Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, JJ referred the matter relating to framing of guidelines for designation of practicing Advocates as designated Senior Advocate(s) in the Supreme Court to a larger bench.

Noticing that the decision of this Court on the said issues may have effect on the process and procedure of designation of Senior Advocate(s) by the High Courts in the country, apart from the Supreme Court of India, the Court said that it is necessary to know the precise guidelines that are in force in different High Courts for designation of Senior Advocates. [Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO(S). 454/2015, order dated 22.03.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the light of the violence in the States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka because of an order passed by this Court on 12.09.2016, the Court directed that the guidelines issued in Destruction of Public and Private Properties In Re v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2009) 5 SCC 212, are to be complied with.

The bench of Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit, JJ said that neither any “bandh” nor any agitation can take place when court has passed an order. It is to be complied with and, in any case, if there is difficulty, the concerned parties can approach the court. The people cannot become law unto themselves and, therefore, it is obligatory on the part of the authorities of both the States, namely, the State of Karnataka and the State of Tamil Nadu to prevent such actions.

The Court asked the Advocate-on-Record for the petitioner to serve a copy of this petition on the Standing Counsel for both the States and listed the matter along with the civil appeal relating to the disputes between the parties which is to be taken up on 20.09.2016.

By the order dated 12.09.2016, the Court had modified it’s earlier order dated 05.09.2016 directing the release of 15,000 cusecs of water by the State of Karnataka and had asked the State of Karnataka to release 12, 000 cusecs till 20.09.2016. The court had taken up the matter urgently due to the spontaneous agitations in the various parts of Karnataka in the Cauvery basis which has paralysed the normal life besides destroying the public and private properties. [P. Sivakumar v. Secretary, Ministry of Home, Govt. of Karnataka, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 942, decided on 15.09.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter highlighting the important issues concerning the entire range of conduct and management of sterilization procedures wherein women and occasionally men are sterilized in camps or in accredited centres, the Court directed the Union of India to ensure strict adherence to the guidelines and standard operating procedures in the various manuals issued by it. The Sterilization program is not only a Public Health issue but a national campaign for Population Control and Family Planning. The Court said that the Union of India has overarching responsibility for the success of the campaign and it cannot shift the burden of implementation entirely on the State Governments and Union Territories on the ground that it is only a public health issue.

Expressing sadness at the fact that the National Health Policy, 2015 has not yet been finalized despite the passage of more than one and a half years, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit, JJ directed the Union of India to take a decision on or before 31st December, 2016 on whether it would like to frame a National Health Policy or not. In case the Union of India thinks it worthwhile to have a National Health Policy, it should take steps to announce it at the earliest and keep issues of gender equity in mind as well.

In order to ensure that the proposed patient has given an informed consent for undergoing the sterilization procedure and not an incentivized consent, the Court said that the contents of the checklist prepared pursuant to the directions given in Ramakant Rai (I) v. Union of India, (2009) 16 SCC 565, should be explained to the proposed patient in a language that he or she understands and the proposed patient should also be explained the impact and consequences of the sterilization procedure. The said checklist should be prepared in the local language of the concerned State. Also, sufficient breathing time of about an hour or so should be given to a proposed patient so that in the event he or she has a second thought, time is available for a change of mind

Considering that as many as 363 deaths have taken place due to sterilization procedures during 2010-2013, the Annual Report prepared by the Quality Assurance Committee must indicate the details of all inquiries held and remedial steps taken as there is a need for transparency coupled with accountability and the death of a patient should not be treated as a one-off aberration.

The Court also directed the Union of India to persuade the State Governments to halt the system of holding sterilization camps as has been done by at least four States across the country. In any event, the Union of India should adhere to its view that sterilization camps will be stopped within a period of three years. This will necessitate simultaneous strengthening of the Primary Health Care centres across the country both in terms of infrastructure and otherwise so that health care is made available to all persons.

