Emergency in India: Explanation of Article 352 - 360 under the Constitution

The emergency was issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352(1) of the Constitution and lasted 21 long months beginning 25th June 1975 and going on until 21st March 1977. Here are some facts from the emergency period.

1974: A student agitation by the Bihar Chatra Sangharsh Samiti received the support of Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, referred to as JP, against the Bihar government.

Meanwhile, in Patna, JP called for “total revolution,” asking students, peasants, and labour unions to non-violently transform Indian society. He also demanded the dissolution of the state government, but this was not accepted by Centre.

Another significant movement was the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat, between December 1973 and March 1974.

The case that shook India

Raj Narain filed cases of election fraud and use of state machinery for election in the Allahabad High Court. He had been defeated in the 1971 parliamentary election by Indira Gandhi.

This was for the first time that a Prime Minister was cross-examined in the Court.

Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty and declared her election null and void and unseated her from her seat in the Lok Sabha.

ndira Gandhi challenged Allahabad High Court’s decision in the Apex Court.

Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, on 24 June 1975, upheld the High Court judgement and ordered all privileges Gandhi received as an MP be stopped, and that she be debarred from voting.

Internal disturbance

The goal of the 21-month-long Emergency in the country was to control “internal disturbance”.

Indira Gandhi justified her steps in terms of national interest, primarily based on three grounds.

India’s security and democracy, rapid economic development and upliftment of the underprivileged and intervention of powers from abroad which could destabilise and weaken India.

The censorship

The Gandhi Government laid out some rules for the journalists across the country and they were told about “guidelines” to follow.

All the newspapers in the country were asked to take permission before publishing any anything by the Press Advisor.

The opponents

Most of Gandhi’s political opponents were imprisoned.

One of them was a veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader, the then Janata Party leader LK Advani, who spent months in jail during the Emergency.

Later Advani addressed the media and said: “You were asked only to bend, but you crawled.”

Human rights violations

Several other human rights violations were reported from the time, including a forced mass-sterilization campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son.

The Emergency is one of the most controversial periods of independent India’s history.