January 2020
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

J&K – The issues around the state

Suspension of the Internet: What the Rules say, what the SC underlinedSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Relevant sections of the CrPC and the Telegraph Act

Mains level : Right to internet access and various issues


The Supreme Court through a recent judgment significantly strengthened checks on the government’s power to shut down the Internet. A major aspect of the verdict relates to the Rules passed in 2017 that outline how and when the government can enforce shutdowns.

Checks on the Centre

  • The Centre has never ordered a nationwide Internet shutdown. Still, India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally.
  • According to Software Freedom Law Center’s tracker, there have been 381 shutdowns since 2012, 106 of which were in 2019.
  • The ongoing shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in any democratic country.

Who can pass the orders of Internet Shutdowns?

  • The Rules, issued under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, stipulate that only the Home Secretary of the Union or a state can pass an order, and that the order must include the reasons for the decision.
  • The order should be forwarded to a review committee the day after it is issued, and must be reviewed by the committee within five days to assess its compliance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act.
  • Under this the government has the power to block the transmission of messages during a public emergency or for public safety.
  • In the case of the central government, the review committee comprises the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries of the Departments of Legal Affairs and Telecommunications.
  • In the case of states, the committee comprises the Chief Secretary, Secretary, Law or Legal Remembrancer In-Charge, Legal Affairs, and a Secretary to the state government (other than the Home Secretary).

Who else can issue such orders?

  • In “unavoidable circumstances”, the order can be issued by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state Home Secretary.
  • Telecom service providers must designate nodal officers to handle such requests.

What laws governed this area before the 2017 Rules were notified?

  • Internet shutdowns were ordered under Section 144 of the CrPC, which gives District Magistrates broad powers during dangerous situations.
  • Even after 2017, many local shutdowns are issued under this law. Section 69(A) of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 gives the government powers to block particular websites, not the Internet as a whole.

Issues with the Kashmir Shutdown

  • The Internet shutdown in Kashmir was not compliant with the Rules.
  • The Rules require the suspension to be temporary; also, the orders did not provide reasons for the restrictions.
  • The petitioner contended that the order claims a law-and-order danger, as opposed to a public order danger specified in the Rules.

What did the court say?

  • The court said that because the Rules require the order to be in accordance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, the order must be during a “public emergency” or in the “interest of public safety”.
  • Also, the suspension must be “necessary” and “unavoidable”.
  • In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy,” the court said.
  • The Bench also said that the State should make the orders freely available, even though the Suspension Rules do not specify this.
  • The Rules also don’t specify a time limitation for the shutdown, the use of “Temporary” in the title notwithstanding. The Bench decided that an indefinite suspension is “impermissible”.
  • Ultimately, the court ordered the government to review its order, ruling that the freedom of speech and trade on the Internet is a fundamental right.

Way Forward

  • Law and technology seldom mix like oil and water.
  • There is a consistent criticism that the development of technology is not met by equivalent movement in the law.
  • In this context, we need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society.
  • Non recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.
J&K – The issues around the state

SC order on Internet ShutdownsPriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sec. 144 of CRPC

Mains level : Internet shutdown as an infringement of FR


Directing the government to mandatorily publish all orders permitting Internet shutdowns, the Supreme Court has for the first time set the stage for challenging suspension orders before courts.

What triggered the SC?

  • India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally. According to Software Freedom Law Center’s tracker, there have been 381 shutdowns since 2012, 106 of which were in 2019.
  • The ongoing shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in any democratic country.

The prime mover for Supreme Court

  • The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 issued under the Telegraph Act deals with restricting Internet access.
  • It does not provide for publication or notification of the order suspending Internet, the apex court mandated that such orders must be made available to the public.
  • The court declared that it is a “settled principle of law, and of natural justice” that requires publication of such orders, “particularly one that affects lives, liberty and property of people”.
  • This allows individuals to now challenge the orders before courts in J&K and rest of India.

Internet suspension orders are subjected to Judicial Review

  • In the wake of protests against the new citizenship law, Internet services were suspended temporarily in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka.
  • There should not be excessive burden on free speech even if complete prohibition is imposed, and the government has to justify imposition of such prohibition and explain why lesser alternatives were inadequate, the bench stated.
  • It ruled that Restrictions are to be imposed in an emergency. Hence they must be proportionate to the concern. Their objective must be legitimate rather than cavalier.
  • Authorities must necessarily consider an alternative and least restrictive mechanism before opting to restrict rights. Every decision to impose restriction should be backed by sufficient material and amenable to judicial review.

Pacing up with technology

  • The bench also noted that the law needs to keep pace with technological development:
  • We need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society.
  • Non-recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.

Justifying the Kashmir shutdown

  • Lastly, the court mandated that all orders regarding the Kashmir case be made public, and to provide essential services such as e-banking and hospitals immediately.
  • What the centre was arguing in this case was that this is a matter of national security given that it pertains to Kashmir with a history of militancy.
Judicial Reforms

Article 142 of the Indian ConstitutionSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 142

Mains level : Discretionary powers of Judiciary


Recently the Supreme Court has used its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to grant divorce in a case of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”.

