The Article explains '20 Landmark Cases on IPC' and the cases are basically related to rape, sexual harassment, acid attack, adultery, violation of fundamental rights and many more.

The Article explains '20 Landmark Cases on IPC' and the cases are basically related to rape, sexual harassment, acid attack, adultery, violation of fundamental rights and many more. The idea of the author is to make all the readers well-versed with the case laws related to the Indian Penal Code and various positive changes that have been brought into our society through efficient judicial decisions. The insertion of certain sections in our Indian Penal Code is the result of these...

The Article explains '20 Landmark Cases on IPC' and the cases are basically related to rape, sexual harassment, acid attack, adultery, violation of fundamental rights and many more. The idea of the author is to make all the readers well-versed with the case laws related to the Indian Penal Code and various positive changes that have been brought into our society through efficient judicial decisions.

The insertion of certain sections in our Indian Penal Code is the result of these landmark cases. Thus, this article gives a vivid idea of various offences and the punishments prescribed under the Indian Penal Code.

1. Kastya Rama v. State of Maharashtra (1871)

In this case, the definition of 'maritime territory of a State' was discussed in detail. In this case, there was a group of fishermen who belonged to the village of Kopargaon. These fishermen had fixed their fishing stakes within three miles from the shores which offended some fishermen of the other village.

The point of argument then was that the former were to be punished under the IPC for violating the rules of maritime territory. The Bombay High Court held that the act of setting up the states will be included within the purview of the Code and would also amount to mischief and the reason being that the distance of three miles from the shore was to be considered as a part of the Indian territory.

2. Kari Singh v. Emperor (1912)[1]

This case is of great importance in the Indian Penal Code because in this case, the scope of Section 3 of the IPC that lays down the provision for punishment of offences committed beyond, but which by law may be tried within India was discussed in-depth and the Calcutta High Court had come up with two conditions:

  • An allegation as to whether the accused who has committed an offence is a citizen of India or otherwise, and the act committed would have been punishable under the Code if carried out in India, and
  • The person accused must have been held liable under some Indian law in order to be tried in an Indian Court.

3. Tukaram v. State of Maharashtra (1978)[2]

In this case, there was a woman who had made an allegation against two persons of her rape and she claimed that she was groped in the police station in her private parts, the brother of the woman had filed a report against her husband, family members and also against the constable because according to her statement the police constable had sent her relatives away.

However, the Apex Court ruled that rape under section 375 of IPC could not be proved in this particular case the court observed that there was no clear evidence of bodily injury or harm or consent under question when she was abducted in front of her relatives by the constable, also she had during the appeal revised her arguments several times that made it ambiguous. Now the point is how is this case a Landmark case because only after this lawsuit was the criminal law amendment act of 1983 enacted.

The act changed section 148 of the Indian Evidence Act which the mentioned that permission is not implied unless it is expressly granted and the sentence for custodial rape was also increased to a maximum of 7 years and the burden of proof was to be placed on the accused only after the establishment of sexual contact.

4. Ramesh v. Union Of India & Ors (1988)[3]

This was indeed an interesting case coming from the year 1988 wherein a series of four episodes named "Tamas" was created out of Shr. Bhishma Sahni's book dictated the story of the Hindu Muslim and Sikh Muslim tension and violence before India was partitioned. In this case, the Petitioner filed a writ petition under Article 32 declaring the episodes as a violation under section 5 (b) of the Cinematograph Act 1952 and is a violation of the fundamental rights under Articles 21 and 25, and an offence under section 153A of the IPC.

However, the court held that there was neither violation of the Cinematograph Act nor was there a violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution nor of IPC. The Court held that in fact, the series would create a good impression on the public and since it was approved by the Board, it was released. Also, a book has already been written, so, it is either the public who reads the book or watches the series.

5. M .V. Elizabeth and Others v. Harwan Investment and Trading Private Limited (1992)[4]

A landmark case of the admiralty jurisdiction is M .V. Elizabeth and Others v. Harwan Investment and Trading Private Limited (1992) which had come up before the Supreme Court of India. The two issues that the Court took up in this case were;

  1. Whether the local courts have the admiralty jurisdiction that extends to arresting foreign vessels in cases where the claim rests in a foreign land?
  2. Whether international conventions that concern the arrest of ships and have not been ratified by India, bound in India or not?

