In the past 25 years, India has been speeding towards technological developments like the rest of the world. How could law in India lag behind in this context? From 1998 till present day, India has numerous examples of developments in the Indian legal system after independence. The Information Technology Act, LGBT rights, Sabarimala temple case, etc. are the flag bearers of India’s legal modernisation. There are challenges for law in India with every legal battle. Explore the role played by recent 25 years in the 75 glorious years of independence.
1998: Although Article 105 of Constitution grants privilege to members of Parliament from prosecution, it is limited to free speech and right to vote and not from charges of bribery. The hon’ble Supreme Court made this clear in case of P.V. Narasimha Rao (1998). While dealing with the Indian legal system after independence, India’s international identity can not be missed. This year was precious in this regard as India became a nuclear power as underground 3 nuclear tests were conducted in 1998.
1999: This year proved crucial among 75 glorious years of Independence while talking about intellectual property. The Trade Marks Act, 1999 and Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 are the flag bearers.
2000: The Information and Technology Act was brought to make India legally at par with the evolving technological world.
2001: This year had a nightmarish event as the Parliament of India was attacked. To boost greenery, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act came into force to ensure protection of farmers, breeders and plant breeds. The hon’ble Supreme Court assisted the ‘Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places’ in case of Musli S. Deora. The idea was brought through a writ petition for safeguarding the right to clean air for non-smokers.
2002: The Best Bakery Case motioned after daunting Gujarat riots whereby the Supreme Court ordered trial to be proceeded outside Gujarat. Another law, namely the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002 proved to be a boon for changing the face of national capital, i.e. Delhi in particular. The 86th amendment of the Constitution recognized the right to education with the insertion of Article 21A.
2003: In the classic case of T. M. A. Pai, the apex court clarified that minorities’ right to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30(2) of Constitution is not absolute. Lighting the 21st century, the government came up with the Electricity Act which provided the basic framework for electricity supply in the country.
2004: This year witnessed the end of stringent legal provisions with the Prevention of Terrorism (Repeal) Act. The case initiated by Sakshi (an NGO for abuse against women and children) led to the Parliamnet to expand the definition of rape u/s 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 which was earlier limited to forcible penile/vaginal penetration.
2005: Empowering the freedom of expression under Article 19 (1)(a) and democracy in 75 years of independence and evolution of law, the legislature came up with the Right to Information Act in this year which allows disclosure of all the information by the authorities with a few exceptions.
2006: This year was important for children as a full stop was put over the child marriages in India with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. An important facet is the notification of implementation of The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. Another case that attracted national attention was Jessica Lal murder case whereby Manu Sharma (prime accused who shot a bartender in Delhi) was initially acquitted but was sentenced to life imprisonment by Delhi High Court by the end of 2006.
2007: A landmark was set through Coelho case wherein the apex court reiterated the judgment of basic structure under Kesavananda Bharati case (1973). Lawmaker’s limited power to refrain a law from the scope of judicial review is the backbone for 75 years of independence and evolution of law.
2008: The whole nation was shaken by Aarushi Talwar - Hemraj murder case in Delhi. The trial process reflected upon the procedural lacunas which can not be rectified even in CBI case in case of lack of concrete evidence. A landmark was also set for civil advocates through Bacchaj Nahar case wherein the hon’ble Supreme Court held that courts should not go beyond what has not been demanded by the parties in pleadings.
2009: The year is important among 75 glorious years of independence as the Delhi High court supported third gender equality by holding Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 as unconstitutional. However, Supreme Court reflected upon the law of india and struck down the part of provision which punished consensual same-sex relations among adults. The lawmakers, for good, merged the positive laws for incorporation and partnership by bringing The Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008.
2010: Crucial for 75 years of independence of India, mother nature was gifted with a legal ammunition through National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. The Supreme Court also laid principles related to private defence in case of Darshan Singh.
2011: Safeguarding children from sexual abuse and punishing the abusers, the apex court in Childline India Foundation case held that “Children are the greatest gift to humanity. The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes”. The same year, The Orissa (Alteration of Name) Act, 2011 led to the change of name of the Indian state from Orissa to Odisha.
2012: Delhi gangrape or Nirbhaya case shook the nation and eventually put a question mark on the law of india. It forced lawmakers to amend provisions of rape while the judicary decided death penalty for convicts. To protect children from any kind of sexual abuse and punish the wrongdoers in a strict way, government came up with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
2013: The case of Bhanwari Devi, a social worker who was raped and murdered in 1992 for questioning a child marriage forced the lawmakers to bring a law related to sexual harassment of women at workplace. Before The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Prevention Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 came in force, Vishakha guidelines by the apex court paved the way for related matters. Apart from that, the Companies Act, 2013 brought the age-old corporate laws in line with the current times.
2014: The hon’ble Supreme Court finally recognized third gender equality through NALSA case. The court orders require the government to extend reservations in jobs, education and other amenities for transgenders.
2015: Major changes in the juvenile justice system through Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 were brought which reduced the age of children from 18 to 16 regarding trials related to heinous crimes after the Nirbhaya case. In case of Shreya Singhal, the same year hon'ble Supreme court struck down Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 as it violated the right to expression and did not fall under reasonable restrictions.
