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Case Brief – Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Shri Raj Narain

case brief, case summary

Facts

In the general elections held in India on February 5th, 1971, of the 5th Lok Sabha, Indira Gandhi strongly campaigned for her and her party, which helped the Congress to emerge victorious by winning 352 seats of the total seats.

Raj Narain who was the leader of SSP of Ram Manohar Lohiya opposed Indira Gandhi in the elections for the parliamentary seat of Rae Bareilly, which is in Uttar Pradesh. Despite being so convinced of his win, Raj Narain decided to have a victory rally even before results were announced.

 He was so sure of his victory which is why he conducted a victory rally even before he won, but he was very disappointed by the election result as he lost it by a very huge margin.

Not believing the result, he filed a petition against Indira Gandhi in Allahabad High Court alleging her of winning the election by unjust and unfair means. He accused her of violating the Representation of People Act, 1951, he also claimed that being a former Prime Minister she has used her government authority and power to win the elections apart from this he also suspected her of using the Campaign expenses more than the limit prescribed by the rules which were Rs.35,000.

The High Court of Allahabad found Mrs Gandhi guilty of electoral errors. The election was deemed voidable in that constituency. It also held that f she could not contest for elections in that electoral district for 6 years.

Frustrated by this, the former Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi tried to appeal and move to Supreme Court but being on vacation the judgement was delayed for a future date. Ms Gandhi couldn’t wait for this and this is why she brought the emergency. 

Indira Gandhi took an unequivocal stay order Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha, appealed to the Supreme Court, during this, she imposed an emergency, through this she easily managed members of the opposition, restricted the media and press, and restricted certain basic liberties in the name of security of the country.

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Supreme Court tried to stop this emergency but the Parliament brought the Article 329A through the thirty-ninth Amendment Act of 1975, which pulled the jurisdiction out of the hands of the Supreme Court. 

What was the issue?

Is the Thirty-ninth Amendment Act of 1975 constitutional?

What was Clause 4 of 329A introduced by the Parliament?

This was regarding the election of the Prime Minister’s election to the Parliament. It declared that any institution except those provided for in the law passed by the parliament would not challenge the election of the Prime Minister or the speaker of the Lok Sabha. The validity of such statutes has likewise been stated not to be challenged by the courts.

There were several arguments by the Respondents: 

  • On the basis of Kesavananda Bharati’s verdict, the interlocutors claimed that the amendment involved in the Amendment 39th violated the fundamental structure of the constitution.
  • Whether or not the elections were valid depends on the judiciary in accordance with Article 329 and Article 136. Such an amendment thus violates India’s democratic structure.
  • This goes against democracy since it makes 1951’s Representation of the People’s Act unenforceable when the Prime Minister and the President were elected.
  • The dismissal of the High Court verdict in Allahabad is also a violation of public policy, which is a fundamental element of the Constitution. It is a slap in the face not just of judicial review, but of power of division.

Observation by Judges:

Mathew J. said that the core structure of the Indian Constitution was damaged by clause 4 of Article 329A. Election dispute resolution by assessing arbitral evidence and applying the law. He was at the view that “a good democracy can only work when there is a free and fair system of elections,” the proposed amendment removed the opportunity and hence breached the essential constitutional structure.”

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Justice Khanna concluded, “Violation of fair and free elections.  The bench also found that the amendment infringed the principles of natural justice (Audi altrem partem) since it denies the right of the person who challenges the election of the members mentioned in the amendment to a fair hearing. Democracy is a fundamental characteristic of the Indian Constitution.

Parliament cannot pass an unconstitutional election retrospective law. This is nothing more than an illustration of the tyrannical use of unrestricted and unrestricted power.”

Held

The court affirmed the decision of the Kesavananda Bharati case and declared Article 329, Clause four, to be invalid.

The majority bench said that Free and fair elections are part of the Constitution’s basic structure. Removing this from the people of India constitutes a major violation of their rights. It also found that the amendment violated other basic characteristics of the Constitution, such as the rule of law and ideals of natural justice, i.e., Audi Alteram Partem.

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