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Pull Together For Punjab’s Sake

Context:

Recently, the Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann thanked the Supreme Court for its “historic” decision and “saving the existence of democracy, saying the upcoming state assembly session will now go on without any obstruction.

Relevance:

GS II: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Punjab Governor vs Chief Minister row
  2. The Supreme Court’s interpretation
  3. Criticisms against the role of Chief Minister
  4. Criticisms against the role of Governor
  5. Appointment and removal of Governor
  6. Background

Punjab Governor vs Chief Minister row:

  • The tussle between the Punjab governor and the Chief Minister had worsened last week with the Governor indicating he was in no hurry to summon the assembly’s budget session.
  • Early this month, the Punjab Cabinet decided to call the Assembly session on March 3 and requested the Governor to summon the House.
  • The Governor, in his response said that he would take a call on summoning the Budget session only after taking legal advice on the CM’s response.
  • Later, the Punjab government had moved the apex court after it accused the governor of not responding to the cabinet’s decision of summoning the budget session of the Vidhan Sabha.
  • Following the top court’s verdict, the governor released a letter summoning the session immediately.
  • The Chief Minister of Punjab thanked the Supreme Court for its historic decision to save the existence of democracy in Punjab.
  • Other confrontations:
    • Last month, the Governor had asked the Chief Minister to explain the process of selecting 36 government school principals for a training seminar held recently in Singapore.
    • The Chief Minister responded that he was only answerable to three crore Punjabis, not to a Centre-appointed Governor and also questioned the Centre’s criteria for appointing Governors.
    • The Governor said these remarks were not only patently unconstitutional but extremely derogatory

The Supreme Court’s interpretation:

  • The Supreme Court adjudicated the ongoing confrontation between Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann and governor Banwarilal Purohit over summoning of the state budget session.
  • It held that the level of discourse between a chief minister and the governor must not degenerate into a “race to the bottom”.
  • The Court further stressed that the political differences in a democratic polity are acceptable, but constitutional discourse has to be conducted with a sense of decorum and mature statesmanship from both sides.
  • The Constitutional functionaries must be deeply cognisant of the entrustment of public trust and the offices which they occupy.

Criticisms against the role of Chief Minister:

  • The administration of the state is entrusted to a democratically elected chief minister.
  • Not furnishing the information sought by the Governor would be a dereliction of the Chief Minister’s constitutional duty which would allow the Governor to not do his constitutional duty to summon the Budget session.
  • The Court pointed out that the Chief Minister failed in performing his duty under Article 167 of the Constitution. The article embodies the duties which are passed on to the chief minister of every state, who has the duty to communicate information with the governor
    • Article 167 imposes on the Chief Minister the responsibility of keeping the Governor informed of all decisions made by the Council of Ministers concerning administration and legislation.
    • He is required to provide the Governor with any and all information requested by him in these matters.
    • Article 167 corresponds to Article 78 in terms of the Prime Minister’s obligation to keep the President similarly informed.

Criticisms against the role of Governor:

  • The governor, as a constitutional authority appointed by the President, is entrusted with the duty to guide the council of ministers.
  • The court held that the Governor’s refusal to summon the assembly session in a flagrant breach of the constitutional provisions.
  • The governor must act on aid and advice of the council of ministers in these matters.
  • The court said that there was no occasion for the Punjab Governor to seek legal advice on whether to convene a Budget session as he is bound by the aid and advice of Ministers.
    • Article 154 of the Constitution says “the executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution”.
    • Article 174 of the Constitution authorizes the Governor to summon, dissolve and prorogue the state legislative assembly.
    • However, the Governor can exercise the above only as per Article 163 of the Constitution which says that the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.

Appointment and removal of Governor

  • According to Articles 155 and 156 of the Constitution, a Governor is appointed by the President and holds office during the President’s pleasure.
  • If the President’s pleasure is withdrawn before the end of the five-year term, the Governor must resign.
  • As the President works with the assistance and advice of the Prime Minister and the council of ministers, the Governor is effectively appointed and removed by the central government.
  • Although the Governor’s duties and responsibilities are state-specific, there is no provision for impeachment.

Background:

  • Other controversy: According to a recent tweet from the Kerala Governor’s office, statements made by individual Ministers that diminish the dignity of the Governor’s office may result in action, including “withdrawal of pleasure.”
  • Constitutional support: While Raj Bhavan did not explicitly state that such Ministers would be dismissed, the text of Article 164(1) of the Constitution provided a clear indication of the consequences.
  • According to Article 164(1), ministers serve at the Governor’s pleasure.
  • Protest: This was made clear when the Governor wrote to the Kerala Chief Minister, requesting that he take action against the State Finance Minister, who, according to the Governor, had “ceased to enjoy” the Governor’s “pleasure.” The Chief Minister, on the other hand, refused.
  • Other actions: The Governor’s other move, purportedly in the exercise of his statutory power as Chancellor, is to remove Vice-Chancellors of universities in the state, citing deficiencies in their appointment processes.
  • However, he lacks such special powers and must act within the confines of the Constitution.

-Source: The Hindu

 


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