Congress president Rahul Gandhi hugging Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a debate in Lok Sabha, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 377, the #MeToo movement, Kerala floods and extradition of fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi dominated the headlines this year. Here is a look back at the top news of 2018.
Four SC judges hold press conference against Dipak Misra
In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court judges – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – held a press conference in January launching a sharp attack against the then CJI Dipak Misra for “ignoring the concerns voiced by them”. Adding that “all is not well” in the apex court, the judges questioned Misra over the manner in which the cases were assigned in the roster.
Underlining they were convinced that democracy will not survive if the institution of judiciary was not protected, they said they have failed to convince Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra about the same. Adding that they had no choice but to go public with their concerns, the judges said: “We don’t want wise men saying 20 years from now that we sold our souls and didn’t do the right thing by our Constitution.”
PNB scam and Vijay Mallya
Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by investigating agencies after PNB complained against their companies, saying that the bank had been cheated of Rs 13,600 crore through fraudulent issue of letters LoUs and foreign letters of credit (FLCs). PNB in its January 29 complaint to CBI said that the bank detected the fraud only in third week of January.
Both Modi and Choksi left India in the first week of January. While Nirav Modi is in the UK and has applied for asylum in June, Choksi has become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda and is learnt to be residing there. Read More
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court recently ordered the extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya. On charges of fraud and money-laundering, several banks initiated legal proceedings against Mallya for the repayment of unpaid loan amounting to more than 9,000 crores. Mallya had left the country in 2016. Read More
ICICI’s Chanda Kochhar’s conflict of interest case
ICICI Bank managing director and CEO Chanda Kochhar quit the bank on October 4 amid allegations of a conflict of interest. The Indian Express on March 29 had first reported that Videocon group promoter Venugopal Dhoot provided crores of rupees to NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL), a firm he had set up with Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar and two relatives, six months after the Videocon group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from ICICI Bank in 2012. Read More
The final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) list, published on July 30, included names of 2.89 crores of 3.29 crore applicants. A total of 40,70,707 people did not make it to the list. However, the government said that people with missing names in the draft can file claims for inclusion. The filing of claims had started on September 25. The Supreme Court on December 12 extended the last date of filing to December 31 saying: “It was doing this keeping in mind the rate at which the claims are being received.” The NRC will include the names of all Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971. The application process for the NRC started in May 2015 and a total of 6.5 crore documents were received from 68.27 lakh families across Assam. Read More
Rahul Gandhi-PM Modi hug
The famous hug between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot be forgotten and can be rather called ‘hug of the year’. During the no-confidence motion debate in the Lok Sabha on July 20, a hug, a wink, a slip of tongue and peals of laughter amused parliamentarians amidst a string of sharp comments and scathing counter-attacks between the two. Read More
An extraordinary southwest monsoon in Kerala unleashed unprecedented floods and landslides in the state, the magnitude of which has rarely been observed in recent memory. The situation, described as unprecedented by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was considered similar to the violent floods of 1924 if not as serious. The calamity, which made landfall August 8, had claimed 493 lives and placed over 8.69 lakh people in relief camps. Even after 3 months of the disaster, the biggest challenge for the state has been to raise money for the relief and rehabilitation process. Read More
The #MeToo movement rocked India in 2018 with multiple women accusing and naming men in sexual harassment cases. Several prominent names mainly from film and media industry cropped up — Alok Nath, Nana Patekar, Sajid Khan, Subhash Ghai, Musicians — Kailash Kher, Anu Malik, journalists — Vinod Dua, Prashant Jha, Suhel Seth, BJP leader MJ Akbar, author Chetan Bhagat among others. The campaign got a fresh lease of life in India this year after actor Tanushree Dutta accused fellow actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her during a film shoot in 2008. Since then multiple women have come forward on different social media platforms to name men who they say have sexually harassed or assaulted them in the past. Click to read more
Assembly elections in 2018
Assembly elections were held in several states including Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. Among these, Congress formed government in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh, while TRS retained Telangana and MNF won Mizoram. In Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura where elections were held in February, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP)’s Neiphiu Rio, Conrad Sangma of National People’s Party (NPP) and Biplab Kumar Deb of BJP, respectively were elected as chief ministers.
However, a high-octane assembly poll, a thrilling government formation exercise filled with nail-biting twists and turns, and never-ending coalition worries encapsulated 2018 in Karnataka. While the BJP got the majority, its state chief BS Yeddyurappa could not pass the floor test and had to resign a day after taking over as the chief minister. After this, Congress-JD(S) alliance formed the government with HD Kumaraswamy holding the CM office. Click to read more
Major SC judgments
In 2018, the Supreme Court passed historic judgments on several matters including women’s entry to Sabarimala shrine, Section 377, Aadhaar, Adultery among others. On September 6, scrapping the 157-year-old colonial-era law on homosexuality, the top court overturned its previous order on Section 377 and decriminalised gay sex. The section will, however, continue to apply to bestiality and sexual acts without consent and those involving a minor. In another verdict, the court lifted centuries’ old prohibition of menstruating women between ages 10 and 50 from entering Sabarimala temple in Kerala on September 28. However, despite several attempts, no women have been able to visit the shrine yet due to huge protests against the order.
