Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a reference dealing with the interpretation of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872 that deals with admissibility of electronic records, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record, as correctly held in by the 3-judge bench in Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer, (2014) 10 SCC 473, and incorrectly “clarified” by a division bench in Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 801. The Court further clarified that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced.

The Court was hearing the reference from the July 26, 2019 order where, after quoting Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer, (2014) 10 SCC 473 (a three Judge Bench decision of this Court), it was found that a Division Bench judgment in Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 801 may need reconsideration by a Bench of a larger strength. The Division bench, in the Shafhi Mohammad judgment, had “clarified” that the requirement of a certificate under Section 64B(4), being procedural, can be relaxed by the Court wherever the interest of justice so justifies, and one circumstance in which the interest of justice so justifies would be where the electronic device is produced by a party who is not in possession of such device, as a result of which such party would not be in a position to secure the requisite certificate.

The 3-judge bench in the present case, holding the Shafhi Mohammad judgment to be incorrect said,

“the major premise of Shafhi Mohammad (supra) that such certificate cannot be secured by persons who are not in possession of an electronic device is wholly incorrect. An application can always be made to a Judge for production of such a certificate from the requisite person under Section 65B(4) in cases in which such person refuses to give it.”

Clarification on Anvar P.V. case:

“… if an electronic record as such is used as primary evidence under Section 62 of the Evidence Act, the same is admissible in evidence without compliance with the conditions in Section 65-B of the Evidence Act.”

The Court also clarified the confusion over the aforementioned sentence in the Anvar P.V. Case and held that the last sentence in Anvar P.V. case which reads as “…if an electronic record as such is used as primary evidence under Section 62 of the Evidence Act…” is to be read without the words “under Section 62 of the Evidence Act,…”

It said,

The clarification referred to above is that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced. This can be done by the owner of a laptop computer, computer tablet or even a mobile phone, by stepping into the witness box and proving that the concerned device, on which the original information is first stored, is owned and/or operated by him. In cases where the “computer” happens to be a part of a “computer system” or “computer network” and it becomes impossible to physically bring such system or network to the Court, then the only means of providing information contained in such electronic record can be in accordance with Section 65B(1), together with the requisite certificate under Section 65B(4).”

Stage of furnishing the certificate to the Court:

The Court also took note of the fact that Section 65B does not speak of the stage at which such certificate must be furnished to the Court, and said that in cases where such certificate could be procured by the person seeking to rely upon an electronic record, such certificate must accompany the electronic record when the same is produced in evidence. However, in cases where either a defective certificate is given, or in cases where such certificate has been demanded and is not given by the concerned person, the Judge conducting the trial must summon the person/persons referred to in Section 65B(4) of the Evidence Act, and require that such certificate be given by such person/persons. This, the trial Judge ought to do when the electronic record is produced in evidence before him without the requisite certificate in the circumstances aforementioned. This is, of course, subject to discretion being exercised in civil cases in accordance with law, and in accordance with the requirements of justice on the facts of each case.

“When it comes to criminal trials, it is important to keep in mind the general principle that the accused must be supplied all documents that the prosecution seeks to rely upon before commencement of the trial, under the relevant sections of the CrPC.”

General Directions to Cellular companies and internet service providers:

The bench issued general directions to cellular companies and internet service providers to maintain CDRs and other relevant records for the concerned period (in tune with Section 39 of the Evidence Act) in a segregated and secure manner if a particular CDR or other record is seized during investigation in the said period. Concerned parties can then summon such records at the stage of defence evidence, or in the event such data is required to cross-examine a particular witness. This direction shall be applied, in criminal trials, till appropriate directions are issued under relevant terms of the applicable licenses, or under Section 67C of the Information Technology Act.

The Court directed that the aforementioned general directions shall hereafter be followed by courts that deal with electronic evidence, to ensure their preservation, and production of certificate at the appropriate stage. These directions shall apply in all proceedings, till rules and directions under Section 67C of the Information Technology Act and data retention conditions are formulated for compliance by telecom and internet service providers.

