How Much Do You Agree With The Critical Supreme Court Judgements Of 2019

2019 has been a monumental year for the judiciary; it dealt with the most fundamental of laws and rights being violated and put to test. While it also put an end to decades of disputes, it delayed adjudicating grave matters of human rights violations. Furthermore, it was subjected to a constant check of executive supremacy over its office.

To Get A Clearer Context, Let’s Trace The Supreme Court Judgments Of 2019:

Ram Temple To Be Built-in Ayodhya, Muslim Board Given 5 Acres Of Land 

On November 9th, the Supreme Court passed a unanimous verdict, finally bringing an end to the title of the disputed land of Ayodhya. The court allowed the Hindus to build a Ram temple while giving the Sunni Waqf Board five-acre land to build a mosque.

The land will be given “either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya”. The court also asked the Centre to set up a board to devise a plan and rules to construct the temple. The court said that there was enough evidence that Hindus worshipped in the outer courtyard but the claim of the Muslims over the inner courtyard was unsubstantiated.

18 review petitions had been filed against the verdict, but a 5-judge bench of the court rejected all of them. A lot of prominent members of the Muslim community have opposed the verdict calling it “judicially flawed”.

Supreme Court Lifts Centuries-Old Ban On Entry Of Women In Sabrimala Temple

A protest in Navi Mumbai against the SC verdict of allowing women entry into the Sabarimala temple. (Photo: Bachchan Kumar for Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In September of 2018, the apex court had ended the centuries-old restriction on women, between age 10 to 50, entering the temple. With a 4-1 majority, with Justice Indu Malhotra’s dissent, the court called it “violative of constitutional values”. It led to a huge outcry, protests and many activists were forced to return when they tried entering the temple

Thereafter, several review and writ petitions were filed against the verdict, but the Supreme Court had reserved its verdict. In November 2019, the court with a 3-2 majority, transferred the case to a seven-member bench, while refusing to put a stay on the verdict. Currently, women are still allowed to enter the shrine, until any further judgment by the larger bench.

The Office Of Chief Justice Of India Comes Under The Right To Information Act

A “public authority” is defined under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, which provides for citizens to question the public authorities in matters of procedures and function. In November this year, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that even the office of ‘Chief Justice of India’ is a public authority, under the provisions of the Act.

The case, which had originally come to Delhi High Court, had been appealed against, in the apex court, in April 2019. The apex court, maintaining the Delhi High Court judgment, said thatindependence and accountability go hand-in-hand and that independence of the judiciary cannot be ensured only by denying information”. The court has now agreed to share information on a case-to-case basis.

Supreme Court Dismisses All Petitions; Finds Nothing Wrong With The Rafale Deal

NEW DELHI, INDIA – JANUARY 25: French President Francois Hollande with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their Joint Statements at Hyderabad House on January 25, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Hollande said that his visit to India was aimed at strengthening and reinforcing “the cooperation against terrorism between our two countries”. He also said “India and France will work to improve economic relations in the field of agriculture and space”. India signed an inter-governmental pact with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets on Monday but said sorting out details of the $9 billion deal such as pricing and post-sales servicing would take some more time. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In 2016, the BJP government had decided to buy 36 ready-to-fly, fighter jets from the France airline, Dassault Aviation. The deal happened on the condition that Dassault would invest 20% of the money in local production in India, as the original plan was to buy a few jets from Dassault and put together the rest in India.

Further, another 30 % had to be invested in various military projects in India. Dassault had to choose a company to invest in and it chose Reliance. Congress then alleged lack of transparency, saying that the government was paying thrice the amount for the deal and that records should be made public.

Controversies sparked when the ex-French president said that the government had actually suggested Reliance’s name. Petitions were filed in the SC, who then asked the government to display the pricing in a “sealed cover”.

The confidentiality clause attracted a lot of flak but the Centre defended it. The court then dismissed the PIL in December 2018, finding nothing wrong with the deal. Review petitions were filed, which the Centre objected to, but the court rejected the Centre’s objections, allowing for a review. In November 2019, the court refused to overrule its December order and finally dismissed all review petitions putting the matter to rest. 

The Supreme Court On Other Matters

The highest court has disappointed citizens in certain stances it has chosen to take in the latter part of this year. While it refused to hear any matter against Article 370 or Kashmir lockdown due to “paucity of time”, it readily heard matters against felling of trees in Aarey colony in Mumbai.

It also said that it won’t take cognisance of the Delhi protests, which constitute grave human rights violations until rioting stops. The court refused to see videos of the protests, saying that it won’t hear the matter if destruction of public properties continues.

The priorities of the highest Court have been dicey, even in times of a supreme violation of rights. It remains to be seen how the Court will deal with these issues in the wake of 2020.

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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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