The Indian Judicial System, though riddled with problems like inadequate capacity and appointment of judges, has time and again steered the course of the nation towards the values that are enshrined in our Constitution. From cases related to the conviction of numerous criminals, terrorists and corrupt officials who have threatened to disrupt the social and economic fabric of the nation, to those landmark rulings related to barring convicted politicians from Parliament and introduction of NOTA in elections – the Indian Courts have often protected and preserved the sanctity of our democracy. The week gone by was clearly one of the most illustrious periods for the Indian Judiciary, where it pronounced three back-to-back landmark judgements that may go a long way in reshaping our daily lives and deepen our faith in truth and justice.
The fourth week of August started with a long-awaited judgement on Triple Talaq, an archaic practice now deemed illegal by the Supreme Court. The long-drawn debate had begun in 1985 when the famous Shah Bano judgement for providing alimony to divorced Muslim women had thrown light on the secondary status of women in Muslim personal laws. Although that ruling got overturned by the then Congress government, the ray of hope which it had shown lived on. Fittingly, that debate culminated with the current Shayara Bano v. Union of India case on which the judgement came on Tuesday. The Supreme Court set aside Instant Talaq as a “manifestly arbitrary” practice which cannot be protected by Article 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution and ruled that the whimsical practice violated the Right to Equality.
Given that most religious and political factions welcomed this decision, it is safe to say that the Supreme Court upheld the rights of those who were wronged for years and instilled a true sense of justice among the citizens.
The Court followed it up with another much-awaited decision, which is bound to impact the entire population of the country and trigger changes in many other past judgements. On Thursday, the Supreme Court declared that Privacy is a Fundamental Right of every citizen and is guaranteed to them by the Indian Constitution. The hearings for this verdict began in 2015 with a challenge to the Aadhaar scheme which was being seen as a threat to one’s privacy. The Court unanimously ruled that privacy was intrinsic to one’s life and liberty, and the government should “intrude” into it only for legitimate public and state reasons.
This verdict is bound to have ripple effects across numerous past judgements, from Section 377 which criminalizes consensual sexual act among LGBT adults in private, to even the contract between Facebook and WhatsApp for sharing users’ personal data.
Then on Friday, the special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana found self-styled Godman, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty in a 2002 rape case, and ordered him into judicial custody till his final sentence is announced. Ram Rahim Singh enjoys a massive following among people in the Northern part of India, and also boasts of his political connections. In such a scenario, the ruling of the court is significant as it blatantly dismisses the false notion that some people are above law, and further instils confidence in all of us that those who violate the law will be nipped sooner or later.
While it’s true that the Court has pronounced some controversial judgements in the past, for example, it criminalized homosexuality in 2013 and upheld Emergency in the country in 1976. But it is worth noting that in the Right to Privacy ruling, the Court denounced its own judgements of the past and termed them as unfortunate aberrations. It can be hoped that the Judiciary will continue to exercise utmost care in its jurisprudence in future and make amendments as and when needed.
Clearly, the role of the Supreme Court in a democracy cannot be understated. It acts as a watchdog to the government by reminding it of its duties, reprimanding it for not carrying out its assigned responsibilities, and even commanding it if required to ensure the welfare of the people. The weapon of PIL through which any citizen can move the government into action by submitting a case in the Supreme Court is an extremely important provision for that. The Supreme Court, as the last court of appeal, also acts as the dispenser of justice for those who have faced violations to their life, property and dignity. Finally, whenever a conflict arises regarding the meaning and implications of certain terms and clauses of the Constitution, the Supreme Court designates special Benches to resolve the conflicts.
The recent three judgements have shown the Indian Judicial System performing all the above functions in the most dignified manner. The entire Logical Indian community is deeply thankful to the judiciary for pronouncing these milestone verdicts and thereby strengthening our democratic principles and our faith in justice.