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What is the doctrine of pleasure?

  • Published
    31st Oct, 2022

Recently, Kerala has seen debates over using the ‘Doctrine of Pleasure’ for appointment and dismissal of Vice-Chancellor of Universities by the Governor of the State as Chancellor of all the State Universities.

What is the Doctrine of Pleasure?

  • The pleasure doctrine is a concept derived from English common law, under which the crown can dispense with the services of anyone in its employ at any time.
  • In England, the moral rule is that a civil servant of the Crown holds office at the pleasure of the Crown. This means his services can be terminated at any time by the Crown, without assigning any reason.

Provisions in India for Appointment and dismissal of Civil servants:

  • In India, Article 310 of the Constitution says every person in the defence or civil service of the Union holds office during the pleasure of the President, and every member of the civil service in the States holds office during the pleasure of the Governor.
  • However, Article 311 imposes restrictions on the removal of a civil servant. It provides civil servants being given a reasonable opportunity for a hearing on the charges against them.
  • There is also a provision to dispense with the inquiry if it is not practicable to hold one, or if it is not expedient to do so in the interest of national security.
  • In practical terms, the pleasure of the President referred to here is that of the Union government, and the Governor’s pleasure is that of the State government.

What did the Supreme Court say about one Vice-Chancellor’s appointment?

  • Against the UGC norms: In a case challenging the appointment of M.S. Rajasree as V-C of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, the Supreme Court held that her appointment was contrary to the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • According to the Search Committee, they had identified only one candidate and recommended the name to the Chancellor for an appointment.
  • However, under UGC regulations, a panel of three to five names should be recommended so that the Chancellor has a number of options to choose from.
  • State Governments’ stand: The court rejected the State government’s argument that it had not specifically adopted the UGC regulations, holding that the regulations framed under a Central law will override the State government’s relevant rules.

Does Governor have Power to use this doctrine?

  • Under Article 164, the Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor; and the other Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the CM’s advice. It adds that Ministers hold office at the pleasure of the Governor.
  • In a constitutional scheme in which they are appointed solely on the CM’s advice, the ‘pleasure’ referred to is also taken to mean the right of the Chief Minister to dismiss a Minister and not that of the Governor.
  • In short, the Governor of an Indian State cannot remove a Minister on his own.
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