National Emergency ( Article 352 )


Provisions have been made in the Indian Constitution for dealing with extraordinary situations that may threaten the peace, security, stability and governance of the country or a part thereof. There are three types of extraordinary or crisis situations that are envisaged –

  1. first, when there is a war or external aggression has been committed or there is a threat of the same, or if internal disturbances amounting to armed rebellion take place;
  2. second, when it becomes impossible for the government of a State to be carried on in accordance with the Constitution; and
  3. third, if the credit or financial stability of the country is threatened.

In each case the President may issue a proclamation with varying consequences.

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The emergency caused by war, external aggression etc., popularly known as the national emergency.

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Proclamation Of National Emergency (Article 352)

The Constitution of India has provided for imposition of emergency caused by war, external aggression or internal rebellion. This is described as the National Emergency.

This type of emergency can be declared by the President of India if he is satisfied that the situation is very grave and the security of India or any part thereof is threatened or is likely to be threatened either (i) by war or external aggression or (ii) by armed rebellion within the country.

The President can issue such a proclamation even on the ground of threat of war or aggression.

  • Such a proclamation of emergency has to be approved by both the Houses of Parliament by absolute majority of the total membership of the Houses as well as 2/3 majority of members present and voting within one month, otherwise the proclamation ceases to operate.
  • In case the Lok Sabha stands dissolved at the time of proclamation of emergency or is not in session, it has to be approved by the Rajya Sabha within one month and later on by the Lok Sabha also within one month of the start of its next session.
  • Once approved by the Parliament, the emergency remains in force for a period of six months from the date of proclamation.
  • In case it is to be extended beyond six months, another prior resolution has to be passed by the Parliament. In this way, such emergency continues indefinitely.

If the situation improves the emergency can be revoked by another proclamation by the President of India.

According to the 44th Amendment of the Indian Constitution –

  • the President can declare an emergency only if the Cabinet recommends in writing to do so.
  • provides that ten per cent or more members of the Lok Sabha can requisition a meeting of the Lok Sabha and in that meeting, it can disapprove or revoke the emergency by a simple majority. In such a case emergency will immediately become inoperative.

National Emergency has been declared in our country three times so far –

  1. For the first time, emergency was declared on 26 October 1962 after China attacked our borders in the North East. This National Emergency lasted till 10 January 1968, long after the hostilities ceased.
  2. For the second time, it was declared on 3 December 1971 in the wake of the second India-Pakistan War and was lifted on 21 March 1977.
  3. While the second emergency, on the basis of external aggression, was in operation, third National Emergency (called internal emergency) was imposed on 25 June 1975. This emergency was declared on the ground of ‘internal disturbances’. Internal disturbances justified imposition of the emergency despite the fact that the government was already armed with the powers provided during the second National Emergency of 1971 which was still in operation.

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Effects Of National Emergency

The declaration of National Emergency has far-reaching effects both on the rights of individuals and the autonomy of the states in the following manner :

  1. The most significant effect is that the federal form of the Constitution changes into unitary. The authority of the Centre increases and the Parliament assumes the power to make laws for the entire country or any part thereof, even in respect of subjects mentioned in the State List.
  2. The President of India can issue directions to the states as to the manner in which the executive power of the states is to be exercised.
  3. During this period, the Lok Sabha can extend its tenure by a period of one year at a time. But the same cannot be extended beyond six months after the proclamation ceases to operate. The tenure of State Assemblies can also be extended in the same manner.
  4. During emergency, the President is empowered to modify the provisions regarding distribution of revenues between the Union and the States.
  5. The Fundamental Rights under Article 19 are automatically suspended and this suspension continues till the end of the emergency.
    • According to the 44th Amendment, Freedoms listed in Article 19 can be suspended only in case of proclamation on the ground of war or external aggression.

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Thus, emergency not only suspends the autonomy of the States but also converts the federal structure of India into a unitary one. Still it is considered necessary as it equips the Union Government with vast powers to cope up with the abnormal situations. The exigencies of the situation prevailing in the period 1975-77 necessitated certain changes in the Constitution regarding emergency provisions. Therefore, the 44th amendment was passed on 30th April 1979 to strengthen the democratic features of the Indian Constitution and to protect citizens’ rights even during the national emergency.

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Bibliography : NIOS – Political Science

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