Justice Dinesh Maheshwari’s Notable Judgements
Dinesh Maheshwari J authored 110 Judgements in his 4-year tenure at the Supreme Court, and was on the Bench for the leading cases of 2022.
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari retires on May 14th 2023 after completing a tenure of 4 years. During his tenure, he authored 110 Judgments and was part of 441 Benches.
Here we discuss some of Justice Maheshwari’s notable Judgements.
Judgements of 2022
Justice Dinesh Maheshwari wrote a majority opinion upholding reservations for economically weaker sections under the 103rd Constitutional Amendment. In Janhit Abhiyan v Union of India Justice Maheshwari pointed out that the SC has previously held that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for SC/ST/OBC reservations. A constitutional scheme that distinctly recognises economic backwardness is valid. He also wrote that excluding SC/ST/OBC persons from receiving benefits of EWS reservations was valid. Reservations at its core were exclusionary; as long as the scheme grants benefits to the intended target group, other groups could be excluded.
In Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v Union of India, the SC upheld the wide investigative powers of the Directorate of Enforcement and the restrictive bail conditions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Justice Maheshwari was on the 3-Judge Bench with Justices Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar. A partial review of the Judgement is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
In 2022, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the 2020 Amendment to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. The Amendments placed strict limitations on who could receive foreign contributions, how non-governmental organisations could use them, and whether they could be transferred to other persons and organisations. Justice Dinesh Maheshwari was on the 3-Judge Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, which held that the Amendment places reasonable restrictions on NGOs. Interestingly, the Judgment advised NGOs to solicit domestic philanthropy instead of relying on foreign funds.
Justice Dineshwari was also part of the Bench that heard Ms. Zakia Jafri’s complaints against the report of the SC-appointed Special Investigation Committee which closed investigation against the accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. The Special Investigation Team had granted a ‘clean chit’ to the 63 accused persons. The Bench dismissed the petition. Contrary to standard practice, the Bench did not disclose the author of the judgement.
Judgements of 2020, 2021
In 2021, 12 BJP MLAs challenged their suspension from the Maharashtra Assembly. They had been suspended for allegedly using abusive language, threatening and manhandling the Speaker. The Bench held that the suspension was illegal. They explained that suspension of MLAs was a ‘self-security’ power to maintain order in the House. It cannot be used to punish disorderly MLAs with suspensions exceeding the amount of time necessary to restore order in the House.
In Nisha Priya Bhatia v Union of India (2020) Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari broadened the scope of sexual harassment at workplace. They granted Ms. Nisha Bhatia, a former RAW agent, 1 lakh compensation for the Union’s improper handling of sexual harassment allegations. The Union had publicly stated that the complainant was of ‘disturbed mental state’ and then issued compulsory retirement citing that she had been exposed and could threaten the functioning of RAW. Though the SC upheld the compulsory retirement, they stated that Ms. Bhatia had to suffer from ‘prejudice, hostility, discriminatory attitude and humiliation’ which fell squarely within the purview of sexual harassment.
In Madhya Pradesh v Bherulal (2020) Justices S.K. Kaul and Dinesh Maheshwari sought to send a strong signal to the government. A Special Leave Petition filed by the State of Madhya Pradesh had suffered a delay of 663 days. The SC held that the government cannot use the excuse of inordinate delays due to bureaucratic complications as a reason to waste the Court’s time. The bench issued a fine of Rs. 25,000.
With Justice Maheshwari’s retirement, the strength of the Supreme Court will fall to 33 out of the sanctioned strength of 34 judges. With Justice M.R. Shah’s impending retirement on May 15th, the SC will have 32 judges including the Chief Justice.