Framing of rules and directions under Section 67C of Informational Technology Act:

The Court directed that appropriate rules and directions should be framed in exercise of the Information Technology Act, by exercising powers such as in Section 67C, and also framing suitable rules for the retention of data involved in trial of offences, their segregation, rules of chain of custody, stamping and record maintenance, for the entire duration of trials and appeals, and also in regard to preservation of the meta data to avoid corruption. Likewise, appropriate rules for preservation, retrieval and production of electronic record, should be framed as indicated earlier, after considering the report of the Committee constituted by the Chief Justice’s Conference in April, 2016.

[Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 571  , decided on 14.07.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court (Constitution Benches)

Supreme Court: The 5-judge Constitution bench of NV Ramana, SK Kaul, R. Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ has refused to refer the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 to a larger bench.

The Court was hearing the limited issue regarding the reference being made to a larger bench in the light of the fact that in the case of Prem Nath Kaul v State of Jammu and Kashmir, after considering the various issues, held that Article 370 was temporary in nature, however, the subsequent judgment of Sampat Prakash v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, reversed the aforesaid position, recognizing Article 370 as a permanent provision giving perennial power to the President to regulate the relationship between the Union and the State.

Holding that there is no conflict between the judgments in the Prem Nath Kaul case and the Sampat Prakash case, the bench said that judgments cannot be interpreted in a vacuum, separate from their facts and context. Observations made in a judgment cannot be selectively picked in order to give them a particular meaning. It noted,

“the Constitution Bench in the Prem Nath Kaul case did not discuss the continuation or cessation of the operation of Article 370 of the Constitution after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of the State. This was not an issue in question before the Court, unlike in the Sampat Prakash case where the contention was specifically made before, and refuted by, the Court. This Court sees no reason to read into the Prem Nath Kaul case an interpretation which results in it being in conflict with the subsequent judgments of this Court, particularly when an ordinary reading of the judgment does not result in such an interpretation.”

The bench, further, explained that the Court, in the Prem Nath Kaul case, had to determine the legislative competence of the Yuvaraj, in passing a particular enactment. The enactment was passed during the interregnum period, before the formulation of the Constitution of State of Jammu and Kashmir, but after coming into force of the Constitution of India. The observations made by the Constitution Bench in this case, regarding the importance given to the decision of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu and Kashmir needs to be read in the light of these facts.

“the framework of Article 370(2) of the Indian Constitution was such that any decision taken by the State Government, which was not an elected body but the Maharaja of the State acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers which was in office by virtue of the Maharaja’s proclamation dated March 5, 1948, prior to the sitting of the Constituent Assembly of the State, would have to be placed before the Constituent Assembly, for its decision.”

Explaining the rationale behind such framework, the Court said that as the task of the Constituent Assembly was to further clarify the scope and ambit of the constitutional relationship between the Union of India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, on which the State Government as defined under Article 370 might have already taken some decisions, before the convening of the Constituent Assembly, which the Constituent Assembly in its wisdom, might ultimately not agree with.

“Hence, the Court in the case of Prem Nath Kaul (supra) indicated that the Constituent Assembly’s decision under Article 370(2) was final. This finality has to be read as being limited to those decisions taken by the State Government under Article 370 prior to the convening of the Constituent Assembly  of the State, in line with the language of Article 370(2).”

The Court, hence, held that there are no contrary observations made in the Sampat Prakash case to that of Prem Nath Kaul Case, accordingly, the case of Sampat Prakash Case is not per incuriam.

Evolution of Article 370

  • Under the draft Constitution, Article 370 of the Constitution was draft Article 306A, which was introduced in the Constituent Assembly on 17.10.1947.
  • Constitution Order 44 was promulgated under Article 370(3) of the Constitution, modifying Article 370 of the Constitution by amending the Explanation in Clause 1 of Article 370.
  • the President in exercise of the power conferred upon him by clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution, with the concurrence of the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, issued the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Second Amendment Order, 1965, which further brought about change through amendment to Article 367 as applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • On August 5, 2019, two Constitution Orders were issued by the President in exercise of his power under Article 370. These Constitution Orders made the Constitution of India applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety, like other States in India.

