Case of the STATE OF RAJASTHAN & ORS  V.  UNION OF INDIA [1970] 2 SCR 522


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 The Indian Constitution   gives enormous power to the president to declare emergency in the state. One such emergency power is the State Emergency where the state legislature is dissolved and the Union Parliament gets the power govern over the state. The landmark judgement of State of Rajasthan vs UOI (1977) revolves around the justification for exercise of Article 356 by the President that is the declaration of state emergency where the Union Government are given wide powers to assert its authority over a state if any civil unrest occurs and the state government fails to fulfil its duties. There were 6 plaintiff states specifically the State of Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa who had filed suits in the court of Rajasthan against the Government declaring the letter of the Home Minister for State Emergency as ultra vires and illegal and prayed for an interim injunction to restrain the Central Government from applying State Emergency. Article 74, 163, 172, 174, 2561, 257 were all considered by the court while deciding the said case.


In the year 1977 the Lok Sabha elections were won by the Janata Party with overwhelming majority and overthrew the then ruling party Congress and took office in various states which included Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. On April 18 1977 the Home Minister sent letters to their respective State Governors to dissolve their State Legislature and establish state emergency over those States. In an interview held by All India Radio, the then law Minister stated that the dissolution was proposed for holding fresh election in those  nine  congress held states to clarify the fact that the congress enjoyed people’s confidence for which they were rejected in the Lok Sabha elections. 

The six plaintiff states approached the court for an interim order to restrain the ruling government from restoring to Art.356 of the Indian Constitution. Accordingly, a permanent injunction was passed to restrain the Central Government actions until the period of six years were over.


The submission made by the petitioner were:

That, the grounds for such dissolution mentioned in the letter is outside the purview of the Art.356 and such would lead to destruction of the federal character of the constitution.That, for the application of such dissolution it requires the Presidential action to be ratified by both the Houses of the Parliament.That, the proposed action of dissolution is mala fide and unconstitutional.

In response to such submission the respondent submitted the following:

That, the allegation made by the plaint doesn’t fall within the purview of Art.131 that is meant for the grievances of the State against the Union Government and were not related to the composition of the State Governments.That, the questions arising for existence of a situation calling for action as per Art. 356 are outside the sphere of justiciable matter therefore, they could not be indirectly assailed by challenging the process. That, the letter and words of the Law Minister did not indicate anything falling outside the sphere of article 356, therefore no cause of action is said to have arisen.  That, intimation of some facts do not justify a prohibition to act in future when the situation is grave, thus freedom of constitutional authority should not be impeded via judicial interference, except on grounds of grave and clear character.

 On considering the matter the court could not grant any anticipatory injunction or order and dismissed all the suits and the petition.


The legal issue challenged under this case related to article 131 and 356 that is if the advise made by the Ministers were questionable by the court and whether President’s action under article 356 could be challenged on valid reasons. The court considered two necessary ground for challenging the President’s action as per art. 356 . They are:

  1. Where such President’s satisfaction violated any provisions of the constitution and,
  2. Where such satisfaction is mala fide and is wholly based on the extraneous grounds.



The court dismissing the case held that matters related to dissolution, re election or retention of membership of the Legislature are matters of political expediency and such is not prohibited or considered as illegal by the constitution.   

The option between a dissolution and re-election or a retention of the same membership of the Legislature or the Government for a certain period could be matters of political expediency and strategy under a democratic system. Therefore matters embraced under article 356 that are of political matter cannot be interfered by court unless such shows that it has breached any constitutional provision. Art 74 disables the court from making any enquiring regarding the advise made by the minister to the president and art 356 stops court from questioning President’s satisfaction on any ground. The question od political expertise cannot be subject to judicial control and it will form the part of doctrine of separation of power under the supreme law.

The court referred H. H. Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalavaru v. State of Kerala, [1973] and said that Art 356 is aimed at giving protection against failure of constitutional mechanism of a state and to repair the defects of the mechanism. The provision of is wide and cannot be confined within one interpretation, and will not lie in the hands of the Supreme Court.

It was further held that there was no violation of the Fundamental rights of the petitioner under article 19(1)(f) and 31 as a consequence of threatened dissolution of the Legislative assembly. The writ petition was rejected by citing the case of King Emperor v. Benorilal Sarma and Ors. 72.


The supreme court clarified the scope of Art 356 and  situations when President’s question can be challenged and that advise made by the ministers is not questionable . The doctrine of separation of power was upheld and the court strived at leaving the executive have there own set of powers and limits in accordance to the supreme law. The court clarified the grounds when a person may question application of art 356 and 131 making it clear for the interpretation of the future references. 


To conclude the Indian constitution being the supreme law also provide for the separation of power of the executive from the judiciary and this judgment focused on judiciary having no right to question on matters that included political expertise or such article which prohibits the court to interfere or challenge. This landmark judgement is a judicial precedent for separation of power between the organs of the constitution and is a reference for future for clarifying when Art 356 can be challenged.






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