Emergency: The Darkest Vision Of Indian politics

Key takeaways

  • Introduction
  • What is an emergency under Indian Constitution
  • Twenty-one-month long emergency
  • Causes of emergency
  • Effects of emergency on common people
  • Conclusion


When the constitution of India was being drafted, India was going through a period of the stress-the country was divided into two, communal riots were taking place all around, and also there were problems concerning the merger with princely states. Keeping this in mind, the constitution-makers decided to provide the necessary authority to the central government, so that in an hour of emergency when the stability and security of the country are threatened by internal and external threats these provisions can be used to safeguard and protect the integrity, stability, and security of the country.

What is an Emergency under the Indian constitution?

An emergency can be described as an unforeseen combination of circumstances that threatens the peace and integrity of the state and calls for immediate action.

The Constitution of India talks about three types of emergencies-:

1. National Emergency which is given under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution.
National Emergency is applied when there is a grave threat to the security of India or any of its territories due to war, external aggression, or armed rebellion. Such, emergencies are imposed by the president based on a written request made by the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

2. State Emergency which is given under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution
This article talks about the failure of constitutional machinery in the state also known as the President's rule. If the president on governor's report or otherwise is satisfied that the situation that has arisen, that the government cannot be carried in accordance to the constitutional provision, then, he may issue state emergency.

3. Financial Emergency which is given under Article 360 of the Indian Constitution
The president under Article 360 of the constitution has the power to declare a financial emergency if he is satisfied that the financial stability or the credit of India or any part of its territory is threatened.

21-months long emergency in India

On 26 June 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a state of internal emergency or national emergency upon the aid and advice of former P.M Indira Gandhi which resulted in the election being suspended and civil liberties curbed.

As soon as the emergency was declared by the president, all the power was concentrated in the hands of the Union Government. The government had unlimited power and restricted the fundamental rights of the citizens during the period. The press was kept under duress. All newspapers were needed to take prior permission for the articles to be published. Moreover, the constitution was amended in an autocratic manner, particularly in the forty-second amendment as the government enjoyed a huge majority in parliament. Also in the background of the Allahabad High Court verdict, an amendment was made declaring that the elections of the president, prime minister, and vice-president could not be challenged in the court of law.

After 21 months, in January 1977, the government decided to hold an election in March 1977. Indira Gandhi was defeated from her constituency of Rai Bareli.

Causes of Emergency in India (1975-77)

Indira Gandhi, then, had emerged as a towering leader with tremendous popularity. That was also the period when party competition became bitter and polarized. During that time, one can also witnessed tensions in the relationship between the government and the judiciary. The Supreme Court found many initiatives of the government to be violative of the Constitution. The Congress party took the position that this stand of the Court was against principles of democracy and parliamentary supremacy. The Congress also alleged that the Court was a conservative institution and it was becoming an obstacle in the way of implementing pro-poor welfare programs. The parties opposed to Congress felt that politics was becoming too personalized and that governmental authority was being converted into personal authority. The split in the Congress had sharpened the divisions between Indira Gandhi and her opponents.

Following are several causes given for the emergency -:

• During the period of 1973-75, there was both internal and external political unrest against Indira Gandhi. Many of the congresses demanded a system that works more in a presidential manner for the party, where there will be directly elected executives.

• There were revolts and protests taking place against the government in Bihar and Gujarat which included students, labor organizations, peasants, unions, etc.

• Indira Gandhi was also found guilty and was charged for malpractice during the previous Lok Sabha seat elections by the Allahabad High Court.

• The government of Indira Gandhi claimed that the war between India and Pakistan along with the oil crisis in 1973 has drastically affected the Indian economy that resulted in the price rise of consumer goods. Apart from this, the government was facing many challenges to fight the effects of drought, and consequently, internal threats were rising from all over the country against the government due to elevation and starvation, and debt issues.

• The increasing labor population and unemployment generated fume and outrage all over the nation. The government claimed that the regular strikes and protests by the public have paralyzed the government and its economy.

On the account of all these factors, with the aid and advice of people close to her, Indira Gandhi took the drastic step of declaring an emergency.

Effect of emergency on common people

In a democratic country like India, emergency disrupts the basic principle on which the state machinery works. The proclamation of emergency drastically affects the fundamental rights of the people. The condition of emergency put the government in the dilemma of protecting its primary obligation of national security and equally important obligation of protecting the human rights of its citizens.

Fundamental Rights

Fundamental rights are the basic Human rights provided to the citizen of India under the Constitution of India. When there is an emergency going on, accordingly under Article 359 of the Indian Constitution, the president has the power to suspend all the fundamental rights under Part III of the Indian Constitution but after the forty-fourth amendment, it was made clear that Article 20 and Article 21 will not be suspended under the purview of the presidential order.

Other than this, all the proceedings pending in the court for enforcement of such rights are also suspended until the provisions of emergency are lifted.

In India, the period of emergency was the years of terror and dread which the citizens have to go through. People never saw something like that before; many were illegally detained and kept in jails for voicing their thoughts.

Press freedom took a dark turn

With freedom of speech being suspended as a fundamental right, press freedom is also snatched away during an emergency.

In 1975 after the declaration of emergency, the printing presses were raided and for the next two days, the newspapers went out of circulation. The Indira Gandhi government laid out rules that were needed to follow by the press all across the country and they were only supposed to assist the government. All the newspapers in the country were asked to take prior permission before any piece of news was published. Most of the mainstream media, newspapers, and magazines were under the wrath of emergency.

Many people were detained

During the emergency, no one was allowed to stand against the government or speak against the government rule. If anything of such sort took place, they were arrested and put in Jail. One such instance was when the Journalist Kuldeep Nayar was arrested by the police for protesting against the emergency with other scribes in Delhi.

Opposing party leaders were also fighting for the same cause across the country, one of them was a veteran of BJP, the then Janata Party leader L.K. Advani spent months in jail during the emergency.

Such drastic measures were taken all in the pretext of protecting the national interest of the country.


The emergency is considered to be one of the most darkest and controversial times in the history of Independent India. There is nothing that people didn't saw during the emergency. From the violation of Human rights to the shambolic forced mass-sterilization campaign headed by Sanjay Gandhi. Most of the political opponents were imprisoned and the press was censored. Everything was single-handedly in control of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This was the period when the opposite party thought that politics was becoming too personalized and the government authority was turned into the personal authority.


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