Governors: India

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Tenure of Governors

The Times of India

The maximum tenure of Delhi LG, or for that matter any governor or lieutenant governor, is not defined under the Constitution. A home ministry source said, “The tenure of Delhi LG has not been laid down and, as per conventionpractice, is at discretion of the President.“

Though the terms of past LGs of Delhi have ranged from three months to over six years, as many as 14 of the total 18 had a tenure short of three years

Assembly sessions: The Convening of

The legal position

Dhananjay Mahapatra, SC rulings don’t give guv much say in convening House meets, July 26, 2020: The Times of India

Nabam Rebia Verdict Defines Guv’s Powers

New Delhi:

As Rajasthan Congress MLAs demand summoning of the state assembly, a reading of the Supreme Court’s rulings do not leave much scope for the governor to exercise his discretion once the state cabinet has recommended convening of a session.

Questions whether the governor, in exercise of his powers under Article 174, could defy or delay advice of the Ashok Gehlot government are answered by the view that this can be done only when the government’s majority is in doubt.

With Congress disinclined to engage in further legal battles after failing to gain any favourable decision either from the Rajasthan HC or the SC, the spotlight is on Raj Bhavan.

Article 174 of the Constitution says, “The governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the legislature of the state to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.” Does this mean the governor has discretion to summon the House as per his assessment, disregarding the advice of the council of ministers headed by the CM? A five-judge bench of the SC in Nabam Rebia judgment (July 2016) scrutinised the provision in the draft constitution and its final version as Article 174 and ruled, “We are satisfied in concluding that the governor can summon, prorogue and dissolve the House only on the aid and advice of the council of ministers with CM as the head. And not on his own”.

The bench said, “We are of the view that in ordinary circumstances during the period when the CM and his council of ministers enjoy the confidence of the majority of the House, the power vested with the governor must be exercised in consonance with the aid and advice of CM and his council of ministers.”In the above situation, he is precluded from taking an individual call on the issue at his own will, or in his own discretion.

“In a situation where the governor has reasons to believe that CM and his council of ministers have lost the confidence of the House, it is open to the governor to require the CM and his council of ministers to prove their majority in the House, by a floor test. Only in a situation where the government in power on the holding of such a floor test is seen to have lost the confidence of the majority would it be open to the governor to exercise the powers vested with him under Article 174 at his own.”

Does the Rajasthan governor think that Gehlot government has lost its majority and he is not bound by its advice to summon the House as advised? Even then, the governor has to instruct the CM to prove his majority on the floor of the House and there are numerous SC judgments which bar the governor from taking a decision in Raj Bhavan on whether a government enjoys the confidence of the House or not. The SC has repeatedly ruled that test of strength has to be on the floor of the House.

Legal experts on the Rajasthan case, 2020

Can guv sit on govt’s advice to convene assembly? Legal experts are divided, July 26, 2020: The Times of India

New Delhi:

As Rajasthan governor Kalraj Mishra takes his time over accepting the Ashok Gehlot government’s recommendation to convene an assembly session for a floor test, some legal experts hold he has little discretion in the matter while others feel the proceedings in the Supreme Court and disqualification proceedings against Congress rebels are a factor.

Arghya Sengupta of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy felt the governor’s options are limited. “It is a well-settled position of constitutional law that the governor or President is bound by the aid and advice of the chief minister or Prime Minister. In fact, the Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia’s case from Arunachal Pradesh authoritatively clarified that unilateral actions of the governor in summoning the assembly are generally impermissible. The narrow exception is when the chief minister and his council of ministers are conflicted in providing independent and impartial advice,” he said.

Sengupta said in this light, for any governor to “unilaterally summon or refuse to summon the assembly may be seen as a serious breach of constitutional law and convention”.

Raising questions on the state government’s desire to convene the session immediately, senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said there is no obstruction to the state government to function. “Matter (regarding the Speaker’s powers) is pending in courts and the Supreme Court will take up the case on Monday. No one has asked the government to prove the majority and so there is no need as such for a session. It is being demanded just to throw out ruling party MLAs who are opposing the chief minister,” he said.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, however, said there is an SC Constitution bench verdict as per which the governor has no choice but to follow the advice of the cabinet. He said the governor has discretionary power only when he thinks that the government has lost majority. “It is not the case that the present government has lost majority asthe rebel MLAs themselves say that they are very much part of Congress,” Singh said.

Supporting Singh’s opinion, senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta questioned the role of governors in political crisis and termed it “duplicity of the constitutional functionary”. He said that the SC in the Rebia case laid down that the governor required to act on aid and advice of the cabinet particularly on summoning the House. “The issue of Covid is a complete hogwash. It is not the business of a governor to be worried about that. No such issue was raised in Madhya Pradesh when the majority was with BJP. Unfortunately the law laid down by the SC is treated just as as interesting read in law journal by constitutional functionaries,” he said.

Former Jharkhand high court judge Ajit Sinha said there is no doubt that a governor under normal circumstances is bound by the advice of the cabinet but the situation is Rajasthan is not so and the Raj Bbhavan should wait for outcome of proceedings pending in the SC and the HC. “Some of the Congress MLAs have shown annoyance to the CM. Can it amount to defection? The questions framed by the Rajasthan HC are very relevant and important and those issues should be first adjudicated,” he said.

Bills passed by the assembly: give assent or return/ SC

Dhananjay Mahapatra, April 25, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi: At a time when states governed by opposition parties are protesting governors’ inaction on bills passed by the assembly, the Supreme Court on Monday reminded the state constitutional heads to bear in mind that Article 200 of the Constitution mandates them to either give assent or return bills “as soon as possible”. 

Although the SC did not, as demanded by Telangana, set a timeline to clear or return the bills, the bench’s “as soon as possible” reminder was recorded as an order by a bench of CJI DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha.

The bench was dealing with a petition filed by the Telangana government, which had complained about governor Tamilisai Soundarajan sitting for long on 10 bills passed by the assembly. However, solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that no bills were pending with the governor.

The bench referred to the first proviso of Article 200 and said the expression “as soon as possible” had a significance which should be borne in mind by the constitutional authorities, indicating the governors were unaware of it or were deliberately not heeding it.

Determining majority

Governor can seek floor test even if session on: SC

MLAs’ flexible support to own party a sordid tale of political life: SC, April 14, 2020: The Times of India

Guv can seek floor test even if session on: SC in MP case

The Supreme Court endorsed Madhya Pradesh governor Lalji Tandon’s direction to the Kamal Nath government to face a floor test on March 16 following the resignation of 22 Congress MLAs and ruled that a governor had the power to direct a floor test even during an ongoing session.

However, it added that the governor’s decision was liable to judicial scrutiny.

Rejecting arguments of senior advocates A M Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha and Dushyant Dave who appeared for Congress, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said, “A governor is not denuded of the power to order a floor test where on the basis of the material available (to the governor) it becomes evident that the issue as to whether the government commands the confidence of the House requires to be assessed on the basis of a floor test."

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Chandrachud sounded a caution, “Undoubtedly, the purpose of entrusting such a function to the governor is not to destabilise an existing government. When the satisfaction on the basis of which the governor has ordered a floor test is called into question, the decision of the governor is not immune from judicial review.” The SC said the governor had neither interfered in the House proceedings nor impinged upon the Speaker’s powers.

MLAs’ flexible support to own party a sordid tale of political life: SC

The SC said the “sordid tale of political life”, exemplified by the toppling of state governments by MLAs of the party in office and the spectacle of “rebel MLAs being flown to safe destinations”, were denting “democratic politics”. It suggested legislative measures to curb these evils, reports Dhananjay Mahapatra. Upholding MP governor Lalji Tandon’s decision asking the Kamal Nath-led Congress government to face a floor test following resignation 22 MLAs, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said, “The spectacle of rival parties whisking away their political flock to safe destinations does little credit to the state of our democratic politics.” However, the SC said it was best for the courts not to enter the political thicket and determine why loyalties were switched, which was best left to the conscience of rebel MLAS.

Chancellors of universities

SC: Governors can independently appoint VCs, state can’t interfere

SC: Guv as chancellor can independently appoint VCs, state can’t interfere

New Delhi : The Supreme Court ruled that governors as chancellors of universities are to act independent of state governments for appointment of vicechancellors and quashed Kannur University VC’s reappointment, terming it as ‘unwarranted interference” by the Kerala government — a verdict which also underscored the autonomous powers conferred on the governor to conduct the affairs of a university as the chancellor, reports Dhananjay Mahapatra. 
Abench of CJI D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra quashed the reappointment of G Ravindran as VC of Kannur University in 2021 after it found that the state had overreached its powers to reappoint its nominee even when the governor had set in motion the selection process for filling the VC post. Justice Pardiwala said, “We have reached the conclusion that though the notification reappointing Ravindran to the post of VC was issued by the chancellor, yet the decision stood vitiated by the influence of extraneous considerations or to put it in other words by the unwarranted intervention of the state.”

In the selection of VC, guv is the sole judge: SC

Under the Kannur University Act, 1996 and UGC Regulations of 2018, appointment of VC is to be done by the governor in his capacity as the chancellor. The bench said, “In the selection of the vice-chancellor, the governor is the sole judge and his opinion is final in all respects.”

“In appointment of vice chancellors, the governor acts only in his personal capacity, and therefore, the powers and duties exercised and performed by him under a statute related to the university, as its chancellor, have absolutely no relation to the exercise and performance of the powers and duties by him while he holds office as the governor of the state,” it said.

Disapproving the Kerala education minister’s interference, acting as pro-chancellor, to reappoint Gopinath Ravindran, the bench said, “Law does not recognise any such extra constitutional interference in the exercise of statutory discretion. Any such interference amounts to dictation from political superior and has been condemned by courts on more than one occasion.”

Addressing the media in Malappuram, Kerala higher education minister R Bindu said the state government had accepted the Supreme Court verdict. Bindu said the responsibility of appointing the vice-chancellor rested with the governor and he had to do his duty at his discretion. “We will respond in detail after knowing the full details of the SC judgment,” she added.

“It is the chancellor who has been conferred with the competence under the Act of 1996 to appoint or reappoint a vice chancellor. No other person, even the pro-chancellor or any superior authority, can interfere with the functioning of the statutory authority and if any decision is taken by a statutory authority at the behest or on a suggestion of a person who has no statutory role to play, the same would be patently illegal,” the SC said.

