Why in news?
The office of Governor came under scanner recently in Karnataka when instead of inviting the post-poll alliance partners which had the number in the floor of the house, the Governor invited the single largest party which was way short of the majority. The role of Governor also came into the scanner in Goa, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.
Appointment of Governor
- The governor is head of the state.
- The governor is neither directly elected by the people nor elected a specially constituted electoral college.
- The governor is directly appointed by the President. Thus, he is considered to be a nominee of the Central government.
- The post of the governor is a constitutional post and not an employment under the Central government.
- The term of the Governor is prescribed as five years. However, the governor is allowed to hold office at the will of the President.
- The only qualifications for appointment as Governor are that he should be a citizen of India and must have completed the age of thirty-five years.
Important Constitutional Provisions
Article 153: It requires a governor to be appointed for every state in India.
Article 154: Vests the executive power of the State in the Governor
Article 155: Appointment of the Governor
Article 156: Term of Office of Governor
Article 157: Qualifications for appointment as Governor
Role of Governor in India
The Governor is the chief executive of a State in India. The governor heads the government’s executive branch in each state or territory and, depending on the individual jurisdiction, may have considerable control over government budgeting, the power of appointment of many officials (including many judges), and a considerable role in legislation.
The powers and functions of the Governor of Indian State resemble that of the President of the Union Government. Like the President, the Governor is also a constitutional ruler, a nominal figure. He is not a real functionary. Generally speaking, the Governor acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
Under the Constitution of India, the Governor of a State possesses wide powers and functions – executive, legislative, financial and judicial.
Let us now discuss the powers and functions of the Governor of an Indian State.
- The Executive power of the State is vested in the Governor. He exercises this power either directly or through the officers who are subordinate to him. All executive actions of the State are taken in the name of the Governor.
- An important function of the Governor is to appoint the Chief Minister of the State. Other ministers are also appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The ministers including the Chief Minister hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.
- He has also the power to appoint the higher officers of the State including the Advocate-General and the members of the State Public Service Commission. He has also a share in the appointment of the Judges of High Court.
- He is responsible for the administration of the welfare schemes of the scheduled castes and other backward class. He may appoint a minister for this purpose. The Governor has the constitutional right to know the decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administrative affairs of the State and the proposals for legislation. But like the President of the Union, the Governor has no diplomatic or military power.
- Governor is an integral and indispensable part of the State Legislature. In some States, the State Legislature consists of the Governor and one House, the Legislative Assembly, while in other it consists of the Governor and the two Chambers known as the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Governor possesses the powers to summon and prorogue the Houses of the State Legislature. He can also dissolve the Lower House—the Legislative Assembly—before the expiry of its term.
- The Governor has been authorized by the Constitution to deliver an address to the State Legislature at the commencement of the first session of each year. He has also the power to send message to the State Legislature. The Governor has to nominate one member to Legislature. The Governor has to nominate one member to Legislature Assembly from the Anglo-Indian Community and also members to the Legislative Council (where it exists) from among the persons who have acquired special knowledge in art, literature, science, social service and co-operative movement.
- In a State, a public bill cannot become an Act without the approval of the Governor. A bill passed by the State Legislature is presented to the Governor for his assent. The Governor may give his assent to the bill. Or he may withhold his assent from the bill. If the bill is again passed by the House or Houses of the State Legislature, the Governor is to give assent to the bill. He may also reserve certain bill for the assent of the President. This is an important function of the Governor of an Indian State.
- When the State Legislature is not in session, the Governor may issue an Ordinance. It has same force as the law of the State Legislature. But it must be placed before the Legislature when it assembles again. If it is approved by the State Legislature, it will cease to operate after six weeks of the date of meeting of the State Legislature.
The Governor has also financial powers and functions. No money bill can be originated in the State Legislature without the recommendation of the Governor. In every year, the budget is laid before the State Legislature by the Governor. No proposals for taxation or expenditure can be made without the approval of the Governor.
The Governor also exercises judicial powers. He has the power to grant pardons, reprieves or remissions of punishment to any person who has been convicted by courts of law. He has also a great share in the appointment of the judges of the subordinate courts.
