In the concluding part of this series, The Indian Express reporters look at five different institutions from business to culture, legislature to judiciary, and read between the headlines of this year to interpret what will make news in 2016.
The government’s attempt to change the way judges are appointed got a thumbs-down during the year from a constitution bench that quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission, ruling that it threatened the independence of the judiciary. The court refused to give up the primacy of the Chief Justice of India in higher judicial appointments.
Among major judgments, the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that authorised arrest for social media posts construed “offensive”or “menacing”, ruled that an unwed mother can be appointed the sole legal guardian of her child without the consent of the father, and scrapped a notification including Jats among OBCs in nine states. It banned registration of diesel SUVs and high-end vehicles with capacity over 2000 cc in Delhi until March 31, 2016, and stopped entry of goods vehicles not bound for Delhi.
In the 1997 Uphaar fire case, the court ordered the Ansal brothers to compensate the families of the dead but controversially allowed them to walk free on account of age. It ruled Sushil , 75, is “fairly aged” and that his brother Gopal, 67, deserves “parity” with him.
A novelty in 2015 was a pre-dawn hearing on Yakub Memon’s mercy petition. He was hanged hours after the court rejected it.
The court acknowledged attempts were made through “politics and activism” to influence the proceedings on the Gujarat riots, as it rejected sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s plea to investigate BJP president Amit Shah’s role in allegedly trying to scuttle the probe into encounter killings. In a hearing on the meat ban, the SC noted that “a ban cannot be forced down somebody’s throat” and that the “spirit of tolerance” was paramount.
Hearings will continue on the BCCI spot-fixing case, coal block allocation, appeals by convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination for their premature release, black money, the Vyapam scam, and Maharashtra’s dance bar ban. The year will begin with a ruling on a batch of petitions by Rahul Gandhi, Subramanian Swamy, Arvind Kejriwal and others who have questioned the validity of India’s criminal defamation law.
One thing that didn’t happen
A decision on Aadhaar. The court allowed the government to use Aadhaar only for a few schemes and left the question of validity to a constitution bench.