75 Years of Independence and Evolution of Law: Part 1 (1947 to 1972)

Posted On : August 25, 2022
75 Years of Independence and Evolution of Law: Part 1 (1947 to 1972)
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India is celebrating 75 years of independence in various ways. Our national flag, the tricolour, became the centre of attraction. It has become an era of national festivals for India. In this blog, it is an attempt to understand 75 years of independence and evolution of law in India through each year. The first 25 years out of 75 years of Indian independence were crucial for making and breaking of the territory, leadership, law of India, and so on. Some light has been thrown on the first 25 of 75 glorious years of independence in the blog below. Find out the year wise crucial episodes in the Indian legal system after independence.

Evolution of Indian Legal System After Independence - 1947 to 1972

1947: It was a year of rejoicing when we Indians gifted ourselves the long chased freedom. A codified law called ‘Indian Independence Act, 1947’ laid the foundation stone of India’s independence from British rule. Although it was an Act passed by the parliament of the United Kingdom, it partitioned British India into two independent dominions, i.e. India and Pakistan.


1948: An important foundation stone in the corporate world was turned through the enactment of The Factories Act, 2018 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948 ensuring the rights of employees.


1949: This was another crucial year post independence as some of the provisions of The Constitution of India were implemented on November 26, 1949. That is why this day is celebrated as Indian Constitution Day every year.


1950: On January 26, 1950, the whole Constitution of India came into force when we celebrated our first Republic Day and gave ourselves a set of fundamental rights. The same year, the freedom of expression got endangered through a government order that banned entry and circulation of a weekly magazine in particular areas of Madras. The apex court in Romesh Thappar[1] upheld freedom of press with the explanation that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation.


1951: The Representation of People Act, 1951 came in force which laid the basic rules regarding present day elections and constituencies. The Supreme Court ruling in Narasu Appa Mali[2], the rift between personal laws and fundamental rights was settled declaring the law against bigamy among Hindus and other religions as valid.


1952: The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 laid the procedural details on how the President of India and Vice-President, the constitutional chairs, have to be elected.


1953: This year was important among the 75 glorious years of independence through a classic case[3] which laid the rule that inquiry of a civil servant is not prosecution and thus, further criminal procedure does not attract the rule of double jeopardy under Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of India. An American law of termination needs to be recalled on 75 years of Indian independence which aimed at assimilating Native Americans into mainstream American society.   


1954: A crucial evolution in the history of marriage laws in India was introduced through the Special Marriage Act, 1954 which has proved to be a pillar particularly for inter-religious and inter-caste marriages in India. Another Shirur Mutt case[4] proved significant as it laid the test of essential religious practice which was recently used in the hijab case judgment by the Karnataka High Court.


1955: Law governing marriages among Hindus, i.e. the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was brought in force which initially attracted a lot of hue and cry from the society. The Citizenship Act was also enforced the same year which played a vital role in 75 years of independence of India defining the Indian citizens.


1956: The year witnessed revolution in the corporate world with the introduction of Companies Act, 1956. However, with changing times and needs, the same has been replaced by Companies Act, 2013. Family inheritance for Hindus also got legal recognition through Hindu Succession Act, 1956.


1957: For protecting the rights of artists and literaries, the Copyright Act,1957 has played a vital role in the 75 glorious years of independence. The same year, through the case of Ramjilal Modi[5], validity of IPC Section 295A[6] was challenged to be violative of freedom of expression under Article 19 (1) (a). The same was rejected and the provision of 295A was held important for maintenance of public order.


1958: In this year, the case of R. K. Dalmia[7], reasonable classification was upheld for equality under Article 14. The case judgment also brought more clarity on the concept of right to equality under the Indian Constitution.


1959: Rules and regulations related to arms and ammunition were brought in through the Arms Act, 1959.


1960: While 13 out of 75 years of independence of India had passed, India was still in the making as the Acquired Territories (Merger) Act, 1960 which led to the merger of certain territories in the states of Punjab, Assam and West Bengal among India and Pakistan.The law can be understood as an offspring of the Nehru-Noon agreement. The law also invited judicial inputs through cases like Shamlal[8] and classic example of the Berubari Union case, 1960 SCC. The Supreme Court held that parliament did not have the power to give away any territory to another country, however, the same can be done by bringing changes in the Article 368 (amendability of Indian Constitution) and eventually Article 1 (territory of India).


1961: The year brought an end to the jury system in the Indian judiciary with the case of a naval officer[9] on which the bollywood movie Rustom was filmed. It was a battle of murder in legal terms and societal justification of such murder with some aid through media. In the same year, motherhood gained legal support through the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. To aid the country’s income, the Income Tax Act, 1961 came in force the same year.


