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Supreme Court (SC) on Governor’s power to review Bills

Published: 10th Nov, 2023

Supreme Court (SC) on Governor’s power to review Bills

Context:

The Supreme Court emphasized that Governors have limited power and should not compel state governments to pursue legal recourses.

Background:

  • Recently, after Kerala government has moved the Supreme Court against the governor, requesting the top court to declare Governor to exercise his constitutional powers and duties by keeping Bills passed by the legislature on hold for an indefinite period as a misdeed.

About Supreme Court’s View:

  • As per the apex court, the Governors must remember that they are not the elected representatives of states and have limited power over legislative actions of an elected government.

What are the legislative powers of Governor?

  • Article 163- The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and other Ministers
  • Article 164- Governor assents, withholds assent, or reserves the bill for the consideration of the President passed by the Legislative Assembly
  • Article 200- Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances
  • Article 213- Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances

What are the Friction Points in Governor-State Relations?

  • Governor is envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers. However, the Governor enjoys certain discretionary powers granted under the Constitution. For example:
  • Giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature,
  • Determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first to do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
  • There are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.
  • The Governor has a 5-year tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
  • In 2001, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution held that the Governor owes his appointment and his continuation to the Union.
  • There is the apprehension that he is likely to act in accordance with the instructions received from the Union Council of Ministers.
  • In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
  • The Governor sends a report to the centre which forms the basis of the Union cabinet’s recommendations to the President for invoking Article 356 (President’s Rule).

Steps taken to scrutinise Governor’s actions:

  • Changes regarding the Selection of Governors: The National Commission To Review the Working of the Constitution appointed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2000 suggested that the Governor of a State should be appointed by the President, after consultation with the Chief Minister of that State.
  • Proposal by Sarkaria Commission: The Sarkaria Commission, set up in 1983 to look into Centre-state relations, proposed that the Vice President of India and Speaker of Lok Sabha should be consulted by the Prime Minister in the selection of Governors.
  • Punchhi Committee Proposal: The Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi Committee, constituted in 2007 on Centre-state relations, proposed in its report that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Vice President, Speaker, and the concerned Chief Minister should choose the Governor.
  • The Punchhi Committee recommended deleting the “Doctrine of Pleasure” from the Constitution, but backed the right of the Governor to sanction the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government.
  • It also argued for a provision for impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature.

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