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SC Stays Andhra HC Order to Examine Constitutional Breakdown

  • 19 Dec 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court (HC) order intending to embark on a judicial enquiry into whether there is a constitutional breakdown in the State machinery, requiring a declaration of President’s rule (Article 356).

  • A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde found the order disturbing and will take up the matter later on after vacations.

Key Points

  • Andhra Pradesh High Court’s Move:
    • While hearing a clutch of habeas corpus petitions in October 2020, it suo motu summoned the State counsel to assist it in deciding “whether in circumstances prevailing in the State, the court can record a finding that there is constitutional breakdown or not”.
      • Habeas Corpus is a Latin term which literally means ‘to have the body of’. Under this the court issues an order to a person who has detained another person, to produce the body of the latter before it.
      • This writ is a bulwark of individual liberty against arbitrary detention and can be issued against both public authorities as well as private individuals.
  • State Government’s Appeal:
    • The HC framed the question in an unprecedented manner and without any basis or pleadings by any of the parties to that effect.
    • It highlighted that Article 356, which deals with failure of Constitutional machinery in a State, is a power exclusively vested in the executive and not the judiciary.
    • Under the Constitutional framework, it is not for the Courts to decide as to whether there is a Constitutional breakdown in a State as they do not have any judicially discoverable and manageable standards to determine so.
    • The said fact is essentially an executive function and is necessarily required to be based on a detailed factual analysis.
    • The HC order is a serious encroachment on the powers of the executive as enumerated under the Constitution and is violative of the doctrine of separation of powers and thus, violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
      • Separation of powers is the division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government.
      • Since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws, it minimises the possibility of arbitrary excesses by the government.
      • The constitutional demarcation precludes the concentration of excessive power by any branch of the government.

President’s Rule

  • It implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre. It is also known as ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’.
  • The SC in Bommai case 1994 enlisted the situations where the exercise of power under Article 356 could be used.
    • One such situation is that of ‘Hung Assembly’, i.e. where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority.
  • The President’s rule is imposed through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers (executive).
    • If the President, upon receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
  • Parliamentary Approval and Duration:
    • A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within two months from the date of its issue.
    • The approval takes place through simple majority in either House, that is, a majority of the members of the House present and voting.
    • Initially valid for six months, the President’s Rule can be extended for a maximum period of three years with the approval of the Parliament, every six months.

Source: TH

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