It is imperative for every aspirant gearing up for the upcoming CSE exam to study significant Supreme Court judgements. The Supreme Court holds the ultimate authority in interpreting the Constitution and has safeguarded our fundamental rights and freedom through its creative and innovative interpretations. Landmark judgments, including the AK Gopalan case, Berubari union case, Shankari Prasad case, etc., play a pivotal role in understanding the legal landscape.
- Harmonious Construction Doctrine – achieving a balance between Fundamental Rights (FR) and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).
- Purposive Interpretation/Construction – utilizing external material and internal aids for interpretation, often associated with judicial activism.
- Ancillary Powers Doctrine – the authority to legislate on a matter includes the power to legislate on related incidental matters.
- Colourable Legislation Doctrine – what cannot be done directly should not be done indirectly.
- Pith and Substance Doctrine – challenging the true nature of legislation rather than its ancillary effects.
- Severability Doctrine – removing only the offending part of legislation.
- Eclipse Doctrine – any law conflicting with FRs becomes inactive or eclipsed until the overlying FR is removed.
- Laches Doctrine – imposing a time limit on claiming rights.
- Basic Structure Doctrine.
- Essential Religious Practices Doctrine.
- Precautionary Principle.
- Principle of Reasonableness.
- Principle of Proportionality.
- Principle of Legality – presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
- Constitutional Morality.
Separation of powers
Article 50: It says the government should make sure the courts and the executive work separately.
Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy: Until 2016, 70 out of the last 100 retired Supreme Court judges took jobs in quasi-judicial bodies.
Bhim Singh Case: The Supreme Court said a strict separation of powers isn’t possible or good. They approved the MPLAD and MLALAD schemes.
Second Judges Case:
1. If the courts and the government clash, the courts win.
2. They introduced the Collegium system.
University of Kerala case: A two-judge bench said the courts can’t act like a temporary parliament when the rules are missing.
- In 2020, the Lok Sabha operated for 74% of its scheduled hours, while the Rajya Sabha operated for 86% of its sanctioned hours.
- During the same year, the question hour functioned for 65% in the Lok Sabha and 45% in the Rajya Sabha.
- The Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha was not selected 280 days after the first sitting, which Article 93 suggests should happen promptly.
- In the 16th Lok Sabha, 27% of introduced bills were referred to committees.
- Privileges are derived from Article 105 and Article 194.
Federalism – competitive, cooperative
In the SR Bommai case, guidelines were set for declaring President’s Rule in a state:
- Check if there’s a chance for a floor test to prove majority support for the council of ministers.
- The central government must warn the state and provide a week for a response.
- The assembly can only be suspended, not dissolved, by the President until Parliament gives its approval (must be done within 2 months).
- Courts can’t question the advice given by council of ministers to the President or Governor, but they can question the reasons behind the President’s satisfaction.
In the Government of NCT Delhi vs LG Case, it was clarified that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) doesn’t have independent decision-making power.
Six key principles guide their actions:
- purposive interpretation, and
- good governance.
Checks and balances
- Ordinance-making powers under Article 123 and Article 213 of the Indian Constitution.
- In 2020, the question hour operated for 65% in the Lok Sabha and 45% in the Rajya Sabha.
- Only 27% of bills were sent to committees during the 16th Lok Sabha.
- Cooper case: The President’s satisfaction can be challenged in court on the grounds of malafide.
- D C Wadhwa case: Repeated re-promulgation of ordinances without attempting to pass the bill through the legislature violates the constitution, and such ordinances can be invalidated.
- Krishna Kumar Singh case: Neglecting to present an ordinance before the legislature is an abuse of power and a fraud on the Constitution.
- IR Coelho case: Laws protected by the 9th schedule are subject to scrutiny under Article 14, 19, and 21.
- 2G Spectrum case: The Supreme Court canceled the allocation, stating that all national assets should be allocated through auction, entering into the executive domain.
1. SC Agarwal Case:
- Transparency and accountability are vital for judicial independence.
- Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public functionary and is subject to the Right to Information (RTI).
- RTI must be balanced with privacy considerations.
2. SC Agarwal vs Congress Case:
The Supreme Court declared political parties as public functionaries under RTI. However, political parties have not responded positively, and another case is pending in the Supreme Court.
3. DAV College Trust Case:
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) substantially funded by the government are considered public authorities under RTI.
