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Presidential rule A Contextual Outline

President's rule refers to Article 356 of the Constitution of India deals with the failure
of the constitutional machinery of an Indian state. In the event that government in a
state is not able to function as per the Constitution, the state comes under the direct
control of the central government, with executive authority exercised through
the Governor instead of a Council of Ministers headed by an elected Chief Minister
accountable to the state legislature. Article 356 is invoked if there has been failure of
the constitutional machinery in any state of India. During President's rule, the Governor
has the authority to appoint retired civil servants or other administrators, to assist him.
Article 356 of the Constitution was one of the most keenly debated and discussed in the
Constituent Assembly. In the words of Dr. Ambedkar such articles will never be called
into operation and that they would remain a dead letter.
The framers entertained this hope that the provision will be used sparingly and will
remain a dead letter. Such a hope got buried within one year of the working of the
Constitution when in June 1951 the Punjab Government was dismissed despite having a
clear majority in the Assembly. Since then, till now Article 356 has been used
approximately 120 times (112-115 being the exact figure.) According to the Sarkaria
Commission's Report1, which analysed 75 cases of President's Rule from June 1951 to
May 1987 and found in 52 cases out of 75, Article 356 has been used not meant for.
This is precisely the reason why one of the authorities on Indian Constitutional Law
Acharya Durga Das Basu opined that no provision of the Constitution has been so often
used, misused, and abused as Article 3562 This project analyses the role of governor
under Article 356 in light of the judgment of the Apex Court in Rameshwar Prasad v.
Union of India.3

1 Sarkaria Commission, Report on Centre-State Relationship (1983-1988) Chapter

VI p. 174-177
2 D.D. Basu Introduction to Constitution of India', (19th Edn.) at p. 483
3 (2006) 2 SCC 1

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The article 356 pertaining to the Indian Constitution has been often regarded as the
reason behind serious problems. Indian history is eventful with facts where Article 356
has been misused and wrongful advantage of power has been made. In very simple
terms this article deals with the rules which allow the Centre government to dissolve
the state governments if it can be established that there is total anarchy in the state
concerned. Very often the problem arises when the state and the central governments
are being administered by different political parties. The essence of the Article is that
upon the breach of certain defined state of affairs, as ascertained and reported by the
Governor of the State concerned (or otherwise) the President concludes that the
constitutional machinery in the State had failed. Thereupon, the President makes a
Proclamation of Emergency, dismissing the State Legislature and Executive.
Having just gained independence after a long and continuous struggle, the people of
India would naturally have the greatest interest in preserving all the freedoms
envisioned in a democratic society. If the members of the Drafting Committee of the
Constitution included a provision that permits a Government to dismiss a duly elected
representative body of the people and suspend those freedoms in violation of even the
crudest interpretation of a separation of powers, then common sense suggests that it is
only to deal with the direst of circumstances and nothing less. But it seems that the
remedial nature of the Article has been perverted to impose the domination of the
Central Government upon a State Government that does not subscribe to its views.
Central control over regional governments is essential for the integrity of nations that
have federal systems of government, and Article 356 was designed to preserve this
integrity, but what remains to be seen is whether it is being used at the cost of
sacrificing the interests of democratic freedom.



Set in the above perspective or background, the broad objective of the study is to:
1. Deeply analyze the mentioned article.

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2. Draw out its current impact in India and hold appropriate conclusions.


Scope of the study

The present Project is an attempt to analyze the scheme of Presidential rule under
Article 356 as envisaged under the Indian Constitution and what it entails. It also draws
out criticisms from the analysis drawn out from the duration of this project and
concludes the study thusly.


Methodology of the study

Given a study of this kind, a descriptive analytical method had been used in the creation
of the detailed analysis the project entails.


Under Article 356(1) if the President, on the receipt of report from the Governor of a
State or otherwise is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of
the State cannot be carried in accordance with the Provisions of the Constitution, the
President may by proclamation:
(a) Assume to himself all or any of the functions of the government of the State and
all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or any body or
authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State.
(b) Declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or
under the authority of the Parliament.

