The State Of Emergency- Dictatorship or a necessity!?

An In Depth Analysis Of Emergency and Its Provisions World Wide

Emergency- a word feared all across the Globe! An emergency is any situation that poses risk to the life and property of the people of a state or country. In order to tackle such situations, constitutions of different countries have come up with provisions. This article follows an in-depth analysis of the provisions and whether the emergency is a mere dictatorship or a necessity.   

Emergency Provisions in the Indian Context

Part XVIII of the Indian Constitution contains Emergency provisions. They range from Article 352 to 360. These Provisions allow the Central Government to meet any uninvited situation effectively. They added this to the constitution to safeguard the unity, integrity, and security of the country. 

One of the major features of an Emergency is that only President can declare it. During the period of Emergency, all states and union territories lose their authority. They come under the direct control of the Central government. The federal structure of the country converts into a unitary one! In the Indian Constitution, three types of Emergency have received mention. 

  1. The declaration of Emergency due to war, external aggression, or armed rebellion, as stated in Article 352. This is called ‘National Emergency’. However, the constitution mentions a ‘Proclamation of Emergency’ only for this type.
  2. This emergency is declared due to the failure of constitutional machinery in any of the states. Given in Article 356, this is more popularly called ‘President’s Rule’. Also known as State Emergency or Constitutional Emergency. However, the constitution does not use the word ‘emergency’ for these situations!
  3. This one is Financial Emergency. This may be declared when the nation faces financial instability of any kind. Given in Article 360.

In all the aforesaid cases, some things are common! The rights of the General Public are decreased. But, the Central Government’s power increases. Also, the rights of the press are curbed. 

History of Emergency in India

Emergency Provisions
Credit- India Times

India has witnessed National emergencies thrice. Declared on 26 October 1962, the first emergency lasted till 10 January 1968. This had happened during the Indo-China War. The second time was during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The liberation of Bangladesh had made India’s security a prime concern. Hence, for 14 days emergency declared. From 3rd  to 17th  December 1971. The third time in 1975, a 21 month long Emergency declared. This period goes down as one of the darkest phases of political dictatorship in history of the country.

Though India has never had Financial Emergency, President’s Rule has been frequent for many of the states. Manipur happens to be the state with maximum no. of Constitutional Emergency. It has 10 recorded states of emergency. Uttar Pradesh finishes second with 9 state emergencies. Punjab and Bihar have had 8 state emergencies in the past. Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the two states that have never faced emergency provisions.

The Emergency of 1975- a black chapter for a democratic India

This was officially issued by then-President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. It was declared on the grounds of ‘internal disturbance’. The Emergency came into effect after its declaration on 25th June 1975. It remained till its withdrawal on 21st March 1977. The order gave all the powers to the central government. Thus, it made the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the most powerful center.

Why is this the most controversial?

emergency provisions
Credit- TOI

This period of Emergency did not only decrease the powers of other state governments. But, it also saw the violations of human rights never seen before, in independent India. Complete censorship of the press forced sterilization and oppressing the opposition’s leaders by locking them in prisons-became a common during the time. The government received harsh criticism for the same. Ergo, the start of Resistance Movements. Student unions, the RSS, the Sikh communities as well as the CPI(Communist Party of India) actively participated in the movements.

Seeing the worsening situation, PM Gandhi on 18th January 1977 called for fresh elections in March. She also released some of the political prisoners. Hence, this Emergency officially ended on 21st March 1977. This period has received a lot of documentation. Till today, this stays as some of the worst days of Independent India.

44th Amendment Act of 977

The 44th Amendment Act of 1977 decreased the powers of Emergency to some extent. For the declaration of an Emergency, the approval of the Cabinet also became a necessity. Earlier, the constitution mentioned that the President could declare an Emergency, solely after getting the advice of the Prime Minister. Also, to a maximum of six months the period of emergency exists. To further extend the Emergency, the President was to reissue the declaration. That too after getting the approval from both the Houses and the cabinet. Thus, the powers of the Prime Minister were reconsidered after the Emergency of 1975. Moreover, only ‘armed rebellion’ could cause the imposition of an Emergency. As opposed to the ‘internal disturbance’ rule that existed before.

International Instances of Emergency

A lot of countries worldwide have seen the State of Emergency. For Example the United States from 1939 to 1945, due to the second world war. China saw it from 1948 to 1991 due to the Chinese Civil War. Syria from 1963 to 2011 due to the Israeli-Arabian conflict. The Soviet Union during the coup broke the entire country in August 1991. The list is too long. While you read this article, there still exists an emergency in some parts of the globe. These nations are- Trinidad and Tobago(due to Covid 19), declared on 15th May 2021. Myanmar saw a military coup on February 1, 2021, after which the state has been under an emergency. Malaysia too has been under Emergency since January 12, 2021, due to Covid.

Dictatorship Or A Necessity?

An emergency may look like a necessity depending on the situation and the country. But, looking at the Emergency Provisions, we may realize that it is evidently not a necessity. The reasons are plenty. A country declares an emergency in order to safeguard the people of the country. The irony is that it is the people who lose their rights. As far as War like situations is concerned, we’ve already witnessed one of the toughest battles ever fought- the Kargil! It required no Emergency Declarations!

Though we cannot completely shun the provisions of Emergency- a few modifications can surely be done! Right now, if we look around, our country is in a state of Medical Emergency! The Medical Infrastructure has failed drastically; a lot of provisions do exist for medical emergency situations- but not a lot of people are aware of it! Perhaps the call of an emergency felt necessary at that time. But looking back, it feels more like it was dictatorship rule. 

Author- Apexa Rai

Also Read- Matthew Hayden speaks in favor of India amidst Covid-19


This is Apexa Rai! Student- B.A. Honors(Journalism) Intern at Akashbaani Loves to write! An optimistic Wildflower!

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