Article 356 of the Indian Constitution provides for the President’s Rule or State Emergency in the states of India. President’s Rule finds its origin in Section 93 of the Government of India, 1935. Article 356 of the Indian Constitution provides for the imposition of the President’s Rule in any state if there is a failure of constitutional machinery in the concerned state. That is why it is also known as Constitutional Emergency. In simple words, the state government is suspended and the state is controlled by the central government through the office of the centrally appointed Governor.
Constitutional machinery failure can be of two types:
- If the President receives a report or if he is satisfied and convinced that the state in the current situation cannot govern according to the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
- If the concerned state fails to comply with all the directions the Union Government gives to the states on the matters it is empowered to.
How is Article 356 imposed?
The President imposes the President’s Rule, and after its imposition, it has to be approved by a simple majority in both the Houses of Parliament, i.e., Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha within 2 months of its imposition. After the approval, the President’s Rule is imposed for 6 months. It can be extended for 3 years. However, Parliament’s approval is required every 6 months.
Changes brought to Article 356 by the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act
44th Constitutional Amendment Act, of 1978 imposed some restrictions on the extension of the President’s Rule beyond a period of 1 year. According to the new provision, the President’s Rule can be extended only in two situations. They are:
- If there is a National Emergency in India.
- If the Election Commission of India is satisfied and certifies that in the current situation, it is difficult to hold elections to the state assembly, thus, it is necessary to extend the President’s Rule.
Effects of Article 356: President’s Rule
After President’s Rule is imposed on a state, the central government takes over the governance of the state through the office of the centrally appointed Governor. He sits there on behalf of the President of India. He has the power to appoint and take the help of the state’s Chief Secretary and other advisors and administrators. The President also has the power to declare that the legislating powers of the state assembly would be exercised by the Parliament. The state assembly either gets suspended or dissolved. The President also has the power to promulgate ordinances concerning the administration and governance of the state when the Parliament is not in session.
Revocation of Article 356
Article 356 can be revoked at any time by a subsequent proclamation declaring its revocation by the President. The approval of the Parliament is not required for the revocation of the President’s Rule. This generally happens when a leader of a political party claims the majority to form the government and produces letters in his support.
Misuse of Article 356 by the Central Government
Article 356 gives wide powers to the Central Government. President’s Rule was meant to preserve constitutional machinery but over time and again it has been misused by different political parties who ruled through the centre. It was often used to oust the state governments which were controlled by the political opponents of the central government. For the first time, it was imposed in Punjab in 1951. The Indira Gandhi government imposed Article 356 for 39 times in various states in 11 years between 1966-1977.
Supreme Court Guidelines for Imposition of Article 356
In SR Bommai v. Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court gave strict guidelines with respect to Article 356 imposition. They are:
- The court said that President’s Rule is subject to judicial review on the grounds of mala fide intention. It is pertinent to note here that judicial review has been held to be a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, thus, it cannot be taken away.
- The central government has to give justification with respect to the imposition of the President’s Rule in any state.
- If the ground for the imposition of the President’s Rule is found to be invalid or unconstitutional, then the court has the power to revive the dissolved or suspended state government.
- Before the Parliament’s approval the President can only suspend the state assembly. He does not have the power to dissolve it.
- Financial instability, serious corruption allegations, and violation of the secular principle of India are not grounds for the imposition of the President’s Rule under Article 356.
- Article 356 is not a tool to sort out the intraparty issues in the ruling party.
- The Governor of a state cannot advise the President to impose Article 356 until he has taken enough steps to form an alternate government if the Ministry of the concerned state resigns or is dismissed, or if it loses the majority.
- The powers under Article 356 are exceptional powers, thus, it has to be used only in extreme exigencies.
The court recognized the potential misuse of Article 356, thus it gave such strict guidelines, which have been strengthened by various other judgments of the Supreme Court of India.
Article 356 of the Indian Constitution provides for the imposition of the President’s Rule if there is a failure of constitutional machinery in the state and the state cannot function intra vires the provision of the Indian Constitution. It had huge potential for misuse which is evident from history. The Supreme Court gave strict guidelines to curb its misuse by the central government. There have been reports of various committees suggesting changes in Article 356 to curb its misuse.