Emergency In India : A Period of Democratic Eclipse

Emergency In India - The Data Tribune

इस लेख को हिंदी में पढ़ें


  • India moved ahead by 45 years from the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi on 25th of June 2020.
  • The Data Tribune is up with a complete story of the Emergency, along with it’s impact on the country.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Emergency in Indian Constitution?
    1. National Emergency 
    2. Failure of Constitutional Machinery in States
    3. Financial Emergency
  3. What Happened in 1975?
  4. Incidents which led India to the Emergency
  5. Outcomes of the Emergency
  6. Facts Justified by the Data
    1. GDP
    2. Population 
    3. Poverty Rate
    4. Literacy Rate
  7. Endnote

1. Introduction

The Emergency of 1975-1977 is considered as one of the darkest days of independent India, when the Emergency imprisoned Democracy. A series of events started when a letter was sent to the President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The letter suggested him to proclaim Emergency in the name of ‘internal disturbances’. 

2. What is Emergency in Indian Constitution?

Emergency is an unexpectedly emerging condition that calls for immediate action by the public authority under the rights provided to them. Emergency laws of India are defined in a manner that the constitution itself allows the federal government to acquire the strength of unitary government when the situation arises. And there are three conditions for Indian Emergency named:

1. National Emergency

National Emergency is defined in Article 352 of Indian Constitution. It is forced whereby there is a grave danger to the security of India or any of its region like:

  • War
  • External Aggression
  • Armed Rebellion

2. Failure of Constitutional Machinery in States

Article 256 of Indian Constitution talks about lockdown during Failure of constitutional machinery in states. It is also known as President’s rule. If any report satisfies the President that the government can’t work in accordance with the constitutional provisions then, he may issue a State emergency.

3. Financial Emergency

The president under, Article 360 of the Indian constitution has the ability to announce Financial Emergency in case he is thinks that the financial stability of India or any piece of its region is undermined.

3. What Happened in 1975?

This is a story of the one of the darkest time periods of the Indian Democracy. This Emergency was proclaimed by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 on the night of 25th June. The Democracy which was gained after a long period of struggle, lost its basic frame in just a night. The Emergency was deployed by the President on the suggestion of Mrs. Gandhi. After that, on the same night a speech was prepared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Chief Minister of Bengal Siddhartha Shankar Ray and President of Indian Congress Party Dev Kant Barooah. They were trying to figure out how to let the people know about the internal emergency. After that, a Cabinet meeting was fixed with 15 members to let them know that an Emergency had been proclaimed and some leaders were arrested. Siddhartha got to know from Home Minister Om Mehta that electricity supply had been disconnected for the press areas on the order of Sanjay Gandhi. And no newspapers will be published for the internal emergency and all high courts will be closed. He realized that Democracy is being exploited by the son of Indira Gandhi. After having a talk with Indira she comforts him that nothing will happen like that. The next morning the High Courts were open but only a few newspapers were published out. This meant that someone’s else was taking decisions behind the back of so called Iron Lady.

Sanjay also demanded to get approved all the news bulletins before their telecast. He also asked for a list of all the university lecturers and professors belonging to RSS.  Moreover, the moment when Indira Gandhi supported his son and wanted a secretary who might  present all news to the PM house before telecast, it was clear who was ruling. Ultimately, people came to know about the Emergency at 8 am on 26th June 1975.  Indira’s speech was released on radio. It was like:

“ The President has proclaimed an Internal Emergency. This is nothing to be panic about”.

She also claimed a person was provoking the troops against the government. That person was not an ordinary person, he was Jai Prakash Narayan an Indian Independence activist also known as “Hero of Quit India Movement” of 1942. 

As the constitution demands, Mrs Gandhi repeatedly urged the President to increase the duration of the Emergency after every six months until she decided to remove it in 1977. This dark time lasted till 21st March 1977, when Emergency was withdrawn. 

4. Incidents Which led India to the Emergency

There were a series of incidents which led to the Emergency. Any  Emergency according to the conditions as per the Indian Constitution’s Articles is digestible. But the motive of the Emergency of 1975, was all seen to be different rather than the Act. 

Starting from 1971, “Garibi Hatao” slogan of Indira Gandhi affected the citizens positively. As a result, she defeated the opposition party for more than 1 lakh votes, and victory of India against Pakistan in the same year became the norm for her growing fame. She was on a hike of fame in politics. In between these, a Indian freedom fighter and politician Raj Narain filed a case for electoral malpractice against the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Supreme court also strongly criticized her two opinions that were:

  • She took 14 private banks under government. 
  • She opposed the allowance of the old king’s pension.

This opposition of the Supreme court hurted Indira’s ego strongly,  and this was the cause for disputes between the parliament and justice. In response Indira decided to amend the justice and constitution for her favor and the result was Article 24 and Article 25. 

On 5th November 1971, Article 24 was announced, which claimed that the parliament can change any part of the constitution. It didn’t matter if the basic frame of the constitution was paid for. In april 1972, Article 25 was amended, which was used to alter the cases like Bank Nationalization in which Indira was defeated. But, Keshwa Nand Bharti Case overruled her decision. Continued criticism of the judiciary bothered her and she took a decision for a committed judiciary. After the final statement of Keshwa Nand Bharti case, Chief Justice of Supreme court Sarva Mittra Sikri got retired. And the new Judge was A.N Ray, appointed by superseding three major judges as per the law.

In 1972, she destroyed Vidhan Sabha of some Indian states like Bihar, Punjab and Haryana before the time. Outcome for the election of 1972 was in favor of Congress Party for all states except Tamil Nadu. With advancement in her politics a case was proceeding against her in Allahabad High Court which was filed by Raj Narain. 

In 1975 on 28 March a Prime Minister was presented in court. She was questioned for 5 hours and realized that situations were going against her. On 23 May Justice for her electoral malpractice was reserved in Allahabad High court. Finally, on one side, on 12th of June the statement was delivered. Indira’s rights to compete in elections were dismissed for six years. 

On the other hand, a movement was led by Jai Prakash Narayan at Ram Leela maidan in Delhi followed by around 5 lakhs people. She felt that all doors were closed for her ruling. She was left with no option. And the only thing which was getting affected by these all situations was the politics of the Congress party. And to control this disturbance, she decided to proclaim Emergency under Article 352. And on the same night of 25th June, a letter was sent to the President which demanded to proclaim Emergency.

The next section is talks about what happened post Emergency.

5. Outcomes of the Emergency

With the proclamation of Emergency, a lot of things including democracy, the constitution was totally changed in just one night. Congress could rule for any period without any restrictions. Elections for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha were also not required. Media and Newspapers were not independent to read and write according to their will. And parliament was able to pass any law on their majority basis. A secular constitution which gave it a special identity was also lost. Decisions were taken only for the majority. Article 19, Article 21 which claim Rights to Freedom and Protection of life and personal liberty respectively were also dismissed. The  nation was polarized into part. One part was revolving around power and the other one wanted to safeguard truth and democracy. Indira and Sanjay Gandhi led one part and the other was Jai Prakash Narayan who was the voice of citizens’ souls who opposed the Congress family. 

After that night many opposing leaders were arrested including Jai Prakash Narayan. And some judges and Ministers resigned who did not accept the decision of parliament. Many strongly opposed the parliament while few of them were in support. Resultly, many questions started to rise like-

Who was the main culprit? Was it Sanjay Gandhi, or Indira Gandhi, or those ministers who joined the meeting of cabinet ministers, listened to Indira’s decision but they didn’t try to question her as per question hour, nor they resigned if it felt wrong? Or it was Jai Prakash Narayan who was provoking internal disturbance to safeguard democracy? Were those people right who wanted to silently maintain peace by crushing the democracy’s identity? Was that Emergency proclaimed to control internal disturbance or to continue the same ruling power?

Answers for these all questions were given by the public in 1977 when the emergency was withdrawn. And,  the answer was against the Congress party, against Indira Gandhi, against Sanjay Gandhi. They were defeated in the election. They were no more the ruling power.

In the next section we will try to validate the cons of emergency on the nation.

6. Facts Justified by the Data

There were twenty point economic development programs declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. Interestingly, Sanjay Gandhi declared his own 5 points program to improve the plights of backward communities. These 5 points program were:

  • Literacy
  • Family planning 
  • Abolition to dowry
  • Tree plantations 
  • Diffusion of casteism

In this section data are analyzed to understand the nation’s growth during the Emergency. The data used for graphs can be found at the official website of the worldbank

1. GDP

Gross Domestic Products is described by the total cost of goods and services produced in the given year. It gives information about the economic growth of a nation. In the graph given below GDP of India is plotted during the year 1960 to 1980.

As the motive is to figure out the growth rate of India during the Emergency. It can be clearly observed that GDP growth didn’t change much during 1975-77. The economy had a very bad impact of Emergency. 

2. Population 

One of the 5 points program declared by Sanjay Gandhi was to control population growth by family planning. 

Here, population data is visualized in order to understand the effect of this program. And the result can be seen in the  graph that the population was growing with the normal growth rate even in the Emergency. The government had failed to execute the plan.

3. Poverty Rate

“Garibi Hatao” slogan was used by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1971 during the election. So, data of poverty rate during the 1970s are plotted.

It is clearly observed in the graph that the poverty rate for head per count stubbornly increased after 1971. Indira’s promises to remove poverty didn’t yield till 1973. But positive signs were seen during 1973 to 1977 and the head-count index  graph declined sharply in the Emergency, number of people living under poverty decreased. Some people believe that the reason behind this decline was population control imposed by Indira, which is also disputed.

4. Literacy Rate

Literacy rate of a country gives a demographic figure of the citizens; how they are growing to contribute in the development of their country.

The graph is delivering very positive message. It implies that the literacy rate of India was not affected during the Emergency.

Overall it can be concluded that on one hand when Democracy was imprisoned in the Prime Minister’s residence,  literacy was growing with a good rate. It also suggests that more people were turning able to understand the steps taken by the government, and what Indira was trying to protect. It was also strengthening the cornerstone for today. It was leading India to a better future with a more improved constitution.

6. Endnotes

The story creates a haunted visual of Indian Emergency in 1975. The Emergency which was proclaimed to control internal disturbance of the nation, changed the frame of basic constitution. The judiciary system, which is a statute of justice and blind trust, was also corrupted. Some ministers, judges and media surrendered and saving their duties was not important to them. Some newspapers and media, who understand the duties, were restricted. Leaders, ministers, judges who questioned for the  truth were retired. People who sang the song of truth and justice were imprisoned. Citizens were deprived  of their  fundamental rights. Freedom was only for parliament, who were not answerable for their work and decisions. 

If Indira was right why did she sufficate all sources of the truth and justice? Why did she deprived the citizens from their support systems like judiciary, newspaper, media, which restricted independence? Only one word is defining this kind emergency rather than justice, that is “Democratic Eclipse”. An eclipse of democracy which deprived the people from democratic constitution. And it assassinated the emotions which arise with the name of democracy.

Published by Neetu Kumari

Neetu Kumari is a Data Journalist. She is a CS Major from BHU. Telling story with data is her passion.

2 thoughts on “Emergency In India : A Period of Democratic Eclipse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: