Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain [1975]

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain [1975]

By Jashaswee Mishra (DSNLU, Vizag)





In 1971, while the 5th Lok Sabha referendum was held, Indira Gandhi and her alliance secured a cumulative of 352 seats out of 518 seats in the legislature. She contested her elections from the Rae Bareilly Electorate, and Raj Narain, leader of Ram Manohar Lohia’s SSP, was also against her. Even though he was assured of his win against Mrs. Gandhi, he lost a significant margin.

Deceased with rejection, he appealed against the nullification of the referendum and accused Indira Gandhi of using unethical tactics in the electoral campaign to demand supremacy. On 24 April 1971, by filing a petition before the High Court of Allahabad, he challenged the election of the Prime Minister and accused Mrs. Gandhi.


Indira Gandhi’s nomination was ruled unconstitutional by the Allahabad High Court on 12 June 1975 on the premises of unethical practices, and the court, presiding under Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha, found Indira Gandhi accused of misappropriating Government Mechanisms u/s-123(7) of the People’s Act, 1951.As a consequence, she was prohibited from holding office for the next six years. Arbitered by such a judgment, she appealed to the Supreme Court, but SC, being on leave at that time, issued a stay of execution.

The national emergency was subsequently declared by then-President Fakhrudeen Ali Ahmad, alleging that the justification for this was domestic disruptions, but it is obvious that the ‘true reason’ which led to an intervention was the verdict of the Allahabad High Court in the case of Raj Narain vs Uttar Pradesh. And on 10 August 1975, the 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act of 1971 was enacted by incorporating Article 329-A into the Constitution, which fully precluded the authority of the Supreme Court in the subject of voting, leaving the election of the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice-President and the Speaker of Lok Sabha unjustifiable in the court of law.


The key point put up by the appellant concerned the 39th amendment which affected the ‘simple framework of the Constitution’ and also abolished the authority of the courts in the form of an electoral petition which was unjust to the judiciary. They argued that the role of the Legislature is to regulate and to establish and enact legislation. However, the authority to rule on the substantive legitimacy of the statute resides with the courts.

Article 14[1] promotes equality before the law and equal protection of the law. When the President introduced such a law, he put himself and others above the law which was not acceptable. Rule of law and judicial scrutiny are an indispensable part of the constitution.

The plaintiffs argued that the general consensus of Kesvananda Bharti should not be used as a guideline to determine if the elections would be fair and independent. They said that while the Constitution of the different nations leaves their electoral conflicts to the Legislature, there is also a different article in our Constitution which shows that judicial review can be omitted as a matter of public policy in such situations.


Returning to the landmark decision, they say that both Kesvananda Bharti and Shankari Prasad didn’t even cover the scope of election process, but rather expected to deal with the definition of the word ‘amendment.’ Finally, they argued that the rule of law also isn’t part of the basic framework.

The Court handed down its judgment on 7 November 1975 and was the first circumstance in which the landmark judgement Kesvananda Bharti was implemented. The supreme court upheld the allegation of the appellant and ruled Article 329-A, paragraph (4), to be unconstitutional.

Mathew J argued that Article 329-A(4) had destroyed the fundamental foundation of the constitution. He was of the opinion that ‘good democracy’ will only work if there is a chance of fair and independent elections and the disputed amendment has undermined the possibility.

 Chandrachud J. It found that the amendment violated the principle of ‘division of powers’ by voluntarily passing the role into to the possession of the statutory authority.


The issue raised was whether the judiciary in this context will degenerate or dismiss the power and capacity? 

The judgment in the case of Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain was a bold one undertaken by the judiciary to put the ‘rapacious’ Parliament in its place in the Constitution. The Parliament has been seen not to be the only one in government, and the judiciary will still be there to protect the Constitution against the negative actions of the Parliament.

However, even though the decision was technically correct, it was in many respects compromised on the basis of justice, honesty and good faith. It was very clear that the changes were made to eliminate all the grounds on which Mrs. Indira Gandhi was found guilty by the High Court of Allahabad. 


The court has demonstrated that the Legislature is regulated by the constitution and not conversely. The judiciary has destroyed the course of the Legislature to impose authority and the effort to overcome the Constitution. The Court affirmed the concept of democracy, i.e., fair and independent elections.

In content, the key purpose of the amendment was to overturn the judgment of the High Court that disregarded the election of Indira Gandhi. Instead of quitting, she declared an emergency and signed the punitive 39th Amendment Act, 1975, which had been overturned by the Supreme Court. The case affirmed both the Rule of Law and the Division of Authority and made it abundantly clear that the validity or denigration of votes is definitely a matter of urgency. This case also presented a very strong position of judiciary, that the judiciary cannot be supressed in the circumstances. The judiciary retained its invaluable position and is still standing upright, allowing no such interventions and without compromising the essence of truth and morality. 

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