ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla: In Indian democracy, the 1975 Emergency is perceived by many to be one of the worst days. Fundamental rights were stripped away for personal political gains and the Union Government functioned according to its own whims and fancies. When the judiciary was called upon to adjudicate this critical matter, the case of Additional… Read More »

ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla: In Indian democracy, the 1975 Emergency is perceived by many to be one of the worst days. Fundamental rights were stripped away for personal political gains and the Union Government functioned according to its own whims and fancies. When the judiciary was called upon to adjudicate this critical matter, the case of Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla and others appeared. This case summary studies the ins and out of this landmark...

ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla: In Indian democracy, the 1975 Emergency is perceived by many to be one of the worst days. Fundamental rights were stripped away for personal political gains and the Union Government functioned according to its own whims and fancies. When the judiciary was called upon to adjudicate this critical matter, the case of Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla and others appeared.

This case summary studies the ins and out of this landmark case which is also commonly known as the Habeas Corpus case.

I. Introduction

The case of A.D.M Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla is one of the seminal cases in the history of the Indian legal system, as it is one of those cases that by highlighting the current loopholes, paved the way for further changes in the legal system. It is fascinating to remember that at the same time the case is still a black point in the justice system and the courts. The explanation for this is that, in this situation, by totally neglecting the privileges given to a person at birth, the courts failed to address and consider the plight of the people of India.

The single dissenting opinion of Justice H. R. Khanna, who was the only one who supported the superiority of fundamental rights, is also common in this case. The majority of the judges held that as long as the emergency continues, constitutional rights must remain suspended. Some claim that it was simply a selective reading of the statute, some say that it was the Centre’s apprehension of an exceedingly strong government but the truth remains that this decision is a stain on the Indian judiciary.

Title of the Case: ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla

Citation: 1976 (2) SCC 521; AIR 1976 SC 1207

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: A.N. Ray, Hans Raj Khanna, Mirza Hameedullah Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud, P.N. Bhagwati

Petitioner: Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur

Respondent: S.S. Shukla, etc.

II. Facts of the Case

It all began with a judgement passed by the Allahabad High Court on June 12, 1975, by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha. In the State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain [1], The petitioner challenged Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha and the subsequent win of Rae Bareli in the U.P. She was accused of corruption by Justice Sinha on 12 June and ruled her election void, meaning that she was ineligible to seek an election or hold office for the next six years. She appealed to the Supreme Court and she was only given a conditional stay by the apex court.

Due to the Supreme Court’s limitation of her political control, she became dysfunctional in the matter of voting or speaking in Lok Sabha[2]. She urged the then President Fakruddin Ali Ahmad to declare an Emergency according to Clause (1) of Article 352 of the Indian Constitution, which he did on 26 June 1975, desperate to retain the chair of the Prime Minister. The Government stated that there was a significant emergency whereby India’s stability was at risk of internal disruptions.

The 1971 war with Pakistan had just ended, and the 1972 drought was the reason for the government’s proclamation of the Emergency, as economic development was impaired and the nation’s growth was stalled. On 27 June 1975, the exercise of the authority granted by Article 359 of the Constitution, pursuant to Article 359 of the Constitution, was imposed on the citizens of India and on foreigners with the right to approach the court to impose Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 and Article 22 (prevention of detention in such cases), which is also available to foreigners and all litigation pending for the duration of the Emergency, the article referred to above will remain suspended.

Under preventive detention laws, anyone who was perceived to be a political threat to the authorities or someone who could publicly raise his/her political opinion openly was taken into custody without trial. This led to the arrest under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) of many opposition politicians, such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Morarji Desai, Jay Prakash Narayan and Lal Krishna Advani, because all these leaders proved to be a political danger to Indira Gandhi.

