Some cases keep us entertained, while some are so significant that it paves the way for bringing a fundamental change in society and shaping it for a better future. Despite a large number of cases (lodged, disposed and pending), few cases garner huge public attention either because of the graveness of the matter, the people involved in the case or because of the coverage it got on social media or in the prime time of all the news channels.
Five Famous case laws in India
In this blog, we will look at five famous case laws imprinted in the minds of the people of India. These cases became inspirations for adaption for movies and remained a constant subject matter for discussion.
The Nanavati Case - The one which supposedly ended the jury trial in India.
You might have heard about the Bollywood movie Rustom, the movie was an adaptation of this real-life incident which took place in the 60s. It is popularly believed that this case marked the end of jury trials in India. K.M. Nanavati was tried for the murder of Prem Ahuja, a man who allegedly had an affair with Nanavati’s wife.
K.M. Nanavati, the petitioner, was a naval officer. In 1959, Nanavati’s wife confessed to her husband about the Illicit relationship with Mr Ahuja. Infuriated, Nanavati took a loaded revolver and shot Ahuja dead at his residence. Nanavati turned himself in before local police and was admitted for trial.
The case was referred to a jury trial in Bombay. Nanavati initially was declared not guilty under Section 302 by the Jury with an 8:1 verdict. However, the Session Court disagreed with the view and referred the order to the Bombay High Court. The High Court declared Nanavati guilty under Section 302 of IPC. The said order was appealed to the Supreme Court. The SC found conviction and sentence of imprisonment for life passed on him by the High Court are correct, and there are absolutely no grounds for interference.
The case gained momentum by the press and got extensive media coverage which is believed to influence the Jury’s decision. The incident became the inspiration for cinema and several dramatised versions, making the case quite famous amongst the general public. So much so that people are well versed with the facts of the case.
However, what most people get wrong is that this is India's last jury trial case. The last jury trial, in fact, took place in 1973 in Calcutta!
The Ayodhya Case- The one with conflicting interests
It is popularly known as the “Ayodhya Dispute Case” and is one of India's longest-running cases. The centre of the dispute is a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which has been the cause of the issue for centuries. One side claimed it as the birthplace of Lord Rama and thus demanded the possession of the land where Babri mosque was established to build a temple on that land because of the belief the mosque was built by breaking a Hindu Temple. The other side claimed it as the place where Babri Mosque was located.
On 22nd December 1949, Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha (ABRM), Hindu activists broke into the mosque and established idols of Rama and Sita inside. The Police locked the gates, and entry was banned for both Hindus as well as Muslims.
The legal battle over Ayodhya began in 1950 when a petition was first filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, who was refused entry. In 1959 the Nirmohi Akhara filed another complaint claiming that the area should be in their possession. In response to the above-mentioned lawsuits, the Sunni Central Waqf Council filed a counter-request in 1961. On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya should be divided into three parts among the Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara. The petitioners moved the Supreme Court, and the apex court stayed the HC verdict.
In 2016, the SC started a fresh hearing of the case. The SC suggested conciliation and asked stakeholders to hold talks and find an amicable solution. However, no solution was achieved.
In 2018, the Supreme Court set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the land dispute case. On November 9, 2019, a Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi unanimously ruled that the disputed land be given to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas for the construction of a temple, and the Muslim side be compensated with five acres of land at a prominent site in Ayodhya to build a mosque.
Keeping aside the merits of the case, it cannot be denied that the said matter was used time and again for political motives and caused disharmony within different religious sects of the country.
Talwar Case- The one with unsolved mystery.
Flashback to the days when the incident centred around this case freshly happened, every news channel covered the tragedy like nothing else in India seemed important enough to cover. The case gained so much momentum that several movies and documentaries have been made based on this incident.
Also known as the double murder case, this case is about the unsolved murders of a 13-year-old girl Aarushi Talwar and a 45-year-old man, Hemraj Banjade, who was a domestic help at Arushi’s place. Arushi was found dead with her throat slit in her bedroom in Noida & at first. Hemraj himself was considered the main suspect. However, he was also found dead on the terrace.
