Explained: Why did a court's verdict prompt Indira Gandhi to declare Emergency in 1975?
On June 25, 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a state emergency in India. This was a proposal which did not have the endorsement of the Union Cabinet whose members came to know of it only later and then ratified it the next day.
The emergency was held for 21 months and is widely believed to be a dark era in India's democracy.
Why did Indira Gandhi impose emergency?
Indira Gandhi came to power in 1971 general elections on the slogan of Garibi Hatao with her faction of the Congress wresting 352 seats in the 518 strong Lok Sabha of the time. A huge personality cult had grown around her in subsequent years, though she was bitterly opposed by the old guard of the Congress.
Bihar's Congress government in March-April 1974, found itself targeted by a student agitation backed by the veteran Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, known as JP. As the movement gathered steam JP called for total revolution asking students, farmers and labour unions to transform Indian society through non-violent means.
In May 1974, George Fernandes, a well-known socialist and trade union leader led a nationwide railway strike paralysing train movement in the country. The Indira Gandhi government came down heavily on the railway strike crushing it, by arresting rail workers across the country.
What was Allahabad High Court's verdict?
Indira Gandhi's adversary in Rae Bareli constituency in the 1971 elections, Raj Narain filed cases of election fraud and misuse of state machinery for election purposes in a petition against her in the Allahabad High Court.
On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court found Prime Minister Indira Gandhi guilty of the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign and declared her election null and void.
The Prime Minister was unseated from her seat in the Lok Sabha and was banned by the court from contesting any election for an additional six years.
Indira Gandhi challenged the Allahabad High Court decision in the Supreme Court, but Justice VR Krishna Iyer upheld the High Court judgement on June 24, 1975.
However, the Supreme Court permitted Indira Gandhi to continue as prime minister while her appeal was pending. Meanwhile, the movement against her gathered steam as JP and Morarji Desai gave a call for daily protests against the government.
At a massive rally in Delhi JP declared that a police officer must reject the orders of the government if the orders are found to be immoral which was what Mahatma Gandhi had said during the freedom struggle.
State of Emergency
Indira Gandhi prevailed upon Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to proclaim a state of emergency and within three hours power supply to all major newspapers was cut off and several opposition leaders arrested.
The rationale given by the Gandhi government to the imposition of national emergency was threats to internal security after a war with Pakistan. Further the government said that the economy was in a bad shape on account of the war, drought and the 1973 oil crisis.
The Indira Gandhi government had said that the ongoing protests and strikes of the opposition had paralysed government functioning and had also impacted the Indian economy.
Several opposition leaders, including Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Arun Jaitley, Raj Narain, Vijayaraje Scindia and others were arrested. The Indira Gandhi government also banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-Islami as also some political outfits.