Search This Blog

Landmark Judgement: The Hussainara Khatoon Case - Inception of Free Legal Services

Case Title: Hussainara Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar
Court: Supreme Court of India
Year: 1979

Case Details:
This is a very famous and life changing case in Indian History.
A news was reported authored by KF Rustamji, then member of the National Police Commission, revealed the inhuman conditions in which 18 prisoners, including six women, were languishing in Patna and Muzaffarpur jails, as they awaited trial, at times for periods longer than they would have been sentenced to, had they been convicted. Hussainara Khatoon was one of them. Agitated by this, Ms. Pushpa Kapila Hingorani, a practising lawyer in the Supreme Court in Delhi and her husband Nirmal Hingorani, now a senior advocate in the Supreme Court, wanted to represent the undertrial prisoners, but back then, according to Indian law, you could only file a petition if you were a victim or a relative. The couple then hit upon the novel idea of filing a habeas corpus petition on the prisoners’ behalf. Two weeks after Kapila argued the case in court, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Bihar government, which led to the release of all the victims in the case, and eventually about 40,000 undertrials across the country. The landmark case came to be known as the Hussainara Khatoon case — Hussainara was one of the six women prisoners — and became the first public interest litigation (PIL) in India, earning Kapila the title of the “Mother of PILs”. And it made Justice Bhagwati an immortal name in the Legal History of India as a initiator of PILs.

Key Points of Judgement:
1. Right of Speedy Trial (Article 21)
2. Introduction of Free Legal Aid Services for needy and poor and was made obligatory for the State and Central Government for its implementation (Article 39A). Now poor people can too avail legal aid (lawyers) on Government Expenses.
3. This Quotation has been cited from the judgement:

"The poor in their contact with the legal system have always been on the wrong side of the law. They have always come across "law for the poor" rather than "law of the poor".

You can also read the full Judgement Here (Why the hell you would read it when I have already summarized it above)

1. Indian Express article about Kapila Hingorani

Next Post »