Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain & Anr.

Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain & Anr.

Full Case Name Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Sri Raj Narain & Anr
Decided November 7, 1975
Citation 1975 SCC (2) 159

 

Related Judges

  1. Chief justice A. N. Ray
  2. H. R. Khanna
  3. K. K. Mathew
  4. M. H. Beg
  5. Y. V. Chandrachud

Introduction

Raj Narain stood against Indira Gandhi from Raj Bareli as a Samyukta  Socialist Party candidate in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections. Though the Indira Gandhi government won the elections with a sweeping majority Raj Narain brought a case against Indira Gandhi. He filed a case accusing her to be indulged in election malpractices. The case, State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain[1] was under the jurisdiction of Allahabad High Court. The court gave its decision on June 12, 1975 speaking under Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha, holding Indira Gandhi guilty under section 123(7) of Representative of Peoples Act, 1951[2]. Therefore, she could no longer hold the office of Prime Minister and also cannot contest in elections for the next six years.

Not satisfied with the Allahabad High Court’s decision, Indira Gandhi appealed to the Supreme Court to take this case into consideration. Those days the Supreme Court was on vacation thus on June 24, 1975 gave a stay order of execution. The very next day i.e., June 25, 1975 then President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared state Emergency, stating  reason for this big decision was internal disturbance but it was evident that “real reason” was the recent case judgement of Allahabad High Court.

Amid emergency parliament passed the 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1975[3] on August10,1975. Under Article329-A of this Act, parliament barred the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction from entering into election matters and declaring any President, Vice-President, prime minister and speaker of Lok Sabha elections unjustifiable in court of law. In the hastiness of securing their position the government worsened the situation. The constitutionality of 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act,1975 was challenged in Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain case.

Also Read: Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India – Analysis

Issues raised

  • Constitutional validity of 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1975
  • The Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 1974 And the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975[4] was violated as when the act was passed many Members of Parliament were detained under Preventive Detention.

Respondent’s Arguments

  • The 39th amendment is affecting the “basic structure” of the constitution. This argument was relied on a seven-bench judgement in Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr[5].
  • Taking away the power of jurisdiction is unfair to the judiciary. Also raised the point that it is the duty of legislature to make laws but the power of validating its constitutionality lies with the judiciary.
  • The President, when passed this law placed himself as well as other people above law which is violative towards the fundamental right of equality.
  • Maximum member of parliament was not present at the very moment of passing the Act.
  • According to Article 368, the legislature cannot amend the Constitution to determine who wins the election.
  • The amendment also endangers rule of law and separation of power.

Petitioner’s Arguments

  • Kesavanand Bharati case does not include electoral disputes.
  • The rule of law does not come under the “basic structure” of the constitution.
  • Apart from Article 14 of the constitution it does not recognizes rule of law as well as doctrine of equality.

Judgement

The Supreme Court of India gave its decision on November 7, 1975. The court did a commendable job by uplifting the respect of the constitution and fulfilling its duty towards it. This should also be kept in mind that the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati was applied by the apex court. The court declared the Clause 4 of Article 329-A unconstitutional.

Chief Justice A.N. Ray found the Act violating Rule of Law and Justice Khanna said that the act is not in accordance with the norms of free and fair elections. The bench found the amendment violative of the principles of natural justice i.e., Audi Alteram Partem as it denies the right of fair hearing who is challenging the election of the members mentioned under the amendment. The parliament cannot make retrospective law which makes an invalid election valid because this is nothing but domineering use of unrestrained power.

According to Justice K.K. Mathew the clause destroyed the most essential and basic feature of the constitution i.e., any election dispute should be settled by the judiciary according to laws adjudicative facts. A democracy in his idea is the possibility of conducting fair elections and the clause simply dishonour this fact.

Justice Y. V. Chandrachud found the amendment violative of the principle of Separation of Power. Further it is also violative of Article 14 of the constitution. Many such reasons led the bench to strike down the 39th amendment in order to rescue the basic structure of the constitution.

Critical analysis

The decision acted as an alarm for the parliament, to understand that it is the law because of which they are there and not vice- versa. The parliament had to be reminded that stating something lawful or unlawful is the duty of the judiciary. The meaning of “Separation of Power” was retaught. It keeps a check and balance in the country’s functioning. It ensures that there is no overstepping of powers among the tiers of the constitution. The oath of President, Vice President, Prime Minister and other members include that it their prime duty to safeguard the constitution. Then the government kept their selfish needs above the country’s constitution.

After the decision of Allahabad High Court, Indira Gandhi should have resigned with dignity but on the contrary passed a disastrous Act. Winning from Raj Narain from Raj Bareilly constituency unlawfully could do no good to her. Despite of losing and proven guilty she developed a situation of emergency. The court in this upheld the essence of democracy by protecting the function of elections. The clause was keeping Judiciary out of the matters of invalid and malicious elections, but the bench ensured to restore the system.

The court had kept the respect of Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and Right of equality high. It set a further example that the main focus of Judiciary will always be to keep the constitution enforced for everyone and on everyone. Any person holding power will never have and will never be above the constitution.

Also Read: National Legal Services Authority V. Union of India & ORS.

Conclusion

The Judgement had cleared it for the parliament that they have been elected to make laws which are beneficial for people of India and not them. The bench had maintained the sanctity of the constitution. The clause was nothing more than a hole in the heart of constitution-makers. They didn’t spent months so that any person in power can change it according to his desires. The permission to amend the constitution was given in order to cope up with the dynamic environment in favor of the public and not for some people who can use it for their personal invalid protection.

The judiciary by scrapping the clause during the situation of unnecessary emergency gave the evidence of its bravery and set this clear in everybody’s mind that the constitution will never bend its knees in front of such malicious desires. The constitution of India as per the Preamble has been given by the people of India to themselves for themselves, also they have enacted and adopted it for their betterment. And any official who takes an oath should keep the honor of the Constitution above everything.

 

-Rudrakshi Sharma

(Writer, The Legal State)

 

References

  1. Lawtimes Journal
  2. Legal Service India
  3. Indian Kanoon
  4. Legal Service India
  5. Indian Kanoon

[1] State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain, 1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333

[2] Representative of Peoples Act, 1951

[3] 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1975

[4] Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975

[5] Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr (1973) 4 SCC 225: AIR 1973 SC 1461

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