Chapter 6 The Crisis of Democratic Order Class 12 Political Science Notes

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Chapter 6 The Crisis of Democratic Order Class 12 Political Science Notes

Chapter 6 The Crisis of Democratic Order Class 12 Political Science Notes

Background to Emergency

• Since 1967. Indira Gandhi had emerged as a towering leader with tremendous popularity. This period also witnessed tensions in the relationship between the government and the judiciary.

• The Supreme Court found many initiatives of the government to be violative of the Constitution and the Congress party took the position that this stand of the Court was against principles of democracy and parliamentary supremacy.

• The split in the Congress had sharpened the divisions between Indira Gandhi and her opponents.

Economic Context

• In the elections of 1971, Congress had given the slogan of garibi hatao (remove poverty) but the social and economic condition in the country did not improve much after 1971-72.

• After the Bangladesh crisis, the U.S government stopped all aid to India.

• Prices increased by 23 per cent in 1973 and 30 per cent in 1974 that caused much hardship to the people.

• Industrial growth was low and unemployment was very high, particularly in the rural areas. Monsoons failed in 1972-1973 which resulted in a sharp decline in agricultural productivity.

• There was also an increase in the activities of Marxist groups who had taken to arms and insurgent techniques for the overthrow of the capitalist order and the established political system. These are known as the Marxist-Leninist (now Maoist) groups or Naxalites, were particularly strong in West Bengal

Gujarat and Bihar movements

• In January 1974 students in Gujarat started an agitation against rising prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities, and against corruption in high places. Due to protests, assembly elections held in Gujarat in June 1975. The Congress was defeated in this election.

• In March 1974, students came together in Bihar to protest against rising prices, food scarcity, unemployment and corruption. After a point they invited Jayaprakash Narayan to lead the students movement.

• Jayaprakash Narayan gave a call for total revolution in the social, economic and political spheres in order to establish what he considered to be true democracy.

• In 1975, JP led a peoples’ march to the Parliament. He was now supported by the non-Congress opposition parties like the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the Congress (O), the Bharatiya Lok Dal, the Socialist Party and others. 

The Naxalite Movement

• In 1967 a peasant uprising took place in the Naxalbari police station area of Darjeeling hills district in West Bengal under the leadership of the local cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

• In 1969, they broke off from the CPI (M) and a new party, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML), was formed under the leadership of Charu Majumdar.

• The Naxalite movement has by now splintered into various parties and organisations. Currently about 75 districts in nine States are affected by Naxalite violence.

• Governments have taken stern measures in dealing with the Naxalite movement. Many thousand people have lost their lives in the violence by the Naxalites and the anti-Naxalite violence by the government.

Railway Strike of 1974

• In 1974, The National Coordination Committee for Railwaymen’s Struggle led by George Fernandes gave a call for nationwide strike by all employees of the Railways for pressing their demands related to bonus and service conditions.

• The government declared the strike illegal and arrested many of their leaders. The strike had to be called off after twenty days without any settlement.

Conflict with Judiciary

• This was the period when the government and the ruling party had many differences with the judiciary.

• The Court said that Parliament cannot amend the Constitution in such a manner that rights are curtailed. 

• The Parliament amended the Constitution saying that it can abridge Fundamental Rights for giving effect to Directive Principles but the Supreme Court rejected his provision also.

• In the case of Keshavanand Bharati, the judiciary declared that the Parliament cannot amend constitutional basic features in a controversial manner.

• In 1973, in the Keshavananda Bharati case, the government set aside the practice to appoint the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice and appointed Justice A. N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India. Thus, constitutional interpretations and political ideologies were getting mixed up rapidly.

Declaration of Emergency

• On 12 June 1975, the Allahabad High Court passed a judgement declaring Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha invalid. This order came on an election petition filed by Raj Narain, a socialist leader and a candidate who had contested against her in 1971.

Crisis and response

• On 25 June 1975. Jayaprakash announced a nationwide satyagraha for Indira Gandhi's resignation and asked the army, the police and government employees not to obey “illegal and immoral orders”.