These persons then lodged petitions in the country in separate High Courts to contest the detention. In favour of these petitions, most of the High Courts gave their verdicts, which prompted the Indira Gandhi government to move to the Supreme Court for this matter. This became the Additional District Magistrate Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla case, which is sometimes referred to as the Habeas Corpus (To Produce the Body) Case and anytime someone is convicted, there is usually a writ filed before the Supreme Court. At the time of the declaration of the Emergency, this decision was not recognised as a constitutional right under Article 21.[3]

III. Arguments

  • The Arguments Presented by the Petitioner:

  1. The key argument of the State was that the primary object and purpose of the Emergency provisions of the Constitution was to ensure that the Government had special authority to exercise absolute control over the enforcement of the country’s laws and rights. The explanation for this being that the state’s considerations take prime relevance during an Emergency.
  2. Despite the view of the Advisory Board that there is no sufficient ground for his incarceration and thus holds him in prison in flagrant breach of the terms of Article 22, the State may not dismiss any discharge; no habeas corpus petition will be maintainable and that will be so even though Article 22 is itself a constitutional right. The President has also revoked the power to transfer a court to impose a right under Article 19 under an order provided under Article 359 (1).
  3. The suspension of a person’s freedom to transfer any court to impose the right to life and personal liberty is achieved under constitutional laws and thus, it cannot be assumed that the lack of the rule of law will mean the ensuing condition.
  4. They emphasised the point that the emergency clauses of Section XVIII of the Indian Constitution, including Article 358, Article 359(1) and Article 359(1A), are constitutional requirements and imperatives of the Constitution as anything else precedes the military and economic stability of the country.
  5. The legitimacy of the law as set out in the Presidential Order pursuant to Article 359(1) cannot be questioned on the basis that there has been a breach of a constitutional right suspended in the first instance by the article referred to above.
  • The Arguments on Behalf of the Respondent:

  1. According to the respondents, the restricted purpose of Article 359(1) is to lift limitations on the authority of the legislature so that it can be able to make laws in violation of the constitutional rights laid down in the Presidential Order during the emergency service.
  2. The key purpose of Article 359(1) was to bar the Supreme Court from moving to impose those privileges in compliance with Article 32. In compliance with Article 226 of the Constitution, this ban by statute has no bearing on the protection of common law and of the statutory privileges of personal liberty in the High Court.
  3. The placed Presidential Orders were applicable only with regard to fundamental rights and did not apply to the provisions of natural law, common law or statutory law.
  4. Only to the degree defined by legitimate laws will the Executive act for and against its residents. In no conditions does Article 352 or the declaration of Emergency broaden the scope of the executive powers of the State from what is provided for in Article 162 of the Constitution and nothing more.
  5. The argument continues that there is a valid statute enacted by the Executive governing preventive detention that must adhere to the requirements prescribed by that legislation.
  6. According to the respondents, Article 21 is not the exclusive repository of the right to life and personal rights.
  7. The Executive Order does not concern non-fundamental civil protections, such as those arising under Articles 256, 265 and 361(3), or natural rights or contractual rights, or the legislative rights of personal liberty. In terms of the statue, constitutional privileges can only be stripped away and not from the executive flat.
  8. The Right to Arrest shall be held by the State and its officers only if the suspected act of detention comes under the scope of Section 3 of the MISA and any requirement found therein is met. The imprisonment is called “beyond the powers” of that act if any provision remains unfulfilled.

Eventually, it was urged that the Preamble to the Constitution speaks of a Sovereign Democratic Republic and, accordingly, the Executive subordinate to the Legislature cannot function to the citizen’s prejudice except to the degree allowed by laws validly made by the legislature that is the representative of the citizens chosen.

The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Additional District Magistrate, vs S. Shukla, by a majority judgement of the constitutional bench composed of five judges, on 28 April 1976, S. Shukla, etc held that in view of the Presidential Order of 27 June 1975, no person has a locus standi to submit to the High Court any written petition pursuant to Article 226 for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or instruction questioning the lawfulness of an order of detention on the ground that the order is not in compliance with or in keeping with the Act or is unconstitutional or vitiated[4].

Section 16A (9) of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act is legally valid; the bench was headed by Justice A.N. Ray, the then Chief Justice of India, along with Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati, who delivered the majority decision. Justice H R Khanna, the fifth judge, however, wrote a dissenting verdict.

IV. The Developments that Led to ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla

The factual history of the case was that under Clause (1) of Article 352 of the Indian Constitution, on 26 June 1975, the President of India proclaimed a state of emergency on the grounds of internal unrest. That proclamation was followed on 27 June 1975 by another proclamation and was imposed in the exercise of the powers granted by Article 359(1) of the Indian Constitution, which provided for the right of any citizen, including a foreigner, to go to court to enforce Articles 14 (Right to Equality), 21 and 22 (prevention of detention in certain cases) of the Constitution and 22 (prevention of detention in certain cases) of the Constitution.

