On Tuesday, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has recommended President’s Rule in the state. Sources reveal that the Governor opined that none of the parties including BJP, NCP, Shiv Sena, and Congress could form a stable government in Maharashtra - this after the NCP which had been invited to form a government in the state and given till 8:30 pm on Tuesday to do so asked for more time to gather the necessary numbers. The Governor’s report has been dispatched to the Ministry of Home Affairs. President’s Rule has been imposed in multiple states on more than 100 occasions, the latest being in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Raj Bhavan Press Release 12.11.2019 3.16 PM pic.twitter.com/qmlQA6ghBR— Governor of Maharashtra (@maha_governor) November 12, 2019
Basically, President’s rule entails that the Governor of the state, representing the President of India, will temporarily function as the chief executive of the state. This power emanates from Article 356 of the Constitution, which empowers the President to withdraw the executive and legislative powers of any state “if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”. Instances such as loss of majority on the floor in the state assembly, postponement of elections, breakdown of law and order have been cited as reasons in the past for the imposition of President’s Rule. As a safeguard, the President’s Rule requires the sanction of both Houses of Parliament after which it can remain in place for 6 months. Every extension too must be approved by the Rajya Sabha as well as Lok Sabha.
In 1994, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment in the SR Bommai vs Union of India case. It introduced certain guidelines to check the intervention of the central government to impose Article 356 for political motives. For example, the SC laid down the principle that the assessment of whether a party or an alliance enjoyed the majority was not a matter of private opinion of either the Governor or the President. It advocated that this could be tested only on the floor of the House. The last occasion when President’s Rule was imposed in Maharashtra was from September 28, 2014, to October 31, 2014. At that time, the sitting chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had resigned following the end of the 15-year-old Congress-NCP alliance in the state.