From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Office of the Governor
Mains level : Read the attached story
Central idea: The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution urging the Union Government to issue appropriate instructions to Governor to give his assent to bills passed by the Assembly within a specific period.
Who is 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 the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Non-local appointees: Few or no governors are local to the state that they are appointed to govern.
Governor-State Relations: How are they guided?
- 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.
Role of Governor in Legislature
- Integral part: A Bill passed by the State Assembly becomes law only after it is assented to by the Governor. The Governor being a part of the State legislature, the process of law making is complete only when he signs it, signifying his assent.
- Established practice: In all democratic countries, similar provision exists in their constitutions.
Power of Governor vis-a-vis legislature
- What Article 200 says: The Constitution provides certain options for the Governor to exercise when a Bill reaches him from the Assembly.
- There are four possible scenarios:
- Assent: He may give assent.
- Reconsider: He can send it back to the Assembly requesting it to reconsider some provisions of the Bill, or the Bill itself. In this case, if the Assembly passes the Bill without making any change and sends it back to the Governor, he will have to give assent to it.
- Reserve: The third option is to reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.
- Withhold: The fourth option, of course, is to withhold the assent.
Why there is ambiguity over the role of governors in India?
- Role of the governor: The question of whether a Governor is permitted by the Constitution to cause uncertainty in the matter of giving assent to the Bills passed by State legislatures assumes great importance.
- Presidential Assent: The provision concerned makes it clear that a Bill can be reserved for the consideration of the President only if the Governor forms an opinion that the Bill would endanger the position of the High Court by whittling away its powers. The Constitution does not mention any other type of Bill which is required to be reserved for the consideration of the President.
- Constitution is silent: the Constitution does not mention the grounds on which a Governor may withhold assent to a Bill.
- No remedy: The Indian Constitution, however, does not provide any such remedy as that of USA or UK. The courts too have more or less accepted the position that if the Governor withholds assent, the Bill will go. Thus, the whole legislative exercise will become fruitless. It does not square with the best practices in old and mature democracies.
Various friction points
In recent years, these have been largely about:
- Selection of the party to form a government
- Deadline for proving the majority
- Sitting on Bills
- Withhold of assents
- Passing negative remarks on the state administration
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.