Answer Synopsis 14/01/2021

Question : India has witnessed many instances of invocation of Article 356 and the issues circling it. Highlight the constitutional conditions for valid exercise of Article 356 and the consequences of invocation of Article 356?

Structure of the answer

  • Define Article 356.
  • Point out recent issues in relation to Article 356.
  • Enlist the constitutional provisions for proper exercising of this article.
  • Point out the consequences and give a conclusion.

Synopsis

Article 356 states that President Rule can be imposed in any state on grounds of failure of Constitutional Machinery. It is the duty of the centre to ensure that the governments 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 the state under Article 356 in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the state.

  • This has come again into debate recently in relation to the recent order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court directing the Andhra Pradesh government to come prepared to argue on the ‘breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state’. This is shocking as it opens up the possibility of use or even misuse of Article 356 by the judiciary.

Conditions for valid exercise of Article 356

  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.

President’s rule is proper in following situations

  1. Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, ‘Hung Assembly’.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
  5. Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
  6. Physical breakdown where the government wilfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.

Consequences of invocation of Article 356

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 anybody or authority in the state.

This has always been a contested article from the time of independence onwards and many a times the intervention of court has acted as a judge in the events which at times is politically motivated.

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