Terms you must know: What is President's rule?

President of India Ram Nath Kovind speaks during his state visit to Switzerland, at the Muensterplatz in Bern, Switzerland September 13, 2019. Peter Schneider/Pool via REUTERS

In India, President's rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.

Under Article 356 of the Constitution of India, in the event that a state government is unable to function according to constitutional provisions, the Central government can take direct control of the state machinery.

Subsequently, executive authority is exercised through the centrally appointed governor, who has the authority to appoint other administrators to assist them. The administrators are usually nonpartisan retired civil servants.

When a state government is functioning correctly, it is run by an elected Council of Ministers responsible to the state's legislative assembly (Vidhan Sabha).

The council is led by the chief minister, who is the de facto chief executive of the state; the Governor is only a de jure constitutional head.

However, during President's rule, the Council of Ministers is dissolved, vacating the office of Chief Minister. Furthermore, the Vidhan Sabha is either prorogued or dissolved, necessitating a new election.

Prior to 2019, the constitution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir had a similar system of governor's rule, under its Section 92.

The state's Governor issued a proclamation, after obtaining the consent of the President of India. After the revocation of Article 370, lieutenant governor's rule applies to Jammu and Kashmir.

Following its landmark judgment in the 1994 Bommai case, the Supreme Court of India has restricted arbitrary impositions of president's rule.

Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only states where the president's rule has not been imposed so far.


Imposition

In practice, President's rule has been imposed under any one of the following different circumstances:

  • A state legislature is unable to elect a leader as chief minister for a time prescribed by the Governor of that state, at the Will of Governor.

  • Breakdown of a coalition leading to the Chief minister having minority support in the house and the Chief minister fails/will definitely fail to prove otherwise, within a time prescribed by the Governor of that state.

  • Loss of majority in the assembly due to a vote of no-confidence in the house.

  • Elections postponed for unavoidable reasons like war, epidemic or natural disasters.

  • Article 356 state that the president can invoke President rule in a state on the report of the governor if the state machinery/legislature fails to abide by constitutional norms.

If approved by both houses, President's rule can continue for 6 months. It can be extended for a maximum of 3 years with the approval of the Parliament done every 6 months.

If the Lok Sabha is dissolved during this time, the rule is valid for 30 days from the first sitting of the Lok Sabha provided that this continuance has already been approved by Rajya Sabha.

The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 introduced a new provision to put a restraint on the power of the Parliament to extend the President's rule in a state. According to this provision, the President's rule can only be extended over a year every 6 months under the following conditions:

  • There is already a national emergency throughout India, or in the whole or any part of the state.

  • The Election Commission certifies that elections cannot be conducted in the concerned state.

  • President's rule can be revoked at any time by the President and does not need the Parliament's approval.

Until the mid-1990s, President's rule was often imposed in states through abusing the authority of Governors who were in collusion with the central government.

The Supreme Court of India in March 1994 instituted a rule by which such abuse has been drastically reduced.