The case generally deals with the dispute arising from an election held at the constituency of Rae Bareilly. In the Loksabha election of 1971, Indira Gandhi was contesting election in the constituency of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh from the Congress party. His opposition was Raj Narain. He was very confident in winning the elections and believed that people are going to vote him. And, in addition he began his celebration before the results were out. Unfortunately, when the results were out Indira Gandhi won by winning 352 seats out of 518 in the elections. Raj Narain was disappointed by his loss.
Raj Narain on not being satisfied with the results of the election filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court claiming that Indira Gandhi has misused the government machinery, used illegal means to win the elections.
In 1975, Allahabad High Court’s Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty of misusing government machinery. She was held liable under Section 123(7) of the People’s Representative Act, 1951. Therefore the election of Rae Bareilly was declared null and void. Also the court prohibited Gandhi from contesting election for six years.
Indira Gandhi appealed against the decision to the Supreme Court. As the Court was not in session due to vacation, she was granted a stay. Due to the overall situation in the Country Emergency was declared by the government. The Gandhi government then passed an amendment of Article 329A of the Constitution which said that the elections as to the Prime Minister and speaker cannot be called in question in any court of law. I can only be questioned by a committee to be made by the members of Parliament. This amendment was challenged by the Court.
There were several issues as to this case. They are as follows:
- The Constitutional validity of 39th (Amendment) Act, 1975.
- Validity of clause(4) of Article 329 & Doctrine of basic structure.
There were various objectives of the Supreme Court behind this case.
- To promote the foundational principles of democracy.
- To prevent the misuse of power by the parliament and ensuring system of checks and balances.
- To promote free and fair elections in the country.
- To make it clear that Basic Structure is not subject to Amendment in Article 368 of the Constitution.
The Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court gave its decision in November, 1975. The Court declared the 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1975 as Invalid. The Court upheld the contentions of Raj Narain. This became the first judgement wherein the basic structure doctrine laid down in the landmark judgement of Kesavananda Bharti vs. State of Kerela.
The Court by applying the doctrine of basic structure said that Clause (4) of Article 329-A of the Constitution is unconstitutional as it violates the principle of free and fair elections which is one of the basic structure of the Constitution. It opined that the only way to resolve disputes arising from an election is through Judicial Review.
It was also said that the 39th Amendment was passed when many members of the parliament were not there as they were arrested under preventive detention Act. Under Article 368 of the Constitution, Parliament cannot decide on dispute by passing a Constitutional Amendment. The amendment was also said to destroy equality.
According to Mathew J. clause (4) of Article 329-A destroyed the basic structure of the Constitution. He opined that a democracy can function as long as there is free and fair elections and the impugned amendment destroyed the possibility of free and fair elections.
As per Chandrachud J. , “ The 39th Amendment is violative of the principles of separation of power as it transferred the judicial function into the hands of the legislature. It was violated Article 14 of the Constitution as it created inequality for certain members against others”.
Justice Ray, said that it was also violative of another basic Structure known as The Rule of Law whereas Justice Khanna opined that it was violative of norms of free and fair elections.
Therefore due to the above mentioned reasons the Court struck down the 39th Constitutional Amendment Act,1975.
In the above mentioned case, the Supreme Court’s judicial approach was up to the point but still there exists certain flaws in the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court applied the doctrine of basic structure for the first time in this case and it proved to be a valid point. It was not under Article 368 of the Constitution to allow the parliament to make amendments of the basic structure of the Constitution. The Supreme Court also safeguarded various foundations of democracy like free and fair elections, Rule of law etc. These are the foundations of successful democratic country.
The Supreme Court though they struck down the 39th Amendment Act, 1975 and clause (4) of Article 329A. It didn’t make any decision on the point that the amendment and the emergency provision was a part of a plan from not proved guilty and to get rid of the opposition parties. There was no consideration made by the Court on this point, which was totally unfair. The Supreme Court also didn’t notice that in order to get away with the ruling of the Allahabad High Court, Indira Gandhi misused the power of Prime Minister to achieve illegal means.
The Judgement given by the Five judge Constitutional Bench proved that there is a spirit of democracy being embedded in the Constitution. The Supreme Court made it clear that elections in the country must be free and fair. It also promotes to the safeguard of the foundational principles of democracy. The Court made it clear that in future Parliament shall not try to amend the basic structure of the Constitution. There is Separation of Power in our country and all the three organs shall work in their own spheres and do not interfere in the matters of other organs.
 Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Raj Narain & Anr,(Nov. 7), 1975, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/936707/