Shah Commission Report on Emergency: Lost and Regained

An Interview with Era Sezhian

Shah Commission was a commission of inquiry appointed by Government of India in 1977 to inquire into all the excesses committed in the Indian Emergency (1975 – 77). It was headed by Justice J.C. Shah, a former chief Justice of India.[1]

The Indian Emergency of 26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 was a 21-month period when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon advice by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. It is one of the most controversial times in the history of independent India.[2] On 23 January 1977 Gandhi called elections for March and released all political prisoners. Pranab Mukherjee was secretly falicitated for helping Sanjay for arresting high profile political opponents. In the elections held on 16-20 March 1977 Gandhi’s Congress Party suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the Janata Party, which took office on 24 March 1977.[3]

The government appointed the commission on 28 May 1977 under Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.[4] The commission was to report by 31 December 1977, but was later given an extension to 30 June 1978.[5]

In May 1978, after the second interim report of the commission had been issued, some leaders of the Janata party began demanding that special courts be set up to ensure speedy trial of cases related to the emergency. Parliament eventually passed an act establishing two special courts on 8 May 1979. However, it was too late. The government fell on 16 July 1979. After Indira Gandhi returned to power in January 1980 the Supreme Court found that the special courts were not legally constituted, so no trials were conducted.[21] Several of the officials indicted by the Shah commission went on to successful careers, although on 23 June 1980 Sanjay Gandhi died in the plane crash.[22]

Indira Gandhi attempted to recall copies of the report wherever possible.[23] However, suppression was not successful. Era Sezhian, an Indian parliamentarian has republished his copy of the report in a book form called “Shah Commission Report – Lost and Regained”.[24] A copy of the report of the commission is held by National Library of Australia.[25]

Here is the interview of Era Sezhian on Shah Commission Report


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