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Article 356 – President's Rule

Article 356 of the Constitution of India is based on Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935.
According to Article 356, President's Rule can be imposed on any state of India on the grounds of the failure of the constitutional machinery.

This is of two types:
  1. If the President receives a report from the state's Governor or otherwise is convinced or satisfied that the state's situation is such that the state government cannot carry on the governance according to the provisions of the Constitution.
  2. Article 365: As per this Article, President's Rule can be imposed if any state fails to comply with all directions given by the Union on matters it is empowered to.

In simple words, President's Rule is when the state government is suspended and the central government directly administers the state through the office of the governor (centrally appointed. It is also called State Emergency or Constitutional Emergency.

President's Rule
Parliamentary approval is necessary for the imposition of President's Rule on any state. The proclamation of President's Rule should be approved in both Houses of the Parliament within two months of its issue. The approval is through a simple majority.

The President's Rule is initially for a period of six months. Later, it can be extended for a period of three years with parliamentary approval, every six months.

The 44th Amendment to the Constitution (1978) brought in some constraints on the imposition of the President's Rule beyond a period of one year. It says that President's Rule cannot be extended beyond one year unless:
  1. There is a national emergency in India.
  2. The Election Commission of India certifies that it is necessary to continue the President's Rule in the state because of difficulties in conducting assembly elections to the state.

What happens after President's Rule is imposed?
  • The governor carries on with the administration of the state on behalf of the President. He or she takes the help of the state's Chief Secretary and other advisors/administrators whom he or she can appoint.
  • The President has the power to declare that the state legislature's powers would be exercised by the Parliament.
  • The state legislative assembly would be either suspended or dissolved by the President.
  • When the Parliament is not in session, the President can promulgate ordinances with respect to the state's administration.

When is President's Rule imposed?
It has been seen that the President's Rule has been imposed when any one of the following circumstances have occurred:
  1. The state legislature is not able to elect a leader as the Chief Minister for a time prescribed by the state's governor.
  2. Breakdown of a coalition in the state government, that leads to the CM having minority support in the legislature, and the CM is unable to prove his majority within the time prescribed by the governor.
  3. A no-confidence vote in the legislative assembly leading to a loss of majority.
  4. Postponement of elections owing to unavoidable reasons such as a natural disaster, epidemic or war.

Revocation of President's Rule
President's Rule can be revoked anytime after such a proclamation has been made by a subsequent proclamation by the President. A proclamation of revocation does not require approval by the Parliament. This occurs when the leader of a political party produces letters indicating majority support for him in the assembly and stakes his claim to form the state government

Which is the Indian state where president's rule was imposed for the first time? Article 356 was used for the first time during Vimochana samaram to dismiss the democratically elected Communist state government of Kerala on July 31, 1959.

Vimochana samaram:
On 1 November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed by the States Reorganisation Act merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. In 1957, elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly were held, and a reformist, Communist-led government came to power, under E. M. S. Namboodiripad. It was the first time a Communist government was democratically elected to power in India.

It initiated the pioneering land reforms and educational reforms by introducing new bills in the state assembly. The opposition of the Catholic church in Kerala, the Nair Service Society and the Indian Union Muslim League, along with the manoeuvres of the political front led by the Indian National Congress Party, against the land reform and the education policies of the government finally broke out to an open struggle and statewide violence against the government machinery and institutions. These events finally culminated in the dismissal of the state government on 31 July 1959, by the Central Government of India, which was led by the Indian National Congress during that period.

President's rule was imposed in 12 states in 1977 As per the response to a RTI application by Factly, Article 356 has been used 115 times till date. President's rule was imposed in 12 states in 1977 after the Janata alliance came to power. This remains the record for a single year till date. Second in the list is 1980 when the president's rule was imposed in 9 different states after Indira Gandhi came back to power. Other notable years include 1992 when it was used in 6 different states and 1971 when it was used in 7 states including thrice in Orissa

President's rule was imposed 63 times in 20 years between 1971 and 1990 The imposition of President's rule in states has varied across various decades. It was used 20 times between 1950 and 1970. Between 1971 and 1990, it was used 63 times, an average of 3 times a year. In fact, it was used 49 times between 1970 and 1980, highlighting the polarized political atmosphere during those times. Article 356 was used as a political tool during those times

Between 1991 and 2010, it was used 27 times. Only in 1991 and 1992, it was used 9 times. The indiscriminate use of Article 356 came down significantly following the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in the S R Bommai case in 1994. Between 2011 and 2016, it has been used 5 times including 3 times after the BJP came to power in 2014.

