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Governors need to relook at their conduct

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on November 10, 2023 with No Comments

The Supreme Court of India had to express concern over Governors of various states refraining from acting on bills passed by their respective State Assemblies, and only acting when the Supreme Court intervenes.  A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra urged Governors to address bills before they reach the Supreme Court. The bench was hearing a plea by the State of Punjab challenging the delay by Governor Banwarilal Purohit in giving assent to the bills passed by the State assemblies or proposed to be tabled by them. This is the second time, the State of Punjab approached the top court in India, and got the favourable response once again.

The CJI also noted that the Punjab Legislative Assembly was adjourned sine die on March 22, 2023 without being prorouged and was reconvened three months later. He questioned whether this was Constitutional and remarked that the Chief Minister and Governor of Punjab required some “soul searching”.  “Governor must know that he is not an elected representative. He can withhold assent and sent it back once,” the Court stated.

The situation is no different in other states, The Kerala government has moved the Supreme Court claiming that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan was delaying giving his assent to bills passed by the state assembly, which was “defeating the rights of the people”.  Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi has a running feud with the DMK government led by M K Stalin. Tamil Nadu government urged the top court to intervene, alleging that a constitutional authority was consistently acting in an unconstitutional manner impeding and obstructing” the functioning of the state government for extraneous reasons.  In Tamil Nadu three bills have remained pending with the governor for more than two years, and three more in excess of a full year.  In August in a major escalation of the tussle with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Governor Banwarilal Purohit warned that he could recommend President’s rule in the state and also initiate criminal proceedings if his letters are not answered.  Recently, three money bills, which were proposed to be presented by the AAP government in a special session of the state assembly, were sent to the governor for prior approval but gubernatorial consent was withheld, where the governor was sitting on bills. However, as the Punjab Government made it clear that it would approach the Supreme Court,  Punjab Governor Purohit granted assent to 22 of the 27 Bills passed by the state assembly, where as earlier he had  called the sessions as illegal, and he only choose to grant ascent to three money bills when the case was registered in Supreme Court.

The observations by Supreme Court are dominant. As the conduct of the governors in the non BJP states , as would presently be demonstrated, threatens to defeat and subvert the very fundamentals and basic foundations of our Constitution, including the rule of law and democratic good governance, apart from defeating the rights of the people of the state to the welfare measures sought to be implemented through the bills.

By withholding the consent of the elected representatives, the Governors are doing grave injustice to the people of the states, by keeping bills pending for long periods of time, including three bills for longer than two years. Additionally, it also defeats the rights of the people of the State under Article 21 of the Constitution, by denying them the benefits of welfare legislation enacted by the state assembly.

Constitution  of India clearly defines the role of governors in the federal scheme, including their discretionary powers. In recent times, however, governors, especially in states with governments led by parties opposed to the BJP, seem to be invoking their discretionary powers leading to confrontation with the elected governments. In the last few months, the governments of Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, besides Punjab, have been in the SC seeking directives from their respective governors. This situation, of the SC having to arbitrate between the government and the governor, is disconcerting and shows the institutions concerned in a poor light.











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