Top Supreme Court Judgments of 2023: A Landmark Year in Indian Judiciary
Mr. Paramjeet Sangwan

Top Supreme Court Judgments of 2023: A Landmark Year in Indian Judiciary

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The year 2023 witnessed several groundbreaking judgments by the Supreme Court of India. These rulings covered a wide range of significant issues, including constitutional validity, civil rights, political crises, and the appointment of key officials. Let's take a closer look at some of the historic judgments delivered by the apex court in 2023.


1. Upholding the Abrogation of Article 370

Case: In Re: Article 370 of the Constitution

In a landmark decision on 11th December, a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud upheld the Central Government's revocation of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Court ruled that Article 370 was a temporary provision and not a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution. It also validated the presidential orders that abrogated Article 370, emphasizing that the move ensured the complete integration of J&K into India. However, the Court held the presidential order amending Article 367 to be constitutionally invalid. The judgment marked a significant shift in the constitutional landscape of Jammu and Kashmir.

2. Marriage Equality Plea Dismissed

Case: Supriyo @ Supriya Chakraborty v Union of India

On 17th October, a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed a batch of petitions that sought equal rights to marry for sexual minorities. The Court unanimously held that there is no fundamental right to marry under the Indian Constitution. It emphasized that marriage is a social institution and not a creation of law. The Bench also examined whether the Special Marriage Act, 1954, could accommodate the validity of marriage between queer persons, concluding that the Act primarily facilitates interfaith marriages and does not exclude non-heterosexual couples. While the Court recognized the right of transgender persons in heterosexual relationships to marry, it clarified that the recognition of civil unions for queer persons is beyond its purview.

3. Resolving Political Crises in Maharashtra

Case: Subhash Desai v Principal Secretary, Governor of Maharashtra and Ors

In a significant judgment on 11th May, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court addressed the political crisis in Maharashtra. The Bench held that the Governor's decision to order a floor test to assess the support for then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was illegal. It concluded that the Governor lacked objective material to justify the floor test. The Court referred the question of whether the Speaker can decide disqualification petitions despite notice for their removal to a seven-judge Bench. The judgment shed light on the complexities of political crises and the constitutional roles of various authorities.

4. Clarifying Lieutenant Governor's Control over Delhi

Case: Government of NCT of Delhi v Union of India

On 11th May, a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud clarified the extent of the Lieutenant Governor's control over the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD). The Bench unanimously held that the Government of NCTD, and not the Lieutenant Governor, has control over the national capital's civil servants and day-to-day administration. It emphasized the importance of the NCTD government's accountability and noted that if the government cannot control and hold civil servants accountable, its responsibility towards the legislature and the public diminishes. The judgment upheld the principles of federalism and furthered the cause of representative democracy.

5. Revising Election Commission Appointments

Case: Anoop Baranwal v Union of India

On 21st March, a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph modified the process for appointing members of the Election Commission of India (ECI). Recognizing the significance of an independent Election Commission, the Bench created a committee comprising the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. This committee would be responsible for appointments, ensuring that the power to appoint ECI members was not solely vested in the executive. The Court highlighted the need for legislative action in this regard but acknowledged the delays and inaction in Parliament. The judgment aimed to safeguard the independence of the Election Commission and strengthen democratic processes.

6. Validating Tenure Extensions for CBI and ED Directors

Case: Dr. Jaya Thakur v Union of India

In July 2023, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of ordinances that allowed the Union government to grant extensions to the tenures of directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in public interest. The Court ruled that these extensions would not compromise the independence of these investigative agencies, as sufficient safeguards existed to insulate them from executive pressures. However, the Court held that the extension granted to the incumbent ED Director was illegal, directing the government to appoint a new director by a specified date. Despite this, the tenure of the incumbent director was extended further, raising questions about adherence to the Court's directive.

7. Upholding Bull-Taming Sports and Animal Welfare

Case: Animal Welfare Board of India v Union of India

In a judgment on 18th May, a Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph upheld the practice of bull-taming sports, including Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, Kambala in Karnataka, and Bailgada Sharyat in Maharashtra. The Court recognized the cultural significance of these sports and their historical roots. It refrained from delving into the question of cultural rights, noting that it was outside the purview of the judiciary. The Bench emphasized that the welfare legislation should not overshadow traditions and culture, asserting that the fundamental rights of animals do not have a precedent in Indian law.

8. Streamlining Guidelines for Euthanasia and Right to Die with Dignity

Case: Common Cause v Union of India

In a significant judgment on 24th January, a Constitution Bench streamlined the guidelines for the withdrawal of treatment for terminally ill patients. The Court made alterations to the guidelines in response to its earlier judgment in Common Cause v Union of India (2018), where it recognized the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Bench modified the requirements for validating Advanced Medical Directives (AMDs) and reduced the experience criteria for doctors serving on medical boards. The judgment aimed to strike a balance between patient autonomy and medical ethics in end-of-life decisions.

These landmark judgments of 2023 have left an indelible mark on the Indian judiciary, shaping the course of constitutional interpretation and legal principles. As the Supreme Court continues to deliver judgments that impact the lives of millions, staying informed about the evolving legal landscape is crucial for aspiring law students.

For the latest law updates and comprehensive preparation, explore Legalstix Law School. With a faculty of experienced professionals and a flexible learning platform, Legalstix Law School is your trusted partner in your legal education journey.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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