From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Office of Governor in the state and related provisions
Mains level : Issues with role of Governor in the state, The case of Governor's activism
- Governor of Tamil Nadu left the assembly session of house while chief minister was point out that governor skip the certain portion of the speech which he was suppose to read. This has again raised the questions over powers and functions of governor.
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History about powers of governor and assembly address
- Non-interference of Governors under British: A good governor must stay above politics and manifestly be seen as impartial and fair. In 1937, when the Congress won elections in seven provinces, it took office on the condition that the British governors would not interfere in the functioning of its ministries and refrain from exercising “discretion and special powers”.
- Special powers under the constitution: However, after Independence, India conferred the same special powers on governors.
- Yogender Singh Handa v. State of Rajasthan (1967): In 1967, Rajasthan Governor Sampuranand skip a part the speech. In Yogender Singh Handa v. State of Rajasthan (1967), the Rajasthan High Court held that some portion read by the governor was good enough to deem the whole address as read.
- Governor Padmaja Naidu case: On February 8, 1965, when her request for “silence, silence, permit me to address” was ignored, West Bengal Governor Padmaja Naidu left the assembly without delivering the ceremonial address. The Speaker took the chair and announced that the governor had been pleased to make her speech and lay a copy of her speech on the table of the House.
Powers and functions of the governor
- Integral part of assembly: The governor is an integral part of the legislative assembly. He calls its sessions and he dissolves the House.
- Right to address first session of the house: Under Article 176(2(b), he has the right to address the first session of the House. This address is an integral part of constitutional symbolism and has huge significance.
- Powers of cabinet, not Governor’s: The Constitution gives no discretion to governors in the matter of convening the session of the assembly. Parliamentary democracy being the basic structure of our Constitution, this is the prerogative of the Cabinet though Article 174 does say that the governor from time to time summons the assembly to meet at such time and place “he thinks fit”.
- Nabam Rebia (2016) case: Governors have no business to question the purpose of convening the sessions of the House. A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia (2016) had observed that the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, J P Rajkhowa, who advanced the session of the assembly without the advice of the chief minister, had exceeded his jurisdiction as he had no discretion in convening the assembly session.
Legality of governor skipping the mandatory speech to assembly
- Governor cannot decline to give a speech: Justice B N Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court in Andul Gafoor Habibullah v. Speaker, West Bengal Assembly (1966) held that the governor cannot decline to deliver his address and refuse to fulfil his constitutional duty.
- Failure to address is irregularity not legality: The address under Article 176 is mandatory. However, the HC held that when the governor fails to deliver his address under Article 176 and walks out of the House after laying down the address on the table of the House, this is mere irregularity, not illegality.
- Non-judiciable in court: It cannot be questioned under Article 212, wherein the validity of the House proceedings cannot be challenged on the ground of mere irregularity in the procedure. The petitioner’s claim, in this case, was that since the House did not start its proceedings with the customary address by the governor, it has vitiated the proceedings of the House.
Implications: If governor refuses/fails to deliver assembly address?
- Possibility of constitutional crisis: Governors editing/deleting the speech may indeed create a constitutional crisis. The chief minister may refuse to defend the address in his response at the end of the debate on the governor’s address and with the chief minister commanding a majority, the House may reject the resolution on the governor’s speech.
- CM may need to resign: When the governor’s/president’s address faces such a defeat, it is considered a no-confidence motion and the chief minister or the prime minister as the case may be, needs to resign.
- Resignation over irregularity: Such a resignation for something that the government did not include in the ceremonial address but the governor had said on its own would not only be grossly unjust and unethical but absolutely undemocratic.
- Past precedence of resignation: Chief Minister Gurnam Singh of Punjab in 1967 had resigned when the governor’s address was defeated on the floor of the House. UP CM C B Gupta too had to resign in similar circumstances when a resolution thanking the governor was defeated in the UP assembly. Thus, the governor has no discretion in editing the address.
- Governor is neither a decorative emblem nor a glorified cipher. His powers are limited but he has an important constitutional role to play in the governance of the state and in strengthening federalism. He is the head of the state and all chief ministers, including the Tamil Nadu chief minister, must remember it. All governors too must remain true to their oath of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution.
Q. What are the functions of the Governor with respect to addressing the assembly of the state? What may be the implications of the Governor skipping the address to assembly?
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