Understanding President's Rule Under the Indian Constitution

Published on : January 23, 2024

Article 356 of the Constitution of India provides the President with the power to rule by taking direct control over the administration of a state when the constitutional machinery of that state deems to have been broken down. The intent behind this extraordinary measure is to maintain law and order, protect the rights of citizens, and ensure the smooth functioning of the state government. However, its implementation has been a topic of debate and controversy over the years.

Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, often referred to as "Article 356 of the Constitution," empowers the President to assume executive authority over a state when the Governor of that state recommends it due to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery. The President acts based on the Governor's report and takes control of the state's administration. In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Governor, under Section 53(2) of the J&K Constitution, dissolved the State legislative assembly on November 21, 2018 after the amendment to Article 370 was declared. Subsequently, the proclamation of President’s rule under Article 356 was issued a month later, on December 19, 2018.[1]


Conditions for Imposition:

The imposition of President's Rule is not a step taken lightly. Certain conditions must be met before this provision can be invoked:

1. Breakdown of Constitutional Machinery: There must be a failure in the proper functioning of the state government, leading to a constitutional crisis.

2. Failure of Governance:If the state government cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, President's Rule may be imposed.

3. External Aggression or Internal Disturbance: If the state's security is threatened due to external aggression or internal disturbance and the state government is unable to address it effectively, the President can assume control.



1.     Governor's Report: The process begins with the Governor of the state sending a report to the President, explaining the situation that necessitates the imposition of President's Rule. The Bhagwan Sahay Committee Report of 1971 stated as follows:

“As Head of the State, the Governor has a duty to see that the administration of the State does not break down due to political instability. He has equally to take care that responsible Government in the State is not lightly disturbed or superseded ... It is not in the event of political instability alone that a Governor may report to the President under Article 356. Reference has been made elsewhere in this report to the President about any serious internal disturbances in the States, or, more especially of the existence or possibility of a danger of external aggression. In such situations also it may become necessary for the Governor to report to the President for action pursuant to Article 356.”[2]

2. Assessment: The President assesses the report, keeping in mind the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of S. R. Bommai v. Union of India[3]. The Court established that the decision to impose President's Rule is subject to judicial review and should be based on objective material, not political considerations. The President, who is sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law of India, can be fully trusted to follow this ruling whenever a draft proclamation imposing President's Rule in any State is presented for his/her signature by the Union Council of Ministers.[4]

3. Proclamation: If the President agrees with the Governor's report and feels that the state government's machinery has broken down, a proclamation imposing President's Rule is issued. The state legislative assembly may be either suspended or dissolved, and the President can assume control over the state's administration.


Duration and Parliament Approval:

President's Rule can be imposed for a maximum period of six months. However, its continuance beyond six months requires approval from both houses of Parliament. If Parliament grants approval, the imposition can be extended for an additional six months.


The provision of President's Rule has been both a necessary tool to maintain law and order and a subject of political controversy. Critics argue that it has sometimes been misused by the central government to undermine opposition-led state governments for political reasons. This has raised concerns about the federal structure of Indian governance.

President's Rule, as per the Indian Constitution, is a significant provision designed to ensure the proper functioning of state governments and protect the interests of citizens in case of a breakdown of the constitutional machinery. While it is a powerful tool to maintain law and order, its application should always be in accordance with the principles of democracy, fairness, and judicial review, as laid down by the Supreme Court. Balancing the need for stability with the preservation of federalism remains a challenge that requires ongoing attention and debate.


[1] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-judgment-delivered-four-decades-ago-counters-president-rule-in-jk/article67216398.ece

[2] https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-4367-article-356-president-s-rule.html

[3] 1994 SCC (3) 1

[4] https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/article30175782.ece

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