Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Shri Raj Narain & Anr,
Date of Decision
A.N. Ray (CJ), H.R. Khanna, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud
Facts of the Case
- The appellant (Indira Nehru Gandhi) is alleged to held herself out as a candidate from December 29, 1970 and was guilty of having committed corrupt practice by having obtained the assistance of gazetted officers in furtherance of her election prospects.
- The High Court of Allahabad in its order dated June 12, 1975 found her to have committed corrupt practice . The High Court further found the appellant guilty of corrupt practice committed under section 123(7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 hereinafter referred to as the 1951 Act by having obtained the assistance of Yashpal Kapur a gazetted officer for the furtherance of her election prospects.
- Meanwhile, The Constitution (Thirty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1975 substituted Article 71.
Contentions of the respondent –
- Judicial review is an essential feature of basic structure because of the doctrine of separation of powers for these reasons : Judicial review is basic structure in the matter of election to ensure free, fair and pure election.
- Under Article 368 only general principles governing the organs of the State and the basic principles can be laid down. An amendment of the Constitution does not contemplate any decision in respect of individual cases. Clause (4) of Article 329A is said to be an exercise of a purely judicial power which is not included in the constituent power conferred by Article 368.
- The control over the result of the elections and on the question whether the election of any person is valid or invalid is vested in the Judiciary under the provisions of Article 329 and Article 136. The jurisdiction of judicial determination is taken away, and, therefore, the democratic character of the Constitution is destroyed.
- The amendment destroys and abrogates the principle of equality. It is said that there is no rational basis for differentiation between persons holding high offices and other persons elected to Parliament.
- The rule of law is the basis for democracy and judicial review. The fourth clause makes the provisions of Part VI of the Representation of the People Act inapplicable to the election of the Prime Minister and the Speaker.
- Clause (4) destroys not only judicial review but also separation of power. The order of the High Court declaring the election to be void is declared valid (sie void). The cancellation of the judgment is denial of political justice which is the basic structure of the Constitution.
- The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1974 and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975 referred to as the Amendment Acts, 1974 and 1975 do not enjoy constitutional immunity because these Acts destroy or damage basic structure or basic features.
- The finding of the High Court that the appellant held herself out to be a candidate from December 29, 1970 is set aside because the law is that the appellant became a candidate only with effect from the date of nomination which was February 1, 1971. The finding of the High Court that the resignation of Yashpal Kapur did not become effective until it was notified in the Gazette is also set aside because under the law the resignation became effective from January 14, 1971. The finding of the High Court that the appellant committed corrupt practice in breach of Section 123 (7) of the 1951 Act is also repelled by the legislative changes and is, therefore, set aside. The order of the disqualification of the appellant is also set aside. (Para 157)
- The judgment of the High Court appealed against is set aside the cross objections of the respondent is dismissed. (Para 158)
The hierarchical structure of the legal order of a State is that the Constitution is the highest level within national law. The Constitution in the formal sense is a solemn document containing a set of legal norms which may be changed only when special prescriptions are observed. The purpose of special prescriptions is to render the changes of these norms more difficult by regulating the manner and form of these amendments. The Constitution consists of those rules which regulate the creation of the general legal norms, in particular, the creation of statute. (Para 132)
Author’s Comments –
The Hon’ble Apex Court decided the petition in favour of Indira Nehru Gandhi . The approach adopted by the High Court of Allahabad was held to be invalid. 1970s was a period in the history of Indian politics full of fear, pressure and favours. It must be pondered whether this decision reflects independent judicial decision making or not.