TOP 40 LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS OF THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA THAT EVERY LAW STUDENT MUST KNOW [UPDATED]
T.V. Eachara Varier vs. Secretary to the Ministry of Home 1978 CriLJ 86
Sri. P. Rajan was a final year student at the Region Engineering College, Calicut. During the national emergency, he was arrested under the direction of the then Deputy Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch. He was detained, killed and disposed of without informing the family. The father in search of his son wrote several petitions to the Home Secretary on the whereabouts of his son before going to court with a writ of Habeas Corpus.
The issues raised were:
- Whether the son was actually taken into custody on 1/3/1976?
- Whether the son was still in police custody?
- Whether the court will grant a relief in this circumstance and if yes against who?
The father contended that are aware of the son’s disappearance while the Police filed a counter affidavit disclaiming the arrest and whereabouts of Rajan. Witnesses called gave evidence to the arrest. The court decided that the Police officers were liable because they used their powers excessively and abused it. Several officers were tried and condemned to life imprisonment, etc. but the decisions were overturned on appeal.
Kehar Singh & Ors vs State (Delhi Admn.) 1988 AIR 1883, 1988 SCR Supl. (2) 24
Kehar Singh, Satwant Singh, and Beant Singh were alleged to have plotted and assassinated the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi in her residence. They were posted to guard her but instead, the conspired and shot her 30 times. After the shooting, they killed to escape but Beant Singh was killed in a crossfire between them (Operation Blue Star) and the police commandos. Also, Satwant Singh was injured and arrested including Kehar Singh and charged to court.
The Court held that Kehar and Satwant Singh are guilty of murder and sentenced them to death. On further appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the lower court. It added that there is no justification for the murder of the Prime Minister by persons who ought to protect her. As such, killing her with not just one or two bullets but 30 shots showed they were out on a vengeful mission. Both Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh were hanged to death in Tihar Jail.
Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum [1985 (1) SCALE 767 = 1985 (3) SCR 844 = 1985 (2) SCC 556 = AIR 1985 SC 945]
This case is a landmark case on gender equality and divorce especially as it refers to Indian Muslims. It is also referred to as the “Shah Bano Case”. Shah Bano was married to her husband, Mohd. Ahmed Khan, a renowned lawyer for 43 years. The husband disowned her and her children in 1975. She filed an appeal under s. 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) for maintenance. Khan said the triple Talaq for a Muslim to divorce his wife.
- Whether the Code of Criminal Procedure particularly section 125 affects Muslims?
The court held that the law is not limited by religion or the triple talaq. As such, section 125 is applicable to everyone. The Magistrate court held she should maintain for Rs. 25 monthly. On appeal, the Supreme Court held for Rs. 179 monthly.
M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. 1987 SCR (1) 819
This case is the popular Bhopal Gas Tragedy case. MC Mehta filed a petition that Shriram Food and Fertilizer Industry which is a subsidiary of Delhi Cloth Mills Ltd should stop using dangerous gas. While the petition was pending, there was an oleum gas explosion which resulted in the death of many and injuries of several others. The Delhi Legal Aid and Advice Board filed for compensation of the victim. The parties relied on the principle of Absolute liability, Articles 21 and 32 of the Constitution.
The Delhi District Magistrate held that Shriram should stop using and producing dangerous gas in its factory. The Court also held that the rule of Absolute liability derived from the rule in Ryland and Fletcher applies to the company. So, they are liable for the acts or omission of their servants.
Ramesh.S/O Chotalal Dalal vs. Union Of India & Ors 1988 AIR 775, 1988 SCR (2)1011
“Tamas” was a series of four episodes created out of Shr. Bhishma Sahni’s book which tells the story of the Hindu Muslim and Sikh Muslim tension and violence before India was partitioned. The Petitioner filed a writ of Petition under Article 32 declaring Tamas a violation under section 5 (b) of the Cinematograph Act 1952, is violation of the fundamental rights under Article 21 and 25, and an offense under section 153A of the IPC.
