S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India

S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India
In Supreme Court of India
Civil Appeal No. 3645 of 1989

1994 (3) SCC 1
Equivalent Citation
AIR 2017 SC 2734

S.R. Bommai
Union of India
Date of Judgement
S.R. Pandian, A.M. Ahmadi, Kuldip Singh, J.S. Verma, P.B. Sawant, K. Ramaswamy, S.C. Agrawal, Yogeshwar Dayal, B.P. Jeevan Reddy


In 1989, the Janata Dal Government headed by Shri S.R. Bommai was in office in Karnataka. A number of members defected from the party and there arose a question mark on the majority support in the house for the Government. The Chief Minister proposed to the Governor that the assembly session be called to test the strength of the government on the floor of the House. But the governor ignored this suggestion. He also did not explore the possibility of an alternative Government but reported to the president that as Shri Bommai had lost the majority support in the house and as no other party was in a position to form the government, action be taken under Article 356(1). Thereafter, the proclamation was issued by the president in April, 1989 whose validity was challenged by Bommai before the Karnataka High Court through a writ petition on various grounds. The Karnataka High Court ruled that the proclamation issued under Article 356(1) is not wholly outside the purview of judicial scrutiny. The satisfaction of the president under Article 356(1) which is a condition precedent for the issue of the proclamation ought to be real and genuine satisfaction based on relevant facts and circumstances. The scope of judicial scrutiny is therefore confined to an examination whether the disclosed reasons bear any rational nexus to the action proposed or proclamation issued. The courts may examine as to whether the proclamation was based on a satisfaction which was malafide for any reason, or based on any wholly extraneous and irrelevant grounds. In such a situation, the stated satisfaction of the President would not be a satisfaction in the constitutional sense under Article 356 . In the end, however, the court dismissed the petition holding that the facts stated in the governor’s report could not be held to be irrelevant and held that the governor’s bonafides could not questioned as his satisfaction was based upon reasonable assessment of all facts. The Court also rules that recourse to floor test was neither compulsory nor obligatory and was not a prerequisite to the sending of the report to the President.

Similar proclamations were issued by the President:

i) In the State of Meghalaya and Nagaland upheld by the High Court

ii) In the State of Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan in 1992 in the wake of the demolition of the disputed Babri structure in Ayodhya. The MP High Court held the proclamation to be invalid and beyond the scope of Article 356. The Government in these states belonged to the BJP which was sympathetic to the organisations responsible for the demolition. The Court had ruled that from the material placed before it no inference could be drawn that the State Government had disrespected or disobeyed any central direction nor there was any suggestion of any alleged deed or misdeed on the part of the State Government in meeting the law and order situation. Merely because there was some worsening of the law and order situation in the State in the wake of ayodhya incidents, no inference could be drawn that the state government could not be carried on in accordance with the Constitution or that the constitutional machinery had broken down


Appeal was filed by Bommai in the Supreme Court against the High Court Decision. Besides this, the Supreme Court was called upon by the Central Government to decide the validity of five other proclamations in the states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.


Petitioner’s Contention:

a) That Bommai was not given the opportunity to prove his majority.

b) That the imposition of the President’s rule in the States was mala fide, based on no satisfaction and was purely a political act. Mere fact that communal disturbance and/or instances of arson and looting took place is no ground for imposing President’s rule.

c) The Union Government has also not disclosed what other material/ information they had received on the basis of which the President had acted. It was the duty of the Union Government to have disclosed to the Court the material/ information upon which the requisite satisfaction was formed, more so because the proclamations themselves do not refer to any such material. Article 74(2), it is argued, does not and cannot relieve the Union of India of this obligation.

