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Sabarimala & Rafale Review Petitions, Contempt Plea against Rahul Gandhi: Vital SC Verdicts Today

File photo of Supreme Court.

File photo of Supreme Court.

After the historic verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute matter, Gogoi was left with four other important judgments before demitting office on November 17.

New Delhi: Thursday will be an action-packed day in the Supreme Court where a constitutional bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, will deliver verdicts in three important cases. These include the Sabarimala and Rafale review petitions as well as a criminal contempt plea filed against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. After the historic verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute matter, Gogoi was left with four other important judgments before demitting office on November 17.

Sabarimala Temple Entry

By a majority verdict of 4:1, the apex court in September last year 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.

The court is scheduled to pronounce tomorrow 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 court will deliver its judgement on as many as 65 petitions — including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas — filed after its verdict sparked violent protests in the state.

The five-judge constitution bench, comprising Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had reserved its decision on February 6 after hearing various parties, including those seeking re-consideration of the September judgement.

Keeping in mind the verdict, around 2,500 policemen and women will be posted in and around the temple complex for two weeks.

The TDB, which runs the temple, had made a U-turn to support the Supreme Court's order allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine. It had joined the Kerala government to oppose a batch of pleas seeking review of the historic verdict.

Situated in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 m above sea level, Sabarimala is four kilometres uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is located around 100 km from state capital Thiruvanathapuram. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan, also known as Dharma Sastha, who is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu.

Devout pilgrims observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Every pilgrim carries with him a kit ('Alrumudi', containing coconuts that are broken just before climbing the 18 steps) on his head during the pilgrimage and without it none are allowed to go up the holy 18 steps at the 'Sannidhanam'.

Rafale Review Petition

The Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict in another politically sensitive case wherein a review 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. The review pleas in the case were filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, among others. 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.

He said that a prima facie cognisable offence has been committed and it warranted registration of the FIR.

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 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 bench will pronounce on Thursday its verdict on the criminal contempt plea filed against the Congress leader 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 made the remarks on April 10, the day the court had dismissed the Centre's preliminary objections over admissibility of certain documents for supporting the review petitions against the December 14 last year verdict in the Rafale case.

A bench comprising Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph had on May 10 reserved the judgement.

Gandhi, who was then the chief of the Congress party, had told the bench that he has already tendered unconditional apology for wrongly attributing the remarks relating to the PM to the apex court.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, had submitted that the apology tendered by Gandhi should be rejected and action must be taken against him as per the law. Rohatgi also argued that the court should ask Gandhi to make an apology to the public for his remarks.

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