Highlights of Recent Judgments by Constitutional Bench of the Apex Court (2016-18)

This post shall highlight in brief the judgments between 2016-2018, decided by the Constitutional Bench of the Hon’ble Apex Court –

  1.  2016

Pankajakshi (Dead) through LRs  v. Chandrika & others decided on February 25 , 2016 an appeal was preferred from the decision of the High Court of Kerala where the latter confirmed the decree under appeal despite the difference of opinion between the two Judges comprising the Bench on a
question of fact. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that Section 23 of the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act remains unaffected by the repealing provision of Section 9 of the Kerala High Court Act, and that, being in the nature of special provision vis-à-vis Section 98(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, would apply to the Kerala High Court. (Para 51)

Modern Dental College and Research Centre & ors. V.State of Madhya Pradesh & ors. , decided on May 02, 2016, the validity of Admissions Rules, 2008  and the Madhya Pradesh Private Medical and Dental Post Graduate Courses Entrance Examination Rules, 2009  was upheld.

G.T. Venkataswamy Reddy V. State Transport Authority & Ors., decided on July 19, 2016, it was held that the judgment reported in Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, Bangalore Vs. B.A. Jayaram and others – 1984 (Supp) SCC 244 is no longer a good law and the decision reported in
Pandiyan Roadways Corporation Ltd. Vs. M.A. Egappan (1987) 2 SCC 47 stands approved. (Para 51) The Court further directed the Registry to list the cases before the regular Bench for disposal by applying the principles set
down in this judgment wherever it is applicable. (Para 52)

Anita Kushwaha v. Pushap Sudan ,decided on July 19, 2016, the Court examined whether this Court has the power to transfer a civil or criminal case pending in any Court in the State of Jammu and Kashmir to a Court outside
that State and vice versa. The Court held that there is no prohibition against use of power under Article 142 to direct transfer of cases from a Court in the State of Jammu and Kashmir to a Court outside the State or vice versa.  It further held that the extraordinary power available to this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution can, therefore, be usefully invoked in a situation where the Court is satisfied that denial of an order of transfer from or to the Court in the State of Jammu and Kashmir will deny the citizen his/her right of access to justice. The provisions of Articles 32, 136 and 142 are, therefore, wide enough to empower this Court to direct such transfer in appropriate situations, no matter Central Code of Civil and Criminal Procedures do not extend to the State nor do the State Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure contain any provision that empowers this court to transfer cases. (Para 36)

In Re: The Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, decided on November 10, 2016, by virtue of the provisions of Article 143 of the Constitution of India the Apex Court has to examine the validity of the Punjab Act, 2004 and we have also to examine whether the State of Punjab had validly terminated the Agreement dated 31st December, 1981 and other agreements relating to Ravi-Beas waters so as to discharge it from the obligations which it had to discharge under certain valid orders passed by appropriate authorities. Certain unwarranted developments which took
after the Court started hearing this Reference. I.A. No.7 of 2016 had been filed by the State of Haryana praying that the operation and implementation of
Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Act, 2016 be suspended so that the entire proceedings initiated in pursuance of the Reference may not be frustrated.

The Supreme Court held that the State of Punjab had exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this Court and therefore, the Punjab Act cannot be said to be a validly enacted legislation, as held by this Court in terms the aforestated judgments. (enactment and introduction of certain legislation by the State of Punjab).(Para 38) The Punjab Act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India
and by virtue of the said Act the State of Punjab cannot nullify the judgment and decree referred to hereinabove and terminate the Agreement dated
31st December, 1981. (Para 41) All the questions referred to this Court are answered in the negative. (Para 42)

Uthuramalingam & ors. V State Represented by Inspector of Police, decided on December 9,2016 legitimacy of the consecutive life sentences in the light of Section 31 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was challenged in these appeals, before arriving at the conclusive findings, a three-Judge Bench of this Court referred the matter to larger Bench and the said larger Bench– Constitution Bench, vide its judgment dated 19.07.2016, examined the legitimacy of consecutive sentences of life imprisonment. It held that “while multiple sentences of imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other offences punishable with imprisonment for life, the life sentences so awarded cannot be directed to run consecutively.” The only substantial question was whether the High Court in the facts and circumstances of the case, was justified in modifying the conviction from that under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC to that of Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC.

The Court upheld the judgment passed by the High Court as far as awarding of sentences concerned. However, the sentences shall run in conformity with the
observations made by the Constitution Bench of this Court in its judgment dated 19.07.2016 passed in these appeals. The impugned judgment passed by the High Court is modified to the above extent. (Para 21)

2. 2017

Re, Hon’ble Shri Justice C.S. Karnan, decided on 9 May,2017, the Supreme Court held that none of the allegations levelled by Justice Karnan were supported by any material. His allegations were malicious and defamatory, and pointedly by name, against many of the concerned Judges. (Para 35) It further held that the actions of Shri Justice C.S.Karnan constituted the grossest and gravest actions of contempt of Court. He has also committed contempt, in the face of the Court. He is therefore liable to be punished, for his unsavoury actions and behavior. We are satisfied that he should be punished for his above actions, with imprisonment for six months. (Para 36)

Shayara Bano versus Union of India decided on 22 August,2017The Apex Court held that the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ has to be considered integral to the religious denomination in question – Sunnis belonging to the Hanafi school. (Para 145) It further directed the Union of India to consider appropriate legislation, particularly with reference to ‘talaq-e-biddat’. (Para 199) It further injuncted Muslim husbands, from pronouncing ‘talaq-e-biddat’ as a means for severing their matrimonial relationship, till such time as legislation in the matter is considered. (Para 200)

Justice K S Puttaswamy (Retd.) and anr versus Union of India and Ors, decided on 24 August,2017, the Hon’ble Apex Court held as follows

(Para T) –

  • The decision in M P Sharma which holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;
  • The decision in Kharak Singh to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;
  • The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

The State of Jharkhand & Ors. v. M/s Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd. , decided on December 14, 2017, the Court dealt with the question whether this Court can entertain an application for making the award as Rule of the Court, even if it retains seisin over arbitral proceedings. It upheld the decision of the High Court of Bombay that there is difference of opinion in relation to the entertainability of an application by this Court for making an award passed by the arbitral tribunal, when it retains seisin over arbitral proceeding, as Rule of the Court  It observed that the jurisdiction of a Court conferred under a statute cannot be allowed to shift or become flexible because of a superior court’s interference in the matter in a different manner. (Para 58)

3. 2018

Common Cause vs. Union of India and Another, decided on 9 March,2018, the Supreme Court held in para 195 that it has to be stated without any trace of doubt that the right to live with dignity also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in PVS with no hope of recovery. In para 191, it carved out guidelines as Advance Directives. It further observed that doctors would be bound by the choice of self-determination made by the patient who is terminally ill and undergoing a prolonged medical treatment or is surviving on life support, subject to being satisfied that the illness of the patient is incurable and there is no hope of his being cured. (para 169)

Sum-Up

The Constitutional Bench of the Apex Court decided on a variety of issues and settled questions spread to a number of laws such CPC, Constitution of India, IPC, Contempt law, personal law etc. The years 2016-2018 are significant as matters touching the constitutional rights were decided by the Apex Court.

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Bhumika Sharma

She is currently a Research Scholar, (PhD) at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. She finds peace in research and writing on a variety of social issues. She believes in the power of education and awareness to deal with various problems.

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