President's rule should be based only on ‘objective material’, said Supreme Court in Bommai case

Aaditya Thackeray and other Shiv Sena representatives with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai, November 11, 2019

Aaditya Thackeray and other Shiv Sena representatives with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai, November 11, 2019

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's recommendation on Tuesday for President's rule in the State under Article 356 (1) of the Constitution should have been based on “objective material” and not on a political whim or fancy, if one goes by the Supreme Court verdict in the 1994 S.R. Bommai case .

A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the court in the Bommai case, which is the reigning authority on the use and misuse of Article 356, had held that political whim or fancy cannot form the basis for the President to proclaim central rule in a State.

“It is not the personal whim, wish, view or opinion or the ipse dixit of the President de hors the material, but a legitimate inference drawn from the material placed before him which is relevant for the purpose,” the court had said.

Such objective material may be available in the report sent to the President by the Governor or otherwise or both from the report and other sources. Once such material is shown to exist, the satisfaction of the President based on the material is not open to question.

Article 356 (1) has been deliberately drafted in a narrow language by the Founding Fathers so that political parties in the Centre does not misuse it to subvert federalism, it had noted.

The proclamation of President's rule in a State is open to challenge if there is no supporting objective material. “It has further to be remembered that the Article requires that the President 'has to be satisfied' that the situation in question has arisen. Hence the material in question has to be such as would induce a reasonable man to come to the conclusion in question. The expression used in the Article is 'if the President is satisfied”, the court had observed.

In other words, the President has to be convinced of or should have sufficient proof of information with regard to or has to be free from doubt or uncertainty about the state of things indicating that the situation in question has arisen.

The court had stated that although the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of inference drawn from such material is “certainly open to judicial review”.

The proclamation by the President under Article 356 is on the advice of the Council of Ministers tendered under Article 74(1).

The judgment had explained that in a multi-party political system, chances are high that the political parties in the Centre and the State concerned may not be the same. Article 356 cannot be used for the purpose of political one-upmanship by the Centre.

“The Council of Ministers under our system would always belong to one or the other political party. In view of the pluralist democracy and the federal structure that we have accepted under our Constitution, the party or parties in power [in case of coalition Government] at the Centre and in the States may not be the same. Hence there is a need to confine the exercise of power under Article 356[1] strictly to the situation mentioned therein which is a condition precedent to the said exercise,” the court had said.

That is why the framers of the Constitution had taken pains to specify that President should proclaim central rule in a State only, and only, if a situation arises by which governance of the State is either disabled or prevented from continuing "in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution".

Any other “situation” does not empower the President to proclaim Central rule in a State.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 4:06:30 pm |