State wise:
  • Andhra Pradesh: 3 times
  • Arunachal Pradesh: 2 times
  • Assam: 4 times
  • Bihar: 8 times
  • Delhi: 1 time
  • Goa: 5 times
  • Gujarat: 5 times
  • Haryana: 3 times
  • Himachal Pradesh: 2 times
  • Jammu and Kashmir: 6 times
  • Jharkhand: 3 times
  • Karnataka: 6 times
  • Kerala: 4 times
  • Madhya Pradesh: 4 times
  • Maharashtra: 2 times
  • Manipur: 10 times
  • Meghalaya: 2 times
  • Mizoram: 3 times
  • Nagaland: 4 times
  • Orissa: 6 times
  • Pondicherry: 6 times
  • Punjab: 9 times
  • Rajasthan: 4 times
  • Sikkim: 2 times
  • Tamil Nadu: 5 times
  • Tripura: 3 times
  • West Bengal: 4 times
  • Uttar Pradesh: 9 times

Misuse of Article 356
Article 356 gave the Central government wide powers to stamp its authority on the state governments. Although it was meant only as a means to preserve the integrity and unity of the country, it had been used blatantly to oust state governments who were ruled by political opponents of the centre.
  • Between 1966 and 1977, Indira Gandhi's government used it about 39 times against various states.
  • In the S.R. Bommai case (1994)1, the Supreme Court of India put forth strict guidelines for the imposition of Article 356
  • The proclamation (of President's Rule) is subject to judicial review on grounds of mala fide intention.
  • The imposition of Article 356 should be justified by the centre.
  • The court has the power to revive the suspended or dissolved state government if the grounds for the imposition is found to be invalid and unconstitutional.
  • The state assembly cannot be dissolved before parliamentary approval for the imposition of Article 356 and the President can only suspend the assembly.
  • Serious allegations of corruption against the state ministry and financial instability are not grounds for the imposition of Article 356. o Any action by the state government that leads to the security of secularism (which is a basic feature of the Constitution) cannot be grounds for the use of Article 356.
  • Article 356 cannot be used to sort out any intraparty issues in the ruling party.
  • If the Ministry of the state resigns or is dismissed or loses the majority, then the governor cannot advise the President to impose this article until enough steps are taken by the governor for the formation of an alternative government.
  • The power under Article 356 is to be used only in case of exigencies. It is an exceptional power.

RECOMMENDATIONS OF COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES:
THE ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS COMMISSION REPORT, 1968
The Administrative Reforms Commission (1968) recommended that the report ofthe Governor regarding President's Rule has to objective and also the Governor should exercise his own Judgement in this regard. The Commission recommended, In all such cases the Governor's report has to be objective, according to the facts as he sees and interprets them and not as his ministers or the Centre interpret them. Briefly, therefore, in reporting to the President, whether in routine or in unusual circumstances warranting Presidential intervention, the Governor is expected to exercise his own Judgement.

The Administrative Reforms Commission ( 1968) recommended that where President's Rule is imposed the Governor of the State should responsibly act under the direction of the Union Government. The Commission recommended that Where Presidential Rule is imposed the Governor may be entrusted by the Centre with the task of actively carrying on the administration for which he then becomes directly responsible under the overall direction of the Union Government.

These recommendations are an important restraint m the exercise of the Presidential powers under Article 356. But these recommendations were not implemented due to lack of will power.

THE GOVERNORS' COMMITTEE (BHAGW AN SAHAY COMMITTEE) REPORT, 1971.
President, Y.V. Giri, established Governors' Committee headed by the then Jammu & Kashmir Governor, Bhagwan Sahay, to review the issues relating to Governors. Gopal Reddy, Aliyaver Jung and S.S. Dhawan were the members of this Committee. The Committee gave its recommendations in 1971.

