- Order on the petition for reference to a larger bench in the EWS case reserved – The Supreme Court has reserved its order on the issue whether the constitutional challenge to the 10% reservations for the EWS ought to be referred to a higher bench. The bench currently hearing the matter has three judges. In the hearing, the Attorney General claimed that the assumption that a 50% cap on reservation exists is incorrect. Certain states already have crossed the threshold in state-funded institutions like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Further the Supreme Court has also held in an earlier judgment, that reservation on the basis of economic status is also acceptable, especially in educational institutions. He also mentioned that the Indira Sawney judgment itself anticipated exceptions to its 50% rule. [Janhit Abhiyan v Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 55/2019, date of order: 31.07.2019]
- Magistrate can direct giving of voice samples during investigation without consent – The Supreme Court has settled the question that arose out of a 2012 judgment regarding the powers of a judicial magistrate to direct an accused to give their voice sample without their consent. The judgment relies on Section 53 of the CrPC and Section 5 of the Identification of the Prisoners Act. The Court also called upon its powers under Article 142 to come to this conclusion, stating that it the power has not been specifically granted by the Code, the court will grant it through its inherent powers to do justice. The judges in the earlier judgment differed on the point as to whether the magistrate could invoke any inherent powers under the CrPC like a civil judge can under the CPC. [Ritesh Sinha v State of Uttar Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 2003 of 2012, date of judgment: 02.08.2019]
- Mediation attempt in Babri Masjid case fails – The Supreme Court has held that the attempt to reconcile the parties in the Babri Masjid case through mediation had failed. The Court will now hear the appeal on a day-to-day basis from August 6 onwards. In a recent order, the Court moved up the date of closure of the mediation from 15th August to 31st This occurred when the appellants supporting Ram Lalla asked for an early hearing on the matter.[Mohd. Siddiq v Mahant Suresh Das, Civil Appeal No(s).10866-10867/2010, date of order: 02.08.2019]
- Mere laboratory report stating that the sample tested was narcotics cannot be treated as conclusive proof of the same – The Supreme Court has held that simply producing a lab report, which states that the substance tested was a narcotic substance is not sufficient proof for a conviction under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The accused argued that the police also had to prove that the substance was the same as the one that was retrieved from the accused. The Court also rejected State’s contention that the accused had two previous convictions under the Act, clarifying that previous convictions could be relevant at the stage of sentencing but cannot be proof for conviction itself.
- Challenge filed against the Triple Talaq law – The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 has been challenged by a Kerala based organisation of Sunni clerics on the grounds that a Muslim marriage is a civil contract and its repudiation cannot be criminalised. The Act criminalises pronouncement of instant talaq by means oral or written. It states a punishment of 3 years during which the convict is also required to pay maintenance to his wife. Further the petitioners claim that the Act is aimed to persecute a specific class of citizens based on their religious identity. The underlying judgment, Shayara Bano, uttering of the words ‘Talaq, talaq, Talqq’ have no meaning and the marriage will still survive and yet the act has been criminalised. The provisions thus according to the petitioner are arbitrary and irrational. [Samastha Kerala Jamiathul Ulema v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 994 of 2018]
- Government order on salary and working conditions of nurses in private hospitals upheld – The Delhi High Court has upheld the order of the Delhi Government improving the salary and working conditions of nurses in private hospitals. According to the order, if the hospital has more than 200 beds, the salaries of the nurses have to be at par with those of government hospitals. If there are 100-200 beds, then the salary cannot be less than 10% in comparison, and for 15-100 beds, it cannot be 25% less. For a hospital with less than 50 beds, the salary cannot be less than 20,000 in any case. The government order was challenged as being arbitrary as it did not follow the prescribed procedure under the Minimum Wages Act to increase wages. It also claimed that the judgment has asked the government to look into legislative measures and not just pass an executive order. The Court rejected the challenge holding that the Committee on whose recommendations this order was passed, was not obligated to act under the parameters of the Act and so the order needn’t have been passed in accordance with its procedure. The Court also held that legislative measures did not mean specifically through a legislation, the Government could have enforced the recommendations in the manner it deemed fit. [Association of Healthcare Providers (India) v. Govt of NCT of Delhi, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 7291/2018, date of decision: 24.07.2019]
- NIA court to decide on application to make Malegaon trial in camera – The Special NIA court hearing the Malegaon blasts case will be hearing the petition this week to hold the Malegaon trials in camera. The NIA argues that it is necessary to do so to maintain harmony in the society. The NIA argues that the case is of a sensitive nature and unwarranted publicity needs to be avoided in the matter. One of the accused in the case, Lt. Col. Purohit in the case had also made a similar plea, which was party allowed by the court to allow the proceedings of filing of charges against him to happen in camera.
- Prisoner can seek transfer to a prison closer to his family– The Madras High Court (Madurai bench) has held that a prisoner can seek transfer to a prison closer to his family, provided there are no security concerns. The petitioner in this case had sought the transfer on humanitarian grounds – to be closer to his 92 years old mother. The Court noted that being convicted does not render a prisoner as a ‘non-person’ and it was still the duty of the courts to protect their rights. Under the Tamil Nadu rules, the High Court could decide on the transfer of a prisoner and if the prisoner wanted to be closer to his family, he could approach the court with such a request. The Court also relied on the Nelson Mandela United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and a 2016 Supreme Court decision to come to its conclusion. [Radhakrishnan v State of Tamil Nadu, Writ Petition (Madurai)No.15664 of 2019 and Writ Miscellaneous Petition (Madurai)No.12339 of 2019 date of order: 19.07.2019]