From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Role of Governors in State
Mains level : Issues with role of Governor
Last week, West Bengal CM blocked its Governor on Twitter. Days earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had taken exception to Governor’s R-Day speech articulating the benefits of NEET.
These are two of many examples of bitterness between states and Governors.
Who is a Governor?
- Parallel to President: The Governors of the states of India have similar powers and functions at the state level as those of the President of India at the Central level.
- Nominal head: The governor acts as the nominal head whereas the real power lies with the Chief Ministers of the states and her/his councils of ministers.
- Similar offices: Governors exist in the states while Lieutenant Governors or Administrators exist in union territories including National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Non-local appointees: Few or no governors are local to the state that they are appointed to govern.
- Acting on aid and advice: Although envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers, the Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution.
- Discretion: He has monopoly for giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
- Apparatus of interaction: There are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion. The management of differences has traditionally been guided by respect for each other’s boundaries.
Various friction points
In recent years, these have been largely about:
- Selection of the party to form a government
- Deadline for proving majority
- Sitting on Bills
- Passing negative remarks on the state administration
Recent contentious case
- J&K: In November 2018, then J&K Governor dissolved the Assembly amid indications that various parties were coming together to form the government.
- Maharashtra: In 2019, after a hung verdict in Maharashtra Governor quietly invited a party leader and administered him oath as CM at 6am early morning. This government lasted just 80 hours.
- Nagaland: Governor has criticised affairs of the state and allegedly interfered in administration.
Is such friction recent?
- Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilise state governments have been made since the 1950s.
- In 1959, Kerala’s government was dismissed merely based on a report by the Governor.
- Several state governments have been dismissed since then, including 63 through President’s Rule orders issued by Governors between 1971 and 1990.
Why does this happen?
- Political appointment: This is because Governors have become political appointees. Politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.
- Nature of appointment: In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
- Defying constituent assembly: The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical.
- Nature of appointment: The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre.
- Constitutional vacuum: Once can sugercoat it with ideas of constitutional morality and values, but the truth is there is a fundamental defect in the Constitution.
- Security of Tenure: There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice. While the Governor has 5-year a tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
- Powers in legislation: There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
What reforms have been suggested?
- From the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968 to Sarkaria Commission of 1988 and the one mentioned above, several panels have recommended reforms, such as:
- Selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM,
- Fixing his tenure for five years
- Provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly
- No government has implemented any of these recommendations.