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State of Rajasthan & Ors V. Union of India (1977)

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Citation: State of Rajasthan v. Union of India, 1977 AIR 1361

Date of Judgement: 06/05/1977

Equivalent Citation: 1978 SCR (1) 1

Case Type: Civil Appeal

Appellant(s): State of Rajasthan & Ors

Respondent: Union of India

Bench:

  • Chief Justice M. Hameedullah Beg,
  • Hon’ble Justice YV Chandrachud
  • Hon’ble Justice PN Bhagwati
  • Hon’ble Justice PK Goswami
  • Hon’ble Justice AC Gupta,
  • Hon’ble Justice SM Fazal Ali
  • Hon’ble Justice NL Untwalia

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

  • Constitution of India, 1949, Art.131
  • Constitution of India, 1949, Art.256
  • Constitution of India, 1949, Art.257
  • Constitution of India, 1949, Art.163
  • Constitution of India, 1949, Art.174(2)(b)

Cases Referred:

  • His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalavaru v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461
  • Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain, (1975) 2 SCC 159
  • Har Sharan Varma v. Chandra Bhan Gupta and Ors., AIR 1962 All 301
  • KK Aboo v. Union of India, AIR 1965 Ker 229
  • Rao Birendra Singh v. Union of India, AIR 1968 P H 441
  • Bijayananda Patnaik & Ors. v. the President of India & Ors. AIR 1974 Ori 52
  • ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, AIR 1976 SC 1207
  • State of Bihar v. Union of India, (1970) 2 SCR 522
  • Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab, 1974 AIR 2192
  • His Majesty Maharajadhiraja Madhay Rao Jivaji Rao Scindia Bahadur and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., 1971 AIR 530

Facts:

  • Lok Sabha elections in 1977 saw the Congress Party facing significant defeat by the Janata Party in various states.
  • The Janata Party’s victory led to the formation of the central government.
  • Congress Party governments were in power in several states at the time and had not completed their full term.
  • Charan Singh, the Central Home Minister, sent letters to each state chief minister advising them to dissolve the state legislative assemblies and seek re-election from the electorate.
  • The State of Rajasthan, along with other affected states, filed an original suit against the Union of India under Article 131 of the Constitution.
  • The lawsuit sought a declaration from the court stating that the directive issued by the Central Home Minister was unconstitutional and illegal.

Issues Involved

  • Is the responsibility of the President to rule in the states reviewable by the bar?

Contentions of the Appellant(s)

The counsel for Appellant contended that-

  • The Legislative Assemblies could only be dissolved if both Houses of Parliament supported the President’s proclamation under Article 356.
  • While a proclamation under Article 356 needed approval from each House of Parliament, there was no explicit requirement in Article 356 that the consideration by either House was a precondition for the President to exercise the power of dissolution of State Legislative Assemblies under Article 356(1).
  • Article 356(3) was cited to argue that the action under Article 356 was not prohibited solely because of the lack of approval from both Houses of Parliament.
  • The argument was made that the threat by the Union Government to dissolve state legislatures was deceptive.
  • The plaintiffs claimed mala fides, asserting that the threatening use of power was for a purpose not intended by the conferred power.

Contentions of the Respondent

The counsel for Respondent contended that-

  • The question of whether a situation had arisen warranting action under Article 356 is not justiciable.
  • The non-justiciable final action of the President cannot be indirectly challenged by questioning the process that may or may not lead to the desired result.
  • It was contended that the Letter and the Law Minister’s Statement did not extend beyond the scope of Article 356, and therefore, the Plaintiffs had no cause of action.
  • The mere suggestion of facts, according to the Respondent, does not justify the prohibition of conduct under Article 356.

Judgement

The Supreme Court concluded that the much-anticipated commercial would be legal and dismissed the case. The Court held that, in the absence of an indigenous infringement, it could not interfere with the Centre’s exercise of its authority under Article 356 just because it supported political and administrative policy and wisdom.

It was noted that, under Article 356(5), the court is prohibited from questioning the President’s satisfaction on any grounds unless and until the application of the provision is proved to be “grossly perverse and unreasonable” in order to constitute a manifest violation of the law.

According to the Court, the proclamation is intended to prevent the collapse of indigenous ministry in a state or to reverse the loss of one. It was further stated that the President’s desire under Article 356 is a private bone and cannot be estimated in the absence of objective assessments.

The court has no way of knowing if the data and circumstances are correct or sufficient. According to the reasoning, because the government has the ability under Composition 356 to take either restorative or preventative action, the State Government may have lost the trust of the crowd in this situation.

Ratio Decidendi

The most important aspect of the verdict is virtually all of the judges’ assertion that, notwithstanding the broad scope of presidential authority afforded by Article 356, a presidential proclamation could be challenged if it was made on indecorous or illegal legal or indigenous grounds.

It was stated that the President’s “satisfaction” is required for the exercise of power under Article 356. It was decided that preserving popular values could not be used as a supplemental defence for exercising proclamation authority. As a result, the letter from the Home Minister was described as advising rather than vindictive.

Concerning the topic of whether the term “state” in Article 131(a) also encompassed the State government, it was held that a disagreement between the Central and State governments involving a legal right was fully within Article 131’s powers.

The decision’s highlight is almost all of the judges’ argument that, notwithstanding the broad scope of power under Article 356, a presidential proclamation might be challenged if power was exercised malafidely or on constitutionally or legally banned grounds. It was noted that “satisfaction” of the President is a prerequisite for exercising power under Article 356. It was held that the preservation of democratic standards could not be regarded as an irrelevant reason for the exercise of proclamation power. As a result, the Home Minister’s letter was regarded as advisory rather than malicious.

Obiter dicta:

N/A

Conclusion

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court specified two basic grounds that could only be raised when contesting the President’s satisfaction under Indian Constitution Article 356. They are as follows:

  • If the President’s satisfaction has breached specific constitutional principles.
  • If the President’s satisfaction is mala fide and entirely based on extraneous reasons.

Based on that, the Union Government should have acted accordingly. However, even after this ruling, we have observed in contemporary Indian history how the state governments have been dismissed, which hampered the federal structure of the country.

The Union and the State Executive are two of the most important organs of the Indian government. The executive is in charge of carrying out the laws passed by the Indian Parliament, ensuring the proper implementation of law and order in the Indian state. As a result, one cannot disregard the role of the Indian executive in the operation of democratic India’s government.

Drafted By: Arryan Mohanty

Published on: February 10, 2024 at 00:18 IST