#JudgmentReserved: SC delivers judgment two years after reserving it

Judgment Reserved

Last week, the Supreme Court delivered judgments in four cases long after reserving them, violating its own rule set in the Anil Rai case.

The first to attract our notice was, of course, the one which was delivered two years after it was reserved.

Justices RK Agrawal and Adarsh Kumar Goel, on March 21, delivered the judgment in a criminal appeal [2285/2011], in which hearing was concluded on March 10, 2015. Justice Agrawal authored the judgment.

The case, K Sitaram & Anr. v. CFL Capital Financial Service Ltd. & Anr, arose out of a Bombay High Court judgment, which had dismissed the writ petition of the appellants in 2011.

The appellants were employees of the State Bank of Travancore, and the respondent company had availed of a loan from the bank. As the respondent company was unable to pay its dues to the bank, the Bank had filed recovery proceedings before the Debts Recovery Tribunal, and succeeded in getting a partial decree for a sum of Rs. 812.26 lakhs.

Meanwhile, the bank had entered into an Assignment Deed with Kotak Mahindra Bank which included this recovery, but both did not inform the respondent company about the Deed. The respondent company, therefore, alleged criminal conspiracy on the part of the appellants, by concealing the fact of the Assignment Deed between the two banks from it.

Relying on the clauses in the Assignment Deed between the two banks, the Supreme Court agreed with the respondent company that the information about the Deed must have been conveyed to it by both, and therefore, it constituted a breach.

The Supreme Court held that a corporate entity is an artificial person which acts through its officers. But, an individual, who has perpetrated the commission of an offence on behalf of the company can be made an accused, along with the company, if there is sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent, the Court held.

Having said that, the court took note of the fact that the respondent company had withdrawn the complaint against two employees of the Kotak Mahindra Bank, from the common complaint made against four. The Supreme Court, applying the principle of parity, held that the complaint against the two appellants too did not survive as a result, and quashed the same.

Perhaps the Judges believed that the case was too complex to be resolved within the normal time span.

It may be mentioned as a coincidence that the Supreme Court verdict in this case was delivered before the appellant’s senior counsel, TR Andhyarujina, passed away on March 28.

Three more judgments delivered after ‘undue delay’

The second instance is the judgment in M/s Larsen & Toubro Ltd v State of Jharkhand & Ors, which was delivered by Justices Madan B Lokur and RK Agrawal (authored by Justice Agrawal) on March 21. The last hearing in this case apparently took place on January 7 last year, when the bench might have reserved the verdict.

A Civil Appeal [5390/2007], this required consideration of the question whether the Assessing Authority for collection of commercial taxes could initiate reassessment proceedings on the basis of audit objections alone, without her personal satisfaction. The bench replied to this question in the negative, and allowed the appeal, setting aside the Jharkhand High Court’s judgment.

The third case is Criminal Appeal [1418/2014], in which judgment was reserved on October 27 last year, by Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Ashok Bhushan. It was delivered on March 23.

The case, Soyebbhai Yusufbhai Bharania & Ors v State of Gujarat, involved the interpretation of Section 149 of Indian Penal Code, dealing with guilt of every member of unlawful assembly, in prosecution of common object.

The appellants-accused, represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, contended that Section 149 could not be invoked in the absence of the overt act being attributed to each accused, since there is no finding to the effect that five or more persons were involved in the offence. Of the five accused, two were acquitted, one by the trial court, and another by the high court.

The prosecution, however, contended that its case was based on an unshakeable eye-witnesses’ account, and the question of proving the motive by the prosecution did not arise, since it was not a case based on circumstantial evidence. The court dismissed the appeals.

The fourth judgment, delivered on March 21, is Civil Appeal (11974/2016], Neeraj Kumar Sainy & Ors v. State of U.P.  Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had reserved the judgment in this case on December 5 of last year. Authored by Justice Misra, the judgment dismisses the plea of the appellants that they were entitled to be considered for admission to unfilled seats in medical colleges in the state.

These four cases of delayed judgments have come to light out of a total of 30 judgments, (including 11 non-reportable ones by Justice Kurian Joseph) delivered last week (March 20 – March 24) by the Supreme Court.

While complexity accounts for the delay in some, there may be other reasons, which are unique to those cases. Those reasons too need to be divulged, to ensure transparency.

Cases reserved last week

Bar & Bench tracked ten cases in which judgments were reserved last week. They are as follows:

  1. Bijender and Ors v. State of Haryana, Civil Appeal 2846/2017, reserved by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre on March 23.
  1. Special Agricultural Produce Market Committee for fruits and vegetables v. N.Krishnappa & Ors. Etc., SLP [c] 2355/12, reserved by Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha on March 24.
  1. Harita Sunil Parab v. R.D.Upadhay & Ors, WP[Criminal] 176/2016, reserved by Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman on March 24.
  1. Gauri Shankar v. Rakesh Kumar, SLP [c] 29019-29020/2015, reserved by Justices Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar, and Mohan M Shantanagoudar on March 24.
  1. Palure Bhaskar Rao Etc. Etc. v. Pramaseshaiah & Ors. Etc. Civil Appeal 6795-98/2014 reserved by Justices Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi on March 21.
  1. Ganesh Shamrao Andekar v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No.547/2007, heard by Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Prafulla C Pant, on March 22.
  1. Vineet Kumar and Ors v. State of UP & Anr, SLP[Crl] 287/2017, heard by Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, on March 24
  1. M/s Berger Paints India Ltd. v. CIT, Delhi-V, Civil Appeal 2162/2007, heard by Justices RK Agrawal, Abhay Manohar Sapre, on March 21.
  1. Sri M.Sankaranarayanan v. The Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore, SLP [c] 20459/2014, heard by Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, on March 24.
  1. Jayshree Ujwal Ingole v. State of Maharashtra & Anr, SLP [Crl] 7186/2014, heard by Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta on March 24.