President’s Rule refers to the imposition of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, where in case of the failure of the constitutional machinery in any state of India, the State comes under the direct control of the central government. When a state is unable to abide by the constitution, it is put under the “President’s Rule” and the centrally appointed Governor of the said State is vested with executive authority to run the State in the interim period till the matters at hand are settled. The Governor is authorised to appoint retired civil servants or other administrators, to assist him.
Article 356 finds its roots in sections 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935. As per this Act, a Governor of a province was authorised to assume to himself the executive powers exercisable by a provincial body or authority including the Ministry and the Legislature, if he was satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the said Act.
In federal three tiered structure of governance in the Republic of India, the State forms the 2nd tier. When functioning normally, the State is run by its council of ministers with the Chief Minister at the helm. The council of Ministers are members of the Legislative Assembly, and directly and collectively responsible towards it. The Chief Minister is the de facto chief executive of the State while the Governor is only a de jure constitutional head with no executive powers. However, in case of an emergency, when there is a failure of the constitutional machinery, the President’s Rule is imposed as per Article 356, wherein, the Council of Ministers stands dissolved, the Legislative Assembly is either suspended or dissolved. In such a case the Governor is no longer a de jure constitutional head, but is vested with the executive powers required to the run the state.
When is President’s Rule Imposed?
The President’s Rule is imposed in the following instances:
- When the State Legislature is unable to elect a leader as Chief Minister
- In case of a coalition Government, where there are 2 or more political parties running the government and there is a breakdown of the coalition.
- If the elections, which are normally held every 5 years, are postponed due to unavoidable reasons.
- When there is no majority in the assembly and there is a hung parliament.
In case of any of the aforesaid reasons, the Governor of the State writes a report to the President. If the President is satisfied with the reasons proposing a President’s Rule then he may by proclamation:
- Assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State.
- Invest the Governor or any body or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State with the executive powers.
- Direct the powers of the Legislative Assembly to be exercised by or under the authority of the Parliament.
- Make any necessary provisions required to make the proclamation effective, including changes to the Constitution in the interim period.
In 2016, there have been two cases where President’s Rule has been imposed in a state. The first was in January, 2016, when Arunachal Pradesh came under President’s Rule due to reasons including cow slaughter, threats and an episode with Chief Minister Nabam Tuki’s council of minister that almost resulted in physical assault, as cited by the Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa. In a very recent development, Uttarakhand has been imposed with Article 356. The reason cited in this case is a constitutional breakdown in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling Congress.
The Modi Government has been under the scanner over the aforesaid decisions as there is a school of thought that while the provision of Article 356 is essentially aimed at restoring constitutional propriety after breakdown of governance in a state, and to maintain unity and integrity of the nation, it also gives sweeping powers to the central government to keep a control over the States, especially those being governed by a different political party.