Pained by the casual approach of certain States, the Court directed the Registry of this Court to transmit a copy of this judgment to the Registrar General of the High Court in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala for being placed before the Chief Justice of the High Court and requested the Chief Justice to initiate a suo moto public interest petition to consider the allegations made in respect of the sterilization camp(s) held in these States (the allegations not having been specifically denied) and any other similar laxity or unfortunate mishap that might be brought to the notice of the Court and pass appropriate orders thereon. [Devika Biswas v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 936, decided on 14.09.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter relating to the Cauvery Water Disputes, the bench of Dipak Misra and Uday U. Lalit, JJ gave the below mentioned directions:

(a) The State of Tamil Nadu, shall approach the Supervisory Committee within three days from the date of this order and the response, if any, by the State of Karnataka be filed within three days therefrom.

(b) The Supervisory Committee shall pass appropriate direction in this regard within four days from the date of filing of the reference keeping in view the language employed in the final order of the Tribunal. Be it clarified, the Supervisory Committee is bound by the language used in the order passed by the Tribunal.

(c) As far as the sustenance of the crops and interest of the farmers in the State of Tamil Nadu is concerned, instead of 10,000¹ cusecs of water per day, 15,000¹ cusecs of water per day be released at Biligundulu by the State of Karnataka for ten days.

(d) The State of Tamil Nadu is also directed to release water proportionately to the Union Territory of Puducherry.

It was alleged by the State of Tamil Nadu that the State of Karnataka has not been complying with the directions given by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in the final order and there has been flagrant violation of the same. It was also urged that if the water is not released by the State of Karnataka, the ‘samba’ crops will be absolutely damaged, which will lead to an unacceptable plight to be faced by the farmers of the State of Tamil Nadu. [State of Tamil Nadu v. State of Karnataka, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 902, order dated 05.09.2016]

¹Order dated 05.09.2016 corrected vide State of T.N. v. State of Karnataka, I.A. No.10 of 2016 in Civil Appeal No.2456 of 2007 decided on 06.09.2016

Case BriefsSupreme CourtTaxation

Supreme Court: Deciding the question that whether the Deputy Director of Income Tax was competent to make complaint regarding commission of offence under Sections 109/191/193/196/200/420/120B/34 IPC against the appellants for making false statements denying of having any locker either in individual names or jointly in any bank, the Court, answered in negative and held that the Deputy Director of Income Tax cannot be construed to be an authority to whom appeal would ordinarily lie from the decisions/orders of the I.T.Os. involved in the search proceedings in the case in hand so as to empower him to lodge the complaint in view of the restrictive preconditions imposed by Section 195 CrPC.

Taking note of the provisions under the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Bench of P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy, JJ said that though under Section 116 of the IT Act, under clause (d) thereof, Deputy Director of Income Tax, Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax and Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) have been bracketed together, it is only the Deputy Commissioner (Appeals), as is apparent from Section 246(1) of IT Act, who has been conferred with the appellate jurisdiction to entertain appeals, albeit from specified orders passed by an assessing officer as mentioned in that sub-section. The Deputy Director of Income Tax in particular, has not been designated to be the appellate authority or forum from such orders or any other order of the assessing officer.

It was further explained that the decisive and peremptory prescription of Section 195(4) of the Code is not merely the levels of the rank inter se but the recognised appellate jurisdiction ordinarily exercised by the authority or the forum concerned for a complaint to be validly lodged by it, if in a given fact situation, the initiation of prosecution is sought to be occasioned not by the court in the proceedings before which the contemplated offence(s) had been committed, but by a court to which ordinarily appeals therefrom would lie. [Babita Lila v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 890, decided on 31.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Upholding the Constitutional validity of the provisions of Rule 3 and Rule 3-A of Chapter XXIV of the Allahabad High Court Rules, 1952, the Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N.V. Ramana, JJ held that keeping in mind the administration of justice and regulating the Court proceedings and right to practice and right to appear before the high Courts and Subordinate Courts, power is conferred on the High Courts, to frame rules.

It was alleged by the appellant that the Rules put an unreasonable restriction on his right to practice as an Advocate and are also ultra vires the provisions of Section 30 of the Advocates Act, 1961 that provides for the right to practice of advocates in any Court. The impugned Rules put bar on the Advocate who is not on the Roll of Advocate or the Bar Council of the State to appear, act or plead before the High Court of Allahabad.