In deciding these issues, the Apex Court held the principles of the International Convention on Maritime Laws as the same have been incorporated by the nation into her common laws. The Court further stated that the fact as to where the cause concerning a foreign ship within the territorial water limit of India arose, the residence of the defendant, or the nationality the ship holds, will stand irrelevant if a maritime claim is made under the admiralty jurisdiction of any High Courts in India.

6. Sarla Mudgal v. Union Of India(1995)[5]

This is a landmark case in which emphasis was laid down on section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. The Petitioners filed a writ petition in court alleging that their husbands, converted to Islam for the sole purpose of marrying another wife. They contended that such marriage was illegal and the husband should be punished under section 494 of the IPC.

Certain questions like whether a Hindu husband who is married under the Hindu law can convert to Islam and marry a second wife and whether the Hindu husband after such act can be charged under section 494 of the IPC were also raised.

The court held that the first marriage stands valid and that the conversion to Islam is not an opportunity to pick another wife. Therefore, the husband has done a punishable offence under Section 494 of the IPC.

7. Vishaka v. The State Of Rajasthan(1997)[6]

This is a case that deals with the evil of Sexual Harassment of women at her workplace. It is a landmark judgment in the history of sexual harassment which was being decided by the Supreme Court. Sexual Harassment violates the fundamental right of women to gender equality which is codified under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and also the fundamental right to life and to live a dignified life is violated/infringed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Justice Arjit Pasayat beholder from his beautiful thought that- while a murderer destroys the physical frame of the victim, on the other hand, the rapist defiles the soul of a helpless female."

This was indeed a landmark case in the history of Human Rights and IPC when it comes to the working condition for women. In this case, the Supreme Court witnessed a PIL against the state of Rajasthan and the Union of India filed by Vishaka and a few other women. In this case, a social worker named Bhanwri Devi was brutally gang-raped while she was doing a noble cause of barring child marriage. However, due to insufficient evidence, the case was dismissed.

This case spread like fire among all the women workers and sexual harassment in the workplace which is violative of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 15, and 21 was questioned.

The court held that clearly there has been a violation of articles 14, 15, and 19 (1) of the constitution and also violations of all the international conventions that India was a part of. Through this case, Vishaka guidelines were issued and the judgment also provided some basic definitions like that of sexual harassment at the workplace along with that, guidelines for protection were provided as well.

8. Suhash Katti v. State of Tamil Nadu(2004)[7]

In this case, a woman turned down a marriage proposal and marriage advances from the accused before she got married and even after her divorce. The accused after multiple rejections got annoyed and started harassing her by posting annoying, defamatory, and obscene messages to a Yahoo Message Group. The victim reported the act and the harasser was arrested and charged under sections 469, and 509 of the IPC, and section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The court found the accused guilty of cyberbullying and also guilty under sections 469 and 509 of the IPC. The accused was sentenced to two (2) years in prison to serve concurrently. Under section 469 of the IPC, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and with a fine of Rs. 500. Under section 509 of the IPC, he was sentenced to 1 year in prison with a fine of Rs. 500. Under section 67 of the ITA, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and a fine of 4000 rupees.

9. Om Hemrajani v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr (2005)[8]

Before delving into the case of Om Hemrajani v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr (2005), it is necessary to be well-informed about Section 188 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which deals with the procedure to be followed for offences committed outside India. Section 3, and 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is the substantive law that has to be read with Section 181 of CrPC which is procedural law. In the present case, the Supreme Court explained the ambit of Section 188 of CrPC. The observations of the Apex Court are presented hereunder;

  1. Offences that are committed abroad cannot be tried before the Indian courts without prior approval from the Central Government.
  2. The aggrieved party who has suffered damages by the accused in a foreign land can approach an Indian court for the purpose of seeking justice.
  3. The burden of ensuring convenience for the accused does not rest on the plaintiff's shoulders; instead, the only burden that exists is the burden of finding the latter's own convenience.
  4. The complainant can file a complaint before any court in India against the accused.

