Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Kerala Governor says he can sack errant Ministers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Office of the Governor

Mains level: Issues with role of Governor

Kerala Governor has opened the next battlefront against the State government by threatening to remove Ministers from their posts if they continued to lower the dignity of his office.

Why in news?

  • This is for the very first time that any Governor has expressed his displeasure.
  • There has been no occasion so far of a Governor unilaterally removing a minister from the government.

Governor in the parliamentary system

  • The position, role, powers, and conditions of office of the Governor are described in Articles 153-161 of the Constitution.
  • The position of Governor is similar to that of the President at the Union.
  • He is at the head of the state’s executive power, and barring some matters, acts on the advice of the council of ministers, which is responsible, in accordance with the parliamentary system, to the state legislature.

Apolitical nature of his appointment

  • The Governor is appointed by the President (on the advice of the central government) and, therefore, acts as the vital link between the Union and the state governments.
  • The post was envisaged as being apolitical; however, the role of Governors has been a contentious issue in Centre-state relations for decades.
  • The Governor enjoys certain powers such as giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority.
  • The party must be called first to do so, generally after in a hung Assembly — which have been weaponized by successive central governments against the political opposition.

Is the Governor capable to remove a Minister?

  • Article 164(1) says state “Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor”.
  • This is the provision that the Kerala Governor was seemingly alluding to.
  • Article 164(1) deals with the appointment of the Chief Minister and other ministers.
  • While the Governor does not have to seek anyone’s advice while appointing the Chief Minister, he can appoint a minister only on the recommendation of the Chief Minister.
  • The Governor has no power to pick anyone he chooses to make a minister. He can appoint a minister only on the advice of the CM.

Major judicial observation in this regard

Ans.  Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974)

  • The Supreme Court ruled that- the President and Governor exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers save in a few well known exceptional situations.

What were the exception situations referred to?

  • These situations could arise if:
  1. The PM or CM cease to command majority in the House
  2. The government loses majority but refuses to quit office
  3. For the dissolution of the House where an appeal to the country is necessitous.
  • But even in the third scenario, the President or Governor should avoid getting involved in politics and must be advised by his PM/CM who will eventually take the responsibility for the step the court ruled.

What did the founding fathers of the constitution believe?

  • B R Ambedkar said- The Governor under the Constitution has no function which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all.

So what does the “pleasure” of the Governor mean?

  • The Governor can have his pleasure as long as the government enjoys majority in the House.
  • The Governor can withdraw his pleasure only when the government loses majority but refuses to quit.
  • Then he withdraws the pleasure and dismisses it.
  • Without the advice of the Chief Minister, a Governor can neither appoint nor dismiss a minister.
  • That’s the constitutional position.

What maximum can a Governor do?

  • If a minister lowers the dignity of the Governor or his office, as Kerala Governor has alleged, Raj Bhavan can ask the Chief Minister to inquire.
  • If it is found that the minister has defamed or disrespected the Governor, he/ she can ask the Chief Minister to drop the minister.
  • This does not mean the Governor has the right to dismiss the Chief Minister or ministers at will.

Attempts to moralize such situations

(1) National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution

  • The NCRWC appointed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2000 recommended significant changes in the selection of Governors.
  • The Commission suggested that the Governor should be appointed after consultation with the CM of that State.
  • Normally the five year term should be adhered to and removal or transfer of the Governor should be by following a similar procedure as for appointment.

(2) Sarkaria Commission

  • The Sarkaria Commission was set up in 1983 to look into Centre-state relations.
  • It proposed that the Vice President of India and the Speaker of Lok Sabha should be consulted by the Prime Minister in the selection of Governors. (without any logic behind explaining!)

(3) Punchhi Committee

  • The Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi Committee was constituted in 2007 on Centre-state relations.
  • It proposed in its report submitted in March 2010 that a committee comprising the PM, Home Minister, Vice President, Speaker, and the concerned Chief Minister should choose the Governor.
  • The Punchhi Committee recommended deleting the “Doctrine of Pleasure” from the Constitution.
  • However, it backed the right of the Governor to sanction the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government.
  • It also argued for a provision for the impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature.


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