Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure is all set to end in an eventful manner as the Supreme Court of India is all set to decide four important cases having far-reaching socio-religious impact on the country. The most keenly awaited one being the Ayodhya verdict. CJI Ranjan Gogoi is also heading three other benches that are going to pronounce verdicts on important matters within a span of ten working days starting November 4.
Apart from the Ayodhya title dispute, the apex court will pronounce judgments on the review petitions on the dispute relating to entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple and the clean chit to Modi government in the Rafale deal. The top court will also decide a petition seeking to bring the office of the Chief Justice of India within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
It is important to mention here that the Ayodhya verdict remains the most keenly awaited of all the above-mentioned judicial pronouncements. It concerns the sentiments of crores of Hindus across the country, and the Ram Mandir dispute has been languishing in Courts since 1885, when it first came up before the Faizabad district court. With a Supreme Court pronouncement on this dispute, the 134-year old legal dispute will finally come to an end.
Millions of Lord Ram devotees across the country are now hopeful that as the dispute nears an end, construction of a grand Ram temple at his birthplace in Ayodhya will become a reality. What makes this judgment even more significant is the fact that it can set a strong precedent and the effect of this judgment might reverberate beyond Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya as well.
The disputed site in Ayodhya is not the only living example of the excesses of the medieval era Islamic invasion. There are a plethora of such temples which bore the brunt of ruthlessness and raw cruelty of the Islamic invaders. If the verdict goes in the favour of the Hindu parties, then it won’t come as a surprise if it opens up similar demands in respect of other disputed sites that were demolished during the Islamic invasion.
It is true that the Places of Worship Act bars legal action in respect of all religious sites except Ayodhya, but a favourable verdict in the Ayodhya dispute might lead to demands for repeal of this legislation itself.
The Sabarimala judgment is also going to have a major socio-religious effect, especially in the state of Kerala. Last year, the Supreme Court by 4:1 majority opinion had permitted entry of women of all age groups to the Sabarimala Temple, saying that ‘devotion cannot be subjected to gender discrimination’. Justice Indu Malhotra was the sole dissenter.
The SC decision and repeated attempts by the Communist regime in Kerala to enforce it had led to widespread protests by Lord Ayyapa devotees, which also included women in large numbers. The restriction on entry of women in the age group of 10-50 years emanates out of Lord Ayyapa’s celibate attributes. The issue was one of devotion and faith, rather than misogyny and gender justice. It is rather absurd to argue that respecting Lord Ayyapa’s celibate credentials and devotees’ faith is tantamount to gender discrimination.
As stated by Justice Indu Malhotra in her dissenting opinion, matter of faith cannot be dictated by the courts. She had said, “Issues of deep religious sentiments should not ordinarily be interfered by the Court.” She had also said, “Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion.” Her Ladyship had also observed, “What constitutes essential religious practise is for the religious community to decide, not for the court. India is a diverse country. Constitutional morality would allow all to practise their beliefs. The court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”
Now, if the Lord Ayyapa devotees would be hopeful that the Supreme Court changes its stance in the review judgment. Lord Ayyapa’s celibate nature are, after all, central to the significance of the Sabarimala shrine and that is why the verdict closely concerns the sentiments of Lord Ayyapa devotees. Through surreptitious entry of women, the CPI (M) has already succeeded in defiling the sanctity of Sabarimala. Therefore, if the Supreme Court overrules its earlier stand, then it would also imply that the Sabarimala temple had been wrongfully desecrated.
The Rafale review petition is yet another matter that will make a substantial impact on the political narrative in the country. It must be kept in mind that the Congress-led by the Gandhi scion had time and again brought up the Rafale deal-making unfounded allegations of corruption in the fighter jets deal. Even after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Modi government, Rahul Gandhi had persisted with his baseless attacks, often making distasteful remarks against PM Modi.
It seems likely that the apex court will not make any substantial changes in its stand and if the stand taken by the Supreme Court earlier is reiterated, then it is going to put the Congress in an embarrassing situation. It will have a tough time explaining why it misled the country about the Rafale deal, which closely concerns national security.
As stated earlier, CJI Gogoi’s stint as the head of the Indian judiciary couldn’t have ended in a more eventful manner. All these verdicts are being awaited keenly, and one hopes that these landmark verdicts will only further bolster the citizens’ faith in the judicial set up of the country.