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.
Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 superseded the Order of 1954
Passage of a statutory resolution in Parliament recommending the declaration of Article 370 as inoperative
Adoption of a resolution accepting the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019
Issuance of a notification by the President declaring Article 370 inoperative.
Problem with president rule
He also suspends portions of the Constitution such as Article 3. J&K constitution has an additional proviso which says J&K’s legislature has to give its consent to any altering of its boundaries or size or name. But the Presidential proclamation suspended this.
During the period, decisions that a popular regime would never make may become possible.
Even suits instituted by the State against other States or the Centre under Article 131 may be withdrawn or claims against it conceded.
The power of a State Assembly to ratify Constitution amendments may be exercised by Parliament.
Assembly may be denied the opportunity to give its views on a proposal to alter the boundaries of the State. In the case of J&K, the consent of its legislature was mandatory, but the State Assembly’s consent was given by Parliament itself.
Constitution and Judiciary
A presidential proclamation is subject to judicial review after the Supreme Court verdict in S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India (1994).
The scope for judicial intervention is limited to the adequacy and relevance of the material on the basis of which the President believes that governance of a State cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution.
It said the initial exercise of the power is limited to taking over the executive and legislative functions without dissolving the Assembly. Once Parliament approves the proclamation, the Assembly may be dissolved.
Courts have always emphasised that States remain ‘supreme’. They are not “mere appendages of the Centre”. There are certain functions that the States alone can do.
Ensure that the power is invoked only with the objective of restoring constitutional governance in the State, and not to exercise absolute powers to change policies, laws and programmes of the state.
Article 356 does not give a blanket power to the President or Parliament to alter any matter in which the political leaders and the electorate of the State have a legitimate stake.
Unless these implied limitations on the way the President or Parliament performs the functions of a State under Central rule, no State law or policy is safe.
Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Governor’s rule in J&K
Mains level: Salient Features of Presidents Rule
Governor’s rule to expire
Jammu and Kashmir is all set for President’s rule in January as there were no plans to dissolve the Assembly yet.
Since J&K has a separate Constitution, Governor’s rule is imposed under Section 92 for six months after an approval by the President.
In case the Assembly is not dissolved within six months, President’s rule under Article 356 is extended to the State.
Centre has to decide
There are no plans to dissolve the Assembly yet.
The decision to hold fresh Assembly elections in the State lies with the Centre and the Election Commission.
Governor’s rule in J&K
In all states of India, the state government’s failure results in President’s rule.
The process is slightly more nuanced in Jammu and Kashmir where not the President’s but Governor’s rule is imposed.
The Constitution of India grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir among Indian states, and it is the only state in India to have a separate Constitution and regulations specific to it.
Under the provision of Section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, Governor’s rule is imposed for six months, but only after the consent of the President of India.
The President’s rule in other states of India is imposed under Article 356 of the Constitution of India.
Under the Governor’s rule, the State Assembly is either kept in suspended animation or dissolved.
If it is not possible to restore the state machinery before the expiry of the six-month period, the provision is extended.
The Governor’s rule was imposed on the state for the first time in March 1977, when the Congress withdrew support to National Conference (NC) government led by the late Sheikh Abdullah.
Among notable differences with other states, till 1965, the head of state in Jammu and Kashmir was called Sadr-e-Riyasat, whereas in other state, the title was Governor, and head of government was called Prime Minister in place of Chief Minister in other states.
Under the constitutional scheme, the Governor’s mandate is substantial. From being tasked with overseeing government formation, to reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in a State.
To maintaining the chain of command between the Centre and the State, he can also reserve his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature and promulgate ordinances if the need arises.
Further, under Article 355, the Governor, being the Central authority in a State, acts as an overseer in this regard.
There are numerous examples of the Governor’s position being abused, usually at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre.
The root lies in the process of appointment itself
The post has been reduced to becoming a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day
Consequently, a candidate wedded to a political ideology could find it difficult to adjust to the requirements of a constitutionally mandated neutral seat. This could result in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka
A possible solution would be not to nominate career politicians and choose “eminent persons” from other walks of life
Both the Sarkaria and M.M. Punchhi Commissions seem to hint at this. But this could also lead to the creation of sycophants within the intelligentsia, an equally worrisome prospect
On the other hand, there are instances of politicians who have risen above partisan politics and performed their role with dignity and without fear or favor
B.P. Singhal v. Union of India
This deals with interpreting Article 156 of the Constitution and the arbitrary removal of Governors before the expiration of their tenure
This judgment is crucial since a fixed tenure for Governors could go quite far in encouraging neutrality and fairness in the discharge of their duties, unmindful of the dispensation at the Centre
Hung Assembly and the Governor
The Governor has the task of inviting the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government; overseeing the dismissal of the government in case of a breakdown of the Constitution in the State; and, through his report, recommending the imposition of President’s rule.
