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Indian Polity

Any recommendation by a Governor for President’s rule in a State under Article 356(1) of the Constitution should be based on “objective material” and not on a political whim or fancy, the Supreme Court had ruled in the 1994 S.R. Bommai case.

“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 nine-judge Bench 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.

Open to challenge

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 the order.

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”.

On advice

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.

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