Note: RTI Amendment Act 2019 and FCRA Amendment Act 2019 require NGOs receiving foreign aid to provide an affidavit stating that they are not promoting violence or sedition.
1. Youth Bar Association Case:
For sensitive cases, FIRs must be uploaded within 48 hours, and a copy should be provided to the accused.
2. Cooper Case:
The President’s satisfaction for promulgating an ordinance can be questioned in court on the grounds of malafide.
3. SR Chaudhuri Case:
Resignation and re-appointment of a minister before the 6-month period is over, and not standing for election is unconstitutional.
4. Biman Bose Case:
Governors cannot nominate MLCs on their own; a Cabinet recommendation is required. (Highlighted in the recent case of the Kerala Governor rejecting the Cabinet’s call for an assembly session, which is beyond discretionary purview.)
5. Ashwini Upadhyay Case:
Parties must publish pending criminal cases against candidates and provide reasons for selecting them.
Judicial activism – examples
1. Nilabati Behera Case:
Victims of custodial torture are entitled to necessary compensation as it violates Article 21.
2. Hussanara Khatoon Case:
Relaxation of locus standi and provision of free legal aid, later integrated as Article 39A.
3. Ashwini Upadhyay Case:
Parties must disclose pending criminal cases against candidates and provide reasons for selecting them.
4. Arjun Gopal Case:
Ban on fireworks in Delhi NCR with exceptions.
5. Sabarimala Case:
- SC allows the entry of women into the temple, going against an essential religious practice.
- Prioritizing human dignity over religious freedom.
- Kesavananda Bharati Case: Created the doctrine of basic structure and introduced PIL as an innovation.
6. Vellore Citizen’s Welfare Forum Case:
SC introduced the Precautionary Principle, stating that in the face of threats of serious and irreversible damage, the absence of scientific certainty shouldn’t delay measures to prevent environmental degradation.
7. Babita Puniya Case:
Ensured permanent commission for women in the Armed forces.
8. Vineeta Sharma Case:
Daughters have an equal right to inherit under the Hindu Succession Act, including the role of Karta in HUF.
Judicial overreach – examples
1. Sabarimala Case:
- SC permits the entry of women into the temple, overriding essential religious practices.
- Prioritizes human dignity over religious freedom.
2. Shyam Narayan Chouksey Case:
National anthem made mandatory before film screenings, disregarding the Bijoe Emmanuel ruling and criticized for imposing patriotism through fiat.
3. Arrive Safe Society Case:
SC prohibits the sale of liquor within 500 meters of national highways, causing confusion. Accidental deaths from drunk driving at 4%, compared to 44% from overspeeding, without empirical justification.
4. 2G Spectrum Case:
SC cancels allocation, asserting that all national assets should be allocated through auction, intruding into the executive domain.
1. Shirur Mutt Case:
Essential religious practices determined from the doctrines of the religion itself, influencing the Shamim Ara case.
2. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo Case:
A 1995 3-judge bench rules that Hindutva is a way of life, making appeals based on Hindutva not disqualified under section 123(3) of RPA.
3. Abhiram Singh vs CD Commachen Case:
In 1996, a 7-judge bench holds that appealing to the ascriptive identities of any candidate and voters constitutes a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123(3) of the RPA.
4. Sabarimala Case:
- SC permits the entry of women into the temple against essential religious practices.
- Human dignity takes precedence over religious freedom.
- A common thread of human dignity runs through Part III.
1. Golak Nath Case:
Highlights the distinction between legislative and constituent powers of Parliament. The 24th Amendment establishes that Article 368 prevents the judiciary from reviewing amendments.
2. Kesavananda Bharti Case: Introduces the basic structures doctrine.
3. Minerva Mills: Declares the 42nd Amendment unconstitutional as it breaches the basic structure. It emphasizes that Parliament cannot exploit its restricted amending power to grant itself unlimited powers.
4. IR Coelho Case: Asserts that all laws protected by the 9th schedule are accountable to scrutiny under Articles 14, 19, and 21.
1. ADM Jabalpur Case: Declared suspension of all writs during emergencies.
2. Justice Puttaswamy Case: Overturned ADM Jabalpur, affirming that the right to life existed prior to the constitution.
1. Berubari Union Case: Stated that the Preamble is not a component of the constitution.
2. Kesavananda Bharati Case: Reversed the earlier perspective, acknowledging the Preamble as a part of the constitution.
3. LIC Case: Reiterated that the Preamble is indeed a part of the constitution.
Directive Principles of State Policy
1. Kerala Education Bill Case: Emphasized the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction, illustrating the interconnectedness of Fundamental Rights (FRs) and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs).
