Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain and Anr.

Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain
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About the Author:

Nandini Singh is a law student in Ideal Institute of Technology & Management & School of law, GGSIPU

Citation: 1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333.

Court: Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court of India.

Bench: Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha (HC) and Justice Mathews, Chief Justice Ray, Justice Beg, Justice Khanna and Justice Chandrachud.

Introduction

This judgement came in the year 1975 and its importance is unparalleled. Its traces how one of the biggest democracies of the world was shaken up when the Emergency was imposed & how the Supreme court’s unshakable spirit saved the very sacrosanct rights that are enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Brief of the Case

  • During the 1971 general elections, Ms Indira Gandhi of the Congress Party contested the election for a member of parliament against Raj Narain, the leader of the Janta Party, in the constituency of Rae Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. Raj Narain was extremely confident of his victory in the said elections, he exhibited such an extreme show as to take out a triumph rally before the declaration of results but The Congress came out victorious by a huge margin of votes.
  • The polling had taken place on 7th March , 1971 and the result was declared on March 10th in which Raj Narain was defeated by former PM Indira Gandhi with the margin of over 1lakhs of votes & her party secured 352 seats out of 518 seats in the said elections.
  • In order to prove these allegations, he even called the state govt. of Uttar Pradesh to produce the ‘Blue Book’ – the Blue Book was requested to to be produced in order to understand the security guidelines for the protection of Prime Minister while travelling. Responding to this the Home Security of Uttar Pradesh claimed ‘non-disclosure privilege’ under Sec.123 of Evidence Act.
  • On 24th April, 1971, Mr Raj Narain impugned the Prime Minister’s election by filing a petition in the Allahabad High Court, purporting that she has violated the election code enshrined in the Representation of the People Act of 1951 as her election campaigns were assisted by government officers which also included the armed forces and local police whose duty was assigned to maintain law and order.

Hearing at Allahabad High Court

Mrs Indira Gandhi was the First Prime Minister in the History of India who attended court proceedings where the Allegations were made by her political opponent based on corrupt practices.

Findings by Allahabad High Court

  • Used government machinery to set up stage, loudspeakers

One of the most crucial findings against Gandhi was that her election agent Yashpal Kapur, the District Magistrate of Rae Bareli, the Superintendent of Police of Rae Bareli and the Home Secretary of Uttar Pradesh government arranged for rostrums, loudspeakers and barricades to be set up and for members of the police force to be posted in connection with her election tour on February 1 and February 25, 1971. This, the High Court held, amounts to a corrupt practice under Section 123(7) of the Representation of the People Act.

  • Use of gazetted officer as an election agent

The second finding against Gandhi was regarding the employment of Yashpal Kapur as her election agent. Kapur was a gazetted officer in the Government of India, holding the post of Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. He subsequently submitted his resignation and was appointed the election agent of the appellant.  The dispute was hinged on when Kapur’s resignation became effective. Kapur had submitted his resignation from the post of officer on special duty at PM secretariat on January 13, 1971 and his resignation was accepted with effect from January 14, 1971. Kapur was subsequently appointed election agent of Gandhi on February 4, 1971, the date on which his signed form regarding such appointment was submitted to the returning officer. Since Kapur delivered election speeches on January 7, 1971 at Munshi Ganj and another speech at Kalan on January 19, 1971, it was concluded that Gandhi obtained and procured the assistance of Kapur for the furtherance of her election prospects when Kapur was serving as a gazetted officer with the government.

This was in violation of Section 123(7) of the RP Act, the High Court concluded.

The High Court validated all the accusations and charged Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices .

Aggrieved by the High Court’s decision, Gandhi appealed to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court then being on vacation granted a conditional stay on the matter on 24th June 1975. Indira Gandhi was allowed to act as a Prime Minister but was restricted from voting in the Parliament. While granting the conditional stay, Supreme Court ordered the parties to appear before it on 11 August, 1975.  

Emergency imposed

On the next day itself i.e. June 25, 1975 a state of emergency was declared by then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, citing internal disturbance. Mr. Palkhivala opted out of the case as he thought the action of imposing the emergency was unjustified, Solicitor general Fali Nariman also laid down his office for the same reason.

Amendment in the Constitution

 During the period of emergency only, the Parliament in the exercise of its constituent power brought about the Constitution (Thirty-Ninth Amendment) Act, 1975, which inserted Art.329A which made special provisions relating to the election of the Prime Minister and the Speaker. Sub clause (4) of the article stated that no law made by parliament before the commencement of the constitutional Amendment Act, in so far as it relates to election petitions and matters connected therewith can apply or ever have been deemed to apply to or in relation with the election of the Prime Minister, the speaker of either house of the Parliament and such election shall not be deemed to be void under any such law notwithstanding any judgment of any court.

ISSUES

  1. Whether or not Clause 4 of Article 329 A of the Constitution of India, was constitutionally valid?
  2. Whether or not, the election of Indira Gandhi was void?

