Justice SA Bobde's key Supreme Court judgments: Firecrackers to Great Indian Bustard

ILNS: Chief Justice S.A. Bobde demitted office on Friday April 23 after completing almost one-and-a-half years in the country's top judicial post. His Supreme Court tenure was of seven years and 84 days. It was during CJI Bobde’s tenure that courts across India had to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic and most of the deliberations went online.

The following are some of his major judgments:

Firecracker ban

Every year in the recent past, there has been a ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region. Last year as well, the court had ordered a ban on the sale and use of firecrackers due to pollution. Notably, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of the then Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.K. Sikri and Bobde, had given a judgment in 2016 suspending the sale of firecrackers in the NCR. It was the first such ban on sale of firecrackers.

Farm laws

The suspension of the government’s hastily passed farm laws by the Supreme Court for a period of 18 months was another major decision under CJI Bobde. The apex court in January this year stayed the implementation of the three farm laws that attracted farmers' ire and subsequently protests. A three-judge bench led by CJI Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian ordered the formation of a four-member expert committee to look into the matter. One member, later, cried off the committee. The three controversial laws are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case

Justice Bobde was on the five-judge Constitution Bench that delivered a unanimous verdict on November 9, 2019, thus bringing the curtains down on the prolonged, politically sensitive and divisive legal battle.

The subject of innumerable acrimonious debates and speculation, this case, which is also India’s most controversial land dispute, had been pending in the courts since 1950. The bench led by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi (others on the bench being Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer) ruled that the land belonged to the government, as per tax records. It ordered for the land to be handed over to a trust to build a Hindu temple and the Sunni Waqf Board to be allotted an alternate five acres to build a mosque.

Great Indian Bustard

To save the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard, the Supreme Court directed the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat to replace overhead power cables with underground ones.

Hearing a plea on the death of a large number of Great Indian Bustards due to collisions with high-voltage power lines, the bench led by Chief Justice Bobde said all steps should be taken to protect the birds from getting electrocuted in their habitats in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

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The petitioner submitted that the Great Indian Bustard, a large bird, finds it difficult to manoeuvre easily in flight and gets electrocuted when it collides with overhead electricity transmission lines.