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Yearly Digest 2019 (The Supreme Court of India)

The yearly digest provides a quick summary of some of the most significant judgements passed by the Supreme Court in the year 2019.

  • Removal of blanket ban on Maharashtra dance bars 

A two judges bench of the Supreme Court held that there can not be a total ban on dance bars in Maharashtra. While upholding various provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016, the court quashed the complete ban on serving alcohol in dance bars. The court also relaxed the stringent conditions laid down in this Act for obtaining licence for dance bars. 

(Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association v. State of Maharashtra, WP(c) No.576/2016)

Decided on 17.01.2019

  • Power of Magistrate to direct the accused to give voice samples during investigation

The issue in this case before the Supreme Court was whether a Magistrate has power to direct the investigating agency to record voice samples of the accused. A three judges bench led by the CJI settled the issue referred to it by a two judges bench and held that a Magistrate has power to direct an accused to give his voice samples during investigation even without his consent.

The apex court observed that in the absence of specific provisions in the CrPC, 1973, inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution should be invoked.  

(Ritesh Sinha v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Crl Appeal No. 2003/2012)

Decided on 02.08.2019

  • Overnight divestment of CBI Director

The case relates to overnight divestment of the powers and functions of Mr. Alok Verma, Director of Central Bureau of Investigation by an order passed by the Central Government under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. A three judges bench comprising of the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph held that the order issued by the Central Government was invalid and as per Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 approval of the Selection Committee was a necessary condition to divest the powers of the CBI Director.

(Alok Verma v. Union of India, WP(c) No.1309/2018)

Decided on 08.01.2019 

  • Constitutional validity of IBC upheld

A two judges bench comprising of Justice R F Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha settled the question as to validity of  Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 and​​ National Company Law Tribunal​​. The Apex Court held that the difference between operational creditors and financial creditors was based on intelligible differentia and thus it is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 and​​ National Company Law Tribunal. 

(Swiss Ribbons Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India, WP(c) 99/2018)

Decided on 25.01.2019

  • Rafale case review petitions 

A three judges bench comprising the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph dismissed all the review petitions filed against the December 14, 2018 judgement. The bench observed that the petitions lacked merits. The court also observed that the documents which are covered under the Official Secrets Act can be produced as evidences in the interest of public justice​​ and that its unauthorized publication do not affect its evidentiary value and the court can rely on these documents. 

(Yashwant Sinha v. Central Bureau of Investigation, RP No.46/2019)

Decided on 10.04.2019

  • Free speech can not be gagged by fear of mob violence

An unofficial cinema ban was imposed by the West Bengal government on the screening of Bengli film ‘Bhobishyoter Bhoot’ citing security reasons. Coercion was used by the police authorities in order to withdraw the screening of the film in Cinemas. A two judges bench of Supreme Court comprising of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta held that freedom of speech and expression can not be gagged by a fear of mob violence and ordered a compensation of Rs. 20 lakhs to the makers of the film. 

(Indelibility Creative Pvt. Ltd. v. Govt. of West Bengal &Ors.,WP(c) No. 306/2019)

Decided on 11.04.2019 

  • SC struck down Section 87 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act added by 2019 Amendment 

A set of writ petitions were filed challenging the validity of Section 87, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, inserted by the 2019 Amendment Act. Prior to the 2015 Amendment there was a provision of automatic stay upon the arbitral award in case of a pending petition. Section 87 of the Act re-introduced the provision of automatic stay. The bench held that this provision is "manifestly arbitrary" and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

(Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd. v. Union of India, WP(c) No. 1074/2019)

Decided on 27.11.2019

  • NGO’s substantially financed by government come under the ambit of RTI Act

In a significant judgement a Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose held that Non-Governmental Organisations which receive considerable finances from the government fall within the meaning of term “public authority” as defined under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The court further laid down that the term “substantial” does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%. 

(D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society & Ors v. Director od Public Instructions & Ors., C.A 9828/2018)

Decided on 17.09.2019

  • Contents of documents come within the definition of term ‘document’ under the Indian Evidence Act

The conundrum in this appeal was whether the contents of a memory card/ pen-drive qualify as ‘document’ under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Section 29 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and if so, whether it is obligatory to furnish a copy to the accused. 

The Supreme Court observed that the contents of a memory card/pen-drive being an electronic record as per Section 2(1)(t), IT Act, 2000, must be regarded as document. It further observed that if the prosecution relies on such a document the accused must be furnished with a cloned copy of the same under Section 207, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. 

(Gopalkrishnan @ Dileep v. State of Kerala, Criminal Appeal No. 1794 of 2019)

Decided on 29.11.2019

  • Office of CJI comes under RTI

In this historic judgment, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi held that the office of Chief Justice of India is a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act and comes within the ambit of the RTI Act. However, the Bench highlighted the importance of maintaining confidentiality under certain aspects of working of the judiciary and its administration. 

(Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court v. Subash Chandra Agarwal​​, Civil Appeal No. 10044 of 2010)

Decided on 13.11.2019

  • Reservation in promotion of SC/STs under Karnataka law upheld

On May10, 2019 the SC upheld the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservations (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act 2018. The court held that the Reservation Act 2018 has cured the deficiencies which were noticed in the Reservation Act,2002 and is within the enabling power laid down under Article 16(4A) of the Constitution. The Reservation law passed in 2002 by the State Legislature was declared invalid by the SC in BK Pavitra case (2007). 

(BK Pavitra and others v Union of India, M.A No. 1151/2018 in C.A No.2368/1)

Decided on 10.05.2019

  • Sabrimala Review referred to a larger bench

In the case of Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala​​ (2018) a five judges bench of the Supreme Court uplifted the ban​​ imposed on the entry of women in Sabarimala temple in Kerala and declared it as unconstitutional​​ and in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Many review petitions were filed against this judgement and the matter was referred to a larger bench of seven judges. 

(Kantaru Rajeevaru v Indian Young Lawyers Association, RP(c) No. 3358/18 in WP(c) No. 373/06)

Decided on 14.11.2019

  • Jammu and Kashmir Habeas Corpus Case 

When the Central Government passed an Act taking away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, a virtual lockdown was imposed and a number of political leaders were put under detention. Popularly known as the Jammu and Kashmir Habeas Corpus case, in this case a petition was filed by Sitaram Yechury,​​ general secretary of CPI challenging the legality of detention of former J&K MLA Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami. The apex court passed an order allowing the petitioner to travel to Srinagar to meet the detenu. 

(Sitaram Yechury v.​​ Union of India, WP(Crl) No.229/2019)

Decided on 28.08.2019

  • Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act has retrospective effect

In an important judgement a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah explained the object of 2018 amendment and held that Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act as inserted in 2018, which provides for payment pending appeal against conviction, is retrospective in nature. In this sense Section 148 shall be applicable even in a case where the complaint under Section 138 of the act was filed prior to 01.09.2018.

(Surinder Singh Desawal v. Virender Gandhi, Crl Appeal 917-944/2019)

Decided on 29.05.2019

  • Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act has prospective effect

The Supreme Court in this case settled a confusion in prosecution of cheque bounce cases and held that Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act which deals with payment of interim compensation to the complainant during the pendency of the case does not have retrospective application. The apex court held that Section 143A can be applied only in cases where the offence under Section 138 was committed after the introduction of Section 143A. 

(G.J. Raja vs. Tejraj Surana, Crl Appeal 917-944/2019)

Decided on 29.05.2019





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