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ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla Case Analysis by Mayurakshi Sarkar at lexcliq

 ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla Case Analysis

Background of the case

In 1975, National Emergency under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution was imposed by President Fakruddin Ali, on the advice of the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on the ground of internal disturbances. Fundamental Rights under Article 14, 20 and 22 of the Constitution were suspended for the period of Emergency, by a Presidential Order under Article 359(1). Scores of political leaders who could prove to be a political threat were arrested without any trial. Many petitions were filed in various High Courts across the country, which gave judgements in favour of the petitioners. The Central Government approached the Supreme Court, which became this very case. 

This case is also known as the Habeas Corpus case, as the said writ was asked in the form of relief by the petitioners. The term literally means “to produce the body” and the writ orders the directs law enforcement agencies to present an arrested person in front of the Court and explain the reason behind their detention. 

Issues

The Court highlighted the fact that the question concerning validity of 38th and 39th Constitution Amendment Acts or whether the Emergency is justified and its continuance bad in law was not decided by the High Courts, hence these questions were not part of the issues in this case. 2 issues were formulated, which are as follows: 

  1. 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). 

  2. If yes, then what is the extent of judicial scrutiny with respect to the aforesaid mentioned Presidential orders? 

Judgement

The judgement was passed with the majority of 4:1. The Court held that no person can move the High Court asking for any writ to enforce any fundamental right detained under MISA, as a claim to the writ of Habeas corpus is an enforcement of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 which is barred by the Presidential Order.  

The majority agreed with all the contentions made by the appellants. To justify the suspension of Fundamental Rights the Court said, “In period of public danger or apprehension the protective law which gives every man security and confidence in times of tranquility has to give way to interests of the State.” It was also stated that “Liberty is itself the gift of the law and may by the law be forfeited or abridged,” when the question about the status of Article 21 was raised.

Critical Analysis

The judgement in this case is considered as one of the most erroneous decisions in the history of Indian democracy. The judgement has been criticised for its narrow and positivist interpretation. It has been argued that the judgement did not follow Rule of Law while considering the arguments made in this case. 

The Court made the inherent and inalienable Right of Life dependent on the provisions of the Constitution. It also reduced its own power and scope of functioning while dealing with cases relating to Fundamental Rights during Emergency, giving Executive full reign of managing the affairs of the country, which is not only arbitrary but also illegal according to some. 

Conclusion

This case showcases how judges have different viewpoints about a certain problem. This decision is an example of how multi dimensional an issue can be. But, at the same time, the gross neglect shown by the Court in recognising Right to Life as an inalienable human right should be pointed out and criticized. The grit shown by Justice H R Khanna is noteworthy and his opinions have acted as a guiding light for future jurors and policy framers. This case paved the way for even wider interpretation of Article 21. At the end, it should be understood as to how Rule of Law has to be given the most priority in such cases to ensure proper distribution and separation of powers.


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