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Dismissing Ministers: Preserving the Federal Framework


A discussion over the constitutional authority of governors and their potential effects on state governments has been spurred by the recent firing and then reinstatement of a Minister in the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu by Governor R.N. Ravi. This article questions whether Governors can fire specific Ministers without the Chief Minister’s approval and makes the case that doing so could jeopardise the constitutional framework and the federal government.


GS Paper 2 – Governor

Mains Question

Describe the constitutional authority that Indian governors have to select and remove ministers from state governments. Consider the probable repercussions for the federal structure and constitutional framework if Governors dismiss Ministers without the Chief Minister’s recommendation. (150 words)

The Authority of Governors to Fire Ministers

  • According to Article 164 of the Constitution, the Governor appoints the Chief Minister, however the appointment of each Minister is based on the Chief Minister’s recommendation.
  • This suggests that the Governor must seek the Chief Minister’s advice before dismissing a Minister and that the Governor cannot appoint a Minister at their own discretion.
  • The Chief Minister, who is answerable to the people, has the authority to select and remove Ministers. The Governor is not given the ability to use this discretion under the Constitution.

Constitutional Rules Regulating the Function of Governors

  • Part VI of the Indian Constitution contains the clauses governing the nomination and authority of governors in India. Each state is required under Article 153 to have a governor, and one individual may be appointed as the governor of two or more states.
  • The governor performs two roles: he or she represents the President while also acting as the state’s legal head of state. By serving as a liaison between the federal and state governments, this role is essential to preserving the federal framework of the Indian polity.
  • Articles 157 and 158 of the Constitution specify the qualifications for holding the office of governor.
  • Typically, the term of office for a governor is five years. The requirements include being an Indian citizen, being at least 35 years old, not being a member of either house of parliament or state legislature, and not holding any position of profit. The period, however, may end earlier if certain conditions are met.
  • A governor may be removed by the President on the advice of the prime minister-led cabinet. The President is required to remove a governor if their activities are found to be unlawful and malafide by the courts; it is vital to remember that removal without a good cause is not permissible.
  • The role of governors is crucial in sustaining the ideas of federalism and ensuring the efficient operation of state governments. Governors also have the power to resign from their office. They contribute to the overall governance of the nation by playing a critical role in preserving a cordial relationship between the federal government and the states.

Historical Overview: 1935’s Government of India Act

  • The Government of India Act, 1935 examination sheds more light on this issue. In accordance with Section 51(1) of the Act, “the Governor’s Ministers shall be chosen and summoned by him, shall be sworn as members of the council, and shall hold office during his pleasure.” According to this paragraph, Ministers are appointed by the Governor and work at their discretion. Section 51’s Subsection 5 further confirms that the Governor has discretion in selecting, dismissing, and setting Ministers’ pay.
  • Two important facts are drawn from the terms of the Government of India Act, 1935: Ministers are chosen by the Governor, and the Governor has the authority to remove them. During colonial control, this method permitted arbitrary hiring and firing.

As a constitutional head, the governor

  • The recent actions of the governor of Tamil Nadu point to a misinterpretation of the authority granted to governors in independent India. In India’s constitutional framework, governors are merely symbolic figures who can only take action on the suggestion of the Chief Minister-led Council of Ministers.
  • Governors are expressly denied independent executive powers under the Indian Constitution, according to B.R. Ambedkar, a significant contributor to its writing. As a result, the Governor no longer has power over the appointment or removal of Ministers. The Chief Minister has the power to select a Minister and make a recommendation for their dismissal.

Getting to know the “Pleasure Doctrine”

Although the Government of India Act, 1935, which established the pleasure doctrine, is incorporated into Article 164 of the Indian Constitution, it should be observed that the words “chosen,” “dismissal,” and “discretion” were left out of the text. This omission shows that the Constitution does not provide the Governor any latitude in appointing or removing certain Ministers.

Judicial Explanation

Through a number of cases, the Indian Supreme Court has clarified the role of governors within the framework of the constitution. In the Shamsher Singh and Nabam Rebia instances, the court determined that Governors can only utilise their official constitutional powers as stated in Article 163(1), and only on the recommendation of their Ministers. Additionally, the court nullified earlier rulings that gave Governors unrestricted jurisdiction under Article 164.


It is unconstitutional for the Governor of Tamil Nadu to remove a Minister without consulting the Chief Minister. Such activities have the potential to undermine the constitutional order and cast doubt on the stability of state administrations. The problem of firing a Minister without the Chief Minister’s consent remains a threat to the constitutional system, despite reports that the Governor later stayed the dismissal order for legal opinion.

December 2023