Aruna  Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India (2011) 

Does a terminally ill person have the right to hasten his/her death by asking for either his medical treatment to be withdrawn or for a lethal injection to be administered to end his/her suffering?

 After the case of Aruna Shanbaug, the position of euthanasia in India is that while the law recognizes euthanasia in case of physical suffering, no amount of mental suffering would justify a claim to end a person’s life.

As per Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, if an adult person voluntarily attempts suicide, he/she risks being punished if his/her attempt fails. This is inconsistent. Lawmakers seriously debate the Supreme Court’s recommendation to delete Section 309 of the IPC.

Doctors have documented that passive euthanasia is already practiced in India. The Supreme Court’s decision is added to the guidelines formulated by it and is meant to operate until the Legislature enacts a suitable law on the issue.

Parliament legalizes passive euthanasia in India under strict guidelines since 2018. Patients must give consent through a living will, and must be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state.

MC Mehta vs Union of India (Ganga Pollution)(1988)

The Ganga is one of the most sacred rivers of India and billions of people live along with its course. The river receives most of the toxic waste from the domestic and industrial sector of the city. The waste dumped in the river is particularly from the leather industry tanneries of Kanpur.

The Court highlighted various constitutional provisions such as Article 48 and Article 51-A of Constitution under which it is the duty of the citizens to protect and preserve natural environment including forests, rivers, lakes, and wildlife. The Court also stated the importance of The Water Act, 1974 which was passed to control water pollution and to maintain water quality. 

The court came up with various guidelines and said that if any applications came for the establishment of industries under the jurisdiction where Ganga river flows then it has to be refused unless there are adequate provisions for the treatment of trade effluents flowing out of the factories.

Keeping in view the provisions given under Article 51-A of the Constitution, the Supreme Court further ordered that :

Central Government is duty-bound to direct all the educational institutions throughout India to teach lessons relating to the protection and the improvement of the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife in the first ten classes.

 The Central Government shall get textbooks written for the said purpose and distribute them to the educational institutions free of cost. Children should be taught about the need for maintaining their surroundings as it leads to a healthy body and healthy mind. Training of teachers who teach this subject by the introduction of short term courses for such training shall also be considered. This should be done throughout India.

Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerala(1973)

India has often faced situations where its paramount democratic institutions have clashed. One such run-in was the struggle for power between the Judiciary and the Legislature.

It is one of the best known constitutional decision of the Supreme Court of India. It was held that no amendment can violate the basic structure of the Constitution. There are no implied limitations on the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution. It also established the right of the Supreme Court to review and establish its supremacy on Constitutional matters.

It has played a very important and remarkable role in preserving the Parliamentary democracy of India. But with the changing incidents, the implications of this case are becoming apparent. It is clear that its complexity and lack of clarity on some important questions are left to be decided by the posterity.

Indira Gandhi vs. Raj Narain(1975)

Raj Narain filed a petition accusing Indira Gandhi of malpractice in the General Election. The Court held that she couldn’t practice as the Prime Minister and couldn’t participate in the elections for the coming six years. Aggrieved by this decision, Indira Gandhi made an appeal in the Supreme Court but due to holiday nothing was executed. The emergency was declared and it was said that there were some internal disturbances in the country but the emergency was declared due to this judgment of Allahabad High Court.

Supreme Court had given its first judgment in which the basic doctrine was applied to save the Constitution from malicious attacks. The five-Judge bench held that the Parliament is just elected to make laws which are beneficial to the “people of India” and not those laws which are beneficial for them. This judgment was the triumph of the Rule of Law because once again it was the law that proved to be superior and not those who made it. The Apex Court proved that law is supreme and it cannot be brought to knees even by the chosen ones.

India is the largest democracy in the world. The essence of a democratic government lies in the conduct of free & fair elections. The Parliament tried to cast the basic essence towards their end so that they could have the entitlement to validate an invalid election.

Joseph Shine vs Union Of India (Adultery Case) (2018)

The verdict which was given by the Supreme Court declaring that Adultery is not a crime was widely welcomed by the entire nation. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of adultery and was eradicated by the Court, holding it manifestly arbitrary, archaic and violative of the Right to Equality and Equal opportunity to Women.