The court held that there was the Cinematograph Act was not violated neither was there a violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The Court held that in fact, the series will create a good impression on the public and since it was approved by the Board, such opinion counts. Also, a book has been written, so, it is either the public reads the book or watches the series.
Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, 1992
The Prime Minister Sri M. Desai who was the head of the Janata Government by a Presidental order appointed the second backward classes, also known as Kaka Kallelkar’s Commission under Article 340 of the Constitution. After the appointment, set up and submission, 2399 caste were listed as educationally and socially backward in the report. The Central Government failed to accept it and rather shelved the report.
- Is the right of reservation of posts in services for the state under Article 16(1) an exhaustive right and is Article 16(4) an exception?
- What is the defining content of Article 16(4) as it pertains to Backward Class?
The court held that the backward class defines the caste system and not an economic system. Thus, Article 16(4) cannot be an exception to Article 16(1) because Article 16(4) does not apply to educationally and socially backward as provided under Article 15(4) of the constitution.
Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India
Prior to this case, the government had the sole authority to appoint judges to the highest courts. This is a landmark case on judges’ appointment and is popularly known as the Judges Transfer case. This case came in to change that as the Chief Justice challenged the jurisdiction of the Executives in the appointment of judges.
- Whether the Chief Judge has the sole and primary right in the appointment of judges or whether the power of the chief justice with respect to that is participatory?
The court held that the Chief Judge is mandated under the constitution to appoint judges. Thus, Articles 124 is different from Article 74 and this invariably means that the Chief Judge can provide an advice to the President but the advice must be constitutional and within the confines of the law. If it is not, it is null and void.
S. R. Bommai v. Union of India ( 2 SCR 644: AIR 1994 SC 1918: (1994) 3 SCC1)
This is a landmark case that extensively discusses Article 356 of the Constitution including other related issues. The said section of the law was an issue for determination because the President relied on it excessively to direct the affairs of the State Government. A proclamation was made and a writ petition was filed challenging the said proclamation.
The court unanimously held that the action of the President was as it pertains to the proclamation justiciable under Article 356 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court also added that although Article 74 bars judicial review, it does not bear the scrutiny of the advice given by the Minister to the President.
Babri Masjid, Ayodhya Case, 1994
The Ayodhya dispute referred to a plot of land located in Uttar Pradesh. The place was known as the birthplace of Lord Rama. Subsequently, it was turned into a place of worship called the Babri Mosque. The bone of contention was whether the temple was demolished to create a mosque.
The high court ruled that Ayodhya land which was 2.77 acres shall be divided into three parts namely Hindu, Muslims, and the Nirmohi Akhara. The parties appealed to the Bench upon the verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The bench in passing its verdict thought the decision of the high court was rather strange as the parties did not ask for the division.
The Bench finally agreed that the Ayodhya disputed land will remain as the March 2002 Order and the direction of the 1994 Constitution Bench.
R. Rajagopal vs. State Of T.N 1995 AIR 264, 1994 SCC (6) 632
The Petitioner, in this case, was the staff of the Tamil Magazine while the Respondents were the Inspector General of Prisons, Superintendent of Prisons, and the State of Tamil Nadu. The Petitioner brought a petition against the respondents because they prohibited the petitioner from publishing the autobiography of a prisoner who was convicted on six counts of murder and sentenced to death. The Petitioner alleged that such prohibition was against the right to freedom of expression.
The Court in passing its ruling drew a distinction between the right to privacy and press and the tort of defamation. The court held that the Petitioner can publish the autobiography of the prisoner so far that it does not infringe on his rights and the respondents do not have a right to interfere. They can only sue the petitioner for defamation if the words of the prisoner are defamatory.
Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation 1985 SCC (3) 545
The petitioners were persons living in the slums and on the pavements of the streets. They brought a writ petition claiming that they were deprived of their livelihood through the eviction notice given to them.
