Monthly Review: February 2021

February was an eventful month with the Court delivering judgments on several important matters such as bail under the UAPA law.

February was a busy month. It began with a full bench delivering a crucial judgment on the grant of bail under the UAPA law. Later in the month, the Court heard new challenges to the Whatsapp Privacy Policy and sedition law. It went on to admit a new public interest litigation petition concerning the grant of minority status.


On the judges’ front, the Court is yet to make headway to fill up the vacancies. As reported in the Indian Express, the collegium seems to be at an impasse regarding the elevation of Akil Kureshi J, Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court.


Bail Under UAPA Can Be Granted if the Accused is an Under-Trial Prisoner

In this three-judge bench judgment, the Court moved past its reluctance to grant bail under strict anti-terror laws. It categorically held that if an accused has spent considerable time as an under-trial prisoner, he deserves bail. ‘Gross delay’ violates a prisoner’s fundamental right to a speedy trial. This becomes a ground for the grant of bail. More here.


Whatsapp Privacy Policy Challenged

The petitioner in the ongoing Whatsapp-Facebook Privacy case filed an interim application challenging Whatsapp’s latest privacy policy. In a hearing on February 15th, the petitioner claimed that Whatsapp was offering lower privacy protections in India as compared to Europe. The three-judge bench led by Bodbe CJI issued notice and asked all the parties to file their replies.


Constitutional Challenge to Sedition Dismissed

A group of lawyers, Aditya Ranjan, Varun Thakur and V Elanchezhiyan, filed a public interest litigation challenging S. 124A of IPC, 1860. This section defines sedition and criminalises seditious activities. They argued that sedition is being used to curb dissent and violate free speech. The Bodbe CJI led bench dismissed this plea as the petitioners did not have sufficient standing. He asked them to build a more concrete case and come back. In this post, we examine the historical challenges to sedition from Tara Chand [1950] to Aditya Ranjan [2021].


New Petition Seeks for State-Wise Grant of Minority Status

Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, lawyer and politician, has challenged S. 2(f) of The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004 [“NCMEI Act”]. As per S. 2(f), the Central Government has unbridled power to declare a community as a minority. And the Government has neither adopted a scientific approach nor has it framed guidelines to determine minority status. So, the Supreme Court must hold S. 2(f) unconstitutional and declare that minority status must be granted by the State Governments based on state-wise population. On February 9th 2021, the Court transferred similar challenges before various High Courts to itself.