The Governors· Committee ( 1971) laid down the responsibility on the Governor to see that the administration of the State does not breakdown due to political instability and he must send regular report about the political situation of the State. The Governor should also report to the President about any serious internal disturbance or external aggression in the State concerned and about action to be taken under Article 356.

The Committee recommended that:
As Head of the State, the Governor has a duty to see that the administration of the State does not break down due to political instability. He has equally to take care that responsible Government in the State is not lightly disturbed or superseded ... It is not in the event of po\\tica\ instability alone that a Governor may report to the President under Article 356. Reference has been made elsewhere in this report to the President about any serious internal disturbances in the States, or, more especially of the existence or possibility of a danger of external aggression. In such situations also it may become necessary for the Governor to report to the President for action pursuant to Article 356.

The Governors' Committee also recommended that the guiding principles for the Governors to act according to his best judgement should be maintained. The Committee also recommended that The Governor has to act on each occasion according to his best Judgement, the guiding principle being, as far as possible, maintained.

The Governors' Conference discussed this report on November 26, 1971 at New Delhi, but the idea of instructions to Governors was withdrawn, although these recommendations were very useful.

THE CENTRE-STATE RELATIONS INQUIRY COMMITTEE (RAJAMANNAR COMMITTEE) REPORT, 1971
The DMK government in Tamil Nadu headed by M. Karunanidhi established a Centre-State relations Inquiry Committee headed by P.V. Rajamannar, former Chief Justice of Madras High Court, on September 2, 1969. The Committee gave its recommendations in 1971.

The recommendations of Rajamannar Committee are analysed as follows:
  1. The Rajamannar Committee ( 1971) recommended the deletion of Articles 356 and 357 from the Constitution of India. The necessary provisions for safeguards against arbitrary action of the ruling party at the Centre under Article 356 should be incorporated in the Constitution. The Committee recommended, Articles 356 and 357 may be entirely repealed. The only other alternative is to provide safeguards to secure the interests of the States against the arbitrary and unilateral action of a party commanding overwhelming majority, which happens to be in power at the Centre.
  2. Tile Rajamannar Committee emphasised that the Governor of the State should not consider himself as an agent of the Centre but play his role as the constitutional head of the State.
  3. The Committee emphasised the fact that:
    The Governor should not deem himself to be a mere agent of the Centre and that the emphasis should be on his role as the constitutional head of the State.

    6 3. The Rajamannar Committee recommended that the Ministry of the State concerned should not depend on the pleasure of the Governor and the Ministry should continue its function till it commands majority in the State Legislative Assembly. The Committee also recommended that The tenure of office of a Ministry in any State should not be dependent on the pleasure of the Governor and that the Ministry should continue to function and perform its allotted duties so long as it is able to command a majority in the Legislative Assembly ... If Article 356 is to be retained, the words 'or otherwise' occurring in clause (I) of the article may be omitted.
  4. The Committee recommended that before recommending the President's Rule in the State, the Governor should ensure a Ministry which would enjoy the confidence of the Legislature after observing all the possibilities. The justification of the President's Rule is possible only when there is complete breakdown of law and order in the State.

    The Committee have also recommended that:
    The Governor, before recommending President's Rule, should explore all possible avenues open to him to secure a Ministry which, would command the confidence of the Legislature ... The only other contingency which would justify the imposition of President's Rule is the complete breakdown of law and order in the State. The only forum which could decide the question whether a Ministry could continue in office is the Legislative Assembly.
  5. The Committee recommended that before sending his recommendation for the President's Rule, the Governor should refer the report to the Legislative Assembly within a specified period to know the Assembly's views. The Committee suggested that the addition of a proviso of clause (1) of Article 356 requiring the President, before issuing the Proclamation, to refer the report of the Governor to the Legislative Assembly for expressing its views thereon within such period as may be specified in the reference.
  6. The Committee further recommended that the President's Rule should be imposed in the State if the State Government concerned fails to implement the direction issued by the Union Government.
    The Committee have also recommended that:
    'Any contravention of, or failure to implement, a direction issued by the Union to the State should, under no circumstances, be made a ground for the imposition of President's Rule. It follows that Article 365 has to be repealed.
  7. It is obvious that recommendations of Rajamannar Committee ( 1971) are very important for autonomy of States and it also suggests some checks upon the misuse of provision relating the President's Rule, but the suggestion of deletion of Articles 356 and 357 was not reasonable and possible for unity and integrity of the country and for proper functioning of constitutional machinery in the States. These recommendations, however, were rejected by the Union Government.

