This is an effort to try and sift through the tonnes of "content" about the law, courts and legal developments every week and bring you the most interesting and important. This newsletter will be a mix of links to original content, opinion and commentary, and the occasional gif. This is not just for lawyers, but for anyone who wants to keep up to date with what's happening in the world of the law and legal institutions.
This will focus mostly on developments in India and Indian law, and if you want to subscribe by email, will land in your inboxes Monday morning around 9 AM. I hope this proves to be a useful and handy resource, and I'm happy to hear any feedback and comments you may have on the newsletter.
So without any more delay, here are the legal updates for the week of 4th to 10th December, 2016.
The big stuff
A. Demonetisation blues
It's been one month since the Government announced that Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes will no longer be legal tender, and the resulting cash shortfall has seen long and unending queues outside banks. It has also seen PILs filed in various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India challenging the exercise, and a batch of them were heard in the Supreme Court on 9th. The hearings were chaotic to say the least and the Supreme Court has framed 10 questions for adjudication.
I've written about the legality of demonetisation here and here (TL;DR it is legal, but the way it's unfolded, it's an affront to the rule of law.) Ms Indira Jaising, Prashant Reddy, and Pratik Datta and Rajeswari Sengupta have argued otherwise.
To keep track of the barrage of circulars, notifications and miscellaneous announcements, do check out Nyaaya's Always Updated Guide to Demonetisation.
B. The National Anthem Case or New Ways to Make A Mockery of the Judicial Process
After compelling us through judicial diktat, for no apparent legal or logical reason, that we should all stand up for the national anthem before a movie began, the Supreme Court seemed to have been made aware of the insanity of some of its directions. Thankfully, physically handicapped persons will now not have to stand for it, but constitutional patriots may rest easy, because now the Government will come up with guidelines on how they may be forced to show respect for the anthem. Likewise, your fears of meeting a gory end in a theatre fire during the national anthem can rest easy since their Lordships, in their magnanimity, allowed the doors not to be locked during the anthem.
One wonders though how a case filed in October was, for all practical purposes, finally decided in November itself. One clue came from this piece, pointing out that this was not the first time Justice Dipak Misra has given short shrift to the law and the constitution in the matter of the national anthem, in a PIL filed by the same person who filed the one in the Supreme Court.
Now comes the shocker.
The case wasn't supposed to be placed before Justice Dipak Misra at all in the first place! The lawyer who filed the PIL, in all honesty and fairness, asked that since Justice Misra passed similar orders in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, it should not be listed before him. Still, for some unfathomable reason, it has been placed before Justice Misra. This is a clear case for recall of the order and rehearing of the case, but some answers are needed from the Chief Justice of India and the registry of the Supreme Court.
That was needed.
C. Triple Talaq and Temple Dress Code, or Hold Your Outrage Horses Till You Read The Judgement
Contrary to initial media reports, the Allahabad High Court did not "strike down" or declare "triple talaq" unconstitutional. It made observations in passing in a case concerning... police protection for a couple. The actual challenge to the constitutional validity of triple talaq is still pending in the Supreme Court.
Likewise, the Kerala High Court did not say women could not wear chudidhars or salwar suits to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, but simply said that the decision to free up dress code restrictions was not taken without wide consultation, and needed the approval of the "thanthri" or the head priest.
Not to knock court reporters, who are trying their best to do a good job in an environment that doesn't always help them do their jobs, but be wary of reacting or outraging at the first report of a judgment or an order.
D. What Happens to Jayalalithaa's case in the Supreme Court
With the death of the CM of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa, has the appeal filed by the Karnataka Government against her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court automatically ended? Section 394 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that would be so. Too bad that the Supreme Court spent 20 days hearing the arguments in the appeal and had probably spent many judge-hours on the judgment since it was reserved on June 7 this year.
But there's a twist.
She isn't the only accused in the case. There are three others whose acquittals have also been challenged and apart from the accusation that Jayalalithaa acquired disproportionate assets during her tenure (if you giggled at that this newsletter will automatically unsubscribe you), they're accused of having entered into a conspiracy. What does this mean for the case? Lawyers and judges have given differing views on the matter, but I think the matter is settled by this judgement of the Supreme Court. Though Jayalalithaa cannot be convicted, her co-accused can still be found guilty of the charge of conspiracy. Let's see what the Supreme Court does.
E. Brexit hearings
The UK Supreme Court is hearing an appeal on "Brexit". The question is straightforward: Can the UK Government invoke Article 50 of the EU Convention and take the UK out of the European Union without getting the approval of Parliament? The High Court said that it couldn't , and the Government has challenged it in appeal. Here's a critique of the High Court judgment by someone who sympathises with the "Bremain" camp.
Unlike the Indian Supreme Court, all the 11 judges of the UKSC are hearing this one.
Less big stuff
A. FDC drugs
Earlier this year, the Union Government had issued notifications banning the Over the Counter sale of FDC drugs on the grounds that they were not as efficacious as claimed and were a threat to public safety. This was struck down by the Delhi High Court for having been done without following due procedure - a judgment that while it may be justified to some extent, raises some public health concerns as Prashant Reddy points out here.
B. DU Photocopying case
The historic decision of the Delhi High Court allowing Delhi University (and by extension all universities in India) to prepare course packs using photocopied material without having to pay royalty to publishers has been set aside by a Division Bench of the High Court. However, like a Test tied on the last ball of the final day, both parties will walk away pleased as the High Court has only directed that matter be re-tried, but in the interim, DU will not be stopped from photocopying books.
C. Parts of Companies Act, 2013 notified
Like a giant gigsaw puzzle, the Companies Act, 2013 is slowly but steadily coming into force in India as the Government has notified a few more parts of the law, this time relating to the powers of the NCLT, amalgamations, et al. This piecemeal enforcement of a law made by Parliament, while justified in some cases, does raise a larger problem about the rule of law in India -- something that Vidhi's Briefing Book addresses here.
D. Uttarakhand prohibition order
Taking its cue from the folks down in the plains, the Uttarakhand High Court has charged into the legislative domain, effectively imposing Prohibition in four districts of the State in case where no one asked for any such thing. Gautam Bhatia rips into this kind of judicial tyranny which has, unfortunately, spread like a virus through the system.
If this order is upheld, suraj ast pahadi mast may be over as we know it.
Thank you for reading this far. I promise future editions will be a bit shorter. And possibly have more gifs.
If you liked or did not like it, do let me know. If you think there are ways I can improve, make this newsletter better and become a better man all round, feel free to email me on these as well.
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