maneka ghandhi LAW INSIDER IN

Path Breaking Cases of Maneka Gandhi

By Harshita Goel

Maneka Gandhi was born on 26 August 1956 and married to Sanjay Gandhi in the year 1974. After the death of her husband, she had bitter relations with her in -laws and after moving out of the house of in – laws she together with Akbar Ahmad founded a party and named it as Rashtriya Sanjay Manch with the primary aim of the empowerment of youth and issue to employment. She later agglutinated with and became a General Secretary to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). She is not only a politician who has contested elections and has been a part of different ministries, but is also an animal rights activist and is the chairwoman of Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA). There have been certain cases which have been filed by Maneka Gandhi against the injustice either to her or to the community as a whole.

This document shall provide with the brief view of all those cases filed by Maneka Gandhi bolstered by brief facts and core points of the judgement in the following cases.

  • Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978)[1]

Facts:

The case of Maneka Gandhi took a shape because of the enactment of the Passports Act 1967, which provided the authorities with the power to impound the passport of an individual, of whom they believed necessary in the interests of sovereignty, integrity, public interest or foreign relations of India. This law led to issuance of notice to a woman, who was journalist and who applied under the Passports Act, for the issuance of Passport for the purpose of official work, but the authorities connoted her to impound her passport in the public interest. However, there was a letter written with respect to such impoundment by the woman, demanding the reasons for such impoundment, on which the reasons were not specified, for which the authorities forenamed that providing such reasons is denied under the interest of general public.

This act of the authorities of impounding the passport and not providing with the reasons for such impoundment, was challenged and a writ Petition was filed u/a 32 of the Constitution of India. Further, section 10(3)(c) was challenged to be violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Art. 14, 19(1) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Held:

The judgement made in the following case with the bench of Chief Justice Hameedullah Beg, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justivce V.R. Krishna Iyer, Justice S.M. Fazal Ali and Justice P.S. Kailasam, provided with the following major points:

  1. One of the issues before the court was with respect to the scope of “procedure established by law” under Article 21. The court held that the Article 21 provides with the “procedure established by law” and not “due process of law” under its ambit, which may make the Art.21 not to be reasonable, just and fair and to be arbitrary in nature. Interpreting the preamble of the Constitution, the Court found that the intention of the framers of the Constitution of India was to make a law for “protection of the people of India”. Therefore, the court provided that the ambit of the “procedure established by law” is wide and includes “due process of law”, providing that the procedure must be just, fair and reasonable and should be free from arbitrariness and irrationality.
  2. The court overruled its judgement provided under the case of A.K. Gopalan[2], which provided that Article 14, 19 and 21 are exclusive. The court overruling its judgement provided that Article 14, 19 and 21 are not exclusive rather dependent upon each other and needs to be interpreted harmoniously.
  3. The ambit of “personal liberty” under Article 21 was widened and it was provided to include all the fundamental rights, avoiding it to be interpreted in the restricted and stricter sense.
  4. Section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 was held not be violative of Article 19 or Article 21. It was held that the expression “in the interests of general public” is not vague or undefined rather by acquiring guidelines from section 19. It can be protected.
  5. It was further held that section 10(3)(c) of the Passport Act, 1967 is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India as it provides with the right of being heard to the parties.
  6. It was lastly held that the ambit of the rights guaranteed under section 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) are not limited to the territorial limits of India.
  • Maneka Sanjay Gandhi and Anr. vs. Rani Jethmalani[3]

Facts:

In the following case the Petitioner was the then editor of the monthly called “Surya”, and was charged for defamation in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Bombay, by the Respondent who was young advocate and also the daughter of the leading advocate Mr. Ram Jethmalani. The following petition was filed for the transfer of the matter from Bombay to Delhi court.

