IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
(C) NO.257 OF 2005
Rameshwar Prasad & Ors.
Union of India & Anr.
[With W.P. (C) No.255 of 2005, W.P. (C) No.258 of 2005 and W.P.(C) No.353 of 2005]
J U D G M E N T
Y.K. Sabharwal, CJI.
The challenge in these petitions is to the constitutional validity of Notification
dated 23rd May, 2005 ordering dissolution of the Legislative Assembly of the
State of Bihar. It is a unique case. Earlier cases that came up before this Court were
those where the dissolutions of Assemblies were ordered on the ground that the parties in
power had lost the confidence of the House. The present case is of its own kind where
before even the first meeting of the Legislative Assembly, its dissolution has been
ordered on the ground that attempts are being made to cobble a majority by illegal means
and lay claim to form the Government in the State and if these attempts continue, it would
amount to tampering with constitutional provisions.
One of the questions of far reaching consequence that arises is whether the dissolution
of Assembly under Article 356(1) of the Constitution of India can be ordered to prevent
the staking of claim by a political party on the ground that the majority has been
obtained by illegal means. We would first note the circumstances which led to the issue of
Factual BackgroundElection to the State of Bihar was notified by the Election Commission on 17th
December, 2004. Polling for the said elections were held in three phases, i.e., 3rd February,
2005, 5th February, 2005 and 13th February, 2005. Counting of votes
took place on 27th February, 2005. Results of the said elections were declared
by the Election Commission. On 4th March, 2005, Notification was issued by the
Election Commission in pursuance of Section 73 of Representation of People Act, 1951 (for
short the RP Act, 1951) duly notifying the names of the members elected for
all the constituencies along with party affiliation.
Bihar Legislative Assembly comprises of 243 members and to secure an absolute majority
support of 122 Members of Legislative Assembly (in short MLAs), is required.
National Democratic Alliance (for short NDA), a political coalition of parties
comprising of the Bharatiya Janata Party (for short BJP) and the Janata Dal
(for short JD(U)) was the largest pre-poll combination having the support
of 92 MLAs. The party-wise strength in the Assembly was as under:
||Bahujan Samaj Party
Report dated 6th March, 2005 was sent by the Governor to the President,
recommending newly constituted Assembly to be kept in suspended animation for the present.
It reads as under:
"Respected Rashtrapati Jee,
The present Bihar Legislative Assembly has come to an end on March,
2005. The Election Commissions notification with reference to the recent elections
in regard to constitution of the new Assembly issued the vide No. 308/B.R.-L.A./2005 dated
March 2005 and 464/Bihar-LA/2005, dated the 4th March, 2005 is enclosed
2. Based on the results that have come up, the following is the
The R.J.D. and its alliance position is as follows:
|C.P.I (support letter not recd.)
The N.D.A. alliance position is as follows:
3. The present C.M., Bihar, Smt. Rabri Devi met me on 28.2.2005 and submitted her
resignation along with her Council of Ministers. I have accepted the same and asked her to
continue till an alternative arrangement is made.
4. A delegation of members of LJP met me in the afternoon of 28.2.2005 and they
submitted a letter (Annexure II) signed by Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, President of the Party,
stating therein that they will neither support the RJD nor the BJP in the formation of
Government. The State President of Congress Party, Shri Ram Jatan Sinha, also met in the
evening of 28.2.2005.
5. The State President of BJP, Shri Gopal Narayan Singh along with supporters met me on
1.3.2005. They have submitted a letter (Annexure III) stating that apart from combined
alliance strength of 92 (BJP & JD(U) they have support of another 10 to 12
Independents. The request in the letter is not to allow the RJD to form a Government.
6. Shri Dadan Singh, State President of Samajwadi Party, has sent a letter (Annexure
IV) indicating their decision not to support the RJD or NDA in the formation of the Govt.
He also met me on 2.3.2005.
7. Shri Ram Naresh Ram, Leader of the CPI (ML-Lib.), Legislature Party along with 4
others met me and submitted a letter (AnnexureV) that they would not support any group in
the formation of Government.
8. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, National President of LJP, along with 15 others met me and
submitted another letter (Annexure VI). They have reiterated their earlier stand.
9. The RJD met me on 5.3.2005 in the forenoon and they staked claim to form a
Government indicating the support from the following parties :
(Copy enclosed as
The RJD with the above will have only 91.
They have further claimed that some of the Independent members may support the RJD.
However, it has not been disclosed as to the number of Independent MLAs from whom they
expect support nor their names.
Even if we assume the entire Independents totalling 17 to extend support to RJD
alliance, which has a combined strength of 91, the total would be 108, which is still
short of the minimum requirement of 122 in a House of 243.
10. The NDA delegation led by Shri Sushil Kumar Modi, MP, met me in the evening of
5.3.2005. They have not submitted any further letter. However, they stated that apart from
their preelection alliance of 92, another 10 Independents will also support them and they
further stated that they would be submitting letters separately. This has not been
received so far. Even assuming that they have support of 10 Independents, their strength
will be only 102, which is short of the minimum requirement of 122.
11. Six Independent MLAs met me on 5.3.2005 and submitted a letter in which they have
claimed that they may be called to form a Government and they will be able to get support
of others (Annexure VIII). They have not submitted any authorization letter supporting
12. I have also consulted the Legal experts and the case laws particularly the case
reported in AIR 1994 SC 1918 where the Supreme Court in para 365 of the report summarised
the conclusion. The relevant part is para 2, i.e., the recommendation of the Sarkaria
Commission do merit serious consideration at the hands of all concerned. Sarkaria
Commission in its report has said that Governor while going through the process of
selection should select a leader who in his judgment is most likely to command a majority
in the Assembly. The Book "Constitution of India" written by Shri V.N. Shukla
(10th edition) while dealing with Article 75 and Article 164 of the
Constitution of India has dealt with this subject wherein it has quoted the manner of
selection by the Governor in the following words :
"In normal circumstances the Governor need have no doubt as to who is the proper
person to be appointed; it is leader of majority party in the Legislative Assembly, but
circumstances can arise when it may be doubtful who that leader is and the Governor may
have to exercise his personal judgment in selecting the C.M. Under the Constitutional
scheme which envisages that a person who enjoys the confidence of the Legislature should
alone be appointed as C.M."
In Bommais case referred to above in para 153, S.C. has stated
with regard to the position where, I quote :
"After the General Elections held, no political party or coalition of parties or
group is able to secure absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly and despite the
Governors exploring the alternatives, the situation has arisen in which no political
party is able to form stable Government, it would be case of completely demonstrable
inability of any political party to form a stable Government commanding the confidence of
the majority members of the Legislature. It would be a case of failure of constitutional
13. I explored all possibilities and from the facts stated above, I am fully satisfied
that no political party or coalition of parties or groups is able to substantiate a claim
of majority in the Legislative Assembly, and having explored the alternatives with all the
political parties and groups and Independents MLAs, a situation has emerged in which no
political party or groups appears to be able to form a Government commanding a majority in
the House. Thus, it is a case of complete inability of any political party to form a
stable Government commanding the confidence of the majority members. This is a case of
failure of constitutional machinery.
14. I, as Governor of Bihar, am not able to form a popular Government in Bihar, because
of the situation created by the election results mentioned above.
15. I, therefore, recommend that the present newly constituted Assembly be kept in
suspended animation for the present, and the President of India is requested to take such
appropriate action/decision, as required."
Since no political party was in a position to form a Government, a notification was
issued on March, 2005 under Article 356 of the Constitution imposing Presidents rule
over the State of Bihar and the Assembly was kept in suspended animation. Another
notification of the same date was also issued, inter alia, stating that the powers
exercisable by the President shall, subject to the superintendence, direction and control
of the President be exercisable also by the Governor of Bihar.