The Supreme Court in adhering to their argument argued on two points of law. The right to life and the right of livelihood as stipulated under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court held that in interpreting the right to life, it also includes the right to livelihood. As such, depriving one of his rights to life is the same as depriving one of his right to livelihood. The reason for such interpretation was because of the wide blanket Article 21 had. Therefore, the petitioners were asked to move out after being given one month notice after the monsoon season.
St. Stephen’s College vs. The University Of Delhi on 6 December 1991
The St. Stephen College was an institution was affiliated to UP University and Delhi University. It was primarily an institution for Christian and maintained a minority status including the number of admitted students. For a slot of 300, more than 6000 students applied. The School unilaterally took a decision as to the time of application and admission. The students denied admission sued the school through a Writ Petition.
The High Court held that the Petitioners had no right to file the petition and that one of the conditions for admission which was Indian citizenship was right although not a part of the application.
On appeal, the decision was overturned. The court held that Indian citizenship as defined under Article 30 of the Constitution was not a part of the application and as such, does not count. It also added that for one to set up an educational institution, the requirement of citizenship must apply especially when the institution refers to a minority class.
Sarla Mudgal v. Union Of India AIR 1995 SC 1531
This is a landmark case that made emphasis on section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. The Petitioners filed a writ petition in court alleging that their husbands, converted to Islam for the sole purpose of marrying another wife. They contended that such marriage was illegal and the husband was punishable under section 494 of the IPC.
The issues addressed by the court were:
- Whether a Hindu husband who is married under the Hindu law can convert to Islam and marry a second wife?
- Whether the Hindu husband after such act can be charged under section 494 of the IPC?
The court held that the first marriage stands valid and that the conversion to Islam is not an opportunity to pick another wife. Therefore, the husband is punishable under section 494 of the IPC.
Samatha vs. State Of Andhra Pradesh And Ors Appeal (civil) 4601-02 of 1997
The State of Andhra Pradesh granted several non-tribal persons such as M/s Kalyani Minerals, K Appa Rao, M Seetharama Swamy, etc. mining leases in the region of the Reserved Forest Area including fourteen villages in Borra. The Appellants in the case filed several petitions against the mining leaseholders and the State government. The Appellants argued that the area of contention fell under the notified scheduled area. Therefore, it was against the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and the Scheduled Area Land Transfer Regulation 1959 of Andhra Pradesh.
The High Court gave its judgment in favor of the respondents. The appellants filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the high court and annulled the mining leases granted by the government.
Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan 1997
This case came about as a result of women fighting for an end to sexual violence and assault on them at workplaces. The Plaintiff sued for Public Interest Litigation against Rajasthan and the Union of India after a woman named Dhanwari Devi was ganged ranged for stopping a child marriage. The Plaintiff argued that the right of working women under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution should be protected and guaranteed. Today, it is called the Vishaka Guidelines.
The Court held that the women can enforce their rights in a workplace under Article 14, 19 and 21 rather than under sections 354 and 509 of the IPC which was initially left at the interpretation or discretion of the police after a report has been made about outraging women modesty.
Best bakery case 2003-
This is India’s most controversial and high profiled case. The Tulsi Best Bakery was owned by the Skeikh family in Gujarat India but during a riot, the best bakery was burnt down killing fourteen (14) persons. Out of the 14, 11 were family members while 3 were Hindu workers. The First Information Report (FIRs) were submitted by the daughter and other workers who witnessed the whole event. Thereafter 21 persons were arrested and brought before the court.
The court discharged the 21 accused persons and held that the evidence was insubstantial to warrant a conviction. The reason for such decision was that the witnesses submitted and testified contradictory evidence. Some of the statement of the witnesses as evidence were either hearsay or indirect. But after a retrial was ordered on the case and subsequent appeal, five out of the 21 accused persons were convicted and while the remaining were discharged and acquitted.