Irretrievable breakdown of marriage

  • It is defined as the situation that exists when either or both spouses are no longer able or willing to live with each other, thereby destroying their husband and wife relationship with no hope of resumption of spousal duties.
  • Currently, Hindu marriage law does not include “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce.
  • However, the apex court in a number of cases has provided the said relief using the extraordinary powers that allow it to do “complete justice”.
  • The Law Commission has twice recommended that “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage be included as a new ground for granting divorce to Hindus under this Act and the Special Marriage Act.

Present grounds for divorces

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, lays down the law for divorce, which applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.
  • Under Section 13 of the Act, the grounds for divorce include: “voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse”; “cruelty”; desertion “for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition”; “ceasing to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion”; and being “incurably of unsound mind”.
  • In addition, Section 13B provides for “divorce by mutual consent”.
  • Section 27 of The Special Marriage Act, 1954 provides the grounds for grant of divorce in the case of marriages solemnized under that Act.
  • However, neither of the two Acts provide for “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce.

What is Article 142 of the Constitution?

  • Article 142 provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court as it states that the court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
  • Such decree shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • The provision vests sweeping powers in the Supreme Court for the end of ensuring “complete justice” and is usually used in cases involving human rights and environmental protection.
  • Last month, it was also used during the Ayodhya judgment, making the first such case where it was invoked for a civil dispute over an immovable property that involved private parties.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Supreme Court’s observations on “use and abuse of RTI”SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Public Office, RTI Act

Mains level : Read the attached story


The Hon’ble CJI has called for a “filter” to check “abuse” of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

These remarks came a month after the Supreme Court declared the office of the CJI a public authority under the ambit of the RTI. Over the years, the apex court has stressed the importance of transparency under RTI at times, and also remarked on its overuse at other times.

For a stronger RTI, the Supreme Court looped in for:

Providing rightful information

  • The Public Information Officers under the guise of one of the exceptions given under Section 8 of RTI Act, have evaded the general public from getting their hands on the rightful information that they are entitled to, SC has observed.
  • The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern.
  • The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government.
  • It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”

Bringing NGOs under RTI Act

  • In 2019, a SC bench has declared that NGOs are not beyond the RTI Act. This was based on an examination of the question whether NGOs are substantially financed by the government.
  • The Bench observed that substantial means a large portion. It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%.
  • To give an example, if a land in a city is given free of cost or on heavy discount to hospitals, educational institutions or such other body, this in itself could also be substantial financing.
  • Merely because financial contribution of the State comes down during the actual funding, will not by itself mean that the indirect finance given is not to be taken into consideration.
  • Because of this observation, the spotlight falls of several NGOs that have been getting public money and were not covered under the RTI.
  • There are societies directly controlled by politicians, but fighting cases that they are not covered under the transparency law.

SC on the overuse of RTI

Time consumed in replying

  • According to estimates, nearly 60-70 lakh RTI applications are filed in India every year, and activists have questioned whether addressing these would require 75% of the time of government staff.
  • Several public authorities have used this observation while denying information, ignoring the fact in the same case, the Supreme Court had ordered disclosure of the requisite information.
  • In CBSE & Anr vs Aditya Bandhopadhyay and Others in 2011, the SC said: The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties.

Personal and Public

  • In Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs CIC & Ors in October 2012, the SC Bench observed, “The performance of an employee/officer in an organisation is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer.
  • Normally these aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression ‘personal information’, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest.
  • On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual.
  • If the appellate authority (any) is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right.
  • Various public authorities have used this order to deny information on cases/inquiries going on against government officials.

Back2Basics

The RTI Act

  • Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.
  • This includes (i) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, (ii) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and (iii) financial information.

Its genesis

  • It was the Supreme Court that had sown the seeds of the RTI Act when, in 1975, in State of UP vs Raj Narain Case.
  • Justice K K Mathew observed, “The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries.
  • They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing.
  • Their right to know is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security.
  • Before the RTI Act, the Supreme Court advocated for the people’s right to know in Union of India Vs Association for Democratic Reforms in 2002.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Death penalty in IndiaPriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Capital Punishment and its justification



The horrific December 16, 2012, Delhi bus gangrape case is rapidly moving towards its final conclusion.

Death Penalty

  • Article 21 ensures the Fundamental Right to life and liberty for all persons.
  • It adds no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • This has been legally construed to mean if there is a procedure, which is fair and valid, then the state by framing a law can deprive a person of his life.
  • While the central government has consistently maintained it would keep the death penalty in the statute books to act as a deterrent, and for those who are a threat to society, the Supreme Court too has upheld the constitutional validity of capital punishment in “rarest of rare” cases.

Various judgments related to Death Penalty

  • The Supreme Court has always said that the death sentence should be given rarely.
  • In ‘Mithu vs State of Punjab’ (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional.
  • It struck down Section 303 in the IPC, which entailed a mandatory death sentence for a person who commits murder while serving a life term in another case.
  • The Supreme Court ruled Section 303 violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) since an unreasonable distinction was sought to be made between two classes of murders.
  • Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled in ‘State of Punjab vs Dalbir Singh’ in 2012 that mandatory death penalty as punishment for crimes under Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act, 1959, was unconstitutional.
  • In ‘Jagmohan Singh vs State of UP’ (1973), then in ‘Rajendra Prasad vs State of UP’ (1979), and finally in ‘Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab’ (1980) the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of the death penalty.
  • It said that if capital punishment is provided in the law and the procedure is a fair, just and reasonable one, the death sentence can be awarded to a convict.
  • This will, however, only be in the “rarest of rare” cases, and the courts should render “special reasons” while sending a person to the gallows.

