India’s federal character


S.R. BOMMAI, 1994 SOLI SORABJEE on the verdict that curtailed the abuse of article 356

FORMER Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee laments the fact that emergency provisions, considered a “dead letter” by the founding fathers of the Constitution, later emerged as a challenge to the Indian Constitution’s federal structure and Centre-State relations. “The SupremeCourtstruckdownthe notion that Presidential proclamation was an absolute power by ruling that a government had to sternly adhere to Constitutionalrequirement” the senior counsel says.

“Whims went away after this decision. The scope of judicial review pitched in along with upholding the federal structure,” Sorabjee says. Sorabjee adds that the Supreme Court made it clear that it could review the matter when there were dangers to the basic structure of the Constitution, while simultaneously holding that the federal character of the Constitution was part of the `basic structure’. A man with diverse interests, heisa Jazza ficionado. Two of India’s leading lawyers–Solicitor General Gopal SubramanianandHarishSalve–werehisjuniors. Hischildren reflect his own personality. At a time when most lawyers install their wards as successors, of Sorabjee’s three children, one is a Mumbai-baseddoctor,the other an automobileexpert, and the third a corporate lawyer.


S.R. Bommai v. Union of India was decided by a 9-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 1994.


The Presidential Proclamation issued under Article 356(1) was not immune from judicial scrutiny. The judgment laid down the parameters for judicial review of the exercise of article 356, dramatically reducing its misuse.


This decision the misuse of article 356 against `unfriendly’ states. But perhaps the diktats of coalition politics have proved to be a stronger restraint


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