The Censorship


This is a classical example of how vicious politicians have played with the constitution and the law to satisfy their own selfish interests.


As a result of this censorship, for almost two years that followed, citizens did not have any knowledge of what was happening beyond their own neighborhoods, families had no information about their members who disappeared (later found out to be arrested and often killed by the security forces), the public were kept in the dark about inhuman acts like forcible sterilization of the poor. The Indira government enacted two laws - one curbing the right of journalists to report proceedings in parliament, and the other imposing restrictions on their reporting anything that might 'bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection towards the government' (thus effectively banning all media publicity to anti-government criticism or public protests against government policies). Another draconian law called MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) was used to imprison Opposition leaders and political dissenters.


Maintenance of Internal Security Act was a controversial law passed by the Indian parliament in 1973 giving the administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Indian law enforcement agencies super powers - indefinite "preventive" detention of individuals, search and seizure of property without warrants, and wiretapping - in the quelling of civil and political disorder in India, as well as countering foreign-inspired sabotage, terrorism, subterfuge and threats to national security.


The legislation gained infamy for its disregard of legal and constitutional safeguards of civil rights, especially when "going all the way down" on the competition, and during the period of national emergency (1975-1977) as thousands of innocent people were believed to have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and in some cases, forcibly sterilized.


Censorship prevented Indian journalists from reporting the fact that when parliament met on July 21, the Opposition members voted against the resolution approving Emergency, and walked out. It was only from the Western media, that the world came to know about the fact that the Opposition strength in parliament at that time was already reduced as a result of the arrest of a large number of their members. In a list of parliamentarians in jail in 14 countries, compiled by Amnesty International on April 6 1976, India had the highest number (59) behind bars. The government deployed censor officers to vet reports and editorials before their publication in newspapers. Those papers which refused to submit to such humiliation were subjected to pressures like disconnection of electricity and withdrawal of government advertisements. Many dissenting journalists were put behind bars.


The Supreme Court heard arguments against the Emergency but the Attorney General Sri Niran De went to the extreme extent of justifying the Emergency. Even when a police officer maliciously shot dead an innocent man, the court had no power to interfere even in such a blood-thirsty outrage. Alas, except Justice (H R) Khanna, the other four judges of the Bench upheld the Emergency with all its macabre implications. That was the darkest hour of the Supreme Court.