Discuss the Constitutional provisions in Article 356 regarding imposition of emergency in a state on account of failure of the Constitutional Machinery. While keeping in focus the key recommendations of Sarkaria Commission in this context, critically examine various judicial measures taken to prevent misuse of these provisions.
Article 356 was inspired by section 93 of Government of India Act 1935. This article provides that if the President is satisfied on receipt of a report from the Governor of a state that a situation has arisen in which the Government in a state cannot be carried in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the president is empowered to proclaim an emergency. This article reflects the ideals of the British to have a “controlled democracy” in provinces.
This kind of emergency has been imposed in India for more than 100 times on account of “failure of constitutional machinery” in the states. In most cases, such emergencies are declared because no stable government is formed as a consequence of the elections. However, many a times, states have been placed under presidential rule despite having stable government, on several grounds such as they have lost contact with the people, or failed to protect the minority communities, or failed to maintain law and order etc.
The issue was examined by Sarkaria Commission which that while Article 356 was imposed occasionally in the initial years, it was invoked 21 times between 1975 to 1979 and 18 times between 1980-1987. The commission though did not favour the deletion of this article but suggested a number of measures to ensure that this article is not misused. It recommended use of this article only in rare occasion and as a measure of last resort when all available alternatives fail to prevent or rectify the breakdown of constitutional machinery.
Further, in the S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) case, Supreme Court held that dismissal of state government was subject to judicial review and the court could review the dissolved state assembly if the dissolution was found to be judiciary indefensible. It also said that the Presidential proclamation under Article 356 is not absolute and the power conferred by Article 356 on president is conditioned power. Thus, to a great extent, the SR Bommai case was able to check the arbitrary use of article 356.
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