The object of the proclamation imposing Presidents rule was to give time and
space to the political process to explore the possibility of forming a majority Government
in the State through a process of political realignment as is reflected in the speech of
Home Minister Shri Shivraj V. Patil in the Rajya Sabha on 21st March, 2005 when
the Bihar Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2005 was discussed. The Home Minister said
. But, I would like to make one point very clear. We are not very happy to
impose Presidents Rule on the State of Bihar. Let there be no doubt in the minds of any Members of the House; we are not
happy. After the elections we would have been happy if Government would have been formed
by the elected representatives. That was not possible and that is why, Presidents
Rule was imposed. But we cannot take pleasure in saying "Look we did this". We
are not happy about it. I would ensure that the Presidents Rule is not continued for
a long time. The sooner it disappear, the better it would be for Bihar, for democracy and
for the system we are following in our country. But, who is to take steps in this regard?
It is the elected representatives who have to take steps in this respect. The Governor can
and, I would like to request in this House that elected representatives should talk to
each other and create a situation in which it becomes possible for them to form a
Government. Even if it is minority Government with a slight margin, there is no
The Home Minister gave a solemn assurance to the nation that the imposition of
Presidents rule was temporary and transient and was intended to explore the
possibility of forming a popular Government.
According to the petitioners, process of realignment of forces was set in motion and
several political parties and independent MLAs re-considered their position in terms of
their commitment to provide a majority Government in deference to the popular wishes of
the people and announced support to the NDA led by Shri Nitish Kumar. First such
announcement was made by the entire group of 17 independent MLAs on 8th April,
2005. The signed declaration was released by these MLAs to the media. With the support of
17 independent MLAs the support base of the NDA rose to 109 MLAs. Later on, it rose to 115
MLAs with the declaration of support by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party
(BSP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Governor of Bihar sent a report on 27th April, 2005 to the President of
India, inter alia, stating that the newspaper reports and other reports gathered through
meeting with various party functionaries/leaders and also intelligence reports received,
indicated a trend to gain over elected representatives of the people and various elements
within the party and also outside the party being approached through various allurements
like money, caste, posts etc., which was a disturbing feature. According to the said
report, the situation was fast approaching a scenario wherein if the trend is not arrested
immediately the consequent political instability will further give rise to horse trading
being practiced by various political parties/groups trying to allure elected MLAs. That it
would not be possible to contain the situation without giving the people another
opportunity to give their mandate through a fresh poll. The report is reproduced below in
"Respected Rashtrapati Jee,
I invite a reference to my D.O. No.33/GB dated the March, 2005 through which a detailed
analysis of the results of the Assembly elections were made and a recommendation was also
made to keep the newly constituted Assembly (constituted vide Election Commissions
notification No.308/BR-L.A./2005 dated the 4th March, 2005 and
464/Bihar-LA/2005, dated the
4th March, 2005) in a suspended animation and also to issue appropriate
direction/decision. In the light of the same, the President was pleased to issue a
proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution of India vide notification NO.G.S.R.
162(E), dated 7th March, 2005, and the proclamation has been approved and
assented by the Parliament.
2. As none of the parties either individually or with the then pre-election combination
or with post-election alliance combination could stake a claim to form a popular
Government wherein they could claim a support of a simple majority of 122 in a House of
243, I had no alternative but to send the above mentioned report with the said
3. I am given to understand that serious attempts are being made by JDU and BJP to
cobble a majority and lay claim to form the Government in the State. Contacts in JD-U and
BJP have informed that 16-17 LJP MLAs have been won over by various means and attempt is
being made to win over others. The JD-U is also targetting Congress for creating a split.
It is felt in JD-U circle that in case LJP does not split then it can still form the
Government with the support of Independent, NCP, BSP and SP MLAs and two-third of Congress
MLAs after it splits from the main Congress party. The JD-U and BJP MLAs are quite
convinced that by the end of this month or latest by the first week of May JD-U will be in
a position to form the Government. The high pressure moves of JD-U/BJP is also affecting
the RJD MLAs who have become restive. According to a report there is a lot of pressure by
the RJD MLAs on Lalu Pd. Yadav to either form the Government in Bihar on UPA pattern in
the centre, with the support of Congress, LJP and others or he should at least ensure the
continuance of Presidents rule in the State.