What is a “rarest of rare” case?

  • The principles of what would constitute the “rarest of rare” were laid down by the top court in the landmark judgment in ‘Bachan Singh’.
  • Two prime questions, the top court held, may be asked and answered.
  • First, is there something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for a death sentence?
  • Second, are there circumstances of the crime such that there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence even after according maximum weightage to the mitigating circumstances which speak in favour of the offenders?
  • Courts have agreed that the Delhi gangrape case meets the test of rarest of rare.

Avenues available to a death-row convict

  • After a trial court awards the death penalty, the sentence must be confirmed by a High Court.
  • The sentence cannot be executed till the time the High Court confirms it, either after deciding the appeal filed by the convict, or until the period allowed for preferring an appeal has expired.
  • If the High Court confirms the death penalty and it is also upheld by the Supreme Court, a convict can file a review petition.
  • If the review petition is rejected, the convict can file a curative petition for reconsideration of the judgment.
  • In 2014, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a three-judge Bench in open court. Such cases were earlier being heard by two-judge Benches in the judges’ chamber.
  • A curative petition is still heard in judges’ chambers.

Issues with delayed execution

  • The law provides for a long process before the execution of the convicts actually takes place.
  • The unexplained delay in execution can be a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.
Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Creamy layer principle in SC, ST quota for promotion: judgments, appealsExplainedSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Creamy Layer clause and its issues


The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to refer to a larger Bench its decision last year that had applied the creamy layer principle to promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs.

What was the case about?

  • In Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018), the court dealt with a batch of appeals relating to two reference orders, first by a two-judge Bench and then by a three-judge Bench, on the correctness of the Supreme Court’s judgment in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India (2006).
  • The Nagaraj case, in turn, had arisen out of a challenge to the validity of four Constitution amendments, which the court eventually upheld.

What were these amendments?

  • 77th Amendment: It introduced Clause 4A to the Constitution, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
  • 81st Amendment: It introduced Clause 4B, which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year to find out whether the total quota has breached the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court.
  • 82nd Amendment: It inserted a proviso at the end of Article 335 to enable the state to make any provision for SC/STs “for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.
  • 85th Amendment: It said reservation in promotion can be applied with consequential seniority for the SC/ST employee.

What is Art. 335 about?

  • Article 335 of the Constitution relates to claims of SCs and STs to services and posts.
  • It reads: “The claims of the members of the SC’s and ST’s shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”

How did the Nagaraj case proceed?

  • The petitioners claimed that these amendments were brought to reverse the effect of the decision in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992 (Mandal Commission case).
  • In that case the Supreme Court had excluded the creamy layer of OBCs from reservation benefits.
  • The court said reservation should be applied in a limited sense, otherwise it will perpetuate casteism in the country.
  • It upheld the constitutional amendments by which Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B) were inserted, saying they flow from Article 16(4) and do not alter the structure of Article 16(4).

Extending to SC’s and ST’s: A directive for the State

  • The SC ruled that “the State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions.
  • However if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.
  • It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.
  • In other words, the court extended the creamy layer principle to SCs and STs too.

What happened in the subsequent Jarnail Singh case?

  • The Centre argued that the Nagaraj judgment needed to be revisited for two reasons.
  • Firstly, asking states “to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness is contrary to the Indra Sawhney v Union of India case where it was held that SC’s and ST’s are the most backward among backward classes.
  • And it is, therefore, presumed that once they are contained in the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India, there is no question of showing backwardness of the SCs and STs all over again.
  • Secondly, the creamy layer concept has not been applied in the Indra Sawhney case to SC/ST’s; the Nagaraj judgment, according to the government, “has misread” the Indra Sawhney judgment to apply the concept to the SCs and STs.

How did the court rule?

  • Last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench refused to refer the Nagaraj verdict to a larger bench.
  • However, it held as “invalid” the requirement laid down by the Nagaraj verdict that states should collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of SCs and STs in granting quota in promotions.
  • It said that the creamy layer principle — of excluding the affluent among these communities from availing the benefit —will apply.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.
  • This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were, the Bench said.
  • This being the case, it is clear that when a Court applies the creamy layer principle SC/ST’s, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Articles 341 or 342.
  • It is only those persons within that group or sub-group, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation.

What happens now?

  • The Centre, while praying that the 2018 judgment be referred to a larger Bench, has referred once again to the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment, submitting that the Supreme Court then did not apply the creamy layer concept to SCs and STs.
  • The Bench has said it will hear the matter within few weeks.

Supreme Court strikes down rules on tribunal postingsSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various tribunals

Mains level : Not Much


A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down in entirety Rules framed by the government under the Finance Act of 2017 to alter the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the Central Administrative Tribunal.

Why it was struck down?

