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  • In 1985, the Janata Party won the Assembly elections in Karnataka and formed the government under Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. Hegde was replaced by SR Bommai, also of the Janata Party, in 1988.
  • In September 1988, a legislator from the Janata Dal defected from the party, and presented a letter to Governor along with petitions from 19 other members of the Legislative Assembly, stating their decision to withdraw support to the Bommai government.
  • The government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Centre dismissed the state government using Article 356, without giving Bommai a chance to prove his majority and imposed President’s Rule.
  • The Karnataka decision was seen as controversial, and more such examples followed across India.

Judgement of Supreme Court

  • Supreme Court issued the historic order, which in a way put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions.
  • The verdict concluded that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute.
  • The verdict said the President should exercise the power only after his proclamation (imposing his/her rule) is approved by both Houses of Parliament.
  • Till then, the Court said, the President can only suspend the Legislative Assembly by suspending the provisions of Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly.

Highlights of S R Bommai judgement

  • The court laid down a number of guidelines to curb the Centre’s capacity to dismiss a state government, and upheld the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The ruling laid down the law that the only way to determine support enjoyed by a particular state government would be by means of a floor test.
  • The court ruled that the validity of a proclamation of President’s Rule is subject to judicial review.
  • The court said that the only time the President shall have unconditional powers to dissolve a state government is when there is a complete breakdown of constitutional machinery.
  • The judgment also underlined the secular nature of the Constitution in the wake of the Babri demolition, and said that a party cannot resort to religion for the sake of gaining power and, if found to be indulging in religious politics, could be acted against using Article 356.

Significance Of This Judgment | SR BOMMAI CASE

  • The case become one of the most cited whenever hung Assemblies were returned and parties scrambled to form a government.
  • The case put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government.
  • The verdict ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day, and not the subjective opinion of the Governor.
  • SC issues ordered which stated that, if the Presidential proclamation is not approved by the Parliament then,
  • Both Houses of Parliament disapprove or do not approve the Proclamation, the Proclamation lapses at the end of the two-month period. In such a case, the government which was dismissed revives.
  • The Legislative Assembly,which may have been kept in suspended animation gets reactivated.
  • Also the Court made it amply clear that a Presidential Proclamation under Article 356 is subject to judicial review.


Indian Polity

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