The amendments to the constitutional provisions on emergency that sought to prevent their abuse were the product of experiences gained from the excesses of the emergency which showed that “uncontrolled power and unbridled discretion” provided “fertile conditions” for the destruction of liberty, said the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The apex court also said pursuant to the Forty-fourth amendment to the Constitution in 1978 that sought to limit recourse to emergency powers under Article 352, the expression “internal disturbance” was replaced with “armed rebellion”.
“The Parliamentary amendments to Article 352 are the product of experience: experiences gained from the excesses of the emergency, experiences about the violation of human rights and above all, experiential learning that the amalgam of uncontrolled power and unbridled discretion provide fertile conditions for the destruction of liberty,” said the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph.
“The sobering lessons learnt from our not-too-distant history should warn us against endowing a statute with similar terms of a content which is susceptible of grave misuse,” it said adding that the forty-fourth amendment “sought to limit recourse to emergency powers under Article 352 to prevent their abuse.”
The top court made the remarks in its judgement by which it quashed the notifications issued by Gujarat government which exempted factories from observing certain obligations towards workers.
The apex court said that economic hardships caused by the pandemic certainly “pose unprecedented challenges” to governance but these are to be resolved by the state governments in coordination with the Centre.
The bench noted in its verdict that powers under Article 352 have been invoked thrice by the President to declare an emergency in the country — for the first time in 1962 due to Chinese aggression on Indian territory and the emergency was revoked in 1968.
“In 1971, when hostilities broke out with Pakistan, an emergency was proclaimed by the President on the ground that the security of India was threatened by external aggression. While this proclamation was in force, another proclamation was issued by the President on June 25, 1975 declaring that a “grave emergency exists whereby the security of India is threatened by ‘internal disturbance’.” Both these proclamations were revoked in March 1977,” the bench noted.