  • The Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 suffered from excessive delegation of legislative functions.
  • It was under Section 184 that the 2017 Rules regarding appointment of tribunals were framed.
  • One of the major grounds of challenge to the Finance Act was on the ground that the same was passed as a Money Bill.
  • It was the petitioners’ case that the passage of the Finance Act in the form of a Money Bill’ was entirely inappropriate and amounted to a fraud on the Constitution.
  • The petitions had stated that the provisions of Finance Act 2017 affected the powers and structures of various judicial tribunals such as National Green Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, National Company Law Tribunal and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

What did the court ruled?

  • The court ordered the Centre to re-formulate the Rules within six months strictly in conformity with the principles delineated by the Supreme Court.
  • The new set of Rules to be formulated by the Central Government shall ensure non-discriminatory and uniform conditions of service, including assured tenure.
  • The court further ordered the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a ‘Judicial Impact Assessment’ of tribunals to analyse the ramifications of the changes caused by the Finance Act, 2017.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Right to carry on businessSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Right to carry on business

Mains level : Issues over IBC


The Supreme Court has increased the time limit for the corporate resolution to extend beyond the mandated 330 days. The judgment is significant for India’s fledgling corporate resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Time limits

  • As of now, the time limit for resolution process is mandatorily 330 days in all cases.
  • If debts are not resolved and the bankrupt firm cannot be brought back to its feet within this time-frame, the only option left is liquidation of its assets to pay creditors.
  • The court said that the provision saying the 330-day mark should be followed in the ‘ordinary course’.
  • Extension of time should be granted by the NCLT if parties are able to prove there is very little time left in the resolution process and the delay has been caused by ‘tardy’ legal proceedings.

Why extension?

  • A Bench led by Justice Nariman in a judgment, observed that many litigants suffer the prospect of liquidation for no fault of theirs.
  • Delay in legal proceedings leads to the resolution process being dragged beyond the 330-day mark.

How is Article 19 involved?

  • Justice Nariman said it would be arbitrary to let litigants suffer liquidation unnecessarily.
  • The court held the mandatory nature of the 330-day mark as a violation of Article 14 (right to equal treatment) of the Constitution and an excessive and unreasonable restriction on the litigant’s right to carry on business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

Back2Basics

Article 19

According to Article 19, all citizens shall have the right—

  • to freedom of speech and expression;
  • to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • to form associations or unions or co-operatives;
  • to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property (deleted after 44th CAA, 1978)
  • to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Judicial Reforms

Doctrine of EssentialitySC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doctrine of Essentiality

Mains level : Constitutional significance of Doctrine of Essentiality


Context

The Supreme Court has decided to refer the Sabarimala temple case to a larger 7-judge Bench.

This reopens not only the debate on allowing women of menstruating age into the Ayyappa temple but the larger issue of whether any religion can bar women from entering places of worship.

The case for Sabarimala

  • The majority opinion in the 2018 Sabarimala verdict had said that women have a fundamental right to equality in accessing public places which includes places of worship.
  • However, since the Sabarimala verdict will essentially be heard afresh, the constitutional debate on gender equality will open up once again.
  • The review gives the ‘devotees’ and the Sabarimala temple authorities who have battled the Supreme Court verdict a foot in the door to have the verdict potentially overturned.

What is the Supreme Court’s Doctrine of Essentiality?

  • The doctrine of “essentiality” was invented by a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the ‘Shirur Mutt’ case in 1954.
  • It is a contentious doctrine evolved by the court to protect only such religious practices which were essential and integral to the religion.
  • The court held that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practices “integral” to a religion, and took upon itself the responsibility of determining the essential and non-essential practices of a religion.
  • Referring to the Ayodhya case, the Constitution Bench had ruled in 1994 that A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open.

How has the doctrine been used in subsequent years?

  • The ‘essentiality doctrine’ of the Supreme Court has been criticised by several constitutional experts.
  • Scholars of constitutional law have argued that the essentiality/integrality doctrine has tended to lead the court into an area that is beyond its competence, and given judges the power to decide purely religious questions.
  • As a result, over the years, courts have been inconsistent on this question — in some cases they have relied on religious texts to determine essentiality.
  • In others it relied on the empirical behaviour of followers, and in yet others, based on whether the practice existed at the time the religion originated.

Issues over the doctrine

  • In the beginning, the court engaged with the question of whether untouchability, manifested in restrictions on entry into temples, was an “essential part of the Hindu religion”.
  • After examining selected Hindu texts, it came to the conclusion that untouchability was not an essential Hindu practice.
  • The idea of providing constitutional protection only to those elements of religion which the court considers “essential” is problematic as it assumes that one element or practice of religion is independent of other elements or practices.
  • So, while the essentiality test privileges certain practices over others, it is, in fact, all practices taken together that constitute a religion.

How does essentiality square up against religious freedom?

  • Freedom of religion was meant to guarantee freedom to practice one’s beliefs based on the concept of “inward association” of man with God.
  • The apex court in ‘Ratilal Panachand Gandhi vs The State of Bombay and Ors’ (March 18, 1954) acknowledged that “every person has a fundamental right to entertain such religious beliefs as may be approved by his judgment or conscience”.
  • The framers of the Constitution wanted to give this autonomy to each individual. Scholars have argued that the essentiality test impinges on this autonomy.
  • The apex court has itself emphasised autonomy and choice in its Privacy (2017), 377 (2018), and Adultery (2018) judgments.
Judicial Reforms

CJI’s office comes under ambit of RTI Act, SC saysSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Public Office, RTI Act

Mains level : Read the attached story


The office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority and falls under the ambit of Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court ruled today.

