Supreme Court’s Top 10 Judgements of 2023

9 Feb 2024  Read 772 Views

2023 was quite a year for the Supreme Court of India - it disposed of more than 52,000 cases, a little less than 2022 but still very productive. The Apex Court also managed to give more than 1000 judgments, out of which 18 had Constitutional Benches, meaning verdicts that involved a substantial question of law as to the Interpretation of the Constitution; for example, Demonetisation, Same-Sex Marriage, etc.

In this article, we wrap up all the Important ones for you; let's explain one case at a time-

Important Verdicts of 2023 

  1. Legal Validity of the Demonetisation Scheme of 2016

Case Title:- Vivek Narayan Sharma v. Union of India

Bench:- Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, AS Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian and B.V. Nagarathna

The year 2023 began with a five-judge Constitution Bench judgement upholding the decision of the Union Government to demonetise the 500 and 1000 banknotes in November 2016. It held the scheme to be valid and in line with the principle of proportionality. The objective of demonetization was to combat counterfeit currency, black money, and funding for illegal activities, which was considered a valid purpose. The judgement was delivered by a majority of 4:1, with Justice Nagrathna disagreeing with the majority, stating that though demonetisation was well-intentioned and well thought how it was carried out was improper and unlawful, and the RBI had not independently applied its mind to the case.

  1. CJI Joins Election Commissioner Selection Panel

Case Title:- Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India

Bench:- Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar

In March, the Bench settled the dispute revolving around the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs). As per Article 324 of the Constitution, the President of India appoints members of the Election Commission unless the Parliament makes a law. The Apex Court constituted a panel for appointment of the CEC and EC by the President on the advice of a 3-member committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India until a dedicated law will be enacted. The Court ruled that the terms of service for Election Commissioners and Regional Commissioners should align with certain rules but remain subject to any future laws passed by Parliament.

  1. SC Power to Dissolve Marriages on the Ground of Irretrievable Breakdown

Case Title:- Shilpa Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan

Bench:- Justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S. Oka, Vikram Nath and JK Maheshwari

On 1 May, the Bench held that the SC has inherent power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to dissolve a marriage that has irretrievably broken down, which is not the ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Additionally, the Court addressed the issue of waiving the mandatory 6-month waiting period specified in Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Court affirmed its ability to waive this waiting period if the marriage is broken and beyond repair. 

  1. On Governor during Shiv Sena Split

Case Title:- Subhash Desai v. Governor of Maharashtra

Bench:- CJI Dr D.Y.Chandrachud, Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha

In a political party, two factions were split, and the Leader of one faction, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, resigned from his position just before he was called for a floor test. Meanwhile, the Leader of the other faction became the new Chief Minister. Both factions approached the SC with their respective issues to resolve Maharashtra's 2022 political crisis. The SC ruled that the power to decide on the disqualification of MLAs lies solely with the Speaker and the Governor's decision to order a floor test to gauge the support to then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray was illegal. Further, through this judgement, a previous decision on anti-defection law, Nabam Rebia v. Deputy Speaker, 2016, was referred to a larger bench of 7 Judges for reconsideration.

  1. Delhi Govt. Vs Lt. Governor

Case Title:- Government of NCT Delhi v. Union of India

Bench:- CJI Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, Justices Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, M.R. Shah and PS Narasimha

In this case, the SC ruled that the power over Delhi's administrative services, including the appointment, transfers, and other related matters of civil servants, lies with the Government of NCT Delhi (GNCTD) and not with the Lt. Governor. The Bench further observed that despite Delhi being a Union Territory, it possesses a unique status, and all powers, except for land, police, and public order, should be with GNCTD. The Central Government passed the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which grants the Lt. Governor the power to make the final decision in case of any dispute related to matters of services.

  1. Supreme Court Greenlights Jallikattu & Bull-Taming Sports

Case Title:- Animal Welfare Board v. Union of India

Bench:-  Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar

On 18 May, the SC upheld the amendments made by the legislatures of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act). These amendments allowed bull-taming sports such as Jallikattu, kambala, and bullock-cart races. The Bench relied on the argument that Jallikattu was a key part of the state's culture, which had been practised for centuries. However, the Court decided not to explore whether a cultural right was involved in this situation, saying that it's not a task for the Judiciary to take on. The Bench also said that in Indian law, animals don't have rights like people, and they decided not to try to change that by bringing bulls under Article 21.

  1. Same-Sex Marriages Denied Legal Recognition

Case Title:- Supriyo @ Supriya Chakraborty and anr v. Union of India

Bench:- CJI Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, Justices S.K. Kaul, S.R. Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha

On 17 October, the Bench rejected a batch of petitions that sought the equal right to marry for sexual minorities (LGBTQIA+ Community). It unanimously held that there is no fundamental right to marry under the Constitution of India. However, it also held that transgender persons in heterosexual relationships can marry under the existing laws, but it cannot strike down the provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA) or read words differently to include non-heterosexual couples within its fold. The Bench left it to the legislature to decide to grant non-heterosexual couples the right to legally recognized marriage, civil union, or adoption. 

If you want to read about the Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Verdict, click the link.

  1. SC Orders End to Manual Scavenging Nationwide

Case Title:- Dr. Balram Singh v. Union of India

Bench:- Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar

On 20 October, the Division Bench of the Supreme Court issued several directions to the Centre to completely eradicate manual scavenging by ensuring proper implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The Bench has decided to increase compensation for the families of people who die while cleaning sewers to up to ₹30 lakhs. It also directed both the Central and State governments to take strong actions to put an end to manual scavenging entirely. Additionally, the court has mandated that individuals who sustain permanent disabilities while doing this work should receive a minimum compensation of ₹20 lakhs.

  1. Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's Special Status

Case Title:- In Re: Article 370 of The Constitution

Bench:- CJI Dr DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant

As per Article 370 of the Constitution, J&K enjoyed a special status, and the Parliament had limited power to legislate. Provision of Article 370 (3) stated that the special status of J&K can be amended or removed by the President after the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State. In 2019, through two Presidential Orders, the special status of J&K was removed, which was challenged in this case. On 11 December, the Bench unanimously upheld the Union government's 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, while pointing out that Article 370 is a temporary provision as indicated by its placement under Part XXI.

  1. Enforceability of Unstamped Arbitration Agreement

Case Title:- In Re: interplay between Indian Stamp Act and Indian Arbitration Act

Bench:- CJI Dr DY Chandrachud, C.J.I, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, Surya Kant, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra

In April 2023, in the case of NN Global Mercantile Pvt. Ltd. v. Indo Unique Flame Ltd & Ors, a panel of five judges ruled that arbitration agreements lacking stamps are not legally enforceable. However, this decision was overturned in December by the Constitution Bench of Seven Judges, which determined that although unstamped arbitration agreements are not admissible as evidence, they are not automatically deemed void from the beginning simply because of non-payment of stamp duty. However, such an agreement may be deemed inadmissible as evidence.

You may also read here if you want to read more about last year's Supreme Court verdicts.

Conclusion

The year 2023 has passed, and we are in an election year; it's going to be a busy time for India's Supreme Court because some big decisions are coming up, and the court will also be looking into some key legal issues like MPs/MLAs bribe for vote case, Electoral Bond Scheme, Sub-Classification of STs & SCs and many more.

Remember, this compilation of the Supreme Court's Top 10 Judgements of 2023 is just a summary! Each judgment deserves its own deep dive. 

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 7 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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