Stating that the right under Section 30 of the 1961 Act is subject to Section 34 which provides for power of the High Court to make rules, the Court held that the Act does not confer any absolute right to practice. The right can be regulated by the High Courts by prescribing conditions. If High Court keeping in mind, several relevant factors like the purity in administration of justice, the interest of the litigant public and easy availability of the advocate to assist the court for proper adjudication of the dispute pending before it or expeditious disposal of such proceedings or for any other valid or good reasons which High Court considered just and proper frames such rules. It was, hence, held that that Rules 3 and 3A of the Allahabad High Court Rules, 1952 are perfectly valid and legal and do not violate the right of the appellant under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. [Jamshed Ansari v. High Court of Judicature at Allahabad2016 SCC OnLine SC 868,  decided on 26.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the accused persons has sought for recall of the witnesses under Section 311 read with Section 231(2) CrPC on the ground of illness of the counsel, the Bench of Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit, JJ held that recalling of witnesses as envisaged under the said statutory provision on the grounds that accused persons are in custody, the prosecution was allowed to recall some of its witnesses earlier, the counsel was ill and magnanimity commands fairness should be shown, are not acceptable in the obtaining factual matrix. considering the fact that a number of counsels were engaged by the defence, the Court held that in such a situation recalling of witnesses indubitably cannot form the foundation. If it is accepted as a ground, there would be possibility of a retrial. There may be an occasion when such a ground may weigh with the court, but definitely the instant case does not arouse the judicial conscience within the established norms of Section 311 CrPC for exercise of such jurisdiction.

Referring to a series of decisions where it was held that a liberal approach needs to be followed while allowing the recall of witnessed, the Court said that the decisions which have used the words that the court should be magnanimous, needless to give special emphasis, did not mean to convey individual generosity or magnanimity which is founded on any kind of fanciful notion. It has to be applied on the basis of judicially established and accepted principles. The approach may be liberal but that does not necessarily mean “the liberal approach” shall be the rule and all other parameters shall become exceptions. Recall of some witnesses by the prosecution at one point of time, can never be ground to entertain a petition by the defence though no acceptable ground is made out. It is not an arithmetical distribution. This kind of reasoning can be dangerous.

The Court further said that a criminal trial does not singularly centres around the accused. In it there is involvement of the prosecution, the victim and the victim represents the collective. The cry of the collective may not be uttered in decibels which is physically audible in the court premises, but the Court has to remain sensitive to such silent cries and the agonies, for the society seeks justice. Therefore, a balance has to be struck.

In the case at hand, the prosecution had examined all the witnesses. The statements of all the accused persons, i.e. 148 in number, had been recorded under Section 313 CrPC and the defence had examined 15 witnesses. Taking note of these facts, the Court said that the foundation for recall, as is evincible from the applications filed, does not even remotely make out a case that such recalling is necessary for just decision of the case or to arrive at the truth. [State of Haryana v. Ram Mehar2016 SCC OnLine SC 857, decided on 24.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case relating to medical negligence where it was contended that the treating physician should have been well advised to ask for a Lever Function Tests (LFT) as that was absolutely necessary but the same was not done which amounted to gross negligence, the petitioner urged that neither the Union of India nor the Medical Council of India nor the State Governments are prescribing any guidelines for treatment of the patients in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) or Critical Care Units (CCU) and also that there is no proper care at the stage of operation or post-operational stage.

Considering the above-mentioned contention and the fact that the medical negligence cases are increasing especially in private hospitals, the bench of Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit, JJ issued notice to the Union of India, the Medical Council of India and to all the State Governments represented by the Health Secretaries and asked them to submit their reply within 6 weeks from the date of this order. [Asit Baran Mondal v. Rita Sinha, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 827, Order dated 17.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme CourtUniversities and Educational Institutions

Supreme Court: In a Writ Petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India praying for a declaration that the third Proviso to Regulation 9(2) of the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, is unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, the 3-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJI and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ held that the procedure evolved in Regulation 9 in general and the proviso to Clause (IV) in particular is just, proper and reasonable and also fulfill the test of Article 14 of the Constitution, being in larger public interest.

