NEW DELHI: With just two working days left for Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi's tenure to end, Supreme Court is all geared up to deliver its verdict in three vital cases on Thursday. The cases include review petitions in the Sabarimala and Rafale verdict as well as a criminal contempt plea filed against former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. After the historic verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute matter of November 9, CJI Gogoi is left with four other important judgments before leaving office on November 17 (Sunday).
Sabarimala temple entry case
By a majority verdict of 4:1, the apex court in September 2018 had lifted the ban preventing women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the Ayyappa shrine in Kerala, holding the centuries-old religious practice as illegal and unconstitutional. In February 2019, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded the arguments and reserved the judgment on the batch of petitions seeking review of the apex court verdict in 2018, which allowed the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.
The bench had heard submissions on behalf of all parties, including the Kerala government, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), Nair Service Society and others. The court had then said it would pronounce its order on whether to review the judgment or not. As many as 64 petitions, which include review pleas and transfer pleas, have been filed in the apex court challenging its decision on the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. On the last day of the hearing, in what appeared to unprecedented, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which handles management of Sabarimala temple in Kerala, reversed its stand in the top court by expressing its support to the 2018 court verdict, which had allowed women of all age groups to enter the shrine. The board submitted in the court that discrimination on the grounds of biological attributes was not correct.
The court is scheduled to pronounce on Thursday its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking re-examination of its decision to allow entry of women of all age group into the temple.
The Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict on Thursday in a review that has been sought of the December 14, 2018, judgment by which the Narendra Modi-led government was given a clean chit in the procurement of Rafale fighter jets.
Former Union ministers, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who have filed the review petitions, contended before the apex court that it should set aside December 14, 2018, verdict, which dismissed their plea for a criminal investigation into the Rafale deal. Later, the apex court reserved verdict on a batch of petitions seeking review of its December 14 judgment. The court had reserved its verdict on May 10.
Bhushan had referred to various aspects, including the alleged suppression of material facts from the court, and said an FIR should have been lodged and a criminal investigation launched into the case. He also referred to the documents relating to alleged parallel negotiations being undertaken by the PMO and said that three members of the Indian Negotiation Team had objected to the parallel negotiations.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, objected to the review petition and said the basic grounds for seeking review of the verdict are the same as they were in the main petition. The petitioners are seeking a review of the judgment on the basis of “secret documents". He also referred to the secrecy clause of the inter-governmental agreement between India and France and said the matter pertains to defence deals and not the award of contract for construction of flyover or dams. Venugopal sought dismissal of the review petitions.
Contempt plea against Rahul Gandhi
The court will also pronounce the judgment on former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi`s comments referring to the apex court in a political statement in the run up to the Lok Sabha election in May 2019. The plea was filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi for wrongly attributing to the Supreme Court his "chowkidar chor hai" remark in the Rafale case against PM Modi.
Gandhi had told the Supreme Court to close the criminal proceedings against him, as he has already tendered an apology for linking the top court to a political slogan - "Chowkidar Chor Hain" - of his party.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi reserved the order on the contempt petition. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi counsel for Lekhi argued that Gandhi should make an apology to the public for wrongfully attributing the top court in a political speech.
"Rahul Gandhi led public astray by saying Supreme Court said `Chowkidar chor hai`. Hence, the court should pass an order asking Rahul Gandhi to apologise," contended Rohatgi before the court.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Gandhi said he had expressed regret even before court had issued notice.
(With inputs from IANS)