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Landmark Judgements

Most​​ Landmark​​ Supreme Court Judgements

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Shankari Prasad Case (1951)

This case dealt with the amendability of Fundamental Rights (the First Amendment’s validity was challenged). The SC contended that the Parliament’s power to amend under Article 368 also includes the power to amend the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution.

Berubari Union case (1960)

This case was regarding the Parliament’s power to transfer the territory of Berubai to Pakistan. The SC examined Article 3 in detail and held that the Parliament cannot make laws under this article in order to execute the Nehru-Noon agreement. Hence, the 9th Amendment Act was passed to enforce the agreement.

Golaknath case (1967)

The questions in this case were whether amendment is a law; and whether Fundamental Rights can be amended or not. SC contented that Fundamental Rights are not amenable to the Parliamentary restriction as stated in Article 13, and that to amend the Fundamental rights a new Constituent Assembly would be required. Also stated that Article 368 gives the procedure to amend the Constitution but does not confer on Parliament the power to amend the Constitution.

Kesavananda Bharati case (1973)

This judgement defined the basic structure of the Constitution. The SC held that although no part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was beyond the Parliament’s amending power, the “basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment.” This is the basis in Indian law in which the judiciary can strike down any amendment passed by Parliament that is in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution.

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain case (1975)

The SC applied the theory of basic structure and struck down Clause(4) of article 329-A, which was inserted by the 39th Amendment in 1975 on the grounds that it was beyond the Parliament’s amending power as it destroyed the Constitution’s basic features.

Menaka Gandhi case (1978)

A main issue in this case was whether the right to go abroad is a part of the Right to Personal Liberty under Article 21. The SC held that it is included in the Right to Personal Liberty. The SC also ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must also be “just, fair and reasonable.”

Minerva Mills case (1980)

This case again strengthens the Basic Structure doctrine. The judgement struck down 2 changes made to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976, declaring them to be violative of the basic structure. The judgement makes it clear that the Constitution, and not the Parliament is supreme.

Waman Rao Case (1981)

The SC again reiterated the Basic Structure doctrine. It also drew a line of demarcation as April 24th, 1973 i.e., the date of the Kesavananda Bharati judgement, and held that it should not be applied retrospectively to reopen the validity of any amendment to the Constitution which took place prior to that date.

Shah Bano Begum case (1985)

Milestone case for Muslim women’s fight for rights. The SC upheld the right to alimony for a Muslim woman and said that the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is applicable to all citizens irrespective of their religion. This set off a political controversy and the government of the day overturned this judgement by passing the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, according to which alimony need be given only during the iddat period (in tune with the Muslim personal law).

MC Mehta and Union Of India (1986)

This case dealt with 3 issues: Scope of Article 32; rule of Absolute Liability or Rylands vs Fletcher to be followed; issue of compensation. SC held that its power under Article 32 is not restricted to preventive measures, but also remedial measures when rights are violated. It also held that in the case of industries engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous activities, Absolute Liability was to be followed. Finally, it also said that the amount of compensation must be correlated to the magnitude and capacity of the industry so that it will be a deterrent.

Indra Sawhney and Union of India (1992)

SC examined the scope and extent of Article 16(4), which provides for the reservation of jobs in favour of backward classes. It upheld the constitutional validity of 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions (like creamy layer exclusion, no reservation in promotion, total reserved quota should not exceed 50%, etc.)

S. R. Bommai case (1994)

In this judgement, the SC tried to curb the blatant misuse of Article 356 (regarding the imposition of President’s Rule on states).

Vishaka and State of Rajasthan (1997)

This case dealt with sexual harassment at the workplace.​​ In the judgement, the SC gave a set of guidelines for employers – as well as other responsible persons or institutions – to immediately ensure the prevention of sexual harassment. These are called ‘Vishaka Guidelines’. These were to be considered law until appropriate legislation was enacted.

Samatha and State of Andhra Pradesh (1997)

This judgement nullified all mining leases granted by the Andhra Pradesh State government in the Scheduled areas and asked it to stop all mining operations. It declared that forest land, tribal land, and government land in scheduled areas could not be leased to private companies or non-tribal for industrial operations. Such activity is only permissible to a government undertaking and tribal people.

I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007

This judgement held that if a law is included in the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, it can still be examined and confronted in court. The 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution is a list of acts and laws which cannot be challenged in a court of law. The Waman Rao ruling ensured that acts and laws mentioned in the IX schedule till 24 April 1973, shall not be changed or challenged, but any attempt to amend or add more acts to that schedule, will suffer close inspection and examination by the judiciary system.

Pedophilia case (2011)

The SC restored the conviction and sentence of 6-year (RI) rigorous imprisonment imposed on 2 UK nationals who were acquitted by the Bombay High Court in a paedophilia case. The court said that “the sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes.”

