To ensure that provisions relating to the same complied with constitutional requirements, the Committee focused on procedural propriety, specifically regarding doing away with summary proceedings with respect to contempt of courts, which wasnot done in the face of courts.25

As per the Contempt of Courts Act, 197126, contempt of court has been segregated into two categories, civil and criminal. With respect to the former, the author humbly agrees with the views of the Sanyal Committee in which it is mentioned that insofar as civil contempt pure and simple is concerned, it does not attract any considerations affecting the fundamental right of freedom of speech because it is obvious that the courts should be clothed with adequate powers to enforce their orders.27 Also, even a bare reading of Section 2(b) of the 1971 Act28 is enough to suggest that not only elements of what is required to constitute civil contempt are categorically laid down, but the element of even mens rea is also present. Unfortunately, the same is not the case concerning criminal contempt in which, as per the definition given in the Section 2(c) of the 1971 Act29, the element of mens rea is not necessary. The definition is couched in broad terms, for which the Committee envisaged that the broad terms would be used as a guide by both the public as well as the courts.30

In 2020, a petition was filed challenging the constitutional validity of Section 2(c)(i) of the 1971 Act31, which criminalises the act of someone if that act scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.Even assuming the provision was held to be unconstitutional, it wouldnot have made much difference. The Act only outlines the procedure in relation to investigation and punishment for contempt, and deletion of the offence from the Act will not impact the inherent constitutional powers of the superior courts to punish anyone for its contempt.32 The constitutional courts, both the Supreme Court and the High Courts, will still have the power to punish for contempt by virtue of their being a court of record, a power which also extends with respect to subordinate courts, which in turn signifies that any substantive change in the provisions of the Act will not impact the power of the constitutional courts to punish for contempt.33

Furthermore, while exercising this power, it can only be governed by broad guidelines that will help to determine whether the contempt has been committed or not because, according to the Supreme Court, laying down exhaustive considerations for determination would be a complex and baffling exercise.34 This, the author submits, is the most problematic part of the power to punish for criminal contempt and why it must be deemed unconstitutional, in the present state in which it exists. Because there are no specific guidelines in this regard, there is a considerable discrepancy between what constitutes contempt and what doesnot. For example, a former law minister who says that antisocial elements, bride-burners, and a whole horde of reactionaries have found their haven in the Supreme Court didnot constitute contempt. Still, when an author levelled criticisms, which continued in affidavits, she was denied the benefit of the previous precedent as she lacked special knowledge in the subject, despite her tone being more reverential than the former.35

Finding a (non-existent) justification

Any restriction, in order to be considered reasonable and thus constitutionally permissible within the scope of Article 19(2) must meet a few prerequisites. In this chapter, the author will enumerate those prerequisites and explain why the status quo regarding the contempt of court needs revamping:

  • Nature of right alleged to be infringed: In the present case, the right which is being affected the most is the right of freedom of speech and expression, which according to Justice Benjamin Cardozo, is thematrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom. And without it … the end result would be that the spirit of man would be mutilated and become enslaved.36
  • The underlying purpose of the action: Through criminal contempt, the object is not only to punish but also to preserve the sanctity of administration of justice and integrity of proceedings.37 Also, it has to bekept in mind that no Judge shall be scandalised in that capacity, meaning that any hostile criticism of the Judge as a Judge will be constituted as scandalising that court.38Justice Brewer had said, in 1898, that time is past in the history of the world when any living man or body of men can be set on a pedestal and decorated with a halo. The life and character of the Justices should be the object of constant watchfulness by all….39 According to the author, the separation of the two capacities (judicial and non-judicial), particularly when the two cannot be reasonably separated, is an exercise in futility.
  • Proportionality: If one analyses the effect of the provisions relating to contempt, it leads to something which is in judicial discourse referred to as producing chilling effect — a doctrine that was used first in the United States of America and applies to cases where governmental laws and governmental (or private) activities are of a nature that while not directly censoring free speech, nonetheless have the impact of self-censorship. The classic example is that of excessively vaguely worded libel laws.40Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer famously remarked that the law of contempt has a vague and wandering jurisdictionwith uncertain boundaries. Regardless of the public good, it may unwittingly trample upon civil liberties.41 The opinion of Justice Iyer suggests that a step (contempt jurisdiction), which might or might not have a relation between objective sought to be achieved (respect for and ensuring due administration of justice), is permitted even when it is admittedly trampling down the most cherished freedom in a democracy. Resultantly, if the relationship between the measure taken and the objective sought to be achieved by that measure is questionable, it logically follows that the adverse impact on the exercise of the right will be clouded with the question of disproportionality.
  • Prevailing conditions: There have been a couple of unprecedented developments — four Judges conducting a press conference criticising the then CJI for not fulfilling his duties as master of rolls; and a former CJI becoming a Member of Parliament immediately after retirement.42 The author humbly argues that unprecedented developments which have the potential to alter the constitutional landscape of a country must be followed by unprecedented scrutiny of that institution and individuals who constitute it. In other words, the contempt provisions must be adjusted to accommodate these changes.

The Court laid down the above factors for an act of State which could be classified as law within the meaning of Article 13.43 Since the superior courts of justice are not State within the meaning of Article 1244, and consequently, their judgments not a law within the scope of Article 13,45 they are effectively doing something, which would in all probability be deemed to be unconstitutional had it been done by either of the two other branches of the State.

A question therefore arises is the legal acumen of Judges a strong enough safeguard to not be concerned about vesting in them the power of Judge, jury, and executioner as far as contempt proceeding is concerned, or exempting them from the free, sometimes uninhibited criticism, which is levelled against legislators and executives? In the words of Mr David Pannick, this criticism is rather necessary because the judiciary enjoys a security of tenure rightly denied to politicians and unique to public servants.46 Since provisions of Part III in general and Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution in particular draw inspiration from the American Bill of Rights,47 the author will quote Frankfurter, J.:

50. … Judges as persons, or courts as institutions, are entitled to no greater immunity from criticism than other person or institutions. Just because the holders of judicial office are identified with the interest of justice, they may forget their common frailties and fallibilities… Judges must be kept mindful of their limitations and their ultimate responsibility by a vigorous stream of criticism expressed with candour, however blunt.48

(emphasis supplied)

The final vindication

According to Justice H.R. Khanna:

The strongest weapon in the armoury of the judiciary is its unsullied image, the esteem it evokes and the confidence it enjoys. Reference is sometimes made to the contempt of court power of the Judges to command respect. This, perhaps, is not correct and is apt to mislead. Contempt of court, as observed by a great jurist, shouldnot be used as a means to uphold our own dignity. This must rely on surer foundation …. We must rely on our conduct itself to be its own vindication.49

(emphasis supplied)

For example, the Court’s conduct during the Covid-19 Pandemic has not been considered its own vindication.50 By listing a pending suo motupetition of an issue which took place 10 years ago,51 after the Supreme Court didnot (for a period of multiple months) intervene to address the plight of migrant workers,52 and was conducting its proceeding through virtual hearings and listing urgent matters,53 the Court only fanned the flames of apprehensions which were raised in the Constituent Assembly, apprehensions which have persisted, and apprehensions which, with the passage of time, are gradually being affirmed.

The assertion of Justice Khanna receives still further backing by a contrasting example. One of the major criticisms against judiciary is the opaqueness in its modus operandi. Recently, the High Courts across the country have started to livestream their courtroom proceedings. This step has received almost54unanimousapproval from every section of the society, as the High Courts have allowed the sunlight, now both literally and figuratively, to enter the courtrooms, which has been considered to bethe best disinfectant.55

Thus, it would appear that the judiciary has two diverging routes to the same destination: either endeavouring to compel the citizenry to respect it by the threat of the sword of Damocles,56 which is the power of criminal contempt, and which, at best, is not always effective; or in the alternative, to place its reliance on a much surer foundation.57


* Lawyer, Patna. Author can be reached at <shubhampriyadarshi@hotmail.com>.

