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Editorials/Opinions Analyses for UPSC 10 January 2022

Contents:

  1. Some Raj Bhavans are on the war path
  2. Simmering challenge

Some Raj Bhavans are on the war path

Context:

Recent media reports about the confrontation between the Governors and the State governments, in Maharashtra and Kerala, have turned the spotlight on the rather delicate relationship between the constitutional head of the State and the elected government.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2: Constitutional Bodies, Role of Governor

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recent Confrontations between Governors and the State governments
  2. Discretionary powers of Governor
  3. Issues in Maharashtra
  4. Issues in Kerala
  5. Way forward

Recent Confrontations between Governors and the State governments:

  • In Maharashtra:
    • The Governor of Maharashtra refused to accept the date of election of the Speaker recommended by the State government.
  • In Kerala:
    • The Kerala State Governor having reappointed the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University in accordance with the law, made an allegation against the Kerala government that he was under pressure from the Government to reappoint the Vice Chancellor.
  • Previous Confrontations:
    • The Governor levelling allegations against his own government is not a first-time development. 
    • This has been a regular feature in the state of West Bengal
    • Non-acceptance of the advice of the Council of Ministers too has been witnessed in Rajasthan as well as Maharashtra again.

Discretionary powers of Governor:

  • Colonial Era: The Governor was the absolute ruler of the province who was answerable ultimately to His Majesty, the King. 
  • Constituent assembly: The members had divergent views on the powers to be given to the Governor.
    • There were members in the Assembly who wanted the Governor to be as powerful as the colonial-era Governors. 
    • Though B.R. Ambedkar was clear that the Governor should only be a constitutional head and the executive power should vest entirely in the elected government, he promoted the idea of vesting certain discretionary powers in the Governor.
    • In this respect he was guided by the thinking that the State governments are in subordination to the Union government and, therefore, the Governor should be given discretionary powers to ensure that they act so.
    • So, ultimately, the Governor who emerged from the Constituent Assembly was one with certain discretionary powers prescribed by the Constitution unlike the President of India who has not been given any such powers. 
  • Article 163: It became a ‘blind reproduction of Section 50 of the Government of India Act 1935’. This to a great extent, introduced a vagueness about the actual powers of the Governor vis-à-vis the elected government in democratic India.
  • Supreme court’s declaration: From Shamsher Singh (1974) to Nabam Rebia (2016) case the top court declared that the Governor can, in the exercise of executive power of the state, act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers “…save in a few well-known exceptional situations”.

Issues in Maharashtra:

  • It could be for the first time in the history of free India that a Governor has refused to fix the date of election of the Speaker and, consequently, the election could not be held.
  • The Maharashtra Assembly is now without a Speaker being in office.
  • Against the Principles of the Constitution: The Governor’s refusal to accept the date of election of the Speaker goes against the principles of constitutional government.
    • As per Article 178: The Constitution has not assigned any role to the Governor in the election of the Speaker which is exclusively the job of the House.
  • Rules of the House: It is only the House rule which says that the Governor shall fix the date. 
    • Under the procedure followed in all Assemblies, the government fixes the date and conveys it to the Secretary of the Assembly who forwards it to the office of the Governor for his signature. After the date is formally approved by the Governor, the members are informed about it.
  • If the Governor does not approve the date, can the election be held?
    • Fixing the date by the Governor is not of any constitutional importance but the election by the House is important.
    • So, if the Governor stands in the way of the election, the only way open to the House is to amend that particular rule which empowers the Governor to fix the date. It can provide that the Secretary on receiving the date from the government shall notify the members of the same. 
    • The election can be held either through secret ballot or through a motion in the House as is done by the Lok Sabha.

