Type: SC Judgements


Mining banned for four months in Uttarakhand

  1. News: The Uttarakhand High Court ordered ‘complete’ ban on mining activities in the State for four months
  2. HC ordered that a high-power committee be constituted to assess the expanse of river bed mining in the State and submit a report
  3. Background: The move comes four days after a forest worker was allegedly killed in Ramnagar while he was chasing the mining mafia

Note4students:

Not directly important but keep track of the issue. It may be quoted in mains answer.

Judicial Pendency Constitution

SC orders installation of CCTV cameras inside district courts

  1. News: In a novel experiment, the Supreme Court directed that CCTV cameras to be installed inside lower courts in at least two districts in every State and Union Territory within the next three months
  2. Significance: It may be a perceived as a small step towards changing the status quo and re-igniting the debate on whether public should be given access to judicial proceedings as a positive measure towards dispelling opacity
  3. The footage from these videos or feeds will not be open for public access under the Right to Information Act
  4. It will not be supplied to anyone without the permission of the concerned High Courts
  5. Background: Unlike the parliament and legislative bodies across the country, judicial proceedings inside a court room has been a closely-guarded affair with no access given to prying eyes
  6. Court recordings are neither recorded via audio or video
  7. Judges in India have always defended their freedom to engage in their work away from the eyes of the camera unlike in some other countries and international courts

Note4students:

Important step towards transparency.

Drought, rural distress and support to farmers Agriculture

Supreme Court for policy to curb farmer suicides

  1. Supreme Court: The Centre should address the “serious issue” of farmers taking their own lives and implement a comprehensive policy to be adopted by the State governments for preventing the tragedy
  2. Govt: Soon coming up with a comprehensive policy to address the problems of the farmers
  3. The policy would address crop loss or crop failure and a compensation for farmers
  4. Other steps: Insurance cover has been increased for the farmers
  5. Earlier, it was for those who took agriculture loan but now it has been extended to all the farmers
  6. No need for middlemen: Now the government is directly procuring food grains from the farmers at the minimum support price and they did not need to take the help of middlemen or market

Note4students:

Keep track of the policy when released. The SC directive can be quoted in mains answer on agrarian distress.

Aadhaar Cards: The Identity Revolution Governance

Supreme Court counters push for Aadhaar

  1. Context: A series of recent government circulars making Aadhaar mandatory to access welfare schemes like MGNREGA and Employees Pension Scheme
  2. Supreme Court: Obtaining the 12-digit Unique Identification number, which requires the holder to part with his personal bio-metric data, and using it to avail himself of government subsidy is a voluntary exercise
  3. However, SC found no fault with the government’s choice to make Aadhaar mandatory for “non-welfare” activities like opening a bank account or filing Income Tax returns
  4. Background: A Constitution Bench directed the government in October 2015 that a citizen cannot be compelled to have Aadhaar as a pre-condition to access Centrally sponsored welfare schemes
  5. Still the government has made Aadhaar compulsory for beneficiaries, many of them the poorest of the poor
  6. In short, the court had made it clear that the government was not free to discriminate between a person who has the Aadhaar card and one who does not

Note4students:

The issue of Aadhar being made mandatory for welfare schemes and the issue of privacy are important for mains.

SC calls for out-of-court settlement in Ayodhya case

  1. Chief Justice of India: Advised peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle
  2. Suggested an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute
  3. Offered help to settle the fight amicably
  4. Parties should understand that these are sensitive issues involving religious sentiments
  5. They should adopt a give and take approach to arrive at a consensus
  6. Delay: A large part of the delay in the Supreme Court owes to the fact that the litigation has records dating back to the 16th Century and written in several languages, including Arabic and Persian
  7. They all have to be translated into English for the court. The High Court judgment itself run into 8,000 pages

 

Can State give govt. land to religious community?

  1. The questions: Is it against secularism for the State to allot government land, especially one containing a water body, to a particular religious community to construct a place of worship?
  2. Context: A nine-year-old petition filed by the Federation of Chennai Suburban (South) Welfare Association against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to transfer, free of cost, 27 acres of “government pond” to Muslim associations for constructing a mosque
  3. As it happened: In September 1986, the State government issued a Government Order transferring the public pond at Ullagaram village in Saidapet taluk
  4. This was without any land cost on the condition that the mosque must be constructed within a period of two years, failing which the land would be taken back
  5. The residents had challenged the government order on the ground that a State government cannot show favour to any religion or religious sect or denomination
  6. It was against secularism, a basic feature of the Constitution
  7. When the residents failed before the Madras High Court, they had moved the Supreme Court, contending that the provisional transferring of the government pond in favour of the Muslim association for constructing a mosque violated secularism
  8. Argument: The State is not only prohibited to establish any religion of its own but is also prohibited from identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion
  9. This was made clear by the Supreme Court’s own ruling in M.P. Gopalkrishnan Nair versus State of Kerala case in 2005

Note4students:

Important issue for mains. Keep track of the SC judgement. “As it happened” part is just to let you know about the case details.

