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'A Thorn In My Flesh': Harish Salve On The Emergency & Case To Deem It Unconstitutional

In a candid interview with Arnab Goswami, Harish Salve QC spoke about why as he chose to fight the case for declaring Emergency as unconstitutional.

Image credit: Republic World/PTI


In a no-holds-barred conversation with Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, Harish Salve, Queen's Counsel and Senior Advocate, candidly spoke about why he chose to fight Pro-bono the case declaring the 1975 emergency unconstitutional. The former Solicitor General of India who routinely appears in the biggest cases in the land was answering Arnab's larger question about what makes him take a particular case. To elaborate the question, Arnab mentioned a few cases which Harish Salve has fought such as declaring Emergency unconstitutional, the case of Sterling Biotech and the recent case of Jaishree Patil vs Anil Deshmukh and the Maharashtra Government over Vazegate.

To answer Arnab's question, Harish Salve started with the case on Emergency. He said he was only "19 years old when Emergency was imposed" and he along with other youngsters of his time "felt very very strongly when emergency was declared". He also added that he was upset with his father voting in favour of Emergency, calling the entire matter 'a thorn in his flesh'.

'Emergency, a thorn in my flesh': Harish Salve

To explain why he felt so strongly about Emergency, Salve began with his family background describing his grandfather's contribution to the country. 

"My grandfather was in the constituent assembly, he was an active member of Parliament when the Constitution was framed. My grandfather who was a top criminal lawyer of his day, gave up his practice readily to go to jail with Gandhi ji. And when he came out he did not hanker for any political office, he went to work. He had developed an illness in jail due to which he died rather early in 1956. After which my grandmother was offered a ministerial post by a then Congress Chief Minister and she refused, saying it was not what we went to jail for. So I come from that background," Salve recalled.

Speaking further, he came to the declaration Emergency and said, "I was very upset with my father for having voted in favour of Emergency. So Emergency is something which has been a thorn in my flesh, rather our generation's flesh. When I got an opportunity to declare it phoney and unconstitutional, it was too tempting to let it pass."

A plea was filed before the Supreme Court by 94-year-old Veera Sarin to declare the Emergency as unconstitutional and also seeking compensation to tune of Rs 25 crore. Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner Veera Sarin, said that Emergency was a "fraud" and the "greatest assault" on the Constitution as rights were suspended for months. On December 14, 2020, the Supreme Court issued notice on a 94-year-old widow's petition seeking the proclamation of Emergency to be declared unconstitutional.

Emergency was announced just minutes before the midnight of June 25, 1975, by then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed at the instructions of the Central government headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It was lifted after  21-months in 1977. Thousands of people including several opposition leaders were imprisoned during the Emergency for raising their voices against the Government, while freedom of the press was trampled upon after the imposition of the Emergency.

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