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

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Sectarian Appeal Judgment — Interpreting Representation of the People Act to its Intended Effect

​Supreme Court’s judgment on sectarian appeals during election campaigns interprets the Representation of the People Act, 1951 correctly and to its intended effect. The dissenting judgment conflated the substance of the appeal with the identity of the person who is making it, and did not address the scope of the case. The majority judgment’s regulation of election speech is not only necessary to ensure free and fair elections and uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution, but also needed to fulfil the constitutional goal of fraternity.

Debating Contempt of Court

By issuing a contempt notice to Justice Markandey Katju for his over-the-top criticism of its judgment, in the manner that it did, the Supreme Court has only diminished its institutional dignity. While Katju’s behaviour post retirement is not in keeping with the nature of the office he held, the contempt jurisdiction was not meant to be used like this.

Demonetisation and the Rule of Law

The challenge in the Supreme Court and high courts to the current demonetisation exercise requires some serious discussion for what it tells us about the state of the rule of law and constitutional government in India.

'Equal Pay for Equal Work'

"Equal pay for equal work," envisioned as a concept of gender justice in the workplace and more, has shrunk to a jurisprudential principle used in service disputes between employees and the government. Even this body of court-made law, while laudable in at least protecting the rights of the temporary employees, does not actually further the larger principle in the context of the Indian worker, male or female, who has been abandoned by the state.

Revisiting the Rationale for Reservations

The demand for reservations in jobs and education being made by agitating "middle castes" overturns the logic of affirmative action on its head. Instead of addressing historic discrimination, it is articulated as a means to "capture" public employment and education to maintain caste hierarchies. Accepting these demands, as the high courts have held, would be unconstitutional, but that will not stop governments from trying.

‘Right to Choose’ as a Fundamental Right

Across India, high courts are interpreting Article 21 of the Constitution to give depth and detail to the “inner” aspects of the right to life, namely, the right to privacy and to make one’s own choices. In the face of increasing state intervention in the matter of personal choices, and questioning of earlier notions of what is a matter of choice, the Supreme Court will be called upon to adjudicate the extent and scope of the life and liberty of a citizen on many crucial issues.

Supreme Court's Schizophrenic Approach to Land Acquisition

The Supreme Court's judgment in the Singur land acquisition case reflects two parallel strands of thinking that have informed its land acquisition jurisprudence: the state's model of "development" versus farmers' livelihoods. It has not been able to properly weave the two into a coherent jurisprudence on eminent domain. The same dichotomy is written into the latest land acquisition laws as well, but procedural protections may mean fewer Singur-like situations in the future.

Securing Women's Right to Free Speech on Social Media

Given the abusive behaviour, harassment and stalking women face from men on the internet, there is a need to take appropriate measures to address this. While the laws criminalise such behaviour, there is a need to put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure that women's concerns are addressed quickly and effectively. The proposed "cyber cell," though very limited at the moment, can become an effective tool if envisioned with a focus on enforcement.

Uniform Civil Code: A Heedless Quest?

The necessity or otherwise of a uniform civil code cannot be debated in the absence of a coherent conception of what the UCC will be and what it will do. Although it has urged the government to enact one, the Supreme Court's own judgments reveal the hollowness in its understanding of the UCC. Perhaps, uniformity itself is no answer to the myriad problems of religion-based personal laws.

Social Boycott Act

The Maharashtra law prohibiting social boycotts is a progressive one, protecting people from social hierarchies that are trying to punish them for transgressing regressive social mores. Since an earlier law outlawing excommunication was struck down by the Supreme Court for infringing the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs, the constitutional validity of the social boycott law raises questions which this article tries to answer.

Who Will Bell the Cop?

Merely enacting laws, however well-intentioned, to overcome social evils in a society will fail if these laws are not implemented. Two instances are legislation relating to prenatal diagnostics and the prevention of atrocities against Dalits. The failure in implementation can be attributed to the police forces lacking the capability to be modern law enforcement agencies. Wide-ranging and in-depth police reforms are therefore necessary to ensure that laws are actually implemented and effective.

Flailing and Failing at Self-regulation

For those who are aware of the true state of India’s legal profession, the mobs of lawyers attacking Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar within the premises of the Patiala House Court, under the benign gaze of the Delhi Police, would not have come as too much of a...

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