New Delhi, Jun 24: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took a swipe at the Congress over the imposition of Emergency in 1975, calling it a "black spot" on democracy when the Constitution was "discarded".

It brought back memories of the 21-month period when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered a crackdown on civil liberties.

Gandhi made the announcement of imposition of Emergency in a broadcast on All India Radio on late night on June 25, 1975, shortly after the Supreme Court granted a conditional stay on the Allahabad High Court verdict declaring her election to the Lok Sabha as null and void. The apex court asked Gandhi to stay away from parliamentary proceedings.

"The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about. I am sure you are all aware of the deep and widespread conspiracy, which has been brewing ever since I began to introduce certain progressive measures of benefit for the common man and woman in India," Gandhi said in her midnight address to the nation that set off a series of arrests of opposition leaders.

Gandhi had won the 1971 Lok Sabha elections handsomely, bagging 352 seats in the then 521-member Parliament. Her star was on the ascent having dealt a deadly blow to Pakistan by liberating Bangladesh in December 1971.

However, India was also in the throes of instability with the students' Navnirman agitation in Gujarat, Jayaprakash Narayan's (JP) movement in Bihar, the Railway strike spearheaded by George Fernandes in 1974, the Allahabad High Court judgment of June 12, 1975 declaring Gandhi's election to Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli as null and void.

The loss of the Congress in the Gujarat elections to a five-party coalition and the opposition rally at the Ramlila Ground in Delhi on June 26, 1975 further put Gandhi in the dock and was considered a trigger for the imposition of Emergency.

JP also called for a nationwide movement to remove Gandhi as the prime minister amid calls from many within the Congress for her ouster.

Opposition leaders JP, L K Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Morarji Desai and scores of activists were put behind bars soon after the imposition of Emergency.

The 21-month period was also known for excesses such as forced mass sterlisations, censorship of the press, suspension of constitutional rights and centralisation of power.

Springing a surprise, Gandhi called for elections on January 18, 1977 in the same manner in which it was imposed.

The general elections were held between March 16 and March 20 and the Emergency was lifted on March 21, 1977.

According to Article 352 ,the President can proclaim an emergency if there is a grave threat to the security of the country, whether by war or external aggression or armed rebellion.

Before June 1975, a state of emergency was declared between October 1962 and January 1968 by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the India-China war.

The second emergency was declared by Gandhi on December 3, 1971 due to the India-Pakistan war which led to the creation of Bangladesh. PTI