Case no: appeal 887 of 1975
Equivalent citation: AIR 1975 SC 2299
Appellant: Indira Nehru Gandhi
Respondent: Shri Raj Narain
Date of Judgment: 7 Nov. 1975
- N. RAY (CJ) &
- R. KHANNA &
- K. MATHEW &
- H. BEG &
- V. CHANDRACHUD
This work is a critical analysis of an infamous case involving the Prime minister of India. This case was a huge turning point in the Indian History. The case was initially brought by Raj narain against Indira Gandhi on the grounds that, she has done illegal and corrupt practices to won the election. The court held Indira Gandhi guilty for her conduct and held the election of Indira Gandhi as invalid. Later on, an appeal was filed by Indira Gandhi for invalidating the judgment passed by the Allahabad High Court. In the meantime, the parliament has passed the 39th constitutional amendment act, 1975 which added a new article 329A in the Indian Constitution stating that the matters relating to the election disputes of PM and speaker of Lok Sabha cannot be challenged in any court. The SC held the election of Indira Gandhi as valid but declared the 39th Amendement act as invalid on the grounds that it is violating the basic structure doctrine laid down in Keshavananda’s bharti case.
This was an appeal case filed by Indira Gandhi against the decision of Allahabad high Court. On 12th June, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal delivered a Judgment against the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The PM was convicted for engaging in the corrupt practices and using illegal sources to win the 1971 election. The Allahabad High Court declared her election as invalid and restricted her to hold any public office for the next 6 years. PM then summoned Mr. palkiwala who was regarded as the best lawyer at that time. She ordered him to demand the 20 days stay order on the judgment of the HC so that she will get enough time to file an appeal in Supreme Court. On 24th of June, the stay order was granted to her but with a condition that she will not be allowed to vote in Parliament but is entitled to function as a Prime Minister.
After the grant of stay order, there was a huge aggression and grave disgrace among the various ministers. The opposition leaders demanded the resignation of Indira Gandhi. That day, Indira Gandhi took the most thrilling decision ever taken in the Indian History. On the night of 25th June, 1975, she ordered the president faqrooddin Ahmed to declare the Emergency. She explained the reasons and stated that, the opposition is turning aggressive and was planning to spread disorder in the country. She further stated that, there were conditions of civil war in the country and thus it is important to declare the emergency due to the internal disturbance in the country. During this, all the Fundamental rights were suspended and the opposition leaders were sent to jail. Police officers were blindly misusing their powers and there were huge exploitation of the administrative as well as the constitutional powers. She has also ordered to stop the publication of various newspapers in the Country and specified that, these newspapers are publishing wrong information that is misleading the general public.
The declaration of emergency was not enough for Indira Gandhi to indicate her power. She has made some more severe changes in the history of India. She took the help of her Law minister Mr. H.R. Gokhale and made some amendments. These amendments were directly disobeying the judgment of High Court and thus it can be clearly perceptible that these amendments were planned in such a way that they would invalidate the allegations compelled upon her. She got to amend the election law amendment act, 1975 where the provision was inserted that the use of gazette officers for providing management and facilities with respect to procurement of election is acceptable and it cannot be challenged in any Court. This amendment had a retrospective effect and thus it is applicable to retrospective laws as well. The amendment directly nullified the charges alleged upon her for the use of gazette officers in procurement of election. She also got to pass the 39th amendment act, 1975 and introduced article 329A which stated that the election of the Speaker and the prime minister cannot be challenged in any court. This amendment was also made with retrospective effect. On the other hand, these amendments were included in the 9th schedule of the Indian constitution where the laws that are beyond the purview of judicial review are kept.
All these amendments were made, just before the hearing of appeal in the Supreme Court. The hearing was scheduled on 11 August, 1975.
- Whether clause 4 of article 329A is violating the basic feature of the constitution
- Whether article 359 of the constitution was invalid
- Whether the 9th schedule of the constitution was invalid
- Whether the clause 4 of article 329A was invalid.
