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Election Disputes Involving prime minister and purpose of 39th amendment of constitution

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain
AIR 1975 SC 2299: (1975) Supp SCC 1:
(1976) 2 SCR 247
Judges: A.N. Ray, C.J. and H.R. Khanna, K.K. Mathew,
M.H. Beg and Y.V. Chandrachud, JJ.
Date of Decision: 7-11-1975

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 Amendment to overcome the effect of the High Court judgment 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 then Prime Minister which was set aside by the Allahabad High Court.

The question involved was of the validity of clause 4 of the Constitution 39th Amendment Act, 1975. The contention was that the clause in question wiped out not merely the High Court judgment but even the election and the law relating thereto.

The Court struck down the clause on the ground that it violated the free and fair elections which was an essential feature forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The exclusion of judicial review in election disputes in this manner damaged the basic structure.

Clause (4) was held unconstitutional on the ground that it was outright negation of the right to equality conferred by article 14, a right which is a basic postulate of our Constitution. The Court held that these provisions were arbitrary and were calculated to damage or destroy the rule of law. The Supreme Court added the following features as “basic features” to the list of basic features laid down in the Keshavanand’s case:

(1) Rule of Law
(2) Judicial Review
(3) Democracy, which implies free and fair election.
(4) Jurisdiction of Supreme Court under article 32.

The Court observed that the jurisdiction of Supreme Court to try a case on merits can’t be taken away without inquiry to the basic postulates of rule of law and of justice within a politically democratic constitutional structure.

Clause (4) of the Constitution 39th Amendment Act, 1975 is unconstitutional and void because by exclusion of judicial review in election disputes, it damaged the basic structure of the Constitution.

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