Fundamental rights, the basic liberties of the people, are mentioned in Part III (Articles 12 to 35) of the Constitution of India. These include individual rights such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, religious and cultural freedom, peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil. Fundamental rights apply to all citizens, irrespective of race, birthplace, religion, caste or gender. The Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.) and other laws prescribe punishments for the violation of these rights. In case of fundamental rights violations, the Supreme Court of India can be approached directly for ultimate justice per Article 32.
During a national emergency, many Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens can be suspended. The six freedoms under Right to Freedom are automatically suspended. The Right to Life and Personal Liberty cannot be suspended according to the Constitution. In January 1977, during the emergency declared controversially by Indira Gandhi, the government decided to suspend even the Right to Life and Personal Liberty by dispensing with Habeas corpus.
There are certain cases when fundamental rights can be suspended:
- The president can declare emergency under article 352, which will automatically suspend all the rights guaranteed under article 19
- If state issues any executive order during the proclamation of emergency, it cannot be challenged stating that they violating the fundamental rights
- With permission of the Parliament, president can suspend other Fundamental rights if necessary.
Part XVIII of the Constitution of India from article 352 to Article 360 deals with the emergency provision. There are three kinds of Emergency provision viz,
- Article 352 of the Constitution of India- National Emergency: this emergency is declared when there is threat to security of India or any territory of India by war or external aggression
- Article 356 of the Constitution of India- State Emergency: the state emergency is declared when the President receives a report from the governor of state stating that the government of state is not running smoothly
- Article 360 of the Constitution of India- Financial Emergency: when the financial stability or credit of India is in danger, President can declare financial emergency.
CASE OF SUSPENSION DURING 1975-1977
On the advice of then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, President Fakhrudddin Ali Ahmad imposed state of emergency on 25 June, 1975. State of emergency was declared on account of Internal disturbance.
Fundamental rights are not absolute in nature. Hence, if president feels that there is threat to the security of India or any part thereof, it can declare state of emergency and suspend the fundamental rights.