Emergency Provisions

Emergency Provisions

This article deals with ‘Emergency Provisions .’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Article 352 to 360 of Part XVIII of Indian Constitution deals with Emergency Provisions.
  • Indian Constitution provides three types of emergencies
Emergency due to War, External Aggression or Armed Rebellion Article 352 National Emergency
Emergency due to failure of Constitutional Machinery in State Article 356 Presidents Rule
Financial Emergency due to threat to financial stability of India Article 360 Financial Emergency

Rationality of Emergency Provisions

  • To enable the Central Government to meet any abnormal situation effectively
  • Converts federal structure into unitary without any amendment
  • Constituent Assembly Debates : Dr Ambedkar claimed that the Indian federation, unlike any other federation, in times of emergency, could convert itself into an entirely unitary State

1 . National Emergency

Grounds on which National Emergency can be declared

  • President can declare it when security of India or part of India is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion.
  • Can be declared before that happen when danger is imminent

Types of National Emergency

External Emergency War or External Aggression
Internal Emergency Armed Rebellion (earlier it was Internal Disturbance – 44th Amendment changed it)

Duration  & Approval

  • Must be approved by Parliament within 1 month (44th Amendment Act )( earlier 2 months)
  • Need to be approved again after subsequent 6 months(earlier once started remains indefinitely till Executive desired)
  • It needs to be passed by Special Majority by both the Houses of Parliament (earlier Simple Majority)

Revocation of National Emergency

  • Can be revoked if Lok Sabha passes the resolution with Simple Majority (only Lok Sabha , Rajya Sabha not required) – added by 44th Amendment
  • Hence process to declare emergency is difficult than to revoke it

2 . President’s Rule

Grounds on which President’s Rule can be declared

Article 356 If President is satisfied that situation has arisen in State that government cant be carried on in accordance with the provisions of Constitution
Article 365 When State fails to comply with or to give effect to any direction from Centre, it is lawful for President to say that government is not carried in accordance with Constitution

Approval & duration

Approval Must be approved within 2 months by both Houses with Simple Majority
Duration If approved continues for 6 months upto maximum period of 3 years with approval each  6 months by Parliament

44th Amendment : can extend beyond 1 year on 2 grounds
1. National Emergency in place in whole country
2. Election Commission certify that situation not conducive to hold elections

Effects of President’s rule

  • President dismisses State Executive including Chief Minister
  • Governor on behalf of President carries State Administration
  • President either suspends or dissolves State Legislative Assembly
  • Laws made by President continue to be operative even after President rule is revoked

Use of Article 356

More than 100 times and many times for political and personal gains

Kerala & UP 9
Punjab 8

Arbitrary use of President’s rule

  • Issue  : expression “ breakdown of constitutional machinery” has not been defined in the Constitution.
  • Although Ambedkar promised Article 356 will remain dead-letter. But history proved him wrong.
    • In March 1953, the country’s first non-Congress government, headed by Gian Singh Rarewala in the PEPSU was  dismissed and President’s Rule was imposed
    • In 1957, Kerala saw the world’s first elected communist government coming into power. A series of progressive measures, opposed by the Catholic Church in Kerala, as well as American pressure engineered by the CIA, made the work of the government difficult. In 1959, then Congress President Indira Gandhi, convinced Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that E.M.S. Namboodripad’s government deserved to be dismissed and President’s rule should be imposed.
  • 1988 Sarkaria Commission report  commented on the arbitrariness with which Article 356 was used: only 26 out of 75 cases until then were “just” 
  • 1980s : Farooq Abdullah’s government was replaced by his brother in law GM Shah using Article 356. This played major role in alienating people of Kashmir from democratic process .
  • In just about 2 years, Morarji Desai and Charan Singh governments dismissed 12 governments. Until the mid-1990s, President’s Rule was imposed in a state roughly every 6 months 
  • Central Government use the office of Governor for this. Governor acts as agent of the Union  and many a times try to destabilise the State Governments. Before Bommai Judgement , Governors went to such an extend that he tested the Majority in his official residence.
  • Buta Singh Bihar Assembly dissolution case : court observed that Governor’s report could not be taken at face value and must be verified by the council of ministers before being used as the basis for imposing President’s rule.

