Legal experts appear to be divided on the issue of constitutional propriety of Maharashtra Governor B K Koshyari's decision to recommend President's rule in the state.
Following Koshyari's report to the Centre and the Union cabinet's recommendation, President's rule was imposed in the state on Tuesday amid the impasse over government formation since the last month's elections.
Constitutional expert Ulhas Bapat termed the decision as potentially unconstitutional.
"This President's rule can be interpreted as unconstitutional because Maharashtra governor has given the BJP two days (to indicate willingness to form government), but he gave only 24 hours to the other two parties. It looks like a biased approach," he said.
Senior lawyer Shrihari Aney, former advocate general of Maharashtra, however, said the Governor must have recommended President's rule after being "reasonably satisfied" that none of the parties could form a stable government.
Aney pointed out that all the political parties had the time to cobble together the numbers to prove majority and stake claim to form government since October 24, when the election results were announced.
"It would be ridiculous to say that the parties were not serious about forming the government till the governor called upon them to do so," Aney told PTI.
Bapat termed President's rule as a "medicine", to be used only during emergency when all other options are exhausted.
"There are four major political parties in the state, but the governor invited only three of them (leaving out the Congress) and went ahead to propose President's rule. I think this will be a major argument in the Supreme Court if the governor's action is challenged," he said.
Bapat also opined that the governor should have given two days' time to the Shiv Sena and NCP, as given to the BJP.
Aney, however, said once the governor was "reasonably satisfied" that none of the parties can form a stable and viable government, he can recommend President's rule.
"In any case, all the parties still have the time to stake claim to form government. All they have to do is cobble up their numbers. Hence the question of 'this party got more time than that' does not arise," the senior advocate said.
A party cannot say that President's rule is unconstitutional only on the ground that it was not given enough time to form government, he added.
"There is no requirement that the governor must give each party a specific amount of time (to stake claim)," Aney said.
Senior lawyer Milind Sathe, who has appeared for the state government in several matters including the Maratha reservation issue, said a President's rule normally lasts only for six months.
"Extension, if any, is given only in exceptional circumstances," Sathe told PTI.
President Ram Nath Kovind signed a proclamation imposing President's rule in Maharashtra under Article 356(1) on Tuesday and the Assembly was kept in suspended animation.
After the BJP declined to form the government and the Shiv Sena, the second largest party, failed to get letters of support from the NCP and Congress, Koshyari on Monday night asked the NCP to express its "ability and willingness" to stake claim to form government by 8.30 pm on Tuesday.
However, the Governor, is his report submitted on Tuesday noon, noted that the NCP on Tuesday morning conveyed to him that the party needed three more days to gather requisite support.
In the polls, BJP won 105 seats, followed by the Shiv Sena (56), NCP (54) and Congress (48) in the 288-member House. The BJP and Shiv Sena alliance got a comfortable majority but the two parted ways over sharing of power.