Essay on the President’s Rule at the Centre

Constitutional experts and analysts are of the view that there is no provision in the Constitution of India for the imposition of President's Rule at the Centre. Article 356 empowers the President to assume to him all or any of the functions of the Government of a State and all powers of its Governor, if there is a failure of constitutional machinery in that State. The Constitution is silent about imposition of the President's Rule at the Centre.

The absence of provisions similar to Article 356 in the case of President-Centre relations should not lead to an inference that the President is helpless if there exists a situation at the Centre, which would warrant the President assuming to himself the powers of the Government at the Centre.

Article 52 of the Constitution mandates that there "shall be a President of India' in whom the Executive power of the Union shall be vested" as also "the supreme command of the Defence Forces of the Union".

A combined reading of Articles 74 and 75 would indicate that

(a) There shall be a Council of Ministers with Prime Minister

(b) The President is bound in every case to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers

(c) The Council shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.

However, an important question arises with regard to the position and status of the Council when the House of People stands dissolved.

The advice of the Council remains binding on the President so long as it remains accountable to Parliament these acts as checks and balances on both the President and the Council of Ministers.

After the dissolution of the House of the people the continuance of the council of Ministers is at the pleasure of the President. The President is not legally or constitutionally bound to request the Council whose term is either over or which has lost confidence of the Lok Sabha to continue in office.

The powers of the President may thus be summarised as follows;

(a) The President need not have a caretaker government

(b) The President can govern directly without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers if it has lost the confidence of the Lok Sabha, which stand dissolved and the Council not being any longer accountable to the House.

(c) The President can ask the outgoing Council of Ministers to continue till a new government is formed in accordance with the Constitution

(d) The President can impose strict and rigid conditions on the outgoing Council that it would not take any policy decisions or such administrative steps which may bind the successor government, without reference to the President.

(e) The President in addition can have his own set of advisors for the period ending with the formation of a new government

(f) The President even without the advice of the caretaker government can convene a Rajya Sabha session if he deems it necessary in national interest, as in any case as per Article 85 the President can summon each of the two Houses of Parliament from time to time.

(g) The President is the repository of all the residuary powers not expressly stated or defined in the Constitution as the Head of the State.