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Dipak Misra's final week as CJI: From Aadhaar to Sabarimala, key judgments that he was a part of in the past week

In his final week as the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Misra — set to retire on 2 October — has passed various judgments on important cases, ranging from the one on the constitutionality of Aadhaar to the case on the entry of women into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

Misra's last working day will be 1 October as the court will not be functioning the following day on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. Ahead of his final day as the head of the judiciary of India, here's a look at the key judgments that he was a part of in his last week:

Sabarimala

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that women in the 10-50 age group should be allowed into the Sabarimala temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in Kerala.

In a 4:1 majority verdict, the five-judge constitution bench headed by Misra said that banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates the fundamental rights of Hindu women.

The CJI said religion is a way of life basically to link life with divinity. While Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI and Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting verdict.

Malhotra, the lone woman judge in the bench, passed a dissenting judgment, and said: "What constitutes essential practices of religion is to be decided by worshippers, and it is not for the judiciary to adjudicate." She held the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evils like 'sati'.

File photo of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra with President Ram Nath Kovind during his oath-taking ceremony on 28 August, 2017. PTI

File photo of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra with President Ram Nath Kovind during his oath-taking ceremony on 28 August, 2017. PTI

Ayodhya

The Supreme Court on Thursday, by a majority 2-1 judgment, rejected a plea of M Siddiq, one of the original litigants of the Ayodhya case, for referring the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue to a larger Constitution bench.

Justice S Abdul Nazeer dissented with the majority view, and said the question whether a mosque was an essential part of the religion cannot be decided without a "detailed examination of the beliefs, tenets and practice of the faith" and favoured reconsideration of the issue to a larger bench.

The majority judgment said now the civil suit on land dispute will be heard by a newly-constituted three-judge bench on 29 October in view of Misra's retirement.

Aadhaar

Observing that Aadhaar neither tends to create a "surveillance state" nor does it infringe on the right to privacy, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared that the Centre's biometric identity project was constitutionally valid.

In a 4-1 verdict that also quashed some contentious provisions of the Aadhaar Act, a constitution bench headed by Misra held that Aadhaar would remain compulsory for filing of Income Tax Returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN) and for availing facilities of welfare schemes and government subsidies.

The court ruled that seeding of Aadhaar would not be required for opening bank accounts, availing mobile services, and for admissions in schools and free education for children.

"Aadhaar gives dignity to the marginalised. Dignity to the marginalised outweighs privacy," said Justice Sikri, who sided with the majority, while reading out the operative part of the 1,448-page judgment in the packed courtroom of the CJI.

The top court struck down as unconstitutional the portion of Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 that permitted private entities like telecom companies or other corporates to avail of the biometric Aadhaar data.

Meanwhile, Justice Chandrachud gave a dissenting judgment in which he ruled that the Aadhaar Act should not have been passed as a Money Bill. He said that it amounts to a fraud on the Constitution and is liable to be struck down. The majority verdict, however, upheld the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha.

Adultery

Declaring that adultery is not a crime, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era anti-adultery law, saying it was unconstitutional, and treated women as "chattel of husbands".

The constitution bench was unanimous in striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery, holding it as manifestly arbitrary, archaic and violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women.

It said that unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution.

The top court, which held adultery as a relic of the past, said the autonomy is intrinsic in dignified human existence and Section 497 denudes women from making choices.

However, the bench also held that adultery should continue to be treated as civil wrong, and can be a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce. There can't be any social licence which destroys a home, Chief Justice Misra said.

"We declare Section 497 IPC and Section 198 of Code of Criminal Procedure dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional," said Misra, adding that any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional and it's time to say that "husband is not the master of a woman".

Politicians with criminal antecedents

In its unanimous verdict, a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Misra on Tuesday left it to Parliament to bar lawmakers facing trial for heinous and grievous offences from contesting elections by enacting a "strong law", while it observed that the criminalisation of politics is a bitter manifest truth and a "termite" to the citadel of democracy.

Refusing to put a ban on candidates with criminal antecedents from entering the poll fray, the court said the law should also make it mandatory for political parties to revoke the membership of candidates facing serious criminal cases.

The court, however, passed a slew of directions to cleanse the "polluted stream of politics", one of which was that pending criminal cases have to be stated "in bold letters" in the form provided by the Election Commission.

Arrest of five activists in Bhima-Koregaon case

In a 2:1 majority judgment, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere in the arrest of five activists in the Bhima Koregaon case in Maharashtra. It also declined to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT), allowing the Pune Police to go ahead with its probe.

The house arrest of the five rights activists — Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira — will continue for four more weeks, said the majority judgment, read out by Justice Khanwilkar.

He said that in perusal of documents submitted before the bench it was not a case of arrest merely because of dissent or difference in political views.

In a dissenting judgment, Chandrachud said the liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five rights activists were allowed without a proper investigation.

Chandrachud lashed out at the police for going public with evidence and termed it as disconcerting behaviour.

Other important judgments passed

On Wednesday, the apex court refused the Centre's plea to refer to a seven-judge bench its 2006 verdict on SC/ST job promotion. It pronounced the verdict on the ground that it was impossible to gather quantifiable data showing their backwardness backed by inadequacy of their representation and administrative efficiency. The same day, it also allowed the live streaming of its proceedings, saying the move will bring "transparency and accountability" to the judicial process and was manifestly in the "public interest".

Justice Ranjan Gogoi will take over as the CJI after Misra, on 3 October. The Supreme Court, dismissing a plea challenging Gogoi's appointment, said that the plea was "devoid of merits." Chief Justice Misra said, "We are of the view that it is not the stage to interfere (with the appointment)."

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Sep 28, 2018 18:48 PM

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