Respondent’s Contention:

a) There is difference in the nature and scope of the power of judicial review in the administrative law and the constitutional law. While in the field of administrative law, the Court’s power extends to legal control of public authorities in exercise of their statutory power and therefore not only to preventing excess and abuse of power but also to irregular exercise of power, the scope of judicial review in the constitutional law extends only to preventing actions which are unconstitutional or ultra vires the Constitution. The areas where the judicial power, therefore, can operate are limited and pertain to the domain where the actions of the Executive or the legislation enacted infringe the scheme of the division of power between the Executive, the Legislature and the judiciary or the distribution of powers between the States and the Centre. The implication of this contention, among others, is that even if the Constitution provides pre-conditions for exercise of power by the constitutional authorities, the Courts cannot examine whether the pre-conditions have been satisfied. Secondly, if the powers are entrusted to a constitutional authority for achieving a particular purpose and if the concerned authority under the guise of attaining the said purpose, uses the powers to attain an , impermissible object, such use of power cannot be questioned.

b) It was contended on behalf of the Union of India that only on the advice of the council of ministers given under Article 74(1) of the Indian constitution, the Proclamation under Article 356 (1) could be issued by the President and further enquiry into the question whether any, and if so, what advice was tendered by Ministers to the President is barred by clause (2) of the said Article, judicial review of the reasons which led to the issuance of the Proclamation also stands barred.


i) Whether the President’s rule imposed in the six states is constitutionally valid?

ii) Whether the President has unfettered powers to issue Proclamation under Art. 356(l) of the Constitution. The answer to this question depends upon the answers to the following questions : (a) Is the Proclamation amenable to judicial ‘review? (b) If yes, what is the scope of the judicial review in this respect? and (c) What is the meaning of the expression “a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution” used in Art. 356 (1)?


In a country geographically vast, inhabited by people belonging to different religions, castes and creeds , it is not surprising that problems crop up time and again requiring strong and at times drastic state action to preserve the unity and integrity of the country. To deal with such extraordinarily difficult situations arising from time to time on account of class conflicts, religious intolerance, socio-economic imbalance, militancy, communal and class conflicts, politico religious turmoils, strikes, bandhs exercise of emergency powers becomes an imperative. These provisions were embedded hoping that such Article will never be called into operation and that they will remain a dead letter and If at all, they are brought into operation, the President who is endowed with all these powers will take proper precautions before actually suspending the administration of the provinces. The first thing to be done by him to issue a clear warning to a province that has erred that things were not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen in the Constitution. That only in rarest of rare cases there will be an occasion to invoke the emergency provisions was soon belied as  the provisions of Art. 356 of the Constitution have had to be invoked over ninety times by now. What was, therefore, expected to be a ‘dead letter’ has in fact become an often invoked provision.

A) Let us first deal with what article 356 says. Article 356 have been incorporated in Part XVIII dealing with “Emergency Provisions”. The powers conferred by this provision is exercisable in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the states. It confers extraordinary powers on the President which he must use sparingly and with great circumspection and only in grave emergencies and therefore the exercise of such power cannot be equated to the power exercised in administrative law field and cannot be tested on the same yardstick. The power conferred by Art. 356 upon the President is a conditioned power. It is not an absolute power.

The Proclamation of emergency under Article 356 is dependent on the satisfaction of the President with regard to the existence of the relevant conditions-precedent. The conditions precedent to the issuance of the Proclamation, therefore, are: (a) that the President should be satisfied either on the basis of a report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, (b) that in fact a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. In other words, the President’s satisfaction has to be based on objective material. That material could be anything and may be available in the form of the report sent to him by the Governor or otherwise or both from the report and other sources.

The expression ‘or otherwise’ indicates the wide range of materials which may be taken into account for the formation of opinion by the president. Such materials could consist of several imponderables including some matter which is not strictly legal evidence, the credibility and authenticity of which is incapable of being tested in law courts. The ultimate opinion formed in such cases would be mostly a subjective political judgement. Further, the objective material so available must indicate that the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The satisfaction of the President which is based on the material that has been shown to exist will then not be open to question but if no material exist or the material before him cannot reasonably suggest that the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Proclamation issued is open to challenge.

It is not every situation arising in the State but a situation which shows that the constitutional Government has become an impossibility, which alone will entitle the President to issue a Proclamation. These parameters of the condition precedent to the issuance of the Proclamation indicate both the extent of and the limitations on, the power of judicial review of the Proclamation issued.

