Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain and Anr.

PETITIONER- Indira Gandhi

RESPONDENT- Raj Narain

Bench: Chief Justice A.N. Ray, Justice H.R. Khanna, Justice K.K. Mathew, Justice M.H. Beg, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud

INTRODUCTION

Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain is a landmark judgement and a precedent for tons of cases in the history Indian Legal system, it was the first time in the history of independent India when the election of Prime Minister was set aside which created a huge uproar not only in the parliament but also in the judicial system of our country. The doctrine of Basic Structure which was formed in the Kesavananda Bharti case was applied for the first time to strike down the constitutional amendment. It was also the time when the election law was moulded to legitimize the quashed elections of the Prime Minister.


BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

during the Lok Sabha general elections of 1971 Raj Narain, the leader of Ram Manohar Lohia’s SSP party, stand against Indira Gandhi for the Rai Bareily constituency. Indira Gandhi won the election with a huge margin and Raj Narain filed a case against Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractice, violation of the election code which is stated in Representation of People Act 1951, and used government resources for election purposes in Allahabad high court. The High Court of Allahabad held that Indira Gandhi cannot hold the Office of Prime Minister and cannot contest elections for another six years. Indira Gandhi filed an appeal in the Supreme Court after being found guilty by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court. The Supreme Court during that time was on vacation so she was granted a conditional stay

In the meantime, then-President Fakhrudeen Ali Ahmad declared a state of national emergency for the alleged reason of “internal disturbance” as originally provided by Article 356 of the Indian Constitution. Afterward, the President also approved the Constitution Act (39th Amendment) of 1975 by introducing section 329A just a day before the date of the hearing. According to the article just inserted, the Supreme Court has been unquestionably debarred from dealing with substances relating to the elections of the President, Prime Minister, Vice President, and President of Lok Sabha. This constitutional amendment was challenged in this case. Parliament also amended the Representation of People Act and Election Laws act in order to create a retrospective effect to validate the election of Indira Gandhi.

FACTS IN ISSUES

1. Constitutional validity of clauses 4 and 5 of Article 329A of The Constitution of India.

2. Constitutional validity of Representation of People (Amendment) Act 1974 and Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975

3. Was the election of Indira Gandhi valid?

JUDGEMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT


1. Constitutional validity of clauses 4 and 5 of Article 329 of The Constitution of India.

Parliament has the power to amend any part of the constitution under Article 368 of the constitution but it cannot be used in such a way that changes the constitutional basis and core structure which was established in the Keshavnand Bharti case. Clause (4) states that the no law made by the Parliament related to elections and matters connected before the commencement of the constitution 39th amendment will apply and if already has applied deemed to be void and if the court already passed the order declaring the election to be void such election continue to be valid in all aspects and any such order and finding on which such order is based will be void and have no effect. According to clause (5), any appeal pending before Supreme Court against any order of any court disposed of in conformity with the provision of clause (4).

Clause (4) of Article 329a is an exercise of a purely judicial power that is not included in the constitutive power given by Article 368. Control beyond the result of the elections and on the matter related to the validity of the election of a person is rested with the judiciary under provisions of Articles 329 and 136. Thus, the jurisdiction of judicial determination is abolished and, consequently, the democratic feature of the Constitution is demolished. the amendment abolishes and rescinds the principle of equality because there is no rational basis for distinguishing between persons holding high office and other persons voted to Parliament.

In the present case, Parliament revoked the application of all laws to the disputed election and assumed the responsibility of deciding the validity of the election.

The Court then found that the amendment violated the principle of separation of powers, Article 14, and the rule of law. The amendment also desecrated the principle of natural justice cherished in the Audi Alteram Partem by denying the right to a fair trial to the person challenging the election of a particular group of authorities.

When clause (4) of Article 329A, read with clauses (5) and (6), it restricts the jurisdiction of the court to consider the grievances of the petitioner and to decide them.

Therefore, the Court correctly held that clauses (4) and (5) of Article 329A are unconstitutional and therefore void and applied all laws and principles appropriately.


2. Constitutional validity of Representation of People (Amendment) Act 1974 and Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975


According to the court, Parliament has acted within its jurisdiction in amending these Acts and the laws relating to the limits on election expenses, what comes under corruption, the status of the members, date of joining and resigning the office, what comes under the office of profit are in the hand of the legislature and which can be changed and have retrospective effect if the parliament feels so, it is accepted as a normal exercise. Where the law has a retrospective effect and if the law was functioning in the past, there can be no discernment or injustice on this ground of being retrospective in nature.

Parliament had acted within the powers of Article 368 when it amended the said laws and the statute rest completely on the presence of the legislative powers and the limitation laid down by Article 13.

3. Was the election of Indira Gandhi valid?

The definition of the candidate as per section 123(7) of the Peoples Representative (Amendment) Act, 1975 is – the person who files the nomination paper. According to the supreme court, the nomination of Indira Gandhi was filed on 1st Feb 1971. So, any aid or support is taken from the armed force or govt. officials before 1st Feb 1971 will not be deemed as corrupt practices.

Yashpal Yadav was one of the government officials who helped Indira Gandhi during the election. It was held by the Supreme Court that the day Yadav submitted the resignation letter, 13th Jan 1971, ceased to continue as a govt. official, so the assistance provides to Indira Gandhi after that does not come within the ambit of corrupt practice, no matter when the resignation was acknowledged by the President.


CONCLUSION

The court via a majority i.e., Justice Khanna, Mathew, and Chandrachud found that Article 324(A)(4) was contrary to the Doctrine of the Basic Structure and hence is liable to be struck down, the judges differ in their opinion while reaching to the conclusion also held the amendment in election laws and representation of people law are valid and sustained the election of Indira Gandhi.

Justice Chandrachud while reaching the conclusion put stress on the theory of Separation of Powers being a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution, and the power to amend the constitution under Art.368 is not an amalgamation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Justice Mathew held that election would become futile without judicial remedy and it would become nearly impossible to resolve as to who has been lawfully elected and who has grabbed power and the latter could then squash upon the freedoms and rights of people. Justice Khanna held that free and fair elections are a vital part of the democratic Constitution and Art.329 (A)(4) goes against the Basic Structure.

Justice Beg and Chief Justice Ray held that free and fair elections did not form a part of the Basic Structure and that Art.368 is an amalgamation of legislative, executive, and judicial power, but they disagreed with the amendment in spirit.



This article is written by Pratham Bagani of Fergusson College.

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