Skip to content

Legal Case Study India

Sometimes, I wonder why some Indian films have such boring stories. We are a land rich in source material, especially if you were to get into the real stories this country has to offer. Yes, it's a cliché but India is a great example of how often fact is stranger than fiction. The Indian Judicial System is a treasure trove of such stories. Here are some of the most important and influential cases in Indian history. Read on.

1. K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra (1959)

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 Thapa (1959)

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 aeroscrap 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 khukri 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 Gelhi 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 in the moment, Thapa believed that they were lawfully justified.


3. Mathura Rape Case (1972)

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. Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerala

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 to how much the Parliament can amend the Constitutional laws. In many ways, the judgement here is considered to be a big middle finger to the then Central government under Indira Gandhi. Soon after, the emergency followed.


5. NALSA vs Union of India (2014)

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).


6. Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum (1985)

62-year old mother of five, Shah Bano Begum was divorced by her husband, Mohd. Ahmed Khan. She filed a criminal suit against him in the Supreme Court and claimed alimony, which was then granted to her. But then the Islamic orthodoxy protested the judgement claiming the practice of granting alimony as anti-Islamic. The Congress government, which was in power back then, succumbed to the pressure and passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which diluted the Supreme Court judgement and further denied destitute Muslim divorcees the right to alimony from their ex-husbands. This case is regularly mentioned during talks about 'Uniform Civil Code' in the country.


7. Lal Bihari Identity Case (1975-1994)

Lal Bihari, was born in 1955; was dead through 1975 to 1994, and since then he has been an activist. Yes, you read that right. His uncle had bribed government officials to declare him dead so as to inherit their ancenstral land, and so, as per official records, Mr Lal Bihari was registered as 'deceased'. Once he realized what had happened, he started his struggle against the Indian bureaucracy to prove that he was alive. In the meantime, he performed his mock funeral, asked for widow's compensation for his wife, stood in the election against Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and even added a ' Mritak ' to his name. As of now, he heads an organization that tries to handle similar identity cases for people who have been officially declared dead but are actually still alive.


8. Bhawal Case (1921-1946)

It's still regarded as one of India's weirdest identity cases. It mainly revolved around a possible impostor who claimed to be the prince of Bhawal Estate, one which comprised over 2000 villages and was one of undivided Bengal's largest zamindari estates. Ramendra, the second kumar of the Bhawal estate died in the early 20th century, but there were rumours about him not really being dead. Ten years later,  in 1921, a sanyaasi who looked a lot like Ramendra was found wandering the streets of Dhaka. For some reason, the former tenants and farmers of Ramendra vouched for this man and also supported his claim to the title. Almost everyone except Ramendra's widow, Bibhabati, believed him. There was a long legal process involving two trials where both sides attempted to prove their claims. In the meantime, the new Ramendra also moved to Calcutta and where he was welcomed in the elite circles. He used to regularly collect 1/3rd of the estate revenue, which was his share. He used that money to support his lifestyle while also paying the legal fees of the case. In the end, in 1946, the court finally ruled in his favour, but soon after that he passed away due to a stroke he had suffered a couple of days earlier.


9. Tarakeswar Case (1874)

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 a 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.


10. Vishakha and Others vs. State of Rajasthan (1997)

Before the Vishakha Guidelines came in, the workplace was dangerous for many women especially in case of sexual harassment. In 1992, Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by upper caste men in her village because she tried to raise her voice against child-marriage. Due to gross negligence, the vaginal swabs collected from her body were taken 48 hours after the incident. Ideally, it should be done so within 24 hours. Shockingly, the judge presiding over her case (this was the seventh judge after six others were removed) acquitted the accused, even going so far to say, " Since the offenders were upper-caste men and included a brahmin, the rape could not have taken place because Bhanwari was from a lower caste. " Following the outrage over this acquittal, Vishakha and some other women's groups filed a PIL against the State of Rajasthan and the Union of India, forcing the latter to adopt the Vishakha Guidelines which now protects working women all over the country.


These are just a few cases that we thought were important and/or influential in India's history. There may very well be other examples and we shall always welcome our readers suggesting some of the best ones we might have missed.

Feature image source

Hat tip to Amartya Kanjilal for additional research.

TAGS: india, truestory, wow,

Mrinal Kanti Ghosh v UOI: Calcutta High Court Judgment on transfer of a government position

IPO Scam: With Special Referance To NSDL V. SEBI Case: This case is basically related to IPO scam which came to light during 2003-06. SEBI found number of fake DEMAT holders and alleged NSDL for non performance of their tasks

Vodafone Case: This recent case which has come to the limelight deals with transfer of shares of an Indian Company held by a foreign company to another foreign company. Transfer of Capital Assets in India and Chargeability of transaction to tax under Income Tax Act...