10. Rupali Devi v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. (2019)[9]

This case was grouped with other appeals questioning, "Whether a woman forced to leave her matrimonial home on account of acts and conduct that constitute cruelty can initiate and access the legal process within the jurisdiction of the courts where she is forced to take shelter with the parents or other family members".

The Court answered the above question in an affirmative way. In order to derive the conclusion, the Supreme Court also relied upon Section 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and elucidated the scope of "cruelty" under Section 498A of IPC.

Under Section 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if by reason of the consequences emanating from a criminal act an offence is occasioned in another jurisdiction, the court in that jurisdiction would also be competent to take cognizance. In this instant case, the Court had to determine whether the exception carved out by Section 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had any application to confer jurisdiction in the courts situated in the local area where the parental house of the wife was located.

The Court held that the provision in Section 498A of IPC encompasses both the mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife.

Therefore even if the acts of physical cruelty are committed in the matrimonial house, the psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband would continue to persist even in the parental home. Her sufferings at the parental home would be the consequence of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. The adverse effect on the mental health in the parental home would amount to the commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A at the parental home.

11. The Republic of Italy through the Ambassador & Ors v. Union of India (2012)[10]

In this case, two Indian vessels were attacked by two Italian vessels through firing and all the vessels were within the territorial water limit of India. The Supreme Court of India while deciding this case held that India is and will always be entitled to exercise its sovereignty under both Municipal law, and Public International laws up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline.

12. Naeem Khan v. State (2013)[11]

This case was a clear case of acid attack on section 307A of IPC and in this case, a 16-year-old girl named Lakshmi was made a survivor of henna and cruel act of acid attack by name Khan. In this case, the defendant was found guilty and Lakshmi who was the survivor of the acid attack was awarded compensation for physical and emotional suffering under section 357(1)(b).

13. Lakshmi v. Union of India (2015)[12]

The case of Lakshmi v. Union of India is in continuation of the previous case as Lakshmi who was the survivor of the acid attack got compensation for emotional and physical damages and she later filed a PIL in the apex court on behalf of many acid attack survivors.

And in reaction to that PIL, the apex court and the legislature of India issued a series of orders rules and directions in the form of guidance for human safeguard and compensation for the acid attack survivors a series of laws changed in the IPC namely section 326A of the IPC was added that specify that willingly causes harm by use of acid and section 326B of IPC stating that willingly throwing or attempting to throw acid was a punishable offence.

14. Mukesh and Anr. v. NCT Delhi (Nirbhaya Case)(2017)[13]

This case was based on a purely unforgettable heinous crime that India witnessed in 2012 and in this case several questions like whether rape, as defined under section 375 of the IPC, covers the offence entirely? Whether death penalty can be given to convicts as punishment for such heinous crimes? Whether a juvenile committing the offence should get a punishment equivalent to an adult? Whether public outrage can influence judgment in a case? Whether the sexual offences against women tried appositely in India? etc. were raised.

The meaning of rape broadened after the Nirbhaya Case.

The Amendment Act included more activities under the domain of what comprises rape, for example, unconsented penetration of mouth. the urethra, vagina, anus with the penis or different items by anybody and unconsented application of mouth to vagina, urethra, and anus.

  • Inclusion of Section 376 (2) (c), which covers the offence of rape by personnel of the armed force.
  • Inclusion of Section 376A, which deals with the offence of Rape which can result in death or a vegetative state.
  • Insertion of Section 376D, which deals with the offence of gang rape.

Repetition of offences is punishable with life detainment or death. The employment of a trafficked person can pull in penal provisions also. It has additionally been explained that penetration signifies "penetration to any extent", and the absence of physical resistance or such different resistances is unimportant for comprising the offence of rape.

15. Joseph Shine v. Union of India(2018)[14]

In this case, a man named Joseph Shine filed a writ petition under Article 32, questioning the legality of Section 497 of the IPC, read with Section 198 of the CrPC, and tried to make a point that it is a 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 the 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.

