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18th March 2024 (11 Topics)

Kerala to challenge Presidential Assent Withholding

Context

Kerala will soon challenge the legality of President Droupadi Murmu withholding her assent for the Bills that were passed by the Kerala Legislature before the Supreme Court. The President had withheld assent to Kerala University Laws Bill 2022, University Law Amendment Bill, 2022, and the University Law Amendment Bill, 2021 from the seven Bills that were referred to her.

1: Dimension-Significance of the move

  • The problem of delay in according assent to Bills passed by the legislature is a burning issue that confronts Indian polity.
  • The unusual move of the Kerala Government will open doors for a Constitutional debate on the scope of a judicial review of the decisions of the President of India.
  • The State would contend that the legality of the President’s decisions and the factors that influenced it can be judicially reviewed.
  • The State plans to bring up the issue before the Supreme Court. The state would argue:
    • Governor should not have referred the Bills to the President as its subject matters were confined to the State List of the Constitution where the State has powers to legislate.
    • None of the Bills were in conflict with any Central legislation.
    • The Bills did not belong to the special categories for which prior Presidential assent was required, sources pointed out.

2: Dimension-Impact of the Delay

  • Political implications: The object of every legislation is public good, which is defeated by delay. Delay may also have political implications for the party in power in the State.
  • Unfulfilled objectives: By such delay, fulfilment of laudable objectives sought to be achieved by the legislation gets delayed or even be defeated.
  • Affected Centre-State Relations: The Union is not affected by such delay or inaction. It is the interests of the State that are jeopardized. Centre-State relations may also be adversely affected.

Fact Box: Assent to the Bill

  • When a Bill passed by both Houses of the Legislature is presented to the Governor for his assent, he is empowered under Article 200 of the Constitution to exercise any of four alternatives —
    • to give assent
    • withhold assent
    • return the Bill to the Legislative Assembly for reconsideration
    • reserve it for the consideration of the President
  • The President may either give or withhold his assent to a Money Bill. A Money Bill cannot be returned to the House by the President for reconsideration.
  • Also, the President is bound to give his assent to Constitution Amendment Bill passed by Parliament by the prescribed special majority and, where necessary, ratified by the requisite number of State Legislatures.
  • However, no timeline has been outlined for the President to decide on the outcome of a Bill. There is, however, a time period of six months prescribed for the State Assembly to reconsider a Bill if the President decides to refer it back to the House.
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