With curtains coming down on 2017, we retrospect on some of the most liberal rulings passed by courts across the country.
A quick sneak peek into the year that went by hints us of more farmer suicides, weak monsoons, price rises and controversies over banning movies.
However, 2017 also won many laurels for India- we put more satellites in space, clinched Miss World and lifted the Women’s Cricket World Cup in aplomb.
Hits and misses aside, 2017 was also a landmark year for the Indian judiciary system, with the apex court leading from the front in rolling out back-to-back historic judgments.
While the Supreme Court upheld death sentences of Nirbhaya rapists, special courts across the country also convicted six accused in the Mumbai bomb blast case and pronounced Gurmeet Ram Rahim of the Dera Sachcha Sauda to be guilty of rape. In yet another criminal case, that has remained a national mystery for a decade, dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were released from prison after the Allahabad High Court acquitted them of the twin murders of daughter, Aarushi, and domestic help Hemraj, due to lack of evidence.
While some of these judgments pertaining to specific cases hogged the limelight, there were also verdicts that promised to have a far-reaching impact on Indians. Here’s a quick look at five such progressive rulings passed by Indian courts in 2017:
Triple talaq illegal
In a breakthrough verdict, the Supreme Court bench hearing on the gender discrimination of Muslim women in cases of divorce, struck down the practice of ‘talaq-e-bidat’, also called the ‘instant triple talaq’, calling it illegal. A Constitutional bench of five members that also included Chief Justice of India J.S.Khehar deemed the practice as unconstitutional by a 3:2 majority.
The judgment came after the apex court addressed five different writ petitions filed by Muslim women who had suffered intense torture and harassment in cases of triple talaq. The lead petition in this case was filed by Shayara Bano in 2015 who advocated the practice of instant talaq as violating Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.
Right to Privacy a fundamental right
In the most celebrated judgment of the year, a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court elevated the right to privacy as a fundamental right. The unanimous verdict upheld the liberal ethos and republican values of the Indian Constitution and was delivered in the case of Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd) v/s Union of India.
The 547-page judgment that came out on August 24 was hailed by legal experts and critics alike for its clarity and finesse. Even public masses welcomed the verdict for it meant it can redefine concepts of liberty (in terms of forced compilation of biometric data) and restructure ways to safeguarding a person’s privacy.
Sex with minor wife criminal
In another milestone verdict, the SC criminalised sex with a minor wife aged between 15 and 18 years.
Clarifying that it was not dealing with the whole issue of marital rape as such, the court overturned an exception in rape law which allowed a husband to have sex with his wife aged 15 years and above (with or without consent) without it being punishable.
This ruling delivered in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO Independent Thought, will also apply to Muslims irrespective of the fact that Muslim Personal Law allows marriage at the age of 15.
Death for honour killings
In a country where many honour killings either go unreported to unpunished, the verdict in the case of Kausalya made it to the top headlines after it became only the second honour killings case in the country to hand out capital punishment to the accused.
The heinous murder of V Sankar, caught on CCTV cameras had shocked the southern state of Tamil Nadu where stringent practices of caste annihilation still prevail. Kausalya, Sanker’s wife, sustained injuries surviving the gruesome honour killing attempt.
A judgment given by a Principal Court in Tirupur on December 12 awarded death sentences to six accused in the case including Kausalya’s father, who conspired and killed Sanker, a Dalit who had wedded his daughter in 2015.
Ban on Diwali crackers
Delhi, deemed to be the most polluted city in the world, had a relatively cleaner Diwali this year, thanks to the apex court’s ban on sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR). In a ruling given in early October, the SC also temporarily suspended licences handed over by Delhi Police permitting the sale of Diwali crackers in Delhi and within NCR.
With a toxic haze choking the city dwellers post Diwali, Delhi’s pollutant levels rose to dangerous levels in the past few years. In this context, the SC’s rather eco-friendly verdict was a huge step in the right direction. It paved way for many megacities like Bengaluru, which is now following the footsteps to introduce various measures to ensure pollutant-free environs.