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Criticism of the Emergency Procedure

The State is to safeguard the liberties of the people and if the State itself is destroyed, the liberties of the individual citizens stand annihilated. The threat to the security of the State is at present greater than in any other period of history. The Constitution of India was framed at a time when after the ruination of the world due to big conflagration ending in 1945, the world was again being darkened by a shadow of a third Armageddon.

Hence, the Fathers of Indian Constitution were not oblivious of the grim realities confronting the nation. The unprecedented killings of innocent people on basis of religion had shaken the entire sub-continent. Hence they were keen to maintain the integrity and the security of the State in grave national emergencies, at any cost.

The incorporation of emergency provisions was therefore the crying need of the hour. Anti-social and subversive elements are apt to play a pernicious role, if they are allowed to run amuck during abnormal circumstances. They may not hesitate to barter away the freedom of their land which was achieved after trials and tribulations and heroic sacrifices made by countless martyrs and ardent patriots.

These emergency provisions were embodied in our Constitution, keeping in view our hoary past which presented a saga of disintegration and disunity, prevailing amongst the Indian Maharajas and Nawabs in particular and the Indians in general.

It may not be out of place to point out that, the Constitution makes sufficient provision to impose checks on the misuse of powers by the Indian President. The responsibility of the President to the Parliament is in itself an adequate safeguard. The proclamation can remain effective so long as Parliament wills it. It is, however, apprehended by the critics that the President may exercise the authority of issuing proclamation of emergency for two months even without ratification by the Parliament.

The apologists of the Constitution, however, do not accept any such possibility on the plea that impeachment procedure hangs like a Sword of Damocles on the head of the President. In case, the President issues the proclamation of emergency when in fact no such emergency exists, he is liable to be impeached. No sensible President will like his name to be tarnished and go down in history as an irrational and autocratic head of the State.

The proclamation pertaining to external emergency which lasted for over six years was hardly detrimental to the interests of the country. The protagonists of internal emergency proclamation which was issued on June 26, 1975 hold that the nation was brought out of morass of economic stagnation and political instability, convulsion and coma during this period. Corruption, nepotism and favouritism were weeded out to a certain extent. Black marketers, smugglers, saboteurs and hoarders were brought to book.

However, the ruling party was widely denounced by newly emerged parties for excesses committed by the bureaucrats, particularly for enforcing family planning measures under the cover of emergency.

It may be stated that the framers of the Constitution never wanted to abrogate the autonomy of the States. Rather they were keen to bring order out of chaos which may have confronted a developing democracy at local level. They anticipated anarchic conditions to crop up in some of the States which were formerly groaning under the heels of the foreigners or autocratic maharajas and now, with the dawn of independence, were guaranteed democratic rights and somewhat autonomous powers.

Hence the framers of the Constitution contemplated that before the President took such a drastic step as to suspend the autonomy of the States, and assume administration of the State, he would issue a warning. If this warning went unheeded, the next step would be the ordering of General Election (in other words to give to the people an opportunity to improve matters through the exercise of their sovereign democratic right of voting at a general election). If even the election of the new legislature fails to improve the situation, then alone the President would resort to issuing of proclamation of this nature.

If the aspiration of the framers of Constitution had been kept in view, the critics would not have been voicing their grievances so vehemently against the misuse of this power and our democracy would not have been under the constant fire of criticism at the hands of the opposition parties. Hence we agree with the remarks of an Indian journalist. “It is clear, however, that the powers conferred on the Central Executive to meet national emergencies are so to say a loaded gun which can be used both to protect and to destroy the liberty of the citizens. The gun must be used therefore with extreme caution.”

In the recent past, (October 1997), President K.R. Naryanan, who was acclaimed as the ‘real hero’ by the opposition party, set an example by disagreeing to the imposition of President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh and asking the cabinet to reconsider its decision. This decision of the President to return the cabinets’, recommendation for imposition of the President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh was perhaps first of its kind in India’s constitutional history.

The President can exercise dignifying and sobering influence on the murkier politics of the country, if he acts as an impartial observer.

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