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Case Law Commentary: Indra Nehru Gandhi v/s Raj Narain (1975) SCC (2)159

In the landmark case of Indra Gandhi v Raj Narain[1], elections of Indra Gandhi were challenged for following false practices during elections. This case was a landmark judgment. For the first time the doctrine of basic structure was used, given in Kesavananda Bhartiya v State of Kerala.

When the general elections were held in 1971, Indra Gandhi was involved in certain corrupt practices. Raj Narain brought the court that Indira Gandhi used many officials of the government and vehicles which is corrupt practices as per The Representation of People Act, 1951. This was first time when the elections of the prime minister were put aside, and an amendment was also quashed. This led to National Emergency due to internal disturbance in 1975 which continued till 1977.

Case: Indra Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain
Citation: (1975) SCC (2)159
Respondent: Raj Narain
Petitioner: Indira Gandhi
Court: Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court.

Fifth elections of House of people were held in 1971. The elections were won by Indira Gandhi against Raj Narain. She secured 352 seats out of 518, which is a huge margin. Raj Narain appealed to the court to declare the elections null because of corrupt practices used by Indira Gandhi for the campaigning.

He filled a petition in High Court of Allahabad in April 1975. He claimed that she has used not only the government vehicles as well as the officers, distributed alcohol, and blankets to influence the people to vote her. Moreover, the campaigning expenses done by her was more than the prescribed amount.

In June, the High court, as under section 123(7) of Representative of Peoples Act, held Indira Gandhi guilty and that she cannot contest in elections uphill 6 years. She further filed the appeal in supreme court. Supreme Court gave her a stay on a condition that she will not participate in proceedings of parliament. National emergency was declared. During this time the 39th constitutional amendment bill which added Article 329A was passed.

According to this article the elections of Speaker, President, Vice President, and Prime Minister cannot be questioned. Hence the court cannot decide in the Indira Gandhi's case, and this also made the decision given by the High Court null. Therefore, in the case Indira Gandhi v Raj Narayan, the constitutional validity of her elections and the 39th amendment along with the certain other amendments made during this period to favour her was questioned.

When Raj Narain ran against Indira Gandhi, India's then-prime minister, from the Rai Bareilly seat in 1971, he was so confident of victory that he began celebrating in early, but the results revealed the contrary. Mrs. Gandhi won the elections and the Congress Party won by a landslide. So, after the elections, Raj Narain went to the Allahabad high court and asked for a thorough investigation, accusing her of electoral fraud.

The case was primarily based on Indira Gandhi's direct charge of electoral malpractices, which were:
  • Whether or not the 39th constitutional amendment was constitutionally valid.
  • Whether or not Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1974 and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975 is unconstitutional.
  • Whether or not Indira Gandhi's election was valid.

Rules Applicable

  • Article 329A of The Constitution of India, 1949.
  • Article 368 of The Constitution of India, 1949.
  • Section 123(7) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 1974.
  • Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975.

Whether or Not the 39th Constitution Amendment Was Constitutionally Valid?

  1. In the landmark judgement of Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala, the doctrine of basic structure was established...
  2. Free and fair elections are essence of a democratic country and are included under the basic structure of the constitution...

Whether or Not Representation of the People's (Amendment) Act, 1974 and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975 Is Unconstitutional?

Parliament has powers to make laws in matters of elections and these powers are given by the Article 327...

Whether or Not Indira Gandhi's Election Was Valid?

  1. The definition of the term "candidate" was defined in section 123(7) of the People's Representative Act 1975...
  2. Multiple speeches were delivered by close aide to Indira Gandhi and government official Yashpal Kapoor...
  3. The court further observed that Yashpal Kapoor's resignation was given on January 13th...


After a long wait on 7th November 1975 the decision was given by the Apex Court in regard to the issues discussed above... The court held-
  • As the 39th amendment act which added clause 4 in the article 329A in the constitution violated the doctrine of basic structure...
  • Representation of the People Amendment Act, 1974 and the Election Laws Amendment Act, 1975 were constitutionally valid...
  • Indira Gandhi's elections were upheld by overturning the decision of High Court.

