The most important thing for a law student is to be updated with the recent legal happenings and the recent important judgments. Just like 2020, this year as well the courts are hearing and deciding cases virtually after the 2nd wave that happened in India. In this article we will discuss the important judgments that took place till June 2021. Let us have a look at the most important cases decided this year-
1. Paramvir Singh Vs. Baljit Singh (2021)
Supreme Court gave directions to install CCTV Cameras in all the Police Stations across India.
Bench: Justices R.F. Nariman, K.M. Joseph and Aniruddh Bose.
In this case, an SLP was filed by one Paramvir Singh who had raised issues with regards to audio and video recordings of statements and the installation of CCTV cameras at police stations. The Supreme Court impleaded all States and Union Territories and had ordered them to submit their reports on such issue. The Supreme Court, in an early case of Shafhi Mohammad Vs. State of Himachal Pradesh (2018), had directed for implementation of crime scene videography. It was also directed to install CCTV cameras in all police stations as well as in prisons but no substantial progress had made by the States/UTs in this regard. Therefore, the Court in Paramvir’s judgment has given various directions.
The bench comprising Justices R.F Nariman, K.M. Joseph and Aniruddha Bose issued the following directives-
CCTV cameras are to be installed at all entry and exit points, main gate, lock-ups, corridors etc.
CCTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage.
The areas that lack electricity and/or internet, it shall be the duty of the States and UTs to provide the same expeditiously.
CCTV cameras must be installed with such recording systems so that the data that is stored thereon shall be preserved for a period of 18 months. And in any case, the recording storage shall not be below 1 year.
The duty and responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned.
The Court also directed the Central Government to install CCTV cameras at the offices of Central Agencies also.
2. Satish Ragde Vs. State of Maharashtra (2021)
No ‘Sexual Assualt’ if there is no skin to skin contact even with sexual intent- A controversial Judgment of Bombay High Court.
Bench: Pushpa V. Ganediwala.
A 12-old girl was taken away by accused to his house in under some false pretexts. The accused pressed the girl’s breasts and even tried to disrobe her dress. At the very moment, the mother of girl reached the spot and rescued her daughter. A complaint was then made by the mother to the police station.
At the Trial Court, the accused was convicted under Section 354, 363 and 342 of IPC and Section 8 of POCSO Act and was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for sexually assaulting a minor girl. Being aggrieved, the accused filed an appeal before the Nagpur Bench of High Court Bombay for acquittal of the charges under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.
The High Court modified the order of Sessions Judge and acquitted the accused from the charge of sexual assault under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and upheld the conviction under Section 354 of IPC. The Court observed that the prosecution did not make a case that the accused removed the dress of the girl child before molesting her, and as such there was no physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration.
Under Section 7 POCSO Act, the punishment is three years whereas under that of Section 354, IPC, the minimum punishment is one year. The effect of modification of judgment was that accused was now imprisoned for one year instead of three years.
The judgment received a huge backlash from different communities citing it would set a ‘dangerous precedent’. Later, the order was stayed by Supreme Court.
3. Union of India Vs. K.A. Najeeb (2021)
Constitutional Courts to grant bail in UAPA Cases if Fundamental Right of Speedy Trial is violated.
Bench: Justices N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.
The case is related to an incident where the accused had chopped of the right palm of a Professor, an incident that happened after the Professor allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammed in a question paper prepared by him. The main accused who was charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) was denied bail by the Special Court several times but was later granted bail by the Kerala High Court. At the Supreme Court, National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed appeal against the order of High Court contending that High Court has erred in granting bail without placing an application to the statutory compliances of Section 43D (5) of UAPA.
The Supreme Court observed that the High Court of Kerala has invoked its power to grant bail owing to the unlikelihood of the trial being completed anytime in the near future. The Court held that the reasons assigned by the High Court are apparently traceable under Article 21 and has rightly not addressed the statutory bar created by Section 43D (5) of UAPA. The Court further observed that the presence of statutory restrictions like Section 43D (5) of UAPA per se does not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail on grounds of violation of Part III of the Constitution.
The Court further observed that the since two-thirds of sentence has already been completed by accused, they must be granted bail. The Supreme Court finally upheld the order of High Court of Kerala and granted bail to the accused.
4. Gautam Navlakha Vs. National Investigation Agency (2021)
Courts can order for House-Arrest under Section 167 Cr.P.C in appropriate cases.
Quorum: Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph.
Gautam Navalakha was one of the accused in Bhima Koegaon case. He was first arrested on 28.08.2018 and put to house arrest. The total period of his custody are as follows-
28.08.2018 – 01.10.2018 = 34 days of House Arrest
(Between 02.10.2018 to 14.04.2020, Delhi HC freed Navlakha)
15.04.2020 – 25.04.2020 = 11 days police custody with NIA
25.04.2020 – 12.06.2020 = 48 days judicial custody
Total Custody = 93 days
In calculating the period of custody for the purpose of filing the application for default bail, the appellant, included the period of 34 days of house arrest from 28.08.2018 to 01.10.2018 apart from other 11 day of police and 48 day of judicial custody.
The NIA Special Court, before which the Application for default bail was moved, rejected the application. Being aggrieved, the appellant preferred an appeal before the High Court of Bombay challenging the NIA Special Court’s order. The High Court by order dated 08.02.2021, dismissed the appeal. Hence the appeal to Supreme Court was made.
