In the month of January, the Supreme Court (SC) of India gave a total of 93 Judgments including around 86 Reportable Judgments. The top Court heard various important matters including the note ban, Haldwani eviction, Google vs. CCI, Lakhimpur Kheri, and heritage protection. Some cases were listed for further hearing and judgments for others were delivered. Let us discuss some of the important judgments delivered by the Supreme Court in the month of January 2023.
Brief: On January 02, 2023, the majority (4:1) held that the Central Government has the power to notify any series of bank notes of any denomination. It added that the power under Section 26 of the RBI Act includes demonetization for any series of bank notes. The SC rejected challenges on the grounds of excessive delegation, flawed decision-making, proportionality, and the exchange period’s reasonableness. Justice Nagarathna, the lone dissenter, opposed the statement and said “The issued notification is unlawful”.
Bench: Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice A.S. Bopanna, Justice BV Nagarathna, and Justice V. Ramasubramanian
Brief: On January 03, 2023, the SC addressed key legal questions, clarifying that restriction on free speech must align with Article 19(2), certain rights in Part III apply to non-state actors, and the state has a duty to protect Article 21 rights. Justice Nagarathna suggested political parties regulate member speech through a Code of Conduct. The case was listed for further action.
Brief: On January 03, 2023, the SC held that theatre owners have the right to determine the menu and prices of goods and services they offer similar to other businesses. The affordability of goods is unrelated to entry conditions. If moviegoers find the offered food unsuitable, they are free not to purchase it. It also said, “If viewers seek to enter a cinema hall, they must abide by the terms and conditions subject to which entry is granted.”
Brief: Attorney Smriti Debbarma, representing Maharani Chandratara Devi, sought ownership of 'Khosh Mahal'. The trial court decreed her right to Schedule 'A' property but rejected Schedule 'B.' Defendants appealed to the High Court, disputing a survey report. The SC agreed with the High Court, highlighting discrepancies in land descriptions. The burden of proof for title rested on the plaintiff, based on a specific state of things for relief.
Brief: On January 30, 2023, the SC acquitted the appellant-accused of inducing sexual relations through false promises of marriage. The appellant-accused was found guilty by the Sessions Court for the offence under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The top Court found that the prosecutrix, a married woman with three children, did not consent under false promises or misconceptions. It added, “A false promise is not a fact within the meaning of the Code.” Along with this, the bench also emphasized the necessity of recording evidence in the language of court or witness, setting aside the judgments of the lower courts, except for the compensation order. The appellant was acquitted of all charges and the appeal was allowed.
The SC gave a total of 98 Judgments including Somewhere around 85Reportable Judgments in the month of February this year. Some of the matters heard by the SC benches this month include the delimitation commission of J&K, the right to property not absolute, a ban on the BBC documentary (India: The Modi Question), Shiv Sena Rift, DNA testing to establish infidelity and many more. Below are certain important decisions of the top court delivered in the month of February 2023.
Brief: The SC on February 10, 2023, held that a pre-enrolment examination can be prescribed by the Bar Council of India (BCI) under the Advocates Act, 1961. The Court acknowledged the importance of quality lawyers in the administration of justice and approved the suggestion that law graduates, yet to appear for the Bar examination, can perform legal tasks between passing the examination and enrolment, excluding appearing in courts. The Court also noted the specified two-year period for post-enrolment examinations and hoped its view would encourage the enrolment of bright minds at the Bar, benefiting the administration of justice. The appeal was disposed of.
Bench: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice Abhay S. Oka, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice J.K. Maheshwari
Brief: The five-judge SC bench was hearing a petition involving the implementation of the Excommunication Act within the Dawoodi Bohra community, challenging the earlier decision in Sardar Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb v. State of Bombay, on February 10, 2023. The petitioner sought a writ of mandamus to enforce the Excommunication Act. The Supreme Court held that the protection under Article 26(b) regarding the power to ex-communicate in the Dawoodi Bohra community needs reconsideration in light of Constitutional morality. The decision in the Sardar Syedna case did not consider the argument that Article 26(b) is subject to morality. The Court directed the petition to be tagged with a pending Review Petition before a Bench of nine Judges, considering the forthcoming decision in the Sabarimala Temple Review case.
Bench: Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Abhay S. Oka
Brief: In this case, the filed writ petition challenges the constitution of a Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir under the Delimitation Act, 2002, following the reorganization of the state into two Union Territories. It also questioned the legality of the Commission's actions. On February 13, 2023, the Supreme Court heard the matter and noted that the challenge was primarily to the delimitation exercise, not the J&K Reorganisation Act. The Court rejected the petitioners' argument about the belated challenge and emphasized that their decision doesn't imply approval of powers under Article 370. The petition was dismissed by a two-judge bench.
Brief: In this case, the appellants, owners of certain apartments, challenged the validity of Rule 19 of the Development Control Regulations (DCR) related to the Open Space Regulation (OSR) area. The SC upheld the rule, stating that it didn't violate Article 14, was not ultra vires, and was not a case of compulsory land acquisition. The Court noted that the authority determines the OSR area's shape and location, and the rule withstands the challenge. The judgment dismissed appeals and a writ petition challenging the rule's validity.
Bench: Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice BV Nagarathna
Brief: The judgment in this case was delivered on February 20, 2023. The SC stated that a DNA test is crucial for divorce, but in this case, it isn't the only route to establish adultery or infidelity. The appellant's refusal for a paternity test doesn't draw adverse inferences. Adultery must be proven separately. The appeal was allowed, and a cost of Rs. 1 Lakh was imposed on the respondent.