On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea on whether or not it can examine the constitutional validity of the national emergency declared in 1975 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
As per sources, the petition was filed by 94-year-old Vera Sarin, who sought that the presidential notification proclaiming the 1975 national Emergency be deemed unconstitutional. She also sought compensation to the tune of Rs 25 crore.
The bench comprising of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, issued notice to the Centre, however, the bench went on to mention that they will only look into the matter on whether a proclamation, like that of the Emergency, can be probed ‘after such a long time’. Subsequently, the court asked the petitioner to amend her plea by 18th December.
“We would not be disinclined to see whether probing such a proclamation after such a long time would be feasible or not. We issue notice on prayer (A). Learned senior counsel may restructure the petition. Leave to amend the petition by December 18,” stated the court.
Petition before the Supreme Court
The petitioner, Sarin in the plea submitted that she along with her husband were compelled to leave the country for fear of being jailed, stated the sources. She said that her husband was “framed under” Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 and Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act, 1976.
Sarin said that their movable and immovable properties worth “crores of rupees were also seized and there has been no restitution of the same till date.” Further, the petitioner submitted that after her husband died in 2000, she had to single-handedly face all legal proceedings initiated against him during the emergency period.
Therefore, Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for the petitioner has on Monday called the period of Emergency an ‘abuse of power’. Abuse of power can be looked into and what relief can be granted is of another aspect, he said, adding the petitioner is seeking that emergency be declared unconstitutional.
“There are certain things in history which we have to revisit and see if the correct thing was done. This abuse of power was so enormous; it has scarred our country. Your lordships must declare that the emergency proclamation was wrong,” Salve said.
“War crimes issues are still heard. Post-world war people are raising issues of holocaust now. It (national emergency) was a fraud on the constitution. We must have this decided by this court. I feel very strongly for this. This is not a matter of political debate. Didn’t we see what happened to prisoners during an emergency,” Salve added.
While the court asked Salve about the need of going into the matter after 45 years, he submitted that “If history is not corrected, it repeats itself.”
It has also been also pointed out that after a July 2020 government order, Delhi High Court directed payment of arrears of rent for the property at KG Marg, New Delhi to the Sarin and other legal heirs at a specified monthly rate since 1999.
Further, the High Court had held in December 2014 that the proceedings under SAFEMA have initiated bereft of any jurisdiction and therefore a nullity.
“The Petitioner at her advanced age has a simple desire to seek a closure to her trauma and an acknowledgment to her suffering and hence, is filing the present petition,” the plea contends.
The court in its order said it “would be disinclined to open all such aspects”, where a person might have been wronged 45 years ago. However, it agreed to look into if it would be “feasible or desirable” to examine such a case after “a passage of time and issue”.