1. Satish Ragde V State of Maharashtra: skin to skin contact is a necessary ingredient to constitute sexual assault.
This judgment of the High Court of Bombay could be dubbed as one of the most controversial judgments of the year 2021.
The facts of the case are as such that, the accused sexually molested a 12-year-old girl on the pretext of giving her a Guava. The accused took the girl to his house and tried taking off her salwar while inappropriately pressing her breasts, however, the mother of the girl came for her rescue in the meantime. An FIR was lodged and the accused was convicted by a special court under section 8 of the POCSO act.
In appeal, the High court acquitted the accused by reinterpreting the definition of sexual assault under section 7 of the POCSO. The court held that skin-to-skin contact is a necessary ingredient to constitute sexual assault.
However, this judgment of the High Court was later suspended by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Attorney General for India v. Satish and another. Many organizations have demanded that the judgment should be permanently expunged by the Supreme Court.
2. Aparna Bhat v. State of Madhya Pradesh: Absurd bail conditions such as tying Rakhi to the accused violates the dignity of women.
In the present case, the Supreme Court of India set aside an order of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh which directed a man accused of sexual assault to get Rakhi tied by the victim as a condition for bail.
This order generated huge backlash from certain sections of society. The Supreme Court, setting aside the judgment, noted that the courts should not impose absurd conditions for bail that will expose the survivor to secondary trauma. The Courts shouldn’t arbitrate compromises in serious cases such as marriage between the victim and the accused as the same violates the honor and dignity of a woman. The appellants also urged the court to issue directions regarding gender sensitization of the bar and law students.
Section 438 of the Code of Civil Procedure grants power to the courts to impose specific bail conditions but that doesn’t grant infinite power to the courts as limits of morality must be adhered to so that any order of the court doesn’t adversely impact the society.
3. Saurabh Sharma &Ors Vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East & Ors: Occupied vehicle even by a single person constitutes public place, and wearing a mask therein is necessary.
COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected everyone’s lifestyle. The pandemic also brought changes in Judicial functions as courts sought to adjust societal safeguards to protect people from the deadly Coronavirus. The High Court of Delhi, clarifying mask mandate under Delhi Epidemic Diseases Regulations, 2020 held that a vehicle even if occupied by only one person would constitute a ‘public place’ and wearing of mask therein would be compulsory.
The facts of the case are such that the petitioner was traveling alone in his car. His mask was hanging from his ear for which a challan of Rs.500 was imposed on him. The petitioner argued that he intended to wear the mask as soon as he stepped out of the vehicle. The petitioner also argued that the guidelines don't define a public place.
After hearing the arguments for both petitioner and the state, the court held that a vehicle that is moving across the city, even if occupied at a given point in time by one person, would be a public place owing to the immediate risk of exposure to other persons under varying circumstances. The court in the present order relied on guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) which state that a person could get exposed to Coronavirus even when traveling alone in the car.
4. LaxmibaiChandaragi v. State of Karnataka: The consent of the family is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock.
The petitioners in the current case, Santosh and Laxmi, two consenting adults, developed a liking for each other and decided to get married. However, Laxmi’s parents didn’t approve of their marriage. Laxmi eventually got married to Santosh but in the meantime, her parents filed a missing person report. Laxmi sent her marriage certificate to her parents over a WhatsApp message revealing her situation and the same was revealed to the Investigating Officer (IO). But the investigating officer insisted on recording her statement at the local police station so that the case can be closed. She then sent a letter to IO informing her that her parents pose a threat to their marriage and she can’t come to the police station.
The issue in front of the court was if the FIR can be quashed when both parties decided to marry off their own free will?
The Supreme Court annulled the FIR. Dissatisfied with the conduct of the police, the court noted that the choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is an erosion of choice. Such a right of choice is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honor” or “group thinking.
5. Rakesh Vaishnav&Ors v Union of India &Ors; Supreme Court stayed the implementation of farm laws.
In the years 2020 and 2021, India witnessed one of the largest protest in history i.e. Farmers Protests against three farm laws which now stand repealed. In the stalemate during protests, a ray of hope for farmers came in for farmers in the form of judicial intervention when the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of three farm laws. The Supreme Court also set up a committee of four members “to listen to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the Government and to make recommendations” Under the scrutiny that the democratic institutions see themselves facing, protection of Right to Freedom of Speech and protest by the judicial machinery came as a welcome change.
6. Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora: Criminalisation of politics.
