Two of the four cases relate to questions of procedure and eligibility in arbitration proceedings; the third relates to ‘middle of the game’ alteration of rules of selection process for a public post; and the fourth relates to the eligibility of a ‘light motor vehicle’ driver to drive a light ‘transport vehicle.’ The Supreme Court will examine them on July 12 and 13.
The Supreme Court on Monday notified the formation of a new Constitution Bench to hear four different cases. The court is scheduled to take up the matters on July 12 and 13.
The five-judge Bench will comprise the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Hrishikesh Roy, Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, Pankaj Mithal and Manoj Misra.
Formation of a Constitution Bench, though not rare, signifies that there may be ambiguities or lacunae in law that require interpretation by the Supreme Court, or it involves questions of implementation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Constitution Benches are formed by the CJI, as ‘master of the roster’, when a matter involves substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution or for the purpose of hearing any reference under Article143 (Rules of court) of the Constitution of India. The minimum number of judges required to hear such a matter is five.
The Supreme Court is slated to resume hearings by regular Benches on July 3 after the conclusion of court vacations.
Two of the four cases which the new Constitution Bench is slated to hear relate to questions of procedure and eligibility in arbitration proceedings; the third relates to ‘middle of the game’ alteration of rules of selection process for a public post; and the fourth relates to the eligibility of a ‘light motor vehicle’ driver to drive a light ‘transport vehicle.’
The Bench will decide whether a person ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator should be barred from nominating a person to be an arbitrator.
Under Section12(5) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, any person whose relationship with the parties or counsel or the subject-matter of the dispute falls under any of the categories specified in theSeventh Schedule of the Act shall be ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator.
The Bench will decide whether an authority can change the ‘rules of the game’ after the commencement of the selection process for a public post.
The case originated from a notification issued by the Rajasthan High Court inviting applications for the post of 13 court translators in September 2009. TheRajasthan High Court Staff Service Rules, 2002, under which the notification was issued, required candidates to appear for a written examination and a personal interview.
After the completion of these two steps, the Chief Justice of the high court ordered that only those candidates who had secured 75 per cent marks in the written examination would be selected. In view of this decision, only three candidates were found suitable for appointment, out of the 21 who had applied for the post.
This ex post facto rule triggered immediate litigation before the high court, with certain applicants contending that it amounted to “changing the rules of the game after the game is played,” as the Supreme Court’sOrder from March 2013 notes.
The three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the matter requires “an authoritative pronouncement of a larger Bench of this Court,” and ordered the matter to be placed before the CJI.
The Bench will decide whether a person licenced to drive a ‘light motor vehicle’ is entitled to also drive a ‘transport vehicle of light motor vehicle class’.
The above question is significant considering the proliferation of small- and medium-sized vehicles for commercial purposes such as transportation of goods in recent years. Since such vehicles are not different in terms of size from regular cars which are classified as ‘light motor vehicles’, arguments have been raised against mandating driving licences specifically endorsing such categorisation.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court, noting that there are some variances in terms of the eligibility to get a licence under the two categories, as per the provisions of theMotor Vehicles Act, 1988, suggested that the matter be referred to a larger Bench.
The Actdefines a “light motor vehicle” as a transport vehicle or omnibus, the gross vehicle weight of either of which, or a motor car or tractor or road-roller the unladen weight of any of which, does not exceed 7,500 kilograms.
“Transport vehicle” isdefined as a public service vehicle, a goods carriage, an educational institution bus or a private service vehicle.
Under Section3 of the Motor Vehicles Act, no person can drive a transport vehicle unless specifically entitled by their licence.