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Buddha nod to 356 with checks

New Delhi, May 13: The CPM-led Bengal government, long opposed to Article 356 that grants the Centre sweeping powers to dismiss state governments, now finds the provision acceptable.

“Yes, we were earlier against the emergency provisions which allowed the Centre to dismiss state governments, but now after the Union government has decided to accept most of the safeguards recommended in the Bommai case, we have changed our stand,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattarcharjee said. He was speaking after the standing committee meeting of the inter-state council this afternoon.

Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, has often called for imposition of President’s rule in Bengal on the ground of breakdown of law and order.

While there was consensus in today’s meeting on Article 356, there were differences between the Centre and the states on deployment of armed forces. The states argued that deployment should not take place without their “concurrence”. But the Union government was not ready for this. The matter will be taken up when the inter-state council meets again later in the year.

Deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani said there were calls to drop Article 356. But that would have been drastic and, instead, the government has been working at measures to ensure it is not misused.

The safeguards proposed are that Article 356 should be used as a last resort. Before any action is taken, a show cause notice has to be issued to the state and time given for a reply. But the Centre can make an exception if not taking immediate action would lead to disastrous consequences. Within two months of issuing the order to dismiss a government, the matter should be placed before Parliament for consideration.

In cases of constitutional breakdown, the Governor’s report must be a “speaking document”, which means it should have facts and figures to corroborate its views.

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