General Studies IIUnion

President Rule


AAP MLA Shoaib Iqbal has demanded imposition of President’s Rule in Delhi in view of the massive surge in COVID-19 cases.

What’s the issue?

He said neither him nor the government is able to offer any help to the people affected by the second wave of COVID-19. Therefore, the President’s rule must be imposed.

Observations made by the High Court on the current situation:

  1. The Delhi High Court said “the state has failed to protect the right to life of citizens”, while expressing anguish over the death of a COVID-19 patient whose family had been pleading for an ICU bed for the last three days.
  2. It said, the state has failed to protect the right to life of people guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

What is President’s Rule?

  • President’s rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.
  • This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
  • Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution…”

How long President’s Rule can last?

  • 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.
  • Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it.
  • This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.

Conditions for President Rule

  • Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly.
  • Where the party having a majority in the assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a ministry resigns after its defeat in the assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
  • Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
  • Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.

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. 

  • It was used for the first time in 1951 in Punjab. Between 1966 and 1977, Indira Gandhi’s government used it about 39 times against various states. 
  • In the S.R. Bommai case (1994), 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.
    • 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.
  • There have also been subsequent judgements of the SC that have limited the room for the misuse of this Article.
  • The Sarkaria Commission Report (1983) recommended that Article 356 should be used “very sparingly” and only as a last resort.
    • The President’s proclamation of President’s Rule should include reasons as to why he thinks the state cannot run normally.
    • Whenever possible, the centre should give the state government a warning before imposing Article 356.
    • The Article should not be used for settling political scores.
    • The commission recommended the amendment of the article in order for the President to be authorised to dissolve the state legislature only after getting parliamentary approval.
  • The Punchhi Commission recommended that the centre should try to bring only a specific troubled area under its jurisdiction and that too for a brief period, not more than three months.
    • The commission recommended that suitable amendments should be made to incorporate the guidelines established by SC in the Bommai case.
    • The commission recommended the provision of a ‘Localized Emergency’ which implies that the centre can tackle issues at town/district (local) level without dissolving the state legislative assembly while at the same time, performing the duty of the Union to protect States as per Article 355.

Fouling factors

The imposition of President’s Rule in a state would be improper under the following situations:

  • Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing majority support in the assembly and the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without probing the possibility of forming an alternative ministry.
  • Where the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without allowing the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
  • Maladministration in the state or allegations of corruption against the ministry or stringent financial exigencies of the state.
  • Where the state government is not given prior warning to rectify itself except in case of extreme urgency leading to disastrous consequences.
  • Where the power is used to sort out intra-party problems of the ruling party.

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