SCO Daily: Court Reserves Order in Religious Excommunication Case

The Bench may refer the case to the 9-Judge Sabarimala Review Bench instead of hearing arguments.

The Supreme Court returned to its Constitution Bench routine today. The Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul reserved an Interim Order in the Dawoodi Bohra excommunication case. It must consider if a member of a religious community can be expelled or excommunicated from that community. The Bench focused on one key point—should this case be heard at all?

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the issue of excommunication was already pending before the 9-Judge Bench in the Sabarimala Review petition. He argued that the original issue in this case arose from a challenge to a 1949 Act which was repealed in 2016. As such, the present case is on shaky ground. 

93-year old Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman represented the Dawoodi Bohra community leader. He too argued that the Court should wait for the Judgment from the Sabarimala Review as it would have a bearing on this case. 

Senior Advocate Siddarth Bhatnagar, representing individuals excommunicated from the Dawoodi Bohra community, argued that even if the Act was repealed, the issues surrounding the case would have a life of their own. The Court must consider if the practice of excommunication itself is constitutional—an issue which is not one of the main grounds in the Sabarimala Review. However, the Solicitor General had a solution in mind. He suggested that this Bench could refer the excommunication issue to the Sabarimala Bench so that they may provide a definitive answer instead. 

Upon hearing the counsels, the Bench reserved an Interim Order. They will clarify whether the issue will be referred to the Sabarimala Bench or if the Justice Kaul-led Constitution Bench will answer the excommunication question themselves. 

In other significant developments, Chief Justice U.U. Lalit confirmed Justice D.Y. Chandrachud as his successor to the position. Justice Chandrachud, the seniormost Judge in the Supreme Court after CJI Lalit himself, will become the 50th Chief Justice of India and is expected to remain at the helm of the Court for two years. 

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