Issues in Kerala:

  • In Kerala, the controversy surrounds the reappointment of the incumbent Vice Chancellor of Kannur University.
  • The Governor being the ex-officio Chancellor of the university and the appointing authority, accepted the suggestion of State Government and reappointed the Vice Chancellor.
  • After some time, the Governor went public with a serious allegation that he had signed the order of appointment under pressure from the Government and that he had done the wrong thing by reappointing the Vice Chancellor under pressure.
  • Analysing Governor’s role in reappointing incumbent Vice Chancellor:
    • It must be stated here that the Governor had acted perfectly in accordance with the law in reappointing the incumbent Vice Chancellor. 
    • The University Act: As per the act, an incumbent Vice Chancellor is eligible for reappointment. Since the Act does not lay down any specific procedure for reappointment, the Chancellor was right in accepting the suggestion or the recommendation made from the Government.
    • The Governor in fact can accept suggestions from any person including the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. 
    • However, the Governor as Chancellor is not required to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers in the matter of appointment of Vice Chancellor and others in the university. He can act absolutely independently. He could also have rejected the suggestion from the Government.
    • In Gopalakrishnan vs Chancellor, University of Kerala case: The Kerala High court has clarified that the Governor of Kerala needs to apply his mind independently to the case of reappointment, evaluate the performance of the Vice Chancellor and fully satisfy himself about the merit of the appointee before signing the appointment order. 
    • Adding to the confusion, the Governor has divested himself of the ex-officio charge of Chancellor and declared that he will not be functioning as Chancellor. 
    • The Govenor cannot relinquish a charge which he holds in an ex-officio capacity unless he leaves his substantive post.

Way forward:

  • There have been differences between Governors and Chief Ministers in the past too, but these have been rare occurrences. But the open confrontations now clearly cross the boundaries of what is constitutionally permissible behaviour.
  • The Governor is a high constitutional authority. He needs to function within the four walls of the Constitution and be a friend, philosopher and guide to his government.
  • The Constitution does not allow him to be a parallel government; nor does it make him personally responsible for his actions as Governor.
  • Such confrontations take place only in Opposition-ruled States shows that political expediency has overtaken constitutional propriety.
  • As rightly put across by Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, a conscientious member of the Constituent Assembly: “He (Governor) will be a man above party and he will look at the minister and government from a detached stand point”.
  • Detachment is the essence of India’s ancient culture.

-Source: The Hindu

Simmering challenge

Context:

China and India are scheduled to meet on Wednesday for another round of border talks in Eastern Ladakh.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2: India and its Neighbourhood, Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concerns
  2. Bilateral Tensions
  3. India Hits back
  4. The Challenge ahead for India

Concerns:

  • Implications in India’s defence:
    • The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is building across a portion of the Pangong Lake, which while being on China’s side of the LAC, has implications for India’s defence of its territory.
    • China is also building other roads and bridges and reinforcing the military infrastructure, all on its side of the LAC.
  • Territorial claims:
    • Recently China has “standardised” names of several places in Arunachal Pradesh, giving them Chinese names.
    • A junior diplomat in the Chinese Embassy in Delhi ticked off Indian parliamentarians for attending a Tibet-related event.
  • The construction of the bridge over Pangong is an indication that Beijing is in fact preparing for a long haul.
  • All these are certainly not a sign of two countries moving towards resolution.

Bilateral Tensions:

  • While 13 previous rounds of talks between the ground commanders of the Indian Army and PLA have yielded disengagement at Pangong and Gogra, an anticipated agreement for disengagement at Hot Springs could not take place. 
  • Moreover, the continuing tensions all along the LAC, particularly the build-up by the Chinese in the Western sector of the contested line, offer no comfort.
  • Until the two sides can resolve differences in the strategic Depsang Area, where Indian troops are being prevented from accessing traditional patrolling points, de-escalation will remain elusive.

India Hits back:

  • The Ministry of External Affairs denounced the “standardisation” of names in Arunachal as “ridiculous”, and rightly said this would not alter the fact that Arunachal is an inalienable part of India.
  • India also reprimanded the Chinese Embassy for “hyping normal activities” by Indian parliamentarians.
  • Significantly, it described the new bridge as a construction in Indian territory that China had “illegally occupied” in the 1962 war, declaring that India had “never accepted such illegal occupation”.

The Challenge ahead for India:

  • Recent developments on China front are disquieting.
  • India has broken its silence, but road ahead is not easy
  • Dealing with a powerful neighbour that has unilaterally discarded three decades of agreements that laid down the path to deal with the border issue is not easy.
  • The main challenge is-
    • how India is going to deal with China’s heightened military activity along the LAC
    • getting it to vacate areas that are illegally occupied by China.
  • Strangely, the country’s political leadership is yet to take full ownership of the crisis with China which is the first step towards addressing it more frontally.

-Source: Indian Express

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