Major SC Judgements:
Landmark judgements on contentious issues ranging from gender equality to sexual autonomy and clean chit to the government on the Rafale jet deal hogged the limelight in 2018 in the Supreme Court, but the revolt by four senior-most judges against the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra shocked the nation.
The Supreme Court passed historic judgements on several matters including—allowing women of menstruating age to Sabarimala shrine, scrapping Section 377, upholding validity of the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme, Adultery, Triple Talaq Bill, Transgender Bill among others.
Mourning for Departed Veterans:
The year 2018 saw deaths of several famous personalities including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, BJP leader Ananth Kumar while the nation also witnessed the departure legends from the glamour world, Sridevi, Rita Bhaduri and cricketer Ajit Wadekar. The universe also lost its star with the demise of Stephen Hawking this year.
Rafale Deal Controversy:
The Rafale deal, which was signed by the BJP-led NDA government in 2015 for the purchase of 36 fighter jets from France, has been embroiled in controversy ever since and the opposition has targeted the government alleging discrepancies in the deal. The opposition, led by the Congress, has argued that the Modi government had negotiated the Rs 56,000 crores deal at a three-times higher price and that it had favoured the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence to become the outset partner with Dassault Aviation – the manufacturer of the jets – at the cost of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
Upon the order of the Supreme Court, the government later submitted the details of the deal, including the pricing information, in a sealed cover and assured the court that all procedures for the securing of the deal had been followed. The Supreme Court later gave clean chit to the government.
In a move that appeared to signify a thaw in the strained relationship between India and Pakistan, India announced its decision in November to build the Kartarpur Sahib corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur to the international border and asked Pakistan to do the same in their territory.
Pakistan reciprocated, and on November 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the project in Kartarpur, which was attended by Union Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri as well as Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Though Sidhu’s visit generated some controversy back home as he went to Pakistan in his personal capacity despite Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh’s suggestion to cancel the trip, the move to open Kartarpur corridor remains a significant development for the Sikh community in India.
For almost two weeks in early August, Kerala was hit with an unprecedented high level of rainfall which triggered devastating floods in the state – the worst floods that the state had faced in 100 years. As per the initial assessment by the Pinarayi Vijayan government, the deluge had caused a damage of worth at least Rs 20,000 crores to the state. But the resilient state managed to get back on the path of recovery and rehabilitation.
Amritsar Train Tragedy:
This year, Dussehra celebrations were marred by the horrific train tragedy in Amritsar, which claimed the lives of at least 60 people and wounding at least 140 people. On October 19, a speeding train crashed into a crowd of Dussehra revellers who had gathered at the Joda Phatak area to watch the burning of a Ravana effigy and had scattered onto the nearby railway tracks.
After #MeToo took over in the western countries, it started with Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta opening up about the alleged sexual misconduct she faced at the hands of veteran actor Nana Patekar on the sets of a movie in 2008. Several celebrities were called out by women on social media, with many facing substantial professional setbacks as a result. One of the most high-profile names that made the list was of former Union minister and journalist MJ Akbar who resigned from the post after 11 women scribes accused him of sexual harassment during his time as a senior journalist.
SC Judges hold Press Conference:
In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court judges – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – held a press conference in January launching a sharp attack against the then CJI Dipak Misra for “ignoring the concerns voiced by them”. Adding that “all is not well” in the apex court, the judges questioned Misra over the manner in which the cases were assigned in the roster.
Amongst several groundbreaking verdicts, CJI Dipak Misra in September passed an order allowing the entry of women aged 10-50 in the holy hill shrine of Sabarimala, where women of menstruating age were traditionally banned.
However, ahead of it, things took an ugly turn. In a complete violation of the SC order, devotees attacked the young women who attempted to trek their way to the temple. The matter also escalated when the devotees attacked female journalists who were at the base camp to report the story. Tension gripped the state, with the opposition accusing the Pinarayi Vijayan government of using brute police in order to implement the SC order, while devotees continued with their agitation to stop women of menstruating age from worshipping at the temple. The matter is now in the court again after the SC agreed to hear a review petition challenging the court’s earlier order which allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine.
Assembly elections were held in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Mizoram, Karnataka, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. However, this year’s election observed a great comeback of the Congress and it was a big blow to the ruling government in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. However, despite a majority in Karnataka, the party failed to form the government hence, Congress-JD(S) alliance formed the government with HD Kumaraswamy holding the CM office.
Year of Exits and Frauds in Banking Sector:
There are several big events in the banking sector that rocked the boat in 2018. The exits of that took place this year include – Chanda Kochhar’s exit from the post of CEO, resignation of Urjit Patel as the RBI Governor, the Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank Shikha Sharma’s step down.
Apart from exiting the respective posts, it has been a year of bank frauds and scams, the biggest banking fraud in India’s history came to light in February at the Punjab National Bank, where Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi siphoned nearly Rs 14,000 crore from over a period of seven years and flew away before the exposure of the fraud. Ahead of PNB scam, alleged frauds were perpetrated by the owners of the popular Rotomac brand of pens and Simbhaoli Sugars, one of India’s largest sugar refineries. The name of C Sivasankaran, former promoter of telecom firm Aircel, was another one that emerged in this context.
In September, the government announced plans for a mega merger between Mumbai-based Dena Bank, Bengaluru’s Vijaya Bank, and the Vadodara-headquartered Bank of Baroda. However, the Indian Rupee was on a weak footing this year as fears of a trade war loom.
CBI vs CBI war:
The CBI saw the worst crisis in its over 70-year history in 2018. In a first of sorts, the CBI registered a case against Special Director Rakesh Asthana for allegedly accepting a Rs 3 crore bribe at the behest of CBI Director Alok Verma. In effect to which, M Nageshwar Rao was appointed as the interim CBI Director after approval by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet that includes the Prime Minister and Home Ministers. The Supreme Court ordered that the CBI Director Alok Verma must continue in his post for two years while the case against CBI directors is still under the Supreme Court.