4. The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution has also noticed
that the reasons for increasing instability of elected Governments was attributable to
unprincipled and opportunistic political realignment from time to time. A reasonable
degree of stability of Government and a strong Government is important. It has also
noticed that the changing alignment of the members of political parties so openly really
makes a mockery of our democracy.
Under the Constitutional Scheme a political party goes before the electorate with a
particular programme and it sets up candidates at the election on the basis of such
programmes. The 10th Schedule of the Constitution was introduced on the premise
that political propriety and morality demands that if such persons after the elections
changes his affiliation, that should be discouraged. This is on the basis that the loyalty
to a party is a norm, being based on shared beliefs. A divided party is looked on with
suspicion by the electorate.
5. Newspaper reports in the recent time and other reports gathered through meeting with
various party functionaries/leaders and also intelligence reports received by me, indicate
a trend to gain over elected representatives of the people and various elements within the
party and also outside the party being approached through various allurements like money,
caste, posts etc., which is a disturbing feature. This would affect the constitutional
provisions and safeguards built therein. Any such move may also distort the verdict of the
people as shown by results of the recent elections. If these attempts are allowed to
continue then it would be amounting to tampering with constitutional provisions.
6. Keeping in view the above mentioned circumstances the present situation is fast
approaching a scenario wherein if the trend is not arrested immediately, the consequent
political instability will further give rise to horse trading being practiced by various
political parties/groups trying to allure elected MLAs. Consequently it may not be
possible to contain the situation without giving the people another opportunity to give
their mandate through a fresh poll.
7. I am submitting these facts before the Honble President for taking such action
as deemed appropriate."
According to the petitioners, Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) had contested elections on the
plank of opposing the then Government led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which again is a
constituent of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the Centre. It had a strength of 29
MLAs in the new assembly. The leader of LJP Shri Ram Vilas Paswan had taken the stand that
he was opposed to RJD as well as NDA led by the BJP. MLAs belonging to LJP were in a
rebellious mood. About 22 MLAs belonging to the LJP assembled on or around 21st May,
2005 and started working towards a major political realignment in the stand of the said
party. According to them, 22 LJP members of the Legislative wing supported by members of
the original political party reached a consensus subsequently to merge their party with
the JD (U). That, with this the repolarisation of political forces was complete. According
to them the proposed merger between two political formations was in consonance with the
principles enumerated in para 4 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution. It provides
that on a merger of the political party, all the members of the new political party with
which the merger has taken place if and only if not less than two-third of the members of
the said party have agreed to the said merger. It is their allegation that in order to
thwart the formation of a Government led by JD(U) the Governor of Bihar sent another
report from its Camp Office in Delhi on 21st May, 2005 to the President of
India. It was reiterated in the report that from the information gathered through reports
from media, meeting with various political functionaries, as also intelligence reports, a
trend was indicated to win over elected representatives of the people. In his view a
situation had arisen in the State wherein it would be desirable in the interest of State
that assembly which has been kept in suspended animation be dissolved so that the
people/electorate could be provided with one more opportunity to seek the mandate of the
people at an appropriate time to be decided in due course. The report dated 21st May,
2005 is reproduced in its entirety as follows :
"Respected Rashtrapati Jee,
I invite a reference to my D.O. letter No.52/GB dated 27th April, 2005
through which I had given a detailed account of the attempts made by some of the parties
notably the JD-U and BJP to cobble a majority and lay a claim to form a Government in the
State. I had informed that around 16-17 MLAs belonging to LJP were being wooed by various
means so that a split could be effected in the LJP. Attention was also drawn to the fact
that the RJD MLAs had also become restive in the light of the above moves made by the
As you are aware after the Assembly Elections in February this year, none of the
political parties either individually or with the then pre-election combination or with
post-election alliance combination could stake a claim to form a popular Government since
they could not claim a support of a simple majority of 122 in a House of 243 and hence the
President was pleased to issue a proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution vide
notification No. GSR 162 (E) dated 7th March, 2005 and the
Assembly was kept in suspended animation.