The author acknowledges work of  Mr. Rishikesh Kumar for his input on the article.

2. Dushyant Dave, “Graft Talk and the Top Court’s Inexplicable Silence”, The Hindu (2022), <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/graft-talk-and-the-top-courts-inexplicable-silence/article38341236.ece>.

3. Constitution of India, Art. 19(2).

4. Gautam Bhatia, Offend, Shock or Disturb: Free Speech under the Indian Constitution (1st Edn. 2018) p. 238.

5. Contempt : Definition & Meaning, Merriam-Webster, <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contempt>.

6. Shakil Ahmad Khan, Ed., P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s The Law Lexicon: The Encyclopaedic Law Dictionary (5th Edn. 2020).

7. M. Karnikka, “Law regarding Contempt of Court”, Lexlife India (2020), <https://lexlife.in/?s=Law+regarding+Contempt+of+Court>.

8. Ronald Goldfarb, The History of the Contempt Power, 1961 Wash. U. L. Q. 1-29 (1961), <https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_lawreview/vol1961/iss1/6>.

9. Rahul Donde, “Uses and Abuses of the Potent Power of Contempt”, 42(39) Economic and Political Weekly, 3919-3922 (2007).

10. 1765 Wilm 243 : 97 ER 94.

11. Ronald Goldfarb, “The History of the Contempt Power”, 1961 WASH.U.L.Q. 1-29 (1961), <https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_lawreview/vol1961/iss1/6>.

12. Attorney General v. Guardian Newspapers Ltd. (No. 2), (1990) 1 AC 109 [Spycatcher case].

13. Faizan Mustafa, “Contempt Jurisdiction should be used Sparingly”,TheTribune (2019), <https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/comment/contempt-jurisdiction-should-be-used-sparingly-744801>.

In the United Kingdom, the offence of scandalising the judiciary as a form of contempt of court in 2013 has been abolished based on UK Law Commission’s recommendation that the law was vague and not compatible with the freedom of speech. Also see Manu Sebastian, “Contempt By ‘Scandalizing The Court’ : A Battle Of Perceptions On An Uneven Field”, Livelaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-by-scandalizing-the-court-a-battle-of-perceptions-on-an-uneven-field-160380>.

14. Dinesh Singh Chauhan, “The Historical Perspective of the Contempt of Courts in India”, Legal Service India, <https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2815-the-historical-perspective-of-the-contempt-of-courts-in-india.html>.

15. H.N. Sanyal, Report of the Committee on Contempt of Courts (1963).

16. A primary infirmity with the 1926 Act was that it didnot define the term “contempt”. It was a deliberate act to keep the term elastic and extend the applicability of the 1926 Act, V. Venkatesan, “Truth as a Defence: How Effective is the Amendment of Contempt of Courts Act?”, 2 Indian Journal of Constitutional Law 164-178 (2008).

17. Constitution of India, Art. 13(1).

18. Samaraditya Pal and Deepan Kumar Sarkar, India’s Constitution: Origins and Evolution, Vol. 2 (1st Edn. 2015). For arguments in the Constituent Assembly favouring the incorporation of contempt of court as a reasonable restriction, see Note 13, at 46.

19. Constitution of India, Art. 129.

20. Constitution of India, Art. 215.

21. Samaraditya Pal and Deepan Kumar Sarkar, India’s Constitution: Origins and Evolution, Vol. 6 (1st Edn. 2017).

22. Samaraditya Pal & Deepan Kumar Sarkar, India’s Constitution: Origins and Evolution (1st Edn. 2015) p. 48, Note 13 at 45.

23. Contempt of Courts Act, 1952.

24. H.N. Sanyal, Report of the Committee on Contempt of Courts (1963).

25. H.N. Sanyal, Report of the Committee on Contempt of Courts (1963).

26. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

27. H.N. Sanyal, Report of the Committee on Contempt of Courts (1963).

28. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, S. 2(b).

29. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, S. 2(c).

30. H.N. Sanyal, Report of the Committee on Contempt of Courts (1963).

31. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, S. 2(c)(i).

32. Roshni Sinha, “Review of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971”, PRS Legislative Research (2018), <https://www.prsindia.org/report-summaries/review-contempt-courts-act-1971>.

33. T. Sudhakar Prasad v. Govt. of A.P., (2001) 1 SCC 516.

34. S. Mulgaokar, In re, (1978) 3 SCC 339. In this case, the Court has laid down broad guidelines for drawing a balance between the two competing interests: exercise of right to freedom of speech and expression, and power of court to punish for criminal contempt. Despite, and in disregard of these broad guidelines, multiple instances show a considerable discrepancy between what the Court has considered as constituting the contempt of court and what to not. Also see Manu Sebastian, “Contempt By ‘Scandalizing The Court’: A Battle Of Perceptions On An Uneven Field”, Livelaw.in (2020); and V. Sudhish Pai, “Contempt-Anachronistic?”, Livelaw.in (2020).

35. Manu Sebastian, “Contempt by ‘Scandalising the Court’: A Battle of Perceptions on an Uneven Field”, LiveLaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-by-scandalizing-the-court-a-battle-of-perceptions-on-an-uneven-field-160380>.

36. V. Sudhish Pai, “Contempt-Anachronistic?”, LiveLaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-anachronistic-160659>.

37. Sahara India Real Estate Corpn. Ltd. v. SEBI, (2013) 1 SCC 1.

38. Manu Sebastian, “Contempt by ‘Scandalising the Court’: A Battle of Perceptions on an Uneven Field”, LiveLaw.in (2020), https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-by-scandalizing-the-court-a-battle-of-perceptions-on-an-uneven-field-160380>.

39. V. Sudhish Pai, “Contempt-Anachronistic?”, Livelaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-anachronistic-160659>.

40. Gautam Bhatia, “The Chilling Effect in India”, Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy (2013), <https://indconlawphil.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/the-chilling-effect-in-india/>.

41. Ajit Prakash Shah, “The Chilling Effect of Criminal Contempt”, The Hindu (2020), <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-chilling-effect-of-criminal-contempt/article32198138.ece>.

42. Previously, former CJI Justice Ranganath Misra became a Member of Parliament in the Upper House in 1998 after retiring from the office of Chief Justice in 1991. Because of the circumstances leading to it, the move to grant him a ticket met with well-merited criticism.

43. State of Madras v. V.G. Row, AIR 1952 SC 196.

44. Constitution of India, Art. 12.

45. Rupa Ashok Hurra v. Ashok Hurra, (2002) 4 SCC 388.

46. V. Sudhish Pai, “Contempt-Anachronistic?”, Livelaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-anachronistic-160659>.

47. Express Newspapers (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, AIR 1958 SC 578.

48. Bridges v. State of California, 1941 SCC OnLine US SC 144 : 86 L Ed 192 : 314 US 252 (1941).

49. V. Sudhish Pai, “Contempt-Anachronistic?”, Livelaw.in (2020), <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contempt-anachronistic-160659>.

50. Jagdeep S. Chokkar, “Migrant Worker Crisis: The Supreme Court has Abdicated all Responsibility”, The Wire (2020), <https://thewire.in/law/supreme-court-migrant-workers-crisis-abdicate-responsibility>.

51. Abraham Thomas, “SC to Hear 10-year-old Contempt Case against Prashant Bhushan on August 4”, Hindustan Times (2020), <https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sc-to-hear-10-year-old-contempt-case-against-prashant-bhushan-on-august-4/story-JNh2Z5VekowNCKgUwO3PvL.html>.

