1) (Vodafone-Hutchison tax case) - January 2012- Vodafone's name cleared in tax battle

Vodafone was embroiled in a $2.5 billion tax dispute over its purchase of Hutchison Essar Telecom services in April 2007.  The transaction involved purchase of assets of an Indian Company, and therefore the transaction, or part thereof was liable to be taxed in India as per the allegations of tax department. Vodafone Group entered India in 2007 through a subsidiary based in the Netherlands, which acquired Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd’s (HTIL) stake in Hutchison Essar Ltd (HEL)—the joint venture that held and operated telecom licenses in India. This agreement gave Vodafone control over 67% of HEL and extinguished Hong Kong-based Hutchison’s rights of control in India a deal that cost the world’s largest telco $11.2 billion at the time. The crux of the dispute had been whether or not the Indian Income Tax Department has jurisdiction over the transaction. In January 2012, the Supreme Court passed the judgment in favor of Vodafone, saying that the Indian Income tax department had "no jurisdiction" to levy tax on overseas transaction between companies incorporated outside India.  Government changed its Income Tax Act retrospectively and made sure that any company, in similar circumstances, is not able to avoid tax by operating out of tax-havens like Cayman Islands or Lichtenstein. In May 2012, Indian authorities confirmed that they were going to charge Vodafone about  20000 crore (US $4.5 billion) in tax and fines. Retrospective Taxation means nothing but the old proceedings are being taxed as per the new rules. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Vodafone in the two-billion-dollar tax case citing that capital gains tax is not applicable to the telecom major. The apex court also said that the Rs 2,500 crore which Vodafone had already paid should be returned with interest. Landmark decision on taxability of offshore transactions.

2) Indira Gandhi v Raj Narain – 1975 – The court verdict that laid Indira Gandhi to declare Emergency.

In this case it was found that Indira Gandhi had won the 1971 Lok Sabha election from Rea Bareli Lok Sabha seat defeating socialist leader Raj Narain who later challenged the election alleging electoral malpractices and violation. Therefore, Justice Sinha disqualified her from the parliament  and imposed a 6 years banned on her holding any elected post. But on 24th June 1975 on an appeal made by Indira Gandhi Justice VR Krishna Iyera vacation Judge of supreme court granted a conditional stay on Justice Sinha’s verdict and allowed her to continue as a Prime minister. However she was prohibited from taking part in the parliamentary proceedings and draw MP’s salary. Surprisingly the very next day Indira Gandhi imposed an emergency suspending all fundamental rights, putting opposition leaders in jail. The Supreme Court later overturned her conviction on 7th November 1975. The emergency and the loosing of election in 1977 by Indira Gandhi was the direct effect of the judgment laid by Jagmohanlal Sinha. His judgment was considered all over the democratic world as a triumph of an independent jury in India. In this landmark case regarding election disputes, the primary issue was the validity of clause 4 of the 39th Amendment Act. Clause 4 provided that dispute regarding the election of 4 high official namely the President, Vice- President, the Prime minister and Speaker of Lok Sabha should be adjudicated by whatever authority and procedure was provided by law and that any court order made before its commencement declaring such an election to be void should be null and void. The Supreme Court held clause 4 as unconstitutional and void on the ground that it was outright denial of the right to equality enshrined in Article 14. The Supreme Court also added the following features as “basic features” laid down in Keshavananda Bharti case – democracy, judicial review, rule of law and jurisdiction of Supreme Court under Article 32. The trigger that led to the imposition of emergency

 

3) (ADM Jabalpur v Shivakant Shukla Case) – 1976 - A step backward for India

This case was widely known as the Habeas corpus case or The Additional District Manager Jabalpur vs. Shiv Kant Shukla. The main question arising in this case was whether under the Presidential Orders the High Court could entertain a writ of Habeas Corpus (A writ of Habeas Corpus {literally to produce the body} is a court order to a person {prison warden} or agency {institution} holding someone in custody to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order) filed by a person challenging the ground for his detention. The bench consisted of Chief Justice of India A. N. Ray, Justice H.R. Khanna, Justice M.H. Beg, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud and Justice P.N. Bhawati. The case was argued over 2 months after which the judgment was laid. The judgment concluded as follows, “In view of Presidential Order dated 27th June 1975 no person has any locus to move any writ petition under article 226 before High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention on the ground that the order is not under or in compliance with the act or is illegal or is vitiated by mala fides factual or legal or is based on extraneous considerations. The judgment was ruled in favor of the government with a 4:1 majority. In this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court declared that the rights of citizens to move the court for violation of Articles 14, 21 and 22 would remain suspended during emergencies. Triumph of individual liberty (Maneka Gandhi vs UOI) 1978. Widely considered a violation of Fundamental Rights.