Why should the post of Governor be abolished?
- It has become retirement home for politicians: The post has been reduced to becoming a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day. Consequently, a candidate wedded to a political ideology could find it difficult to adjust to the requirements of a constitutionally mandated neutral seat. This could result in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka
- Non-neutrality of the office of the Governor: The governors are the agents of the Central Government and since most of them are retired politicians belonging to a particular political party ,they remain loyal to the people, who appoint them. As a result of it, they try to topple the State Government if it happens to be a Government by the opposition party. This is undemocratic and immoral
- The circumstances has changed in last 70 years: After almost 70 years since India’s Independence, the need for the position of the governor to act as a unifying body with that the federal system has lessened. When the Constituent Assembly of India was debating and drafting the Constitution, between 1946 and 1949, the country had just been formed. There were fissiparous predispositions amongst many and the governors acted as the eyes and ears of the Central Government in the states through periodic reports. At present, mostly the whole of India is at peace with the identity of a Union and the role of the governor has been substantially reduced, whereby it is used to destabilise the Constitution rather than upholding it
- Undemocratic to have an selected head of the state: it is undemocratic to have a nominated person as the head of the State. All the powers should be exercised by the elected head. Chief Minister should be responsible for doing everything and should not be checked by the Governors.
Why we need the post of Governor?
- Manage things in transition phase: To manage things in transition phase like election period and presidential rule in states.
- At the time of Government formation: Ever imagined who will decide that which party should be invited to form the Government if there is a hung assembly? Those saying that the post of Governor should be abolished will find it difficult to answer this question. A Governor has to apply his mind to see that a stable Government is formed in a state
- To ensure the legal validity of the laws: The Governor looks into the legal validity of the laws passed by state legislature. He can raise an objection and ask the Government to reconsider certain provisions of law which he finds needing change
- Act as a bridge: Work not as an agent but as a bridge between union and states on various issues.
- A special responsibility in some states: For many states like in North states we have autonomous regions and also the less developed area. Under direct union supervision, governor has a responsibility to ensure the development of these regions.
Misuse of a position of power should not serve as a justification for removing the office altogether unless such a position has totally lost its relevance
- In India, the balance in power is tilted towards the Union. The importance of the Governor’s position arises not from the exceptional circumstances that necessitate the use of his discretion, but as a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State
- As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community.
Here are some suggestions to make the post of governor effective again.
- The post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees, and the Supreme Court should lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict
- The recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission and the Punchhi Commission report need to be examined closely to make proper amendments to the functions of the post of governor.
- Governorships should go to eminent persons with impeccable credentials rather than these posts becoming dumping grounds for retired politicians.
- A national panel should be prepared after involving the opposition, ruling party, civil society and the judiciary in the selection process; the governor should be appointed from this panel after consultation with the CM of the state in which he or she is to function.
- Ideally speaking, a governor should not be posted in his native state and should preferably have been at a distance from active politics for a significant period.
- The arbitrary dismissals of governors should be stopped at all costs by legislating for a fixed tenure. He should not enjoy office at the pleasure of the President and his removal from office must entail impeachment proceedings in the state assembly. The process of dismissal of the governor should be made as difficult as the removal of high court judges.
- The governor should not be allowed to acquire political positions for a certain period after relinquishing his post. This will enhance the independence of his office and give him more teeth in functioning.
- The discretionary powers need to be whittled; there has to be clear-cut guidelines on the appointment of CM i.e. inviting the leader of the largest pre-poll alliance or the party to form the government. No efforts should be made to subvert the mandate and install governments through the back door.
- As far as power to reserve bills is concerned, this should continue but it should be resorted to in the rarest of rare cases and not on a liberal interpretation or malicious intent. If needed, the Governor should be legally made to enlist the opinion of the High Court before reserving bills.
- The Punchhi Commission has recommended the localizing of emergency provisions under Articles 355 and 356 of the Constitution. According to it, President’s rule should be imposed in those parts of the state where there is constitutional breakdown of machinery — rather than the whole state. This will go a long way in preventing the dismissal of state governments on petty and manufactured grounds of lawlessness