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Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain and Anr. - (Supreme Court) (07 Nov 1975)

Saving democracy from itself



This Supreme Court decision, arising out of an Allahabad High Court ruling that likely abetted a declaration of emergency, may have saved the nation’s democracy, and its unity. On trial stood Article 329-A of the Constitution, effected by the thirty-ninth Constitutional Amendment in 1975, purporting to take away challenge against election of the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House, save for by a body elected by Parliament. Essentially, it nullified all effect of the High Court’s decision calling into question Ms. Gandhi electoral tactics and voiding her election. Heavy handed? Definitely. Admirably diabolical? Possibly.

Unsurprisingly, the Court found the thirty-ninth Amendment, 1975 a bit damaging to the basic structure of the Constitution, which probably preferred “free, fair and pure election” over dictatorial rule. Clause (4) of Article 329-A of the Constitution was struck down for abolishing judicial review without providing another forum, extinguishing both the right and remedy to challenge validity of the election. However, the Supreme Court also noted that the High Court had been mistaken in its interpretation that voluntary expenditure by friends and relatives without request was expenditure by the candidate herself. Ultimately, Ms. Gandhi’s election was upheld, ironically, removing the need for all the political and constitutional machinations.

Relevant : His Holiness Kesavanada Bharati Sripadagalvaru v. State of Kerala MANU/SC/0445/1973 Kanwar Lal Gupta v. Amarnath Chawla MANU/SC/0277/1974 Article 329 of the Constitution Act Article 329-A of the Constitution Act


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