Conduct divorce hearings via videoconferencing: SC

  1. SC: Divorce cases may be fought on video in future rather than in crowded courtrooms amidst strangers
  2. In modern times, couples lead hectic work and personal lives with hardly any child care or family support
  3. So, SC, in a recent judgment, asked High Courts to pass administrative directions to district and lower courts to open up their videoconferencing facilities so that couples engaged in matrimonial cases need not travel distances, probably even to other States, to personally attend their divorce hearings
  4. It would spare couples the drudgery of coming to courts in person, waiting for hours, probably days, to testify.
  5. The jurisdiction: The court noted that a divorce case is usually filed in a court within which jurisdiction the husband lives or the wife lives or where the couple had their matrimonial home
  6. In most cases, estranged couples may very well go their separate ways, probably to other States
  7. The odds are usually stacked against the estranged husband when the wife prefers a transfer of the matrimonial proceedings to a court in her vicinity
  8. When such a transfer application comes up, the courts either order the husband to foot the wife’s travel and accommodation expenses or mechanically allow her plea
  9. Three factors: The judiciary justifies that this empathy towards women are based on three factors – the constitutional scheme to provide women equal access to justice, the power of the State to make special provisions for women and children and duty to uphold the dignity of women
  10. However, this judgment does not fully agree with the idea of courts “mechanically” transferring cases to the wife’s place of abode
  11. It is time courts also considered a man’s genuine difficulties

Note4students:

Note the issues pointed- giving due consideration to difficulties of both men and women; SC moving towards digital processes.

Ban on dubbed programmes on TV creates barriers: SC

  1. Context: The court was with a matter in which the CCI challenged the COMPAT’s order in a case relating to the exhibition of a Bangla-dubbed version of the famous Hindi serial Mahabharat in West Bengal
  2. The Supreme Court: A prohibition on airing dubbed programmes on TV creates barriers to entry of new content and hinders competition
  3. Such a ban would be in violation of the Competition Act of 2002
  4. The court was allowing an appeal of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against an order of the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT)
  5. CCI: Protection in the name of the language goes against the interest of the competition, depriving the consumers of exercising their choice

Back2basics:

Note the SC opinion on competition. Know about CCI (click here).

COMPAT – The Competition Appellate Tribunal is a statutory organization established under the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India under certain sub-sections of the Competition Act, 2002.

Judicial Pendency Constitution

SC cracks down on judicial delays

  1. Supreme Court: Non-performers and “dead-wood” among judges should be weeded out as the judicial service is not just a job to be done with but a mission to serve the cause of justice
  2. Highlighted the importance of having men and women with leadership qualities among the subordinate judiciary, which has over two crore pending cases
  3. Subordinate judiciary “cannot rest in a state of helplessness” as litigants wait in snaking, ever-longer queues for their turn
  4. Public interest is above individual interest
  5. Posting of suitable officers in key leadership positions of Session Judges and Chief Judicial Magistrates may perhaps go a long way in dealing with the situation
  6. Guidelines: In a slew of guidelines for High Courts, the Supreme Court fixed a time-bound hearing and disposing of criminal cases, especially in bail applications
  7. Bail applications be decided in a week by subordinate courts, while High Courts do the same within a month
  8. Magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, should normally be concluded within six months and sessions trials, with accused in custody, within two years
  9. 5 year pendency: It asked the High Courts to ensure that subordinate courts dispose of cases pending for five years by the end of 2017
  10. In case of High Courts, the judgment said criminal appeals, where accused are in custody for more than five years, should be concluded at the earliest
  11. Monitor actions: High Courts should monitor action plans for lower courts and keep a constant watch
  12. The timelines prescribed in the judgment would be used to assess judicial performance in the annual confidential reports of judicial officers
  13. Human rights: 50% of the population in jails consists of undertrial prisoners and long periods of incarceration without bail or trial is human rights violation
  14. Those undertrials who have already completed their entire period of their sentence had they been found guilty should be released on personal bond
  15. Liberal adjournments of cases must be avoided and witnesses once produced must be examined on consecutive dates
  16. It held that suspension of work or strikes were “clearly illegal and it is high time that the legal fraternity realises its duty to the society which is the foremost”

Note4students:

Note the important issues highlighted here by SC like human rights, weeding the deadwood, primacy of public service. Just go through the guidelines and remember important ones for mains.

