Case Summary: ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla


This post has been written by Shivangi Khattar pursuing 2nd Year B.B.A., LL.B. from JIMS School of Law, IP University

Title of 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.


April 28th, 1976 is considered to be the darkest day of Indian Judicial System because on that day the judgement for an infamous case of “ADM Jabalpur v Shivkant Shukla” was delivered.  This case is also known as the “Habeas Corpus case”. This case pertained to the time when the emergency was proclaimed by the ruling government of Indira Gandhi who issued a Presidential Order when the court declared her Prime Ministerial election as illegal. The case arose out of the contention that whether a person has a right to approach the High Court or not when its Fundamental Rights are being violated, especially Article 21 which relates to Right to Life and Liberty and also Article 14 which relates to Right to Equality. The net result that came from the judgement was really harsh, as it was established that a person’s right to approach High court under Article 226 for writ of Habeas Corpus or any other writ for challenging the legality of an order of detention at the time of proclamation of emergency will remain suspended. Moreover, the person cannot move to High Court in order to seek remedy or justice. This was the main reason for considering ADM Jabalpur as the darkest spot in the history of Supreme Court.


On 25th June, 1975, the President in exercise of his powers which have been granted by Article 352(1) of Indian Constitution, declared that there was a grave emergency whereby security of India is threatened by the internal disturbances. On 27th June, 1975 , by exercising the powers that are granted under Article 359 of the Constitution, it was declared that the right of any person including the foreigners to move any court in order to enforce their rights which have been granted to them under Article 14, 21 and 22 of the Constitution and also all the proceedings that are pending in the court for the above mentioned rights will remain suspended during the period of proclamation of emergency which was made under Article 352 of Indian Constitution.

On 8th January, 1976 by exercising the powers granted under Article 352 of Constitution, the President passed a notification declaring that right of any person to move to any court in order to enforce the right which have been granted to them under Article 19 of the Constitution and also all the proceedings that are pending in the court for the above-mentioned right will remain suspended during the period of proclamation of emergency. Thereupon, several illegal detentions were made including the detention of some most prominent leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani who were detained without any charges and trial. Due to this many writ petitions were filed throughout the country. Nine High Courts gave decision in favor of the detunes by laying down that even if the Article 21 cannot be enforced, still the order of detention can be challenges as it was not in compliance of the Act or was mala fide. Moreover, against these orders many appeals were filed under the Supreme Court.


The issue in this case was whether a writ petition can be filed or not under Article 226 of the Constitution before the High Court in order to enforce the Fundamental Rights during the period of proclamation of emergency.


The main contention of the state was that the sole purpose of providing the emergency provisions in Indian Constitution is that at the time of emergency the Executive can make complete discretion over the implementation of laws of the country by exercising the special powers which have been granted to them by the Constitution of India, but while exercising these powers the state should be given supreme importance.

They also contented that the state does not release the detunes despite of the opinion of the advisory board that there is no sufficient cause for their detention. Hence, detaining them without any cause is in violation of their fundamental right which has been provided under Article 22 of the Indian Constitution. Also, the detenus cannot approach any court for the enforcement of their right under Article 19 of the Constitution, as it has been suspended during the proclamation of emergency by the President under an order issued under Article 359(1) of Indian Constitution. The suspension of these rights is done under the provisions of the Constitution and thus it cannot be said that the resulting situation would mean absence of rule of law.

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They further highlighted the fact that the Emergency provisions provided in the Indian Constitution including Articles 358, 359(1) and 359 (1A) are Constitutional necessities as the military and the economic security of nation proceed everything else. Therefore, the validity of Presidential Order under Article 359(1) cannot be challenged on the ground that it is violating the Fundamental Rights of the citizens which has been suspended by the above-mentioned article.


It was contended by the respondents that the purpose of Article 359(1) is to remove the restrictions on the powers of the legislatures so that at the time of emergency it is free to violate the fundamental rights of the citizens which have been granted to them by the Constitution of India. They further argued that there is an act called Maintenance of Internal Security Act 1971 which is there in force in order to govern pre-trial detentions. Therefore, Article 21 cannot be considered as the sole depository of the right to life and personal liberty.

They also argued that the Non-Fundamental rights which have been derived from the Articles 256, 265 and 361 (3), neither the natural or contractual rights and nor the legal rights to personal liberty are unaffected by the Presidential order. These rights can be only taken away by the statute and not by the Executive Department.

It was further argued that state and its officers have right to arrest only if the detention fall under Section 3 of the MISA Act and also the conditions provided under the said section were fulfilled. However, if any condition is unfulfilled then the detention will be considered “beyond the powers of the Act”.



The judgment came in the ration of 4:1, Chief Justice A. N. Ray, M.H. Beg. J, Y.V Chandrachud. J and P.N. Bhagwati. J were for the majority of the judgment and whereas the H.R. Khanna J. was for the descent. The four judges except Justice Khanna were of the opinion that during the time of emergency if any action is taken by the government whether it is arbitrary or illegal, its actions cannot be questioned. This is because in such circumstances the government safeguards the life of the nation by using its extraordinary powers, and which are provided to them as emergency is also an extraordinary factor. Therefore, as liberty is a gift of law, it can also be forfeited by law.

The purpose and objective of Article 359 (1) was to prevent the enforcement of any Fundamental Right mentioned in the Presidential order, should be suspended during the emergency. Even the application for Habeas Corpus under Article 491 of Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be filed simultaneously before the High Court. Another purpose of Article 359(1) was not only to limit the actions of legislative domain but also the actions of the executive branch.


Law of preventive detention, of detention without trial is a curse to all those who love personal liberty. It is with a view to balancing the conflicting viewpoints that the framers of the Constitution made express provisions for preventive detention and at the same time inserted safeguards to prevent abuse of those powers and to mitigate the harshness of those provisions. There was a dilemma for the framers of the constitution that whether they should prioritize liberty of their citizens or the security of the state and this dilemma was not laid to rest during the drafting of the constitution.  The state has got no power to deprive any person of their life and liberty without the authority of law, even in the absence of Article 21. This is the basic assumption of the rule of law and not of men in all civilized nations. Without such sanctity of life and liberty, the distinction between a lawless society and one governed by laws would cease to have any meaning.


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