Supreme Court
File image of the Supreme Court of India | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is set to reopen after a 15-day winter break today, with a number of crucial cases scheduled to be heard in the rest of the month.

These include petitions challenging the scrapping of Article 370, those questioning the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and even the cases related to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

ThePrint picks the seven most important cases to be heard in January.

J&K’s special status

A Constitution bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana has been hearing several petitions challenging the scrapping of special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and its bifurcation into two union territories. The bench also comprises of Justices S.K. Kaul, R. Subhash Reddy, B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant. 

President Ram Nath Kovind issued an order on 5 August under Article 370(1), in effect nullifying Article 35A and making provisions of the Constitution of India applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. This was followed by another Presidential Order on 6 August, reading down Article 370 to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. 

Subsequently, on 9 August, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, received the President’s assent, bifurcating the state into two union territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Since then, several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, which referred them to a Constitution bench on 28 August 2019. The matter will next be heard on 21 January. 

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Challenge to CAA

Several cities and towns have witnessed massive protests against the CAA, and about 60 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Act. 

The CAA promises citizenship to illegal migrants from six minority religious groups from the Muslim-majority nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The petitions, therefore, primarily challenge the exclusion of Muslims as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. 

Among those who have filed the petitions are Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde and Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant had, in December, directed the central government to file replies by the second week of January. The matter will be heard on 22 January. 

Also read: Why Supreme Court of India won’t strike down Modi govt’s Citizenship Amendment Act

Sabarimala review petition

A seven-judge Constitution bench is expected to hear the questions referred to it by a five-judge bench in November last year, while hearing a plea regarding entry of women of all ages into the sanctum sanctorum of Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple.

The court had deferred its decision on the review of its 2018 Sabarimala verdict until a larger bench examined broader issues such as essentiality of religious practices and constitutional morality. 

It had also framed seven possible issues that the bench could take up, and urged the larger bench to look into other pending issues regarding entry of Muslim women in mosques, Parsi women marrying non-Parsis in the Agyari, and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

Plea for stay on electoral bonds scheme

In early December last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), demanding a stay on the sale of electoral bonds, which make donations to political parties anonymous. The scheme was introduced in January 2018.

“We will see in January,” a bench comprising CJI Bobde and Justices Gavai and Kant had said then.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing ADR, had apprised the court of RTI responses which revealed that the Reserve Bank of India as well as the Election Commission of India had opposed the scheme, but the government had chosen to go ahead with it. He also told the court that Rs 6,000 crore had been collected under the scheme.

Rohingyas’ petitions on their living conditions

On 10 January, the Supreme Court is expected to take up a batch of petitions filed by Rohingya immigrants about their “squalid” living conditions.

The Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in the wake of ethnic cleansing by the ruling Myanmarese junta in the Rakhine state. The Rohingyas have historically been persecuted by the majority Buddhists in that country.

Several thousands have since fled to Bangladesh, and within India, are spread across Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

The Indian government has, however, insisted on deporting them back to Myanmar, with Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju asserting in Parliament in August 2017 that the ministry had directed state governments to identify and deport illegal migrants, including Rohingyas.

The petition before the Supreme Court asserts that the deportation of Rohingyas violates Articles 14 (right to equality), 21 (right to life) and 51c (respect for international law and treaty obligations) of the Constitution of India, as well as international conventions.

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Challenging Maratha quota

The Supreme Court will also hear a bunch of petitions challenging the Bombay High Court order upholding the new job and education quota for the Maratha community in Maharashtra.

The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act was passed in November 2018, granting 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in education and jobs. The Act was challenged in the high court, asserting that it violated the 50 per cent cap on reservations as prescribed by the Supreme Court in the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment

While, the high court upheld the law in June last year, it whittled down the quota to 13 per cent in jobs and 12 per cent in admissions to government-run educational institutions. This was challenged in the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the petitions in detail from 22 January. 

The BCCI cases

The Supreme Court will also be hearing the main case regarding the BCCI and other connected matters in January. This was after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made an oral request in December to list the matters in January. 

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has decided to seek the court’s approval to water down certain reforms recommended by the Justice R.M. Lodha committee regarding the tenure of its office-bearers.

In the last hearing in October 2019, the court had ordered the Vinod Rai-led Committee of Administrators (CoA) to bow out as soon as the new elected office-bearers took charge of the cricket body.