ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Alok Prasanna KumarSubscribe to Alok Prasanna Kumar

National Register of Citizens and the Supreme Court

The imminent withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by the union government in the face of strong protests by the residents of the north-eastern states is hardly a victory for constitutional principles or morality. It leaves “illegal migrants” in a continued limbo and heightens ethnic tensions in the North East. It also shifts the focus to the Supreme Court, which has taken upon itself the extremely delicate task of overseeing the preparation of the National Register of Citizens in Assam.

Statehood for Delhi

The Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 239-AA of the Constitution in Government of NCT of Delhi v Union of India has reaffirmed the centrality of representative democracy and federalism to India’s constitutional government. However, it has only restored an unhappy status quo as far as Delhi is concerned. The fault lies in Article 239-AA itself, an incomplete and unworkable division of powers and responsibilities that gives Delhi a lot of government, but little governance.

Reforming the Office of the Governor

The blatantly partisan actions of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala in the aftermath of the Karnataka Assembly elections in 2018, which had thrown up a hung result, call for the need to scrutinise the post and functioning of governors within India’s constitutional scheme. Such malfeasance on the part of governors is not recent and their supposedly neutral role has always been more a pious hope than a reality. The need of the hour is serious constitutional reform, whether by the legislature or by the judiciary.

The Ordinance Route

The deadlock in Parliament has resulted in the increasing tendency of the union government to promulgate legislation through ordinances, when Parliament is not in session. While there are no substantive restrictions on the President’s power to promulgate ordinances, given the inherently temporary nature of ordinances, the exercise of this power must be limited keeping in mind the concerns of rule of law.

Crises in the Judiciary

The press conference organised by four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court was a result of a long period of dissatisfaction over the way the institution was functioning. The problems are systemic and will require more than a short-term fix. The Supreme Court and the judiciary’s credibility have taken a battering over the last decade for many reasons, and the press conference is an acknowledgement to some extent of the rot within. What happens next is not very clear, but the status quo cannot continue.

Legal Representation and Rape Trials

The right of all accused to have representation in courts is seriously under threat in India not just from the government, but from lawyers and on occasion from civil society itself, especially in rape cases. This leads to serious injustice and sometimes results in deprivation of life and liberty without the due process of law. However, even for the conscientious lawyer, a sexual assault case poses ethical and mental health challenges that have to be navigated with little institutional support.

The Puttaswamy Judgment

The Supreme Court’s judgment in K Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017) presents a paradigm shift in the Court’s understanding of fundamental rights under the Constitution. While the right to privacy has been acknowledged in some form or the other since Gobind v Sta te of Madhya Pradesh (1975) , what...

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