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When and Why is a State Assembly Dissolved

Posted by Admin on November 6, 2014 | Comment

Although the legislative assemblies complete their normal tenure as prescribed by the Indian Constitution, yet their dissolution at an earlier date is not uncommon. Recently, The Union Cabinet approved dissolution of the Delhi Assembly on the basis of the recommendation made by the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. Subsequently, President Pranab Mukherjee dissolved the Delhi Assembly.

Dissolution of State Assembly

There are several reasons for the dissolution of a state Assembly. Similarly, there are methods and processes to ensure that dissolution happens in a legally compliant manner.

Why is Legislative Assembly Dissolved?

As per the provisions of Article 356 of Indian Constitution, the state Assembly can be dissolved when any of the following factors prevent the state government from functioning as per the Constitution:

  1. When the state Assembly fails to form a government and elect a leader as Chief Minister
  2. Whenever there’s a breakdown of a coalition
  3. If Assembly elections are postponed for unavoidable reasons
  4. Insurgencies and internal subversions
  5. Prevention or facilitation of bifurcation of states

Delhi Assembly is the latest example wherein three main political parties couldn’t form a government, paving the way for fresh elections.

Dissolution of Legislative Assembly as per Indian Constitution 

According to Article 365, if a state government fails to exercise its executive powers in compliance with the directions given by the Union government, the responsibility shifts to the governor of the state to assess the situation and recommend the dissolution of state Assembly to the Union cabinet. This proclamation is made by the President only when the governor is convinced that the state cannot function in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Although the power of dissolution of state Assembly is vested with the Governor, yet such a power can be exercised only after both Houses of Parliament approve the decision. If the proclamation made by the President under Article 356 to dissolve the Assembly is approved by both the Houses within two months, the government does not revive on the expiry of period of dissolution.

Moreover, the declaration of dissolution by the President is judicially reviewable under Article 356. There’s scope for examining whether the Assembly was dissolved based on the Governor’s report or whether the report was relevant. Whenever there arises an element of doubt about the way the decision was taken, the responsibility shifts to the Union Government to prove that the report is relevant enough.

In fact, the Supreme Court or the High Court can nullify the decision “if it is found to be mala fide or based on wholly irrelevant or extraneous grounds.” In that case, the court has the power to “revive and reactivate the Legislative Assembly.” Hence, the power conferred upon the President is not absolute. The President not only has to be convinced himself, but should also have enough reasons ready with him to convince the judiciary.

Supreme Court Judgment on Dissolution of State Assemblies

Before 1994, there was widespread misgiving about the way state Assemblies used to be dissolved. Many were of the opinion that the Central government was giving more preference to its priorities than the constitutional crises. In a landmark judgment in 1994, the Supreme Court clarified the circumstances under which the state Assembly can be dissolved and laid down guidelines for the same. The judgment empowered the state governments to challenge the Centre if it feels that it has been removed without any justification. The apex court made it clear that a state Assembly can be dissolved only under justifying circumstances.