The process of selection of vice-chancellor was set in motion by the governor on October 27, 2021.

The SC said, “There was no independent application of mind or satisfaction of judgment on the part of the chancellor (governor) and Ravindran came to be reappointed only at the behest of the state government.”

Assembly sessions questioning the validity of

The Punjab case: SC’s 2023 observations

Nov 10, 2023: The Times of India

The Supreme Court has expressed concern over the delay by the Punjab and Tamil Nadu governors in giving assent to bills passed by their respective state governments. "Democracy has to work in the hands of the chief minister and the governor," the SC said, and added that it will pass a short order to settle the law on the issue of governor's power to give assent to bills. Meanwhile, Kerala governor, who is also involved in a tussle with the state govt, asserted that he was acting in accordance with the Constitution.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court expressed "serious concern" over the delay by the Punjab and Tamil Nadu governors in giving assent to bills passed by their respective state governments.

"Our country has been running on established traditions and conventions and they need to be followed," a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra told both the Punjab government and the state governor Banwari Lal Purohit.

Hearing another plea filed by the Tamil Nadu government, the apex court said the petition raises a “matter of serious concern”. The court decided to call for assistance from Attorney General R Venkataramani or Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the matter.

'Playing with fire’

The SC bench expressed serious concern over the deadlock in Punjab and took a stern view of state governor Banwarilal Purohit not giving assent to bills passed by the state assembly. The court told the governer "you are playing with fire." It also questioned the governor's power to term the assembly session as unconstitutional.

The judges also questioned the Punjab government's decision to adjourn and not prorogue the budget session of its assembly. "Democracy has to work in the hands of the chief minister and the governor," the SC said, and added that it will pass a short order to settle the law on the issue of governor's power to give assent to bills.

In its plea, Punjab government had alleged delay by the governor in giving assent to bills passed by the state assembly. The plea said such "unconstitutional inaction" has brought the entire administration to a "grinding halt.”

It said the governor cannot indefinitely sit on the bills as he has restricted powers under Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with the Raj Bhavan occupant's power to give or withhold assent to a bill or reserve a bill for the president's consideration.

'Matter of serious concern’

On Tamil Nadu's plea against governor R N Ravi, the Supreme Court sought Centre's response on the allegations against the governor. The top court also decided to seek the assistance of government's law officers. The judges called the confrontation between the state government and the governor a matter of serious concern.

During the hearing, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on state government’s behalf, said that bills passed 2-3 years back are still pending with the Governor for assent. Singhvi highlighted that the governor is not granting sanction for prosecution of ministers or MLAs involved in corruption cases, adding that more than 54 files relating to remission of prisoners are pending with him.

In its plea filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, the Tamil Nadu government has claimed that the governor has positioned himself as a “political rival” to the legitimately elected state government. The petition said that the governor was not signing remission orders, day to day files, appointment orders, approving recruitment orders, granting approval to prosecute Ministers or MLAs involved in corruption, and Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly.

The state government has sought directions from the Supreme Court to stipulate the outer time limit for the governor to consider Bills passed by the Legislature sent for his assent under Article 200 of the Constitution.

It further sought directions for disposal of all the Bills, files and government orders which are pending with the governor's office within a specified timeframe.

'Show me one instance where I have crossed the line’

Meanwhile, Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who is also involved in a tussle with the state's Left Front government over assent to certain bills, asserted that he was acting in accordance with the Constitution. The governor accused the state government of crossing the line on several occasions.

"Have they given any evidence that I have created a crisis? Merely making a statement does not mean that. Crisis means when you go beyond the powers or authority which is given to you by the Constitution. Give me one single example of where I have gone beyond that.

"Show me one instance where I have crossed the line. And how many times my own government has crossed the line, there is a long list. So who is creating the crisis?," Khan said. The governor also alleged that pensions and salaries are not being paid in the state and, in an apparent reference to the recent Keraleeyam event, he said, but the state was "having big celebrations".

Recently, the Kerala government has also moved the Supreme Court to raise the issue of the governor not signing certain bills and delaying it indefinitely.

'Governors are not elected representatives’

On November 6, the top court had said that state governors must not be oblivious to the fact that they are not elected representatives of the people.

It voiced its concern over Raj Bhavans not acting on bills passed by the state legislatures and observed that governors in states must act even before the matter comes to the apex court.

Dismissal of Governors

SC raps UPA for sacking guvs from NDA term

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

From the archives of The Times of India 2007, 2009

New Delhi: A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Friday dealt an “academic” yet stinging rap on the knuckles of the UPA-1 government for removing four NDA-appointed governors in 2004 immediately after coming to power and assuming office with outside support of Left parties.

The governors of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Goa — Vishnu Kant Shastri, Babu Parmanand, Kailashpati Mishra and Kidarnath Sahni — were summarily packed off from Raj Bhavans, ostensibly because of their saffron affiliations.

The reason dished out then — they were not in sync with policies and ideologies of the UPA government — had sounded apt and politically correct. But, it turned out to be legally untenable. The court held that if the reasons for removal were irrelevant, malafide or whimsical, they could invite judicial intervention.

‘Governers can’t be sacked over party’s ideology’

New Delhi: The current UPA government will suffer no ill-effects of the hard-hitting SC judgment criticizing it for removing four NDA-appointed governors. However, the bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and justices S H Kapadia, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and P Sathasivam minced no words in registering their strong disapproval of regime-change as a ground for dismissal of governors. This may set the stage for a more cautious approach in the future.

Justice Raveendran, writing the unanimous 56-page judgment, said: “Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him.”

“It follows therefore that change in government at Centre is not a good ground for removal of governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government,” he said, in what could pinch the conscience of the government. Attorney General G E Vahanvati had defended the decision to summarily dismiss the governors saying in a democracy, political parties were formed on shared beliefs and they contest election with a declared agenda. “If a party which comes to power with a particular social and economic agenda, finds that a governor is out of sync with its policies, then it should be able to remove such a governor,” he had argued.

The AG was categorical in his submission that the Centre would have the right to remove a governor without attributing any fault to him, if the President loses confidence in a governor or finds that the “governor is out of sync with the democratic and electoral mandate”.

Governors who returned to politics

As in 2022

Shailvee Sharda, March 26, 2022: The Times of India

After the fall of BSP and Mayawati’s inactiveness during the 2022 elections, several Jatav pockets drifted towards the BJP while scores of them were disillusioned. This means that there is scope for their consolidation and Baby Rani fits the template well.

Many believe she can fortify the BJP’s position significantly in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Jatavs are considered to be the largest segment among the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh and Baby Rani Maurya has the advantage of the most prominent face from the community within the BJP.

Also, Baby Rani’s personality and the kind of politics she does, may also add to the ‘sushasan’ and ‘sabka saath’ pitches of the BJP government as she is known for her ‘positive and constructive politics’. She has always asserted that her priority will be the upliftment of all classes - the poor, the downtrodden, and the backward.

Being a woman, she also ticks an all-important gender criteria. A native of Agra’s cantonment area, in the assembly elections, she defeated BSP’s Kiran Prabha Keshari with a hefty margin of over 76,608.

Opposition to the institution

Tamil Nadu: 1974

Rishika Singh, July 13, 2023: The Indian Express

The Indian Express report from July 10, 1973.
From: Rishika Singh, July 13, 2023: The Indian Express

The year 1967 marked a shift in Indian politics. Until then, state and national elections were held simultaneously and the Indian National Congress was largely unrivalled electorally. However, the 1967 General Elections marked the first time that the Congress did not secure a thumping majority, though it still won 283 seats in the 520-member Lok Sabha. It also lost nine states, including Madras (now known as Tamil Nadu).

This had been the first election amid a changed environment, with the death of Jawaharlal Nehru. The loss of the 1962 war with China and a less-than-optimum economic situation further left many voters disillusioned with the party.

With newer parties and leaders in the states and Congress at the Centre, Centre-state relations were tested. The Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, and the state governments of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and the North-East were, therefore, hoping for a review of the overall Constitutional scheme of Centre-State relations and the provisions for resolving disputes between them.

In 1969, the government commissioned the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), which came out with its detailed Report on Centre-State Relationships. On the Governor, it said that she should be appointed by the President after consultation with the CM, should perform her constitutional role, and make periodic reports on administration.

It largely favoured sticking to the existing system, saying it was capable enough to address any issues that may arise later. Later, The Indian Express reported on July 10, 1973, that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi read out the memo from the state’s own memo that criticised the ARC.

“The way in which, and the frequency with which the Centre and Parliament have sought to insert themselves and to interfere in matters relating exclusively to state subjects, create the impression of an anxiety on the part of the Centre to exercise an overall supervision of the entire administration of the whole country,” the memo said.

What Tamil Nadu’s reports said

After he became the CM in 1969, Karunanidhi spoke about setting up an expert committee on Centre-state relations. Months later, his government appointed a committee headed by PV Rajamannar, former Madras High Court Chief Justice, and their report came out in 1971.

Its aim was “to examine the entire question regarding the relationship that should subsist between the Centre and the States in a federal set up, with reference to the provisions of the Constitution of India, and to suggest suitable amendments to the Constitution so as to secure to the States the utmost autonomy.” This was in line with the ideal championed since long by the state’s two main political parties, the AIADMK and the DMK.

In its report, the Rajamannar Commission gave some unique suggestions. It stated that recruitment to the all-India services (such as the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service), should be either by transfer of members of the existing gazetted services under the control of the States, or by direct recruitment. This would be to bring the services under states’ control.

On the Governor, it said the Constitution should have a new clause inserted, enabling the President to issue “Instruments of Instructions” to the Governors. These would lay down guidelines, indicating the matters where the Governor should consult the Central Government or where the Central Government could issue directions to him. It said Articles 356 and 357, which deal with the Centre’s power to impose a state of emergency in the states, may be “totally omitted”. “In the alternative, sufficient safeguards should be provided in the Constitution itself to secure the interests of the States against the arbitrary and unilateral action of the ruling party at the Centre,” it said.

