How many times National Emergency is declared in India? — Law Insider

Introduction

Emergency is a situation in the country which is due to the failure of the government system that calls for an immediate and strict action to be taken by the government officials so that the appropriate steps can be taken timely to tackle the situation of the country.

In the situation of emergency, the executive authorities take control over all the powers from decision making to implementing those decisions so that speedy remedies are provided for the situation which has arisen.

Makers of the constitution concerned about these situations adopted many provisions related to emergency in the country.

These provisions are necessary so that our country India can fight with all these circumstances and can properly handle these grievous situations.

While our country has adopted federal system of government as powers have been divided between center and the state but in the state of emergency India adopt Unitary form of government that is all powers of the government are with the Central Government.

Thus, this article deals with the situation of emergency, its meaning, who can proclaim emergency and many more things.

What is National Emergency?

Part XVIII of the constitution titled as “Emergency Provisions”. In this Article 352 defines National emergency that is “Emergency arising from a threat to the security of India.” Clause 1 of article 352 speaks about the expression “Proclamation of Emergency” or the term “Emergency”.

However, India is having parliamentary system the President could proclaim emergency only when advised by the Council of Ministers through the Prime Minister.

This provision was found to be power misused by the Prime Minister in 1975 when President was advised to proclaim emergency on the grounds of internal disturbances.

In order to minimize the abuse of powers of declaring emergency Article 352 was amended by the Constitution (44thAmendment) Act, 1978 which provided that “It is the President who can make a proclamation declaring emergency, only when he receives in writing the decision of the Union Cabinet to this effect.”

What are the Grounds for a Proclamation Declaring Emergency?

Before the amendment, Article 35(1) provides that the President could make Proclamation declaring Emergency on the grounds of threat to the security of India. The security might be threatened on the following grounds:

  • War, or
  • External Aggression, or
  • Internal disturbance

Internal disturbance cover a minor disturbance of law and order. So to exclude the proclamation of emergency on the grounds of internal disturbance of any nature the44 thAmendment has substituted the expression “Internal Disturbance” by the expression “Armed Rebellion”.

So after the amendment a proclamation of emergency may be issued on any of the following grounds:

The term war may mean the existence of violent struggle between two countries through the application of armed force. It is a contention between two or more states, through their armed forces. When there is a formal declaration of an attack from one country against another there exists “War” between them.

The expression “external aggression” has wide meaning. It covers unilateral attacks with force by one state against another state without formal declaration of war. Such unilateral acts of force so long as they are not answered by similar hostile acts by other side constitute external aggression.

In State of Rajasthan Vs Union of India AIR 1977 SC 1361 it was made that “ A Proclamation of emergency is undoubtedly amenable to judicial review though on the limited grounds that no satisfaction is required by Article 352 was arrived at by the President in law or that the satisfaction was absurd or perverse or mala fide or based on an extraneous or irrelevant ground”.

How many times has National Emergency been declared?

Till now, India has proclaimed 3 National Emergency from 1962–1977.

The first Emergency was declared during the Indo-China war in (26th October 1962 -10th January 1968) by President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The second Emergency was declared during the Indo-Pakistan war in (3rd December 1971–21st March 1977) by President VV Giri.

These 2 emergencies were imposed because of external aggression and war but in (25 Jun 1975–21 Mar 1977) by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed due to the clash among the Judiciary system and Legislative assembly of India. This phase of national emergency is often known as the darkest phase of Indian political history which changed the political system of Country.

During this time many political leaders who were against congress party were imprisoned including some generalists were also put behind the bars.

It is considered that it was due to the controversial circumstances of congress politicians when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and the goal of the 21-month-long Emergency in the country was to control “internal disturbance”.

The third emergency was not declared at right time and for not the right purpose as it was the darkest period in the India history. Many constitutional rights were suspended and freedom of speech and the press was withdrawn.

In 1971 Indira Gandhi defeated Raj Narain from the Rae Bareli constituency with the majority of winning 352 seats of the total 518 Lok Sabha seats. This victory changed the image of Indira Gandhi and she was to be known as “Iron Lady”. After getting defeated Raj Narain filed petition against Indira Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court for misusing the government machinery.

After Raj Narain filed the petition slogan ‘Indira Hatao’ (Remove Indira) was getting popular and voices started rising for the resignation of Indira Gandhi on moral grounds. As a reaction, to this slogan the Congress party sloganeered ‘India is Indira and Indira is India’. Moreover, another poem was also circulated by the party to get more public confidence in behalf of Indira Gandhi:

‘Indira tere subah ki jai, Indira tere sham ki jai, Indira tere kaam ki jai, Indira tere naam ki jai’

In his petition he mentioned that Congress party bribed the voters with money and liquor. This was the first time PM was examined in the court. Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty for misusing her governmental powers and also cancelled her election and declared it null and void and unseated her from her seat in the Lok Sabha.