The reports received by me in the recent past through the media and also through
meeting with various political functionaries, as also intelligence reports, indicate a
trend to win over elected representatives of the people. Report has also been received of
one of the LJP MLA, who is General Secretary of the party having resigned today and also
17-18 more perhaps are moving towards the JD-U clearly indicating that various allurements
have been offered which is very disturbing and alarming feature. Any move by the break
away faction to align with any other party to cobble a majority and stake claim to form a
Government would positively affect the Constitutional provisions and safeguards built
therein and distort the verdict of the people as shown by the results in the recent
Elections. If these attempts are allowed it would be amounting to tampering with
Keeping the above mentioned circumstances, I am of the considered view that if the
trend is not arrested immediately, it may not be possible to contain the situation. Hence
in my view a situation has arisen in the State wherein it would be desirable in the
interest of the State that the Assembly presently kept in suspended animation is
dissolved, so that the people/electorate can be provided with one more opportunity to seek
the mandate of the people at an appropriate time to be decided in due course."
The report of the Governor was received by Union of India on 22nd May, 2005
and on the same day, the Union cabinet met at about 11.00 P.M. and decided to accept the
report of the Governor and sent the fax message to the President of India, who had already
left for Moscow, recommending the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar. This
message was received by the President of India at his Camp office in Moscow at 0152 hrs.
(IST). President of India accorded his approval and sent the same through the fax message
which was received at 0350 hrs. (IST) on 23rd May, 2005. After due process the
notification was issued formally at 1430 hrs. (IST) on 23rd May, 2005
dissolving the Bihar Assembly which has been impugned in these writ petitions.
Challenging proclamation dated 23rd May, 2005 issued under Article 356 of
the Constitution ordering dissolution of Bihar Legislative Assembly, petitioners have also
prayed for restoration of Election Commission notification dated 4th May, 2005
issued under Section 73 of the RP Act of 1951.
According to the petitioners, the condition precedent for dissolving the assembly is
that there must be satisfaction of the President that a situation has arisen in which the
Government of a State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the
Constitution. That this satisfaction has to be based on cogent material. Power of
dissolution cannot be used to prevent the staking of claim for the formation of a
Government by a political party with support of others. That the assembly was placed under
suspended animation with the intention of providing time and space to political parties to
explore the possibility of providing a majority Government in the State. No sooner the
process of realignment was complete ensuring that the NDA led by Shri Nitish Kumar had the
support of over 135 MLAs, report was sent by the Governor. The midnight meeting of the
Cabinet was hurriedly called in order to prevent the formation of a Government. It was
incumbent upon the Governor to make a meaningful and real effort for securing the
possibility of a majority Government in the State. According to them the intention of the
Governor was to prevent the formation of a Government led by Shri Nitish Kumar. That there
was no material available or in existence to indicate that any political defection was
being attempted through the use of money or muscle power. In the absence of any such
material the exercise of power under Article 356 was a clear fraud on the exercise of
That allegations in the Governors report of horse trading was factually incorrect
and fictional. It was incumbent upon the Governor to verify the facts personally from the
MLAs. That under the scheme of the Constitution the decision with regard to mergers and
disqualifications on the ground of defection or horse trading is vested in the Speaker.
The Governor could not have attempted to act on that basis and arrogated to himself such
an authority. Relying heavily on the Nine Judge Bench judgment of this Court in S.R.Bommai
& Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. [(1994) 3 SCC 1], it was contended that
action of the Governor is mala fide in law; irrational, without any cogent material to
support the conclusion arrived at and is based on mere ipse dixit and, thus, was not
sustainable in law. It was contended that in exercise of judicial review this Court should
quash the impugned notification and as a consequence restore the legislative assembly
constituted by the Election Commission notification dated 4th March, 2005.
Mr.Soli Sorabjee led the arguments in support of the challenge to the validity of the
impugned notification contending that the dissolution of the Assembly when examined in the
light of law laid down in Bommais case (supra) is clearly
unconstitutional and deserves to be set aside and the status quo ante at least as on 7th
March, 2005 may be directed.
Mr.Viplav Sharma, advocate, appearing in person in writ petition No.258 of 2005
adopting the arguments of Mr.Sorabjee further contended that before even elected
candidates making and subscribing oath or affirmation, as contemplated by Article 188 of
the Constitution, even the Assembly could not be placed under suspended animation and
status quo as on the date of issue of notification under Section 73 of the RP Act of 1951
deserves to be directed.
