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Day 7 – Q 1.Under what circumstances can the central government impose President rule in a state? Are the provisions related to President rule opposed to the democratic spirit of a federal polity? Critically comment.

1. Under what circumstances can the central government impose President rule in a state? Are the provisions related to President rule opposed to the democratic spirit of a federal polity? Critically comment. 

किसी राज्य में केंद्र सरकार किन परिस्थितियों में राष्ट्रपति शासन लगा सकती है? क्या राष्ट्रपति शासन से संबंधित प्रावधान संघीय शासन की लोकतांत्रिक भावना के विरुद्ध  हैं? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें।


The imposition of Article 356 of the Constitution of India on a State following the failure of constitutional machinery is called President’s Rule in India.

Once the President’s rule has been imposed in a State, the elected state government will be temporarily dissolved and the Governor, who is appointed by the government at the Centre will replace the Chief Minister as the chief executive of that State.


Circumstances under which central government can impose President rule in a State:

  • The state legislature is unable to elect a leader as Chief Minister.
  • The collapse of a coalition government due to disagreements, parting ways within the members.
  • Serious breakdown of law and order.
  • Elections postponed due to unavoidable reasons.
  • Loss of majority in the state assembly.
  • Shoot up of insurgency or rebellion.
  • When the state government is not being carried on according to constitution i.e. break down of constitution. 

President rule opposes the democratic spirit of a federal polity:

  • Though the purpose of this article is to give more powers to the central government to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation, it has often been misused by the ruling parties at the center, who used it as a pretext to dissolve state governments ruled by political opponents. Thus, it is seen by many as a threat to the federal system. 
  • Article 356 gives wide powers to the central government to assert its authority over a state if civil unrest occurs and if the state government does not have the means to end it.
  • Since the adoption of the Indian constitution in 1950, the central government has used this article 115 times to dissolve the elected state governments by imposing president’s rule. 

For example, few first instances where president rule was imposed were in Punjab in 1951, in Kerala in 1959 to dismiss the democratically elected Communist state government, in Uttarakhand in March 2016, etc.

  • In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common for the central government to dismiss state governments led by opposition parties. The Indira Gandhi regime and post-emergency Janata Party were noted for this practice. President’s rule was imposed 49 times between 1970 and 1980, where article 356 was used as a political tool during those times.

However, President rule does not always oppose the federal structure and is used for preserving the unity and integrity of the nation. For ex:  Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government dismissed four state governments lead by the BJP in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. In 1994, this dismissal was challenged by S.R. Bommai versus Union of India case, in which the Supreme  Court upheld the dismissal of the BJP governments of all four states to protect secularism, which is part of the Constitution’s basic structure. 

Another instance where president rule is necessary is when no party can form a government and a political crisis arises. For ex:  In Uttar Pradesh 2002 election no party had a sufficient majority and President’s rule was imposed. Similarly, in Bihar 2005 election was fought by three formations but no single formation cobbled sufficient seats to take oath as government. In such a situation, the Governor recommended President’s rule to the central government. 

Presently the state of Jammu and Kashmir is under president rule ( after 6 months of Governor’s rule) because BJP withdrew its support from Mehbooba Mufti led-coalition government, reducing it to a minority government in the state. 


Article 356 has always been the focal point of a wider debate of the federal structure of government in Indian polity. The Sarkaria commission report on Centre-State Relations (1983) had 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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