EMERGENCY OF 1975 : THE DARKEST YEARS OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY
Updated: Jan 10
By – Vishant Singh Kaurav
The Indian Constitution is not only the most comprehensive of all but is also paramount in the hands of the executive with respect to a plethora of powers enshrined in its text . In Indian constitution we have some emergency provisions from ARTICLE 352 TO ARTICLE 360 which is in part XVIII significantly describe about the need and purpose of an emergency . INDIA witnessed only THREE national emergency uptill now THE FAMOUS ONE was way back in 1975 during the tenure when Indira Gandhi was PM of INDIA.
THE PROCLAMATION OF 1975
The Indian Emergency of 26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 was a 21-month period, when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon request by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. It is one of the most controversial times in the history of independent India. Alok Narayan, a well-known scholar of law, called it one of India’s “blackest hours”
Raj Narain, a socialist who was defeated by Indira Gandhi in the Rae Bareilly parliamentary constituency of Uttar Pradesh, submitted to the Allahabad High Court charges of corruption in the election process against Mrs. Gandhi. On June 12th, 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court, found the Prime Minister guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign .
The court declared her election “null and void” and unseated her from the Lok Sabha. The court also banned her from contesting in any election for an additional six years. Some serious charges such as bribing voters and election malpractices were dropped and she was held guilty on comparatively less important charges
DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY
Justice Sinha stayed the operation of his judgment for 20 days allowing the Congress party to elect a successor to the Prime Minister. Unable to find a competent successor, Mrs. Gandhi, appealed for “complete and absolute” stay which would have permitted her to be the Prime Minister. Later, Justice Iyer granted Indira Gandhi “conditional stay”. This decision gave rise to outcries of opposition that she should resign. Mrs. Gandhi did not resign. On june 25th JP Narayan called for a civil disobedience campaign to force the resignation of the Prime Minister.
On June 26th more than hudred people were arrested who opposed mrs. Gandhi. Later, the State Emergency was declared. In her own words, Ms. Gandhi brought democracy “to a grinding halt”.
The emergency was declared under article 352, under which, the Courts may not inquire into the validity of the grounds upon which emergency was called. The powers given to the Central Government under this form of emergency virtually have no limits. As the constitution requires, Ms. Gandhi advised and President Ahmed approved the continuation of Emergency over every six-month period until her decision to hold elections in 1977.
The basis of the proclamation was “internal disturbance” and the two year period for which the emergency was in force saw innocent Indian citizens being jailed by draconian sedition laws i.e. section 124 of IPC . Even the Apex Court of the country could do nothing as the Executive had withdrawn all the fundamental rights for the time being. The non-existence of the intrinsic ‘right to life and personal liberty’ was shameful for the Indian judiciary and it failed to protect the citizens from unlawful detentions.
On 18 January 1977, Gandhi called fresh elections for March and released all political prisoners, though the Emergency officially ended on 23 March 1977. The opposition Janata movement’s campaign warned Indians that the elections might be their last chance to choose between “democracy and dictatorship.”
After-effects of emergency
After the emergency of 1975 amendment was made to the Constitution which brought the following changes
The president can proclaim emergency only on the advice of council of ministers and not prime minister alone.
The time period to approve the proclamation of an emergency was reduced to 1 month.
The proclamation of emergency after 1975 is to be approved by the special majority of the Parliament.
Six freedoms granted by article 19 and right to protection of life and liberty under article 21 cannot be curtailed when internal emergency is declared
Constitution was amended in 1977 to give power to the Parliament to withdraw the emergency by passing a motion to such an effort by a simple majority
Emergency period after 26 the June 1975 left it imprints through the 42 nd amendment of the constitution. Through this amendments many changes were brought to the Indian constitution in one single sweep. Most of these things were turned down by 44 the amendment by the Government formed after emergency by election in 1977.
“Democracy, beloved husband of Truth, loving father of Liberty, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26, 1975” – Times of India