In a related incident, Senior Advocate Mr Prashant Bhushan was charged with committing contempt of court by his two tweets. He was ultimately held guilty and was directed to pay Rs 1 as a fine. For a detailed summary, see “Contempt Petition Against Prashant Bhushan”, Supreme Court Observer (2020), <https://www.scobserver.in/cases/in-re-prashant-bhushan-contempt-petition-against-prashant-bhushan-case-background/>.

52. Since then, the Court has taken up the mantle of being the sentinel on the qui vive, a conduct which has been acknowledged, and received appreciation, V. Venkatesan, “As Supreme Court Reaches Out to Migrants, Activists Hail its Intervention”, The Wire (2021), <https://thewire.in/law/supreme-court-migrant-workers-activists>. The two opposite reactions, consistent with the Court’s varying approaches to the same issue, furthers Justice Khanna’s assertion.

53. For the circular of the Supreme Court, dated 23.03.2020, see <https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/cir/23032020_153213.pdf>.

54. For a differing perspective, see Abhik Chimni, „A Lot Can Go Wrong for Indian Democracy if Court Proceedings are Streamed Live on TV”, The Print (2018), <https://theprint.in/opinion/a-lot-can-go-wrong-for-indian-democracy-if-court-proceedings-are-streamed-live-on-tv/104639>.

55. Swapnil Tripathi v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 639.

56. O. Chinnappa Reddy, “The Sword of Damocles: Contempt of Court”, Oxford Scholarship Online (2012), <https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198066286.001.0001/acprof-9780198066286-chapter-19>.

57. The author is aware that one cannot claim equality in illegality before a court of law, much less before a constitutional court. However, he humbly believes, if backed by examples, it can be a reasonable criticism. And this, to reiterate, is the author’s chief concern concerning the exercise of the power of contempt: there is way too much ambiguity regarding what constitutes contempt and what does not (Dushyant Dave, “Graft Talk and the Top Court’s Inexplicable Silence”, The Hindu (2022), <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/graft-talk-and-the-top-courts-inexplicable-silence/article38341236.ece> (last visited 21-4-2022); and Abraham Thomas, “SC to hear 10-year-old contempt case against Prashant Bhushan on August 4”, Hindustan Times (2020); Manu Sebastian, “Contempt By ‘Scandalizing The Court’ : A Battle Of Perceptions On An Uneven Field”, Livelaw.in (2020). Any measure which curtails fundamental rights, and is simultaneously ambiguous, must be considered unconstitutional. This vice of ambiguity ought to be removed, and the same can be done by indulging in the complex and baffling exercisewhich was mentioned elsewhere in this article [Mulgaokar, In re, (1978) 3 SCC 339] and uniformly applying the result(s) thereof, because the action of laying down broad guidelines has, as has been shown, not been able to achieve its purpose.

New releasesNews

Book release of Justice RV Raveendran’s Anomalies in Law and Justice: Writings related to Law and Justice.

The panellists for this discussion include the following legal luminaries: Justice MN Venkatachaliah, Former Chief Justice of India, Justice RC Lahoti, Former Chief Justice of India, Justice BN Srikrishna, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India and Justice RV Raveendran, Author & Former Judge, Supreme Court of India. The panel discussion will be moderated by Shri Arvind Datar, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.  

Watch the live stream on:

Tune to SCC’s Twitter account for live updates: SCC Online Twitter


Appointments & TransfersNews

Justice NV Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India in a small ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan due to COVID restrictions. Justice Ramana, who is due to retire on August 26, 2022, will serve as the Chief Justice of India for 16 months.  He succeeds Justice SA Bobde, who retired yesterday.

Born in an agricultural family on August 27, 1957 in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, Justice Ramana enrolled as an Advocate on February 10, 1983 and practiced in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service, Election and Inter-State River matters. He was also the Panel Counsel for various Government Organizations and had also served as Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad.

Before being appointed as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000, Justice Ramana also served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. He was then appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from March 10, 2013 to May 20, 2013 and was later elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on 02.09.2013. The elevation as a Supreme Court judge came less than a year later on 17.02.2014.

As a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ramana has been a part of some of the most important verdicts. We have curated some of such verdicts in the post below 

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana


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Chief Justice SA Bobde retires: A look at his legacy and justice in the time of COVID-19

Know thy Judge

“The judicial branch is the ICU of a constitutional democracy; and essentially a public service of a critical nature; not another public employment opportunity. There is no legitimacy or rationale for the existence of this branch if some of us are unable to deliver even the minimal quality of justice that is expected of this, sentinel on the qui vive.”

-Justice SA Bobde[1]


As Hon’ble Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde’s tenure as the 47th Chief Justice of India comes to a close, we take a trip down the memory lane to recapitulate his journey.


Travelling Back in Time


Justice Bobde was born on 24th April, 1956 in Nagpur in a prominent legal family. His great- grandfather Ramachandra Pant Bobde was a noted lawyer so was his grandfather Shrinivas Ramchandra Bobde. His father, Arvind Shrinivas Bobde was an eminent lawyer and Advocate-General of Maharashtra in 1980 and 1985[2]. Justice Bobde’s elder brother Vinod Arvind Bobde was a senior Supreme Court lawyer and a constitutional expert.

♦Did You Know?  Justice S.A. Bobde, a fourth generation lawyer in his family, is also the only family to become a Judge. In an interview given to the Indian Express, Justice Bobde said- “I made this conscious decision to be a judge because I am a fourth generation lawyer and I have only seen lawyers in my life. I was the only black sheep who moved towards the judiciary in that sense, and I took a conscious decision as I found being at the Bar repetitive in its rewards. I felt I should answer the call.”[3]

Justice Bobde passed High School in 1972 from St. Francis De’Sales High School. In 1978 He obtained his degree in law from Dr. Ambedkar Law College in Nagpur University.[4]

♦Did You Know? Justice Bobde was very active in extra- curricular activities during his school and college life. He actively participated in elocution, dramatics and sports; played tennis in the University College of Law team which won the inter-collegiate championship.[5] 


The High Court


Subsequently, Justice Bobde enrolled with the Bar Council of Maharashtra in 1978. He practised at the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court with appearances at Bombay before the principal seat and before the Supreme Court of India for over 21 years. He was then designated as Senior Advocate in 1998.

On 29th March 2000, Justice Bobde was elevated to the bench of Bombay High Court as Additional Judge. Later he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on 16th October, 2012.[6]


The Supreme Court


♦Did You Know?  During his tenure as Supreme Court Judge from 12.04.2013 to 17.11.2019, Justice Bobde had never been a part of any minority opinions.[7]

On 12th April, 2013, Justice Bobde was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India. Being the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Bobde became the 47th Chief Justice of India on 18th November, 2019, succeeding Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who served as the Chief Justice of India for over a year i.e. from 3rd October, 2018 till 17th November, 2019.

