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(AIR (1976) 2 SCC 521)

NAME OF THE COURT: The Supreme Court of India

PETITIONER: Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur

RESPONDENT: Shivkant Shukla




  • It all started with a judgement delivered by the High Court of Allahabad on 12th June 1975, by Judge Jagmohan Lal Sinha. In the case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain, the appellant questioned Indira Gandhi's appointment to the upper house of Parliament and the resulting triumph in the Rae Bareily electorate in Uttar Pradesh. On June 12th, Justice Sinha proclaimed her guilty for involvement in unfair activities and ruled her election null, which implied that she was unable to compete in any voting or retain her post for the upcoming 6 years.

  • She appealed in the Supreme Court, and was given a conditional stay by the Apex court. Because of the Apex court’s restraining her political influence, she was incompetent to vote or speak in the Lok Sabha. In despair for keeping the seat of Prime Minister, she asked President Fakruddin Ali Ahmad to proclaim an emergency under Clause (1) of Art 352 of the Constitution of India. The President declared the same on June 26th, 1975. The government said, “There was a significant emergency threatening India's stability with internal disturbances.”


  • On 25th June 1975, “in the application of influence granted by clause (1) of Art 352 (Emergency Proclamation) of the Indian Constitution, the President proclaimed that there was a severe crisis threatening the security of the country with internal disturbances.

  • On 27th June 1975, in the application of the control granted by clause (1) of Art 359, the President proclaimed that the right of every citizen, along with non-citizens, to approach a tribunal for the imposition of the rights granted by Art 14, 21 and 22 of the Indian Constitution and any procedures, continuing before any tribunal for the imposition of the aforementioned rights will stay deferred for the duration for which the declarations of emergency, implemented according to clause (1) of Art 352 of the Indian Constitution on June 25th, 1975 were in force.

  • The Presidential decree of 27th June 1975 additionally clarified that this should be in extension to any decree rendered before the day of the aforementioned decree pursuant to clause (1) of Art 359 of the Indian Constitution, and not in derogation.

  • On 8th January 1976, a notification was issued in the application of the control granted by clause (1) of Art 359 of the Indian Constitution, according to which the President proclaimed that the right of every citizen to approach a tribunal, for the imposition of the rights granted by Art 19 of the Indian Constitution and any trials continuing before any tribunal for the imposition of the above rights, would stay postponed for the duration of declaration of emergency.

  • This culminated in many unlawful detentions across the country. Consequently, various citizens approached the High Courts under the provisions of Art 226 of the Constitution of India to protect the freedom of such people by using the writ of Habeas Corpus, which grants assistance when somebody is illegally confined.

  • While the High Courts of Madras, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala confirmed the initial argument, the dispute was not favourably received by the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh, Bombay (Nagpur Bench), Allahabad, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.” The central government and the state, enraged by the judgement of several HCs, registered a petition before the honourable Apex court.


  1. Whether, by declaration of Emergency after a decree from the President, can the writ of Habeas Corpus be valid in High Court by a citizen questioning his illegal detention?

  2. Was the suspension of Art 21 valid by rule of law?

  3. Does detenu hold locus standi in tribunal during the duration of Emergency?


Petitioner’s main contentions were:

  1. The main contention of the State was that the primary object and intent of the Constitution’s emergency provisions is to assure certain authority for the executive to have absolute control over the imposition of the country’s legislations and rules. The explanation for this was that State interests assume paramount significance during an emergency.

  2. Despite the advisory board’s opinion, that there is no valid reason for his detention, the State does not discharge a detenu and instead holds him in custody in positive breach of the guidelines of Art 22, no habeas corpus appeal will be valid, and it will be same nevertheless, Art 22 itself is a fundamental right. The power to approach a tribunal to impose a right under Art 19 of the Constitution has now been cancelled by a regulation released pursuant to Art 359(1), by the President.

  3. The suspension of a person’s right to approach a tribunal for the protection of the right to personal freedom and life is a constitutional provision and it cannot therefore be assumed that the consequent condition will imply the violation of the rule of law.

  4. They featured the truth that emergency plans in Part XVIII of the Constitution of India including Art 358, 359(1) and 359(1A) are constitutional requirements and constitutional essentials, as the nation’s armed force and financial protection surpassed everything else.

  5. The constitutionality of the legislation as laid down in the order by the President pursuant to Art 359(1) cannot be questioned on the basis of breach of a constitutional right deferred in the first place by the aforementioned Act.


Respondents’ main contentions were:

  1. As per the defendants, “the specific aim of Art 359(1) is to lift limitations on the authority of the legislature, so that it would be at liberty to create legislations in breach of the fundamental rights stated in the governmental decree during the operation of the emergency.

