Martial Law versus National Emergency

Marital law is a state of affairs declared by a civilian government in which the military forces are empowered to rule, govern and control an area, which can be a small locality or the entire nation, in a way involving direct force, and without the usual constraints of democratic decision-making or the acceptance of civil rights. It is always seen as a temporary state of affairs and, unlike a military regime, has legitimacy, because it has been decided upon and granted by the civilian government. The difference between Martial Law and National Emergency in context with India is as follows:

  • While Martial Law affects only fundamental rights, National Emergency has wider implications upon fundamental rights, federal scheme, distribution of power etc.
  • Martial law suspends the government as well as ordinary courts of law. In National Emergency, ordinary courts of law keep working.
  • Martial Law is imposed on account of breakdown or law and order. Emergency is imposed on account of war, external aggression or armed rebellion.
  • The constitution of India has not specific provisions on martial law i.e. in what conditions or circumstances it will be imposed etc. On the other hand, a whole chapter has been dedicated to emergency provisions.