National Emergency in India

On June 25, 2024, India marked fifty years since the National Emergency (1975-1977), a period characterized by the suspension of civil liberties, restricted press freedom, widespread arrests, and postponed elections.

The Aftermath of the National Emergency in India (1975)

Political Transformation

  • The 1977 elections saw four major opposition parties merge into the Janata Party, forming a united front against Congress and leading to India’s first non-Congress government.

44th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1978

  • Reversed many constitutional changes enacted by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.
  • Restricted the President’s power to proclaim a National Emergency under Article 352, requiring written advice from the Cabinet and parliamentary approval within a month.
  • Limited the duration of an emergency to 6 months unless approved by a special majority in Parliament.
  • Restored judicial review of emergency proclamations.
  • Limited grounds for an emergency to armed rebellion, war, and external aggression.
  • Limited the period of the President’s Rule (Article 356) in states to one year, extendable by six months with parliamentary approval.

The Shah Commission Report

  • Established by the Janata government to investigate the emergency’s imposition and its effects.
  • The report was highly critical, finding the decision to be unilateral and resulting in a violation of civil liberties during the emergency period.

During National Emergency

  • Parliament can extend the Lok Sabha’s term by one year at a time.
  • The central government gains power to legislate on state subjects.
  • The President can modify constitutional provisions on financial resource allocation between the centre and states with parliamentary approval.

President’s Rule

  • President’s Rule, also known as State Emergency, is a provision under Article 356 of the Constitution.
  • Allows the central government to take direct control of a state when the state government is unable to function according to constitutional provisions (upon receiving a report from the Governor of the state).
  • The President can assume all or any of the functions of the state government.

Important Provisions

  • President’s Rule can be imposed for six months initially and can be extended for a maximum of three years with parliamentary approval every six months.
  • Both Houses of Parliament must approve the imposition of the President’s Rule within two months.
  • The President can revoke the proclamation at any time. If the Lok Sabha rejects the continuation of the President’s Rule, it must be revoked.
  • The state assembly is suspended or dissolved during the President’s Rule.

Judicial Interventions and Commission Recommendations

  • S.R. Bommai Case (1994): The Supreme Court ruled that the imposition of President’s Rule is subject to judicial review and recommended a floor test for the government’s majority.
  • 88th Amendment (2003): Inserted a new clause (4) in Article 361, giving immunity to the Governor for the exercise of powers under Article 356.
  • Sarkaria Commission (1988): Recommended using the President’s Rule sparingly and issuing a warning before imposition.
  • Punchhi Commission (2010): Recommended a time-bound response from the President and non-dissolution of the state assembly before parliamentary approval.
  • Article 365 provides additional grounds for the President to invoke Article 356. If a state government fails to comply with or implement directions given by the central government under constitutional provisions, it can lead to the imposition of the President’s Rule.

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