DECISION

Issue 1

The constitutional bench provided its decision on November 7, 1975. The Supreme Court upheld the contention of Raj Narain and declared the impugned clause 4 of Article 329-A as unconstitutional. Hence the Court struck down the 39th (Amendment) Act, 1975 as it was unconstitutional and violated the basic structure of the constitution. This was the first case in which the landmark decision of Kesvananda Bharti case was applied.

  • Mathew J.  found that Article 329A(4) destroyed the basic structure of the Constitution . He was of the opinion- “a healthy democracy can only function when there is the possibility of free and fair elections, The impugned amendment destroyed that possibility and therefore violated the basic structure of the Constitution”.

  • Chandrachud J. found that “The 39th amendment is violative of the principle of separation of power as it intently transferred a purely judicial function into the hands of the legislature. Further, he was certain that the said amendment is also violative of Article 14 as it created inequality for certain members against others”.
  • Ray C.J. found another basic feature violated by the said amendment i.e. rule of law.
  • Justice Khanna that clause (4) of Article 329A violates the principle of free and fair elections which is an essential postulate of democracy and which in its turn is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

The bench also found the said amendment violated the principles of natural justice i.e. audi altrem partem since it denies the right of fair hearing to the one who is challenging the election of the members mentioned under the amendment. Democracy is a basic feature of the Indian Constitution. Parliament does not have the power to pass a retrospective law validating an invalid election. This exercise is nothing but an example of despotic use of unrestrained and unfettered power”.

Issue 2

The Supreme Court stated that “candidate” under Section 123(7) of The People’s Representative (Amendment) Act, 1975, was to be understood as a person who files the nomination papers. It was then held that Indira Gandhi filed for nomination on 1st February 1971, therefore any help or assistance that she took from the government officials and the armed forces before this date did not amount to a corrupt practice.

The Court held that Mr Yashpal Kapoor had given his resignation letter to the President on 13/01/1971, which was then recognised on 25/01/ 1971, with effect from 14/01/1971 by means of a notice published on 6/02/1971. Indira Gandhi had designated Yashpal Kapoor as her agent for elections on 1/02/1971. Yashpal Kapoor left his post as a government officer on 13/01/1971, hence the assistance that he had provided to Indira Gandhi after that day cannot be considered as a corrupt practice.

REASON FOR DECISION

 

The Constitutional validity of Clause (4) of Article 329-A falls for consideration. Clause (4) of Article 329-A is challenged on two grounds:

  • It destroys the basic structure of the Constitution.

Taking reference from the majority view of 7 learned Judges in Kesavananda Bharati Sripadanagalavaru v. State of Kerala the Apex Court held that the alleged amendment affects the basic structure that our preamble vouchsafes. Judicial review is an essential feature of basic structure because of the doctrine of separation of powers for these reasons Judicial review is a basic structure in the matter of election to ensure free, fair and pure election. If under Clause (4) of the Thirty-ninth Amendment the power of judicial review is taken away it amounts to the destruction of our Constitution.

  • The second ground is that the Constitution of the House which passed the Constitution (Thirty-ninth Amendment) Act is illegal. It is said that a number of members of Parliament of the two Houses were detained by executive order after 26 June, 1975. The important leaders of the House have been prevented from participating. These persons were not supplied any grounds of detention or given any opportunity of making a representation against their detention.

Analysis

     In encountering the establishment history of this case & in the view of the Judgements given by the Hon’ble Judges I feel that the judgment was theoretically justifiable, but it was flawed on the grounds of justice, equity and good conscience. As we know that it is duty of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to safeguard the Constitution and thus it rightly held Article 329A as unconstitutional because it was against 3 basic features of Democracy , firstly, the principle of separation of power, secondly the principle of Rule of law and lastly the power of the judicial review of the court. The Supreme Court protected the sanctity of our constitution and restored what our preamble vouchsafes.

It was pretty much evident that the amendments were made to circumvent the grounds on which Mrs Indira Gandhi was found guilty by Allahabad High Court. However, the Supreme Court failed to notice that why these amendments were made in the first place.

As Mr Palkhivala asserted that the decision of the court should be given keeping in mind that she was the Prime Minister of the country and there would be so much chaos and internal disturbance if she would be found guilty cannot be a ground to her to get expulsion from her charges. On the other side Mr Shanti Bhushan, who was Raj Narain’s lawyer argued that the principle of equality as stipulated under article 14 of the Constitution should be kept in mind while giving the decision.

    But clearly according to me if there had been any person other than Prime Minister Indira Gandhi he would not have been able to expel the charges.

Any person who had been found guilty of perjury, who had lied in any of the Courts of her own country, how can continue being the Prime Minister of the country. India has been a country of millions of leaders then why come we failed to found another one.

Raj Narain waited for 4 years and still, the Supreme Court failed to render justice to him.

References

Cases:

1.Indira Gandhi vs. Raj Narain AIR 1975 SC 2299

2. Kesvananda Bharti vs State of Kerela AIR 1973 SC 1461

Book:

The Case that Shook India- The verdict that led to emergency by Prashant Bhushan

Law

1.Constitution of India, 1950

2.Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1974

3.Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975

End-Notes

Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerela and Anr. 24th April,1973 (135 of 1970)

Raj Narain v. Uttar Pradesh 1975 A.I.R. 1975

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