Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

President's rule

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In the Republic of India, the phrase "President's rule" refers to the imposition of Article 356 of the Constitution of India on a State whose constitutional machinery has failed. In the event that a State government is not able to function as per the Constitution, the State comes under the direct control of the central government; in other words, it is "under President's rule". Subsequently, executive authority is exercised through the centrally appointed Governor, who has the authority to appoint retired civil servants or other administrators to assist him.


On the other hand, when the State government is functioning normally, it is run by an elected Council of Ministers, who are collectively responsible to State's legislative assembly (Vidhan Sabha). The Council is headed by the Chief Minister who is the de facto chief executive of the State; the Governor is only a de jure constitutional head. However, during President's rule, the Council of Ministers stands dissolved, the office of Chief Minister becomes vacant and the Vidhan Sabha is either put in suspended animation or dissolved (necessitating a fresh election).

In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, failure of constitutional machinery results in Governor's rule, imposed by invoking Section 92 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. The proclamation is issued by the state's Governor after obtaining the consent of the President of India. If it is not possible to revoke Governor's rule before within six months of imposition, President's Rule under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution is imposed. There is little practical difference between the two provisions.

Following its landmark judgement in the 1994 Bommai case, the Supreme Court of India has clamped down on arbitrary impositions of President's rule by central governments. Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only states where President's rule hasn't been imposed so far.


In practice president's rule has been imposed under different circumstances such as these:

  • State Legislature is unable to elect a leader as Chief Minister
  • Breakdown of a coalition
  • Loss of majority in the assembly
  • Elections postponed for unavoidable reasons
  • If approved by both houses, President's Rule can continue for 6 months. It can be extended for maximum 3 years with approval of Parliament in every 6 months. If Loksabha is dissolved during this time, rule is valid for 30 days from the first sitting of Loksabha provided that continuance has already been approved by Rajyasabha. The 44th Amendment Act of 1978, introduced a new provision to put a restraint on the power of the Parliament to extend President's rule in a state. According to this provision, President's rule can only be extended over a year in every 6 months under following conditions:

    1. There is National emergency already in whole of India, or in the whole or any part of the state.

    2. Election commission certifies that elections can not be conducted in the concerned state. Although, President's rule can be revoked anytime by the President and it does not need Parliament's approval.

    Most often, until the mid-1990s, it was imposed in states through abuse of the authority of Governors in collusion with the federal government. However, following a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in March 1994, such abuse has been reduced drastically.


    Article 356 gave wide powers to the central government to assert its authority over a state if civil unrest occurred and the state government did not have the means to end the unrest. This is one of the articles that gave the Indian constitution some amount of unitary character. Though the purpose of this article is to give more powers to central government to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation, it has often been misused by the ruling parties at the center. It has been used as a pretext to dissolve state governments ruled by political opponents. Thus, it is seen by many as a threat to the federal state system. Since the adoption of Indian constitution in 1950, the central government has used this article several times to dissolve elected state governments and impose President's rule.

    The article was used for the first time in up 1954. It has also been used in the state of Patiala and East Punjab States union (PEPSU) and then during Vimochana samaram to dismiss the democratically elected Communist state government of Kerala on 31 July 1959. In the 1970s and 1980s it almost became common practice for the central government to dismiss state governments led by opposition parties. The Indira Gandhi regime and post-emergency Janata Party were noted for this practice. Indira Gandhi's government between 1966 and 1977 is known to have imposed President' rule in 39 times in different states. Similarly Janta Party which came to power after the emergency had issued President's rule in 9 states which were ruled by Congress.

    It is only after the landmark judgement in 1994 in the S. R. Bommai v. Union of India case that the misuse of Article 356 was curtailed. In this case, the Supreme Court established strict guidelines for imposing President's rule. Subsequent pronouncements by the Supreme Court in Jharkhand and other states have further whetted down the scope for misuse of Article 356. Hence since the early 2000, the number of cases of imposition of President's rule has come down drastically.

    Article 356 has always been the focal point of a wider debate of the federal structure of government in Indian polity. The Sarkaria Commission Report on Centre–State Relations 1988 has recommended that Article 356 must be used "very sparingly, in extreme cases, as a measure of last resort, when all the other alternatives fail to prevent or rectify a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state". Dr.Ambedkar also said that it would be like a dead letter that is would be used rarely


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