Judicial Review of President’s Rule + SR Bommai Case Guidelines

Judicial Review is present in case of Article 356

38th Amendment Presidents decision is final and conclusive& cant be challenged
44th Amendment President’s decision is not beyond Judicial Review

In S.R. Bommai case 1994, Supreme Court gave guidelines  

April 1989, Karnataka CM S R Bommai requested Governor P Ventakasubbiah for an opportunity to prove his majority in the Assembly as the leader of the Janata Dal Legislature Party. It was denied, and Bommai’s government was dismissed and President Rule was imposed. Ultimately, the matter reached the Supreme Court. Supreme Court ordered that

  1. Majority to be tested on floor of the house only & not anywhere else & was confirmed in Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2005)
  2. President Rule is under Judicial Review
  3. Burden lies on centre to prove the correctness of President rule
  4. State Legislature should be dissolved only after Parliament approval (is kept in suspended animation till that time)
  5. Secularism is basic feature of Constitution & government pursuing anti secularism is liable to action
  6. Article 356 could only be resorted to when there was a breakdown of constitutional machinery, as distinguished from an ordinary breakdown of law and order.
  7. Article 356 is an exceptional power to be used in special situation

Supreme Court was of the view that such acts are bad for the democracy because if democratically elected governments are removed like this, people will loose their faith from democracy (reiterated in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh Case of 2016)

Article 356 was invoked on 40 occasions in the 15 years before Bommai judgement , and only on 11 in the 15 years after 1994. A combination of factors, including the

  1. emergence of coalition governments at centre with representation from regional parties,
  2. assertive President’s office
  3. Assertive judiciary

checked the trend.

Even after Bommai Judgement, trend is emerging that Governor destabilise the government and impose President’s Rule. Since 2 months are given to pass it from Parliament, in the meantime new leader manipulates situation by indulging to horse trading and forming government. Hence, provision of 2 months is used by Governor to abuse his power and virtually this process is outside the oversight of Parliament.

Role of President in Checking this

  • President shouldn’t act blindly as in 1997, President K.R. Narayanan, in a first for any Indian president, returned to the cabinet its recommendation to impose direct central rule in Uttar Pradesh. Later, he returned a similar recommendation by another central government to dismiss the state government in Bihar.
  • Hence, apart from Judiciary, President can act as check and balance 

Constitution Assembly Debates  on Emergency provisions

  • We  included it in the Constitution when B.R. Ambedkar gave an assurance that it would remain a dead letter.
  • Shibban Lal Saksena said, “we are reducing the autonomy of the states to a farce”.

Various Commissions on Article 356

1 . Sarkaria Commission (1987)

  • Article 356 should be used very sparingly, in extreme cases and only as a matter of last resort.
  • No dissolution of Assembly till proclamation is ratified by the parliament

2 . National Commission for Reviewing the Working of Constitution (2002)

  • A warning should be issued to the errant State, in specific terms that it is not carrying on the government of the State in accordance with the Constitution. Before taking action under Article 356, any explanation received from the State should be taken into account.
  • Safeguards corresponding to that of Article 352 should be incorporated in Article 356 to enable Parliament to review continuance in force of a proclamation.

3. Punchhi Commission (2008)

  • Imposition of localized emergency i.e. in only a district or a part of it. 
  • It also recommended suitable amendments in Article 356 to incorporate the guidelines of Supreme Court in S.R Bommai case (1994) with regards to invoking of the article.

Use of National Emergency so Far

Has been used three times

1962 – Due to Chinese Aggression
– Was in use till 1968
– Hence, no fresh proclamation for Pakistan War of 1965
1971 – Due to war with Pakistan
– This emergency was in operation when Third Emergency was provoked. Both ended in December , 1977
1975 – Due to Internal Disturbance ( most controversial so far)
– Ended in 1977,December

3. Financial Emergency

Grounds on which Financial Emergency can be declared

  • Article 360 : President can proclaim financial emergency if satisfied that situation has arisen in which Financial Stability of country or part of it is threatened

Approval & duration

Approval Must be approved by both houses within 2 Months  by Simple Majority
Duration Once approved will remain in effect indefinitely till revoked by President

Effects of Financial Emergency

  • Executive at center can direct any state to observe such canons of financial propriety as specified by it
  • Ask states to reduce salaries and allowances of all or any class of persons, reserve all money and financial bills for approval by President
  • President may issue direction for reduction in salaries and allowances of all or any class of persons serving under union and judges of Supreme Court and High Court

Use of Article 360

  • Never used : in 1991 there was financial crisis but not financial emergency

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