29 Mar 2020

10 leading Supreme Court decisions in March 2020

In the wake of the health crisis, all major institutions, including the Supreme Court, have shut down. We took this opportunity to get our act together and bring to you some premium content. Going in reverse order, we have cataloged 10 major decisions of the Supreme Court handed out in March 2020 in this post.

(1) Right to Information - Is is not pervasive 

In the case of Chief Information Commissioner v. High Court of Gujarat the Supreme Court (three-judge bench) has declared that every inconsistency between the RTI law and any other law as regards supply of information is not fatal. Therefore upholding the rules governing supply of information adopted by the High Court of Gujarat, the Supreme Court has opined that the High Court can imposed additional conditions for furnishing the information. In particular, the condition under the High Court Rules for filing affidavit and giving reasons as to why the information is required which, thought contrary to the RTI Act, has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has also upheld the exclusion of the RTI Act, under the High Court rules, to the copies of judicial work of the High Court and the same can be sought only under the High Court rules and not under the RTI. [Civil Appeal No. 1966-1967/2020 dated 04.03.2020]

(2) Workers are also 'consumers' of Government Schemes

In this path breaking decision in the case of Joint Labour Commissioner and Registering Officer v. Kesar Lal the Supreme Court has expanded the scope of consumer laws to hold that even a worker who is denied benefit of Government schemes can successfully bring a case under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. In this case the Respondent Worker had applied for grants under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 for purpose of his daughter's marriage. This was rejected by the Officer of the Rajasthan Government citing that the paperwork was not complete and formalities were not complied. The worker complained against this rejection under the consumer law and this came was finally upheld by the Supreme Court. [Civil Appeal No. 2014/2020 dated 17.03.2020]

(3) Proceedings for removal of 'probationer' not entitled to strict judicial review compared to confirmed employees

In the case of Rajasthan High Court v. Ved Priya the Supreme Court was concerned with correctness of view of the High Court (on its administrative side) which has removed the Respondent probationer from services as a judge of the lower court. This proceeding was challenged by way of writ petition before the High Court. The Supreme Court in this decision exhaustively surveyed the earlier decisions regarding the right of probationers to be confirmed and the corresponding right of the employer to remove the probationers. Upholding the removal, the Supreme Court specifically observed that unsatisfactory performance is sufficient for removal in such cases and there is no necessity for a full-fledged inquiry at the end of probation period. [Civil Appeal No. 8933-8934/2017 dated 18.03.2020]

(4) Pension available even for employees who have opted for VRS scheme

Deciding the disputed question (on which even the earlier benches of the Supreme Court has a conflicting view), a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Assistant General Manager, State Bank of India v. Radhey Shyam Pandey has declared that even those employees opted for the Bank's Voluntary Retirement Scheme after 15 years are entitled to pension. The Court specifically concluded that the action of the Bank in denying the benefit of the pension scheme was unfair in this case and it should have considered its social obligation to its past employees as well. [Civil Appeal No. 2463/2015 dated 02.03.2020]

(5) Limitation period for execution of foreign decree has to be adopted from the foreign country

There is no limitation period under the Indian law for execution of a foreign decree. In this background in the case of Bank of Baroda v. Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. the Supreme Court has concluded that the limitation period for execution of foreign decree in the host country will apply even in India. For example if a decree of UK can be executed in UK only within 6 years, the same decree when sought to be executed in India, can also be executed within 6 years and after that it will be barred by limitation. The Supreme Court held that any other limitation period will imply that when the decree cannot be originally executed in its own country, it can still be executed in India, which will be an anamalous situation and cannot be accepted. [Civil Appeal No. 2175/2020 dated 17.03.2020]

(6) 5-judge bench clarifies the law on Land Acquisition

In 2013 a new land acquisition law replaced the earlier law of 1894. This 2013 law made specific provisions was lapse of a land acquisition i.e. situations where land cannot be acquired due to non-completion of conditions within the stipulated period. There were multiple proceedings before various High Courts in the country and also there were many contrary opinions in the Supreme Court itself on when do these conditions get satisfied. A five judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal has declared the final position. This is a detailed decision running into over 300 pages with clear set of conclusions towards the end. [SLP(C) No. 9036-9038/2016 dated 06.03.2020]

(7) Same expression can have different meaning under different laws

Can the same term mean differently when used in different laws. The Supreme Court has answered in the affirmative. In the case of Commissioner of Central Excise, Nagpur v. Universal Ferro & Allied Chemicals Ltd. the Supreme Court considered the provisions of Central Excise Act, 1944 where the expression 'sale' is defined to cover a mere transfer of possession of goods in the course of business. Holding that it was possible for the law-makers to give a different definition which was contrary to the general meaning of the expression and once such a different definition was used, the meaning under this definition was to be applied. In other words, the general meaning of the expression 'sale' was not relevant. [Civil Appeal No. 848-852/2009 dated 06.03.2020

(8) Obligation of the vehicle owner for insurance claim purposes

In the case of Nirmala Kothari v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. the Supreme Court has held that it is the obligation of the insured to verify the driving licence of the person to whom the vehicle is being given. If the driving licence looks genuine, that obligation is complete. There is no obligation to take up the matter with the RTO to seek confirmation. In such cases, the Insurance Company has to give the insurance claim and it cannot deny the liability even if the licence later turns out to be forged. [Civil Appeal No. 1999-2000/2020 dated 04.03.2020]

(9) RBI Ban on crypto-currency set aside.

The Supreme Court in the case of Internet and Mobile Association of India v. Reserve Bank of India has quashed the ban imposed by the RBI on crypto-currencies. Taking note of the legal position outside India and the fast changes happening elsewhere, according to the Supreme Court the decision of the RBI was disproportionate and unreasonable making it vulnerable to constitutional stipulations. [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 528/2018 dated 04.03.2020]

(10) Anyone can work as an architect. 

Holding that there is no legal requirement to get registered with Council of Architecture, the Supreme Court in the case of Council of Architecture v. Mukesh Goyal has held that the law only prohibits an unregistered individual from using the title of 'architect'. [Civil Appeal No. 1819/2020 dated 17.03.2020]

No comments: