It was a year of judicial activism as the Supreme Court was in 2011 called on to adjudicate on a wide swathe of issues ranging from governance, to graft, to police high-handedness. In the process it was as harsh on the corrupt as on holy cows — and even cautioned judges to stay within the area demarcated by the constitution.
In the process, the court also broke many a new ground, saying there were no limitations to its monitoring the work of central probe agencies and that bail in a case should be the rule and jail an exception. Another landmark ruling laid down guidelines paving the way for passive euthanasia.
Transparent governance remained centric to the decisions of the Supreme Court, which March 3 quashed the appointment of then central vigilance commission P.J. Thomas as ‘non-est’, meaning not existing in law.
Unhappy over the central government’s probe into black money, the apex court June 4 set up a special investigation team headed by former apex court judge B.P. Jeevan Reddy to investigate the stashing away of the ill-gotten money in tax heavens abroad.
In the 2G scam case, central government counsel P.P. Rao’s remark that there was a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ of court monitoring Sep 22 evoked a tough response from a bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly.
The court referred to the epic ‘Ramayana’ and told Rao that Ravana would not have been killed if Sita had not crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ — a veiled reference that the truth in the 2G scam would not have seen the light of the day if the court had not decided to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.
In the same case, the court granted bail to five corporate executives Nov 23. “It is not in the interest of justice that the accused should be in jail for an indefinite period”, said a bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu, holding that bail should be the rule and jail an exception.
Besides taking up cases of corruption in high places and police high-handedness, the court also dealt with environmental issues including imposing interim ban on insecticide endosulfan May 13 and mining in iron ore-rich districts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh Aug 26.
“Our republic cannot bear the stain to kill its own children,” said the court earlier this month on a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged staged killing of Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and his colleague Hem Chandra Pandey in 2010.
Bringing transparency in the country’s examination system, the Supreme Court Aug 9 held that under the Right to Information Act, students could inspect and take photocopies of their answer sheets after their evaluation.
Another key judgment in the education sector was delivered March 7 when the court paved the way for implementing the Medical Council of India notification providing for common a entrance test for undergraduate medical courses.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati received a setback when the apex court July 6 quashed the acquisition of land in and around Greater Noida for constructing residential complexes.
On a plea related to bed-ridden Mumbai hospital nurse Aruna Shanbaug, the apex court March 7 laid down guidelines paving the way for passive euthanasia.
Taking up issues related to women, the court, in a verdict Aug 24, formulated a rehabilitations and resettlement of sex worker who are willing to abandon their way of life.
Showing concern for the poor during the hearing on a case involving Delhi Jal Board and its sewerage workers, the court July 12 said: “We are praised when we rule for the rich, slammed when we uphold rights of poor.”
The Planning Commission sparked a public outcry when in September it told the apex court that the poverty line in urban and rural areas was Rs.32 per capita per day and Rs.26 per capita per day, respectively.
Justice Dalveer Bhandari kept up the pressure on the central and state governments for removing the religious structures from public places. On July 6, the court ordered the cataloguing and securing of the crores of rupees worth treasure of the Sri Padmaswamy Temple in Kerala.
Faced with public outcry over its observation in Australian missionary Graham Staines’ killing, the apex court Jan 25 recalled its judgment upholding the life sentence of Dara Singh and his associate and expunged a controversial portion of the verdict related to alleged conversion of tribals.
Apex court judges cautioned law enforcement agencies against using excessive force. It took suo motu cognizance June 6 of Delhi Police action past midnight June 4 for evicting yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his followers from Ramlila ground in Delhi.
Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia also had some advice for his colleagues on Law Day in November, saying: The judiciary needs to work in the area demarcated by the constitution.