The Indian Constitution has vested extensive powers to the Union Government or the President to deal with abnormal conditions in times of emergency.
The Constitution of India in Part XVIII provides three different types of emergency (National, State, and Financial) and in each case, the President is empowered to declare the emergency.
The emergency provisions of our Constitution (Articles 352-360) are enumerated as follows:
National Emergency (Article 352):
The President of India, after receiving a written communication of the decision of the Union Cabinet—the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Cabinet rank—may issue a proclamation of emergency when the security of India or any part thereof is threatened or is likely to be threatened by war or foreign attack or armed rebellion.
Every such proclamation is required to be laid before each House of Parliament. It ceases to operate at the expiration of one month unless it has been approved by a majority of total membership of each of the two Houses (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. The normal duration of a proclamation of national emergency is six (6) month from the date of approval. This may be extended for another six months by another resolution. Further, the Forty-Fourth Amendment Act (1978) lays down that the one-tenth (1/10) of the total members of Lok Sabha may give notice to the Speaker of their intention of holding a special session of the House to discuss disapproval of such an emergency. And the discussion on this resolution must be held within 14 days.
We are to note that the national emergency was invoked in October 1962 (China’s attack), December 1971 (Bangladesh liberation movement) and June 1975 (Internal Security threatened).
Effects of National Emergency
The effects of the proclamation of national emergency are:
President’s Rule in a State Emergency (Article: 356)
The emergency (due to failure of constitutional machinery) in a State can be proclaimed if the President of India is satisfied with the report of a Governor or otherwise, or on his own initiative that a situation has arisen in which that State Government cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
The proclamation of State Emergency needs ratification by the Parliament within two months. After the parliament’s approval, it may continue for six (6) months at a time subject to the maximum period of three (3) years. However, the Forty-Fourth Amendment Act of 1978 clearly lies down that the President’s Rule can be extended beyond one year only when the National Emergency is in operation and the Election Commission certifies that holding elections to that State Legislative Assembly is difficult.
It may be pointed that during the last 50 years, almost all the States have been at one time or the other, put under the President’s Rule.
Effects of State Emergency
The effects of the proclamation of State Emergency are as follows:
It may be noted that the fundamental rights and the judicial remedies cannot be suspended during this emergency.
Financial Emergency (Article 360)
According to Article 360 of Indian Constitution, The President of India is empowered to proclaim a State of financial emergency if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India or of any part of the territory thereof is threatened.
The normal duration of 4 proclamations of financial emergency is two (2) months. However, such a proclamation must be laid before each House of Parliament. If it has been approved by resolutions of both Houses of Parliament by a majority of total membership voting separately, such a proclamation will remain in force for an indefinite period. We are to note that the financial emergency has not so far declared in our country.
Effects of Financial Emergency
The effects of financial emergency are as follows:
It may be noted that the fundamental rights cannot be restricted, nor judicial remedied suspended during this emergency.
In times of emergency—national, state or financial—all powers are concentrated in the hands of the Union Government. The emergencies make our fundamental rights less meaningful.
On the other hand, the justification of emergency provisions lies in the fact that when the existence of the State itself is in danger due to external attack or internal disturbance or financial instability, the Union Government must be armed with full powers to avert or meet that danger. And it is well that, at such a time, the restraints are placed on the good of the individuals in the safety and security of the State and the State is not bothered by judicial interferences.
The founding fathers of our Constitution have not only wanted to give a democratic Constitution but also provided a solid foundation of national unity and integrity. So, these emergency provisions are expected to be used in such real situations.
However, these powers should never be misused to meet out the political ends of the party in power. This can be checked by strong public opinion and democratic forces which are essential for the success of our federal-cum-parliamentary democracy.