June 22, 2020

Supreme Court of India in the limelight for the unique feat of hearing the maximum number of cases during lockdown

- Legal Era News Network, [ ]


The Supreme Court of India is in the limelight and in the forefront in the whole world for having heard the maximum number of cases via virtual courts or video conferencing during the Covid induced lockdown. Even in challenging times as the global pandemic cripples the entire world, the Indian Judiciary has discharged its important function and emerged as a global leader in doing so. The Supreme Court has heard approximately 7000 cases during the lockdown period.

Below is a compilation of some of the important judgments by the Apex Court during the lockdown:

1. SARFAESI Act shall apply to co-operative banks: SC

The Supreme Court has ruled that co-operative banks come under the ambit of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Act 2002 (SARFAESI Act). The Court observed that the recovery is an essential part of banking; as per the recovery procedure prescribed under Section 13 of the SARFAESI Act, legislation relatable to Entry 45 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution is applicable.

A constitution bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose said, “The provisions of Section 2(1)(c) of SARFAESI Act, 2002 is not ultra vires. We find that the SARFAESI Act qualifies the test of legislative competence, as well as the definition, cannot be said to be a colourable piece or over inclusive or beyond the competence of the Parliament.”

2. SC extends period of limitation for arbitral proceedings and cheque bounce cases

The Supreme Court, taking into consideration the difficulty faced by lawyers and litigants during lockdown, extended the limitation period prescribed for initiating arbitral proceedings and the cheque bounce cases with effect from March 15 till further orders.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Hrishikesh Roy said that to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunal across the country including the Supreme Court, all periods of limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 shall be extended with effect from March 15, till further orders to be passed by the Court. The Apex Court observed that in case the limitation has expired after March 15, then the period from March 15 till the date on which the lockdown is lifted in the jurisdictional area where the dispute lies or where the cause of action arises, will be extended for a period of 15 days after the lifting of lockdown.

3. SC: No action against employers for failing to pay wages amid lockdown

The Supreme Court on June 12 ordered that there will be no coercive action against employers who did not comply with a March 29 government notification directing companies to pay wages to employees for 54 days during the lockdown period. “No coercive action against employers till July last week,” said the Top Court. It emphasized that employers and employees should talk and settle the matter.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah asked the employers to negotiate a settlement with their employees. The bench added that companies that operated during lockdown, but were not operating on full strength too should hold settlement talks with their employees. The bench asked the Centre to file a detailed reply on petitions challenging the notification.

4. Supreme Court directs States and Union Territories to devise employment schemes for migrants

The Supreme Court today passed a slew of directions to state governments and Union Territories (UTs) to provide benefits for migrant workers, who returned to their native states and directed the governments to submit schemes to generate employment for the migrants, and also to map out their skills to consider their suitability.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah said that employment generation should be explored by the home state of the migrant workers’, besides facilitating their journey to their native places, if they are interested.

The Court also ordered withdrawal of complaints against migrant workers’ who set off on foot. The bench said that all cases registered against migrants’ who allegedly violated lockdown orders, under the Disaster Management Act 2005, should be dropped.

5. SC: “No merit in charging interest” for deferred loan payment instalments

The Supreme Court on June 17 noted that there is “no merit in charging interest” for deferred loan payment instalments during the moratorium period announced as a relief to customers amid the global pandemic.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah noted that if the Central government has announced the moratorium, it must ensure that the benefits are passed to the customers. The bench listed the matter for hearing in the first week of August, and in the meanwhile, the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may examine the issues raised.

The Court has posted the case for further hearing in the first week of August.

6. SC directes JP Morgan’s attached money to be used for Amrapali projects

The Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 said that the funds of JP Morgan, attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Amrapali housing scam, might be transferred to the escrow account for completion of projects. The Bench, comprising of Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit, said the money attached should be used for construction purposes. The escrow account has been set up in the Supreme Court.

On June 3, JP Morgan without admitting to the ED allegation informed the Apex Court that attachment of Rs. 187 crore might continue till the trial was concluded by special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Lucknow. The response came after the ED filed a reply-affidavit saying JP Morgan was trying to shortcut the procedure under the PMLA by directly moving the Apex Court and evading trial.

The Supreme Court asked JP Morgan to deposit Rs. 140 crore as per the forensic audit finding and directions in the last year’s Amrapali Group housing scam case judgement.

7. Don’t charge fares from migrants; feed, shelter those walking: SC

The Supreme Court ordered that migrant workers should not be charged any fare, either for rail or road transport, while travelling back to their homes. The Court also asked the state governments and Union Territories to provide food, shelter and water to migrant workers, and also to those found walking back to their homes.

The Supreme Court said that the state, where the journey originates, will provide food and water at the railway station, and during the journey, the railways will provide meals and water to them. “The state shall oversee the registration of migrant workers. It should ensure that after registration, migrant workers are made to board the train or bus at an early date and complete information should be publicised to all concerned,” said the bench.

The Court added that migrant workers found walking on the roads should be immediately taken to shelters and provided food and all other basic facilities. “We further direct that the state shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and also provide help desk for registration at the places where they are stranded,” it added.

The Court added that after the migrant workers reach his native place, the receiving state shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

8. Airlines may give 2-year credit note for tickets cancelled during lockdown: SC

The Supreme Court on June 12 asked the Centre to take a stand on refunding by airlines on cancellation of tickets during the lockdown, and suggested that the airline operators must extend the credit period for two years. A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah suggested that a credit note by airlines must have a life of at least 2 years, and for any route, if that is the way out.

The Court also emphasized that the Centre must take a stand on this matter. The bench asked the Centre and airlines to sit together and devise modalities on the ways to refund the passengers for cancellation of their tickets during the lockdown. The observation from the Court came on a plea filed by Pravasi Legal Cell through advocate Jose Abraham. The plea urged the top court to declare non-refunding of the amount of the tickets by airlines as “illegal and violative of the Civil Aviation Requirement” issued by the DGCA.

9. SC directs Centre and States to make payment of salaries to medical staff and healthcare workers

The Supreme Court on June 17 directed the Centre and State Governments that they should ensure payment of salaries without default to doctors and healthcare workers. Accordingly, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it will issue a direction to all the states under the Disaster Management Act to pay timely salaries and remunerations to all doctors and healthcare workers, and any breach would considered be a criminal offence.

The Supreme Court noted that non-adherence to the Centre’s direction by states will be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act and sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The Centre’s counsel agreed to undertake to issue an order to the states and Union Territories to ensure that timely salaries are paid to the doctors and healthcare workers.

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