- Prelims: Parliamentary democracy, Functions and responsibilities of Governor, state legislature etc
- Mains GS Paper II: State Legislature -Structure, organization, functioning and conduct of business etc
- The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution seeking to provide for a time frame for Governors to act on Bills passed by the State Legislature
- A Bill passed by the State Assembly becomes law only after it is assented to by the Governor.
INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE
- The Governor performs the same duties as the President, but for the State.
- The Governor stands as executive head of a State and the working remains the same as of the office of President of India.
Appointment and powers:
- Derived from Part VI of the Indian constitution.
- Article 153:
- There shall be a Governor for each State.
- One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
- The governor acts in ‘Dual Capacity’ as the Constitutional head of the state and as the representative.
- He acts as a bridge between union and state governments.
Power over bills:
- Article 200: Deals with the powers of the Governor with regard to assent given to bills passed by the State legislature and other powers of the Governor such as reserving the bill for the President’s consideration.
- Article 201: ‘Bills Reserved for Consideration’.
- Veto: The Governor of India enjoys absolute veto, suspensive veto (except on money bills) but not the pocket veto.
- Assent to bill: The Governor being a part of the State legislature, the process of law making is complete only when he signs it, signifying his assent.
- In all democratic countries: similar provision exists in their constitutions.
What is the Issue?
- Governor of Tamil Nadu, had withheld assent to as many as 13 Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
- The Supreme Court in a case filed by the State of Telangana against its Governor: Remarked that Governors should not sit over Bills indefinitely.
- The idea of constitutional punctuality need not be restricted to gubernatorial offices alone.
- All constitutional high offices including those of the President of India and Speakers of Assemblies must suo motu evolve guidelines to discharge duties in a time-bound manner.
- Resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly urged the Union Government and President to advise the Governor to decide on the bills passed by the State Legislatures within a reasonable time period.
- The resolution, proposed by the Chief Minister: To protect the sovereignty of the Legislatures and, ultimately, safeguard parliamentary democracy.
- The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu wrote to his counterparts in other Opposition-ruled States and encouraged them to pass similar resolutions in their Assemblies.
- The Chief Ministers of Delhi, Kerala, and West Bengal have expressed their support for the resolution and its underlying principles.
- Article 355: It shall be the duty of the Union to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
- R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly: to provide justification for the “invasion of the provincial field” which the Union government may have to do.
- Article 200:The Constitution requires the Governor to act when a Bill is passed by the Assembly and present it to him as per the options given in the article.
- If he does not act in accordance with the Constitution and sits on the Bills indefinitely, he is creating a situation where governance of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with constitutional provisions.
- In such a situation, the government of the State has a constitutional duty to invoke Article 355 and inform the President about it
- Request her to give suitable instructions to the Governor to ensure that the government is carried on in accordance with the Constitution.
- A resolution by the Assembly should be considered legitimate action.
- Article 200 provides options to the Governor when a Bill is presented to him after being passed by the legislature.
- to give assent
- to withhold assent
- to send it back to the Assembly to reconsider it
- or to send the Bill to the President for his consideration.
- In case the Assembly reconsiders the Bill as per the request of the Governor under the third option, he has to give assent even if the Assembly passes it again without accepting any of the suggestions of the Governor.
- Sitting on a Bill passed by the Assembly is not an option given by the Constitution
- The Governor, by doing so, is only acting against constitutional direction.
- A judicial pronouncement on this matter is needed to eliminate the confusion.
- Article 154: The Governor can exercise his executive powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- So the Governor can withhold assent to a Bill only on ministerial advice.
Evolving constitutional scheme:
- The drafters of the Constitution expected Raj Bhavans to be nominated with those who would discharge sovereign duties beyond the confines of political partisanship.
- Article 200: It limits the options before the Governor to give assent to the Bill sent by the legislature, or withhold assent, or reserve a Bill for the consideration of the President.
- The original draft Article 175(moved for discussion in 1949)read as follows: “Provided that where there is only one House of the Legislature and the Bill has been passed by that House, the Governor may, in his discretion, return the Bill together with a message requesting that the House will reconsider the Bill.”
- R. Ambedkar(While moving the amendment to this Article): there “can be no room for a Governor acting on discretion” and recommended removing the phrase “the Governor, in his discretion”.
- Therefore, the final Article, adopted by the Constituent Assembly and embedded in the Constitution explicitly negates any discretionary power.
- Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974): The discretion of the Governor is extremely limited and, even in such rare cases, shall act in a manner that is not detrimental to the interest of the state.
- The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Governor shall only act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
- In the United Kingdom: There has been no royal veto since 1708 when the assent to the Scottish Militia Bill was vetoed by Queen Anne.
- In The United States, there is a time limit of 10 days for the President to give assent or veto a bill.
- If the President does not sign or vetoes the Bill within this time, it automatically becomes an Act.
- If the President vetoes and returns the bill to the Congress or Senate, then both the chambers of the Congress must override the veto for it to become a law
Options under Article 200:
- He may give assent
- He can send it back to the Assembly(requesting it to reconsider some provisions of the Bill, or the Bill itself).
- Reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President.
- Withhold the assent(not normally done by any Governor because it would be an extremely unpopular action)
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: It does not mention any other type of Bill which is required to be reserved for the consideration of the President.
- The time has come to evolve a new constitutional architecture that would deliver on the demands for a time-bound constitutional delivery mechanism.
- Matters involving an inexplicable delay in exercising powers by various authorities have been brought under the ambit of judicial review by constitutional courts.
- The SC in Keisham Meghachandra Singh vs The Hon’ble Speaker Manipur (2020), issued a writ of mandamus to the Speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly to decide on the disqualification petitions under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution within a period of four weeks.
- Case filed by the State of Telangana against the Governor: The SC found it fit to highlight the spirit of Article 200.
- The Court acknowledged that the words in Article 200, “as soon as possible after the presentation of the Bill”, held significant constitutional content and that Governors should necessarily bear this in mind.
- It would be appropriate for various constitutional authorities such as Governors exercising powers under Article 200 and Speakers acting as quasi-judicial tribunals under Tenth Schedule to evolve strict time frames and avoid unnecessary delays.
- Such an approach will advance the constitutional scheme and safeguard the will of the people exercised through the legislatures.
- The Governor can completely negate the will of the legislature, and thereby negate the will of the people.
- The Constitution cannot be assumed to be permitting the Governor to do that.
- Only the judiciary can set it right by way of a clear enunciation of the law.
- Governors sitting on Bills indefinitely without exercising any of the options given in Article 200 is a new development which needs new solutions within the framework of the Constitution.
- The Supreme Court needs to fix a reasonable time frame for Governors to take a decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly in the larger interest of federalism in the country.
QUESTION FOR PRACTICE
Discuss the essentials of the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act and anomalies, if any, that have led to recent reported conflicts between the elected representatives and institution of Lieutenant Governor in the administration of Delhi. Do you think that this will give rise to a new trend in the functioning of the Indian Federal Politics?(UPSC 2016) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)