Martial Law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions of government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory.
Martial law can be used by governments to enforce their rule over the public such as after a coup d’etat (Thailand in 2006 and 2014), when threatened by popular protest (China, Tiananmen Square protest of 1989) or to suppress political opposition (Poland in 1981). The imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law and justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunal (court-martial).
A State of Emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be permitted. A government can declare such state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict. Such declaration alerts citizens to change their normal behaviour and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans.
States of emergency can also be used as a rationale or pretext for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under a country’s Constitution or Basic Law. The procedure for and legality of doing so vary by country.
Both may sound similar. But the key point is that The State of Emergency is a Constitutionally laid-out mechanism i.e. legally permitted procedure (present in both democracies and military regimes). Whereas, Martial Law is not laid out in the Constitution and is imposed without a legally laid out mechanism (legally done only in military regimes).
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