There are examples of the last two having been frequently misused to dismiss “belligerent” State governments, but this has been checked substantially by the Supreme Court through S.R. Bommai v. Union of India
Following the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations, the Court underlined that the breakdown of constitutional machinery implied a virtual impossibility, and not mere difficulty, in carrying out governance in a State.
It said that while the subjective satisfaction of the President regarding such a breakdown was beyond judicial scrutiny, the material on which such satisfaction was based could certainly be analyzed by the judiciary, including the Governor’s report
It reserved the power to declare this report mala fide and restore the dismissed government. The same idea can be extended in case of the Governor’s discretion in inviting a party to form the government
Since the Bommaiverdict allows the Supreme Court to investigate claims of mala fide in the Governor’s report, a similar extension to cover mala fide in the invitation process could be a potential solution
The Way Forward
In India, the balance in power is tilted towards the Union
The importance of the Governor’s position arises not from the exceptional circumstances that necessitate the use of his discretion, but as a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State
As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community
There is need to ensure proper checks and balances to streamline the functioning of this office
However, misuse of a position of power should not serve as a justification for removing the office altogether, unless such a position has totally lost its relevance
Mains Paper 2: Polity| Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features.
From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important
Prelims Level: TheGoI Act 1935, Appointment of the Governor
Mains Level: Evolution of the Post of Governor, Issues related to his discretionary powers.
Role of governor
Inviting the immediate majority party to form the government is perhaps a legitimate exercise of Governors constitutional discretion.
However, the recent Karnataka elections have raised questions about the Governor’s discretionary powers following several open criticisms about the office bearer
If we want to put an end to the continuous misuse of the Raj Bhavan for partisan political ends in a manner that threatens both federalism and democracy, we have to rethink the role of the Governor in the constitutional scheme
Where does the flaw lie?
Some have suggested that the post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees, and still, others have urged the Supreme Court to lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict
All of these, however, are patchwork solutions that miss the point
For that, it is important to understand the origins of the office in the colonial British regime
Provisions in Govt. of India Act, 1935
Through the course of the early 20th century, the Indian nationalist movement managed to extract gradual and incremental reforms towards responsible government from the British rulers
These reforms culminated in the Government of India Act, 1935 which established provincial legislative assemblies elected from a limited franchise
In order to ensure that overriding power remained with the British, the Act retained the post of Governor (a holdover from the old, “diarchy” system), and vested him with “special responsibilities” that, in essence, allowed for intervention at will
The Critique of the Post
In a searing critique, K.T. Shah (who was later one of the most articulate members of the Constituent Assembly), wrote that the Governor would inevitably be biased in his functioning and his actions would remain at odds with those of popularly elected Ministers
During CA debates, it was pointed out that the Articles dealing with the powers of the Governor were almost verbatim reproductions of the 1935 Act.
Defenders of the office raised two broad arguments:
First, that there was a dearth of competent legislators in the States
Second that a certain amount of centralization of power was necessary in a nascent state such as India
The way forward: Specify the rules
The idea of the Governor standing as a bulwark against secessionism, or providing legislative expertise to States otherwise starved of it, are no longer valid justifications
On the other hand, the Governor’s interference with the democratic process is both real and continuing
As history shows, the solution is not to tinker around the edges or hope that the courts will come to our rescue
Mains Paper 2: Polity| Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important
Prelims Level: Particulars of the SR Bommai Case Judgement, Art. 356
Mains Level: Issues about the use and misuse of Art. 356. (Attached story will help understand the issue better)
Who was S.R. Bommai?
S.R. Bommai was the Chief Minister of the Janata Dal government in Karnataka between August 13, 1988 and April 21, 1989
His government was dismissed on April 21, 1989, under Article 356 of the Constitution and President’s Rule was imposed, in what is then a mostly common mode to keep Opposition parties at bay
The dismissal was on grounds that the Bommai government had lost majority following large-scale defections engineered by several party leaders of the day
Then Governor P. Venkatasubbaiah refused to give Bommai an opportunity to test his majority in the Assembly despite the latter presenting him with a copy of the resolution passed by the Janata Dal Legislature Party
What happened then?
Bommai went to court against the Governor’s decision to recommend President’s Rule
First, he moved the Karnataka High Court, which dismissed his writ petition
Then he moved the Supreme Court
What did the Supreme Court do?
The case, which would go on to become one of the most cited whenever hung Assemblies were returned, and parties scrambled to form a government, took almost five years to see a logical conclusion
On March 11, 1994, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court issued the historic order, which in a way put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions
What did the judgment say?
