Week of December 21, 2020

A petition requests demonetization 2.0, another Sabarimala issue, and more!

Apex Court Weekly is a weekly round-up of judgments, petitions, orders and notices as they develop at the Supreme Court of India (“the Court”). We also occasionally cover High Courts. We cover some stories that gather national attention and some that should. This update is written by Rahul Srivastava, J.D. candidate at Cornell Law School, and supported by the Cornell India Law Center.

Note: The Court is on vacation until the new year. Nevertheless, limited legal developments have taken place.


The Court's website becomes disabled-friendly

Four years after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was passed, lawyers welcomed disabled-friendly developments on the Court's website. For example, the website now features an audio captcha. The audio captcha enables visually impaired lawyers to access court documents. Lawyers also commended recommendations spelled out by Justice Chandrachud for the lower courts to improve accessibility. 

The Government appeals arbitration ruling

In September, we covered an international arbitration ruling that did not permit the Indian government to apply taxes retroactively against Vodafone. In addition to this case, we noticed a pending arbitration against Cairn Energy. On December 22, the tribunal sided with Cairn Energy. On December 23, the government reportedly filed an appeal on the Vodafone case at the Permanent Court of International Arbitration in Singapore. 


Demonetization 2.0

As if one crippling shock to the Indian economy wasn't enough, a petitioner suggests another round of demonetization bunched with a grander request asking the Court to establish anti-corruption courts in all districts in the country. The petitioner recommends recalling all currency above ₹100 and restricting cash transactions above ₹5,000.  To understand the effects of demonetization, we suggest this study.

Can the Kerala government limit Sabarimala to 2000 guests per day?

In another heavy-handed judicial intervention into policy, the Kerala High Court directed the Kerala government to increase the permitted limit of visitors at the infamous Sabarimala temple to 5000 per day. To regain autonomy over its own state, the government has petitioned the Court to set aside the High Court order. Arguing that it wants to limit traffic to 2000-3000 visitors, the government cited a health ministry advisory– a report that the high court ignored. 


Best of 2020 edition: 10 COVID orders

The world will remember 2020 for principally one reason: COVID-19. While the central and state governments were the principal managers of the pandemic, the Court passed a slew of orders to help ensure effective administration. This article lists 10 orders passed by the Court related to COVID-19. The Court's various orders went beyond the health sphere, and affected the various rights issues implicated by the government's decisions.

The Court overreaches in farmers protests

The Court's plenary jurisdiction– allowing it to discuss every government policy– has been widely covered on Apex Court Weekly.  In recent weeks, the Court has declined to stop the farmers from expressing their freedom of speech. However, this article criticizes the Court for offering to mediate between the government and the protestors, calling the intervention a "cause for deep concern". The intervention adds to a troubling track record for the Court. Notably, the author notes that the Court has not opined yet on more pressing constitutional issues such as the Delhi Riots and Kashmir.