7 Landmark Court Cases that changed Indian Laws
We all know that judgement is a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion or a formal decision given by a court. As, time is changing and moving forward, society also undergoes changes and with that need to change in the judicial system is required. To cope up with the changing nature of the society, Indian Constitution also goes through a transformation. In our country, there are some cases that have created a landmark and helped in generating new laws. Due to which not only Constitution is amended, but also change the view & opinion of the people.
7 Landmark Court Cases that changed Indian Laws
1. Nirbhaya Case
Amendment: Juvenile Justice Act of 2000
On 16 December, 2016 a brutal case of gang rape and murder shock the nation. A 23 year old was assaulted and raped in a bus by 6 men and then threw her body on the road. Out of 6 men; 5 were adults and one was a 17 year old juvenile. When they got arrested, the 5 adult men got 10 years of prison and one of them found dead in the jail itself during the course of a trial. The juvenile aged 17 was sent for correction facility, for three years. But brutal acts in this case had shocked people beyond belief. Finally, the four convicts were awarded death penalty by Delhi court.
The incident shook the nation’s conscience and sparked massive protests and subsequently led to the replacement of a Juvenile Justice Act 2000 i.e. the age bar to be tried as an adult was lowered from 18 to 16 years.
In fact, the Centre and the Delhi Government prompted a number of steps to ensure safety of women, curb such incidents and facilitate quick disposal of cases.
2. Shah Bano Begum vs Muhammad Ahmed Khan
Amendment: Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973.
Shah Bano was a mother of 5 and at the age of 62 she was divorced by her husband Muhammad Ahmed Khan in 1978. She went to court asking maintenance from her husband who had divorced her. She demanded alimony which was against the Islamic system. Even the government ruled in favour of her husband. Keeping her health and old age in mind the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano maintaining the secularism and welfare of women which amended section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. For all Muslim wives this judgement provided maintenance from their husbands in case of divorce.
3. KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra
Impact: If Jury could be influenced, thereby abolish the jury system i.e. suspension of jury trial.
K.M Nanavati was 34 years old when his life turned upside down. He was a naval officer and married to Sylvia. He lived in Mumbai with his wife and children. In the absence of Nanavati due to loneliness Sylvia started meeting his friend Prem Ahuja and fell in love. On 27th April, 1959 Sylvia confesses to her husband, that she was in love with Ahuja and also expressed her fear that Ahuja did not want to marry her. Then Nanavati went to Prem Ahuja’s house to ask whether he wanted to marry Sylvia and take care of the children but he refused. In anger Nanavati shot 3 bullets in his body and he died. This was an open case, received lots of media coverage and finally the jury verdict went in favour of Nanavati.
Bombay High Court, Judge overruled the verdict of the jury and found Nanavati guilty of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He got out of the Prison three years later. The case proved that an influenced panel of jury could be dangerous, as it abolished the jury system.
4. Mary Roy vs State of Kerala
Amendment: The Indian Succession Act, 1925, be applied to Christians in Travancore and Cochin too where daughters got equality.
Mary Roy’s husband passed away without leaving a will. She was a mother of Arundhati Roy and decided to challenge the inheritance act which stated that without will, her daughter will lose the right to property. The Travancore Christian Succession Act, 1092, stated that if a man died without leaving a will for his daughter, she will not be entitled to anything. Therefore, a son would get the property.
Mary Roy fought a battle for her daughter and invoked article 14 by saying that she has equal right to property. Further, she stated that equal property rights should be given to all Syrian Christian women. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled in favour and the Indian Succession Act, 1925 be applied to Christians in Cochin also. That means female child is entitled to a share equal to that of her brother if the father dies intestate.
Amendment: The Criminal Law Act, 1983
There was a minor tribal girl called Mathura, in the year 1972 on 26th March she was summoned to the police station at night. An officer at the police station raped her and let her go. Mathura decided to file a rape case against the officer. But do you know that Supreme Court ruled in favour of the policeman. As, it was stated that there were no signs of struggle on Mathura’s body and also she did not even shout or called anyone for help.
But this case gained lots of support from public and finally an amendment in the Criminal Law Act, 1983 was effected. According to this amendment custodial rape is an offense and therefore, it is punishable and the method to deal with consent was henceforth included under India’s Rape Laws.
6. Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan
Impact: Generated laws for women, which gives protection from sexual harassment at their workplace
Bhanwari Devi was a social worker who was gang raped in the year 1992 in a village of Rajasthan. She was trying to prevent her daughter as she was one year old and did not want to get married. So, took a step against her family. She filed a case and demanded justice. She received a lot of support from NGOs, which forced Supreme Court to announce a prime verdict that helped to protect women from sexual harassment in their workplace and helped in establishing general equality.
Do you know that before 1997 there were no such guidelines regarding protection of women at their workplace and in April 2013, the court established The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Prevention Act i.e Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act 2013. The guidelines given by Vishakha played an important role in formulating and making these laws effectively.
7. Rajagopal vs State of Tamil Nadu
Impact: Extended the boundaries of Article 19 i.e. right to freedom of speech and expression, one of its six freedoms.
In 1994, a prisoner charged with murder and wrote an autobiography. He went to publishing house where weekly magazine was printed in Madras and wanted to publish his autobiography, which had details of the murder and many senior officials were also involved in it. Now, the officers got scared and sued the magazine agency while saying that the story is false. But the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the publishing house by saying that public officials can be sued only if the printed story is untrue. This judgement opened a new horizon for freedom of expression and right to privacy.