What were the major conflicts between the Parliament and the Judiciary during the leadership of Indira Gandhi?
This was the time when the government and the ruling party had various differences with the judiciary. Three constitutional issues had emerged. These were
1. Could the Parliament abridge the fundamental rights? The Supreme Court answer was negative.
2. Could the Parliament curtail the right to property by making an amendment? Again, the Supreme Court said that the Parliament cannot amend the Constitution in such a manner that rights are curtailed.
3. The Parliament amended the Constitution saying that it can abridge the fundamental rights for giving effect to directive principles. However, the Supreme Court rejected this provision also.
This led to a crisis as far as the relation between the government and the judiciary is concerned. Further, two more developments added to the tension between the judiciary and the executive. In 1973, immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Keshavananda Bharati case, a vacancy arose for the post of the Chief Justice of India. It had been a practice to appoint the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice, but in 1973, the government set aside the seniority of three judges and appointed Justice A. N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India. This appointment became politically controversial because all the three judges who were superseded had given rulings against the stand of the government. Thus, constitutional interpretations and political ideologies were getting mixed up rapidly. People close to the Prime Minister started talking of the need for a judiciary and the bureaucracy ‘committed’ to the vision of the executive and the legislature. The climax of the confrontation was of course the ruling of the High Court declaring Indira Gandhi’s election invalid