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From Ayodhya To Increasing The Scope Of RTI, Here Are 7 Critical SC Judgements From 2019

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In the midst of crisis, one institution stood strong. The Supreme Court of India passed landmark judgements, from settling a decades-old dispute to increasing the scope of RTI.

1. Ayodhya Land Dispute

image courtesy livelaw
The judgment was respected by the people of India, and thus, peacefully ended one of independent India’s most important cases that would go down in the annals of history.

The most crucial among all the judgements passed this year was the Ayodhya land dispute case. This was not just one of the oldest pending cases but it was one with big political, social, and religious aftermaths. The first suit in the case was filed in 1950, and the matter was decided unanimously by a constitutional bench that reiterated that no one is above the law.

The 1000+ page judgement called for the setting up of a trust for the building of a temple at the site. The Supreme Court also ordered that five acres of land be given to the Muslims for building of a mosque. The judgment was respected by the people of India, and thus, peacefully ended one of independent India’s most important cases that would go down in the annals of history.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister said, “The Supreme Court has pronounced its verdict. This should not be seen as anyone’s victory or loss. Whether it Ram-Bhakti or Rahim-Bhakti, it is essential to
strengthen the sentiment of Bharat-Bhakti. I appeal all countrymen to maintain, peace, harmony
and unity.”

Iqbal Ansari, Litigant, Muslim Side: “I am happy that Supreme Court has finally delivered a
verdict, I respect the judgement of the court.”

2. Increasing The Scope Of RTI

A constitutional bench under Ranjan Gogoi passed a judgement that highlighted that no one is
above the law. It stated that the Chief Justice of India is a ‘public authority’, and the scope of the Right to Information (RTI) will be expanded to include him. No office, it said is above the law and that citizens have a right to ask questions. Though, in the majority verdict, it added that protection must be provided to judges under the confidentiality clause. The apex court said that transparency does not undermine judicial independence and that judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand.

3. Rafale Review Pleas

In another politically sensitive judgment, a three-judge bench, dismissed a review petition in the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal with the French Dassault Aviation saying that there were irregularities in the petition. It said that it was unsuitable to order a roving inquiry into the Rafale allegations.

4. Contempt Case Against Rahul Gandhi

Supreme Court closed the criminal contempt case against Rahul Gandhi for wrongfully attributing the “Chowkidaar hi chor hai” taunt to the court. The court noted that the jibes were far from the truth and that Gandhi should have refrained from it. It asked the Congress leader to be more cautious in future. The court also noted that judiciary should not be dragged into political discourse.

5. Sabarimala Review

©Saurabh Chatterjee

The Sabarimala temple in Kerala is a shrine dedicated to Lord Ayappa. It has a practice where it doesn’t allow the entry of women in the age group of 10 and 50 years. The reason—they are considered ‘impure’ because of mensuration.

In a milestone judgement the Supreme Court put the light on the constitutional validity of religious practices that put checks on women. In a 3:2 split verdict in November, the SC referred the Sabarimala temple case to a larger seven-judge bench.

The top court noted that it should be careful in matters pertaining to beliefs of any religion be it restrictions of entry of women in some mosques and dargahs, female genital mutilation in case of Dawoodi Bohras or the marriage of Parsi women to non-Parsis and said the entry of Muslim women in some Mosques, Parsi women and Dawoodi Bohra cases are all similar to issues in the Sabarimala
review case. The matters pertaining to religion should be cautiously dealt keeping in mind the faith of believers and the principles of equality.

“Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion”, and “To
treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the Constitution.”

6. Maharashtra Government Formation

“Now the question is whether the chief minister has a majority. The only issue is should he face
a floor test”, Justice Khanna noted before reserving the order for the next day.

The Supreme Court ordered a floor test be held in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly the
day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to prove his majority. It ruled that the floor test
must be telecast live and that it cannot happen on the basis of secret ballot.

7. Essar Steel Case

Image source: Livemint

The Supreme Court cleared ArcelorMittals takeover of Essar Steel. The judgement is key because it is likely to help facilitate the biggest takeover of bad debt in Corporate India. It also ruled that the Committee of Creditors will have the final say in the resolution plans under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), and that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) cannot interfere with CoC’s commercial decisions. It said that the Committee of Creditors has all rights to decide on the distribution of funds released from sale of insolvent asset, and the adjudicating authorities cannot make changes into the approved resolution plan.

This landmark judgement gives the single biggest realisation from any asset to financial
creditors, qualitatively, and this is the biggest for the financial sector in getting their due rights and primacy in the order of things. The value maximisation this brings about and pursuit for successful resolution will empower the macro ecosystem.

The Supreme Court also passed orders on making available the top court’s judgments in seven
languages including English and Hindi. Like last year, the Supreme Court of India continued its
tradition of passing progressive and landmark judgements, strengthening the Constitution of
India and upholding the highest ideals of our founding fathers.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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