ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla
By Tanisha Poddar
(1976) 2 SCC 521; AIR 1976 SC 1207
Ray, A.N. (Cj), Khanna, Hans Raj, Beg, M. Hameedullah, Chandrachud, Y.V., Bhagwati, P.N.
It all started with a judgement delivered by the Allahabad High Court on June 12, 1975, by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain, the petitioner challenged the election of Indira Gandhi to the Lok Sabha on the grounds of corruption and the resultant victory from Rae Bareli constituency in U.P.
On 12 June, she was convicted by Justice Sinha, of having indulged in wrong practices and declared her election void that means she couldn’t contest any election or hold her office for the period of next six years.
She appealed to the Supreme Court and the Apex court only granted her a conditional stay. Due to restraining her political power by the Apex court made her dysfunctional in a matter of vote or speak in Lok Sabha. In desperation to hold the chair of Prime Minister, she requested then President Fakruddin Ali Ahmad to declare an emergency under Clause (1) of the Article 352 of the Indian constitution which he did on June 26, 1975. The Government said, “A grave emergency existed whereby the security of India was threatened by internal disturbances”.
The 1971 war with Pakistan was just ended and the 1972 drought were the reasons given by the government for a declaration of emergency, as they were damaged the economic growth and blocked the growth of the nation. On June 27 1975, the exercise of power given by Clause (1) of Article 359 of the constitution were enforced on the people of India and the foreigners, within the right to approach the court to enforce Article 14 (right to equality), Article 21 and Article 22(prevention against detention in certain cases), Which are also available for foreigner and all the proceeding that was pending related to above- mentioned article will remain suspended for the period of Emergency.
Anyone who was considered to be a political threat to the authorities or anyone who could raise his/her political opinion freely was taken into custody without trial under Prevention Detention Laws. This caused led to arrest of many leaders from opposition such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Morarji Desai, Jay Prakash Narayan, Lal Krishna Advani, under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) because all these leaders were proving to be a political threat to the Indira Gandhi.
These people then filed petitions in various High Court in the country challenging the detainment. Most of the high court gave their judgement in favor of these petitions which compelled Indira Gandhi Government to approach Supreme Court for this issue and which became Additional District Magistrate Jabalpur V. Shivkant Shukla. It is also called the Habeas Corpus (To Produce the Body) Case because usually, this is a writ filed in a supreme court when someone is arrested. At the time when Emergency was proclaimed, this writ was not considered as a fundamental right under article 21 remained suspended.
· Whether, under Proclamation of Emergency after President’s order, can the writ of Habeas Corpus be maintained in High Court by a person challenging his unlawful detention?
· Was suspension of Article 21 fit under rule of law?
· Does detenue hold locus standi in Court during the period of Emergency?
In view of the Presidential order dated 27 June 1975 no person has any locus standi to move any writ petition under Article 226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention on the ground that the order is not under or in compliance with the Act or is illegal or is vitiated by malafides factual or legal or is based on extraneous consideration.
2. Section 16A (9) of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act is constitutionally valid;
3. The appeals are accepted. The judgments are set aside;
4. The petitions before the High Courts are now to be disposed of in accordance with the law laid down in these appeals.
The above said judgement was given by four out of five judges. They were the then Chief Justice A.N. Ray, along with Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati.
The dissenting Judgment was given by Justice Khanna who ended his judgment by saying “As observed by Chief Justice Huges, Judges are not there simply to decide cases, but to decide them as they think they should be decided, and while it may be regrettable that they cannot always agree, it is better that their independence should be maintained and recognized than that unanimity should be secured through its sacrifice.
In M.M. Damnoo v. State of J&K, the Court required the State Government to produce the file confining the grounds of detention so that the Court could satisfy itself that “the grounds on which the detenue has been detained have relevance to the security of the State”.
Upon the analysis of the judgment, there are multiple observations on the given case.
The Supreme Court in this case observed that Article 21 covers right to life and personal liberty against its illegal deprivation by the State and in case of suspension of Article 21 by Emergency under Article 359, the Court cannot question the authority or legality of such State’s decision.