In response, the Tamil Nadu government then presented the ‘Tamil Nadu Government views on State Autonomy and the Rajamannar Committee Report’ in the state’s Legislative Assembly in 1974. Here, it termed the office of Governor as “a legacy of the British colonial system” and the method of her appointment as “an anachronism in a democratic set up”.

It stated, “He is a functionary appointed by, and responsible to, the Central Government and as such, he could not be expected to understand the local conditions and the political situation.” It said the expenditure incurred on her office “does not seem to square with the socialistic pattern of society.”

Going a step further in its criticism, it said, “The expenditure is a wasteful one, which could well be dispensed with… The time is ripe for doing away with the office of the Governor.” The CM would instead discharge the functions at present being attended to by the Governor.

It also presented alternatives, saying in situations where the office of Chief Minister falls vacant by death, resignation, etc., the successor should be elected within a fixed period of time, otherwise the Assembly will automatically be dissolved. The Chief Justice of the State may take charge of the administration till such time as a new Chief Minister assumes Office, it added. However, none of these recommendations were accepted. In light of the recent tussle with Governor N Ravi, DMK has often made references to the post in a similar vein. In December 2022, MLA T R B Rajaa said on Twitter that the post of Governor is ‘probably the most useless’ thing in democracy.

Taking from the state’s history, the MLA referenced a Tamil saying from DMK founder CN Annadurai, who was the CM before Karunanidhi, from 1967 to 1969. In it, Annadurai asks if a goat requires a beard and whether a State needs a Governor, implying that both are unnecessary.

Powers of governors

An overview

Deeptiman Tiwary, February 10, 2022: The Indian Express

What is the law on Governor-state relations?

Although envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers, the Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution, such as giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.

There are, however, 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 management of differences has traditionally been guided by respect for each other’s boundaries.

What have been the friction points?

In recent years, these have 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.

In November 2018, then J&K Governor Satyapal Malik dissolved the Assembly amid indications that various parties were coming together to form the government. This paved the way for the Centre to later bifurcate state into two Union territories, by considering the Governor as the government. In November 2019, after a hung verdict in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari quietly invited BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis and administered him oath as CM. This government lasted just 80 hours. Six months later, Koshiyari refused to nominate CM Uddhav Thackeray to the Legislative Council, leading Thackeray to meet PM Narendra Modi to resolve the issue.

In West Bengal, Dhankhar has often commented on law and order and political violence. Ravi, in his previous stint as Nagaland Governor, had criticised affairs of the state and allegedly interfered in administration.

In December 2020, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan turned down a request to summon a special sitting of the Assembly to debate the three central farm laws.

Following the Karnataka polls in 2018, Governor Vajubhai Vala invited the BJP to form the government and gave B S Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove majority. Challenged by Congress and JDS in the Supreme Court, it was reduced to three days.

Is such friction recent?

Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilise state governments have been made since the 1950s. In 1959, Kerala’s E M S Namboodiripad government was dismissed based on a report by the Governor. Several state governments have been dismissed since then, including 63 through President’s Rule orders issued by Governors between 1971 and 1990. These have include the Birender Singh government in Haryana (1967); Virendra Patil government in Karnataka (1971); M Karunanidhi government in Tamil Nadu (1976); B S Shekhawat government in Rajasthan and SAD government in Punjab (1980); Janata Party governments in UP, Odisha, Gujarat and Bihar (1980); N T Rama Rao government in Andhra in (1984); and Kalyan Singh governments in UP (1992, 1998). These became less frequent during the coalition era at the Centre and the emergence of strong regional parties.

Why does this happen?

“Because Governors have become political appointees,” said NALSAR chancellor and constitutional expert Faizan Mustafa. “The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical. But politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.”

Constitutional expert Alok Prasanna of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said: “The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre. You can sugercoat it with ideas of constitutional morality and values, but the truth is there is a fundamental defect in the Constitution.” There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice. While the Governor has 5-year a 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, headed by retired CJI M N Venkachaliah and set up by the Atal Behari Vajpayee, said, “… because the Governor owes his appointment and his continuation in the office to the Union Council of Ministers, in matters where the Central Government and the State Government do not see eye to eye, there is the apprehension that he is likely to act in accordance with the instructions, if any, received from the Union Council of Ministers… Indeed, the Governors today are being pejoratively called the ‘agents of the Centre’.”

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.

What reforms have been suggested?

From the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968 to Sarkaria Commission of 1988 and the one mentioned above, several panels have recommended reforms, such as selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM, apart from fixing his tenure for five years. Recommendations have also been made for a provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly

No government has implemented any of these recommendations.

Assent to bills passed by the state legislature

SC: Guvs can’t sit on bills & veto legislative action

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 24, 2023: The Times of India

SC- Governors can’t sit on bills & veto legislative action
From: Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 24, 2023: The Times of India

SC: Guvs can’t sit on bills & veto legislative action

‘It’s Speaker Call To Adjourn Or Prorogue House’

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has sought to clearly delineate the boundary of action by governors when a bill passed by a state assembly is sent for their assent by ruling that, being titular heads of states, they don’t have the power to veto legislative actions of elected governments or sit indefinitely on bills duly passed by the legislature.

The CJI-led bench also held that the speaker enjoys absolute power for adjourning and proroguing the House.

The November 10 judgment, reported by TOI, was passed on a plea by the Mann government in Punjab against governor Banwarilal Purohit. It was uploaded on Thursday on the SC website. The judgment comes amid similar pleas against the Tamil Nadu and Kerala governors.

Judgment expected to have chastening effect on all guvs

The bench of CJI D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said unbridled powers to “unelected head of state” to sit indefinitely over bills “virtually veto the functioning of the legislative domain by a duly elected legislature by simply declaring that assent is withheld without any further recourse”.

“Such a course of action would be contrary to fundamental principles of a constitutional democracy based on a parliamentary pattern of governance,” said Justice Chandrachud, who authored the judgment.
“It is the right of each House of the legislature to be the sole judge of the lawfulness of its own proceedings so as to be immune from challenge before a court of law. During the tenure of the assembly, the House is governed by the decisions which are taken by the speaker in matters of adjournment and prorogation,” the order said.

The judgment is expected to have a chastening effect on all governors, be it in Kerala or Tamil Nadu, who have been accused by state governments of stalling bills passed by the legislature, although the apex court stopped short of setting a timeframe for Raj Bhavans to take an early decision — essentially on withholding assent and sending the legislation back to the assembly for reconsideration.

“The governor cannot be at liberty to keep the bill pending indefinitely without any action whatsoever. The governor, as an unelected head of the state, is entrusted with certain constitutional powers. However, this power cannot be used to thwart the normal course of lawmaking by the state legislatures,” the CJI wrote.

“Consequently, if the governor decides to withhold assent under the substantive part of Article 200, the logical course of action is to pursue the course indicated in the first proviso of remitting the bill to the state legislature for reconsideration,” the court said.

CJI Chandrachud termed democracy and federalism as “two prongs of a tuning fork”, which work towards realisation of fundamental freedoms and aspirations of citizens and said, “Whenever one prong of the tuning fork is harmed, it damages the apparatus of constitutional governance.”

Dealing with the issue central to the debate — the Constitution’s silence over the period within which a governor is to take a decision on whether to give assent, the mandatory pre-requisite for enactment of a bill — the bench suggested that it could not be interminably long.

“The substantive part of Article 200 empowers the governor to withhold assent to a bill. In such an event, the governor must mandatorily follow the course of action which is indicated in the first proviso of communicating to the state legislature ‘as soon as possible’ a message warranting reconsideration of the bill,” the bench said.

“The expression ‘as soonas possible’ is significant. Itconveys a constitutional imperative of expedition. Failure to take a call and keeping abill duly passed for indeterminate periods is a course of action inconsistent with that expression. Constitutionallanguage is not surplusage,”the bench added.

Cabinet ministers, removal of

January 6, 2024: The Times of India

Guv can remove minister only on cabinet advice: SC on Balaji

Rejects Plea To Dismiss Him Over ED Arrest In Jobs Scam


New Delhi : Supreme Court turned down a plea challenging the continuance of V Senthil Balaji as minister in Tamil Nadu after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a cashfor-jobs scam and said the governor could remove him only on the recommendation of the state cabinet.

A bench of Justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan dismissed an appeal against the decision of Madras HC which had refused to consider a petition against Balaji’s continuance as minister.
 “Prima facie, the high court is right that the governor could not have dismissed the minister. The governor has to act on the recommendation of the council of ministers,” the bench said.
 “After having heard the petitioner in person and perusing the impugned judgment of the high court, we concur with the view taken by the high court. Therefore, no interference is called for under Article 136 of the Constitution,” it added.

Balaji was arrested on June 14 last year by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case linked to a cash-for-jobs scam when he was transport minister under an earlier AIADMK government. He had challenged his arrest but his plea was rejected by the apex court. He was divested of his portfolios after his arrest but continues to be a minister.

Governor R N Ravi had in June 2023 dismissed Balaji from the council of ministers with immediate effect, but he kept his decision in abeyance after facing criticism.

As Balaji continued to be a minister, advocate M L Ravi filed a petition in Madras HC seeking his sacking but the HC rejected the plea.

While referring to the governor’s discretionary powers in such matters, the HC had said, “If the governor chooses to ‘withdraw his pleasure’ in respect of a minister, he must exercise his discretion with the knowledge of the chief minister and not unilaterally. In the present case, the chief minister had never consented for the exercise of discretion by the governor.”

On the petitioner’s submissions on Balaji’s disqualification, the HC had said in the absence of any statutory by him, it would not be permissible for the court to issue directions to the governor to take a decision in a particular manner.

Vis-à-vis Chief Ministers

Chakshu Roy, June 14, 2022: The Times of India

West Bengal is not the only state that has passed legislations limiting the involvement of governors in universities. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra legislatures have also passed laws to this effect. These actions are evidence of growing tension between governors and the council of ministers in Opposition-ruled states. 
 Last year the West Bengal legislative assembly speaker complained to the Lok Sabha speaker that the governor was interfering in the legislature's administration and delaying assent to bills passed by it. The governor responded that the blame lay with the Speaker. 
 In 2020, the Kerala council of ministers were at loggerheads with the governor for not convening a session of the legislature. The government wanted to discuss the three farm laws passed by Parliament earlier that year. 
In the same year, Rajasthan governor delayed convening the state legislature, where the chief minister wanted to prove his majority on the floor of the House. 
 In Maharashtra, the governor has not approved the names of 12 nominated members of the legislative council for more than a year.

Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government accused the governor of delaying assent to a bill passed by the state legislature. The bill exempted students from Tamil Nadu from the national competitive medical examination for admission to medical colleges. The governor finally referred the bill to the President. 
 Seeds of discord 
At the heart of this conflict is the disagreement on the role of governors in states. The office of the governor emerged in pre-Independence India. Its overarching powers and ability to overrule popularly elected governments led to resentment against the office. 
 Our Constitution adopted a parliamentary model of government. In this system, the council of ministers was accountable to an elected legislature, and it continued in office till it had a majority in the legislature.

During the making of the Constitution, there was some back and forth on the powers of the governor. An initial thought was that states would have popularly elected governors. This constituent assembly shelved this idea because it would lead to friction with a popularly elected chief minister and was incompatible with a parliamentary system. 
The Constitution framers finally settled for a governor to be nominated by the central government. Their view was that a nominated governor had no role in the day-to-day functioning of the state government. And since the governor was going to be nominated, it was felt that there was no need to give the governor discretionary powers. The article that dealt with the issue was 143 (current Article 167) of the Constitution. 
It specified, "There shall be a council of ministers with the chief minister as 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 in his discretion." 
BR Ambedkar would clarify the discretionary powers of the governor during a discussion on another constitutional provision. This one dealt with the chief minister's duty to furnish the governor with information. 
 He said, “The governor under the Constitution has no functions which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all.” 
The Constitution finally adopted by the Constituent Assembly limited the office of the governor to that of a constitutional head. On most issues, the governor was to follow the advice of his council of ministers.

Raj Bhavan rules 
 There are two broad areas in which the governor can act at his discretion. First is the appointment of a chief minister after state elections and dismissing a CM who refuses to vacate office after losing a majority in the legislature. 
The second is recommending President's rule (Article 356) on the failure of constitutional machinery in the state. So far, the courts have declined to interfere in the governor's power to appoint the CM and have held that a floor test in the legislature can only decide the question of a government losing majority. The apex court has also opened to judicial review the gubernatorial power to recommend President's rule. The Constitution framers hoped that the governor would be a "harmonious element" who "would add a close link between the Centre and the provinces and a clash between the two would be avoided, which would otherwise occasionally result".

Therefore, choosing the right individual to be nominated as the governor would become critically important. On this subject, Jawaharlal Nehru said, " probably would be desirable to have people from outside eminent people … Politicians would probably like a more active domain for their activities but there may be an eminent educationist or persons eminent in other walks of life, who would naturally while cooperating fully with the government … nevertheless represent before the public someone slightly above the party and thereby in fact, help that government more than if he was considered as part of the party machine."

Over the years, successive central governments (including Nehru's) have appointed governors aligned with them. For example, in the first decade after independence, almost all governors of Uttar Pradesh were senior political personalities, and the trend continues till today.

Data from 1950 to April 2015 shows that, in the country, half of the individuals appointed as governors had an active political background. As a result, governors are painted as agents of the central government rather than being the "friend, philosopher and guide" to state governments.

Consequently, their office is viewed with suspicion in Opposition-ruled states. Several high-powered commissions have recommended that the central government consult the states before appointing governors.

It is the first step in a constructive relationship between governors and state governments. After that, the Constitution should guide the two offices in navigating their relationship in the functioning of the state.

Governors: not bound by advice of states


A-G: Fifth Schedule Says Guvs Not Bound By Advice Of States

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

From the archives of The Times of India 2007, 2009

New Delhi: Home minister P Chidambaram’s “limited mandate” handicap in dealing with the Naxal menace may get over soon.

The Centre has got a clear opinion from the attorney general suggesting that the Fifth Schedule areas identified by the Constitution, which in six out of nine states are Maoist hotbeds, could be administered directly through governors and in doing so they were not bound by the advice of the state governments.

With this opinion, the Centre can formulate strategies without falling foul of the generally-perceived notion that governors act only on the advice of the state government to fight Naxalism as well as bring meaningful development in areas which have been neglected for years.

The Fifth Schedule areas in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are mainly forest and tribal areas where Maoists have entrenched themselves taking advantage of the anger of the poverty-stricken inhabitants, accentuated by poor pace of development.

As these administrative deficiencies kept widening the Naxal base and cadre, a worried President had asked the Centre to seek an authoritative legal opinion as to whether governors could play a pro-active role in exercising constitutionally mandated discretionary powers in the administration of the Fifth Schedule areas without being bound by the advice of state governments.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati has given a thumping opinion favouring exercise of discretionary powers by the governor without consulting the state government, home ministry sources told TOI.

Discussing the width of powers available to the governor as far as Fifth Schedule areas are concerned, the AG has said that if the governor was of the opinion that a particular law or regulation made by a state government be not made applicable to such areas, then he could do so without seeking the opinion of the concerned council of ministers headed by the chief minister.

What is more important, especially for the implementation of the two-pronged strategy — meeting the Naxal fire with fire and at the same time speed up the development process in these areas, the AG has opined that the governor was free to make regulations for the “peace and good governance” of the Fifth Schedule areas.

The AG’s legal opinion virtually coincides with the findings of the Mangeshkar Committee report of the Planning Commission. The Committee had suggested that the office of the governor must play a more pro-active role for ensuring protection of tribal rights, for tribal-welfare and development.

I.S. Council favours Bommai judgment, Punchhi Commission

Neeraj Chauhan, Guv's power: Council wants to go by Bommai judgment, Apr 10 2017: The Times of India

The standing committee of Inter State Council, which met after 12 years on Sunday , discussed the discretionary powers of governors in appointment of chief ministers, their assent in bills passed by state assemblies and the powers of state ministers. This comes after the recent controversy over the role of governors in BJP forming governments in Manipur and Goa despite not being the single largest party.

The meeting, chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh, was attended by finance minister Arun Jaitley , Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Aditya Nath and his Odisha, Tripura and Chhattisgarh counterparts Naveen Patnaik, Manik Sarkar and Raman Singh, among others.

Chief ministers of Rajasthan, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, who are also members of the committee, did not attend the meeting or send their representatives.

According to top government sources, there was unanimity among the CMs and central representatives that issues related to powers of governors had already been settled in the Supreme Court's SR Bommai judgment and the recommendations of the MM Punchhi Commission should be implemented in line with it. Source said a couple of more meetings would take place to finalise the issue.

In SR Bommai vs Union of India case, the SC had said, “Wherever a doubt arises whether the council of ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House, except in an extraordinary situation where because of all-pervasive violence, the governor comes to the conclusion and records the same in his report that for the reasons mentioned by him, a free vote is not possible in the House.The House is the place where democracy is in action. It is not for the governor to determine the said question on his own or on his own verification. This is not a matter within his subjective satisfaction. It is an objective fact capable of being established on the floor of the House.“

Speaking to reporters, Andhra Pradesh finance mi nister Y Ramakrishnudu, who deputised for CM N Chandrababu Naidu, said, “We discussed the role of governors threadbare. Many states said a governor should be qualified, non-partisan and above politics.“

He added that several states wanted governors to not have a say in politics.

According to the MM Punchhi Commission's recommendations on Centrestate relations, a governor should follow clear guidelines in the appointment of CM by sticking to “clear order of preference“.

The commission recommended that a CM should be asked to prove his majority within a clear time limit before he is dismissed. The CM should prove his majority within five days to a maximum 30 days, it said.

According to sources, Rajnath Singh told the meeting that the powers of governors, criteria for their selection and their impeachment should largely be left untouched.

The Bommai judgment (summary)

Trend-setting judgment that's benchmark now, The Times of India, May 17, 2011

The late Karnataka chief minister SR Bommai, whose dismissal in 1989 led to a trend-setting judgment by the Supreme Court stipulating a floor test, is the sole yardstick for testing a majority in case of a doubt. The judgment also laid down certain guidelines and standards in exercising power under Article 356.

The judgment stated that the proclamation under Article 356(1) is not immune from judicial review. The Supreme Court or the high court can strike down the proclamation if it's found to be mala fide or based on wholly irrelevant or extraneous grounds. If the court strikes down the proclamation, it has the power to restore the dismissed government. Bommai's tenure was short as the Congress government at the Centre dismissed him as CM on April 21, 1989 after a section of his own party withdrew support to him. Bommai took over as CM on August 13, 1988 from Ramakrishna Hegde, who had quit following a telephone-tapping scandal. Bommai moved the Supreme Court challenging his dismissal. In 1994, the apex court gave the landmark judgment in what came to be known as S R Bommai vs Union of India case, making a floor test the benchmark for testing majority of a head of government in the event of doubt.

Other observations

  • The governor is like a person wearing two hats. With one, he is the head of the state government and with the other, he is a representative of the President. He is not a mere agent of the President.
  • President's proclamation should be placed in Parliament within two months and approved.

Background of Bommai case

Janata Party, which had a majority with 83 seats in the state legislature, merged with Lok Dal to be called the Janata Dal and form the government. The ministry was expanded with the addition of 13 members. Two days later, KR Molakery, a JD legislator, defected and presented a letter to the governor along with signatures of 19 other legislators withdrawing their support to the Bommai government.

The governor sent a report to the President recommended he exercise power under Article 356(1) stating therein there were dissensions and defections in the ruling party. Then, seven out of the 19 legislators who had rebelled, sent letters to the governor complaining their signatures were obtained on the earlier letters by misrepresentation and affirmed their support to the ministry.

The CM met the governor the same day and informed him about the decision to summon the assembly to prove the confidence of assembly in his government. But the governor did not heed his appeal and sent another report to the President to dismiss the government. President issued the proclamation, which was approved by the Parliament as required by Article 356(3).

The Bommai judgment (analysis)

Protecting secularism and federal fair play, Vol. 14 :: No. 22 :: Nov. 1 - 14, 1997 : The Frontline

If the President has given content to Bommai's promise of fair federal play, the judgment's mandate for secularism, and for action against parties and State governments violating the constitutional philosophy that prohibits the mixing up of religion and politics, has yet to be acted on.