Critical Analysis
This landmark case showed that judiciary is there to protect the constitution of India in any circumstances. The parliament are just the law makers, and they cannot be supreme. If we see logically and theoretically the decision was correct however there were some faults in it. If we see practically principle of "justice, equity and good conscience" were neglected by the court.

Indira Gandhi was found guilty by Allahabad High Court under The People's Representative Act for taking assistance from government officers, she used government vehicles, and used airforce and army service during the campaigns. And when her elections were declared void, she appealed in the supreme court and took unconstitutional stay order. Not just this but in that time, she declared national emergency. Many opposition leaders were arrested during this time under Preventive Detention Act and that's when she passed 39th amendment act. She also passed election laws (Amendment) Act 1975 and the People's Representative (Amendment) Act 1974.

The court held that the later amendments of 1974 and 1975 were constitutionally valid but the fact why were these amendments made at the first place was ignored by the judges. It's evident that Indira Gandhi wanted to remove the charges for which she was held guilty by the High Court of Allahabad. Moreover, many officials got arrested as under Preventive Detention Act and were not able to give their opinions and cast votes in regard to this amendment.

In this regard Supreme Court said, "this was the concern of the parliament and the court has nothing to do with it". Supreme court being the guardian of the constitution very ignorantly let the constitution be interfered by illegal means and the judges have no say about it because they believed it was beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

We are in an opinion that Supreme Court was being negligent. Indira Gandhi misused her power to remove the charges against her. She passed the amendments for her benefit. The supreme court gave very unnecessary statements to prove that the issue was beyond the jurisdiction of the court. The court uphold the democratic feature of the constitution only once throughout the case when the 39th amendment was struck down. We think that the reason behind it was that the court felt that the clause 4 and 5 of article 329A was threat to them and this is why they acted in a very inactive manner and neglected the other issues.

India is a democratic country, and this can remain the basic feature of India till the elections are conducted freely and fairly. By the decision given by the court the judiciary proved that the constitution is supreme, and no authority can go against the law of land. Fair and free elections are basic nature of democratic country.

And the parliament is governed by laws, and it cannot take laws into its hand. However, there still exists controversies because of the decision given by Allahabad High Court for use of malpractices by Indira Gandhi during the elections but Judiciary did not let the parliament supersede the law of land.

After-Effects Of Indira Gandhi's Case

The Parliament after this planned to execute a law that will limit the jurisdiction of the court in the matters of constitutional amendments. So, they completed their objective by passing 42nd constitutional amendment act 1976. According to this amendment the parliament has no limitation and can amend any part of the constitution and such amendments cannot be challenged in the court. So basically, parliament wanted to be supreme, and they criticized the concept of basic structure.

Clauses 4 and 5 were added, former states the no constitutional amendment can be challenged, and the jurisdiction of the courts do not extend to challenge such amendments while the later states that parliament can amend any party of the constitution even the parts that comes under the basic structure of the constitution. However, this Amendment was put aside by the Minerva mills v Union of India[8].

  • Divyanshu Priyadarshi. (2012, September). Case Study: Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Shri Raj Narain and Anr. on 7 November 1975 (Thesis).
  • India, E. (2020, August 24). Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain. E-Justice India.
  • State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain (1975) SCR (3) 333.
  • Minerva mills v Union of India (1980) SC 1789.
  • Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr. (1973) 4 SCC 225.
  1. (1975) SCR (3) 333.
  2. Indian Const. art. 329a, cl. 4.
  3. Indian Const. art. 368.
  4. (1973) 4 SCC 225.
  5. Indian Const. art. 368.
  6. Indian Const. art. 14.
  7. (Latin term Meaning � No one should be left unheard).
  8. (1980) SC 1789.

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