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State of Rajasthan v.

Union of India (AIR 1977 SC 1361)

The Supreme Courts Judgement in 1977 in the case of State of Rajasthan v Union of India brought by some state governments against the Janata governments dissolution of state legislatures broke new ground - The Tribune, (Mis)using Art.356, Nov 8, 1998

It upheld the courts right to strike down a proclamation imposing Presidents rule if the action was mala fide or based on extraneous or irrelevant considerations, but, ordinarily the court would keep away from political questions, in particular if it involves substituting its own judgement for that of the executive.

In the State of Rajasthan v. Union of India case, Chief Justice Beg, while interpreting Article 356, observed:

"Our difficulty is that the language of Article 356 is so wide and loose that to circumscribe and confine it within a strait-jacket will not be just interpreting or construing it but will be Constitution-making legislation which, again, does not, strictly speaking, lie in our domain.
At another place Chief Justice Beg has sounded a note of suggestion for the development of conventions for the exercise of power under Article 356 and said:

"Undoubtedly, the subject is one on which appropriate and healthy conventions should develop so that the power under Article 356(1) is neither exercised capriciously nor arbitrarily when a political situation calls for its... And, it is not for courts to formulate, and much less to enforce a convention, however, necessary or just and proper to regulate the exercise of such an executive power. That is a matter entirely within the executive field of operation."

relation to the exercise of statutory powers it may be said to comprise dishonesty (or fraud) and malice. A power is exercised fraudulently if its repository intends to achieve an object other than that for which he believes the power to have be been conferred. His intention may be to promote another public interest or private interests. A power is exercised maliciously if its repository is motivated by personal animosity towards those who are directly affected by its exercise.
Prof. de Smith, Judicial Review of Adminstrative Action, 3rd ed.

The concept of bad faith eludes precise definition, but in

Facts: In 1977 The Congress Party was swept of Parliament, office and power in the Lok Sabha Elections. Nine States of India saw almost total rejection of Congress, however Congress ministries continued to function in these States. Home Minister (Charan Singh) in a letter dated 18th April, 1977 which recommended that the Chief Minister call for the dissolution of the State Assemblies in their respective States. Six states filed suits praying for a permanent injunction against giving effect to the directive which threatened action under Art.356 Three Writ Petitions filed by three members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly alleging infringement of their right to property.

Preliminary Objection of Maintainability scope of Article 131 Disputes in the suits not between the Govt. of India and any state as such, but between the Govt, of India and the State Governments.

Beg C.J. Even if there be some grounds for making the a

distinction between a States interest and rights and those of its Government or its members. I do not think that we need take a too restrictive or hyper-technical view of the States right to sue for any rights, actual or fancied, which the State Government chooses to take up on behalf of the State concerned in a suit under Art. 131.
Goswami J. and Fazl Ali J. upheld the objection stating that a dispute must affect the legal rights of the State and not those of the State Government.

Contentions of The Union Government


Is the determination of whether a situation has arisen demanding action under Art.356, is justiciable? The final action of President which is non-justiciable, cannot be indirectly assailed by challenging a process which might or might not actually produce the apprehended result.

The Letter as well as the Law Ministers Statement broached nothing outside the purview of Art.356 and therefore the Plaintiffs had no cause of action. Mere intimation of facts does not justify prohibiting action under Art.356

Contentions of the State Governments

The Legislative Assemblies could not be dissolved unless the Presidents Proclamation had been approved by both Houses of Parliament. Beg C.J. - Although it was obligatory to put a proclamation issued under Art. 356 for the approval of each House of Parliament, there was nothing in Art.356 to make a consideration by either House a condition precedent to the exercise of the power of dissolution of the State Legislative Assemblies by the President under Art.356(1).
Art. 356(3) - Therefore action under Art. 356 not illegal for that reason alone.

Submission that the threat of dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies by the Union Govt. was mala fide.
Plaintiffs alleged mala fides in the sense that the threatened exercise of power was for a purpose for which the power was not conferred. Dominant purpose Although the point was made, and noted by the Court, that the reasons given in the letter and the Law Ministers Statement may not be the only reasons on which the Ministry may advise the President to issue a Proclamation under Art.356, the reasons actually given together with the facts of which the Court could take judicial notice were examined by the judges to see whether they established a case of mala fide exercise of power.

Reasons given in the letter: 1. Unprecedented political situation had arisen by the virtual rejection, in the recent Lok Sabha elections, of candidates belonging to the ruling party in various States 2. The resultant climate of uncertainty was such as to cause grave concern 3. The situation had created a sense of diffidence at different levels of administration 4. People at large did not appreciate the propriety of continuance in power of a party which was unmistakably rejected by the electorate. 5. The climate of uncertainty, diffidence and disrespect had given rise to serious threats to law and order

Fazl Ali J. Thus summarizing the position in short, it is clear 1. That grave emergency was clamped in the whole country 2. That civil liberties were withdrawn to a great extent 3. That important fundamental rights of the people were suspended 4. That strict censorship on the press was placed 5. That the judicial powers were crippled to a large extent.

On the above facts, viewed against the background of facts summarized by Fazl Ali J., the question before the Court was, if the President was satisfied that action under Art.356 was called for, and that the Legislative Assemblies be dissolved and fresh elections ordered, could such a conclusion be said to be unreasonable or one based on extraneous conditions? The Court rightly answered the question with a clear No.

Constitution - presidential rule - Articles 131 and 356 of Constitution of India imposition of presidential rule under Article 356 in various States challenged presidential rule imposed on ground that Legislatures in these States no longer represented wishes of electorate contention that said ground was outside scope of Article 356 and that Parliament's ratification was essential - respondent contended that suit under Article 131 was not maintainable as dispute was of political character - Apex Court opined that satisfaction of President under Article 356 could not be questioned - President does not always act on report of Governor - his satisfaction can be based on material other than Governor's report - where satisfaction was mala fide or based on totally extraneous circumstances Courts can examine the same as in that case there would be no satisfaction of President healthy convention should be developed that power under Article 356 is neither