Come new year, the Supreme Court will consider pivotal cases, which broach some of the contentious issues having an impact across the political spectrum.
The cases include — SC-appointed panel will submit its report into Pegasus snooping allegations, verdict on reservation in promotion to SC and ST in government jobs, relevance of adopting OBC creamy layer criteria for granting reservations under the economic weaker section (EWS), Centre’s response on the election process on the seats reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the local body elections in Madhya Pradesh, and the status report from the high court judge monitoring the investigations into the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
Pegasus Snooping Scandal
The Pegasus snooping allegation has already kicked up a firestorm and rocked Parliament. The Opposition — Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), and DMK — staged a walkout from the House, and several petitioners moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into the allegations.
On October 27, the top court said it was compelled to take up the cause to determine the truth, as it appointed an independent expert technical committee supervised by a retired top court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to probe the Pegasus snooping allegations.
Justice Raveendran is overseeing the functioning of the technical committee and he is assisted by Alok Joshi, former IPS officer and Dr. Sundeep Oberoi, Chairman, Sub Committee in (International Organisation of Standardisation/International Electro-Technical Commission/Joint Technical Committee). The three members of the technical committee are — Dr. Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Professor (Cyber Security and Digital Forensics) and Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat; Dr. Prabaharan P., Professor (School of Engineering), Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, Kerala; and Dr. Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor (Computer Science and Engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Maharashtra. The bench directed the committee to submit its report expeditiously and scheduled the matter for further hearing after eight weeks.
Reservation Promotion in government jobs for SC and ST
On October 26, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement in connection with the issue of reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the government jobs. The Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court that granting reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees would not adversely affect the efficiency of the administration. The Attorney General had submitted that deciding adequacy of representation by SCs and STs in educational institutions or in government employment, the basis of reservation must be kept in mind to decide what should be the standard to be applied for deciding adequacy. The Centre pointed out that the proportion to the population of SCs was 15 per cent, the STs was 7.5 per cent, and the proportion of OBCs to the total population of the country was 52 per cent. The top court is likely to pronounce its verdict soon.
Stay on election process on seats reserved for OBCs in local bodies
On December 17, the Supreme Court stayed the election process on the seats reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the local body elections in Madhya Pradesh. A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar said: “We direct the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission to stay the election process in respect of OBCs seats only, in all the local bodies and to renotify those seats for general category.”
The top court passed the order while hearing a miscellaneous application seeking stay of the election notification dated December 4, 2021 issued by the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission in respect of OBC seats in local bodies. On December 15, the Supreme Court ordered the state election commission (SEC) and the Maharashtra government to convert 27 per cent reserved seats for OBC into general category, for zila parishad & panchayat samitis, and issue fresh notification.
Citing its verdicts, the top court said the election programme needs to be stayed forthwith as it is in conflict with the decision of the Constitution Bench of this court in K. Krishna Murthy (Dr.) & others vs. Union of India and the three Judge Bench in Vikas Kishanrao Gawali vs. State of Maharashtra and others, which was earlier this year.
“First comply with the triple test being a pre-condition, before notifying reservation of seats for other Backward Classes in the local bodies under their jurisdiction, ” the top court told the government. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on January 17.
Income limit for EWS quota
On November 25, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it has taken a decision to revisit the criteria of Rs 8 lakh annual income limit for EWS criteria and a fresh decision will be taken within a period of 4 weeks. Earlier, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre for adopting the criteria of OBC creamy layer of Rs 8 lakh annual income for granting reservations under the economic weaker section (EWS), despite the latter not suffering from social and educational backwardness. The top court told the Centre’s counsel “You just cannot pull out eight lakh from thin air. You are making unequal equal by applying the Rs eight lakh limit.”
The top court is hearing writ petitions challenging 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in all-India Quota seats for postgraduate medical courses. As many as 15 per cent seats in MBBS and 50 per cent seats in MS and MD courses are filled through All India Quota from the candidates selected through NEET.
Status report on Lakhimpur Kheri incident
On November 17, the top court appointed justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the Lakhimpur Kheri violence probe and also reconstituted the SIT investigating the incident and appointed IPS officer S.B. Shiradkar, as its head.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana had expressed its disapproval on the slow pace and outcome of the investigation conducted so far, as well as the composition of the SIT conducting probe into the matter. “We, therefore, appoint Justice (Retd.) Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, to monitor the ongoing investigation so as to ensure transparency, fairness and absolute impartiality in the outcome of the investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident which is to be conducted in a time bound manner, ” said the top court.
The court has scheduled the matter for hearing on receipt of a status report from the monitoring judge, after the charge sheet is filed. The matter is likely to come up soon for hearing.
The violence occurred on October 3, resulting in the killing of eight persons, including four farmers who were allegedly mowed down by the vehicles in the convoy of Ashish Misra, the son of Union Minister and BJP MP Ajay Kumar Misra.