Landmark Judgements Related to IPC

In this article, you will read about the recent and landmark judgements of the Indian Penal Code, which brought changes in the laws, legislation, and society.

1. Palani Goundan vs Unknown (1919)

This case is commonly referred to as Palani Goundan’s case. In this case, the husband (accused) hit his wife on the head with the ploughshare, and due to the blow, the wife went unconscious. The accused believed that she was dead, and in order to avoid being held guilty of murder, he laid the evidence of false defence, i.e. suicide by hanging. The wife died thereby by strangulation.

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The Sessions Court held the accused guilty of murder under section 300 of the Indian Penal Code. However, on appeal, the Madras High Court ruled that the accused was not guilty of murder or culpable homicide on the ground ‘actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea,’ which means a man is not guilty of a crime unless his mind is equally guilty.

There was no mens rea to kill at the moment the accused hit his wife. And, at the time of hanging, he already believed her to be dead, and thus, there can be no mens rea to kill. Therefore, the accused was convicted for the offence of grievous hurt under section 326 of the IPC and attempting to create false evidence under section 201 of the IPC and not for murder.

2. Mobarik Ali Ahmed vs State of Bombay (AIR 1957)

The complainant, Louis Anton Cornea, was a businessman who served as the director of a company in Goa that conducted import and export operations under the name Colonial Limitada. Due to the scarcity of rice in Goa, Louis wanted to import rice and got in contact with Jaswalla.

Mr Jasawalla was a commission agent at Universal Supply Corporation in Bombay. He introduced Louis to Mobarik Ali Ahmed. Mobarik was a businessman in Atlas Industrial and Trading Corporation and also in Ifthiar Ahmed & Co.

Mobarik and Louis entered into a contract via telephone, telegram and letters. Louis agreed to buy 1200 tons of rice at pound 51 per ton, which was to be shipped from Karachi to Goa. 25% of the total amount was paid in advance. Later, the quantity of rice was increased to 2000 tons with the payment of 50% as advance. Louis wanted a refund due to the delay in delivery, which Mobarik denied, stating that he did not receive any payment.

The Presidency Magistrate found the appellant (Mobarik) guilty under section 420, read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

A special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution by the appellant, arguing that his conviction could not be carried out because he was not present in India at the time of the commission of the offence.

The court was of the opinion that even though the appellant no longer has Indian citizenship and was a Pakistani national at the time the offence was committed, he must still be found guilty and punished in accordance with the Indian Penal Code despite not being physically present in India at the time.

Note: The question of jurisdiction concerning the applicability of penal laws to foreign nationals who were outside the territories of India at the time of the offence was resolved. In other words, the question of extra-territorial powers of the state was resolved, which was in question for many years.

3. Tuka Ram And Anr vs State Of Maharashtra (AIR 1979)

This case is also known as the Mathura rape case. In this case, a 14-16 years old girl named Mathura was raped at the police station. She was dragged to the washroom and raped by a police constable named Ganpat. After him, another constable, Tuka Ram, tried to rape her, but he did not succeed because he was drunk.

The court held that the accused, Ganpat and Tuka Ram, were not guilty based on the following reasons:

  • No marks of injury on Mathura’s body 
  • She changed her statements several times, making them untrustworthy.
  • She should have refused to stay at the police station when the constable, Ganpat, asked her.

This case brought the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983, into force, thereby amending section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act and section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The amended section 114A of the law of evidence states that when a woman is raped and she says that she did not consent to it, it would be presumed that there was no consent of her in such an act.

Section 376 of the IPC was amended to increase the punishment for custodial rape to not less than seven years, along with the burden of proof being shifted to the offender if sexual intercourse is established.

4. Naeem Khan @ Guddu vs State (AIR 2003)

In this case, a girl aged 16 years, Laxmi, was victimised by an acid attack. It was alleged that a boy named Naeem Khan, along with a woman named Rekha, threw acid on the victim because she refused to marry Naeem. Both the accused were convicted under section 307 and section 120B of the Indian Penal Code.

As a result of this case, several changes were made to CrPC and IPC. Sections 326A and 326B, dealing with the acid attack, were added to IPC. And section 357A was added to CrPC, thereby instructing the hospitals to provide free medical treatment. The victim compensation scheme was also announced in all the states and union territories.

Further, an order for the compensation of three lakh rupees to acid attack victims was passed by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the ban on the sale of acid was imposed by the state government.

5. Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. Vs Union of India (AIR 2013)

In this case, the constitutionality of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was challenged by a dancer of the LGBTQ community, Navtej. Sexual activity between consenting adults who are homosexual or transgender was illegal under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. It was contended by the petitioner that section 377 of the IPC is violative of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, which provides the right to equality, prohibition of discrimination, freedom of expression, and right to live, respectively.

The court declared section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. Protection of equal laws and equal treatment with dignity in society was provided to the LGBTQ community. Hence, homosexuality was declared legal in India after this case.

Subhashini Parihar
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