SCO Daily: Demonitisation and Azam Khan Case Outdated?

Justice Nazeer commented that the two cases before them may no longer contain any issues for the Bench to address.


The current Constitution Bench bonanza at the Supreme Court has been a welcome change. However, hearings before Justice Nazeer’s Bench today indicate that the Court’s years of silence on key Constitution Bench matters may soon come home to roost. 

Justice Nazeer’s is the fourth Constitution Bench to be constituted this month. Sitting for the first time today, the Bench observed that two cases, pending since 2016, may have become infructuous in the past 6 years. 

The first of these cases concerns challenges to the Union government’s heavily criticised 2016 demonetisation policy. The Supreme Court transferred demonetisation petitions pending all over the country to itself in 2016, effectively stopping all High Courts from weighing in on the issue. The Court did not hear the case a single time between 2016 and today. 

In the meantime, the Union has successfully removed old Rs. 500 and 100 notes from circulation, replacing them with new currency. Today, Justice Nazeer commented that the 58 pending petitions may no longer contain any issues worth adjudicating. On October 12th, all 58 of those challenging the policy will have to convince the Court that the case still deserves its time and adjudication. 

The second possibly outdated case concerns Samajwadi Party MLA Azam Khan’s disparaging comments about a rape survivor in 2016. The case was referred to a Constitution Bench to decide if public officials’ right to free speech should have specific restrictions. Justice Nazeer stated that Mr. Khan had apologised for his comments in 2017 and asked if any issue remain for hearing. Justice Nagarathna, recognising that the case raises questions beyond any individual case, asked if the Court can place restrictions on fundamental rights in addition to those in the Constitution. The Court will hear this case on November 15th, along with three other petitions dealing with  MLAs’ immunity from bribery, the procedure for corruption trials against public officials, and certain aspects of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

Hearings before another Constitution Bench, led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, are in full swing as well. Today, the Bench reserved Judgment in challenges to the All India Bar Examination after two days of hearings. In this case, the Court will determine if the Bar Council can mandate a pre-enrollment examination to allow lawyers who already have a degree to practice before Indian Courts. The same Bench will hear a case concerning the residuary powers of the Supreme Court in matrimonial cases under Article 142 of the Constitution. 

Visit the SCO website for detailed reports and analysis on everything going on at the Supreme Court.