Study MaterialsCBSE NotesClass 12 Political Science Notes Chapter 15 The Crisis of Democratic Order

Class 12 Political Science Notes Chapter 15 The Crisis of Democratic Order

Background to Emergency

  • the 1970s was a period of political turmoil in India. This period witnessed tensions in the relationship between the government and the judiciary.
  • Ideological differences erupted within the Congress and it sharpened the division between Indira Gandhi and her opponents.

Economic Context

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    • Congress gave the slogan of Garibi Hatao in the 1971 elections. Due to various national and international factors, the social and economic condition in the country did not improve much after 1971-72.
    • In such a context non-Congress opposition parties were able to organise popular protests effectively.

    Gujarat and Bihar Movements

    • Gujarat and Bihar were Congress-ruled states. Despite this fact, students from both states started agitation against rising prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities, and against corruption in high places.
    • Jai Prakash Narayan from Bihar gave a call for a total revolution in the social, economic and political spheres.
    • In 1975, Jai Prakash led one of the largest marches to the Parliament.

    The Naxalite Movement

    • In 1967, a peasant uprising took place in the Naxalbari area of Darjeeling (West Bengal) under the leadership of CPI (M), headed by Charu Majumdar.
    • After some time one branch broke off from them and was known as Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML). It was founded by Charu Majumdar.
    • Government have taken stern measures in dealing with the Naxalite movement.

    Railway Strike of 1974

    • A nationwide strike by all employees of the Railways was led by George Fernandes.
    • Its main demand was related to bonuses and service conditions.
    • The government declared the strike illegal and it had to be called off after 20 days without settlement.

    Conflict with Judiciary

    • the 1970s witnessed a bitter relationship between legislature and judiciary.
    • Constitutional Amendment and its interpretation was pivotal point of bitter relations.
    • In 1973, the issue of the appointment of the Chief Justice of India worsened the condition.
    • Highest point in controversy came when High Court declare Indira Gandhi’s election invalid.

    Declaration of Emergency
    On 12th June 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lai Sinha of the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha invalid. This decision created a political crisis.

    Crisis and Response

    • In response to the rapidly changing political situation and JP Movement, the Government of India on 25th June 1975 recommended the imposition of emergency to President Fakrudin Ali Ahmed. The President issued the proclamation immediately.
    • The emergency was proclaimed under Article 352 of the Constitution which declares a state of emergency on grounds of external threat or a threat of internal disturbances.
    • The cabinet was informed about it at a special meeting at 6 am on 26th June 1975 after all this had taken place.

    Consequences ‘

    • Freedom of Press and some of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens were suspended. All the ongoing protests ended, strikes were banned, opposition leaders were put in Jail.
    • The Parliament also brought in many new changes to the Constitution.
    • Prior approval of the government was needed to publish an article or matter it is called press censorship.

    Controversies regarding Emergency

    • After an emergency, an investigation was done by Shah Commission. It found that in some areas excess restrictions were implied during emergencies.
    • The government argued that in a democracy, the opposition parties must allow the elected ruling party to govern according to its policies.
    • The critics say that Indira Gandhi misused constitutional provisions meant for saving the country to save her power.
    • The Shah Commission estimated that nearly one lakh people were arrested under preventive detention laws.
    • Apart from the arrests of political workers and the restrictions on the press, the emergency directly affected the lives of common people in many cases.

    Lessons from Emergency

    • It is extremely difficult to do away with democracy in India.
    • ‘Internal’ emergency can be proclaimed only on the grounds of ‘armed rebellion’. Advice to the President to proclaim it must be given in writing by the Council of Ministers.
    • The emergency made everyone more aware of the value of civil liberties.

    Politics after Emergency
    The experience of emergency was quite visible in the 1977 Lok Sabha Elections. The people’s verdict was decisively against the emergency.

    Lok Sabha Elections, 1977

    • The Janata Party made this election into a referendum on the emergency.
    • For the first time since Independence, the Congress Party was defeated in the Lok Sabha elections.
    • The Congress could win only 154 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The Janata Party and its allies won 330 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha; Janata Party itself won 295 seats and thus enjoyed a clear majority.

    Janata Government

    • After the election of 1977 there was stiff competition among three leaders for the post of Prime Minister Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram. Finally, Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister.
    • The Janata Party split and the government which was led by Morarji Desai lost its majority in less than 18 months.
    • Fresh Lok Sabha elections were held in 1980 in which the Janata Party suffered a comprehensive defeat and Congress Party came back in power.