Child Protection & Child Rights in India Health, Education & Human Resources

[op-ed snap] Does ‘age’ encompass mental age?

Context:

  1. A recent case has exposed a lacuna in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012, which defines a ‘child’ as a person under 18 years of age
  2. The case, which came up before the Supreme Court, concerns a sexual assault victim whose biological age is 40 but whose mental age is six
  3. The court has to decide on whether such a person is a ‘child’ under the POCSO Act

Cerebral palsy victim:

  1. The victim was a woman suffering from cerebral palsy since birth
  2. A detailed medical report shows that her Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and mental age on eight social adaptive domains specify her overall mental age to be six years
  3. Her 68-year-old mother wants the criminal case to be transferred to a Special Court designated under the POCSO Act

POCSO Act:

  1. The Supreme Court has reserved the case for judgment and is determined to interpret the 2012 Act in a verdict, despite the fact that the sole accused died in judicial custody
  2. Section 2(d) of the Act brackets victims as those whose biological age is under 18 years
  3. The aspect of “mental age” of victims has not been considered by Parliament
  4. This is despite the fact that the Preamble and the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the POSCO Act, as also United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, make it abundantly clear that the clear purpose of the Act is to “protect children from offences of sexual assault” and “to secure the best interests of the child”
  5. Advocate Aishwarya Bhati, who represents the victim in the case, argues that the failure to take into consideration the mental age of victims is an attack on the very purpose of the 2012 Act
  6. Bhati submitted before the Supreme Court that a purposive construction to compositely include biological and mental age rather than singularly biological age alone will be a natural extension of the protective umbrella of POSCO Act

A precedent:

  1. Among the international cases quoted in the Supreme Court, the South African case law of Daniel Johannes Stephanus Van Der Bank v The State (2008) involving the rape of 19-year-old woman who had a mental age of an 8.5 gains significance
  2. The High Court held that the term ‘age’ also includes the mental age of the victim while granting her protection and justice

Note4Students:

The op-ed is important from Mains PoV.

Judicial Pendency Constitution

SC to HCs: Don’t keep review pleas pending

  1. Speed it up: The Supreme Court has asked High Courts to dispose of review petitions as expeditiously as possible
  2. Aim: To prevent any slow-up in the process of justice
  3. The pendency is likely to delay the matter in every court
  4. It also emboldens the likes of the petitioner to take a stand intelligently depicting the same in the application for condonation of delay
  5. Guidelines issued: The court issued a slew of guidelines for High Courts, litigants and their lawyers while dealing with review petitions
  6. An endeavour has to be made by the High Courts to dispose of the applications for review with expediency
  7. It is also the duty of a litigant to file his review plea against a judgment on time
  8. It is the obligation of counsel filing an application for review to cure or remove the defects at the earliest
  9. Review petitions are often kept on “life support” by litigants and their lawyers to deliberately delay the process
  10. The prescription of limitation for filing an application for review has its own sanctity
  11. The registry of the High Courts had a duty to place the matter before the judge/Bench with defects so that there could be preemptory orders for removal of defects
  12. An adroit method could not be adopted to file an application for review and wait till its rejection and, thereafter, challenge the orders in the special leave petition

Note4students:

Important for mains. A part of the issue on judicial pendency.

[op-ed snap] The mystery of police reform

Context:

  1. Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar declined the plea of a lawyer demanding immediate action to usher in major police reforms in the country
  2. He said, “Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.”

State of affairs:

  1. It epitomises the pathetic state of affairs in public administration in the country
  2. It can only embolden our political heavyweights to brazenly halt the few contemplated reforms

The reforms:

  1. While the National Police Commission (1977-79), set up by the Janata government kick-started reforms
  2. Prakash Singh, former Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh and a former Border Security Force chief, filed a PIL in 1996 and sought major changes to the police structure
  3. His accent was on autonomy and more space for police professionalism by giving a fixed tenure for police officers in crucial positions beginning with the DGPs in the States

Long road to reform:

  1. The apex court gave its nearly revolutionary directions in 2006, a decade after Mr. Singh first filed his petition
  2. Police being a State subject under the Constitution, the process of consultation was tortuous and time-consuming
  3. The SC’s directions to the States:
  • A fixed tenure of two years for top police officers in crucial positions
  • Setting up of a State Security Commission (in which the leader of the Opposition party also had a role, and would give policy directions to the police)
  • The clear separation of law and order and crime functions of the police and creation of a Police Establishment Board to regulate police placements
  • It also mandated a new Police Act on the basis of a model Act prepared by the Union government and circulated to the States
  1. Policemen across the country were excited over this development and believed that an end to gross political interference in police routine was in sight

How are State governments working?

