General Studies IIConstitutionStateUnion

President’s Rule


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea seeking directions to the Centre to impose President’s Rule in West Bengal over alleged incidents of post-poll violence in the state. 

About President’s Rule:

Grounds of Imposition

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. It is this duty in the performance of which the Centre takes over the government of a state under Article 356 in case of failure of constitutional machinery in state. This is popularly known as ‘President’s Rule’. It is also known as ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’. The President’s Rule can be proclaimed under Article 356 on two grounds–one mentioned in Article 356 itself and another in Article 365:

  1. Article 356 empowers the President to issue a proclamation, if he is satisfied that 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 (ie, even without the governor’s report).
  2. Article 365 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.

Parliamentary Approval and 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. However, if the proclamation of President’s Rule is issued at a time when the Lok Sabha has been dissolved or the dissolution of the Lok Sabha takes place during the period of two months without approving the proclamation, then the proclamation survives until 30 days from the first sitting of the Lok Sabha after its reconstitution, provided the Rajya Sabha approves it in the mean time.

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. However, if the dissolution of the Lok Sabha takes place during the period of six months without approving the further continuation of the President’s Rule, then the proclamation survives until 30 days from the first sitting of the Lok Sabha after its reconstitution, provided the Rajya Sabha has in the meantime approved its continuance.

Every resolution approving the proclamation of President’s Rule or its continuation can be passed by either House of Parliament only by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of that House present and voting.

The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 introduced a new provision to put restraint on the power of Parliament to extend a proclamation of President’s Rule beyond one year. Thus, it provided that, beyond one year, the President’s Rule can be extended by six months at a time only when the following two conditions are fulfilled:

  1. a proclamation of National Emergency should be in operation in the whole of India, or in the whole or any part of the state; and
  2. the Election Commission must certify that the general elections to the legislative assembly of the concerned state cannot be held on account of difficulties.

A proclamation of President’s Rule may be revoked by the President at any time by a subsequent proclamation. Such a proclamation does not require the parliamentary approval.

Consequences of President’s Rule

The President acquires the following extraordinary powers when the President’s Rule is imposed in a state:

  1. He can take up the functions of the state government and powers vested in the governor or any other executive authority in the state.
  2. He can declare that the powers of the state legislature are to be exercised by the Parliament.
  3. He can take all other necessary steps including the suspension of the constitutional provisions relating to any body or authority in the state.

Therefore, when the President’s Rule is imposed in a state, 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 . The Parliament passes the state legislative bills and the state budget.

When the state legislature is thus suspended or dissolved:

  1. the Parliament can delegate the power to make laws for the state to the President or to any other authority specified by him in this regard,
  2. the Parliament or in case of delegation, the President or any other specified authority can make laws conferring powers and imposing duties on the Centre or its officers and authorities,
  3. the President can authorise, when the Lok Sabha is not in session, expenditure from the state consolidated fund pending its sanction by the Parliament, and
  4. the President can promulgate, when the Parliament is not in session, ordinances for the governance of the state.

A 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. But it can be repealed or altered or re-enacted by the state legislature.

It should be noted here that the President cannot assume to himself the powers vested in the concerned state high court or suspend the provisions of the Constitution relating to it. In other words, the constitutional position, status, powers and functions of the concerned state high court remain same even during the President’s Rule.

Use of Article 356

Since 1950, the President’s Rule has been imposed on more than 125 occasions, that is, on an average twice a year. Further, on a number of occasions, the President’s Rule has been imposed in an arbitrary manner for political or personal reasons. Hence, Article 356 has become one of the most controversial and most criticised provision of the Constitution

For the first time, the President’s Rule was imposed in Punjab in 1951. By now, all most all the states have been brought under the President’s Rule, once or twice or more.

When general elections were held to the Lok Sabha in 1977 after the internal emergency, the ruling Congress Party lost and the Janta Party came to power. The new government headed by Morarji Desai imposed President’s Rule in nine states (where the Congress Party was in power) on the ground that the assemblies in those states no longer represented the wishes of the electorate. When the Congress Party returned to power in 1980, it did the same in nine states on the same ground.

In 1992, President’s Rule was imposed in three BJP-ruled states (Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan) by the Congress Party on the ground that they were not implementing sincerely the ban imposed by the Centre on religious organisations. In a landmark judgement in Bommai case (1994), the Supreme Court upheld the validity of this proclamation on the ground that secularism is a ‘basic feature’ of the Constitution. But, the court did not uphold the validity of the imposition of the President’s Rule in Nagaland in 1988, Karnataka in 1989 and Meghalaya in 1991.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, while replying to the critics of this provision in the Constituent Assembly, hoped that the drastic power conferred by Article 356 would remain a ‘deadletter’ and would be used only as a measure of last resort. He observed :

“The intervention of the Centre must be deemed to be barred, because that would be an invasion on the sovereign authority of the province (state). That is a fundamental proposition which we must accept by reason of the fact that we have a Federal Constitution. That being so, if the Centre is to interfere in the administration of provincial affairs, it must be under some obligation which the Constitution imposes upon the Centre. The proper thing we ought to expect is that such Articles will never be called into operation and that they would remain a deadletter. If at all they are brought into operation, I hope the President who is endowed with this power will take proper precautions before actually suspending the administration of the province.”

However, the subsequent events show that what was hoped to be a ‘dead-letter’ of the Constitution has turned to be a ‘deadlyweapon’ against a number of state governments and legislative assemblies. In this context, H.V. Kamath, a member of the Constituent Assembly commented a decade ago: ‘Dr. Ambedkar is dead and the Articles are very much alive’.

 Source: Indian Express

Pardoning powers of President


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