Emergency Provisions in the Indian Constitution: Types, Effects, and Key Cases

19 Jun 2024  Read 1231 Views

As we know, India's Constitution is the longest in the world. One of its unique features is its ability to switch from a federal to a unitary form of government during emergencies. These provisions on emergencies are taken from Germany's Weimar Constitution. 

As the term suggests, ‘emergency’ refers to a period when the President of India takes control of governance during crisis situations. During this time, with advice from the cabinet of ministers, the President can temporarily suspend many parts of the Constitution, including the Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens.

In this blog, we will learn the constitutional provisions of emergency, its different types and the aftermath, all explained in a way that's easy to grasp and understand. 

Emergency Provisions in the Constitution 

Part XVIII of Article 352-360 of the Indian Constitution contains emergency provisions. These Articles are:-

Article

Heading

352

Proclamation of Emergency.

353

Effect of Proclamation of Emergency.

354

Application of provisions relating to the distribution of revenues while a proclamation of emergency is in operation.

355

The duty of the Union is to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance.

356

Provisions in case of failure of Constitutional machinery in State.

357

Exercise of legislative powers under Proclamation issued under Article 356.

358

Suspension of provisions of Article 19 during Emergencies.

359

Suspension of the enforcement of the rights conferred by Part Ill during emergencies.

360

Provisions as to Financial Emergency.

Types of Emergencies

Emergency provisions help the central government handle unusual situations effectively and protect the country's sovereignty, unity, integrity, security, democratic political system, and Constitution.

There are 3 kinds of emergencies which can be proclaimed (declared) in India. They are-

  • National Emergency

  • State Emergency

  • Financial Emergency

Let's break down each kind of emergency and understand them one by one.

1. National Emergency

Name of Emergency

National Emergency

Article

352

Ground/s

War, external aggression or armed rebellion

Area of its operation

India or a part of it

Who can declare?

The President of India

How can it end?

Lok Sabha can pass a resolution to end it.

Has it ever been declared in India?

Yes, 3 times, in 1962, 1971 and 1975.

Effects (specifically on Fundamental Rights)

All rights under Article 19 are suspended

Other Fundamental Rights (except Articles 20 and 21) may also be suspended if the President issues an order under Article 359.

Landmark Case

Minerva Mills (1980): A proclamation of National Emergency can be challenged on the grounds of malafide, irrelevant, or extraneous facts.

Note: The National Emergency is divided into two parts—

(i) External Emergency if it is declared on the grounds of war or external aggression

(ii) Internal Emergency if it is declared on the grounds of armed rebellion.

Other than this, the important points to know about National Emergencies are as follows:-

Changes in Center-State Relations:

In the National Emergency, the relationship of the Centre with all the States undergoes major modifications. 

  • Executive: The central government can give directions to a state on any matter during an emergency, which is broader than usual.

  • Legislative: Parliament can make laws on state subjects, but these laws become inactive six months after the emergency ends.

  • Financial: The President can adjust how money is shared between the central government and states during an emergency, including reducing or stopping financial transfers from the centre to the states.

No Time Limit:

  • A national emergency doesn't have a set time limit. It can last as long as Parliament keeps approving it every six months with a special majority.

Parliament's Exclusive Lawmaking Power:

  • Only Parliament can make laws on subjects listed in the State List during a national emergency. No other body or authority can do this.

Effects on the Lok Sabha & State Assembly:

Lok Sabha Extension:

  • The Lok Sabha can be extended beyond its usual term by one year at a time while the National Emergency is in effect.

  • However, this extension cannot last beyond six months after the emergency ends. 

State Legislative Assembly Extension:

  • Similarly, the Parliament can extend the usual tenure of a State Legislative Assembly by one year.

  • This extension also has a limit: it cannot go beyond six months after the emergency ends.

2. State Emergency 

Name of the emergency

State Emergency/ President's Rule

Article

356

Ground/s

- When the state government is unable to function as per the Constitution. (Article 356)

- When a state fails to follow directions from the central government, leading to constitutional breakdown. (Article 365)

Area of its operation

In a State

Who can declare?

The President by way of a proclamation, which must be approved by the Rajya Sabha & Lok Sabha within 2 months from the date of its declaration.

How can it end?

It can be revoked by the President only on his own.

Has it ever been declared in India?

Since 1950, the President's Rule has been imposed over 130 times, with Manipur & UP having the highest number of emergencies, i.e., 10 times.

Effects (specifically on Fundamental Rights)

No effect on the Fundamental Rights of citizens.

Landmark Case

SR Bommai v UOI: The court ruled that the State Legislative Assembly can only be dissolved after the Parliament approves the presidential proclamation. Until Parliament gives its approval, the President can only suspend the assembly. If Parliament does not approve the proclamation, the assembly will be reactivated.

Other than this, the important points to know about the State Emergency/ President's Rule are as follows:-

State Administration Under President's Rule:

  • The State Executive is dismissed, and the State Legislature is either suspended or dissolved.

  • The President manages the State through the Governor, and Parliament makes laws for the State. Essentially, the Centre takes over the Executive and Legislative powers of the State.

Parliament's Delegation of Power:

  • Parliament can delegate its lawmaking power for the State to the President or another specified authority.

  • Typically, the President makes laws for the State with input from the State's Members of Parliament, known as the President's Acts.

Duration and Control:

  • President's Rule can last up to an initial period of 6 months to 3 years, after which normal State governance must resume.

  • Parliament approves its imposition or continuation with a simple majority vote.

Judicial Checks and Guidelines:

  • The Centre misused Article 356 several times, leading to the Supreme Court providing detailed guidelines in SR Bommai v Union of India 1994.

  • The Presidential proclamation is subject to judicial review.

  • The President's satisfaction must be based on relevant material, and actions can be struck down if found irrelevant, malafide, or perverse.

  • The burden of proof lies with the Centre to justify the imposition.

  • The court can't assess material correctness or its adequacy but can check relevance.

  • If the proclamation is deemed invalid, the court can restore the dismissed State Government and revive the State Legislative Assembly.

3. Financial Emergency

Name of the Emergency

Financial Emergency

Article

360

Ground/s

Financial stability or credibility is threatened

Area of its operation

India or any part of its territory

Who can declare?

The President can issue a proclamation, but it must be approved by both Houses within 2 months of its issue.

How can it end?

By a subsequent Presidential Proclamation which does not require Parliamentary approval. 

Has it ever been declared in India?

Despite a financial crisis in 1991, it didn't happen even once.

Effects (specifically on Fundamental Rights)

Nothing as such.

Landmark Cases

N/A

In addition to the above, here are some important effects of a financial emergency:
Extended Executive Authority:

  • The central government gains authority to direct any state to follow specific financial guidelines set by it.

  • The President can give necessary directions to ensure financial stability and propriety.

Salaries and Allowances Reduction:

  • Directions from the President may include reducing the salaries and allowances of various officials in the state.

  • Money bills and financial bills passed by the state legislature may be reserved for the President's consideration.

  • The President has the power to issue directions for reducing salaries and allowances of Union employees, including judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, a national emergency is declared during a war, external aggression, or armed rebellion; a state emergency is applied when a state government fails to function according to constitutional norms; and a financial emergency is triggered when the nation's financial stability is at risk.

These provisions ensure the Indian government can effectively respond to crises, maintaining the nation's sovereignty, unity, and security.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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