In present Indian Constitution, Article 355 makes an important provision. It casts a duty on the Union to protect States against external aggression and internal disturbance, and to ensure that the Government of every State is carried “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.

This article corresponds to Article 277-A of the Draft Constitution.

Explaining the purpose of the said article to the Constituent Assembly, Dr Ambedkar stated as follows:

“Some people might think that Article 277-A is merely a pious declaration, that it ought not to be there. The Drafting Committee has taken a different view and I would therefore like to explain why it is that the Drafting Committee feels that Article 277-A ought to be there. I think it is agreed that our Constitution, notwithstanding the many provisions which are contained in it whereby the Centre has been given powers to override the Provinces, nonetheless is a Federal Constitution and when we say that Constitution is a Federal Constitution, it means this, that the Provinces are as sovereign in their field which is left to them by the Constitution as the Centre is in the field which is assigned to it.

In other words, barring the provisions which permit the Centre to override any legislation that may be passed by the Provinces, the Provinces have a plenary authority to make any law for the peace, order and good government of that Province. Now, when once the Constitution makes the provinces sovereign and gives them plenary powers to make any law for the peace, order and good government of the province, really speaking, the intervention of the Centre or any other authority must be deemed to be barred, because that would be an invasion of the sovereign authority of the province.

That is a fundamental proposition which, I think, we must accept by reason of the fact that we have a Federal Constitution. That being so, if the Centre is to interfere in the administration of provincial affairs, as we propose to authorise the Centre by virtue of Articles 278 and 278-A, it must be by and under some obligation which the Constitution imposes upon the Centre. The invasion must not be an invasion which is wanton, arbitrary and unauthorised by law.

Therefore, in order to make it quite clear that Articles 278 and 278- A are not to be deemed as a wanton invasion by the Centre upon the authority of the province, we propose to introduce Article 277-A. As Members will see, Article 277-A says that it shall be the duty of the Union to protect every unit, and also to maintain the Constitution. So far as such obligation is concerned, it will be found that it is not our Constitution alone which is going to create this duty and this obligation. Similar clauses appear in the American Constitution.

They also occur in the Australian Constitution, where the constitution, in express terms, provides that it shall be the duty of the Central Government to protect the units or the States from external aggression or internal commotion. All that we propose to do is to add one more clause to the principle enunciated in the American and Australian Constitutions, namely, that it shall also be the duty of the Union to maintain the Constitution in the provinces as enacted by this law.

There is nothing new in this and as I said, in view of the fact that we are endowing the provinces with plenary powers and making them sovereign within their own field, it is necessary to provide that if any invasion of the provincial field is done by the Centre it is in virtue of this obligation. It will be an act in fulfilment of the duty and the obligation and it cannot be treated, so far as the Constitution is concerned, as a wanton, arbitrary, unauthorised act. That is the reason, why we have introduced Article 277A.”

(Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. IX, p. 133)