"Today, there has been an increase in the number of Writ Petitions and PILs challenging governmental policies and actions."
"Today, there has been an increase in the number of Writ Petitions and PILs challenging governmental policies and actions."

The Week that was: The Supreme Court of India

Murali Krishnan

Some very significant petitions concerning the legal fraternity came up for hearing in Supreme Court this week. The challenge to the Constitutionality of the All India Bar Exam was heard over three days, with the court making some rather serious observations regarding the state of legal profession.

The judge tasked with re-examining the answer sheets of candidates of the Delhi Judicial Service Exam 2014 submitted his report concluding that there was nothing “unfair” in the previous valuation as alleged.

A petition challenging certain basic customs of Muslim personal law including triple talaq and polygamy also came up for hearing and the Court admitted the same.

Besides these, the Supreme Court Registry once again came under scanner as another sitting judge, Justice Arun Mishra expressed his dissatisfaction at the functioning of the Registry.

Here is a look at the major events of the past week from the apex court.

Monday (February 29)

Triple Talaq, polygamy challenged by a Muslim woman, Court issues notice

In a case which is likely to have significant ramifications, a Division Bench of Justices Anil R Dave and AK Goel issued notice in a petition filed by one Shayara Bano from Uttarakhand. Bano’s petition challenges the Constitutionality of Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala.

Senior Advocate Amit Singh Chadha appeared for the petitioner.

Bano has challenged the Constitutionality of Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala. She has also challenged the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 in so far as it fails to provide Indian Muslim women with protection from bigamy.

The court has tagged the case along with the suo moto petition already being heard by the Court. The suo moto petition was registered by the Supreme Court last year after a Bench had taken cognizance of the discrimination faced by Muslim women in the personal sphere relating to marriage and divorce.

Swamy not amused as Centre opposes his ‘hate speech’ plea

Supreme Court witnessed a war of words between BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar as the Centre opposed Swamy’s plea assailing the Constitutionality of “hate speech” provisions in Indian Penal Code.

The petition has its genesis in the summons issued by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Karimganj, Assam against Swamy for alleged hate speech. Swamy had sought for quashing the summons while also challenging the Constitutionality of Sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298 and 505 of the Indian Penal  Code 1860, all of  which deal with the offences popularly  labelled as  “hate speech”.

The Court was not inclined to entertain the petition but kept the matter pending till July so that Swamy can arrive at a decision on whether to withdraw the matter or not. Interestingly, during the final stage of the hearing, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi also rushed to the court though the hearing had concluded by then. Later on, Swamy took to twitter and had this to say:

The Week that was: The Supreme Court of India

Tuesday & Wednesday (March 1 & March 2)

AIBE and legal profession

The hearing in the petition challenging All India Bar Exam created hubbub as the Supreme Court’s remarks, on the AIBE and the falling standards in the profession were widely reported by the media.

When the case came up for hearing on March 1, the court asked the Bar Council of India (BCI) whether the exam negates the right to practice.

“It is one thing to say you should not do anything unethical, you should not canvass etc. But if you say unless you pass this exam, you can’t practice, you are negating the right itself. Can that be done?”, asked Chief Justice of India TS Thakur.

The BCI sought time to respond and the court adjourned the case for the next day. When the matter was taken up the following day, the Court issued notice to the Bar Council of India but made it clear that it is not averse to having an exam.

“Let me make it clear that we are not averse to having an exam. We only want to examine if the AIBE is within the parameters of law. We only want it to be strengthened.”

The Court then posted the matter for March 4 before a 3-judge Bench. Advocate Sanjay Nuli appeared for the petitioner while advocate AK Prasad represented the BCI.

Thursday (March 3)

Supreme Court Registry compromised?

The Week that was: The Supreme Court of India

The functioning of the Supreme Court Registry came under scanner once again as Justice Arun Mishra came down strongly upon the Registry remarking that “this is not the way the Supreme Court” should function.

What annoyed the judge was that when a case came up for hearing on March 2, certain documents which were with Registry were not produced before the Bench. Hence, the court passed an order to submit the same and listed the matter for March 3. On March 3 the documents were brought to the court prompting the judge to remark that,

“Something is wrong. This is not the way Supreme Court should function. We knew that the original records were there in the Registry but purposefully not brought to court. That is why we directed the Registry to produce it.”

This is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the functioning of the Supreme Court Registry.  Earlier, Justice Ranjan Gogoi had also made some strong observations against the Registry for what he considered “unacceptable listing” of a case involving builder giant DLF.

Friday (March 4)

AIBE challenge referred to Constitution bench, CJI Thakur calls for introspection

The Supreme Court said that it will refer the challenge to the All India Bar Exam (AIBE) to a larger Bench. A 3-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justices R Banumathi and UU Lalit asked the parties to the dispute to submit their suggestions to the court; these will be considered by the court to frame the issues of reference. The Court also asked Senior Advocate KK Venugopal to assist the court in the matter.

Chief Justice Thakur also expressed his concern for the state of the legal profession when he remarked in jest that,

“It is time that we start introspection. It will help BCI also Mr. Mishra. Some lawyers are now agitating, some are fighting, some are stoning, only a few are arguing.”

Delhi Judicial Service Exam – Revaluating judge says “nothing unfair”

Justice PV Reddy, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to re-examine the answer papers of those who had failed to qualify for the Delhi Judicial Service Exam (DJS), submitted a report to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover. In his report, the former Supreme Court judge has stated that he did not find anything unfair in the evaluation.

However, it has been reported that 12 more candidates have become eligible to appear for the interview. The court has now listed the matter for March 10 when the petitioners will make submissions after perusing Justice Reddy’s report.

Call drops: TRAI has jurisdiction we will only decide on fixing responsibility

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central government and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, among others, in the appeal filed by Cellular Operators Association of India against the judgment of the Delhi High Court in the call drops case. The Court however, did not stay the judgment of the High Court.

The court also made it clear that TRAI has jurisdiction to levy compensation and the Court will only decide on fixing the responsibility for call drops. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the Cellular Operators.

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