TOP LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS OF 2018
2018 has been an interesting year so far. The judicial landscape of the country has witnessed a lot of landmark judgments which legal luminaries have expressed divergent views. Several laws have been abolished while others have been upheld.
From Sabarimala, gay sex to Aadhaar, the Indian Supreme Court has passed several landmark judgments in 2018.
It is on this note that this article will take a look at the top landmark judgments passed by the various courts in the country.
SABARIMALA TEMPLE: WOMEN WITH 10 TO 50 YEARS CAN NOW OFFER PRAYERS IN THE TEMPLE
The Supreme Court recently in one of its landmark judgments abolished the practice of denying women within the age bracket of 10 to 50 the privilege to offer prayers at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The court said women should not be subjected to gender discrimination. The Supreme Court bench led by the CJI, Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Rohinton F Nariman agreed to strike down the law. But Justice Indu Malhotra remained indifferent. Women groups in the country have hailed the judgment, describing it as “a milestone in the race to achieve gender equality”.
THE USE OF AADHAAR IS CONSTITUTIONAL BUT WITH CONDITION
The Supreme Court on the 26th of September, 2018 passed a landmark judgment regarding the use of Aadhaar in order to avail government services. A bench led by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra declared that the use of Aadhaar was Constitutional but making it compulsory when a citizen wants to avail government services is Unconstitutional.
The bench said banks and telecommunication companies should not make it mandatory for their customers to link their Aadhaar Number with their phone number and account number. The court further ruled on the Prevention of Money Laundering Act which companies leverage to issue a notification to their customers, saying it is Unconstitutional.
The interpretation of the judgment means that henceforth banks or telecommunication companies should not insist that Aadhaar Number must be provided for verifying a customers’ identity or when prospective customers approach a bank to open a new account.
SUPREME COURT STRUCK DOWN SECTION 377 ON GAY SEX CRIMINALIZATION
The Supreme Court early in September passed another landmark judgment in what has seen gay couples celebrating throughout the country. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had criminalized the practice of gay sex.
The Supreme Court bench led by the CJI, Dipak Misra in the judgment held that consensual sex should not be a crime since it is between two adults and that the law is discrimination on the LGBTQ-plus community. The court further asserted that Section 377 is an Infringement on the Privacy right of individuals.
However, the bench noted that the law is still valid only in cases where individuals have sex with animals or children. “Any form of sexual activity between individuals and animals or children is still a penal offense”, the court ruled.
ADULTERY NO LONGER AN OFFENCE – SECTION 497 OF THE IPC
The Supreme Court recently passed another landmark judgment in the issue of adultery. Section 497 of the IPC had clearly criminalized adultery. The law has been invoked for more than 150 years. Adultery under the law is defined as the practice of having sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent of her husband.
The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Dipak Misra struck down the law but insisted that the law is still valid on the grounds of divorce. “Section 497 of the IPC considered women as a material possession rather than human”, the court ruled.
Women advocates are particularly happy over the judgment. They argue that striking down section 497 was long overdue. They hailed the landmark judgment.
LIVE COVERAGE OF COURT PROCEEDINGS-
On the 26th of September 2018, the Supreme Court again passed a landmark judgment. Over the years, it was like a taboo for court proceedings to be covered live. However, the Supreme Court bench led by the outgoing Chief Justice of the country, Dipak Misra ruled that henceforth Court proceedings can be covered or streamed live. The court said live coverage of court proceedings will bring in transparency in the judicial system of the country. Other members of the panel were Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
A CASE BETWEEN DELHI GOVT AND LT GOVERNOR OVER POWER TUSSLE
The Supreme Court bench consisting of the CJI, Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan on December 6 reserved judgment on the case between the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor overpower tussle. The court had received several petitions praying the court to determine whether or not the Delhi government or the Lieutenant Governor has the right to enjoy supremacy in the day-to-day operations of the government.
