Landmark Judgments Which Transformed India


This compilation has been prepared by Soumya Shefali Chandrakar, a first-year law student of Hidayatullah National Law University.

  1. State of Madras vs. Smt. Champakan Dorairajan

This was the first major case concerning reservations in the Republic of India. Also, it led to the 1st Constitutional amendment. the Supreme Court sustained the Madras High Court judgement and struck down the Government Order passed in 1927 in the Madras Presidency. The G.O had provided caste-based reservation in government jobs and college seats. The Supreme Court’s verdict held that providing such reservations was in violation of Article 16 (2) of the Indian Constitution.

  1. M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore

The government’s 68% reservation for SEBCs and SCs/STs on college admissions was deemed excessive and unreasonable and was capped at 50%. The court ruled that reservation made under Article 15(4) should be reasonable. It should not be such as to defeat or nullify the main Rule of equality contained in Clause (1).

3.Indira Sawhney & ors. v. Union of India

The Hon’ble court held that the constitution recognized social and educational backwardness, but not economic backwardness. the decision of the Union Government to reserve 27% Government jobs for SEBCs provided them Creamy layer (the forward section of a backward class, above a certain income) among them eliminated is constitutionally valid. The court struck down the second provision of Office Memoranda and held that reserving 10% Government jobs for economically backward classes among higher caste is not valid. At no point should the reservation exceed 50%.

  1. KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra

This case was an open and shut case of a crime of passion. This case led to an end of jury trial in India. The jury ruled in favor of Nanavati and declared him “not guilty” which was eventually set aside by the Bombay High Court.


  1. Madhav Jivajirao Scndia v. Union of India

This case rejected the 1970 presidential order of abolishing titles privileges and the privy purse of princely rulers. The Order of the President of “derecognizing” the Rulers is ultra vires and illegal and violates the constitutional provisions.

  1. Golak Nath v. State of Punjab

This case prevented the parliament from taking away individuals rights. Meaning thereby fundamental rights was made immune from the amendment. Nevertheless, parliament asserted it by the 24th amendment act. It also amended article 13 and 368 to provide expressly that Parliament has the power to amend any provision of the Constitution.

  1. Keshvanand Bharti v. State of Kerala.

The Supreme Court reviewed the decision in Golaknath v. The state of Punjab and considered the validity of the 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th Amendments. This judgement defined the basic structure of the Constitution. The SC held that although no part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was beyond the Parliament’s amending power, the “basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment.” This is the basis in Indian law for the exercise of the Indian judicial of the power to judicially review, and strike down amendments to the Constitution of India passed by the Indian Parliament which conflict with the Constitution’s basic structure.

  1. Minerva Miles v. Union of India.

In this case, the validity of the 42nd amendment act was challenged on the ground that they are violative of the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. The Supreme Court struck down clauses (4) and (5) of the article 368 and it was ruled by the court that a limited amending power itself is a basic feature of the Constitution. The court held that the amendment made to Article 31C is invalid on the ground that they violate two basic features of the Constitution that are the limited nature of the parliament of the power to amend and the power of judicial review.

The Judgement of the Supreme Court thus makes it clear that the Constitution is the Supreme, not the Parliament. Parliament cannot have unlimited amending power so as to damage or destroy the Constitution to which it owes its existence and also derives its power from.

  1. Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narian

In this landmark case regarding election disputes, the primary issue was the validity of clause 4 of the 39th Amendment Act. 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.

  1. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India

The court held that the right to travel and go outside the country is included in the right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21. The Court ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must also be “just, fair and reasonable”.


  1. Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NTC Delhi

This case was decided by a two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court, which held that treating consensual homosexual sex between adults as a crime is a violation of fundamental rights protected by India’s Constitution. The verdict resulted in the decriminalization of homosexual acts involving consenting adults throughout India. This was later overturned by the Supreme Court of India in Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation, in which a 2-judge bench reinstated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. However, even that was overturned by a 5-judge bench in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India in 2018, decriminalizing homosexuality once again.

  1. Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum.

Muslim women can claim maintenance under section 125 of CrPc.

The petitioner challenged the Muslim personal law. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano and granted her alimony. Most favoured it as a secular judgment but it also invoked a strong reaction from the Muslim community, which felt that the judgment was an encroachment on Muslim Sharia law and hence led to the formation of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in 1973.


  1. Nandini Satpathy v. P L Dani

Police must inform the accused of the right to call a lawyer before answering any question.

Also, one shall undertake to answer all questions put to her which do not materially incriminate her in the pending or imminent investigations or prosecutions. If she claims immunity regarding any questions she will, without disclosing details, briefly state in which case or offence in the offing makes her reasonably apprehend self- incrimination by her refused answers.

