Landmark verdicts, judges' revolt marked 2018 in SC
New Delhi: Landmark judgements on contentious issues ranging from gender equality to sexual autonomy and clean chit to the government on the Rafale jet deal hogged the limelight in 2018 in the Supreme Court, but the revolt by four senior-most judges against the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra shocked the nation.
The year, which commenced on a controversial note with four senior-most judges holding an unprecedented presser on January 12 raising a litany of allegations against Justice Misra, in November-end saw one of the judges again dropping a bombshell by saying "someone from outside controlled the then CJI.
While Justice Misra, who retired on October 2, maintained a stoic silence, two of the four judges -- Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph -- have since retired and Justice Madan B Lokur will demit office on December 30.
The other rebellious judge -- Justice Ranjan Gogoi -- has succeeded Justice Misra as the CJI.
After his retirement, Justice Joseph has been on record that after the presser, things have changed for good and the new CJI is taking forward the issues raised by them.
Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding him, Justice Misra would be remembered for delivering several key verdicts by the constitution benches headed by him, including the upholding validity of the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme, the world's largest biometric identification project.
The year also saw a host of progressive verdicts leading to decriminalisation of consensual gay sex, scrapping of a colonial era law that made adultery a crime and allowing women of all age groups into Kerala's Sabarimala temple.
While most of the path-breaking judgements came days before his retirement, Justice Misra had to face more than once on the judicial side the issue of powers of the CJI in allocation of cases which was raised by the four judges in their presser.
The issue was raked up by some civil rights groups which had failed to get favourable order for probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabudduin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case.
The Loya case had a far-reaching impact as the judge, who was assigned the case by the then CJI to look into it, had reportedly expressed his unhappiness over the allegations by the four judges and the rights group that there was some bias by him in dealing with the case.
Justice Misra was also the cynosure of all eyes as a bench headed by him was hearing the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case and some of the senior advocates, affiliated to the Congress and representing one of the litigants in the matter, repeatedly urged him to postpone the hearing till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Muslim litigants insisted that the court has to first take a call on whether to refer to a larger bench the "questionable observation" in its 1994 judgement that "mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam".