What was hoped to be a ‘dead-letter’ of the Constitution has become one of the most controversial provisions. Discuss in the context of Article 356.


  • Briefly explain Article 356 and the grounds for its
  • Explain why it was hoped to be a ‘dead-letter’.
  • Discuss how it has become the most controversial provisions of the


Article 356 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Centre to take over the State Government on certain grounds. Popularly known as the President’s rule it authorizes the President to assume both legislative and executive powers of the state.

Grounds for imposition:

  • 355: It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
  • 365: When State fails to comply with or give effect to any direction from the Centre.

It was hoped to be a dead-letter and was supposed to be used as a measure of last resort because:

  • It is an extraordinary device in the hands of the
  • It alters and infringes upon the federal feature of the Indian
  • It goes against the people’s mandate by removing the democratically elected State It has become controversial due to the following reasons:
  • Frequent use: Since 1950, the President’s Rule has been imposed on over 100
  • Imposition on arbitrary grounds for political or personal
  • Imposition when there are different parties at the Centre and State
  • The expression ‘breakdown of constitutional machinery’ is not defined in the
  • Misuse of Art. 365 as ‘directions from the Centre’ are vague and
  • Biased and distorted reports sent by the Governor to the Centre, which results in imposition of President’s
  • A law made by the Parliament during State Emergency continues to be operative even after

The Sarkaria Commission has recommended rare use of this article i.e. only after all the other alternatives are exhausted. In S.R.Bommai vs. Union of India (1994), the SC held that the President’s proclamation imposing President’s rule is subject to judicial review and is liable to be struck down if it is based on irrelevant and malafide sources/intentions. The courts can reinstate the State Government in such a case. This was recently upheld in the Nabam Rebia and etc. vs. Deputy Speaker and Ors. 2016.

Even after the SC ruling, many State governments were dismissed without the compulsory floor test. Therefore, it is imperative to follow the SC directives in letter and spirit to promote the ideal of cooperative federalism.