LegalUp’s Snippy:–This case turns out to be a landmark judgment because of many reasons. For the first time, the prime minister (Indira Nehru Gandhi) elections were set aside. The constitutional amendment was struck down by the application of basic structure doctrine after this case which was earlier triumphed in the Kesavananda Bharti case. Moreover, the election laws were amended retrospectively to validate the earlier nullified prime minister elections. This case is also famous as it changed the countries political recourse.
In the 1971 Lok Sabha General Elections, Raj Narain ran against Indira Gandhi for the Rae Bareilly constituency. Indira Nehru Gandhi won the election, and the Congress Party took control of the House with a landslide victory. However, following the election results, Raj Narain filed a suit in the High Court of Allahabad alleging that Indira Gandhi committed election malpractices. On June 12, 1975, the High Court of Allahabad, presided over by Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha, found Indira Gandhi guilty of abusing government machinery under Section 123(7) of the Representative of the Peoples Act, 1951.
As a result, the court ruled that Indira Nehru Gandhi could not remain as Prime Minister of the country and could not run for re-election for another six years. Indira Nehru Gandhi, who was dissatisfied with the verdict of the Allahabad High Court, moved to the Supreme Court to challenge it. However, because the Supreme Court was on vacation at the time, it issued a conditional stay of execution on June 24, 1975, pertaining to the 12 June order.
Following that, the then-President Fakhrudeen Ali Ahmad imposed a state of emergency, blaming internal disturbances, although the underlying cause for the emergency was the High Court decision in Raj Narain v. Uttar Pradesh.
While granting a conditional stay, the Supreme Court ordered the parties to appear before it on August 11, 1975. However, on August 10, 1975, the President of emergency-stricken India passed the 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1971, inserting Article 329-A, effectively barring the Supreme Court from hearing the case. This modification rendered the elections for the President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, and Speaker of the Lok Sabha illegitimate in court.
Citation – Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, AIR 1975 SC 2299;
The issue was with respect to the constitutional validity of the 39th constitutional (amendment) Act,1975.
The Supreme court gave its decision on 7th November 1975. Kesvananda Bharti case was for the first time applied by S.C. The argument of the petitioner was upheld and the constitutional validity of clause 4 of 329-(A) Article of the constitution was held unconstitutional.
Mathew. J put forward that such clause violates the basic features of the constitution and that too through the resolution of an election dispute by ascertaining the adjudicative facts. Democracy can function only when there are free and fair elections getting held. Clause 4 of Article 329-(A) goes against the basic features of the constitution.
According to Justice Chandrachud, the said article amendment was against the principle of separation of powers as it transferred the judicial functions in the hands of the legislature. Also, his view was that this amendment goes against Article 14 of the constitution. Others also found such amendment violative of the natural justice principle.
Democracy is the basic feature of the constitution. The parliament doesn’t have the power to pass the retrospective law validating an invalid election. This exercise is just an example of the despotic use of unrestrained and unfettered power.
Thus, the 39th amendment got struck down by S.C. as it went against the basic structure of the constitution and was adjudicated as unconstitutional.