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The TN Governor Issue

Context

The leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), TR Baalu, urged all like-minded MPs to support a proposal to remove the governor of Tamil Nadu, R N Ravi. Governors in several non-BJP-ruled states, including Kerala and Punjab, have expressed disagreements with the government on various issues, prompting the DMK to call for their removal.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers.

Mains Question

Although, in India, the Governor of the State, like the President, is a constitutional head, do you agree that he has more rights? Give your reasoning. (150 Words)


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  • If the President’s pleasure is withdrawn before the end of the five-year term, the Governor must resign.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.

Governor’s role

  • Article 163 of the Constitution states that the Governor will normally be assisted and advised by the Council of Ministers except in those functions that require his discretion.
  • Therefore, the Governor is envisioned as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers.
  • However, governor enjoys certain powers granted by the Constitution, including: o giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature; o assenting to the convening of the National Assembly; o assenting

Recent examples highlighting controversies surrounding the role of Governor

  • The Maharashtra Governor swore in Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister in 2019 despite an undecided vote, only to see his government fall within 80 hours.
  • In September 2022, the Governor of Punjab denied a special session of the Assembly for a vote of confidence in the AAP government.

What occurs in the event of a disagreement?

  • The Constitution does not specify the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage in public discourse when there is a difference of opinion.
  • Respect for each other’s boundaries has traditionally been the guiding principle for managing differences.
  • In Surya Narain Choudhary vs. Union of India (1981), the Rajasthan High Court held that the President’s pleasure was not justiciable, that the Governor had no security of tenure, and that he could be removed at any time by the President withdrawing his pleasure.
  • The Supreme Court elaborated on the pleasure doctrine in BP Singhal vs. Union of India (2010).
    • The Judgement stated that the President may at any time remove the Governor from office without assigning a reason or providing an opportunity to show cause.
    • However, the power to remove cannot be exercised arbitrarily, capriciously, or otherwise contrary to reason.
    • A Governor cannot be removed on the grounds that he is incompatible with the policies and philosophies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre.
    • Neither can he be removed because the Union Government has lost confidence in him.
    • The Bench determined that the court will presume that the President had compelling and valid reasons for the removal, but if a sacked Governor petitions the court, the Centre will be required to justify its decision.

Recommendations from a number of commissions

  • Throughout the years, a number of panels and commissions have recommended reforms to the appointment and function of governors. These include the 1968 Administrative Reforms Commission, the 1988 Sarkaria Commission, and the 2001 National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, led by retired CJI M N Venkachaliah.
  • The Sarkaria Commission recommended that governors should not be removed from office prior to the completion of their five-year term, except in exceptional and compelling circumstances.
  • There have also been recommendations for an impeachment provision by the Assembly, but none of these have been implemented.

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December 2022
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