Supreme Court Current Affairs - 2019

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Fadnavis sworn in as Maharashtra CM: SC’s concept of fast Floor Tests

On November 23, 2019, Mr Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The governor has given him time till November 30, 2019 to prove his majority. This contradicts Supreme Court’s orders that were passed in last two decades.

The Supreme Court in its previous judgements have pronounced that floor tests should follow within 24 to 48 hours of swearing-in. This is because, it will increase risks of horse trading and corruption.

S R Bommai Case

The concept of floor test was introduced by the SC’s judgement in 1994 in SR Bommai case. SC referred to Article 164 of the constitution. SC interprets the article’s words “Council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the state” as the ultimate test of majority is not held in Raj Bhavan but on the floors of the assembly.

Previous SC Judgements

In 2018, SC ordered a floor test within 24 hours after BJP leader Mr Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the CM of Karnataka.

In 2005, SC ordered an immediate floor test to see which of the political alliances has majority in the house of Jharkhand

In 1998, SC ordered for a floor test to be held within 48 hours to determine majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly.

SC Verdict: CJI Office under RTI act

On November 13, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 judgement of Delhi High Court that the RTI (Right To Information) act was applicable to the office of CJI (Chief Justice of India) as well.

Key Findings of the Judgement

  • The CJI office and the SC are not two different public authorities. Under Article 124, SC includes office of CJI and the other judges as well
  • The relationship between the CJI and the judges would neither be fiduciary nor be beneficial.
  • The judgement said that under Section 6(2) of the act, the motive of the seeker of information is not a relevant consideration.
  • The Public Information Officer has vast discretion under the RTI act. The PIO should make sure judicial independence and accountability are well maintained as they go hand in hand. It is important for the SC to maintain confidentiality in certain aspects of judicial administration.

Background

In 2010, the CIC (Central Information Commission) ordered the SC CPIOs (Central Public Information Officer) to provide information on personal assets possessed by the judges of SC. The order was challenged at the Delhi HC to which it ruled that SC and CJI have statutory duty to furnish information regarding administration and functioning of the SC.

Appeals were filed to SC on HC verdict in 2010. Though filed in 2010, it was heard and referred to a Constitution bench only in 2016 and the judgement was pronounced now.