    Rajeev Dhavan and Geetanjali Goel observed:
    These suggestions, some eminently sensible, were not accepted as a package because they were found to be too extreme. But the issues raised by 'Rajamannar' have resurfaced and remained.

THE NATIONAL COMMISSION TO REVIEW THE WORKING OF THE CONSTITUTION (VENKATACHALIAH COMMISSION) REPORT, 2002.
Government of India established the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. Justice M.M. Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court, was the Chairperson of this Commission. Justice R.S. Sarkaria was the chairperson of emergency provisions review committee and Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy presented the paper on Article 356. The Commission submitted its report in 2002. The analysis as in the recommendations of the Commission is as follows.

The Yenkatachaliah Commission (2002) recommended that the Article 356 must be used sparingly and only as a remedy of the last resort after exhausting all actions under Articles 256, 257 and 355. The Commission recommended that In the spirit of the framers of the Constitution, that Article 356 must be used sparingly and only as a remedy of the last resort and after exhausting action under other Articles like 256, 257 and 355.''

The Commission recommended that in case of political breakdown, the State concerned should be given an opportunity to explain its position and redress the situation before issuing a proclamation under Article 356. The Commission recommended that Before issuing a proclamation under Article 356 the concerned State should be given an opportunity to explain its position and redress the situation, unless the situation is such. that following the above course would not be in the interest of security of State, or defence of the country, or for other reasons necessitating urgent action.

The Commission recommended that the question whether the Council of Ministers in a State has lost the confidence of the State Assembly or not, should be decided only on the floor of the House and not anywhere else. So far as the political breakdown of the State, the Governor should explore all possibilities of formation of a Government enjoying majority support in the State Assembly. If an alternative Government can not to be formed and if fresh elections is to be held without delay, the Governor should ask the outgoing Ministry to continue as a caretaker government.

The Commission recommended that:
The question whether the Ministry in a State has lost the confidence of the Legislative Assembly or not, should be decided only on the floor of the Assembly and no where else ... The Governor should not be allowed to dismiss the Ministry, so long as it enjoys the confidence of the House. It is only where a Chief Minister refuses to resign, after his Ministry is defeated on a motion of no-confidence, that the Governor can dismiss the State Government. In a situation of political breakdown, the Governor should explore all possibilities of having a Government enjoying majority support in the Assembly.

If it is not possible for such a Government to be installed and if fresh elections can be held without avoidable delay, he should ask the outgoing Ministry, (if there is one), to continue as a caretaker government, provided the Ministry was defeated solely on issue, unconnected with any allegations of maladministration or corruption and is agreeable to continue. The Governor should then dissolve the Legislative Assembly, leaving the resolution of the constitutional crisis to the electorate.

The Commission recommended that with regard to the election of the new leader of the State Assembly (Chief Minister) and the removal of the previous Government, a constructive vote of no-confidence is to be accepted and implemented.

The Commission recommended that:
In regard to the election of the leader of the House (Chief Minister) and the removal of the Government only by a constructive vote of no-confidence are accepted and implemented.

The Commission recommended that the President's Rule in a State should be proclaimed on the basis of the Governor's report in all normal circumstances. The report of the Governor under Article 356 should be a 'speaking document'.

The Commission recommended that:
Normally President's Rule in a State should be proclaimed on the basis of Governor's report under Article 356(1 ). The Governor's report should be a 'speaking document,' containing a precise and clear statement of all material facts and grounds, on the basis of which the President may satisfy himself, as to the existence or otherwise of the situation contemplated in Article 356.

