SC To Reopen Tomorrow With Action Packed Cases Lined Up

SC To Reopen Tomorrow With Action Packed Cases Lined Up

The Supreme Court will reopen tomorrow after a 42-day summer break, and the first fortnight is all set to be action-packed.

Verdicts on crucial cases like the power struggle between Delhi Chief Minister and Lt Governor, the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, and the review petition filed by death row convicts in the Nirbhaya case are expected soon.

Though it was widely expected that the judgment in the Kejriwal Government v. LG case would be delivered on the reopening day as the verdict was reserved almost seven months back on December 6, 2017, it is not listed in tomorrow’s cause list.

Among the important matters, the court is only going to pronounce the judgment in the petition filed by Common Cause challenging the appointment K.V. Chaudhary as Chief Vigilance Commissioner and T.M. Bhasin as Vigilance Commissioner. Plea challenging restrictions on women’s entry into Sabarimala shrine and PILs seeking to make adultery law gender neutral too is set to come up before the constitution bench.

NEW ROSTER TO COME INTO EFFECT

On June 24, ironically two days after the retirement of Justice J. Chelameswar who had raised serious questions regarding allocation of cases by CJI Dipak Misra,  SC notified a new roster for the allocation of cases to judges, which will come into effect from tomorrow.

Like the previous roster notified on February 1, the new roster says that the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will hear all public interest litigation petitions, besides pleas on social justice, elections, habeas corpus and contempt of court.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, will deal with labour laws, indirect taxes, personal law and company law cases.

The roster was put in the public domain for the first time in February, after Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, M.B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph held an unprecedented press meet in January questioning the allocation of sensitive PIL petitions and crucial cases to judges junior to them. 

SC DYNAMICS TO CHANGE

The Supreme Court will reopen on Monday without Justice Chelameswar, who has long been considered by many as its strongest and most honest voices. With his retirement on 22 June, the dynamics of the Supreme Court collegium are also set to change, as Justice A.K. Sikri would become a part of the collegium, which also includes CJI Misra, and Justices Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph. This is especially important to note in view of the fact that the recommendation for elevation of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court is still pending with the collegium.

The Centre had rejected Justice Joseph’s elevation in April this year, noting that it would “not be fair and justified to other more senior, suitable and deserving Chief Justices and senior Puisne Judges of various High Courts.” Several jurists, former Judges and Advocates had then stepped forth, calling out the Centre for the move, and demanding reiteration of the recommendation by the Collegium.

However, the collegium has deferred the decision to re-recommend him thrice since April. The first deferment occurred on 2 May after which on 11 May, the collegium “on principle” unanimously agreed to re-recommend him, but opined that the reiteration should be accompanied by a few other names for appointment as Apex Court Judges. However, it deferred the decision for a third time on 16 May.

With Justice Chelameswar’s retirement, it is unclear whether the collegium can re-iterate the recommendation even if Justice Sikri agrees, or whether it would have to send the recommendation as a fresh one.

CASES TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

JUDGMENT IN KEJRIWAL GOVT V. LG MATTER:  The five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan had, on December 6, 2017, reserved its judgment in the case challenging the Delhi High Court judgment declaring the LG as the sole administrator of Delhi. The case essentially concerns the Centre-Delhi power tussle over who between them wields the power of administration and governance over the National Capital.

Over a month after it commenced hearing the batch of appeals filed by the Delhi government, the Bench had wrapped up the hearing after hearing the rejoinder arguments of Senior Advocates Gopal Subramanium and Rajeev Dhawan for the Delhi government. The Delhi government was represented by a galaxy of senior counsel, including P. Chidambaram and Indira Jaising. The Centre was represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who had argued that the Delhi government cannot stake any claim to have executive power over the sensitive National Capital.

AADHAAR VALIDITY VERDICT: The Court had, on May 10, reserved its verdict on the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar after a marathon 38-day hearing that spanned four months. The five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan heard the arguments of all the parties before reserving its verdict.

The petitions are directed at the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, the Aadhaar project from 2009 to 2016, parts of the project which are not covered by the Act, authorities’ attempts to make Aadhaar compulsory when not defined by the law; the government’s push to link Aadhaar numbers with SIM cards, bank accounts and PANs; and the move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits and subsidies. A battery of lawyers -senior advocates Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Rakesh Dwivedi, Shyam Divan and Arvind Datar appeared for various parties opposing the mandatory requirement of the card for availing such benefits.

NIRBHAYA CASE REVIEW VERDICT: A three-Judge Apex Court Bench headed by CJI Misra had, in May this year, reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by four death row convicts in the December 16, 2012 gang-rape and murder case.

During the arguments, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for Delhi Police, had told the bench that these convicts had "brutalised" the young woman and hence, they deserved to be awarded death penalty. However, Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the option of awarding jail term for the whole life to these convicts may also be considered. Advocates AP Singh and ML Sharma, who are representing the four convicts, argued that considering their family background and young age, death penalty should not be given to them.

 RAM JANAMBHOOMI-BABRI MASJID DISPUTE: WILL IT BE REFERRED TO A LARGER BENCH?

On April 6, which was the last date of hearing, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Muslim parties, had asked the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra to clarify in open court whether it considered pleas to strike down polygamy more important than Muslim rights involved in the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi case.

For 45 minutes, Dhavan had confronted the Bench as to why the Apex Court chose to refer pleas to declare polygamy unconstitutional to a Constitution Bench, while continuing to mull over whether or not to send questions raised in the Ramjanmabhoomi title appeals to a five-judge Bench, that too, despite repeated requests from the Muslim parties. The Muslim parties want a five-judge Bench to reconsider the Ismail Farooqui case verdict (which said mosque was not an essential part of Islam) before further hearing the Ramjanmabhoomi appeals on merit.

Chief Justice Misra and Justice Bhushan had then explained to Dhavan that they would not pass any piecemeal orders, and that they intended to hear the arguments from both sides before taking a call on whether the appeals in their entirety or the question of essentiality of mosques to Islam alone should be sent to a five-judge Bench.