Article 356 of the Indian Constitution empowers the President to impose President’s Rule in a state if he believes that the governance in the state is not being carried out in accordance with the Constitution. Over the years, especially until the mid-1990s, this Article was invoked multiple times, often amid allegations of misuse for political gains.
However, since the mid-1990s, there has been a noticeable decline in the frequency of its invocation. The reasons are both legal and political
1. S.R. Bommai Case (1994): The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India set clear guidelines on the imposition of President’s Rule. The court held that the power of the President to dismiss a state government is not absolute. The decision is subject to judicial review, and the court can reinstate the dismissed government if the misuse of Article 356 is proven.
2. Judicial Oversight: Following the Bommai judgment, the judiciary has played an active role in preventing the misuse of Article 356. The courts have often examined the material facts behind the imposition of President’s Rule, ensuring its use only in genuine cases.
3. Recommendations of Sarkaria Commission: The Sarkaria Commission, which analyzed the center-state relations, suggested that Article 356 should be used as a measure of last resort, and only after all the available alternatives have failed.
1. Coalition Era: The mid-1990s marked the beginning of the coalition era in Indian politics at the national level. Governments at the Centre were formed by alliances, making it difficult to unilaterally impose President’s Rule in states, especially those governed by allies or potential allies.
2. Rise of Regional Parties: The rise in the power and influence of regional parties has meant that national parties, whether in power at the Centre or in the opposition, must exercise caution in their dealings with states. Arbitrarily dismissing state governments could have national repercussions.
3. Democratic Maturity: Over the years, both the public and political entities have matured democratically. There’s an inherent understanding that repeatedly destabilizing democratically elected governments can have long-term repercussions on the country’s federal structure and democratic fabric.
4. Public Perception: Misuse of Article 356 could lead to a negative public perception, which can be detrimental in subsequent elections. The increased access to information and the active role of media have ensured that any misuse doesn’t go unnoticed.
5. Federal Cooperation: Over the years, there’s been a growing realization about the importance of cooperative federalism. States and the Centre have found ways to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations rather than confrontations.
The decline in the use of Article 356 post the mid-1990s is a testament to India’s evolving federal structure, where legal checks and balances combined with political necessities have ensured a more cooperative and less confrontational approach between the Centre and the states. It underscores the strength and adaptability of Indian democracy and its institutions.