Need for an Emergency

Free Thinker
Renowned writer Khuswant Singh supported Emergency (1975-77). In his thought provoking collection of essays “Why I supported the Emergency’’ – he said, ‘actions are louder than words’. He also admitted that he admired Sanjay Gandhi because he got things done. The Emergency has become a synonym for obscenity for many but there are many good things about it – he opined.  These collections of essays include ‘the art of kissing and importance of bathing’ in addition to ‘Indira Gandhi’s Government’, ‘Nanavati Commission’s Report’ and many others.
As reflected in Parliament these days the month of June is remembered as the ‘Emergency’ month. It seems BJP wants to recall it and Congress wants to forget the same. In fact the ‘Emergency’ was imposed on June 25,1975 by Indira ji  and it continued for 21 months till March 21, 1977. During this period there was curtailment on civil liberties, gag on free speech (freedom of press compromised), arbitrary and indiscriminate arrest of dissenters, and blatant use of preventive detention law.
Constitutionally speaking there are three types of Emergencies. Under Article 352 if the President is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India or of any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external aggression (or armed rebellion/ internal disturbances ) she may, by proclamation make a declaration to that effect. Whether it is for the whole of India or a part of the territory may be specified. Before the proclamation she must be convinced that there is imminent danger.
What reminds us of the national emergency of 1975 was that many people suffered due to the excesses of the then government. The suspension of fundamental rights, the rampant arrest of opposition leaders, and censorship of the media, forced sterilization, homes and houses bulldozed in the name of ‘urban renewal’, suppression of students and civil society’s movements etc., became the norm.
Second, under Article 356, if the President on receipt of report from the Governor of a State or otherwise is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President may by proclamation assume to herself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State; she can also exercise the legislative power of the State under this proclamation.
Since independence we have seen the use of Article 356 several times .As per record, so far President’s rule have been imposed 125 times. The first was in Punjab in 1951 .Even though B R Ambedkar had said that it would remain a dead letter  ‘356’ has been misused several times. In most of the cases it was used for political reasons rather than on genuine ground that is the breakdown of constitutional machinery in the States.
Third, under Article 360, if the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India or of any part of the territory thereof is precarious , she may by a proclamation make a declaration to that effect ( Financial Emergency). All kinds of austerity measures may be taken by her under such a proclamation, including salary cuts, expenditure reduction etc. New taxes may also be imposed till the situation improves.
Proclamation of Financial Emergency has not taken place so far. Today it is a far possibility. At present the financial position of the Union government is quite stable backed by a huge Foreign Exchange reserves. Of course, the fragile economic conditions of some of the States are a cause of worry. Country’s internal debt is much lower as compared the advanced countries like the US.
We had seen the effects of the proclamation of national emergency .When a proclamation is in operation notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, the executive power of the Union shall extend to any state as to the manner in which the executive power thereof is to be exercised. President shall have the power to make laws during the Emergency. The Seventh Schedule - Union list, State list and Concurrent list remains diluted.
Whether it is BJP or Congress, NDA or UPA the basic foundation of our liberal democracy must not be shaken; the spirit of democracy as enshrined in the Constitution which is vividly reflected in the preamble must always be maintained. Apex Court’s principle of ‘basic structure ‘of the Constitution should be upheld under any circumstances. Freedom of speech and liberty to dissent and most importantly freedom from fear must be guaranteed to all the citizens. In a liberal democracy quite often freedom is more valued than food.
Even within a family some kind of emergency measures are required to control any unusual situation or circumstances. Supposed our children have become anti-socials or anti-nationals due to wrong influence and started believing in violence and bloodshed – they must be kept under control or detention (house arrest etc.,) until they are completely normalized and stabilized with the idea of non-violence, nationalism and love for humanity.
Though I am a staunch believer of ahimsa sometimes I feel ‘danda’ is necessary for discipline and tranquillity. Emergency provisions are more or less based on ‘danda’ dogma. Manipur desperately needs one for restoration of peace and normalcy. Harmony may be redeemed later.