Article 34 provides for the restrictions on fundamental rights while martial law is in force in any area within the territory of India. It empowers the Parliament to indemnify any government servant or any other person for any act done by him in connection with the maintenance or restoration of order in any area where martial law was in force. The Parliament can also validate any sentence passed, punishment inflicted, forfeiture ordered or other act done under martial law in such area.
The Act of Indemnity made by the Parliament cannot be challenged in any court on the ground of contravention of any of the fundamental rights.
The concept of martial law has been borrowed in India from the English common law. However, the expression ‘martial law’ has not been defined anywhere in the Constitution. Literally, it means ‘military rule’. It refers to a situation where civil administration is run by the military authorities according to their own rules and regulations framed outside the ordinary law. It thus imply the suspension of ordinary law and the government by military tribunals. It is different from the military law that is applicable to the armed forces.
There is also no specific or express provision in the Constitution that authorises the executive to declare martial law. However, it is implicit in Article 34 under which martial law can be declared in any area within the territory of India. The martial law is imposed under the extraordinary circumstances like war, invasion, insurrection, rebellion, riot or any violent resistance to law. Its justification is to repel force by force for maintaining or restoring order in the society.
During the operation of martial law, the military authorities are vested with abnormal powers to take all necessary steps. They impose restrictions and regulations on the rights of the civilians, can punish the civilians and even condemn them to death.
The Supreme Court held that the declaration of martial law does not ipso facto result in the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
The declaration of a martial law under Article 34 is different from the declaration of a national emergency under Article 352.