Maharashtra Placed Under President’s Rule

  • On 12th November, 2019, the President approved a proclamation imposing President’s Rule in Maharashtra, following a recommendation from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
  • The decision came after the Governor sent a report to the Union government saying President’s Rule must be imposed since no party or alliance was in a position to provide a stable government in the state,after the State Assembly election in October, 2019. As for now, the State Assembly has been kept under suspended animation.
  • This 3rd time when the President’s Rule is being imposed in Maharashtra since the formation of the state.

President’s Rule

  • 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. This is popularly known as ‘President’s Rule’. It is also known as ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’.
  • For the first time, the President’s Rule was imposed in Punjab in 1951.

S. R. Bommai V. Union of India Case , 1994

  • The case of S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India is a very landmark case in the purview of the Indian Constitutional history relating to the proclamation of emergency under Article 356 of the Constitution.
  • The Centre State relationship and its efficiency had been dealt in a better manner in this case along with the issues relating to federalism and secularism as a part of basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The judgment attempted to curb blatant misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed President's rule to be imposed on state governments.

Supreme Court’s Verdict

  • The verdict concluded that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute.
  • 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.
  • Article 365 should be invoked only as the last resort power given to President and when the State’s Constitutional machinery had failed.
  • Also the Court made it clear that a Presidential Proclamation under Article 356 is subject to judicial review.

Significance of the Case

  • The case became one of the most cited whenever hung Assemblies were returned and parties scrambled to form a government.
  • It put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government.

Constitutional Provisions

Provisions regarding the President’s Rulefinds its mention in the Part XVIII of the Indian Constitutions:

  • Article 355 imposes a duty on the Centre to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution
  • Article 356 of the Constitution of India gives President of India the power to suspend state government and impose President's rule of any state in the country if "if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution".

Ground for Imposition

  • President’s rule is proclaimed in a state on account of failure of the constitutional machinery of that state. It gives the President power to assume control of the state in question.
  • Article 356 empowers the President to issue a proclamation; if he is satisfied a situation has arisen in which the government of a state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Notably, the president can act either on a report of the governor of the state or otherwise too (i.e. even without the governor’s report).
  • It says that whenever a state fails to comply with or to give effect to any direction from the Centre, it will be lawful for the president to hold that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Duration

  • A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within two months from the date of its issue.
  • If approved by both the Houses of Parliament, the President’s Rule continues for six months. It can be extended for a maximum period of three years with the approval of the Parliament, every six months.

Revocation

  • 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.

Consequences

  • In the wake of State Emergency, the President can take up the functions of the state government and powers vested in the governor or any other executive authority in the state. He can declare that the powers of the state legislature are to be exercised by the Parliament.
  • The President dismisses the state council of ministers headed by the chief minister. The state governor, on behalf of the President, carries on the state administration with the help of the chief secretary of the state or the advisors appointed by the President. This is the reason why a proclamation under Article 356 is popularly known as the imposition of ‘President’s Rule’ in a state.
  • Further, the President either suspends or dissolves the state legislative assembly. In this case, the Parliament passes the state legislative bills and the state budget.
  • It is to be noted thatany law made by the Parliament or president or any other specified authority continues to be operative even after the President’s Rule. This means that the period for which such a law remains in force is not coterminous with the duration of the proclamation.
  • However, theconstitutional position, status, powers and functions of the concerned state high court remain same even during the President’s Rule.

Recommendations of  Major Committees on President’s Rule

Sarkaria Commission (1983)

  • The President's Proclamation should include the ‘reasons’ as to why the State cannot be run as per the normal provisions of the Constitution.
  • As far as possible, the Centre should issue a warning to the State government before resorting to the use of Art. 356.
  • Art. 356 should be amended so that the President is empowered to dissolve the State Legislature only after approval by the Parliament.

Punchhi Commission (2007)

  • On the question of invoking Article 356, the Commission recommended suitable amendments to incorporate the guidelines set forth in the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai V. Union of India (1994).
  • It commission recommended for “localising emergency provisions” meaning that localised areas- either a district or parts of a district to be brought under the rule instead of the whole state, without dissolving the state legislative assembly.
  • The duration of such an emergency provision should not be of duration of more than three months.

Way Forward

  • Article 356 gives the Centre ample powers to assert its rule over a state if the constitutional machinery fails and that state doesn’t possess the means to regain the constitutional machinery.
  • The fundamental function of this article is to give more powers to the Centre and assist the state in times of dire crisis. But it has always been used to dissolve the state government governed by political rivals. It is perceived by many as a peril to the structure of democracy.
  • But at the same time, it is this article that comes to the rescue when there is genuine turmoil and breakdown of constitutional machinery. Guidelines provided by the Bommai judgment should be strictly adhered to ensure wise usage of this article.
  • After all, effectiveness of any law is entirely dependent on its proper enforcement in the proper perspective. Howsoever significant a law may be, it cannot serve the purpose, or it may not be prevented from being controversial unless and until it is implemented in its letter as well as spirit.

 

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, November, 2019