The article is written by Ansruta Debnath, a law student of National Law University Odisha. This article briefs various famous and controversial criminal cases in India. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.


Criminal cases that reach widespread fame generally have a scandalous element in them. On the other hand, some cases are just bizarre while others so horrific, people remain shocked for decades to come. This article enumerates certain famous and hotly debated criminal cases of the country. While this is not an exhaustive list, this author has attempted to include cases that highlight certain important aspects of the nature of the criminal law of India. Thus cases have been included from a wide range of crimes, from the most gruesome murders to shocking rapes, bizarre identity crimes, scandalous scams and even the killing of ‘ghosts’.  

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Murder and killings

The Tarakeswar affair (1874)

This case, the oldest in this article, involved a public scandal that occurred in 19th century Bengal during British rule. The case was called Queen v. Nobin Chandra Banerjee (1874) and here Nobin Chandra, a government servant was charged with the murder by decapitation of Elokeshi, his wife because of her love affair with the Brahmin head priest, or Mahant of the temple of Tarakeshwar. The Hooghly Sessions Court at Serampore took up the case and during the entire trial, the Court had transformed into a ‘theatre’. The media also contributed heavily to the increasing publicity of the case.

The defence attorney claimed that Nobin Chandra had committed the act in a fit of rage and to ensure that his wife had to belong to him. It was claimed that when Elokeshi confessed about her actions to the defendant, Nobin wanted to protect her and shift her from her parent’s house, over which the Priest had control. But the latter became aware of these plans and his goons prevented the shift from happening, leading to Nobin Chandra killing his wife. Nobin then immediately went to the Police to confess his crimes.

The entire series of events painted Nobin as the victim. The jury eventually acquitted the defendant on the grounds of insanity. But the Sessions judge overturned the judgement on the ground of “disagreement on the native sense of justice”  and sent the case to the Calcutta High Court wherein the defendant was held guilty.

However, Nobin was not the only person under trial. For the general public, Nobin was justified in his actions and the Mahant was the one that was the actual criminal. The Mahant was tried under Section 497 of the newly passed Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Sessions Judge convicted the priest and imposed a punishment of three years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rupees 2,000. On appeal, the conviction was upheld. The public felt that Nobin Chandra was unjustly convicted while the Mahant had gotten away easily. Within three years, due to popular public demand and protests, Nobin Chandra was released from prison.

The murder of ghosts – Ram Bahadur Thapa (1959) 

This was a very peculiar case, called State of Orissa v. Ram Bahadur Thapa (1959). J.B. Chatterjee of the Chatterjee Bros. firm in Calcutta employed Ram Bahadur Thapa as a servant. They had gone to Rasgovindpur, a village in Orissa’s Balasore district, to buy scrap from an abandoned airport outside of town. The local people considered that area haunted and the same was made known to the visitors. As they drove to the aerodrome late at night, they noticed a flickering light within the premises that seemed to move because of the strong winds. Thapa leapt into action, brandishing his khukri in the direction of the ‘ghosts.’ They turned out to be indigenous Adivasi ladies with a hurricane light who had congregated under a mahua tree to gather flowers. Thapa injured two women and killed another and thus was charged with Section 302 (murder), Section 326 (grievous hurt with dangerous weapons) and Section 324 (hurt with dangerous weapons) of the Penal Code. The Sessions Judge held that the accused committed the acts under a bona fide mistake of fact, thinking that he was attacking ghosts and not human beings and hence acquitted him relying on Section 79, which talks about acts justified by law or acts which under a mistake of fact is thought to be justified by law. The petitioners challenged this through an appeal to the Supreme Court saying that through extra care and caution, this event could have been averted. But the Court dismissed these arguments and said that Ram Bahadur Thapa had to be accorded the protection of Section 79.

The Nanavati murder case (1959)

This case, K.M. Nanavati v. the State of Maharashtra (1961) is one of the landmark cases in Indian history and marked the end of jury trials in India. K.M. Nanavati was a respected naval officer who killed his wife’s extra-marital lover, Ahuja in 1959. Nanavati, after committing the crime went to the local police and turned himself in. The main point of contention was whether the action of Nanavati was due to grave provocation or it was a pre-mediated murder. The petitioners contended that during a confrontation of Nanavati with Ahuja, the latter stated that he “could not marry every woman he slept with”, which led to Nanavati killing Ahuja. Their arguments were based on the fact that Nanavati committed the murder in the heat of the moment and thus it was a case of culpable homicide, not amounting to murder. (Exception 1 under Section 300). The Respondents contended that Nanavati had, after listening to his wife’s confession, dropped her and their children off to the cinema, gone to his ship to procure a rifle and then gone to visit Ahuja. It was contended that it was clearly implied that Nanavati had the intention to murder Ahuja and there was no sudden provocation. 