Suhas Katti v. Tamil Nadu
The victim, in this case, turned down a proposal and marriage advances from the accused before she got married and even after her divorce. The accused got annoyed by her rejection by her rejection and started harassing her by posting annoying, defamatory and obscene messages to a Yahoo Message Group. The victim reported to the police and the accused was arrested and charged under sections 469, and 509 of the IPC, and section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The court found the accused guilty of cyberbullying and also guilty under sections 469 and 509 of the IPC. The accused was sentenced to two (2) years in prison to serve concurrently. Under section 469 of the IPC, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and with a fine of Rs. 500. Under section 509 of the IPC, he was sentenced to 1 year in prison with a fine of Rs. 500. Under section 67 of the ITA, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and a fine of Rs. 4000.
Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2006) 2 SCC 1
This case is a landmark case on election disputes and legality of post-election realignments. The Bihar Legislative Assembly elections were conducted in 2005 by the Election Commission of India and the results were subsequently declared. There were a total of 243 seats and none of the parties in the election maintained a simple majority. Subsequently, there was an uprising of which the President gave an order dissolving the Assembly. Several persons filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.
- Whether the Bihar Legislative Assembly can be dissolved under Article 174(2)(b) of the Constitution prior to its first meeting?
- Whether the Presidential Order or Proclamation was unconstitutional and illegal?
The court held that the dissolution of the Bihar Legislative Assembly by the President through the Presidential Order was unconstitutional and an excessive use of power.
P.A. Inamdar & Ors vs State of Maharashtra & Ors Appeal (civil) 5041 of 2005
This case highlights the merits and constitutional basis of the right to education as a fundamental right under the constitution. It was brought to the court’s attention through a flaw found in the PAI Foundation case. The argument was whether there was a fundamental right to set up an educational institution or not.
The Court in adjudicating on this case considered the issue and relied on Article 30 (1) of the Constitution and corrected the error of the case to avoid the floodgate of writ petition pertaining to the educational institution as a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution.
Om Prakash v. State of U.P Appeal (crl.) 629 of 2006
In this case, the accused was the husband of the victim and he tried to rape her. The woman raised an alarm and the accused was arrested by the police. The accused was charged to court based on FIR by the victim. The accused was charged with raping a pregnant woman under section 376(2)(e) of the IPC. The accused if found guilty will attract a 10-year imprisonment, whereas section 376(1) of the IPC attracts a 7 years’ imprisonment for police officers that commit the same offence.
The accused was found guilty of raping a pregnant woman and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. On appeal, the judges reduced it to seven years adding that it was not shown or known to the accused that the victim was pregnant before the rape. Therefore, he was sentenced under section 376(1) of the IPC.
Priyadarshini Mattoo case 2006
The victim, in this case, was gruesomely raped and murdered by the accused. She reported severally to the Police about the accused stalking and at a point, the police provided a security detail for her. But that did not deter the accused who besotted at some point which she refused, hence the stalking.
The accused was charged to the court for the victim’s murder but being the son of a top police official, the case was treated lightly. The court acquitted him of the murder and referred the case to the CBI. Due to intense public outcry, the case was reopened again and a decade after, the accused was convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to death. The accused appealed the decision of his sentence to the Supreme Court and it was ameliorated to life imprisonment.
Jessica Murder case 2006
In this case, the victim Jessica Lal was a model and worked in a Bar. The accused came in with his friends and demanded that he be served liquor of which the victim refused. He fired the first shot, a warning shot at the ceiling and the victim still refused. Thereafter, he fired the next shot on her head which killed her instantly. He thereafter absconded with his friends and went into hiding for a while before turning himself over to the police. He was charged and granted bail the same day.
The trial court acquitted him of the charge of murder largely due to his father’s prowess who was the Congress nominated member of the parliament and also a minister. Due to public outcry, the decision was appealed and the accused with others were found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Jessica Lal.
Aarushi Talwar case, 2008
This case is referred to as the Noida double murder case. The victims were both 14 years old and 45 years old. While the 14 years old is the daughter of the accused, the 45 years is the domestic help. When the police found the body of the 14 years, they considered the caregiver as the primary suspect but the body was found 4 days later. Thereafter, an autopsy was carried out and it was discovered that the murder was committed with such precision required of a medical practitioner. On the other hand, the parents were dentists. They were arrested and charged to court for the murder of their daughter and the domestic help.