Significant Supreme Court decisions by Justice Bobde 

Justice Bobde has been a part of some historic and landmark judgments which have furthered the discourse around several burning topics in the legal echelons. Here’s a list of some of the notable judgments during his tenure as a Judge and Chief Justice of India-

As Judge of the Supreme Court

M. Siddiq v. Mahant Suresh Das (Ram Janmabhumi Temple Verdict)(2020)1 SCC 1

The 5-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ, S.A. Bobde, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ, sat down to finally put an end to the Ayodhya Title dispute and unanimously held that the disputed land is to be given to Trust for construction of Ram Mandir. In an effort to balance the interest of both the parties involved, the Court directed that a suitable plot of 5 acres must be granted to Sunni Waqf Board to set up a Mosque. Read more

K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Privacy- 9 Judge) (2017) 10 SCC 1

Justice Bobde was also a part of the 9-judge bench that delivered a landmark judgment which unanimously held that the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution. It was observed that Right to Privacy forms an intrinsic part of Art. 21 and freedoms guaranteed in Pt. III. It permeates core of Preambular philosophy underlying “liberty” and “dignity” as also human concepts of “life” and “personal liberty” enshrined in Art. 21 and wide ranging freedoms guaranteed under Pt. III, considered essential for a meaningful human existence. Read more

Jindal Stainless Ltd v. State of Haryana, (2017) 12 SCC 1

The 9-judge bench, by a ratio of 7:2, upheld the validity of the entry tax imposed by the States on goods imported from other States. It was held that taxes simpliciter are not within the contemplation of Part XIII of the Constitution of India and that the word ‘Free’ used in Article 301 does not mean “free from taxation”.  Justice Bobde gave the majority opinion that held that States are well within their right to design their fiscal legislations to ensure that the tax burden on goods imported from other States and goods produced within the State fall equally. Read more 

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

Justice Bobde gave the majority verdict in a 4:3 verdict of a 7-judge bench that 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. Read more

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

A 7-judge bench held that the failure to comply with the requirement of laying an ordinance before the legislature is a serious constitutional infraction and abuse of the constitutional process. Justice SA Bobde was part of the majority opinion. Read more

K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2015) 8 SCC 735

Justice Bobde was also a part the 3-judge bench that paved the way for the ‘Right to Privacy’ being declared as a fundamental right. The bench referred the question relating to validity of the Aadhaar scheme to a larger bench. It also held that till the matter was finally decided by the larger bench, it will not be mandatory for a citizen to obtain Aadhaar Card and also, production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen. Read more

Muthuramalingam v. State (2016) 8 SCC 313

Deciding an interesting question of law as to whether consecutive life sentences can be awarded to a convict on being found guilty of a series of murders for which he has been tried in a single trial, the 5 judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ, Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and R. Banumathi, JJ answered the question in negative and held that while multiple sentences for imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other offences punishable with imprisonment for life, the life sentences so awarded cannot be directed to run consecutively. Read more

Meera Santosh Pal v. Union of India (2017) 3 SCC 462 and Mamta Verma v. Union of India (2018) 14 SCC 289

Justice Bobde, along with Justice L. Nageswara Rao, has on more than one occasion, allowed women to undergo medical termination of pregnancy in light of the apprehended danger to their lives.

As Chief Justice of India

♦Did You Know?  In his tenure of 8 years in the Supreme Court (as Judge and Chief Justice) Justice S.A. Bobde has authored 68 judgments.[8]

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 directed the High Courts to issue practice directions to the Magistrates for recording cogent and sufficient reasons while doing so. The Court explained that in a case tried summarily in which the accused does not plead guilty, it is sufficient for the Magistrate to record the substance of the evidence and deliver a judgment, containing a brief statement of reasons for his findings. Read more

In re: Assessment of the Criminal Justice System in response to Sexual Offences2019 SCC OnLine SC 1654

In a bid to make criminal justice system responsive in cases relating to sexual assaults, a 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ sought information with regard to status of affairs at ground level from various duty holders like investigation agencies, prosecution, medico-forensic agencies, rehabilitation, legal aid agencies and also Courts to get a holistic view. Taking note of the fact that post Nirbhaya incident, which shocked the conscience of the nation, many amendments were introduced in criminal law redefining the ambit of offences, providing for effective and speedy investigation and trial, the Court noticed that still the desired results were not achieved and that as per the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau of Crime in India. Read more

Attorney General for India v. Satish, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 42

The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ 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. Read more

Rakesh Vaishanv v. Union of India(2021) 1 SCC 590

The 3-Judge Bench of S.A. Bobde, CJ and A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., stayed the implementation of farms laws until further orders. Court also opined that a stay of implementation of all the three farm laws may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith. Read more

Poornima v. Union of India2020 SCC OnLine SC 714

The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has dismissed the claim of certain District Judges to club their services rendered as advocates with the service rendered by them as Judicial Officers, for determining their eligibility for elevation as High Court judges. Read more

Commissioner of Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax v.  Cera Boards and Doors, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 657

Explaining the scheme of provisions under the Central Excise Act, 1944, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has laid down elaborate principles that the Adjudicating Authorities has to keep in mind while determining the value of excisable goods. Read more.

PLR Projects Pvt. 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 Bobde, 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 said that there is no such impediment to initiate a new process without waiting for the result of the earlier recommendations. Read more

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. Read more

Lok Prahari v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 333

The 3- Judge Bench of SA Bobde, C.J., and SK Kaul and Surya Kant, JJ., while “activating a dormant provision of the Constitution of India – Article 224A”  issued guidelines for the appointment of ad-hoc judges in High Courts. It was observed that, “We have taken the first step with the hope and aspiration that all concerned would cooperate and retiring/retired Judges would come forth and offer their services in the larger interest of the Judiciary. The guidelines cannot be exhaustive and that too at this stage. If problems arise, we will endeavour to iron them out. We must set aside apprehensions, if any, to chart this course and we are confident that there will be a way forward”.  Read more

The Covid-19 Pandemic

Justice Bobde as the Chief Justice saw India fighting one of the severest health and humanitarian crisis in recent history in the form of Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic compelled everyone including the judiciary to take drastic steps and forego the conventional methods of hearing cases. This was also the time when the Chief Justice issued multiple guidelines for safe and smooth conduct of judicial proceedings. The CJI issued directions on some of the following important concerns as well –  

In Re : Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services during Pandemic

A day before Justice Bobde’s retirement, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has taken suo motu cognisance of the “grim” situation of the country hit by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic and has asked the Central Government to report on,

  1. The existence or otherwise and requirement of setting up of a coordinating body that would consider allocation of COVID resources in a consultative manner (with the involvement of concerned States and Union 3 Territories).
  2. Considering declaration of essential medicines and medical equipment including the Drugs, oxygen and vaccination as essential commodities in relation to COVID.
  3. In respect of coordination of logistical support for inter-State and Intra-State transportation and distribution of the above resources.

Read more…

In Re: Regarding closure of Mid-day Meal Scheme2020 SCC OnLine SC 342

A 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ took suo motu cognisance of non-availability of mid-day meals for children due to the closure of schools due to coronavirus spread and issued notices to all state governments and union territories. Read more

In Re: Guidelines for Court Functioning Through Video Conferencing during Covid-19 Pandemic2020 SCC OnLine SC 355

Faced with the unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ has called for functioning of courts through video conferencing. It said that it was necessary that Courts at all levels respond to the call of social distancing and ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus. Read more

In Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation2020 SCC OnLine SC 343

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. Read more

In Re: Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons2020 SCC OnLine SC 320

A bench of SA Bobe, CJ., and LN Rao, J., took suo moto cognisance of overcrowding and infrastructure of prisons across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and has issued a notice to the Director General, Prison, and chief secretary of all states and union territories seeking their response by March 20 on steps taken for prevention of COVID-19. The court also asked all states and union territories to depute an officer on March 23 who could assist the court in the matter. Read more

Legacy

♦Did You Know?  Justice S.A Bobde is an avid lover of motorcycles, especially Bullet by Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson.[9]

Justice SA Bobde’s tenure Supreme Court has been a roller-coaster ride. From being part of the judgment which decided one of the longest disputes in the judicial history (Ayodhya verdict) to overseeing functioning of the Courts in one of worst pandemic India has ever seen. his tenure saw myriad decisions related to constitutional aspects, but towards the end of his tenure his judgments highlighted the need for timely judicial appointments. He may have authored few judgments as compared to his predecessors, but nevertheless, all the judgments that he has been a part of, have helped to further the exchange of ideas in the legal community.


†Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

[1] CJI’s address in North Zone-I, Regional Conference on ‘Optimising Quality and Efficiency in Justice Delivery: Challenges and Opportunities

[2] Who is Sharad Arvind Bobde, Business Standard

[3] Interview with Justice SA Bobde, Indian Express

[4] Chief Justice and Judges, Supreme Court of India

[5] Justice S.A Bobde, Bombay High Court

[6] Justice S.A. Bobde, National Legal Services Authority.

[7] CJI Designate Justice Bobde, The Wire

[8] CJI Bobde, SC Observer

[9] Justice Bobde tries out a Harley Davidson, Hindustan Times

Appointments & TransfersNews

President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed Justice NV Ramana as the next Chief Justice of India. Justice Ramana  will take oath as the 48th CJI on April 24, 2021 and is due to retire on August 26, 2022. Last month, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who is set to retire on April 23, 2021, had recommended the name of Justice NV Ramana to be his successor.

Born in an agricultural family on August 27, 1957 in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, Justice Ramana enrolled as an Advocate on February 10, 1983 and practiced in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service, Election and Inter-State River matters. He was also the Panel Counsel for various Government Organizations and had also served as Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad.

Before being appointed as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000, Justice Ramana also served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. He was then appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from March 10, 2013 to May 20, 2013 and was later elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on 02.09.2013. The elevation as a Supreme Court judge came less than a year later on 17.02.2014.

As a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ramana has been a part of some of the most important verdicts. We have curated some of such verdicts in the post below 

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Hot Off The PressKnow thy JudgeNews

“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.”

Justice N. V. Ramana 

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


Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who is set to retire on April 23, 2021, has recommended the name of Justice NV Ramana to be his successor.

Born in an agricultural family on August 27, 1957 in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, Justice Ramana enrolled as an Advocate on February 10, 1983 and practiced in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service, Election and Inter-State River matters. He was also the Panel Counsel for various Government Organizations and had also served as Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad.

Before being appointed as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000, Justice Ramana also served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. He was then appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from March 10, 2013 to May 20, 2013 and was later elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on 02.09.2013. The elevation as a Supreme Court judge came less than a year later on 17.02.2014.

Justice Ramana, who is set to become the 48th Chief Justice of India on April 24, 2021, is due to retire on August 26, 2022.

As a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ramana has been a part of some of the most important verdicts. We have curated some of such verdicts in the post below 

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Last year, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote to the Chief Justice of India Justice SA Bobde accusing Justice NV Ramana of attempting to destabilize and topple the YSR Congress government in the state.  The Supreme Court, however, issued a statement today that the complaint was dealt with under the In-House Procedure and the same, on due consideration, was dismissed.

Supreme Court dismisses Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy’s complaint against Justice NV Ramana


ALSO READ 

As Justice SA Bobde takes charge as the 47th Chief Justice of India, here’s all you need to know about him

OP. ED.SCC Journal Section Archives

With the demise of Justice Hidayatullah, modern India has lost one of its most luminous jurists. The word ‘jurist’ is much debased in India; we have developed a tradition where knowledge, virtue and even wisdom come ex officio, to a point that every judge, sitting or retired, every Attorney and Advocate General, other law officers, chairpersons of Bar Councils and Associations, law ministers, senior members of the Bar, and even their leading munshis, are described as ‘jurists’! In this context, Hidayatullah’s life was a constant message on how not to be a jurist.

But he was a jurist in the most complete sense of the term: he lived the life of law and justice. Unsurprisingly, he was an effortless exemplar of judicial virtues. Possessing an unsurpassed grasp of comparative jurisprudence, he wore his learning lightly. His disdain for purple judicial prose arose out of mastery of judicial style. He knew the inner logic of judicial craftspersonship; he addressed the future of law through the idiom of the present. In his later years, he maintained a tough allergy to the efflorescence of variety of judicial activism spawned by judicial populism. He was a friendly critic of judicial process and power and constantly warned his successors in the Supreme Court against the excesses of rhetoric; but the new converts to judicial activism could not allow a fine regard for legality to curb their new messianic notion of judicial role. Justice Hidayatullah, in contrast, believed that judicial power is most effective when it is sensible of its limits; and although not an arch-conservative, he gladly subscribed to the growth of judicial power, in Edmund Burke’s prescription, by “insensible degree”.

Read more…


Note: This article was first published in Supreme Court Cases Journal (1993) 1 SCC J-13. It has been reproduced with the kind permission of Eastern Book Company.

Know thy Judge

“Our ability to recognise others who are different is a sign of our own evolution. We miss the symbols of a compassionate and humane society only at our peril”.   

Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1


Early Life


Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud was born on 11-11-1959 to former Chief Justice of India, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud. He practiced law at the Bomaby High Court and Supreme Court of India. He was designated as Senior Advocate by the Bombay High Court in June 1998 and in the same year was appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India. He appeared in several important cases involving Rights of Bonded Women Workers, Rights of HIV Positive Workers, Contract Labour and Rights of Religious and Linguistic Minorities.[1]


Journey to becoming Supreme Court Judge


On 29th March 2000, Justice Chandrachud was appointed as Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court. On 31st October 2013, he took oath as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court until he was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court on 13th May 2016.[2]

Did you Know? Justice Chandrachud is likely to serve as the Chief Justice of India for a period of 2 years starting from November, 2022 to November, 2024. His father, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, was the longest serving Chief Justice of India. [Read more about Justice Y.V. Chandrachud here]


Recent and Notable Judgments that Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud has been a part of


Nitisha v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 261

In major win for women Officer in Indian Army, the Division Bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, JJ., held that the administrative requirement imposed by the Indian Army authorities while considering the case of the Women Short Service Commissions Officers (WSSCO) for the grant of Permanent Commission (PC), of benchmarking these officers with the officers lowest in merit in the corresponding male batch is arbitrary and irrational. The Court hence, directed that such requirement shall not be enforced while implementing the decision in Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya, (2020) 7 SCC 469

“It is not enough to proudly state that women officers are allowed to serve the nation in the Armed Forces, when the true picture of their service conditions tells a different story. A superficial sense of equality is not in the true spirit of the Constitution and attempts to make equality only symbolic.”

Read More

Mahendra K.C. v. State of Karnataka, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1021

In a case where the Single Judge of Karnataka High Court had termed person committing suicide a ‘weakling’ and also made observations on how the behavior of the deceased before he committed suicide was not that of a person who is depressed and suffering from mental health issues, the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that such observations describing the manner in which a depressed person ought to have behaved deeply diminishes the gravity of mental health issues and that “The mental health of a person cannot be compressed into a one size fits all approach.”

“Individual personality differences manifest as a variation in the behavior of people. Therefore, how an individual copes up with a threat- both physical and emotional, expressing (or refraining to express) love, loss, sorrow and happiness, varies greatly in view of the multi-faceted nature of the human mind and emotions.”

Read More

Hariram Bhambhi v. Satyanarayan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1010

In a case where Rajasthan High Court had granted bail by merely “keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case”, the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that such orders cannot pass muster. Noticing that there was absolutely no reasoning in the order of the High Court granting bail, after recording the submissions of the first respondent’s counsel apart from noting that the public prosecutor had opposed the bail, the Court said,

“The duty to record reasons cannot be obviated by recording submissions, followed by an omnibus “in the facts and circumstances” formula. Brief reasons which indicate the basis for granting bail are essential, for it is the reasons adduced by the court which indicate the basis of the order.”

