Case Analysis: ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla [AIR 1976 SC 1207]

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Case Name: ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla (ADM Jabalpur case)

Citation: AIR 1976 SC 1207.

Court: Supreme Court of India.

Judges: Ray, A.N. (CJI), Khanna, Hans Raj, Beg, M. Hameedullah, Chandrachud, Y.V., Bhagwati, P.N.

Date of judgment: 28 April, 1976

Dissenting judge: Hans Raj Khanna

Background of ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla

In ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla, When Smt. Indira Gandhi won the elections to the Lok Sabha, the said election result was challenged before the Allahabad High Court. Justice Sinha of the Allahabad High Court passed a judgment holding Smt. Indira Gandhi was convicted for indulging in malpractices regarding matters of the election held and declared the election and her winning it void.

This, in turn, meant that Smt. Indira Gandhi was not only able to be a part of the Lok Sabha but also that she would not be able to participate in any election or hold her office of power for the next 6 years.

In the ADM Jabalpur case, Smt. Indira Gandhi appealed to the Supreme Court challenging this judgment of the Allahabad High Court but was only granted a conditional stay in her appeal.

Therefore, to regain control and power, and to stop the effect of the judgment passed by the Supreme Court, on 26th June, 1975, she imposed an emergency.

Facts of ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla

The very next day the day on which the emergency was imposed, Article 359(1) was also involved it and the citizen’s right to approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to enforce their fundamental rights were taken away, including enforcement of Articles 14 (right to equality), Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and Article 22 (protection against preventive detention).

Once these fundamental rights were not available to citizens, the people who were considered political opponents or critics of Smt. Indira Gandhi was arrested in the name of preventive detention including eminent political leaders like A.B. Vajpayee, Jay Prakash Narayan and even Morarji Desai under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).

These leaders approached their respective High Courts and some even got favourable orders. But the State found the need to stop giving effect to these judgments that were in favour of the detainees and thus, all these High Court favourable orders were collectively challenged in the Supreme Court by the State under ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla.

Issues Raised in ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla

  • Maintainability of any writ petition under Article 226 for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus, to ensure personal liberty, on the ground that the order of detention is not valid according to the provisions of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 (also known as MISA) read with the orders issued by the President under Article 359(1).
  • If yes, then what is the extent of judicial scrutiny with respect to the aforesaid mentioned Presidential orders?

Arguments of the State

In ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla, The State argued that in a situation of an emergency, it is the State’s interest that takes supremacy over all else and that is the reason why during this time the State Executive is given powers by the Constitution to take over the implementation of laws, that the emergency powers were drafted by the Constituent Assembly with the view to put utmost supremacy to the State’s Military and Economic Security over all else.

The State further argued that it is the Constitution itself, under Article 359(1), which has curtailed the fundamental right of individuals to approach the Court for enforcement of fundamental rights during an emergency and thus it is not the scenario of the absence of law and order or justice, but it is the supreme body of law which has itself curtailed it.

Arguments of the Respondents

The respondents in ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla contended that although Article 359(1) of the Constitution curtails approaching the Apex Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights but it does not curtail the enforcement of common law, natural law or statutory rights of personal liberty in High Court under Article 226.

The respondents in the ADM Jabalpur case also argued that the powers of the executive do not increase during an emergency as the extent of its powers is already clearly, and explicitly laid down in the Constitution.

The most important argument of the respondents, according to me, is that although Article 21 gives the right to life it is not the only Article that gives it and that the executive taking over the powers of the legislature is against the basic structure of the constitution and if such a thing is allowed then the motive of the framers of the Constitution would be defeated.

Judgment in ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla

It was 5 judges on Constitutional Bench who heard this case. The majority view was passed by 4 of the judges while the powerful dissenting view was passed by Justice Khanna.

The majority was of the view that when there is a presidential order of emergency, no person has locus standi to move any writ petition under Article 226 before the High Court for Hebeas Corpus or any other writ, order or direction to challenge the legality of the order of detention on the ground that such detention order is not in tune with the provisions of the Act or was passed with mala fide intentions.

The Court also upheld the validity of Section 16A(9) of MISA.

Justice Khanna dissentingly stated that invoking Article 359(1) does not deprive an individual of the right to approach the Court for enforcing statutory rights.

He held that the respondent’s view was correct and that Article 21 is undoubtedly not the sole repository of the Right to Life and personal liberty. He mentioned that during an emergency, although Article 21 loses procedural power but the substantive power does not go away and that there is no way a State can deprive a person of his life and liberty except with authority by law.

Comments on the ADM Jabalpur case

This judgment in the ADM Jabalpur case is one of the most criticized judgments in the history of the Indian Judiciary. The ADM Jabalpur case has become a landmark case and is widely known as the ‘Habeas Corpus Case’. It is said that this case was like a test for the Supreme Court Judges and only one Judge (Justice Khanna) passed the test.

The name of the ADM of Jabalpur who brought the case to the Supreme Court is Karan Vijay Singh and Shivkant Shukla was representing the political persons who were detained by the State. This case is such a milestone case in the Indian Legal System that even today the case holds immense significance. Although the majority judgment did not provide justice to the prisoners but in a subsequent judgment it was rectified.

After passing this judgment, since Justice Khanna passed the extremely strong dissenting view, there was a huge uproar throughout the State and he lost his chance of becoming the Chief Justice of India. Justice P.N. Bhagwati later expressed his regret in sliding with the majority view of the Court.

Subsequent judgments

In another subsequent case, namely Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, (popularly known as the AADHAR judgment or the Right to Privacy judgment) in the year 2017, a nine judges bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court reversed the order passed in the Habeas Corpus Case which upheld individual liberty and privacy over the State’s interest.

This article was contributed by Adrita Dey, a student at Calcutta University, Department of Law.

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