Supreme Court Agrees To Examine Emergency Declaration Order
The apex court says it cannot be disinclined to see if the 1975 order was unconstitutional.
India's Supreme Court Monday agreed to examine if constitutional validity of the contentious 1975 Proclamation of Emergency order can be probed after a lapse of 45 years.
An apex court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy issued notice on a petition in this regard and granted leave to amend the original petition to focus on if the 1975 Emergency order of the Government of India was constitutionally illegal and if was feasible or desirable probe it now.
The plea was filed by a 94-year-old widow, proclaiming herself to be an Emergency victim and seeking compensation from the authorities to the tune of Rs. 25 crore.
Senior advocate Harish Salve appeared in the court on behalf of the petitioner.
"The issue is so far-reaching, for 19 months there was an abuse of power… There are certain things in history which we have to revisit and see if correct thing was done. This is one such issue," Salve submitted before the apex court, saying the abuse of power during the Emergency was 'enormous'. Salve pleaded before the bench to declare that the Proclamation of Emergency was wrong in the first place, adding that history may repeat itself on a future date if it is not corrected.
The petitioner in her plea has recounted that the then government authorities targeted her and her husband with unjustifiable and arbitrary detention orders. Their business was shut down, assets and valuables including immoveable property was seized leading to her husband's death. The entire sequence of events caused her enormous problems in life.
The Emergency was proclaimed through a Presidential order on June 25, 1975, under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed because of the prevailing "internal disturbance" on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers headed by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. It came into effect from the midnight of June 25, 1975 and lasted until its withdrawal on March 21, 1977.
The proclamation allowed Indira Gandhi government to rule by decree, suspend all elections and curtail civil liberties. Press was heavily censored and a large number of political opponents of Indira Gandhi were arrested and imprisoned while reports of abuse of power and human rights violations were reported in large volumes from various parts of the country.
The Emergency was imposed after a countrywide agitation called Sampurn Kranti (total revolution) led by Socialist leader Jaiprakash Narayan started in 1974. A June 12, 1975, ruling of the Allahabad High Court, setting aside election of Indira Gandhi in 1971 from Rae Bareli constituency of Uttar Pradesh on allegations of misuse of power, added fuel to the already raging agitation. The Indira Gandhi government responded to it by imposing Emergency, which is described as the darkest phase of the Indian democracy.
"We have heard Salve on the subject with some trepidation, more so arising due to passage of time. It is his submission that the wrongs of history must be set right. We would be disinclined to open all such aspects as there may have been wrongs done to persons but with the passage of almost 45 years, it would not be appropriate tore-open those issues. We would however be not (be) disinclined to see whether a simpliciter declaration, something which is feasible or desirable after a passage of time and issue, restricted to that aspect. Learned Senior Counsel to give a better thought to the matter to restructure the petition. Leave granted to amend the petition by 18th of December and let notice be issued," the bench said.
With the Supreme Court agreeing to issue notice in this case, it is bound to cause acute embarrassment to India's principal opposition Congress party led by Indira Gandhi's daughter in law Sonia Gandhi. The is currently in turmoil over the leadership issue, declining popularity and a string of electoral defeats.