Judgement of the Day: ADM Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla

In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain[1] the petitioner challenged the election of Indira Gandhi to the Lok Sabha 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.[2] 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 abovementioned 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 favour 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.[3]

Finally, it was urged that Preamble to the constitution speaks of a Sovereign, Democratic Republic and therefore, the Executive which is subordinate to the Legislature cannot act to the prejudice of the citizen save to the extent permitted by laws validly made by the legislature which is the chosen representative of the people.[4]. By a Majority decision of the constitutional bench consisting of five Judges, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Additional District Magistrate, vs S. S. Shukla Etc.,[5] on 28 April, 1976, held that “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 mala-fides factual or legal or is based on extraneous consideration.”

Section 16A(9) of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act is constitutionally valid; the bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Justice A.N. Ray, along with Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati, delivered the Majority Ruling, whereas the fifth Judge, Justice H R Khanna, however wrote a dissenting judgment.

The case of A.D.M Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla is one of the landmark cases in the history of Indian legal system as it is one of those cases which paved the way for further developments in the legal system by exposing the existing loopholes. Fascinatingly, at the same time, the case is also a dark spot in the legal system and the judiciary. The reason for that is, in this case, the courts refused to address and recognize the plights of the citizens of India by completely neglecting the rights bestowed upon a person upon birth.

Upon an examination of the particular judgment of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, one gets to know that there are different perceptions, opinions and views on the given case. The Hon’ble Supreme Court for this situation watched that Article 21 covers Right to Life and personal liberty against its unlawful dispossession by the State and if there should arise an occurrence of suspension of Article 21 by Emergency under Article 359, the Court can’t scrutinize the expert or lawfulness of such State’s choice. Article 358 is significantly more extensive than the Article 359 because on one hand all the fundamental rights are suspended as entire according to Article 358, but on the other hand Article 359 does not suspend any rights. Notwithstanding being Emergency arrangements under Article 359 (1) endow unique power and status on the Executive, it doesn’t undermine the indispensable elements of the sovereignty of division of powers, prompting to an arrangement of what is known to be a system of checks and balances and constrained authority of the Executive. The nexus amongst State and Executive is flawed and the impact of suspension of such rights will emerge in the form of additional energy in the hands of the legislature which may formulate laws against the fundamental rights. This act ought not be considered as a “power” of the Executive or right of it. There is a legal and reasonable degree to which a State can act in or against the people and for this situation, it was high abuse of powers of individual political profit of a particular individual. Amid Emergency, it is nowhere talked about that the authority of State “increases” from its original control under Article 162. Additionally, the State just holds the privilege to arrest if the supposed act falls under Section 3 of MISA and its each condition is satisfied. In the event that any condition is unfulfilled then detention is past the powers of State. The verdict by the Supreme Court is said to be the greatest incorrect judgment till date. The contradicting opinion of Justice Khanna still holds more substance than the majority judgment including the then Chief Justice. The unjust objective of Indira Gandhi’s government came to the surface when Justice Khanna asked the first troubling yet valid question. “Life is also mentioned in Article 21 and would Government argument extend to it also?” There was no way out. Without even a tinge of hesitation, the counsel for the government replied, ‘Even if life was taken away illegally, courts are helpless’. Before Proclamation of Emergency there was rampant political instability in the Country after the election of Indira Gandhi was termed to be as unlawful. This entire scenario was brought about in order to put resistance on the opposition and amidst the procedure, even the Hon’ble Supreme Court made significant mistakes in the judgment and it can be said to be absolutely unlawful. Just the boldness of single judge is said to be worth perusing and it was in consonance with humanity, freedom and liberty.

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