Roles and responsibilities of the Governor
Why in news?
Tamil Nadu Governor, R.N. Ravi’s refusal to read the address was criticized as a “constitutional travesty,” with the Governor’s role in a parliamentary democracy being questioned for undermining the elected government’s policy statements.
GS-02 (Constitution, Governor)
Historical Perspective: Government of India Act, 1935
- Section 51(1) of the Government of India Act, 1935, states that the Governor’s Ministers are chosen and summoned by him, holding office at his pleasure. This indicates that during the colonial era, the Governor had absolute discretion to choose and dismiss Ministers.
- However, independent India’s constitutional system transformed the Governor into a mere constitutional head, limiting their discretionary powers.
- B.R. Ambedkar, a key architect of the Constitution, emphasized the Governor’s dependence on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
Judicial Clarification: Supreme Court’s Stance
- The Supreme Court of India, in landmark judgments such as Shamsher Singh vs State Of Punjab (1974) and Nabam Rebia vs Deputy Speaker, has clarified the powers of the Governor.
- The court held that the President and Governor exercise formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers, except in well-known exceptional situations.
- Discretionary powers of the Governor are constrained by Article 163(1), limiting their interference in the appointment and dismissal of Ministers.
- Article 153 explicitly mandates the presence of a Governor for each State, allowing the appointment of one individual as Governor for multiple States.
- The President appoints the Governor through a warrant under their hand and seal, with the Governor serving at the pleasure of the President, as stated in Articles 155 and 156.
- Article 161 empowers the Governor to grant pardons, reprieves, and similar measures. However, the Supreme Court clarified that the Governor’s sovereign power to pardon aligns with the consensus of the State government, emphasizing the government’s advice as binding for the Head of the State.
- Article 163 establishes a council of ministers led by the Chief Minister to aid and advise the Governor in performing duties, excluding situations where discretion is permitted.
The Discretionary powers of Governor:
- The appointment of a Chief Minister in the absence of a clear majority in the state legislative assembly
- Addressing no-confidence motions
- Dealing with the failure of constitutional machinery in the State (Article 356)
- Article 200 of the Indian Constitution delineates the procedure when a Bill from the Legislative Assembly is presented to the Governor for assent.
- The Governor can either assent, withhold assent, or reserve the Bill for the President’s consideration.
- Additionally, the Governor has the authority to return the Bill with a message, requesting reconsideration by the House or Houses.
- In the Purushothaman Nambudiri v State of Kerala case, the Supreme Court clarified that a pending bill awaiting the Governor’s assent doesn’t lapse upon the dissolution of the House.
- The absence of a time limit in Articles 200 and 201 indicates the framers’ intention to prevent bills awaiting assent from lapsing.
- Article 200’s second provision grants the Governor the discretion to refer a bill to the President if it potentially infringes upon the High Court’s powers. The process for presidential assent is outlined in Article 201.
- In the Shamsher Singh case, the Court affirmed that the Governor’s authority to reserve bills for the President’s consideration is a manifestation of discretionary power.
- Article 201 specifies that when a Bill is reserved for the President’s consideration, the President may either assent to or withhold assent from the Bill.
- The President can also direct the Governor to return the Bill to the State Legislature for reconsideration.
- Under Article 361 of the Constitution, the Governor enjoys complete immunity from court proceedings for any actions taken in the exercise of their powers.