Article 358 automatically suspends the fundamental right under Article 19 as soon as the emergency is declared. On the other hand, Article 359 does not automatically suspend any Fundamental Right. It only empowers the president to suspend the enforcement of the specified Fundamental Right. It does not undermine the essential components of sovereignty of separation of powers, leading to a system of check and balance and limited power of the Executive.
This act should not be considered as a “power” of the Executive or right of it. There is a legal extent till which a State can act in or against the citizens and in this case, it was high misuse of power of personal political gain of a single person. Also, State only holds the right of arrest if the alleged act falls under Section 3 of MISA and its every condition is fulfilled. If any condition is unfulfilled then detention is beyond the power of State. The decision by the Supreme Court is said to be the biggest erroneous judgment till date. The dissenting opinion of Justice Khanna still holds more value than the majority judgment including the then Chief Justice.
Before Proclamation of Emergency there was strong political instability in the Country after the Lok Sabha election of Indira Gandhi was termed as illegal. This whole exercise was to put opposition under pressure and during the process, even Supreme Court made major errors in the judgement and it can be said to be purely unconstitutional. Only the courage of single judge is said to be worth reading and it was in favor of humanity and liberty. Justice Bhagwati was quoted as “I have always leaned in favor of upholding personal liberty, for, I believe, it is one of the most cherished values of mankind, without it life would not be worth living. It is one of the pillars of free democratic society. Men have readily laid down their lives at its altar, in order to secure it, protect it and preserve it. But I do not think it would be right for me to allow my love of personal liberty to cloud my vision or to persuade me to place on the relevant provision of the Constitution a construction which its language cannot reasonably bear.”
The day when this judgment was pronounced, it was termed as “darkest day of the democracy” and it was matched with the regime and rise of Hitler. On top of all, this judgment did not favor rule of law. As a judge, the focus is on public benefit or on something which is good for population but this judgment seemed to favor only one person. The judgment in this case can be compared to the judgment of Raj Narain’s case where Indira Gandhi was given a clean chit by the Supreme Court after being held guilty by Allahabad High Court.
One can say that common man’s trust on judiciary has been shaken by these two judgments which happened almost simultaneously. Justice Khanna solely relied on the judgment of Makkhan Singh v. State of Punjab in which he noted: “If in challenging the validity of his detention order, the detenue is pleading any right outside the rights specified in the order, his right to move any court in that behalf is not suspended, because it is outside Article 359(1) and consequently outside the Presidential order itself.
This single case became example of how four able judges of the apex court of the country made a blunder under the wrong influence of the wrong person. The Supreme Court violated all fundamental rights with that decision. It was the darkest hour of Indian judiciary which struck at the very heart of fundamental rights. All four judges with the exception of Justice Khanna went on to become Chief Justices of India. In 2011, Justice Bhagwati expressed regret on his decision. Such acceptance from the judge mean how grave the situation was that time and what impact it left on India. The apex court recalled the comment of former Chief Justice M N Venkatachalliah in the Khanna Memorial Lecture on February 25, 2009 that the majority decision in the Emergency case be “confined to the dustbin of history”.
The Proclamation and arbitrary use of power by the State machinery and taking away the personal liberty of a number of people along with judicial stamp can be considered one of the most erroneous judgment till date. Supreme Court went on to elaborate the interpretation of Article 21 and introduced Public Interest Litigation to gain public legitimacy after it faced criticism over the judgment and damage it had done.
The wrong interpretation led to infringement of fundamental rights on whims and fancy of a political figure that had her agenda to fulfil. While the judgment is said to be a mistake on many occasions by jurists and apex court, the ruling has not been overruled formally even after admitting the error. This was noted by the bench of Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice Aftab Alam.
In today’s context, Dicey’s Rule of Law which was explained by Justice Khanna holds much greater force than what it was in 1976. There has to be a clear overruling of this judgment so that theoretical nature of Rule of Law can be made clear along with its applicability to our justice system.
Also, further provisions shall be made to ensure that no political agenda should overshadow justice and equity of citizens.