quill.gif (3183 bytes)   India Cases
  •  BodhisattwaGautam v. Subhra Chakraborty  [(1996) 1 SCC 490]

    §         Facts: The Supreme court ordered the accused to pay Rs.1,000 per month as an interim compensation to the victim of rape during the pendancy of the criminal case.

    §         Ruling: Rape is violative of Right to Life under Article 21 which includes right to live with human dignity. The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to enforce the fundamental rights against private bodies and individuals and can award compensation for violation of fundamental rights. It can exercise its jurisdiction suo moto or on the basis of PIL


  • Common Cause, a registered society v. Union of India  [(1999) 6 SCC 667]

    §         Facts:  The Supreme court held it had committed an error apparent on the face of the record in its previous judgment in holding that a minister committed misfeasance in the public office and directed notice to be issued to him to show cause why police be not directed to register a case and institute criminal prosecution against him for criminal breach of trust or any other offence and awarded payment of an exemplary damages of Rs. 50 lakhs to the Govt. by him. The Court now held it to be not sustainable and recalled the same. Ruling: The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People. This “collective responsibility” under Article 75 has two meanings. First that all members of a government are unanimous in support of its policies and second that the ministers, who had an opportunity to speak for or against the policies in the cabinet are thereby personally and morally responsible for its success and failure.

    Merely because a person is elected by the people and inducted as a minister, he cannot be said to be holding a trust on behalf of the people so as to be liable for any criminal breach of trusts.

    An order passed by the Minister though expressed in the name of the president, remains that of the minister and it cannot be treated to have been issued by the president personally and such an order is subject to judicial review.

    The Right to Life as interpreted under Article 21 includes the right to move freely and mingle with fellow beings which is violated if CBI is directed to investigate an offence without a prima facie case.


  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India [(1984) 3 SCC 161]

    §         Facts: The Supreme Court entertained a matter concerning release of bonded labor raised by an organization dedicated to the cause of release of bonded labor.

    §         Ruling: The court explained the philosophy underlying PIL as follows: (at 813) “Where a person or class of persons to whom legal injury is caused by reason of violation of a fundamental right is unable to approach the court of judicial redress on account of poverty or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position, any member of the public acting bona fide can move the court for relief under Article 32 and a fortiorari also under Article 226, so that the fundamental rights may be meaningful not only for the rich and the well to do who have the means to approach the court but also for the large masses of people  who are living a life of want and destitution and who are by reason of lack of awareness, assertiveness and resources unable to seek judicial redress.


  • Ram Prasad v.State of Bihar [1963 SCR 1129]

    §         Facts: The Court held that the Sathi Land Restoration Act, 1950 was void as it singled out a particular individual from his fellow subjects and visited him with a disability which was not imposed on others and against which even the right to complain was taken away. The Court also held that the Act was highly discriminatory. The Act sought to nullify a settlement made by the Court of Wards which was in management of the Bethiah Raj, it would appear under political pressure, as it was found on evidence that other settlements of lands belonging to the Bethiah Raj on similar terms had not been proceeded against, or sought to be invalidated.

    §         Ruling: The Court observed that while good faith and knowledge of the existing conditions on the part of a legislature are to be presumed, if there is nothing on the face of law or the surrounding circumstances brought to the notice of the court on which the classification may be reasonably be regarded as based, the presumption of constitutionality cannot be carried to the extent of always holding that there must be some undisclosed and unknown reasons for subjecting certain individuals or corporations to hostile or discriminatory legislation. In the absence of a reasonable basis for special treatment, there is a violation of Article 14, if an individual is deprived of his right to access to a Court of Law for the vindication of just grievances, a right belonging to every individual.


