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  A case for invoking Article 356 in Bihar!  


By: Ganesh Sovani
December 09, 2004
(Writer is senior criminal lawyer from Thane, Maharashtra, India and he is also engaged in freelance writing for almost two decades having an authority on scores of issues. He can be contacted at

With every passing day, the situation in Bihar is shaping up from bad to worst. Hardly a day passes in an incident of kidnapping of some government official, or a businessman, or a doctor, or an important personality in the society does not take place. In fact, it has become an order of the day.

The state which is riddled with illiteracy and poverty has completely fallen in the hands of goons and private armies maintained by them. The failure of the public machinery is apparent almost in all parts of Bihar. Neither the police, nor the jail officials have control over the situation within the spheres of their jurisdictions. It is the likes of Pappu Yadavs, Shahabuddins, etc. who virtually run the parallel governments in their respective fiefdoms.  One wonders, whether any such ‘public machinery’, be it revenue and / or public exists in Bihar.  

On this background, the observations made by the division bench of Patna High Court while entertaining a PIL filed by the doctor’s association, assumes great significance. Given the scenario, the bench was compelled to issue notices to the state home secretary on Tuesday and seeking from him a report about the affairs of the state.  

The UPA government has found itself in a such predicament that it associated with a man, who himself is facing prosecution of several corruption cases and the one, who is primarily responsible for the complete mess in India’s one of the most backward and underdeveloped state.  

True to his style, Bihar supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav , is behaving in such a manner, that the state is his personal property. Though technically speaking his wife is the chief minister of the state, it is RJD chief who rules the roost.      

There is no denial of the fact that notwithstanding his ‘tainted image’ (of which he has no remorse at all) he holds terrific sway over the millions of illiterate subjects of the state. He is fully capitalizing their illiteracy to his own advantage to usurp the power, as he is aware that no amount of collation of the opposition parties in Bihar can keep him at bay.  

Although the BJP had a relatively better presence in Bihar in the past, however in the May 2004, Lok Sabha elections, it lost more than dozen seats in the state for various reasons. Party’s recent Patna rally held on the back drop of Ranchi conclave drew significant crowd, the BJP is unlikely to find any allay for the forthcoming assembly poll, unless it would harp on the realistic issues, rather than ‘Hindudtva’.  

Sonia Gandhi on her part, is fully exploiting Laloo’s repeated and deliberate diatribe against the BJP to suit her own ends, so that the BJP can be kept in check. Although the RJD being an allay, is an asset of the UPA at this juncture, the nose-diving law and order situation in Bihar, is bound turn it as a ‘liability’ sooner or later.      

Sadly, there does not exist any legal mechanism in our country, which can keep the persons like Laloo Prasad Yadav not only in check, but also away from the power. Regrettably, the media (more so the electronic one) is pampering him beyond the tolerable limits and is making mockery of itself.  

With the assembly polls just three months away in Bihar, the situation is bound to turn from bad to worst. As on the date, the situation is indeed conducive for invoking Article 356 of Constitution of India for the dismissal of the Rabri Devi government and for promulgating a Center’s rule in Bihar.  

A provision lies in the Para 1 of this Article, that the Center either on the receipt of a report from the Governor of the State or ‘otherwise, can invoke the promulgate Center’s rule  when the government of the State can not be carried on with the provision of the Constitution of India. Suffice to say that Center need not wait for the Governor’s report, as a word  ‘otherwise’ is already incorporated.   

When the Chief Justice of Patna high court, who has powers to administer an oath office and secrecy to the governor designate, himself opines (along with his pusine brother judge) that law and order situation in Bihar is completely broken down, the Center need not wait for Governor’s report. The High Court observations about the law and order in Bihar do have the same merits as that of governor’s report.     

The moot question is will Sonia dare to do so ? Though it’s answer at the moment is negative, given her complete dependency on Laloo Prasad Yadav for the survival of UPA government at Center, given the shape of things to turn up in future, she will have to think of some drastic measures including Article 356, not only in the interest of the country, but also in the interests of the people of Bihar as well.  

There is a limit, to which Laloo’s tantrums can be tolerated by Sonia. Should she dare to show him his ‘right’ place, she would be regarded as a ‘stateswoman’, like her mother-in-law. Or else, she will have to share the blame hobnobbing with one of the shameful characters of Indian politics in post – emergency era, for her own political survival.  It is a testing time  for Sonia Gandhi as well. 

Ganesh Sovani

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