The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the Bommai Case was a significant moment in preventing the misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution the Centre. Explain. (10 marks)

The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the Bommai Case was a significant moment in preventing the misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution the Centre. Explain. (10 marks)

Approach

  • Introduce with the intent behind Article 356 and misuse of this provision.
  • Discuss the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India in the Bommai Case.
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

In case of “failure of the constitutional machinery” in a state, the Centre can take over the government of such State under the Article 356 of the Constitution of India. This is popularly known as the President’s Rule or State Emergency. Dr. BR Ambedkar hoped that the drastic power conferred by this provision would be used as a measure of last resort only. However, since independence, this provision has been used in an arbitrary manner for political purposes.

Bommai case:

The use of Article 356 was challenged by S.R. Bommai, the CM of Karnataka, when his government was dismissed by the Centre and President’s Rule was imposed in 1989. In 1994, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356. It spelled out restrictions and made some guideline to tackle the arbitrariness of the Article 356.

SC guidelines in the Bommai Case (1994):

  • The imposition of Article 356 is subject to the judicial review.
  • The Burden of proof is on centre that relevant material exists to justify the proclamation of Article 356.
  • The proclamation of Article 356 can be struck down by the court if it is malafide or based on irrelevant grounds.
  • If the proclamation of Article 356 is invalidated, the court can restore the dismissed state government and revive the state legislative assembly
  • The state legislative assembly can be suspended till the proclamation of Article 356 is approved by the Parliament. Only after such approval, the assembly can be dissolved.
  • The question of the state government losing the confidence of the legislative assembly should be decided on the floor of the house, and until then the ministry should not be unseated.
  • Article 356 gives an exceptional power and should be used only occasionally to deal with specific situations.

The judgement put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government and preserved the spirit of federalism. Its significance can be seen from the fact that whenever the case of a hung Assembly, and the subsequent exercise of government formation, came up since then, the Bommai case would be cited.

Subjects : Polity

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