A court in Jharkhand today delivered what can only be described as a bizarre verdict. It ordered a Hindu girl today to distribute 5 copies of the Quran for exercising her freedom of speech. Quite assuredly, there are absolutely no provisions in the Constitution for such punishments. It was invented out of thin air.
But it’s not the first time that the rather bizarre tendencies of the Indian Judiciary has been on display. In this article, we revisit some of them.
Earlier this year, in March, the Supreme Court issued a verdict that people cannot feed birds from a flat’s balcony as bird droppings could then create a nuisance for others in a residential society.
That people filed a case in the Court and the highest court of the country decided to spend its precious time in delivering a verdict upon a matter which should have been resolved by authorities of the residential society and other responsible adults rather than waste the time of the Court highlights the immediate need for judicial reforms.
In April, 2017, the Supreme Court was forced to send a judgment delivered by a High Court judge in Himachal Pradesh because the bench could not understand the verdict due to its highly convoluted language.
Here are some excerpts:
“However, the learned counsel…cannot derive the fullest succour from the aforesaid acquiescence… given its sinew suffering partial dissipation from an imminent display occurring in the impugned pronouncement hereat wherewithin unravelments are held qua the rendition recorded by the learned Rent Controller…”
“The summum bonum of the aforesaid discussion is that all the aforesaid material which existed before the learned Executing Court standing slighted besides their impact standing untenably undermined by him whereupon the ensuing sequel therefrom is of the learned Executing Court while pronouncing its impugned rendition overlooking the relevant and germane evidence besides its not appreciating its worth. Consequently, the order impugned suffers from a gross absurdity and perversity of misappreciation of material on record.”
3. Sardar Jokes
Consistent with its inconsistent approach towards the issue of Freedom of Expression, the Supreme Court in 2016 decided to hear pleas seeking a ban on jokes pertaining to the Sikh community. It was also seriously considering options to ban the circulation of such jokes. “We will certainly look into it if entire community is feeling harassed,” the bench had said.
Ultimately, after a year, the Court ruled that it could not ban such jokes as they could not “lay down moral guidelines” for citizens. But it wasn’t before precious time and the taxpayers’ money was wasted.
4. Condom Packets
In 2016, the Supreme Court directed the Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh to answer whether advertisement on condom packets violated laws of obscenity. “You tell us whether action can be taken on these ads or not… Take a look at the advertisements available on record and also others and then tell us what is your stand,” the bench told the ASG.
Singh was asked to go through “objectionable” pictures on packets of condoms and contraceptives and inform the Court whether they were compliant with advertising norms. “Do you have any plan to regulate such advertisements? Is there a way you can check what is going to be printed on these packets or can you take action only after these packets with pictures are available in the market? You also have to tell us if such advertisements may constitute a penal offence,” the bench told Singh.
Amusingly enough, the bench was hearing petitions against a verdict of the Madras High Court which had ruled that condom packets should not contain “sexy” pictures.
In what is, perhaps, the most bizarre verdict in the list, a man was ordered by a court to donate his sperm so that his estranged wife could have a baby. Even more bizarre was the fact that divorce proceedings were underway for the couple.
The Court ordered the man, against his wishes, to explore assisted reproductive technology (ART) with his estranged wife or else, there would be legal consequences. The order said, “The respondent may refuse ART by not giving his consent. But by unreasonable refusal he may expose himself to the legal and logical consequences which may follow.”
The order justified its decision by conjuring the myth of Patriarchy. It declared, “Reproductive right is closely and directly related to women. But, in the patriarchal society in India, the majority of women lack the decision-making power,” the court observed.
6. No IPL at drought hit Maharashtra
The Bombay High Court ruled that IPL matches in the state should be shifted elsewhere and the water used to maintain the stadiums should be instead diverted to drought hit areas. “Shifting IPL matches wont solve the problem but if water is diverted to drought-hit areas problem can be solved to some extent,” Bombay HC stated.
Earlier, the Court had called using water to maintain stadiums a ‘criminal waste’. “People don’t get water in Marathwada for three to four days. This is a criminal waste,” it had declared. The order appeared incredulous considering the fact that it was unclear the extent to which the drought woes could be resolved. Furthermore, punishing IPL for sins it hadn’t committed was rather harsh to put it mildly.
The matter of Chappals and Sandals acquired special significance after the government had withdrawn a 10% duty drawback given to a footwear manufacturer claiming the footwear exported by it were chappals, not sandals. Sandals carried a 10% custom duty drawback while chappals carried only 5%.
After careful consideration of facts of paramount importance, the Delhi High Court ruled that women’s footwear without a back strap is a sandal, not a chappal, thus providing the answer to a mystery that has plagued human civilization since centuries.
Need for Judicial Reforms
The above-mentioned cases combined with the instances where it has delivered inconsistent verdicts revolving around Freedom of Expression, religious practices and other matters highlight the urgent necessity of judicial reforms. In certain cases, it exalts freedom of expression while in others, it asks people to apologize for a meme. In some cases, it is overeager to interfere with religious practices while in others, it refuses to even entertain them.