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Landmark Judgments Delivered by Supreme Court in 2018

Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. V. The State of Kerala & Ors. (Popularly known as the Sabrimala Verdict)

The Supreme Court considered whether the Sabarimala Temple’s customary religious practice, which prohibits the entry of women, violates fundamental rights guaranteed to women by the Indian Constitution.

In 2006, Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a public interest litigation petition before the Supreme Court challenging the Sabrimala Temple’s custom of excluding women. The Association argued that the custom violates the rights to equality under Article 14 and freedom of religion under Article 25 of female worshipers.

In a 4:1 majority, the court ruled that Sabarimala’s exclusion of women violated the fundamental rights of women between the ages of 10-50 years and Rule 3(b) of the Public Worship Rules was unconstitutional. Justice Indu Malhotra delivering a dissenting opinion observed that in a secular polity, it was not for the Courts to interfere in matters of religion and the same must be left to those practicing the religion.

Justice K.S. Puttaswamy & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors. (Aadhaar Verdict)

“It is better to be unique than the best. Because, being the best makes you the number one, but being unique makes you the only one.” 1)

In a 4:1 verdict, the Supreme Court has declared the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid, but with conditions. The majority verdict of the five-judge Constitution Bench has ruled that there is no need to link Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones, but held that Aadhaar could be passed as a money bill. The court further says that schools cannot insist on Aadhaar and read down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, barring sharing of information with corporate bodies.

Joseph Shine v. Union of India (Verdict on adultery law)

In this landmark judgement, the Supreme Court scrapped the 150-year old adultery law. Reading out the judgement, CJI Dipak Misra clearly stated that equality is the need of the hour. He also added that time has come when the husband should not be considered the master.

“Adultery cannot and should not be a crime. It can be a ground for a civil offence, a ground for divorce,”2) a five judge bench led by outgoing Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.

Mohammad Salimullah & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors. (Verdict on Rohingya Crisis)

The Supreme Court Thursday rejected the plea to stop the deportation of seven Rohingya immigrants to Myanmar from Assam. The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi rejected the plea saying that the seven were found as illegal immigrants by the court earlier and that Myanmar is also ready to accept them as their nationals. “We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken,” the apex court said.

The plea filed by two Rohingya immigrants challenged the Centre’s decision to deport over 40,000 refugees who came to India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination and violence against the community. The fresh plea said that the decision to deport was in “grave violation” of India’s international obligation and moreover, the situation in Myanmar was extremely dangerous for the Rohingyas to return and they are likely to be subjected to torture and even killed.

M. Ismail Faruqui and Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors. (Ayodhya Verdict)

A case related to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case has found closure in the Supreme Court today with a three-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer refusing to refer to a larger bench the issue of a 1994 ruling that said mosques were not necessary for practice of Islam. Justice Nazeer, however, disagreed with the majority judgement.

Now when SC now refused to refer it to a larger bench, it would in essence be used to establish the fact that site of Babri Masjid can indeed be shifted to a different site since “neither namaz in mosque” essential to Islam and state can also acquire such a land.

“―I am what I am, so take me as I am.”3)

In this landmark verdict, the Supreme Court today scrapped the controversial Section 377– a 158-year-old colonial law on consensual gay sex. The Supreme Court reversed its own decision and said Sectuion 377 is irrational and arbitary. “LGBT Community has same rights as of any ordinary citizen. Respect for individual choice is the essence of liberty; LGBT community possesses equal rights under the constitution. Criminalising gay sex is irrational and indefensible,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed the five judge bench hearing the case.

The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

CJI Misra and Justices Nariman, Chandrachud and Malhotra delivered separate, concurring judgments.

Swapnil Tripathi & Ors. V. Supreme Court of India & Ors. (Verdict on Live Coverage of Supreme Court Verdict)

The Supreme Court has pushed for greater transparency in the judicial system by setting the stage for live-streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional importance. The court directed the centre to frame rules for this and said the project will be carried out in phases.

The three-judge bench agreed that it would serve as an instrument for greater accountability and formed part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

“It will encourage the principle of open court, effectuate the public’s right to know and reduce dependence on second-hand views,”4) said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India & Anr. (Power tussle between Delhi Government and Lt. Governor10

In this landmark verdict that came as a shot in the arm for the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in its tussle with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal for control of Delhi, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that decisions of the elected government of Delhi do not require the concurrence of the Lt Governor who only needs to be informed.5)

Calling for Constitutional pragmatism and underlining the clear separation of powers, the bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, in three separate yet concurring orders, made it clear that “the status of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor”.

Common Cause (A regd. Society) v. Union of India & Anr. (Verdict on Passive Euthanasia)

Supreme Court of India has held that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right. The Bench also held that passive euthanasia and a living will also legally valid.

The Court has issued detailed guidelines in this regard. “The right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity. With the passage of time, this Court has expanded the spectrum of Article 21 to include within it the right to live with dignity as component of right to life and liberty”.6)

The Bench also held that the right to live with dignity also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in Persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Public Interest Foundation & Ors. V. Union of India & Anr. (Verdict on Ban of Charge-sheeted Politician)

The Constitution Bench which gave the ruling comprised CJI Dipak Misra, and Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra. The bench observed the apex court did not have the power to add new grounds of disqualifications, and thus, could not bar chargesheeted candidates from contesting elections.7) However, the court urged the Parliament to enact a law to disqualify chargesheeted candidates.

Jarnail Singh & Ors. V. Lachhmi Narain Gupta & Ors. ( Verdict on SC/ST Reservation)

As the Supreme Court has upheld reservation in promotion for the SC/ST communities, the court’s position on the idea of a creamy layer has put the political class in a dilemma.

So far creamy layer is applicable only for OBCs seeking reservation. Last year, the creamy layer ceiling for OBC reservation was raised to Rs 8 lakh per year — families with income above this were not eligible.

How will a creamy layer apply to SC/STs is uncharted territory. While the government says it is still “examining”8) the judgment, SC/ST groups are restive in a poll year that has seen caste protests nationwide.

Romila Thapar & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors. (Verdict on Bhima Koregaon Arrest)

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court9) refused to interfere in the arrests of five rights activists in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case in a 2:1 verdict. The activists — poet Vara Vara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha — were arrested by Maharashtra Police in cross-country raids in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence probe. The Supreme Court, however, extended the house arrest of the activists. Justice Chandrachud dissented with the majority verdict.

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