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(c) Make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the President to be
necessary or desirable for giving effect to the objects of the Proclamation,
including provisions for suspending in whole or part the operation of any
provisions relating to any body or authority in the State.
The proviso to Article 356 (1) rules out the assumption of the powers of the High
Court. The proclamation of dissolution has to be ratified within 2 months by both
Houses of the Parliament.
The power under Article 356 (1) is an emergency provision but is not an absolute
power. The power is conditional, the condition being the formation of satisfaction of
the President as contemplated by Article 356(1).4 Thus, the power is to be exercised
by the President in exceptional circumstances, as Emergency itself means a situation
which is not normal, a situation which calls for urgent, remedial action. But
interestingly, Article 356 nowhere uses the expression Emergency' 5 The expressions
under Article 356 may be elaborated as follows:
On the receipt of a report from the Governor or otherwise'
Like the President, the Governor is to act in accordance with the aid and advice of the
Council of Ministers by virtue of Article 163(1). The Governor's report for the
imposition of President's rule will fall within the ambit of the discretionary power as
in Article 163(2) of the Constitution. This is so because the Governor cannot possibly
act in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers, who cannot give an
advice prejudicial to their interest6
The expression or otherwise' means that the President may act on the information
received from sources other than the Governor's report. This includes reports from a
Union Minister or from the Council of Ministers. The President can only act in
accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers. The dissolution can also be
ordered on the satisfaction that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the
State cannot be carried in accordance of the provisions of the Constitution.
Satisfaction can be reached by the President on report from the Governor of the State,
4 Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India, (2006) 2 SCC 1, 94 para. 96
5 State of Rajsthan v. Union of India AIR 1977 SC 1361 at paras. 169, 188-A, 201
6 Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1974 SC 2192 paras. 55, 138

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or on other material or solely on the report itself. Even in the absence of report, other
relevant materials can be taken into consideration by the President for dissolution.
This expression or otherwise' is thus of very wide amplitude.7
The Governor however is not the decision making authority under Article 356. His
report will be scrutinized by the Council of Ministers and the final decision is by the
President under Article 174 of the Constitution.8
A situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried in
accordance with the provisions of this Constitution'
The marginal note to Article 356 uses the words failure of constitutional machinery in
States' while Clause (1) uses the words cannot be carried on in accordance with the
provisions of the Constitution'. The latter expression is of a very wide import meaning
thereby failure to comply with each and every provision of the Constitution. The
leading opinions in State of Rajasthan v. Union of India 9 ,gives a wider meaning to the
expression equating it with breakdown of the constitutional machinery'. The
interpretation will be discussed at length in light of the judicial pronouncement in S.R.
Bommai and Rameshwar Prasad cases.
The expression satisfaction' means not the personal satisfaction of the President but a
legitimate inference drawn from the material placed before him. This satisfaction is
the satisfaction of the Council of Ministers. Under Article 74(1), the President is to act
on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.


Development of Article 356

a) The Government of India Act, 1935

This Act first introduced the concept of Division of Powers in British India. It
was an experiment where the British Government entrusted limited powers to the
7 Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2006) 2 SCC 1, 79 at para. 4
8 Ibid at para. 211
9 AIR 1977 SC 1361

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Provinces. But since there was very little faith lost between the British and the
Indian people, the British took precautions to keep a sufficient check on the
powers given to the Provinces. These precautions were manifested in the form of
emergency powers under Sections 93 and 45 of this Act, where the Governor
General and the Governor, under extraordinary circumstances, exercised near
absolute control over the Provinces.
b) Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly
On August 29, 1947, a Drafting Committee was set up by the Constituent
Assembly. Under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. it was to prepare a draft
Constitution for India. In the course of about two years, the Assembly discussed
2,473 amendments out of a total of 7,635 amendments tabled. When it was
suggested in the Drafting Committee to confer similar powers of emergency as
had been held by the Governor-General under the Government of India Act, 1935,
upon the President, many members of that eminent committee vociferously
opposed that idea. By virtue of this earnest advice given by the prime architect of
the Indian Constitution, we can safely conclude that this is the very last resort to
be used only in the rarest of rare events. A
good Constitution must provide for all conceivable exigencies. Therefore this
Article is like a safety valve to counter disruption of political machinery in a State.
Article 355 states: It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against
external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that. the government of
every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The word otherwise in Article 356(1) was not included in the original draft; it
was later introduced through an amendment, despite protests from members of the
original Drafting Committee, stating that it was an open invitation to abuse the
Article. Dr. Ambedkar justified its introduction saying that Article 277A (now
Article 355, cited above) imposed a duty upon the Center to ensure that the States
are governed in accordance with constitutional provisions and that hence it would
not be proper for the President to base his decision solely on the report of the
Governor of the State.
c) An analogy between Article 356 and Sections 45 and 93 of the Government of
India Act, 1935

