Indira Gandhi vs Shri Raj Narain is one of the most controversial cases of the late 20th century which led to an emergency. The emergency was proclaimed on 25 June 1975 and lasted till 1977. It is considered the black period of Indian democracy that lasted for 21 months.
Indira Gandhi became prime minister by a huge majority of 352 in Lok sabha. In the 1971 general election, she gave the slogan of Garibi hatao. She was also awarded the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna in India after India’s war against Pakistan.
Agitation against Indira Gandhi started building in people due to poverty which was at its peak after the India-Pakistan war of 1971. The allegations of corrupt practice in winning elections were also raised by opposition mainly by Raj Narain.
The government of India passed the 24th amendment act in 1971, by which attempts to make parliament more powerful were done. The 24th amendment was later challenged in the keshavanandhan Bharti vs the state of Kerala case and led to the development of the basic structure doctrine.
She also tried to control the judiciary and made A.N Ray chief justice when other senior judges were there in the supreme court.
Both Indira Nehru Gandhi and Raj Narain contested the Lok Sabha election from Rai Bareilly in 1971. Raj Narine was so confident about his victory that he started Pre-celebrations but on the contrary, Indira Gandhi won by a huge majority.
She won by an overwhelming majority of 1,11,810. Indira Gandhi was representing Indian National Congress and her rival Raj Narain represented Samyukta socialist party.
Raj Narain was disappointed with the election result and filed an election petition in Allahabad High court challenging Indira Gandhi’s election to parliament on 24 April 1971. He challenged the Indira Gandhi election under the representations of people act 1951.
This was the first time when any prime minister election was challenged and cross-examined in the court by advocate Shanti Bushan who later become law minister of India after the emergency.
Grounds on which petitioner challenged in High court
- Indira Gandhi procured the assistance of armed forces for arranging her flights by air force airplanes and helicopters.
- Her election agent distributed clothes and liquors to induce voters.
- Her election agent and others procured vehicles for the free conveyance of voters to the polling stations and made use of religious symbols.
- She took the help of government officials in his election.
- Indira Gandhi and her agent incurred or authorized expenditure in violation of section 77(3) of the representation of people’s act read with rule 90 of the conduct of election laws, 1961.
On 12 June 1975, the learned single judge found Indira Gandhi guilty of using corrupt practices within the meaning of section 123 (7) of the representation of the people act. The learned judge in his judgment disqualified Indira Gandhi for 6 years from the date of judgment.
The learned High court judge granted a 20 days stay on the order so that the democratic process goes smoothly and they can find a new successor of Indira Gandhi.
During the appeal of elections were pending in court parliament amend election laws and the people of Representatives act to validate the Indira Gandhi election. 39th amendment of the constitution was passed by parliament which inserted article 70 and article 329A.
Appeal in the supreme court
After the judgment of the High court came Indira Gandhi filed an appeal in the supreme court for an absolute stay and Raj Narain filed a cross-appeal. For appellate advocate, Nani palkivala appeared, and for respondent advocate Shanti bushan.
A vacation bench of the supreme court headed by Justice Krishnan Iyer heard the appeal and delivered the judgment on 24 June 1975.
The Supreme court granted a temporary stay on judgment and order of the high court. The supreme court granted Indira Gandhi his status as a member of Lok sabha and permitted her to attend and sign the register but took away her right to vote in parliament.
Indira Gandhi’s right to draw remuneration and to take part in parliament proceedings was also taken away. While dismissing an appeal for absolute stay, Indira Gandhi was given the liberty to move in front of the division bench where she can appeal for absolute stay or modification of an order, same liberty was given to the respondent.
In March–April 1974, a student agitation by the Bihar Chatra Sangharsh Samiti received the support of Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, referred to as JP, against the Bihar government. In April 1974, in Patna, JP called for “total revolution,” asking students, peasants, and labor unions to non-violently transform Indian society.
Rejection of absolute stay by the Supreme court frustrated Indira Gandhi and on 25 June 1975 Indira Gandhi approached President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and President declared the state of emergency because of the prevailing “internal disturbance”. After the 25th of June dictatorship of Indira Gandhi started.
The order bestowed upon the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be suspended and civil liberties to be curbed. For much of the Emergency, most of Indira Gandhi’s political opponents were imprisoned and the press was censored.
Several other human rights violations were reported from the time, including a mass forced sterilization campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son.
Vijayaraje Scindia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Raj Narain, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Jivatram Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Arun Jaitley, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Gayatri Devi, the dowager queen of Jaipur, and other protest leaders were immediately arrested.
Organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-Islami, along with some political parties, were banned. Numerous Communist leaders were arrested along with many others involved with their party.
During emergencies in several states, president rule was imposed. The government also passed the 42nd amendment act which is also known as the mini-constitution of India. In this amendment almost all the parts including the preamble of the constitution were changed and some new articles were added.
In a speech in the Lok Sabha on 27 October 1976, Gandhi claimed that the amendment “is responsive to the aspirations of the people, and reflects the realities of the present time and the future. In this amendment, almost 100 articles were amended.
In 1977 after the withdrawal of the emergency general elections were held and the Janta party came into power. Janta party bypassing the 43rd and 44th amendment changed the provisions which were changed by the 42nd amendment.
During the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi asked singer Kishore Kumar to sing for a Congress party rally in Bombay, but he refused. As a result, Information and broadcasting minister Vidya Charan Shukla put an unofficial ban on Kishore Kumar songs on state broadcasters All India Radio and Doordarshan from 4 May 1976 till the end of the Emergency.
During the emergency movement of award wapsi took place, K Shivarama Karanth returned his Padma Bhushan and Phanishwar Nath Renu his Padma Shri. Both are widely regarded as among independent India’s greatest writers.