The case was heard for over 15 days. The AAP government had filed the appeal to challenge the decision of the Delhi High Court which made L-G the head of the National capital. Lawyers in the Delhi government’s team are Gopal Subramaniam, Rajeev Dhavan, P Chidambaram, Indira Jaising and Shekhar Naphade.
The lawyers argued that the ministers’ Council and the Chief Minister have the statutory right to make laws while the executive implements the same. Maninder Singh, the country’s Additional Solicitor General represented the Centre and insisted that the administrative head was the Lt-Governor.
EUTHANASIA/ ‘LIVING WILL’
An NGO, Common Cause through its lawyer, Prashant Bhushan had filed a petition in support of the concept of “living will”. The NGO contended that Article 21 of the constitution guarantees an individual the right to die peacefully.
A living will is a tool which individuals can use to decide whether or not he/she wants to be placed on a life support in cases of terminal sicknesses. The NGO had in its petition argued that victims of terminal illnesses should be allowed to execute the living will. “Instead of placing a sick person on life support if he/she cannot make a wish, the court should allow him/her to write a living will in advance”, Bhushan argued.
The bench of the Supreme Court had reserved judgment and asserted that there should be a way of drafting and authenticating the living will document. The court also noted that a living will by an individual may be approved by a judge.
Recall that in 2011, the Supreme Court had passed a judgment favoring euthanasia. The court in its judgment said that the life support system should only be withdrawn based on the recommendation of a panel consisting of family members, medical doctors, and representative of the High Court.
SCRAPPING OF ARTICLE 35A
Another landmark judgment that made our list is the scrapping of Article 35A of the Constitution. A bench of the Supreme led by the CJI on October 30, 2017, asserted that all the suits against Article 35A should be forwarded to a bench of the Constitution Court. Article 35A confers a special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Supreme Court after hearing the plea by the Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal who represented the Centre adjourned the case. Venugopal had told the court that the case is already been handled by an interlocutor. Venugopal had prayed the court to adjourn the case for six months in order to give the Centre time to take a decision on the issue. However, the court in its decision turned down the request of the Centre. The court instead adjourned the case for eight weeks.
In the course of the hearing, the lawyers representing the Jammu and Kashmir government said Article 35A has been settled based on “prima facie” at the state high court in 2002.
Article 35A and Section 6 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir state was challenged by Khanna. Section 6 deals with the issue of permanent residency in Jammu And Kashmir State. Khanna argued that the law denies a woman the right to properties just because she is married to a man from other states. The law also applies to her son.
ROHINGYAS’ DEPORTATION JUDGEMENT
The Rohingyas’ Deportation case was another landmark judgment that thrilled the judiciary system in 2018. The bench of the Supreme Court led by the CJI, Dipak Misra adjourned for further hearing to the 31st of January 2018 all the suits relating to the Rohingyas’ Deportation case.
Before the adjournment, the court had requested to know the status of the case from Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer representing the petitioners. Bhushan replied that although the government has not started deporting them (Rohingyas) yet, a survey was conducted. On 13th October, the bench in its decision ordered the Centre to balance the issue of refugees’ rights and national security. The CJI told ASG Tushar Mehta, the lawyer representing the government that sympathy towards humanitarian issues should not make the government derail from its duties of protecting the economic interest of the country.
RAMJANMBHOOMI MASJID JUDGEMENT
The Ramjanmbhoomi Masjid case makes number 10 on our list of top landmark judgments of 2018. The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Dipak Misra on the 5th of December, 2017 turned down the request by Babri Masjid Action Committee and Sunni Wakf Board to defer the hearing of the case to the 8th of February 2018.
The petitioners represented by a senior lawyer, Kapil Sibal argued that the case was fraught with a lot of political influences and that those pleading for the case to be expedited are not even a party to the case. The remark by Sibal was viewed as a direct attack on the person of the BJP leader, Subramanian Swamy.
The court’s bench after hearing all the pleas adjourned the case to the 8th of February, 2018. The court advised all parties in the case to “sit together” and ensure that all the relevant documents are filed within the allowable timeframe.