In one of the most important and most anticipated judgments in India’s history, a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century-old dispute. The apex court cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
The court said that the mosque should be constructed at a “prominent site” and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
Now that the politically-sensitive Ayodhya verdict has been delivered, CJI Ranjan Gogoi has five other landmark judgments to deliver before he retires from office on November 17. As a CJI, Gogoi has heard several landmark cases, including the one on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Others include the Markandey Katju provocation case, Justice Karnan contempt of court case among a few others.
It’s not really a break from the past for Chief Justices of India to keep a bank of key judgments in the tow for the last month before their retirement. In the past, former Chief Justices Dipak Misra, J S Khehar and T S Thakur set the precedent by delivering crucial verdicts in the last month of their tenures as well.
Let’s take a look at what’s in store for CJI Ranjan Gogoi:
On September 28 last year, a five-judge constitution bench headed by the then chief justice Dipak Misra, in a 4:1 verdict, had paved the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination. But the judgment invited backlash from a few Hindu groups.
After the judgment, nearly 65 petitions were filed that sought a review of the verdict. The petitions are being heard by a Constitution bench led by CJI Gogoi. The review petitions will settle, once and for all, the fact that whether courts should interfere at all in the religious customs.
A three-judge Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph is expected to deliver its verdict on a clutch of petitions seeking review of its December 14 judgment last year, which had dismissed the pleas challenging India’s agreement with France to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets.
While dismissing the petitions last December, the Bench had said it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision-making, pricing and selection of offset partners. It had said there was no material to show that the government had favoured anyone commercially. During the review, the Centre has maintained that the pricing details could not be made public due to security concerns. However, petitioner and senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan had questioned how revealing the price of the Rafale would affect national security when the RFP (request for proposal) for the 126 jets had all the technical details of the aircraft.
In April earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi for attributing a statement, ‘Chowkidar chor hai’, to the court when it delivered its judgment on the Rafale deal documents. The criminal contempt plea was filed by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi.
Later, Gandhi had apologised for wrongly attributing the remarks. However, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of Lekhi, told the bench that action must be taken against the Congress leader and his apology should be rejected.
Back in April this year, the Supreme Court bench led by Gogoi issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Finance Act, 2017, as it “purports to” change the constitution of tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and adversely affect “functioning and independence” of the environment body.
The plea, filed by the NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE), challenged Sections 156 to 189 of the Act dated March 31, 2017 and the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 framed under Section 184 of the Act.
If the office of CJI should come under the ambit of RTI
The Supreme Court will pronounce whether the office of Chief justice of India should come under the Right to Information Act (RTI) or not. The apex court had in April reserved its verdict on three appeals filed by its own registry that challenged a Delhi High Court order which stated that Supreme Court and the office of Chief Justice of India constitute to be a public authority under the RTI.
The Delhi High Court had ruled that the CJI office and the apex court are liable to disclose information as in case of other public authorities under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
(With inputs from ENS)