A crusade for women’s rights

Headline : A crusade for women’s rights

Details :

The News

  • The Supreme Court is being seen as a crusade for women’s rights because of its various verdicts in favour of women rights.

Recent important Supreme Court verdicts

  • Candidates contesting elections cannot be disqualified on framing of charges
    • A Constitution Bench ruled that candidates contesting elections cannot be disqualified on the grounds that a charge sheet has been filed against them.
    • The Court, however, issued directions in this regard to ensure that the criminal antecedents of candidates contesting elections are put out in public domain and given wide publicity so as to inform the citizenry and electorate of the candidate’s credentials.
    • Additionally, the Court expressed hope that the Parliament would step in to take steps in order to decriminalise Indian Politics and ensure free and fair elections.
  • Three-member committee to look into prison reforms
    • A Bench of 2 judges ordered setting up of a three-member committee to look into issues plaguing Indian prisons, including overcrowding and lack of basic living conditions.
    • The committee which is to be headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Amitava Roy is required to file its reports from time to time and make recommendations for reformation of prisons in the country.
  • Reservation in Promotions: M Nagaraj need not be referred to 7-Judge Bench
    • A Constitution Bench held that the M Nagaraj judgment of 2006, which deals with reservation in promotions for SC/ST communities, need not be referred to a larger Bench.
    • The Court, however, stated that the concept of creamy layer would apply to SC/ST also so far as promotions were concerned.
    • The Court also said that the direction in Nagaraj judgment which required State governments to collect quantifiable data to ascertain backwardness of a community is bad in law.
  • Supreme Court upholds Aadhaar, strikes down some provisions
    • The Aadhaar judgment which ran into 1448 pages, was one of the most talked about verdicts.
    • A Benchupheld the validity of Aadhaar by 4:1 majority.
    • While Aadhaar was upheld in principle and for most purposes, linkage and requirement of Aadhaar with Mobile numbers and Bank accounts was struck down.
  • SC allows live streaming of cases of Constitutional importance
    • A three-judge Bench allowed live streaming of cases of Constitutional importance.
    • The Court provided directions for framing of guidelines to implement the pilot project.
  • Adultery no longer a Crime, Supreme Court strikes down Section 497 IPC
    • On September 27, the Constitution Bench unanimously struck down Section 497 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalised Adultery.
    • The law was found to be unconstitutional in four separate but concurring opinions and it was ruled that while Adultery remains a ground for civil remedy and dissolution of marriage, it cannot be held to be a criminal offence.
  • Supreme Court declines to refer Ram Mandir-Babri case to Constitution Bench
    • The ruling in the 1994 case of Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India was in question before the Bench with the Muslim parties claiming that the case needs to be reconsidered.
    • On September 27, a three-judge Bench ruled by a 2:1 majority, that the question of a Mosque’s essentiality In Islam for offering Namaz need not be referred to a larger Bench.
  • Supreme Court allows entry of women in Sabarimala temple
    • In another landmark ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 thereby paving the way for the entry of women into Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
    • The entry of women between the ages 10 and 50 had been prohibited by the aforesaid Rule.
  • Bhima Koregaon: SC declines to constitute SIT, DY Chandrachud J. dissents
    • In this case concerning the arrest of five lawyers/journalists/human rights activists relating to violence in Bhima Koregaon in January this year, the three-judge Bench refused, by a 2:1 majority, to constitute a Special Investigation Team to probe the matter.




Analysis of the verdicts delivered by the Supreme Court

  • The above cases reflect that the court has not shied away from confronting age-old personal law practices, usages and customs which were considered taboo.
  • In last two years despite the changes in Chief Justices, the Court has remained steadfast in its objective to realise the equal status of women.
  • The Supreme Court has given various verdicts promoting women emancipation which can be seen through following:
    • In Sabarimala case, the court held that the ban on women, based on their menstrual status, considering them as “polluted” and a distraction for worshippers vowed to celibacy, is a “form of untouchability”.
    • In no uncertain terms, the court told the world that India still practices untouchability 63 years after the social evil was abolished under the Untouchability (Offences) Act in 1955.
    • In October 2016, a Supreme Court bench drew a parallel between the restriction on women worshipping in Sabarimala temple and Mumbai’s famed Haji Ali Dargah.
    • The then Chief Justice Thakur had observed that ‘exclusion’ is practised by both Hindus and Muslims and the “problem needs to be addressed’”.
    • Hardly a week later, theDargah Trust conceded before the court that it has resolved to allow women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah “at par with men”.
    • Triple Talaq case: On August 22, 2017 the Supreme Court declared the triple talaq unconstitutional and anti-Quran.
    • Over the past year, the Court has intervened with the Parsi elders to allow Goolrokh Gupta, a Parsi woman, who married outside her faith, to pray at the Tower of Silence for her departed father.
    • It has also referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether the practice of female circumcisionor khafz, prevalent in the DawoodiBohra sect, amounts to “female genital mutilation” and is a violation of women’s right to life and dignity.
  • However, when it comes to politically-charged cases like the Ayodhya dispute and the arrest of five activists in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, majority decisions in the court continue to take cover behind legal technicalities.
  • The court’s decisions in three cases — Aadhaar, Ayodhya and activists’ arrests reflect the same.
  • The dissenting opinions in these cases where strong enough to be considered but were undermined bythe opinions of the majority on the Bench.
  • Let’s see this through the different cases:
    • In Bhima-Koregaon case, the majority opinion retains the probe with the Maharashtra Police.
    • However, it undermined the dissenting opinion that the investigation should go to a SIT as there is “prejudice” on the side of the police.
    • In the Ayodhya case, the dissenting opinion was that the 1994 Ismail Faruqui verdict, whether ‘offering prayers in a mosque is an essential part of Islam or not’, greatly influenced the Allahabad High Court’s judgment to divide the Ayodhya land in September 2010.
    • However, the majority opinion rested comfortably on the conclusion that the observation was confined to the facts of the Faruqui case.
    • In the Aadhaar case, the majority opinion holds that the right to dignity to the poor outweighs the right to privacy.
    • However, the dissenting opinion, argued that it is not necessary to sacrifice privacy for dignity.
Section : Polity & Governance