Article 356 of Constitution of India

There are at least 132 recorded instances of imposition of President’s rule. State of Manipur leading the chart with 10 state emergencies.  First ever president’s rule was imposed in Vindhya Pradesh. Vindhya Pradesh was merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956.  Vindya Pradesh State when Chief Minister resigned. president’s rule was revoked following independent India’s first general elections. But the constitution of India wasn’t enacted yet. So, the first President’s rule after enactment of Constitution of India was in the state of Punjab. It was from 20th June 1951 to 17th April 1952. Out of total 132 recorded instances 21 has been done due to ill spirit.

Perhaps the two most egregious instances of mass imposition of President’s rule as documented by the Sarkaria Commission took place in 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party and the Congress respectively swept to power and dismissed opposition governments enjoyed a majority were dismissed. In over a dozen more, no opportunity was given to claimants to prove their support, a practice declared illegal by the landmark 1994 Bommai judgement.

India and Pakistan both borrowed this provision from the Government of India Act, 1935. Interestingly, the Indian leaders were so very opposed to this provision that they forced the British government to suspend it; thus, Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935 was never brought into effect. On June 11, 1947, it was agreed in the Constituent Assembly that the Governor could use this emergency power. By this time the Governor was supposed to be elected by the people of the State rather than nominated by the Centre.

It is commonly referred as president’s rule, or state emergency. It is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct Central Government’s rule in a state. If state government is unable to function according to Constitutional provisions, the Union government can take direct control of the state machinery. Under the report of the governor, president takes action.

According to Article 355 of the Constitution, it is the duty of the Union/Central Government to assure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Constitution.

Article 356 is Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States.

It states that if president receives the report from that particular state governor that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the president shall take over the powers and rule of that state. That’s why is it commonly known as president’s rule.

Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only states where the President’s rule has not been imposed so far. Rest all of the states have been under president’s rule sometime or other.

Bhimrao Ambedkar, chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India, described to Article 356 as a dead letter of the Constitution. In the constituent assembly debate, it was suggested that Article 356 is liable to be abused for political gains and could be use in wrong manners. Ambedkar replied, “I share the sentiments that such articles will never be called into operation, and they would remain a dead letter. If at all they are brought into operation, I hope the President, who is given these powers, will take proper precautions before actually suspending the administration of the provinces. I hope firstly he will do would be to issue a mere warning to that state that has erred, that things were not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen in the Constitution. If those warning fails, the second thing for him to do will be to order an election allowing the people of the province to settle matters by themselves. It is only when these two remedies fail that he would resort to this article.

The framer of the constitution Dr Ambedkar was a born democrat. He believed in rule of law and democracy. He always insisted that rules of democracy must be based on fair play. Thus, he said in the Constituent Assembly that the power under Article 356 must not be used by the Union Government for political purposes. 

Though, his hopes were dashed to pieces by all political parties that wielded power at the Centre. Naked abuse of this power was started when the Communist Government in Kerala was dismissed by Jawaharlal Nehru. This process of abuse of this article was clearly seen in recent use of this article by Narasimha Rao in case of States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

The Indian Law Institute published an informative book on President’s Rule in the States[1] in 1978. It points out that in Nehru’s rule there were six cases, in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s rule two cases, in Indira Gandhi’s rule twenty-eight cases, in Janata’s rule twelve cases. In majority of cases, the procedure mentioned by Dr Ambedkar was not followed.

It has been misused ample of times before S. R. Bommai v. Union of India.

[1] President’s Rule in India, prepared by Rajeev Dhavan, 1979, N.M. Tripathi, Bombay

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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