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.
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
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Government in the State is not lightly disturbed or superseded ...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. 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. 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.
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.
1994 SCC (3) 1