SC to decide on high-stakes economic matters soon

Heavy economic agenda before court as new CJI Lalit fast-tracks disposal of cases. Court to consider challenges to WhatsApp privacy policy, electoral bonds & freebies. Daiichi Sankyo’s plea against former Ranbaxy promoters, Kirloskar, Lalit Modi family disputes also on immediate agenda.

SC to decide on high-stakes economic matters soon
The cases range from whether the central government can legislate on agriculture to what is the proper procedure to auction coal blocks. High-profile corporate cases including the dispute over family fortunes of Lalit Modi and the Kirloskar family is also under the SC’s consideration.

A clutch of high-stakes economic matters are likely to be decided on by the Supreme Court soon, as the 49th Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, who has a short tenure of just about 74 days, intends to “strive hard” to dispose of cases that have been pending for over a decade.

The cases range from whether the central government can legislate on agriculture to what is the proper procedure to auction coal blocks. High-profile corporate cases including the dispute over family fortunes of Lalit Modi and the Kirloskar family is also under the SC’s consideration.

The CJI, who would retire on November 8, has had a very promising start with disposal of more than 1,800 cases in his first four working. In his very first week itself, Lalit also set up five-judge benches to examine eight pending issues including reservation for economically weaker sections, the challenge to the WhatsApp privacy policy, and the issue of legislators claiming immunity from criminal prosecution for taking a bribe to give a speech or a vote in the House.

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Lalit will also has to examine a larger constitutional issue – if the right to protest by the farmers against the three controversial agriculture laws (now repealed) is an “absolute right.” Farmers, which started their protests since November 26, 2020, were seen protesting at Delhi’s borders for over a year even after the laws were stayed.

Though the SC has recently suggested the Central govt to form all-party panel to discuss what constitutes freebies and its impact on economy and free and fair polls, final nod will have to come from the apex court itself which is also required to revisit an older 2013 judgement that held that promising freebies does not amount to corrupt practice.

The top court had recently agreed to list the 2017 PIL against laws permitting funding of political parties through the electoral bond scheme. The PIL had raised issues of corruption and subversion of democracy through illicit and foreign funding of political parties and lack of transparency in the accounts of all political parties.

A keenly awaited judgement is on the issues related to Japanese firm Daiichi Sankyo’s plea for the enforcement of a Rs 3,500-crore arbitration award against former Ranbaxy promoters Malvinder and Shivinder Singh for concealing information regarding wrongdoing at Ranbaxy Labs during its sale for $4.6 billion in 2008.

A Bench headed by Justice Lalit himself will also examine various related issues, including Fortis Healthcare’s Rs 4000-crore stake sale deal to Malaysian company IHH Healthcare and mandatory open offer, role of banks in selling shares and also siphoning of money by Singhs.

Aother judgment will look into alleged irregularities in the grant of mining lease to some shell companies allegedly linked to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s family members and associates. There are allegations of corruption, misuse of office, and money laundering against Soren, who had granted himself a mining lease while holding the state’s mining and environment portfolios.

Also Read: Robust GST revenues indicative of growth in Indian economy

Another caise which has been pending is the challenge to Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, which introduced 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections in aided and unaided institutions to individuals below an income of Rs 8 lakh per annum.

The Centre’s passing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019 had sparked widespread protests across the country. Around 140 petitions have been filed against the amendment that makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship if they belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities, and are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

The case related to Subrata Roy-led Sahara group, which has been locked in a prolonged legal battle with Sebi for allegedly breaching norms in raising over Rs 24,000 crore through bonds from its 3.3 crore investors, still remains an open chapter.

Justice Lalit will also have to conclude the Reliance Industries’ plea seeking to initiate contempt against Sebi for failing to give access to certain documents which the Mukesh Ambani firm claims will exonerate it and its 107 promoters from criminal prosecution initiated in a case related to the alleged irregularities in acquisition of its own shares between 1994 and 2000. So far Sebi has not shared the three documents that the SC had asked it to share “forthwith”.

Recently, the SC had appointed its former judge R.V. Raveendran to meditate between businessman Lalit Modi and his mother Bina Modi to resolve the pending family dispute over a trust property named after Lalit’s father KK Modi. Earlier, round of mediation by SC former judges justices Vikramajit Sen and Kurian Joseph had failed.

A nine-judge Constitution Bench had referred to a larger Bench questions on the ambit and scope of religious freedom practised by multiple faiths across the country.

The Central government in 2019 passed J&K Reorganisation Act and other laws that divided the erstwhile state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh and effectively abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to the erstwhile state.

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