The jury of the trial court declared K.M. Nanavati was found not guilty with an 8:1 majority verdict. The verdict, like the Tarakeswar case, reflected the popular sentiment that sympathised with Nanavati. But the Session’s judge overturned the verdict and sent it to the High Court of Bombay wherein the Court held the accused guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code and sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court judgment, saying that Nanavati had plenty of time to calm down and thus it was a case of premeditated murder. However, he was granted parole on grounds of ill health in 1963 and then later pardoned by the Governor of Bombay. The higher judiciary, purely on the touchstone of law, found Nanavati guilty. But beyond the realm of law is the world of morality; was Nanavati morally right in killing a man who had destroyed his marriage and family? The public opinion felt that Nanavati had been wronged, so did the jury, but not the law.

The contract killing of Mrs Vidya Jain (1967)

The case of Narendra Singh Jain is linked to the infamous contract killing of Mrs Vidya Jain in 1973. In this case, the defendant was Dr. N.S. Jain, the personal eye physician of the then-Indian President V.V. Giri, who conspired with his paramour, Chandresh, to hire two persons to murder his forty-five-year-old wife. 

The case involved several failed attempts to kill Mrs. Jain by engagement with various assassins, but the plan eventually got executed on 4 December 1967. The trial court charged all the accused under Section 120-B of the Penal Code for having entered into a conspiracy to commit the murder of Vidya Jain and under Section 320 for her murder. Some of the accused were also charged with Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959

Conspiracy comes into being the moment the agreement to commit the crucial act is reached, and it does not cease to exist so long as the intention of acting upon the agreement exists. When Chandresh and Rakesh (friend of Chandresh) went to hire Karan Singh as an assassin, the criminal conspiracy had come into existence and did not cease when the latter refused to execute what was assigned to him. The duo then engaged with another assassin who also refused, and the conspiracy continued. Finally, the inclusion of the final two assassins was also part of the criminal conspiracy. 

The crucial point of contention was the gravity of crimes of all the involved parties i.e., who should be more responsible for the crime of murder. The trial court had sentenced the accused to life imprisonment but on appeal, the High Court, in N.S. Jain v. the State (1977) increased the punishment of the two contract killers to death by hanging.

Tandoor murders (1995)

The Hotel Ashok Yatri Niwas of Delhi became the site of the very gruesome murder of a woman. The accused, hotel manager Keshav Kumar and co-owner of the hotel, Shushil Sharma was discovered to be stoking a fire in the kitchen tandoor with wood on that fateful night of 2 July 1995 by two police officers. Detecting a foul odour, the officers douse the flames and discovered that the tandoor was stuffed with partially burnt human remains, a torso and burnt bones. A black polythene sheet nearby bore traces of blood. The body was revealed to be of Naina Sahni, wife of Shushil Sharma. While Kumar was immediately caught by the police, Sharma fled and was later arrested by the Bangalore police and handed over to the Delhi authorities. The use of the tandoor to attempt to cover up the murder is what truly horrified people and made this become a case people could not stop talking about. Not many people remember that the tandoor was not the weapon of the murder, that Naina had been shot to death and the tandoor was only used to destroy the body. 

The trial was held in the sessions court in Delhi, in 2003 where Sharma pleaded that due to the media furore and the misdirected public hatred he would be subjected to an unfair and unjust trial. Therefore, he claimed, he should either be discharged or the trial be postponed but the same was not granted. Capital punishment was awarded to Sharma, placing the case in the ‘rarest of rare’ category, warranting the imposition of extreme punishment by the trial court. In State v. Sushil Sharma (2007), the Delhi High Court admitted an appeal filed by Sushil Sharma, challenging his conviction and death sentence by the trial court. However, the High Court rejected these assertions and upheld the verdict of the trial court in this case. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, while reaching the conclusion that the accused were indeed liable to be convicted for committing the heinous crime of murder and brutally disposing of the body of the accused, said that the action of Sharma was the result of a strained individual relationship and not an offence against society. Thus, the Supreme Court in Sushil Sharma v. State (NCT) Of Delhi (2013) commuted capital punishment to life imprisonment, while also taking into account certain mitigating factors like the accused previous criminal record and the age of the accused.

