May 18, 2022
indira gandhi

Book Review: The case that shook India

If someone asks me to review this book in one line, I would tell that it is literally a ‘complete document’ of one of the most important cases of Indian history.

On that day, a lone judge, sitting in the High court, had pronounced a verdict, setting aside the election of the respondent on charge of the corrupt practices… what made the case unusual was the fact that the respondent here was no ordinary person. She was the prime minister of the country. The rumbling set off by the judgment had their culmination in the midnight coup of 26 June.

Two days ago, on the occasion of Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, I read an article in “Dainik Hindustan” Sunday editorial, in which chief editor of the newspaper wrote that Indira Gandhi achieved many great milestones as a prime minister, which a prime minister could only imagine to achieve but her term also got the biggest failure of Indian democracy and that was “Emergency”. With great achievements, Emergency was like a stain on the moon of Indira’s achievements.

We are reading the causes of emergency from the college time and one of the reasons which we read was the election case of Indira Gandhi and her opposite candidate “Raj Narayan”. Raj Narayan filed petition in the high court to set aside the election of Indira Gandhi from raibraily on account of corrupt practices.

Unfortunately or fortunately, High court declared Gandhi’s election void and also disqualified her from holding any public office for a period of six years. It was unfortunate because this was one of the reasons which led the country to its darkest era after independence and it was fortunate that despite all unbearable pressure, court pronounced decision against the prime minister which was also the bright sign of judicial independence in the country. The author also wrote about the amount of pressure on the high court judge. As per the book, People were also not thinking that court could hold void the election of a powerful prime minister of that time in the world. The high court judge also took care due to the pressure and asked his secretary not to disclose the outcome of the decision even to his wife.

He ‘disappeared’ inside his house, not showing his face even in his own verandah…. he did not receive any phone calls either. So from 28 May till 7 June, no one was able to meet him, not even his closest friend.

The judge was also tried to allure by the government. He was tried to believe that his name was considering for the elevation to supreme court. On the other hand, his secretary was too much troubled by CID and threatened by them.

We will come back in half an hour. You better tell us the judgment then, if you know what is good for you.

In the Allahabad high court and also supreme court, Shanti Bhushan was the lawyer of Raj Narayan and Bhushan’s son Prashant Bhushan also attended the court proceeding and made notes, these notes (mainly) resulted in the book “The Case that shook India”.

If someone asks me to review this book in one line, I would tell that it is literally a ‘complete document’ of one of the most important cases of Indian history.

It gives us detail from the initiation of the case in the high court to the decision of Supreme court. It contains the complete legal proceedings, the arguments of both parties on every issue, the surrounding circumstances, and depict the court room drama almost as harper lee depicted in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Read also- Book Analysis: To kill a Mockingbird

As in to kill the mockingbird, the whole county went to court room, in this case also, people were too excited to watch the proceeding of the case which was going to decide the fate of the most popular leader of till date. Author also mentioned this excitement of the people.

Although it was the largest court room of the supreme court, it could accommodate only 150 people. Hundreds of people jammed the corridors outside the courtroom in the hope that someone from inside might come out, giving them a chance to go in.”

Here It is notable that actual court room proceeding is different from cinematic depiction of court room drama. Cinematic court room drama either it was depicted in “The verdict” or “Pink” or “Section 375” or any other movie which claims to present court room drama, generally presents emotions and fight on the facts in the case rather than law.

But, this book presents actual court room drama which ofcourse is mainly contested on the question of laws. So, if you are under the impression that this book also presents the court room drama which you watched in movies or series, then you should update your knowledge.

This book contains the arguments of the brightest lawyers in legal history who presented their case to the brightest judges of Supreme court on the issue which was the reason for the darkest era of Indian Political History. So, you can assume the gravity and the level of arguments and wits in the case. One argument of Advocate Bhushan which I also like to mention-

That is exactly the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. In a dictatorship, the death of a leader plunges the country into a war of succession, but in a democracy, succession is always a smooth affair having no serious repercussion. This is because democracy envisages a government of laws and not of men.

Alice in wonderland was mentioned in the arguments two times and also the pretty face of American president Kennedy. Book claims that advocate Bhushan showed great strength in the case and even called the prime minister liar which was very much problematic to some persons.

There was a stir in the court. The prime minister had been called a liar by a Senior lawyer in the crowded court. The judge listened passively and attentively. He did not say a word.

This book is not written for people who are not from legal background, I also would not recommend it to the first year law students who did not read constitution and CPC and naïve to the subject of law. But this book could be best way to learn building of argument for law students and lawyers. It teaches many things about the questions of judges, ways to build contentions, to use right thing at right moment, terms and proceeding of the court.

In the end, it would be great to end this article with an argument of the advocate Bhushan.

Though a rich businessman has the glamour of money and a politician or a statesman has the glamour of office, a judge is the highest them all. A great judge lives in the hearts and minds of men. He lives in their hearts on account of his moral statute and in their minds of his intellectual stature.”

This article is written by Arshi hayat Gnagohi. She is a lawyer, blogger at ababeelfolks and writes on laws, culture, books, cinema, food and literature.

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