Supreme Court continued its judicial activism (2012 in Retrospect)

New Delhi: From ruling that sleep was a fundamental right to urging the government to phase out the Haj subsidy in 10 years, to nixing guidelines on media reporting, the Supreme Court continued its judicial activism during 2012.

Hafter 12ighlights of the more important judgements:

January 20 – Quashes demand for Rs. 12.000 crore tax on Vodafone, saying:

“FDI flows towards locations with a strong governance infrastructure which includes enactment of laws and how well the legal system works. Certainty is integral to the rule of law. Certainty and stability form the basic foundation of any fiscal system. Tax policy certainty is crucial for taxpayers (including foreign investors) to make rational economic choices in the most efficient manner.”

February 2 – Cancels 122 “arbitrary” 2G licences, saying: “We consider it imperative to observe that but for the vigilance of some enlightened citizens who held important constitutional and other positions and discharge their duties in larger public interest and non-governmental organisations who have been constantly fighting for clean governance and accountability of the constitutional institutions, unsuspecting citizens and the nation would never have known how scarce natural resource spared by the Army has been grabbed by those who enjoy money power and who have been able to manipulate the system.”

February 10 – Nixes army chief’s age plea, saying the date of birth of General V.K. Singh (since retired) would continue to be May 10, 1950, as stated in his service record and not reconciled to May 10, 1951, as mentioned in his matriculation certificate.

February 23 – Rules that “sleep is fundamental and basic requirement” in frowning on the post-midnight police action against yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s followers at Ramlila grounds in June 2011. “An individual is entitled to sleep as comfortably and as freely as he breathes. Sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the delicate balance of health necessary for its very existence and survival. Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental and basic requirement without which the existence of life itself would be in peril. To disturb sleep, therefore, would amount to torture which is now accepted as a violation of human right. It would be similar to a third degree method which at times is sought to be justified as a necessary police action to extract the truth out of an accused involved in heinous and cold-blooded crimes. It is also a device adopted during warfare where prisoners of war and those involved in espionage are subjected to treatments depriving them of normal sleep.”

March 27 – Laments that criminals are abusing court process, saying: “One thing is crystal clear that criminals do not hesitate in approaching courts even by abusing the process of the court and sometimes succeed also.”

April 12 – Upholds 25 percent of seats for poor children in schools under the Right to Education Act, saying: “It is not in dispute that education is a recognized head of ‘charity’. Therefore, if an educational institution goes beyond ‘charity’ into commercialization, it would not be entitled to protection of Article 19(1)(g).”
May 8 – Asks the government to progressively eliminate Haj subsidy in 10 years, saying: “We have no doubt that a very large majority of Muslims applying to the Haj Committee for going to Haj would not be aware of the economics of their pilgrimage and if all the facts are made known a good many of the pilgrims would not be very comfortable in the knowledge that their Haj is funded to a substantial extent by the government.”

August 29 – Upholds the death penalty for Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone Pakistani gunman arrested during the Nov 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terror attack that claimed 166 lives, saying: “It is true that he is not educated but he is a very good and quick learner, has a tough mind and strong determination. He is also quite clever and shrewd. Unfortunately, he is wholly remorseless and any feeling of pity is unknown to him.” (Kasab was hanged Nov 21 in Pune’s Yerawada Jail.)

August 31 – Asks Sahara to return Rs.17,400 crore to investors, saying Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. (SIRECL) and the Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. (SHICL)

“would refund the amounts collected through RHPs dated 13.3.2008 and 16.10.2009 along with interest @ 15% per annum to SEBI from the date of receipt of the subscription amount till the date of repayment.

September 11 – Nixes guidelines on media reporting, saying: “No guidelines can be framed across the board to regulate media reporting of sub-judice matters…Finding an acceptable constitutional balance between a free press and administration of justice is a difficult task in every legal system.”

September 27 – Holds that auction is not the only method to disperse natural resources. The ruling came while answering a presidential reference seeking its opinion on whether auction was the only method of allocating scarce natural resources as held by the court in its February 2 verdict cancelling 122 2G licences.

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