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State emergency

A state of emergency in India refers to a period of governance that can be proclaimed by the President of India during certain crisis situations. Under the advice of the cabinet of ministers, the President can overrule many provisions of the Constitution, which guarantees Fundamental Rights to the citizens of India.

State emergency, also known as President’s rule, is declared due to breakdown of Constitutional machinery in a state.

If the President is satisfied, on the basis of the report of the Governor of the concerned state or from other sources that the governance in a state cannot be carried out according to the provisions in the Constitution, he/she can declare a state of emergency in the state. Such an emergency must be approved by the Parliament within a period of two months.

Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, it can be imposed from six months to a maximum period of three years with repeated parliamentary approval every six months. If the emergency needs to be extended for more than three years, this can be achieved by a Constitutional amendment, as has happened in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

During such an emergency, the President can take over the entire work of the executive, and the Governor administers the state in the name of the President. The Legislative Assembly can be dissolved or may remain in suspended animation. The Parliament makes laws on the 66 subjects of the state list (see National emergency for explanation). All money bills have to be referred to the Parliament for approval.

A State Emergency can be imposed via the following:

  1. By Article 356 - If that state failed to run constitutionally i.e. constitutional machinery has failed
  2. By Article 355 - If that state is not working according to the given direction of the Union Government.

This type of emergency needs the approval of the parliament within 2 months. This type of emergency can last up to a maximum of three years via extensions after each 6 month period. However, after one year it can be extended only if

  1. A state of National Emergency has been declared in the country or in the particular state.
  2. The Election Commission finds it difficult to organise an election in that state.

On 19 January 2009, President’s rule was imposed on the Indian State of Jharkhand, making it the latest state where this kind of emergency has been imposed.

Effects of State Emergency

An emergency under Article 356 can have the following effects:

  1. the President can assume to himself all or any of the functions of the government of the state other than the High Court,
  2. declare that the powers of the legislature of the state shall be exercisable by or under the authority of the Parliament, and
  3. make provisions necessary for giving effect to the objects of the proclamation.

The president is not authorised to assume the powers of the High Courts or to suspend any constitutional provisions pertaining to it.