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Landmark Verdicts, Judges' Revolt Marked 2018 In The Supreme Court

Written By Press Trust Of India | Mumbai | Published:

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  • Landmark judgments on contentious issues ranging from gender equality to sexual autonomy and clean chit to the government on the Rafale jet deal hogged the limelight in 2018 in the Supreme Court, but the revolt by four senior-most judges against the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra shocked the nation
  • The year, which commenced on a controversial note with four senior-most judges holding an unprecedented presser on January 12 raising a litany of allegations against Justice Misra, in November-end saw one of the judges again dropping a bombshell by saying "someone from outside controlled the then CJI

Landmark judgments on contentious issues ranging from gender equality to sexual autonomy and clean chit to the government on the Rafale jet deal hogged the limelight in 2018 in the Supreme Court, but the revolt by four senior-most judges against the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra shocked the nation.

The year, which commenced on a controversial note with four senior-most judges holding an unprecedented presser on January 12 raising a litany of allegations against Justice Misra, in November-end saw one of the judges again dropping a bombshell by saying "someone from outside controlled the then CJI.

While Justice Misra, who retired on October 2, maintained a stoic silence, two of the four judges -- Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph -- have since retired and Justice Madan B Lokur will demit office on December 30.

The other rebellious judge -- Justice Ranjan Gogoi -- has succeeded Justice Misra as the CJI. After his retirement, Justice Joseph has been on record that after the presser, things have changed for good and the new CJI is taking forward the issues raised by them.

Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding him, Justice Misra would be remembered for delivering several key verdicts by the constitution benches headed by him, including the upholding validity of the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme, the world's largest biometric identification project.

The year also saw a host of progressive verdicts leading to the decriminalisation of consensual gay sex, scrapping of a colonial-era law that made adultery a crime and allowing women of all age groups into Kerala's Sabarimala temple.

While most of the path-breaking judgments came days before his retirement, Justice Misra had to face more than once on the judicial side the issue of powers of the CJI in the allocation of cases which was raised by the four judges in their presser.

The issue was raked up by some civil rights groups which had failed to get favourable order for a probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabudduin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case.

The Loya case had a far-reaching impact as the judge, who was assigned the case by the then CJI to look into it, had reportedly expressed his unhappiness over the allegations by the four judges and the rights group that there was some bias by him in dealing with the case.

Justice Misra was also the cynosure of all eyes as a bench headed by him was hearing the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case and some of the senior advocates, affiliated to the Congress and representing one of the litigants in the matter, repeatedly urged him to postpone the hearing till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

READ: Supreme Court Must Fast-track Hearing In Ayodhya Title Suit: Ravi Shankar Prasad

The Muslim litigants insisted that the court has to first take a call on whether to refer to a larger bench the "questionable observation" in its 1994 judgement that "mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam".

A bench headed by Justice Misra, by a 2:1 majority, declined to refer the issue to a larger bench and after his retirement, the matter has gone to a bench headed by CJI Gogoi which has declined early hearing and is scheduled to take it up for allocating it before an appropriate bench.

Justice Gogoi as the CJI had to face criticism of opposition parties for the judgement in the Rafale fighter jets deal in which a bench headed by him did not find any irregularities in the purchase of 36 aircraft from France.

The verdict has already snowballed into a controversy with a paragraph in the judgement saying that the CAG report on pricing details has been placed before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Centre moved the court for correction in the verdict where a reference has been made about the Comptroller and Auditor General report and the PAC, saying "misinterpretation" of its note has "resulted in a controversy in the public domain".

WATCH: 'Please Stay Out Of Rafale Debate', Says P Chidambaram To Forces After Moily Calls The IAF Chief A Liar

The top court also witnessed a never-seen feud between CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

Both the warring officers were sent on leave by the Centre which termed their spat as "Kilkenny cats' fight" before the top court, which has reserved its verdict of Verma's plea challenging the government's order divesting him of his duties and sending him on leave.

The CBI also faced flak for filing an appeal after 13 years in the politically-sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case and the apex court dismissed its plea against the Delhi High Court 2005 verdict discharging all the accused, including the Hinduja brothers.

However, the Bofors case is still alive in the apex court as the agency has been allowed to raise all grounds in the appeal filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal, a BJP leader who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Rai Bareilly seat against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The political fight between the Congress-JD (S) combine and the BJP over the Karnataka assembly polls also had its echo in the apex court which held a pre-dawn hearing in the matter.

While sensitive constitutional and political cases were regularly finding space in the media, the Supreme Court kept itself busy with environmental issues and banned the use of firecrackers other than "green crackers" and allowed its bursting to two-hour only on Diwali and other festivals.

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