The Supreme Court on September 26 declared that use of Aadhaar was constitutional but ruled that it is unconstitutional to make it compulsory when a citizen wants to avail government services. The then CJI Dipak Misra said banks and telecommunication companies should not make it mandatory for their customers to link Aadhaar number to their phone number and bank accounts.
Death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other veterans
The year 2018 saw deaths of several famous personalities including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, BJP leader Ananth Kumar, and actor Sridevi. While the BJP stalwart Vajpayee died on August 16 at the age of 93, Karunanidhi breathed his last at the age of 94 on August 7. BJP lost its key leader in the south in Ananth Kumar’s death who died of lung cancer at the age of 59 on November 12. And Sridevi passed away on February 24 in a Dubai hotel due to cardiac arrest. She was 54.
2018 also saw a massive agitations by farmers from across the country several times. While some protests were held against the government to get fair prices for their agricultural produce, others were for the farm loan waiver and package for drought-affected regions. Last year, BJP’s Yogi Adityanath and Devendra Fadnavis had announced loan waiver of Rs 36,359-crore and Rs 30,500 crore, respectively. On the other hand, the Congress after winning three states recently has announced loan waiver of Rs 35,000-38,000 crore, Rs 18,000 crore and Rs 6,100 crore for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, respectively. Read More
Changing names of cities
This year three cities in Uttar Pradesh were renamed. Allahabad become Prayagraj, Faizabad renamed as Ayodhya and and Mughal Sarai’s name was changed to to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya.
PM Modi on October 31 unveiled the world’s tallest statue — Statue of Unity — as a tribute to the freedom fighter and India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The 182-metre long statue, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, is built at a cost of Rs 2,989 crore. Following this, the Uttar Pradesh government’s also announced that it will build a 221-metre statue of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Soon after this, the Maharashtra government said that it may increase the height of the proposed Shivaji memorial statue (212 m) to make it taller than the Ram statue.
CBI vs CBI war
2018 saw a bitter fight between CBI Director Alok Verma and his number two, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, which had “exposed the CBI to ridicule”. Amid several accusations, allegations and investigations, the Government decided to divest Alok Kumar Verma, Rakesh Asthana of their functions, power, duty and supervisory role in any manner as Director and Special Director, respectively as an interim measure till the CVC concludes its inquiry. Currently, Nageshwar Rao, IPS, who was working as CBI Joint Director, was appointed to look after the duties and functions of the director. The Supreme Court, however, on December 5 wondered if the Centre had the power to take the extreme step. Read More
President’s rule in J&K
On December 19, as Jammu and Kashmir completed six months under Governor’s rule, the President’s Rule was imposed in the state. The state plunged into a political crisis in June after the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed. After 1996, this is the first time the Central rule has been imposed in the militancy-hit state. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the legislative assembly minutes after Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP staked claim to form the government with the support of Congress and National Conference.
Extradition of Christian Michel
Christian Michel James, the key accused in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, was extradited from UAE to India on the night of December 4. He was chargesheeted and arrested in connection with the case and has been sent to judicial custody till December 28. 54-year-old Michel was among the alleged middlemen who brokered the deal and who, investigators claim, paid bribes to officials and politicians to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica. Read More
Rafale deal controversy and SC verdict on it
The Rafale deal controversy — over the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation— saw a sharp exchange of words between the government and the Opposition. The Supreme Court on December 14, however, dismissed all petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the matter. The court said it was satisfied with the procurement process and that it found no reason to interfere in the pricing or the offset partner chosen as part of the deal. The Congress, however, is demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the matter saying the government presented “wrong facts” before the Supreme Court which led to “factual bloomers” in the Rafale aircraft deal judgment that gave the government relief. Read More
The long-standing demand to open a corridor from India to Pakistan to allow pilgrims to enter Pakistan and visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district was fulfilled after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 28 laid the foundation stone for the visa-free corridor. Kartarpur Sahib is revered as the place where Guru Nanak is said to have spent his final days and where he breathed his last. It is expected to be completed within six months. A day earlier, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had laid the foundation stone for the corridor on the Indian side in Gurdaspur. Read everything here
Urjit Patel resigns, Shaktikanta Das takes over as new RBI Governor
Urjit Patel resigned as the RBI Governor on December 10 citing personal reasons amid a bitter dispute over the regulator’s autonomy. A day after, former economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das was appointed the 25th governor of the RBI. For Das, the biggest challenge now is to handle the pressure from the government on issues such as the restructuring of loans, infusing liquidity and sticking to its strict default norms for resolution of bad debts in banks’ books, where the Centre has favoured a more lenient approach. Meanwhile, Patel, who had taken over the reins of the RBI from Raghuram Rajan in September 2016, has become the first governor since 1990 to step down before the end of his term. His term was supposed to end in September 2019.