10 landmark judgments of 2015

  1. NJAC held unconstitutional (Supreme Court Advocates On Record Association v. Union Of India)-

The validity of NJAC under NJAC Act was challenged to replace the two decade old collegium system. Under the old Collegium System, five top judges of the apex court used to recommend the transfer and elevation of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 High Courts. The NJAC was signed into an Act by President Pranab Mukherjee on December 31, 2014. According to the new act, two eminent persons will be nominated to the NJAC as members by the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of single largest Opposition party. The eminent persons will be nominated for a period of three years and will not be eligible for re-nomination. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court  declared National Judicial Commission (NJAC) Unconstitutional as it violates Basic Structure of Constitution of India by 4;1 Majority. Justices J S Khehar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel  declared the 99th Amendment and NJAC Act unconstitutional while Justice Chelameswar upheld it.

  1. Yakub Memon midnight hearing (Yakub Abdul Razak Memon v. State of Maharashtra)-

Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon was hanged to death in the Nagpur Central Prison, on his 53rd birthday, as a theatrical culmination to the unprecedented legal action last night. He was hanged at 6:43 am. Memon’s lawyers had knocked the doors of the Supreme Court after the mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee last evening. The President took his final call late on Wednesday night after consulting home minister Rajnath Singh, who said there was “no rethink” on the death sentence. Come midnight, Supreme Court Registrars converged at the Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu’s residence to convene a Bench to hear this petition. At a quarter to 2 a.m., the CJI decided to let the Bench headed by Justice Misra to hear the matter. It had only been a few hours since the same Bench dismissed Memon’s plea to stay his execution on his birthday. Outside Justice Misra’s residence, the lawyers were told to go to the Supreme Court where the matter would be heard in open court at 2.30 am. The petition was heard in Court Room 4 which was opened for an unprecedented 90-minute hearing that started at 3.20 AM and ended a little before dawn. On the final day, Yakub Memon’s death sentence was executed.

  1. Sec- 66A IT Act struck down (Shreya Singhal v. Union Of India)-

The Supreme Court declared Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as unconstitutional. The judgment was delivered by the Division Bench consisting of Justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman. The judgment, authored by Justice Nariman notes that the batch of petitions before the Court “raise  very important and far-reaching questions relatable primarily to the fundamental  right  of  free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a)  of  the Constitution of India.” Perusing the Section 66A and other provisions challenged in the petitions, the Apex Court notes the contentions made by the petitioners, it notes, “very basis of Section 66A- that it has given rise to new forms of crimes – is incorrect, and that Sections 66B to 67C and various Sections of the Indian Penal Code are good enough to deal with all these crimes.” Shreya Singhal, who had filed a PIL after the arrest of two girls in relation to the Balasaheb post, said “SC has upheld citizens’ right of freedom of speech & expression.” She added, “No one should fear not putting something up due to a fear of Jail” and “There are other provisions in IT act, if there is a hate speech, you will be dealt under those provisions.”

  1. No compromise in rape cases (State of MP v. Madanlal)-

The Supreme Court of India in a judgment pronounced  has held that in a case of rape or attempt of rape, the conception of compromise under no circumstances can really be thought of. The Supreme Court accordingly ruled out mediation in such cases. The Judgment is very relevant because of the controversial Judgment of Madras High Court in which the Court had ordered mediation in a rape case involving a minor victim. The Apex Court was hearing an appeal filed by State of Madhya Pradesh, against a rape accused. The High Court in the matter had set aside the punishment provided by the Trial Court and restricted   the   sentence   to   the   period   already undergone by the accused. Earlier, the Trial Court had sentenced the person to five years of rigorous imprisonment.

  1. RBI also under RTI (Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal Mistry)-

The Reserve Bank of India for depriving information under the RTI Act, 2005 in the name of fiduciary relationship between itself and the banks, the Supreme Court has in a landmark decision declared that RBI does not place itself in a fiduciary relationship with the Financial institutions because, the reports of the inspections, statements of the bank, information related to the business obtained by the RBI are not under the pretext of confidence or trust. The Supreme Court said that by attaching an additional “fiduciary” label to the statutory duty, the Regulatory authorities have intentionally or unintentionally created an in terrorem effect. The Court also added that neither the RBI nor the Banks act in the interest of each other. The Apex Court was considering a batch of transferred cases from various High Courts wherein the order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the RBI to furnish the Information sought to the applicants under the RTI.

  1. No Politician photos in govt. ads (Common Cause v. Union of India)-

A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice P.C. Ghose has restrained ruling parties from publishing photographs of political leaders or prominent persons in government-funded advertisements. The Court approved and adopted the following recommendations of the Madhav Menon Committee with regard to:

(i)                 Publication of photographs of the Government functionaries and political leaders along with the advertisement(s).

(ii)               Appointment of an Ombudsman

(iii)             The recommendation with regard to performance audit by each Ministry.

(iv)              Embargo on advertisements on the eve of the elections.

Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation had approached the Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, seeking a restrain of the Union of India and all State Governments from using public funds on Government advertisements “which are primarily intended to project individual functionaries of the Government or a political party”.

  1. Age determination of rape victim clarified (State of M.P. v. Anoop Singh)- Answering with the central question as to the criteria to be adopted and applied to resolve the controversy over the age of a rape victim  in the event of a discrepancy in the  birth certificate and the school certificate, the Supreme Court of India has held (State of M.P. vs. Anoop Singh)  that Rule  12(3)  of  the Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)  Rules,  2007, is applicable in determining the age of the victim of rape, and that medial opinion can be relied on only in the absence of the documents prescribed in Rule 12(3) of the Juvenile Justice Rules.
  2. Obscene language cannot be allowed against ‘Historically respected personalities’ [Devidas vs. State of Maharashtra]-

The Apex Court in a significant judgment rendered held that in the name of artistic freedom or critical thinking or generating the idea of creativity, a poet or a writer cannot put into the voice or image of a “historically respected personality” like Mahatma Gandhi, such language, which may be obscene. A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant was considering the appeal preferred by a bank employee who had challenged the framing of charges against him for publishing an alleged “vulgar and obscene” poem- ‘Gandhi Mala Bhetala Hota’ (‘I Met Gandhi’) using the name of Mahatma Gandhi in an in-house magazine of the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Union in 1994.

  1. Jat reservation unconstitutional (Ram singh v. Union of India)-

In a notable judgment, a bench of two of the sharpest Supreme Court Judges; Justice Nariman and Justice Gogoi declined to accept that the Jat community can be given a backward status. Right before the epic 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government had notified reservation to jats as in the Central list of Backward Classes for 9 states on 04/03/2014, namely Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The said notification was crafted even after strong de-recommendation by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). The then ruling establishment had to face stiff criticism for providing the reservation allegedly to gain vote bank of the community. The NDA government had accepted the notification and agreed to contest the challenge in court.

  1. Section 364A IPC awarding death penalty not unconstitutional [Vikram Singh vs. Union of India]

The Supreme Court of India, dismissed an appeal by a death row convict, and held that Section 364A awarding death penalty as a possible punishment, for kidnapping any person threatening to cause death in order to compel Government or any other person, to pay ransom, is not unconstitutional. Three Judge bench of Justices T.S. Thakur, R.K. Agrawal  and Adarsh Kumar Goel examined the background of the Section 364A and held that it was enacted for the safety and security of the citizens and the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country. The punishment prescribed, the court held “cannot be dubbed as so outrageously disproportionate to the nature of the offence as to call for the same being declared unconstitutional.” The court however, said that the death penalty prescribed, may be only awarded in cases which falls in rarest of rare category.

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