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4 rules to remember:

  1. Democratic Mandate

  2. Centre is Stronger than the States (Hence, Hollow Candy)

  3. Separation of Powers (Inter and Intra separation)

  4. Checks and Balances

Breaking down the Basics

  • An exercise of Power Consolidation by the Centre under extraneous circumstances is an Emergency.



Points to Note:

  1. All emergencies are judicially revocable.

  2. No emergency leads to dissolution of Parliament.

  3. Except for State Emergency, no other Emergency leads to dissolution of State Legislature and Executive, and even that is on a case to case basis.

  4. State Emergency does not always lead to dissolution of State House.

  5. President has no discretionary powers with respect to Emergencies – bound by Cabinet advice.

  6. Temporary deletion of FR and Suspension of enforcement of FR are very different. All FRs except 20 and 21 may be deleted temporarily, but enforcement of all FRs, including Articles 20 and 21 may be temporarily suspended.


“The Emergency” in India was a period of 21 months during 1975 to 1977 declared by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi and officially issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution of India because of the prevailing “internal disturbances”. This gave the Prime Minister an authority to Rule by decree leading to suspension of elections and curbing of civil liberties.

Declaration of Emergency – Causes

  • In 1971, Indira Gandhi won the general elections from Rae Bareili with a huge majority defeating Socialist leader Raj Narain. He challenged her election alleging electoral malpractices and violation of the Representation of Peoples Act.

  • On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court, found Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractice and declared that her election was void. She was disqualified and barred from holding the post of Prime Minister for 6 months (State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Raj Narain).

  • Jayprakash Narayan, the leader of the Janata Party called for the ouster of the Government and launched the Sampoorna Kranti (Total Revolution) movement, calling upon the police and the military to disobey unconstitutional orders.

  • On June 24, 1975, the vacation bench of the Supreme Court granted a conditional stay on the Order of the High Court.

  • A few minutes before midnight on June 25, 1975, then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, without warning declared a National Emergency on the advice of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on grounds of prevailing “internal disturbances”.

Fallout – Reaction to and consequences of the declaration of Emergency

  • A national emergency was being declared in India for the third time, the first two times were during the wars with China and Pakistan in 1962 and 1971 respectively.

  • Immediately following the declaration of Emergency, all major opposition leaders, including Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Acharya Kriplani etc. were arrested. Congress leaders who opposed the Emergency were also arrested.

  • Civil liberties were severely curtailed. Most freedoms under Article 19 were restricted, or simply taken away. Freedom of Speech & Expression was possibly the gravest hit, with all publications by press and media requiring to be explicitly okayed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

  • The Maintenance of Internal Security Act 1971 (MISA) was amended through an ordinance and detention of any person who opposed the government was allowed without trial.
    MISA was a controversial law passed by the Indian parliament in 1971 giving the administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Indian law enforcement agencies very broad powers –
    indefinite preventive detention of individuals,
    search and seizure of property without warrants, and
    wiretapping in the quelling of civil and political disorder in India, as well as countering foreign-inspired sabotage, terrorism, subterfuge and threats to national security.

  • Over one lakh people were arrested under this Act. Among those arrested were Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Vijayaraje Scindia, Siddharamaiah and K Stalin.

  • The then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, introduced a 20-point programme for economic and social reform. Under this programme, she promised to:
    implement land reforms, abolish the practice of bonded labour (under which rural landlord-moneylenders tied poor and landless labourers to eternal bondage if they failed to pay off their debts), fix minimum wages for agricultural labourers, supply clothes to the poor, and increase job opportunities for educated young people, among other things.

In her speeches, Indira Gandhi asserted that it was to be able to implement this pro-poor programme that she had to impose the Emergency, so that the rich who opposed it could be suppressed. The programme was subsequently restructured in 1982 and again in 1986.

  • 26 political organizations, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-islami were banned.

Role of the RSS - RSS was seen close to opposition leaders, and with its large organisational base it was believed to have the potential of organizing protests against the Government. Police clamped down on the organization and thousands of its workers were imprisoned. The RSS defied the ban and thousands participated in Satyagraha (peaceful protests) against the ban and the curtailment of fundamental rights. The volunteers of the RSS also formed underground movements for the restoration of democracy. Literature that was censored in the media was clandestinely published and distributed on a large scale and funds were collected for the movement. They established networks between leaders of different political parties in the jail and outside for the co-ordination of the movement.

The Economist described the movement as "the only non-left revolutionary force in the world". It said that the movement was "dominated by tens of thousands of RSS cadres, though more and more young recruits are coming". Talking about its objectives it said "its platform at the moment has only one plank: to bring democracy back to India".

  • The Lok Sabha was extended by one year. A bill to extend the life of the Lok Sabha by one year was introduced in Parliament by Law Minister H.R. Gokhale. The bill was opposed by a section of the opposition.

  • Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi wielded extra-constitutional powers. In September 1976, Sanjay Gandhi initiated a widespread forceful sterilization programme to limit population growth. The campaign primarily involved getting males to undergo vasectomy. Quotas were set up that enthusiastic supporters and government officials worked hard to achieve. There were allegations of coercion of unwilling candidates too. In 1976–1977, the programme led to 8.3 million sterilizations, most of them forced, up from 2.7 million the previous year.

  • The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha for making the country socialist, secular and republic:
    - Known as mini constitution Act passed by the parliament on 11 November 1976
    - Three new words (socialist, secular and integrity) were added in the Preamble
    - Fundamental Duties by the citizens (new Part IV-A) was added

  • Non-Congress state governments were dismissed.

  • There were many instances of human rights violations in India. Curfews were imposed and the police detained people without trial.

  • In January 1977, Gandhi called for fresh elections though the Emergency officially ended on March 21, 1977. All political prisoners were released.

  • The people handed Gandhi and her party a very heavy defeat. Both Indira Gandhi and her son were defeated in the election.

  • The newly launched Janata Party won the election and the new government was headed by Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister. Desai was the first non-Congress PM of India.

Criticism of the Government

  • Detention of people by police without charge or notification of families.

  • Abuse and torture of detainees and political prisoners.

  • Use of public and private media institutions, like the national television network Doordarshan, for government propaganda.

  • Forced sterilization.

  • Destruction of the slum and low-income housing in the Turkmen Gate and Jama Masjid area of old Delhi.

  • Large-scale and illegal enactment of new laws (including modifications to the Constitution).

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