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#40YearsOfEmergency: What made Mrs Gandhi take the extreme step

Emergency was imposed on the country on the fateful night of 25th June, 1975. The nation came to know about it when Mrs Gandhi announced her decision to the nation on All India Radio next
Akhilesh Shukla June 24, 2015 13:01 IST
Akhilesh Shukla

Emergency was imposed on the country on the fateful night of 25th June, 1975. The nation came to know about it when Mrs Gandhi announced her decision to the nation on All India Radio next morning.

The things, however, had started precipitating 22 days before this declaration which continued till next 21 months.

On June 12, 1975 Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of Allahabad High court found Mrs Gandhi, guilty of corrupt practices in securing the services of government servants, including Mr. Yashpal Kapoor, the then officer on special duty in the PM's secretariat, for furthering her poll prospects. The decision was pronounced on the petition filed by Mr. Raj Narain.

Narain, in the mid-term poll of 1971, was defeated by Mrs Gandhi by more than 100,000 votes. He would have later defeated Mrs Gandhi in the 1977 elections with a margin of more than 50,000 votes.

In his judgement, the court had said that the petitioner has established his case of corrupt practices and set aside Mrs. Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli in the 1972 mid-term polls.

However, in a breather to Mrs. Gandhi, the court accepted the plea of her counsel and stayed his order for next 20 days.

The country, by that time, was already under the grip of anti- Mrs Gandhi wave.

"There was clapping and shouts of "Zindabad" when the judge announced his judgement in the packed court", reported The Times of India on the next day under the eight columns headline "HIGH COURT VERDICT UNSEATS INDIRA- Debarred from elective post for 6 Years."

It was first time in the country's history that a Prime Minister gave evidence in the witness-box in an election case, the TOI report further said. Besides, she was the first PM to be held guilty of "corrupt election practices", reported another leading English daily, The Statesman.

The party, however, firmly stood behind Mrs Gandhi and asked her to lead the country and party, irrespective of the judgement.

"The Congress party - in any case, the vast majority of it rallied behind her at the political level. Her senior cabinet colleagues, Mr Jagjivan Ram, Mr Chavan, Mr US Dikshit and the Congress President Mr D K Boraah, promptly issued a joint statement, to affirm their faith in her and to declare that "for the integrity, stability and progress of the country her dynamic leadership is indispensable" said a The Statesman report while covering the development.

The newspaper also reported that the non-CPI opposition parties had prepared a seven point plan of action to get the resignation of the PM.

"For the sake of political morality, Mrs Gandhi should resign immediately. She has gone too far with her corrupt practices" Raj Narain was quoted by The Statesman.

Mrs Gandhi, on the other hand, remained unfazed by the developments happening around on that day.

TOI, in a report, said "As the news came, senior ministers, party colleagues and legal advisors were hurriedly summoned to her residence for consultations. The callers did not find any emotion on her face. When one MP referred to the judgement and assured her of the party's full support, Mrs Gandhi asked him not be excited."

However, Mrs Gandhi, who would be referred in history books as Iron lady refused to resign. Newspaper reported that Mrs Gandhi would utilise the next 20 days respite given by court.

The then PM had already started getting advice which was more of anti-democratic in nature. 

The Indian Express reported that "At least two chief ministers have told Mrs Gandhi that she should take steps to limit the jurisdiction of the court in matter of elections." However, the newspaper did not name the CMs due to obvious reasons.

The lady utilised the 20-day time to weigh all her options before reaching the conclusion of imposing Emergency in the country, arresting opposition leaders and curtailing democratic rights of people till 21st March 1977.