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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The emergency and constitutional change in India Johal, Sarbjit Singh


This study is concerned with the effect of India's state of emergency 1975-77, on the operation of the Indian Constitution. Although the state of emergency of June 26, 1975 was invoked under Article 352 of the Constitution, it represented an important break in India's constitutional and political development since 1947. Prior to 1975, India was referred to both at home and abroad as the "world's largest democracy." Her political and constitutional stability were often contrasted with other Asian and African countries where constitutional governments collapsed. During the state of emergency the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi proposed and passed certain amendments to the Indian Constitution. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the reasons for this constitutional revision and the nature of the amendments. The constitutional and political implications of the amendments are analyzed for political parties, government-opposition relations, executive, legislative and judicial powers, individual rights, economic and social reform and federalism. A detailed account is given of the constitutional revision debate within the Congress Party and between the government and opposition parties. In particular, the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee are analyzed. In examining the viability of constitutional government in India it is hypothesized that the Indian Constitution, as adopted on January 26, 1950, contained contradictions between its liberal democratic provisions and its emergency powers. These broad emergency powers proved antithetical to constitutional government. It is further hypothesized that the maintenance of constitutional government requires a consensus between the government and the opposition parties as to the rules of the constitutional and political system. In developing these hypotheses Kothari's model of one-party dominance and the Marxist model of class conflict are utilized. Finally, the hypotheses of the paper and the two models are reexamined in the light of the emergency period and of the constitutional and political changes that occurred under it.

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