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Supreme verdicts in 2019

Supreme verdicts in 2019
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Highlights

Verdicts paving the way for construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya and India's multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France were 2019's landmark imprints of the Supreme Court, which also found itself at the centre of a controversy with then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi being accused of sexual harassment before getting the clean chit.

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Verdicts paving the way for construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya and India's multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France were 2019's landmark imprints of the Supreme Court, which also found itself at the centre of a controversy with then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi being accused of sexual harassment before getting the clean chit.

Controversies around former CJIs notwithstanding, Justice (retd) Gogoi was the first head of the judiciary against whom a stunning claim of sexual harassment was made by a former apex court employee.

The controversy was put to rest following a clean chit to him by the Supreme Court's In-House Inquiry Committee, headed by present CJI S A Bobde who took charge as head of judiciary this year.

The top court also saw a spate of pleas against the Centre's historical move abrogating the provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and subsequent restrictions and detention of leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

The year would however be remembered for the historic verdict on the centuries old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute at Ayodhya. A failed mediation put the onus on the top court to resolve the issue.

A 5-judge bench, headed by the then CJI Gogoi, heard the parties involved for 40 days -- second longest hearing in its history -- and unanimously cleared the way for construction of temple at the disputed site and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to Muslims for a mosque.

The apex court widened the scope of judicial scrutiny into alleged discrimination against women in various religions by referring to a 7-judge bench the pleas seeking review of its historic 2018 verdict allowing women and girls of all ages to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple.

The politically-sensitive Rafale jet case, which kept the Modi government on tenterhooks, ended in favour of the Centre with the apex court upholding its last year's decision and dismissing various review pleas for a CBI probe into inter-governmental India-France pact to procure 36 fully loaded fighter jets from Dassault Aviation.

The year also saw the top court shed its reluctance on sharing information under the Right to Information Act, with a path-breaking verdict holding that the CJI's office is a public authority under transparency law and amenable to disclosure.

Pleas related to nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, which aims to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, also engaged the top court which referred the issues of alleged police atrocities on protestors to the concerned high courts.

Besides, it monitored the exercise of finalisation of Assam NRC in which 19,06,657 of the total 3,30,27,661 applicants were excluded.

The year also saw the Supreme Court take tough stand against rising sexual offences against women and children. It upheld the death sentence of one of the four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case and came up with guidelines for setting up special courts in each district with over 100 FIRs to deal with POCSO cases.

Politically influential persons including expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and former Union minister Swami Chinmayanand, accused of sexual offences, found themselves at the receiving end.

From handling cases involving senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and D K Shivakumar, to awarding life term to expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar for raping a minor in Unnao and dealing with lawyer-police clashes, Delhi courts had an eventful 2019.

Chidambaram was finally able to walk out of jail on December 4, after 105 days in custody, as by the apex court granted him bail in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate.

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