As Indira talked polls, officials advised continuing Emergency

IndiraAddressing the nation during Emergency. File

In what indicates the bureaucracy's reluctance to lift Emergency, internal government documents of 1977 reveal that the Ministry of Home Affairs had at least twice recommended continuing it. One of these recommendations came after then prime minister Indira Gandhi had already announced that the Lok Sabha elections would be held in March 1977.

Confidential documents pertaining to the period of Emergency from 1975-77 accessed by The Indian Express from the National Archives of India show that a Home Ministry committee comprising then "Joint Director (Intelligence Bureau) T V Rajeswar" as well as "AS (J) (most likely additional secretary, Justice)" and "Joint Secretary (Internal Security)" had emphasised that it was "administratively desirable" to continue the proclamation of Emergency.

The group, set up to "examine the steps necessary for holding general elections in the light of the proclamation of Emergency", submitted its first report on January 4, 1977, in which it recommended that the "proclamation of Emergency could continue but certain relaxations may be made in the rigours of Emergency to create the proper environment for holding free and fair elections".

A few days later, announcing elections for March, Mrs Gandhi did relax certain Emergency restrictions, including non-enforcement of press censorship, release of political detainees held under MISA (the Maintenance of Internal Security Act) and "lifting of all prohibitory orders on public meetings and permitting normal political activity for electioneering purposes", among others.

However, Mrs Gandhi then directed the Home Ministry to re-examine the question of whether to revoke or further relax Emergency, "in the light of certain political developments". Following this, the Home Ministry group submitted another report dated February 3, 1977, which concluded that "it was administratively desirable to continue the proclamation of Emergency and the relaxations already announced were sufficient to create appropriate conditions for free and fair elections".

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