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Aaryan Dhar

The Indian judiciary as a legal governing organ of the nation, keeps evolving and changing from time to time, as per the changing values, norms, religious sentiments, and the overall atmosphere of the nation. These changes must be interpreted by the judiciary with the utmost care and precision, taking in mind the sensitive nature of the laws the judges are dealing with.

This evolution of laws and its interpretation can be seen in the recent landmark judgements that will be given below. The crux of this article is focusing on the recent landmark judgements of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. (hereinafter as IPC)

Offence against women under IPC

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, provides with the penal provisions for acts that would constitute a criminal liability. Those provisions are stated below-

Custodial rape – Tukaram v. the State of Maharashtra [1]


The plaintiff said that she was assaulted in the police station by the accused no 1 and accused no 2, who groped her private areas. Her brother had filed a police report against her husband and family members, so she was there.  According to her statement, the police constable (accused 1) sent her relatives away and raped her several times.


The Apex Court ruled that rape under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code could not be proved in this situation. The court’s rationale was that there was no clear proof of bodily harm or consent under coercion when she was abducted calmly in front of her relatives by the accused. She has revised her argument several times during the appeal, making it untrustworthy. As a result, the perpetrator was found not guilty.

Changes made after

The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1983 was enacted because of this lawsuit. The Act changed section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act, which specified that permission is not implied unless it is expressly granted. The sentence for custodial rape was also increased to seven years, and the onus of evidence was placed on the accused after sexual contact was established.

Acid attack – Laxmi v. Union of India [2]


In the case of Naeem Khan v. State[3], the topic of acid attack under Section 307 of IPC was brought to light when Laxmi, a 16-year-old teen, was made a survivor of a cruel and barbaric acid attack by the accused. In terms of intent and impulses, an acid attack is considered an “act of passion” motivated by vengeance or envy. It is said that tossing acid is a simple way to exact vengeance on a woman by mutilating her physical body in exchange for sexual favours, marriage offers, and dowry requests. Acid offenders fulfil their urges for vengeance and envy by disfiguring and inflicting serious physical and emotional pain to their victims.


The defendant was found guilty, and the survivor was awarded compensation for her physical and emotional suffering under Section 357 (1)(b). As a result, the Laxmi lawsuit was brought to compensate patients for their losses and assist them in receiving the required medical attention. The sentence stipulated in the IPC is insufficient to get the victim to justice since the survivor’s suffering and pain are much greater.

Laxmi, who was the survivor of an acid assault, lodged a PIL in the Apex Court after being the victim of an acid attack. In reaction to that PIL, the legislative and the Apex Court of India issued a series of orders and directions in the form of guidance for humane safeguards and compensation for acid-attack survivors. The reforms in Indian jurisprudence included a wide variety of laws and were not limited to the IPC.

Changes made

The Act-5 of 2009 enacted Section 357A into the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, requiring every state legislature, in conjunction with the federal government, to prepare a scheme for distributing money to those who have sustained harm or disability as a result of the crime, for the purpose of compensating the victim or their dependents. According to the Supreme Court’s order on minimum compensation, all Indian states and union territories must pay Rs. 3,00,000/- to each acid attack survivor.

Section 326A of the IPC was added, which specifies that willingly causing harm using acid, etc., and Section 326B of the IPC, which states that willingly throwing or attempting to throw acid, etc. This decision was taken in response to the rising number of acid attacks on women in India.

Homosexuality not a Crime – Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. V. Union of India[4]


Navtej Singh Johar, a dancer who identified as a member of the LGBT community, lodged a Writ Petition in the Apex Court in the year 2016 seeking recognition of the right to sexuality, sexual autonomy, and the right to choose a sexual partner as part of the right to life granted by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (Constitution). In addition, he demanded that Section 377 be declared unconstitutional.

