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