Held:

In this case the court denied the petition for transfer of the matter to the different court. In this regard the following observations were made by the court:

  1. The court observed that in the matter of transfer of petition from one court to another it is important to with the perspective of assuring that the principle of fair trial is ensured. The court further observed that all the law gives the parties the right to choose their court of jurisdiction according to their convenience, but at the same time it is important to ensure that such transfer of jurisdiction does harass the justice. In any such other case the court may deny such denial.
  2. The other main observation made by the court was with respect to the matter of defamation. The court was of the opinion that although both the parties reside in the Delhi but the defamation arose in Bombay, as the readers who read the defamatory article belonged to Bombay. The transfer of case of Delhi may lead to substitution of witnesses in the matter, which may not lead to proper delivery of justice.
  • Maneka Gandhi vs. Indira Gandhi[4]

Facts:

In the following case, the suit was filed to ensure that the right in the property of Sanjay Gandhi after his demise, is granted to his wife Maneka Gandhi and to their son Varun Gandhi according to the Succession Act. There were no contentions made with this regard by the Rajiv Gandhi, brother of Sanjay Gandhi, however, Indira Gandhi made a contention that she was not allowed to spend time with her grandson and that she wants the property to remain intact and not to be destroyed until Varun Gandhi is all grown up to take of it. These allegations were completely denied by Maneka Gandhi on the grounds that Varun Gandhi was exploited by her grandmother on political grounds, which was not justified. Accordingly the matter was brought before the court.

The matter before the court was with respect to grant of the estate of Sanjay Gandhi to his wife and son and to exclude Indira Gandhi from such status, and to provide with the relief if any.

Held:

The court divided the share in the state according to the Indian Succession Act and made the following observations in this regard:

  • The court observed that the marriage between Maneka Gandhi and Late Sanjay Gandhi was solemnized according to the Special Marriage Act, as it was found by the court that Late Sanjay Gandhi transformed his religion to Parsi. As per section 21-A of the Special Marriage Act, the rules of Hindu Succession Act shall apply, and hence, the estate is entitled to be divided equally in three parts, i.e. 1/3rd part each to Varun Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi. It was further observed by the court that the Indira Gandhi relinquished her share in favour of her grandson and hence, Varun Gandhi was granted with the total of 2/3rd share and Maneka Gandhi with the remaining 1/3rd share.
  • The court further granted the share in the estate to Varun Gandhi with certain restrictions as he being a minor during that period. Under those restrictions Maneka Gandhi was asked to file the proper details of the property and provide with the court fee and in case of sale of the part of property of Varun Gandhi, permission was required to be taken from the court. A fixed deposit account in name of the minor was required to be opened, wherein in case of any money realised, such amount was to be deposited in the account of Varun Gandhi directly.
  • Further, the court held the allegations made by Maneka Gandhi on Indira Gandhi of using her son, for political purpose, was found to be baseless and irrelevant.
  • Buffalo Traders’ Welfare Association &Anr. vs. Maneka Gandhi[5]

Facts:

In the following case there are two petitions filed one with respect to Idgah Slaughter House and 168 industries in Delhi, wherein the petition filed against these industries being considered as “hazardous/noxious” and to be ordered to stop functioning and operating in the city of Delhi. The other petition was filed by Maneka Gandhi which pertains to the condition of the Idgah slaughter house. It was provided in her petition that the slaughter house is in a poor state and it is under unhygienic, inhuman and horrible conditions. The petition filed with the district court, and the order passed by the court were challenged in the Delhi High Court. Both these petitions were filed in the High Court which later were granted special leave and the matter reached the Supreme court on the grounds that there was consensus between the authorities and parties that there existed no place in Delhi, were the Slaughter House could be shifted.

The issue with the Supreme Court was majorly with respect to the workers of the slaughter house and 168 other industries in Delhi, the difficulty they would face once the slaughter house is closed. The other was related to the consumers, who would face the difficulty if the Slaughter house was closed and thirdly the condition of the slaughter house.

Held:

In this case the court made the following observations and provided with the following decision as:

