Karnataka judge was a victim of Emergency

Karnataka judge was a victim of Emergency

A 1976 cable from the US Embassy in New Delhi noted that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had transferred a judge of the Karnataka High Court to Allahabad, only because he had held that L K Advani – then incarcerated in Bangalore Central Jail – could travel to Delhi to take oath as a Rajya Sabha member.

According to one of the 1.7 million cables released by Wikileaks last Monday, D M Chandrasekhar, then a judge of the Karnataka High Court, had told an US diplomat in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1976 that he was transferred to Allahabad because his decision on a petition filed by Advani had displeased the Indira Gandhi government, which wanted to make the judiciary “toothless.”

Advani – then a Jan Sangh leader – was lodged at Bangalore Central Jail under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha and needed to travel to Delhi to take oath. He was among the 29 MPs detained by the government after proclamation of Emergency. Chandrasekhar was one of the 16 judges who were transferred by the government at one go in 1976.

The erstwhile US Consul General in Bombay quoted him saying that most of the judges who were transferred paid the price for displeasing the Congress government with their judgments in politically sensitive cases.

The cable quoted him telling the US Consul General that the Indira Gandhi government had declared an “open war on the judiciary.” “He believes that the Indian judiciary will be in for a hard time for the next four or five years,” the US diplomat noted.  Chandrasekhar, however, returned to Bangalore a couple of years later and was the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court from March 1978 to September 1982.  Advani, now a BJP heavyweight, was arrested in Bangalore on June 26, 1975, the day the Indira Gandhi government declared Emergency across the nation. 

The cable, marked “confidential,” was purportedly sent by David Schneider, the erstwhile Deputy Chief of Mission in the American Embassy in New Delhi, to the US Department of State on July 2, 1976.

He forwarded a message from the US Consul General in Bombay who reported an informal chat with Chandrasekhar.  The judge had visited the Consul General to inquire about the status of his son’s visa application.

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