As opposition parties cried foul over the Union Cabinet’s decision to recommend President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh, constitutional experts on Sunday supported the move, saying there was a failure of the constitutional machinery after the assembly failed to meet for over six months.
“There is a constitutional requirement that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of a state assembly. If there is a gap of more than six months, there is certainly a constitutional crisis,” former Lok Sabha secretary general PTD Achari told HT.
“The union council of minister is well within its power to advise to impose president’s rule as there is sufficient ground to conclude that the constitutional machinery has failed in the state,” Achari said, adding “There is nothing unusual or extra ordinary in the opposition criticising the move.”
Noted constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said: “On the face of it, if the assembly has not met for over six months, there is a violation of constitutional provisions.”
Kashyap, a former Lok Sabha secretary general, however, said: “President’s rule should be the last resort when nothing else works. If you can find a leader who has the support of the majority in the House, there is no reason to impose President’s rule in a state.”
According to Article 174(1) of the Constitution, there should not be a gap of more than six months between the assembly’s last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session. The legality of assembly session conducted on December 16 and 17 by deputy speaker TN Thongdok is under question before a constitution bench of the Supreme Court.
Senior counsel Sanjay Hegde said: “Whatever may be the political motive, the governor has the power to send a report to the Centre regarding failure of constitutional machinery and the Union Cabinet can in turn recommend President’s rule in a state.
“This power has to be exercised in a judicious manner as it is subject to judicial review as ruled by the Supreme Court in SR Bommai’s case and analysed in the Bihar assembly dissolution case,” Hegde added.
Asked if the recommendation for President’s rule amounted to constitutional impropriety as issues relating to political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh were pending before a constitution bench, Achari said: “The issue before the Supreme Court relates the governor’s power to summon the House without the advice of the government. It was unprecedented. In our constitution set up, neither the president not the governor can act independently summon the House.”
Kashyap said: “It’s not just a question of constitutional propriety or impropriety. In any case, several constitutional improprieties have been committed by various functionaries leading to the political crisis.”