The Supreme Court will confront several challenges in 2014. It will witness three Chief Justices in office and the retirement of 10 judges.
The present Chief Justice, P. Sathasivam, will retire on April 26; Justice R.M. Lodha will take over from him the next day. But he will have a short tenure of five months till retirement in September, when Justice H.L. Dattu will succeed him.
These three CJIs will have a daunting task of filling 12 vacancies, including two existing vacancies and 10 which will arise later (with the retirement of two CJIs.), if the National Judicial Appointments Commission is not put in place by then. Furthermore, the will have to ensure that 275 judge vacancies in High Courts are filled. The immediate task for the Supreme Court is to decide the review petitions on homosexuality. Its December 11, 2013 judgment declaring illegal homosexuality and gay sex between two consenting adults created a furore among the gay community, and various sections have faulted it.
Next, the court will have to decide on the Presidential Reference for removal of Justice A.K. Ganguly as Chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
Besides deciding on the CBI’s autonomy and freeing it from ‘political control,’ the court will take the probe into the coal block allocation scam to its logical end. It will pronounce an important verdict in the Mullaperiyar dam row between Tamil Nadu and Kerala and decide on validity of Aadhar card and the Wage Board notification for journalists and non-journalists.
The year 2013 saw the court giving its nod for the commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.
Giving a big relief to political parties, the court held that freebies offered by them in their manifestos would not amount to “corrupt practices” and “electoral offences” under the Representation of the People Act. But it directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines in consultation with all recognised parties.
To prevent acid attacks, the court prohibited “over-the-counter” sale unless the seller maintains a log to record details of the person to whom acid is sold, the quantity and the address of the buyer. It also directed the States to pay a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh to acid attack victims.
The court declared unconstitutional the single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) introduced by the Medical Council of India and the Dental Council of India for admission to graduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses. It quashed the Karnataka government’s order removing G. Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor (SPP) for conducting the trial in the disproportionate assets cases against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three other accused.
The court ordered a CBI probe into 14 issues relating to criminal dimensions of the conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with industrialists and others.
The court was harsh on the Sahara Group when it failed to repay deposits to the tune of Rs.20,000 crore. It directed Sahara to deposit original title deeds of its property worth Rs. 20,000 crore with the Securities and Exchange Board of India. It ordered compulsory registration of the First Information Report by the police on receipt of a complaint if the information disclosed commission of a cognizable offence. No preliminary inquiry was permissible in such a situation.
The court directed the Centre and the States to restrict the list of VIPs using the red beacon in their cars and to limit the facility to the heads of political executive, the legislature, the judiciary and persons holding constitutional posts.