The writ petitioners, who claimed to be members of the Provincial Medical Health Services in the State of Uttar Pradesh, had contended that they should also be considered for admission in Post Graduate Degree Courses against 30% quota for in-service candidates. However, the 30% quota was reserved only for the in-service candidates who had worked in remote and difficult areas; and not for the in-service Medical Officers generally. It was the case of the petitioners that there is neither any committee set up nor guidelines made as to which area can be notified as remote and difficult area and that the power vested in the State is an un-canalized power and disregards the settled position that for consideration after the graduate level, merit should be the sole criteria.

Considering the fact that not even one instance has been brought forward to show that some areas which are not remote or difficult areas has been so notified, the Court rejected the said contention and held that the mere hypothesis that the State Government may take an improper decision whilst notifying the area as remote and difficult, cannot be the basis to hold that Regulation 9 and in particular proviso to Clause IV is unreasonable.

It was noticed that the State Governments across the country are not in a position to provide health care facilities in remote and difficult areas in the State for want of Doctors. The provision in the form of granting weightage of marks, therefore, was to give incentive to the in-service candidates and to attract more graduates to join as Medical Officers in the State Health Care Sector as in order to determine the academic merit of candidates, merely securing high marks in the NEET is not enough. The academic merit of the candidate must also reckon the services rendered for the common or public good. It was further stated that having served in rural and difficult areas of the State for one year or above, the incumbent having sacrificed his career by rendering services for providing health care facilities in rural areas, deserve incentive marks to be reckoned for determining merit. [State of U.P. v. Dr. Dinesh Singh Chauhan, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 820, decided on 16.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Exploring the true purport of Art. 233(2) of the Constitution of India where the question to be decided was that whether the bar under Article 233(2) is only for the appointment or even for the participation in the selection process, the bench of J. Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre, JJ held that when the framers of the Constitution have used the word “appointed” in clause (2) of Article 233 for determining the eligibility of a person with reference to his service then it is not possible to read the word “selection” or “recruitment” in its place.

Article 233(1)2 stipulates that appointment of District Judges be made by the Governor of the State in consultation with the High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to such State. However, Article 233(2)3 declares that only a person not already in the service of either the Union or of the State shall be eligible to be appointed as District Judges. Stating that there lies a subtle distinction between the words “selection” and “appointment” in service jurisprudence, the Court held that every person who is successful in the selection process undertaken by the State for the purpose of filling up of certain posts under the State does not acquire any right to be appointed automatically.

It was further explained that the text of Article 233(2) only prohibits the appointment of a person as a District Judge, if such person is already in the service of either the Union or the State. It does not prohibit the consideration of the candidature of a person who is in the service of the Union or the State. A person who is in the service of either of the Union or the State would still have the option, if selected to join the service as a District Judge or continue with his existing employment. Compelling a person to resign his job even for the purpose of assessing his suitability for appointment as a District Judge is not permitted either by the text of Art. 233(2) nor contemplated under the scheme of the constitution as it would not serve any constitutionally desirable purpose. [Vijay Kumar Mishra v. High Court of Judicature at Patna, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 802, decided on 09.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the revision petition filed against the order directing LIC to pay full back wages to it’s employees, the Court was of the opinion that though the aspect of financial hardship would not be a sufficient ground to warrant interference in a case, but keeping in view the fact that LIC is a statutory Corporation operating in the interest of the public at large, on the limited point of payment of full back wages to the temporary and badli workers who are entitled for regularisation, the matter could be revisited.

