Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ., by a majority of 2:1, held that the appeals concerning the Ayodhya (Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid) matter need not be referred to a larger Bench for consideration. Ashok Bhushan, J. delivered the majority judgment for CJ Dipak Misra and himself. While S. Abdul Nazeer, J. in his separate opinion was of the view that the matter should be referred to a larger Bench.

The present appeals were fixed for commencement of final arguments on 05-12-2017, when Dr Rajeev Dhavan, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants submitted that the Constitution Bench Judgment of the Court in Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India, (1994) 6 SCC 360 needs reconsideration, hence the reference be made to a larger Bench. In Ismail Faruqui, while the Constitution Bench (per majority) upheld the validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 except that of Section 4(3) of the Act which was struck down; it also made observations that a mosque s not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open. According to Dr Dhavan, the law laid down in Ismail Faruqui in relation to praying in a mosque not being an essential practice is contrary to both, i.e. the law relating to essential practice and the process by which essential practice is to be considered. Whether essential practice can be decided on a mere ipse dixit of the Court or whether the Court is obliged to examine belief, tenets and practices, is a pure question of law. He submitted that Ismail Faruqui judgment being devoid of any examination on the above issues, the matter need to go to a larger Bench.

The Court had to find out the context of observations made in the judgment which according to the appellant were questionable and to decide whether the said observations furnish any ground for reconsideration of the Constitution Bench judgment. After referring to a plethora of judgments, Ashok Bhushan, J. observed that the question as to whether particular religious practice is essential or integral part of the religion is a question, which has to be considered by considering the doctrine, tenets and beliefs of the religion. What Dr Dhavan contended was that the Constitution Bench in Ismail Faruqui, without there being any consideration of essentiality of a religion, made the questionable observations. It was observed from that the context for making the said observation was a claim of immunity of a mosque from acquisition. Whether every mosque is the essential part of the practice of religion of Islam, acquisition of which ipso facto may violate the rights under Articles 25 and 26, was the question which had cropped up for consideration before the Constitution Bench. The observation has been made to emphasise there is no immunity of the mosque from the acquisition. What the Court in Ismail Faruqui meant was that unless the place of offering of prayer has a particular significance so that any hindrance to worship may violate right under Articles 25 and 26, any hindrance to offering of prayer at any place shall not affect right under Articles 25 and 26. the observation need not be read broadly to hold that a mosque can never be an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam.

As to the question of res judicata –the present proceedings being barred in light of the decision in Ismail Faruqui, the Court held that the issues which were involved in that case were validity of the Act of 1993. The issues which have been framed in the suits giving rise to the present appeals were different issues which could not be said to be directly and substantially in issue in Ismail Faruqui. On this count alone, the plea of res judicata as raised by the respondent was liable to be rejected.

While concluding, the Court held that the questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui, as noted above, were made in context of land acquisition. Those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant deciding the present appeals. Therefore, the Court was of the considered opinion that no case was made out to refer the Constitution Bench judgment Ismail Faruqui for reconsideration. Hence, no case has been made out seeking reference of these appeals to a Constitution Bench of this Court.

S. Abdul Nazeer, J., in his separate opinion stated that he was unable to accept the view of the Justice Bhushan that no case had been made out seeking reference of the present appeals to a Constitution Bench of this Court. However, he was in respectful agreement with the opinion on the question of res judicata. Therefore, while concluding, considering the Constitutional importance and significance of the issues involved, he was of the opinion that following questions need to be referred to a larger Bench:

(a) Whether in the light of Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt, AIR 1954 SC 282 and other cases, an essential practice can be decided without a detailed examination of the beliefs, tenets and practice of the faith in question?

(b) Whether the test for determining the essential practice is both essentiality and integrality?

(c) Does Article 25, only protect belief and practices of particular significance of a faith or all practices regarded by the faith as essential?

(d) Do Articles 15, 25 and 26 (read with Article 14) allow the comparative significance of faiths to be undertaken?

As per the majority, it was held that the present appeal does not require to be referred to a larger Bench nor does the Ismail Faruqui case needs reconsideration. The matter was disposed of accordingly. [M. Siddiq v. Mahant Suresh Das, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1677, decided on 27-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of R.K. Deshpande and Arun D. Upadhye, JJ., addressed a petition filed challenging the order of a Divisional Commissioner, Amravati on refusal to grant parole on the basis of Rule 4(b)(13) read with Rule (2)(B)(i) of Maharashtra Prisons (Bombay Furlough an Parole) Rules, 1959. The Court placed this matter before Chief Justice to be referred to a larger bench.

The present petition pertained to the facts that the petitioner was a convict for the offence under Section 376 IPC for the offence of rape. The sentence imposed upon him was of 10 years imprisonment under Section 376(2)(a) and 1-year imprisonment under Section 342 IPC. Petitioner was refused a parole. Though he was recommended for the same by the authorities due to the bar under  Rule 4(b)(13) read with Rule (2)(B)(i) of Maharashtra Prisons (Bombay Furlough an Parole) Rules, 1959, he was refused parole.

The Learned APP on behalf of the respondents relied on Sharad Devaram Shelake v. State of Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 2448, wherein the above-stated rule was upheld. The division bench in the above-stated case had relied upon the decision of Supreme Court in State of Haryana v. Jai Singh,(2003) 9 SCC 114, wherein it was held, “Classification created for imposing bar to grant parole or furlough, based on the nature of offences, is a valid classification for the purpose of deciding whether the persons who have committed such offences should be granted remission or not.”

On due consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case along with the contentions placed, the Court was of the view that the matter should be referred to larger bench instead of making out a distinction between the decision of State of Haryana v. Jai Singh,(2003) 9 SCC 114 and Sharad Devaram Shelake v. State of Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 2448.

Therefore, the Court referred the case to a larger bench for the consideration of the issue: “Whether Rule 4(13) Maharashtra prisons (Bombay Furlough and Parole) Rules, 1959 creating an absolute bar to claim release on furlough leave and consequently Rule 19(2)(B)(i) of the Rules of 1959 to claim release on parole leave to the convict for the offence of rape is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, particularly when the offenders in other serious offences are entitled to such leave?” [Vijay Pralhad Varankar v. Division Commr., Amravati;2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2261; dated 23-08-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: In the matter where the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had sought direction to all states for mandatorily giving information to it about any encounter killings in their jurisdiction for the purposes of enquiry, the bench of Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi, JJ referred the matter to a larger bench.

The NHRC, in its plea filed in 2014, has sought direction to state governments and police authorities that they should continue to provide the information asked for by it in accordance with the guidelines and provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to probe the cases of encounter killings. It also sought direction to the state governments that they should not refuse to comply with the recommendations made by Commission. It had also argued that due to the Supreme Court verdict of 2014 by which certain guidelines were framed, its role in such enquiries has virtually been nullified. It had said that Section 12(a) of the Act makes it a mandatory obligation upon the NHRC to inquire on its own or on a petition presented to it by a victim, into the complaints of human rights violation by a public servant.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam and advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for the Commission, said it is a pure question of law as the Act provided for it to enquire on its own or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf into any complaint of violation of human rights by a public servant.

The Court said that a larger bench will look into the matter.

Source: PTI

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]