Fali S Nariman, while delivering the first Justice VR Krishna Iyer lecture, cited the famous Raj Narain case, in which Nani Palkhiwala’s arguments for Mrs Indira Gandhi were rejected by Justice Krishna Iyer.
According to Fali S Nariman, “Justice VR Krishna Iyer was the notified Vacation Judge during the Court’s Summer Vacation of 1975. On 12th June 1975, Mrs Indira Gandhi’s election to the fifth Lok Sabha had been set aside by the Allahabad High Court based on the petition filed against her by Raj Narain. The High Court Judge ruled that she had forfeited her seat in the Lok Saba due to proven corrupt practice.
The eminent Nani Palkhivala represented Mrs Gandhi in court and he sought an absolute stay of the judgment and order. Further, Mrs Gandhi’s legal advisers led her to believe that it is her right as Prime Minister to obtain an absolute stay.
As the Supreme Court was in vacation, the Vacation Judge Krishna Iyer heard the entire matter and after hearing the great lawyer’s threat of what the people of the country might do if an absolute stay was not granted, Justice Krishna Iyer stated that he was not convinced by the arguments of Palkhiwala. The following day, Justice Krishna Iyer gave reasons why he granted only a conditional stay.
Fali S Nariman reveals, “I often pulled his (Krishna Iyer) leg to tell him that it was his order in Raj Narain’s case that brought about the internal Emergency of June 1975. It is you (Krishna Iyer) – not Mrs Gandhi who was responsible for the Emergency of June 1975! He smiled, a little tickled by my impertinent left-handed compliment!”
Fali S Nariman quoted India’s constitutional historian H.M. Seervai (who had otherwise been very critical of Justice Iyer and many of his judgments) who stated:
“…the historian will say that the SC moved towards its finest hour,a day before the Proclamation of Emergency, when on 24th June, 1975, Krishna Iyer J., rejected an application made by Mrs Gandhi that the Allahabad HC’s order, finding her guilty of corrupt election practices and disqualifying her for six years , should be totally suspended…”
Summing up, Fali S Nariman recalled, “But then Krishna Iyer always did what he thought was right and never bothered about the consequences.”