Monthly Review: June 2021

In June 2021, the Supreme Court issued important directions related to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the COVID crisis still raging the Supreme Court had advanced their summer vacation to May 10th  .  And the Court resumed its functions on June 28th. The Court , through Vacation Benches, continued to hear cases on an urgent basis.

COVID Cases: Orphaned Children, Prisoner Remission, Migrant Labourers and Board Exams

During the vacation, cases regarding COVID related issues continued to be heard on an urgent basis. The list of cases we are covering is here.

The Supreme Court on 1 June directed all remission boards to continue hearing appeals for remission after coming to a standstill. The Court also ordered State Governments and Union Territories to file affidavits containing the particulars of prisoners released on parole or bail by the High Powered Committees (HPC). Read about the suo moto case here.

Also on 1 June, the Supreme Court also ordered the Assistant Solicitor General to furnish details regarding the scheme for children orphaned due to COVID under the PM Cares Fund. The NCPCR started the BalSwaraj online portal for States to upload information about children in need of care and protection. Follow the suo moto hearing here.

On 11 June, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave raised concerns regarding the applicability of the Atmanirbhar scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna and the “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme. His concerns stemmed from considering those migrant workers who did not have a card or any other identification. The Bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice M.R. Shah chastised the Central Government for not creating a national database for grain distribution. Follow the case to date here.

A Bench led by Justice Nageswara Rao heard Advocate Mamta Sharma’s petition for cancellation of board exams over the course of the month of June. After the Prime Minister announced the cancellation of Class 12 board exams, the Bench heard and accepted the CBSE and ICSE’s proposals for evaluation criteria for students in classes 10, 11 and 12. However, they did supplement the scheme through their orders on the 17th and 21st of June. Follow the case here.

Rights of Migrant Children During the Pandemic

The NGO Child Rights Trust, and children’s rights advocate and activist, Nina Nayak have filed a petition to address the violation of the fundamental rights of migrant children and children of migrant families during the pandemic. They argue that the migration to and from home states caused by the pandemic has put food security, education, healthcare and safety under threat for children in migrant families. They seek directions for the government to make specific efforts to secure the rights of these children. We have summarised the petition in plain English.

A bench composed of CJI S A Bobde, and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian has issued notice to the State governments to inform the Court of the number and condition of migrant children.  We are tracking the developments in this case here. 

Maratha Reservations Coverage

On 5 May, the Supreme Court read down the provisions granting reservations for Marathas. As a result, the Court affirmed the 50% rule and divested the States of their power to identify socially and educationally backward classes following the 102nd Amendment Act, 2018. In our four-part SCO Explains series, we look at the litigation history of the case, the rationale behind the 50% limit, the hearings surrounding the 50% limit and lastly the 102nd Amendment.

We have broken down the three opinions written by J Ashok Bhushan, J Nageswara Rao and J Ravindra Bhat. This has been done on the basis of their length and scope, citation sources, passing remarks as well as their structure and style.

We have also compiled a set of 4 Must Reads highlighting pieces with insight into the judgment. These pieces cover a range issues from the importance of factoring caste history to the judgement’s flaws in ignoring the inequality within intermediate castes.

Draft Rules on Livestreaming and Different Approaches

The e-Committee of the Supreme Court announced the Draft Rules on Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings for High Courts on 7th June. These are meant to be adopted by the High Courts in order to bring uniformity to the process of livestreaming of hearings. The e-Committee of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Ramana and Justice Chandrachud, stated that the aim was for ‘greater transparency, inclusivity and to foster access to justice’. Exceptions were also provided to live-streaming. We have comprehensively covered the new rules here.

In light of the Supreme Court announcing the Draft Rules, we have also covered the various ways in which apex courts in different parts of the world have approached transparency through broadcasting of proceedings.

Sedition Coverage

While the constitutional challenge to sedition is currently pending, the Supreme Court quashed an FIR against journalist Vinod Dua and passed an interim order staying coercive action against TV5 News and ABN Andhrajyothi. We have traced the Supreme Court’s approach to sedition here.

The Supreme Court, in quashing the FIR filed against Vinod Dua, discussed the guidelines in the case of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar extensively. We shed further light on this discussion here, by presenting two further questions the Court may address regarding inherent contradictions in the test laid down in Kedar Nath and the possibility of public law remedies in cases where penal law has been found to be used as a tool for harassment.

We also published a series of 6 Must Reads where we have curated pieces looking into the history and application of sedition laws as well as the courts evolving stance towards sedition.

Reservations for Orphans and Evolving Conceptions of ‘Backwardness’

A bench of then Justice Gogoi and Justice Nariman in 2015, in the case of Ram Singh v. Union of India, commented that there was a need to evolve away from the ‘caste centric definition of backwardness’. In Abhinav Ramakrishna v. Union of India, the petitioner is seeking the identification of orphans as a ‘backward class’. This would allow the creation of affirmative action provisions, such as reservations, where orphans are beneficiaries.

We have covered the history of how backwardness has been understood,and whether the Courts are the right forum for this recognition here.

Tracking and Covering the Constitutionality of Muslim Marriage Laws

We have been tracking the ongoing case regarding the Constitutionality of Muslim Marriage Laws on our case page. We have also provided plain English versions of the petitions filed in this case by Nafisa KhanAshwini Kumar UpadhyayMoullim Mohsin Bin Hussain Bin Abdad Al Kathiri and Sameena Begum. These petitions are challenging the practices of polygamy, nikah halala, nikah mut’ah and nikah al-misyar on the basis of their constitutionality.

We have also consolidated a series of 4 Must Reads that provide a deeper understanding of personal laws in India and the manner in which the Supreme Court has approached Muslim Marriage laws from the perspective of gender equality..

Election Commission Practices

The Election Commission of India has garnered significant attention following the recent assembly elections and the controversy surrounding the manner in which some members of the Commission were appointed. We are tracking the cases of Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India and Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India on our cases page.

We have also compiled a set of 4 Must Reads that provide a better understanding of the conversation surrounding the Supreme Court’s response to issues concerning the Election Commission.

Court Data

We have taken a look at the average tenure of Supreme Court judges in various datasets in order to shed statistical light on the Apex Court. We have analysed the average High Court tenure of sitting judges here, and have taken a look at the average tenure of judges elevated directly from the Bar here.

The Supreme Court in 2020 took suo moto cognisance of more cases in a single calendar year than it ever has before. We have done an analysis of the total number of suo moto cases since 1990 and tracked their gradual rise here. Within this dataset, we have taken a look at the basis on which the Court has taken suo moto cognisance of cases and the most common sources of notice here

Currently only the Telangana High Court has a woman appointed as their Chief Justice. We analyse the story behind this singular number here. We have also taken a broader statistical look at the percentage of High Court Judges who are women, the average number of women judges in High Courts across India and the Courts with the most and least numbers of women judges here.

We also took a look at the increase in pendency of cases up until May here.