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  • Vyshnavi Aitha

Case Analysis: Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain  

Author: Vyshnavi Aitha, 

Ambedkar Law College, Hyderabad 

Introduction: It was first time in the Indian Independent history where the President elections were struck down. This was the landmark case in the legal  history of India, that is Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain. This case made the Keshavananda Bharathi case was applied to struck down the constitutional  amendment. And also made the amended election laws of the Prime Minister null  and void. 


In 1971, 5th Lokhsabha were held in India . In this elections Indira  Nehru Gandhi also contested for the 2nd time in the elections to be the Prime minister of  India.She had contested from Rae Bareli, Uttarpradesh. She was the leader from Indian  National Congress. Her Opposition leader was Raj Narain, he was the member of Ram Manohar  Lohia’s Samyukta Socialist Party(SSP).  

In this 5th Loksabha elections indira won with the majority. There where 518 seats from which  INC won 352 seats. In this elections Raj Narain was confident that he wins and before the  announcement of the results he made big rally of celebrations in his constituency.So , now Raj  Narain filed a case in Allahabad High Court againt Indira Gandhi . He alleged that Indira Nehru  Gandhi did not follow the Representation of peoples Act 1951 by making election malpractices. And also said that she used government vehicles for election campaign,distributed liquor, blankets, dhothis to people, and also alleged her that she used more amount of election money exceeding 35000 then at that time to influence people to vote her.  

After many hearings the Allahabad High Court passed the judgement against Indira Gandhi that  she have performed malpractices in the elections and said that Indira Gandhi is not allowed to  contest in elections upto 6 years, and the Rae Bareli elections was also considered as void.  Because the Yashpal Kapur the Gazetted officer had worked under Indira Gandhi in election campaign. He had worked in her constitueny. So that’s why Indira Gandhi was found guilty. 

After this judgement given by the HC, Indira Gandhi appealed in the Supreme Court to re xamine the case and give the Judgement. At that time the apex court had holiday, the appeal  was kept pending.So at that time the President of India, Fakaruddein Ali, declared emergency  because of the internal disturbances happening in India because of this judgement. On 11th August 1975, both parties had hearing at the SC, on 10th August 1975 the President of India declared the 39th amendment which introduced Article 392 A to the constitution. It staes that  election of speaker and prime minister cannot be questioned in any court of law, can only be  confronted before the committee formed in the parliament. Because of this amendment, this  case was struk in the SC. Here in this case the 39th amendment was challenged.  


The issues raised in the Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain case,  

  • Does Article 329A of Clause 4 is valid or not?

  • Does the Representation People’s Act is constitutionally valid or not? 

  • Does the Election Laws are valid? 

  • Does the Indira Gandhi election is valid or not? 

Arguments by the Respondent: 

• Based upon the judgement of Keshavananda bharathi vs State of Kerla case, it is stated that the  basic structure of the constitution cannot be changed.But by the 39th amendment this was  violated. This amendment separated the 3 organs of India. 

• Under the Article 329 and 136, it is stated that the judiciary can interfere in the electoral  matters then in this case the is it valid or invalid, if they take A-329 and 136 as an exception then  it disturbs the Indian legal system and also the democratic structure of India.  

• According to A-368 thee parliament can pass the formal amendments, then in this case the 39th amendment was passed when no. opposition members did not attented the parliament because  they were arrested in some other cases. So without them the amendment was passed by not  following A-368.  

• Article-14 states that the equality of every person is assured by the law. By passing this  amendment it doesn’t mean that the other are exempted. Even this amendment does not pass  the test of qualification. 

• By this amendment the Rule of Law and Separation of Powers are harmed as held in  fundamental rights case.  

Arguments by the Petitioner: 

• The petitioner mainly argued about the 39th amendment which had affected the basic structure  of the constitution and took the powers of judiciary from the election petition which was unfair  to the judiciary. So for this they said that the parliaments duty is to make laws and it had passed  the law. Also they had said that the power of constitutional validity lies with the judiciary only.

• Many countries like France,United States of America,Japan have the democratic set up where  they settle this kind of controversies by legislatures and other authorities but not by the courts.

• Article (14) of the constitution states that the every person is treated equally by the law and  equal protection by the law. The petitioner stated that this has placed the president and other  had placed above the law, which was not equal or cannot be justified. The Rule of Law and Judicial review cannot be altered under the law as stated in previous cases having fundamental  rights. This Article 14 have the fundamental public policy which is recognized by every state.  Removing judicial review does not promote equality. 

• Article 31 B states that the the rejection of equality on cross of it , it helped the economic  progess and justice to the country.

• The decisions made in Keshavananda bharathi cas and in shankari Prasad case had not coverd  the electoral disputes but have only focused on the terms that the constitution has in it.  


The 39th Amendment made in 1974, opposed the basic structure of the constitution, which had  struck down the power of court upon the judicial was stated that the power of  parliament is not unlimited, with this 39th amendment the Article 329 clause (4) has also strck  down.Court reviewing that the free and fair elections is part of Basic structure of the  constitution. It is also stated that the judiciary can intervene in the electoral matters in case of if  any mal practices were practiced of performed. 

The 39th amendment was passed in the parliament when the opposition members of the  parliament were not present due to their arrest under preventive detention. In this case there is  no equality shown under the Article 14 to the members of parliament. By the 39th it had well  known that the amendment is made beyond the loksabha and the also the supreme court.  

The landmark case that is Keshavananda bharathi case had stated that the basic structure of the  constitution should not be modified where the 39th amendment had made struck down the basic structure of the constitution where now this amendment is now declared as illegal. This statement was given by the judges but their points to conclude to this statement varied from  each other.  

Was the election of Indira Gandhi valid? 

The Supreme Court observed that under the section 123(7) of the Representation of Peoples Act is said  as a person who files the nomination. Under this act Indira Gandhi made nomination on 1st February  1971. Upon this before her nomination using the government resources is not considered as the  malpractice of the election.Any work can be done by her before the date of her nomination, and will not  be considered as the corrupt practice. 

The Court investigated about the Yashpal kapur , that it was summarized that the Yashpal Kapur had  resigned to hid gazatted job on 13th January 1971 and he submitted his resignation letter to the  president . And this was approved by the president on 25th January 1971. So on this basis Yashpal Kapur  can work in election campaign under Indira Gandhi. For this Raj Narain argued that the Yahpal Kapur  had given the election speeches from 7th January 1971.But on this allegation made by Raj Narain was not proved there were no clear proofs on this. So court did not considered this allegation with no proofs. On  this SC added that the expense is used in elections by the party does not come under the expenses of  the election expenses of the candidate. So upon thus basis the election held in 1971 was valid and the judgement given by the Allahabad High Court was overruled by the SC and said that Indira Gndhi can  continue as the prime minister of the nation.  


This case had remained as the landmark case in the history of judiciary in India. In this case of Indira  Gandhi vs Raj Narain after many arguments and allegations made by the parties in the SC, the SC stated  that, because of lack of evidences and proofs the court gave the statement that the elections are valid. Yashpal Kapur assistance to Indira Gandhi after his resignation was accepted by the SC. The judgement  gave by Allahabad High Court was overturned by the SC, and allowed Indira Gandhi to continue as the  prime minister of India.  


• Indira Gandhi vs Rajnarain 1975 

• Keshavananda bharathi vs stae of Kerla(1971) 

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