The murder of Neeraj Grover (2008)

Neeraj Grover was a media executive. Maria Monica Susairaj was a Kannada actress who wanted to work in the TV industry. When she moved to Mumbai, Maria befriended Grover and they soon entered into an intimate relationship. However, Maria started having doubts about whether Grover was serious about aiding her career. The prosecution alleged that the plan to kill Grover was hatched on 6 May 2008, when Maria contacted Emile Jerome Joseph, her fiancé. On 7 May 2008, both Maria and Joseph killed Grover and chopped up his body. Later, Maria confessed to her crimes and led the police to the place where the body parts were burned. She also stated that Joseph had forced her to commit the act with him with the threat of rape. Later, the confessional statement was retracted by Maria. According to the Court’s analysis of Maria’s confession, it was concluded that only Joseph was responsible for the murder of the victim.

After considering the evidence, the Court held the accused guilty of both causing disappearance and destruction of evidence. The prosecution proved that Joseph killed the victim but the defendant pleaded the first exception to murder, i.e., culpable homicide due to the grave and sudden provocation. The Court ruled out premeditation on the part of Joseph and maintained that he was under provocation. Both of the accused were charged under Section 201 for causing the disappearance of evidence, with a maximum penalty of three years. Joseph was charged under Section 304 (1) of the IPC for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and was given ten years’ rigorous imprisonment as well as a fine of Rs 50,000. Maria was convicted under Section 201 of the IPC for the destruction of evidence and was given three years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000. Joseph was also convicted under the same offence and given the same punishment, for which his sentence would run concurrently.

D.K. Basu and custodial deaths

Shri D.K. Basu, Ashok K. Johri v. State of West Bengal, State Of U.P. (1996) was a landmark judgement that elaborated on custodial deaths. The initial party to the case was West Bengal and D.K. Basu. D.K. Basu was the Executive Chairman of Legal Aid Services of West Bengal. Basu wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India enumerating certain news articles in newspapers that have spoken about custodial deaths and instances of custodial torture. The letter emphasized the need to draw up guidelines that an arresting authority must follow while remanding a person to custody and to draw up victim compensation schemes in those scenarios of custodial death and torture. Because the issue that was mentioned in the letter was of gravity, the letter was considered to be a writ petition and accordingly proceedings were initiated. Later, Shri Ashok K. Johri wrote a similar letter to the Chief Justice about a custodial death in Uttar Pradesh and accordingly that letter was also considered to be a writ petition and the two were clubbed together. The state governments in their reply stated that custodial deaths were taken into consideration and appropriate actions were taken against the concerned individual. Further, the Supreme Court solicited the Law Commission to deliver an official report on this issue and accordingly the 113th report on “Injuries in Police Custody” was released. 

In the judgement, the Supreme Court reiterated that any type of torture or cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment, whether it occurs during an investigation, interrogation, or otherwise, is covered by Article 21. The rights protected by Article 21 cannot be denied to undertrials, convicts, detainees, and other detainees in custody unless they are refused in accordance with the method established by law, which may include reasonable restrictions on the right. 

The primary achievement of this judgement was that the Court gave out certain specific guidelines that had to be followed while making arrests. These included the need for arresting or interrogating officers to bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations and allowing one relative of the arrested person to be informed about the arrest and place of detention.

Cases where children were the victim

Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit : Child Killers (1990-1996)

In Maharashtra, a woman named Anjanabai, the matriarch of her family, taught and encouraged her family to murder and abuse young children for money. The entire episode came to light when her two daughters, twenty-nine-year-old Renuka Kiran Shinde, twenty-five-year-old Seema Mohan Gavit along with Renuka’s husband, Kiran Shinde, were arrested in 1996. The three, along with Anjanabai, were accused of abducting and killing children, particularly those less than five years of age. Although they were accused of abducting thirteen children between 1990–96 and killing nine of them, they were eventually charged with only five murders.

The sisters had managed to kidnap children from many major cities in Maharashtra and would keep these children in Pune at their residence. The modus operandi of the sisters was easy: they would keep the child with them, often preferring to physically carry them while they went about their business of snatching purses and petty thievery. The children were murdered when they attracted any attention or cried, or became too old to be carried in their arms. The sisters often committed the murder of these children in the most gruesome and cruel ways which included banging the head of the child to a wall until it died. The Supreme Court while ordering the death penalty for the accused observed that the decision had been reached after carefully considering the fact that the accused were a menace to society and that there was no chance of them being reformed. 