The court sentenced the couple to life imprisonment for the murder. Thereafter, the wife was granted parole to attend to her ailing mother. In 2017, the couple appealed and the decision was overturned. They were acquitted of the Noida double murder.
Nithari Serial Murder Case, 2009
This case has been classified throughout India as a rare case. It involves the murder of a 14-year-old girl called Rimpa Halder by Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder Koli. Both were serial killers who were suspected by the media of sexually abusing children before killing or strangling them. Afterward, the bodies were dismembered for illicit human part sales. It was presumed that more than 31 children were killed by them.
The Ghaziabad Special Sessions Court found both Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder Koli guilty and sentenced them to death for the murder of Rimpa halder. But on appeal to the Allahabad High Court, Moninder Singh Pandher was found not guilty and acquitted. He was later convicted together with Surinder Koli on another murder charge in 2017. Both were sentenced to death.
Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi 160 Delhi Law Times 277
In this case, the NAZ Foundation filed a public interest lawsuit against the government. The fact was that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was against the fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution. They also advocated that it infringes on the rights of LGBT community. Section 377 IPC disapproves of all forms of sexual relations that are against nature except for heterosexuals.
The Delhi High Court while dismissing the matter claimed that NAZ Foundation has no locus although the matter is a locus classicus. But the Supreme Court held otherwise and added that they do have a locus in the suit and it is the interest of the public. As such, the case was sent back to the High Court for retrial. The court subsequently held that section 377 of the IPC infringes on the fundamental rights of the people in the constitution.
Ajmal Kasab State of Maharashtra, 2012
The fact leading to the trial of this case recorded black days in the history of India. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and several others who are Pakistani nationals entered India illegally, bought arms and ammunition and opened fire on people. Their simple agendum was freedom of Kashmir from India Government. This act left 166 dead and 238 injured.
- Was the accused tried freely and fairly before conviction?
- Was the death penalty justified?
The judges in deciding the case found the accused guilty of acts of terrorism and sentenced him to death. The opposing counsel argued that he was a minor and should be tried as such. Also, as a minor, he does not deserve the death penalty. The court held that his actions were voluntary and his mental age supersedes his physical age. This under the IPC, Explosives Act, Arms Act, Passport Act, he was guilty.
Lily Thomas v. Union of India, 2013
The husband of the petitioner was Hindu before and during their marriage, but he became a Muslim and took another wife. The petitioner argued that he did it in order to avoid the Marriage Act which will convict him of Bigamy or Polygamy although the Muslim rites allow such.
- Whether the conversion from Hindu to Islam with regards to marriage is a violation of Article 21?
- Whether the charge for such violation infringes on the fundamental rights to life and liberty?
The court held that his conversion does not stand. It is merely a ruse to confuse or defraud the people. The judge noted that if he was serious about his conversion, all account details and personal details must have been changed to reflect his status as a Muslim and not as a Hindu. The court, therefore, held that the Marriage Act still binds him and he is guilty of polygamy.
NALSA v. Union of India, 2014
This is a landmark case that highlights gender equality in India. The case was instituted to protect the rights of transgendered persons as the third gender in India. The people believed that non-protection of their gender is a violation of Article 14 and Article 21 of the India Constitution which highlights the right to equality and right to personal life and personal liberty respectively.
The Supreme Court concurred to the argument and held that it was a violation of their rights as Indian citizens are meant to be equal in the eyes of the law. Also, they ought to be protected. As such, the court pushed for the legalization of the third gender in India.
Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, 2015
The Police made an arrest of two women that made a derogatory or insulting remark on Facebook about shutting the city down after the death of a political leader. The police made the arrest under section 66A of the Information Technology Act. But, the ladies were subsequently discharged and they filed a petition challenging their arrest. Their bone of contention was that section 66A of the ITA was a violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the constitution.
