As we embark upon a new year, old issues of significant importance continue to remain undecided by the Supreme Court of India.
While some of these cases were filed recently, to add to the existing challenges to various laws, a few have been pending for years together.
Granted, the limited functioning of the courts owing to the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the reasons why these matters have not attained finality, but some are of the opinion that a "pick and choose" policy has been adopted in the recent past.
Here are seven important issues that are still pending before the Supreme Court as we enter 2022.
1. Mob Lynching
It has been three years since the Supreme Court frowned upon the mobocracy prevalent in the country, an observation it made in light of the alarming number of mob lynching incidents that took place. Significantly, it had also called upon Parliament to introduce a separate law to deal with the same.
Since then, despite the fact that such incidents continued unabated, the Central government has not taken any steps towards introducing a law.
The Supreme Court has yet to ensure that its suggestions in the Tehseen Poonawalla judgment are implemented, and its failure to do so, one can argue, emboldens vigilantes and allows governments to wash their hands clean of such incidents.
In 2019, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and all States in a petition seeking the implementation of its 2018 judgment. There have been no substantial orders passed in the matter since.
Last heard on: July 26, 2019
Bench: Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta
2. Challenge to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2020
The Centre's passing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019 sparked widespread protests across the country. As a result, many protesting students, activists and lawyers were booked under various provisions and put in jail, where some of them continue to be lodged.
A deluge of petitions came to be filed before the Supreme Court challenging the law. Apart from the Kerala-based political party Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Congress leader and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Congress leader Debabrata Saikia, NGOs Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate and others approached the apex court.
While the Court promptly issued notice in the batch of PILs challenging the Act, the subsequent action on its part has been anything but prompt.
Last heard on: June 15, 2021
Bench: Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian
3. Petitions challenging abrogation of Article 370
In a move that would change the face of the Kashmir Valley, the Central government in 2019 passed Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act and other laws which divided the erstwhile State into two union territories and effectively abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir.
More than 10 petitions came to filed before the Supreme Court challenging the Presidential Order scrapping Article 370. The petitioners include Jammu & Kashmir based lawyer Shakir Shabir, Lok Sabha MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi, Advocate ML Sharma, Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid.
In March last year, the Court held that there was no need to refer the petitions to a larger Bench. The matter has not been taken up since then.
In November 2020, the Jammu & Kashmir People's Conference (JKPC) had filed an application in the Supreme Court of India seeking early hearing in the batch of petitions. However, the same is yet to be heard.
Most recently, three political leaders from Ladakh - Qamar Ali Akhoon, Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sajjad Hussain - had moved the Supreme Court seeking impleadment in the petitions.
Last heard on: March 2, 2020
Bench: Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant
4. Constitutionality of Section 124A - Sedition law
While hearing a plea challenging Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana last year asked whether such a provision was needed after 75 years of independence.
As the Court itself observed during that hearing, the law is being misused to meet political ends and there is no accountability from the executive while invoking the same.
Despite these strong words, no development has taken place in the case and the seven petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the provision are still pending before the Court. Details of all the petitions can be accessed here.
Meanwhile, the Centre recently revealed in Parliament that it has no plan to scrap Section 124A, making it all the more important for the Court to intervene.
Last heard on: July 15, 2021
Bench: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.
5. Challenge to provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
Another draconian law under challenge before the apex court is Section 2(1)(o) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) which defines ‘unlawful activity.’
The latest challenge was moved by two advocates and one journalist who were booked under the UAPA in connection with their social media posts and work related to the recent communal violence in Tripura. They assailed Section 2(1)(o) read with Sections 13 and 43D(5) of the Act. While granting relief to the petitioners in November last year, the Court, however, declined to tag the plea with other earlier petitions challenging the vires of certain other provisions of the UAPA.
The amendments made to the UAPA in 2019 are still under challenge before the top court. In the said plea, validity of Sections 35 and 36 of the UAPA, as amended by the UAPA Amendment Act, 2019, have been assailed by one Sajal Awasthi and an NGO, Association for Protection of Civil Rights.
Last heard on: November 17, 2021
Bench: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant.
6. Challenge to Aadhaar Act and its passage as a money bill
The Aadhaar programme was launched in 2009 as the world’s biggest biometric programme, managed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court in 2018 had upheld the validity of the Aadhaar Act and scheme by a 4:1 majority. However, in doing so, it struck down certain provisions of the Act.
Interestingly, in 2019, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had doubted the correctness of the Aadhaar judgment in relation to the question of passage of the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill. The Court made a request to set up a seven-judge bench to re-examine the validity of the Aadhaar law’s passage as a Money Bill.
Till date, the seven-judge bench has not even been set up.
Last heard on: November 13, 2019
Bench: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
7. Challenge to the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019
Another important case which has been pending before the apex court is the challenge to Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, which introduced reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
The Act provides reservation in aided and unaided institutions to individuals below an income of ₹8 lakh per annum. The government has said that the legislation will not affect the existing reservations for other groups.
In August 2020, the Supreme Court heard the batch of petitions challenging the 2019 Amendment which provides 10 per cent reservation for EWS and referred the matter to a five-judge Bench.
Last heard on: August 5, 2020
Bench: Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai