The Supreme Court of India is the highest court in the country. It is a constitutional court with widest of powers. It has played a quintessential role in shaping the nation. It was a huge task for the Indian Supreme Court to interpret the newly framed Constitution. India had just attained freedom and the country was marred by the foreign invaders. Poverty, education and social evils were also to play their role in forbidding the judiciary from functioning properly. But this task was accomplished phenomenally by the then Judges of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has delivered judgments which changed the horizons of the nation. Be it the interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution or laying down the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution or devising the public interest litigation, so on and so forth. Those decisions have shaped India into the nation it is today.
However, a different trend is observed today. With profound respect for the Supreme Court as an institution and the Hon’ble Judges, I find a not-so known approach being adopted by the Supreme Court, albeit with an intent to do justice. There are instances where the Supreme Court takes years to decide genuine disputes between the parties and also where the Supreme Court gives days of audience to the lawyers appearing in an academic matter. These instances can, however, be ignored as being subjective. But, there are certain horrific trends being set by the Supreme Court.
One of the most horrendous instances is that of the Cauvery river dispute. Two Indian States are claiming their rights over the waters of Cauvery. The Appeals are pending before the Supreme Court against Award of the Tribunal. Certain Interim Orders were passed in the last year whereby State of Karnataka was directed to release 7000 cusecs of water per day to State of Tamil Nadu, which was later increased to 12000 cusecs and thereafter to 15000 cusecs. However, the interim orders do not spell out a single reason / justification for arriving at a particular amount of water to be released. What calculations were made by the Supreme Court to arrive at a particular figure is unknown to all. Otherwise, reasoned Orders are required to be passed by the Courts. But the Apex Court passes Orders affecting the whole of two States of the nation, without a single reason. Resultantly, there were protests across Karnataka almost leading to a law and order situation. The Supreme Court, however, paid no heed to the requests made by the State of Karnataka to modify the Order and therefore, the Karnataka State Assembly openly resolved to defy the Supreme Court order and keeping it in abeyance till the special session of the State Legislative Assembly was convened. Even for a moment, I do not support the stand of the State Assembly, which is ex-facie contemptuous. However, the situation could have possibly been salvaged, had the Supreme Court dealt with the matter with more sensitivity.
Another such instance is that of the BCCI case. What is going on in the Supreme Court in this matter is absolutely alien to the powers conferred on it under the Constitution. Due to the match-fixing incidents in the IPL that surfaced in the year 2013, the Supreme Court appointed a Committee to be headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal to investigate the scandal. The Supreme Court appointed another panel to be headed by Justice R.M. Lodha to determine punishment for those guilty of betting and match-fixing and also to recommend reforms for better functioning of BCCI. Justice Lodha panel suspended the two teams and banned its owners for life. I fail to understand as to how the panel was empowered to suspend teams and impose punishment on the team bosses. The panel also recommended certain changes in the functioning of BCCI. Thereafter, the BCCI as well as the State Cricket Associations have been restrained from using funds without sanction of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Supreme Court, on request of the panel, has removed the President and Secretary of BCCI for not implementing the reforms and has appointed former Comptroller and Auditor General, Vinod Rai to head BCCI. Various orders being passed without considering totality of facts and circumstances, a panel being authorized to take action against a registered Society, removal and appointment of office bearers etc. are various issues which raised brows. Although, I believe the intent is good, the manner in which things were done, is certainly unheard of. We are fortunate that today, Judges with impeccable integrity as Justice Mudgal and Justice Lodha have been appointed to head panels and to perform various tasks. If this were to be treated as a precedent in the times to come, with not so clean people, could have serious ramifications.
What is happening in the contempt proceedings against Justice Karnan is also peculiar. The events of this matter are an embarrassment to the fraternity. Undoubtedly, prima facie the words spoken and written by Justice Karnan do amount to contempt of the Court. (Contempt of Supreme Court committed by a High Court Judge, who was appointed under the Collegium system, which, although does not find a mention in the Constitution or the principles of basic structure of the Constitution, is held to be impeccable by the Supreme Court itself.) However, the interim order withdrawing judicial and administrative work from Justice Karnan does not appear to be legally firm. How does the Supreme Court get such powers under contempt proceedings? It can only punish for its contempt and no further. This case could also be horrific to be cited in future insofar as it widens the horizons of the powers of Court in contempt matters.
Similar are the cases of dahi-handi, SEBI-Sahara, NJAC and a few others, where the Supreme Court has bent its ways to arrive at a particular point. The Supreme Court is not fundamentally wrong in what it has done in the said cases. However, the manner in which things have happened, is curiously peculiar. The Supreme Court is certainly the highest court in the nation having the widest of powers. But the manner and the procedure adopted have raised various questions over the verdicts. The justice done, is although, not manifestly seen to be done.
The Supreme Court comprises of the finest of legal minds working relentlessly to ensure justice to all. It is the most important element of the Indian democracy and the last hope of any citizen in this country. May it function free from all irrelevant considerations and ensure justice to all.