The Court noticed that the temporary and badli workers of LIC, who are entitled for regularisation as permanent workmen in terms of the impugned judgment and order dated 18.03.2015 passed by this Court, are held to be entitled to full back wages as well. However, keeping in mind the immense financial burden this would cause to LIC, the Court modified the relief only with regard to the back wages payable and therefore, we award 50% of the back wages with consequential benefits. It was directed that the back wages must be calculated on the basis of the gross salary of the workmen, applicable as on the date as per the periodical revisions of pay scale. The Court said that the periodic revisions of pay of basic salary, as submitted by LIC, along with other component figures comprising the gross salary including Dearness Allowance, House Rent Allowance etc. etc., as applicable, must be accounted for while computing the amount due to the workmen towards the back wages.

Considering the fact that the order has been passed in favour of workmen and the dispute is being litigated for nearly 25 years, the bench of V. Gopala Gowda and C. Nagappan, JJ directed LIC to comply pay the back wages within 8 weeks from the date of the order. [Tamil Nadu Terminated Full Time Temporary LIC Employees Association v. S.K. Roy, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 805, decided on 09.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Court was called upon to the decide the question as to whether ceiling proceedings under U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960 in respect of the land in question have lapsed owing to Section 31 of the 1976 Amendment Act by which a wholesale substitution of various Sections of the principal Act was carried out and the erstwhile scheme of determining surplus “fair quality land” was now substituted by a scheme which determined surplus irrigated land.

Interpreting the expression “may at any time within a period of two years” occurring in Section 31(3) of the U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1976, it was held that the expression “may” goes along with the words “at any time within a period of two years” as it is clear that on a correct reading of the sub-Section, the prescribed authority has, in every case, to re-determine surplus land if an order determining surplus land has been made before 10.10.1975. A period of two years is given to re-determine surplus land in accordance with the principal Act as amended by the U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1974 & hence, it is clear that no discretion is vested in the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land. Surplus land has, in all cases, to be re-determined, as a completely different and new scheme applicable to all lands has replaced the existing scheme.

The bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ noticed that the language of Section 31(2) of the 1976 Act makes it clear that every appeal preferred against such orders and pending immediately before the 10.10.1975, shall be deemed to have abated on the said date. Considering the fact that the appeal in the present case was filed prior to the aforementioned date, it was held that it was necessary for the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land under Section 31(3) in accordance with the principal Act as amended by the 1976 Act, for which purpose, the provisions of section 13 of the principal Act shall apply mutatis mutandis to every order re-determining surplus land under sub-section 3 of this Section or Section 9 of the 1974 Amendment Act vide Section 31(4) of the 1976 Amendment Act. [Arvind Kumar v. State of UP, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 780, decided on 08.08.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the controversy arising due to the voice samples taken in the matter where the appellants had allegedly demanded a sum of money to refrain from telecasting programmes on a television channel pertaining to the alleged involvement of a corporate entity in a wrongful activity pertaining to the allocation of coal blocks, it was argued by the Appellants that they were being made to read out inculpatory material drawn from an audio recording of the alleged sting operation.

The 3-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJI, A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ held that there was no substance in the submission that the text which is to be read by the Appellants in the course of drawing their voice samples should contain no part of the inculpatory words which are a part of the disputed conversation as a commonality of words is necessary to facilitate a spectrographic examination. Stating that it is not open for the Appellant to dictate the course of investigation, the Court said that the Appellants had not been forced or coerced into furnishing such a sample since it was they who had furnished their consent; secondly, a voice sample is not evidence since its purpose is only to compare it with the questioned text.

Earlier, Delhi High Court had ordered that the purpose of a voice sample is to facilitate the process of comparing it with a recorded conversation. The voice sample is not a testimony in itself since it only constitutes what was described as ‘identification data’ and hence, it is not a substantive piece of evidence. By the order dated 01.07.2016, the Court had directed the Appellants shall be required to read out for the purpose of giving their voice samples using words, but not the sentences, appearing in the disputed conversation in such number as the Director/Scientific Officer may consider necessary for the purpose of comparison in order to ensure that the text which the Appellants would be called upon to read out for the purpose of drawing their voice samples will not have sentences from the inculpatory text. Similarly, permitting the text to contain words drawn from the disputed conversation would meet the legitimate concern of the investigating authorities for making a fair comparison. [Sudhir Chaudhary v.  v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 747, decided on 29.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Hearing the reference made to resolve the conflict in the decisions reported in Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, Bangalore Vs. B.A.Jayaram, 1984 (Supp) SCC 244 ( Jayaram case), Pandiyan Roadways Corporation Ltd. Vs. M.A.Egappan – 1987 (2) SCC 47 (Egappan Case), the 5-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ, Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, S.A. Bobde, R. Banumathi and U.U. Lalit, JJ held that the decision in Jayaram Case is no longer a good law and the decision reported in Egappan Case stands approved which is in tune with the Constitution Bench decision reported in Adarsh Travels Bus Service and another Vs. State of U.P.  (1985) 4 SCC 557 (Adarsh Travels Case).

