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Constitution Bench Judgments of 2020

The Indian Judicial System comprises of the Supreme Court of India at its helm, followed by the High Court of different states or a group of states and union territories, followed by the lower courts at districts, tehsils and so on. Supreme Court Albeit India adopted a federal system of government after independence but the courts followed an integrated structure of judiciary whereby courts follow a hierarchical pattern.

All the legal cases unless writ petitions or special leave petitions or an original jurisdiction of the high court all cases are initiated at the lowest level and are taken to the higher levels by the way of an appeal if required. The decision of the higher courts is binding on the lower/subordinate courts.

Thus a decision by the Supreme/Apex Court is binding on all the courts in India whereas the decisions of the High Court of a particular jurisdiction is binding on all subordinate courts of the same state and have persuasive value for the high court and subordinate courts in the other states.

A decision by a larger bench [given by more number of judges] is binding on the smaller bench. To the uninitiated, a bench is always constituted with an odd number of judges.

A bench of two judges is called a division bench and a bench of three judges is called full bench. A bench of five or more judges is called a constitutional bench. The largest constitutional bench of the Supreme Court comprising of 13 judges was constituted in the case of Keshva Nanda Bharti vs State of Kerala. The seniority of the judges follows a similar pattern, implying a similar fashion in judicial control.

Protection under Anticipatory Bail should not be fixed for limited period

CaseSushila Aggarwal v. State of NCT of Delhi1)

Coram: Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S Ravindra Bhat JJ.

The Court held that protection granted to a person under Section 438 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) should not be invariably limited to a fixed period and should be in favour of the accused without any restriction on time. Normal conditions under Section 437 (3) read with Section 438 (2) should be imposed. Further, the Court held that the life or duration of an anticipatory bail order does not end normally at the time and stage when the accused is summoned by the court, or when charges are framed, but can continue till the end of the trial, except in special or peculiar conditions. The Court reaffirmed the principles of Shri Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia & Ors. v. State of Punjab.2)

Supreme Court can refer questions of law to larger Bench when exercising review jurisdiction

CaseKantaru Rajeevaru v. Indian Young Lawyers Association Thr. Its General Secretary Ms. Bhakti Pasija & Ors.3)

Coram: SA Bobde CJ, R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, S Abdul Nazeer, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant JJ.

The nine-judge Bench hearing the Sabarimala reference held that the Supreme Court can refer questions of law to a larger bench while exercising its review jurisdiction. The Court also framed seven questions which are related to Article 25 and 26 which will now be heard and decided by the nine-judge Bench.

Article 370 reference to larger Bench denied

CaseDr. Shah Faesal & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.4)

Coram: NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant JJ.

The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that there is no need to refer to a larger bench the petitions challenging the Presidential Orders issued on August 5-6, 2020 to repeal the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.

Consumer Forum has no jurisdiction to extend time beyond 45 days for opposite party’s version

CaseNew India Assurance v. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd.5)

Coram: Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S Ravindra Bhat JJ.

The Court held that the District Forum has no power to extend the time for filing the response to the complaint beyond the period of 15 days in addition to 30 days as is envisaged under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act. It further held that the commencing point of limitation of 30 days under Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act would be from the date of receipt of the notice accompanied with the complaint by the opposite party, and not the mere receipt of the notice of the complaint.

Land acquisition under Land Acquisition Act of 1894 will not lapse if compensation is tendered in the State treasury

CaseIndore Development Authority v. Manoharlal & Ors.6)

Coram: Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah, S Ravindra Bhat, JJ.

In a significant judgment, the top court held that land acquisition under the earlier law of 1894 will be deemed to have lapsed only when government authorities fail to take possession and pay compensation in the treasury.

The Bench held that the compensation need not be deposited in the court. Once the compensation amount is tendered by the State in the government treasury, its obligation will stand complete with respect to the payment of compensation.

In such a scenario, landowners, who had refused to accept the compensation under the earlier Act, cannot now take advantage of the deemed lapse of acquisition under Section 24 of the new Act of 2013. Further, the Court overruled all the previous precedents in this regard.

2020 5 SCC 1
1980 2 SCC 565
2020 SCC OnLine SC 692
2020 4 SCC 1
2020 SCC OnLine SC 287
2020 SCC OnLine SC 316

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