An Analysis of A.D.M., Jabalpur Vs. Shivakant Shukla

Popularly known as The Habeas Corpus Case


In the Supreme Court of India:

Decided on: 28th April 1976


  • (1976) 2 SCC 521
  • 1976 AIR 1207


Appellant: Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur

Respondent: Shivakant Shukla



  • Ray, A.N. (C.J.)
  • Khanna, Hans Raj (J.)
  • Beg, M. Hameedullah (J.)
  • Chandrachud, Y.V. (J.)
  • Bhagwati, P.N. (J.)






Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur vs. Shivakant Shukla[1] is also popularly known as the Habeas Corpus Case. This case was more of a political case than a simple suit with respect to some of the Indian Political Leaders who were detained after the declaration of the National Emergency from June 25, 1975 (this day is also referred to as the Black Day for Democracy) to March 21, 1977 by then President on the advice of then Prime Minister of India Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi under the condition of Internal Disturbances across the nation. It is believed that the P.M. declared emergency after the Allahabad High Court found her guilty of electoral malpractices while hearing the State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Raj Narain[2], only to suspend the civil liberties, censor the media and also to postpone the State and the Parliamentary Elections. The day of April 28, 1976 is believed to be the Darkest Day of the Indian Judicial System as on this day only the disreputable aforementioned case was decided. The foremost dispute of the case was that whether a person, who has his Fundamental Rights such as Article 14 and 21, if violated, had a remedy to approach the High Court. However, the judgment declared for the case was a quite harsh as it stated that the Right of a detained person to approach the High Court under the Article 226 for any writ for challenging the constitutionality of an order during the emergency would remain suspended.


Facts of the Case:

  1. On June 25, 1975 through his powers granted by Article 352(1) of the Constitution of India, the President of India declared grave emergency on the grounds that the security of the nation was threatened by the internal disturbances.
  2. On June 27, 1975 and January 8, 1976 through the powers granted by the Article 352(2) and 359(1), the Government of India declared the rights of a person to go to High Court for any Writ would remain suspended during the proclamation of emergency.
  3. The issue was about the some of the illegal detentions of some of the most prominent Indian political leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani without any appropriate defined charges or trials.
  4. Prior to the aforementioned judgment from the Supreme Court of India, nine High Courts across the country decided that even if the Article 21 cannot be enforced, the detention order still could be challenged on the grounds of being mala fide.



The issue, for this case, was whether any Writ Petition can be documented under Article 226 of the Constitution of India under the steady gaze of the High Court to implement the Fundamental Rights during the time of declaration of Emergency.



Appellant: The principal argument of the State was that the Sovereignty of the Nation was to be kept at the utmost priority while implementing of laws of the country with complete circumspection by the Executive. It was argued that the detained people were not being released and they were also not allowed to approach the Courts which was a sure shot infringement of their Fundamental Right to protection against Detention and Arrest in certain cases which comes under the Article 22 of the Constitution of India as well as was beyond the Nature of Justice also. The suspension of these Rights is done under the provisions of the Constitution of India but if it is carried out in this manner, it can be said that the subsequent circumstance would probably mean the nonappearance or the absence of Rule of Law.


Respondent: The principal argument of the Respondents that the main objective of the Article 359(1) was to remove the so-called reasonable restriction through the legal capacity of the Legislative bodies, therefore, at the time of Emergency its unrestricted to infringe the Fundamental Rights of the Citizens of India which have granted to them by the Constitution of India. The respondents further contended that there is an Act called the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 which is there in power to oversee the pre-trial detainments. Accordingly, Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be considered as the sole storehouse of the Right to Life and Liberty.


Judgement: The Judgment in the case came in 4:1 majority:


Majority: The Court held that the purpose of the Article 359(1) was to protect implementation of any of the Fundamental Rights referenced in the Presidential order, ought to be suspended during the emergency. Indeed, even the application for Habeas Corpus under the Section 491 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be recorded all the while under the steady gaze of the High Court. Another objective behind Article 359(1) was not exclusively to restrict the activities of the authoritative space yet in addition the activities of the executive branch.


Dissenting Judgment: The Court held that the Law of preventive confinement, of detainment without judicial hearing is a revile to every individual who supports personal liberty. It is with the end goal of compromising the disputes that the framers of the Constitution of India made express provisions for preventive detainment and simultaneously embedded safeguards to forestall maltreatments of those powers and to relieve the brutality of those provisions. There was a predicament for the framers of the Constitution of India that whether they ought to focus on the Liberties of their citizens or the security of the State and this situation was not let going during the drafting of the Constitution of India. The state has no ability to deny any individual of their Life and Liberty without the authority of law, even without Article 21. This is the fundamental assumption of the Rule of Law and not of men in sophisticated countries. Without such holiness of life and liberty, the differentiation between an untamed or lawless society and one governed by laws would stop containing any significance.


The foundations of the Constitution of India lie somewhere down in the better, spiritual wellsprings of social equity, far ahead of the blend of awful politicking medieval crudities and sublimated perversion, supporting itself by significant confidence in Man and his inoperative holiness. The Writ of Habeas Corpus is the principal instrument for protecting individual liberty against rebellious and lawless state activity.


It is well said by Blaise Pascal: “Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.[3]



Youkteshwari Prasad

Amity Law School, Noida

[1] (1976) 2 SCC 521

[2] 1975 AIR 865

[3] Blaise Pascal, Brainy Quote, available at: (last visited on Feb 6, 2021)

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