[Dr. Shah Faesal v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 263, decided on 02.03.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court (Constitution Benches)

Supreme Court: The 9-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ, hearing the Sabarimala reference has held that the Supreme Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction. The bench had, on February 6, 2020, reserved it’s order on the said legal issue while hearing the Sabarimala reference after renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected.

The Court also framed 7 seven questions that are to be decided by the 9-judge bench in the Sabarimala reference and has proposed a day-to-day hearing in the matter from February 17, 2020. The issues to be heard relate to:

  • What is the scope and ambit of right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution of India?
  •  What is the inter-play between the rights of persons under Article 25 of the Constitution of India and rights of religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution of India?
  • Whether the rights of a religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution of India are subject to other provisions of Part III of the Constitution of India apart from public order, morality and health?
  • What is the scope and extent of the word ‘morality’ under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India and whether it is meant to include Constitutional morality?
  • What is the scope and extent of judicial review with regard to a religious practice as referred to in Article 25 of the Constitution of India?
  • What is the meaning of expression “Sections of Hindus” occurring in Article 25 (2) (b) of the Constitution of India?
  • Whether a person not belonging to a religious denomination or religious group can question a practice of that religious denomination or religious group by filing a PIL?

Earlier, CJI Bobde had said that the court will examine the matter and hear the scope of judicial review on the point of religious faith and women’s rights. He had fixed a 10-day period for concluding the hearing on the petition seeking women’s entry into Sabarimala temple, mosques, and Parsi Agiyari.
The Court had on January 13 said that it will only hear the questions referred to in the review order passed by it in November last year in the Sabarimala temple case, which allowed women and girls of all age groups to visit the shrine in Kerala. The bench had asked counsels to consult each other and decide which issue is to be argued by whom as done during Ayodhya hearing. The Counsels were, however, unabale to reach a consensus on the issues to be argued. 

The Court had in November last year, suggested that the Sabarimala issue along with other related issues, be heard by a larger bench of at least 7-judges.

The court is hearing a clutch of petitions seeking reconsideration of its September 2018 judgment that lifted the bar on menstruating women from worshipping in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The Court in a landmark 4:1 ruling had set aside decades-old restrictions on the entry of women of menstruating age inside the temple.
The verdict had sparked a series of protests across the state, which eventually led to the filing of several petitions seeking review of the top court’s order challenging the authority of the court to intervene in a belief of the people.

[Kantaru Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Assn, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 158 , decided on 10.02.2020]

Also read:Sabarimala Review Petitions Not Referred To A Larger Bench, But Kept Pending. Here’s What Supreme Court Has Actually Held

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 9-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, M M Shantanagoudar, S A Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ, hearing the Sabarimala reference has reserved it’s order on the legal issue of whether the Supreme Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction. The bench will pronounce the order on February 10, 2020 and will accord a day-to-day hearing from February 12, 2020 on issues relating to discrimination against women at various places of worship including the Sabarimala temple.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the Court that the 5-judge bench in Kantaru Rajeevaru v. India Young Lawyers’ Association, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1461 was right in referring the questions of law to the larger bench. He said,

“As custodian of fundamental rights, it was the duty of the court to lay down an authoritative pronouncement on these questions of law.”

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman opposed the submission and said that only the President can ask questions of national importance, not the court.

Earlier, the bench had agreed to hear the argument on the issue whether the court can refer questions of law to a larger bench on a review petition after renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected.

In our report dated 14.11.2019, we had pointed out that the order passed by the 5-judge bench in Kantaru Rajeevaru v. India Young Lawyers’ Association, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1461 was debatable as involved a reference to a larger bench in a review petition. We wrote,

“If it is believed that a reference has indeed been made in the majority verdict, it will again be debatable on the ground that a reference cannot be made in a review petition. A judgment of the Supreme Court of is final, and a review of such judgment is an exception. Whatever the Court decides in a Review Petition become the law. So will a reference of a review petition to a larger bench mean creation of a new forum? Too many loose ends have been left in the majority verdict that the Court will have to tie up sooner or later.”

