Leading cases where petitioners won but got no relief.

Author: Aditi Saboo


In the vast and complex world of law, where justice is sought and legal battles are fought, there exist peculiar and perplexing situations that test our comprehension of what it means to achieve true justice. Imagine a courtroom filled with tension, where passionate arguments are presented, and the judge renders a favorable verdict for the petitioner. It appears to be a moment of triumph, a victory won. However, in the midst of the echoes of triumph lies a disheartening reality, encapsulated by the phrase “Operation Successful, Patient Dead.” This phrase captures the essence of cases where petitioners emerge victorious in court, yet find themselves without the relief they so desperately need. In these situations, despite recognising the petitioner’s rights and validating their claims, the legal system fails to provide them with the practical solutions or remedies they sought. In this investigation, we delve into the enthralling and baffling world of cases in which petitioners win, but are ultimately denied the relief that their victory should have brought. We analyse the complexities, limitations, and implications of these legal enigmas while interrogating the very nature of justice. Welcome to the realm of “Operation Successful, Patient Dead”: a journey through cases in which petitioners won in court but were denied the relief they rightfully deserved.

Keshavnanda Bharti V. State of Kerala


Kesavananda Bharati was the chief priest of a monastic religious institution named Edneer Mutt in Kerala. Some land in the Mutt was owned by Bharti. The Land Reforms Amendment Act in 1969 was passed by the Kerala state government in which the government could acquire some of the lands that belonged to the Mutt.
He never thought that the subsequent Supreme Court judgment would become such a landmark event in the annals of the Indian judiciary. The case was never about the basic structure. It became so later on. He approached the court not because he lost his property but due to the feeling that what the government did was not right.

He challenged the constitutionality of land reforms act on the basis that land reform act infringe on his fundamental right to equality, the right to life and right to manage religious affairs. He also challenged the 24th, 25th, 29th amendments as it has power to take away the lands under land reforms act


Whether 24th and 25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1971 are constitutionally valid?

Whether Parliament can amend the Constitution to take away the right to property?

Can the constitution be amended completely by exercising the power to amend?


It was held that parliament has power to amend even the fundamental rights in the constitution and upheld the validity of 24th Amendment and 25th Amendment but 2nd part of the 25th Amendment was found to be ultra vires. It was also held that any provision of the Indian Constitution can be amended by the Parliament in order to fulfil its socio-economic obligations that were guaranteed to the citizens as given in the Preamble, provided that such amendment did not change the basic structure of the Constitution. 


Kesavananda Bharati lost his own case as he couldn’t get his property back because the Kerala land reforms laws had been given protection of Parliament when the Indira Gandhi government brought in the 29th Constitution Amendment Act.

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India


Maneka Gandhi was a journalist whose was ordered to surrender her passport by the Regional Passport Officer. On being asked about the reasons, they declined to produce any reasons “in the interest of the general public.” Therefore, the petitioner had filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India stating the seize of her passport as the violation of her fundamental rights- Article 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.


Whether ‘Right to Travel Abroad’ is protected under the ambit of Article 21?

What is the scope of ‘Procedure established by law’?

Whether Section 10(3) (c) of the Passports Act, 1967 is in violation of Fundamental Rights?

Whether the Impugned order of impounding is in contravention of principles of natural justice?


The right to travel abroad is part of ‘personal liberty’ under Article 21 and no one can be deprived of this right except according to procedure established by law. There is no procedure established by Passport Act for impounding a passport. Section 10(3) (c) is violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14, 19 and 21. The order impounding the passport of the petitioner was in violation of the principle of natural justice as the order was issued without providing the petitioner with an opportunity to be heard which is embodied in maxim- audi alteram partem.


Though the judgement of Maneka Gandhi’s case widened the scope of article 21 and personal liberty and preserved the fundamental right to life but the Court did not order the immediate return of her passport, instead directing the government to provide her with an opportunity to present her case before a passport authority and further challenge the impounding.

Olga Tellis & Ors. v. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors.


The case is about the people of Bombay who live on pavements and slums. In 1981, the State of Maharashtra and the Bombay Municipal Corporation decided to evict pavement and slum dwellers and deport them to their respective places of origin. The eviction was to proceed in accordance with Section 314 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act of 1888.

The affected people filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court for an injunction on the orders of Bombay Municipal Corporation. The court granted an ad interim injunction and respondents agreed that the huts will not be demolished until October 15, 1981 but unfortunately they were deported out of Bombay on July 23. A writ petition under Article 32 challenging the order on the ground that it violates Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and questioned the constitutional validity of some provisions of the BMC Act.


Whether eviction of slum dweller infringe their right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution?

Whether Section 314 of Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 is unreasonable and arbitrary?

Whether pavement dwellers are “trespassers” under IPC?


The court held that the right to livelihood is an integral part of the right to life. If the right to livelihood is not treated as a part of the constitutional right to live, they will be deprive of their livelihood if they are expelled from the slum.

It was held that the procedure prescribed by Section 314 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act for removal of encroachments on the footpaths or pavements over which the public has the right of passage or access, cannot be regarded as unreasonable, unfair or unjust in this case.

The court objected the authorities for treating pavement dwellers as mere trespassers and stated that pavement dwellers live on footpaths out of sheer helplessness and not with the object of offending, insulting, intimidating or annoying anyone.


In this case the right to life was once again enlarged to engulf the right to livelihood as being a part of the liberty of an individual but the Court failed to provide an alternative site to the people. The inhabitants of the slums were expelled without relocation. This situation has been ongoing since 1985. In subsequent judgements, the practice of evicting people without offering them resettlement can be witnessed. As a result, several mass evictions have occurred without any provision for the affected individuals or communities to find new homes or establish themselves elsewhere. Adequate resettlement was also ordered in the case of the Narmada Dam but most of the evicted persons were not properly resettled.