2. Minerva Mills Case: Specified that laws falling under Article 31C are protected only if crafted to implement Article 39(a) and (b).
3. Olga Tellis Case: Affirmed the significance of DPSPs in the governance of the nation.
4. Dalmia Cements Case: Described DPSPs as the conscience of the constitution.
5. Ashok Kumar Thakur Case: Clarified that the non-enforceability of DPSPs doesn’t imply subordination; Article 46 emphasizes the state’s duty to promote the interests of SC/ST and other weaker sections.
Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties
1. Kesavananda Bharati Case:
Established a connection between Article 14, 19, and 21, introducing the test of reasonableness.
2. Puttaswamy Case:
Introduced the tests of reasonableness and proportionality.
3. Anuradha Bhasin Case:
Recognized internet use as protected under Article 19, emphasizing it as a Fundamental Right (FR). Stated that bans under Section 144 of CrPC should pass the test of proportionality.
4. Subramanium Swamy Case:
Upheld criminal defamation under Sections 499 and 500 of IPC.
5. Bijoe Emmanuel Case:
Defined disrespect as a willful act done to show disrespect (mens rea). Not standing or not singing does not necessarily constitute disrespect.
6. Faheema Shirin Case:
Acknowledged access to the internet as a basic right, as ruled by the Kerala High Court.
Schedule X – norms and cases
1. Kihoto Hollohan Case:
Affirmed the constitutional validity of Schedule X.
2. Keisham Singh Case:
Advocated for the creation of an independent tribunal by Parliament to adjudicate disputes under Schedule X.
3. Karnataka MLA Disqualification Case:
Clarified that the Speaker has the right to disqualify but cannot set a term. Disqualified members remain eligible to contest bye-elections.
4. Constitution Review Commission:
Recommended that defectors should not be allowed to hold political office for the remainder of the term.
Representation of People Act,1951
1. Lily Thomas Case:
Legislators convicted of a crime with a minimum 2-year sentence are immediately disqualified.
2. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo Case:
In 1995, a 3-judge bench ruled that Hindutva is a way of life, and appeals based on Hindutva are not disqualified under section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA).
3. Abhiram Singh vs CD Commachen Case:
In 1996, a 7-judge bench held that appealing to the ascriptive identities of any candidate and voters constitutes a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123(3) of the RPA, 1951.
4. PUCL Case:
The Supreme Court determined that voting is a statutory right only.
5. ADR Case:
Voters have the right to know the antecedents of individuals running for elected office.
Election Commission of India
1. Ashwini Upadhyay Case:
Political parties are required to disclose pending criminal cases against candidates and provide reasons for their selection.
2. Chandrababu Naidu Case:
Verification of VVPATs (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) is mandated in five polling stations per constituency.
3. Harbans Singh Jalal Case:
The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) becomes effective as soon as elections are announced.
4. Ram Deo Bhandari Case:
Implementation of the issuance of ID cards to voters.
1. Indira Sawhney Case:
- The Supreme Court upheld OBC reservation.
- No reservation allowed in promotion for Group A/B.
- Struck down 10% reservation for economically backward sections.
2. Ashok Kumar Thakur Case:
- The Supreme Court upheld OBC creamy layer, clarifying it doesn’t apply to SC/STs.
- No distinction made between civil and political rights from socio-economic rights under Fundamental Rights (FRs) and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs).
- The non-enforceability of DPSPs doesn’t imply subordination.
3. Hema Vijay Menon Case:
– The Bombay High Court ruled that commissioning mothers, who have a child through surrogacy, are entitled to maternity leave.
4. Olga Tellis Case:
– Squatting was deemed illegal, but the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) was required to provide alternative housing to slum dwellers.
5. Almitra Patel Case:
– Providing accommodation to squatters was compared to rewarding a pickpocket, advocating a firm response to land grabbers.
6. Rajeev Kumar Gupta Case:
– Upheld 3% reservation in direct recruitment and promotions for people with disabilities under section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities Act.
- In the Shah Bano case, the recognition of Muslim women’s right to maintenance led to the introduction of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act in 1986 to address this matter.
- The Shamim Ara case invalidated instant and triple talaq, asserting that triple talaq is not an essential aspect of Islam, subsequently prompting the Muslim Women Rights in Marriage Act of 2019.
