President’s Rule

[op-ed snap] Do we need the office of the Governor?


Mains Paper 2: Polity| Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features.

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: The GoI Act 1935, Appointment of the Governor

Mains Level: Evolution of the Post of Governor, Issues related to his discretionary powers.


Role of governor

  1. Inviting the immediate majority party to form the government is perhaps a legitimate exercise of Governors constitutional discretion.
  2. However, the recent Karnataka elections have raised questions about the Governor’s discretionary powers following several open criticisms about the office bearer
  3. If we want to put an end to the continuous misuse of the Raj Bhavan for partisan political ends in a manner that threatens both federalism and democracy, we have to rethink the role of the Governor in the constitutional scheme

Where does the flaw lie?

  1. Some have suggested that the post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees, and still, others have urged the Supreme Court to lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict
  2. All of these, however, are patchwork solutions that miss the point
  3. For that, it is important to understand the origins of the office in the colonial British regime

Provisions in Govt. of India Act, 1935

  1. Through the course of the early 20th century, the Indian nationalist movement managed to extract gradual and incremental reforms towards responsible government from the British rulers
  2. These reforms culminated in the Government of India Act, 1935 which established provincial legislative assemblies elected from a limited franchise
  3. In order to ensure that overriding power remained with the British, the Act retained the post of Governor (a holdover from the old, “diarchy” system), and vested him with “special responsibilities” that, in essence, allowed for intervention at will

The Critique of the Post

  1. In a searing critique, K.T. Shah (who was later one of the most articulate members of the Constituent Assembly), wrote that the Governor would inevitably be biased in his functioning and his actions would remain at odds with those of popularly elected Ministers
  2. During CA debates, it was pointed out that the Articles dealing with the powers of the Governor were almost verbatim reproductions of the 1935 Act.

Defenders of the office raised two broad arguments:

  1. First, that there was a dearth of competent legislators in the States
  2. Second that a certain amount of centralization of power was necessary in a nascent state such as India

The way forward: Specify the rules

  1. The idea of the Governor standing as a bulwark against secessionism, or providing legislative expertise to States otherwise starved of it, are no longer valid justifications
  2. On the other hand, the Governor’s interference with the democratic process is both real and continuing
  3. As history shows, the solution is not to tinker around the edges or hope that the courts will come to our rescue
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