The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) was implemented in the latter sense and in which prominent political rivals of the government of the day were held indefinitely in prison without revealing the reasons for such detention.

The preventive detentions resulted in the submission of many written requests. A few High Courts accepted the judgement of Habeas Corpus and ruled in favour of the petitioners that while Article 21 was not enforceable, a person could always show that his arrest was not in accordance with the statute under which he was detained or that the action brought by the State was mala fide or that his identity was wrong.

The Government of the day decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the judgments of the High Courts, which later became renowned and known as the Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla Additional District Magistrate or the Habeas Corpus case.

The key issue before their Lordship was whether, in implementation of the Presidential Orders when a person was detained, a person opposing the basis for his detention could entertain a writ of Habeas Corpus filed by the High Court?

In this case, along with Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N., the four judges, Chief Justice A.N. Ray, Bhagwati had drawn the same point, which is that the writ of habeas corpus cannot be preserved in the event of an emergency proclamation pursuant to Article 359(1), which states that when an emergency proclamation is in effect, the President can, by decree, declare that the right to move any court to enforce the constitutional rights conferred by Part III (with the exception of Articles 20 and 21) is such as that conferred by Part III (with the exception of Articles 20 and 21)

The four judges declared that the court has no power or powers to question whether the detention made pursuant to Section 16A(9)(b) (which states that no person against whom an arrest warrant is made or is claimed to have been made pursuant to Section 3) is entitled to the disclosure or clarification of any of the premises, facts or content referred to in Section (a) or to the creation of any record found therein. Therefore, the party would not have a position to move to any court to retain a fundamental rights case.

Justice Y. V. Chandrachud stated that the legislative body must act in compliance with the legislation enacted by the Parliament since it is the universal principle that all executive decisions must be supported by law. Furthermore, he argues that the precedent order issued pursuant to Article 359(1) does not provide guidance on the disobeying of a legislative rule. Therefore the reason for dentation need not be given by the state.

Justice Khanna had a dissenting opinion that during the declaration of an Emergency or a Presidential Order pursuant to Article 359(1), even if a person is unable to go to a court of law to impose a fundamental right under a constitutional remedy, that does not prohibit him from practising his legal remedy by statute. He also denied that, except in the absence of Article 21 of the Constitution, Article 21 is not the sole repository of the right to life and personal liberty, and that the state cannot deprive a citizen of his right to life and personal liberty, as the fundamental postulate of a civilised society is formulated.

Article 21 only lacks procedural authority after the proclamation of emergency, but the substantive power of that article is very basic and the State does not have the power, without the power of statute, to deprive every citizen of life and liberty.

The majority judgement held that with the writ of habeas corpus or with some other written redress, a citizen may not approach the court. Even under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, the court of law does not have the right to investigate the legality of detention, since the statue does not grant the court the power to check the validity of the detention.

On 26 June 1975, at the behest of Indira Gandhi to the then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, an Emergency was proclaimed pursuant to Article 352(1) of the Indian Constitution. On 27 June 1975, the exercise of the powers bestowed by Article 359(1) of the Indian Constitution, upholding the right of any citizen, even an alien, to be brought before a court to enforce Article 14 (right to equality), Articles 21 and 22 (prevention of detention in some cases) of the Constitution and all proceedings pending before any court concerned, were enforced.

V. The Case in Hindsight

Upon reading the relevant judgement of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, one learns that there are various viewpoints, opinions and perspectives on the case in question. Under this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has noted that Article 21 protects the right to life and personal liberty from its arbitrary dispossession by the State and that in the event of immediate termination of Article 21 pursuant to Article 359, the Court cannot examine the expert or the lawfulness of the option of that State. Article 358 is far broader than Article 359 since on the one side, under Article 358, all human rights are suspended in their entirety, however, on the other hand, Article 359 does not suspend any rights.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Emergency arrangements provided for in Article 359(1) impose special power and status on the Executive branch, they may not undermine the basic elements of the jurisdiction of the separation of powers, contributing to the structure of what is considered to be a framework of controls and balances and the Executive’s restricted authority. The relation between the State and the Executive is faulty and the result of the revocation of those rights would appear in the hands of the legislature in the form of increased energy that can draught legislation against fundamental rights. This act should not be assumed to be the “power” or privilege of the Executive.