Whether the satisfaction of the President is it is ‘subjective’ or ‘objective’ or it is his ‘discretion’ or ‘opinion’, the President cannot exercise his powers under the Constitution on wish or whim. He is supposed to have facts and circumstances which leads a person of his status to form an intelligent opinion requiring exercise of discretion of such a grave nature. His action must appear to be called for and justifiable under the’ Constitution if challenged in a Court of Law. No. doubt, the Courts will be chary to interfere in his ‘discretion’ or formation of the ‘opinion’ about the ‘situation’ but if it lacks basis or justification, the Courts will be obliged to perform their duty cast on them under the Constitution. While doing so, they will not be entering in the political arena for which appeal to electorate is provided for

Otherwise, the provision frequent use of this power and its exercise are likely to disturb the constitutional balance. Further if the proclamation is freely made, then the Chief Minister of every State who has to discharge his constitutional functions will be in perpetual fear of the axe of proclamation falling on him because he will be constantly unsure about whether he will remain in power or not and consequently he has to stand up every time from his seat without being able to properly discharge his constitutional obligations and achieving the desired target in the interest of the State.

It has also to be remembered in this connection that the power exercised by the President under Article 356(l) is on the advice of the Council of Ministers tendered under Art. 74(l) of the Constitution. 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, the party or parties in power (in case of coalition Government) at the Centre and in the States may not be the same.

Some instances of what does and what does not constitute a constitutional failure within the contemplation of this Article, may be grouped and discussed under the following heads:

a) Political crisis

b) Internal subversion

c) Physical break-down

d) Non-compliance with constitutional directions of the Union Executive.It is not claimed that this categorisation is comprehensive or perfect. There can be no. water-tight compartmentalisation.

Following are some of the situations which may not amount to failure of the constitutional machinery in the State inviting the Presidential power under Article 356 (1) and where the use of the said power will be improper:

(i) A situation of maladministration in a State where a duly constituted Ministry enjoying majority support in the Assembly, is in office.

ii) Where there has been a resignation by a Ministry or is being dismissed on losing its majority support in the Assembly and the Governor recommends, imposition of President’s rule without exploring the possibility of installing an alternative government enjoying such support or ordering fresh elections.

(iii) Where, despite the advice of a duly constituted Ministry which has not been defeated on the floor of the House, the Governor declines to dissolve the Assembly and without giving the Ministry an opportunity to demonstrate its majority Support through the ‘floor test’, recommends its supersession and imposition of President’s rule merely on his subjective assessment that the Ministry no. longer commands the confidence of the Assembly.

(iv) Where Article 356 is sought to be invoked for superseding the duly constituted Ministry and dissolving the State Legislative Assembly on the sole ground that, in the General Elections to the Lok Sabha, the ruling party in the State, has suffered a massive defeat.

(v) Where in a situation of ‘internal disturbance’ not amounting to or verging on abdication of its governmental powers by the State Government, all possible measures to contain the situation in the discharge of its duty, under Article 355, have not been exhausted by the union.

(vi) The President gives no prior warning or opportunity to the State Government to correct itself. Such a warning can be dispensed with only in cases of extreme urgency where failure on the part of the Union to take immediate action under Article 356, will lead to disastrous consequences.

(vii) Where in response to the prior warning or notice or to an informal or formal direction under Articles 256, 257 etc, the State Government either applies the corrective and thus complies with the direction, or satisfies the Union Executive that the warning or direction was based on incorrect facts

(viii) The. use of this power to sort out internal differences or intra-party problems of the ruling party would not be constitutionally correct.

(ix) This power cannot be legitimately exercised on the sole ground of stringent financial exigencies of the State.

(x) This power cannot be invoked, merely on the ground that there are serious allegations of corruption against the Ministry.

(xi) The exercise of this power, for a purpose extraneous or irrelevant to the one for which it has been conferred, by the Constitution, would be vitiated by legal mala fides.


B) It is not disputed before us that the Proclamation issued under Art, 356(l) is open to judicial review. All that is contended is that the scope of the review is limited. According to us, the language of the provisions of the Article contains sufficient guidelines on both the scope and limitations of the judicial review.

The proclamation can be struck down by the Supreme Court or the High Court if it is found to be mala fide or based on wholly irrelevant or extraneous grounds. Striking down of clause (5) (which was introduced by 38th (Amendment) Act) by the 44th (Amendment) Act, removes the cloud on the reviewability of the action. The Union of India has to produce the material when called upon on the basis of which action was taken and it cannot be refused, if it seeks to defend the action. The correctness or adequacy of the material will not be looked into by the court. The enquiry will be limited to see the relevancy of material to the action even if some parts of the material is irrelevant.

Only cases which permit application of totally objective standards for deciding whether the Constitutional machinery has failed, are amenable to judicial review and the remaining cases wherein there is any significant area of subjective satisfaction dependent on some imponderables or inferences are not because there are no judicially manageable standards for resolving the controversy and those cases are subject only to political scrutiny and correction for whatever its value in the existing political scenario.

In State of Rajasthan v. Union of India, it was held that so long as a question arises whether an

authority under the Constitution has acted within the limits of its power or not, it can certainly be decided by the Court as it would be its constitutional obligation. It has been assigned the delicate task of determining what is the Power conferred on each branch of Government, whether it is limited, and if so, what are the limits and whether any action of that branch transgression such limits and hence called the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution. The court is responsible for upholding the Constitutional values and to enforce the Constitutional limitations. That is the essence of the Rule of Law.

The only limit on the power of the President under Art. 356, cl. (1) the satisfaction of the President that a situation has arisen where the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution which is a subjective satisfaction and cannot be tested by reference to any objective tests. It is not the personal whim, wish, view or opinion or the ipse dixit of the President but a legitimate inference drawn from the material placed before him. It is deliberately and’ advisedly subjective because the matter in respect to which he is to be satisfied is of such a nature that its decision must necessarily be left to the executive branch of Government. Situations may arise whose political implications and consequences have to be evaluated in order to decide whether the situation is such that it becomes difficult to carry on the Government of the State in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. This decision is not the one which can be based on what the Supreme Court of  the United States has described as “judicially discoverable” and manageable standards”. It would largely be a political judgment based on assessment of diverse and varied factors, fast changing situations, potential consequences, public reaction, motivations and responses of different classes of people and their anticipated future behaviour and a host of other considerations, in the light of experience of public affairs and pragmatic management of complex and. often curious adjustments that go to make up the highly sophisticated mechanism of a modern democratic government, It cannot, therefore, by its very nature be a fit subject-matter for judicial determination and hence it is ‘left to the subjective satisfaction of the Central Government which is best in a position to decide it. The Court cannot in the circumstances, go into the question of correctness or adequacy of the facts and circumstances in which the satisfaction of. the Central Government is based . But if this satisfaction is mala fide or is based on wholly extraneous, irrelevant, irrational,  and discriminatory grounds as held in Maru Ram v. Union of India, the Court would have jurisdiction to examine it, because in that case there would be no  satisfaction of the President in regard to the matter which he is required to be satisfied. The satisfaction of the President is a condition precedent to the exercise of power under Art. 356, cl. (1) and if it can be shown that there is no. satisfaction of the Precedent at all,  the exercise of the power would be constitutionally invalid.

C) Even though the advice given by the Ministers is not judicially reviewable as according to Article 74(2), the article does not bar scrutiny of the material on the basis of which the advice is given. The Courts are not interested in either the advice given by the Ministers to the President or the reasons for such advice. The Courts are, however, justified in probing as to whether there was any material on the basis of which the advice was given, and whether it was relevant for such advice and the President could take action on it. Hence Article 74(2) does not negate the right to know about the factual existence of any such material, when the Courts undertake an enquiry into the existence of such material.

D) Though the power of dissolving the Legislative Assembly can be said to be implicit in clause (1) of Art. 356, it must be held that the President shall exercise it only after the proclamation is approved by both Houses of Parliament under clause (3) and not before. Until it has been approved, the Legislative Assembly can only be suspended by the President by suspending the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly under sub-clause (c) of clause (1). The dissolution of Legislative Assembly is not a matter of course. It should be resorted to only where it is found necessary for achieving the purposes of the proclamation. The Proclamation issued under Article 356 (1) is required by clause (3) of that Article to be laid before each House of Parliament and ceases to operate on the expiration of two months unless it has been approved by resolutions by both the Houses of Parliament before the expiration of that period.