The police then suspected Arushi’s father, Rajesh Talwar murdered the two, as he apparently found them in an objectionable position. The case was then transferred to CBI, which absolved the parents and suspected Talwar’s assistant Krishna along with domestic servants Rajkumar and Vijay.
CBI conducted a narco test on them, suspecting they attempted sexual assault on Arushi and eventually murdered her, and Hemraj witnessed it. The three were later released on the ground of lack of evidence against them.
The CBI was criticised for using illegal means to make the suspect confess In 2009, the CBI handed over the investigation to a new team; the Talwars were named as prime suspects based on the circumstantial evidence but refused to charge due to lack of evidence and recommended closure of the case. Subsequently, the court ordered against CBI’s claim and started proceedings against Talwars. In November 2013 special CBI court in Ghaziabad convicted Talwars for double murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The Allahabad HC acquitted them.
The case exposed the weakness of law enforcement agencies in the country, the Noida police were heavily criticised for mishandling the evidence and ignoring important aspects of the investigation, which might as well be the reason why to date, we don’t know who really is responsible for the murder of Arushi and Hemraj.
Nirbhaya Case- The one which led to an outcry for stringent rape law.
The case that, to date, sends chills down my spine.
The infamous Delhi gang rape case took place on 16th December 2012. Nirbhaya (victim’s real identity remained anonymous) and her male friend were returning from a movie theatre and got on an empty bus. They got into a scuffle with the six accused, who later assaulted them. Nirbhaya was raped and assaulted with an iron rod. According to a medical report, her body was seriously injured, her intestines were pulled out, and her private parts were also mutilated.
The six accused were arrested and charged with murder and rape. One of the accused died in police custody from possible suicide in Tihar jail. One of the accused was under age and was tried as a juvenile, he was convicted for three years of imprisonment in the reform facility. The 4 other remaining adults were sentenced to death as they were found guilty of rape and murder.
In 2014, the convicts approached the supreme court, which stayed their execution. The Supreme court cited the case as rarest of a rare and upheld the death penalty of the four convicts.
On 20 March 2020, the four convicts were executed at Tihar Jail.
The case created an uproar by the general public and was condemned nationally and internationally. The incident brought to light the need for stringent laws & the outcome was The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. The Act amended several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the definition of rape was broadened to include acts in addition to penetration, and several new offences were incorporated into the Indian Penal Code. The Act also amended the already existing offences to make them more stringent. The incident also brought change in the Juvenile Justice Act in 2015, wherein children between the ages of 16-18 years could be treated as adults if accused of committing heinous crimes.
Several documentaries were made around the incident. The incident tells us how cold-blooded some people are, and they deserve no mercy.
Partial struck down of Section 377 - The one where India took a step forward to become inclusive.
If you are unaware of this case, you might be living in the stone age. The rainbow community nationally and internationally were elated with joy with this decision.
In Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India, the SC partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, wherein SC decriminalised sex between two consenting adults irrespective of their gender.
The said Section was introduced by British India based on their own legislation, which criminalised unnatural sex. In 2011, the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality among consenting adults, holding it violates the right to equality, right against discrimination and protection of life under the Indian Constitution. However, the Supreme Court in 2012 overturned the high court’s decision after finding it “legally unsustainable” when numerous petitions were filed against the Delhi HC’s judgement.
In 2018, five petitions were filed in SC challenging section 377 of IPC, which criminalises sexual intercourse between consenting adults on the grounds that the said section violates the right to privacy, right to dignity, equality, liberty and right to freedom of expression of the LGBT community guaranteed under Article 14, 19 and 21 of Constitution. The petitioners contend that sexual orientation is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution, and any discrimination against the LGBT community on the basis of sexual orientation violates their fundamental rights.
The Constitutional bench declared that insofar as Section 377 criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, it is violative of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution. The SC also observed: “The LGBT persons deserve to live a life unshackled from the shadow of being ‘unapprehended felons.”
This case received appreciation globally and reflected the progress in Indian society. However, this is just a step ahead, we have miles to go.
So, these are a few famous cases that are known by the general masses in India.