#RDRemembers | Landmark Court Cases You Should Know From 2019
From Sabarimala to Rafale deal, the courts in India delivered quite a number of key judgements this year
If there were a poll for the most eventful year of the decade in judiciary, 2019 would be a worthy contender. After all, this year saw some of the most talked about cases like the long-standing Ayodhya Ram Jamabhoomi-Babri Masjid legal battle being adjudicated. As the year draws to a close, we look at some key cases.
1. Adultery In Homosexual Marriage Not A Criminal Offence
In February 2019, the Bombay High Court declared that an extramarital consensual same-sex relationship is not a criminal offence, much like it’s not a criminal offence in case of heterosexual couples. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India had struck down the criminalization of adultery citing that, “The interests of enforcing monogamy, protecting marriage and promoting marital fidelity, balanced against the interference of the State in the rights to privacy and sexual autonomy were clearly excessive and therefore failed the test of least restrictiveness”. In a first, the same was extended to homosexual relationships. This move not only extended social acceptance to homosexuality but also added nuance to the 2018 judgement that decriminalized homosexual relationships in India.
2. No Stay On Women’s Entry To Sabarimala
In September 2018, the five-judge bench led by then, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra, had upheld the right of women to enter the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala and worship. This judgement was met with at least 48 review petitions. This ended in the Supreme Court under CJI Ranjan Gogoi who heard the matter in open court for an entire day on February 6 this year. The judgement was released before Justice Gogoi’s retirement in November. The Supreme Court referred the case to a larger seven-judge bench and ruled no stay on women's entry. Read the full judgement here.
3. Rafale Deal Cleared With No Irregularities By SC
On 14 November, the final verdict dismissed all the PILs (Public Interest Litigation) accusing the Prime Minister’s Office of 'interference' in the defence procurement mechanism, and raising concerns of corruption and influence during the Rafale multirole fighter aircraft deal. The petitions had also raised concerns about the pricing of the combat aircraft, and the manner in which the contract had been signed. They had also raised questions regarding the role of the Anil Ambani-led Reliance group in the deal. The final legal judgement was delivered by the Supreme Court stated that no irregularities or corruption had been found.
4. Office Of Chief Justice Of India Will Be Held Accountable Under RTI
The Supreme Court, for long, has faced allegations of working in an opaque manner. Responding to a 2010 verdict passed by Delhi High Court stating that the SC was a "public authority" which would come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the SC Secretary General had cited that if the office of the CJI became open to RTI scrutiny, problems related to judicial functioning could arise. The SC, however, finally ruled in November this year that the office of the Chief Justice of India will come under the ambit of the RTI citing that, “Independence and accountability go hand in hand and that independence of the judiciary cannot be ensured only by denying information.”
5. Ranjan Gogoi Cleared Of Sexual Harrassment Charges
A three-member in-house committee headed by CJI SA Bobde gave a clean chit to former CJI Gogoi, citing that it found “no substance in the allegations of sexual harassment made by ex-employee of the Supreme Court against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi.” On 19 April 2019, an ex-Supreme Court staffer had alleged that two instances of misconduct took place in October 2018, when Justice Gogoi was sworn in as the Chief Justice of India. The controversial verdict came days after the complainant withdrew from the inquiry on 30 April after questioning its fairness.
6. Ayodhya Verdict: Land To Be Handed Over For Temple, Mosque On Alternate Site
A five-judge constitution bench rendered a unanimous verdict on 9 November, 2019, thus closing a severely prolonged, politically sensitive and divisive legal battle which had been pending in the courts since 1950.The ex-CJI Gogoi-led Bench ruled that the land belonged to the government, per tax records. It ordered for the land to be handed over to a trust to build a Hindu temple and the Sunni Waqf Board to be allotted an alternate five-acre tract of land to build a mosque.
7. SC-Ordered Floor Test On Maharashtra Government Formation
Following the controversy surrounding Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari conducting the swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, after the state elections, the Supreme Court asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra to prove its majority on the floor of the assembly. BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was ousted after his 80-hour stint as Maharashtra CM after failing to clear the floor test. Uddhav Thackeray was sworn-in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra on November 28.