CJI Dipak Misra retirement: From Aadhaar to Ayodhya, Chief Justice of India leaves rich legacy with landmark judgements; here’s a list

CJI Dipak Misra retirement: From Aadhaar, Article 377 to decriminalising adultery, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will be remembered among the Supreme Court judges who pronounced path-breaking judgments.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra presided over crucial hearings and, in his last 10 days in office

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is vacating his chair today after over an year in office as the top jurist. He became he Chief Justice on August 28 last year. CJI Misra was elevated as a top court judge on October 10, 2011. CJI-designate Ranjan Gogoi will assume charge on Wednesday. A highly scholastic and an avid reader, Justice Misra’s 13-month-long tenure was full of events.

He presided over crucial hearings and, in his last 10 days in office, Supreme Court judgements by CJI Misra-led benches became the talk of the nation. From Aadhaar, Article 377 to decriminalising adultery, CJI Misra will be remembered among the Supreme Court judges who pronounced path-breaking judgments.

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Aadhaar: A Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Misra last week upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, but struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act. This meant that private companies would no longer be able to use the 12-digit biometric ID-based eKYC. Following this, private companies like telecom operators will not be able to use this instantaneous and inexpensive Aadhaar eKYC route. The top had also ruled that Aadhaar is longer mandatory in banks, schools, UGC and NEET. Apart from these, the apex court said the government can not make Aadhaar mandatory for any social welfare scheme. However, Aadhaar-PAN linking remained valid.

Ayodhya: Among the long list of CJI Misra’s verdicts, this one fits as the most sensitive and politically crucial judgment. The Supreme Court last week rejected pleas to refer to a five-judge Constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute. In a majority verdict of 2:1, an apex court bench headed by CJI Misra said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence, adding that the previous verdict has no relevance to this issue. The verdict, effectively, paved way for hearing on the title suit.

Article 377: In another landmark judgement, the Supreme Court last month decriminalised part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises consensual gay sex, saying it was irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary. CJI Misra again played the pivotal role as he headed the five-judge constitution bench which unanimously ruled that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community possess the same constitutional rights as other citizens of the country.

Sabarimala: The prolonged debate over the entry of women of all ages came to an end in the Supreme Court last week. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict, stated that banning the entry of women into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women.

Live streaming of Supreme court: Setting a precedent, CJI Misra headed a bench of the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of live-streaming of court proceedings, holding that such a move will bring more accountability and enhance the rule of law. The bench stated, “We hold that the cause brought before this court by the protagonists in larger public interest deserves acceptance so as to uphold the constitutional rights of the public and the litigants in particular.”

Adultery: During the fag end of his tenure as CJI, Justice Misra delivered another key verdict pertaining to society and its views. Last week the Supreme Court declared that adultery is not a crime and struck down the anti-adultery law. Again, the CJI was at the forefront of the five-judge Constitution bench that was unanimous in striking down Section 497 of the 158-year-old Indian Penal Code which stated: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.”

Midnight Hearing of swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa: After the fractured mandate in Karnataka Assembly polls, BJP was invited by state Governor Vajubhai Vala to form the government even as the party did not have the numbers. The move was contested by Congress who moved the top court seeking a stay on the oath-taking ceremony of Yeddyurappa. The hearing was held after the midnight.

National Anthem in movie theatres: As a debate enraged over whether National Anthem should be played in the movie theatres or not, CJI Misra again showed his sense of pragmatism. On January 9 this year, a bench headed by the CJI said it would be up to cinema hall owners whether or not to play the national anthem. The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, made it clear, however, that movie-goers will have to show respect to the anthem in case it is played, and they will have to stand.

Right To Reputation vs free speech: The CJI had the final say over another crucial issue of the Right to Reputation vs Right to Free speech. The petitioners involved heavyweight politicians like Congress Rahul Gandhi, Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal and firebrand leader Subramanian Swamy. CJI Misra ruled, “The right to reputation is a constituent of Article 21 of the Constitution. It is an individual’s fundamental right” as the top court upheld over 150-year-old defamation law.

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