A memorable year for Supreme Court
J. Venkatesan IN THE HINDU
in protecting human rights and in exposing corruption at high levels by ordering a thorough probe into the 2G spectrum scam.
Justice Kapadia, first Parsi to become the CJI, believes in silent action. He is reticent about meeting the media.
Concerned at poor infrastructure in the subordinate judiciary, the CJI has taken upon himself the task of providing basic facilities to the judiciary at all levels.
Taking a serious view of irregularities and lapses in the telecom sector over the past decade, the court has taken charge of the 2G spectrum scam probe, being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation, and widened its scope.
It asked the CBI to register a first information report and investigate the grant of licence from 2001 to 2006-07, with emphasis on the loss caused to the exchequer and corresponding gain made by the licensees and service providers.
The court asked Income Tax authorities to analyse the transcripts made from corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s phone taps and hand these over to the CBI “to facilitate further investigation into the FIR already registered or which may be registered hereinafter.”
In the area of human rights, the court declared “illegal” use of narco-analysis, brain-mapping and polygraph tests on suspects and held that these tests could not be conducted on any person, whether he or she is an accused or suspect, without his or her consent.
Expanding the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and liberty) the court expressed concern over lacunae in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
It said: “The legislative scheme of the Act clearly places the ‘right to livelihood’ on a higher pedestal than a mere legal right.” It asked the Centre and the Orissa government to show cause why the CBI should not be directed to investigate this matter in accordance with law.
In a rare instance, the Supreme Court proved that it was not infallible but rectified its mistake at once.
However, the State preferred an appeal only against the four main accused. The Supreme Court, while setting aside the High Court judgment, restored the trial court order though the remaining four respondents were not heard or made parties in the appeal.
On a curative petition, the court, correcting its mistake, said: “We see that there is a serious violation of the principles of natural justice as the acquittal of all the accused has been set aside even though only four of them were made respondents before this court and the others were not heard. We are, therefore, constrained to recall the judgment passed by this court. Consequently, the four accused [who were not heard] if they are in custody, are directed to be released forthwith.”
In another instance, the court admitted that its earlier judgment upholding the death sentence awarded by the trial court and confirmed by the High Court was a mistake and violation of the human rights of the accused. The court, in a second review, upheld the Assam Governor’s order commuting the punishment to life sentence.
The court held: “Instances of this court’s judgment violating the human rights of the citizens may be extremely rare but it cannot be said that such a situation can never happen. On a review of the reasoning in the petition, we find that the finding in the judgment is vitiated by errors apparent on the face of the record.”
Observing that great ignominy attached to the arrest of a person, the court held that it would not be proper for the trial court or the High Court to grant anticipatory bail for a limited duration and thereafter ask the accused to surrender and seek regular bail.
Removal of Governor
The court held that a Governor could not be removed on the ground that he/she was out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor could he/she be removed on the ground that the Union government lost confidence in him/her.
It held that a change in government at the Centre was not a ground for removal of Governors to make way for others favoured by the new regime.
In the biggest corporate legal battle between the Ambani brothers, the court held that gas is a national asset and that the Centre’s pricing policy would prevail over any private agreement.
It directed Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) of the Mukesh group to initiate renegotiations with Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. (RNRL) of the Anil group for fixing the price of gas to be supplied to RNRL. This judgment paved the way for a fruitful settlement of the dispute between the brothers.
- Court admits it erred, upholds commutation of death penalty (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- SC Heat Singed Even PMO in 2010 (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Politics of judiciary (indialawyers.wordpress.com)