• On 25 June 1975, the government invoked Article 352 of the Constitution and declared a state of emergency citing threat of internal disturbances. The Prime Minister recommended the imposition of Emergency to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.

• Once an emergency is proclaimed, the federal distribution of powers remains practically suspended and all the powers are concentrated in the hands of the union government. The government also gets the power to curtail or restrict all or any of the Fundamental Rights during the emergency.

• In the early morning, a large number of leaders and workers of the opposition parties were arrested.


• The emergency brought the agitation to an abrupt stop; strikes were banned; many opposition leaders were put in jail; the political situation became very quiet though tense. The government suspended the freedom of the Press.

• The government banned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamait-e-Islami.

• The various Fundamental Rights of citizens stood suspended, including the right of citizens to move the Court for restoring their Fundamental Rights. The government made extensive use of preventive detention.

• Arrested political workers could not challenge their arrest through habeas corpus petitions in the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

• Many political workers who were not arrested in the first wave, went ‘underground’ and organised protests against the government.

• Many journalists were arrested for writing against the Emergency and many underground newsletters and leaflets were published to bypass censorship.

• The Parliament also brought in many new changes to the Constitution. In the background of the ruling of the Allahabad High Court in the Indira Gandhi case, an amendment was made declaring that elections of Prime Minister, President and Vice-President could not be challenged in the Court.

• The forty-second amendment was also passed during the Emergency.

Controversies regarding Emergency

• In the investigation by the Shah Commission after the Emergency found out, there were many ‘excesses’ committed during the Emergency.

Was the Emergency necessary?

• The Communist Party of India (CPI) believed that there was an international conspiracy  against the unity of India. It believed that in such circumstances some restrictions on  agitations were justified.

• The government argued that opposition party must allow elected ruling party to govern according to its policies whereas critics argued that people had the right to publicly protest against the government.
• Apart from the arrests of political workers and the restrictions on the press, the Emergency directly affected lives of common people in many cases. Torture and custodial deaths occurred during the Emergency; arbitrary relocation of poor people also took place; and over-enthusiasm about population control led to cases of compulsory sterilisation.

• The critics say that Indira Gandhi misused constitutional provision meant for saving the country to save her personal power.

Lessons of the Emergency

• The Emergency at once brought out both the weaknesses and the strengths of India’s democracy. It taught many lessons:
→ Firstly, it is extremely difficult to do away with democracy in India.
→ Secondly, necessary the advice to proclaim Emergency in writing (by the President) by Council of Ministers.
→ Thirdly, it made everyone more aware of the value of civil liberties.

• However, the critical gears of Emergency brought lots of issues that have not been grappled with adequately.

Politics after Emergency

• The 1977 elections turned into a referendum on the experience of the Emergency. The opposition fought the election on the slogan of ‘save democracy’.

Lok Sabha Elections, 1977

• In January 1977, after 18 months of Emergency, the government decided to hold Lok Sabha elections. 

• The Congress could win only 154 seats in the Lok Sabha elections and popular votes fell to less than 35 per cent. 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

• The Janata Party government that came to power after the 1977 elections was far from cohesive.

• After the elections, there was stiff competition among three leaders for the post of Prime Minister- Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Jagjivan Ram. Eventually Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister.

• Eventually Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister but that did not bring the power struggle within the party to an end.

• 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.


• Between the elections of 1977 and 1980 the party system had changed dramatically. The Congress party now identified itself with a particular ideology, claiming to be the only socialist and pro-poor party.

• Other opposition parties relied more and more on what is known in Indian politics as ‘non-Congressism’.

• The Emergency and the period around it can be described as a period of constitutional crisis because it had its origins in the constitutional battle over the jurisdiction of the Parliament and the judiciary.

• It was also a period of political crisis. The party in power had absolute majority and yet, its leadership decided to suspend the democratic process.

• During this period, there was clearly a tension between institution-based democracy and democracy based on spontaneous popular participation.
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