    Return of Congress

    • By the 1970s the Congress Party identified itself with a particular ideology, claiming to be the only socialist and pro-poor party.
    • Indirectly the issue of welfare of the backward castes also began to dominate politics since 1977.
    • The issue of reservations for ‘other backward classes’ became very controversial in Bihar and following this, the Mandal Commission was appointed by the Janata Party government at the centre.


    1. The non-Congress parties opposed Congress due to the personalisation of politics. The ‘Marxist-Leninist’ groups were strong in West Bengal, which used arms and insurgent techniques to overthrow the capitalist order to establish a political system. But the state government took stringent measures to suppress them.

    2. The first nationwide Satyagraha was organised by Jayaprakash Narayan for Indira Gandhi’s resignation. He made people aware not to obey illegal and ‘immoral orders’ by a massive demonstration in Delhi’s Ramlila ground on June 25, 1975, as well as Indira Gandhi’s elections, were also declared invalid on grounds to use government servants inter-election campaign on an election petition filed by Raj Narain, a socialist leader.

    3. Railway strike of 1974 was called by the ‘National Coordination Committee’ led by George Fernandes for pressing their demands related to bonus and service conditions. The government declared the strike illegal and deployed the territorial army to protect railway trades. Thus, the strike was called off after twenty days without any settlement.

    4. Before, the declaration of emergency, many differences arose between the government and the ruling party leading to a strain between the judiciary, legislature and executive on issues of intervention in constitutional provisions by government or parliament. It was proved in the case of Keshavanand Bharti, where the judiciary declared that parliament cannot controversially amend in constitutional basic features. It mixed up constitutional interpretations and political ideologies rapidly.

    5. In response to Raj Narain’s petition, on 25 June 1975, the government declared an emergency on the recommendation of the Prime Minister on the ground of threat of international disturbances, which invoked Article 352 of the Constitution to bring law and order, restore efficiency and above all, implement the pro-poor welfare programmes.

    6. The proclamation of Emergency in 1975 had far-reaching consequences and affected every sphere of life such as:
    (а) lt affected civil liberties by making large-scale arrests, as well as citizens’ rights to life and liberty, were also taken away.
    (b) It affected the relationship between the executive and judiciary to bring new changes in the constitution by the 42nd amendment like duration of legislatures, elections can be postponed by one year during an emergency.
    (c) It affected Mass Media also i.e. ‘Press censorship’.

    7. After an emergency was imposed, questions and debates arose about whether an emergency was necessary or not. The government argued that the opposition party must allow the elected ruling party to govern according to its policies whereas critics argued that people had the right to publicly protest against the government.

    8. The State commission headed by J.C. Shah, was appointed in May 1977 by the Janata Party government to enquire into several aspects of allegations of abuse of authority, excesses and malpractices committed and action taken in the wake of emergency and Shah Commission found out to be many excesses committed, maximum arrests under preventive detention law, illegal restrictions on the press and verbal orders to cut electricity at 2 a.m. of all newspaper presses.

    9. Emergency taught many lessons firstly, to be difficult to do away with democracy, secondly, necessary the advice to proclaim emergency in writing (by the president) by the council of ministers, thirdly, it made everyone more aware of the value of civil liberties.

    10. As soon as the emergency was over and the Lok Sabha elections were announced in 1977 to be turned into a referendum. Hence politics after the emergency was characterised by two major developments:
    (a) 1977 elections defeated Congress on people’s verdict against emergency and opposition fought on the slogan ‘save democracy’.
    (b)Midterm elections in 1980 were held due to Janata Party lacking direction, leadership and a common programme as well as could not bring any fundamental change in policies pursued by Congress.

    11. The legacy of emergency of 1975 was felt in every sphere of life and politics which can be described as a period of constitutional and political crisis to have its origin in the constitutional battle over the jurisdiction of the parliament and the judiciary.


    1. Emergency: In an emergency, the federal distribution of power remain practically suspended and all powers were concentrated in the hands of the Union government.
    2. Press-censorship: Newspapers were supposed to get prior approval before publishing any material.
    3. Preventive Detention: The people were arrested on the ground/apprehended to commit any offence in future.
    4. Marxist-Leninist: This group was strong in West Bengal which had taken to arms and insurgent techniques for the overthrow of the capitalist order and established political system.
    5. Twenty Point Programme: It was announced by Indira Gandhi to bring law and order and restore efficiency including land reforms, land redistribution, eradication of bonded labour etc.
    6. Satyagraha: It emphasised peaceful demonstration as if people are fighting for truthfulness and lawfulness, no need to adopt violent methods against the government or entities.
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