From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : President's Rule
Mains level : SR Bommai Judgment
While recommending President’s Rule in Maharashtra, Governor noted that a situation has arisen when the formation of a stable government is not possible even 15 days after the election results had been declared.
What’s the issue?
- It has been argued that governor’s decision is based on “objective material” and not on a political whim or fancy, if one goes by the Supreme Court verdict in the 1994 S.R. Bommai case.
- President’s rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.
How it is imposed?
- President’s Rule implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre.
- This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
- Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution…”
How long President’s Rule can last
- A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly, and stakes his claim to form a government.
- The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
- Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it.
- This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.
The S.R. Bommai Case
- R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues.
- The judgement attempted to curb blatant misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed President’s rule to be imposed over state governments.
- Article 356 (1) has been deliberately drafted in a narrow language by the Founding Fathers so that political parties in the Centre does not misuse it to subvert federalism, it had noted.
- The expression used in the Article is ‘if the President is satisfied”, the court had observed.
- In other words, the President has to be convinced of or should have sufficient proof of information with regard to or has to be free from doubt or uncertainty about the state of things indicating that the situation in question has arisen.
- The court had stated that although the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of inference drawn from such material is “certainly open to judicial review”.
What it directed?
- The judgment had explained that in a multi-party political system, chances are high that the political parties in the Centre and the State concerned may not be the same.
- Article 356 cannot be used for the purpose of political one-upmanship by the Centre.
- Hence there is a need to confine the exercise of power under Article 356 strictly to the situation mentioned therein which is a condition precedent to the said exercise,” the court had said.
Conditions for Prez Rule
- Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly.
- Where the party having a majority in the assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
- Where a ministry resigns after its defeat in the assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
- Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
- Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
- Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.
The imposition of President’s Rule in a state would be improper under the following situations:
- Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing majority support in the assembly and the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without probing the possibility of forming an alternative ministry.
- Where the governor makes his own assessment of the support of a ministry in the assembly and recommends imposition of President’s Rule without allowing the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
- Where the ruling party enjoying majority support in the assembly has suffered a massive defeat in the general elections to the Lok Sabha such as in 1977 and 1980.
- Internal disturbances not amounting to internal subversion or physical breakdown.
- Maladministration in the state or allegations of corruption against the ministry or stringent financial exigencies of the state.
- Where the state government is not given prior warning to rectify itself except in case of extreme urgency leading to disastrous consequences.
- Where the power is used to sort out intra-party problems of the ruling party, or for a purpose extraneous or irrelevant to the one for which it has been conferred by the Constitution.
- This is not the first time President’s Rule has been imposed following an election that did not lead to government formation.
- For instance, no party could mobilise a majority in the Bihar Assembly following elections in February 2005.
- President’s Rule, which was imposed on March 7, 2005, lasted 262 days until November 24 . It was lifted after fresh elections in October-November.
- A hung verdict in the J&K elections of 2002 led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 15 days, from October 18 to November 2 that year.
- In the UP Assembly elections of 2002, no party could secure a majority. This led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 56 days, from March 3 to to May 2, 2002.