It is one of the historical judgments which retracted the antiquated law in Sec 497 of IPC, under which women were treated as the property of husbands. Adultery can still be a ground for divorce. By this judgment, the patriarchal control of men over women is obliterated.

People’S Union For Civil … vs Union Of India &Anr(NOTA Judgment)(2013)

The Supreme Court passed a remarkable judgment which paved the way of electoral reform in the history of Indian socio-political system. Under the light of this judgment, the Election Commission made a provision for the option of the “None of the Above” in the ballot paper or electronic voting machine.

By giving the option of NOTA or negative vote, the Election Commission of India brought a new aspect of Democracy of India. People now will be competent to exhibit their despondency with the party’s choice of candidates or their stratagem.

The citizens can now congruously enjoy their ‘Right to Freedom and Expression’ in the elections and as well as in the voting procedure. This is the real meaning of Democracy under which people of the country could restrain the political parties and compelled them to change their agenda as well as the candidates.

But this system will be effective only when the law provides the provision of re-election. In the present scenario, a vote in the NOTA is still wasted as it doesn’t affect the election result as well as its procedure.

Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan(1997)

In an emerging Indian economy, as more and more women have started to work, the malady of sexual harassment at the workplace has geared its ugly face in all fields.

Though various guidelines were given by the Supreme Court to attenuate the predicament by its judgment in 1997, various laws and Acts were introduced by the Parliament for the welfare and protection of women at the workplace but in spite of that women are still harassed at the workplace very frequently.

As per a survey, many employers are yet to constitute a complaint committee for women. Unfortunately, despite the strides made by Vishakha, its guidelines have operated as a remedial rather than preventive measure.

While Vishakha is only enforced from case to case, a law would be enforced in all cases. The workplace can become truly gender sensitized only when there is proper legislation for the same.

Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation(1985)

This case highlighted the connection between the Right to livelihood and the proximity of slums to the workplace. Hence, the right to shelter was constitutionally protected through its indirect but inevitable link with the right to livelihood. However, subsequent decisions recognized that the right to housing was independently a part and parcel of the Right to life.

Although this case has not been formally overruled, its scope and effect have been significantly weakened from 1990 onwards. Yet, as a Constitutional-Bench judgment of one of the most powerful courts in the world, it still acts as a strong reminder that the Court will not remain a silent spectator when Human Rights of the lowest rungs of the society are about to be trampled upon.

State Through Reference vs Ram Singh &Ors(Nirbhaya Case)(2013)

In a country like India, the statistics of rape is petrifying. But, one incident which completely shook the entire country was the Nirbhaya episode. A rape case that left people numb and brought billions of together against this heinous crime. The severity of this case not only brought the question of women safety in the state or country but even questioned the legal system which the people do not fear.

 This incident sparked many legal reforms in the country. A committee, called the Verma Committee was established for the recommendations and reforms and it recommended various policies. The government also passed various amendments and has also been prompt in creating consciousness programs at grass root levels and in educating children about sex and introducing literacy programs for women.

 In spite of all these amendments and reforms, several key recommendations of the Verma Committee on the criminalisation of marital rape, monitoring of illegal patriarchial villages like Khap panchayats and review of security laws in conflict zones have still been ignored.

India is still the most unsafe country for women. The increasing crime rate shows that Delhi is still under a dark shadow of these crimes but it has definitely paved a way towards improving the state of safety of women and brought forth the fact that the society is determined to take action against such issues.

Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India ( Section-377)(2018)

The Supreme Court has decided on its own wisdom and decriminalized Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. It was one of the most discussed and tensed topics in the Legislature and Judiciary of the country.

But the five-Judge Constitutional Bench scrapped it out from the Code and decriminalized the colonial law which was continued from the last 158 years which criminalized consensual gay sex.

After this judgment, the LGBTQ may have an enabling platform to come out but their fight still has a long way to go. There is still a large portion of the population which is not in the favor and is still living with the ancient orthodox thinking.

But after this historic and path-breaking judgment, the people of that community can live with dignity and they also have same rights and privileges which is provided to all the citizens of the nation and no one can question their conduct or privacy anymore.

Written By
Banasthali Vidyapith


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