Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What explains the frequent disagreements between state governments and Governors?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: law on Governor-state relations

Mains level: Reason behind the Governor-state friction

 Why in the news? 

Allegations by the regional government (Recently Kerala govt.) on the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilize state governments have been made since the 1950s. This calls for Governor-state relations.

What is the law on Governor-state relations?

  • The Governor, although meant to be apolitical and act on the advice of the council of ministers, holds significant powers granted under the Constitution. 
  • These include giving or withholding assent to bills passed by the state legislature and determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority in cases of a hung verdict in an election.
  • While the Constitution grants powers to the Governor, there are no specific provisions on how the Governor and the state government should publicly engage when there is a difference of opinion.

What have been the friction points in recent years?

  • Controversial Actions: Some actions by governors have sparked controversy, such as dissolving assemblies amidst government formation discussions (Jammu and Kashmir), and inviting leaders without public consultation (Maharashtra) this government lasted just 80 hours. And Six months later, the Governor refused to nominate CM Uddhav Thackeray.
  • Interference in State Affairs: Governors have been criticized for allegedly interfering in state affairs, including commenting on law and order situations (West Bengal), and refusing requests from state governments (Kerala) regarding legislative matters.
  • Legal Challenges: Some decisions made by governors have faced legal challenges, such as the invitation to the BJP to form the government in Karnataka, which was challenged and subsequently modified by the Supreme Court.

Dismissal after independence:

  • Dismissals in the 1950s: Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilize state governments date back to the 1950s. In 1959, Kerala’s E M S Namboodiripad government was dismissed based on a report by the Governor.
  • Dismissals in the Post-1960s: Several state governments were dismissed between 1965 and 1990 through President’s Rule orders issued by Governors. These dismissals included governments such as Birender Singh in Haryana (1967), M Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu (1976), and N T Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh (1984).
  • Decrease in Dismissals: The frequency of state government dismissals decreased during the coalition era at the Centre and the emergence of strong regional parties. This suggests a shift in political dynamics and possibly less direct interference by the Centre through Governors in state politics.

Causes of such Governor-State Frictions:

  • Answerable only to the Centre: The Governor is not directly accountable to the people and is answerable only to the Centre. 
  • Appointment and Tenure: The Governor is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice and holds office at the pleasure of the President. Although the tenure is typically five years 
  • Lack of Impeachment Provision: There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, further limiting mechanisms for holding them accountable.
  • Absence of Guidelines: The Constitution does not provide clear guidelines for the exercise of the Governor’s powers, including the appointment of a Chief Minister or the dissolution of the Assembly. Additionally, there are no limits set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill, raising questions about arbitrary use of power.
  • Governor as Agent of the Centre: The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution highlighted concerns that Governors may act in accordance with instructions from the Union Council of Ministers, leading to perceptions that they are “agents of the Centre.”

Reform suggested by the ARC of 1968 to the Sarkaria Commission of 1988:

  • Selection Process: Establishing a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, and Chief Minister to select Governors. 
  • Fixed Tenure: Recommendations advocate for fixing the Governor’s tenure for five years. 
  • Impeachment Provision: Suggestions include introducing a provision to impeach the Governor by the State Assembly. 

Conclusion: Governors often side with the central government and aren’t accountable enough. Kerala’s case shows a problem with the law. Proposed changes aim to make things clearer and fairer.

Mains PYQs

Discuss the essential conditions for exercise of the legislative powers by the Governor. Discuss the legality of re-promulgation of ordinances by the Governor without placing them before the Legislature. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Q Whether the Supreme Court Judgement (July 2018) can settle the political tussle between the Lt. Governor and elected government of Delhi? Examine. (UPSC IAS/2018)


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