Read More

Sarabjeet Singh Mokha v. District Magistrate, Jabalpur, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1019

In a case where the Government caused unreasonable delay in considering the representation and thereafter failed to communicate the rejection to a person detained under Section 3(2) of National Security Act 1980 (NSA), the 3-judge bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Seth and BV Nagarathna, JJ., held that the procedural rights of the detenu emanating from Article 22 of the Constitution and Section 8 of the NSA were not sufficiently protected in the present case. Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that, “Preventive detention in independent India is to be exercised with utmost regard to constitutional safeguards”.

“The State Government cannot expect this Court to uphold its powers of subjective satisfaction to detain a person, while violating the procedural guarantees of the detenu that are fundamental to the laws of preventive detention enshrined in the Constitution.”

Read More

Jalkal Vibhag Nagar Nigam v. Pradeshiya Industrial and Investment Corporation, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 960

The 3-judge bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., upheld the validity of Sections 52 (1)(a), Section 55(b)(1) and Section 56 of the UP Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 1975 and held that the levy under Section 52 falls squarely under the ambit of Entry 49 of List II as it is in the nature of a tax and not a fee. The Court also went on to hold that the levy which is imposed under Section 52 is a tax on lands and buildings within the meaning of Entry 49 of List II.

Read More

V. Nagarajan v. SKS Ispat and Power Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 959

Dealing with the question as to when will the clock for calculating the limitation period run for proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that Sections 61(1) and (2) of the IBC consciously omit the requirement of limitation being computed from when the “order is made available to the aggrieved party”, in contradistinction to Section 421(3) of the Companies Act.

“… the omission of the words “from the date on which the order is made available” for the purposes of computation of limitation in Section 61(2) of the IBC, is a consistent signal of the intention of the legislature to nudge the parties to be proactive and facilitate timely resolution.”

Read More

CBI v. Thommandru Hannah Vijayalakshmi, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 923

The 3-judge bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that a Preliminary Enquiry is not mandatory in all cases which involve allegations of corruption. The Court said that in case the information received by the CBI, through a complaint or a “source information”, discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, it can directly register a Regular Case instead of conducting a Preliminary Enquiry, where the officer is satisfied that the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. Holding that the institution of a Preliminary Enquiry in cases of corruption is not made mandatory before the registration of an FIR under the CrPC, Prevention of Corruption Act or even the CBI Manual, the Court said that issuing a direction to that affect will be “tantamount to stepping into the legislative domain.”

Read More

Union of India v. VKC Footsteps India (P) Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 706

The division bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ has upheld the validity of Section 54(3) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (CGST Act) which provides for refund of unutilised input tax credit (ITC) in certain cases.

“A claim to refund is governed by statute. There is no constitutional entitlement to seek a refund.”

Read More

Saregama India Limited v. Next Radio Limited, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 817

The Division Bench comprising of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and B. V. Nagarathna, JJ., set aside the impugned interim order of Madras High Court holding it to be an attempt to re-write Rule 29(4) of the Copyright Rules 2013. The Bench remarked that, “The interim order converts the second proviso into a “routine procedure” instead of an exception (as the High Court has described its direction). This exercise by the High Court amounts to re-writing. Such an exercise of judicial redrafting of legislation or delegated legislation cannot be carried out.”

Read More

Jamia Masjid v. K.V. Rudrappa, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 792

In an important ruling on Res Judicata, the 3-judge bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and Hima Kohli, JJ., has held that the issues that arise in a subsequent suit may either be questions of fact or of law or mixed questions of law and fact.

“Issues that arise in a subsequent suit may either be questions of fact or of law or mixed questions of law and fact. An alteration in the circumstances after the decision in the first suit, will require a trial for the determination of the plea of res judicata if there arises a new fact which has to be proved”.

Read More

Chief Election Commissioner of India v. M.R. Vijayabhaskar, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 364

In the instant matter, the Division Bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, JJ., addressed the larger issues of the freedom of speech and expression of the media, the right to information of citizens and the accountability of the judiciary to the nation, within the core question of “whether a constitutional body (the Election Commission of India) can set up a plea that constitutional status is an immunity from judicial oversight?” The Bench held that there was no substance in the prayer of the EC for restraining the media from reporting on court proceedings.

“This Court stands as a staunch proponent of the freedom of the media to report court proceedings. This we believe is integral to the freedom of speech and expression of those who speak, of those who wish to hear and to be heard and above all, in holding the judiciary accountable to the values which justify its existence as a constitutional institution.

Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 372

The 3-judge bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., clarified that the purpose for taking the suo motu cognisance the “grim” situation of the country hit by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic and non-availability of COVID-19 essentials was not to supplant or to substitute the judicial process which is being conducted in several High Courts across the country under Article 226 of the Constitution.

“The High Courts are well suited to make an assessment of the ground realities which prevail in each State and to find flexible solutions to deal with practical concerns of and the serious hardships faced by the citizens. Hence, there is no reason or justification to interdict the exercise of the jurisdiction of the High Courts in responding to the human problems faced by the citizens in the States and Union Territories and to find solutions with the cooperation of the authorities.”

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Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, (2021) 2 SCC 427

In a case where the Bombay High Court failed to evaluate even prima facie of the most basic issue, thereby refusing bail to the accused, the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, JJ., reminded the High Courts and District Courts of their duty to ensure human liberty. Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud who authored the decision, observed that, “Law should not become a ruse for targeted harassment”.

“Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens, on the cacophony of the media and in the dusty corridors of courts alive to the rule of (and not by) law. Yet, much too often, liberty is a casualty when one of these components is found wanting”.

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State of Gujarat v. Narayan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 949

The bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., formulated “broad, general” principles governing rules for granting parole and furlough, holding that parole and furlough are distinct in nature and that although furlough can be claimed without a reason, the prisoner does not have an absolute legal right to claim furlough.

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Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya, (2020) 7 SCC 469

In this major verdict, the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ., ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service. Holding that the blanket non- consideration of women for criteria or command appointments absent an individuated justification by the Army cannot be sustained in law, the Court said that the Army has provided no justification in discharging its burden as to why women across the board should not be considered for any criteria or command appointments. Command assignments are not automatic for men SSC officers who are granted PC and would not be automatic for women either.

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Rajesh v. State of Haryana, (2021) 1 SCC 118

The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ., summarised the principles relating to conduct of a Test Identification Parade (TIP) and held that

“… the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade.”

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K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Privacy- 9 Judge),(2017) 10 SCC 1

Justice Chandrachud was part of the 9 Judge Bench which unanimously held that, Right to Privacy is a basic fundamental right. The Bench, which also comprised of J.S. Khehar, CJ. and J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.K. Agrawal, R.F. Nariman, A.M. Sapre, S.K. Kaul and S.A. Nazeer, JJ., observed that Right to Privacy forms an intrinsic part of Art. 21 and freedoms guaranteed in Pt. III. It permeates core of Preambular philosophy underlying “liberty” and “dignity” as also human concepts of “life” and “personal liberty” enshrined in Art. 21 and wide ranging freedoms guaranteed under Pt. III, considered essential for a meaningful human existence. Dr. Chandrachud, J., writing for himself and on behalf of J.S. Khehar, CJ, R.K. Agrawal and S.A. Nazeer, JJ, said that Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. He added,

“While the legitimate expectation of privacy may vary from the intimate zone to the private zone and from the private to the public arenas, it is important to underscore that privacy is not lost or surrendered merely because the individual is in a public place. Privacy attaches to the person since it is an essential facet of the dignity of the human being”.

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Did you Know? The Privacy case also marked a unique moment in judicial history of India; as Justice Chandrachud overruled the ADM Jabalpur decision in which his father, Late Justice Y.V. Chandrachud was part of the majority. Terming the judgments rendered by the majority as “seriously flawed”, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that-

H.R. Khanna, J. was clearly right in holding that the recognition of the right to life and personal liberty under the Constitution does not denude the existence of that right, apart from it nor can there be a fatuous assumption that in adopting the Constitution the people of India surrendered the most precious aspect of the human persona, namely, life, liberty and freedom to the State on whose mercy these rights would depend”.

Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1

In this landmark 5 -Judge Bench decision which became instrumental in upholding the rights of the LGBT community, Dipak Misra, CJ., and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., held Section 377 IPC to be unconstitutional insofar it criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. The Bench reversed the 2-Judge Bench decision in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, (2014) 1 SCC 1.

In his concurring opinion, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., while stating that, “It is difficult to right the wrongs of history. But we can certainly set the course for the Future, held that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have a constitutional right to equal citizenship in all its manifestations. Sexual orientation is recognised and protected by the Constitution.

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Joseph Shine v. Union of India,(2019) 3 SCC 39

The 5-Judge Constitution Bench held Section 497 IPC and Section 198 (2) CrPC to be unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15 (1) and 21 of the Constitution. Dipak Misra, C.J., delivered the leading judgment for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar, J. While R.F. Nariman, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., each delivered their separate concurring opinions. Referring to several foreign courts’ judgments and opinions of celebrated authors, Dr. Chandrachud, J. observed that-

“If the ostensible object of the law is to protect the ‘institution of marriage’, it provides no justification for not recognising the agency of a woman whose spouse is engaged in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. She can neither complain nor is the fact that she is in a marital relationship with a man of any significance to the ingredients of the offence. Section 497 is founded on the notion that a woman by entering upon marriage loses, so to speak, her voice, autonomy and agency. Arbitrariness is writ large on the provision”.

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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 Justice Chandrachud 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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Common Cause v. Union of India,(2018) 5 SCC 1

The 5-judge Constitution Bench of Dipak Misra, CJ., and AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right as held in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648 and that ‘passive euthanasia’, both, voluntary and involuntary, is permissible. In his concurring opinion, Dr. Chandrachud, J., observed that,

“While upholding the legality of passive euthanasia (voluntary and non-voluntary) and in recognising the importance of advance directives, the present judgment draws sustenance from the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy. In order to lend assurance to a decision taken by the treating doctor in good faith, this judgment has mandated the setting up of committees to exercise a supervisory role and function”.

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 Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M, (2018) 16 SCC 368

The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ., terming the instant case to be perfect example of, “patriarchal autocracy and possibly self-obsession with the feeling that a female is a chattel”, set aside the verdict of Kerala High Court wherein it had annulled the marriage between two consenting adults, namely, Hadiya and Shafin Jahan. Noting that the Kerala HC erred in its decision, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., in his concurring opinion, came down heavily upon the Kerala HC, stating that,

“The schism between Hadiya and her father may be unfortunate. But it was no part of the jurisdiction of the High Court to decide what it considered to be a “just” way of life or “correct” course of living for Hadiya. She has absolute autonomy over her person. There was no warrant for the High Court to proceed further in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226. The High Court has entered into a domain which is alien to its jurisdiction in a habeas corpus petition. How Hadiya chooses to lead her life is entirely a matter of her choice”.

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Notable Dissents


Beghar Foundation v. K.S. Puttaswamy (Aadhaar Review-5 J.), (2021) 3 SCC 1

Seeking a review of the decision delivered by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Aadhaar-5 Judge), (2019) 1 SCC 1, the 5 Judge Bench of the Court comprising of A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, S. Abdul Nazeer and B.R. Gavai, JJ., with a ratio of 4:1 dismissed this petition, while observing that, change in the law or subsequent decision/judgment of a coordinate or larger Bench by itself cannot be regarded as a ground for review.

However, Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud gave his dissenting opinion on the issue and observed that constitutional principles of consistency and rule of law would require that a decision on the Review Petitions should await the reference to the Larger Bench.

“It is important to draw a distinction with a situation where a judgment attains finality and the view propounded by it is disapproved by a larger bench subsequently”.

K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Aadhaar-5 Judge),(2019) 1 SCC 1

The 5- Judge Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., by a majority of 4:1, upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. Justice Chandrachud gave a 23-point conclusion to the opinion wherein he dissented from the majority. In his opinion, the entire Aadhaar programme, since 2009, suffers from the constitutional infirmities and violations of fundamental rights-

“Creating strong privacy protection laws and instilling safeguards may address or at the very least assuage some of the concerns associated with the Aadhar scheme which severely impairs informational self-determination, individual privacy, dignity and autonomy”.

In a sharp criticism on passing of the Aaadhar Act as Money Bill within the meaning of Art.110 of the Constitution, Dr. Chandrachud, J., observed that-

“There is a constitutional trust which attaches to the empowerment of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to decide whether a legislative measure is a Money Bill. Entrustment of the authority to decide is founded on the expectation that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha will not dilute the existence of a coordinate institution in a bicameral legislature. A constitutional trust has been vested in the office of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. By declaring an ordinary Bill to be a Money Bill, the Speaker limits the role of the Rajya Sabha. This power cannot be unbridled or bereft of judicial scrutiny”. 

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Jindal Stainless Ltd v. State of Haryana,(2017) 12 SCC 1

The 9-judge bench, by a ratio of 7:2, upheld the validity of the entry tax imposed by the States on goods imported from other States. It was held that taxes simpliciter are not within the contemplation of Part XIII of the Constitution of India and that the word ‘Free’ used in Article 301 does not mean “free from taxation”. Delivering a dissenting opinion Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that,

“In order to determine whether a law providing for the imposition of a tax constitutes a restriction on the freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse, the principle that must be applied is whether the direct and inevitable effect or consequence of the law is to impede trade and commerce. The direct and inevitable consequence for the purposes of Part XIII of the Constitution is not the same as an infringement of the fundamental right to carry on an occupation, trade or business under Article 19(1)(g)”. He further observed that, “Article 301 sub-serves the constitutional goal of integrating the nation into an economic entity comprising of a common market for goods and services”.

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

In 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 voters’. Writing the dissenting opinion for himself and Adarsh K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ.; Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that ‘his’ as in Section 123(3) of RP Act does not refer to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the voter. Dr. Chandrachud, J., made a very significant observation in his dissent-

“Our Constitution recognises the broad diversity of India and, as a political document, seeks to foster a sense of inclusion. It seeks to wield a nation where its citizens practise different religions, speak varieties of languages, belong to various castes and are of different communities into the concept of one nationhood. The Indian State has no religion nor does the Constitution recognise any religion as a religion of the State. India is not a theocratic State but a secular nation in which there is a respect for and acceptance of the equality between religions”.

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Romila Thapar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 753 

In the instant case wherein 5 human rights activists were charged and arrested under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the 3 Judge Bench of the Court with a ratio of 2:1 (Dipak Misra CJ., and A.M. Khanwilkar, J.) rejected their prayer seeking appointment of SIT and court-monitored investigation; Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dissented with the majority. He observed that, “Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. Voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes”. Taking the view that a Special Investigating Team should be appointed to pursue the matter, Dr. Chandrachud, J., stated that,

“The purpose of the direction which I propose to give is to ensure that the basic entitlement of every citizen who is faced with allegations of criminal wrongdoing, is that the investigative process should be fair. This is an integral component of the guarantee against arbitrariness under Article 14 and of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. If this Court were not to stand by the principles which we have formulated, we may witness a soulful requiem to liberty”.


[1] Bombay High Court, Hon’ble Former Justices

[2] Supreme Court of India, Chief Justices and Judges

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by PTI, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Law Minister urges the Chief Justice of India and other Senior Judges to ensure a mechanism to monitor quick disposal of rape cases and further adding that women of the country are under pain and distress.

