ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukhla 1976 – Infamous Judgement of Supreme Court

This Case Analysis is written by Divij Barolia, a Second Year LL.B Student at IME Law College, CCS University.

ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukhla 1976 – Infamous Judgement of Supreme Court

On 28th April 1976, the honorable supreme court passed a judgment that is known not because it is famous but infamous, also known as the Habeas corpus case. The date 28th April has its own importance in the history of Indian Judicial history.

This judgment was passed at the time when Judicial Independence was at risk. A Constitutional bench of 5 judges gave this Landmark judgment with a ratio of 4:1. 

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

Justice Khanna was in descent and decided to give the correct verdict as per constitutional norms and the current scenario of that time. Before going into the brief of this case let’s have a look at the background story of this case, on the night of 25th June 1975 under the presidency of Fakhruddin Ali, Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi imposed a nationwide emergency under article 352(1) of Indian constitution giving on the paper reason of Internal Disturbance but actually, that was not the actual reason, the emergency was imposed for the personal benefit of Indira Gandhi to control her term of service.

The scenario that happened during those 21 months we cannot even imagine elections were stopped, fundamental rights were suspended including article 21(Right to the protection and personal liberty), using article 359(1) all the fundamental rights were suspended from execution, every person other than the Prime Minister lost his power to perform, mass level of protests happened by the people of the nation, everyone came on the road to fight against her rule, a mass forced sterilization happened to lead by Sanjay Gandhi (PM’s son), civil liberties were suspended, every other opposition party like Janta party, RSS criticized it and even some members of Congress opposed it and whoever criticized it was arrested (even some leaders belonging to Congress like Mohan Dharia, Chandra Shekhar resigned and later detained). RSS got banned after criticizing, even 25th June is considered as the “Black Day” in history, the period of 21 months when the constitution died.         

All the opposition leaders were arrested, news started getting censored, rallies of opposition leaders were suspended. Leaders got arrested under the MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) 1971, MISA act was introduced in the Indra Gandhi government where :

  • Govt had unlimited power over everything
  • Police can arrest anyone on a preventive basis without any warrant
  • Can search anyone without permission and can tap anyone’s telephone.

In the 39th Amendment provisions of MISA got tougher and no trial can be made in the court of any arrested person. Some of the arrested leaders were in jail for a whole 21 months like Lalu Prasad Yadav (Lalu named his daughter MISA who is now a politician from Bihar constituency, Lalu once told in the parliament to Indira Gandhi that, I always want to remember this phase of my life that you gave me and thus named his Daughter with the name of the act in which he was detained) and also Subrumaniyam Swamy left the country by the fear of getting arrested after the 39th amendment MISA act was added into the ninth schedule who even got protection from the court.

Now let’s talk about the ADM Jabalpur case, the petitioner of this case was detained under the MISA act and petitions were filed in various High courts under article 226 Habeas Corpus and said detentions are invalid but the state argued that the president passed presidential order under 359(1) so article 14,19, 21 and 22 cannot be challenged in the court and they don’t have right to challenge it under article 226, but high court didn’t agree to it and said even after presidential orders court can investigate that detention orders are according to the provisions of MISA or not. After the High court judgment, it was challenged in honorable Supreme court also the new section i.e. section 18 [No person (including a foreigner) respect to whom the order is made or purported to be made under section 3] shall have right to personal liberty of natural law or common law] of MISA was also challenged here to which supreme court said the people who are detained under this act cannot challenge on the basis of common law, natural law and concluded that section 18 of MISA is valid and article 21 is the only article available for protection of Life and personal liberty and agreed with the high court judgment by saying Habeas Corpus under 226 will not be accepted at the time of 359(1).

In the descent judgment, Justice Hansraj Khanna said article 21 is not the only article which ensures protection even if this article is not available, the state cannot detain any person with provisions of MISA.

The majority judgment passed by four other judges made everyone unhappy and almost everyone criticized it and lakhs of people who were unlawfully detained lost their faith in the justice system. Finally, after 21 months when the emergency ended and Lok Sabha elections were held where the Janta party proved to be the biggest competitor against the Congress party and won the elections after 30 years of Independence when Morarji Desai has declared PM it was the first time when the country had a non-congress government. In their manifesto, they have clearly mentioned that they will make strong laws of personal liberty and protection so that India will never have to face any such thing again in the future.

As per the promise they have made Janta Party took charge of it and brought the 44th constitutional amendment they removed the word “Internal Disturbance” from article 352(1) and replaced it with “Armed Rebellion” saying Internal Disturbance is a vast term and many things come under this word and the word Armed Rebellion is something very definite and exact and the best suitable term/ reason for imposing emergency. In 359(1) even at the time of emergency Fundamental rights available in articles 21 and 22 cannot be suspended.