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Question

Discuss the effects of Emergency on the following aspects of our polity.

• Effects on civil liberties for citizens.
• Impact on relationship between the Executive and Judiciary
• Functioning of Mass Media
• Working of the Police and Bureaucracy.

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Solution

a. Effects on civil liberties: The imposition of Emergency had its impact on the civil liberties of the people, which so far was the underlying principle of our democratic structure. Various fundamental rights of the people were suspended, most importantly habeas corpus, the right to challenge one’s arrest in the court. Political activists, opponents were largely arrested on the grounds of preventive detention. Right to freedom was suspended; people were not allowed to hold any public rally, protest or agitation. The Emergency thus, made people realise the value of such rights and civil liberties granted by the constitution.

b. Impact of relationship between the Executive and Judiciary: Parliament also made some major amendments to the constitution; prominent being that the elections of prime minister, president and vice-president could not be challenged in the court. The government also passed the 42nd Constitutional Amendment that lowered the position of the Judiciary and made it subordinate to the executive. Further, during the proclamation of Emergency, all proceedings in the court for the enforcement of fundamental rights were suspended. It was only later, by virtue of the 44th Amendment Act, that enforcement of Right to Life and Liberty under Article 21 could not be suspended, that is, suspension of right to move to court for the enforcement of a fundamental right cannot be exercised with respect to the fundamental right to life and liberty.

c. Functioning of mass media: With the proclamation of Emergency, press censorship was imposed. Any material or news item to be published required prior approval of the government. Freedom of press was curtailed. Several newspapers like Indian Express and the Statesman protested against censorship by leaving blank spaces where news items had been censored. Many journalists were arrested for writing against the Emergency. Many underground newsletters and leaflets were published to bypass censorship. Many prominent writers returned the civil award conferred to them by the Government of India as a mark of resistance against the Emergency.

d. Working of Police and Bureaucracy: The implementation of the Emergency took place through state’s apparatus and its law enforcing agencies. Police was actively involved in detaining and arresting people. Large number of people became victims of police’s torture; there were cases of custodial deaths. During the Emergency, police raj was most visible as it became a political instrument in the hands of the ruling Congress party. The entire police machinery was misused by vested interests to control and oppress any voice of dissent.
Likewise, administration passed a number of orders during the state of Emergency all of which were politically motivated. The institution of bureaucracy was destroyed and became a tool in the hands so the executive. It was later found out that most of the orders passed by the administration were fabricated.


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