Last week India’s Supreme Court delivered no less than 20
news-making judgements affecting the lives of most 1.2 billion
Indians, reports Kul Bhushan,
from New Delhi.
This was due to the
outgoing Chief Justice Dipak Misra leaving his mark on India’s
Court is calling the shots for making headlines recently. In
some path-breaking judgements, the Supreme Court this month
pronounced judgements on gay sex, adultery, allowing women in a
major temple, identity card data, the right to die and elephant
conservation, among others. Most of these judgements have made
not only top news in India but around the world.
Women Enter Temple: On 28 September 2018, the supreme court scrapped a centuries-old
practice that prevented women of menstruating age from entering
a revered temple in the southern state of Kerala.
Excluding women of
menstruating age between 15 and 50 years from the Sabarimala
temple of Hindu god Ayyappa goes against their right to practice
religion, as enshrined in article 25 of the Indian constitution.
But Justice Indu
Malhotra, the only woman on the five- judge bench, dissented
with the majority ruling, arguing, “What constitutes essential
religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not
for the court.”
But in a judgment
co-written with justice Khanwilkar, chief justice Dipak Misra
said the dualistic approach degraded the status of women. He
said women are not lesser or inferior to men and the patriarchy
of religion cannot be permitted to trump over faith.
Ram Temple Dispute:
A Supreme Court decision on 27 September has ensured that the
case of whether or not to build a Ram temple at the site of a
razed mosque in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, will be
heard from October 29.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice
of India Dipak Misra refused to revisit a 1994 ruling that the
government can acquire land that a mosque is built on - a
decision that means that the politically-charged temple-mosque
dispute over many decades can be taken up without any delay.
This is a highly politically charged issue that could be decided
before the end of the year, before the general elections.
Adultery Legal: On
September 27, the Supreme Court struck down a 158-year old law
that makes adultery a punishable offence for men. Chief Justice Mishra said that women must be treated at par with men.
that there can’t be a social license to destroy the institution
of marriage and commented that the law violates Right to Privacy
to some extent.
The old law was unconstitutional and fell afoul
of the Right to life and personal liberty) and the Right to
“Adultery can be
ground for any civil wrong.
"There can’t be any social license
that destroys the matrimonial home, but adultery should not be a
criminal offence,” Justice Misra said.
Stating that a wife was
not a chattel of the husband, the Chief Justice said:
provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of
women invites the wrath of the Constitution.
"It’s time to say
that a husband is not the master of wife.
"Legal sovereignty of
one sex over other sex is wrong.”
Privacy: Nine years ago, the Government of India launched a
bio-metric identity card with a unique 12-digit number for every
Now over 1.22 billion have been issued and provide an
official identity to the people to open a bank account, get a
driving license or a mobile.
The poor are better off with this Aadhaar or foundation card as they get their subsidies and other
government payments without deductions by the officials paying
them the cash.
serious concerns have been voiced about privacy of the data and
petitions were filed challenging the validity of these cards.
the Supreme Court.
On 26 September, a five-judge bench ruled
that the card will stay, albeit with conditions.
things, the bench declared that the requirement to link phone
numbers and bank accounts to Aadhaar is no longer required.
also stated that Aadhaar is not mandatory for school admission.
Gay Sex Legal: “Gay
sex is not a crime.”
When the Supreme Court announced this
judgement on 6 September, a tsunami of joy, screams and dancing
went up from the gay community advocating for this freedom.
judgement brought India in line with modern countries which have
legalized gay sex.
The court threw out
the 1861 British law modelled on the Buggery Act of 1533, used
to criminalise sexual activities “against the order of nature”.
Thus, Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, as the gay sex law
was named, became unconstitutional.
constitutional bench decriminalized gay sex between consenting
adults, further declaring that victimising homosexuals is
unconstitutional, and henceforth, a criminal act.
will be presented in a Kenya court on this issue.
Politics: On September 25, in his judgment on petitions seeking
to ban charge-sheeted politicians from contesting elections, the CJI expressed concern at the rising criminalization of politics
but said it was not for the court to lay down such rules and
parliament was the right authority to deal with the matter.
Elephants have the right of way.
On August 9, a three-judge
constitutional bench headed by Justice Lokur directed the Tamil
Nadu government to seal or shutdown 39 resorts and hotels
constructed on an elephant corridor in the Nilgiri Hills, within
This was a historic judgement by Supreme Court for
animal lovers and for conserving wildlife.
Right to Die:
Earlier, on March 9, the Supreme Court declared that the right
to die with dignity is a fundamental right.
The bench headed by
Chief Justice Misra upheld the legal validity of passive
euthanasia, albeit under strict guidelines.
The judgement stated
that withdrawal of life support will only be permitted through a
“living will” and the patient must either be terminally ill or
in a vegetative state.
These are just a few
of the 2018 judgments that affect the common people directly and
so grabbed prime TV time and front-page headlines in India and