  1. Events since 2006 have been dismaying
  2. The State governments are devising their own means to dilute, if not wholly sabotage, what the Supreme Court had laid down
  3. Finding that the court had stepped in mainly because there was no law on the subject, many States brought in quick hotchpotch legislation to water down the essentials of the Supreme Court direction
  4. On the face of it, the new Police Acts appeared to be fully compliant with the judicial prescription
  5. In fact, they were a ruse to outwit the court, without demonstrating any irreverence or defiance
  6. This is why we still see Directors and Inspectors-Generals (IGs) being handed out a two-year tenure on paper, but given marching orders midway into their tenure on the most untenable and imaginary grounds. Nobody has protested

Reality of the situation:

  1. A few States have made officers temporarily in charge of the post of DGP without having to obey the SC direction
  2. Commissioners of Police and IGs (Intelligence) have also suffered the same fate
  3. The objectives of the Police Establishment Board, conceived only to depoliticise appointments and transfers, have been set at naught by the DGPs getting informal prior political approval from the Chief Minister/Home Minister with a view to placing politically amenable officers in vital places in the police hierarchy

Other ideas:

  1. Mere autonomy to the police and job security, without upgrading the quality of recruits and ensuring dedication and honesty in the day-to-day delivery of service to the public, will be of little avail
  2. All police ills are not traceable only to political interference in police routine

Politicians as scapegoats:

  1. Many dishonest policemen get away with accusing the local politician of preventing them from discharging their duties
  2. The pathetic state of police stations and their culpable tardiness in responding to the common man, crying for protection from a bully, are too well known to be chronicled
  3. Policemen either ignore complaints, or when they do take cognisance of them, side with the aggressors
  4. Perpetrators of violence are being treated as witnesses, and victims of crime converted to be accused
  5. There is not always a politician energising the police to act blatantly against canons of ethics

Note4Students:

Unless there is self-correction within the police, we cannot see a perceptible change in the manner in which policing is carried out in most parts of the country. The op-ed has good material for Mains answer.

Surrogacy in India Health, Education & Human Resources

Supreme Court opens surrogacy window for singles

  1. A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi allowed a representation to be made before the parliamentary committee to consider including a “specific provision” in the Bill so as to facilitate single persons also to embrace parenthood through surrogacy
  2. It may turn out to be a positive outcome for single men and women who wish to be parents
  3. There is no specific provision about single parents in the Bill, but the Bill also does not specifically prohibit them
  4. Overseas Indians: However, the Bench did not seem inclined when another lawyer suggested that the draft Bill should also permit overseas Indians to have surrogacy from India in view of a natural inclination to have children of the same “genetic make
  5. SC: How can we go on dictating to the law-making powers like this? Let the law come and if you are aggrieved about the law, then come to us

Note4students:

This is just a link in the chain of events yet to unfold and the changes to come in the law. Keep track. Read about surrogacy in detail by clicking on the story – Surrogacy in India.

Women Empowerment: Policy Wise Health, Education & Human Resources

Compensating rape victim is govt’s obligation, not charity: Bombay HC

  1. The Bombay High Court: Rape victims are not beggars and giving compensation to women victims of crime is the State’s obligation and not charity
  2. The Bench noted that as per directions given by the Supreme Court, a sum of ₹1 lakh has to be given to a victim within 15 days of registration of FIR
  3. In this case, the government has failed to do so. This is contempt of court order. Only after the victim came to court the government paid her one lakh
  4. The scheme: Under the “Manodhairya Yojana” launched in October 2013, the Maharashtra government gives compensation of ₹3 lakh to women who are victims of rape and other crimes
  5. Apart from the monetary compensation, the government, under the scheme, also provides counselling to the victim and vocational or educational training, if required

Note4students:

The judgement can be quoted in ethics paper; also know about the scheme mentioned above.

Policy Wise: India’s Health Sector Health, Education & Human Resources

Supreme Court ‘no’ to plea to abort foetus with disorder

  1. The Supreme Court refused a woman’s request for permission to abort her 26-week-old foetus detected with Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder
  2. The woman had sought an exemption under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971
  3. The Act bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark
  4. An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby
  5. However, SC declined the woman’s plea saying Down’s Syndrome does not qualify as a life-threatening factor
  6. There is no physical risk to the mother from the pregnancy

Note4students:

Not directly important but a case on similar issue had come up where SC allowed a rape victim to abort even after 20 weeks. This is just to follow up on the development on the issue. Know about the 20 week provision in the Act for prelims.

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