- The Naz Foundation case played a pivotal role in advancing LGBTQ rights in India by decriminalizing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
- The PA Inamdar case clarified that reservation norms do not apply to Minority Educational Institutions (MEI), while the Azeez Basha case established that institutions established by Parliament cannot be classified as MEI under Article 30.
- The St. Stephens case allowed up to 50% reservation for the minority community in MEI, emphasizing inclusivity.
- In the WB Madarsah Service Commission case, regulations aimed at ensuring educational excellence were scrutinized to prevent interference with the rights granted under Article 30.
- The TMA Pai case highlighted the importance of considering the status of minorities under Article 30 on a state-wise basis, stating that these rights cannot supersede national interests.
- It also emphasized that government regulations should not compromise the minority character of any institution and that the right to administer does not include the right to mal-administer.
Alternative Dispute Redressal Mechanism
In the Vishnu Lochan Madan case, it was clarified that Sharia courts are not recognized as formal courts within the Indian legal system, as there is no provision for a parallel judicial system. However, the Supreme Court refrained from declaring them unconstitutional, considering them more as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms akin to Lok Adalats.
In the Nagaraj Case, it was established that the state is not obligated to provide reservations in promotions; however, it has the discretion to implement such reservations after gathering quantitative data on the representation of various communities.
The DK Basu Case outlined crucial guidelines for arrests.
- Emphasizing transparency and the protection of the arrested individual’s rights.
- These guidelines include the requirement for arresting personnel to carry identification tags, recording particulars of those involved in the arrest, preparing an arrest memo in the presence of a witness, and allowing the arrested person to inform someone about their arrest. Additionally, the DK Basu guidelines address the responsibility of the police to inform the next of kin or friends within a specified time frame if they live outside the district.
- The arrested person should be promptly informed of their right to notify someone about their arrest, akin to the Miranda warning in the United States.
- The guidelines also mandate regular medical examinations for the arrestee, the right to meet with a lawyer during interrogation (though not throughout), and the sharing of arrest records with the Magistrate and Police Control Room, with the latter displaying the information conspicuously.
Intellectual Property Rights
RG Anand case: it was established that a concept is not eligible for copyright protection. Similarly, in the Rameshwari Photocopy Services case, the principle emphasized that copyright is designed to foster knowledge and should not serve as an obstacle. The interpretation of laws should align with the progression of human development, ensuring no regression in the pursuit of betterment.
- Enhanced service delivery and efficiency are achieved through the use of dashboards.
- The interaction between the government and beneficiaries is streamlined with the GeM portal, fostering improved communication.
- Empowerment is facilitated by online access to information through the RTI portal.
- Transparency is heightened through proactive information sharing on various websites.
- Digital monitoring of files contributes to cost savings in operations.
- Additionally, the digital system allows for increased accountability, as delays can be tracked, and weak links in the process can be identified.
Important Supreme Court Judgements for IAS Exam FAQS
1. Why is it essential to study significant Supreme Court judgments for the CSE exam?
It is crucial because the Supreme Court holds the ultimate authority in interpreting the Constitution and has safeguarded fundamental rights and freedom through innovative interpretations, impacting the legal landscape.
2. What are the key SC Doctrines mentioned in the context of legal interpretation?
The SC Doctrines include the Harmonious Construction Doctrine, Purposive Interpretation/Construction, Ancillary Powers Doctrine, Colourable Legislation Doctrine, Pith and Substance Doctrine, Severability Doctrine, Eclipse Doctrine, Laches Doctrine, and Basic Structure Doctrine.
3. How does the Supreme Court address the Separation of Powers?
The Supreme Court, through Article 50, emphasizes the need for the government to ensure the separation of powers between the courts and the executive. The Bhim Singh Case and the Second Judges Case are also noteworthy in this context.
4. What guidelines were set in the SR Bommai case regarding President’s Rule in a state?
The guidelines include the necessity for a floor test, a warning by the central government, suspension (not dissolution) of the assembly by the President, and the courts’ power to question the reasons behind the President’s satisfaction.
5. How does the SC address transparency and accountability in governance?
The SC, in cases like SC Agarwal Case and DAV College Trust Case, emphasizes transparency and accountability, stating that judicial independence is vital, the CJI is subject to RTI, and NGOs funded by the government are public authorities under RTI.
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