Supreme Court reopens Tomorrow- on July 3, Monday- after a 45 day summer break to a packed schedule. Following are the main issues of public interest coming up in the immediate future:
NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL : Cases in which Senior advocate and constitutional expert K K Venugopal , who was appointed the 15th Attorney General for India on Friday, appears for the Government of India will be keenly watched. The 86-year old is expected to bring a wealth of experience and legal gravitas to defend the Centre's policies in constitutional courts. Venugopal's name was cleared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately after he returned from the US and the proposal received President Pranab Mukherjee's assent. Venugopal will succeed Mukul Rohatgi, who after a three-year stint as the country's top law officer, wanted to return to private practice. Venugopal, who was an additional solicitor general in 1977, returns as a law officer after four decades.
THE BIG TRIPLE TALAQ JUDGMENT: The most keenly awaited. After six days of continuous hearing, the constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had on May 18 reserved its verdict on several petitions which challenged the constitutional validity of triple talaq.During the hearing the CJI had repeatedly asked " can what is sinful in the eyes of god be lawful?. If god considers it a sin it cant be legal. Can it be? We are just asking". Justice Kurian Joseph echoed the same question rephrasing it a bit asking: "is something is Islamically abhorrent, sinful or under any religious law it is distasteful, can it be validated by law made by man?" Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal for the AIMPLB had in his concluding remarks compared Muslim community to “ small birds on which the Golden Eagle preys” and said the “community's nests must have the protection of the Supreme Court”. Sibal said “it is that faith with which the community is today before the court seeking protection of its personal law customs and practices”. Sibal said “Muslim community faith in Supreme Court for last 67 yrs is fundamental and it is this faith that makes the country vibrant”.
In a last ditch effort to evade a harsh order, the Muslim Board also filed an affidavit saying it would issue an advisory to ‘Qazis’, requesting them to advice the bridegrooms against resorting to triple talaq to annul their marriage. The Board also decided that those who resort to triple divorce in one go leading to the creation of problems thereafter should be boycotted by the Muslims.
KARNAN’S MERCY PLEA: Jailed former Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan is expected to approach Chief Justice J S Khehar led bench again immediately after the vacations seeking relief. On June 21 a vacation Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul refused to entertain Karnan’s plea seeking interim bail and suspension of the six-month sentence awarded to him for contempt of court. They said the court was bound by the order of the seven-judge Bench on the case and suggested that he mention the matter before a Bench of the Chief Justice. “Only the special bench concerned” could hear the plea, the judges said.
PLEAS CHALLENGING CATTLE SALE BAN NOTIFICATION: After the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee’s plea on which the apex court issued notice to the Centre, one m ore petition has been filed in the apex court the May 25 Central notification, banning sale and purchase of cows and buffaloes at animal markets for slaughter. The fresh petition on the issue filed by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) , a major Left farmers body backed by the CPI(M) said the Centre's notification banning sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter violates fundamental rights of states and individuals, including the right to practice religion. The AIKS has contended that the notification allegedly violates several fundamental rights of individuals and states, including right to practice religion and free movement of goods The notification would also hamper the economic interests and livelihood of farmers, dairy farmers, cattle traders and businessmen, the farmers' body has argued. Referring to the recent spate of attacks on Dalits and minorities allegedly by cow protection vigilante outfits, the AIKS has said that the notification strengthens the hands of those who are leading such assaults.The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, allows only farmland owners to trade at animal marketsThe notification covers bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves, as well as the camel trade. They also require anyone purchasing cattle to provide an undertaking that the animals are bought for agricultural purposes and not slaughter.
AADHAAR MATTER: The Supreme Court had way back on August 11, 2015 referred to a Constitution Bench a batch of petitions challenging the Centre's ambitious scheme to provide Aadhaar card to all citizens and decide whether right to privacy is a fundamental right. Allowing the Centre's plea, a three-judge bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde and C Nagappan, framed various questions, including as to whether right to privacy is a fundamental right, to be decided by the larger Constitution Bench.Meanwhile recently the Supreme Court upheld the law making the UID number a must for filing income tax returns and its linkage to PAN card. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, in a 155-page judgment, ruled: "We hold that Parliament was fully competent to enact Section 139AA of the I-T Act and its authority to make this law was not diluted by the orders of this court." However, it clarified that "those assessees who are not Aadhaar card holders and do not comply with the provision of Section 139(2), their PAN cards be not treated as invalid for the time being". This means that those who have a PAN but have not yet got Aadhaar can still file their income tax returns this year. Meanwhile the bench sent a fresh plea challenging the Aadhaar Act and mandatory use of the unique identification number in at least 17 government schemes to a larger Constitution bench.
PETITIONS CHALLENGING HIGHWAY LIQUOR BAN: Petitions from various states, hotels and bar owners are pouring in the apex court seeking modification of its March 31st order banning sale of liqour within 500 meters of national and state highways. They are likely to be heard any time soon. Hoteliers and club owners had filed review petitions in the top court seeking modifications and exemption to the March 31 order, which has forced several establishments across the country to stop serving alcohol to guests. The ban was aimed at preventing road accidents due to drunken driving. The court heard the review petitions from Chennai-based hotels and club associations.States like Arunachal Pradesh had also petitioned the apex court seeking exemptions.The court had exempted Sikkim and Meghalaya from the ban in view of their topography and terrain. Certain amendments made by the Punjab government to circumvent the court order is also likely to be challenged.
ASSAM MIGRANTS ISSUE: Was listed for vacation but was not taken up. Supreme Court is likely to commence hearing to examine the constitutional validity of various aspects of a provision of the Citizenship Act 1955, including the cut-off date for awarding citizenship to Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur had said it would deal with 13 questions related to the constitutional validity of section 6A of the Act, which were referred to it for consideration by a two-judge bench in December 2014.Section 6A of the Act relates to special provisions for citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord, which was a memorandum of settlement signed between representatives of the Centre and the leaders of Assam movement in August 1985.
MEMORANDUM OF PROCEDURE: The issue of the much-awaited memorandum of procedure for appointment of judges to Supreme Court and High Courts is bound to come up before the court in some form or other. Left to take the ultimate call, the Narendra Modi government, according to some reports is in a fix over settling the “final” draft
In March, the Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, sent its “final” version of the MoP to the government but the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is still to make up its mind and communicate the way forward to the Law Ministry.
The dilemma was triggered by the latest draft, which underlined that the collegium would not make any further changes in it. A note, sent along with the draft MoP to the Union Law Ministry, conveyed it unequivocally that no room for further negotiation was left as far as contentious clauses were concerned and that it was now for the government to take a call.
CJI KHEHAR’S RETIREMENT ON AUG 27 : Chief Justice J S Khehar will retire on August 27 and the second senior most judge Justice Dipak Misra is expected to become the next Chief Justice of India. The orders- both on administrative and judicial side which CJI Khehar will pass in the 54 days he will remain in office will be a point of interest. The triple talaq judgment is to be delivered by a bench headed by him. The Highway Bar matters and justice Karnan case is also before the bench headed by him. CJI Khehar has tried his best to reduce the pendency in the Supreme Court by banning adjournments, unless urgently required and imposing heavy costs on those filing frivolous petitions. The court is also at present hearing fresh matters on all days. There is no such thing as miscellaneous days and non-miscellaneous days like earlier days. Taking on congestion in the apex court, a long standing problem, he has ensured the Supreme Court will be roomier when it reopens after 45-day summer break on July 3 as it will add four