The mercy petitions of the sisters were rejected by the President on 31 July 2014. However, in January 2022, the Bombay High Court commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment on account of the state’s delay in seeking a decision on their mercy petitions after the Supreme Court rejected their appeal in 2006.

The Billa – Ranga Case (1978)

The main aim of Billa and Ranga, two hardened criminals who had just been released from Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai on the day the crime occurred, was to capture kids that they happened to come across and demand ransom from their parents. The unfortunate in this situation were two teenagers, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra who happened to come across their vehicle, a yellow Fiat and entered it to take a lift to the AIR office where they were to participate in a programme. Certain people realised there was a problem as the car sped away because the teenage duo had themselves realised the nefarious intentions of Billa and Ranga and had started fighting in the car and screaming from within. A police report was attempted to be made by one concerned citizen but the police refused to take the report citing jurisdictional issues.

At the same time, Billa and Ranga realised that the teenager’s family would not be able to afford the ransom they had in mind and immediately killed the two. The parents came to know that their children were missing when they did not hear them on the radio in that programme the children were supposed to be in. An FIR was filed and subsequently, the bodies were discovered, making the case a murder case. 

Due to extensive media coverage, the murderers were soon captured and upon investigation, it was found that after Sanjay was killed, Geeta was stripped naked, raped and then killed. The High Court observed that the accused had a diabolical plan of a cold-blooded, ruthless, cruel murder of two young innocent teenagers and deserved no mercy. Thus the death penalty was awarded and the Supreme Court also upheld the verdict. 

A major point of the case was the courage shown by the teenagers as witnesses said that they put up a big fight and as a result, Billa had to receive stitches from a hospital. The Indian government bestowed the Kirti Chakra gallantry award on Geeta and Sanjay Chopra on 5 April 1981. In 1978, the Indian Council for Child Welfare instituted two annual bravery awards for children under the age of sixteen, the Sanjay Chopra Award and the Geeta Chopra Award, given each year along with the National Bravery Award. Yet the point remains that had the police gotten into prompt action, this murder could have been prevented.

Cases that triggered changes in Indian rape laws

The rape of Mathura (1972)

The Mathura rape case was an instance of custodial rape that occurred in the March of 1972 when a tribal girl was allegedly raped by two policemen on the compound of Desaiganj Police Station in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. 

The case first came to the sessions court in 1974 where it held that because Mathura was “habituated to sexual intercourse”, her consent was voluntary and thus there was sexual intercourse but not rape. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on appeal held that there was rape and sentenced the two policemen to one and five years of imprisonment. The Court observed submission to rape under threat or fear is not a valid form of consent.

But the Supreme Court, in Tuka Ram And Anr v State Of Maharashtra (1978), overturned that judgement and acquitted the accused. Due to widespread protests, the Government of India eventually brought about the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 which made a statutory provision in the face of Section 114 (A) of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. It states that if the victim says that she did not consent to the sexual intercourse, the Court shall presume that she did not consent as a rebuttable presumption.

Bhanwari Devi rape case (1992)

Bhanwari Devi was an Indian social worker from Rajasthan who was gang-raped in 1992 by men who were enraged by her efforts to prevent their family from having a child marriage. Her subsequent treatment by the police and the accused’s subsequent acquittal in court drew enormous national and international attention, and it became a watershed moment in India’s women’s rights movement.

In 1995, the Session’s Court acquitted the accused stating that because the husband of Devi was nearby, rape could not have happened. But, upon pressure from various groups, the Rajasthan State Government appealed the decision in the High Court but because two of the accused were already dead, only one hearing took place.

This case was important because after being inspired by Devi, a number of women’s organizations led by one called Vishaka filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court against the State of Rajasthan and the Union of India through Vishaka & Ors v. State Of Rajasthan & Ors. (1997) This led to the formation of the Vishakha guidelines which dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Nirbhaya gang-rape (2012)

This is a case that sparked widespread protests and triggered changes in major rape laws in India. The gruesome and horrifying gang rape of Jyoti Singh also called Nirbhaya or the Unafraid, brought the entire youth of India to the streets. Instead of victim shaming, the people of India screamed her name as it had become a source of strength in the face of the fear of the unsafe nature of the Delhi streets. Women and the youth week seemed to have enough and were poised to fight for their rights. After a long legal battle, the accused were finally hanged in the Tihar Jail in the March of 2020.

