AARTICLE 356 OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION - BOON OR BANE?
Indian Constitution is quasi-federal in nature. In the view of K.C. Wheare Indian Constitution has established a system of Government which is at the most quasi-federal, almost devolutionary in character, a unitary state with subsidiary federal features rather than a federal state with subsidiary unitary features. Our constitution says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. Unlike U.S. Constitution which is typically federal in nature Indian constitution envisages a constitution set up in which the states will compromise the federal nature in the national interest or for maintaining the unitary feature of the administration. One such instance where state loses its federal nature and total independence is when there is operation of Article 356 of the constitution in the state. This is one of the situations where in the state is totally under the control of the Union. Our constitution makers with lot of foresight had incorporated this provision, to invoke only in the rarest of the rare circumstances when there are circumstances justifying emergency as given under Article 355. But ever since the origin of the constitution this article is being misused because of power politics and political high handedness, and more often state governments have been made the scapegoat of ‘non-practical politics’ and have been made to quit office under the constitutional umbrella of Article 356.
The Draft Constitution Section 188 had given whole powers for the Governor in matters regarding proclamation of emergency; Clause (4) of Article 188 evidences this fact. Furthermore, under Article 278 the report of the governor was made a condition precedent for the president to proclaim emergency in the state. Later when the matter within the constituent Assembly regarding manner of election of president was settled down Article 278 was side-lined and a new Article, 277 A (the present Article 355) was introduced. In addition to that the word “otherwise” was appended to Article 357 and it attracted a lot of criticism and finally Ambedkar hoped emergency provision regarding the state to remain as a dead letter in the constitution.
But there took place and is taking place a wide disparity between the vision and the reality, ever since the origin of the Constitution the provision has been invoked for more than 110 times and many a times for the political purposes by the party in power in the centre. State of Rajasthan v. Union of India shows an instance wherein Article 356 was misused by the ruling party. The facts was that in the 4th general elections Janatha party came into power and the then Union minister wrote a letter to the Chief ministers of nine congress party ruled states that they should seek a fresh mandate from the people, the legislatures of the state were constitutionally entitled to complete their term. It was said that a kind of uncertainty prevailed in those states with the existing political party in power. Anticipating that the President was intending to exercise his power under Article 356, six of the states filed suits before the Apex court praying for interim injunction but the suit were dismissed and Presidents rule was imposed immediately after the verdict. In the case the Court has given a narrow interpretation of judicial review in the matter of Article 356.
Following the case, in 1978 a constitutional amendment was passed by the legislature and with this the then Clause (5) to Article 356 which says “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the satisfaction of the President mentioned in Clause (1) shall be final and shall not be questioned in any court on any ground”.
Thereafter the Sarkaria Commission Report which remapped the centre state relations also set out certain guidelines for the wise use of Article 356. The following instances are regarded as apt situations for the implementation of emergency provision in the state; *...
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