Authors: Kanika Dutt & Ishita Agarwal, Students at Manipal University, Jaipur
“Democracy, beloved husband of Truth, loving father of Liberty, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26.”
-Deputy Editor Mahadevan, The Times of India
In its most literal sense, democracy refers to ‘rule by the people’. The term has been derived from the Greek word dêmokratia, which was coined by combining the terms ‘dêmos’ (meaning people) and ‘kratos’ (meaning rule). Democracy originated in the Greek city state of Athens, during mid-5th century BCE. Findings propose that the same was practiced within prehistoric hunter-gatherers.
Democracy implies a political system that permits the citizens to engage in political decision-making, or to elect individuals of their preference to represent government bodies.
Even though the seeds of democracy were sown centuries ago in ancient Greece, it wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s that it became a widely accepted system of governance. Newly decolonised countries in the 1900s adapted democracy, and monarchs over the world began stepping down, giving way to a fairer political system. In the year 1947, when British rule in India came to an end, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel convinced the kings ruling the princely states of India to sign the ‘instrument of succession’. Doing so resulted in their states to be officially recognised as a part of independent India, and the people of the said states governed under democracy. The number of democratic countries further escalated after the end of the cold war in 1991, when the disintegration of USSR paved the way for newly independent countries to modify their model of authority.
In the wake of the end of British Rule in India on 15th August 1947, the then leader of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, declared The Republic of India to be a democratic country. With a large number of voters in favour of democracy, the largest election ever was held, thus making India the largest democracy and one of the first countries ever to give voting rights to women from the first election itself.
Along with emerging as the largest democracy, independent India had pride in having fundamental rights, an independent press, and adhering to the Universal Adult Franchise. Fundamental Rights stand for basic human rights that cannot be eliminated under most circumstances; however this was not the case in India in the year of 1975, when a nationwide Emergency was implemented by the infamous Indira Gandhi.
It’s not rare for nations to make constitutional amendments. The aforementioned usually occurs when authorities realise that a change is required, and put in efforts to forge a fool proof constitution that preserves democracy.
The same took place in the Indian Judiciary system, when the provisions of Emergency were changed after twenty-one months of havoc in the nation. Those twenty-one months will forever be remembered in India’s history as one of the darkest periods that compelled the government to do everything in their control to avoid history from repeating itself.
In short, an Emergency is proclaimed by the president of a country after consultation with the prime minister. An Emergency could be put to action under situations constituting of internal or external disturbances, among others.
Emergency has been previously declared in India three times, however, the most controversial of all was the one implemented by Indira Gandhi. A state of emergency was declared a few minutes’ prior midnight, on the night of 25th June 1975, under the leadership of President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, after consultation with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Said Emergency lasted for a span of twenty-one months, ending on 23rd March 1977. It’s popular public opinion that Indira Gandhi did not end the Emergency because she wanted to, but only because she was forced to. The Emergency came to an end after Gandhi’s defeat in a cabinet meeting.