The Commission recommended that in clause (5) of Article 356, in sub-clause (a) the word and occurring at the end should be substituted by or so that President's Rule may be continued if elections ofthe State Assembly cannot be held. The Commission recommended that In clause (5) of Article 356 of the Constitution, in sub-clause (a) the word 'and' occurring at the end should be substituted by 'or' so that even without the State being under a proclamation of Emergency, President's Rule may be continued if elections cannot be held.

The Commission recommended that clauses (6) and (7) under Article 356 may be added to the following lines: (6) The President shall revoke a proclamation issued under clause (I) or a proclamation, varing such proclamation if the Lok Sabha passes a resolution disapproving or disapproving the continuance in force of such proclamation. (7) where a notice in writing signed by not less than 111 o•h of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha has been given, of intention to move a resolution for disapproving... a special sitting of the House shall be held within fourteen days from the date on which such a notice is received by the Speaker or by the President, for the propose of considering such resolution. The Commission recommended that ''clauses (6) and (7) under Article 356 may be added on the following lines

(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing clauses, the President shall revoke a proclamation issued under clause ( I) or a proclamation varying such proclamation if the House of the People passes a resolution disapproving, or, as the case may be, disapproving the continuance in force of, such proclamation. (7) Where a notice in writing signed by not less than one-tenth of the total number of members of the House of the People has been given, oftheir intention to move a resolution for disapproving, or, as the case may be, for disapproving the continuance in force of, a proclamation issued under clause (I) or a proclamation varying such proclamation:
  1. to the Speaker, if the House is in session; or
  2. to the President, if the House is not in session, a special sitting of the House shall be held within fourteen days from the date on which such a notice is received by the Speaker, or, as the case may be, by the President, for the purpose of considering such resolution.

The Commission recommended that Article 356 should be amended to ensure that the State Legislative Assembly should not be dissolved by the Governor or the President before the proclamation of President's Rule has been laid before Parliament and it has had an opportunity to consider it. The Commission recommended that Article 356 should be amended to ensure that the Legislative Assembly should not be dissolved either by the Governor or the President before the proclamation issued under Article 356( I) has been laid before Parliament and it has had an opportunity to consider it.

The suggestions of the Constitution Review Commission (2002) have also been useful to check upon the misuse of the provisions regarding President's Rule. It is submitted that the Inter-State Council should discuss on these suggestions and these suggestions should be implemented in consultations with the State governments. M.P. Singh observed that the constitutional reforms the NCRWC offers are very relevant today. Their urgency can hardly be exaggerated.

INTER-STATE COUNCIL
The NF government led by V.P. Singh at the Centre set up the Inter-State Council under Article 263 in 1990 to discuss the Inter-State problems and to· gave their suggestion to strengthen the Centre-State relations. Out of the 230 recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission on which Inter-State Council took decision, altogether I 08 recommendations have so far been in various stages of implemented, 35 have been rejected and 87 are under implementation.

The remaining 17 recommendations regarding the imposition of President's Rule (Article 356), the deployment of CRPF in the States, compliance with Union's directions under Articles 256 and 257. and effect of the failure to comply therewith, or to give effect to directions given by the Union Government, etc., have been considered by the subcommittee of the Council. The Council has rejected 6 recommendations pertaining to the role of Governor and 18 on All India Services. Although divergence of views still prevail on issues like Article 356, role of Governor, etc.

In the Eighth Inter-State Council meeting held in New Delhi on August 28, 2003 the Union Government and the State Governments agreed that Article 365, which empowers the President to impose sanctions on States for non-compliance with Union's directives made under Articles 256 and 257, should be sparingly used in place of Article 356. The then Home Minister, L.K. Advani, said there was general consensus on the· constitutional recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission (1988).

He said that all parties in the meeting felt Article 356 should be used as a last resort. Safeguards against its misuse, as enshrined in the Bommai case Judgement (1994), were accepted. This would now mean incorporation of the safeguards in the Constitution through an amendment.

