The Supreme Court recently issued two judgments regarding consumer law. In the first, the Supreme Court held that the courts should take a pragmatic view of consumers' rights considering their relative disadvantage with regard to suppliers of goods or services. In the second, the court held that, in the context of a vehicle insurance policy, the mere failure of the vehicle owner to intimate the insurer immediately after the theft of the vehicle should not bar settlement of genuine claims.
In an important recent case regarding contract law, the Supreme Court held that the commercial courts should not seek to interpret the implied terms of a contract. In a second notable case, the court examined whether an increase in coal prices (due to a change in Indonesian law) could be cited as a force majeure event by certain power-generating companies that were sourcing coal from Indonesia. Finally, the court also recently issued an important decision in a suit for damages and wrongful termination.
The most important criminal law Supreme Court judgments in 2017 included a case which held that Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002, on the grant of bail, violates the right to equality and right to life. Elsewhere, the court clarified the criteria for quashing criminal proceedings and issued certain guidelines in order to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Penal Code.
A division bench of the Supreme Court recently decided to examine the correctness of a judgment by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), New Delhi. The NCDRC had held that, among other things, consumer disputes cannot be settled by arbitration. This decision begs the question whether the line of reasoning preferred by the NCDRC is likely to invite more critical scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
Throughout 2017, the Supreme Court issued judgments on public interest litigation cases. These include reviewing the way in which senior advocates are designated, determining whether to constitute a special investigation team and establishing fast-track courts for criminal cases.
In 2017 the Supreme Court delivered several significant judgments which have far-reaching importance in the field of constitutional law. In particular, in one case, the court set aside the practice of talaq-e-biddat, while in another it held that the right to privacy was an intrinsic part of the right to life and other freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
The Karnataka High Court recently issued a judgment which dealt with the retrospective application of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002. The court held that a person cannot be tried for an offence under the act for the period when the offence was not inserted in the schedule of offences under the act. This would deny the writ petitioner the protection offered by Article 20(1) of the Constitution.
In 2015 the Supreme Court settled the law on contractual penalty clauses. In essence, the term 'contractual penalty clause' refers to a clause in a contract whereby a party in breach of an obligation under the contract is required to pay the other party an amount which is greater than the reasonable proportion of the damage or loss suffered due to such breach.
The Supreme Court recently dealt with the question of whether a special judge designated to deal with cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 is empowered to try offences which do not fall within the act. The court held that that there is no prejudice to a trial before a special judge duly appointed to oversee cases that fall under the act if the object of doing so is to try connected cases before the same court.
The Supreme Court recently clarified and reaffirmed the legal position surrounding the existence and severability of multiple grounds contained in a detention order passed under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act 1974. The Supreme Court addressed the scope of the definition of 'grounds' in a detention order, holding that grounds are the basic facts on which an order is based in light of subsidiary facts or further particulars.
The Supreme Court recently held that a dishonoured post-dated cheque for repayment of a loan instalment that was described as 'security' in the loan agreement was covered by the criminal liability set out in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. While deciding whether dishonoured cheques issued to discharge existing liability fall under Section 138, the court explained that the question of whether a post-dated cheque is for "discharge of debt or liability" depends on the nature of the transaction.
Although the concept of class action was first introduced into law by way of Section 245 of the Companies Act 2013, it only recently came into force. Specifically, Section 245 has introduced the concept of specialised class action by a company's shareholders and depositors. The enactment of Section 245 is likely to have far-reaching effects on the legal regime as, in addition to empowering shareholders and depositors, it will affect how companies conduct their affairs.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs recently notified, among other things, the constitution of the National Company Law Tribunal and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal and the dissolution of the Company Law Board. This marks an important step towards facilitating business in India, as it seeks to consolidate jurisdiction for various aspects of corporate litigation.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that, despite an express clause providing for an arbitrator, the court can appoint an independent and impartial arbitrator under special circumstances. Through this ruling, the court struck a balance to the extent that it could not ignore the appointment of an arbitrator whom the parties have chosen under the terms of the contract, unless the arbitration would otherwise be rendered void.
The Supreme Court of India recently observed that it has become common practice to effect transfers of immovable property by way of sale agreement, general power of attorney or will transfers in order to evade payment of duties, taxes and other fees payable on transfer and registration. This judgment confirms that a valid transfer of immovable property can occur only through a registered deed of conveyance.
The Supreme Court recently clarified the eligibility of a single arbitration proceeding between multiple parties in disputes that arise from the same cause of action. The court considered that it would be proper and just to rule that when one party has a claim jointly against a second and a third party, and when there are provisions for arbitration in respect of both other parties, there can be a single arbitration.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that disputes or claims regarding payment of work can be raised and referred to arbitration after the party raising such claims has received payment on a final bill issued for the works. Such disputes can be raised even if the party made no objection in respect of such payments at that time, provided that it was not precluded by any clause of the contract from seeking settlement of claims.
In a recent judgment the Supreme Court opined on the question of whether an arbitration agreement contained in an unregistered (but compulsorily registrable) instrument was valid and enforceable. The decision is of interest to parties dealing with immovable property transactions, as it confirms that parties should be vigilant about the statutory requirements of registering and stamping an instrument.
In a recent case, the Supreme Court considered the nature of reliefs that a court may grant at an interim/interlocutory stage and reiterated its stance that an interim order cannot be such that it would non-suit one of the parties at this stage, and would therefore take the form of a final relief.
The Supreme Court recently examined the scope of the expression 'public policy' under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, in relation to the setting aside of a foreign arbitral award. Accepting a wider definition of 'public policy', the court considered the arbitral award on the basis of patent illegality. This is likely to lead to inevitable complexities and delays in the process of enforcing a foreign award in India.