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There are certain differences in the provision relating to the failure of the
constitutional machinery under the present Constitution and the powers dealt with
in Sections 45 and 93 of the Government of India Act. 1935. Firstly, the 1935 Act,
empowered the Governor-General to deal with a failure of the constitutional
machinery at the Center (Section 45). It also empowered the Governor-General to
deal with a similar situation in a Province (Section 93).The present Constitution,
however, does not intend to suspend the Constitution of a State, but empowers the
President to take steps in this regard, though he shall have to act on the report of
the Governor or Ruler of the State. Secondly, under Section 93 of the 1935 Act,
the executive and legislative powers of a State could be assumed by the Governor,
acting at his discretion. The present Constitution has separated the two powers: the
President, assuming executive powers, and the Union Parliament, assuming
legislative powers.


Importance of Article 356

Article 356 of the Indian Constitution has been the victim of bad governance during
the last five decades. Otherwise it is in no way incongruous that it would require
recast or annulment. By the ignominious acts of the men who wielded absolute
governmental power, they got astray from the path of good governance and tried to
make the said article appear rogue in its content. The provision of 356 is quite in
keeping with the exigencies of art of governance of the states in a manner that the
administration of the State runs on proper lines and interference from the Center is
neither required nor feasible. Non-interference by the Center is in the interests of the
totality of the country. The existence of Article 356 in the Union constitution is a
political necessity because in course of time all the diversities shall get absorbed in the
system that
shall make India look a country having the ingredients of one compact nation with
different religions and religious communities walking hand-in-hand and having well
of the country at heart.


Criticism of Article 356

Article 356 gave wide powers to the central government to assert its authority over a
state if civil unrest occurred and the state government did not have the means to end

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the unrest. This is one of the articles that gave the Indian constitution some amount of
unitary character. Though the purpose of this article is to give more powers to central
government to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation, it has often been misused
by the ruling parties at the center. It has been used as a pretext to dissolve
state governments ruled by political opponents Thus, it is seen by many as a threat. to
the federal state system. Since the adoption of Indian constitution in 1950, the central
government has used this article several times to dissolve elected state governments
and impose President's rule.
The article was used for the first time in Punjab on 20 June 1951. It. has also been
used in the state of Patiala and East Punjab States union (PEPSU) and then during
Vimochana Samaram to dismiss the democratically elected Communist. state
government of Kerala on 31 July 1959. In the 1970s and 1980s, it almost became
common practice for the central government to dismiss state governments led by
opposition parties. The Indira Gandhi regime and post-emergenchanata Party were
noted for this practice. Indira Gandhi's government between 1966-1977 is known to
have imposed President' rule in 39 states. Similarly Janta Dal when came to power,
emergency is known to have issued President's rule in 9 states which were ruled by
It is only after the landmark judgment in 1994 in the S. R. Bommai v. Union of India
case that the misuse of Article 356 was curtailed. In this case, the Supreme Court








pronouncements by the Supreme Court in Jharkhand and other states have further
whetted down the scope for misuse of Article 356. Hence since the early 2000, the
number of cases of imposition of President's rule has come down drastically.
Article 356 has always been the focal point. of a wider debate of the federal structure
of government in Indian polity. The Sarkaria Commission on Center-State relations
has recommended that Article 356 must be used "very sparingly, in extreme cases, as
a measure of last resort, when all the other alternatives fail to prevent or rectify a
breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state"


