A landmark, many significant rulings of 2019
It was an eventful year for the Supreme Court that decided matters of constitutional and political importance. Below is our pick of some of the key judgments in 2019:
The judgment on November 9 brought to conclusion a dispute that had spanned more than half a century, cost thousands of lives and changed the political landscape of the country. A Constitution bench awarded the disputed site of 2.77 acres to the child deity, Ram Lalla Virajman, while ordering that Muslim parties be given an alternative site of 5 acres to construct a new mosque.
In its 1,045-page judgment, the court acknowledged the illegalities committed by Hindu Parties. The title to the site was, however, awarded to the Hindus on the ground that their claims to possession stood on a better stead.
The court also directed the central government to form a trust to oversee the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site. The review petitions filed by Muslim parties were dismissed by the court on December 12.
Finance Act and the money bill route
This verdict on November 13 ruled on the significant issue of government adopting the money bill route to pass laws in Parliament.
As per Article 110 of the Constitution, a money bill contains only provisions relating to taxation, borrowing of money by government, appropriation of money out of Consolidated Fund of India and expenditure from or to the Consolidated Fund of India.
A money bill originates in Lok Sabha and once passed by a simple majority, it is send to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations. These recommendations are not binding.
The current government, which does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, has used the money bill route on more than one occasion to pass contentious laws. The Finance Act 2017, which brought about significant changes to the functioning of tribunals and appointment and service conditions of its members, was challenged on the ground that it cannot be classified as a money bill.
The government had relied on the Aadhaar verdict of 2018. The Aadhaar Act, which was passed as money bill, had been given a stamp of approval by the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar judgment. However, the court expressed doubt regarding the correctness of the Aadhaar judgment. Since the Aadhaar judgment was delivered by a bench of five judges, the Court ordered that a seven-judge Bench should decide this issue.
A five-judge bench by a majority of 3:2 held that Sabarimala temple entry of women case deserves a relook. The court had, in September 2018, struck down a law that had prohibited entry of women between 10-50 years into Sabarimala temple. The judgment had sparked violent protests.
On November 14, the SC bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi ruled that the review petitions should be kept pending and decided only after the court answers similar issues in three cases relating to Muslim and Parsi women.A seven-judge bench of the court will now decide these crucial issues.
A three-judge bench turned down the review petitions filed against the 2018 verdict of the top court which had rejected prayer for an SIT probe into deal between Indian government and France’s Dassault Aviation for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets. The court on November 14 held that it cannot order a roving and fishing inquiry when dealing with a contract.
Besides, the judgment allowing review petitions challenging its 2018 order that had diluted provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; and the judgment affirming that the office of the Chief Justice of India falls within the ambit of Right To Information Act, too, received considerable attention.