World Day of International Justice: 3 Landmark Judgements That Changed the Course of Indian History

By: Shreevidhya Ravi

Published On: July 17, 2018

On World Day of International Justice, we look at three judgements that stood out and revolutionized the course of Indian history. 

With great power, comes great responsibility. The Legal System in India has definitely kept up with the times in ensuring that judgements are unbiased, just and incorruptible. With the rapidly changing ecosystem concerning voice and expression, change is definitely going to come faster than expected. 

The legal system in India has restored our faith time and again in ensuring that judgements are delivered in accordance with one’s fundamental rights, albeit the backlog of cases. With the constant change of socio-economic conditions and cultural perceptions, some of the judgements delivered by the system have shed a lot of light into how we can definitely bet on India to move in the right direction.

It is important to look at cases where history has been made, history has to start somewhere afterall. Today is World Day of International Justice, which is celebrated to recognize international crime justice. The system of international justice  emerged after the World War ||, since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. On this day, we start a conversation on the legal system in India.

We are going to look at three landmark judgements that have served to stay as a testament to the adaptive abilities of the Indian Legal System. 

1: Triple Talaq Bill

Triple Talaq is a form of Islamic divorce which has been in practice for thousands of years. In India, it is widely used by Muslims, especially adherents of Hanafi Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence.

On May 12 2017, the Supreme Court regarded the practice of triple talaq as the "worst" and "not a desirable" form of dissolution of marriages among Muslims, among its many complexities and dilemmas associated with the secular front factoring in Sharia. 

On August 22, 2017, Supreme Court of India, held triple talaq being practiced by the Muslim community as "unconstitutional", "arbitrary" and "not part of Islam" and thus began a formal process of criminalizing the practice. Various Muslim countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Morocco had already taken initiatives to regulate this unfair method of divorce according to the Islamic customs. "The issue is not of religion, faith, or puja. The issue is gender justice, equality and dignity", mentioned Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister. 

There have been recent protests from both men and women with regard to this the practice of triple talaq. The law states that husbands who use Talaq can be imprisoned for three years and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) feels like the issue has gone beyond gender equality. They are of the opinion that a politicized version has been fueled in the recent time and are arguing that this destroys the original debate surrounding the practice. The bill is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

2: Vishaka Guidelines

The Vishaka Guidelines has empowered millions of women across the world and continues to inspire everyone to have a voice to call their own. Bhanwari Devi is a social worker who was employed by the Rajasthan State Government’s Women Development Program in 1985. Her work was to go around sensitizing communities and families about sanitation, family planning, child marriages etc. While she was doing her job of preventing child marriage, she was allegedly gang raped by the perpetrators themselves. 

In a nondescript village in Rajasthan, Devi stood her ground and battled with folks who were considered to belong to a higher caste Determined to seek justice, she decided to go to court. In a shocking decision, the trial court acquitted all five accused. Vishaka, a group for Women’s Education and Research, took up the cause of Devi. It joined forces with four other women’s organisations, and filed a petition before the Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.

On August 13, 1997, the Supreme Court commissioned the Vishaka guidelines that defined sexual harassment and put the onus on the employers to provide a safe working environment for women. This landmark judgement later made way for the shaping up of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. 

3: NOTA- None of the AboveSince its inception in 2013, NOTA has been abuzz with a lot of action. With elections coming through, one after the other, this topic generates a lot of interest. NOTA stands for “none of the above”.This option is based on the principle that "consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election". It was introduced in the context of election for citizens to be able to express their choice of having no choice while voting.

In the short run, NOTA hasn’t contributed to much, in the sense,  the people who go by NOTA are a miniscule fraction of the voting population. However, NOTA has definitely given hope to the country as it is a strong stand against political inefficiency and dishonesty. This, in turn, increases the chances of more people turning up to cast their votes, even if they do not support any candidate, and decreases the count of bogus votes. NOTA is the big break that comes before political change shines itself anew to the Indian population.

These three judgements have certainly created history for they have brought about active changes and set precedents for India to march forward. However, one cannot ignore the fact that for these precedents to be effective, citizens play a huge part in staying informed and more importantly, in exercising their power to make their voices heard.

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