A watershed year for Supreme Court

For the Supreme Court, 2013 will go down as a watershed year in which it sought to end the criminalisation of politics, disqualified convicted legislators, ordered electoral reforms and asserted its supremacy and authority in all spheres.

On July 19, Justice P. Sathasivam made his Kadappanallur village in Erode district proud by becoming the 40th Chief Justice of India. Born on April 27, 1949, Justice Sathasivam was the first graduate in his agricultural family. It was after 60 years that someone from Tamil Nadu became CJI. Justice Patanjali Sastri, who was the CJI from 1951 to 1954, had represented the undivided Madras Presidency.

Former Union Law Minister Ashwini Kumar had to resign after the court criticised him for accessing the CBI's report in the coal scam case despite the specific order that the report not be shown to anyone, including the Law Officer.

When sexual harrassment allegations against a retired Supreme Court judge surfaced, the CJI ordered a fact-finding probe immediately, which found Justice A.K Ganguly, who retired in February 2012, had made unwelcome sexual advances to an intern. The Centre has decided to send a Presidential Reference to the Supreme Court seeking the former judge's removal as Chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

The year started on a bad note for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the Supreme Court upheld the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as Gujarat Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal, even though the judge did not take charge.

The court rejected a plea for revisiting the nine-judge ruling in 1993, giving primacy to the Collegium in appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges. A two-judge Bench had referred the issue to a three-judge Bench, which however, found no merit in the petition.

The court struck down as unconstitutional Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers a three-month period for appealing in a higher court. The court made it clear that the ruling would be prospective, and those who had already gone on appeal in the High Courts or the Supreme Court against their convictions would be exempt from it. As a result, RJD leader Lalu Prasad lost his membership of Parliament, after he was sentenced to five years in a fodder scam case.

The court also ruled that a voter can exercise the option of rejecting all candidates as unworthy of election. by choosing the ‘None of the Above’ button in the Electronic Voting Machine.

There was no sphere in which the Supreme Court did not make a mark. It upheld the ban the Tamil Nadu government imposed on the screening of Dam 999 in the State.

The court’s refusal to interfere with its decision to convert the new Secretariat complex into a super-speciality hospital was a boost to the AIADMK government.

Tamil Nadu scored a major victory when the court directed the Centre to notify the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, dated February 5, 2007. It criticised the Centre for abdicating its responsibility of notifying the award as per the mandate of the Inter State Water Disputes Act. The award was notified on February 19.

In a major setback to gay activists, the court held that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults was illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and amounted to an offence, and the provision did not suffer from any constitutional infirmity. This forced the Centre and Naz Foundation to file review petitions.

(To be concluded)

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