National Emergency 1975

National Emergency 1975

The emergency was declared in 1975 by the government of Indira Gandhi and was in effect for 21 months. The reasons for the declaration were cited as risks to national security and poor economic conditions. "A renowned historian Coomi Kapoor observed, considering it as a black chapter," The number of those in Indira Gandhi's prisons during the Emergency far exceeded the total number imprisoned during the Quit India Movement of 1942."



In January 1974, a youth and students' movement called the Nav Nirman movement began in Gujarat, aimed at removing Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel for leading a "corrupt and inept" administration. Morarji Desai, a veteran leader who had lost the race for Prime Minister twice to Indira Gandhi, saw this as an opportunity to further his political aspirations and joined the movement. Around the same time, there was also an agitation in Bihar led by Jayaprakash Narayan, a former associate of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, for his "Total Revolution" movement.

JP initiated a nationwide agitation, beginning with Bihar, and asked students to boycott their classes and campaign for his movement. He called on all opposition parties to join his movement, including Jan Sangh and the Communists. JP's primary mission was to "throw out Mrs Gandhi's government" and create a "partyless democracy" after crushing Congress.

On February 15, 1975, JP addressed government employees and urged the Army and police not to follow "illegal" orders. Morarji Desai began a "fast to death" on March 11, in Gujarat, demanding the dismissal of the state government and new elections. Under pressure, Mrs Gandhi dissolved the Assembly and held fresh elections in June. The five-party alliance of JP and Morarji Desai defeated Congress badly.

However, on June 12, 1975, the same day, the news broke that an Allahabad high court judge had ruled that Indira Gandhi was guilty of electoral malpractice during the 1971 general election. The verdict invalidated the election of Mrs Gandhi as an MP and debarred her from holding an elective office for six years. This led to widespread protests across North India, with demands for Mrs. Gandhi to resign.

The order of Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha was open to appeal, and constitutional lawyer Nani Palkhivala appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court. On June 24, the holiday judge of the Supreme Court, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, permitted the Allahabad verdict to remain conditional. However, this only strengthened JP and Morarji Desai's demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister.

On June 25, Morarji Desai stated that they intended to overthrow Mrs Gandhi and compel her to resign, stating that the lady would not survive their campaign and that thousands would surround her house to stop her from leaving. Both JP and Morarji Desai had set aside their Gandhian values to remove an elected Prime Minister, ignoring even the Supreme Court.

These circumstances led Mrs Gandhi to impose an emergency on June 26, 1975.


Economic Issues:

  • India's support for the independence of Bangladesh has had a serious effect on India's foreign reserves.
  • In 1972 & 73, consequent monsoon failure affected the availability of food and fuel prices in India.
  • Large-scale unemployment and economic contraction resulted in industrial strife and strike waves in various parts of the country, culminating in the May 1974 - All India Railway Strike.


Judiciary's executive tussle:

  • The constitution was amended by the Union government under Indira Gandhi's leadership to allow it to abridge fundamental rights thus giving effect to DPSPs. But, later, the Supreme Court ruled in the Kesavananda Bharti case that certain fundamental features of the Constitution can not be amended.
  • Furious with the SC decision, the long-term precedence of naming most senior judges of the SC as Chief Justice was modified by the Union Government.
  • While hearing the plea of Socialist leader Raj Narain on the legitimacy of Indira's victory over Lok Sabha, Allahabad HC ruled in his favour set aside her victory and ruled her election invalid based on misuse of authority.

JP Movement:

  • In 1974, Gujarat students protested immensely against the increase in prices of food grains, cooking oil, and other basic commodities later joined by political parties.
  • Similar unrest was initiated in Bihar by students in March 1974, motivated by the efforts and progress of the Gujarat student movement.
  • JP Narayan called for "Sampooran Kranti" (Total Revolution) to protect democracy from the authorization of Indira Gandhi.



The union government misused its emergency powers and curbed the people, opposition parties, and the press' democratic rights.

  • Electricity was disconnected from the newspaper rooms, and leaders of opposition parties were arrested.
  • Via "Press Censorship," the government curtailed press freedom and made it necessary to receive permission before publishing it.
  • No marches, strikes, and public unrest were permitted.
  • The government misused the provision of preventive detention and imprisoned the opposition parties' political staff.
  • During the emergency, torture and custodial deaths occurred, forced displacement of poor citizens, and compulsory sterilization was imposed for population control.



The Emergency Declaration highlighted the fault lines that can be manipulated to bring about an authoritarian rule in Indian democracy.

In 1976, during a time of internal emergency, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed, which strengthened the union executive and contributed to the further centralization of power.

There were four main purposes for this amendment:

  • Exclude the judiciary from election controversies entirely;
  • Strengthen the central government vis-à - vis the governments of states
  • To provide socially transformative legislation with full immunity from a judicial challenge;
  • To minimize judicial interventions in legislative matters. The amendments could not be challenged on any basis in any court; and there should be no restriction on the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution 'by way of extension, variation, or repeal.'


The 44th Constitutional Amendment Act introduced significant changes to protect against the misuse of emergency provisions. These changes include:

- Under Article 74(1), the President can ask the Council of Ministers to review their advice, but the President must follow the advice given after the review.
- Article 226 was amended to restore the power of High Courts to issue writs on matters other than the protection of fundamental rights.
- Article 352 was amended to specify that an emergency can only be declared in case of war, external invasion, or armed rebellion that threatens India's or any of its territories' security. Internal disturbance that doesn't amount to armed rebellion cannot be a basis for an emergency proclamation.
- The Cabinet must convey in writing to the President the decision to issue an emergency declaration.
- The emergency declaration must be approved by a resolution of both houses of Parliament within one month, and by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting in each house.
- The continuation of the emergency requires approval by resolution of both houses of Parliament every six months.
- The Lok Sabha can repeal the Emergency Proclamation by passing a resolution with a simple majority.
- A special meeting can be called to discuss a resolution disapproving of the proclamation if demanded by 10% or more Lok Sabha members.

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