1962: This year proved important for establishing the underlying provisions of sedition law and their validity through the case of Kedar Nath[10]. Another law, Customs Act, 1962 came in force this year which regulates import and export of goods throughout the 75 years of independence of india.


1963: While talking about 75 years of independence and evolution of law in India, this year played a vital role due to certain paramount statutes. It includes the Limitation Act which lays a limitation period for starting a legal action and further procedural limitations, Specific Relief Act which grants remedy for people seeking specific remedial action, Official Languages Act which clarifies the number of officially recognized languages.


1964: Kharak Singh[11] is a renowned case law for law students which ended the debate of right to privacy as a fundamental right which took a few decades to get overturned by the apex court.


1965: The year witnessed upholding of parliament’s power to make changes in the Constitution of India beyond the basic structure through Article 368 in Sajjan Singh case[12]. Another big achievement of the Indian legal system after independence was the Payment of Bonus Act,1965 which recognized the effort put in work after business hours through overtime payment rules.


1966: This year led to formation of Haryana state under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.


1967: When the debate regarding basic structure of the Constitution lifted again, the Supreme Court through Golaknath case[13] stated that fundamental rights can not be curtailed by making amends in the Constitution placing them equal to any other law.


1968: The 75 years of independence and evolution of law witnessed rules regarding constitution and regulation of armed forces of the union under the Border Security Forces Act, 1968.


1969: Madras, one of the majorly recognized cities before independence, got renamed to the present day Tamil Nadu state through the law of India.


1970: While an ordinary citizen enters contracts on a daily basis, so do the union and central governments. In case of Maula Bux,[14] the Union failed to prove the actual loss to support the breach of contract contention in the court of law.


1971: A tussle of the executive and legislature was seen this year through U.N.R. Rao case[15] whereby the court clarified that India lacks a Presidential form of government. The presence of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister is essential for the functioning of the office of President of India. The year also introduced the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 which has been included in the present day Flag Code of India with regards to the Indian flag. The national honour hereby revolves around the national flag, Constitution of India and national anthem.


1972: Forestry in India gained legal support through The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. In Mathura rape case[16], the brutal incident forced lawmakers to make amendments in the Criminal Procedure Code to punish custodial rape, which took another decade. 


Also Read - 75 Years of Independence and Evolution of Law - Part 2.

75 Years of Independence and Evolution of Law - Part 3.


India used to be known as a ‘Sone ki Chidiya’ (golden bird) a few centuries ago. Britishers ruled on our land for almost 3 centuries. It took a lot of courage for our freedom fighters, sacrifices in abundance and enormous struggle to achieve independence in 1947. Having our own land was not as easy since you only get to know how to drive once you sit on the driver’s seat. However, the journey of being self-made has its own charm which signifies what 75 years of independence means to us in the present day and the role played by the Indian legal system after independence.

[1] Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, (1950) AIR 124, 1950 SCR 594.

[2] State Of Bombay vs Narasu Appa Mali, AIR 1952 Bom 84, (1951) 53 BOMLR 779, ILR 1951 Bom 775.

[3] S.A. Venkataraman v. Union of India, (1954) AIR 375; 1954 SCR 1150.

[4] Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Shri Lakshmindar Tirtha Swamiyar of Shri Shirur Mutt, 1954 AIR 282, 1954 SCR 1005.

[5] Ramji lal Modi v State of Uttar Pradesh, (1957) AIR 620, 1957 SCR 860.

[6] 295 A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 - Deliberate and malicious acts intending to outrage religious feelings.

[7] Shri Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, (1958) AIR 538, 1959 SCR 279.

[8] State Of Rajasthan v. Shamlal and Others, AIR 1960 Raj 256.

[9] KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra, AIR 1962 SC 605.

[10] Kedar Nath Singh vs State Of Bihar, (1962) AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769.

[11] Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1964 SCR (1) 332.

[12] Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 1965 AIR 845, 1965 SCR (1) 933.

[13] Golaknath v. State of Punjab, 1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762.

[14] Maula Bux v. Union of India, 1970 SC.

[15] U.N. R. Rao vs Smt. Indira Gandhi, 1971 AIR 1002, 1971 SCR 46.

[16] Tukaram vs. State of Maharashtra, 1979 AIR 185 1979 SCR (1) 810 1979 SCC (2) 143. 

Written By:
Ridhi Khurana

Ridhi Khurana


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