The case of S.R. Bommai v Union of India was one of a kind, a case that changed the entire dynamics in the history of India. It is for this reason that it is pronounced as one of the landmark cases of India. It was dealt with by the Supreme Court of India. This case surrounded the issue regarding Article 356 of the Constitution of India i.e. imposition of President Rule. This judgment tremendously affected the Center-State Relations of the country. It endeavored to stop the blatant misuse of the power of President Rule, which permitted the President’s Rule to be imposed or forced over state governments.
The article of President Rule has always been the most debatable article since its inception, as it presented a risk to the federal structure of India. In 1994, the S.R. Bommai’s case articulated ended up being an achievement throughout the entire existence of this debatable article. Before the S.R. Bommai’s Judgment, the Central Government of India was playing an unfair play by forcing Presidential Rule to meet their wants of political agendas.
HISTORY OF ARTICLE 356
Few of the ideals that were focused mainly by the architects of the constitution were nation’s integrity, unity, and security. They, along these lines, wanted to set up a country having a strong Centre. This was necessary as India, at that time, was a land that had recently been partitioned between India and Pakistan. To drive out that dread of additional partition of the country, a country with a strong center remained a priority. Although the Chairman of the Drafting Committee Dr. B.R. Ambedkar trusted that Article 356 “would stay a dead letter” and was intended to be utilized in rarest of rare cases.
But this has not remained true in the present scenario. Article 356 was misused to fit the best interest of the ruling party at the centre, instead of the constitutional usages. Up to the year 2016, the President’s Rule has been imposed 115 times. Thus it can be properly said that the this article instead of being a ‘security valve’, ended up being a weapon that can be used politically by the Center against the State territories.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- R. Bommai, the Chief Minister of Karnataka once in the history, is generally recognized as the champion for this milestone verdict. This judgment came before a bench of judges that consist of 9 members. Bommai’s party (The Janata Party) was the majority party in the state of Karnataka. Later on, this party got merged with the Janata Dal Party. After merging, some of the leaders of the Janata Dal Party got defected. The governor of Karnataka sent a report to the president, stating that there were defections and disputes in the ruling party.
He further expressed that since many members were leaving the party, consequently there exist no majority in the ruling party i.e. in the Bommai’s party and, consequently, it was improper under the Constitution. Following these clashing circumstances, the President gave the said proclamation i.e. imposed President Rule. Similar circumstances occurred in the province of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh.
OUTCOME OF THE JUDGEMENT
The following are some important principles laid down in Bommai’s case regarding the use of Article 356:
- The Supreme Court held that the president rule imposed by the President is justiciable, and the courts could investigate the reasons revealed for giving such proclamation.
- The announcement of President Rule is subject to Judicial Review on grounds of mala fide intention.
- The court can revive the dissolved or suspended State government if the said proclamation is discovered unconstitutional and invalid.
- The approval by the parliament is needed before imposing the president rule. If there hasn’t been any approval, the president can only suspend the state assembly
- This article regarding imposition of president rule cannot be misused to resolve some intraparty issues of the ruling party.
- Assuming the state government loses majority or its members leave, the governor cannot directly send a report to the president, for imposition of president leave. He/she has to take enough measures for arrangement of an elective government.
- The president’s rule under article 356 is not an absolute right but instead a conditioned power.
After this historic judgment, the usage of article 356 have taken a correct way and made a transformation in the Center-State relationship. Its constitutional significance is that it has reinforced the federal characteristic of the Indian Constitution.
This judgment has minimized the misuse of article 356 on malafide grounds and helped to preserve the nature of this article as it was intended by the founding architects of the Indian Constitution.
SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION OF S.R. BOMMAI’S CASE
This case has strikingly set apart the extensions and restrictions within which Article 356 i.e. President Rule needs to work. The Supreme Court pronounced that it is an extraordinary power and is to be utilized if all the alternatives fail in situations, where it is shown that constitution machinery of the state has been imploded.
The principles communicated by the Supreme Court for this judgment are similar to what was displayed by the Sarkaria Commission. In S.R. Bommai’s case, it was additionally contended that Articles 74(2) bars the court from inquiring with regards to the material based on which the presidential proclamation regarding President’s Rule is given, however, the court dismissed this contention.
The Supreme Court keep an eye on the discretionary dismissal of state government in the future and strengthened the federal structure of the Indian political framework, which had up until recently been harmed on several events, especially when different political parties were in power at the Center and the State.
After an analysis of the Supreme Court’s judgment, it can be claimed that the Apex court believes that since both the Union and the State Government were chosen by direct voting, both are thusly, similar. The states governments are not the subordinate units of the union government. It should be recalled that only the principle of ‘co-operative federalism’ can protect the harmony between the Union and the States to advance the benefits of the general public. In a democratic government, the desires of individuals communicated through the election process must be respected.
It is to be known that even though the governor of a state is appointed by the central government, and holds his office during the pleasure of the government, he cannot be called as the agent of of the Union government. Yet, tragically the part played by the governor is mostly often unfair to the States. In 1988, the Sarkaria Commission set forward its proposals on Article 356 however the Commission’s proposals were not binding. In Bommai’s case, the court has made legitimately binding norms and rules through its judicial decision.
The political misuse of Article 356 would be halted through the Supreme Court’s binding judgment and would be utilized uniquely in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ as per the assumptions for drafters of the constitution. We notice the abuse of Article 356 even after the pronouncement of this noteworthy judgment. However, this judgment has played a crucial part in shrinking the central government’s long arm. But some different protections are additionally expected to control the abuse of this Article. The rules and guidelines standards articulated in Bommai’s case are adequate to control the abuse of Article356 however because of the corrupt and innovative ways to misuse this article, some amendment in this required article i.e. in article 356, is a greatest need of today.
Author’s Name: Anushka Singh (HPNLU, Shimla)
 1994 AIR 1918, 1994 SCC (3) 1
 Constitution of India, 1950 a (356)
 Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD), Vol. IX, 170
 Sarkaria Commission, June 9, 1983
 The Constitution of India, 1950