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 however struck it down on September 27, 2018. The evolution of the definition of adultery during these periods was 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.

After this case, 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 the 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.

16. Gaurav Sopan Narkhede v. State of Maharashtra (2021)[15]

Adjudicating an unfortunate case where a teen committed suicide due to sexual harassment by a close family member, the Bombay High Court observed that we, as a society, have failed to create an environment where primary caregivers can identify signs of abuse.

Justice Bharati Dangre rejected a man's bail application for allegedly abetting his 17-year-old niece's suicide. The teen reportedly jumped out of her high-rise apartment's balcony minutes after handing over her phone with objectionable messages to her mother.

17. Mitesh Kumar J. Shah v. State of Karnataka(2021)[16]

The Supreme Court held that mere breach of contract cannot give rise to criminal prosecution for cheating. For criminal prosecution, further explained that the act was not covered under sections 405, 419, and 420. The Supreme Court observed that criminal proportions cannot be given to a civil dispute merely to take advantage of a relatively quick relief granted in a criminal case in contrast to a civil dispute. Such an exercise is nothing but an abuse of the process of law which must be discouraged in its entirety.

18. Sudha v. State of Haryana (2021)[17]

The Court held that the Pre arrest bail is a discretionary relief and is to be granted in exceptional cases and not in routine. It is meant to save innocent persons from harassment and inconvenience and not to screen the culprits from arrest and custodial interrogation.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed that if the person dying by suicide names some other person being responsible to force him/her to take the extreme step, his/her such statement is required to be taken up with all the seriousness.

19. Ramanand Lal Bharti v. State of Uttar Pradesh(2021)[18]

The instant case which was heard by the Allahabad High Court and by the bench of Ramesh Sinha, and Rajeev Singh was a case of circumstantial evidence wherein the onus lies on the prosecution to prove the complete chain of events which shall undoubtedly point towards the guilt of the accused. The Court also observed that the case falls within the category of 'rarest of rare' warranting the imposition of capital punishment.

The Court upheld the dictum of the trial court in convicting the accused for murder. The Court held that the instant case was a fit case for awarding the death penalty considering the gravity of the crime committed.

20. Mobashar Jawed Akbar v. Priya Ramani(2021)[19]

The woman cannot be punished for raising her voice against the sex abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution under article 21 and right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law as guaranteed under article 14 of the Constitution. The woman has a right to put her grievance on any platform of her choice and even after decades.


The Indian judiciary must deal with cases so effectively that it sets a clear-cut precedent for the upcoming crimes and the next case does not take much time for the judiciary. There are only a few cases that shape the way for the future decision-making of the Indian judiciary and have an impact on the entire judicial system.

The cases on IPC which are landmark cases have had an impact 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 recent times.


[1] (1913) ILR 40 Cal 433

[2] 1979 AIR 185, 1979 SCR (1) 810

[3] 1988 AIR 775, 1988 SCR (2)1011

[4] 1993 AIR 1014, 1992 SCR (1)1003

[5] 1995 AIR 1531, 1995 SCC (3) 635

[6] (1997) 6 SCC 241

[7] CC No. 4680 of 2004

[8] 2005 (1) SCC 617

[9] 2019 (2) UC 933

[10] Writ Petition (Civil)No.135 of 2012

[11] Criminal Appeal No.980/2009

[12] 2014 SCC (4) 427

[13] Criminal Appeal Nos. 607-608 OF 2017

[14] Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 194 OF 2017

[15] Criminal Bail Application No. 2687 OF 2021

[16] Criminal Appeal NO. 1285 OF 2021

[17] CRM-M-25464-2021(O&M)

[18] Criminal Appeal No. – 1959 of 2016

[19] Complaint Case No. 05/2019

Updated On 3 Dec 2022 5:44 AM GMT
Aayushi Tiwari

Aayushi Tiwari

A Law Student and a lifetime humanitarian from the historically rich state, Bihar. Avid reader, writes to bring a difference and a public speaker to enlighten others.

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