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. It observed that since the order for house arrest was not specifically passed by Magistrate, it cannot be said that the mandatory period of 90 days would include 34 days of house arrest. While deciding the issue of default bail, the Supreme Court also considered as to whether or not house arrest shall form the part of custody under Section 167 Cr.P.C. Answering the above question in affirmative, the Supreme Court observed that in appropriate cases, it will be open to courts to order house arrest under Section 167. However, criteria like age, health condition, antecedents of accused, nature of crime shall be necessary terms to enforce the order of house arrest.
5. Dr. Jaishree Laxmanrao Patil Vs. The Chief Minister & Ors. (2021)
The Supreme Court held Maharashtra State Reservation (SEBC) Act, 2018 (Maratha Reservation) unconstitutional.
Bench: Justices Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer, Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat.
In 2017, the Maharashtra Government appointed M.G. Gaikwad Committee recommended 12% reservation in educational institutions and 13% reservation in government employment for Maratha Community. Upon such recommendations, the Maharashtra Government enacted Maharashtra State Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) (Admission in Educational Institutions in the State and for posts for appointments in public service and posts) Reservation Act, 2018 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘SEBC Act, 2018’) but the quota for reservation was increased to 16%.
The constitutional validity of this Act was challenged before Bombay High Court as it was beyond 50% ceiling limit as prescribed in Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India. The Bombay High Court upheld its constitutional validity and held that the State Government may increase reservation beyond 50% ceiling limit as extraordinary circumstances persists. This order was challenged before the Supreme Court.
In its historic judgment, the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra SEBC Act, 2018 and also held that if Marathas are considered socially and economically backward class, then it would be violative of principles of equality. Therefore, the bench struck down the reservation given to Marathas in education and public employment.
The Court also held that the SEBC Act, 2018 violates the principle of equality as enshrined in Article 16. The exceeding of ceiling limit without there being any exceptional circumstances clearly violates Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution which makes the enactment ultra vires.
6. Saurabh Sharma Vs. Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East & Ors. (2021)
A Private Vehicle would amount to a Public Place in the context of Covid-19 regulation.
Bench: Justice Pratibha M. Singh.
In this case, four separate writ petitions were filed challenging the imposition of fine of Rs. 500/- for not wearing masks while travelling alone in a private car. The Supreme Court had clubbed all the four writs to pass a common judgment. The main question in the writ petition was whether it is compulsory for persons driving alone in their own private cars to wear face masks.
The Delhi High Court, dismissing all the four writ petitions challenging the imposition of fine for not wearing masks while travelling alone in the private vehicle and held that the mask is like a ‘suraksha kavach’ protecting both, i.e. the person wearing it and those who are around him.
The Court observed that “a vehicle which is moving across the city, even if occupied at a given point in time by one person, would be a public place owing to the immediate risk of exposure to other persons under varying circumstances. Thus, a vehicle even if occupied by only one person would constitute a ‘public place’ and wearing of a mask therein, would be compulsory. The wearing of a mask or a face cover in a vehicle, which may be occupied by either a single person or multiple persons is thus, held to be compulsory in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
In case of Boota Singh Vs. State of Haryana however, the Supreme Court ruled that a private vehicle is not a public place under Section 43 of Narcotics Drugs and Psychedelic Substances Act (NDPS). Thus, we can see how interpretation of a term has differed in different situations.
7. Imperia Structures Vs. Anil Patni (2021)
Homebuyers can choose between RERA and Consumer Protection Act
Bench: Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran
In this case the issue was whether Homebuyers are consumer within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. This judgment is considered as a milestone for homebuyers/allottees.
The Apex Court held that the homebuyers are at liberty to approach the consumer forum for claiming the compensation in such cases where the payment has been made but the developer is either denying or delaying the possession of the flats.
Homebuyers are allowed to approach the consumer forum once the promised date of delivery of possession has expired as per the agreement between the developers and homebuyers.
8. Rachana Vs. Union of India (2021)
No extra chance for UPSC Exams.
Bench: Justice AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi
In this case petitioners who had given their last attempt in the Civil Services Examination sought for an extra chance citing difficulties created by the Covid 19 Pandemic and nation-wide lockdown.
The court dismissed the plea and held that no relaxation shall be given for aspirants who have exhausted their last attempt in October 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
9. PASL Wind Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Vs. GE Power Conversion India Pvt. Ltd. (2021)
Bench: Rohinton Fali Nariman, B.R. Gavai, Hrishikesh Roy
Two Indian parties can choose a foreign seat of arbitration.
In this case a dispute arose between parties related to purchase of converters by GE Powers from PASL and warranty conditions. Earlier the Gujarat High Court held in favour of GE Power Conversion against PASL Wind Solutions
The Supreme Court held that two Indian companies can choose a foreign seat of arbitration to arbitrate their disputes. This judgment upheld and strengthened the fundamental principles of power autonomy in arbitration cases.
Foreign companies with Indian subsidiaries can now choose foreign arbitral seats like Dubai, London, Singapore in their arbitration agreements even if the subject matter of their contracts and counterparties are entirely situated within India
10, Election Commission of India Vs. MR Vijaya Bhaskar (2021)
Bench- Justice D.Y Chandrachud, M.R Shah
SC upheld Media’s freedom to report Court hearings.
In this case Election Commission of India filed a petition to restrain media from reporting oral remarks that are made by the judges in court. This came after the Madras High court remarked that ECI is responsible for the 2nd wave of Covid and should be booked for the charge of murder.
The Supreme Court gave its verdict and gave freedom to the media to report all the oral observations made by lawyers and judges during a court hearing. It said that restraining the media would be unconstitutional and against Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. Bench also stated that the prayer of ECI strikes 2 fundamental principles guaranteed by the Constitution-
Freedom of speech & expression
Open Court Proceedings
The bench also highlighted the ‘transparency in the democratic institution’ because they gather public faith, accountability and scrutiny.