Published On: Mon, Dec 14th, 2020

SC seeks govt response on plea seeking Emergency be declared unconstitutional

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a plea by a 94-year-old woman to declare the 1975 Emergency proclamation as unconstitutional and sought a response from the Centre.

If history is not corrected, then it repeats itself. I feel very strongly on this issue

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing petitioner Veena Sarin, submitted before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that his client wants a declaration that the Emergency was unconstitutional.

The bench also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy observed that the Emergency was an abuse and something happened which should not have had happened. The bench issued notice on the petition and allowed the petitioner to amend the petition on the aspect of restricted issue, whether the Emergency could be declared unconstitutional.

Initially expressing its non-inclination to take up the matter, the bench said 45 years have elapsed already and the court can’t be digging on these issues.

Salve insisted that people were under detention for months. He submitted that today even war crimes issues are considered and 90-year-olds are hauled up for crimes. “In nascent stage of our democracy, rights were suspended for 19 months,” said Salve. The bench reiterated that it is disinclined to open all such aspects, as there may be wrongs done to the persons. Citing the passage of over 40 years, the bench said: “It would not be appropriate to re-open those issues.”

Salve emphasized that this is a matter of constitutional debate and there was abuse of power for many months. He added that principles must be laid down so that no matter how high you are, you will be held accountable.

Justice Kaul asked what will this take us to? Salve said, “If history is not corrected, then it repeats itself. I feel very strongly on this issue.”

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court noted that it heard the matter with some trepidation, more so due to the passage of time. However, the bench said it would decide if a simpliciter declaration can be made that the proclamation of Emergency was unconstitutional.

The plea said that the petitioner is aggrieved by the trauma and harassment faced by herself and her family including her deceased husband during the period beginning June 1975 upon the declaration of the Emergency.

Citing the order passed by the then President of India under Article 358 and 359 of the Constitution, the plea argued that the freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution and the rights of citizens to move any court for enforcement of their fundamental rights remained suspended till the withdrawal of the Emergency.

The petitioner submitted that her husband and she were compelled to leave the country for fear of being thrown into jail on the whims and wishes of the government authority.

The petitioner, who now lives with her daughter in Dehradun, alleged that her husband’s gold and art business in Karol Bagh and Connaught Place in Delhi was seized by the authorities and the family was threatened and their properties and valuables were forcefully taken away.

“Declare that the proclamation of Emergency vide notification dated June 25, 1975, was wholly unconstitutional and actions pursuant to the same are illegal and unjustifiable. The petitioner may kindly be compensated to the tune of Rs 25 crore to be recovered from the concerned authorities as having participated in the unconstitutional acts,” said the plea.

Sarin added that she single-handedly faced all proceedings initiated against her husband during the Emergency period.

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