S.R. Bommai v. Union of India


The petitioner S.R. Bommai led the largest governing party, Janta Dal, in Karnataka’s state legislature. Thirteen members joined the party, but some legislators expressed dissatisfaction and wrote a letter to the Governor requesting withdrawal of their support. The Governor handed this letter to the President, highlighting the party conflict and quarrels among legislators. Subsequently, the Governor proposed President’s rule under Article 356, citing the

government’s lack of decorum and refusal to be ruled by a minister or council of ministers. Despite receiving letters of support from seven out of the nineteen legislators, the Governor refused to allow Bommai to prove his party’s majority through a floor test. In April 1989, the President validated the reasons specified by the Governor for imposing President’s rule in a the state under Article 356(3). He challenged the constitutionality of the proclamation in the High Court, but his writ petition was dismissed, leading him to seek relief from the Supreme Court.


Whether the proclamation made under Art. 356 was justified?

Whether the president has the power to issue under proclamation under Art. 356(1) of the Constitution?

What is the scope of judicial review in this regard?


The verdict in this case significantly limited the central government’s authority to impose President’s rule on a state. The court ruled that the President’s power to remove a state government is not absolute. It clarified that the President can only impose President’s rule after obtaining authorization from both Houses of Parliament. Until such approval, the President can only suspend the legislative assembly. If both Houses of Parliament fail to ratify the imposition of President’s rule, it automatically lapses after two months. In that case, the dismissed state government is reinstated, and the previously inactive legislative assembly is reactivated. Importantly, the Supreme Court also established that the imposition of Article 356 is subject to judicial review.


In this case, despite the petitioner’s victory in establishing the principles of federalism and judicial review, the relief granted was limited. The Court did not reinstate the dismissed government but instead ordered the holding of a floor test in the State Assembly to determine the majority. This decision, although provided some opportunity for political redress but did not fully address the injustices faced by the petitioner and the State government.

Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India


The issue starts with the suspension of mobile, landline and internet services in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, 2019 along with restrictions on movement in certain areas. On August 5, 2019, Indian government revoked the special category status of J&K issued Constitutional Order 272 and section 144 was imposed on the apprehension of breach of peace and tranquility in the state. The petitioner Ms. Anuradha Bhasin challenged the internet shutdown and movement restrictions as it violates the right to freedom of press and profession under Article 19 of the Constitution.


Whether the Government can claim exemption from producing all the restriction orders?

Whether freedom of speech and expression and freedom to practice any profession, or to carry out any trade, occupation, or business over the internet is part of the fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution.

Whether the Government’s action prohibiting internet access is valid?

Whether the restrictions imposed under section 144 of CrPC is valid?


The court ruled that the government cannot claim any exception for not providing an order passed under Section 144 before the court. It held that freedom of expression through the internet is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The court opined that the Suspension Rules do not specify the maximum duration of a suspension order, and indefinite suspensions are not permissible according to the principle of proportionality. Additionally, it was determined that Section 144 of the CrPC can be invoked when there is an immediate or anticipated danger.


Though the court judgment widened the interpretation of freedom of speech and expression by including the right to access the internet which could only be restricted in the situation of national security. But it did not remove the restrictions on the internet and movement of the citizens and no immediate relief was provided to the citizens affected due to these orders.

Maharashtra Political crisis case


The awaited judgment regarding the internal dispute within the Shiv Sena party, involving Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde groups, which resulted in a change of government in Maharashtra in July 2022. Eknath Shinde filed the first petition in June 2022, contesting the notices issued by the Deputy Speaker against the rebels under the tenth schedule of the Constitution, alleging defection. Subsequently, the Thackeray group filed petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to call for a trust vote and the swearing-in of Eknath Shinde as the Chief Minister with BJP’s support.


Whether notice for removal of a speaker restricts him from continuing with disqualification proceedings under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution?

What is the extent of the power of the Speaker to determine the whip and leader of house of the legislative party?

Whether governor has power to invite a person to form the government and whether the same is amenable to judicial review?

What is the scope of the powers of Election Commission of India with respect to deter an ex-parte split within a party?


The Supreme Court refused to interfere in the proceedings and ruled that the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly should decide on the disqualification issue of the 16 MLAs. The court deemed the appointment of the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena by the Speaker as illegal, emphasizing the importance of political party in appointing the chief whip for the proper functioning of the Tenth Schedule. The SC held that as Uddhav Thackeray have resigned from the post of chief minister and did not face the floor test, his government cannot be reinstated. It said, if Thackeray had refrained from resigning from his post, the court could have restored his government. The court also held that the decision of the governor in calling Shinde to administer him an oath as CM was justified. The court found that the Governor’s decision to call for a trust vote and question the Uddhav Thackeray’s majority lacked justification, as there was no objective evidence to suggest loss of confidence. The court held that the Election Commission of India (ECI) was not barred from deciding on the party symbol dispute while the disqualification pleas were pending with the Speaker and said that such an indefinite stay would be inappropriate.


The case outcome resulted in surprise as the Thackeray faction won the case in principle but did not receive relief. The court emphasized that the Governor should not use discretionary power to destabilize democratically elected governments and criticized the Governor’s decision to ask Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority. However, the court justified the Governor’s action in inviting Eknath Shinde to form the government, stating that the status quo ante could not be restored because Thackeray did not face a floor test and had tendered his resignation.