President’s Rule

[op-ed snap] Gubernatorial restructuring

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Restructuring the powers of governor

Context

The actions of the Maharashtra Governor over the last few days have invited scrutiny. Even after the Karnataka Assembly elections this year, the actions of the Governor were subjected to judicial scrutiny.

Misuse of power

  • Throughout the sequence of events, the governor was at the center of controversy. 
  • The controversy mostly relates to the discretionary powers of the Governor in forming the government.
  • This warrants a constitutional restructuring of the office of the Governor.

The Centre and its Governor

  • The Drafting Committee of the Constitution insisted on omitting all references to the discretionary powers of the Governor. 
  • B.R. Ambedkar said that the Governor “is required to follow the advice of his Ministry in all matters”.
  • But, Governor is required to exercise discretion in deciding the formation of government when there is no clear post-poll majority.
  • The cases of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India and Nabam Rebia v. Deputy Speaker provide judicial guidance to how the office of the Governor must encounter post-poll claims to form the government by staying immune to political bias.

Reasons for politicization

  • The appointment process of Governors has made the office vulnerable to the influence of the Union government. 
  • Over the years, occupants of this office have continued to look towards New Delhi for guidance. 
  • Constitutional expert A.G. Noorani cautions that a “state’s autonomy comes to naught if its people’s mandate can be defied or ignored by a central appointee.”
  • In Karnataka and Maharashtra, Governors invited the leader of the BJP when they did not have the support of the majority in the respective Legislative Assemblies. 
  • This brings into question the claims of support made by the BJP leaders to the Governors and how the Governors satisfied themselves with these claims. 
  • The swearing-in ceremony which happened with little or no public notice in Maharashtra is disappointing.

Need for restructuring

  • These actions of governors strengthen calls to review and restructure the office of the Governor.
  • The appointment and tenure of Governors need to undergo radical reform. 
  • Justice P.V. Rajamannar Committee recommended that State governments be included in the appointment process of Governors to drastically reduce their discretionary powers. 
  • There is a need to rectify the imbalance in Centre-State equations.
  • Governors have enjoyed a legal immunity on account of their sovereign functions. Supreme Court has powers to review the actions of the Governors. Any decision of the Governor can be subjected to judicial scrutiny, including the materials placed to arrive at that decision. 
  • The Westminster model of a sovereign and symbolic head of state is irrelevant to today’s times. 
  • The powers and privileges attached to the office of the Governor must be accompanied by answerability, transparency, and accountability. 
  • Governors and their offices must be scrutinized as much as any other public office.
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