LML Piaggio Case: The case study focuses on the breakup of the joint venture agreement between LML Ltd., and the Italian automobile major, Piaggio. The case deals with the various developments that led to the break-up...

A Misinterpretation & Un-Called Construction Of Section 114 Of Evidence Act: Live-In-Relationship:  it has been mandated that a presumption in favour of marriage...

His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti vs State Of Kerala with reference to Agrarian Reforms in India: this is about the case of His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti vs State Of Kerala and hoew ot led to agrarian reforms in India....

Open Texture of Law & Hard Cases: Law is a set of rules which governs and guides human conduct. Law is said to have an Open texture. By referring law to have an.

Workmen Of Dimakuchi Tea Estate V. The Management of Dimakuchi Tea Estate: This case comment helps us understand the scope as to who is a workmen

Best Bakery Case & Law of Evidence: Hearsay evidence in the Law of Evidence has been introduced in sec.60 which gives the direction that oral evidence should be direct. Any evidence coming.

KK Modi Vs KN Modi: This case discussed the attributes which are necessary for considering an agreement as an arbitration agreement.....

Company Law Board v. Arbitral Tribunal: The legislature never intends to contradict itself...

L. C. Golaknath V. State Of Punjab: In the famous case of Golaknath V. State Of Punjab, in the year 1967 the Court ruled that Parliament ..

Power of Indian courts to issue Garnishee Order: The word ‘Garnish’ is derived from an old French word ‘garnir’ which means to warn or to.

Supreme Court is the final Pedestal for justice: the supreme is the final and the highest authority for which a person ca go for appeal into...

Copyright in judgments: It is very important to know certain details about copyrights before analyzing the topic in hand which is copyright in judgments. Some relevant sections...

Case Comment on SK. Shukla V State of Uttar Pradesh: Conditional legislation is of different types: (i) power to bring an Act

Bihar Assembly Dissolution Case: The detailed judgment of the Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad And Others v. Union of India on January 24, 2006 holding.

S. R. Bommai v. Union of India: Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar referred Article 356 of the Constitution of India as a dead letter of the Constitution but sadly

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India: This article deals with the landmark judgment of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India AIR 1987 SC 1086 in which .

Peter Scott or Scotch: Providing a rigorous independent review of the recent judgment delivered by Supreme Court of India in ‘Khoday Distilleries Limited Vs. The Scotch Whisky Association and Ors...

De Penning v/s Coramandal Indag Products: Case study. Suit filed for infringement of patent by Monsanto Company. One of the..

State Of Bihar V. Bihar Pensioner Samaj: This article analyze the judgment of the Apex court in this case. Another objective is to highlight any

A Rear View of the YouTube case: The Delhi High Court recently passed an order of interim injunction against and..

The State of Madras vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairajan: On November 25, 1949, Dr BR Ambedkar sounded

Waman Rao Vs Union of India: This article aims to explain how this case has settled the uncertainty which arose in the constitutional law immediately after Keshavananda Bharti Case......

BMW Case- A Massive Judicial Failure: On the evening of 30th May, two senior advocates- I.U. Khan, who was the Special Public Prosecutor in the BMW case and R.K. Anand defending the main accused Sanjeev Nanda......

Judicial Review of Supreme Court Judgment on IX schedule of the Constitution: Recent Judgment of Supreme Court dated 11.01.2007 rendered in the case in

I R Coelho (Dead) by LRs Vs. State of Tamil Nadu and Others... I. R. Cohelo Vs. State Of Tamilnadu: In the present study this chapter is of utmost importance as it is the recent case relating to the confrontation..

The Lockerbie Incident Cases: The United Nations Security council is presently the most powerful institutional body ever established at the

Vishakha Judgement: Vishakha Judgement brought out the problem of sexual harassment at workplace in public glare. Even after the Supreme Court gave the guidelines, harassment is..

Danial Latifi v. Union of India: A Muslim is required to maintain his other relations only if he has the means. But a Muslim husband is.

Legality Of Foreign Judgments: aims to study the binding nature of the foreign judgments ...

I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu -  A Judicial Challenge: The nine judges' Bench presided by Mr. Justice Y.K. Sabharwal,....

Hutch Vodafone Merger - An Issue Of Tax Planning: It is a landmark case that will severely impact the Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) landscape in India. No matter which..

Stellar Vs. Sophia 
The basic intention of the High Court was to punish the guilty. You cannot punish somebody else where the

Back log of cases: India has to suffer the scourge of the world's largest backlog of cases. Over three crore cases

Law links: Cause Lists• law News • Wills• Forms