The court held that section 66A of the ITA was, in fact, a violation of their constitutional rights under freedom of speech and expression. It held that the said section is not a protection from defamation as defamation targets a specific person and as such, the law should not be a blanket cover. The court thereafter held the section in its entirety to be null and void.
State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan (AIR 1951 SC 226)
This case highlights a crucial infringement of the fundamental rights of people. The right in question is the caste system which is dependent on the number of seats reserved for students in educational institutions and seats reserved for politicians in electoral constituencies.
The Appellant Mr. Champakam Dorairajan filed for a Writ of Mandamus challenging the inequality in education, politics, and social life. The Supreme Court held that such a system of seat allocation defines a class of people and set them apart from others. The right that maintains equality should not discriminate or segregate a particular section even if it involves religion.
The Supreme Court held that the communal Government Order by the State of Madras was a violation and an infringement of the rights of the people. This decision effectively led to the first amendment of the Indian Constitution particularly Article 29(2).
K. M. Nanavati vs State Of Maharashtra 1962 AIR 605, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 567
Nanavati was a commander of the Indian Navy and was married with three children. He was often on duties and as such, his absence affected his wife who fell in love with the deceased, Ahuja, the husband’s friend.
During one of his return, he realized that his wife Sylvia was indifferent and questioned her. She confessed to having fallen in love with Ahuja who on the other hand does not intend to marry her. Nanavati confronted the deceased after dropping his wife and children at the metro cinema.
The confrontation resulted in the firing of three bullets and the subsequent death of Ahuja. Nanavati reported himself for the offence. Thereafter, he was tried for mediated murder under section 302 of the IPC.
The jury gave their ruling that it was not premeditated murder but provocation. The Session Jury though such decision for acquittal was perverse and referred the case to the Bombay High Court.
Finally, the case went up to the Supreme Court where it upheld the ruling of murder and sentenced Nanavati to life imprisonment. The government finally granted Mr. Nanavati pardon with the approval of Ahuja’s sister.
Golaknath v. State Of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762)
This case introduced the doctrine of a prospective ruling by the Supreme Court. The case pertains to the takeover of a family land and subsequent division by the Parliament.
The Plaintiff filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution stipulating that the State of Punjab overstep the boundaries of their powers and violated their right to profession and the right to hold and acquire property in the constitution under Article 19 (f) and (g) of the Constitution, and right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court held that the constitution is ultimately paramount and cannot be infringed upon by the Parliament. As such, if there are powers which curtail the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution, the constitution shall be paramount and such powers shall be declared null and void.
H. H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jiwaji Raoscindia Bahad vs Union Of India 1971 AIR 530, 1971 SCR (3) 9
Rajagopalachari led the Swatantra Party and several Rules of Former Indian States to abolish the Privy Purses. The motion was presented to the Parliament in 1970 after the defeat of several Congress candidates during elections.
The motion was defeated in Rajya Sabha by one vote after being passed in Lok Sabha. After the defeat, the then President of India withdrew the Rulers’ recognition by exercising his powers under Article 366, Clause (22) of the Constitution. Such action of President V. Giri was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court by Palkhivala.
The Supreme Court by a majority ruling held that the President’s withdrawal of recognition was illegal, ultra vires and unconstitutional. This decision was held with a reliance on Article 18 of the Constitution.
Thus, all pre-existing privileges and rights were restored back including the right to privy purses which was the foundation of the entire dispute.
Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors. Vs. State of Kerala and Anor. (1973) 4 SCC 225
The issues brought before the court pertains to Article 368 of the Constitution with reference to fundamental rights, the validity of the 24th Amendment Act of 1971, section 2(a), section 2(b) and section 3 of the 25th Amendment Act, and the 29th Amendment Act of 1971.
The Supreme Court in its ruling held that the right to the amendment can only be done by two Parliaments and not one. Thus, the right of amendment was unconstitutional as enshrined under Article 379 of the Constitution.