  2. The fundamental object of Art 359(1) was to prevent approaching the Apex court by Art 32 for the imposition of specific rights. This restriction by legislation does not have any impact on the imposition of common law and statutory rights of private freedom in the High Court by Art 226 of the Indian Constitution. The presidential orders placed were only legitimate with regard to fundamental rights, and didn’t expand to natural, common or statutory law.

  3. The Executive may only operate contrary to and in favour of its people to the limit set by appropriate legislation. In no circumstances, Art 352 or the declaration of an emergency enhance the executive’s authority of the State from what is given in Art 162 of the Indian Constitution. The claim continues, as there is a clear legislation governing preventive detention passed by the Parliament and the Executive must comply with the requirements imposed by that legislation.

  4. Art 21 is not the only source of the right to life and to personal freedom. Non-fundamental constitutional rights such as those found in compliance with Art 256, 265 and 361(3) or contractual or natural rights to personal freedom are not influenced by the governmental decree. Statutory rights can be stripped only from the statue and not from the executive floor.

  5. The State and its authorities have the right to detain only if the asserted deed resulting in confinement falls under MISA Section 3 and fulfils all the conditions found therein.” If any requirement stays incomplete, the act’s confinement is deemed ‘beyond the limits.’


  1. “Article 21 protects the right to life and personal freedom against its unconstitutional violation by the State. In the event of an immediate suspension of Article 21 pursuant to Article 359, the Court cannot challenge the validity or legitimacy of the decision of that State. Article 358 is far broader than Article 359 because constitutional rights as a whole are suspended whereas Article 359 does not suspend any freedoms. While the emergency provisions of Article 359(1) grant the Executive special powers and privileges, they do not negate the fundamental components of the separation of powers sovereignty, resulting in a system of checks and balances and the Executive’s restricted powers.”

  2. “The relationship between state and executive is erroneous, and the consequence of suspending those rights would result only in expanded powers for legislature that may establish laws against fundamental rights. This act should not be treated as the Executive’s ‘power’ or right thereof. There is a legitimate degree to which a State may behave in or against the people and in this case, there has been a strong abuse of the power of a single person’s personal political benefit. It is nowhere stated during Emergency, that the power of the State ‘increases’ from its original power under Article 162.”

  3. “State also reserves the right of arrest only if the alleged crime falls within the scope of section 3 of MISA and fulfils all of its conditions. If any condition is not met, then detention is beyond State control. The Supreme Court ruling is considered to be the highest to date erroneous judgment.” Justice Khanna’s dissenting opinion also has greater importance than the decision of the majority including the then chief justice. Indira Gandhi’s government’s misguided intent was recognised when Justice Khanna asked the first odd question. “Life is also mentioned in Article 21 and would the Government’s argument extend to it also?

  4. Justice Khanna entirely confined to the decision of Makkhan Singh v. State of Punjab in which he stated: “If in challenging the validity of his detention order, the detenu is pleading any right outside the rights specified in the order, his right to move any court in that behalf is not suspended, because it is outside Article 359(1) and consequently outside the Presidential order itself. Let us take a case where a detenu has been detained in violation of the mandatory provisions of the Act. In such a case, it may be open to the detenu to contend that his detention is illegal for the reason that the mandatory provisions of the Act have been contravened. Such a plea is outside Article 359(1) and the right of the detenu to move for his release on such a ground cannot be affected by the Presidential order”.


  1. By a majority judgement of the constitutional bench containing of 5 Judges, the Apex tribunal, in the case of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, on 28th April, 1976, held 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.

  2. Chief Justice A.N. Ray as well as Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati reached the same verdict, namely that, “In the event of a declaration of an emergency pursuant to Article 359(1), which states where a proclamation of Emergency is in effect, the President may, by order, declare that the right to move to any court to enforce the fundamental rights conferred by Part III (with the exception of Article 20 and Article 21) as may be mentioned in the order and all proceedings pending in any court for the imposition of the rights so mentioned shall remain suspended for the period during which the Proclamation is in force or for such shorter period as may be specified by the order.”

  3. The 4 judges stated that, “The court has no jurisdiction or power to appeal if the detention made pursuant to section 16A(9)b (which states that no person against whom an arrest warrant is issued or alleged to be issued pursuant to section 3 is entitled to reveal or reveal any of the grounds, details or material referred to in section (a) or to produce any document for him containing such ground, information or material) as under the act it clearly states that the grounds of the detention need not be disclosed hence the court cannot question the state or the executive body to validate the detention.”

