As we step into the new year 2019, let us look back at some of the pathbreaking judgments delivered this year by the Honourable Supreme Court that will guide the legislature and the judiciary alike for decades to come.
Holding “right to die with dignity as a fundamental right”, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declared that an adult human being having mental capacity to take an informed decision has right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices. It further held that a person of competent mental faculty is entitled to execute an Advance Medical Directive in accordance with safeguards as referred to above, Common Cause v. Union of India, (2018) 5 SCC 1.
The Court was faced with deciding on the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC which penalised gay sex among other unnatural sexual acts. In order to “set the course for the future”, the Court attempted to “right a wrong by history” by holding Section 377 IPC unconstitutional insofar it penalised consensual sexual acts between adults in private, Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1.
Stating in very categorical terms that “Patriarchal notion can’t trump equality in devotion”, the Court allowed women of all age to enter the ancient shrine of Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, Indian Young Lawyers Assn. v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1690.
In a 1448-pages judgment, the Court also pronounced the decision on validity of Section 497 IPC which brought ‘adultery’ in the box of criminalisation. Observing that “any system treating a woman with indignity, inequity and inequality or discrimination invites a wrath of the Constitution”, the Court held Section 497 IPC and Section 198(2) CrPC to be violative of Articles 14, 15(1) and 21 and therefore ultra vires the Constitution, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine 1676.
Majority of the judges on a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court decided in favour of upholding the validity of Aadhaar Act albeit conditionally. Certain order and/or circulars making the citing of Aadhaar number mandatory were held unconstitutional and struck down. K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Aadhaar-5 J.), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1642.
In a much-hyped case requiring adjudication on the Constitutional matter of ‘statehood’ to NCT of Delhi, the court held that the real power of the administration of the Capital lies with the democratically elected Government of NCT of Delhi and the Lieutenant Governor is bound by the ‘aid and advice’ of council of ministers of the Government of NCT of Delhi, State (NCT of Delhi) v. Union of India, (2018) 8 SCC 501.
A three-judge bench of the Court was faced with the question whether to refer the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi matter to larger bench or not. As per Dr Rajiv Dhavan, Senior Advocate appearing for the appellant in the matter, the earlier judgment of M. Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India, (1994) 6 SCC 360 required re-consideration because the law laid down in that case in relation to praying in a mosque not being an essential practice is contrary to both, i.e. the law relating to essential practice and the process by which essential practice is to be considered. However, the Court held that the matter need not be referred to a larger bench, M. Siddiq v. Suresh Das, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1677.
Parliamentary Standing Committee Report or any Parliamentary Committee Report can be taken judicial notice of and regarded as admissible in evidence, but it can neither be impinged nor challenged nor its validity can be called in question. Kalpana Mehta v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 512.
CJ Dipak Misra delivered the Judgment for the 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of himself and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ. wherein the Court issued certain directions while disposing the petition concerning the question whether disqualification from the membership of the legislature could be laid down by the Court beyond Article 102 (a) to (d) and the law made by the Parliament under Article 102 (e) of the Constitution.
The Court was of the clear opinion that it cannot legislate. The Supreme Court, at the outset, perused Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution and observed it to be clear as crystal that as regards the disqualification for being chosen as a member of either House of Parliament and similarly for a legislative assembly or legislative council of a State, the law has to be made by the Parliament. Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1617.
The 3-Judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ sat for answering the question as to whether the elders of the family or clan can ever be allowed to proclaim a verdict guided by some notion of passion and eliminate the life of the young who have exercised their choice to get married against the wishes of their elders or contrary to the customary practice of the clan, it held that the answer has to be an emphatic “No” and recommended the legislature to bring law appositely covering the field of honour killing. Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 275