Verdict pe Verdict: SC on a roll giving out landmark judgments one after the other

Four Major Verdicts given by SC this month so far:

  • November 6, 2018: Gay Sex is not a criminal offence (Section 377)
  • November 26, 2018: Aadhar Card Verdict which held Aadhaar as constitutional
  • November 27, 2018: Adultery is no longer  crime. (Section 497)
  • November 27, 2018: Key verdict given out regarding the Ayodhya case, rejecting to refer to 1994 decision

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has been on a winning streak since the past month. It has given out four landmark judgments – Section 377, Aadhaar card verdict, adultery and a key verdict regarding the Ayodhya case.

1. Reviewing Section 377 

On September 6, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes consensual unnatural sex, delivering a ground-breaking victory for gay rights in India.

2. Petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law

On September 27, a five-judge Constitutional bench the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar Act doesn’t violate the right to privacy when one  agrees to share biometric data. Private entities have been barred from using Aadhaar card for KYC authentication purposes but you will still need Aadhaar for various other purposes including PAN card and ITR filing.

3. Challenge to Section 497 Indian Penal Code on adultery

The Supreme Court is delivering a judgment today, on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497, which deals with adultery, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had reserved its verdict in the case in August. Section 497 and 498, dealing with Adultery has been struck down by SC.

4. Ayodhya reference

Another verdict given out today is regarding the Ayodhya Verdict and revisit the 19934 judgement. It will either review or uphold the judgement given partitioning the land into three different grounds.

On July 20, a three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra (CJI), reserved its verdict on pleas to refer the 1994 constitution bench’s judgment in Ismail Faruqui v Union of India, to a larger bench. In Ismail Faruqui, the court had held that mosques are not integral to Islam. The observation of the constitution bench, according to the petitioners, would influence the outcome in the Babri Masjid title dispute before the court, and therefore, must be reconsidered by a larger bench, for its correctness. If the three-judge bench decides against reference, it could be considered a victory for the Centre.

The three bench judge, in a majority 2:1, that there will no delay in judgement and the case will not be referred to a larger bench. The verdict also stated that the 1994 judgement will not be impact the final Ayodhya Case. It also rejects Masjid’s peitition to the SC. The hearing of the case is set to October 29,2018

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5. Petitions seeking quashing of the rule restricting the entry of women, of menstruating age, to the Sabarimala temple for worship

If the hearing of the case is any indication, it is likely that the court could read down the rule, to end discrimination against women, although it is to be seen how the court does so, keeping in view the religious sentiments in favour of the restriction. The constitution bench reserved its judgment in the case on August 1.

6. Criminalisation of politics

The petitions seeking directions to the Election Commission to restrict political parties from fielding candidates facing criminal charges led the constitution bench to a quandary. While it agreed with the petitioners that the rising number of MLAs and MPs facing criminal charges is a matter of concern, it wondered whether it is within its jurisdiction to add a new ground for disqualifying candidates through the back door. The hearing of the case suggests that the bench may ask the EC to insist that political parties publicise the criminal antecedents of its candidates on their websites, and also in other campaign materials.

7. Arrest of activists

The hearing of the case led the three-judge bench, headed by the CJI to make profound observations like, ‘dissent is the safety valve of democracy’ and that the ‘liberty of individuals cannot be curtailed at the altar of conjectures’. If the court takes these observations to their logical conclusion, and quashes the illegal arrests of the five activists in the Bhima Koregan case, it will be a huge victory for democracy and dissent. On September 21, the bench reserved its verdict on the plea of five eminent citizens for an independent probe, monitored by the court, into the allegations against the activists.

8. Plea for live-streaming of court proceedings

A three-judge bench, which heard the case, reserved its judgment, on August 24.

9. Guidelines to curb vandalism by vigilante groups

A petition, filed by Kodungallur Film Society, seeking such guidelines, got surprise support from the Centre, through attorney general K. K. Venugopal, who offered to assist the court, in the case. The CJI-led three judge bench reserved its verdict on August 10, after requesting the petitioner and the Centre, to submit their proposals.

10. Ahmed Patel’s election to Rajya Sabha

On September 18, the CJI-led three-judge bench reserved its verdict on a petition by Congress leader Ahmed Patel against the Gujarat high court order to proceed with the hearing of an election petition by Balwant Singh Rajput, challenging his election to the Rajya Sabha in 2017. Rajput had alleged that Patel indulged in corrupt practice by lodging 44 MLAs in a hotel in Bengaluru, prior to the election. He also challenged the Election Commission’s decision to invalidate two votes by Congress MLAs, who had defied the party whip, overruling the decision of the returning officer, who found them valid.