Skand Nath
14 min readJun 14, 2021


An Emergency is “a sudden or unforeseen situation demanding immediate action.” It is a situation in which the head of the state assumes extraordinary powers. The President of India is empowered to declare emergency in the following situations:

  1. Emergency caused by war or external aggression or armed rebellion. This may be referred to “National or General Emergency”.( Article 352)
  2. Emergency on account of failure of Constitutional machinery in States.(Article 356)
  3. Emergency on the account of a threat to financial stability in India.( Article 360)

Under the advice of the cabinet of ministers and using the Constitution of India, the President can overrule many provisions of the constitution, which guarantee fundamental rights to the citizens of India and acts governing devolution of powers to the states which form the federation.


1. I.C. Golaknath and Ors. vs State of Punjab and Anrs. (1967)

The judgement reversed Supreme Court’s earlier decision which had upheld Parliament’s power to amend all parts of the Constitution, including Part III related to Fundamental Rights. The judgement left Parliament with no power to curtail Fundamental Rights.

Parliament passed the 24th Amendment in 1971 to abrogate the Supreme Court judgement. It amended the Constitution to provide expressly that Parliament has the power to amend any part of the Constitution including the provisions relating to Fundamental Rights. This was done by amending articles 13 and 368 to exclude amendments made under article 368, from article 13’s prohibition of any law abridging or taking away any of the Fundamental Rights.


2. Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973)

· The Supreme court in the longest case in the history of Judiciary with the largest bench of 13 Judges declared that Parliament cannot change the “basic structure” of the constitution.

· However the SC also ruled that Govt can change the fundamental rights but with some restrictions. Apparently a palliative for Indira. The judgement was given with a narrow 7–6 margin.

· This judgement ruled that Article 368 does not enable Parliament in its constituent capacity to delegate its function of amending the Constitution to another legislature or to itself in its ordinary legislative capacity. This ruling made all the deemed constitutional amendments stipulated under the legislative powers of the parliament as void and inconsistent after the 24th constitutional amendment.

· The government of Indira Gandhi did not take kindly to this implied restriction on its powers by the court. On 26 April 1973, Justice Ajit Nath Ray, who was among the dissenters, was promoted to Chief Justice of India superseding three senior Judges, Shelat, Grover and Hegde, which was unprecedented in Indian legal history.

  1. Strikes and uprising all over India

I. Nav Nirman Andolan

· The inflation rates increased under Indira Gandhi’s rule the vegetable which sold for ₹100 now started selling for ₹130.

· The mess charges of Ahmedabad L.D. Engineering College was increased leading to strike by the students.

· ‘Nav Nirman Andolan’ was started against Chiman Bhai Patel the then chief minister of Gujarat.

· The agitation increased in January and the army was called in to suppress the uprising and several rounds of bullets were fired on the strike. 100 people died, 3000 injured while 600 arrested causing Gujarat C.M. to resign.

II. Bihar Movement

· Taking example from Gujarat, student started strikes in Bihar. The turning point in this strike came when the police confronted the students and arrested them including the firebrand politician Lalu Prasad Yadav and put behind bars.

· According to Lalu Prasad Yadav before the strike started they went to Jayprakash Narayan to ask him how should they proceed and Jayprakash Narayan replied that violence should not be appreciated.

· Jayaprakash Narayan alias JP a retired Indian National Congress stalwart and a freedom fighter was angered by the arrests of the student protesters and the unjust rule that was being followed during Indira Gandhi’s leadership.

· Indira Gandhi wanted to amend the constitution and change the basic principles of the constitution.

· JP joined the protesters in demanding the resignation of the Bihar Chief Minister Abdul Ghafoor.

· On 8th April 1974 JP held The Bihar silent protest.

· On 5th June a historic rally with more than 4 lakh attendees was held in Patna where he called for ‘Sampurna Kranti’ or total revolution.

