From Section 377 to ‘no’ to Aadhaar Act - Supreme Court judgments that shaped India in 2018
As 2018 comes to an end, here are the landmark judgments by the Supreme Court, which may pave the way for a liberal India.
The Supreme Court of India defied quite a few norms and stereotypes this year by allowing women to enter the Sabarimala Temple and by scrapping Section 377. It was indeed an intense year for citizens and for the corporates with verdicts on Aadhaar and cryptocurrency that redefined markets and consumer relationships.
YourStory has listed some of the judgments that have been both applauded and criticised by the country, but have also set a benchmark at the same time.
Sabarimala open to women after 27 years
Considered one of the holiest Hindu temples in the country, Sabarimala is located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. For the last 27 years, the temple has not been open to menstruating women (between the ages of 10 and 50). On September 28, the Supreme Court lifted this ban imposed by the Kerala High Court. The five-judge bench led by former Chief Justice Dipak Misra said,
“The dualism that persists in religion by glorifying and venerating women as goddesses on one hand and by imposing rigorous sanctions on the other hand in matters of devotion has to be abandoned. Such a dualistic approach and an entrenched mindset results in indignity to women and the degradation of their status.”
Husband no longer wife’s master; adultery not a crime
Just a day before the Sabarimala verdict, the apex court struck down the colonial-era law of adultery. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code stated that a woman could be punished for adultery, as could a man who has consensual sexual intercourse with another man's wife without his consent.
The apex court declared the law unconstitutional as it treated the husband as the master of his wife.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra read, "Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites the wrath of the constitution. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong."
Link your Aadhaar? No more.
On September 26, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court scrapped Section 77 of the Aadhaar Act. After 31 petitions challenged the validity of Aadhaar and said that it violated a citizen’s privacy, the court declared that while Aadhaar was constitutional it was, however, unconstitutional to make it mandatory for availing government services.
The verdict barred several private entities from asking customers to verify themselves using Aadhaar to avail their services.
See court proceedings live
On September 26, a bench led by CJI Dipak Misra stated, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, and said that all future proceedings of national and constitutional importance will be streamed live.
But, to ensure protection and privacy, it also added that cases related to matrimonial and where a child is involved like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences cases will be excluded.
No more 377 - Same-sex love is not a crime
CJI Dipak Misra also led the bench that scrapped Section 377. The bench stated it to be ‘irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary'.
The historic ruling stated,
“The natural identity of an individual should be treated to be essential to his being. What nature gives is natural. That is called nature within. Thus, that part of the personality of a person must be respected and not despised or looked down upon.”
In 2016, Hindu woman Hadiya Jahan converted to Islam and married Shafin Jahan, sparking a controversy when her father claimed that her daughter was brainwashed by extremist groups.
The issue escalated to Kerala High Court on January 19, 2016, that declared the marriage to be “only a sham”, and “a charade to force the hands of the court”. Hadiya’s custody was given to her father as the HC stated that she was incapable of taking her own decisions. But, things changed this year.
On March 8 this year, the case was heard by the Supreme Court and the final judgment came in Hadiya’s favour as the bench concluded that it was her choice to choose to live with whoever she wishes to.
The fundamental right to die
On March 9, a five-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Mishra held the right to life includes the right to die with dignity. The apex court decided passive euthanasia should be allowed for withdrawal of life support for terminally ill patients or patients in a permanent vegetative state.
In doing so, the court ensured that an individual’s right to die with dignity is more important than the state’s interest in ‘preserving the sanctity of life’.