A national emergency is a period during which the normal constitutional provisions do not apply across the nation. There is an altered system used as per the convenience of the Centre and provisions provided under the Constitution. The governmental system changes from a federal one to a unitary one. Such emergency is explained under Article 352 of the Constitution of India. According to this Article, a national emergency can be proclaimed due to the reasons of war, internal disturbance and external aggression. Article 353, permits
(1) The Central government to direct any state on how to use its executive power.
(2) The parliament to make laws even in matters which are in the state list.
Article 358 suspends Article 19 during emergencies and Article 359 suspends enforcement of fundamental rights during emergencies.
With the previous governments who declared emergency such as the Indira Gandhi government, there was chaos all across the system with false arrests, detentions and unabridged use of power by the Central government to achieve their own goals and further their political agendas. Even the Supreme Court gave out the horrendous decision in Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. S Shukla wherein the suspension of the right to life and the writ of habeas corpus were upheld during a period of lockdown in the country. This led to the 44th Amendment in which changed the term ‘internal disturbances’ to ‘armed rebellion’ and also put an obligation on the President to follow the advice of the cabinet ministers. It was also further held that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution shall in no way be suspended even during national emergency.
Other important functions such as the Monsoon and Winter sessions of the Parliament have already been cancelled in 2020. A national emergency can only aggravate this causing a lack of debate and control of law making which leads to inefficiencies and a system of unchecked powers of the party at the centre due to lack of opposition.
Currently, the Supreme Court, having themselves initiated a Public Interest Litigation in the matter, called the crisis of second wave and its repercussions a national emergency. Issuing the notices to the respective governments, it asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to remain present in the court with the national plan on availability and distribution of essential supplies and services.
Declaring an emergency can help uplift the economy in several ways. If the current government follows the footsteps of the government during the period of 1975-77, there can be significant growth in terms of agricultural production, industrial development and better labour access. This helps in overall better output, leading to more exports and tackling the issue of the downfall that the economy is currently facing. The emergency can also lead to more production of vaccines, equipment, beds and other resources needed for treatment and helping the overburdened hospitals and crematoriums. Resource allocation can be given primary importance in such a case.
The public health aspect apart, the true economic impact of such a global pandemic cannot even be imagined. Sectors such as tourism and entertainment and the workers in such sectors could be affected beyond measure Article 360 provides for “Financial Emergency”. When this kind of emergency is proclaimed, the Centre can direct the states to “observe such canons of financial propriety” as it may specify. It could also require all money bills passed by state legislatures to be cleared by the president. Salaries of government employees, including judges, can be reduced during such a financial emergency. The salaries of the members of parliament and other government employees has already been cut by 30% during the year 2020.
Had the emergency been declared before the state elections, it would have made more sense since the elections could be pushed forward six months to a year in time so that the containment of COVID could have been better and the second wave would not have hit the nation this hard. However, since those are happenings of the past and the political parties will always play the game in accordance with their whims and fancies, the option of a national emergency right now only seems to be an option that might help slightly in control of covid but will severely put in jeopardy the rights, lives and the freewill of the people of India who wish to express their opinions against the government. With the protections and safeguards of the 44th Amendment, the situation of emergency will be considerably easier on the general public as opposed to the past.
It is still my opinion that the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act be used to impose lockdowns and also allocate resources in an effective way. These provisions help in providing more or less the same outcome that a national emergency would but without the possible oppression of the central government on the states and the people of India.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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