Jayprakash Narayan addressing the public in a rally

On 1st November 1974 JP met Indira Gandhi at her residence in the presence of home minister Om Mehta and Congress chief Devkant Barua. JP demanded the resignation of Abdul Ghafoor and re-elections along with nine other demands.

· On the same day Indira Gandhi addressed the public and made it clear that the Bihar CM won’t resign. She aimed a direct attack on JP stating that she would see them in the elections two years after and concluded may the best man win.

· JP was triggered by this speech and he addressed a rally in Patna on 4th November 1974 where he was beaten by the police in a lathi charge.

· On 19th November 1974 he again addressed a rally in Patna and said that Gandhiji was a freedom fighter who never wanted the chair of the prime minister, he wanted to make Indian National Congress “Swayamsevakon ki Jamaat”, a group of volunteers but Indira has made it into a gang of politicians and that she is not worthy of the surname “Gandhi”.

III. Railway Strike

George Fernandes initiated a rail strike and on 2nd May 1974, five thousand railway officers were arrested. This caused an industrial dispute to aggravate into a civil war like situation.

George Fernandes leading the Railway strike

4. State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narain

Raj Narain a politician who contested from Rae Bareli as an Samyukta Socialist Party Candidate in 1971 lost to Indira Gandhi by 100,000 votes. Narain filed a petition to appeal the verdict, alleging that Indira Gandhi used bribery, government machinery and resources to gain an unfair advantage in contesting the election. Narain specifically charged Gandhi of using government employees as election agents and of organising campaign activities in the constituency while still on the payroll of the government.

On 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices. Sinha declared the election verdict in the Rae Bareilly constituency “null and void”, and barred Gandhi from holding elected office for six years. While Sinha had dismissed charges of bribery, he had found Indira guilty of misusing government machinery as a government employee herself. The court order gave the Congress (R) twenty days to make arrangements to replace Gandhi in her official posts.


Justice Jagmohanlal’s verdict acted as the spark for the bomb called emergency to detonate. In order to retain her position as the prime minister Indira Gandhi brainstormed all night with her kitchen cabinet, a council consisting of all her close party members. Congress Cheif Devkant Barua suggested that he could be the the Prime minister for the time Indira is away from the chair and work under her guidance but Sanjay Gandhi, Indira’s son was not happy and he convinced Indira that Barua was trying to play smart . Sanjay Gandhi asked her not to give her resignation at any cost.

Justice Jaganmohanlal Sinha

The case went to Supreme Court where holiday was going on and the holiday judge V.R. Krishna Iyer gave the verdict on 24th June 1975. He said that Indira Gandhi would not be allowed to vote, she would not receive the emoluments given to a member of Parliament but she can remain in the seat of the Prime Minister.

The next day a rally was held by Jayprakash Narayan in the Ramlila Maidan of Delhi, all the opposition leaders were present there approximately five lakh people had taken part in the rally. That day Jayprakash Narayan had recited Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s famous poem “Singhasan khali karo ki Janta Aati hai” and in that same rally he had addressed the police and army and said “Cooperate with us in this movement. Do your duty too. Do as much as you can, but whatever is against your soul is against your conscience, is immoral, do not comply by that command. This was the order of Mahatma Gandhi in the era of British rule.” He also initiated a movement and said that from 29th they would crowd outside Indira Gandhis house and force her to resign and he himself would lead them.

That day itself Indira Gandhi went to the president Farukhuddin Ali Ahmed along with Siddharth Shankar Ray and convinced him that it is important to put national emergency She told him under which article can emergency be declared and the president agreed and asked her to send the draft for proclamation of emergency . Within three hours of their meeting the draft of the proclamation of emergency reached the president for his signature. As soon as he signed it the emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution because of the prevailing “internal disturbance”,was declared officially. Indira even did not consult with her cabinet and called for an emergency meeting in the morning next day and informed them about the same.

