Taking forward the agenda set in 2017, the Supreme Court in 2018 is set to decide on a number of important issues — including the Ayodhya title dispute — that will have a bearing on the country’s politics, economics, inter-state relations and the conflict over the national capital’s governance.
With pendency of over 55,000 cases, the number of fresh cases that will reach the top court are unlikely to be less than what they were in 2017 — or in the preceding years. The likelihood of the pendency coming down is apparently not bright as the court, by its own calendar, will be working for 190 days in 2018.
Besides the fresh cases and pending matters, the top court has a number of issues to be decided by the constitution bench that are already scheduled for hearing, including the Ayodhya title dispute, the challenges to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and the legality of the demonetisation decision, as also whether a politician holding a public office can comment on a matter being investigated by an agency of the State.
Also referred to the constitution bench is the challenge to Tamil Nadu regulation paving way for the Jali Kattu bullfight sport — an issue the court wants to settle once and for all.
Yet another issue that a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra referred to the constitution bench is women in the 10-50 age-group being prohibited from entering Sabarimala, a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in Kerala.
The year 2018 will also see the top court pronouncing a spate of constitution bench judgments on the powers of the Delhi government vis-a-vis the Centre-appointed Lt Governor in the administration of the national capital, and the plea for making a “living will” (passive euthanasia) authorising the withdrawal of all life support systems if, in the opinion of the doctors, a patient has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness.
Along with this, there will be a verdict on whether the top court can look into or rely on a parliamentary committee report for deciding an issue before it.
This issue of far-reaching significance is rooted in a public suit questioning the safety and efficacy of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that is used for preventing cervical cancer.
Petitioner Kalpans Mehta, a medical doctor, while contending that the HPV vaccine was “unproven and hazardous”, had relied on the 72nd report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in support of her contention. A drug company has opposed the petition.
The year will also witness the outcome of the top court’s maiden forays adjudicating the Cauvery river water-sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A three-judge bench had heard the matter despite the Centre contending that the court can’t adjudicate on the award of a tribunal on an inter-state river water dispute.
The matter was heard for 29 days spread over eight months.
For engaging with its heavy calendar, some of the matters may have to be heard during the summer vacation that would commence from May 21 — an initiative earlier taken by former Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar last year.