Emergency in India

Emergency in India
The present young generation need to know what exactly happened during Emergency and how citizen’s fundamental rights were suspended. Proclamation of Emergency resulted in the darkest chapter of India’s post independence period.
 Let us recall the situation at that time. The country was at a high after 1971 war and liberation of Bangladesh. Mrs Indira Gandhi’s reputation soared. However, by 1975 Indian economy was in a bad shape partly resulting from 1973 oil price rise and partly due to misgovernance. Mrs Gandhi was unseated from Parliament for misuse of official machinery in election by Judge Jag Mohan Lal Sinha of Allahabad High Court on June 12th 1975 in a ruling on petition by irrepressible Raj Narain supported by eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan. She was also debarred from contesting elections for 6 years. Indira Gandhi challenged the High Court's decision in the Supreme Court. Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer  upheld the High Court judgement on 24 June 1975 and ordered all privileges Gandhi  received as an MP be stopped, and that she be debarred from voting.
At this juncture (within 13 days of Allahabad High Court Judgement), Emergency was proclaimed on 26th June 1975 which lasted till 21st March 1977. The order was signed by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed for “internal disturbance”.
Six fundamental rights recognised by  our constitution are:
1. Right to equality, including equality before law, no discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment.
2. Right to freedom which includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation.
3. Right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings.
4. Right to freedom of religion, including freedom of  conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs.
5. Cultural and Educational rights - preserving Right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
6. Right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
Right to property was originally a fundamental right, but under 44th Amendment Act, right to property ceased to be a Fundamental right. Instead the right to property is mentioned under 300A of Indian Constitution, stating that no person can be deprived of his property save by law.
Above fundamental rights, which we take for granted was suspended. The author would like to recall what it was like  in those days. We need to ask ourselves a few questions. Can it happen again ? Can we lose our independence again ?
Meek Submission
The country saw the entire official machinery meekly submitting to draconian orders without much resistance. Voice of press was muzzled by censorship. One newspaper (Indian Express on 28th June 1975) even kept their editorial blank as a protest  which was also not allowed to be repeated ! Several facilitators and proponents of Emergency are still out there in the public life- but rarely one refers to their deed. Such short is public memory or is it our large heartedness ?
This author recalls two incidents in Varanasi. One- while having dinner in a restaurant, the owner came and told us (then students) not to discuss politics citing fear that police in plainclothes would hear and arrest us. Second- the police visited our hostel in BHU accompanied by members of a particular political party. They mercilessly beat up targeted individuals of rival political party .
Thousands of people were arrested and put in jail without any legal remedy available. The list of detainees reads like Who is Who of our nation- several of them subsequently became Prime Ministers .
Role of Judiciary
Our judiciary’s role also needs mention.  The 1976 ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla case,  known as the habeas corpus case, Justices Bhagwati, A N Ray, Y V Chandrachud and M H Beg agreed with the then  government that even the right to life stood abrogated during the Emergency. Justice H R Khanna,  on that bench dissented with the majority view arguing that the Constitution didn't permit the Right to Life and Liberty to be subject to any executive decree. This was to cost him the job of CJI. The verdict constitutes one of the darkest chapters in the history of the court as it struck at the very heart of fundamental rights.
Mr Dev Kant Borooah , Congress President at the time went to the extent of declaring- Indira is India and India is Indira ! Another  loyalist of Mrs Gandhi declared- Emergency had been "proclaimed to save the country". Mr Vidya Charan  Shukla, Information and Broadcasting Minister  imposed Press censorship with an unnatural zeal, cutting electric supply to presses and monitoring almost every story printed.  Shukla banned songs of Kishore Kumar from AIR and Doordarshan from May 4, 1976 till the end of the Emergency because Kishore Kumar had refused to sing at a Congress rally in Mumbai.
Other accomplished sycophants created an aura of misleading beliefs for the ruling dispensation who could not see the reality.
Extra Constitutional Authority
During the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi had immense clout – going around giving orders and people in power would prostrate when asked to bend ! All that without his holding any office.
Claims of Benefit of Emergency
It was frequently claimed that the nation became disciplined, trains were running on time, etc.. For some this was worth losing democracy !
Several business house declared support for Emergency in the name of discipline. They were happy since protests could not take place thereby scuttling trade union activity.
Why Now
This author felt compelled to write this since he found many youngsters to be ignorant of this dark period of post independent India. Lessons of Emergency should be remembered. Volumes have been written on Emergency by several eminent persons. Specifically, I  would like to mention two books - “ The Judgement” by Kuldip Nayar and “All the Prime Minister’s Men” by Janardan Thakur.
In a couple of days it will be 39 years since when Emergency was imposed. Can it happen again ? What can we do to prevent its recurrence.
I leave it at this.   