There is a legal and reasonable degree to which a State can behave in or against the people and it was a high misuse of individual political benefit powers of a single individual for this case. In the midst of an Emergency, it is not stated at all that the State’s jurisdiction “increases” from its original power under Article 162. Furthermore, if the suspected act comes under Section 3 of the MISA and each condition is met, the State only retains the right of detention. If any requirement is not met, so detention is within the powers of the law.

The Supreme Court’s decision is said to be the largest misjudgement to date. Justice Khanna’s contrary view also has more substance than the verdict of the majority, including the then Chief Justice. When Justice Khanna posed the first disturbing but legitimate question, the unfair target of Indira Gandhi’s government came to the fore. Existence is also referred to in Article 21, and does the government’s claim also apply to it? No way out was present.

The government responded without even a tinge of doubt:

Even though life was unlawfully taken away, the courts are powerless.

There was widespread political turmoil in the world prior to the Emergency Proclamation after Indira Gandhi’s election was called unlawful. In order to bring resistance to the opposition, this whole situation was brought about and in the middle of the trial, even the truthful Supreme Court made major errors in the judgement and it can be said to be absolutely unlawful. Only the bravery of a single judge is said to be worth testing and it was in tune with humanity, equality and liberty.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati was quoted as:

I have always leaned in favour of upholding personal liberty, for, I believe, it is one of the most cherished values of mankind, without it life would not be worth living. It is one of the pillars of a free democratic society. Men have readily laid down their lives at its altar, in order to secure it, protect it and preserve it. But I do not think it would be right for me to allow my love of personal liberty to cloud my vision or to persuade me to place on the relevant provision of the Constitution a construction which its language cannot reasonably bear.”

The day the verdict was delivered was dubbed the “darkest day of democracy” and was compared to Hitler’s ideals and rise to power. In fact, the C.J. was scolded and mocked as the lawyer for the people argued by invoking the instance of the extermination of the Jews at the hands of Hitler and how, if the verdict is granted in favour of the plaintiff, would give rise to a similar scenario. This decision did not even favour the rule of law, exceeding all that.

As a judge, the supreme concern is on the public interest or anything that is beneficial for the people and society as a whole but this decision appeared to favour only five people- Indira Gandhi and the other four judges administering this judgement, including Justice A.N. Ray, the then Chief Justice of India- and we infer this from the fact that all the judges, with the exception of Justice Khanna, so much was the greed of power that the throne was given to Justice Beg even though Justice Khanna was the next in line to become the Chief Justice. He was junior to J. Khanna and subsequent to this, J. Khanna sent his resignation.

In the case of ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla, the judgement delivered can be compared with the judgement delivered in the case of Raj Narain, in which the Hon’ble Supreme Court gave Indira Gandhi a clean chit after being declared guilty by the High Court of Allahabad. It can certainly be said that the confidence of the common man in the judiciary was shattered by these two decisions, which appeared in rapid succession.

Justice Khanna wholly relied on the judgment delivered in the case of Makkhan Singh v. State of Punjab [5] in which he stated:

“Whether in appealing the legality of his arrest warrant, the detained person asserts any right beyond the rights set out in the order, his right to move any court on that behalf is not revoked unless it is outside Article 359(1) and, accordingly, outside the Presidential Order itself. Let us recognise a situation in which a prisoner has been arrested in excess of the Act’s mandatory provisions.

In such a situation, the arrested person could be vulnerable to arguing that his arrest is unconstitutional on the basis that the necessary provisions of the Act have been violated. Such a plea is beyond Article 359(1) and the freedom of the detained person to travel on such a basis for his release cannot be impaired by the presidential order.”

Curtailment of Article 21 would in general terms mean that there occurs deprivation of the right to life and personal liberty, which is against the fundamental right ensured to every citizen of India since birth, along with the Articles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India is a part of.

This particular case was an example of how four of the country’s Supreme Court’s most capable and seasoned judges made an error under the wrong power of the wrong guy. In this particular ruling, the Hon’ble Supreme Court went against all human liberties. It was the darkest hour that hit at the very core of human rights in the Indian judiciary. And as previously stated, with the exception of Justice Khanna, all four judges went on to become Chief Justices of India.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati expressed regret in 2011 by saying:

“I was mistaken. The decision of the plurality was not the right judgement. If it was available to me in that situation to come to a different conclusion, I would agree with what Justice Khanna did. Wow, I’m sorry. I have no idea why I give up on my friends. I was not in favour of the majority opinion originally. I don’t know why but eventually, I was convinced to cooperate with them. At the time, I was a beginner, a new judge. For the first time, I was handling this sort of litigation. But for my side, it was an act of weakness.”