  1. With respect to the workers employed in Idgah Slaughter House and other 168 industries which were considered to be hazardous/noxious, the court observed the rights and benefits of the workmen and directed that the employees would continue to work and would shift to the place where such industries are shifted. With regards the terms and conditions of employment, the alteration was not allowed to be made which could harm or damage such employees. Further with respect to the wages of the employees, it was provided from the period the industries are closed down from the areas in Delhi and re-located in other areas, it would be considered that the workers are under employment and hence, shall be paid wages for that period.
  2. With respect to the consumers, the court considered to be not so serious, and it was held that the consumers won’t face much of difficulty as there is availability of other slaughter houses for the temporary basis. Further it observed that as the animals are brought from outside for meat, similarly, meat can also be brought instead of animals. The court was of the opinion that Idgah Slaughter House was one of its type in the territory and obviously it being closed down people would have to face certain issues or problems but it is for the benefit and health of the consumers.
  3.  Keeping in view the interest of environment and ecology, the court observed that the slaughter house worked in the highly polluted environment and hence observing the needs of the people and the environment the court imposed certain conditions on the working of Idgah Slaughter house for the period till June 30,1997.
  4. It provided that except 2000 goats per day no other animal shall be slaughtered and the slaughter house was instructed to be kept clean by the MCD.
  5. The report shall be prepared every two months till 30th June 1997 by the Central Pollution Control Board which shall indicate the environmental status of the premises.
  6. The animal market shall not be placed anywhere near to the slaughter house and in the cities which are heavily crowded which would further be examined by the Deputy Commissioner of Police ensuring hygienic entry and exit of animal from the slaughter house to such other area.
  7. All other illegal slaughtering animal business was banned and in case such slaughtering was still practiced, they were to be charged with the heavy pollution fine being caused to the place of slaughtering and the staff in charge of such slaughter houses shall be liable to pay the amount of the fine.
  8. Further the court ordered that the Idgah Slaughter house would not continue at its site beyond June 30,1997 and hence, MCD were directed to construct the modem slaughter house at the other land acquired by the Corporation.
  • Khushwant Singh & Anr. vs. Maneka Gandhi[6]

Facts:

Khushwant Singh one of the famous authors, wrote his autobiography and published it in a book titled “Truth, Love and Little Malice”. The book was not yet published and distributed amongst the people. The following book contained a chapter named “Gandhis and Anands”, of which an excerpt was published by the ‘India Today” magazine wherein it provided that the chapter provides with the relations of respondent with the Gandhi family and the relationship of other members of the family. On this the Respondent, wife of Sanjay Gandhi and daughter – in – law of Indira Gandhi filed a suit of injunction and damages to protect the name and the respect of her family. The Respondent claimed that such a publication was against the right to privacy provided under right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. it was further provided that such publication without the consent from any of the family members is infringement of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21. The Respondent therefore claimed a stay on the publication of the book on which the Appellant was of the view that the statements in question were made in the matter of public and historical interest and significance and under the fundamental right of speech and expression of the author guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The Appellant contended that “the public has a right to know and receive information about these matters and the attempt of the respondent to suppress the publication and dissemination of true facts and information about her by means of an injunction from the court would tantamount to pre-censorship which has been held by the Supreme Court to be totally impermissible under our constitutional scheme”. The Appellants were further of the view that the right to information of the citizens outweigh the right to privacy under Article 21 as against the private individual.

On these grounds the court was sufficed with the issue pertaining to the statements being derogatory or defamatory or not.

Held:

The court in the following matter made the following observations and granted the following judgement as:

  1. Observing the statements made by the Appellant, the court was of the view that the statements made were of such a nature which were made in public domain and were highly publicised with the help of media which even included the relation of the respondent with her mother – in – law, the former Prime Minister of India. the court observed that the statements published were nothing of a nature which were restricted within the four walls of the Respondent and thus prevention of publication made by the Respondent in such a case cannot be granted.
  2. The court underlying the principle of privacy laid down in the case R. Rajagopal, pointed out that the principle of privacy cannot be extended to the matter in public record and hence when the matter reaches the public domain and no objection with respect to the same is raised by the parties concerned, the right to privacy is weakened and such right cannot be claimed by such parties.
  3. The court was further of the opinion that the book was an autobiography of the author wherein he provided with his lifetime experience and the people he met or may interacted with, which is a matter to remain between the author and the readers. The author cannot be restricted or told what to write and what not to write.
  4. The major observation made by the court was that in the case of infringement of right to privacy, it is not the suit of injunction but the suit of damages which is filed.

Therefore, in the following case, the Appellants were allowed to publish their autobiography stating it to be not an infringement of Article 21 of the Respondent and further, Respondents were ordered to grant damages to the Appellants of Rs.10,000/-.


[1] 1978 AIR 597; 1978 S.C.R. (2) 621.

[2] AIR 1950 S.C. 27.

[3] 1979 S.C.R. (2) 378.

[4] AIR 1985 Delhi 114.

[5] (1996) 11 SCC 35.

[6] AIR 2002 Delhi 58.