The amendments to the constitutional provisions on emergency that sought to prevent their abuse were the product of experiences gained from the excesses of the emergency which showed that uncontrolled power and unbridled discretion provided fertile conditions for the destruction of liberty, said the Supreme Court on October 1.
The apex court also said pursuant to the Forty-fourth amendment to the Constitution in 1978 that sought to limit recourse to emergency powers under Article 352, the expression internal disturbance was replaced with armed rebellion. It said now proclamation of emergency cannot be issued on a mere internal disturbance and must reach the threshold of an armed rebellion threatening the security of India.
The Parliamentary amendments to Article 352 are the product of experience: experiences gained from the excesses of the emergency, experiences about the violation of human rights and above all, experiential learning that the amalgam of uncontrolled power and unbridled discretion provide fertile conditions for the destruction of liberty, said the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph. The sobering lessons learnt from our not-too-distant history should warn us against endowing a statute with similar terms of a content which is susceptible of grave misuse, it said adding that the forty-fourth amendment "sought to limit recourse to emergency powers under Article 352 to prevent their abuse."
The top court made the remarks in its judgement by which it quashed the notifications issued by Gujarat government which exempted factories from observing certain obligations towards workers. It said economic slowdown created by COVID-19 pandemic does not qualify as internal disturbance threatening the security of state.
The apex court said that economic hardships caused by the pandemic certainly pose unprecedented challenges to governance but these are to be resolved by the state governments in coordination with the Centre. The bench noted in its verdict that powers under Article 352 have been invoked thrice by the President to declare an emergency in the country — for the first time in 1962 due to Chinese aggression on Indian territory and the emergency was revoked in 1968.