Such a judge’s disclosure reveals how serious and urgent the situation was back then and what an impression it left on the country. In the Khanna Memorial Lecture on February 25, 2009, the Supreme Court recalled the comment of former Chief Justice M N Venkatachalliah that the majority opinion in the Emergency case was “confined to the dustbin of history.”

A little while after the 1977 Emergency Period and all things done for it were dismissed, the Supreme Court modified the situation in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India and gave the right in Article 21 its fundamental character by creating a connection between Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, which was repudiated in the case of A.K. Gopalan v. Madras State, specifically with regard to Articles 19 and 21. These two papers cannot be separated from each other and cannot be separated from each other. It was further argued that, pursuant to Article 359, the very objective of the Presidential Order was to curb legal problems and to make laws against fundamental rights simpler.

By default, the government’s responsibility to act in accordance with the rules laid down by law and the suspension of Article 21 did not call for the adjournment of the rule of law. Shortly after the Shivkant Shukla case, in the case of Union of India v. Bhanudas Krishna Gawde, the Hon’ble Supreme Court took another step forward and released its judgement, which was that the presidential order issued pursuant to Article 359 is not limited by any restriction and its legitimacy and applicability is not dependent on the fulfilment of any clear requirement imposed before it[6].

VI. Conclusion

Such directives provide for a provisional ban on any and all judicial investigation into the validity of an order denying the rights and liberty of any citizen, irrespective of how it started, either by an order coordinating the imprisonment or by an order setting out the state of his incarceration. Many of the views seen in the case of Shivkant Shukla is absolutely negated by the 44th amendment of the Constitution and even by legal elucidation, and it is no longer a statute in these respects.

In no condition can the execution of Articles 20 and 21 be suspended at present and the Court has observed that Article 21 binds the official as well as the assembly and consequently amends the role of Justice Khanna that the suspension of Article 21 calms the legislative body of its imperatives, but not the official who, without the expert of law and the expert of freedom, can never deprive a man his life and liberty. After the repudiation of the declaration of the Emergency in 1971 and 1975, in mid-1977, Articles 352 and 359 have not been summoned.

Similarly, the 44th amendment transformed “inside aggravation” into “outfitted defiance” and not adding up to furnished insubordination would not be a basis for the crisis proclamation issue. Numerous other provisions were made in the 44th Amendment for the announcement of emergencies so that no administration would misuse this legislative arrangement that was unlawfully deciphered by the Supreme Court in the future.

The proclamation and discretionary use of force by the state apparatus and the unceasing adoption of the human liberties of separate persons alongside the judicial stamp can be seen as one of the most misguided decisions to date. Incomparable Court, after facing feedback on the decision and damage it had done, went ahead to extend the elucidation of Article 21 and familiarised Public Interest Litigation with increasing transparent authenticity. The incorrect elucidation led to an invasion of constitutional rights on instincts and on behalf of a political official who had to execute her plan.

Although the judgement is said to be an oversight in several occurrences by legal experts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court, even in the aftermath of acknowledging the error, the ruling has not been officially overruled. The offices of Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice Aftab Alam noticed this. Dicey’s Rule of Law, explained by Justice Khanna, has a considerably more influential push than what it was in 1976 in today’s unusual circumstances.

This decision must be overruled unambiguously in order to justify the abstract existence of the Rule of Law alongside its applicability to our legal system. In addition, more provisions should be made to ensure that the equity and value of the nation’s people could not be controlled by a political strategy.


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

[2] A.D.M. 1975-77 and A.D.M. 1975-77, ‘A.D.M. Jabalpur v. Shukla And The Emergency Of 1975-77’ (India Opines, 2017).

[3] ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, [1976] SC, AIR (SC). Available Here

[4] 1976 AIR 1207

[5] Makkhan Singh v. State of Punjab, 1964 AIR 381, 1964 SCR (4) 797

[6] Union of India v. Bhanudas Krishna Gawde, 1977 AIR 1027, 1977 SCR (2) 719

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Updated On 8 Dec 2020 7:34 AM GMT
Vatsala Sood

Vatsala Sood

Student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune

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