The court also upheld the amendment of the 24th and overturned the other amendments. It added that the House of Parliament does not have unlimited powers to amend the constitution without recourse if such amendment pertains to the fundamental rights of the people.
Other than that, they can amend the constitution but the powers shall be valid if done by both House of Parliament.
Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Shri Raj Narain & Anr (1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333)
In this case, there was an election and subsequently the election of Smt. Indira Gandhi was challenged to be ridiculed with electoral malpractices such as rigging, corrupt practices, and other electoral vices.
Such challenge resulted in the cancellation of the election and a ban on Smt. Indira Gandhi not to vie for any electoral position of the next six years.
While the matter was in court, the Parliament passed the 39th Amendment which included Article 392A. The Act bars the election of the Speaker and Prime Minister from being challenged by anyone.
The Supreme Court in its ruling held that the 39th Amendment was unconstitutional as it infringes and violates the Right to Equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution.
Also, the court added four basic features to its ruling which includes the ruling law, its jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution, judicial review and democracy. It also held that laws do not apply retrospectively but prospectively.
ADM Jabalpur vs. Shivkant Shukla (1976) 2 SCC 521
This case is commonly referred to as the Habeas Corpus Case. The case highlights a controversial ruling of the Supreme Court as it pertains to state emergencies and fundamental rights.
This case is an overflow of the Smt. Indira Gandhi case of which she was accused of electoral malpractices. The opposition declared a National Emergency by invoking Article 352 of the Constitution. Such invocation suppressed the Press and gave the government the right to abuse powers through arrest, detention, and propagation of reasonable apprehension.
Several citizens including the Appellant filed for fundament rights in the court. The court including the Supreme Court held that it cannot entertain a writ of habeas corpus if it is filed during a state of emergency or national emergency.
Thus, all fundamental rights cases under Article 14, 21 and 22 of the Constitution are suspended in emergency and the citizens cannot turn to the judiciary for solace or help.
Maneka Gandhi vs. Union Of India 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621
This case challenges the effectiveness of the Passport Act, the Passport Authority and constitutional invocation of the right to life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
Maneka Gandhi has issued a passport under the Passport Act of 1967 and told to surrender it for public interest under Section 10(3) of the same Act. She wrote a letter to the Regional Passport Officer asking for the reason for such surrender but got no response. She subsequently filed a Writ Petition.
The Supreme Court held that the Government infringed on her fundamental rights especially her right to liberty. The right to liberty was defined not to be limited but broad as it protects an individual when it refers to a right to travel.
Therefore an interpretation of Article 21 also involves an interpretation of Article 19 and Article 14.
Minerva Mills Ltd and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors AIR 1980 SC 1789
This case has been revered as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision as it applies to the constitution of India and the doctrine of basic structure.
Here, the Supreme Court ruled that the Parliament does not have an unlimited power to amend the constitution. Also, they cannot through their limited power grant themselves an unlimited power to amend the constitution. Thus, the House of the Parliament cannot claim that in amending the constitution, it will also destroy it particularly the fundamental rights as it pertains to the right to equality and liberty.
Therefore, the Supreme Court held that the 42nd Amendment Act which included sections 4 and 55 enacted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during a National Emergency was unconstitutional, null and void.
S.P Gupta v. Union of India 1981 Supp SCC 87
This is one of the popular three Judges cases. The other two are the Supreme Court Advocates – on Record Association vs. Union of India (1993) and Re Special Reference 1 (1998).
The Law Minister and the Chief Justice of India exchange correspondence on the transfer and appointment of judges. The correspondence was open to public disclosure under the law as it was neither protected nor privileged.
The State sought for the privilege of the documents under section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act and Article 74(2) of the Indian Constitution. It claimed that the Court should not inquire into such advice tendered to the President by the Council of Ministers.
The Supreme in passing its decision held otherwise. It added that such advice is not protected and it is also not a privileged document.