File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

The Habeas Corpus Dilemma: Dissecting A.D.M Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla (1976)

The following is a brief Case Analysis of the case titled A.D.M Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla [(1976) 2 SCC 521]. This case is considered to be a black spot on Indian Judiciary as the verdict is widely criticized. It is alleged that Judiciary was biased while ruling out the verdict in the favour of the then ruling government of Indira Gandhi. This case has been read, summarized and analyzed broadly under the following heads: introduction, brief facts of the case, issue, arguments on the behalf of petitioner, arguments on the behalf of respondent, views of the court, judgement & conclusion. This case gives emphasis on Article 14, Article 19, Article 21, Article 22, Article 25, Article 32, Article 226 and Article 359 of the Indian Constitution as well as the Sections 3, 16A of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).

The 1975 Emergency is considered by many as one of the darkest times in Indian democracy. Fundamental rights were taken away for personal political gains and the Union Government was functioning according to its own whims and fancies. The case of Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shiv kant Shukla and others came up when the judiciary was called upon to adjudicate this serious matter. This case is also popular for the sole dissenting opinion of Justice II. R. Khanna, who was the only one who advocated for the supremacy of Fundamental Rights.

The rest of the judges held that Fundamental rights will remain suspended as long as Emergency lasts. Some people argue that it was merely a narrow interpretation of the law, some say it was the fear of an extremely powerful government in the Centre, but the fact remains that this judgement is a blot on the Indian judiciary. This case is also known as the Habeas Corpus case, as the said writ was asked in the form of relief by the petitioners. The term literally means "to produce the body" and the writ orders directs law enforcement agencies to present an arrested person in front of the Court and explain the reason behind their detention.

Brief Facts Of The Case:
It all started in 1975, when Justice Sinha of Allahabad High Court convicted Indira Gandhi for engaging in malicious election practices and declared her Lok Sabha election void i.e. the seat of Rae Bareli. This came-up as a huge blow for Indira Gandhi as she was asked to leave her office and not to contest any election for the period of next six years. In order to save her position as the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi asked the then President of India Fakruddin Ali Ahmad to declare emergency under clause (1) of Article 352 of the India Constitution by releasing a statement which read as "a grave emergency existed whereby the security of India was threatened by internal disturbances�.

The reasons given by the government to impose emergency were the economic growth damage caused by the 1971 war with Pakistan and the Drought of 1972. On the very next day i.e. on June 27, 1975, under Article 359 (1) all rights and cases pertaining to Article 14, Article 21, Article 22 etc. were suspended. People who had dissenting opinions or who raised voice against the ruling government were locked into prison without trial under Prevention Detention Laws. By President's order the same was enacted in Jammu and Kashmir on the very same day. Also, order no. 1 and 7 were amended and replaced by the Act No. 39 of 1975 Domestic Security Maintenance Act. On amending, a new Section was introduced i.e. Section 16A which came into effect on June 29, 1975. In October 1975 new amendments were done in Section 16A of the Maintenance of Homeland Security Act and clauses 16(8) and 16(9) were added respectively.

Many famous leaders who were then giving Indira Gandhi a fair competition were booked under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Moraji Desai, J.P. Narayan etc. Numerous petitions against these orders were filed in different courts throughout India against the abovementioned situations; most of the courts gave their decision in favour of the petitioners which forced Indira Gandhi to move to Supreme Court of India for resolving the issue. A writ of Habeas Corpus was filed in the Supreme Court which at the time of emergency was not considered as a Fundamental Right.

Issue Of The Case
The issue in the present case was whether a writ petition can be filed or not under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution in the High Court during the period of emergency in order to enforce the Fundamental Rights.

A Bench consisting of 5 Judges examined the aforesaid questions in the light of rival contentions.

Arguments On The Behalf Of The Petitioner:
The main contention put forward on the behalf of the State was that the main objective of the emergency provisions prescribed in the Constitution of India is to confer the State with special powers in the Executive field. They have the full authority over the implementation of such laws in the country i.e. State is considered as of supreme authority during the period of emergency.

Another contention put forward was that no detune was issued despite of the statements released by the advisory board that authority had no legal cause for detention i.e. keeping him in detention is a grave violation of Article 22. In order to enforce rights under Article 19 was suspended due to the President's order in compliance of Article 359(1).

In order to enforce Fundamental rights (right to life and personal liberty), the right of the people to move to courts was suspended. It was contended that it was done within the ambit of law and claiming the ongoing situation would not the absence of the rule of the law.

It was further contended that Articles 358, Article 359(1) and Article 359(1A) stated under Part XVIII of the Indian Constitution are the basic necessities of a nation and military and economic security of the nation is supreme.

The Presidential Order's under Article 359(1) cannot be challenged on the grounds of infringement of Fundamental Rights as it was suspended by the above-mentioned Article in the first place.

Arguments On The Behalf Of The Respondent:
On the contrary of the Petitioners, Respondents argued that legislature got supreme authority under Article 359(1) during the emergency period and no restrictions were there to safeguard laws made in violation of the fundamental rights.

It was also argued that the sole motive to enact Article 359(1) was to restrict people from going to Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution in order to safeguard their Fundamental Rights, however, it did not effect common law and statutory rights of personal liberty and people were allowed to reach High Court for addressing the issue under Article 226.

Respondents further argued that the Presidential Orders which were imposed were only subjected to Fundamental Rights and had no effect on Natural Law, Common Law or Statutory Law.

It was also argued on the behalf of the Respondents that Executive's power were not increased by a bit, they were either with the people or against the people. The powers conferred to the Executives were in compliance to Article 162 of the Indian Constitution. Arguments were laid forth that the detention laws were in compliance with the conditions prescribed by the Constitution and Article 21 is solely not only about the right to life and personal liberty.