What’s the issue?

  • The five-judge bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed the judgment on an appeal filed by the Supreme Court administration.
  • The appeal challenged the 2010 order of the Delhi high court which held that the CJI’s office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
  • Oppositions to the plea had contended that courts had time and again given a slew of directions to infuse transparency in the functioning of various institutions.
  • The bench had agreed that there should be transparency, but added there was a need to do balancing.

Who is a “Public Authority”?

In 2011, the Punjab-Haryana High Court while deciding on 24 civil writ petitions against the Central/State Information Commissioners had held that if any person, or body, satisfies the following conditions then it would “squarely fall within the ambit and scope of definition of ‘public authorities'” and would be “legally required to impart the indicated information as envisaged under the RTI Act” –

  • the institution cannot come into existence and function unless registered and regulated by the provisions of a legislation; or
  • the State Government has some degree of control over it through the medium of Acts/Rules; or
  • it is substantially financed by means of funds provided directly, or indirectly, by the appropriate Government; or
  • the mandate and command of the provisions of the RTI Act along with its Preamble, aims, objects and regime extends to their public dealing; or
  • the larger public interest and totality of the other facts and circumstances emanating from the records suggest that such information may be disclosed.

The Delhi High Court order

  • In a landmark verdict on January 10, 2010, the Delhi High Court had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI law.
  • It said that the judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.
  • The 88-page judgment was then seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, KG Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

RTI < < Judiciary

  • The apex court said that the right to privacy and confidentiality is an important aspect and has to be balanced while taking a decision on giving out information from the CJI’s office.
  • The CJI-led bench added that transparency cannot be allowed to run counter to right to privacy.
  • The bench said that the information commissioner must apply test of proportionality while entertaining applications seeking information from the CJI’s office.
  • However it must keep in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.
President’s Rule

Explained: President’s Rule in MaharashtraPriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : President's Rule

Mains level : SR Bommai Judgment


While recommending President’s Rule in Maharashtra, Governor noted that a situation has arisen when the formation of a stable government is not possible even 15 days after the election results had been declared.

What’s the issue?

  • It has been argued that governor’s decision is based on “objective material” and not on a political whim or fancy, if one goes by the Supreme Court verdict in the 1994 S.R. Bommai case.

President’s Rule

  • President’s rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.

How it is imposed?

  • President’s Rule implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre.
  • This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
  • Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution…”

How long President’s Rule can last

  • A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly, and stakes his claim to form a government.
  • The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
  • Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it.
  • This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.

The S.R. Bommai Case

  • R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues.
  • The judgement attempted to curb blatant misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed President’s rule to be imposed over state governments.
  • Article 356 (1) has been deliberately drafted in a narrow language by the Founding Fathers so that political parties in the Centre does not misuse it to subvert federalism, it had noted.
  • The expression used in the Article is ‘if the President is satisfied”, the court had observed.
  • In other words, the President has to be convinced of or should have sufficient proof of information with regard to or has to be free from doubt or uncertainty about the state of things indicating that the situation in question has arisen.
  • The court had stated that although the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of inference drawn from such material is “certainly open to judicial review”.

What it directed?

  • The judgment had explained that in a multi-party political system, chances are high that the political parties in the Centre and the State concerned may not be the same.
  • Article 356 cannot be used for the purpose of political one-upmanship by the Centre.
  • Hence there is a need to confine the exercise of power under Article 356[1] strictly to the situation mentioned therein which is a condition precedent to the said exercise,” the court had said.

Conditions for Prez Rule

  • Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly.
  • Where the party having a majority in the assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a ministry resigns after its defeat in the assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
  • Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
  • Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.

Fouling factors

The imposition of President’s Rule in a state would be improper under the following situations:

  • Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing majority support in the assembly and the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without probing the possibility of forming an alternative ministry.
  • Where the governor makes his own assessment of the support of a ministry in the assembly and recommends imposition of President’s Rule without allowing the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
  • Where the ruling party enjoying majority support in the assembly has suffered a massive defeat in the general elections to the Lok Sabha such as in 1977 and 1980.
  • Internal disturbances not amounting to internal subversion or physical breakdown.
  • Maladministration in the state or allegations of corruption against the ministry or stringent financial exigencies of the state.
  • Where the state government is not given prior warning to rectify itself except in case of extreme urgency leading to disastrous consequences.
  • Where the power is used to sort out intra-party problems of the ruling party, or for a purpose extraneous or irrelevant to the one for which it has been conferred by the Constitution.

Similar precedents

  • This is not the first time President’s Rule has been imposed following an election that did not lead to government formation.
  • For instance, no party could mobilise a majority in the Bihar Assembly following elections in February 2005.
  • President’s Rule, which was imposed on March 7, 2005, lasted 262 days until November 24 . It was lifted after fresh elections in October-November.
  • A hung verdict in the J&K elections of 2002 led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 15 days, from October 18 to November 2 that year.
  • In the UP Assembly elections of 2002, no party could secure a majority. This led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 56 days, from March 3 to to May 2, 2002.
Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Explained: Second Judges Case, 1993ExplainedSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Collegium system

Mains level : Issues over Judicial appointments and transfers


  • A Bench of the Supreme Court, led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, has dismissed a bunch of petitions seeking a review of the court’s judgment in the Second Judges Case in 1993, which led to the Collegium system of appointment of judges.

Collegium System

  • The Collegium of judges is the Indian Supreme Court’s invention.
  • It does not figure in the Constitution, which says judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are appointed by the President and speaks of a process of consultation.
  • In effect, it is a system under which judges are appointed by an institution comprising judges.
  • After some judges were superseded in the appointment of the CJI in the 1970s, and attempts made subsequently to effect a mass transfer of High Court judges across the country.
  • Hence there was a perception that the independence of the judiciary was under threat. This resulted in a series of cases over the years.

What was the Second Judges Case of 1993?

  • In The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCARA) Vs Union of India, 1993, a nine-judge Constitution Bench overruled the decision in S P Gupta, and devised a specific procedure called ‘Collegium System’ for the appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary.
  • The Case accorded primacy to the CJI in matters of appointment and transfers while also ruling that the term “consultation” would not diminish the primary role of the CJI in judicial appointments.

CJI’s role

  • The role of the CJI is primal in nature because this being a topic within the judicial family, the executive cannot have an equal say in the matter.
  • Here the word ‘consultation’ would shrink in a mini form.
  • Should the executive have an equal role and be in divergence of many a proposal, germs of indiscipline would grow in the judiciary.
  • Ushering in the collegium system the recommendation should be made by the CJI in consultation with his two seniormost colleagues, and that such recommendation should normally be given effect to by the executive.
  • It added that although it was open to the executive to ask the collegium to reconsider the matter if it had an objection to the name recommended.
  • If, on reconsideration, the collegium reiterated the recommendation, the executive was bound to make the appointment.

Criticisms of the Judgement

  • Critics argue that the system is non-transparent since it does not involve any official mechanism or secretariat.
  • It is seen as a closed-door affair with no prescribed norms regarding eligibility criteria or even the selection procedure.
  • There is no public knowledge of how and when a collegium meets, and how it takes its decisions.
  • Lawyers too are usually in the dark on whether their names have been considered for elevation as a judge.

What efforts have been made to address these concerns?

  • The government of 1998-2003 had appointed the Justice M N Venkatachaliah Commission to opine whether there was need to change the Collegium system.
  • The Commission favoured change, and prescribed a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) consisting of the CJI and two seniormost judges, the Law Minister, and an eminent person from the public, to be chosen by the President in consultation with the CJI.
  • The NDA 2 regime had NJAC as one of its priorities, and the constitutional amendment and NJAC Act were cleared swiftly.
  • In 2015, a Constitution Bench declared as unconstitutional the NJAC Bill.
  • The Bench sealed the fate of the proposed system with a 4:1 majority verdict that held that judges’ appointments shall continue to be made by the collegium system in which the CJI will have “the last word”.
  • Justice J Chelameswar wrote a dissenting verdict, criticising the collegium system by holding that “proceedings of the collegium were absolutely opaque and inaccessible both to public and history, barring occasional leaks”.

Back2Basics

Explained: Collegium of Judges

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Access to Internet is a basic right, says Kerala High CourtSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 19

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • The Kerala High Court held that the right to have access to the Internet is part of the fundamental right to education as well as the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Right to access Internet

  • The court ordered to re-admit a student who had been expelled from the college hostel for using her mobile phone beyond the restricted hours.
  • The court observed that when the Human Rights Council of the UN has found that the right of access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education.
  • A rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law.
  • The bench contended that the use of mobile phones amounted to a violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Restrictions on Art. 19(1)(a)

  • The court cited the observations of the Supreme Court in the S.Rengarajan and others v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) case.
  • It said that the fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19(2) .
  • And the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency.
  • 19(2) provides for reasonable restrictions on Art. 19(1)(a) in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Government-funded NGOs come under RTI ambit: SCSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RTI Act

Mains level : Prevention of money laundering through NGOs


  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “substantially” financed by the government fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court held in a judgment.

About the judgment

  • NGOs which receive considerable finances from the government or are essentially dependent on the government fall under the category of “public authority” defined in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act of 2005.
  • This means that they have to disclose vital information, ranging from finances to hierarchy to decisions to functioning, to citizens who apply under RTI.
  • An NGO, the court said, may also include societies which are neither owned or controlled by the government, but if they are significantly funded by the government, directly or indirectly, they come under the RTI Act.

Why such move?

  • RTI Act was enacted with the purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life.
  • If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from the government we find no reason why any citizen cannot ask for information.
  • With the judgment citizens can find out whether his/her money which has been given to an NGO is being used for the requisite purpose.

‘Substantial’ means how much?

  • The court defined “substantial” as a “large portion.”
  • It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%.
  • No hard and fast rule can be laid down in this regard. Substantial financing can be both direct or indirect.
  • If government gives land in a city free of cost or on heavy discount to hospitals, educational institutions or any such body, this in itself could also be substantial financing, the judgment explained.

