This article is written by Riya Ranjan, from Lloyd Law College. This article deeply analyzes the judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India in recent periods. It also deals with the fairness and biases in the decisions made by this highest judicial body.
Table of Contents
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial body and the most powerful public institution in India under the Constitution. It is the supreme official body or also referred to as the apex body which has the power of judicial review. It has extensive power in the form of appellate and advisory jurisdiction. The Supreme Court consists of a chief judge, Chief Justice of India, and has a maximum of 34 judges.
India empowers the Supreme Court to frame its own rules for regulating court practice and procedures under Article 145 of the Indian Constitution with presidential approval. With its extensive powers under Articles 32 and 129 to Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of India stands out as the forum for redressal of grievances, as the guardian of liberty and rights, and also as the final arbiter in most disputes, not only between individuals but also between states or the Union.
Questionable verdicts by the Supreme Court
According to the Supreme Court newsletter, 73.75 lakh cases are pending in the Supreme Court and 33.38 lakhs orders and judgments were uploaded, in 2019. The valuable time of the Supreme Court is being wasted by not taking up valuable and reasonable cases. The Supreme Court conducts a piecemeal trial by delivering its judgment to dispose of the petitions related to the apportionment of assets and less valuable topics.
After 2014, the Apex Court has started interfering in political matters and is hesitant in going against the Central executive in matters involving high political stakes. The Supreme Court has been tackled by previous judgments, notably the question of policy and non-judicial interference. There are numerous judgments where it has laid that the Supreme Court has passed the order in the favour of the government. The Supreme Court has taken a stand in the favour of the government, taken at the face value. The interventions of the court drew a lot of attention from the media and the general public, who hailed the judiciary as a crusader against corruption and misgovernance.
Since April 2014, the Supreme Court has not taken up the trail of many pending cases, challenging the validity of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. The Act itself was enacted by the Parliament without following the stipulated procedure in the constitution. It was claimed that this is detrimental to the basic foundation of the constitution on which the basic structure of the constitution is resting. The basic foundation of the constitution is the dignity and the freedom of its citizens and can not be destroyed by any legislation further made by the parliament.
Instances where the Supreme Court failed to stand up in the court of public opinion
Over the past two decades, the Supreme Court of India has grown considerably in power and stature. Presently, the Supreme Court substantially expanded its judicial review powers to intervene in several issues that were traditionally reserved for the executive. Based on the collegium system of appointment of judges in the Supreme Court, the court conferred on itself as primacy in judicial appointments. This closed-door system has no published rules or eligibility criteria and has been criticized for the lack of transparency. The growth in power of the apex court was in tune by weaponizing the “continuing mandamus” and declining in the assertiveness of the central executive.
Habeas Corpus case
The Supreme Court’s certain approach exposes class biases in various cases. One of the famous instances is the ADM Jabalpur case, in which 4 out of 5 judges almost murdered the very faith of Indians in the judiciary during the Emergency of 1975 by allowing and thereby justifying actions of the government crackdown on protests.
In 2017, when the Emergency case was revisited, overruling the 1976 verdict a 9 judge constitution bench upheld that privacy was a fundamental right. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who incidentally was part of this bench, overruling the judgment his father was part too, “ He termed the previously delivered verdict as being “seriously flawed” and said it is difficult for him to dissent with somebody who is much profound, who is so knowledgeable, so wiser, than him.”
During COVID-19 pandemic
Here are two instances of the Supreme Court’s recent orders carrying the hint of the class difference between two groups of people.
The Supreme Court rejected a plea for seeking relief for Indian migrants
An appeal was made for the migrant’s workers in the direction of seeking a grant through which District Magistrates provide a facility of food, shelter, and free transport to stranded migrant workers or those on the move for the past few days without any facility. The Supreme Court declined to entertain this public interest litigation filed concerning the death of eight workers in a road accident in Guna. The SC rejected the plea saying it is a matter of state and how one can stop migrants from walking and sleeping on railway tracks, instead of providing a solution or providing free transport.
During the pandemic, Uttar Pradesh has taken initiation and appointed a nodal officer to help migrants travelers and to bring back migrant workers from Maharashtra to their native places. Meanwhile, after hearing this petition the Supreme Court had directed to file an affidavit on this step taken to provide nodal officers to help migrants workers in traveling. It is the fundamental right of the migrant laborers to get help from their nation. The government and the judiciary have somewhere fallen back in the process of satisfying the basic rights of the Indian citizens. The basic rights of the migrant laborers have been violated, and they have been ignored when they needed protection and help urgently.
