President’s Rule

The President of India is the first citizen of the Republic of India. He is appointed as per the provisions under article 55 of the Constitution of India. His primary duty is to protect, preserve and defend the provision of the Constitution as well as other laws made in India. In the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, “The President of India has the same position of the King of England. He is the head of state, but not the legislature. He represents the nation but does not rule it. It is his seal that all administrative actions take place.”

The president has a wide variety of roles, from assenting bills to providing pardons to people who are being punished. One of the most important roles of the President however, is overlooking the various governmental actions and their smooth functioning in the states as well as the central government in itself.

The President can declare ‘President’s rule’ in a state as per provisions under Article 365 of the Constitution. President’s rule implies that the state government has been suspended. This rule is suggested by the Central Government. It can also be suggested by the Governor of that respective state. After the state government has been suspended, the Central government takes over all the functions that the state government was responsible for carrying out. On imposition of President’s rule, the Governor becomes the head of the state.

President’s rule is imposed when there is a hung assembly i.e there are no parties with or without coalition that form majority in the respective state legislative assembly. There are other various cases wherein president’s rule can be imposed. Such cases have been explained In Article 365 of the Constitution. The situations are:

  1. If the president is of the opinion that the further functioning of the state government cannot be carried out in accordance to provisions of the constitution.
  2. If the State fails to elect a chief minister within a time prescribed by the governor of the state.
  3. There is a breakdown in the coalition government so formed that the ruling party no longer has majority in the legislative assembly.
  4. Loss of majority due to a vote of no confidence.
  5. Elections postponed due to situations such as war, epidemic or natural disasters.

After President’s rule is imposed, the daily life of the people living in the state is not affected whatsoever. However, there can be no major policy or governmental decisions made during the period of said rule being imposed.

President’s rule once imposed lasts upto a maximum of 6 months in one session. This time period can be further extended in incremental sessions of the same six months leading up to 3 years of maximum time as per the constitution.

According to the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1978 however, the time period of six months can be extended if and only if:

  1. The Election Commission holds that elections cannot be conducted within specified time period in the state.
  2. National emergency has been declared in the country or an emergency has been declared in any part of that respective state.

There have been 15 instances from the time of independence where president’s rule was imposed on the state, the most recent one being in 2019, where president’s rule was imposed in Maharashtra due to no majority being formed in the assembly.

President’s rule however, once set for a time period of six months initially is not absolute. At any point of time the parties that have a place in the legislative assembly can approach the Governor of the state and can prove to him that majority has been formed via coalition. Upon formation of majority, president’s rule on approval of the governor is automatically removed.

It is up to the discretion of the President if and when he wants to declare that the state will no longer be under President’s rule.

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