The reference that was made in R. Raghuram Vs. P. Jayarama Naidu, 1990 (Supp) SCC 361, called upon the Court to interpret the Chapter IV vis-à-vis Chapter IV-A of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.  Stating that Chapter IV-A supersedes any inconsistent provisions in Chapter IV, it was held that the policy of the Legislature is clear from Section 68C that the State Transport Undertaking may initiate a scheme for the purpose of providing an efficient, adequate, economical and properly coordinated road transport service to be run and operated by the State Transport Undertaking in relation to any area or route or portion thereof. It may do so if it is necessary in the public interest. It was further held that Section 57(8) is controlled by Section 68FF falling under Chapter IV-A, by virtue of the superseding effect of Section 68B also falling under Chapter IVA of the Act. The Court, hence, held that the ruling of the Courtin Jayaram Case where it was held that application for variation dealt with under Section 57(8) of the Act cannot be construed as an application for a new permit, was not a good law as Grant of variation under Section 57(8) will be as good as grant of a new permit.

Referring to the Adarsh Travels Case, the Court noted that the provisions in Chapter IV-A are devised to override the provisions of Chapter IV and it is expressly so enacted, the provisions of Chapter IV-A are clear and complete regarding the manner and effect of the “takeover” of the operation of a road transport service by the State Transport Undertaking in relation to any Area or Route or portion thereof. A necessary consequence of those provisions is that no private operator can operate his vehicle on any part or portion of a notified area or notified route unless authorized so to do by the term of the scheme itself. He may not operate on any part or portion of the notified Route or Area on the mere ground that the permit as originally granted to him covered the notified Route or Area. [G.T. Venkataswamy Reddy v. State Transport Authority, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 714, decided on 19.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: 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. Such sentences would, however, be super imposed over each other so that any remission or commutation granted by the competent authority in one does not ipso facto result in remission of the sentence awarded to the prisoner for the other.

The matter in which the aforementioned question arose was that the appellants were tried for several offences including an offence punishable under Section 302 IPC for several murders allegedly committed by them in a single incident. They were found guilty and sentenced to suffer varying sentences, including a sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders committed by them and the sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders was directed to run consecutively.

The Court, interpreting the provision under Section 31 of CrPC which deals with sentences in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial, held that the power of the Court to direct the order in which sentences will run is unquestionable in view of the language employed in Section 31 of the Cr.P.C. The Court can, therefore, legitimately direct that the prisoner shall first undergo the term sentence before the commencement of his life sentence. Such a direction shall be perfectly legitimate and in tune with Section 31. The converse however may not be true for if the Court directs the life sentence to start first it would necessarily imply that the term sentence would run concurrently. That is because once the prisoner spends his life in jail, there is no question of his undergoing any further sentence. [Muthuramalingam v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 713, decided on 19.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench comprising of T.S. Thakur CJI and FM Ibrahim Kalifulla J. accepts Justice RM Lodha panel’s recommendations almost in toto on structural reforms in the BCCI in order to streamline the working of the BCCI and possibly prevent any aberrations or controversies in which it has been embroiled in the past.