President Farukhuddin Ali Ahmed’s signed declaration of emergency


The same day the cabinet was called and briefed about the emergency. The cabinet without any objection agreed to the decision of Indira Gandhi as they feared losing their positions in the cabinet. At night itself many of the opposition party members were arrested So that their followers could not interfere. Jayprakash was taken to a rest house in Sohna in Gurgaon district of Haryana where Shri Morarji Desai was also detained . Both of the leaders were kept on different floors and never were they allowed to meet.

The electricity of the all the major newspapers was cut so that the newspapers are not printed. It’s is said that from then on the actual power was in the hands of Sanjay Gandhi. The next day Indira Gandhi’s words aired on the All India Radio:

“The President has proclaimed emergency .This is nothing to panic about .”

Indira Gandhi announcing emergency
Jayprakash Narayan brutally beaten by the police for protesting on the Ramlila grounds


Under Indira Gandhis rule many laws were framed which violated the Fundamental Rights and their administration was unjust and oppressive. The opposition was eradicated by Indira Gandhi and the state became autocratic with only one party running the country. The people lost their freedom to life and liberty due to the proclamation of Emergency and many deaths went unreported. People started working more diligently during the emergency as there was a fear of the government . No one could say anything against the government or else were arrested . No trains were late during emergency and government officials reported at time. Here are the few administrative, judicial and economic policies:

A. MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) 1971–1977:

Indian Parliament passed a controversial law named MISA in July 2, 1971 during the regime. The Act allowed the Indian law enforcement agencies to search and detain individuals and seize their properties without any warrants. The law was enforced keeping national security on the forefront and to counter sabotage, terrorism, subterfuge and other threats to nation. The Act was amended several times during the Emergency to suit the political requirements of the then ruling government and was used for arresting, torturing and in some cases forcibly sterilizing people. Under the MISA, there were around 1,00,000 people which included journalists, scholars, activists, opposition political party members and community members who got arrested and

Security forces arresting opposition leaders

Postcard commemorating Indira Gandhi’s 20 point economic programme

were detained without a trial for a period up to eighteen months. The Act was against the fundamental rights reserved for the people in the Constitution of India and violated basic human rights.

Security forces arresting opposition leaders


Invoking article 352 of the Indian Constitution, Gandhi granted herself extraordinary powers and launched a massive crackdown on civil liberties and political opposition. The Government used police forces across the country to place thousands of protestors and strike leaders under preventive detention. Vijayaraje Scindia, Raj Narain, Charan Singh, Jivatram Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Arun Jaitley, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Gayatri Devi, the dowager queen of Jaipur, and other protest leaders were immediately arrested. Organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-Islami, along with some political parties, were banned. Numerous Communist leaders were arrested along with many others involved with their party. Congress leaders who dissented against the Emergency declaration and amendment to the constitution, such as Mohan Dharia and Chandra Shekhar, resigned their government and party positions and were thereafter arrested and placed under detention.


Indira Gandhi Introduced a Twenty point economic programme to revive India’s economy. The basic objective of the 20-Point Programme is to eradicate poverty and to improve the quality of life of the poor and the under privileged population of the country. The programme covers various Socio-economic aspects like poverty, employment, education, housing, health, agriculture and land reforms, irrigation, drinking water, protection and empowerment of weaker sections, consumer protection, environment etc.

Postcard commemorating Indira Gandhi’s 20 point economic programme


The scheme was introduced by Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency. The scheme included the following points:

· Literacy

· Family planning

· Tree Planting

Sterilisation of a man taking place under panchsutri karyakaram

A creative obituary in The Times of India during emergency mourning death of democracy

Blank spaces left in papers as a mark of protest against press censorship

· Eradication of Casteism

· Abolition of dowry

Although these reforms were progressive and much needed ,the implementation of the scheme was not done wisely. Force was used to implement the schemes which made the people hostile and drew a lot of criticism . The implementation of forced sterilisation violated the rights if the people. Many people were caught and sterilised forcefully by the police under the instructions of Sanjay Gandhi. This was not taken well by the common people.

Sterilisation of a man taking place under panchsutri karyakaram


Freedom of press was also curbed and many of the news reporters and writers were put behind bars . Within three hours from taking the decision to impose emergency in India, electricity supplies to all the major newspapers were cut. All the news that aired on Doordarshan and All India Radio was first reviewed by Sanjay Gandhi and then aired publicly. In the start of the emergency Inder Kumar Gujral the minister of Information and Broadcasting opposed Sanjay Gandhi’s view and told him that all this was wrong and he couldn’t aid him in this and the next day itself his ministry was changed. Indian Express and Times of India were some of the major newspapers that spoke against the censorship and carried blank editorials and headlines with bold letters criticizing the emergency. SInger Kishore Kumars songs were not allowed to be played on All India Radio as he did not sing for Sanjay Gandhi in a Congress rally in Mumbai and Devanand’s films were not played on Doordarshan as he joined the opposition against the congress.

A creative obituary in The Times of India during emergency mourning death of democracy

F. COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974):

The Act was enacted in order to prevent smuggling and black-marketing in the foreign exchange and retain foreign currency, in December 13, 1974, before the emergency was announced. The Act is still functioning and has been criticized by civil authorities and human rights activists on the grounds that it is an economic adjunct to that of MISA and should be repealed. The trade association ASSOCHAM has also asked for repealing of the Act.

G. Jama Masjid beautification and slum demolition

Sanjay Gandhi and Brij Vardhan, accompanied by Jagmohan the vice-chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), were reportedly irked during his visit to Turkman Gate in old Delhi area that they couldn’t see the grand old Jama Masjid because of the maze of tenements. On 13 April 1976, the DDA team bulldozed the tenements. Police resorted to firing to quell the demonstrations opposing the destruction. The firing resulted in at least 150 deaths. Over 70,000 people were displaced during this episode. The displaced inhabitants were moved to a new undeveloped housing site across the Yamuna river.

Bulldozers destroyed homes near Jama Masjid


At 8 pm on the night of January 1977, Indira Gandhi announced in a broadcast over All India Radio that the Lok Sabha had been dissolved and fresh elections would be held in March. The opposition was released and the opposition political parties such as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal as well as defectors from the Congress joined to form the Janata party. The opposition Janata movement’s campaign warned Indians that the elections might be their last chance to choose between “democracy and dictatorship.” The Janta Prty won by a landslide victory with 298 seats in the parliament. The first thing they did was to undo what Indira Gandhi had done. 44th Amendment Act, 1978 was introduced to provide adequate safeguards against the recurrence of the tendency to take over the fundamental rights by the transient majority in the future and to ensure to the people an effective voice in determining the form of government under which they are to live. This act also nullified various provisions that were brought into the Indian Constitution as new articles or as amendments by the 42nd Amendment Act. They also established the Shah commission to inquire into all the excesses committed in the Indian Emergency (1975–77). It was headed by Justice J.C. Shah, a former chief Justice of India.But in the end this party stood incompetent as there was difference in the opinion among the people constituting it and the coalition was weak and was formed out of an initial anger towards the congress party and soon the coalition fell apart and no trials were made under Shah commision . Indira Gandhi was re-elected in 1980 as Janata Party failed to meet the expectations of the people.

Symbol of Janata Party


The proclamation of emergency is a very serious matter as it disturbs the normal fabric of the Constitution and adversely affects the rights of the people. Such a proclamation should, therefore, be issued only in exceptional circumstances and not merely to keep an unpopular

government from office. This happened in June 1975 when an emergency was declared on the ground of internal disturbance without there being adequate justification for the same. The proclamation of 1975 was made on the ground of internal disturbance which proved to be the most controversial because there was violation of fundamental rights of the people on a large scale; drastic press censorship was imposed. A large number of persons were put in preventive detention without justification. In the light of these , the 44th amendment act to the emergency provisions of the constitutions was passed which made repetition of the 1975 situation extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Papers proclamating re-elections
Indira Gandhi and other cabinet members









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