Back2Basics

[Burning Issue] RTI amendment Bill

Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

Uniform Civil CodePriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UCC

Mains level : Need for UCC



  • The Supreme Court said the nation has still not endeavored to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The government has till date taken no action, said the Court.

A Case for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • UCC is the ongoing point of debate in Indian mandate to replace personal laws which are based on the scriptures and customs of religious community in India.
  • It aims for a common set of rules governing the individuals of their religion.
  • Personal laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Goa has a common family law, thus being the only Indian state to have a UCC.
  • Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens.
  • The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic sphere.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits any citizen to have a civil marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law.

Hopes of founders

  • The founders had penned their hope that a uniform set of rules would replace the distinct personal laws of marriage, divorce, etc. based on customs of each religion.
  • Whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the DPSP had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a UCC.
  • The court said that the Hindu laws were codified in the year 1956, there has been no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country.
  • Despite exhortations of this Court in the case of Shah Bano in 1985, the government has done nothing to bring the UCC.

Goa: Leading by example

  • The Supreme Court hailed the State of Goa as a “shining example” where “uniform civil code applicable to all, regardless of religion except while protecting certain limited rights”.
  • Under this Code practised in Goa, a Muslim man whose marriage is registered in the State cannot practice polygamy.
  • A married couple share property equally, pre-nuptial agreements are the order of the day and assets are divided equally between the man and woman on divorce.
  • The judgment came in a case concerning the question whether succession and inheritance of a Goan domicile is governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 or the Indian Succession Act of 1925.
  • Goa was once a Portuguese colony until it was made part of India.

Law panel’s stand

  • In 2018, a Law Commission of India consultation paper had however said the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
  • The Commission said secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
Judicial Reforms

Criticizing executive, judiciary and bureaucracy cannot be called sedition: SC JudgePriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Sedition Law and issues


  • Justice Deepak Gupta, judge of Supreme Court, opined about the chilling effect caused by sedition law on legitimate criticism on the organs of state.
  • As citizens, Indians have the right to criticize the government, and criticism cannot be construed as sedition, he said, adding that stifling such criticism will make us a police state.

Sedition and Right to dissent

  • Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the armed forces cannot be termed sedition.
  • If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”
  • There is a very important right which is not spelt out in the Constitution… the right of freedom of opinion, the right of freedom of conscience, by themselves, include the most important right — the right to dissent.

Why is dissent important?

  • Every society has its own rules, and over a period of time, when people stick to only age-old rules and conventions, the society degenerates; it doesn’t develop.
  • New thinkers are born when they disagree with well-accepted norms of the society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created and no new vistas of the mind will be found.
  • If a person doesn’t ask questions and raise issues questioning age-old systems, no new systems will develop and horizons of the mind will not expand.
  • New thoughts and religious practices have developed only when they have questioned the old.

A right to expression

  • He said that in a secular country such as India, a non-believer, an atheist, an agnostic, ritualistic or a spiritualist person all has the right to expression.
  • When we talk of dissent, it reminds of Justice H R Khanna in the habeas corpus case.
  • That dissent is more important than any decision that may have come before or after it. Today, it is the rule of law.
  • In a case, a five-member bench was adjudicating on the matter of those detained during the Emergency in 1975, and Justice Khanna was the lone dissenter, while the four other judges in the bench allowed unrestricted powers of detention during the Emergency

Judiciary not above criticism

  • The judge emphasized that allowing a climate for free expression of thoughts and ideas without fear of criminal prosecution is essential for growth of civilization.
  • The judiciary is not above criticism. If Judges of the superior courts were to take note of all the contemptuous communications received by them, there would be no work other than the contempt proceedings.
  • Not only should there be criticism but there must be introspection. When we introspect, we will find that many decisions taken by Judiciary need to be corrected.

(Note: All these are personal opinion of the apex court Judge.)

Right To Privacy

Giving voice sample to police does not violate privacy: Supreme CourtSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 20

Mains level : Debate over right to privacy


  • In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that a judicial magistrate is empowered to order a person to give a sample of his voice for the purpose of investigation.

Right to privacy is not absolute

  • Directing a person to part with his voice sample to police is not a violation of his fundamental right to privacy.
  • The judgment authored by CJI said that the fundamental right to privacy cannot be construed as absolute and must bow down to compelling public interest.
  • Hence giving voice sample to an investigating agency was not a violation of the fundamental right against self-incrimination.
  • Originally, Article 20 (3) of the Constitution mandated that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Not a self-incrimination

  • The Chief Justice compared a voice sample with other impressions like specimen handwriting, or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot collected by police during investigation.
  • The court ruled that giving voice sample by a person did not amount to furnishing of evidence against oneself.
  • A voice sample is given for the reason of comparison with other voices in order to see if they matched and were of the same person.
  • Hence voice sample by itself is not incriminating evidence.

Voiceprint as evidence

  • The 87th Report of the Law Commission of India in 1980 describes a voice print as a “visual recording of voice”.
  • Voiceprints resemble fingerprints, in that each person has a distinctive voice with characteristic features dictated by vocal cavities and articulates.
Judicial Reforms

Cabinet approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Against the backdrop of rising cases in the Supreme Court, the Union Cabinet has approved increasing the number of judges in the top court from the present 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India.

