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President's rule: Wikis


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President's rule (or Central Rule) is the term used in India when a state legislature is dissolved or put in suspended animation and state is placed under direct federal rule. President's rule is enabled by article 356 of the Constitution of India, which gives the central government the authority to impose president's rule in any state if there has been failure of the constitutional machinery in the state.

It is called President's rule as the President of India governs the state instead of a Council of Ministers who are answerable to the elected legislature. State governor is delegated executive authority on behalf of the central (federal) government. The governor normally appoints advisor(s), who are retired civil servants, to help in administration. Since governor is appointed by central government, parctically policies are controlled by the ruling party at centre.


Article 356

Article 356 allows the president to dismiss a state government on the advice of the governor of concerned state or on his own if he is satisfied that the administration of the state cannot be carried out according to the provisions of the constitution. Once the elected government is dismissed the President of India shall be the head of the state executive. Note that in India, president has no discretionary powers and shall have to act according to the advice of Council of Ministers at the Centre. Hence the administration of the state will be practically according to the policies of ruling party at the centre


Article 356 gave wide powers to central government to assert its authority over a state if civil unrest occurred and the state government didn't have the means to end the unrest. This is one of the articles that gave 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 was often misused by the ruling parties at the centre. 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 more than 100 times to dissolve elected state governments and impose president's rule.

The article was used for the first time during Vimochana samaram to dismiss the democratically elected Communist Ministry of Kerala on July 31, 1959. In 1970's and 1980's it has almost became usual for the central government to dismiss the state governments under opposition parties on one pretext or the other. Indira Gandhi regime and post-emergency Janata government were noted for this practice. It is only after the land mark case of S. R. Bommai v. Union of India does this misuse of article 356 was stopped. In this case Supreme Court of India gave strict guideline for imposing president's rule.

Article 356 has always been the focal point of a wider debate on Centre-State relations in Indian polity. Sarkaria Commission on centre-state relations 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"

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