Sunday, July 14, 2024

Congress, Constitution And 49 Years Of Emergency!

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On the fateful night of 25th June 1975, Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India had imposed emergency in India. She had sent a proclamation letter to the then President of India to invoke the powers of Article 352 of the constitution. From then on whatever happened in the period of 21 months is referred to as the “Darkest Days of Democracy!”

Dark Rumbling Storm Clouds…

Even though Smt. Indira Gandhi had won the 1971 elections handsomely with 352 seats in the then 521 member parliament. All was not well! There were growing strikes and protests ranging from the Railway strike in 1974 to students agitation in Gujrat. On top of all this, the Allahabad High court had declared Indira Gandhi’s election null and void on 12th of June 1975. The Court had found her guilty of using the government machinery and officials for her 1971 Lok Sabha campaign.

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Amidst all this, she wrote to the President of India skipping the Government of India Rules of 1961 and asked for the invocation of Article 352. She didn’t even wait to seek the cabinets approval for the same. In a letter she stated, “I recommend that such a proclamation should be issued tonight, however late it may be.” Within no time, Emergency was declared, under the seal and signature of the the President.

In her midnight address to the Nation, she announced the imposition of Emergency. “The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about,” she said on All India Radio.

From here on, began the…

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Darkest Phase of Indian Democracy!

This 21 months period was marked by a series of arrests and oppositions voices being suppressed and jailed! A period which saw constitution being amended like a piece of cake! During this period, the 42nd and 44th constitutional amendment acts were passed. These bills were passed when the opposition’s voice was muzzled, their leaders jailed and when the people’s fundamental rights were suspended!

Interestingly, when the parliament actually convened on 21st July 1975, then the 38th constitutional amendment act was passed. While through the 39th CAA, the elections to the post of Prime Minister, President, Vice President and the Speaker were kept beyond the scope of Judiciary. It is said that the bill was enacted to counter the Allahabad High Court ruling!

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Freedom of Press During Emergency…

According to a survey conducted by the Freedom House, the freedom of Press in India had reduced from 3rd position in the early 70’s to 34th in 1975-77. During emergency press was muzzled and suppressed in the most blatant and outright manner. Many small and independent magazines/newspapers had to face the wrath of the state. According to W.H Morris Jones, “The Indian press suffered the major setback during emergency.”

  • A total of 253 Reporters were jailed under the M.I.S.A,
  • Reportedly, there was a newspaper called “Motherland”, it was the only paper which was published on June 26th. It had published about arrests that were taking place in the name of emergency. Within no time, its electricity was cut off, while there was light in its neighbouring offices of a communists mouthpiece- the “Janyug.”
  • During this period, legislations were passed to make censorship the ordinary law of the land. The Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act was passed along with a bill repealing the parliamentary proceeding act of 1956.
  • According to the finding of the Shah Commission, the censorship was used to suppress any news which was unfavorable to the Congress. For instance, in case of the “Mainstream” magazine, pre censorship orders were issued because of its critical attitude towards Sanjay Gandhi.
  • Accreditations of a large number of correspondents were terminated.
  • The functioning of the “Samachar” was administratively and editorially supervised. The Congress had even Banned RSS in 1975.
  • Reportedly, during this time, Kishore Kumar songs were banned for he had refused to sing for the Congress party.

Judiciary During Emergency…

  • During emergency, around 200 Lawyers and arrested and approximately 200 lawyer’s chambers were demolished in the Tis Hazari Court. This was done because they were protesting against the emergency.
  • As per the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, around 65-70 judges were transferred during the Emergency. He further stated that the Chief Justice of India had “no role except to sign the transfer papers when so instructed by the government.”
  • During this period the publications of the Court judgements were also censored. In fact, not merely censored but directions were also given as to how the judgements are to be published!
  • This period also saw several human rights violations, including forced Mass-Sterilisation campaign of Sanjay Gandhi.

On 49 Years Of Emergency…

Today after 49 years of emergency, India is paying homage to all those people who resisted the emergency. Many people are sharing snippets of the dark days of democracy. Some of these posts being shared are given below-

Many of them shared old video of Former PM Indira Gandhi justifying her actions of emergency under the garb of “Saving The Democracy”

While others are finding the Congress’s recent political gimmicks of “Saving Constitution and Democracy” ironical and hypocritical. Many raised voices that the same party which imposed emergency, amended constitution over 80 times and issued around 456 ordinances in its 50 years of rule, are now professing their love for constitution!?




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