On reopening, SC to deal with Art 370, CAA
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With the reopening of the Supreme Court on Monday after winter vacation, all eyes will be on the adjudication of contentious issues including controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and abrogation of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution.
The year 2020 will also witness the apex court constituting a seven-judge Constitution bench to examine the issue of entry of women of all ages into the hill shrine of historic Sabarimala temple, which was referred by a five-judge bench for fixing parameters to deal with alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.
The first working day of the new year is also likely to have a mention of the petition filed by Tata Sons Private Limited (TSPL) challenging the December 18 decision of NCLAT restoring Cyrus Mistry as the executive chairman of the group and saying the verdict had “undermined corporate democracy” and the “rights” of its board of directors.
The top court will also take up the contentious issue of whether the creamy layer concept should apply to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes while giving them reservation in promotions.
In December 2019, the Centre had urged the Supreme Court to refer its 2018 verdict excluding the creamy layer within the SC/ST community from reservation benefits to a 7-judge bench for a review.
The apex court will keep an eye on air pollution matter in which the court has been passing slew of directions from time to time.
On January 21, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justices N V Ramana is likely to resume hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Centre’s August last year decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The top court had on December 12 indicated that it may consider the question of referring the issue of challenge to the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, to a larger 7-judge bench after hearing the preliminary submission of all the parties.
A number of petitions have been filed in the matter including that of private individuals, lawyers, activists and political parties and they have also challenged the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, which splits J&K into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Eyes are also set on the pronouncement of verdict on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.
The top court had on November 27 last year, reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state.
The very next day on January 22, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, is scheduled to hear a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the amended Citizenship Act, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
The top court on December 18, while agreeing to examine the issue, had issued notice to the Centre and sought its response by the second week of January.
It had, however, refused to stay the operation of the act and asked Centre, to consider using audio-visual medium to make citizens aware of the legislation.
Parliament had last year cleared the bill which grants citizenship rights to religious minorities such as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists, who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, turning it into an act.
Over 59 petitions including that of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students have been filed in the apex court challenging the act.
Dealing with the contentious issue of Sabarimala, the top court had on December 13 last year said that it would endeavour to constitute the larger bench at the earliest to hear the matter, while declining to pass any order on the pleas by two women activists seeking a direction to the Kerala government to ensure safe entry of women in the Ayyappa temple under police protection.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had said that the issue was “very emotive” and it did not want the situation to become “explosive”.
It had said the “balance of convenience” required that no orders are passed in the mater as the issue had already been referred to a 7-judge bench.
On November 14, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, in a 3:2 majority verdict, had referred the pleas seeking a review of its historic 2018 judgment to a seven-judge bench, along with other contentious issues of alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.
In September 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench had, by a majority 4:1 verdict, allowed girls and women of all ages to visit the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, saying discrimination on physiological grounds was violative of the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution, such as the right to equality.