LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Legal firsts

Posted in LAWYERS, LEGAL ARCHIVES, LEGAL LUMINARIES, LEGISLATURE by NNLRJ INDIA on November 2, 2010

TIMES CREST ARTICLE

1st CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Seventeen months after the Constitution came into force, Parliament enacted the first amendment in June 1951. It imposed “reasonable restrictions” on the freedom of speech, clarified that right to equality does not bar special consideration for historically deprived sections and introduced the Ninth Schedule to insulate agrarian reforms from legal challenge. The Constitution has since been amended 94 times.

1st PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION
The problem of undertrials in Bihar being detained for periods longer than the maximum term they are liable to get on conviction prompted the Supreme Court in 1980 to allow Delhi-based lawyer Kapila Hingorani to file a petition on their behalf. The Hussainara Khatoon case was the beginning of the concept of public interest litigation, as it was the first recorded instance of the Supreme Court waiving the requirement of locus standi, under which only an affected party could file a petition.

1st COURT-LEGISLATURE CLASH OVER CONTEMPT
In 1964, the speaker of the Uttar Pradesh assembly sentenced one Keshav Singh to seven days of imprisonment. But, when the Allahabad high court granted him bail, the assembly retaliated by passing a resolution that held Keshav Singh and the two judges who had granted bail guilty of contempt of the house. All judges of the high court in turn stayed the resolution. This tit for tat carried on and led to a Supreme Court verdict ruling that no action of the legislature is exempt from judicial review.

1st GOVT DISMISSED UNDER ARTICLE 356
Though it empowers the Centre to dismiss a state government, Article 356 of the Constitution was not invoked for almost a decade. The Nehru government exercised this draconian power for the first time on July 31, 1959, when it dismissed the first democratically-elected Communist government in the world: EMS Namboodiripad‘s in Kerala. This led to the president’s rule provision being misused from the 1960s to the 1980s.

1st HIGH COURT
Inaugurated on July 1, 1862, the Calcutta high court – originally called ‘the high court of judicature at Fort William’ – is the first high court in India. The high courts of the other two presidencies, Bombay and Madras, came into existence within a few weeks. Today, besides the Supreme Court, there are 21 high courts.

1st WOMAN CJ
Being sworn in as the first woman chief justice of a high court (Himachal Pradesh) in 1991 isn’t the only first Leila Seth has to her credit. She chose to study law as professors weren’t fussy about attendance, but soon became the best student, and the first Indian woman to top the Bar exam in London. She held her own in a male-dominated world, taking up tax matters, constitutional law and criminal cases. She went on to become the first woman judge of the Delhi high court (additional judge in ’78, permanent judge in ’80) and the first woman on the Law Commission. In 2003, she published her autobiography, On Balance, edited by her poet-novelist son Vikram Seth.

1st WOMAN BARRISTER
Cornelia Sorabji was not only the first Indian woman lawyer in 1893, but also the first woman to study law at Oxford – 30 years before another woman graduated from an English law school. In India, she fought for the rights of women and children. She was critical of Gandhi and believed India didn’t need freedom, a stance that cost her support for the legal and social reforms she campaigned for.

1st CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA
The Supreme Court came into existence on January 28, 1950, two days after India became a republic. At the inaugural function held in Parliament House, Harilal J Kania was sworn in as the Chief Justice of India. He started his career in the Bombay high court in 1915 and retired as CJI in 1951. India has since had 38 CJIs. The apex court was shifted from Parliament House to its current premises on Bhagwan Das Road in 1958.

1st DALIT SC JUDGE
It took 30 years for the Indian republic to appoint a Dalit as a Supreme Court judge. Justice A Varadarajan made it to the bench of the apex court in 1980. Since then, there have been three more Dalit judges, including Justice K G Balakrishnan, who went on to become Chief Justice of India. Of them all, Justice K Ramaswamy was the most vocal champion of social justice.

1st LAW COMMISSION
Five years after abolishing sati at the instance of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the British government set up the first law commission in 1834 to make further legal reforms. Its chairman, Lord Macaulay, drafted the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, the first attempt in the world to put together a comprehensive criminal manual. The two codes, along with several other seminal laws, were enacted only after the revolt of 1857. The first law commission of independent India was set up in 1955 under the chairmanship of the first attorney general, M C Setalvad.

http://www.timescrest.com/society/legal-firsts-3686

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