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June 25, 1975: The day democracy was killed in India

In the evening of June 25, 1975, there was a large meeting at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, which was addressed by Jayaprakash Narayan and other leaders. This day (June 25) every Indian hangs his head in shame over Emergency, which refers to the darkest days in Indian democracy as the then PM Indira Gandhi imposed it

June 25, 1975: The day democracy was killed in India
New Delhi, First Published Jun 25, 2020, 1:35 PM IST
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New Delhi: It all began at 3.30 pm (June 24, 1975), when the doors of Justice Krishna Iyer’s chambers opened. He had got cyclostyled a number of copies of his judgment, which contained twenty-three cyclostyled pages each.

The judge read out the operative portion of the order. In the said order, though he had observed that the merits of the appeal could be gone into only at the time of the hearing of the appeal, he also observed that he had hesitated to prolong the “absolute stay” granted by the Allahabad high court as the high court’s finding, until overruled, held good.

Even though the office of the prime minister was not involved in the election petition filed by Indira Gandhi, nevertheless the learned judge gave an elaborate order and held that she could still continue in the office of the prime minister. However, she could not participate in the parliamentary proceedings as an MP but as the prime minister, she could speak in Parliament (without a right to vote).

This order created a great complication.

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A decisive resolution

JP Goyal received a telephone call from Raj Narain from his residence in Delhi on 8, Dr Bishambar Das Marg. He asked him to bring the order and explain the same to the political leaders who had gathered at the time in Delhi at Morarji Desai’s house at 5, Dupleix Road.

He went to Narain’s residence and from there they went to Desai’s place. Jayaprakash Narayan and Desai were sitting together. Goyal read out the relevant portions of the order to the leaders of the Opposition gathered there.

Piloo Mody thereafter asked Goyal to accompany him to a room, where Asoka Mehta, LK Advani, Mody and Goyal drafted the resolution that was to be released to the press by the coordination committee of five Opposition parties, namely the Congress (O), the Bharatiya Lok Dal, the Jana Sangh, the Socialist Party and the Akali Dal.

The salient features of that resolution were that Indira Gandhi had not got a full stay order from the Supreme Court and under the circumstances she could not remain the prime minister. She was found to be guilty of corrupt practices, and even Justice Krishna Iyer in his order had indirectly brought up the issue of political propriety and democratic dharma, saying that it would be better to observe judicial silence on it.

It was pointed out that the principles and practice in democratic countries had been that if a person was under a cloud of suspicion, then he or she must vacate the office held by him or her. By the said resolution, a sort of advice was given to Indira Gandhi that she should quit the high office of the prime minister. The said resolution was published in the newspapers of June 25, 1975.

In the evening of June 25, 1975, there was a large meeting at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, which was addressed by Narayan and other leaders. In that meeting, Narayan declared that if Indira Gandhi did not quit the office of the prime minister with grace, the coordination committee would be compelled to undertake a peaceful satyagraha against her continuance in that office. Narain also addressed the meeting, which ended at about 9 pm.

Narain went to his residence thereafter. From there, he telephoned Goyal and requested him to come to his residence, where he wanted to talk to him on many issues. He reached there at about 10-10.30 pm. They discussed many connected issues, political as well as about the case and sat together till about midnight.

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Goyal wanted to leave but Raj Narain said that it was not proper for him to go at that late hour. He said that some foul play may be done by the other side if he went out at that odd hour as he was appearing for him in the case and the other side could not be relied upon. Under these circumstances, he was asked by Narain to spend the night at his residence and so he did.

The proclamation

At about 3 am, they were woken up by Urmilesh Jha who was the former secretary to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and was at the time working as a secretary to Narain.

He told them that the entire house was surrounded by police and that Narayan had been arrested at the Gandhi Peace Foundation.  A warrant was served on Narain. It was under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 (MISA) and signed by Sushil Kumar, District Magistrate (DM), Delhi.

The receiver of Narain’s telephone was put off the hook. Urmilesh told Goyal later that KS Radhakrishna, secretary of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, had told him over the phone that Narayan had been arrested.

Narain bathed and packed some books to take along with him. In the early hours of the morning, he was taken away in a car by police. After he left, T Lakshmi Kantamma, an MP, who was later a member of the working committee of the Janata Party, arrived at Narain’s residence. Era Sezhiyan, who was the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the Lok Sabha at the time and who was living in the neighbourhood, also arrived there. They both enquired about all that had happened.

The Statesman and The Hindustan Times, Delhi’s two leading newspapers at the time, somehow appeared the next day, though other papers could not appear. The main news was that the President of India had declared National Emergency on account of internal disturbances under Article 352 of the Constitution of India.

Indira Gandhi, according to democratic norms, should have vacated the office she was holding, she had done this mischief merely to keep herself in office. Democracy was finished in this country, and that she ought to have resigned on the day when she was found to have committed corrupt practices by Justice JML Sinha on June 12, 1975.

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