India has witnessed a number of interesting court cases, all different from each other; yet have one or another thing in common. The cases mentioned in this article bring forth and highlight the drawbacks and loopholes in our system or maybe, in our constitution. From a case of identity to that of corruption, you will explore all kinds of court cases that are interesting and thought-provoking too.
Here are some of the most important and influential cases in Indian history:
1. K.M. NANAVATI vs the STATE OF MAHARASHTRA
This case was the last time there was a jury trial in India. KM Nanavati, a naval officer, murdered his wife’s lover, Prem Ahuja. A jury trial was held to decide whether it was a crime of passion (carrying a ten-year sentence) or pre-meditated murder (life imprisonment) to which Nanavati plead ‘not guilty’. The jury ruled in favour of him but the verdict was dismissed by the Bombay High Court and the case was retried as a bench trial.
2. STATE OF ORISSA vs RAM BAHADUR THAKUR
This is a bizarre one. Ram Bahadur Thapa was the servant of one J.B. Chatterjee of Chatterjee Bros. firm in Calcutta. They had come to Rasogovindpur, a village in Balasore district in Orissa to purchase zero scraps from an abandoned aerodrome outside the village. Because it was abandoned, the locals believed it was haunted. This piqued the curiosity of Chatterjee who wanted to “see the ghosts”. At night, as they were making their way to the aerodrome they saw a flickering light within the premises which, due to the strong wind, seemed to move. They thought it was will-o’-the-wisp. Thapa jumped into action as he unleashed his khukuri to attack the “ghosts”. Turns out, they were local Adivasi women with a hurricane lantern who had gathered under a mohua tree to collect some flowers. Thapa’s indiscriminate hacking caused the death of one Delhi Majhiani and injured two other women. The Sessions court judge, however, acquitted Thapa declaring that his actions were the result of a stern belief in ghosts and that at the moment, Thapa believed that they were lawfully justified.
3. MATHURA RAPE CASE
This is one of the most important cases in the country, because the protests that followed the verdict, forced some important changes in rape laws in India. Mathura, a young tribal woman, was raped by two constables within the premises of the Desai Ganj Police Station in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The Sessions court judge found the accused not guilty. The reasoning behind this was (believe it or not) that Mathura was habituated to sexual intercourse. This, according to the judge, clearly implied that the sexual act in the police station was consensual. The amendments to the law that were forced by the protests got one thing right – submission does not mean consent.
4. NALSA vs the UNION OF INDIA
This is the landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India which declared that Transgendered People were the ‘third gender’ and that they had equal rights as any other gender. The petitioner, in this case, was the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
5. KESAVANANDA BHARTI vs the STATE OF KERELA
If there’s one reason India can still call itself ‘the world’s largest democracy’, it is this case. Swami Kesavananda Bharti ran a Hindu Mutt in Edneer village in Kerala but the state wanted to appropriate the land. Bharti, who was consulted by noted jurist Nanabhoy Palhkivala, filed a petition claiming that a religious institution had the right to run its business without government interference. The State invoked Article 31 which states ” no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. ” A bench of 13 judges deliberated on the facts of the case and through a narrow 7-6 majority, formulated the Basic Structure Doctrine, which puts some restrictions on how much the Parliament can amend the Constitutional laws. In many ways, the judgment here is considered to be a big middle finger to the then Central government under Indira Gandhi. Soon after, the emergency followed.
6. LAL BIHARI IDENTITY CASE
This case highlighted corruption in the government offices of India, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Lal Bihari, a young farmer, was dead according to the government records. He came to know about his death when he approached a bank for loan approval. Furious Lal Bihari felt so helpless but he gathered all his strength to fight for his identity. He went to the court, added word ‘mritak’ to his name, abducted his cousin who illegally snatched his property, tried to enter parliament, appealed for granting widow’s pension to his wife, amassed nearly all people who were deceased according to government officials. His efforts did not turn out to be vain. After 18 years of struggle, he was finally declared alive by the district magistrate of Azamgarh. Lal Bihari did not only get his identity back but he also won his land and property through his consistent efforts.
7. THE SHAH BANO CASE
This case often used a benchmark by the court, is one of the most controversial cases of maintenance. Shah Bano, a 62-year-old woman from Indore and mother of five, was divorced by her husband in 1978. Unable to provide even the basic necessities to her children, Shah Bano knocked on the doors of the court. The Supreme Court of India heard her plea and passed its judgment in the favour of Shah Bano, ruling that she should be given maintenance money every month. The SC called forth Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which appertains to all irrespective of caste, creed or religion. However, this judgment brought about a huge public dismal. The Muslim community opposed this decision, as it contradicted the Muslim Sharia laws. In haste, the Congress government passed the Muslim Women Act, 1986; which impoverished the Supreme Court’s decision and denied any kind of maintenance money or alimony to any Muslim woman after divorce. Sad but true! Bano lost to dirty politics.
8. TARAKESHWAR CASE
This case was so (for lack of a better word) ‘popular’, that authorities had to sell tickets to let people come inside the sessions court. And the story itself is nothing short of a blockbuster. Nobin Chandra slit the throat of his 16-year old wife, Elokeshi, who was apparently having an affair with the mahant of the local Tarakeswar temple. Even though Nobin Chandra handed himself over to the police and confessed his crime, the locals were mostly on his side. The police had to let him go after two years, even though he was serving life imprisonment while the mahant was arrested and put behind bars for three years. Alternatively, there were also rumours that the mahant had raped Elokeshi on the pretext of helping her out with “fertility issues”. This case was really important for that time period because this was seen by the society as one of those moments where the British rulers meddled in the affairs of the Bengali bhadralok and a temple priest, something that was very rare back in those days.
9. INA TRIALS
Indian National Army was formed with the aim of acquiring independence to India with Japanese aid, in 1942. INA majorly constituted Indian prisoners of war, held by Japan. Formed and led by Subhash Chandra Bose, INA managed to shake the English. However, the agitation brought about by the INA couldn’t last for long. The British government made serious efforts to abandon this force and several top guns of INA were scrutinized by the British government on charges of disobedience, revolt, and sedition, etc. INA trials are widely known as Red Fort Trials, because of the first court-martial, was done in the Red Fort in Delhi on November 1945. All ten trials were held from November 1945 to May 1946. These trials are among the ‘rarest of rare cases’. And the reason is: during the time the trials were done, there was a widespread public outrage and the Tricolour of Congress waved in the sky with the Green flag of the Muslim League. Though the charges were of treason and conspiracy, general masses of British India supported these brave men and saw them as national heroes.
10. 2G SPECTRUM CASE
This scandal was placed at number 2 in Time magazine’s list of ‘Top 10 Cases of abuse of Power’. The protectors of law themselves broke all the laws and gave an example of a high level of corruption in India. This scandal got worldwide attention. The government officials and some politicians illegally distributed Frequency Allocation Licences to mobile phone companies. These licenses were being provided to create 2G consent for mobile phones. Though the government claimed that the licenses were granted on ‘first come first serve basis’ and that ‘zero loss’ was caused during the distribution process, yet CBI filed a charge sheet in April 2011 mentioning that these fraud deals clinched the loss of INR 309845.5 Million. All the guesses of loss or profit were put to halt when the Supreme Court passed judgment on 2nd February 2012. The SC affirmed that the allotment of licenses of the spectrum was ‘unconstitutional and arbitrary’. The SC also nullified 122 licenses distributed in 2008. A. Raja was the minister of communication and I.T. at that time and he is the prime accused in this scandal.