Major decisions –
- SC Constitution Bench adjourns hearing on Article 370 for Centre’s reply – On 1 October 2019, the Supreme Court Constitution Bench adjourned hearing of the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the repeal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its reorganisation till 14 November 2019, on a request by the Central Government’s counsel to time to file counter-affidavits in individual petitions. The Bench has allowed four weeks to file the same and one-week time thereafter for petitioners to file rejoinders. Ten different petitions have been listed before the bench.On 1 October 2019, the Centre submitted before the Supreme Court that “normalcy” was returning to the Kashmir valley and denied restrictions on media reporting. The Commissioner-Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government denied any firing and consequent loss of life in their affidavit. During the hearing, Advocate Vrinda Grover questioned under which notification the communication blackout was done. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde stated that normalcy could not be equated with “mere existence”, to which Justice B. R. Gavai immediately replied, “personal liberty will have to be balanced against the requirements of national security”. [Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1031 of 2019, date of order: 01.10.2019)
- SC sets aside clean chit given to Maharashtra CM in false election affidavit case – The Supreme Court set aside the clean chit given to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis by the Bombay High Court, in the case of allegedly furnishing false information in his election affidavit submitted during the 2014 assembly elections. Directing the trial court to proceed with the case, the Supreme Court bench observed that prima facie case was made out against Fadnavis under Section 125 of the Representation of Peoples Act. The petition against Fadnavis had been filed alleging his failure to furnish details in his election affidavit of two pending criminal cases in which the trial court has taken cognizance. (Satish Ukey v. Devendra Gangadharrao Fadnavis and anr. [Criminal Appeal Nos. 1515-1516/2019, date of judgment: 01.10.2019]
- Government notifies electoral bonds while pleas challenging validity of scheme stand pending – Despite criticism of anonymous electoral bonds and their adverse effect on transparency in political funding, the Centre announced issuance of electoral bonds from 1 October 2019 to 10 October 2019, in light of the upcoming assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra. These electoral bonds can be used by companies and individuals to make anonymous donations to political parties. Petitions challenging the constitutional validity of electoral bond schemes were filed in 2017. The case was partially heard only by March 2019, by when most electoral bonds had been purchased. Election Commission of India had filed its counter-affidavit in the Supreme Court in response to the petitions in May 2017, stating on record that the scheme has adverse impact on transparency in political funding. The matter was last heard by the Supreme Court in April 2019 when it had observed that the issues give rise to “weighty issues” having “tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country” and noted that such issues require in-depth hearing.
- Delhi High Court dismissed Chidambaram’s regular bail application in INX Media case –The Delhi High Court dismissed the regular bail application filed by former Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case. The Court noted that Chidambaram can influence the witnesses during the advanced stage of investigation as he is a senior member of the Bar and an ex-Union minister. The Court stated in the judgment that it has been on record that large sums of monies had come to the companied owned by Chidambaram’s son during the period of FIPB approval to INX Media. Investigation also revealed e-mails which had been exchanged between INX Media and Chidambaram and his son. The Court held that economic offences aggrieve the entire community as they affects the fabric of democratic governance and probity in public life. [ Chidambaram v. CBI [Bail Appln. No. 2270/2019, date of order: 30.09.2019]
- Plea in Supreme Court seeking linkage of social media accounts with Aadhaar – A plea has been filed before the Supreme Court by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, seeking linkage of social media accounts with Aadhaar. The plea seeks inter alia directions to the Centre, Election Commission, and Press Council to control fake and paid news by taking appropriate steps to deactivate “fake and ghost” social media accounts. The petition has been filed to do away with fake accounts used by political parties and contesting candidates for self-promotion and other “electioneering activities”, even during 48 hours prior to poll conclusions. [Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India and ors.]
- Bombay High court holds that Court are not empowered to award less than minimum sentence if accused in child labour case pleads guilty – Allowing an appeal by the State government to enhance fine amount imposed on accused in a child labour case, the Bombay High Court held that Courts are not empowered to imposes sentence below the minimum sentence prescribed statutorily by the Legislature. The State government had challenged a judgment of the Judicial Magistrate of First Class passed on 15 October 2001. (The State of Maharashtra v. Yalappa Basappa Khot [Criminal Appeal No. 1021 of 2001], date of judgment: dated 04.06.2019)
- Karnataka High Court holds that rape victim is not entitled to compensation if she turned hostile during trial –The Karnataka High Court dismissed a petition filed by a rape victim seeking compensation, on the grounds that the petitioner and her father were declared hostile during the course of the trial. The court held that the victim had violated the Karnataka victim compensation scheme, as per which the victim has to cooperate with the prosecution during investigation trial, and the complaint filed should not be fabricated. With regards to the District Legal Services Authority not giving the petitioner a hearing before passing order for setting aside the compensation award, the Court held that “principles of natural justice do not apply to a case where on admitted facts only one conclusion is possible”. (XXXX v. Karnataka State Legal Services Authority [W.P. No. 24462 of 2019 (GM-RES)], order dated 16 September 2019]
- Allahabad High Court holds that Employees Compensation Act is a social security legislation providing speedy payment of compensation –The Allahabad High Court held that the Employees Compensation Act, 1923 is a social security legislation providing a speedy and efficient machinery for determination and payment of compensation to employees. The Court was adjudicating a petition filed by M/s Vasu Infrastructure Private Ltd. challenging an order passed by the Assistant Labour Commissioner, awarding compensation to the respondent-employee for having suffered 100% disability in an accident allegedly arising out of and in the course of employment. The Court, reflecting on the object of the Act, said that it was meant to protect workmen from hardship arising from accidents which happen during the course of employment. The Court relied on the principle of liberal construction to a beneficial legislation having a social welfare purpose. (M/s Vasu Infrastructure Private Ltd. v. State of U. P. and ors. [Writ C. No. 26540 of 2019], date of order: 23 September 2019)
- Muslim parties argue on Day 34 of Ayodhya hearing that legality of mosque’s construction should not be tested of Quranic theology – On Day 34 of the Ayodhya hearing, submission were made on behalf of the Muslim parties by Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade concerning res judicata. Questions were raised on if it is acceptable that Mahant Raghubar Das represented the entire Hindu community in the 1885 suit, in which only a part of the land was claimed. Additionally, it was submitted if Muslims could claim title. Naphade submitted that res judicata is applicable in the given case. Advocate Md. Nizam Pasha commenced his arguments for another Muslim party countering the issues: a mosque could have been constructed without destroying a temple, and the structure did not meet requirements of a mosque. The counsel cautioned the bench from considering theological aspects in the case and requested to stick to legal aspects. He submitted that whether Babur’s actions were valid according to Quran would be a theological question. He further stated that at that time Babur was the sovereign and the law was what the sovereign declared to be. Hence, testing his actions against Quranic law would be incorrect to asses legality of Babur’s actions.