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From coal blocks to gay sex, what awaits new govt in Supreme Court

Losing the case would impact the new government’s plans on allocation of coal blocks, besides creating a possible impasse if the court orders fresh allocations.

Supreme Court Supreme Court

From allocation of coal blocks to gas pricing, Section 377 to appointment of Lokpal, the new government will face several hot-button cases in the Supreme Court in which it has to spell out its stand, either for or against its predecessor.

* After reserving its verdict in January, a bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha is expected to deliver its order in the coal blocks allocation case soon. The court will decide on the validity of the allocation, not only during the UPA-I and UPA-II governments but also during the earlier NDA government.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati had defended the allocation based on policies. If the court decides to quash the allocations, partly or in its entirety, there will be directions to the new government for future allocations. Such an order would render the blocks ineffectual until new allocations are made in accordance with the order. Moreover, all pertinent files under process will have to be reviewed in terms of this order.

Losing the case would impact the new government’s plans on allocation of coal blocks, besides creating a possible impasse if the court orders fresh allocations.

* The issue of gas pricing will reflect the stand of Narendra Modi, often criticised for allegedly favouring businessmen. The petitions, moved by CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta who was subsequently joined by NGO Common Cause, have challenged the UPA’s decision to hike prices, arguing it was being done to benefit Reliance Industries Ltd.

The UPA refuted the allegations, defended the price hike and urged the court to refrain from interfering with the decision, while arguing that its tussle with RIL over the production-sharing contract over the KG basin gas fields was not a “friendly fight”. When the court resumes final hearing in July, it will be intriguing to see if the Modi government adopts the UPA government’s stand and defends former petroleum minister Veerappa Moily.

* The court will seek the new government’s stand on Section 377 of the IPC and granting protection to the LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders). The court has allowed the appeal of gay activists for a hearing in open court. While the saffron brigade has always faced criticism for its orthodox stand on Section 377, youth who have voted for Modi will be watching his government’s response.

* Then there is the matter of the Lokpal — the BJP has opposed the way the UPA was pushing for the appointment and found flaws in the Lokpal Act and the rules therein. The UPA government agreed to change the rules to bring it in conformity with the Act.

* Legal validity pertaining to the creation of Telangana will be a test since the procedure followed by the UPA government has been challenged in a batch of petitions. With Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS securing convincing victories in Seemandhra and Telangana respectively, the Modi government may find it difficult to defend the way in which the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill was passed.

* It will also be interesting to see whether the government, which opposed the AAP’s petition on fresh elections in Delhi, will now change its stand after the 7-0 mandate in favour of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

* The four names forwarded by the collegium for appointment as Supreme Court judges, will also need the new government’s approval. BJP leader Arun Jaitley has always criticised the collegium system. The UPA had moved a Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which awaits approval of the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP is in a minority.

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