As the longstanding unrest in Manipur continues to create chaos, it has been revealed that Article 355 of the Indian constitution had been imposed in the state since May 2023.
The very important piece of information was made public by MPCC (Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee) President K Meghachandra, while responding to the media after an all political party meeting with Chief Minister N Biren Singh at his secretariat office on Sunday.
Sources suggest that the meeting was conducted as 10 political parties of the state raised their concern about finding a solution in the Manipur issue as soon as possible.
Article 355 of the Indian Constitution, which is considered as a step below the president’s rule, grants the Union the authority to take control over the state’s law and order enforcement without suspending the state government.
The article covers rare conditions such as ‘external aggression’ and ‘internal disturbance’.
As Chief Minister Biren Singh revealed that Article 355 has been in effect in the state since the clashes broke out in May, the allegations and doubts raised by the opposition as well as the general public about the union’s control over the state government and forces have come to an end.
At the same time, leaders of all the major political parties from the opposition criticised both the Union and the state government for hiding this from the people.
The all-party meeting was attended by Works Minister Govindas Konthoujam; Education Minister Th Basanta Kumar; Relief and Disaster Management Minister Awangbow Newmai; Lilong MLA Abdul Nasir; Moirang MLA Th Shanti; Congress leader O Ibobi; MPCC vice president Hareswar Goswami and representatives of 10 political parties.
There had been indications from an elected MLA and the state head of police that Article 355 had been imposed in Manipur from May.
But in August last year, while replying to a Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by Karnataka High Court advocate Ajay Kumar, the Union Home Ministry categorically denied the claim stating that it had no information on any notification issued under Article 355 of the Constitution between January 2023 and June 13, 2023.
Moreover, no formal order had been issued by the Union government to invoke the constitutional provision.
The lack of a well published legal notification in the imposition has drawn several suspicions and many consider it “unlawful”.
Article 355 in part XVIII of the Indian constitution contains emergency provisions that empower the Union government to declare a state of emergency (through Article 352) or, in other cases, President’s Rule in a particular state of the Union (through Article 356), under extremely rare conditions.
It was inserted in September 1949 to provide a preventive measure to avoid unnecessary application of Article 356, since the imposition of President’s Rule dissolving the state government is considered to be an extreme situation.
On the contrary, article 355 has always been misused, and never in Indian history has it been imposed on a state without Article 356 following the imposition.