1. There are different views about the need to declare an emergency. The Indian Constitution simply described ‘internal disturbances’ as the reason for declaring Emergency. The government argued that in a democracy, the opposition parties must allow the elected ruling party to govern according to its policies. It felt that frequent recourse to agitations, protests and collective action are not good for democracy. This leads to instability and distracts the administration from its routine task of ensuring development. Some other parties like the CPI that continued to back the Congress during Emergency, also believed that there was an international conspiracy against the unity of India.
2. On the other hand, the critics of the Emergency argued that ever since the freedom movement, Indian politics had a history of popular struggles. Jai Prakash Narayan and much other opposition leader felt that in a democracy people had the right to publicly protest against the government. The Gujarat and Bihar agitations peaceful. Those who were arrested were never tried for any anti-national activity. The threat was not to the unity and integrity of the country, but to the ruling party and to the Prime Minister herself. The critics say that Indira Gandhi misused the constitutional provision meant for saving the country to save her personal power.
3. The government used powers given by the constitution and suspended the democratic functioning. It said that it wanted to use the Emergency to bring law and order, restore government led by Indira Gandhi announced a twenty-point programme and declared its determination to implement this programme. In the initial months, the urban middle classes were generally happy over the fact that agitations came to an end. The poor and rural people also expected an effective implementation of the welfare programmes. Thus, different sections of society had different expectations from the Emergency.
4. Critics of Emergency indicated that most of these promises by the government remained unfulfilled, that these were simply meant to divert attention from the excesses that were taking place.
Therefore, the Emergency of 1975 brought out both the weaknesses and the strengths of India’s democracy. It brought out some ambiguities regarding the Emergency provision in the Constitution that have been rectified since. Also, the Emergency made everyone aware of the value of civil liberties.