The Supreme Court delivered a clutch of landmark rulings on Wednesday, the impact of which will range from cleaning up the national capital’s environment and throwing open the central bank to public scrutiny.
The six decisions placed an interim ban on the registration of luxury diesel cars in Delhi, forced a lokayukta upon a dithering Uttar Pradesh government, called for a system to improve the process of judicial appointments and ensured that a popular snack undergoes another round of safety tests.
Here are the key rulings by the SC:
1) For a healthier Delhi
The Supreme Court banned the registration of new diesel-guzzling luxury cars and SUVs with engine capacity of over 2000 cc until March 31 in the national capital region, unveiling a raft of measures to clean up Delhi’s filthy air.
The decision effectively stops the sale of popular vehicles such as Toyota’s Innova, Mahindra & Mahindra’s Scorpio, the Tata Safari and Sumo, and Mitsubishi Pajero during the ban period, but existing diesel cars can continue to ply.
It also hurts luxury car-makers across the board as most of their best-sellers are diesel-driven. For instance, the smallest diesel engine for segment leader Mercedes is 2,143cc.
2) Doing UP’s job for it
In a separate ruling, the apex court appointed justice Virendra Singh as the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta, admonishing the state government for failing to appoint an ombudsman for over a year and disapproving the way constitutional authorities failed to discharge their responsibilities.
A bench headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi noted its earlier directions for the Lokayukta’s appointment were not complied with and “deeply regretted” the “failure if not refusal of the constitutional functionaries” to implement the court’s order.
3) For improved system of judicial appointments
The SC also directed the government to prepare a memorandum of procedure (MoP) that would be followed by the apex court collegium in the appointment of judges to higher judiciary.
While specifically saying that the MoP will spell the eligibility criteria, transparency in the appointment of judges, setting up of secretariat, and method of dealing with complaints, the court said it may also provide for any other matter considered appropriate for ensuring transparency and accountability including interaction with the recommendees by the collegium of the Supreme Court.
4) RBI can’t deny information under RTI
The SC said the Reserve Bank of India can’t deny information sought under the right to information (RTI) law merely by citing economic interest.
A bench said many public information officers routinely denied information sought under RTI “under the guise of one of the exceptions” provided under the 2005 Act. The court condemned this, saying it was in national interest, as well as economic interest, to have more informed people.
“Because an informed citizen has the capacity to reasoned action and also to evaluate the actions of the legislature and executives, which is very important in a participative democracy, this will serve the nation’s interest better...,” the court said.
5) More Maggi tests for consumers’ safety
Maggi noodles will now be tested in an accredited laboratory at Mysore and not in Chennai as sought by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), the Supreme Court said while staying the proceedings in the case pending in the apex consumer body.
“It is directed that the local commissioner, appointed by the NCDRC, shall send samples earlier collected by him to the Mysore laboratory for tests.
“The test reports, including earlier ones, shall be produced before this court. In the meantime, the NCDRC shall not proceed,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said.
6) Rituals for picking priests not against equality
The apex court said temple priests should be appointed according to ancient Hindu rituals, while hearing a petition against a Tamil Nadu government order allowing priests from all castes.
“Following temple rituals to appoint priests will not violate the right to equality,” the court said.
In 2006, the DMK government had ordered the appointment of temple priests from all castes after training in the ‘Agama Sastra’. Any person with “requisite qualification and training” should be eligible for appointment, said the government.
“Hindu temple priests can be appointed only within in the parameters of Agama Sastras,” the SC said on Wednesday.