The SC Returns: What Can We Expect from the Top Court?

DESK BRIEF: The Supreme Court is all set to reopen on Monday, and has key judgements, and important hearings on its docket.

The Supreme Court returns from its 6-week summer vacation on Monday. Here’s what we can expect in the coming months.

A 5-Judge Bench completed hearings in the plea for marriage equality in 10 days. With one of the 5 judges, Justice S.R. Bhat retiring in three months, we expect the Judgement to be delivered by October this year. This Judgement will mark a significant stage in the fight for individual and family rights for the LGBTQIA+ community in India.

Judgement is expected in the challenge to the tenure extension of CBI and ED Directors. This case concerns the independence of investigative bodies from pressures of the Union Government, as they are often tasked with investigating the government itself.

The SC recently announced a new 5-Judge Constitution Bench, displaying its continued dedication to protecting the role of the SC as a Constitutional Court. This new Bench will be led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. Broadly, it will hear one case on the appointment process for public posts, two cases on the appointment of arbitrators, and one case on the valid licence to drive transport vehicles. 

On the first day of its return, the CJI’s court is scheduled to hear a petition filed by the NGO Manipur Tribal Forum, seeking army protection of the Kuki Tribe from communal violence. The NGO had approached the Court during the vacation, stating that ethnic violence had taken the lives of over 130 members of the tribe, and 70 lives since the Union Government had assured that the tribe will be protected. The Vacation Bench refused to hear the case in June, and left it to be heard by the Chief Justice’s bench in July.

With the recent retirements of Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi and V. Ramasubraminan, the strength of the SC is at 31 judges of the sanctioned strength of 34. Three more Judges—Justices Krishna Murari, S.R. Bhat and S.K. Kaul—are set to retire this year. 

The SC announced a new system of mentioning urgent cases. Previously, lawyers would clamour before the CJI to have their cases listed for hearing on their preferred day. Under the new system, a lawyer must file a written request to have their case listed earlier than the automatically scheduled date. The CJI or the Mentioning Officer will permit a select list of eligible cases to be mentioned, and lawyers only in these cases may explain their urgency to the Court. This process is expected to save a considerable amount of time in Court.

In an attempt to modernise facilities, Courts 1, 2 and 3 will be equipped with 120-inch screens for better interaction with lawyers appearing online. The Court is also set to go paperless, with a new document viewing software to facilitate collaborative viewing and referencing of documents during hearings. The SC will reportedly install new, sleeker fans in the Courtrooms as well!