THREE years after the Supreme Court slammed the door shut on abuses of Article 356 of the Constitution, the law that it laid down has been put to work. S.R. Bommai vs Union of India, delivered in March 1994, had sharply limited the constitutional power vested in the Central Government to dismiss a State government. President K.R. Narayanan's decision to act on Bommai, and the survival of the Kalyan Singh Ministry, has been hailed as a triumph for the law and Indian federalism. But the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has so enthusiastically endorsed Bommai, escaped criticism for the fact that it was a flagrant violation of the same law that allowed its ally, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), to form a Ministry in Uttar Pradesh on June 3, 1995. And few in the media have discovered that the cutting edge of Bommai is its radical attack on communal politics. If President Narayanan has given content to Bommai's promise of fair federal play, the judgment's other mandate, the mandate for secularism, and for constitutionally sanctioned action against political parties and State governments violating the constitutional philosophy that prohibits the mixing up of religion and politics, has yet to be acted on.

April 21, 1989: Karnataka Chief Minister S.R. Bommai (left) presents Governor P. Venkatasubbaiah a copy of the resolution passed by the Janata Dal Legislature Party requesting the Governor to give Bommai an opportunity to test his majority in the Assembly. Although floor tests continue to be the sole practical means of establishing majorities, incumbency is clearly a key factor in the outcome of such tests.

The 1994 Supreme Court majority decision in essence overturned a long tradition that the use of Article 356 was not really subject to review by courts, a doctrine articulated in a landmark 1977 case, State of Rajasthan. Bommai laid down the conditions under which State governments may be dismissed, and mechanisms for that process. These were expressed through six opinions, with the judgments of Justices A.M. Ahmadi, K. Ramaswamy, and J.S. Verma for himself and Yogeshwar Dayal dissenting from the majority opinion of Justices P.B. Sawant for himself and Kuldip Singh, B.P. Jeevan Reddy for himself and S.C. Agarwal, and, finally, S. Ratnavel Pandian. Although this seeming maze of judgments created some confusion among laypeople about precisely what portions in the Supreme Court decision were the law, the debate has now been largely resolved. Jurist Soli Sorabjee wrote in a critique of the case: "The judgments of Sawant and Kuldip Singh, JJ, to the extent they are not directly or by necessary implication inconsistent with judgments of Justices Jeevan Reddy and Agarwal, are part of the majority judgment and constitute the law of the land" (Supreme Court Cases, 1994, Volume 3).

WHAT, then, did these judgments demand when Mayawati announced that the BSP was withdrawing support to the Kalyan Singh Ministry? The language of Bommai is plain. "In all cases where the support of the Ministry is claimed to have been withdrawn by some legislators," Justices Sawant and Kuldip Singh held, "the proper course for testing the strength of the Ministry is holding the test on the floor of the House." "The assessment of the strength of the Ministry is not a matter of private opinion of any individual be he the Governor or the President" (emphasis added). Justices Jeevan Reddy and Agarwal underlined the floor test procedure: "Whenever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House" (emphasis as in the original). The sole exception to this will be a situation of "all-pervasive violence where the Governor comes to the conclusion - and records the same in his report - that for the reasons mentioned by him, a free vote is not possible."

These simple legal mandates were before President Narayanan when he first ordered a brief on Bommai as BJP-BSP relations deteriorated in the State. Prime Minister I.K. Gujral proved receptive to the need for a floor test, but Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, backed by the Congress (I), insisted that the BJP Government be dismissed. Although legally in the wrong, Mulayam Singh was in a political sense entitled to suggest the course of action he did. In June 1995, his Ministry in Uttar Pradesh, deserted by the slippery BSP, became the first to be dismissed after Bommai was delivered. The Chief Minister was summoned to the Raj Bhavan at 4 p.m. on June 3 and told to resign. Despite his explicit protest against the unconstitutionality of the action since Bommai made a floor test his right, Governor Motilal Vora asserted that legal opinion stressed his discretionary powers in such situations (Frontline, June 30, 1995).

The Supreme Court's verdict in the Bommai case sharply limited the constitutional power vested in the Central Government to dismiss a State government, but upheld the dismissal of four BJP Governments for going against the constitutional philosophy and provisions that were secular.

This was untrue, but the Congress (I) Government at the Centre was supported by sections of the media that were intensely hostile to Mulayam Singh's handling of the Ayodhya crisis and his position on the Mandal Commission formula issue. Although the Samajwadi Party moved the Supreme Court, the last heard of the case was its reference to a Constitution Bench two years ago.

The decline and fall of the Suresh Mehta Ministry in Gujarat in 1996 underlined other problematic aspects of Bommai. Again, the constitutional tests laid down by the Supreme Court majority were not honoured. The Mehta Ministry was dismissed on September 19, a day after it "won" a confidence vote amidst violence in the Assembly and after ejecting the Opposition from the floor. Governor Krishna Pal Singh was unmoved by that vote, though whatever happened in the House clearly did not meet the test of "all-pervasive violence" as laid down by Justices Jeevan Reddy and Agarwal. One month later, many of the MLAs who had voted for the Suresh Mehta Ministry supported the Shankarsinh Vaghela Ministry. Incumbency was clearly a key factor in the outcome of floor tests and an irate Mehta told Frontline: "It is power that tilts (the) majority. If my position is restored, I can prove my majority in five days" (Frontline, November 15, 1996). Justice K. Ramaswamy's dissenting judgment, at the time largely ignored, when not disapproved of, had a prescient quality. "A floor test may provide impetus for corruption and rank force and violence by musclemen or wrongful confinement or volitional captivity of legislators," he warned.

In the absence of a more objective and manageable alternative, however, floor tests continue to be the sole practical means of establishing majorities - with an exception made for the rarest of rare cases, covering virtual civil war conditions. The suggestion that the Kalyan Singh Ministry should be dismissed and the Assembly placed in suspended animation until the dismissal was ratified by Parliament (as Bommai mandated), was based on ruthless realpolitik. The calculation that legal challenges would spend years in court was behind Mulayam Singh's powerful play within the United Front to get the Kalyan Singh Government dismissed and the Assembly dissolved. The Bommai framework permitted the Governor to bypass the requirement of a floor test only in the event of "all-pervasive violence", or other factors ensuring that the Government of the State could not be carried out in accordance with the Constitution. Although Bhandari's reports did speak dramatically of the possibility of "bloodshed" in the State, they seemed wide of the mark. The Governor's conclusions on who was responsible for the violence on the floor of the Legislative Assembly seemed to be contradicted, unwittingly, by the narrative in the observers' report forwarded by the Governor. There was also doubt that Bhandari was acting, to borrow from Justice Ramaswamy's dissent, in an "umpire's role".

WHAT standard does Bommai lay down for a proper determination that the constitutional machinery has broken down? The judgment of Justices Sawant and Kuldip Singh suggested that "a situation of impasse" should have developed. There had to be a "legal inability as well as (the) physical impossibility" of governance according to the Constitution. "Hence situations which can be remedied or do not create an impasse or do not disable or interfere with the governance of the State according to the Constitution would not merit the issuance of the proclamation under the Article."

Justices Jeevan Reddy and Agarwal, with whom Justice Pandian expressly concurred on this point, held a similar opinion: "It is not each and every non-compliance with a particular provision of the Constitution that calls for the exercise of the power under Article 356(1)" (emphasis added). Thus, the majority in Bommai sanctioned dismissal of a State government only under the most extreme circumstances. Clearly, by this test, the violent incidents in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, however offensive they might have been, did not suggest a "physical impossibility" of governance according to the Constitution.

What situations might warrant the dismissal of a State government without a floor test? In response to this larger question, the BJP and their largely fellow-travelling media have been conspicuously selective in their readings of Bommai. The only issue on which all nine Judges agreed, albeit by varying processes of reasoning, was the dismissal of the four BJP State governments in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Bommai held with powerful unanimity that they were justly dismissed for going against the constitutional philosophy and provisions that were decisively secular. Secularism, they reiterated full-throatedly, was part of the basic structure of the Constitution, which nobody could take away and hence (in Soli Sorabjee's words) the "far-reaching proposition that violation of basic feature of the Constitution, including the secular features of the Constitution, is a valid ground for exercise of power under Article 356." The proposition had been argued sharply before the court. Its opponents had contended that since the basic feature doctrine evolved by the Supreme Court cannot be used to test the validity of legislation (as opposed to constitutional amendments), it most certainly could not be used to legitimise an exercise of power under Article 356. This contention was rejected by the court and what emerged was a radical affirmation of the inalienable secular content of Indian constitutional democracy. Hardly anyone has referred to this vital aspect of Bommai in the present context, where a central player is the very man who headed the State administration when the Babri Masjid was demolished and is now facing prosecution for complicity in that crime.

THE understanding of secularism in Bommai is perhaps best expressed in the judgment of Justices Sawant and Kuldip Singh. "Religion," they asserted, "cannot be mixed with any secular activity of the State. In fact, the encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited. The state's tolerance of religion or religions does not make it either a religious or a theocratic state. When the state allows citizens to practise or profess their religions, it does not either explicitly or implicitly allow them to introduce religion into non-religious or secular activities of the state." What constitutes a violation of secularism under the Constitution is spelt out in the judgment of Justices Jeevan Reddy and Agarwal: "Under our Constitut-ion, no party or organisation can simultaneously be a political and a religious party (original emphasis). It has to be either. Same would be the position if a party or organisation acts and/or behaves by word of mouth, print or in any other manner to bring about the said effect, it would equally be guilty of an act of unconstitutionality. It would have no right to function as a political party " (emphasis added).

Such startling clarity of perception has, sadly, not provoked any parallel legislative processes in India. What is even worse, what can be directly enforced from Bommai against communal and anti-secular political players has been ignored in political India. The challenging prospect that Bommai raised of delegitimating communal parties like the BJP, the Muslim League and the Akali Dals has begun to look more and more remote. But in the months and years to come, the relevance of this issue must be understood by secular-democratic political parties.

