Saturday, 28 May 2022

Article 356- Dead letter of the Constitution

     Article 356- Dead letter of the Constitution 


One of the landmark judgments given by this law of land, that is Supreme Court of India, was in the case of S. R. Bommai VS. Union of India where it discussed the extent of the Article 356 inculcated in Constitution of India. It deals with the President’s authority to impose rule over any State in India. The sole purpose indentified in this judgment was to curb the blatant misuse which the Centre may have of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed the President’s rule to be imposed over state governments.

According to Article 356, which is also known as ‘Dead letter of the Indian Constitution’, deals with the President’s rule which can be imposed over any State of India. The elected state government is then dismissed and Council of Ministers is suspended at legislature, and administration is conducted directly by the Governor of the state. There governor becomes the appointee of the President and therefore a functionary of the Union Government because Governor is appointed by the President only.

The principles which were laid down by the Supreme Court of India in S. R. Bommai Vs. Union of India are as follows:

  1. The majority enjoyed by the Council of Ministers shall be tested on the floor of the house.

  2. Centre should give a warning to the State and a time period of one week to reply.

  3. The court cannot question the advice tendered by the Cmos to the President but it can question the material behind the satisfaction of the President. Hence, judicial review will involve three questions only that is:

  • Is there any material behind the proclamation?

  • Is the material relevant?

  • Was there any malafide use of power?

  1. If there is improper use of article 356 then the Court will provide remedy.

  2. Under article 356(3) it is the limitation on the powers of the President that it shall not take any irreversible action until the proclamation is approved by the Parliament, that is, he shall not dissolve the Assembly.

  3. Article 356 is justified only when there is a breakdown of Constitutional machinery and not Administrative machinery.

It should not be used very often by the Centre as it has the power to destroy the Constitutional structure between the State and the Centre. That is one of the reason that the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee, B R Ambedkar, referred to Article 356 as ‘Dead letter of the Indian Constitution’. It should only be used when there is actual necessity or breakdown of the State Government or any such thing of that sort. Also, It should be used in situations like where no party has a majority that is also famously called as Hung Assembly, where the majority party refuses to form a ministry and Governor is not able to find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly, where the state government does not go by the provisions laid down by the constitution and so on.

Therefore, the Centre should not be very relentless in imposing the President’s rule in the State. All the factors, circumstances, laws, provisions and lastly rules and regulations should be kept in mind. There should be no disregard and the assessment of everything should be present before using Article 356. It should not be used to only satisfy the whims and the fantasies of the Centre.


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