The Petitioner also claimed that Section 377 was unconstitutional under Article 14 of the Constitution (Right to Equality Before the Law) because it was ambiguous in that it did not describe “carnal sex against the order of nature.” Between normal and artificial consensual sex, there was no discernible distinction or rational classification. 

The Petitioner also stated that Section 377 breached Art. 15 of the Indian Constitution (Protection from Discrimination) because it segregated on the grounds of an individual’s sexual partner’s sex, and (ii) Section 377 had a “chilling impact” on Article 19 (Freedom of Expression) because it denied the right to convey one’s sexual orientation through speech and choice of romantic partner.


The Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution Bench overruled Section 377 of the IPC in a landmark decision on September 6, 2018. In India, the amendment made homosexuality illegal and classified it as an immoral offense. To the point that criminal consensual intercourse between homosexuals was a crime under the penal provision, it was found unlawful.

The seminal ruling puts an end to India’s long-running controversy about the role of homosexuality and is a major relief for the LGBTQ community.

Changes made

In this case the Bench stated that Section 377 of the Penal code is unreasonable, indefensible, and unconstitutional. Constitutional freedom cannot be dictated by majoritarian views or traditional morals.

Adultery not a Crime anymore – Joseph Shine v. Union of India[5]


Joseph Shine filed a writ petition under Article 32, questioning the legality of Section 497 of the IPC, read with Section 198 of the Cr. P.C., as being in violation of Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. This started off as a PIL against adultery. The rule for adultery, according to the complainant, is unfair and oppressive on the grounds of sex of the individual. The complainant argued that such a statute degrades a woman’s integrity. The appeal was heard by a constitutional bench of five judges.

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 defines adultery. Whoever has sexual contact with a girl who is and whom he identifies or has grounds to suppose is the wife of another person, without that man’s permission or connivance, is breaking the law. Such sexual contact does not constitute rape and is considered adultery, punishable by incarceration of some kind for a period up to five years, a fine, or both.


In this scenario, the wife is not considered an accomplice. This portion was brought to the courts several times and was also debated, but the Apex Court upheld it. The Supreme Court here struck down the 158-year-old Victorian morality rule on adultery on September 27, 2018. The evolution of the definition of adultery during these periods is well explored in the decision. This power over the sexual rights of the partner, as discussed in the relic of Victorian morality, treats the wife as the husband’s property. The husband’s influence over the woman’s loyalty is seen as retaining the husband’s property interest in his wife.

The petition was submitted by Joseph Shine, a non-resident of Kerala who questioned the constitutionality of Section 497 of the IPC 1860. The ruling overturned all previous rulings that upheld the criminalization of adultery. The debate emerged as to whether adultery should be treated as a felony. Adultery, according to the court, does not fall under the definition of a felony. If it is viewed as a felony, there would be significant interference into the matrimonial sphere’s intense secrecy. It is preferable if it’s not used as a basis for divorce.

Changes made

Adultery is still legal, but it is also unethical in today’s world. The union of marriage is based on the shared trust between the husband and wife. As a result, the Supreme Court of India did not participate in people’s personal and religious lives. Adultery is still considered a legal mistake, and the only cure for adultery is divorce.


The India judiciary must deal with several cases daily which have several defining factors and elements in it, but there are only a few of these cases that shape the way for the future of decision making, of the Indian judiciary and have an impact on the entire judicial system. These cases stated above, has that effect on the Indian judicial system and are noteworthy to say the least. A study of these cases gives us a deeper insight into the Indian Penal Code 1860 and the laws that have been evolving in the recent times.


  • section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 1860
  • Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code 1860
  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal code 1860
  • Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code 1860
  1.  Tukaram v. the State of Maharashtra 1979 AIR 185
  2. Union of India Laxmi v. Union of India 2014 4 SCC 427
  3. Naeem Khan v. State Cr. Appeal no. 980/2003
  4. Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. V. Union of India AIR 2018 SC 4321
  5. Joseph Shine v. Union of India SCC/ SC 1676

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