The verdict concluded that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute
The verdict said the President should exercise the power only after his proclamation (imposing his/her rule) is approved by both Houses of Parliament
Till then, the Court said, the President can only suspend the Legislative Assembly by suspending the provisions of Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly
The dissolution of Legislative Assembly is not a matter of course
It should be resorted to only where it is found necessary for achieving the purposes of the Proclamation
What happens if the Presidential proclamation is not approved by the Parliament?
In case both Houses of Parliament disapprove or do not approve the Proclamation, the Proclamation lapses at the end of the two-month period. In such a case, the government which was dismissed revives
The Legislative Assembly, which may have been kept in suspended animation gets reactivated
Also, the Court made it amply clear that a Presidential Proclamation under Article 356 is subject to judicial review.
What is the significance of the S.R. Bommai vs Union of India case?
The case put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government
And the verdict also categorically ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day, and not the subjective opinion of the Governor, who is often referred to as the agent of the Central government
When the verdict’s impact was first seen?
In one of the first instances of the impact of the case, the A.B. Vajpayee government in 1999 was forced to reinstate a government it dismissed
The Rabri Devi government, which was sacked on February 12, 1999, was reinstated on March 8, 1999, when it became clear that the Central government would suffer a defeat in the Rajya Sabha over the issue
And later whenever the case of a hung Assembly, and the subsequent exercise of government formation, came up, the Bommai case would be cited, making it one of the most quoted verdicts in the country’s political history
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: Art. 180(1), Powers and discretion of Pro-tem Speaker
Mains level: Frequent issues concerned with Hung Assembly
Appointing a pro-tem Speaker
Article 180 (1) of the Constitution gives the Governor the power to appoint a pro-tem Speaker
The Article says that if the chair of the Speaker falls vacant and there is no Deputy Speaker to fill the position, the duties of the office shall be performed “by such member of the Assembly as the Governor may appoint for the purpose”
The Supreme Court ordered the appointment of a pro-tem Speaker to conduct a floor test to decide the majority in the hung Karnataka Assembly
Article 180 (1) is silent about the extent to which the Governor can use his discretion
The Governor’s appointment of Mr. Bopaiah is being defended by quoting Article 163(2) of the Constitution
The latter part of this Article mandates that “the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion
What SC ruled out in Nabam Rebia Judgement, 2016
The Rebia case dealt with the problem of the Arunachal Pradesh Governor advancing the date for the sixth Assembly session in the northeastern State.
The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court led by then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar in the Nabam Rebia judgment of 2016 ruled that Article 163 does not give Governors a “general discretionary power” as is often misunderstood
The area for the exercise of his (Governor) discretion is limited
Even this limited area, his choice of action should not be arbitrary or fanciful. It must be a choice dictated by reason, actuated by good faith and tempered by caution
In his speech on the constitutional role of Governors, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described how a Governor should use his discretion not as “representative of a party” but as “the representative of the people as a whole of the State”
Issues with the Speaker’s Appointment
One of the issues which may arise is whether or not the discretion of the Governor can be judicially reviewed by the Supreme Court
But a Constitution Bench judgement in 2006 in the Rameshwar Prasad Case has held that the “immunity granted to the Governor under Article 361 (1) does not affect the power of the Court to judicially scrutinise the attack made to the proclamation issued under Article 361(1) of the Constitution of India on the ground of mala fides or it being ultra vires”
Justified the Powers of Pro-tem Speaker
The powers of a pro-tem Speaker are wide
The Bombay High Court in its 1994 judgment in the Surendra Vassant SirsatCase holds that a pro-tem is Speaker of the House “for all purposes with all powers, privileges and immunities” until the Speaker is elected
The Odisha High Court also agreed in the Godavari Misra versus Nandakisore Das, Speaker, Orissa Legislative Assemblycase when it said the powers of the Speaker pro-tem are co-extensive with the powers of elected Speaker
The proceedings of the Legislature chaired by the Speaker pro-tem are as much protected under the Constitution as those chaired by the elected Speaker
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
Frequent instances of hung assembly
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
The Constitution of India does not mandate any procedure to be followed by the Governor, in case of hung assembly
This gives scope for the Governor to use his discretion. She/he has the discretion to invite any leader to form the government
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
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
Even though a party did not have a majority in the Assembly, and wasn’t the single-largest party either.
