Weekly round up of SC Cases

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Some interesting cases were heard last week by the Supreme Court and here are the highlights of five such cases. Cases involving maintenance to cases of custody issues the Apex Court dealt with quite a lot of social issue cases this last week.

Kamala and Others Vs. M.R. Mohan Kumar [Criminal Appeal Nos. 2368-2369 of 2009]

Karnataka High Court had set aside family court’s order of maintenance towards appellant and her two children based on the fact that the marriage had taken place at a temple against the wishes of both sets of parents of appellant and respondent. The respondent’s contention was that when there is no valid marriage between the parties, petition for maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. cannot be maintained. The case was presented in the Court of Honourable Justice R. Banumathi where learned counsel for the appellant insisted, “in the instant case, parties have entered into a wedlock in a temple and lived together and begot two children, hence, presumption arises in favour of appellant No.1 and the respondent failed to rebut the said presumption.” The Court ruled, “High Court did not keep in view that in the proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C., strict proof of marriage is not necessary. The findings recorded by the family court as to the existence of a valid marriage ought not to have been interfered with by the High Court,” and allowed the family court’s verdict to be followed setting aside High Court’s decision.

Arjun Gopal vs Union Of India [I.A. No.4 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.728 of 2015]

In continuation with an old interim petition regarding unsafe air quality in National Capital Region (NCR) of India the Supreme Court decided on this issue freshly. The Apex Court on its interim order of November 11, 2016 had banned the use of firecrackers and explosives during the festival and marriage season in NCR as it was hazardous and unsafe for its citizens. In a fresh ruling, the Court held, “the severe air pollution in the NCR is leading to multiple diseases and other health related issues amongst the people. The damage being caused to people’s lungs is said to be irreversible. Needless to state, the grim situation of air quality adversely affected the right to education, work, health and ultimately, the right to life of the citizens, and this Court is constitutionally bound to address their grave concerns.”

The Court further pointed out, “a just constitutional balance, must overwhelmingly prioritize the harmful effects of this hazardous air on present and future generations, irreversible and imperceptible as they are, over the immediate commercial constraints of the manufacturers and suppliers of fireworks. The mechanism of the law in this regard is clear. Rule 118[2] of the Explosive Rules, 2008, framed under the Explosives Act, 1884 provides for the manner in which licenses issued under the Explosives Act to store and sell explosives could be suspended or cancelled. Sub-Rule(5) thereof specifically confers on the Central Government a power to suspend or cancel a license if it considers that it is in public interest. The Court in its final judgment held, “while lifting the suspension on the permanent licences already granted, we put these licensees on notice for Dussehra and Diwali in 2018 that they will be permitted to possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017 and that this will substantially reduce over the next couple of years.”

M. C. Mehta V. Union of India [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13029 of 1985]

A three judge bench comprised of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer made it clear that only BS VI (Bharat Stage VI) compliant vehicle shall be sold from April 1, 2020. The Bench observed, “Ms. Aparajita Singh, learned amicus curiae, notes that the problem of air pollution is affecting all human beings and any leniency on the part of the Government in tackling it will have a cascading effect on the health of the citizens. These observations have been made with specific reference to vehicular pollution and the need to ensure compliance of BSVI norms with effect from 01.04.2020.”

The Court held, “there can be no compromise with the health of the citizens and if one has to choose between health and wealth, keeping in view the expanded scope of Article 21 of the Constitution, health of the teeming millions of this country will have to take precedence over the greed of a few automobile manufacturers. The larger public interest has to outweigh the much smaller pecuniary interest of the industry, in this case the automobile industry, especially when the entire wherewithal to introduce the cleaner technology exists.” The issue of economics also was countered by the judges as they held, “if we were to factor only economics even then it makes no economic sense to have more polluting vehicles on the roads. The amount spent on countering the ills of pollution such as polluted air, damaged lungs and the cost of healthcare far outweigh the profits earned.” Exercising their rights under Article 142 of the Constitution the Apex Court ruled, “no motor vehicle conforming to the emission standard Bharat Stage IV shall be sold or registered in the entire country with effect from 01.04.2020.”

Dr. Amit Kumar vs Dr. Sonila [Civil Appeal No. 10771 of 2018 arising out of SLP(C) No. 21786/2018]

In a case of a bitter custody fight between a divorced couple the Supreme Court held, “the second marriage of the appellant (husband) cannot be put against him, nor can the factum of the child of his second wife residing with him deprive him of the custody rights of his two children, which has been specifically conferred on him with the consent of respondent No.1 (ex-wife), especially when he has been looking after the children and has not gone back on any of his commitments. The trigger for respondent No.1 claiming custody of the children only arose when the appellant asked her to contribute financially.”

The Apex Court further claimed, “we may also invite attention to Order II Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 specifying that where a plaintiff intentionally relinquishes, any portion of his claim, he shall not afterwards sue in respect of the portion so relinquished. Respondent No.1 had relinquished her rights to claim custody and the suit filed by her, thus, is also highly doubtful.” The Court thus ruled that the children “should be returned to the appellant by respondent No.1, along with all relevant documents of the children, within thirty (30) days from today, before the Family Court. After the children attain the age of majority, they would have their own choice. The appeal is accordingly allowed.”

PIL thrown out and lawyer fined by SC

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul refused to entertain a petition filed by Advocate Asok Pande in which he requested that the marriageable age of Indian males be lowered to 18 years similar to that of females. He argued, “at the age of 18, every male and female get the right to vote, choose their legislators and on attaining the age of 18 that a person comes out of the definition of a ‘juvenile’. The provisions of Child Marriage Restraint Act, the Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act which deal with the minimum marriageable age for men are violative of various fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.” The Apex Court refused the petition on the grounds that “there was no public interest involved in the petition.” The Court also issued a fine of Rs. 25,000 on Advocate Pande for wasting the Court’s time with a frivolous PIL stating, “if any 18-year-old person approaches us with such kind of a petition, then we will give him the cost deposited by you.”

The impact of the judgments

All these social issues judgments needless to say would have severe impact on the future of different cases filed and heard in cases. For instance, in recent times filing frivolous PILs have become a major problem for the courts of our country already reeling with backlogs of various cases. The fine being slapped on Advocate Pande would serve as a serious reminder that the Court’s valuable time should not be thus wasted.

The custody cases usually have several complicated issues attached. In this instance, the High Court which heard the appellant’s children were convinced that they would be better off with their birth mother and failed to take into consideration that prior to the question of providing financially for her children she never showed any interest in having them with her. The environment is a serious problem that has been a major concern with our government. Globally every country is striving to make serious contributions regarding environmental protection and health issues of their citizens. Global organization like UN in its mandates is calling for serious commitments from world leaders and global populace is gearing up fast to combat the serious threats to environment. Paris Conference and European union summit recently held have unanimously agreed and pledged to change their country’s policies towards a safe and healthy environment for our next generation. A commitment to which India is a participant and hence our Supreme Court takes a very serious and committed stance on environmental issues that affects our lives as well as our country’s ability to stand as an emerging world power.

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