ART 356 If the President on a receipt of report from the Governor of a state or is otherwise satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of a state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President may by Proclamation -

  1. assume to himself all or any of the functions of the government of the state or any body or authority in the state except the powers of the legislature.
  2. declare that the powers of the legislature shall be exercisable by the Parliament,

Provided nothing in this Art authorizes the President to assume to himself any of the powers vested in the High Court.

(4) The Proclamation shall be in operation for a period of 6 months......,

This provision is misused by the political parties in power at the Center to dismiss the governments ruled by opposition parties in the states. This has been a threat to the concept of Federalism in India. Now the Courts have started interfering and have held the actions of the central government (in law issued by the President) as unconstitutional and have revived the legislatures of the states which were dissolved by the proclamation under Art 356.

The most recent case which decided the extent of judicial review of the Proclamation by the President imposing ‘President’s Rule’ in the states and consolidated the legal position on the subjective satisfaction of the President is SR Bommai v Union of India AIR 1994 SC1918.

The brief facts are the : Janatadal party secured the majority in the legislative Assembly of Karnataka . Due to internal squabbles in the party for power and dissatisfaction over the distribution of ministries, dissidents wrote to the Governor that they had withdrawn their support to the Chief Minister. The party at the center Congress grabbed the opportunity, dismissed the government in Karnataka and imposed President’s rule. This was challenged in the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The Court examined the subjective satisfaction of the President and held that it was an improper exercise of power and hence unconstitutional . It revived the legislative Assembly for the first time in History. In doing so the following principles were laid down:

1.The power under Art 356 should be sparingly used and only when the President is fully satisfied that a situation has arisen where the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Otherwise the frequent use of this power and its exercise is likely to disturb the constitutional balance.

2. Resort to Art.356 should be the last resort.

3. While it is not possible to exhaustively list the various situations which could be said to constitute a breakdown of constitutional machinery, it could be illustrated as 1. A large scale breakdown of law and order, ii. Gross mismanagement of affairs by a state government, iii corruption or abuse of its power, iv danger to national integration or security of the nation or abetting racial disintegration or a claim for independent sovereign status and subversion of the Constitution.

4. The examples of the situations which may not amount to failure of the constitutional machinery are:

  1. A situation of mal administration in the state where a duly constituted ministry enjoying majority support is in office. Imposition of President’s rule in such situations would be ‘extraneous’ to the purpose for which the power was conferred under A356.
  2. Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing its majority support in the Assembly and President’s rule cannot be imposed without exploring the possibilities of an alternative government.
  3. The Governor has to give an opportunity to the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the house before it could be concluded that it has lost its majority support.
  4. It could not be as a political instrument. It is not permissible to use Art 356 to get rid of state government solely on the ground that different political party has come into power.

5. Failure of the state government to comply with or give effect to the directions issued by the central government cannot be the ground to impose President’s rule. The court can scrutinize the material on the basis of which advise was tendered.

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