ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Backward Class Reservation in Local Bodies

The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments have failed on multiple fronts due to a combination of poor drafting and unclear intent. The current impasse over the implementation of reservations for “backward classes” in panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies is a result of poor drafting of these amendments and unclear policy objectives. The impasse threatens the future of grassroots democracy in India by putting on hold the local body elections for indefinite periods of time and can only be addressed through a constitutional amendment.

POCSO and Judicial Discomfort

While the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was ostensibly introduced to combat child sexual abuse, its overbroad provisions have made it possible to criminalise even consensual sexual acts and has caused judicial discomfort. This column examines three different orders of high courts across the country where such judicial discomfort over the strict application of the POCSO has been expressed.

Denying Choice, Defying Precedent

In trying to “regulate the practice and process” of surrogacy through the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, the imagination of a “family” is limited to strict heteronormative, patriarchal definitions. This definition excludes the never married, the widowed, the divorced, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer couples and numerous other classes of people who do not seem to fit within the rigid patriarchal norms outlined in this bill. Such exclusion is in the teeth of established jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and an affront to constitutional values

Cryptocurrency

Consequent to the lifting of the “ban” imposed on the trade of crypto-assets by the Supreme Court of India, there has been a surge of interest in investing in crypto-assets from the general public, spurred by aggressive marketing campaigns by well-funded start-ups. In the absence of proper regulation, there is a very real danger that the public may be mis-sold this product with harm to the wider economy .

Demography, Democracy and Population Policies

Uttar Pradesh’s proposed bill to enforce a “two-child norm” tries to link state government jobs, local government positions and welfare to the two-child norm through a series of incentives and disincentives. With the communally tinged rhetoric around this bill gaining currency, it is necessary to revisit the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment in Javed v State of Haryana (2003) where such problematic provisions relating to panchayat elections were upheld.

On the Maratha Reservations Judgment: Part II

Apart from holding the Maratha reservations unconstitutional, the Supreme Court also interpreted the 102nd amendment to take away the power of state governments to designate communities as “socially and educationally backward classes.” This particular aspect of the Court’s judgment is poorly reasoned, goes contrary to the express provisions of the Constitution and threatens to upset well-set principles and practices in relation to reservations in India.

On Maratha Reservations Judgment: Part-1

The Supreme Court’s constitution bench judgment striking down the Maharashtra government’s reservations for Marathas has affirmed and applied well-accepted tests laid down in the Indra Sawhney judgment. However, it has also missed an opportunity to re-examine the artificially imposed 50% limit on reservations in jobs and seats. The justification for retaining the same, however, could also affect reservations for the economically weaker sections.

Debating Supreme Court Reform

US President Joseph R Biden’s newly set up commission to recommend reform of the United States Supreme Court has brought to the forefront the “political” role of constitutional courts. While the US Supreme Court inhabits a vastly different legal, constitutional and political sphere from its Indian counterpart, nonetheless there are interesting parallels given common shared values towards the independence of the judiciary and constitutional governance.

Pendency during the Pandemic

Twelve months after measures to fight COVID-19 forced courts in India to suspend in-person hearings and move online, the Supreme Court finds itself facing increased pendency and demands to restart in-person hearings. Apart from the increased backlog, the Court also finds itself with fewer judges and no immediate nominations in the pipeline to fill the gaps. The incoming Chief Justice of India will therefore have to address a range of issues that fundamentally affect the Court’s basic functioning.

Two Papers on Judicial Bias in India

Two papers studying bias in judicial decision-making in India using large data sets have come to very different conclusions. One examines bail decisions and finds that childhood exposure to communal riots seems to influence whether a judge is likely to grant bail. The other examines convictions and finds no trace of similar bias on grounds of religion or gender. Both papers shed light, in different ways, on the working of India’s legal system and are not necessarily contradictory.

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