SR Bommai v. UOI [(1994) 3 SCC 1]
The decision sought to limit political abuse of Article 356 as well as deciding that it falls under the purview of Judicial Review.
Bench – Yogeshwar Dayal, S. Ratnavel Pandian, Kuldip Singh, P.B. Sawant, K. Ramaswamy, A.M. Ahmadi, S.C. Agrawal and B.P. Jeevan Reddy.
Facts – S.R. Bommai served as Karnataka’s Chief Minister from August 13, 1988 to April 21, 1989, yielding representation for the Janata Dal. On April 21, 1989, his administration was put in dismissal under Article 356 of Constitution, and President’s Rule was sanctioned on the basis that the current government lacked a majority owing to defection of a significant bulk of MLAs. Despite having received 19 letters from Bommai, the then-Governor declined to accept him the chance to demonstrate his party’s majority in the Assembly. Bommai filed a lawsuit against the Governor’s ruling to reject his government and enforce President’s Rule as per the provisions of that Article. He first filed a petition to the High Court, which was rejected, prompting him to seek relief from the Supreme Court.
Indira Gandhi established a commission on Centre-State relationships, headed by Justice Ranjeet Sarkaria, which published its report in 1988. According to the Sarkaria Commission, Article 356 should only be invoked in severe instances, as a final alternative when all other options have been explored or fail to avoid or correct a breakdown of constitutional structure in the state. The recommendations by the committee were taken into account by the Supreme Court while deciding its judgement in this case.
- Whether judicial review can be applied to a proclamation issued as per Article 356 of Constitution by the authority of the President or not?
- What is the extent of scope of judicial review of Article 356?
- What meaning does “a situation arising in which state government cannot be carried forward in accordance with provision of constitution” as under Article 356 Clause 1 has?
Judgment – The court had ruled that judicial review shall be applied to the President’s authority under Article 356(1) to issue Proclamation, at least in the sense of determining if the circumstances precedent to the issuing of the Proclamation were met or not. This investigation will inevitably include a look at whether there was enough evidence to satisfy the President that a scenario had emerged in which the State Government cannot function in line with the requirements of the Constitution.
It was further adjudged by the court that the President has no jurisdiction to disband the Legislative Assembly of State by invoking his authority under Article 356 (1) unless the Proclamation is accepted by both Houses of Parliament as per the 3rd clause of Article 356. He may only possess the ability to dismiss the Legislative Assembly as per Article 356 (1) (c). As a result, Clause (3) can be regarded to limit the President’s authority.
Third, the court declared that it has the authority to overturn the President’s Proclamation, even if it is not given acceptance by the Parliament. This means that the courts would also possess the authority to reinstate the status quo and, as a result, the Council of Ministers and the Legislative Assembly as they existed when the Proclamation was issued. This means that the proclamation is subject to Judicial Review and when called upon, the Government authorities are required to generate material upon which charges were brought.
The apex court also included the recommendations by the Sarkaria Commission of issuance of a statement of warning towards the State in question which has not carried on the administration as per the provisions of Constitution as well as other procedural recommendations. Furthermore, it is under the authority of the court in case of provision of a relief as per individual fact sheet of cases and political scenario, as well as in case of declaration of the action taken by the president as void.
Regarding the concept of secularism the court also stated that one of the fundamental elements of the Constitution is secularism. Any state government that promotes non-secular policies or takes non-secular actions violates the Constitution’s purpose and exposes itself to Article 356.