Congress Chronicles – How Indira Gandhi Vengefully Targeted Upright Judge HR Khanna

Speaking at the 84th Congress Plenary Session, Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched a sharp attack on the NDA Government, saying that today Congress party is the only saviour of Bharat’s judiciary from the ‘wrath’ of Narendra Modi. While his statement is in tune of Congress’ fear mongering strategy that keeps manifesting itself periodically in form of narratives like Award Wapsi, Rising Intolerance, Attack on Minorities & Dalits, what’s new is the smear campaign being run by the Congress party to demonise and malign the democratic institutions of Bharat.

To cash on this strategy of instilling fear and insecurity among Bharatiyas, Rahul Gandhi projects himself and the Congress party as the saviour of the democratic institutions who will ‘liberate’ them from the ‘authoritarianism’ of Narendra Modi. In the current political scenario, where pre-poll allegation and post-poll apology is the trend among politicians, we must closely scrutinize their claims before believing them else we are bound to repeat the mistake of handing over power to those guilty of time & again betraying this country and its democracy.

A twitter thread by @saket71 reminds us of one of the many instances from the past which expose the true nature of Congress under the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

4 decades ago when Bharat had just covered 28 years of its independence from British rule, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of Bharat and grand-mother of Rahul Gandhi, declared a state of Emergency across the whole country. Media was censored, the entire opposition was thrown in jail, and all institutions became subservient to Indira Gandhi who was the de facto dictator of the country.

Police could pick you up under the dreaded MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act passed in 1971) and jail you for an year or more before bail. Many youth were arrested on the flimsiest of grounds and thrown in jail – some students were brutally tortured and died in police custody. In today’s parlance, sending the wrong type of WhatsApp forward or criticising Karti Chidambaram on twitter would have led to police swooping down to arrest you from the local CCD (Cafe Coffee Day) as you were gossipping with your friends.

Since the provisions of emergency were in violation of the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution of Bharat, it was challenged in the court.

At that time, a The New York Times story regrading the case said:

At the heart of the case was the question of whether the sweeping emergency powers granted by the Indian Constitution to the Government superseded fundamental human rights. The Government argued that they did.

“A citizen is barred from agitating for any right during the emergency,” Attorney General Niren De maintained during the arguments last winter. “There is no personal rights law for the time being.”

As one would expect, a dozen courts maintained applicability of Habeas Corpus- where you could seek courts help to find missing people (usually young men picked up by local police). Supreme Court (SC) collated and turned all lower courts decisions down which had ruled in defiance of the Government that the right of habeas corpus could not be suspended even during the emergency.

In its 4‐to‐1 ruling, the SC held that the traditional right of habeas corpus, which guarantees a prisoner a court hearing as a safeguard against illegal arrest, was suspended in Bharat for the duration of the state of emergency. Under the Constitution, the state of emergency can last as long as the Government wishes.

The lone judge who expressed his dissent against this judgement was Justice HR Khanna. In a stinging remark, Justice Khanna said that “in a purely formal sense, even the organized mass murders of the Nazi regime qualify as law.”

Justice Khanna contended that if the Government view was upheld, then any official, even a head constable, could capriciously or maliciously arrest a person and detain him indefinitely, and the aggrieved person would not be able to seek any relief from the courts.

“Even in the absence of Article 21 in the Constitution, the State has got no power to deprive a person of his life or liberty without the authority of law.”- Justice HR Khanna

HR Khanna
Indira Gandhi and Justice HR Khanna

NYT in a piece written on this infamous judgement said:

“It is a reminder that ought somehow to force its way Into the consciousness and thence onto the conscience of the stubborn woman who, for the last ten months, has behaved more in the manner of an empress or a vicereine than like the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. The submission of an independent judiciary to absolutist government is virtually the last step in the destruction of a democratic society; and the Indian Supreme Court’s decision appears close to utter surrender.

If India ever finds its way back to the freedom and democracy that were proud hallmarks of its first eighteen years as an independent nation, someone will surely erect a monument to Justice H. R. Khanna of the Supreme Court., It was Mr. Justice Khanna who spoke out fearlessly and eloquently for freedom this week dissenting from the Court’s decision upholding the right of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Government to imprison political opponents at will and without court hearings.”

Forget building his statue, Congress has erased and wiped out Justice Khanna’s entire memory. When the time came for appointment of Justice HR Khanna as the senior-most SC judge, a vengeful Indira Gandhi passed him over and appointed as Chief Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg, one of the 4 SC judges that had ruled in her favor (other 3 being CJI A. N. Ray, P. N. Bhagwati and Y. V. Chandrachud). After being superseded, Justice Khanna resigned.The judiciary, termed as one of the three pillars of Indian democracy, was seriously threatened during the years of emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. The judiciary was politicised to such an extent during Indira Gandhi’s regime that entire lot of judges were either regarded as “committed” or “not committed” to her.

The irony here is that the party that hijacked the entire judiciary during the years of Emergency is today claiming to be its saviour. And what’s even more worrying is the fact that instead of calling out Rahul Gandhi on his hypocrisy, the entire MSM is busy in furthering his hate campaign filled with lies and half-truths.

(This article has been compiled using information shared by twitter user @saket71. We request more people to come forward with forgotten stories for our #CongressChronicles series, which should act as a constant reminder to all citizens about the threat posed to our democracy and national integrity by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasts)

Recommended reading on Emergency

https://www.hindupost.in/history/emergency-indian-democracys-darkest-hour/

https://archive.org/details/ShahCommissionOfInquiry3rdFinalReport


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