In the landmark case of Indra Gandhi v Raj Narain
, 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
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.
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.
- 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?
- In the landmark judgement of Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala, the doctrine of basic structure was established...
- 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?
- The definition of the term "candidate" was defined in section 123(7) of the People's Representative Act 1975...
- Multiple speeches were delivered by close aide to Indira Gandhi and government official Yashpal Kapoor...
- 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.
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
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
- 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.
- (1975) SCR (3) 333.
- Indian Const. art. 329a, cl. 4.
- Indian Const. art. 368.
- (1973) 4 SCC 225.
- Indian Const. art. 368.
- Indian Const. art. 14.
- (Latin term Meaning � No one should be left unheard).
- (1980) SC 1789.