It may be concluded that above cited Commissions and Committees had gives important suggestions to check upon the misuse of provisions regarding President's Rule. They all stressed that Article 356 should be used as a last resort, in case of actual breakdown of constitutional machinery in the States. This power should not be used by the Union Government for their partisan interests.

But owing to lack of political will power and lack of consensus between the Union Government and the State governments these suggestions have not been implemented so far. Thus, the Union and State governments should evolve a consensus on incorporation of the safeguards against m.isuse of provisions regarding President's Rule through a Constitutional amendment in light of the Sarkaria Commission's recommendations (1988) and the Bommai case (1994) in their judgement on the platfonn ofthe InterState Council. However, any safeguard would not be effective without having regard to the democratic conventions by the political parties.

As K. Suryaprasad observed:
No safeguards, whether constitutional or conventional or even judicial will ensure a cent per cent guarantee against misuse or abuse of the constitutional provisions unless the political parties are committed to democratic ideology, principles and practices.

In this context, some remedial measures are submitted to check the misuse of the provisions regarding President's Rule as follows:
First, Article 356 must be read along with Articles 355, 256, 257, 353 and 365.

Second, what the President should do would be to issue a mere warning to the State that has erred, that things are not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen by the Constitution. If the warning fails, the second thing for him to do will be to order an election allowing the people of the State to settle matters by themselves. It is only when these two remedies fail that he should resort to this Article. These preproclamation steps should be incorporated in the Constitution.

Third, the President's Rule should be imposed in exceptional situations on reasonable grounds, i.e., where after the general elections of the State Legislative Assembly no party gains the absolute majority and no political party or group would be in a position to form the stable and viable government, where a Ministry is defeated on the floor of the Assembly and no political party or group would be in position to form a stable government. where a Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers have resigned and an alternative government formation is not possible, where the Chief Minister advises the Governor to dissolve the Assembly after losing his majority in the Assembly, where the Assembly is dissolved around February/March, without passing the budget, where the Ministry fails to carry out the directives issued by the Union Government under Articles 256 and 257, where a Ministry acts contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, where a complete breakdown of Jaw and order ensues in a State due to secessionist activities or communal violence and the State Government is unable to maintain the security of the people and property in the State.

Fourth, the Inter-State Council may be endowed with the advisory function of discussing each and every proclamation of President's Rule and the measures taken by the President in pursuance of such a proclamation. The result of these deliberations may be placed before the Parliament and also before the general public. The InterState Council could have a permanent Standing Committee, which could constantly monitor the issue relating to imposition of President's Rule

Fifth, Article 155 should be amended and a Committee consisting of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Speaker ofthe Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India should be framed to appoint an impartial Governor with consultation of the Chief Minister of the State concerned. The Governors themselves should act as the impartial Constitutional Heads of the States, and not as agents ofthe ruling political party or coalition at the Centre.

Sixth, there should be a code of conduct for the Speakers of the State Assemblies. The legislature and the judiciary should act within the specific sphere determined by the Constitution and should not interfere with each other's jurisdiction. The Speakers should play impartial role and should not destabilize the State Ministry by giving arbitrary decision under the Anti-Defection Act, 1985, or by securing the ouster of the opposition parties' MLA's from the proceeding of the legislature. The Supreme Court and the High Courts should not interfere with normal proceeding of the State Assembly and they should interfere only in exceptional situations, i.e., when the legislators are not allowed to participate in the proceeding of the House, or legislators are not allowed to caste their vote, or the violent activities arise in the House, etc.

Seventh, the Constitution should be amended in the light of the intention of our founding fathers expressed in Constituent Assembly debates, the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission (1988), the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2002) and safeguards on imposing President's Rule enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Bommai Case ( 1994) that were discussed in the Inter-State Council should be implemented after consultations with the State Governments.

Eighth, the presence of a healthy and strong Opposition, vigilant public opinion, good statesmanship and respect for principles of federalism and healthy conventions of parliamentary democracy are also effective checks upon the misuse of this power. As Balveer Arora observed, To consolidate this gain for federal democracy, it is important to seriously examine the proposals for stringent safeguards, if not outright abolition.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Gautham Krishna EJ
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