One of the most important recommendations that is accepted is the recommendation which disqualifies Ministers and Public Servants from holding offices in the State Associations or BCCI. The Court was of the opinion that the game of Cricket does not flourishes in this country because any minister or civil servant holds office in the State Associations or BCCI. Rejecting the contention that favours which the BCCI receives will disappear just because a Minister or Civil Servant is not an office bearer in the State Association or BCCI, the Court said that what is legitimately due to the game will not be denied to the game merely because Ministers or Civil Servants do not happen to be office bearers as there may be an overwhelming number of Ministers and Bureaucrats who are passionate abMinisters and Puout the game and would like to do everything that is legally permissible and reasonably possible within the four corners of the law even without holding any office in the BCCI or the State Associations.

Regarding bringing BCCI under the purview of RTI, the Court said that since BCCI discharges public functions and since those functions are in the nature of a monopoly in the hands of the BCCI with tacit State Government and Central Government approvals, the public at large has a right to know and demand information as to the activities and functions of the BCCI especially when it deals with funds collected in relation to those activities as a trustee of wherein the beneficiary happens to be the people of this country and hence, the Law Commission of India should examine the issue and make a suitable recommendation to the Government.

It was further said that the recommendation made by the Committee that betting should be legalized by law, involves the enactment of a Law which is a matter that may be examined by the Law Commission and the Government for such action as it may consider necessary in the facts and circumstances of the case. [Board Control for Cricket v. Cricket Association of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 709, decided on 18.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the PIL that sought for possible structural reforms in the Indian Judicial System, the bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ, R.Banumathi and U.U. Lalit, JJ, keeping in mind, the need for reforms which have been long felt, referred the matter to a Constitutional Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.

Below are some of the questions that the Court thought proper for consideration:

  • Whether a mere increase in the number of judges will solve the problem of undue delay in disposal of cases and to what extent would such increase be feasible? Also, would the division of the Supreme Court into a Constitutional wing and an appellate wing be an answer to the problem?
  • Considering the fact that the Supreme Court of India is situate in the far North, in Delhi, rendering travel from the Southern states and some other states in India, unduly long and expensive, can be a deterrent to real access to justice, would the Supreme Court benches in different parts of India be an answer to the problem? Also, if four regional Courts of Appeal are established, in the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western regions of the Country, each manned by, say, fifteen judges, elevated or appointed to each Court by the Collegium, would this not satisfy the requirement of ‘access to justice’ to all litigants from every part of the country?
  • Is the huge pendency of cases, caused by the Court not restricting its consideration, as in the case of the Apex Courts of other countries, to Constitutional issues, questions of national importance, differences of opinion between different High Courts, death sentence cases and matters entrusted to the Supreme Court by express provisions of the Constitution?
  • Is there a need for having Courts of Appeal, with exclusive jurisdiction to hear and finally decide the vast proportion of the routine cases, as well as Article 32 petitions now being decided by the Supreme Court of India, especially when a considerable proportion of the four million cases pending before the High Court may require review by a higher intermediate court?
  • As any such proposal would need an amendment to the Constitution, would the theory of ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution be violated, if in fact, such division of exclusive jurisdiction between the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal, enhances the efficacy of the justice delivery system without affecting the independence of the judicial wing of the State?