Aruna Shanbaug Case (2011)

The SC ruled that individuals had a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia with guidelines. The need to reform India’s laws on euthanasia was triggered by the tragic case of Aruna Shanbaug who lay in a vegetative state (blind, paralysed and deaf) for 42 years.

NOTA judgement (2013)

This judgement introduced the NOTA (None-Of-The-Above) option for Indian voters.

Lily Thomas and Union Of India (2013)

The SC ruled that any MLA, MLC or MP who was found guilty of a crime and given a minimum of 2 year imprisonment would cease to be a member of the House with immediate effect.

Nirbhaya case (2014)

Introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 and definition of rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973.

National Legal Services Authority and Union of India (2014)

This case resulted in the recognition of transgender persons as a third gender. The SC also instructed the government to treat them as minorities and expand the reservations in education, jobs, education, etc.

Triple Talaq Judgement (2016)

The SC outlawed the backward practice of instant ‘triple talaq’, which permitted Muslim men to unilaterally end their marriages by uttering the word “talaq” three times without making any provision for maintenance or alimony.

Right To Privacy (2017)

The SC declared the right to privacy as a Fundamental Right protected under the Indian Constitution. 

Repealing Section 377 (2018)

The SC ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional “in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex.”

 

Important ​​ Judgement of 2018/19

Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. V. The State of Kerela & Ors. (Popularly known as the Sabrimala Verdict)

The Supreme Court considered whether the Sabarimala Temple’s customary religious practice, which prohibits the entry of women, violates fundamental rights guaranteed to women by the Indian Constitution.]

 

Justice K.S. Puttaswamy & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors. (Aadhaar Verdict)

“It is better to be unique than the best. Because, being the best makes you the number one, but being unique makes you the only one.”​​ 

In a 4:1 verdict, the Supreme Court has declared the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid, but with conditions. The majority verdict of the five-judge Constitution Bench has ruled that there is no need to link Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones, but held that Aadhaar could be passed as a money bill. The court further says that schools cannot insist on Aadhaar and read down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, barring sharing of information with corporate bodies.

 

Joseph Shine v. Union of India (Verdict on adultery law)

In this landmark judgement, the Supreme Court scrapped the 150-year old adultery law. Reading out the judgement, CJI Dipak Misra clearly stated that equality is the need of the hour. He also added that time has come when the husband should not be considered the master.

“Adultery cannot and should not be a crime. It can be a ground for a civil offence, a ground for divorce,” a five judge bench led by outgoing Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.

 Mohammad Salimullah & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors. (Verdict on Rohingya Crisis)
The Supreme Court Thursday rejected the plea to stop the deportation of seven Rohingya immigrants to Myanmar from Assam. The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi rejected the plea saying that the seven were found as illegal immigrants by the court earlier and that Myanmar is also ready to accept them as their nationals.  “We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken,” the apex court said.

M. Ismail Faruqui and Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors. (Ayodhya Verdict)
A case related to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case has found closure in the Supreme Court today with a three-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer refusing to refer to a larger bench the issue of a 1994 ruling that said mosques were not necessary for practice of Islam. Justice Nazeer, however, disagreed with the majority judgement.

 

Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. V. Union of India Thr. Secretary Ministry of Law and Justice (Section 377 Verdict)
“―I am what I am, so take me as I am.”​​ 
In this landmark verdict, the Supreme Court today scrapped the controversial Section 377– a 158-year-old colonial law on consensual gay sex. The Supreme Court reversed its own decision and said Sectuion 377 is irrational and arbitary. “LGBT Community has same rights as of any ordinary citizen. Respect for individual choice is the essence of liberty; LGBT community possesses equal rights under the constitution. Criminalising gay sex is irrational and indefensible,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed the five judge bench hearing the case.

 

Common Cause (A regd. Society) v. Union of India & Anr. (Verdict on Passive Euthanasia)
Supreme Court of India has held that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right. The Bench also held that passive euthanasia and a living will also legally valid.
The Court has issued detailed guidelines in this regard. “The right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity. With the passage of time, this Court has expanded the spectrum of Article 21 to include within it the right to live with dignity as component of right to life and liberty”.

 

Jarnail Singh & Ors. V. Lachhmi Narain Gupta & Ors. ( Verdict on SC/ST Reservation)

As the Supreme Court has upheld reservation in promotion for the SC/ST communities, the court’s position on the idea of a creamy layer has put the political class in a dilemma.So far creamy layer is applicable only for OBCs seeking reservation. Last year, the creamy layer ceiling for OBC reservation was raised to Rs 8 lakh per year — families with income above this were not eligible.