  • Hussainara Khatoon (IV) v Home Secretary, State of Bihar [(1980) 1 SCC 98]

    §         Facts: The case dealt, inter alia, with the rights of the under trial prisoners on habeas corpus petitions which disclosed a shocking state of affairs in regard to administration of justice in the State of Bihar. An alarmingly large number of men and women, children including, were behind prison bars for years awaiting trial in courts of law. The offences with which some of them were charged were trivial, which even if proved, would not warrant punishment for more that a few months, perhaps a year or two, and yet they remained in jail, deprived of their freedom, for periods ranging from three to ten years without even as much as their trial having commenced. The Court ordered immediate release of these under trials many of whom were  kept in jail without trial or even without a charge

    §         Ruling: Fairness under Article 21 is impaired where procedural law does not provide speedy trial of accused; does not provide for his pre-trial release on bail on his personal bond, when he is indigent and there is no substantial risk of his absconding; if an under-trial prisoner is kept in jail for a period longer than the maximum term of imprisonment which could have been awarded on his conviction and if he is not offered free legal aid, where he is too poor to engage a lawyer, provided the lawyer engaged by the State is not objected to by the accused.

    Where the petitioner succeeds in establishing his case, the Court would grant him any relief which is necessary to afford proper justice, or to prevent manifest injustice regardless of technicalities such as to issue directions to the Government and other appropriate authorities, as may be necessary, to secure to a prisoner his constitutional rights.

    The Supreme Court (per Bhagwati J) (at 107, para 10) held that the state cannot be permitted to deny the constitutional right of speedy trial to the accused on the ground that the State has no adequate financial resources to incur the necessary expenditure needed for improving the administrative and judicial apparatus with a view to improving speedy trial.


  • Khatri v. State of Bihar II [(1981) 1 SCC 635] (the Bhagalpur Blinding case)

    §         Facts: Several petitioners filed writ petitions under Article 32 for the enforcement of their fundamental rights under Article 21 on the allegation that they were blinded by the police while they were in its custody. The question arose whether the Court could order production of certain reports submitted by the CID to the State government and some correspondence between the government and certain officials.

    §         Rulings: The only object of a habeas corpus is to release a person from illegal detention. But even in a proceeding for habeas corpus, the Court is competent to mould the relief as to meet the requirements of a particular case or issue appropriate directions. The Court said that the proceedings under Article 32 are neither ‘inquiry’ nor a ‘trial’ for an offence. Neither the Supreme Court is a criminal court nor the petitioners accused persons and so criminal procedural laws are not applicable to the Court’s writ jurisdiction under Article 32.

    §         The SC again emphasized that the state governments cannot avoid their constitutional obligation to provide free legal service to the poor accused by pleading financial or administrative inability. A trial held without offering legal aid to an indigent accused at state cost will be vitiated and conviction will be set aside. Providing free legal service to the poor and the needy is an essential element to any “reasonable, fair and just” procedure.

    §         The provision of legal aid is fundamental to ensuring access to courts. This right of the indigent arises from the moment he is first produced before a magistrate. It is at this stage that the accused gets his first opportunity to apply for bail and obtain his release as also to resist remand to police or jail custody and so the accused needs competent legal advice and representation at this stage. The accused can also claim free legal aid after he has been sentenced by a court but is entitled to appeal against the verdict. The Court further emphasized that it is the legal obligation of the magistrate or judge before whom the accused is produced to inform him that if he is unable to engage a lawyer on account of poverty or indigence, he is entitled to obtain free legal services at the cost of the state. The Court took the view that the right to free legal aid would be illusory for the indigent accused unless the trial judge informs him of such a right

    §         The Court also urged that the constitutional requirement to produce an arrested person before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest be strictly and scrupulously observed.


  • Sheela Barse v. Union of India [(1986) 3 SCC 596]

    §         Facts: Ms.Sheela Barse, a dedicated social worker took up the case of helpless children below age of 16 illegally detained in jails. She petitioned for the release of such young children from jails, production of information as to the existence of juvenile courts, homes and schools and for a direction that the District judges should visit jails or sub-jails within their jurisdiction to ensure children are properly looked after when in custody.

    §         Ruling: The Court held that it is the right of a public minded citizen to bring an action for the enforcement of fundamental rights of a disabled segment of the citizenry.

    §         Where the Court comes to a conclusion that the right to speedy trail of an accused has been infringed, the charge or the conviction, as the case may be, shall be quashed.

    §         The Court directed that surprise visits should be paid to the police lock-ups by a judge of the City court appointed by the Principal judge.

    §         The Court observed that children in jail are entitled to special treatment. Children are national assets and they should be treated with special care. The Court urged the setting up of remand and juvenile homes for children in jails.


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