Use of Interpretation principles in landmark cases and other recent developments5 min read

BY- NEHA CHAUDHARY

Interpretation of laws in Ayodhya verdict

Mir Baqi built Babri Masjid in 1528 for Mughal Emperor Babur. The Hindus and Muslims had always been wrangling over the ownership of that land. The Hindus claim that the mosque was built after the demolition of the Ram temple and it is the birthplace of Lord Ram, whereas, the Muslims, on the other hand, were denying such claims. As a result, various riots broke out between then in 1856-57, followed by the desecration of mosques on the night of December 22-23, 1949. After placing Lord Ram’s sculpture into the central dome of the mosque, the Allahabad High Court even permitted the Hindus to worship there. The tensions among various groups like Ram Lalla Virajmaan, Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Wakf Board, etc. were increasing for claiming ownership. Various petitions were also filed in the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court of India.

The mosque was demolished in 1992. Writ petitions were mounting up in the court. In 2002, the high court directed the Archeological Survey of India to carry out a scientific investigation over the disputed land. It submitted its final report in 2003. The report indicated that the pillars of the mosque contained Devanagari script inscribed on it and the temple might have belonged to Lord Vishnu, but no evidence was found whether the temple belonged to Lord Ram or not.

The final judgment on the Ayodhya verdict was announced in October 2019. The court granted the disputed land of about 2.77 acres for the construction of the temple and allocated 5 acres of land as compensation to the UP Sunni Wakf Board.

 The dispute involved property rights. The Supreme Court heavily relied upon the findings of the Archeological Survey of India, but it also tried to maintain the balance between the religious groups. It gave the judgement keeping in mind its sociological and religious impact on the people. In my view, the Supreme Court applied the rule of harmonious construction of interpretation of statutes as it resolved the contradicting interpretations in such a way that the effect is given to both interpretations so far as possible.  

ABOLITION OF SECTION 377 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE

Section 377 of IPC earlier criminalized unlawful sexual acts against the order of nature, including consensual penile non-vaginal intercourse among adults of same-sex, non-consensual penile non-vaginal intercourse with children or animals, and even penile non-vaginal intercourse between the adults of same-sex.

Naz Foundation vs. Government of NCT, Delhi and Others –Naz Foundation is Delhi based NGO that has been working on HIV/ AIDS and sexual health issues, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 377 of IPC as it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14(3), 15(4), 19(5) and 21(6) of the Constitution of India. The petitioner contended that the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community was impeding its work on combating the spread of HIV/ AIDS. It also contended that penile non-vaginal intercourse is likely to reduce the number of HIV/ AIDS infected persons in India.

Delhi High Court applied the golden rule of interpretation of statutes and held that Section 377 of IPC is violative of the fundamental rights of privacy and dignity under Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution and decriminalized consensual relationship between adults of same-sex.

Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India A writ petition was filed in 2016 by Navtej Singh Johar to declare section 377 of IPC to be unconstitutional and to declare the right to choose a sexual partner and the right to sexual autonomy to be part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Mr. Arvind Datar, a learned senior counsel appearing for the writ petitioner contended that the decision of the court in the Suresh Koushal case was totally driven by social morality that the majority of people in India consider the sexual relationship between the partners of same sex as a criminal act, while the court, in actuality, should have debated upon the constitutional morality. He also cited the sayings of the J. Chandrachud in K.S. Puttaswamy and Anr. vs. Union of India and Ors. that sexual orientation is an essential component of rights granted by the Constitution of India which cannot be construed on majoritarian acceptance by the society.

Mr. Datar argued that Section 377 of IPC cannot be used as interpretation as a reasonable restriction wholly. It is an accepted principle of interpretation of statutes that a provision does not become unconstitutional merely because there can be an abuse of the same. As a result, “the court held that the application of section 377 of IPC on consensual relationship between the adults of same sex as unconstitutional, though non-consensual relationship between the same sex, whether adult or child, and with animals is still criminalized.”

STAY ORDER ON THE ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT’S ORDER FOR IMPOSITION OF LOCKDOWN

Being concerned about the rapid increase of the coronavirus and the acute availability of oxygen cylinders and other medical facilities, Allahabad High Court gave the order on April 19, 2021, to impose lockdown in the 5 cities of Uttar Pradesh – Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Kanpur, and Allahabad. The UP Government moved to the Supreme Court of India against the high court’s order. A bench headed by the 46th Chief Justice of India put an interim stay on this order.

Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General, appearing for UP Government, said that imposing lockdown through a judicial order of the High Court may not be the right approach to deal with the pandemic. It was contended that the judiciary is exceeding its domain by passing such orders. It is the duty of the executive part of the UP Government to pass lockdown orders and the regulations and guidelines of coronavirus.

It can be seen from the above judgement that the mischief rule of statute Interpretation was applied here as it curbs the mischief of the High Court by passing a stay order and advances the remedy by asking the UP Government to immediately inform the High Court of steps it has taken and to be taken in the future. 

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