The Supreme Court has agreed to examine if a simple declaration of the 1975 Emergency by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi was unconstitutional will be feasible.
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a petition by 94-year-old Veera Sarin, who wants the Emergency to be declared illegal.
“We are inclined to see whether a simpliciter declaration on Emergency is feasible or desirable after passage of time,” the judges said.
The court also asked the petitioner to restructure her petition as she said she would not press for compensation. She had asked for Rs 25 crore as compensation, saying she and her husband were forced to leave the country because of arbitrary detention. The petition says Ms Sarin’s property was seized and appropriated and later her husband “succumbed to the pressure and died”.
The top court was initially reluctant to take up the petition.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, heading the bench told senior lawyer Harish Salve, representing the petitioner, “Something happened in history 45 years ago. But to go into this issue now? We are finding it difficult to entertain this plea.”
Justice Kaul added, “What is not to happen, happened. We can’t keep digging on these issues, persons are gone today”.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve argued that abuse of power needs correction and even war crimes were still heard.
“Certain things in history had to be revisited if correction has to be done and the Emergency is one such issue,” Mr Salve said.
“War crimes are still heard. A nascent democracy’s rights was abused for 19 months and it was a fraud on the constitution and court must decide this and this is not a matter for political debate. The petitioner is not a political person but affected by the Emergency. The court must declare that the Emergency was illegal,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in 1975, days after the Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices and disbarred her as a parliamentarian for six years. Constitutional rights and civil liberties were suspended, the media was severely restricted and many opposition leaders were jailed during the period that last till 1977.
The court said: “This plea arises from the passage of time. Mr Salve for the petitioner says that prayer survives, and wrongs of history must be corrected. We would be disinclined to reopen such aspects. After 45 years it may not be appropriate to reopen those issues. We would be however be not disinclined to see whether such a simpliciter declaration, something which is feasible or desirable after passage of time and issue. Issue notice. Petitioner to amend the petition.”