The changes made in the rape law were substantial. A committee was set up under a former judge of the Supreme Court, J.S. Verma to suggest amendments in the criminal law. The report found that crimes against women were directly linked to failures of the government and the police. The major suggestions of the report were to make rape punishable by life sentence instead of death as it had been seen that the death sentence did not act as a deterrent and cleared ambiguity over the control of the Delhi police in such cases. The committee, however, did not favour setting the official age of a juvenile at sixteen rather than eighteen.

For starters, through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 the definition of rape was changed in Section 375 to include the insertion of any object in the vagina or rectum of a woman.  Further, The punishment for rape is seven years at the least and may extend up to life imprisonment (Section 376). Any man, be it a police officer, medical officer, army personnel, jail officer, public officer or public servant, who commits rape may be imprisoned for at least ten years (Section 376). A punishment of life imprisonment, extending to death, was prescribed for situations wherein the rape concludes with the death of the victim, or the victim being in a vegetative state (Section 376-A). Gang rape has been prescribed punishment of at least twenty years under the newly amended sections (Section 376-D). The new amendment also defined ‘consent’ to mean an unequivocal agreement to engage in a particular sexual act; clarifying further that the absence of resistance will not imply consent. 

Bizzare identity crimes

Lal Bihari identity case (1975-1994)

Lal Bihari was born in 1955, died between 1975 and 1994, and has been an activist since then. His uncle bribed government officials to declare him dead so that he might receive their ancestral land, and Mr Lal Bihari was officially declared dead. He began his battle against the Indian bureaucracy to establish that he was still alive after he discovered what had happened. Meanwhile, he staged a sham burial, demanded widow’s pay for his wife, ran against Rajiv Gandhi in the 1989 election, and even added a ‘Mritak’ to his name. He is currently the director of an organisation that seeks to deal with similar identity situations for others who have lost theirs.

Bhawal Case (1920-1946)

This was a strange case centred on a probable impostor claiming to be the prince of the Bhawal Estate, which included over 2000 villages and was one of the largest zamindari estates in undivided Bengal. Ramendra, the Bhawal estate’s second Kumar, died in the early twentieth century, although there were rumours that he wasn’t truly dead. A sanyasi who resembled Ramendra was discovered strolling the streets of Dhaka ten years later, in 1921. Former tenants and farmers of Ramendra vouched for him and supported his claim to the title for some reason. Except for Ramendra’s widow, Bibhabati, almost everyone believed him.

A long legal battle ensued but the new Ramendra shifted to Calcutta and was hailed as the actual one by the city elites. Further, he started using revenues from his estate. In 1946 the Court ruled in his favour, but he passed away shortly after.

Criminal defamation

Personal opinion or defamation: the Khusboo case (2010)

The events that led to the lawsuit began in September 2005, when India Today magazine conducted a poll on the sexual habits of people living in India’s major cities. One of the topics explored was premarital sex and opinions from many social groups were gathered. Khushboo, a south Indian actress, expressed her opinion on the subject, stating that the occurrence of premarital sex was becoming more common. She later vehemently defended her statement and as a result twenty-one criminal complaints under Sections 499, 500, 509, 153-A and 292 of the IPC, read with Sections 4 and 6 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, in various separate jurisdictions were filed. 

To get respite from this constant prosecution, she approached the High Court of Madras to quash these complaints. Despite clear indications that this was a matter of political victimization, the High Court refused to step in and directed the chief judicial magistrate to combine all the complaints. Kushboo’s lawyers then went to the Supreme Court to quash the complaints, who in S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr (2010) held that her statements were not defamatory under Section 499 of the Penal Code. Khushboo did not mean to hurt the complainants’ reputation, and no genuine harm could be determined from her words, according to the Court. She wasn’t implying that all Tamil Nadu women participate in premarital sex; rather, she was addressing how premarital sex was perceived in society at the time.

The uproar surrounding comments made on the subject of premarital sex has raised serious concerns about our ability to tolerate viewpoints that differ from those held by the majority. A simple reference to the rising prevalence of premarital sex and the appeal for societal acceptance was challenged because it was outside the scope of free speech protection.

Scandalous scams 

Collapse of Kingfisher 

Vijay Mallaya was an Indian business tycoon who had to abscond to the United Kingdom after being accused of fraud and money laundering in the country. Mallya fled the country and sought sanctuary in the United Kingdom in 2016. Vijay Mallya is said to owe around Rs 9000 crores to multiple banks, which he took out as a loan to save his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines from going bankrupt. Mallya’s desire to develop his liquor and airline businesses sparked the whole thing. His advisers advised him against it, but he went ahead and did it anyway. To fund the newly created Kingfisher Airlines, he sold another company founded by his father.

Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher quickly established itself as one of India’s best domestic airlines, and many Indians’ first choice for flying. But, the Indian government refused to allow Kingfisher to conduct foreign flights due to specific constraints. To travel internationally, he used United Spirits or United Breweries, his parent business, to purchase Deccan Air, which was losing a lot of money at the time. He intended to merge with Deccan, but he was unable to make a profit for Kingfisher even by 2010. Hence started the loans.

The Harsha Mehta scam

Any article on controversial crimes would be incomplete without India’s biggest cases of scams. Harshad Mehta was a stockbroker who was one of the primary stock manipulators of the Bombay Stock Exchange, commonly known as the 1992 Indian stock market scam. When the scam came to light, the entire stock market collapsed. The securities scandal involved the transfer of Rs 3,500 crore in bank cash to a gang of stockbrokers led by Harshad Mehta. This money was subsequently invested strategically in the stock market, enabling it to soar to almost 4,500 points. Mehta came to be known as the ‘Big Bull’ and gullible investors followed his lead.  Sucheta Dalal, an experienced journalist, was the first to uncover it in April 1992.

Harshad Mehta owed the State Bank of India Rs. 500 crores after it discovered it was hanging onto worthless bank receipts. By the end of April 1992, he was accused of diverting money from the public sector company, Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL) to his accounts. A full-fledged committee, the Janakiraman Committee, was established by the RBI to probe into the details of the scam. Mehta was convicted by both the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court and charged with 74 criminal offences. His legal battles dragged on until 2001 when he passed away in jail from a cardiac arrest. 

2G Spectrum case

This was an Indian case of abuse of power and even featured second in Time Magazine’s “Top Ten Abuses of Power”. This case involved allegations of bribery against former telecom minister of India, A. Raja of the UPA government. It was alleged that Raja had allotted airwaves and licences for telephone networks in exchange for bribes, causing financial losses up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian national exchequer. Further, a proper auction was not conducted as was the norm in these situations. The Supreme Court cancelled 122 2G licences but the Special CBI Court acquitted the accused in 2017. The Court stated that the prosecution had “miserably failed” to establish evidence against the accused. The arguments in the case of an appeal against the CBI Court decision are ongoing in the Delhi High Court.

Coalgate scam

Another huge scam that sent shockwaves around the country during the UPA government was the ‘Coalgate’ or ‘Coal block allocation scandal’. In a nutshell, it was a political scandal that rocked the UPA government in 2012. Between 2004 and 2009, the government of India was accused of awarding 194 coal blocks to public and private firms for captive usage in a faulty, ad hoc way, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

Satyam scam

This was one of the biggest corporate scams in the country. Satyam Computer Services was a computer outsourcing company whose founders and directors falsified data, inflated stock prices and stole huge amounts from the company. It was a case of corporate governance and fraudulent auditing practices allegedly in connivance with auditors and chartered accountants. The company misrepresented its accounts both to its board, stock exchanges, regulators, investors and all other stakeholders. It was a fraud, which misled the market and other stakeholders by lying about the company’s financial health. Even basic facts such as revenues, operating profits, interest liabilities and cash balances were grossly inflated to show the company in good health. Later in 2009, the company founder Ramalingam Raju confessed to the crime. In 2015, the accused were sentenced to seven-year imprisonment. Further huge amounts of fines were also imposed.

The BOFORS scandal

During the 1980s and 1990s, there was a huge weapons-contracting controversy between India and Sweden. In 1986, India reportedly inked a deal with the Swedish armaments firm Bofors AB to deliver their 155mm field howitzer to the Indian Army for Rs 1437 crore (approx). Many politicians were suspected of taking bribes or “kickbacks” totalling over Rs. 64 crores for the agreement, including then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Bofors fraud is now believed to be worth roughly Rs. 400 crore.

PNB Bank, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi

A more recent case of bank fraud that made headlines and almost ruined the second-largest state-run bank was the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case. This scam included Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi, his uncle Mehul Choksi and two top PCB officials. The  PNB filed a case with the CBI in 2018 accusing Nirav Modi and his firms of getting Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) from PNB without paying the margin amount on loans. This meant that if those companies defaulted on the loan, PNB would be responsible for the repayment. The fraud’s discovery not only exposed PNB’s management flaws but also shattered faith in India’s state-run banking system, which controls more than two-thirds of the country’s bank assets.


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