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February 24, 2024by canonsphere0

This case analysis is written by Sohini Chakraborty, a 3rd year law student of Amity University, Kolkata. 

CITATION: 1994 AIR 1918, 1994 SCC (3) 1

COURT JUDGES: Pandian, S.R. (J), Ahmadi, A.M. (J) (J), Verma, J.S. (J) Sawant, P.B., Ramaswamy, K. & Agrawal, S.C. (J), Yogeshwar Dayal Reddy, B.P. (J)






A pivotal moment in Indian constitutional history, SR Bommai v. Union of India case, arose against the backdrop of political unrest in the state of Karnataka in the late 1980s. The contentious imposition of the President’s Rule, which is contained in Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, was at the center of the issue. S.R. Bommai, the then-chief minister of Karnataka, protested the national government’s plan to overthrow the elected state legislature and impose direct authority from the center, which was headed by Prime Minister V.P. Singh. The case raised important issues regarding the legality of state government dismissals and the degree to which such decisions were susceptible to judicial review. Federalism was confirmed by the Supreme Court in its historic decision from 1994, which also set significant precedents. It concluded that dismissals of state governments pursuant to Article 356 could be susceptible to judicial review, highlighting the requirement that such decisions be supported by legitimate and impartial grounds as opposed to political factors. The Bommai case also pioneered the essential idea of a floor test in the state legislative assembly to ascertain the level of support a government has received. The relevance of elected state governments in India’s federal structure has been highlighted by this case, which has subsequently provided essential protection against the arbitrary use of Article 356. 


  • The main question in the case was whether the central government had abused its power under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, which allows the President to oust a state government and establish President’s Rule in the state.
  • The question of whether judicial review was available for the use of the authority granted by Article 356 was another critical one.
  • Does the president’s rule over the six states have constitutional standing?


  • The petitioners contended that the installation of the President’s Rule lacked the constitutionally required foundation of legitimate grounds and was politically motivated.
  • The national administration, led by Prime Minister V.P. Singh, was accused of abusing Article 356 of the Indian Constitution in order to depose the elected state government of Karnataka.
  • They argued that the decision was taken without sufficient evidence of a “failure of constitutional machinery” in the state.
  • The petitioners argued that the state legislative assembly was the proper venue to ascertain the level of support the government had from the people.
  • It was argued that the central government’s dismissal of the state government was not made in good faith or in a bona fide way but rather was motivated by political factors and the intention to topple the state administration.


  • The central government said that it had learned from reliable sources that the assembly’s majority support for the Bommai-led administration had been lost.
  • The respondents contended that imposing the President’s Rule was done as a preventative and precautionary measure to uphold law and order and guarantee the efficient operation of the state government.
  • The central government emphasized that the authority granted to it by Article 356 to impose the President’s Rule was an optional power. They argued that the court shouldn’t become involved in decisions that are made by the executive branch.
  • The validity of the floor test used in the Karnataka legislative assembly to demonstrate the majority of the government was disputed by the responses. They maintained that the procedure was defective and did not fairly represent the assembly’s actual makeup.
  • The central government contested the court’s authority to consider whether the President’s Rule was properly imposed. They presented the case that the judiciary shouldn’t review judgments made by the executive part of the government.


The Supreme Court of India’s decision in the S.R. Bommai v. Union of India case, handed down by a nine-judge panel in 1994, established crucial guidelines for the removal of state governments in accordance with Article 356 of the Indian Constitution.

The President’s Rule’s (Article 356) installation is open to judicial scrutiny, according to the Supreme Court. It reaffirmed the court’s right to assess whether the central government’s dismissal of a state government was lawful.

According to the court, the authority to impose the President’s Rule must only be used in extreme cases and should be supported by “cogent material” and “objective material.” The court emphasized that the constitutional machinery’s failure should be genuine and not used as a cover for pursuing political objectives. The ruling emphasized that when appointing a state administration, the federal government must do so in a bona fide (good faith) way. It shouldn’t take action for political reasons or to overthrow an elected government in order to advance its own interests.

The judgment made it clear what the Governor’s responsibility was in suggesting the President’s Rule be implemented. It made clear that the Governor shouldn’t represent the national government and that the recommendation should be supported by factual evidence. The question of repayment for dismissed governments was raised in court. It was decided that if a state government was removed from office in violation of the constitution, it should be reinstated and the removed Chief Minister should be given the opportunity to demonstrate his or her majority in the legislature.

The floor test was recognized by the court as a legitimate way to determine whether a government has the support of a majority in a fair and legal manner. The ruling acknowledged some judicial review limitations, notably when it came to issues involving the President’s and the central government’s use of discretion, while still upholding the court’s authority to examine the dismissal of state governments.

The SR Bommai case, which put a stop to the arbitrary use of Article 356 and emphasized the federalist principles and the autonomy of state governments, has since come to be recognized as a seminal decision in Indian constitutional law. The interaction between India’s national and state governments has been permanently impacted.


The SR Bommai case, in sum, serves as a shining example of constitutionalism, democracy, and federalism. It clarified the boundaries of Article 356 and established clear restrictions on its application, reinforcing the judiciary’s position as the watchdog over constitutional principles. The judgment serves as a shining example of the judiciary’s dedication to defending the rule of law and preserving the delicate balance of power between the center and the states, so preserving the core of Indian democracy.

Due process and democratic principles were strengthened by the judgment’s emphasis on a legitimate exercise of power and the establishment of the floor test as a method of determining a government’s support from the majority of people. It emphasized that the removal of elected state governments should be a last-resort decision made based on impartial standards rather than personal agendas. The SR Bommai case also emphasized the significance of state autonomy and the vitality of elected state governments within the Indian federal system. The judgment acted as a barrier against excessive meddling in state matters by highlighting the importance of elected representatives and their responsibility to the people.

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