January 17, 2022

Case Brief: Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain

Case Brief

Election disputes involving Prime Minister and validity of the 39th Constitutional Amendment Act in Indira Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain.

CITATION: AIR 1975 SC 2299: (1975) Supp SCC 1: (1976) SCR

JUDGES: A.N Ray, C.J, H.R Khanna, K.K Mathew, M.H Beg and Y.V Chandrachud, J.J

DATE OF DECISION : 7/11/1975

TOPIC: Election disputes involving Prime Minister and validity of the 39th Constitutional Amendment Act

Facts of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain

An appeal was filed by the appellant against the decision of the Allahabad High Court invalidating Mrs. Gandhi’s election on the ground of corrupt practices. In the meanwhile, parliament enacted the 39th Constitutional Amendment to overcome the effect of the Hon’ble High Court judgement by withdrawing the jurisdiction of all courts over election disputes involving the Prime Minister. The amendment was made to validate, with retrospective effect, the election of the Prime Minister which was set aside by Allahabad High Court.

Issue in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain

The question involved was the validity of the 39th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1975. The contention was that the clause in question wiped out not merely the High Court judgement but even the election and the law relating thereto.

Judgement in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain

The Court struck down the clause on the ground that it violated the feature of free and fair elections which was an essential feature while forming the part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The exclusion of Judicial Review in election disputes in this manner damaged the basic structure doctrine and clause (4) was held unconstitutional on the ground that it was outright negation of Art 14 i.e Right to Equality. The Court held that these provisions were arbitrary and resulted in damage to the basic structure and the rule of law. The Supreme Court added the following features in the Indian Constitution to the list of basic features laid down in Keshavananda Bharati case _

a. Rule of Law

b. Judicial Review

c. Jurisdiction of Supreme Court u/A 32

d. Democracy , which implies free and fair elections.

The Court observed that the jurisdiction of Hon’ble Supreme Court to try a case on merits cannot be infringed without injury to the basic postulates of rule of law and of justice within a politically democratic Constitutional structure.

Clause (4) of the Indian Constitution 39th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1975 is fully unconstitutional and void for exclusion of judicial review in election disputes. It destroys the basic feature of the Constitution.

For more case briefs, click here.


1. Constitutional Law of India by J.N PANDEY

2. India’s Constitution Origins and Evolution by SAMARDITYA PAL

Author Details: Upasana Borah is a 4th year B.B.A LL. B (Hons) student at N.E.F LAW COLLEGE GUWAHATI.

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