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Day 21 – Q 5.The emergency declared in 1975 is considered to be a black chapter in India’s democratic political history. However, it served as a shock therapy for a young nation and paved the way for a series of constitutional measures and judicial pronouncements that would go a long way in strengthening democracy. Comment.

5. The emergency declared in 1975 is considered to be a black chapter in India’s democratic political history. However, it served as a shock therapy for a young nation and paved the way for a series of constitutional measures and judicial pronouncements that would go a long way in strengthening democracy. Comment.  

1975 में घोषित आपातकाल को भारत के लोकतांत्रिक राजनीतिक इतिहास में एक काला अध्याय माना जाता है। हालांकि, इसने एक युवा राष्ट्र के लिए एक शॉक थेरेपी के रूप में कार्य किया और संवैधानिक उपायों और न्यायिक घोषणाओं की एक श्रृंखला के लिए मार्ग प्रशस्त किया जो लोकतंत्र को मजबूत करने में एक लंबा रास्ता तय करेंगे। टिप्पणी करें।


The emergency was declared by the Indira Gandhi government in 1975 and was in place for 21 months. Threat to national security and bad economic conditions were cited as reasons for the declaration. Considering it as a black chapter, a famous historian Coomi Kapoor noted “The number of those in Indira Gandhi’s prisons during the Emergency far exceeded the total number jailed during the 1942 Quit India”.


Reasons for emergency declaration:

  • Economic issues: 
    • India support to Bangladesh’s liberation caused serious repercussion on India’s foreign exchange reserves
    • Consecutive monsoon failure in 1972 & 73 affected India food grains availability and fueled prices.
    • Large scale unemployment and economic recession led to industrial unrest and wave of strikes in different parts of country which culminated in All India railway strike in May 1974.
  • Executive tussle with Judiciary:
    • Union government under the leadership of Indira Gandhi amended the constitution in the Parliament that it can abridge Fundamental rights while giving effect to DPSPs. But, Later, In Kesavananda Bharti Case, the Apex Court ruled that there are some basic features of the constitution, which can’t be amended.
    • Furious with SC judgment, Union Government changed the long-term precedence of appointing senior most judges in SC as Chief Justice.
    • Allahabad HC, while hearing the plea of socialist leader Raj Narain on the validity of victory of Indira to Lok Sabha ruled in the his favour and set aside her victory and ruled her election invalid on the grounds of abuse of power. 
  • JP Movement: 
    • The students of Gujarat protested immensely in 1974 against the rise in prices of food-grain, cooking oil & other essential commodities, later joined by the political parties too
    • Inspired by the efforts and success by Gujarat student’s movement, similar agitation was initiated in Bihar by students in March 1974.
    • JP Narayan gave a call for “Sampooran Kranti” (Total Revolution) against the immense corruption, to defend democracy from authorization personality of Indira Gandhi.

Black Chapter in India’s democratic history:

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

  • Electricity of the newspaper houses got disconnected, leaders of opposition parties were arrested.
  • Government curtailed the freedom of press via “Press censorship” and made it mandatory to get its approval before publishing it.
  • Protests, strikes and public agitations were not allowed.
  • Fundamental right of constitutional remedies to move the court for restoring their FRs got suspended.
  • Religious and cultural organization like RSS, Jamait-E-Islami was banned on the apprehension of disturbance to social and communal harmony.
  • Government misused the provision of preventive detention, arrested the political workers of opposition parties.
  • Torture and custodial deaths occurred during Emergency, arbitrary relocation of poor people, imposition of compulsory sterilization to control population.

The power misused came as a wakeup call for the entire nation and consequent steps were taken to amend the constitution (44th constitutional amendment) to take safeguards against misuse of powers:

  • Ground for Emergency declaration: the word ‘internal disturbance’ was replaced by ‘armed rebellion’ in respect of national emergency.
  • Made the president to declare a national emergency only on the written recommendation of the cabinet.
  • Empowered the president to send back once, the advice of the cabinet for reconsideration.
  • Provided that the fundamental rights guaranteed by article 20 and 21 cannot be suspended even during emergency.
  • Gave constitutional protection to publication in newspaper of true reports of the proceedings of parliament and state legislatures.

Further, it was the supreme court decision which upheld that government can arrest any person or even take extreme steps under emergency, it is legal and no relief is available. However, the judiciary leant it lessons and consequently passed several judgements to uphold democracy.

  • the Supreme Court has thereafter enlarged the concept and the application of Article 21 well beyond what was ever contemplated by the framers of the constitution
  • The supreme court expressed its view on ADM Jabalpur judgement to be violative of fundamental rights in Ram deo Chauhan case.
  • The supreme court strengthened the concept of Basic structure which was reiterated in cases like Minerva mills.
  • The judiciary in later judgements evolved the collegium system for appointments of the judges to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
  • To uphold the democratic rights of the citizens, it also invented tools like Public interest litigation in 1980.


The 1975 emergency is viewed as the darkest phase in the democratic history of India. But it also reminded the absolute powers vested in the government in emergency situation. The consequent defeat of congress illustrated that it is the citizens who are the ultimate deciders of democratic fate in India. It also helped in perfecting the Indian democratic setup to restore the people’s faith in democracy.

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