Law Minister stated that there are 704 fast-track courts for heinous offences and others and the government is in the process of setting up 1,123 dedicated courts for POCSO and rape offences.

He also said India’s judiciary, be it the Supreme Court, high courts or subordinate courts, has upheld the principles of the rule of law. But, he stressed, the need to attract more talent in the subordinate judiciary.

All of the above was stated by the Minister during the inauguration of the new building of Rajsthan High Court.


[Source: PTI]

[Image Credits: Hindustan Times]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde sworn-in as the 47th Chief Justice of India today, i.e. 18-11-2019.

As reported by ANI, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were also present for the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Profile

Born on 24.04.1956 at Nagpur, Maharashtra, son of Shri Arvind Shriniwas Bobde. Took B.A. and LL.B. Degrees from Nagpur University.  Enrolled on the Roll of the Bar Council of Maharashtra in 1978.  Practiced Law at the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court with appearances at Bombay before the Principal Seat and before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for over 21 years.  Designated as Senior Advocate in 1998.

  • Elevated to the Bench of the Bombay High Court on 29th March, 2000, as Additional Judge.
  • Sworn in as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on 16th October, 2012.
  • Elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India on 12th April, 2013.
  • Due to retire on 23rd April, 2021

Justices NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud are next in line.

Know thy Judge

Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde will be taking oath as the 47th Chief Justice of India today, succeeding Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who served as the Chief Justice of India for over an year i.e. from October, 3, 2018 till November 17, 2019.

In a recent interview to Indian Express, Justice Bobde was seen reflecting on why he chose to become a judge after being a successful lawyer. He said,

“I made this conscious decision to be a judge because I am a fourth generation lawyer and I have only seen lawyers in my life. I was the only black sheep who moved towards the judiciary in that sense, and I took a conscious decision as I found being at the Bar repetitive in its rewards. I felt I should answer the call.”

Here’s all you need to know about the incoming CJI

  • He was born in Nagpur on April 24, 1956.
  • He completed his law from Dr. Ambekar Law College, Nagpur University in 1978 after which he practiced at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court with appearances before the principal seat at Bombay and before the Supreme Court of India. He became senior Advocate in 1998.
  • He was appointed as an additional judge of Bombay High Court in 2000. He became the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court in October, 2012 and was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India on 12 April 2013.
  • His father Arvind Bobde was advocate-general of Maharashtra in 1980 and 1985.
  • His elder brother late Vinod Arvind Bobde was a senior Supreme Court lawyer who passed away on 11th June, 2016.

Interestingly, though Justice Bobde has been a part of many important judgments, he has never been a part of the minority opinions. He also has authored very few judgments compared to his predecessors. This fact, however, cannot be indicative of Justice Bobde’s contribution to the judicial system as he has been a part some of path-breaking judgments.

Here’s a list of some of the notable judgments by Justice SA Bobde

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A Supreme Court-appointed one-man panel, holding inquiry into allegations of “larger conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, has completed the inquiry and is likely to submit the report by mid September.

Sources said Tuesday that Justice A K Patnaik, a retired Supreme Court judge who was appointed by the Supreme Court, examined advocate Utsav Singh Bains, who had made several allegations including fixing of benches in the Supreme Court.

“The affidavit filed by Bains and other documents were examined by the panel. Now, the panel will complete the report and submit it to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover by second week of September,”

Justice Patnaik examined the lawyer from 11 am to 1 pm and his statement was recorded.

The Court had on April 25 constituted the panel to hold inquiry into the allegations of Bains and had asked the Directors of CBI and Intelligence Bureau (IB) as also the Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with Justice Patnaik as and when required by him.

A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ  had said that on the completion of inquiry, Justice Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again.

The bench, however, clarified that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever. It said,

“this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not.”

On May 6, CJI had got the clean chit from the Supreme Court’s In-House Inquiry Committee which “found no substance” in the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him. The In-House Inquiry Committee was headed by Justice S A Bobde and comprised of two woman judges of the apex court — Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.

While hearing claims made by Bains that there was a “larger conspiracy” to frame the CJI, the Court had said that there is systematic attempt/game against the Supreme Court. It said,

“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. … Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court. … Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,”

(With inputs from PTI)


Also Read: 

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Order on advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi reserved

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Justice AK Patnaik to look into ‘conspiracy’ angle

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has appointed former Supreme Court judge, Justice A. K. Patnaik, to hold an inquiry into the allegations made in the affidavits.to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.

The bench, however, clarified that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever. It said,

“this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not.”

The Court also asked the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to cooperate with the Hon’ble Judge as and when their services are required at any point of time for the purpose of investigation of the matter.

Asking Justice Patnaik to submit a report to this Court on the basis of the inquiry as to the allegations mentioned in the affidavits, the bench said that it will next take up the matter after the report is submitted.

On 24.04.2019, Advocate Bains had submitted an affidavit in Court in a sealed cover. The bench had directed that,

“It is to be kept in a sealed cover in total confidentiality, as it contains highly sensitive information pertaining to the alleged conspiracy, according to him, to frame Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India into a case of sexual harassment.”

Naming Tapan Kumar Chakraborty and Manav Sharma and others in his affidavit, Advocate Bains had mentioned that,

“the disgruntled employees have ganged together in order to frame Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India in the false charge of sexual harassment after their dismissal from their services.”

He has also alleged that they have asserted that they could fix the Bench of the Judges.

The Court had, on 24.04.2019, said,

“Considering the seriousness of the allegations as the system has absolutely no place for such fixers, we cannot leave the matter at that. It becomes our responsibility to keep this Institution clean as well as to ensure that the image of this Institution is not tarnished by such allegations to undertake the probe in the matter.”

[In Re : Matter of great public importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 604, order dated 25.04.2019]


Also read:

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Order on advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi reserved

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Advocate claiming ‘conspiracy’ to appear before SC tomorrow

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has reserved its order on the issue of setting up an inquiry committee to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case. The bench will pronounce its order later in the day.

During the course of the hearing, advocate Utsav Bains, who made the claim about a conspiracy to frame Justice Gogoi, submitted an additional affidavit on the direction of the court. In his affidavit, Bains submitted that he cannot share the names of the “fixers” as “privileged communication under the Advocates Act” cannot be disclosed.

Attorney General KK Venugopal said the claim of privilege under Section 126 of the Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers. He said that a court can ask for any document relevant to a case.
Supporting the Attorney General’s argument, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Rakesh Khanna submitted that there is “no sacrosanct right” to withhold any document. He said that the court has the power to seek production of documents over which privilege
is claimed.

“Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there,”

Mishra, J said,

“There is systematic attempt/game, so many things have not come out. The truth has not come out. These things are in the air for a long time and people of the country must know the truth. There has been a systemic attack against the Supreme Court,”

“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. … Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court. … Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,”

Senior advocate Indira Jaising told the court that the inquiry headed by Justice S A Bobde into the sexual harassment charge and the case before the court should be conducted together.

Mishra, J, however, clarified that that the outcome of this inquiry into the conspiracy charge will not affect that inquiry into the sexual harassment charge. He remarked,

“Three to five per cent lawyers are giving a bad name to this institution. Don’t provoke us any further, we are worried as judges. We will see
how it can be an independent inquiry.”

On Tuesday, a three-member committee of the court led by Justice Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by a dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi. The other two members of the committee are Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana is the third in the seniority list in the Supreme court and will the Chief Justice after the retirement of Justice Bobde.

(Source: ANI)


Also read:

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Advocate claiming ‘conspiracy’ to appear before SC tomorrow

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way