2016: The whole nation simultaneously experienced a mini-heart attack with the government orders on November 8, 2016 declaring demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 bank notes. The Supreme Court dealing with a number of cases upheld the constitutionality of criminal defamation provisions under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In another case, the apex court ensured third gender rights by being included as an option in the application form.
2017: This year was important since the right to privacy was finally recognized as a fundamental right by the apex court in K.S. Puttaswamy case upholding the constitutionality of Aadhar card linkage with accounts. Depression and mental health being the focus with increasing cases of victims mental health issues, the Mental Healthcare Act was passed by the lawmakers. The same year, the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act came into force which requires people to pay GST on all goods and services to the state and central governments. The apex court also declared the practice of Talaq-ul-Biddat or Triple Talaq as unconstitutional in case of Shayara Bano. Hence, 2017 was crucial for 75 years of independence and evolution of law in India.
2018: A year that holds a crucial dias for 75 years of independence and evolution of law when adultery got decriminalised, abolition of Section 377 of IPC affecting same-sex relations among consenting adults, women’s entry into Sabarimala temple as a fundamental right to religion. Nirav Modi, country’s economic defaulter leaving the country forced the government to bring stringent provisions under the Fugitive Economic Offender Act.
2019: In a first, the apex court finally recognized the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right to life and allowed passive euthanasia for terminally ill patients and recognized a living will. On the other hand, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was finally passed after nationwide protests.
2020: The nation was hit hard by COVID-19 virus in the first quarter of the year and the authorities had to declare a nation wise lockdown. In case of Anuradha Bhasin, the Supreme Court upheld the right to the internet as part and parcel of freedom of expression as guaranteed under ARticle 19 (1)(a) which is applicable to Indian citizens of Jammu & Kashmir as well. Protecting the rights of citizens during police investigations, the hon’ble Supreme Court ordered installation of CCTV cameras in all police stations and other investigation authorities like NIA, CBI, etc.
2021: After years of wait, the government finally introduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 which lays guidelines for child birth through surrogacy. Bringing Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act and he Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act proved troublesome for the government as it resulted in uninvited farmer’s protest around the borders of national capital which stretched for almost a year before the government decided to take back the provisions. Another instance of importance in 2020 was elections whereby the Election Commission failed to control crowds in political rallies and one of the sitting judges commented on carelessness that could be at par with murder charges which was reported in media. The concerned authority reached the Supreme Court holding that such casual remarks or comments during court proceedings should be restricted. the The Supreme Court in this case held that it is part of freedom of expression under Article 19 (1) (a). The Karnataka High Court in a case through interim orders prohibited central government and NIC from sharing health data of citizens through Aarogya Setu app without consent.
2022: The constitutionality of sedition law is yet to be decided but the court recently expressed concerns related to misuse of the provision. In the case of Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta also known as reservation in promotion or Vanniyar reservation judgment, the apex court laid certain checks for the State governments in case of reservation policies. The court held that state needs to prove through adequate data that said class is inadequately represented in the reserved post and that reservations will not affect administrative efficiency. It may be noted that various important cases including appeal against Karnataka High Court judgment on hijab are pending before the honourable court and may lay another landmark for celebrating 75 years of independence.
 P.V. Narasimha Rao vs State (CBI/SPE), 1998 AIR SCW 2001.
 Murli S. Deora vs Union Of India And Ors, 2001 Supp(4) SCR 650.
 Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh and Another v State of Gujarat and Others, Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004.
 T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2003 SC 355.
 Sakshi v. Union of India, (2004) 5 SCC 546, AIR 2000 SC 3479.
 Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma v. State (NCT Of Delhi), (2010) 6 SCC 1; (2010) 2 SCC (cri) 1385.
 I.R.Coelho (Dead) by LRs v. State Of Tamil Nadu & Ors, A.I.R. 2007 SC 861.
 Bachhaj Nahar v. Nilima Mandal & Ors, (2008) 17 SCC 491.
 Naz Foundation v Govt of NCT of Delhi, 160 Delhi Law Times 277.
 Darshan Singh vs State Of Punjab & Anr, 2010 Cri LJ 1393 (SC).
 Childline India Foundation & Anr. v. Allan John Waters & Ors., 2011 Crl.L.J. 2305.
 Mukesh and Anr. vs. State for NCT of Delhi, (2017) (Cri) 673.
 Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011.
 National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, AIR 2014 SC 1863.
 Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, AIR 2015 SC 1523; Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 167 OF 2012.
 Subhramanian Swamy v. Union of India, Ministry of Law & ors, (2016) 7 SCC 221.
 Jamshed Ansari vs UPSC & anr, WP(C) No. 5994 of 2015.
 Justice K. S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017 10 SCC 1.
 Shayara Bano v. UOI, WP (C) 118/2016.
 Joseph Shine v. UOI, (2018) Writ Petition ( criminal) no. 194 of 2017.
 Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, AIR 2018 SC 4321; W. P. (Crl.) No. 76 of 2016; D. No. 14961/2016.
 Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors. (2018), Writ Petition (Civil) no. 373 of 2006.
 Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, WP 1031 of 2019, WP 1164 of 2019.
 The Chief Election Commissioner of India v. MR Vijayabhaskar, Civil Appeal No. 1767 of 2021 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 6731 of 2021.
 Anivar A Aravind Vs Ministry of Home Affair & Others.