From passing path-breaking verdicts on Triple Talaq and Sabarimala Temple to Section 377 and Adultery, it has been a remarkable year for the Supreme Court of India.
Here's a look at 10 landmark judgments of 2018:
Lifting ban on women's entry to Sabarimala temple: The Supreme Court removed a ban that prevented women between 10 and 50 years of age from entering Kerala's Sabarimala temple. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, said “devotion cannot be subjected to gender discrimination”, and patriarchal notion could not be allowed to trump equality in devotion. It said that banning the entry of women into the shrine was gender discrimination and the practice violated rights of Hindu women.
Apex court says Aadhaar constitutional, but strikes down some provisions: A five-judge bench of Supreme Court on September 26 ruled that Aadhaar was constitutional, but said making it mandatory for availing government services was unconstitutional. The constitution bench held that Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing of Income Tax returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), but struck down some of its provisions including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.
A review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court on December 24 seeking re-examination of its five-judge bench's verdict.
Decriminalistion of Gay Sex - Section 377 partly struck down: The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in early September, decriminalised gay sex holding that consensual sex between two adults was covered under the right to privacy. A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by CJI Dipak Misra partly struck down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), holding it violative of the fundamental right to privacy. It also held that Section 377 of IPC was a weapon to harass members of LGBTQ-plus community resulting in discrimination against them. However, the top court said that Section 377 would continue to be in force in cases of unnatural sex with animals and children, which continues to be a penal offence.
Adultery is no longer a crime | Supreme Court scrapped Section 487 of the constitution: The Supreme Court struck down a 150-year-old law that considered adultery to be an offence committed against a married man by another man. Defined under Section 497 of the IPC, adultery law came under sharp criticism for treating women as male property. Previously any man who had sex with a married woman, without the permission of her husband, had committed a crime. While reading out the judgment in the case, CJI Dipak Misra said that while adultery could be grounds for civil issues like divorce, “it cannot be a criminal offence”.
Live-streaming of court proceedings approved: The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra, in a 2:1 verdict, ordered live-streaming and video recording of the court proceedings on September 26, saying that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. The CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar delivered a common judgment. Justice DY Chandrachud gave a separate but concurring judgment. The Supreme Court said that live streaming would bring in more transparency in judicial proceedings and effectuate the “public right to know”. It also directed the Centre to frame rules for this and said the project will be carried out in phases.
Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid pleas turned down: The Supreme Court turned down two petitions in the Ayodhya case on September 27. One that directly deals with the way the disputed land was split according to the 2010 Allahabad High Court ruling, and another that would have had a direct impact on the Supreme Court's final verdict in the case.
Reservation for job promotions: The Supreme Court has made it easier to grant caste-based reservations to members of the Scheduled Castes and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) during job promotions. But, the apex court has also potentially made it harder for economically advanced SCs and STs to reap reservation benefits by extending the 'creamy layer' exclusion to those members.
Politicians with criminal antecedents: The Supreme Court on in September held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election, saying criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy is "unsettling". A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates. In the unanimous verdict, the bench, also comprising Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said that political parties are obligated to put all the information about their candidates on their websites.
Sajjan Kumar gets life sentence for abetting, instigating Sikh killings: The Delhi High Court on December 17 called the anti-Sikh riots case of 1984 “communal frenzy” after the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards as it sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in one of the cases. As it reversed the trial court’s order acquitting Kumar, the court also directed him to surrender by December 31, 2018, and slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on him and Rs 1 lakh on all other accused in the case. The case relates to the murder of five members of a family during the anti-Sikh riots in the Raj Nagar area in the Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984.
Horrendous acts of mobocracy’: One of the most important decisions passed by the top court this year was recognising the rising incidents of mob violence in India. The Supreme Court in July asked Parliament to consider enacting a new law to effectively deal with incidents of mob lynching, saying “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become a new norm. “When any core group with some kind of idea take the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society. Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of [the] imagination, be given room to take shape for it is absolutely a perverse notion,” said the court.
(With agency inputs)