Case Summary: AR Antulay v RS Nayak (1988)

By | June 5, 2021
Case Summary: AR Antulay v RS Nayak (1988)

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The case of AR Antulay v RS Nayak[1] is a landmark judgment in the history of the Indian judiciary as it was held that corruption cases triable by a special judge cannot be transferred to a High Court judge for a hearing. Despite receiving wide criticism, the court was of the strong opinion that justice was served rightly. After this case, many legal scholars cited that law is handicapped by the limitations of human foresight.

The respondent in this landmark case, Mr Antulay was the then chief minister of Maharashtra who submitted his resignation and ceased to hold the office from January 20 1982, meanwhile the petitioner Mr Nayak was an individual with political affiliations.

The case revolves around the fact that the respondent claimed that his fundamental rights were violated. The Supreme court gave the milestone judgment expressing that the bearings given by the court did violate Section 7(1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952 and was violative of fundamental rights of the appealing party under Article 14 and 21 of the constitution.

Citation: AIR 1988 SC 1531

Quorum: Sabyasachi Mukherjee, G.L. Oza, M.N. Venkatachaliah, Ranganath Misra, JJ., B.C. Ray, S. Natarajan, S. Ranganathan

Court: Supreme Court of India

The gist of the case

Mr Antulay (Barrister Abdul Rahman Antulay) resigned as Chief Minister of Maharashtra after the Bombay High Court sentenced him for coercion on 13 January 1982. The court decided that Antulay had illicitly acquired Bombay region developers to provide gifts to Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratishthan Trust, one of a few trusts he had set up and controlled, in return for getting more concrete than the amount distributed to them by the Government. He was subsequently allowed bail by the court. However, the Supreme Court later got him free from the allegation.


The appellant was the Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra from June 1980. On first September 1981, an individual from Bharatiya Janata Party approached the Governor of the state under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code of, 1973 and Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 for the approval to bring a suit against the appellant.

The respondent also filed a complaint with the Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Bombay contradicting that the appealing party and others for offences under Section 161,165,384 and 420 read with Sections 109 and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 5 of the Prevention of the Corruption Act.

The Magistrate did not take any legal notification for the offences without the assent for arraignment. Further, a revision was filed in the High Court of Bombay.

In the meantime, Mr P.B. Samanth had filed a similar complaint in the form of a writ petition no 1165 of 1981 along with several others in the High Court of Bombay challenging the emergency allotment of concrete in the state to the Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratishthan Trust. However, the accused was not the first respondent in this case but the second.

By an exhaustive speaking order, the learned Single Judge granted the nisi rue and made it returnable on 23 November 1981 and in a later hearing the order was made absolute.

The allegations of abuse of power resulted in his resignation as chief minister in 1982.

A new complaint was lodged before the Special Judge with a lot more charges including the claim dismissed by the Governor.

The Special Judge, Shri P.S. Bhutta issued a process to the appellant without relying upon the assent request given by the Governor. On 28th October 1982, Shri P.S. Bhutta dismissed the appellant’s complaint concerning the jurisdiction and determined three Special Judges to hear such cases. The State Government selected R.B.Sule as the Special Judge.

The Special judge released the appellant expressing that an individual from the Legislative Assembly is a Public Servant and there was no substantial approval to bring lawful procedures against him.

On sixteenth February 1984, an appeal was filed under Article 136 and the constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that a member of the legislative assembly is not necessarily a public servant and revoked the previous order.

Rather than returning the case to a Special Judge for disposal as per the law, the Supreme Court suo moto pulled out the case from the court of a Special Judge and moved to the Bombay high court.


  • Whether the directions are given by the court in breach of Section 7(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment act of 1952?
  • Whether the decision is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution?

Contentions for the appealing party

  1. It was contended that the appealing party was dealt with bias without offering him the chance or any pleadings or contentions to submit under the watchful eye of the courtroom which was violative of his Fundamental Right under Article 14 of the constitution.
  2. It was additionally contended that the litigant’s Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution to have right to trail by a Special Judge.
  3. It was contended that the fundamental rights of equality and justice which envisaged that no man should bear the burden of the technical irregularities was grossly abused.
  4. It was additionally stated that the appealing party had lost two significant rights which were right of revision to the High Court under Section 9 Criminal Law Amendment Act and the option to move the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the constitution.

Contentions for Respondent Party

  1. It was fought that the contentions for the withdrawal of the case from Special Judge under the Criminal Law Amendment Act by the High Court under Section 407 of the Criminal Procedure Code could be done in proper circumstances.
  2. It was argued that the transfer of the case was without giving an opportunity for the appellant to present his arguments which is not acceptable.
  3. It was fought that the superior court did have jurisdiction. The court can’t be made responsible for such charges except if it has acted Coram non-judice.


The judgment, for this situation, was given by a seven-judge bench in the Supreme Court. The judgment was given in the proportion of 4:3 preferring the appellant. In 1988, the Supreme Court’s seven-judge bench considered its 1984 judgment in the case as unjust, illegal and unconstitutional under Article 21 of the constitution since Antulay’s right to use appellate remedy was curtailed.

The court expressed that the transfer of criminal cases and the Supreme Court to move cases and requests are given under Section 406 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The law gives that the court may coordinate a specific case or allure starting with one High court then onto the next High court or from a subordinate Criminal court to a high court or a subordinate Criminal court to one High court to another Criminal court of equivalent or upper-level purview to another High court.

Likewise, Section 407 of the Criminal Procedure Code manages the power of the High court to move cases.

Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952 permits the State Government to designate as numerous as Special Judges required for a specific region for a predefined offence.

Section 7 of the Criminal Law (Amendment)Act, 1952 underscores the offence by Special Judges. The issue here is whether the transfer made by the court is substantial or not. Section 7(1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952 gives a condition for the trail of wrongdoers under Section 6(1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952.

In this manner, the offences under Section 6(1) of the Act are punishable under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. The request for the court to move cases to the high court was not allowed by law. The Supreme Court through its bearings can’t encourage the High Court to take cases that are not in its purviews.

The Supreme Court doesn’t have the purview to move cases to itself. Just the parliament by law can make or build the jurisdiction and no other court has that power.

It was also observed that the appellant has the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution to take a trial by a Special Judge under Section 7(1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952 and the appellant has the right not to suffer because of any judgement passed by the Court in violation of natural justice.

The High Court can’t transfer such cases under Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952. Consequently, the arrangement under Section 7(2) Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952, and Article 14 and Article 21 of the constitution is been disregarded and legitimately wrong because of the judgements were given by the court.

Maxims used in the case

Two legal maxims were cited in the case in support of the proposition that serious errors should be rectified by the court at any time. The first was ex debito justitiae – an applicant can claim remedy as to a matter of right, which the court cannot refuse. The second was actus curiae neminem gravabit – to ensure that neither party is prejudiced by some accidental or unavoidable action or omission of the court.


Ibi jus ubi remedium, if a person’s legal rights are violated, he can definitely seek remedy from the court of law. Judges and judgments play a critical role and they should no way be biased. The technical errors or ideological differences should not be reflected in the judgements, if so then it will violate our fundamental rights.

When the Supreme Court delivered this judgment in 1988, the decision invited critical comments by the observers, including legal scholar Upendra Baxi who felt that India’s anti-corruption laws shielded the accused. But the court was of the opinion that “finality is a good thing, but justice is better.”

Read Full Text of Judgment Here:

[1] AIR 1988 SC 1531

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