  4. Justice Y. V. Chandrachud also stated that, “The executive body must function in compliance with the legislation passed by the parliament, as it is the fundamental principle that all executive acts must have legislation endorsing their operation. He further notes that the preceding order given pursuant to Article 359(1) does not provide guidance with respect to disobeying parliamentary legislation. The state therefore does not need to include the justification for the denture.”

  5. Justice Khanna had a contradicting belief on the issue that during the declaration of an emergency or governmental decree pursuant to Art 359(1), even if the individual cannot approach a tribunal for the imposition of a fundamental right by a constitutional aid, it does not prohibit him from accessing his legitimate aid by legislation. He concluded his judgment stating “As observed by Chief Justice Huges, Judges are not there simply to decide cases, but to decide them as they think they should be decided, and while it may be regrettable that they cannot always agree, it is better that their independence should be maintained and recognized than that unanimity should be secured through its sacrifice. A dissent in a Court of last resort, to use his words, is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting Judge believes the court to have been betrayed.”


The day the verdict was delivered was labelled the ‘darkest day of democracy,’ and was associated with Hitler’s ideals and upsurge to authority. In fact, when the people’s advocate disputed by quoting the example of the Jews’ genocide at Hitler’s hands and how, if the judgement is delivered in support of the appellant, an identical plot would arise, was mocked and scolded by C.J. Ray. Overcoming all that, the decision supported not even the rule of law.

So much was the ambition of power that while Justice Khanna was the next in line to become the Chief Justice, Justice Beg who was Junior to J. Khanna was given the throne. Consequently, J. Khanna handed down his resignation.

“This specific incident became an instance of how 4 of the country’s most qualified and seasoned supreme court judges created a mistake under the wrong person’s influence. Through this particular ruling, the Honourable Supreme Court went contrary to all human freedoms. It was Indian judiciary’s darkest hour that battered at the very soul of fundamental rights”. In 2011, Justice P.N. Bhagwati exhibited grief stating: “I was wrong. The majority judgment was not the correct judgment. If it was open to me to come to a fresh decision in that case, I would agree with what Justice Khanna did. I am sorry. I don’t know why I yielded to my colleagues. Initially, I was not in favour of the majority view. But ultimately, I don’t know why, I was persuaded to agree with them. I was a novice at that time, a young judge. I was handling this type of litigation for the first time. But it was an act of weakness on my part.”

Shortly after the Emergency Era and all that was accomplished for it was denied in 1977, “the Apex tribunal in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, modified the situation and granted fundamental nature to the right in Art 21 by creating a nexus among Art 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution that was discredited in the case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, specifically in regards to Arti 19 and 21. These two Papers cannot be distinguished from each other and are not exclusive. It was additionally submitted that the main purpose of the governmental decree by Art 359 was to restrict constitutional complications and to make laws lucid against fundamental rights. The Government's duty to operate in accordance with the regulations given out by statute and the deferment of Art 21 did not, by implication, appeal that the rule of law be adjourned.” Soon after the Shivkant Shukla Case, the Honourable Apex Tribunal in the case of Union of India v. Bhanudas Krishna Gawde, went further ahead and delivered its decision which was, “Presidential orders given under Art 359 are not limited by any restriction and its legality and relevance is not dependent on the fulfilment of any specific requirement stated earlier.”

In 2017, in an exceptional situation, justice D.Y. Chandrachud, member of the nine-judge Constitutional bench, overruled the judgement of the ADM Jabalpur case in the case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India. “The judgments rendered by all the four judges constituting the majority in ADM Jabalpur case are seriously flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human existence,” said justice Chandrachud, who composed the decision for Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, justices R.K. Agrawal and S. Abdul Nazeer.


  1. State of Uttar Pradesh v Raj Narain, AIR 1975 SC 865.

  2. INDIAN LEGAL SOLUTION, (last visited May 7, 2020).

  3. Vidit Mehra, Case Comment: ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, THE LAW BRIGADE (May 7, 2020, 4 PM),

  4. Chiranjeeb Prateek Mohanty, ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla (1976) 2 SCC 521 – Case Summary, LAW TIMES JOURNAL (May 8, 2020),

  5. MP JAIN, INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (Wadhwa & Company 2008).

  6. Makkhan Singh v State of Punjab, (1964) AIR 381.

  7. ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla, (1976) 2 SCC 521.

  8. Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, (1978) AIR 597.

  9. A.K. Gopalan v State of Madras, (1950) AIR 27.

  10. Union of India v Bhanudas Krishna Gawde, (1977) AIR 1027.

  11. K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1.




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