Without prejudging the outcome of Chief Minister Kalyan Singh's trial for crimes related to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the fact remains that the BJP is a party wedded to Hindu supremacism and to communalism as a political mobilisation strategy. Its leaders, and those of its affiliates in the Sangh parivar, have recently spoken of the need to renew both the Ram Janambhoomi agitation and the issues of Mathura and Kashi. If and when the time comes, Bommai must again be deployed, to protect the constitutional commitment to secularism. That action may well require more courage and conviction than allowing Kalyan Singh the floor test mandated by a reading of one part of Bommai.

Finally, a question. How would President Narayanan have responded had the Governor's reports and the Cabinet recommendation made out a serious case for the application of Article 356 against the Kalyan Singh dispensation for being anti-secular, majoritarian and communal?

MM Punchhi Commission: Recommendations

4 May 2011: IAS Maniacs

Recommendations of Punchhi Commission


The Commission is chaired by Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, former Chief Justice of India. The other Members of the Commission are – Shri. Dhirendra Singh (Former Secretary to the Government of India), Shri. Vinod Kumar Duggal (Former Secretary to the GOI), Prof. (Dr.) N.R. Madhava Menon (Former Director, National Judicial Academy, Bhopal and National Law School of India, Bangalore) and Dr. Amaresh Bagchi (Emeritus Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi).

A comprehensive review of Centre-State Relations was undertaken by the Sarkaria Commission in the mid-eighties. In the two decades that have gone by both the polity and economy have undergone profound changes, posing new challenges for government at all levels and calling for a fresh look at the relative roles and responsibilities of each level and their inter-relations. The present Commission has been entrusted with this task and asked to make recommendations that would help to address the emerging challenges.

The terms of Reference of the Commission will be as follows:

(i) The Commission will examine and review the working of the existing arrangement between the Union and States as per the Constitution of India, the healthy precedents being followed, various pronouncements of the Courts in regard to powers, functions and responsibilities in all spheres including legislative relations, administrative relations, role of governors, emergency provisions, financial relations, economic and social planning, Panchayat Raj institutions, sharing of resources, including inter-state river water and recommend such changes or other measures as may be appropriate keeping in view the practical difficulties.

(ii) In examining the reviewing the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States and making recommendations as to the changes and measures needed, the Commission will keep in view the social and economic developments that have taken place over the years particularly over the last two decades and have due regard to the scheme and framework of the Constitution. Such recommendations would also need to address the growing challenges of ensuring good governance for promoting the welfare of the people whilst strengthening the unity and integrity of the country and of availing emerging opportunities for sustained and rapid economic growth for alleviating poverty and illiteracy in the early decades of the new millenium.

(iii) While examining and making its recommendations on the above, the Commission shall have particular regard, but not limit its mandate to the following:-

(a) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-a-vis States during major and prolonged outbreaks of communal violence, caste violence and any other social conflict leading to prolonged and escalated violence.

(b) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-a-vis States in the planning and implementation of the mega projects like the inter-linking of rivers, that would normally take 15-20 years for completion and hinge vitally on the support of the States.

(c) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-a-vis States in promoting effecting devolution of powers and authority to Panchayati Raj Institutions and Local Bodies including the Autonomous Bodies under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution within a specific period of time.

(d) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-a-vis States in promoting the concept and practice of independent planning and budgeting at the District level.

(e) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-a-vis States in linking Central Assistance of various kinds with the performance of the States.

(f) The role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre in adopting approaches and policies based on positive discrimination in favour of backward States.

(g) The impact of the recommendations made by the 8th to 12th Finance Commissions on the fiscal relations between the Centre and States, especially the greater dependence of the States on devolution of funds from the Centre.

(h) The need and relevance of separate taxes on the production and on the sales of goods and services subsequent to the introduction of Value Added Tax regime.

(i) The need for freeing Inter-State trade in order to establish a unified and integrated domestic market as also in the context of the reluctance of State Governments to adopt the relevant Sarkaria Commission`s recommendations in Chapter XVIII of its report

(j) The need for setting up a Central Law Enforcement Agency empowered to take up suo moto investigation of crimes having Inter-State and/or International ramifications with serious implications on national security.

(k) The feasibility of a supporting legislation under Article 355 for the purpose of suo moto deployment of Central forces in the States if and when the situation so demands.

The major recommendations may be enumerated as follows

1. There should be an amendment in Articles 355 and 356 to enable the Centre to bring specific trouble-torn areas under its rule for a limited period.

2. The commission has proposed “localising emergency provisions” under Articles 355 and 356, contending that localised areas — either a district or parts of a district — be brought under Governor’s rule instead of the whole state.Such an emergency provision should however not be of duration of more than three months.

3. The commission however supports their right to give sanction for the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government.

4. To make an amendment in the communal violence Bill to allow deployment of Central forces without the state’s consent for a short period. It has proposed that state consent should not become a hurdle in deployment of central forces in a communal conflagration. However, such deployment should only be for a week and post-facto consent should be taken from the state.

5. Among the significant suggestions made by the Commission is, laying down of clear guidelines for the appointment of chief ministers. Upholding the view that a pre-poll alliance should be treated as one political party, it lays down the order of precedence that ought to be followed by the governor in case of a hung house:

a) Call the group with the largest prepoll alliance commanding the largest number;

b) the single largest party with support of others;

c) the post-electoral coalition with all parties joining the government; and last

d) the postelectoral alliance with some parties joining the government and remaining including Independents supporting from outside.

6. The panel also feels that governors should have the right to sanction prosecution of a minister against the advice of the council of ministers. However, it wants the convention of making them chancellors of universities done away with.

7. As for qualifications for a governor, the Punchhi commission suggests that the nominee not have participated in active politics at even local level for at least a couple of years before his appointment. It also agrees with the Sarkaria recommendation that a governor be an eminent person and not belongs to the state where he is to be posted.

8. The commission also criticises arbitrary dismissal of governors, saying, “the practice of treating governors as political football must stop”. There should be critical changes in the role of the governor — including fixed five year tenure as well as their removal only through impeachment by the state Assembly. It has also recommended that the state chief minister have a say in the appointment of governor.

9. Underlining that removal of a governor be for a reason related to his discharge of functions, it has proposed provisions for impeachment by the state legislature along the same lines as that of President by Parliament.This, significantly, goes against the doctrine of pleasure upheld by the recent Supreme Court judgment.

10. Endorsing an NCRWC recommendation, it says appointment of governor should be entrusted to a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and chief minister of the concerned state. The Vice- President can also be involved in the process.

Rameshwar Prasad v Union of India

Khadija Khan, March 17, 2023: The Indian Express

The Supreme Court Bench hearing the cases filed in the wake of the Shiv Sena political crisis, in an oral observation, asked whether the Governor can call for a floor test in case of internal dissatisfaction within a party.

Responding to this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta drew attention to a 2005 ruling of the Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad v Union of India, which he said, had answered this question.

The landmark ruling defines the contours of the Governor’s powers to dissolve the Assembly. What was this case, and how is it related to the Shiv Sena crisis?

The context was a hung Assembly after the state elections in Bihar in 2005

In February 2005, Bihar saw a hung Legislative Assembly, as no party or alliance could muster the required majority of 122 seats in the 243-member House.

The contenders to form the government included the NDA, then comprising the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which had won 92 seats, followed by Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which had won 75 seats. The late Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP had won 29 seats, and the Congress had won 10.

After a series of meetings with political parties, then Governor Buta Singh concluded that no party or alliance was in a position to reach a majority in the Assembly, owing to the LJP’s indecisiveness about siding with either faction.

On March 6, 2005, Governor Singh wrote to then President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, recommending President’s Rule in Bihar under Article 365, and keeping the Assembly in “suspended animation” — which meant it would not be dissolved, but it could not conduct business either.

The following day, two notifications, imposing President’s Rule on Bihar, and transferring the powers of the President to the Governor subject to his final control and superintendence, were issued.

Meanwhile, a group of 17 Independent MLAs and three smaller parties extended their support to the NDA group led by Nitish Kumar.

The 2 reports sent by the Governor to the President

The first report, dated April 27, 2005, referred to “serious attempts to cobble a majority” by winning over MLAs by “various means”, including allurements like posts and money. Warning of distortion of democracy, the report recommended that fresh elections should be held in the state.

The second report was sent a little less than a month later, on May 21, 2005. In it, the Governor recommended the dissolution of the existing Assembly and reiterated the recommendation for fresh elections, observing that the LJP had sided with the JD(U).

The Union Cabinet promptly forwarded the reports to the President for his assent, an essential requirement for the dissolution of an Assembly and conducting fresh elections. Following the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly, the JD(U) and BJP organised statewide protests and strikes.

Rameshwar Prasad, who had won the Sandesh Assembly seat in February 2005, filed a petition before the Supreme Court, along with three other MLAs in the defunct House, challenging the constitutionality of the Presidential Proclamation of May 23, 2005, and asking that the dissolution of the Assembly be struck down as “unconstitutional”. A couple of other petitions were also filed in the matter.

Meanwhile the Election Commission of India stepped in to announce fresh elections in Bihar. 
With the petitions before the SC still pending, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on September 3, 2005, announced dates for fresh elections in Bihar. It announced polls in four phases between October 18 and November 19, 2005.

This created a difficult situation. The Supreme Court was yet to decide in the matter, and the outcome of the election could potentially complicate things.

The Supreme Court delivered its verdict days ahead of the scheduled elections

After six days of hearings, a Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal delivered a shorter version of its verdict on October 7, 2005. The court struck down the President’s Proclamation dissolving the state Assembly as unconstitutional. However, the court chose not to restore the Assembly, owing to the elections that were fast approaching.

“The Governor, a high Constitutional functionary, is required to be kept out from the controversies like disqualification of members of a Legislative Assembly and, therefore, there are provisions like Article 192(2) in the Constitution providing for Governor obtaining the opinion of the Election Commission and acting according to such opinion in the constitutional scheme of things. Similar provision in so far as member of Parliament is concerned, being in Article 103(2) of the Constitution,” the SC ruled.

The court also said that it could not remain a silent spectator “watching the subversion of the Constitution”, and said that while the Governor may have been the main player, the Union Council of Ministers should have verified the facts stated in the Governor’s report before “hurriedly accepting it as a gospel truth”.

“The Governor has misled the Council of Ministers which led to aid and advice being given by the Council of Ministers to the President leading to the issue of the impugned Proclamation,” the SC observed.

