“Today’s Lawyers will be tomorrow’s Judges. They must be taught the manners and demeanor of a lawyer. When the lawyer appears, a judge should be able to trust him.”
-Justice Navin Sinha
Justice Navin Sinha was born on 19.08.1957 in a Zamindar family. His father, Late Benoy Sinha, was an additional secretary at the Ministry of Power, Government of India. His Mother Indu Sinha was a social worker, who was dynamically accompanying the Indian Red Cross Society, Patna. Justice Sinha did his schooling at St. Xavier’s High School, Patna, and passed out in 1972. He completed his graduation from the Hindu College, Delhi. In 1979, he completed LL.B from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. He was enrolled as an Advocate in Bihar Bar Association On 26th July 1979 & started practicing in the Patna High Court. He was the Acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court till his elevation on 14.05.2016 as the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court. Later he was elevated as a Judge at the Supreme Court of India on 17.02.2017. He has penned 114 judgments on various topics and has disposed of over 13,671 cases in the Supreme Court.
Landmark Judgements of Justice Navin Sinha
In this case, Justice Navin Sinha relied on the Krishna v. State of Maharashtra and held that a person who is nominated u/s 3(e) of the Indian Dentist Act could be removed at any time and hence only till the satisfaction of the person appointing him as Nominee can hold office wherein doctrine of pleasure is applied and when the satisfaction changes, the nomination will terminate. Under this circumstance, the rules of natural justice are not applicable.
In this case, the Bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Navin Sinha & Justice KM Joseph has struck down Rule 24 (i-eeee) of the Haryana Liquor License Rules, 1970 by stating it was ultra vires the Punjab Excise Act, 1914. Justice Sinha wrote the majority judgment on behalf of himself and the then Chief Justice, Rajan Gogoi. Justice Sinha held that Rule 24(i-eeee), which allowed a single licensee to deal in imported foreign liquor for the entire State, was not lawful. The Court further stated, ‘The Financial Commissioner was therefore not competent to amend the Rules in relation to grant of no. of licences for the entire state, and which power was exclusive to the State Government u/s 6 r/w section 13(a) and 58(2) (e) of the Act.’
In this matter, various provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, were challenged. The Division Bench comprising of Justice Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha held that the provisions are constitutionally valid. The judgement noted the ‘experimental’ nature of the IBC, being related to economic matters, IBC can have an experimental factor.
In this case, where a company gave trained and competent security guards to clients, claimed that security guards were the employees of the client, the Division Bench comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Surya Kant held, ‘that just because the client pays money under a contract to the appellant and in return, the appellant bears the wages of such security guards from such contractual amount acquired, in that scenario the client will not become the employer of the security guard and nor the security guards become an employee of the client.’
In this case, the Bench comprising of Justice RF Nariman, JusticeNavin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee held that ‘the term ‘may’ u/s 61 & 62 of the Major Ports Trust Act, 1963 will not be considered as ‘shall’, subject to the caveat that as the “State” in Article 12 of the Constitution of India, a Port Trust must act reasonably, & attempt to sell the goods within a fair time from the date on which it has presumed its custody.’
The incident happened in 1999 wherein Om Prakash and co-accused were fighting with each other while playing cricket & the deceased tried to appease them. On that very night around 10 pm, via Kirpan, the accused is alleged to have assaulted the deceased. A Division bench comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice R.Subhash Reddy by order of this year on 5th August altered the conviction u/s 302 to 324 of Indian Penal Code remarking that, ‘Kirpan is generally carried as religious belief, by individuals of a specific community, merely because it can too be used as a weapon for the commission of a crime cannot ipso facto make it a weapon of wrongdoing.’
In the present case, the accused were convicted by the trial Court based on being identified in a Test Identification Parade. Then the accused appealed in Supreme Court contended that the conviction is unsustainable as the repeated Test Identification Parade has been held only after which the accused were ‘identified’. Thus the Division Bench Comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice R. Subhash Reddy, while acquitting the accused, stated, “There cannot be repeated Test Identification Parade till such time the prosecution is successful in obtaining identification of the accused. We find it extremely disturbing that both the Trial Court and the High Court did not go into this aspect at all to satisfy themselves if any Test identification parade had been proved to have been held at all and that too in accordance with the law.”
The Division Bench comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Krishan Murari, has held that ‘there cannot be any rigid standard or yardstick for acceptance or rejection of a dying declaration’, and to consider it as valid evidence it will be subject to each case.
The Court was hearing a matter that occurred in 1991 where a married woman succumbed to 95% burn injuries. There was no eye-witness, and due to which, the prosecution had based its case of circumstantial evidence by connecting the dying declaration of the dead person. The husband and the sister-in-law of the deceased were acquitted due to a lack of confidence in the dying declaration. “It vacillated between blaming the husband and the sister-in-law, coupled with the absence of any certificate by the Doctor that the deceased was in a fit state of mind when she made the dying declaration.” The Court while stating admissibility of Section 32 of the Evidence Act, 1872, held that only the Dying Declaration can form the foundation for conviction if it has been done voluntarily and enthuses confidence.
Other Notable Contributions
Justice Navin Sinha in Binod Kumar Choudhary v. State of Bihar, 2008 observed that “Natural Justice has aptly been described as not being an unruly horse but that its applicability shall depend on the facts of each case.” While advocating the need to adopt a balancing approach in matters relating to the appeal, Justice Sinha in Nazir Mohamed v. J. Kamala, (2020) held that ‘If statute confers a limited right of appeal, the Court cannot expand the scope of the appeal.’ The importance of natural justice was explained by Justice Sinha in State of UP v. Sudhir Singh, (2020) as ‘Natural Justice is a flexible tool in the judiciary’s hands to reach out in fit cases to remedy injustice. The breach of the audi alteram partem rule cannot by itself, without more, lead to the conclusion that prejudice is thereby caused.’
The author Meenakshi Choubey is an LLM student of Kirit P Mehta School of Law, NMIMS, Mumbai