The question as to whether a Proclamation should or should not have been made, has to be discussed on the floor of each house and the two houses would be entitled to go into the material on the basis of which the Council of Ministers had tendered the advice to the President for issuance of the Proclamation.

When the Proclamation is challenged by making out a prima facie case with regard to its invalidity, the burden would be on the Union Government to satisfy that there exists material which showed that the. Government could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. A further question which has been raised in this connection is whether the validity of’ the Proclamation issued under Article 356(l) can be challenged even after it has been approved by both Houses of Parliament under clause (3) of Article 356 .There is no reason to make a distinction between the Proclamation so approved and a legislation enacted by the Parliament. The approval by the Parliament does not validate an invalid proclamation. The grounds for challenging the validity of the Proclamation may be different from those challenging the validity of a legislation but that still makes the proclamation vulnerable on the limited grounds available.

The court is not bound in all cases to grant the relief of restoration of the Legislative Assembly and the Ministry. The question of relief to be granted in a particular case pertains to the discretionary jurisdiction of the Court. The grant of interim relief would depend upon various circumstances including the expeditiousness with which the Court is moved, the prima facie case with regard to the invalidity of the Proclamation made out, the steps which are contemplated to be taken pursuant to the Proclamation etc. The least relief that can be granted in such circumstances is an injunction restraining the holding of fresh elections for constituting the new Legislative Assembly.

E) Only when the situation contemplated by the clause arises, the proclamation under cl. (1) can be issued after which the government has to go. There cannot be two governments in one sphere and it can not happen that the President can take over some of the functions and powers of the State government while keeping the State government in office.

F) (a) Clause (3) of Article 356 is conceived as a control on the power of the President and also as a safeguard against abuse. The proclamation lapses at the end of the two-months period, in case both Houses of Parliament disapprove or do not approve the proclamation. This revives the dismissed government and reactivates the suspended Legislative Assembly. This however does not make the acts, orders and laws passed during the period of two months illegal or void. They are, however, subject to review, repeal or modification by the government/ Legislative Assembly or other competent authority.(b) The government (which was dismissed) is not revived on the expiry of period of proclamation or on its revocation if the proclamation is approved by both Houses within two months, Similarly, the legislative assembly does not gets revived on the expiry of the period of proclamation or on its revocation, if the Legislative Assembly has been dissolved after the approval under clause (3), the Legislative Assembly does not revive

G) The Constitution of India has created a federation but with a bias in favour of the centre. Federation implies distribution of powers between the Union and States. It implies demarcation of powers in a Federal compact. Our founding fathers appear to have leaned in favour of a strong Centre while distributing the powers and functions between the Centre and the States in order to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation

The two spinal issues before the Constituent Assembly and the framers of the Constitution on the subject of centre-State Relationship were (1) what powers were to be taken away from the States; and (2) how could without completely eviscerating the power of the States can a national supreme Government be formed. The two sides reached a compromise that resolved the dead lock on the key issue and consequently the present form of Government, more federal in structure, came into being instead of a unitary Government.

It is an undeniable fact that the Constitution of India was ordained and established by the people of India for themselves for their own governance and not for the governance of individual States. Resultantly, the Constitution acts directly on the people by means of power communicated directly from the people.

Articles 1,2 and 3 of the Constitution show that in the matter of Constitution of States, Parliament is paramount. This federal set up is different from the one established in the United States of America as unlike India, the American States were independent sovereign States and the territorial boundaries of those independent States lies outside the purview of the federal government. It is these independent sovereign units which together decided to form into a Federation unlike in India where the States were not independent sovereign units but they were formed by Art. I of the Constitution and their areas and boundaries could, therefore, be altered, without their concurrence, by Parliament. It is well-known that since independence, new States have been created, boundaries of existing States have been altered, States have been re-named and individual States have been extinguished by Parliamentary legislation.

