BLACK AGE STORY OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY: EMERGENCY AND IT’S IMPACT ON LEGAL COMMUNITY

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This article is written by Samta Sharma from JIMS, School of Law, Greater Noida and curated by Shruti Chaudhary from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

Undoubtedly, every nation’s government has some or the other defects in it, and Indian History has proved it right by experiencing the black phase of ‘Emergency’.
‘Emergency’, a word through which our nation’s 45 years old history is attached to. It has taught us repeatedly that either a nation can stand together in an emergency or can just perish apart.

A nation is an entity that holds number of lives together and more than a nation, it’s the constitution which is considered as the most purest rule book of a country. A constitution that guarantees justice, and equal rights to its citizens is not less than a ‘Geeta’ to a hindu, ‘Quran’ to a muslim and ‘Bible’ to a Christian.

Emergency can be defined as a serious, unexpected and a dangerous situation which requires immediate action and can even possess an immediate risk to life, health, property and environment. Indian democracy has experienced 3 periods of National Emergency in its history i.e. from 1975 to 1977. And here arises a pertinent question that, was imposing emergency in India a right step?

This article will further cover the darkest phase of our Indian history (i.e. Emergency) and its impact on legal community.

In a country where terrorist violence, man-made and natural disasters are considered as the most numb sensibilities, there can still be incidents related to human deaths because of some unreasonable politics between the ruling and opposition parties. Indira Gandhi, our Former Prime Minister was the main character of the whole black story of Indian Democracy that spurred the whole emergency situation out of proportion. Undoubtedly, every country’s natives are depended on their respective government in some or the other way but what if the system itself is in prejudice?

The Emergency is remembered as the darkest period of Indian Democracy as it threatened both the Indian constitution as well as the legal system in different ways. It was on June 12, 1975 when Rajnarayan, a candidate of opposition party filed a petition against Indira Gandhi raising few allegations regarding misuse of powers and machinery of the government. Therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court cancelled the elections and barred the Former Prime Minister from contesting elections for next 6 years. Soon after the incident, Gandhi tried to reach the Supreme Court but the SC adjudged that she could not stand as an MP until the final verdict. It was after this time Indira Gandhi asked the then president to declare an emergency. And this is how the poorly built government opened the doors to greater instability and chaos.
India’s constitution, which is said to be the lengthiest constitution of the world, in 1975, followed the provision to eliminate the fundamental rights of every individual of the state during the emergency. It even included the elimination of ‘Right to Life’, which is the most essential right possessed by an individual in a free democracy like India.

Politics became a very dirty game at that time in which the whole nation was trapped into. “One may have freedom, yes, but freedom does not mean walking on the wrong side of the road, paralyzing the duly elected government,” Indira Gandhi explained while locking up thousands of her opponents and affecting more and more people’s lives. It was a common opinion across the world that Indian government at that time was one of the poor founding which gave the peaceful democracy a perfect storm to crash the nation as a whole.

It is crystal clear that in such unsafe environment, a constitutional crisis at that time was very apparent. It was not just that, in the period of emergency almost every quarter of nation experienced shockwaves. Most of the media and newspapers were under the wrath of emergency. The emergency declared by Indira Gandhi undoubtedly left measureless stains on the Indian history. The directors of the leading newspapers and magazines who played a major role in an individual’s day to day life were also forcefully suppressed and hence it turned out into a dangerous, biased game for all the citizens. As a result many of the newspaper editors went on protests. Many of the opposition parties were arrested for no reason. The wrath didn’t even spare doctors.  In such a prejudiced period, where all the quarters were in the trap of emergency, the legal profession was also not an exception to this.
In this time, the advocates and judges who do not toe to government’s line were punished. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India heard the infamous case of ADM Jabalpur during the emergency. In addition to this, there were arbitrary transfers of non-compliant judges, to punish them. Apart from this, emergency also experienced a great loas in the legal profession because of the loss of great advocates and additional Solicitor General like ‘Mr. Fali Nariman’. Similarly, the current law minister, ‘Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad’ was also arrested during that period. In addition to this, Late Shri Ram Jethmalani’s house was also raided.

Everything was going according to the government and the government was outrageously suppressing the different sectors of the society by misusing their powers in the name of emergency.
As a result, Indira Gandhi stood at the top of an unsound government and proved to be their soul leader. Thus, the answer to the above pertaining question is, the step taken by the Former Prime Minister will never be appreciated. One cannot misuse their powers just to hide their realities under the carpet. Every country’s government has some holes but Indian History has proved that it can go beyond that. Though apart from unfortunate incidents, there were also many positive changes that took place, the bar stood united against the imposition of emergency. Thankfully the emergency did not last forever and was nullified after 21 months. The government machinery has now made many laws and amendments for avoiding such conditions in the future that can create such horrific circumstances for its citizens. Fortunately, the nation is now exercising all the rules and laws rightly, and has proved that ‘India is not Indira’.

The author does not wish to offend anyone’s personal sentiment. The information written in the article is collected from authentic sites and reports.

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