01 November, 2020

An Imperial Hangover

An Imperial Hangover

THE BJP and its allies tried to use Article 356 to grab power in Bihar, without fighting an election and having failed to win a no-confidence motion against the Rabri Devi government. The President disapproved. The Cabinet unanimously—but amidst dissension—accepted the President's verdict. Rumblings within the BJP and allied camps suggest all is not over. Following a similar refusal in 1997 in UP, the President had made it clear that impositions of President's Rule aren't there for the asking, but can—indeed, must—be vetted by the President. His decision imposes limits on the hitherto unlimited abuse of Article 356, and invites us to review the role of the indirectly-elected President as the 'conscience keeper' of the Constitution.

Article 356 is publicly notorious—well-known, but not understood. Part of the 'emergency' provisions of the Constitution, like all 'emergency' powers, it's extraordinary—only to be used in conditions of real and grave emergency. Our rulers seem to have forgotten this. Forgotten, too, is that it's an 'imperial'...



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