The bench is hearing matters relating to discrimination against women in various religions including Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, mosques, the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community and Parsi women married to non-Parsi men being barred from its holy fire temple.

Overlapping or related issues pending before the Supreme Court

Earlier, CJI Bobde had said that the court will examine the matter and hear the scope of judicial review on the point of religious faith and women’s rights. He had fixed a 10-day period for concluding the hearing on the petition seeking women’s entry into Sabarimala temple, mosques, and Parsi Agiyari.
The Court had on January 13 said that it will only hear the questions referred to in the review order passed by it in November last year in the Sabarimala temple case, which allowed women and girls of all age groups to visit the shrine in Kerala. The bench had asked counsels to consult each other and decide which issue is to be argued by whom as done during Ayodhya hearing.

The Court had in November last year, suggested that the Sabarimala issue along with other related issues, be heard by a larger bench of at least 7-judges.

The court is hearing a clutch of petitions seeking reconsideration of its September 2018 judgment that lifted the bar on menstruating women from worshipping in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The Court in a landmark 4:1 ruling had set aside decades-old restrictions on the entry of women of menstruating age inside the temple.
The verdict had sparked a series of protests across the state, which eventually led to the filing of several petitions seeking review of the top court’s order challenging the authority of the court to intervene in a belief of the people.

(With inputs from News18)


Also read:

Sabarimala Review Petitions Not Referred To A Larger Bench, But Kept Pending. Here’s What Supreme Court Has Actually Held

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A nine-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will hear on February 6 argument on the issue whether the court can refer questions of law to a larger bench on a review petition after renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected.

CJI asked,

“Are you saying that when hearing the review of one judgment [Sabarimala in this case], we cannot refer such larger questions to a larger Bench?”

To which Mr. Nariman responded,

“Yes, that is absolutely right. It will be outside your jurisdiction to do that,”

Finding a formidable point in Mr. Nariman’s arguments, CJI said that the nine-judge Bench would not “abort the hearing” now but the objections raised by Mr. Nariman would be framed as an “issue” to be decided by the Bench.

In our report dated 14.11.2019, we had pointed out that the order passed by the 5-judge bench in Kantaru Rajeevaru v. India Young Lawyers’ Association, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1461 was debatable as involved a reference to a larger bench in a review petition. We wrote,

“If it is believed that a reference has indeed been made in the majority verdict, it will again be debatable on the ground that a reference cannot be made in a review petition. A judgment of the Supreme Court of is final, and a review of such judgment is an exception. Whatever the Court decides in a Review Petition become the law. So will a reference of a review petition to a larger bench mean creation of a new forum? Too many loose ends have been left in the majority verdict that the Court will have to tie up sooner or later.”

The bench is hearing matters relating to discrimination against women in various religions including Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, mosques, the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community and Parsi women married to non-Parsi men being barred from its holy fire temple.

Overlapping or related issues pending before the Supreme Court

Earlier, CJI Bobde had said that the court will examine the matter and hear the scope of judicial review on the point of religious faith and women’s rights. He had fixed a 10-day period for concluding the hearing on the petition seeking women’s entry into Sabarimala temple, mosques, and Parsi Agiyari.
The Court had on January 13 said that it will only hear the questions referred to in the review order passed by it in November last year in the Sabarimala temple case, which allowed women and girls of all age groups to visit the shrine in Kerala. The bench had asked counsels to consult each other and decide which issue is to be argued by whom as done during Ayodhya hearing.

The Court had in November last year, suggested that the Sabarimala issue along with other related issues, be heard by a larger bench of at least 7-judges.

