How Indira Gandhi arm-twisted judiciary during Emergency

By 1971, Indira Gandhi’s control over the government and her party Congress was absolute. She started showing autocratic tendencies and wanted to control judiciary.  She chose Justice Ray as the Chief Justice of India ignoring seniority.

Congress was defeated in Gujarat Assembly elections. Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly called JP, gave a call for Total Revolution. He encouraged students, peasants, and labour organisations to launch a non-violent struggle to unseat a corrupt and autocratic regime. Lucknow High Court set aside her election on a poll petition filed by Raj Narain and she was de-barred from contesting election for six years.  The apex court on an appeal passed an interim order allowing Gandhi only to act as a Member of Parliament, as the Prime Minister of India without voting power. Hence, Indira Gandhi got Fakhruddin Ali Ahammad, the then President to proclaim the Emergency. The Presidential proclamation was stated to be an absolute bar to the judicial scrutiny of the detention orders.

This contention did not find favour with high courts and they held that despite the said Presidential Order the petitions were maintainable and could be proceeded with.  The judgments of a few high courts were challenged before the  Supreme court.  The case was heard by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court consisted of Chief Justice AN Ray, HR Khanna, MH Beg, YV Chandrachud and PN Bhagavati. The majority of the judges except Justice HR Khanna held:  “In view of the Presidential Order dated 27 June, 1975 under clause (1) of Art.359 of our Constitution no person has locus standi to move any writ petition under Art.226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to enforce any right to personal liberty of a person detained under the Act on the grounds that the order of detention or the continued detention is for any reason not under or in compliance with the Act or is illegal or mala fide.

Second. Art.21 is the sole repository of rights to life and personal liberty against the State. Any claim to a writ of habeas corpus is enforcement of Art.21 and, is, therefore, barred by the Presidential Order.

Third. S.16A(9) of the Act is valid. It is a rule of evidence and it is not open either to the detenu or to the court to ask for grounds of detention.

Fourth. It is not competent for any court to go into questions of mala fides of the order of detention or ultra vires character of the order of detention or that the order was not passed on the satisfaction of the detaining authority.

Because of the  majority view in the said case, all the draconian laws got acceptability and Gandhi mercilessly implemented those laws against the State Governments and the leaders, who were against the autocratic rule by totally annihilating the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country.

 

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