National Emergency of 1975 in India - The Darkest Chapter of Indian Democracy
National Emergency of India, 1975 to 1977 remains to be the darkest chapter in the history of Indian Democracy where the rights of individuals were surrendered to the government and the ‘powerful’ courts remained mute spectators.
There were multiple cases of tug of war between Indira Gandhi and Indian Judiciary Golaknath case, Keshavanand Bharti case and Privy Purse case and the last nail in the coffin was inserted on 12th June 1975 when Allahabad High Court gave the judgement in the favour of Raj Narian and declared the election of Indira Gandhi from Allahabad Loksabha seat as unlawful and barred her from contesting in elections for 6 years. This case was later challenged in the Supreme Court of India. On 24th June, Justice Iyer gave his decision that Indira Gandhi can stay on the post of Prime Minister but she will not get the emoluments and she will not have the right to vote.
Provisions of emergency as per the constitution of India:-
1) National Emergency (Article 352) – War, External aggression, armed rebellion(earlier internal disturbance or imminent threat of any of the three(Judicial Review is applicable *Minerva Mills Case 1980)
2) President’s Rule (Article 356) – On the ground of failure of constitutional machinery
or Failure to comply with centres direction(365) (Important for people thinking that states cannot be forced to comply with Union Government’s order)
3) Financial Emergency (Article 360) – Threat to financial stability or credit of India
There were other very important events happening simultaneously and one of which was given as the reason for imposing the emergency by Indira Gandhi. Some important ones were Gujrat Nav Nirman Andolan, Bihar Student Movement lead by Jayaprakash Narayan. It shall be noted here that this JP movement and Gujrat Navniramn Andolan gave us many politicians including but not limited to current Prime minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah(Gujrat Navnirman Andolan) and Nitish Kumar(current chief minister), Lalu Yadav( former chief minister and a convicted criminal).
Before this National Emergency was proclaimed twice in 1962 to 1968(proclaimed during Indo-China and continued till Indo-Pak war) and 1971 during Indo-Pak war(also called Bangladesh Liberation War). These two were quite justified and were proclaimed on the grounds of external aggression or war.
But on 26th June 1975, Indira Gandhi asked then-President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed to proclaim it for saving her political career. Indira Gandhi said that “EK JANA(referring to Jaiprakash Narayan) IS HAD TAK GAYA KI AGAR KOI FAUJI KISI HUKAM KO GALAT SAMJHE TO NA MANE” referring it as if Army was being provoked for Armed rebellion which amounts to internal disturbance and this what became the official reason for the proclamation of Nation Emergency which continued for almost two years starting from 26th June 1975 to 21st March 1977.
All the opposition leaders were arrested and various constitution amendments including the 39th constitutional amendment which inserted Article 329(a) and tried to limit the power of the judiciary by keeping the elections out of the purview of judicial review(later struck down by the Supreme Court of India in Minerva Mills Case), the 42nd Constitutional amendment which is called mini-constitution because it amended almost every chapter on the constitution.
All the members of the opposition were arrested and put behind bars, all civil liberties were curtailed including the Fundamental Rights under Article 20(protection in respect for conviction of offences) and Article 21(protection of life and personal liberty). Later the Supreme Court of India gave the decision that these two rights including the right to freedom of expression(Article 19) cannot be curtailed if the emergency is proclaimed on the grounds of armed rebellion. Turkman Gate firing on slum dweller, press censorship, subversion of Judiciary by making justice AN Ray Chief Justice of India(he was the only dissenting voice in Bank Nationalisation case) and forced sterilization campaigns.
Later in January 1977, it was announced that elections will be held in March and emergency will be revoked and it was revoked on March 21, 1977.