Mr. Narasimha, appearing in Writ Petition (C) No.353 for the petitioner, also adopted
the arguments of Mr.Sorabjee but at the same time further contended that it is not legally
permissible to order the dissolution of Assembly before its meeting even once and the MLAs
being administered the oath as contemplated by the Constitution. This was also the
submission of Mr. Viplav Sharma. Arguments on behalf of respondent Union of India
were led by learned Attorney General, Mr. Milon Banerjee, followed by learned Solicitor
Additional Solicitor General, Mr. Gulam Vahanavati and Mr. Gopal Subramaniam
respectively. Mr. P.P. Rao, learned senior advocate argued for State of Bihar. We place on
record our appreciation for excellent and very able assistance rendered by all the
After hearing arguments on the question of the Governor not being answerable to any
Court in view of immunity granted by Article 361(1) of the Constitution, we accepted the
submission of the Government in terms of our order dated 8th September, 2005
that notice may not be issued to the Governor, giving brief reason in order to be followed
by detailed reasons later. The said order reads as under :
"On the question whether the Governor could be impleaded in his capacity as the
Governor and whether notice could be issued to him on the writ petitions in the context of
averments made and the prayers contained in the petitions and other aspects highlighted in
the order dated 31st August, 2005, we have heard Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee, learned
senior counsel appearing in Writ Petition (C) No.257 of 2005, and Mr. Viplav Sharma,
petitioner-in-person in Writ Petition (C) No.258 of 2005. We have also heard the
submissions made by Mr. Milon K. Banerji, Attorney General for India, and Mr. Gopal
Subramaniam, learned Additional Solicitor General.
The Constitution of India grants immunity to the Governor as provided in Article 361.
Article 361(1), inter alia, provides that the Governor shall not be answerable to any
court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any
act done or purporting to be done by him in exercise and performance of those powers and
duties. It is submitted by learned Attorney General and Additional Solicitor General that
in view of Article 361(1), this Court may not issue notice to the Governor. While we
accept the submission but, at the same time, it is also necessary to note that the
immunity granted to the Governor does not affect the power of the Court to judicially
scrutinize the attack made to the proclamation issued under Article 356(1) of the
Constitution of India on the ground of mala fides or it being ultra vires. It would be for
the Government to satisfy the court and adequately meet such ground of challenge. A mala
fide act is wholly outside the scope of the power and has no existence in the eyes of law.
Even, the expression "purporting to be done" in Article 361 does not cover acts
which are mala fide or ultra vires and, thus, the Government supporting the proclamation
under Article 356(1) shall have to meet the challenge. The immunity granted under Article
361 does not mean that in the absence of Governor, the ground of mala fides or
proclamation being ultra vires would not be examined by the Court. At this stage, we have
not examined the question whether the exercise of power by the Governor was mala fide or
ultra vires or not. That is a question still to be argued.
These are our brief reasons. We will give detailed reason later."
Under the aforesaid factual background, the points that fall for our determination are
(1) Is it permissible to dissolve the Legislative Assembly under Article 174(2)(b) of
the Constitution without its first meeting taking place?
(2) Whether the proclamation dated 23rd May, 2005 dissolving the Assembly of Bihar is
illegal and unconstitutional?
(3) If the answer to the aforesaid question is in affirmative, is it necessary to
direct status quo ante as on 7th March, 2005 or 4th March, 2005?
(4) What is the scope of Article 361 granting immunity to the Governor?
After hearing elaborate arguments, by a brief order dated 7th October, 2005,
the notification dated 23rd May, 2005 was held to be unconstitutional but
having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, relief directing status quo ante
to restore the Legislative Assembly as it stood on 7th March, 2005, was
declined. The Order dated 7th October reads as under :
"The General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar were held in the month
of February 2005. The Election Commission of India, in pursuance of Section 73 of the
Representation of the People Act, 1951 in terms of Notification dated 4th March,
2005 notified the names of the elected members.