On the advice of her son, Sanjay Gandhi appealed in Supreme Court against the decision of Allahabad High Court. Justice VR Krishna Iyer, partially putted the stay on Allahabad High Court’s order.

The Supreme Court allowed Gandhi to remain as the Prime Minister but she cannot take part in the meeting of Lok Sabha. After this decision of the Court protests and demonstrations began all over the country.[1]

Soon after this Indira Gandhi with the help and permission of President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared National Emergency on midnight of June 25.

What were the impacts of the emergency?

“The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about,” declared Indira Gandhi on All India Radio. From the announcement of emergency things were totally changed and India was facing Constitutional crisis. The freedom of the Press freedom was taken away. Constitution was amended, civil liberties were suspended.

During the emergency the press suffered a lot and everything which was published was according to the ruling party that was Congress.

Against these sufferings, The Indian Express started silent protest and carried a blank page instead of an editorial. On the other hand The Financial Express published Rabind ranath Tagore’s poem, “Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high”.

The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971, this law was mainly enforced to keep national security on the forefront and to counter with other threats to nation. This Act allowed the Indian law agencies to detain individuals and capture their properties without any warrants.

During the emergency this law was widely in power as it was used to take custody of all those persons who were against the ruling party or Indira Gandhi and lodge them in jail. Law enforcement agencies were given very broad powers of indefinite preventive detention and arrest without warrants and tapping.

Moreover, movies and artist were banned during the period of emergency like lyricist Gulzar’s movie titled Aandhi(1975) was banned, because it was believed that the movie is totally based on Indira Gandhi.

Another movie Kissa Kursi Ka (1977) of Amrit Nahata, in which Shabana Azmi played a role of ‘Janata’ (the public), a mute, dumb protagonist, was banned. Sanjay Gandhi son of Indira Gandhi burned all its prints and banners at his Maruti factory in Gurgaon.

But the emergency finally came to an end on January 23rd 1977. However, this decision was courageous, as she knew the fact that the whole country is against her and from now it would start a period of darkness for her. After revocation of emergency Mrs. Indira Gandhi called for national elections, in which the Janata Party was against her and finally Janata Party won the elections.

It was the first time in the Indian history that any non-congress government formed their party in India. Then in the Lok Sabha elections of 1977 Indira Gandhi was again defeated by Raj Narain. But Raj Narain didinot did not ruled for long period and his party short lived as Mrs. Gandhi fabulously came back in the year 1980.

What is the procedure to revoke the national emergency?

Article 352(2) and (7) studies about the revocation of proclamation of emergency

Before 44 thamendment a Proclamation of emergency once approved by both the houses could be revoked by the President by making a fresh proclamation. Thus the executive was the sole judge to decide as to when the proclamation should be revoked.

But after the amendment following important changes was made regarding the revocation of emergency:-

  • Proclamation of Emergency may be revoked by the President by making a subsequent proclamation. This provision was not changed.
  • It is now provided that the proclamation ceases to operate on the expiry of 6 months unless the continuance of proclamation for further period of 6 months has been approved by the house of parliament before the expiry of the earlier period of 6 months.

Constitution has provided some powers for the safety of citizens and country so that the peace and security should not be compromised in any situation. These powers are to maintain law and order all over the country so that one has to sacrifice their lives. To protect rights constitution has made these strict provisions.

But sometimes these powers have been exploited by politicians for their personal gains just like the national emergency in 1975. Many people have to face consequences many of them lost their lives, many politicians were putted behind the bars.

The power to proclaim emergency has been provided by the Constitution just to ensure safety and to maintain the peace that if any situation of crisis arises in the country these Constitutional provisions can act like some sought of relief and will also help the Government from taking quick actions.

But soon after the amendment the provisions were changed and new provisions were introduced like Internal Aggression was substituted by Armed rebellions. Revocation provisions were changed and even provisions related to declaration of emergency was amended.

So, the emergency of 1975 changed various provisions of constitution.

Reference-

  1. Why did former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi impose Emergency on June 25, 1975, available at: zeenews.india.com (Last visited July 5th 2021)
  2. Emergency in India: How the Press was affected in 1975–77, available at:
  3. timesnownews.com (Last visited July 5th 2021)

Originally published at https://www.lawinsider.in on July 6, 2021.

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