Judges in Supreme Court

  • At present, the Supreme Court is working with its full sanctioned strength of 31.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges’ strength from 25 to 30 (excluding the CJI).
  • The decision of the Cabinet came days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wrote to PM Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

Why need more Judges?

  • Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law was not being formed.
  • This rise also aims to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.

What are Constitution Benches?

  • Constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the SC which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India or “for the purpose of hearing any reference” made by the President of India under Article 143.
  • It consist of at least five judges of the court.
  • This provision has been mandated by Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India.
  • The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.
  • Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (basic structure doctrine) and Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.

Timeline: Number of Judges

  • The original Constitution of 1950 had envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and seven puisne judges, leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI).
  • This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.
  • The working strength of the Supreme court was, however, restricted to 15 judges by the Cabinet (excluding the chief Justice of India) till the end of 1979.
  • But the restriction was withdrawn at the request of the Chief Justice of India.
  • In 1986, the strength of the top court was increased to 25, excluding the CJI.
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further augmented the strength of the court from 25 to 30.

Back2Basics

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution who has been

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India
  • is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the supreme court
Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Too much quota may impact right to equal opportunity: Supreme CourtSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Deabte over quotas


  • The Bench is examining whether to refer to a Constitution Bench a batch of petitions challenging the validity of a constitutional amendment providing 10% economic quota in government jobs and educational institutions.

Why issue over Quota?

  • The Supreme Court orally remarked that excessive quota may impact the right to equal opportunity guaranteed under the Constitution.
  • The court said quota benefits given to the most “forward” classes, especially to those who had no qualification whatsoever, would result in “excess” reservation and breach equality.
  • Reservation itself is an exception. Reservation is intended to achieve equality of opportunity.

Referring Indra Sawhney case

  • The economic reservation violated the 50% reservation ceiling limit fixed by a nine-judge Bench in the Indra Sawhney case.
  • Further, the 1992 judgment had barred reservation solely on economic criterion.
  • In a 6:3 majority verdict, the apex court, in the Indra Sawhney case, had held that “a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.
  • It may be a consideration or basis along with and in addition to social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.

Issue over economically backward quota

  • After a gap of 27 years, the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 has provided 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the “economically backward” in the unreserved category.
  • The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
  • This 10% economic reservation is over and above the 50% reservation cap.
  • The government however has justified to the apex court that the 10% economic quota law was a move towards a classless and casteless society.
  • It said the law was meant to benefit a “large section of the population of 135 crore people” who are mostly lower middle class and below poverty line.
Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

Kihoto Hollohan Order (1992)SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the case

Mains level : Anti-defection Law and issues with it


Crisis in K’taka Assembly

  • Various arguments are undergoing in the Supreme Court related to the political crisis in Karnataka.
  • A Senior Advocate has cited the landmark judgment in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others (1992).
  • It states that the court upheld the sweeping discretion available to the Speaker in deciding cases of disqualification of MLAs.

What was the Kihoto Hollohan case?

  • The Tenth Schedule, which was inserted in the Constitution by the Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985, popularly known as the “anti-defection law”, provides for the disqualification of MPs and MLAs who defect.
  • The law covering the disqualification of legislators and the powers of the Speaker in deciding such matters became part of the statute book in 1985 when the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution was adopted.
  • A constitutional challenge to the Tenth Schedule was settled by the apex court in Kihoto Hollohan Case.
  • The principal question before the Supreme Court in the case was whether the powerful role given to the Speaker violated the doctrine of Basic Structure.

Extent of the Speaker’s powers

  • Paragraph 6(1) of the Tenth Schedule describes the Speaker’s sweeping discretionary powers. It reads:
  • If any question arises as to whether a member of a House has become subject to disqualification under this Schedule, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Chairman or, as the case may be, the Speaker of such House and his decision shall be final.

What did the Supreme Court rule in Hollohan?

  • The petitioners in Hollohan argued whether it was fair that the Speaker should have such broad powers, given that there is always a reasonable likelihood of bias.
  • The majority judgment authored by Justices M N Venkatachaliah and K Jayachandra Reddy answered this question in the affirmative,
  • The Speakers/Chairmen hold a pivotal position in the scheme of Parliamentary democracy and are guardians of the rights and privileges of the House.
  • They are expected to and do take far reaching decisions in the Parliamentary democracy.
  • Vestiture of power to adjudicate questions under the Tenth Schedule in them should not be considered exceptionable.
  • They added that the Schedule’s provisions were “salutory and intended to strengthen the fabric of Indian Parliamentary democracy by curbing unprincipled and unethical political defections.

Dissenting opinions over Speakers Power

  • The tenure of the Speaker, who is the authority in the Tenth Schedule to decide this dispute, is dependent on the continuous support of the majority in the House and, therefore, he does not satisfy the requirement of such an independent adjudicatory authority.
  • Independent adjudicatory machinery for resolving disputes relating to the competence of Members of the House is envisaged as an attribute of the democratic system which is a basic feature of our Constitution
  • The Speaker’s choice as the sole arbiter in the matter violates an essential attribute of the basic feature.