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Last Updated : Jun 25, 2019 03:54 PM IST | Source:

44th anniversary of Emergency: Know more about Indira Gandhi's decision and the 'death of democracy'

Indira Gandhi has often been accused of exemplifying authoritarianism and using her powers to launch a crackdown on her political opponents.

Bismee Taskin @MainaBismee

June 25 marks the 44th anniversary of the Indira Gandhi-led government imposing a state of national emergency in India.

The Emergency period lasted for 19 months (from 1975 to 1977) and is considered as one of the darkest chapters in India's history and the 'death of democracy'. It has also been termed the perfect insignia of authoritarian government policies.

Those 19 months, often referred to as a period of hostility against democracy and civil rights, not only rendered all fundamental rights vulnerable, but also endangered the freedom of socialists and writers.


President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed officially issued the state of Emergency in the country under Article 352 of the Constitution, citing “internal disturbances”. After the declaration, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi effectively gained authority to rule by decree, suspended all elections and constrained civil rights.

Emergency is a period of governance wherein the President of India proclaims to use the powers vested upon him or her by Part XVII of the Constitution, in case he or she discerns a threat to the nation from internal or external aggression.

The President can overpower many provisions of the Constitution including Fundamental Rights of citizens, freedom of press, freedom of public gathering, etc.

Also read: PM Modi, Amit Shah salute people who resisted Emergency

A war with Pakistan had just ended in 1971 and the financial and economic state of affairs in the country had triggered protests. As the prime minister declared a national emergency, human rights were violated with an increase in the number of curfews and arrests.

Political leaders like Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Gayatri Devi, among others, were arrested and political, social and student bodies were banned.

Indira Gandhi has often been accused of exemplifying authoritarianism and using her powers to launch a crackdown on her political opponents.

The President issued timely ordinances, allowing the prime minister to rule by decree. Rule by decree is a form of governance which bypasses parliamentarian probe and remains unchallenged; often exercised by monarchs and dictators.


The 42nd Amendment to the Indian Constitution remains one of the lasting impacts of this national emergency. Reviewed upon as one of the most controversial amendments, the 42nd Amendment brought about changes in almost all parts of the Constitution, including the reduction of powers of the Supreme Court and High Courts vis-a-vis the constitutional validity of laws.

The Indira Gandhi-led government was also accused of marginalising human rights by making arrests and undertaking preventive detentions during the Emergency.

Politicians and critics have accused the Indira Gandhi government of exercising complete political autonomy, shadowing democracy in all of its forms. Media institutions were also instructed, as per government feasibility, on news.

The Indira Gandhi government was accused of undertaking forced sterilization campaigns, a move led by Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi. The controversial programme violated family planning as a basic human right. Incidents of forced vasectomy were reported and were widely criticised by the Opposition.
First Published on Jun 25, 2019 02:02 pm
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