Supreme Court of India
PETITIONER:INDIRA NEHRU GANDHI (SMT.)
RESPONDENT:RAJ NARAIN & ANR.
DATE OF JUDGMENT24/06/1975
CITATION: 1975 AIR 1590 1975 SCC (2) 159
Representation of the People Act, 1951, S.116B(2)-Stay of election judgment and order-Judge-Power-Dimensions of Judge power to stay-Difference between executive discretion and judicial discretion, explained-Cognisability of non-legal arguments in such cases-Equity and ground of “unclean hands”-Courts cannot go into the merits of the case at the stage of granting stay-Balance of convenience, public justice etc. are relevant considerations–Precedents of pre- 1966 Election law are of no value to post-1966 cases of conditional stay–Nature of “type design’ stay orders and their value-Legal effect of a stay order in general and in particular, in the instant case, as a Minister or Prime Minister-Power to ask for a review of provisional orders.
In the General Parliamentary Elections of 1971, the appellant was declared as a successful candidate from the Rae Bareli Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. She won the election by a margin of 1,11,810 votes over her nearest rival Sri Rai Narain. Sri Raj Narain, respondent No. 1, who was sponsored by the Samyukta Socialist Party filed an election petition u/s 80 r/w S.100 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to challenge the election of the successful candidate. A learned single judge of the Allahabad High Court upheld the challenge on two grounds rejecting the other grounds of challenge. The learned judge also granted an absolute 20 days’ stay. The appellant moved this Court, challenging the ‘unseating’ verdict against her by the High Court. The appellant also sought “absolute stay” of the judgment and order under appeal. Respondent No. 1 filed cross-appeals against the said judgment rejecting the grounds of challenge, except two.
Allowing the petition and granting the stay in terms, the Court
HELD : 1. While the right to appeal is statutory, the power to stay is discretionary. But judicial discretion-indeed, even executive discretion-cannot run riot. The former though plenary, is governed in its exercise by sound guidelines and courts look for light, inter alia, from practice and precedent without however being hide-bound mechanically. Judicial power is dynamic, forward looking and socially luscent and aware. [407 H, 408 A]
2. The court decides forensic questions without getting embroiled in nonlegal disputes working as it does in a sound-proof system of sorts. The Court is the quiet of the storm centre and views with an equal eye, the claims on each side, taking judicial note of the high issues and balance of convenience in the wider context. The judicial approach is to stay away from political thickets and new problems with institutionalised blinkers on, so long as the court methodology remains the same. Arguments about political sentiment, political propriety and moral compulsion though relevant at other levels, fall beyond the conventional judicial orbit and the courts have to discriminately shift them while deciding. on the grant of stay pending an appeal. If national crises and democratic considerations, and not mere balance of convenience and interests of justice, were to be major inputs in the Judges exercise of discretion systematic changes and shifts in judicial attitude may perhaps be needed. But sitting in time-honoured forensic surroundings the Supreme Court is constrained to judge the issues before it by canons sanctified by the usage of this Court. [408 C-H]
3. The preliminary objection of “unclean bands” not entitling the petitioner/ ,appellant to seek the equitable relief of stay is not founded on facts. The stay order does not state that it...