Justice Chandrachud-led CB to Hear Four Cases This Year

Another Constitution Bench created during CJI Lalit's tenure will hear cases on reservations, citizenship, and political disputes.

A Constitution Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud will decide four important cases, two of which have been pending for over a decade. The Shiv Sena party split in Maharashtra, the challenge to the extension of the time limit on reservations in Article 334, the Supreme Court’s monitoring of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, and the ongoing tussle between the Union and Delhi government over the administration of the NCT Delhi.

The Bench, created on September 6th, 2022, is the third Constitution Bench to begin hearings during CJI Lalit’s 2.5 month tenure. In addition to Justice Chandrachud, the Bench comprises Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha.

How does the 10th Schedule of the Constitution Apply to the Shiv Sena Split?

Since June 21st, 2022, when MLA Eknath Shinde went missing with a group of other Shiv Sena MLA’s and refused to attend party meetings, there has been trouble brewing within the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray initiated disqualification proceedings against the MLA’s from the Shinde faction on June 24th.

The very next day, the Shinde faction challenged the disqualification proceedings at the Supreme Court claiming they were the ‘real’ Shiv Sena and never defected from the party. Defections in political parties are governed by the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India, 1950. However, the provisions on governing ‘splits’ within a political party were repealed in 2003, resulting in a lack of clarity on how the Court should approach this case.

On August 23rd, 2022, a 3-Judge Bench led by CJI Ramana referred the case to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench. The Bench will determine how the 10th Schedule will apply to splits in political parties. Read more about the case here.

Extensions to Reservations in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies

In October 2000, Mr. Ashok Kumar Jain challenged Article 334 of the Constitution at the SC, which grants reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Anglo-Indian Community in the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures. Originally, the reservations were only meant to be provided for 10 years. The Article has been amended seven times since 1969 and reservations for these groups were extended by 10 more years each time, except for the last instance in January 2020 when reservations for Anglo-Indians were discontinued.

Mr. Jain challenged the fifth extension, the Constitution (79th Amendment) Act, 2000 which was enacted in January of that year. According to Mr. Jain, the Amendment infringes on the democratic right to freely choose who to vote for in elections which is a basic feature of the Constitution. On September 2nd, 2003 the case was referred to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench. Read more about the challenge here.

Challenges to Assam’s National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Act, 1955

Assam is the only State in the country that still has a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to record the list of people residing there. It was established in 1985 after the Assam Accord was signed following the Indo-Pakistan War in 1971. During the war, a large number of migrants from East Pakistan entered the State. The Assam Accord amended the Citizenship Act, 1955, and introduced Section 6A which prescribed a different process for residents in Assam to gain citizenship. As a result, all the persons who had migrated before March 25th, 1971, were granted citizenship.

In November 2012, the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha challenged Section 6A for discriminating against other Indian citizens by providing a separate avenue for citizenship to this specific group of migrants. The NRC remained dormant until an SC Bench comprising Justices R.F. Nariman and Ranjan Gogoi ordered the State of Assam to begin updating it in 2013. In December 2015, the Bench referred the challenge to Section 6A to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench. Read more about the Court’s monitoring of the NRC exercise here.

Who Has Control over Delhi’s Civil Servants?

More than any other Union Territory, the Delhi government has a unique and combative relationship with the Union government. In 2018, the Supreme Court held that the Delhi Government had control over all items mentioned in the State List except police, land, and public order. Then the Union enacted the Government of National Capital Territory (Amendment) Act, 2021 on April 27th, which gave the lion’s share of administrative control in the territory to the Union-appointed Lieutenant Governor. The Delhi government challenged this Amendment at the SC on August 10th, 2021.

On April 27th, 2022 the Union argued that the SC in 2018 did not answer the question of who controls the civil services and civil servants. To answer this question, former Chief Justice N.V. Ramana referred the case to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench on May 6th, 2022. Read more about the dispute here.