In Union of India v. H. S. Dhillon, another feature in regard to the distribution of legislative powers pointed out is that the residuary powers are given under our Constitution, by virtue of Art. 248, read with Entry 97 in List I of the VII Schedule, on the Union.

The States have to largely depend on financial assistance from the Union since their power to raise resources is limited. Economic Planning being a concurrent subject, every major project must receive the sanction of the Central Government for its financial assistance as the power to make grants for public purposes is vested in the ‘Union or a State, under Art. 282 even though the purpose is one in respect to which Parliament or State legislature can make laws. Once the project receives sanctioned by the Central Government, only then can the State Government execute the same which demonstrates the control that the Union has on matters in which the states have the power to legislate.

Art. 368 confers powers on the Parliament to amend the Constitution, albeit by a specified majority. The power extends to amending matters pertaining to the Executive as well as legislative powers of the States if the amendments are ratified by the legislatures of no; less than one-half of the States. This provision empowers Parliament to so amend the Constitution as to curtail the powers of the States.

The State exercises no inherent sovereign or autonomous power which cannot be encroached upon by the Centre under our Constitution. Going by the fact that under by Article 3 of our Constitution, Parliament has the power to form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State, etc., militates against the view that the States are sovereign or autonomous bodies having definite independent rights of governance. In fact, as pointed out earlier in certain circumstances the Central Government can issue directions to States and in emergency conditions’ assume far-reaching powers affecting the States as well, and the theory of an independent or autonomous existence of a State is demolished by the fact that the President has powers to take over the administration of States.

All of these limitations indicate that the Constitution of India is not truly federal in character but quasi federal as understood by lawyers in the United States of America. 

H) Secularism: India can rightly be described as the world’s most heterogeneous society. It is a country with a rich heritage. Several races have converged in this subcontinent. They brought with them their own cultures, languages, religions and customs. These diversities threw up their own problems. The British policy of divide and rule, aggravated by separate electorates based on religion, had added a new dimension of mixing religion with politics which had to be countered and which could be countered only if the people realised the need for national unity and integrity

Henceforth secularism has been made one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution. A Secular State is the one in which the state is not going to make any discriminations whatsoever on the ground of religion or community against any person professing any particular form of religious faith and no particular religion in the state will receive any patronage from the State. No particular religion is to be preferred to the exclusion of or in preference to others and that no citizen will get preferential treatment or discriminated against simply on the ground that he professed a particular form of religion. This is the essence of a secular State. Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all persons in India and from the point of view of the State,  religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial. All are equal in the eyes of the state and are entitled to be treated equally by the State. In matters of State, religion has no place. No political party can be a religious party at the same time. Politics and religion cannot be mixed. Any State government which pursues unsecular policies or unsecular course of action violates the Constitutional mandate and renders itself amenable to action under Art. 356.(11)

The words ‘Socialist’ , and ‘Secular’ were added in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 by the 42nd Amendment, but the concept of Secularism was very much embedded in our Constitutional philosophy. The term ‘secular’ has advisely not been defined presumably because it is a very elastic term not capable of a precise definition and perhaps best left undefined. This amendment has made explicit what was already implicit.

We may now examine the facts in the individual cases before us. the facts are not being discussed with a view to give relief prayed for, since in all cases fresh elections have been held, new Legislative Assemblies have been elected and new Ministries have been installed. Nor do the petitioners/ appellants seek any such relief. The facts are being discussed to find out whether the action of the President was justified in the light of our conclusions above. The finding may serve as a guidance for future. For the sake of convenience, we propose to deal with the cases of the States of Karnataka, Meghalaya and Nagaland separately from those of the States of Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.


The Proclamation does not contain any reasons and merely recites that the President is satisfied on a consideration of the report of the Governor and other information received by him. The Chief Minister also offered to prove his majority on the floor of the House even by preponing the Assembly Session.

