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1975: Gandhi found guilty of corruption

VIDEO : January 1975 interview with Gandhi

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has been barred from holding office for six years after she was found guilty of electoral corruption.

But Mrs Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice Sinha at Allahabad High Court. It came almost four years after the case was brought by Raj Narain, the premier's defeated opponent in the 1971 parliamentary election.

Mrs Gandhi, who gave evidence in her defence during the trial, was found guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for party purposes.

The judge rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.

"The leadership of Mrs Gandhi is indispensable"

Party statement

Mrs Gandhi insisted the conviction did not undermine her position, despite having been unseated from the lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, by order of the High Court.

She said: "There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments".

And she dismissed criticism of the way her Congress Party raised election campaign money, saying all parties used the same methods.

The prime minister has retained the support of her party, which issued a statement backing her.

"The leadership of Mrs Gandhi is indispensable," the statement read.

After news of the verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging their loyalty.

Indian High Commissioner BK Nehru said Mrs Gandhi's conviction would not harm her political career.

"Mrs Gandhi has still today overwhelming support in the country," he said.

"I believe the prime minister of India will continue in office until the electorate of India decides otherwise".

In Context
Mrs Gandhi began an appeal against her conviction for corrupt electoral practices.

When opponents threatened to start a campaign of civil disobedience in protest at her refusal to resign, she controversially declared a state of emergency, claiming there was a plot to disrupt democracy.

Thousands were arrested, including about 20 MPs, and the Indian media was censored.

In August 1975 the Lok Sabha passed legislation to clear Gandhi of her corruption convictions retroactively.

She continued to lead her country until 1977, and then again from 1980 until 1984, when she was assassinated by two of her bodyguards.

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