Role of Governor
2023 NOV 13
Polity > State Legislature > Governor
The Supreme Court laid down that a Governor cannot sit on key Bills passed by a State Legislature after casting doubts on the validity of the Assembly session in which the proposed laws were passed with an overwhelming majority by the elected representatives of the people.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR
- Articles 153 to 167 in Part VI of the Constitution deal with the state executive. The state executive consists of the Governor, the Chief Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the Advocate General of the state.
- The office of Governor was borrowed from the Government of India Act of 1935.
- The office of Governor has a dual role:
- The Governor is the chief executive head of the state. But, like the president, he is a nominal executive head (titular or constitutional head).
- The Governor also acts as an agent of the central government.
ROLE OF GOVERNOR
- Constitutional Head of the State: They represent the central government and are responsible for upholding the Constitution in the state.
- Appointment of Chief Minister: The Governor has the responsibility to appoint the Chief Minister and, on their advice, the other members of the Council of Ministers.
- Discretionary Powers: includes matters like sending a report to the President recommending the President's Rule in the state. (Article 356)
- Legislative Powers: The Governor summons, prorogues, and can dissolve the state legislature. They also have the power to give assent to bills passed by the legislature, withhold it, or send it for the President's consideration.(Article 200)
- Fiscal Responsibilities: The Governor ensures that the budget is presented in the state assembly and has the power to sanction money for advance expenditures.
- Ceremonial Functions: The Governor performs various ceremonial duties like hosting and receiving state guests, presiding over important state functions, and representing the state on ceremonial occasions.
- Pardoning Powers: Similar to the President at the central level, the Governor has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of punishment in certain cases.(Article 161)
- Promotion of Culture and Education: As the Chancellor of state universities, the Governor plays an important role in promoting education and culture in the state.
ISSUES WITH THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR
- Politically motivated appointment:
- The post has also been reduced to become a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day which questions the impartiality and non-partisanship of the post.
- Violation of conventions:
- The convention of consulting the Chief Minister while appointing the Governor is not followed in most cases.
- Removal of Governors:
- There are no written grounds or procedures regarding the removal of Governors. Hence in several cases, the governors were removed on whimsical grounds.
- Ex: After the general elections of 2014, which saw a change in the central government, there were reports of several Governors appointed by the previous government being asked to resign. (India Today)
- Indirect control by Union Government:
- The President works on aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President. In effect, the office of the Governor is under the control of the ruling government at the centre.
- Ex: In January 2023, the Governor refused to read some parts of the Governor’s address at the beginning of the session of the TN Assembly.
- Misuse of discretionary powers:
- The governor’s discretionary powers to invite the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government has often been misused to favour a particular political party.
- The Governor also makes appointments to several posts in consultation with the executive. However, on several occasions, the Governor has been criticized for making appointments without consulting the state government.
- Misuse of Article 174 to deny requests by Chief Ministers to summon assembly.
- Recommendation for President’s rule:
- The Governor has discretionary powers regarding recommending for President’s rule under Article 356. However, despite judicial guidelines in S.R Bommai case, this provision is abused by political parties in power at centre to dismiss governments in state governed by parties in opposition.
- Functioning as an agent of political party:
- Governors are not shy of revealing their partisan preference. For instance, in recent times Governors have exhorted voters to vote for particular party.
- Ex: The Governor of Rajasthan has been charged with the violation of the model code of conduct.
- Consideration of bills:
- Pocket veto:
- As the constitution makes no mention of a timeframe for taking decision, governors sometimes withhold bills without giving assent or returning the Bills, thereby keeping state bills in limbo.
- Reservation of bills:
- As per Article 200, Governor has discretionary power to reserve any bill for President’s signature. But they often take months to reserve the Bills for the assent of the President.
- Interferences in day-to-day administration
- The constitution empowers the governor to ask for information on administrative matters from the chief minister. However, this has left the door open for the Governor’s intervention in day-to-day state politics, like in West Bengal.
SUPREME COURT DIRECTIONS ON THE ISSUE
S.R. Bommai case
Based on the report of the Sarkaria Commission, the Supreme Court in Bommai case enlisted the situations where the exercise of power under Article 356 could be proper or improper.
- Hung Assembly
- Majority Party Declines to Form Government:
- Ministry Resigns After Defeat in the Assembly.
- Disregard of Central Government's Directions:
- The government acts against the Constitution or incites violent revolt.
- The government neglects its constitutional duties, compromising state security.
- The governor recommends the President's Rule without seeking alternative government options.
- The governor suggests the President's Rule without an assembly majority test.
- The ruling state party loses significantly in Lok Sabha elections.
Nabam Rebia judgment (2016):
- Supreme Court in this case ruled that the exercise of Governor’s discretion under Article 163 is limited.
- His choice of action should not be arbitrary or fanciful. It must be a choice dictated by reason, actuated by good faith and tempered by caution.
Government of NCT Delhi vs Union of India (2018):
- It held that every trivial difference of opinion between the LG and the NCT government cannot be referred to the President for a decision.
- Even in case of differences of opinion, the LG and the NCT government should act with constitutional morality and trust for each other.
- Select Governors based on eminence, from outside the state, detached from local politics, and with minimal recent political activity.
- No Post-Retirement Office:
- Stable Tenure
- Sparing Use of Article 356
- Confidentiality with Chief Minister: Involve the Chief Minister in confidential reports unless there are serious reasons not to.
- Fixed Tenure
- Apply a President-like impeachment procedure to Governors.
- Time-Bound Decision on Bills
- Limit the Governor's role to constitutional provisions, removing additional positions like university chancellors.
- Follow specific guidelines in appointing a Chief Minister in a hung assembly situation.
- Experienced Public Figures as Governors
- No Reappointment of Governor
- No Judges as Governors
- Consultation with Chief Minister before appointing Governors.
- Establish guidelines for the Governor's discretionary powers through the Inter-State Council.
- Amendment of Article 155: Involve a high powered committee to appoint Governors.
- Treat pre-poll alliances or coalitions as a single party for constitutional purposes.
The role of the Governor in India is pivotal for upholding federal balance, yet it is often challenged by issues of politicization and partiality. Implementing reforms to ensure neutrality and transparent functioning is essential for strengthening democratic governance.
Q: Governors delaying their assent to the state bills is in direct contradiction to the idea of Cooperative Federalism. Comment. (15marks, 250 words)