Raj Narain vs. Indira Gandhi

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Supreme Court of India   
PETITIONER:INDIRA NEHRU GANDHI (SMT.)
 Vs.
RESPONDENT:RAJ NARAIN & ANR.
DATE OF JUDGMENT24/06/1975
BENCH:KRISHNAIYER, V.R.
CITATION: 1975 AIR 1590    1975 SCC  (2) 159
ACT:
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.

HEADNOTE:
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...
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