With just 20 working days left in the term of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, verdicts in at least 10 important cases, including a key case related to the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case are expected over the next few weeks.
Perhaps the most keenly-awaited ruling by a bench led by CJI Misra is the one on the NDA government’s ambitious push to Aadhaar, the biometric-based national identification platform. Petitions filed by social activists have challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law. A constitution bench had on May 10 reserved the verdict after a marathon 38-day hearing, spanning four months.
A constitution bench is also expected to deliver its verdict on petitions demanding decriminalization of section 377 Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. The verdict was reserved on July 17.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Misra will also give an answer to the pertinent question on whether a mosque is integral to Islam. A ruling on this is necessary before the top court takes up the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute. On July 20, a three-judge special bench reserved its verdict after Muslim parties demanded a reconsideration of the 1994 M Ismail Farooqui judgement holding a mosque is not integral to Islam. If the bench rules in favour of the Muslim parties then the matter will be referred to a larger bench of seven judges.
To be sure, this will not be the first time there is a flurry of judgements ahead of the retirement of a CJI. Still, experts point out that some of the judgements delivered over the next 20 days will have far-reaching consequences.
“The next few weeks are going to be very important for the country. The top court is set to adjudicate on many contentious issues that will determine not just the polity but also settle contentious social issues one way or other,” said senior advocate Gyanant Singh. “It’s an unprecedented situation that so many judgments with far reaching impact will be delivered,” he said.
Then there’s the question of whether women of a certain age group can be barred from entering the Sabarimala temple. A constitution bench led by CJI Misra has reserved its order on this issue after an NGO approached it questioning the prohibition. During the hearing the court observed that the practice was based on the “patriarchal” belief that a man’s dominant status in the society makes him capable of austerity.
Petitions dealing with another outdated penal law dealing with adultery are also awaiting a final decision from the top court.
The NDA government’s plea to review a 2006 judgement that restricts reservation in promotion in government jobs for SC/ST is also awaiting a verdict from a constitution bench led by CJI Misra.
The SC also has to deliver its verdict on whether legislators can be stopped from practising as advocates, and on the disqualification of lawmakers facing criminal charges from contesting elections.