The Problem of Hung Assembly

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Recommendations of Sarkaria and Punchhi Commissions

Mains level: The newscard discusses the solution over the issue of frequent instances of hung assembly due to lack of clear majority. The Supreme Court Ruling also serves as a great solution for this concern


Context

Frequent instances of hung assembly

  1. The growing instances of a hung assembly are on the rise, with the recent example of Karnataka Assembly mandate where there is lack of clear majority
  2. The Constitution of India does not mandate any procedure to be followed by the Governor, in case of hung assembly
  3. This gives scope for the Governor to use his discretion. She/he has the discretion to invite any leader to form the government
  4. But she/he must make a choice keeping in mind the leader’s ability to prove his majority on the floor of the House, and to provide a stable government
  5. Ironically the Governor has no option except to invite the new coalition, which had a “clear majority” in the House

The peculiarity of recent cases

  1. Even though a party did not have a majority in the Assembly, and wasn’t the single-largest party either.
  2. But it still returned to power after the post-poll alliance
  3. Example: Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya

Recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission

  1. The central government set up the Justice R S Sarkaria Commission in June 1983 to examine the relationship and balance of power between state and central governments
  2. The Commission, which dealt with the role of Governors, suggested that in choosing a Chief Minister, the Governor should be guided by the following principles:
  • The party or combination of parties that command the widest support in the Legislative Assembly should be called to form the government
  • The Governor’s task is to see that a government is formed — and not to try to form a government that will pursue policies that he approves
  • If no party has a majority, the Governor has to invite: a) a pre-poll alliance, b) the largest single party that is able to gain majority support, c) a post-election coalition that has the required members, d) a post-election coalition in which partners are willing to extend outside support

3. The Commission recommended that the Chief Minister must seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly within 30 days of taking over

4. It also said the Governor should not risk determining the issue of majority support outside the Assembly, and that the prudent course would be to have the claims tested on the floor of the House

Recommendations of the Punchhi Commission

  1. A Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India M M Punchhi was set up in April 2007 to take a fresh look at the roles and responsibilities of governments at various levels, and the relations between them
  2. The Commission recommended that there should be clear guidelines for the appointment of Chief Ministers so that there was some sort of regulation on the discretionary power of the Governor
  3. It said that a pre-poll alliance must be treated as one political party, and laid down the order of precedence that the Governor must follow in case of a hung House:
  • Group with the largest pre-poll alliance commanding the largest number;
  • Single largest party with support of others;
  • Post-electoral coalition with all parties joining the government;
  • Post-electoral alliance with some parties joining the government, and the remaining, including Independents, supporting from outside

Way Forward: When Supreme Court backed Governor’s discretion in Goa

  1. The opposition contended that since there was no pre-poll alliance, the Governor should have first asked the single largest party if it was in a position to form the government
  2. The SC ruled that-
  • If the single largest party has the majority, then no such question has to arise
  • But when no political party is in majority, then it is the bound duty of the Governor to see who can form the government
  • If nothing happens, then the Governor is duty-bound to call the leader of the single largest party but if someone goes to the Governor with a list of supporters, then it is a different issue altogether

3. The Supreme Court also ordered a floor test, saying that the “instant sensitive and contentious issue can be resolved by a simple direction, requiring the holding of a floor test at the earliest

4. The holding of the floor test would remove all possible ambiguities, and would result in giving the democratic process, the required credibility

President’s Rule
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