But it still returned to power after the post-poll alliance
Example: Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya
Recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
News: A Speaker should refrain from deciding the disqualification of MLAs for defection under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution if he/she him/herself is facing the prospect of removal, the Supreme Court has held
A Constitution Bench observed that the ruling was a safeguard against a Speaker using the disqualification proceedings of legislators for his/her own political ends
A Speaker, under the threat of losing his position, may choose to disqualify the MLAs to alter the composition of the House in his/her favour
Therefore, the above was made constitutionally impermissible under Article 179 of the Constitution
There are clearly laid out procedures to settle disputes over House majority and constitutional heads ought to stay away from political manipulations.
While devolution of an increased share of Central taxes and removal of overbearing institutions like the Planning Commission were consistent with the cooperative federalism.
President’s rule goes against the grain of cooperative federalism.
The pattern involves dissidence within the ruling party, the opposition joining hands with the rebels, confusion over the likelihood of a floor test, and the Governor intervening in a partisan manner.
Undoubtedly, there is a constitutional impasse because six months have elapsed since the last time the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly met.
That itself is a valid ground for Central rule.
But events were manipulated in such a way that the divided legislature never got an opportunity to meet and test the government’s majority.
Gauhati High Court ruled that the Governor was justified in advancing the session by acting on his own discretion if he had reason to believe that the Chief Minister and the Speaker were stalling a particular motion.
Same constitutional question is now before the supreme court constitutional bench.
President signed on the dotted line after being satisfied that the law and order situation in the border State was sensitive to this uncertainty in government.
The Governor [Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa] has been sending multiple reports that even the Raj Bhavan was not safe and there was no law and order in the State.
The political turmoil in the state is set to deepen inside Parliament with the Congress determined to stall the ratification of President’s Rule in the State.
A proclamation of President’s Rule needs to be ratified in both Houses of Parliament within 2 months of notification or whenever the next session of Parliament is held.
This decision of the NDA-led Central government is an attempt to sabotage the Constitutional mandate, which is a threat to democracy.
The Case that changed the fate of President’s Rule
The indiscriminate use of President’s rule to thwart away the state governments who did not meet the ideology of Union led to the landmark verdict in the S.R. Bommai vs Union Of India, 1994, which curtailed the misuse of Article 356.
Article 356, what?
Under Article 356, the President can dismiss a State Government or dissolve a State Assembly or keep it under suspended animation in the event of a failure of the constitutional machinery in that State.
Lets know the background of the case, shall we?
In the 1970s & 1980s, it almost became common practice for the central govt. to dismiss state govts led by opposition parties.
The Indira Gandhi regime and post-emergency Janata Party were noted for this practice.
Indira Gandhi’s government between 1966-1977 is known to have imposed President’ rule in 39 times (not states).
In 1989, Karnataka CM S.R. Bommai was denied an opportunity to test his majority in the Assembly by the Governor and his govt. was dismissed.
What do the Constitutional Experts have to say on Art. 356?
Article 356 has always been the focal point of a wider debate of the federal structure of government in Indian polity.
Dr. B R Ambedkar had envisaged that Art. 356 shall remain the dead letter in the Indian constitution.
The Sarkaria Commission on central-state relations has recommended that Article 356 must be used very sparingly, in extreme cases, as a measure of last resort, when all the other alternatives fail to prevent or rectify a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.
What was the S.R. Bommai case?
S.R. Bommai vs Union of India, delivered in March 1994, had sharply limited the constitutional power vested in the Central Government to dismiss a State government.
SC established strict guidelines for imposing President’s rule. This case laid down the conditions under which State govts may be dismissed, and mechanisms for that process.
In terms of the legality of the imposition of President’s Rule in States under Article 356, the SC in this case overruled its own precedent in the case of State of Rajasthan v Union of India 1977 case.
Let’s briefly understand the State of Rajasthan v Union of India 1977 case
SC held that the power of the President to impose President’s Rule is not above and beyond judicial review entirely.
The court might insist on substantial evidence in support of the Centre’s charges against a state if the latter accuses the Centre of acting mala fide.
The Court in the Bommai case, narrowed down the circumstances and the manner in which such powers could be exercised.
What are conditions for the valid exercise Article 356?
There was a shift in constitutional jurisprudence as the principle of federalism was part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and this principle could only be deviated from in exceptional and extraordinary circumstances, i.e. where constitutional rule was not possible in the State.
The majority enjoyed by the Council of Ministers(CoM) in the state shall be tested on the floor of the house and not subjectively decided by the Governor.
Center shall give a warning and a time-period of 1 week to the concerned state.
Courts cannot question the advice tendered by the CoM to the President, but court can scrutinizethe material basis of the satisfaction of President.
Until the proclamation is approved by the Parliament, President shall not take any irreversibleaction, i.e. he should not dissolution of assembly.
Courts have the power to reverse the actions of President, if the Art. 356 is used inappropriately.
Art. 356 shall be used sparingly, otherwise it will destroy the constitutional balance between the Center & States.