The court is hearing a clutch of petitions seeking reconsideration of its September 2018 judgment that lifted the bar on menstruating women from worshipping in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The Court in a landmark 4:1 ruling had set aside decades-old restrictions on the entry of women of menstruating age inside the temple.
The verdict had sparked a series of protests across the state, which eventually led to the filing of several petitions seeking review of the top court’s order challenging the authority of the court to intervene in a belief of the people.


Also read:

Sabarimala Review Petitions Not Referred To A Larger Bench, But Kept Pending. Here’s What Supreme Court Has Actually Held

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial piece of legislation enacted to give solace to the victims of the motor accident who suffer bodily injury or die untimely.”

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of A.M. Sapre and Indu Malhotra, JJ. allowed the present appeal filed against the decision of Rajasthan High Court whereby the appeal of the claimants was dismissed and award  by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Jaipur) was affirmed.

In the present case, the deceased was travelling in a passenger bus to a place called ‘Chomu’ and when the bus reached Chomu, a truck which was going towards Jaipur came on a high speed and dashed against the bus. Deceased sustained grevious injuries resulting in instant death which led to the filing of an FIR. Further, the incident gave rise to initiation of criminal and civil proceedings.

Proceeding were initiated before the civil court, filed by the appellants (claimants) against the Insurance Company (Respondent 1), driver (Respondent 2) and owner of the offending truck (Respondent 3) under Section 166 Motor Vehicles Act before MACT claiming to award reasonable compensation for loss on account of untimely death of the deceased, their only bread earner. Appellants along with the claim petition had filed all the requisite documents against the driver. Tribunal had dismissed the appellants claim petition stating that claimants failed to prove the accident for want of evidence and the one adduced was not exhibited and hence was of no use. Aggrieved by the same, the claimants approached the Rajasthan High Court wherein their appeal was dismissed and therefore filing of the present appeal in Supreme Court arose.

The Bench gave a seven pointer reasoning on the issue by adding that the High Court while dismissing the appeal simply affirmed the award of the Tribunal without assigning any reason. In Court’s opinion, “ non-exhibition of the said document was nothing but a procedural lapse, which could not be made basis to reject the claim petition.” Thus, the Court while stating that “if the Court did not exhibit the documents despite the appellants referring them at the time of recording evidence then in such event, the appellants cannot be denied of their right to claim compensation on such ground.” Appellants were held entitled to claim Rs 11,27,920 by way of compensation from the respondents jointly and severally. [Vimla Devi v. National Insurance Co. Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2458, decided on 16-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: While answering the criminal reference in a case falling under the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’, a Division Bench comprising of Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh, JJ. confirmed the death sentence awarded to the respondent in Sessions trial.

The respondent was convicted under Section 302 IPC for murder and was sentenced to capital punishment. He was further convicted and sentenced under Sections 436, 392 and 411 IPC. The respondent was working as a Mechanic in the motorcycle showroom of one Sanjay Kumar. One Lalita also worked there as a Supervisor. Lalita complained to Sanjay about the appellant, and he was removed from the job. The appellant developed a grudge against them and on a fateful day, the respondent murdered Sanjay by giving him knife blows; chased Lalita and did away with her life; threatened the onlookers; and before escaping, put fire to the showroom. The respondent was tried, convicted and sentenced by the Sessions Court as mentioned above. Learned Additional Sessions Judge made a reference to the High Court for confirmation of death sentence awarded to the respondent.

The High Court considered the record including depositions of the witnesses. The respondent gave a knife blow on the neck of Sanjay and inflicted as many as 10 injuries on Lalita. The medical expert who conducted post-mortem examination deposed that the deceased died due to shock and hemorrhage as a result of excessive bleeding. The Court considered it established that the respondent murdered the deceased and set the showroom ablaze in presence of the witnesses whose testimony could not be assailed. He did not show any repentance, instead threatened the onlookers with dire consequences in case they tried to apprehend him. The Court held that the case fell in the category of ‘rarest of rare’ cases. In the given circumstances, the death sentence awarded to the respondent was confirmed. [State v. Sehzaad Ali, 2018 SCC OnLine Utt 522, dated 01-06-2018]