Ten things you need to know about ‘Emergency’

Forty-four years ago today, a state of ‘Emergency’ was declared in India. It was imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975. It is regarded as the black day in India’s democracy.

Here are the top 10 things you need to know

  • Emergency can be declared in three cases – National Emergency (when the security of India is under grave threat), Failure of constitutional machinery in states and Financial Emergency.
  • In 1975 National Emergency was issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352(1) of the Constitution. It was said that the “security of India is threatened due to internal disturbance”.
  • The order gave the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be suspended and civil liberties to be curbed.
  • During this time the President can issue ‘Ordinances’ – a law-making power in times of urgency, invoked sparingly – completely bypassing the Parliament. Indira Gandhi used it multiple times, including to impose President’s rule in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

  • This was the third time national emergency was imposed in the country. The first two were due to external factors. First, in 1962 when China invaded India while the second one was in 1971 during the war with Pakistan.
  • Under Indira Gandhi, it lasted for 21 months (25th June 1975 – 21st March 1977)
  • During the 1975 emergency opposition leaders were arrested, elections postponed, anti-government protests crushed.
  • Free speech was curbed. Press, cinema and other forms of art were censored. Singer Kishore Kumar songs were not allowed to be played on the radio after he refused to sing for the Congress.
  • Indira Gandhi came out with a 20-point program to help the economy and fight poverty and illiteracy including the very controversial sterlisation programme to control the population growth
  • The build-up to the Emergency was 1971 war with Pakistan, which bled the exchequer and resulted in problems like drought and oil crisis. Tensions rose.
  • Trade unions and political leaders held strikes and protests everywhere leading to political unrest. Indira Gandhi took the step of imposing Emergency.


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