Today marks as not only the beginning of a new year but also a new decade and it is pertinent to look back at all that happened in the Supreme Court in the year 2019 as we look forward to not the new beginnings but the ‘ends’ to the misery of litigants in this new decade.
It wouldn’t be an overstatement if we say that 2019 will be remembered for being one of the most controversial years in Indian history. As the country was witnessing some major decisions of the government, those who were aggrieved by those decisions were knocking the doors of the Supreme Court. From the issue relating to abrogation of Article 370 to the protest erupting after the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the court rooms and corridors of the highest court of the nation saw it all. Sometimes even on holidays!
As the Court was prepping for the swearing in of a new CJI, it was also marred by the controversy surrounding the outgoing CJI, Justice Ranjan Gogoi. CJI Gogoi faced sexual harassment allegations and while the In-House committee, headed by Justice SA Bobde, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, found “no substance” in the allegations levelled by a former Supreme Court employee against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi, former Supreme Court judge, Justice A. K. Patnaik was asked to hold an inquiry into the allegations made in the affidavits.to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “larger conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.
While the Supreme Court saw controversial cases knocking it’s doors, it also put an end to some of the biggest cases in the year 2019. Here’s a list of the most important verdicts/orders of the year 2019:
MAJOR VERDICTS/ORDERS OF 2019
In November, right before his retirement, CJI Ranjan Gogoi, heading a 5-judge bench, finally put an end to the Ayodhya Title dispute, also famously known as the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, after hearing the case for 40 days and 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 further directed that a suitable plot of 5 acres must be granted to Sunni Waqf Board to set up a Mosque. The Court later rejected all the review petitions filed in the matter.
In yet another historic verdict, the 5-judge constitution Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and NV Ramana, Dr. DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ 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 mjority opinion for the Bench and Justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud gave separate but concurring opinion. Chandrachud, J, in his opinion, wrote,
“To use judicial independence as a plea to refuse accountability is fallacious. Independence is secured by accountability. Transparency and scrutiny are instruments to secure accountability.”
When the Court held that the Rules made under S. 184 of Finance Act were unconstitutional and liable to be struck down, it not just directed the Centre to make new Rules for appointment to Tribunals but also reopened the Aadhar issue. Here’s how.
The Court not only dismissed the petition seeking review of the Rafale Verdict but also accepted Rahul Gandhi’s apology for his “Chowkidar Chor Hai remarks” and closed the contempt Petition filed by Meenakshi Lekhi in the said matter, thereby, closing the case completely.
The Court neither decided the review petition nor actually referred them to a larger bench. While most of the publications reported that the review petitions were referred to a larger bench, the Court had merely ‘suggested’ the reference. While doing so it said that “it may not be inappropriate” if matters involving seminal issues including the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution touching upon the right to profess, practise and propagate its own religion, are heard by larger bench of commensurate number of Judges.
The 3-jduge bench of Arun Mishra, MR Shah and BR Gavai, JJ has held that some portions of the verdict in Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 243 were against the concept of protective discrimination in favour of downtrodden classes under Article 15(4) of the Constitution and also impermissible within the parameters laid down by this Court for exercise of powers under Article 142 of Constitution of India. The Court said, “Can’t treat all of them as a liar.”
The Court put an end to ‘almost’ all the issues related to the powers exercisable by and functions of the elected Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) vis-a-vis the Central Government. The 2-judge bench, however, differed on the issue of power to transfer and appoint certain officers.
After a brief hearing on the review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh, one of the convicts in the brutal December 16, 2012, Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, seeking modification and leniency, the 3-judge bench of R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ rejected the review petition and said that review petition is not for re-hearing of the appeal on re-appreciation of the evidence over and over again.
The bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ has asked Google India to face trial in a 2008 criminal defamation matter and has held that Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, prior to its substitution, did not protect an intermediary in regard to the offence under Section 499/500 of the IPC.
Holding that the provisions contained in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 pass the constitutional muster, the Court held that the Code is a beneficial legislation which puts the corporate debtor back on its feet, not being a mere recovery legislation for creditors.
The bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan held that the State must have an “open mind” in matters relating to staging dance performances in dance bars. State cannot take exception to staging dance performances per se. It appears from the history of legislative amendments made from time to time that the respondents have somehow developed the notion that such performances in the dance bars do not have moralistic basis.
Deterring a party to an arbitration from invoking this alternative dispute resolution process by a pre-deposit of 10% would discourage arbitration, contrary to the object of de-clogging the Court system, and would render the arbitral process ineffective and expensive.
In a big blow to the Telecom Sector, the Court refused to change AGR definition and said that the definition of revenue has been taken in a broad, comprehensive, and inclusive manner to pose fewer problems of interpretation, and exclusion of certain items was avoided.
While granting bail to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the Court said that being the Member of Parliament and a Senior Member of the Bar has strong roots in society and his passport having been surrendered and “look out notice” issued against him, there is no likelihood of his fleeing away from the country or his abscondence from the trial. He, however, was barred from giving any press interviews nor make any public comment in connection with this case qua him or other co-accused.
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 in the year 2017, total 32,559 cases of rape were registered in India.
SOME MORE IMPORTANT VERDICTS/ORDERS OF 2019
- Hyderabad encounter| 3-member panel headed by former SC judge Justice V S Sirpurkar to look into the legality of the encounter
- CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT ROW| SC issues notice to Centre; No stay on the implementation of the Act
- SC orders forced eviction of more than 1,000,000 tribals from from forestlands across 16 states
- Anil Ambani and others guilty of contempt of court for willfully not paying dues to Ericsson
- IPL spot-fixing| SC sets aside life ban imposed on Sreesanth by BCCI
- Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal guilty of murdering his employee in 2001
- No stipulation of period of completion of Serious Fraud Investigations under Companies Act
- Post-conviction mental health & it’s effect on sentencing: SC issues directions
- Woman driven out of matrimonial home can file case under Section 498-A from the place she has taken shelter at
- Non maintenance of record is not just a clerical error; Section 23 of PCPNDT Act can’t be diluted
- SC cancels Amrapali Group’s RERA registration for defrauding homebuyers
- SC sets aside Delhi High Court stay on proceedings against Gautam Khaitan under Black Money Act
- Poll Affidavit Case| SC quashes clean chit; Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis to face trial
- Karnataka MLAs Disqualification case: Read why SC ‘partly’ upheld Speaker’s order