Note ban and Supreme Court

The Supreme Court made an effective intervention in the demonetisation issue by providing relief to those with genuine reasons who could not deposit their old denomination notes within the stipulated time. In a decisive move, the Court asked the Centre to accept old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 of persons who could not deposit them during the window period, due to genuine reasons. The Government has been asked to take a decision after verifying the authenticity of individual cases about why they could not submit the demonetised notes and give a reply to the Court in two weeks. The intervention came in a petition challenging the decision of the Government not to allow citizens to deposit the invalid notes after 30.12.2016.
The Court had earlier asked the Government whether it intended to give another opportunity to the citizens to deposit the scrapped notes in the Bank. The Government argued that after 30th December, 2016, the notes ceased to be legal tender, and its possession was made illegal, by virtue of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016, which was replaced by the Act to the same effect in February, 2017. The only exemption allowed was that if a citizen was outside India between 9 November, 2016 to 30 December, 2016, then, he/she could deposit the scrapped notes. The Government was also permitted to notify any other class of citizens for an extended period. The Government argued that it had not notified any such class, except for those who were abroad, and no other exemption would be granted. Now the Supreme Court has asked the Government to reconsider this position. [Sudha Mishra & Ors. vs. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 124 of 2017, date of order: 04.07.2017]   
The Supreme Court has also referred an entire batch of petitions filed in various High Courts and the Supreme Court challenging the validity of demonetisation notification to a Constitution Bench of 5 judges. The Court also directed that no High Court shall entertain any petitions concerning demonetisation, and all pending proceedings in all High Courts would be transferred to the Supreme Court.

I. Judgements and Orders

i. No stay on highway denotification to avoid alcohol prohibition: The Supreme Court refused to stay a notification issued by the Government of Punjab denotifying certain state highways inside the city. It was alleged that the denotification of highways was being done by the State Government, in order to circumvent the order of Supreme Court banning sale of liquor on highways. The Court observed that traffic within the city was very different from traffic outside city limits. [Arrive Safe Society of Chandigarh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh, Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 10243/2017, date of order 04.07.2017]

ii. Centre given six months to implement farmers’ schemes: The Supreme Court has granted six months to the Central Government to implement its various schemes for farmers, in order to prevent farmer’s suicides. Highlighting the need to quickly tackle the existing agrarian crisis and to go beyond compensation for such suicides, the Court asked the Government to cover most of the farmers. AG informed the Court that out of 12 crore farmers, 5.34 crore have benefited from the schemes, which covered around 30% of the cropped area, and assured the Court that the Government would cover 50% in the next one year. [Citizens Resource and Action Initiative (CRANTI) vs. State of Gujarat & Ors., SLP (C) No. 029910/2014, date of order: 06.07.2017]

iii. Clash over Aadhar again: On 7th July, 2017, a bench of three judges of the Supreme Court requested the counsels for the Petitioner, who has challenged the mandatory enrolment of Aadhaar, and the Union of India to approach the Chief Justice of India, J.S. Kehar, to seek the setting up of the Constitution Bench on the right to privacy, which was referred to it in August, 2015. The Bench noted that though the matter was pending before the Constitution Bench, smaller benches of two or three judges have passed different orders in the case. [K.S. Puttaswamy & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors., Writ Petition (C) No. 494/2012, order dated 07.07.2017]  

iv. Directions sought to ensure independent ECI: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre why a neutral and independent selection committee cannot be set up to recommend the names for the Chief Election Commissioner, and other Election Commissioners. The petition has sought direction to the Centre for constituting “an interim neutral and independent collegium/selection committee to recommend the names for the appointment on the vacant post of members to the Election Commission.” [Anoop Baranwal vs. Union of India, Writ Petition (C) No. 000104/2015, date of order: 05.07.2017]

v. ECI asked to respond on VVPAT petition: In a petition seeking to conduct Gujarat assembly election through Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (‘VVPAT’), the Supreme Court has issued notice to Election Commission of India, and asked it to file an affidavit about how many VVPAT machines have been purchased by the Commission. [Reshma Vithalbhai Patel vs. Union of India, SLP (C) No. 013598/2017, order dated 06.07.2017]  

vi. Validity of Palaniswamy trust vote to be considered: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the challenge to the legality of the Tamil Nadu Assembly trust vote won by K. Palaniswamy in February, 2017, and has asked the Attorney General (‘AG’) to assist the Court. The petition is filed by Mafoi Pandiarajan, a defector MLA. Later on, the new AG, Shri Venugopal, recused himself from the case. [K. Pandiarajan vs. P. Dhanapalan, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 168/2017, date of order: 05.07.2017]

vii. Contempt proceedings against Arundhati Roy stayed: Allowing the renowned author, Arundhati Roy, to appeal against the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court order issuing notice for contempt to her for writing an article in Outlook criticising the High Court, the Supreme Court stayed the criminal contempt proceedings pending against her since 2015. [Arundhati Roy v. High Court at Bombay, Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 303/2016, date of order 03.07.2017] (IPA/To be continued)

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017