The Supreme Court in Review: January to June 2021

DESK BRIEF: Looking back at the Court's work in the first half of 2021, dominated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 28th June 2021, a Constitution Bench dismissed a review petition on the Maratha Reservation judgment. This petition, filed by the Central Government, sought for the Court to reconsider its interpretation of the Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018.

While delivering the judgment in May 2021, the Court had interpreted this amendment to mean that the Central Government alone, to the exclusion of State Governments, is empowered to identify Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBCs). According to this interpretation, only the Central Government can make additions to a list to be published under Article 342A (1), specifying SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory. The Court dismissed the review petition and noted that the concerns it raised had already been addressed in the May 2021 judgement.

The Maratha Reservation judgement was one of many significant judgements that the Court delivered in the first half of this year on equality law. The Court also held that reservation in promotions is a right for persons with disabilities, and confirmed the right to reasonable accommodation of persons with disabilities, irrespective of them having less than 40% of a disability. In other judgements, the Court also used perspectives of intersectionality and systemic oppression to discuss gendered, caste-based and disability discrimination.

While suo moto COVID-related cases were given a large share of the Court’s time and attention in the last six months, the Court also heard and delivered key judgement in matters relating to election laws, sedition and citizenship rights. Before his retirement in April 2020, erstwhile CJI Bobde delivered three significant decisions tackling pendency in the judicial system, which has been on a rise during the pandemic.

How did the Court function through the second wave of the pandemic? What matters can we expect the Court to hear in the remainder of the year? We reviewed the first half of 2021 here.


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