 

4) (Waman Rao v Union of India) – 1981 - Constitutional validity of individual rights upheld

In this case the main challenge was the constitutional validity of Articles 31A, 31B and un- amended article 31C. The decision of Waman Rao v Union of India is regarded as benchmarks in the constitutional jurisprudence on India. Since the agricultural land laws had many disparities the constitution was amended in the year 1951 for the first time. This amendment led to several modifications in the fundamental rights and started the era of constitutional land reform through constitutional mechanism. The introduction of 2 new articles namely article 31A and 31B was enforced and also the infamous ninth schedule so as to make the laws acquiring zamindaris unchallengeable in the court of law came into existence. Article 31C was introduced by the 25th amendment act of the constitution. This clause declares that a law giving effect to the state policy towards securing the directive principles contained under article 39b and c would not be held void because of its inconsistency with articles 14, 19 and 31. Supreme Court ruled that Parliament had transgressed its power of constitutional amendment. This case was a landmark decision in the constitutional jurisprudence of India. This case has helped in determining a satisfactory method of addressing grievances pertaining to the violation of fundamental rights by creating a fine line of determination between the Acts prior to and after the Keshavananda Bharati case. Now it is easier to decide as to which laws can be challenged and which cannot.

 

5) MC Mehta v Union Of India – 1986 - Absolute Liability

In this case on the 4th and 6th of December 1985 there was a leakage of oleum gas from one of the units of Shriram Foods and Fertilizers Industries in Delhi, belonging to Delhi Cloth Mill Ltd. In this leakage one advocate practicing in Hazari Court had died and several others were affected. A writ petition was filed under Article 32 of the constitution was brought by way of Public Interest Litigation. The Supreme court took a hard and hold decision of not following the 19th century rule of English Law and it could evolve a rule which is suitable to prevail in India by enforcing a new rule of absolute liability over strict liability followed in the case of Ryland v Fletcher as followed in the English Law. The Supreme Court evolved a new rule creating absolute liability for harm caused by dangerous substances. The following statement of Bhagwati, C.J. which laid down the new principle may be noted: We are of the view that an enterprise, which is engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry which poses a potential threat to health and safety of the persons working in the factory and residing in the surrounding areas owes an Absolute and non- delegatable duty to the community to ensure that no harm results to anyone on account of hazardous or inherently dangerous activity which it has undertaken. The enterprise must be held to be under an obligation to provide that the hazardous or inherently dangerous activity in which it is engaged must be conducted with the highest standards of safety and if any harm results on account of such activity the enterprise must be absolutely liable to compensate for such harm and it should be no answer to enterprise to say that it has taken all reasonable care and that the harm occurred without any negligence on its part. A PIL filed by MC Mehta in 1986 enlarged the scope and ambit of Article 21 and Article 32 to include the right to healthy and pollution-free environment. Mounting environment-related concerns.

 

6) (SR Bommai v Union of India) – 1994 - Power of President's Rule curtailed

This case is related to state emergency under article 356. Without taking into consideration this case law state emergency situation is almost incomplete. The case law mostly covers the centre state relation. The situation during April 1989 Karnataka was congested which led to state emergency under article 356(1). This public announcement was thereafter made by the Parliament. The event which caused the state emergency was that S.R.Bommai a member of Janta Party formed the government in 1988, but later joined the Lok Dal forming a collision government as Janta Dal. But in a little while there were bifurcations amongst the party members which lead to the situation of fall the prevailing Government that time. Therefore the President had to announce emergency in the country. This announcement was challenged through Writ Petition but the High Court dismissed the Petition. Hence it was further made a appeal to Supreme Court.  The Proclamation of emergency under article 356 is subject to Judicial Review. The relevancy and the need of such proclamation shall be struck down by the concerned court if found malafide. The control of President under article 356 is limited by some restrictions. The opinion is made is based on the report prepared by the Governor and not solitary satisfaction. The Supreme Court can struck down the proclamation even if both the houses of Parliament passes the same on Malafide grounds. This landmark case had major implications on Center-State relations. Post this case the Supreme Court clearly detailed the limitations within which Article 356 has to function. Persecution of state governments stalled.

 

7) (Vishaka v State of Rajasthan) – 1997- Foundation for a female workforce

This case is in related to sexual harassment in 1997. Bhanwari Devi was a social worker who was gang raped in the year 1992 in a village of Rajasthan. She was trying to prevent her daughter as she was one year old and did not want to get married. So, took a step against her family. She filed a case and demanded justice. She received a lot of support from NGOs, which forced Supreme Court to announce a prime verdict that helped to protect women from sexual harassment in their workplace and helped in establishing general equality. The court decided that the consideration of "International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality, right to work with human dignity in Articles 14, 15 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution and the safeguards against sexual harassment implicit therein." Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment and set guidelines for employers. The Sexual harassment at workplace Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 2 September 2012. It is now The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Preventive Steps: 1) Sexual harassment should be affirmatively discussed at workers' meetings, employer-employee meetings, etc. 2) Guidelines should be prominently displayed to create awareness about the rights of female employees. 3) The employer should assist persons affected in cases of sexual harassment by outsiders. 4) Central and state governments must adopt measures, including legislation, to ensure that private employers also observe the guidelines. 5) Names and contact numbers of members of the complaints committee must be prominently displayed. In this case Vishakha and other women groups filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against State of Rajasthan and Union of India to enforce fundamental rights for working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. This resulted in the introduction of Vishaka Guidelines. The judgment of August 1997 also provided basic definitions of sexual harassment at the workplace and provided guidelines to deal with it. Hence, the importance of the case as a landmark judgment. Definition of sexual harassment and guidelines to deal with it laid down.

 

8) Child sexual assault not to be taken lightly - 2011

In this case in In TanzaniaFather Kit Cunningham and three other priests were exposed as paedophiles (Pedophilia or paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children)  after Cunningham's death. The abuse took place in the 1960s but was only publicly revealed in 2011, largely through a BBC documentary. The Supreme Court restored the conviction and sentence of six-year rigorous imprisonment imposed on two British nationals who were acquitted by the Bombay High Court in a paedophilia case. The Bench directed the accused to serve the remaining period of sentence. In a landmark judgment the Supreme Court observed “Children are the greatest gift to humanity. The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes”. Punishment not enough for child abusers.

 

9) Nirbhaya case shook the nation - March 2014 - Judiciary spurred into action and laws were strengthened for sex offenders.

On the night of 16 December 2012, Nirbhaya (name changed) accompanied by a male friend boarded a bus at Munirka for Dwarka. The bus had 6 men who assaulted both Nirbhaya and her friend. Nirbhaya was dragged to the rear end of moving bus and brutally raped. After being raped, the assailants hurled Nirbhaya and her friend out of the bus. The incident took place when a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern, Jyoti Singh was beaten, gang raped, and tortured in a private bus in which she was traveling with her friend. There were six others in the bus, including the driver, all of whom raped the woman and beat her friend. Eleven days after the assault, she was transferred to a hospital in Singapore for emergency treatment, but died from her injuries two days later. The incident generated widespread national and international coverage and was widely condemned, both in India and abroad. Subsequently, public protests against the state and central governments for failing to provide adequate security for women took place in New Delhi, where thousands of protesters clashed with security forces. Since there is a law in India that does not allow the press to publicize a rape victim's name, the victim has become widely known as Nirbhaya, meaning "fearless", and her life and death have come to symbolise women's struggle to end rape and the long-held practice of blaming the victim rather than the perpetrator. All the accused were arrested and charged with sexual assault and murder. One of the accused, Ram Singh, died in police custody from possible suicide on 11 March 2013 in the Tihar Jail. The rest of the accused went on trial in a fast-track court; the prosecution finished presenting its evidence on 8 July 2013. The juvenile was convicted of rape and murder and given the maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment in a reform facility. On 10 September 2013, the four remaining adult defendants were found guilty of rape and murder and three days later were sentenced to death by hanging. Four out of the five accused in the horrific gang-rape case of Nirbhaya were convicted and given the death sentence. The case also resulted in the introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which provides for the amendment of the definition of rape under Indian Penal Code, 1860; Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973; the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

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    I hope by reading this article you got enlighten on ,Top 9 landmark cases and judgments that brought a change in Indiafurther to mention before taken any financial decision based on this content it is prefered to take an expert opinion as matter can be subjective.