New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi, on March 23, joined the illustrious club of his grandmom Late Indira Gandhi.
On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices. The judge had declared the election verdict in the Rae Bareilly constituency “null and void”, and barred Indira from holding elected office for six years. While the charges of bribery were dismissed, the court found Indira guilty of misusing Government machinery.
The court order gave the then Congress (R) 20 days to make arrangements to replace Indira Gandhi in her official posts.
The verdict helped galvanise the Opposition political parties, who demanded that Indira Gandhi resign from office immediately. Jayaprakash Narayan, the leader of the Janata Morcha, a coalition of Opposition political parties, called for a campaign of civil disobedience to oust Indira’s Government. On June 25 1975, a State of emergency was declared by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, making Indira and her son Sanjay Gandhi all-powerful.
In 1978 during the Janata regime under Prime Minister Morarji Desai, the Lok Sabha expelled ‘former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’ from membership for having repeatedly committed breach of privilege and contempt of the House. She was also sentenced to jail. The historic decision awarding the unprecedented punishment came at the end of a 15-hour tumultuous debate spread over several sittings on December 20. The issue has been debated since December 8, 1978.
The motion to send Indira to prison and expel her was carried by 279 votes in favour and 138 against. Thirty-seven members abstained. The House also had resolved that her former aide, R K Dhawan, and former chief of the CBI, D Sen, be committed to jail.
Indira Gandhi’s jail term was to be effective till the prorogation of the session. This was the first time that a former Prime Minister had been imprisoned for breach of privilege and contempt of the House anywhere in the world, said a report. This is also the first time that a member of Parliament has been sentenced to jail by the House.
On May 7, 1981, the Lok Sabha rescinded the December 19, 1978 resolution moved the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, under which Indira Gandhi was expelled from the House and sent to prison.
The House adopted Congress-U member B R Bhagat’s motion, setting aside the findings of the 1978 Privileges Committee and the resolution of the House. Except for the DMK and the Muslim League, the entire Opposition had walked out against the ruling of the Speaker Balram Jakhar, who had overruled all the objections of the Opposition members that the motion could not be taken up under the Rules of the House.
Notably, besides B R Bhagat and seconder C T Dhandapani (DMK), those participating in the debate included Brahmananda Reddi, Mohan Lal Sukhadia, Ashok Sen, Jagannath Kaushal, Vithal Gadgil (all Congress-I), K Mayathevar (DMK), G M Banatwala (Muslim League) and Frank Anthony (Nominated).