The Court showed it’s concern over the 80% cases pending in the Supreme Court of India on average for about 5 years, in the High Courts again for about 8 years, and anywhere between 5-10 years in the Trial Courts on the average, and said that it is the duty of the Supreme Court to examine through a Constitution Bench  to recommend to Government, its opinion on the proposal for establishing four Courts of Appeal, so that the Supreme Court with about 2500 cases a year instead of about 60000, may regain its true status as a Constitutional Court. [V. VASANTHAKUMAR v. H.C.BHATIA, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 698, decided on 13.07.2016]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Looking into the matter reflecting the manner of getting excessive number of shares in an irregular manner, adversely affecting the small investors i.e. the Retail Individual Investors (RII), the Court held that Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 has been enacted to ensure that the Stock Exchanges of the country and the persons connected therewith do not indulge themselves into illegalities or irregularities and the functionaries under the Act have to see that no financial scams take place in the matters relating to issue or transfer of shares, management of Stock Exchange, etc.
In the present case, it was brought into the notice of SEBI that several serious irregularities/illegalities had been committed by some persons so as to corner shares of the said companies by adopting certain unscrupulous, immoral and improper methods not known to the law, which had not only affected the RII but had also an effect on the share market because such dealings by certain greedy persons would adversely affect the faith of a common man in the functioning of the share market. It was noticed that 553 demat account holders sold their shares through a broker or otherwise at a price below the market value. Considering that no man of prudence would enter into such transaction, the Whole Time Member of SEBI, upon investigation, came to the conclusion the demat accounts were signed by same persons with different spellings of their names and in different manners. It was also noticed that Number of demat account were having same address and that too, care of someone else and this makes genuineness of the account holders and the transactions doubtful.
The bench of A.R. Dave and R.Banumathi, JJ also rejected the contention that no Retail Individual Investor had made any complaint to the SEBI and held that the SEBI need not act only on the basis of a complaint received. If from its independent sources, the SEBI, after due enquiry comes to know about some illegality or irregularity, the SEBI has to act in the manner as it acted in the instant case. It was held that the entire case was decided by the Whole Time Member of the SEBI after keeping in mind the object of the Act. [SEBI v. Opee Stock-Link Ltd, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 687, decided on 11.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Asking the Courts to be careful while dealing with dying declarations, the Court held that a mechanical approach in relying upon a dying declaration just because it is there is extremely dangerous. The court has to examine a dying declaration scrupulously with a microscopic eye to find out whether the dying declaration is voluntary, truthful, made in a conscious state of mind and without being influenced by the relatives present or by the investigating agency who may be interested in the success of investigation or which may be negligent while recording the dying declaration.

Regarding the approach to be followed in case of more than one dying declaration, the bench of Kurian Joseph and R.K. Agrawal, JJ held that the intrinsic contradictions in such dying declarations are extremely important. It cannot be that a dying declaration which supports the prosecution alone can be accepted while the other innocent dying declarations have to be rejected. However, it was held that the courts below are fully entitled to act on the dying declarations and make them the basis of conviction, where the dying declarations pass all the above tests. It was further held that The courts must bear in mind that each criminal trial is an individual aspect. It may differ from the other trials in some or the other respect and, therefore, a mechanical approach to the law of dying declaration has to be shunned. [State of Gujarat v. Jayrajbhai Punjabhai Varu, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 688, decided on 11.07.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, Arun Mishra and P.C.Pant, JJ, were hearing a reference to decide the question as to whether after the expiry of the fixed term tenancy in respect of an agricultural lease under the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953, the tenancy gets automatically terminated and the person occupying the leased premises ceases to be a tenant, as a 2-judge bench did not agree with the decision of a coordinate bench in Sukhdev Singh v. Puran , (2015) 12 SCC 344 where it was held that tenant under the 1953 Act ceases to be one on expiry of the fixed term tenancy under the contract whereafter he is not entitled to the statutory protection from eviction as envisaged under the Act.

The Court held that to be entitled to protection from eviction under the 1953 Act any person claiming such protection has to come within the fold of the expression “tenant” under the 1953 Act read with the relevant provisions of the Punjab tenancy Act, 1887 Act. Statutory protection would be available only to a statutory tenant, namely, a tenant under the Act. The 1953 Act read with the relevant provisions of the 1887 Act does not include a tenant whose lease has expired. Nevertheless, retention/continuance of possession after expiry of the duration of the lease with the consent of the landlord will continue to vest in the erstwhile tenant the same status on the principle of holding over.

The Court, further held that such continuance even after expiry of the deemed period of the lease under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1888 would clothe the occupant with the status of a tenant under the Act in view of Section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act which deals with the consequences of holding over. The operation of Section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act would confer legitimacy to the possession of the tenant even after the termination or expiration of the deemed period of the lease so as to confer on him a status akin to that of a statutory tenant and hence protection from eviction as envisaged by the provisions of the Act of 1953. [Shyam Lal v. Deepa Dass Chela Ram Chela Garib Dass, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 661, decided on 05.07.2016]