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A.D.M. Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla - Case law

Case law series 1

 A.D.M. Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla

The Habeas Corpus Case

Decided by Supreme Court

Black day of Indian Judiciary


Proclamation of emergency – President of India, on 25th June, 1975 declared emergency as per Article 352, on the finding that a grave emergency is existed by which the security of India is threatened by internal disturbances. After two days, on 27th June, President further declared that the provisions of Article 14, Article 19, Article 21, Article 22 stands suspended. It also mentioned that all proceeding pending in any court for the enforcement of above Articles shall remain suspended during the period of emergency. This order was as per Article 359 of the constitution.

On January 8 th, 1976 there was a notification passed in the exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 359 of the Constitution whereby the President declared that the right of any person to move any to court for the enforcement of the rights conferred by Article 19 of the Constitution and all proceedings pending in any court for the enforcement of the abovementioned rights would remain suspended for the period during which the proclamation of emergency made under clause (1) of Article 352 of the Constitution on December 3 rd, 1971 and on June 25 th, 1975 were in force.

Exercising powers under the above orders, several illegal detentions were made and numerous write petitions were filed through out the country. Some High Courts have given decisions in favour of detenues, clarified that, even if Article 21 can not be enforced, the order of detention is open for challenge under Article 226. The ground for contention may the motive or method of passing the law.

Many appeals were made filed also in Supreme Court. Disposing of all the appeals together, the Supreme Court set aside the decisions of the High Courts which had held the declaration and the subsequent detentions as illegal and upheld the declaration and suspension of the said rights.

The arguments made even by the Attorney General in the Supreme Court that, Article 21 is already suspended, and a detenu have no remedy even for illegal detention. So no person have any right to even defend life and liberty. The argument raised by the detenues were that only Article 21 is suspended and not Article 226 , so they have all right to defend their right, through writs.

JUDGMENT: - Marking the black day of Indian legal history, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments of the Respondents and held that Article 21 of the Constitution was the sole repository of right to life and liberty and therefore, the suspension of it implied that all the remedies protecting this right under any other law shall also be suspended. The Court while construing Article 21 as the sole repository of life and personal liberty denied all available remedies to the detenus on any ground that any challenge to the detention order for the enforcement of the right to personal liberty under Article 21 could not be so done on account of the presidential order suspending it being in force. The majority further held that even the order of detention could not be challenged even on any other ground, even if the detention order was passed mala fide, rendering the detenu without any remedy even against an illegal detention. Therefore, the Court declared, “in view of the Presidential Order dated June 27 th, 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 considerations”, closing its doors to any sort of relief whatsoever to any person suffering from illegal detention.

This decision Dubbed as “a scar on Indian Judiciary”, the judgment exposed the dangers facing the Constitution (read total anarchy) if the judicial wing was unwilling to stand firm and intolerant to violation of constitutional mandate. However Justice Khanna, who gave the dissenting judgment, was praised for his integrity of duty to deliver justice. Later, with the next government came in power, the Constitution was amended whereby it was provided that Article 21 could not be ever suspended, even in case of emergency. Thus the reoccurrence of such a situation has been amended by a Constitutional Amendment where the right of life and personal liberty cannot be suspended in any situation.

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