More By  :  Navin Chandra Mishra

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  • Comments: 8

Comments on this Blog

Comment I could inderstand why the word "emergency" is so hated..!!

Rakesh Ranjan Pandey
31-Mar-2018 05:03 AM

Comment Navin It's a very informative article about emergency. The young generation has to understand the importance of democracy and how to protect it. I find that many youngsters have a very apathetic attitude towards democracy and the electoral process. They must understand that they are part of that small population of the world which enjoys democracy and the electoral process. No matter which party one likes or does not like any party, he or she must vote. That is the only way democracy can be protected. Thank you for writing this. Arun

Arun Sharma
03-Jul-2014 21:54 PM

Comment This article is really insightful and throws light on various historical aspects which our generation was ignorant upon.

Nimesh Sinha
25-Jun-2014 03:19 AM

Comment Sir, political scientist, if called upon, will only research; and if they propound something, it is up to the population at large to accept and follow the principles. India is a linguistic federal country. It has still a hierarchical caste based society. Every State, every community unabashedly want to have pounds of flesh in return for adult franchise. In office appointments people with impunity resort to regionalism. In daily work, nepotism is given a free play over professionalism. As a result, over a period of time, systems break down. Democracy which promotes a system akin to Lowest Common Multiplier (LCM) of Mathematics frustrate the polity. An emergency like situation arises. Until and unless people change their character for the better, our socio-politics will not improve. Long back, I have felt many Indians speak something, do something else, may be their personal belief is very niche, but they want to show to the world a completely different image of themselves. In short, they are cowards, or may be it is their survival instinct. That is OK. But nothing great can be achieved in such a scenario. As a result, socio-political emergencies will keep on cropping up, even if emergency is never declared again.

Sharbaaniranjan Kundu
25-Jun-2014 00:38 AM

Comment Mr Kundu, somewhere I feel the checks and balances system (which is inherent part of any democratic set-up) failed. Political scientists need to identify those root cause(s).

24-Jun-2014 11:01 AM

Comment Thank you Sir. We have heard a little about it but this article gives a brief and very useful information. Today it looks more relevant. Perhaps we are witnessing the making of a new Indira Gandhi. As dominant as her and gaining political strength gradually. Though the previous experience has vaccinated Indian democracy up to some extent.

Rakesh Kumar Singh
24-Jun-2014 06:36 AM

Comment Thank you, Sir for briefing Emergeny in india,which may not aware our generation about this fact.

Rohit Chaudhary
24-Jun-2014 00:34 AM

Comment Thank you, Navin Chandra Mishraji for writing an excellent brief piece on Emergency in India. Many nations went through such periods in their history. That India too had to have such a period in its modern history is a lesson to be learnt. Actually, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. If India should avoid a repeat of the period of Emergency, Indians would have to a responsible set of people. People would have to be self-disciplined instead of formulation of laws and acts. If adult citizens love their country and fellow citizens, children will naturally inculcate good habits and the country will progress in a healthy manner. The industrialists should be less greedy, politicians should work more for the country and its people rather than work for snatching political power by resorting to vilification of their political opponents, and an average citizen should take pride in following rules and the profession they are engaged in. In short, everybody should remember the adage: The price one has to pay for democracy is eternal vigilance. Thank you, Mishraji once again for pointing the ills of the Emergency we went through so that such a period never returns to India again.

Sharbaaniranjan Kundu
23-Jun-2014 15:09 PM

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