In view of the conclusions that we have reached with regard to the parameters of the judicial review, it is clear that the High Court had committed an error in ignoring the most relevant fact that in view of the conflicting letters of the seven legislators, it was improper on the part of the

Governor to decide himself, firstly, that the earlier nineteen letters were genuine and were written by the said legislators of their free will and volition. He had not even cared to interview the said legislators, but had merely got the authenticity of the signatures verified through the Legislature Secretariat. Secondly, he also took upon himself the task of deciding that seven out of the nineteen legislators had written the subsequent letters on account of the pressure from the Chief Minister and not out of their free will. Again he had not cared even to interview the said legislators. Thirdly, it is not known from where the Governor got the information that there was horse-trading going on between the legislators. The correct and the proper course for him to adopt was to await the test on the floor of the House which the Chief Minister was ready to undertake on any day that the Governor chose. In fact, the State Cabinet had itself taken an initiative to convene the meeting

The action of the Governor was objectionable since as a high constitutional more fairly, cautiously and circumspectly. Instead, it appears that the Governor was in a hurry to dismiss the Ministry and dissolve the Assembly. The Proclamation having been based on the said report and so-called other information which is not disclosed was, therefore, liable to be struck down.

The strength of the Ministry which is to be assessed is not a matter of private opinion of any individual, be he the Governor or the President. It is capable of being demonstrated and ascertained publicly in the House. When the demonstration is possible, it is to be taken into consideration instead of depending upon the subjective satisfaction of the Governor or the President.


After reviewing the circumstances leading to the issue of the proclamation, the court ruled that prima facie the material before the President was not only irrational but motivated by ‘factual and legal malafides’


There was defection in the ruling congress party as 1/3rd of its members formed a new party. The Chief Minister resigned. The leader of the breakaway group claimed majority support but instead of allowing him to test his strength on the floor of the house, on the report of the governor, the president issued a proclamation under Article 356(1). The court ruled that  in the circumstances the proclamation was unconstitutional. The court emphasized that the anti-defection law did not prohibit the formation of a new political party if it was backed by at least 1/3rd members of an existing legislature party. The leader of the new party ought to have been given an opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the house.

The case of the proclamations issued in case of Madhya pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh fell in a different category. None of the state governments had lost its majority. These proclamations were issued in the wake of the incidents at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. But here the crucial question involved was that of upholding the basic constitutional value of secularism. The court emphasized that the various constitutional provisions by implication prohibit the establishment of a theocratic state and prevent the state from either identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion or sect or denomination. The state is enjoined to accord equal treatment to all religions and sects. Religion  and any secular activity of the state cannot be mixed. Religion has no place in matters of the State. No political party can simultaneously be a religious party and politics and religion can not be mixed. Secularism is held to be a part of the basic structure of the constitution. If any state government acts in a manner which is calculated to subserve or sabotage secularism it can lawfully be regarded that a situation has arisen in which the state government is not being carried on in accordance with the constitutional provisions. The three proclamations were thus held valid on this ground. The decision of madhya pradesh high court was reversed.


This case deals with evaluating the constitutional mechanism and exploring the whole realm of constitutional imperatives on Central-State relations and on the controversial role of State Governors inviting President’s Rule. The fact that under the scheme of our Constitution greater power is conferred upon the centre vis-a-vis the states do not mean that the States are mere appendages of the centre. The states are supremely powered within the spheres which are allotted to them. The centre cannot tamper with their powers. This judgement is considered to be a historic judgement as it has put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State Governments under Article 356 and also as it has marked out the paradigms and limitations within which Article 356 has to function. The judgement concluded that the power of the president is not absolute but a conditioned power and the presidential proclamation is not immune from judicial review.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


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Shivangi Goel
I am Shivangi Goel, currently in my final year of a three year LL.B. programme at Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. I am up for exploring every branch in the field of law but Constitutional, Criminal and Competition laws interest me the most. I have a flair for research, analysis and writing which have been further enhanced by my graduation in Sociology. I am thankful for being provided this opportunity by Law Times Journal to optimally utilize and further work upon my skills. I hope this piece of writing helps you in a quick understanding of the important cases affecting the socio-economic scenario of the country and legal concepts involved.