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The present situation in India shows that the dead-letter provision - as Dr. Ambedkar
hoped it would be - has become a frequently invoked, not-so-dead Article; it has been
activated 119 times till today. The National Commission to Review the Working of the
Constitution (NCRWC), which was established on February 22, 2000, on the basis of
a joint resolution of the Government of India, Ministry of Law, Justice and Company
Affairs (Department of Legal Affairs), submitted its extensive report in March 2002.
In its analysis, the NCRWC stated that in at least twenty out of the more than one
hundred instances, the invocation of Article 356 might be termed as a misuse. It is
difficult to believe that, during his tenure as the Governor of the State of Uttar
Pradesh. Romesh Bhandari made any real effort to install a popularly elected
government or to conduct a constitutionally mandated floor-test to test the strength of
the Legislative Assembly in the State for identifying a majority party before
prompting the application of the Article by the President.
After the fall of the Mayawati Government in the State of Uttar Pradesh, it might have
been justifiable to impose Presidents Rule. But it was also necessary to hold fresh
elections as soon as possible. The mala fides of the Union Executive in preventing the
assumption of office by an unfavorable political entity became clearly manifest in
Governor Bhandaris actions and the decision of the United Front Government at the
Center, to re-impose Presidents Rule in Uttar Pradesh. The worst damage may
possibly have been done through the office of the Governor, because the Governor
cannot be held responsible for his or her actions. H. M. Seervai pointed out that the
Governor can be removed only by the President and that the President acts on the
advice of the Council of Ministers; hence the Governor is in office pretty much at the
pleasure of the Union Executive. This may act as a bias whenever the Governors duty
requires him to go against the desires of the Union Executive. In its report, the
NCRWC recommended that the President should appoint or remove the Governor in
consultation with the Chief Minister of the State. This may act as a restraint on the
misuse of power by the Office of the Governor.
Another example of misuse of Article 356 was the imposition of Presidents Rule in
the State of Gujarat from September 1996 to October 1996, following the incidents of
violence indulged in by members of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Soli Sorabjee
pointed out that violence within the Assembly cannot be treated as an instance of
failure of the

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constitutional machinery; it would otherwise become very easy for malicious

legislators to dissolve a duly elected legislative body by creating pandemonium in the
Assembly and thereby prompting improper invocation of Article 356. The correct
procedure to be followed in such a situation is to pass suitable legislation for
disqualifying the guilty legislators.


Failure to invoke Emergency Powers

On the other extreme of misuse of Article 356 was the failure of the Union Executive which was of the same political belief as the Government of Narendra Modi in Gujarat
- to invoke Article 356 during the carnage following the Godhra train incident on
February 27, 2002, in the State of Gujarat. To quote the words of Fali Nariman, noted
lawyer and nominated member of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Indian
Parliament during a parliamentary debate: Vital statistics tells us that there are more
than 100000 persons in refugee camps and more than 30,000 people have been chargesheeted. Are these figures not enough to compel the Government to take action under
articles 355 and 356?
Fali Nariman also rightly pointed out in an interview with a newspaper correspondent
that the Constitution may not have envisaged a situation where an emergency has arisen
in a State where the ruling party is of the same political persuasion as the one at the
Center and, hence, the Center might be biased against dissolving that government by
invoking Article 356. He also pointed out that the word otherwise in the text of Article
356 becomes instrumental in such a situation to allow the President to act without
waiting for the Governors Report.

At last we can determine that article 356 is the death of constitutionalism and the
death of federalism too the concept of constitutionalism is all about to restrain or
curtail the power.
However article 356 provides such a noxious power to the central government, which
was used 119 times in the history of Indian politics. Now it is very necessary to know

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that article 356 is not limited up to the state emergency, it is not limited up to the
political breakdown but article 356 become the dark side of Indian Democracy.
Article 356 is no further dead letter of our constitution. Nevertheless become the most
renewed article which was used more than hundred times in the history of Indian
politics. It is good for us if we amend article 356 and added the guideline given by
Sarkaria Commission or annihilate article 356 from our constitution to prevent mala
fide use of this article. However after the intervention of one of the three pillar of our
constitution i.e. Indian judiciary, the frequently use of article 356 was a bridge and
after S.R. Bommai case where Supreme Court provide the proper guidelines for the
proclamation of state emergency and has power to invoke and declare it null and void
if the proclamation was imposed without any cause show case the it is very necessary
that the proclamation of article 356 should be used in rare of the rarest case where it
require. In my suggestion that union should not use 356 as their personal benefit but
for public assistance. It is up to those in power to ensure its judicious use, so as to
benefit ultimately citizens when they are genuinely hampered by dysfunctional

BooksD.D. Basu, Introduction to Constitution of India, (19th Edn.)
WebsitesWikipedia and free encyclopaedia Presidential rule - Presidential rule

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