The additional clause 4, inserted by the constitutional 39th amendment act was challenged on the grounds that it is violating the basic feature of the constitution. The judgment passed by the majority of 7 judges in keshavananda bharti v. state of Kerala states that, if any law or amendment made in contravention with the basic feature of the constitution, it is declared invalid. The basic structure doctrine should be maintained. The judgment implied a limitation on the law making power of the parliament. The parliament cannot frame any law or make any amendment that takes away or infringes the basic feature of the constitution. The basic feature of the constitution means the primary pillars on which the structure of the constitution is standing. Those features that cannot be ignored and upholds the equality of the individuals can be regarded as the basic feature of the constitution. The basic feature includes some important aspects like the separation of power and supremacy of the constitution. The basic elements of the constitution can be traced out in the preamble of the constitution. The preamble of the constitution affirms the nature of the Constitution that is sovereign, republic and democratic. It further sustains the maintenance of equality, unity and integrity of the individuals. It also ascertains to provide the social, economic and political justice to every citizen. Apart from that, it also provides the liberty of thoughts, beliefs, faith and expression. All these features collectively encompass the “basic structure doctrine of the constitution”.
The clause 4 of article 329A directed that the election of the president and the speaker of Lok Sabha cannot be challenged on any grounds in the Court. This article is directly taking away the power of Supreme Court to exercise the judicial review. The argument was whether the concept of judicial review should be kept under the purview of basic feature of the constitution. Since, the basic feature of the constitution supports the doctrine of separation of power, it is necessary to provide the full power of Judicial review to the judiciary without any intervention. Thus, the clause inserted by the constitutional 39th amendment act is overstepping the basic feature of the constitution.
- Whether the article 359 of the constitution was invalid.
Article 358 of the constitution declares the suspension of Fundamental rights under article 19 as soon as the emergency is proclaimed. While, article 359 empowers the president to suspend the enforcement of Fundamental rights, it does not provide for the suspension of all the Fundamental rights.
At the time of proclamation of emergency in 1975, many officers and ministers were arrested and are sentenced to imprisonment. Many ministers were taken under the custody of Police. They are even not provided with the opportunity to present themselves against the arrest. Due to these activities, many members of the parliament were unable to present themselves before the parliamentary sessions. They were incapable to participate in the parliamentary activities and are not able to exercise their powers of right to speak ad vote.
Thus, the 39th amendment act was not passed by the recognition of the majority of the members of the parliament. It amounts to the illegal act and the 39th amendment should be declared unconstitutional. Although, the article 359 suspends the right to move any court against the infringement of the Fundamental rights but it does not permit the illegal detention of any person. Due to the absence of some of the significant leaders of the Parliament, the session of the parliament which passed the constitutional 39th amendment act was unacceptable.
- Whether the schedule 9 of the constitution was invalid.
The schedule 9 of the constitution contains such laws or enactments which are not subjected to judicial review. If any law or enactment is placed under the 9th schedule, then the laws and acts cannot be challenged in any courts on the grounds that they are violating the fundamental rights of the constitution. However, it can be challenged on the grounds of basic structure and would be subjected to judicial review. The election law amendment act, 1975 that was validating the use of gazette officers for procurement of election was placed under this category of 9th schedule. Thus, the argument was whether this amendment is suitable to be kept under the schedule 9of the constitution.
The argument was further asserting that, this amendment was violating the basic feature of the constitution and thus, it is not entitled to be kept under the category of 9th schedule.
The amendment in the election laws made by the parliament has invalidated the allegations made upon Indira Gandhi and thus the appeal was accepted. Raj narain further challenged the appeal and the validity of the constitutional amendments was challenged. The Judgment passed by the Majority of 7 judges in Keshavananda bharati v. State of Kerala listed out some of the essential basic features of the constitution. The Judgment stated that, if the parliament passes any law or amendment that takes away or infringes the basic features of the Constitution, they should be declared void. The Supreme Court observed that the free and fair election is the basic feature of the Constitution. The amendment passed by the parliament was declared invalid on the grounds that they are infringing the policy of free and fair election along with the Fundamental rights under article 14th of the Constitution. Thus, the 39th Amendment act was struck down and the election laws can still be challenged in any court. It was also stated that amendment was not passed by the majority of members because many of the parliamentary members were absent due to the arrest. Thus it is abolishing the doctrine of judicial review, rule of law and the doctrine of separation of power. These are the basic elements of the constitution. The infringement of any of these features will nullify the amendment and thus the amendment was declared invalid. The Supreme Court added some more points in the Basic features of the constitution namely, rule of law, judicial review and free and fair election.