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Friday, November 13, 1998
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Playing with Article 356

  WITH reference to Mr Hari Jaisingh's article "Playing with Article 356: question of exercising restraint" (November 6), I am sure no provision in the Constitution has been a victim of governmental perversity so much and so often as Article 356, which gives the Centre the right to dismiss elected state governments and impose its own rule through the Governor. Misuse of the Article has cut across party line and every Central government has been guilty of it. The guiding principle is: when in opposition ask for the abolition, amendment or abrogation of Article 356, and when in power at the Centre abuse it for political ends!

Whether there will be a nationwide debate on the use of the Article 356 for the imposition of President's rule in a state, as suggested by Home Minister L.K. Advani, or not, one thing is very clear after the manner in which President K.R. Narayanan chose to put the issue in perspective. It is that the Governor's report cannot be a ground for the dismissal of a state government in view of the incumbent being more often than not a political appointee. The brazen manner in which Mr Sunder Singh Bhandari had gone about his job of paving the way for the dismissal of the Rabri Devi government was tantamount to the negation of the constitutional role of the Governor.

Past experience supports deleting of this Article. It is odd that after threadbare discussions at scores of seminars, the Sarkaria Commission's report and deliberations at the inter-state council the need for a debate is being felt. A debate about what? If Article 356 is to be retained at all, a further safeguard could be that the proposal for the proclamation should only become effective after it has been approved by both Houses of Parliament.



NEHRU'S ROLE: The writer has correctly blamed the coalition government at the Centre for the abuse of this key Article, which was inserted in the Constitution to avoid constitutional breakdown in the states, to keep India's integrity safe whenever and wherever the law and order situation demands.

Article 356 was invoked — abused — first by Jawaharlal Nehru himself in 1959 in Kerala under pressure from his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who was then Congress President, who found the then Communist government with popular and successful EMS as its CM threatening the Congress of political monopoly.

Kheri Jat (Jhajjar)


THE PROVISION MUST STAY: The article has it that the term "breakdown of constitutional machinery" is not clear, but at the same time if a Prime Minister or a Home Minister says that "a mafia raj prevails in a state" it should not be taken as the failure of constitutional machinery. The breakdown of constitutional machinery may be acute or chronic. In an acute case the Governor can apply his own mental faculties to recommend President's rule immediately. But in a chronic case, he must explore all the possibilities of reviving constitutional machinery through the Cabinet. He must be answerable to the President regarding exploring other measures to revive constitutional machinery before recommending President's rule.

Secondly, a panel of experts drawn from retired personnel of the defence services, the judiciary and the bureaucracy and including media people and intellectuals should be made at the national level to weigh the recommendations of the Governor before sending it to the President on the use of Article 356.

Thirdly, the appointment of Governors must be made strictly according to the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.

Lastly, Article 356 must stay to save India from balkanisation. It can be amended or modified to meet the present-day needs. It is not the weapon which is bad, but the person behind it who uses it.

Palli Jhikki (Nawanshahr)


TRICKY SITUATION: It has been rightly observed that politicians cannot exercise restraint with regard to Article 356. They will always indulge in excesses in favour of their political agenda. The various political parties differ in their perception of the use of Article 356. Some of them wanted a threadbare debate to find a right answer. But some of the parties are totally against the discussion on the plea that the Constitution-makers had after much deliberation accepted the supremacy of Parliament. If the President of India and the apex court over-stepped their jurisdiction, the system would be harmed. A tricky situation indeed.



BASIC PROBLEM: The observation that the abrogation of Article 356 may not be desirable keeping in view the question of India’s integrity is quite valid. Therefore, the basic problem is how to prevent its misuse.

There are already so many arrangements to prevent its misuse, the biggest one being the power of the President to refer it back for reconsideration. Practically all the previous Presidents happened to be from the ruling party. Sadly enough, they preferred to oblige the ruling party for the imposition of President’s rule under Article 356. This has naturally created misgivings in the minds of the regional parties and the communists against this Article. Constitutional experts and well-meaning political leaders may find some more methods to minimise the misuse of this Article, but it would not be possible to put a fullstop to its misuse unless our politicians, including the President, rise above petty politics.


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Jiwan Singh Umranangal

The news of the passing away of Sardar Jiwan Singh Umranangal has given us a rude shock, for it was he who did his best to keep the light of sanity and communal amity shining in the darkest days of turmoil in Punjab. There is no greater tragedy than the loss of a son for aged parents. But he kept on fighting for a noble cause by defying all threats.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Sardar Umranangal for his invaluable contribution to the cause of peace and communal harmony and for enabling us all to lead a tension-free life once again.


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Tribune's website

I am a journalism student at American University, Washington DC, and am from India. Your website is excellent. I am very impressed. I have browsed through several sites of American newspapers, and yours is on a par with that of The Washington Post. Keep it up.

Washington DC


EXCELLENT PAPER: The Tribune is an excellent newspaper. It equals, if not exceeds, any good standard online publication in the world.


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50 years on indian independence

Road encroachments

Encroachments in the areas under the local self-governments have become very common. While selfish citizens encroach on the public land for their selfish ends, the authorities tend to maintain criminal silence to grind their axes. The main sufferers are the simple and silent citizens who do not have any approach to the thick-necked administrators or the proud political rulers. Resultantly, the roads are being narrowed, streets straightened and alleys and lanes carved for the convenience of the general public being closed.

The roofs of houses are purposely protruded to extend and pretend rightful possession of the roofed area. It appears there is no authority to check such rape, and if at all there is some such authority, the bureaucrats or political bosses are rendered ineffective by fair or foul means.

Will the authorities responsible for the implementation of relevant laws, rules and regulations get the affected areas surveyed in accordance with the maps and measurements of the respective corporations, committees and cantonments for the relief of the general public?

Ferozepore Cantt.

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