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President's rule imposed, what lies ahead for Maharashtra

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New Delhi, Nov 12: Maharashtra on Tuesday came under President's Rule after President Ram Nath Kovind approved Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari's report recommending it.

Maharashtra Governor Koshyari

President Ram Nath Kovind has signed a proclamation imposing President's rule in Maharashtra under Article 356(1), they said adding the Assembly has been kept in suspended animation. In his report, the governor said a situation has arisen that a stable government is not possible even after 15 days of election results being declared, according to officials.

All possible efforts have been made but he saw no probability of a stable government in the state, the governor said.

After the BJP declined to form the government and the Shiv Sena failed to get letters of support from the NCP and the Congress, Koshyari had on Monday night asked the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to express its "ability and willingness" to stake claim to form government in the state by 8.30 pm on Tuesday.

President's rule imposed in Maharashtra after parties fail to stake claim

However, the Governor, is his report submitted at noon, noted that the NCP on Tuesday morning conveyed to him that the party needed three more days to gather requisite support. The governor felt that as already 15 days had passed, he was not in a position to give more time, the officials said.

The governor noted that he is satisfied that governance of the state cannot be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and he is left with no alternative and is constrained to send a report on the provision of Article 356, they said.

The governor's report was examined by the Union Cabinet chaired Prime Minister Narendra Modi which decided to recommend a proclamation under Article 356 (1), thereby imposing President's rule in Maharashtra and keeping the Assembly in suspended animation.

What is President's Rule?

Article 356 of the Constitution provides for the imposition of President's Rule in a state in "case of failure of the constitutional machinery in the state".

As per Article 356(1): "If the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President may by Proclamation (a) assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State and all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or any body or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State; (b) declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament;...."

The President's Rule can be revoked before the six-month period if a situation emerges for formation of a stable government.

The Bommai verdict

Article 356 of the Indian Constitution deals with the provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the state. Broadly, it deals with the imposition of President's rule in the state. However, there has been misuse of this article in the past and hence the SC while interpreting the same laid down guidelines.

Here are the guidelines...

  • The majority enjoyed by the council of ministers shall be tested on the floor of the House.
  • Centre should give a warning to the state and a time period of one week to reply.
  • The court cannot question the advice tendered by CMs to the President, but it can question the material behind the satisfaction of the President. Hence, Judicial Review will involve three questions only:
  • Is there any material behind the proclamation?
  • Is the material relevant?
  • Was there any malafide use of power?
  • If there is improper use of Article 356 then the court will provide remedy.
  • Under Article 356(3), powers of the President has been limited. Hence, the President shall not take any irreversible action until the proclamation is approved by the Parliament and can't dissolve the assembly.
  • Article 356 is justified only when there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery and not administrative machinery.

Can parties approach the Governor during President's Rule?

President's Rule can be imposed in the state for six months after which the EC will have to announce fresh polls in Maharashtra. However, if any political formulation emerges in the meantime that can prove its majority on the floor of the House, President's Rule can be dissolved.

When was President rule last imposed in Maharashtra

The President's Rule was imposed in Maharashtra was from September 28, 2014, to October 31, 2014. Then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had resigned following the end of the 15-year-old Congress-NCP alliance in the state.

Maharashtra was under presidents' rule between February 17, 1980, and June 8, 1980, when the government was dismissed in spite of Pawar enjoying majority support in the Assembly.

In the assembly polls held last month, the BJP won 105 seats, followed by the Shiv Sena (56), the NCP (54) and the Congress (48) in the 288-member House. The BJP and Shiv Sena alliance got a comfortable majority but the two parted ways over sharing of power.

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