Article 256, Article 265 and Article 361(3) confers non-fundamental constitutional rights and it was argued that the Presidential Orders had no effect on abovementioned rights. It can only be swept by the statue and not by the executives.

It was further argued on the behalf of the Respondents that the arrests and detentions were done in conformity with the guidelines prescribed under Section 3 of the MISA Act and if an arrest was done without fulfilling the whole guidelines it was declared as the 'beyond the powers' of that act.

Views Of The Court
The court by majority stated that "In view of the Presidential order dated 27 June 1975 no person has any locus-standi to move any writ petition under Article 226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an, order of detention on the ground that the order is not under or in compliance with the Act or is illegal or is vitiated by mala-fides factual or legal or is based on extraneous consideration.�

A.N. Ray
"Freedom is limited and controlled by law, whether at common law or in law, which is, according to Burke, regulated freedom, not abstract or absolute freedom. The good sense of the people and the system of representative and responsible government that has developed: if extraordinary powers are granted, they are granted because the urgency is extraordinary, and we are limited to the period of emergency.�

H.R. Khanna
Justice Khanna gave the sole dissenting opinion in this case. He disagreed on all aspects of the judgement from the majority opinion. He refused to state that Article 21 is the sole repository of the Right to Life and said that, "Sanctity of life and liberty was not something new when the Constitution was drafted the principle that no one shall be deprived of his life and liberty without the authority of low was not the gift of the Constitution. It was a necessary corollary of the concept relating to the sanctity of life and liberty; it existed and was in force before the coming into force of the Constitution. The idea about the sanctity of life and liberty as well as the principle thin no one stall be deprived of his life and liberty without the authority of law are essentially two facets of the same concept."

The held that Article 226 is an integral part of the Constitution and hence, the power to enquire into the matter and issue a writ of Habeas Corpus cannot be denied. He further stated that it is a way to ensure judicial scrutiny of executive orders and maintain the seal of checks and balances, by citing Ambedkar's views on the same, recorded during the Constituent assembly debates.

Finally, he implored that, "In dealing with an application for a writ of habeas corpus, the court only ensure that the detaining authorities act in accordance with the law of preventive detention. The impact upon the individual of the massive and comprehensive powers of preventive detention with which the administrative officers are armed has to be cushioned with legal safeguards against arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty if the premises of the rule of law is not to lose its content and become meaningless," thus differing with the views of the majority.

M. Hameedullah Beg
"We can say that the Constitution is dominated by the rule of law because its general principles were, for example, the right to individual liberty or the right of public assembly. the rights of private persons in special cases presented to the courts; whereas in many foreign constitutions the security (as it is) conferred on the rights of individuals results or seems to result from the general principles of the constitution.�

P.N. Bhagwati, J.-
"There are three types of crisis in the life of a democratic nation, three well defined threats to its existence: a nation and a democracy. The first is war, especially a war to repel the invasion when a 'state must transform its political and social order in peacetime into a combat machine in wartime and surpass the skills and efficiency of war the enemy.'

There may be a real war or a threat of war or preparations to deal with the imminent occurrence of the war, which can all create a crisis situation of the most serious order. The need to concentrate more power within the government and the contraction of normal political and social freedoms cannot be discussed 8 in such a case, especially when people face a horrendous horror of national slavery.

The second crisis is a threat or presence of internal subversion intended to disrupt the life of the country and endanger the existence of a constitutional government. This activity can have various causes. Perhaps the most common is disloyalty to the existing form of government, often accompanied by a desire for change through violent means. The third crisis, recognized today as a measure of emergency sanction by the constitutional government is collapsing or causing a collapse of the economy. It must be recognized that an economic crisis is such a direct threat to the constitutional existence of a country at war or internal subversion. These are three types of emergency that can normally endanger the existence of constitutional democracy.�

Y.V. Chandrachud, J.-
"I must now consider a very important picture of the defendants' argument that section 21 is not the only depository of the right to life and personal liberty. This argument has been presented to us in too many aspects to be mentioned and many cases have been cited in support. This was to some extent unavoidable, as many types of council defended the same argument and each had its own particular and preferred accent. I will try to compress the arguments without, I hope, sacrificing the thematic value.�

The judgement was passed with the majority of 4:1. The Court held that no person can move the High Court asking for any writ to enforce any fundamental right detained under MISA, as a claim to the writ of Habeas corpus is an enforcement of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 which is barred by the Presidential Order.

The majority agreed with all the contentions made by the appellants. To justify the suspension of Fundamental Rights the Court said, "In period of public danger or apprehension the protective law which gives every man security and confidence in times of tranquility has to give way to interests of the State." It 9 was also stated that "Liberty is itself the gift of the law and may by the law be forfeited or abridged." when the question about the status of Article 21 was raised.

This case showcases how judges have different viewpoints about a certain problem. This decision is an example of how multi-dimensional But an issue can be, at the same time, the gross neglect shown by the Court in recognizing right to Life as an inalienable human right should be pointed out and criticized. The grit shown by Justice II R Khanna is noteworthy and his opinions have acted as a guiding light for future jurors and policy framers. This case paved the way for even wider interpretation of Article 21. At the end, it should be understood as to how Rule of Law has to be given the most priority in such cases to ensure proper distribution and separation of powers.

Written By:
  • Manmeet Singh, 4th Year law student, Department of Law - Central University of Kashmir
    Email:[email protected]
  • Navratan Badiyasar, 4th Year law student, Department of Law - Central University of Kashmir
    Email: [email protected]

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly