In this article we will discuss about the cause of national emergency, 1975 in India.
On June 28, 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared national emergency in the country, which remained in operation for a period of 19 months. It was declared at a time when emergency due to external aggression of 1971 was already in force.
One of the main causes responsible for the declaration of 1975 emergency was that certain persons were inciting military and police not to obey the orders of the government and interrupt normal functioning of government working. In 1974, an agitation was launched in Gujarat by some opposition parties making it difficult for elected legislators to perform their duties towards the electorates.
They were made to resign in many cases. Not only this, but the central government was forced to conduct fresh elections in the state. In the state there were also many cases of looting, violence and arsons. There was also an agitation in Bihar which aimed at getting the State Assembly dissolved.
The agitators in Bihar in their programme included boycott of school and college examinations, gherao of elected MLAs and also their social boycott, formation of parallel Legislative Assembly, paralysing of work in government offices, non-payment of taxes, boycott of courts and incitement of military, police and public servants.
In May 1974, opposition parties instigated railway employees to go on strike making them realise that a powerful and successful strike in railways could bring the industries to a standstill and make the people of India starve.
The opposition parties in November, 1974 formulated a plan to gherao the Parliament, though the proposal was subsequently abandoned and instead these parties decided to hold massive demonstrations throughout the country, for which organising and coordinating committees were also set up in the country.
Not only this but opposition parties decided that these will create obstructions in Parliament and a willful campaign for denigrating the government and the Prime Minister was started. In the wake came the murder of the then Union Railway Minister L.N. Misra at Samastipur.
Attempt was made at the life of the then Chief Justice of India as well. In fact, an atmosphere of violence and hatred had been created, which made democratic functioning of the government difficult. Opposition parties also formed a national co-ordination committee under the chairmanship of Late Jaya Prakash Narayan for launching a movement of Bihar type throughout the country.
When Allahabad High Court judgment in Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi election case came declaring her election invalid, opposition parties wanted that she should immediately resign, forgetting that as a citizen of India, she also had a right to appeal to the Supreme Court, against the High Court decision.
The opposition parties even threatened to launch a mass movement against the Prime Minister, if she did not resign all at once.
It was in this atmosphere of threat, violence and agitation that national emergency was proclaimed in the country, with the help of an ordinance, under Article 352 (1) of the constitution. Emergency proclamation was subsequently approved by the Parliament.
Emergency is a radical remedy for solving political ills of the country and ensuring that structure of the constitution and country’s social and political systems were not disturbed violently to the disadvantage of the country. In order to make emergency provisions effective some immediate steps became necessary and unavoidable.
Some of the political parties were banned and thus these were refused the right to carrying on their political activities. Several opposition leaders and workers were arrested and put behind the bars. There was also censorship of press in India for the first time after independence.
This was justified by the then Prime Minister when she said that, “There is freedom of expression and debate in democracy but can systematic and virulent character assassination without any basis in fact be indulged in the name of democracy?”
She also said, “We have to resort to press censorship because some newspapers had become total partners of the opposition front and were sapping morale, inciting violence and even advocating murder.”
Maintenance of the Internal Security Act was passed to check speedily and effectively activities of anti-social elements like black marketers, hoarders and profiteers, so that the prices did not shoot up and essential commodities were made easily available to the common man. Right of the people to move the courts of law for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights was suspended in the national interest.
Twenty Point Programmes:
A comprehensive economic programme, commonly known as Twenty-Point Programme was given to the country on 1st July, 1975, for increasing production, ending poverty and unemployment. But it was made clear that only sustained efforts could take the nation forward. Stress was laid both on individual as well as national discipline.
Twenty-Point Programme of Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi included:
(1) Continuance of steps to bring down prices of essential commodities, streamlining of the production, procurement .and distribution of essential commodities, and strict economy in government expenditure.
(2) Implementation of agricultural land ceilings and speedier distribution of surplus land and compilation of land records.
(3) Stepping up of provision of house sites for landless and weaker sections of society.
(4) Making bonded labour and beggary illegal.
(5) Plans to be prepared for the liquidation of rural indebtedness, legislation for moratorium on recovery of debt from landless labourers, small farmers and artisans.
(6) Review of laws on minimum agricultural wages.
(7) Five million more hectares of land to be brought under ground waters.
(8) An accelerated power programme and erection of super-thermal stations under the central control.
(9) New development plans for the growth of handloom sector.
(10) Improvement in quality and supply of people’s cloth.
(11) Socialisation of urban or urbanisable land ceiling on ownership and possession of vacant land, and on the plinth area of new dwelling units.
(12) Special squads for valuation of conspicuous construction and prevention of tax evasion, summary trials and deterrent punishments to economic offenders.
(13) Special legislation for confiscation of smuggler’s properties and action against misuse of import licenses.
(14) New schemes for worker’s associations in industry.
(15) National import scheme for road transport.
(16) Income-tax relief to the middle class exemption limit to be raised to Rs. 8,000/- per annum.
(17) Supply of essential commodities at controlled prices to the students living in hostels.
(18) Supply of books and stationery at controlled prices.
(19) Introduction of new apprenticeship scheme to enlarge employment and training, especially of weaker sections of society.
(20) To ensure speedier movement of goods and passengers.
Whether emergency was essential or unavoidable is now a matter of the past. Similarly whether during this 19 months period the nation achieved less or more is again a matter of controversy, because on such a matter with which not only India but whole of the world was very much concerned, was sure to be controversial.
Whereas on the one hand the Congress party maintained that during this period law and order situation improved, industrial production went up, there were no strikes and lock-outs, international prestige of India went up, national discipline touched new heights, etc., the opposition characterised it a dark period in which there was press censorship, intelligentsia and opposition was suffocated, right of expression was denied and independence of judiciary was taken out and so on. It was during this period that family planning programme was also started on large scale basis, throughout the country.
But the fact remains that President used his power, which was given to him under the constitution and that such a power could be used again as well. Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act has, however, made certain changes under which an effort has been made to regulate the power of the President to issue emergency in the country, which can now be issued only when there is armed rebellion.