Indira Gandhi’s arrest in 1977 based on election corruption


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India’s sixth general election took place between March 16 and March 20, 1977. The late R K Dhawan said that he was the one who broke the news to Indira Gandhi. The news was that she and her Congress party had lost the 1977 election. At that time, she was having dinner. With a look of relief on her face, she said that now she would have time for herself and her family. In the early morning hours after the election results had come out, she instructed the President to officially end the Emergency. Then she resigned. It was at that time that she realized something. For the first time in her life, she had no job, no income, and no home.

At exactly 4:45 pm on the 3rd of October, 1977, the Central Bureau of Investigation came to her residence to arrest her. It was a carefully orchestrated movement. The attorney general and the solicitor general were totally unaware of the plans of the government to arrest her. The Home Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh received the green signal. It was the Prime Minister, Morarji Desai who gave the signal. But he had one condition. It was that on no account should Indira Gandhi come under handcuffs. The CBI walked up to the door of 12, Willingdon Crescent. They told Gandhi’s aide that the Home Minister ordered them to take her into custody. After that, they cited the various IPC laws that she had violated. The laws were mostly related to corruption.

However, they did not have the slightest idea that the Fir which the home ministry drafted was the wrong one. They waited for nearly two hours. During that time, Maneka and Sanjay Gandhi used the telephone to call all the foreign media that were available in Delhi. At nearly 6 pm, Indira Gandhi came out. Her lawyer Frank Anthony demanded a copy of the FIR. The people who came to arrest Indiara told him that it was not necessary to do the same. This was because the charges were related to corruption, they were bailable offenses and Indira Gandhi had been informed about them. Then India Gandhi said, “Where are the handcuffs? I will not go unless I am handcuffed.” The argument about the handcuffs went on for nearly an hour.

Sanjay and Rajiv walked in and out of the house the entire time the arrest drama was on. For some unexplained reason, Rajiv had a set of pliers and a wrench in his hand all that while. In the meantime, party cadres started arriving outside the house. They were chanting and shouting slogans. The faces of top party leaders including Brahmananda Reddy, Mohsina Kidwai, and Kamalapati Tripathi took the color of ash. Indira Gandhi finally got into a car and left. Sanjay and Rajiv followed her. When she was produced before the Court on the morning of 4th October 1977, she was released immediately without any conditions. They had to do it because there was no substance in the charges against her.

After her arrest, Indira issued a statement. It said, “I have tried to serve our people and our country to the best of my ability. No matter what the charge or charges now made against me, this arrest is a political one. It is to prevent me from going to the people. It is an attempt to discredit me in front of their eyes and the eyes of the world. We have offered our cooperation to the government in any program for the welfare of the people. However, we cannot be silent spectators when we see suffering and injustice.”

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