As no party or coalition of the parties was in a position to secure 122 seats so as to
have majority in the Assembly, the Governor of Bihar made a report dated March, 2005 to
the President of India, whereupon in terms of Notification G.S.R.162(E) dated March,
2005, issued in exercise of powers under Article 356 of the Constitution of India, the
State was brought under Presidents Rule and the Assembly was kept in suspended
animation. By another Notification G.S.R.163(E) of the same date, 7th March,
2005, it was notified that all powers which have been assumed by the President of India,
shall, subject to the superintendence direction and control of the President, be
exercisable also by the Governor of the State. The Home Minister in a speech made on 21st
March, 2005 when the Bihar Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2005 was being
discussed in the Rajya Sabha said that the Government was not happy to impose
Presidents Rule in Bihar and would have been happy if Government would have been
formed by the elected representatives after the election. That was, however, not possible
and, therefore, Presidents Rule was imposed. It was also said that the Government
would not like to see that Presidents Rule is continued for a long time but it is
for elected representatives to take steps in this respect; the Governor can ask them and
request them and he would also request that the elected representatives should talk to
each other and create a situation in which it becomes possible for them to form a
Government. The Presidential Proclamation dated 7th March, 2005 was approved by
the Lok Sabha at its sitting held on 19th March, 2005 and Rajya Sabha at its
sitting held on 21st March, 2005.
The Governor of Bihar made two reports to the President of India, one dated 27th April,
2005 and the other dated 21st May, 2005. On consideration of these reports,
Notification dated 23rd May, 2005 was issued in exercise of the powers
conferred by sub-clause (b) of Clause (2) of Article 174 of the Constitution, read with
clause (a) of the Notification G.S.R.162(E) dated March, 2005 issued under Article 356 of
the Constitution and the Legislative Assembly of the State of Bihar was dissolved with
These writ petitions have been filed challenging constitutional validity of the
aforesaid Proclamation dated 23rd May, 2005. Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee, Senior
Advocate and Mr. P.S. Narasimha, Advocate and Mr. Viplav Sharma, advocate
appearing-in-person have made elaborate submissions in support of the challenge to the
impugned action of dismissing the assembly.
On the other hand, Mr. Milon K. Banerjee, Attorney-General for India, Mr. Goolam E.
Vahanavati, Solicitor General and Mr. Gopal Subramaniam, Additional Solicitor General
appearing for Union of India and Mr. P.P. Rao, Senior Advocate appearing for the State of
Bihar also made elaborate submissions supporting the impugned Proclamation dated 23rd
Many intricate and important questions of law having far reaching impact have been
addressed from both sides. After the conclusion of the hearing of oral arguments, written
submissions have also been filed by learned counsel.
Fresh elections in State of Bihar have been notified. As per press note dated 3rd September,
2005 issued by Election Commission of India, the schedule for general elections to the
Legislative Assembly of Bihar has been announced. According to it, the polling is to take
place in four phases commencing from 18th October, 2005 and ending with the
fourth phase voting on 19th November, 2005. As per the said press note, the
date of Notification for first and second phase of poll was 23rd September and
28th September, 2005, date of poll being 18th October, 2005 and th
October, 2005 respectively. Notifications for third and fourth phases of poll are to
be issued on 19th and 26th October, 2005 respectively.
Keeping in view the questions involved, the pronouncement of judgment with detailed
reasons is likely to take some time and, therefore, at this stage, we are pronouncing this
brief order as the order of the court to be followed by detailed reasons later.
Accordingly, as per majority opinion, this court orders as under:
1. The Proclamation dated 23rd May, 2005 dissolving the Legislative Assembly
of the State of Bihar is unconstitutional.
2. Despite unconstitutionality of the impugned Proclamation, but having regard to the
facts and circumstances of the case, the present is not a case where in exercise of
discretionary jurisdiction the status quo ante deserves to be ordered to restore the
Legislative Assembly as it stood on the date of Proclamation dated 7th March,
2005 whereunder it was kept under suspended animation."
Dissenting Judgment: Justice K.G. Balakrishnan
Minority Judgment: Justice Arijit Pasayat