The Supreme Court allowed Air India to schedule flights for migrants outside India
The Supreme Court allowed Air India to operate non-scheduled flights with center seat bookings for 10 days for the migrant worker outside India. In this case, the Supreme Court took Suo Motu cognizance of the problems and miseries of migrant laborers who have been stranded in different parts of the country without caring about the Coronavirus-induced lockdown. The Supreme Court immediately ordered an adequate arrangement of transport, food, and shelter by the center and state government free of cost.
Recent judgments of the Supreme Court
Sahara Birla case
The Sahara Birla Paper case is one of the instances where the SC has seemed to take favour of the Government. In this case, a PIL was filed by an NGO Common Cause (A registered Society) and others for issuance of the appropriate writ for setting aside the appointment made by the Union of India. This application was also made for seeking a court-monitored probe in respect of documents retrieved by the Income Tax department while raiding offices of the Sahara and Birla group of companies. It was alleged had these entries suggesting giving crores of rupees as bribe to BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The court dismissed the petition and aborted the issue once and for all, by declaring that the “materials in question are not good enough to constitute offences to direct registration of FIR.’’ Instead of asking the petitioner to avail other statutory remedies, the court went on to adjudicate the merits of the matter and held that the diary entries inadmissible in evidence as per Section 34 of the Evidence Act, 1872. The issue arises that to abort investigation on the ground that documents are not admissible in evidence, the court should have raised this issue only during the trial of the case. This judgment was made against the well-established legal principle for registration of FIR under traditional laws. The court-monitored the probe, based on the dictum in Lalithakumari’s case and 2G case, that registration of FIR is mandatory when a complaint revealing cognizable offence is lodged.
This is another approach of the court taking a stand in the favour of the government keeping its face value. In this case, writ petitions, filed as Public Interest Litigations, relate to procurement of 36 Rafale Fighter Jets for the Indian Air Force.
By citing the limited scope of judicial review over defence deals, the court declared that the decision-making process was proper, accepting the government’s version on pricing and concluding that the government did not interfere in the selection of Reliance as offset partner. While declining to order a probe for the allegations of corruption, it gave a rise to doubts of corruption. A warrant during the court-monitored probe, there was no need to review the merits of the deal. Rather than presenting the facts of both sides, it would be the proper course to entrust the job of facts collection to an independent agency. While the court denied one of the contesting parties at its face value and sealed the issues with a seemingly conclusive force.
Hence, the court has decided to give a detailed hearing in open court to the review petitions, and to consider the review petition on merits, rejecting the objections of the Centre against the use of ‘privileged’ documents produced by petitioners in evidence. However, the government itself said that the judgment contained factual errors and required correction. Parliamentary Accounts Committee verifying the same were termed as a misunderstanding of the information supplied by the government to the court in a sealed cover.
- The Supreme Court of India is regarded as the most powerful public institution in India. It safeguards the fundamental rights of the citizen and passes any order deemed necessary in the interest of justice. In regards to the few cases mentioned in this article now, it became easy to question the sanity of the Supreme Court. Especially the prospect of partiality visible in the migrant worker issue. International flights can be provided for the migrants where there are more dangerous changes of spreading new variants of COVID but inter-state trains and buses cannot be provided for the neediest ones.
- The question arises that is it corruption that made the Supreme Court suddenly bend towards the government keeping its face value or whatever the media and the common persons have contended is true or is it just a rumour made for TRP’s. No one knows the contention behind the sudden changes that take place in the decisions of the Apex Court but what has affected the supreme judicial body, is a matter of concern.
- The media helps in growing and influencing people and has a great impact on people’s decisions and opinions. However, the media have the power to shape or change public opinions. There are several judgments passed by the Supreme Court in good faith and are crucial like judgments on Article 370, suspension of the internet in Kashmir, maintenance claimed by a Hindu unmarried daughter under Section 125 CrPC, Hathras Rape Case, and many more. However, the media drag these crucial decisions into religious and political debates and telecast these debates in the name of eyeballs.
- The media plays a vital role in shifting the focus and often overstepping its boundaries of freedom. The circulation of information upon distortion and manipulation of facts helps in influencing the people’s opinion towards negativity and somehow the truth is buried under these twisted facts.
- The Apex Court in State of Maharashtra v. Rajendra Jawnmal Gandhi held that the electronic media and such media trial creates pressure and leads to a miscarriage of justice. A judge has to be strictly guided by rule of law and has to be a guard for himself from this pressure.
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