Also Read:  Chain snatching to be Non-Bailable Offence: UP Law Commission recommends

  1. ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkam Shukla

Also called the Habeas corpus case. This case was considered as highly violative of Fundamental rights by the critics as it held the rights of citizens to move the court for violation of Articles 14, 21 and 22 would remain suspended during emergencies.

  1. Bacchan Singh v State of Punjab

This case upheld the constitutional validity of the death penalty (capital punishment) under section 302 IPC. It also made it very clear that capital punishment can only be given in rarest of rare cases.


  1. MC Mehta v. Union of India-1986

It enlarged the scope of article 21 and 32 making the right to healthy and pollution-free environment a fundamental right.

  1. SR Bommai v. Union of India

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. It also, held that secularism is a part of the constitution.

  1. Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan

It was a PIL to enforce fundamental rights for working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. This resulted in the introduction of Vishakha Guidelines. The judgment of August 1997 also provided basic definitions of sexual harassment at the workplace and provided guidelines to deal with it.

  1. Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

Controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act which allowed arrests for objectionable content posted on the internet was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in March 2015. The court held that it violated Freedom of speech.

  1. NALSA v. Union of India

In a landmark judgment the Supreme Court in April, 2014 recognized transgender persons as a third gender and ordered the government to treat them as minorities and extend reservations in jobs, education and other amenities.

  1. Hussainara Khatoon v. Home secretary State of Bihar

The Supreme Court held that prisoners should receive free legal aid and fast hearings/ speedy trial.


  1. Om Prakash v. Dil Bahar

The Supreme Court in the above case declared that a rape accused could be convicted on the sole evidence of the victim in spite of medical evidence not proving that it was rape.


  1. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (P.U.C. L) v. Union of India & Anr. (NOTA judgement-2013).

In 2013, the Supreme Court introduced negative voting as an option for the country’s electorate. According to this judgment an individual would have the option of not voting for any candidate (None-Of-The-Above) if they don’t find any of the candidates’ worthy.


  1. Lily Thomas v. Union of India

In 2013, the Supreme Court introduced negative voting as an option for the country’s electorate. According to this judgment an individual would have the option of not voting for any candidate (None-Of-The-Above) if they don’t find any of the candidates’ worthy.

  1. Mukesh & Anr vs State for NCT Of Delhi & Ors (Nirbhaya case)

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.

  1. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India & Ors

The SC ruled that individuals had a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia with guidelines. The need to reform India’s laws on euthanasia was triggered by the tragic case of Aruna Shanbaug who lay in a vegetative state (blind, paralyzed and deaf) for 42 years.

  1. Shayara Bano vs Union of India And Ors. 

The SC outlawed the backward practice of instant ‘triple talaq’, which permitted Muslim men to unilaterally end their marriages by uttering the word “talaq” three times without making any provision for maintenance or alimony.

  1. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India

The SC declared the right to privacy as a Fundamental Right protected under the Indian Constitution.

  1. Joseph Shine v. Union of India

the Supreme Court quashed adultery as a criminal offence in India. The court underlined that Section 497 treats women as properties of their husbands and is hence manifestly discriminatory. It trashed the central government’s defence of Section 497 that it protects the sanctity of marriages.

  1. Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala

In a 4:1 majority, the court ruled that Sabarimala’s exclusion of women violated the fundamental rights of women between the ages of 10-50 years and Rule 3(b) of the Public Worship Rules was unconstitutional.

31. Swapnil Tripathi vs Supreme Court of India 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to bring its courtroom proceedings under public glare by agreeing to live-streaming of court functioning, paving the way for people to watch the courtroom drama live as it unfolds on September 26, 2018.

  1. Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court v Subhash Chandra Agarwal

the CJI comes under the Right to Information Act and is a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Act. This implies that the CJI is to be transparent and is answerable to all questions raised by the citizens of the County. However, the court also emphasized the importance of maintaining confidentiality under certain aspects of the judiciary’s working. The RTI will apply to CJI only when it is in the interest of the public and does not hamper the proceedings of the judiciary in any manner.


25 Important Supreme Court Judgements for UPSC. BYJU’S The learning app.

VARIETY. 40 Landmark Judgements that changed the course of India. DAILYBITE. 07-12-2015.

Jyoti Sharma. Major landmark judgements in India important for IAs exam. Jagranjosh. 24-01-2017.

Important judgements on reservation in India. Vakilno1.  27.04.2018.

Mayank Shekhar. Case analysis of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. Legal Bites. 15. 09.2015.

Diva Rai. 20 landmark judgements passed by supreme court in 2019. Ipleaders. 10.01.2020.

Deepika S.  10 major judgements by Supreme court in 2018. Oneindia. 30.09.2018.


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