The court rejected the action of the Governor as “mere pretence”, and said that the real object was to “keep away a political party from staking a claim to form the Government”.

The apex court has frowned upon the conduct of the Governor in the Maharashtra case as well

On March 15, the SC expressed concern over then Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari using his powers to order a floor test, which pushed then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to resign. The crisis in the state had arisen after a rebellion in the Shiv Sena in June 2022, with the majority of MLAs going over to the faction led by current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.

During the proceedings, a five-judge Bench headed by CJI D Y Chandrachud enquired whether the Governor could intervene by calling for a floor test in case of internal dissatisfaction within a party.

When SG Mehta referred to the 2005 ruling in Rameshwar Prasad’s case, Justice P S Narasimha, who was part of the Bench, pointed out that in Rameshwar Prasad vs Union of India, the government was never formed — however, in the present situation, the government in Maharashtra had been there for more than three-and-a-half years.

This also prompted the CJI to distinguish between the decision in Rameshwar Prasad and the present case. “The Governor cannot refuse the formation of a new government and override the majority because of his subjective assessment. This is a government which is legitimately formed,” he said.

Resignation by governors

2016: Can home secretary ask governor to resign?: SC

The Times of India, Jan 28 2016

AmitAnand Choudhary

The Supreme Court expressed serious displeasure over the alleged telephonic instructions by the Union home secretary to governors, who are the constitutional heads of states, to quit after the change of regime at the Centre in 2014. Two petitions alleged that immediately after NDA came to power at the Centre, then home secretary Anil Goswami had asked then Uttarakhand governor Aziz Qureshi to resign while the former's private secretary had called the lieutenant governor of Puducherry , Virendra Kataria, to convey a similar message.

A constitution bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices F M I Kalifulla, A K Sikri, S A Bobde and R Banumathi asked the Centre how a bureaucrat could ask a constitutional post holder to quit without instruction from the government or the President under whose pleasure they discharge their functions.

“It is not for the home secretary to ask a governor to resign.

These are serious issues.

Is home secretary a mouthpiece of the government? Does he represent the will of the government? If not, then the officer should not have intervened in such a way . It is not acceptable,“ the bench said. It added that the level of interaction slid further when the home secretary's private secretary rang up the Puducherry LG. The court had earlier sought the Centre's response on Qureshi's petition.

On Wednesday , it agreed to hear Kataria's petition along with Qureshi's and asked the Centre to file its response in four weeks.

Quereshi and Kataria were sacked by the NDA govern ment. Many other governors, appointed during the UPA regime, resigned after the NDA government's loud message -quit or get sacked -was allegedly communicated through the home secretary .

While most governors took the hint and resigned, accepting it to be a logical fallout of regime change at the Centre, Qureshi decided take on the Narendra Modi government and moved the SC questioning the home secretary's “audacity“ to ring him up and seek his resignation.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that Goswami, on being asked by the President to ascertain certain controversial remarks by Quereshi on rape, had called then Uttarakhand governor to seek his explanation. Qureshi had allegedly said “even God cannot stop rapes in UP“.

The home secretary never asked Qureshi to resign, the AG said, and attempted to put the controversial issue to rest. But the bench turned down his plea saying the matter needed to be adjudicated on how a governor should be treated in such situations.

Controversial actions


1967-2019, Some disputed decisions by Indian Governors.
From: July 29, 2020: The Times of India

See graphic:

1967-2019: Some disputed decisions by Indian Governors.


The Times of India, Aug 31, 2011

Ramlal : ANDHRA PRADESH, 1984: When CM N T Rama Rao was out of the country, finance minister N Bhaskara Rao led a coup supported by the Centre. Ramlal removed NTR from office causing a protest. The governor was recalled and NTR was restored as the CM

Romesh Bhandari  :UTTAR PRADESH, 1998: Caused a constitutional crisis by dismissing the Kalyan Singh’s government. He appointed Jagadambika Pal as CM, who lasted 3 days, before the Allahabad HC stayed the order and allowed Kalyan to prove his majority

Buta Singh : BIHAR, 2005: His recommendation to dissolve the assembly resulted in President’s rule. The opposition alleged foul play as they were not given enough time to prove majority. His decision was criticised and he had to resign

Syed Sibtey Razi  : JHARKHAND 2005: Despite NDA’s majority in the 2005 poll, the governor invited UPA ally Shibu Soren to form government. Later, Arjun Munda-led NDA proved majority on the floor of the house


S R Bommai v Union of India 1994 : SC termed the dismissal of the state assemblies of Karnataka, Meghalaya and MP as unconstitutional and ruled that the governors acted hastily

Favouring the national ruling party


Nov 27, 2019: The Times of India

Every time there is a hung assembly, it’s the governor who uses his discretion that often favours the party or alliance at the Centre. Whether it is Maharashtra now, Karnataka last year or several other cases in the past, the focus had been on the governor’s role in terms of inviting a party or alliance to form the government or giving it a longer rope to prove majority in the House.

In Maharashtra, governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari might have explored all available options before recommending President’s rule. He was criticised for giving BJP more time and later setting a shorter deadline for Shiv Sena and NCP.

Koshyari may not have violated constitutional provisions — the matter is now under judicial review — but played close to the line in swearing in the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar duo. The 14 days he gave for a floor test seemed excessive and the Supreme Court slashed it to a day. Though Fadnavis’s resignation in wake of the SC’s order of early floor test (by 5 pm on Wednesday) turned the table in favour of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, the development brought the governor’s discretion under the shadow of controversy.

The role of the governor’s office has been under scrutiny in all regimes. When the UPA assumed office, the governments of Nagaland and Goa were the first to go. During UPA-2, the BJP government in Karnataka was kept on tenterhooks with the governor sanctioning prosecution of then chief minister BS Yediyurappa.

In May 2018, Karnataka saw a questionable development when governor Vajubhai Vala granted 15 days time to Yediyurappa to prove his majority in a hung assembly. Even then, the SC had to intervene when opposition parties approached it and the court asked Yediyurappa to prove his majority early by curtailing the number of days given to him by the governor. Vala in that case even ignored the claim of the Congress-JD(S) despite the postpoll alliance having a higher number of MLAs. He invited BJP to form the government which was the single largest party without adequate numbers on its side.

There are many other examples where the governor acted in a manner which suited the ruling party at the Centre. The governor has wide powers on whom to invite but must not be arbitrary and should follow due process.

Though the SR Bommai case asserted that floor test was the only way to decide the strength of an alliance, it did not clarify whether the single largest party or group should be taken as the pre-or post-poll alliance.

In 2016, Uttarakhand saw a different scenario when governor KK Paul recommended President’s rule instead of giving then Congress CM Harish Rawat a chance to prove majority when nine ruling party MLAs rebelled. The Uttarakhand high court quashed President’s rule and Rawat proved his majority.

Governors tamper with democracy; Hargovind Pant judgment 1979

Dhananjay Mahapatra, ‘Save democracy’ cry of politicians is often shedding of crocodile tears, May 21, 2018: The Times of India

Nothing repeats like history. It is more true for Indian politics, than any other sphere of our national life. Patterns, traditions and conventions have been set by Congress, which parented the nation from its birth till adulthood. There is a saying that it is difficult to change what one learnt as a child.

Plagiarised and improved versions of Congress shenanigans, crafted when it enjoyed the status of pan-Indian ruling party, is being now replayed by other political parties across India drawing howls of protests from the grand old political entity. Fortunately, the SC, despite its recently sullied image, rose to the occasion, passed orders to stop ‘murder of democracy’ and wiped the tears off Congress.

The first ‘murder of democracy’ happened when the Jawaharlal Nehru government listened to Congress president Indira Gandhi’s advice and used Kerala Governor to dismiss the first democratically elected Communist government in 1959. The Governor was B Ramakrishna Rao, the first chief minister of Hyderabad. He later became an RS MP.

Since, then political blood from many murders of democracy by arbitrary dismissal of state governments, in active connivance of Governors, has smudged Indian democratic history. The ‘murder of democracy’ and ‘save democracy’ cries have all remained opportunistic expressions of inability to counter a situation politically.

After the dishevelling of BJP’s plans, orchestrated through a conniving Governor in Karnataka, to usurp power without the numbers, one of the first congratulatory ‘democracy saved’ messages came from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Alas! She had not reacted when the Supreme Court just a week back expressed anguish over TMC musclemen ensuring no contest in nearly 20,000 seats in WB panchayat elections, marred by bloodshed and violence. May be the brutal ‘murder of democracy’ on the ground was better than the conspiracy hatched by holders of constitutional posts. And, may be murder of grassroot democracy is better than murder of democracy in the assembly!

Governors’ role as the holder of the highest constitutional post in a state has come under scrutiny many a time in the SC. Should their appointment by the Union government make them agents of the Centre or “His Master’s Voice”? Or, are they expected to discharge their duties and constitutional functions independently?

Four decades back in Hargovind Pant judgment [1979 (3) SCC 458], the SC had said that by no stretch of imagination, Governors could be said to be “employee or servant of the Government of India”. It said: “He is not amenable to the directions of the government of India, nor is he accountable to them for the manner in which he carries out his functions and duties. He is an independent constitutional office which is not subject to the control of the government of India.”

These highly exalting words of the SC interpreting the constitutional position enjoyed by a Governor did little to change the servile mindset of Governors who, by and large, remained blindly true not to the Constitution but to their masters, who had chosen them after decades of unflinching loyalty.

To stem the denigration of the high constitutional office of Governor, the Sarkaria Commission in 1987 recommended that persons chosen for the post must have achieved eminence in some walk of life, must be from outside the state, should be a detached figure not intimately connected to local politics and most importantly, must not have taken great part in politics generally and in the recent past.

It is impossible to locate a Governor, from the political history of India, who embodies all these four qualities. Probably that is the reason why we have witnessed political conspiracies getting scripted in Raj Bhavans immediately after a state election throwing up a fractured mandate. And that is the reason why the SC’s order directing floor test in Karnataka was identical to the one passed by it in 2005 for Jharkhand [2005 (3) SCC 152] when Governor and former Congress politician Sibtey Razi denied BJP’s Arjun Munda the invitation to form gover nment despite commanding a clear majority.

Irked by another Congressman-turned Governor Buta Singh denying Nitish Kumar-led coalition an invitation to form government, the SC in Rameshwar Prasad case [2006 (2) SCC 1] had wished that the government and political parties had given importance to the Sarkaria Commission recommendation on eligibility criteria for persons getting appointed as Gover nors.

It had said: “Unfortunately, the criteria has been observed in almost total breach by all political parties. It is seen that one day a person is in active politics in as much as he holds the office of the Chief Minister or party post and almost on the following day, or in any case, soon thereafter the same person is appointed as the governor in another state with hardly any cooling off period. Ordinarily, it is difficult to expect detachment from party politics from such persons while performing constitutional functions as Governor.”

The SC went on to appeal to the wisdom of political parties and their leaders to discuss and debate and “arrive at, if possible, a national policy and some common minimum parameters applicable acceptable to all major political parties”.

More than a decade has passed since the SC registered this appeal to political parties. Nothing has changed. The loyal party soldiers continue to adorn the Governor’s posts and serve as agents of the political party holding the reins at the Centre. Their active participation in the ‘murder of democracy’ is challenged in the SC from time to time. And the political parties, take turn, to shed crocodile tears for ‘murder of democracy’.


Change of guard

2019, Sept

Sep 2, 2019: The Times of India

Governors appointed in 2019, Sept.
From: Sep 2, 2019: The Times of India

Arif, who quit Rajiv govt, new Kerala guv

New Delhi:

Arif Mohammad Khan, a vocal voice against triple talaq who had quit the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet in protest against the enactment of a law to nullify the Supreme Court order in the Shah Bano case, has been appointed governor of Kerala, a state where BJP has been struggling to make its presence felt.

BJP leader and former Uttarakhand CM Bhagat Singh Koshyari, 77, will be the new governor of Maharashtra. He was one of many party MPs who were denied tickets in Lok Sabha polls due to their age.

BJP’s Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, 58, has been appointed governor of Telangana, while former Union minister Kalraj Mishra, 78, who was recently appointed governor of Himachal Pradesh, has been shifted to Rajasthan. Former labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, 72, has been appointed governor of Himachal Pradesh.

Mishra will succeed Kalyan Singh, who completed his five-year tenure as Rajasthan governor. Koshyari replaces Vidya Sagar Rao as Maharashtra governor, while Soundararajan will succeed ESL Narasimhan in Telangana.  Khan a staunch critic of triple talaq

The allocation of gubernatorial assignments shows that the leadership is careful about accommodating senior party leaders with many of them taking retirement from active politics owing to the unwritten party code of no electoral role for those crossing 75 years.

Khan, who will succeed former CJI P Sathasivam in the Kerala Raj Bhavan, has been a staunch critic of triple talaq and has been calling for reforms in Muslim personal laws since long. Khan’s speech in Parliament in 1985 in the wake of the Shah Bano judgment extending the Rajiv Gandhi government’s initial support to it was much acclaimed. However, when the Rajiv Gandhi government made a U-turn under pressure from Muslim clerics and brought a bill to nullify the SC order, he resigned from the ministry. The UP politician later joined BJP, but remained inactive since 2007.

Recently, when the Narendra Modi government brought a bill to criminalise triple talaq, and Khan supported it. In the Shah Bano case, the SC had delivered a judgment favouring maintenance given to a divorced Muslim woman.

Taking a swipe at Khan’s appointment, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said it was an “entirely expected decision”. “Congratulations to Arif Mohammed Khan on being appointed governor of Kerala. An entirely expected decision. His statements made in recent times were an indicator of him soon getting rewarded by BJP. The reward is well deserved and was long awaited,” Singhvi said in a tweet.

2023, Feb

Akhilesh Singh, Feb 13, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi: Senior BJP leader and Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who had sparked controversies with his outspoken statements and recently expressed his willingness to quit, finally put in his papers.

In a major reshuffle of the gubernatorial pack, including the appointment of retired Supreme Court judge Justice S Abdul Nazeer as Andhra Pradesh governor, the President named new governors in 12 states and an LG in Ladakh. The 13 include six new faces; of them four are BJP leaders: Lakshman Prasad Acharya, C P Radhakrishnan, Shiv Pratap Shukla and Gulab Chand Kataria.

Nazeer was part of the fivejudge SC bench that unanimously decided in 2019 to give a 2. 77-acre site in Ayodhya for the construction of Ram temple. Nazeer (65) retired from the SC on January 4 this year. He is the second SC judge to have be- en appointed governor by the Modi government after former CJI S Sathasivam moved to Kerala Raj Bhawan in 2014. Another ex-CJI, Justice Ranjan Gogoi who headed the Ayodhya bench, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2020.

The changing role of Governor


The Hindu, February 13, 2016

The presidential prerogative

With rare exceptions, the recommendation for President’s rule arises not from the Governor’s independent assessment of the situation but from Delhi. That is where the President has room to impress upon the government of the day the need for the greatest circumspection

Governors are not exactly the most popular of public servants in India today. Nor are they spectacularly unpopular. The astringent truth — for the incumbents of that office — is that Governors do not figure in people’s thoughts. They are a presence that is absent in the public imagination.

The men and women concerned may have a flattering view of their tenures, duly reflected in the memoirs some of them have written, but the hard fact is that there are not many Governors whose names have been etched unconditionally in the consciousness of the people of their States as exemplary holders of that office. Some have been liked more than others, or found less tedious, but not many of them have caused huge or widespread regret on their departure.

Some Governors have, in fact, earned either popular opprobrium or informed criticism. Tamil Nadu remembers the scholarly Sri Prakasa who, as Governor from 1952 to 1956, did something that has gone into political and constitutional lore as indecorous, infelicitous. In the first elections held to the State Assembly in 1952, when the Congress suffered a debacle, Governor Sri Prakasa invited C. Rajagopalachari, who was not an elected member of the Assembly, to try to form the government through the procedure of nomination to the Upper House. This came from Congress State unit chief K. Kamaraj’s calculation that many Independent MLAs and smaller parties that would not back a Congress ministry would back Rajaji, out of respect for him, and the Congress, its reduced seats notwithstanding, would be in office. The calculation worked, Rajaji won the House’s support. His biographer Rajmohan Gandhi writes: “… the clause (for nomination) was not really conceived for accommodating a chief-minister-to-be who thought poorly of elections. The spirit of democracy had been violated.”

But what, in the hindsight of more than six and a half decades, is important about that contretemps is that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had given no signal one way or other before Rajaji’s nomination, lost no time in saying to his party once he was sworn in that “… early steps will have to be taken for Rajaji’s election to the Madras Assembly”. Informed public opinion, likewise, in the shape of an editorial in The Hindu, said: “Rajaji should take an early opportunity to get himself elected to the popular House.”

This is where the nation has veered sharply and shockingly from the early years of our Constitution’s working. Party considerations have overridden propriety.

The hotline from Delhi

Governors, over the years, have recommended President’s rule under the provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution several times, for the ostensible reason that the constitutional machinery of the State has broken down. Most often this “breakdown” has come from the Chief Minister losing his majority in the House or a coalition coming apart. And, with rare exceptions, the “recommendation” has arisen not from the Governor’s independent assessment of the situation but from Delhi where, informally, the Prime Minister and Home Minister have decided that this is the recommendation needed and the Governor but signs it. Once the President approves the recommendation, democracy, effectively, comes to a standstill though when that happens, it must be said, very often a chaotic administration gets regulated and orderly as well.

Bipartisan partisanship

How many promulgations under Article 356 have been bona fide? One can safely say that a good many of them have been driven by partisan considerations.

One of the earliest mala fide activations of Article 356 was in Kerala when after the Vimochana Samaram, the popularly elected communist government headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad was dismissed. It is known that the initiative for this came from the then Congress president Indira Gandhi whose insistence her father, Prime Minister Nehru, could not resist. When she became Prime Minister herself, Indira Gandhi used the provision with the finesse of a practised hand. Her government between 1966 and 1977 imposed President’s rule 39 times in different States, the Governor of the day having spoken nary a word in doubt, let alone divergence. Article 356 became under Indira Gandhi a mechanism for the perpetuation and spread of her centralised and deeply suspicious style of functioning.

But it is not as if the Congress has been the sole “culprit”. The Janata Party, which came into office after the defeat of Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency” government, proved itself to be an assiduous student. In its brief tenure, it imposed President’s rule in no less than nine States that had been under Congress rule. Governors have not surprisingly, therefore, come to be regarded tragically and not untruthfully, as agents of the Centre.

But what of Presidents and Article 356? Before attempting an answer to that question, reference must be made to the Sarkaria Commission Report on Centre-State relations, 1988, which recommended that Article 356 must be used “very sparingly, in extreme cases, as a measure of last resort, when all the other alternatives fail to prevent or rectify a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state”. And to the relatively obscure Karnataka politician S.R. Bommai who catalysed the landmark 1994 judgment in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India in which the Supreme Court laid down tight guidelines for imposing President’s rule.

Room for the President

To return now to the crucial role of the President of India in these transactions. While the President is obliged to act under the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, it is a patent fact that the office of the Head of State is one of great influence, as distinct from power. President K.R. Narayanan declined to approve a recommendation made to him in 1997 by the United Front (UF) government headed by Prime Minister I.K. Gujral for the imposition of President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh. The UF government dropped the proposal. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in the Opposition, hailed President Narayanan as “a saviour of democracy”.

But the medicine was soon to be administered to his admirers when the very next year, the BJP, in office, sent a recommendation to President Narayanan for the imposition of President’s rule in Bihar. Governor S.S. Bhandari had reported “a slide into chaos of Bihar”, then ruled by Rabri Devi’s government. In a memorable Minute, President Narayanan said a slide was a slow process and observed: “A pertinent point arises, viz., that over the period of the slide, remedial action in terms of constitutional obligation ought to have been taken to arrest the decline.” His Minute, long in the public domain, has become, for Article 356, as pertinent a document as the Sarkaria recommendation and the Bommai judgment. The exigencies in each “Article 356 case” must differ, but President Narayanan’s Minute stresses the need, applicable to all cases, for the greatest circumspection before activating that Article in order to inure a proclamation under it from the charge of political bias.

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