Supreme Court’s Monthly Review: October 2023

What happened at the Supreme Court in October 2023? We recap all the notable developments.


Hello everyone! Welcome to SCO Explains! I am Advay Vora and in today’s video, we will be recapping the month of October 2023 at the Supreme Court. 

On 5th October, a seven-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud reserved judgement in Sita Soren v Union of India after two days of hearings. The Bench’s decision will determine the scope of a legislator’s immunity in cases of bribery for a speech or a vote in a Legislative assembly. 

12th October saw a lot of developments in the Supreme Court. To begin with, the Court briefly heard six seven-judge and four nine-judge constitution bench matters. The matters are expected to be heard substantially in the first quarter of 2024. On the same day, a seven-judge bench, also led by CJI Chandrachud, reserved judgement in a case determining the validity of an unstamped arbitration agreement. The Bench was reconsidering a five-judge bench decision from April 2023 which held that an unstamped arbitration agreement cannot be enforced. 

Constitution Benches aside, a division bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan reserved judgement in the challenge to the premature release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bango gang rape case. The convicts were released by the Gujarat Government under its 1992 Remission Policy on 15th August, 2022

On 13th October we (Smiling) at SCO had a book event with Dr. Aparna Chandra, co-author of Court on Trial. In our conversation, she discussed critical topics such as the “disproportionate” power of the Chief Justice, access to justice, procedural solutions to relieve the overburdened court, polyvocality of the Court, and an acute view of the role of Senior advocates in the Indian justice system. 

On 16th October, the Supreme Court rejected a plea for termination of a 26-week pregnancy on the grounds that there was no danger to the mother, and that there were no substantial foetal abnormalities. An AIIMS report claimed that the petitioner was suffering from postpartum psychosis, which included suicidal tendencies. The Bench appeared unconvinced by the threat to her life. 

On 17th October, a Constitution Bench assembled to deliver a long-awaited judgement in the plea for marriage equality. The Bench rejected marriage rights for sexual minorities in India under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (SMA). The Bench also upheld the validity of the SMA and refused to include non-heterosexual marriages within its ambit. While they unanimously agreed that there was no fundamental right to marry, the Court was split on the right to civil union, and adoption. The majority opinion led by Justice Bhat held that sexual minorities did not have the right to civil unions and could not adopt. 

On 18th October,  a special bench consisting of Justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna and Bela Trivedi sat to review the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v Union of India. In Vijay Madanlal the Court upheld provisions of the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act which granted wide investigative powers to the Enforcement Directorate. 

On 20th October, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat retired after a four-year tenure at the Supreme Court. His retirement brings the strength of the Supreme Court down to 31 judges out of the sanctioned strength of 34. Throughout his tenure, Justice Bhat authored 142 judgements.

On 30th October, a three-judge Bench directed the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to conclude long-pending disqualification proceedings against 54 MLAs of the Shiv-Sena by 31st December 2023. The Bench also directed that the Speaker should conclude disqualification proceedings against MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party. 

On 31st October, a Constitution Bench started hearing challenges against the Electoral Bond Scheme which allows anonymous funding to political parties by corporate entities.  

This sums up the month of October! Tell us what you think about these developments. Keep following to read our detailed coverage.