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Role of Governor and Need for Reform |

Role of Governor and Need for Reform

Context

∙ The Kerala government has filed an amended petition with the Supreme Court seeking directions for the Governor to clear pending bills immediately.

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∙ Kerala has also sought the intervention of the top court to interpret the phrase “as soon as possible” in the first proviso to Article 200 of the Constitution on the timeline applicable to the disposal of the Bills presented to the Governor

About Governor

∙ The Governor is the Executive Head of the State within the meaning of Article 153 and 154 of the Constitution of India.

∙ Article 153. The Governor : There shall be a Governor for each State. Provided that nothing in this Article shall preventthe appointment of the same person as Governor for two or more States.

∙ Article 154. Executive power of State : (1) The executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.

∙ Article 163: There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them at his discretion.

Powers related to passage of bill

∙ Article 200 of the Constitution lays down that when a Bill, passed by a State Legislature, is presented to the Governor for their assent, they have four alternatives —

∙ may give assent to the Bill;

∙ may withhold assent to the Bill, that is, reject the Bill in which case the Bill fails to become law;

∙ may return the Bill (if it is not a Money Bill) for reconsideration of the State Legislature; or

∙ may reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.

Emerging Issues

∙ In recent years, the bitterness between states and Governors has been largely about the selection of the party to form a government, deadline for proving majority, sitting on Bills, and passing negative remarks on the state administration.

∙ Ongoing proceedings before the Supreme Court raise concerns about the conduct of some Governors.

∙ Several States were facing the similar situation where the Governors were keeping the Bills pending for inordinate periods and without exercising the power under Article 200 of the Constitution, thus rendering the State Legislatures ineffective.

∙ There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.

∙ The frictions have become especially acute in several states over the last few years.

Observations of Court

∙ In judgement, Shamsher Singh vs State of Punjab (1974), the Supreme Court said that President and Governor shall “exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers save in a few well-known exceptional situations

∙ In NCT of Delhi v. Union of India (2018), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court emphasised the need to identify the “moral values of the Constitution” based on a notion of “constitutional culture”.

∙ It said that the “constitutional morality places responsibilities and duties on individuals who occupy constitutional institutions and offices”

∙ In Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2006), after finding that the Governor abused power in recommending Presidential rule in Bihar, the Supreme Court said that the motivated and whimsical conduct of the Governor is amenable to judicial review.

Commission reports

∙ The Sarkaria Commission Report (1988) highlighted that “some Governors have failed to display the qualities of impartiality and sagacity expected of them”.

∙ It recommended that respective chief ministers should be consulted before appointing a governor.

∙ In dealing with a State Bill presented to him under Article 200, the Governor should not act contrary to the advice of his Council of Ministers merely because, personally, he does not like the policy embodied in the Bill

∙ The Punchhi Commission (2010), had recommended that the Governor should take a decision with respect to a Bill presented for their assent within a period of six months.

Conclusion and Way Forward

∙ It is time to think about the behaviour of Governors in Opposition-ruled States.

∙ The Supreme Court must now come up with an authoritative decision so that uncooperative Governors do not use grey areas to their advantage.

∙ It must also be clarified whether ‘withholding assent’ is a final act of rejection of a Bill or it needs a follow-up action in the form of returning the Bill with a message for reconsideration by the House,∙ However, federalism is a basic feature of the Constitution and the Governor’s office should not undermine the powers of elected governments in the States

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