Political Background

Congress and the Rise of Indira Gandhi Allahabad Conviction Declaration of Emergency

Indira Gandhi


Congress and the Rise of Indira Gandhi

The Congress Party of India has been historically associated with the political system of India.  It arose as a budding independence movement in 1885 and was lead by Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru. The congress party held power in New Delhi and in 22 states from 1947.  The party maintained its dominance through five general elections since 1951-1952.  In 1966 after the death of Lal Bahdur Shastri, Indira Gandhi who was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, was selected as the President of the Indian National Congress Party.  She proved her leadership in the role she played in the 1965 war with Pakistan, which led to the birth of Bangladesh in East Bengal. In 1966 Gandhi beat Moraji Desai by 355 votes to 169 and become the fifth Prime Minister of India and the first woman to hold that position.

Allahabad Conviction

Raj Narain, a socialist who was recently defeated by Indira Gandhi (two to one) in the Rae Bareilly parliamentary constituency of Uttar Pradesh, submitted to the Allahabad High Court charges of corruption in the election process against Mrs. Gandhi. In 1974, Jayaprakash Narayan, ex-congressman, ex-socialist began to organize a campaign in Bihar to oust Indira Gandhi and her congress party from office on charges of corruption. On June 12th, 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court, found the Prime Minister guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign. The court declared her election "null and void" and unseated her from the Lok Sabha. The court also banned her from contesting in any election for an additional six years. Some serious charges such as bribing voters and election malpractices were dropped and she was held guilty on comparatively less important charges such as building of a dais by state police and provision of electricity by the state electricity department and height of the dais from which she addressed the campaign rally. Some of these charges were in reality an essential part for the Prime Minister's Security protocol. In addition, she was held responsible for misusing the government machinery as a government employee. Because the court unseated her on comparatively lesser charges, while being acquitted on more serious charges, The Times of India described it as "firing the Prime Minister for a traffic ticket." Strikes by labour and trade unions, student unions and government unions swept across the country. Protests led by Raj Narayan and Moraji Desai flooded the streets of Delhi close to the Parliament building and the Prime Minister's residence.

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Allahabad High Court

Front page of the Indian Herald on June 26th 1975

Declaration of Emergency

Justice Sinha stayed the operation of his judgment for 20 days allowing the Congress party to elect a successor to the Prime Minister.  Unable to find a competent successor, Mrs. Gandhi, on June 23rd 1975 appealed for “complete and absolute” stay which would have permitted her to be a voting Member of Parliament, as well as Prime Minister.  On June 24th 1975 Justice Iyer granted Indira Gandhi “conditional stay”.  This decision gave rise to outcries of opposition from the opposition that she should resign.  Mrs. Gandhi did not resign.  On the evening of June 25th 1975, JP Narayan called for a civil disobedience campaign to force the resignation of the Prime Minister.  In response, the authority of the maintenance of Internal Security Act was used in the early hours of June 26th to arrest more than a hundred people who opposed Mrs. Gandhi and her party.  People arrested included JP Narayan, Raj Narain, Jyortimoy Basu (communist party-marxist), Samar Guha (president of the Jana Sangha).  A proclamation of Emergency was issued on June 26th by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, on the advice of Prime Minister Gandhi.  The authority for calling the emergency was under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution.  Sunch an emergency can be called by the President whenever he is satisfied that the security of India, or any part of it has been threatened by war, external agression, or internal disturbance.  The actual occurrence of a disturbance is not necessary, only expected the occurrence of a disturbance.  Furthermore, under Article 352, the Courts may not inquire into the validity of the grounds upon which emergency was called.  The powers given to the Central Government under this form of emergency virtually have no limits.

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