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President's Rule is Subjected to Some Restrictions

SR Bommai v. Union of India

CITATION- AIR 1994 SC 1918, 1994 SCC (3) 1

Date of Judgement- 11.03.1994

BENCH- S.R. Pandian, A.M. Ahmadi, Kuldip Singh, J.S. Verma, P.B. Sawant, K. Ramaswamy, S.C. Agrawal, Yogeshwar Dayal Reddy, and B.P. Jeevan Reddy, JJ.


SR Bommai was the Karnataka Chief Minister from August 1988 till April 1989. He administered a Janata Dal government, which was terminated on 21st April 1989 when President’s Rule (Article 356) was levied in Karnataka.

  • In that period, imposing Article 356 on states ruled by the opposition parties (to the one at the centre) was a communal exercise.

  • In this specific case, the Bommai-led administration was sacked on the grounds that he had lost his mainstream for several defections (that were politically driven and master-intent).

  • Though Bommai dispensed the Governor P Venkatasubbaiah with a copy of the resolution passed by the Janata Dal Party, he has turned down an opportunity to his majority in the house.

  • Bommai first went to the Karnataka High Court contrary to the Governor’s decision. However, his writ petition was dismissed by the High Court.

  • Then, Bommai moved to the Supreme Court of India.

  • In March 1994, a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court presented the landmark judgment, which would go on to become one of the most widely cited one with respect to Article 356 and its erratic use by the Central government.


The Governor of Karnataka had received nineteen letters from the council of ministers stating that they are going to withdraw the support from the ruling party and due to the lack of majority support, Governor had forwarded a report to the president about the glance of Council Of Ministers from the party in the ruling.

The Governor detailed in the statement that the present Chief Minister Mr S.R. Bommai is futile to call in for the majority of assembly and thus the president’s rule should be levied in the State under Article 356(1) of the Constitution of India.

The very subsequent day of sending the report, seven out of the nineteen ministers grumbled about the falsification in their corresponding letters and Hence Mr S.R. Bommai, the Chief Minister and the Law Minister visited to call the assembly same day in order to prove the Majority of his government in the assembly.

The report of the same was forwarded to the President But again on the same day, the President received another report from the Governor which states that Mr S.R. Bommai, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka has lost his assurance of Majority and has requested the president to declare the emergency in the state under Article 356. On the basis of this report, the president announced an emergency.

A writ petition was filed stimulating the validity of the declaration in the special 3 judges’ bench of Karnataka High Court but it was dismissed and Thus he preferred this plea. Similar interrogation of law arose in the case of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh and hence all the petitions were heard conjointly by the 9 judges’ bench of the Supreme Court.


  1. The Hon’ble court apprehended that the power of the president to declare the emergency in a state i.e. the presidential rule is subject to some restrictions and it should be on the source of the report and opinion of the governor and not in the sole approval.

  2. The Hon’ble court also held that the court owns the power to Judicial review of the declaration and it is found to be deceptive, the court can trap down the proclamation even if it has received the consensus of both the houses.

  3. The Hon’ble court critically examined three broad issues i.e. the nature of Federalism, Secularism, and the proclamation being under the space of judicial review.

  4. The case of S.R. Bommai V. Union of India is no doubt a very big change in the Constitution of India but it has left out a lot of predicament and has not convincingly established the matter. Hon’ble judges have pronounced 6 different judgments and there is no single judgment that indicated the ratio of majority and minority in any part.

  5. This left many of the points in dilemma and there are many points like the authenticity of the Sarkaria Commission’s report which left in between and no minority or majority has been made. At least all the judgments distinct should have been compiled in a single order indicating the majority and the minority.


Tanya Shrotriya is a student of Law College Dehradun.

You can contact them at tshrotriya@gmail.com

Edited by: Arushi Gupta

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