This case was popularly dubbed as the ‘criminalization of politics case’ as the petition filed highlighted the problem of criminals invading the political sphere. Criminals through muscle and money power occasionally strive to secure a win through intimidation of voters. Their subsequent election violates the spirit of our constitution. The contempt petition was filed in the Supreme Court for noncompliance with the Supreme Court’s order in the case of Public Interest Foundation and ors. V. Union of India and Anr. where the court while exercising its power under Article 129 and 142 of the Constitution directed the political parties to publish criminal records of their election candidates and reasons for selecting them.
In the present petition, it was brought to the attention of the court that criminals in politics are rising at an alarming rate as in 2004 just 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them. The Court then issued multiple directions including mandatory publication of criminal records of their candidates by political parties [at the Central and State election level] that should include the nature of the offenses, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, the case number, etc.
7. Kirti v Oriental Insurance Co Ltd: Recognition of National Income for women working as Homemakers to grant compensation.
The case settled by the Supreme Court deals with compensation arising from the death of a husband and pregnant wife in a motor vehicle accident. Delhi High Court reduced the compensation of Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal from Rs. 40.71 Lakhs to 22 Lakhs on grounds of contributory negligence. The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the High Court and increased the compensation to Rs. 33.20 Lakhs stating that the compensation ought to be just, reasonable, and consequently must undoubtedly be guided by the principles of fairness, equity, and good conscience. The court further noted the gendered nature of housework. The Court stressed the fact that a homemaker, which is more likely to be a woman than a man, undertakes a plethora of activities and dedicates a sheer amount of time and effort towards household chores. Despite undertaking all these tasks the notion that housemakers do not "work" or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.
Therefore, the Court held that fixing notional income for a homemaker is a recognition of the multitude of women who are engaged in this activity, whether by choice or as a result of social/cultural norms.
8. Paramvir Singh Vs. Baljit Singh: Installation of CCTV Cameras in all the Police Stations across India.
In the present case, a special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court which raised issues concerning non-compliance with the Supreme Court’s order in the case of Shafhi Mohammad Vs. State of Himachal Pradesh where the Court directed that CCTV Cameras should be mandatorily installed in all police stations across India for videography of crime scenes and to keep human rights violations in check.
The court in its present judgment framed comprehensive guidelines on the exact position of CCTV cameras in each police station as well as the formation of Oversight Committees in compliance with the earlier judgment.
The Court directed the installation of cameras in CBI, NIA, ED, DRI, NCB, SFIO, and any other agency which carries out interrogations or has the power to arrest a culprit. The Supreme Court also issued orders for instituting ‘oversight committees’ at both state and district levels to oversee and facilitate the installation and maintenance of CCTV cameras.
9. Union of India Vs. K.A. Najeeb: Constitutional Courts can grant bail in UAPA Cases if the Fundamental Right of Speedy Trial is violated.
K.A. Najeeb, a member of Popular Front of India, also the respondent in the current case was arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) allegedly facilitating an attack on Professor TJ Joseph at Thodupuzha, Kerala in 2010. Kerala High Court in 2019 granted the bail to him owing to multiple delays in trial by NIA. NIA then filed a special leave petition against the order of the Supreme Court arguing that Sec. 43(D)(5) of UAPA repudiates bail for offenses under the Act.
The Court dismissed the appeal of NIA citing the right to speedy trial of the respondent is a fundamental right protected under Article 21. The bench comprising Surya Kant, Justices NV Ramana, and Aniruddha Bose, in their judgment reaffirmed the power of constitutional courts to grant bail to the accused charged under UAPA. The court duly acknowledged the nature of the offense but justified the High Court’s decision that the trial will be completed anytime soon.
10. Gautam Navlakha Vs. National Investigation Agency: Courts can order for House-Arrest under Section 167 Cr. P.C in appropriate cases.
Gautam Navlakha, an activist, was arrested in connection to the Bhima Koregaon riots case where he allegedly gave an inflammatory speech at the Elgar Parishad meet in 2017. In calculating the period of custody to apply for default bail, the appellant included 34 days of house arrest that would surpass the 90 days’ limit when coupled with time spent by him in judicial custody and police detention.
The NIA Court rejected the bail application and the accused moved to Bombay High Court where the appeal was dismissed. Aggrieved, the accused moved to the Supreme Court, where the court held that the house arrest of the appellant was not purported to be under Section 167 and hence, cannot be included within 90 days under Section 167 of CrPC.
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