Monthly Review: June 2023

June saw the formation of a new Constitution Bench and the retirement of three judges.

The Supreme Court’s 6-week long Summer Vacation will end on July 3rd, 2023. During this vacation month, three judges retired, two new judges joined the SC collegium, and the SC announced a new Constitution Bench. 

SC Announces New 5-Judge Constitution Bench 

On June 26th, 2023, the Supreme Court announced a new 5-Judge Constitution Bench (CB). The bench will be headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justices Hrishikesh Roy, P.S. Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra. The initial hearings are scheduled to take place on July 12th and 13th, 2023.

The CB will deal with four cases. The first case concerns  ‘changing the rules of the game’ in the selection process for a public post. Two cases deal with the appointment of arbitrators. The fourth case looks into the eligibility to drive a ‘transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class’ under the Motor Vehicles Act. 

SCO Breaks down the cases and the key issues here

Three Judges Retire

Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, and V. Ramasubramanian retired in June. Their retirements brought the strength of the SC to 31 judges out of the sanctioned strength of 34. 

Justice K.M. Joseph retired on June 16th, 2023, after a tenure of 4.75 years. During his tenure he led six CBs and authored judgements in four of them. He was the 3rd seniormost Judge at the time of his retirement. His tenure fell short of the average tenure of an SC judge—5.37 years. He was part of 404 benches and authored 132 judgements. Read his notable judgments here.  

Justice Ajay Rastogi retired a day after Justice Joseph on June 17th, 2023. Justice Rastogi served a 4.5 year tenure at the SC. He authored 158 judgements and was a part of 506 Benches. He was the sole representative of the Rajasthan High Court in the SC. He was on the same CBs as Justice Joseph where he authored separate concurring and dissenting opinions in two cases. We list his notable judgements here. 

Justice V. Ramasubramaninan retired on June 29th, 2023 after a tenure of 3.75 years. He authored 100 judgements and was a part of 302 benches. He wrote the majority opinion for a CB in the Freedom of Speech of Public Officials case. Read his other notable judgements here

New SC Collegium 

Keeping up the convention of having 5 seniormost judges as members, the SC collegium added two new members—Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant. This change follows the retirements of Justices Joseph and Rastogi who were previously its members.

The new collegium led by CJI Chandrachud now comprises Justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant. Interestingly, with the exception of Justice Kaul, all other members are in line to be the next CJIs

Drop in Pendency 

As per SC’s June report half-year pendency, for the first time in five years, fell by 766 cases. Remarkably, this fall in pendency numbers happened when the SC was abuzz with rapid Constitution Bench activity. Read our detailed report on the number of pending cases at the SC here

Vacation Bench Activity: SC Declines Urgent Hearings of Two Cases Related to Manipur Violence

On June 9th, an SC Bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal refused to ‘urgently intervene’ in a petition challenging the Manipur Internet Shutdown. The petition argued that the internet ban violated the petitioner’s right to life and livelihood under Articles 19 and 21. The case is expected to be heard after the SCs summer vacation. 

On June 20th, the SC declined to urgently hear a plea seeking Army Deployment to take control of the law and order situation of Manipur. A Bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and M.M. Sundresh expressed concern that the SC’s intervention may further aggravate the situation. The matter is listed before the CJI’s court on July 3rd, 2023.