A Crisis of Democracy- Declaration of Emergency
Posted on 20 July, 2023 by EVELYN ELSA PHILIP
A Crisis of Democracy- Declaration of Emergency
Conflict with Judiciary
Since 1967, Indian politics had been in turmoil. Indira Gandhi had established herself as a formidable leader who enjoyed widespread acclaim. Additionally, this was the time when rivalries between parties turned sour and polarized. The relationship between the government and the judiciary also experienced tensions during this period. Numerous government initiatives were found to violate the Constitution by the Supreme Court. The Congress party argued that the Court's position went against democratic and parliamentary supremacy principles.
We may recall the well-known Kesavananda Bharati Case marked the crisis's zenith. In this instance, the Court decided that Parliament cannot change certain fundamental aspects of the Constitution. The tension between the executive and the judiciary was further exacerbated by two events. As a result, political ideologies and constitutional interpretations were rapidly mixing. The need for a judiciary and a bureaucracy "committed" to the executive and legislative visions began to be discussed by Prime Ministerial aides. The High Court's decision that Indira Gandhi's election was invalid was, of course, the confrontation's pinnacle.
Declaration of Emergency
Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha was declared invalid on June 12, 1975, by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court. Raj Narain, a socialist leader and a candidate who had run against her in 1971, filed an election petition for this order. The petition said that Indira Gandhi should not have been elected because she had used the help of government workers in her campaign. She was legally no longer an MP as a result of the High Court's decision, and as a result, she was out of the running to become Prime Minister unless she was re-elected as an MP within six months.
Crisis and response at this point, the stage was set for a significant political conflict. On June 25, 1975, a massive demonstration was organized in Delhi's Ramlila grounds by opposition political parties led by Jayaprakash Narayan, who demanded that Indira Gandhi step down.
The government invoked Article 352 of the Constitution when it declared on June 25, 1975, that there was a risk of internal unrest. This article allows the government to declare a state of emergency if there is a threat from the outside or a threat from within.The government decided that a serious crisis had developed, necessitating the declaration of a state of emergency. On the night of June 25, 1975, the Prime Minister advised President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare an emergency. He immediately issued the proclamation. The power to all of the major newspaper offices was cut off at midnight. A large number of opposition party workers and leaders were detained in the early morning. After everything had taken place, the Cabinet was informed about it at a special meeting on June 26 at 6 a.m.
What happens when emergency is declared
Our Constitution grants the government specific powers when an emergency is declared,
- The federal distribution of powers is effectively suspended and the union government is given complete control.
- Second during the emergency, the government has the authority to restrict any or all Fundamental Rights.
It is evident from the Constitution's wording that an emergency is regarded as a unique circumstance in which normal democratic politics cannot function. As a result, special authority is given to the government.
Consequences of emergency
- The agitation came to a sudden halt as a result of this;
- There were no strikes;
- Numerous opposition leaders were imprisoned; Despite being tense, the political situation became extremely quiet.
- The government decided to use its special powers under the Emergency Provisions to suspend press freedom.
- The Public agitations, strikes, and protests were also banned.
- Most importantly, citizens' fundamental rights were suspended as a result of the Emergency, including their ability to petition the Court for their rights to be restored.
- Preventive detention was frequently used by the government. People are arrested and held under this provision not because they have done anything wrong, but because they are worried that they might do something wrong.
On the regard of the Same I had an enriching time learning about the following information gathered under the guidance of Adv. Singh and Adv. Amogh Mund while interning at Singh’s law Office.
During the Emergency, the government made a lot of arrests using preventive detention acts. Habeas corpus petitions could not be used to challenge the arrest of political workers who were in custody. The government claimed that it was not even necessary to inform the arrested of the reasons and grounds for their arrest, despite the fact that numerous cases were filed by and on behalf of those arrested in the High Courts and Supreme Court. A number of high courts ruled that a person challenging their detention could file a writ of habeas corpus even after the emergency was declared. The Supreme Court's constitution bench accepted the government's plea in April 1976, overruling the High Courts. It meant that the government could deny citizens their right to life and liberty during an emergency.
- Lessons from the Emergency
The Emergency at once brought out both the strengths and weaknesses of India's democracy. As a result,
- Citizens were unable to access the judiciary, making this one of the Supreme Court's most contentious decisions.
- Even, though many observers believe that India lost its democratic character during the Emergency, it is notable that normal democratic processes quickly resumed.
- As a result, Emergency teaches us that it is extremely challenging to eradicate democracy in India.
- Second, it revealed some ambiguities regarding the Constitution's Emergency Provision, which have since been clarified. Now, an "internal" emergency can only be declared on the grounds of "armed rebellion," and the Council of Ministers must write a recommendation to the President to declare an emergency.
- Thirdly, everyone became more aware of how important civil liberties are during the Emergency. After the emergency, the courts have also taken an active role in safeguarding individuals' civil liberties. This is in response to the judiciary's inability to effectively safeguard civil liberties during the emergency. Following this experience, numerous organizations for civil liberties emerged.
- However, numerous issues have not been adequately addressed during the critical emergency years.
- The Shah Commission Report states that the administration and the police became susceptible to political pressure as a result of their transformation into political instruments for the ruling party. The Emergency did not resolve this issue.
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