1975 Emergency: Why June 25 is the darkest chapter in Indian Democracy

Deepika S

New Delhi, June 25: On this day 44 years ago, the first time an Indian government suspended civil rights of citizens (much like the pre-independence era), and pushed the country back into the non-democratic mode, censored the freedom of the press, arrested students, academicians, writers, journalists as well as anyone who opposed the government. The incident was truely tragic and many describe it as the darkest day in Indian politics.

Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on June 25, 1975 on account of international disturbances, suspending key fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to every citizen.

This was the third national emergency (first one was in 1962 when China invaded India while the second one was in 1971 during the war with Pakistan), and the only one to be declared citing of "internal disturbances".

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The Emergency refers to a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977. It was officially issued by the then president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution due to prevailing 'internal disturbance'. The Emergency was in effect from 25 June 1975 until its withdrawal on 21 March 1977.

According to Article 352 of the Indian Constitution, a national emergency can be imposed when there is a "grave threat" to the security of India or any of its territory due to war, external aggression or armed rebellion. Such an emergency can be imposed by the president on the basis of written request by the council of ministers headed by the prime minister.

What happened in 1975?

During this 22-month period, Indira had invoked Article 352 of the Constitution to grant herself 'extraordinary powers' and had launched a massive crackdown on 'civil liberties' and political rivals, arresting opposition leaders like Vijayaraje Scindia, Jaiprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.

Censuring of the media and 'forced sterilisation drives', undertaken by Indira's younger son Sanjay Gandhi, also unfolded during the period. After the Emergency officially ended, fresh elections were called, with the Congress losing by a large margin, resulting in the Janata Party's Morarji Desai becoming the first non-Congress PM of India.

The Indira government suspended the right to move court for enforcement of Fundamental Rights. Also, an external Emergency was already in place even before the imposition of the internal one.

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