The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin has written to the non-BJP ruled
states to pass resolution urging the centre and the President to fix a time
limit for Governors to approve Bills passed by respective assemblies. This comes
on the backdrop of flaring tensions between the Tamil Nadu government and
Governor on issues like allocation of seats in NEET entrance exam to the
The most recent one being bill banning online gambling which was given assent by
the governor after a furor of chaos. The bigger problem is the relation amongst
state executives, which has found itself on the crossroads as the other non-BJP
ruled states like Chhattisgarh where governors are being accused of sitting over
the bill passed by the elected representatives of people. These states have
often criticised the working of the governor accusing them of being less as a
constitutional head of state and more as an agent of the Central ruling faction.
Part VI of the Indian Constitution deals with the state executives in the
country. Article 153 states that Governor is the constitutional head of state
appointed by the President and is bound by the advice of council of ministers.
Article 200 of the Constitution provides for four alternative courses of action
for a governor when a bill is presented to him for his assent after being passed
by the legislature:
- The governor can straightaway give his assent.
- The governor can withhold his assent.
- The may also reserve it for the consideration of the president, in that
case the assent is given or withheld by the president.
- The other option is to return the bill to the legislature with the
request that it may reconsider the bill or any particular provision of the
The governor can suggest amendments to the bill however if legislature again
passes the bill without accepting any amendments suggested by Governor, he is
constitutionally bound to give assent to the bills. Accordingly, Governor of a
state unlike the President of India is conferred with power to act at his own
There are two categories of discretional powers for the governor -
Constitutional discretion and Situational discretion. The withholding of bills
which has sparked controversy was justified by the Governor of Tamil Nadu RN
Ravi as a matter of "Governor's discretion".
The Constitution does not provide for any fixed time frame in regards to
Governor's assent to the bills. Article 200 also does not lay down any time
frame for the Governor to act on the bill. He can postpone his decision
indefinitely and this is exactly why Tamil Nadu government is pressing for an
amendment for making the Governor's responsible for fulfilling their
constitutional duties. The government has argued that Governor is trying to
circumvent and take advantage of an omission in the provision of the
Furthermore, it is to be noted that Article 361 states that the President or
Governor is not answerable to any court for anything done in the exercise and
performance of their powers and duties. This further eludes responsibility and
casts a shadow of doubt towards the functioning of the Governors.
It is interesting to note that these debates usually never come up with the
Presidents by the virtue of their election process. Presidents are usually the
candidates of parties with maximum representation whereas in the case of
Governors, they are appointed by the President in accordance with the wills of
the Central Government. It is but obvious of the states having a party other
than the one at centre to feel the heat. As in Tamil Nadu's case, DMK is a
staunch critic of the ruling BJP and is also the third largest party of the Lok
Position of Governor in the constitutional set up of India was explained by Dr.
Ambedkar where he explained that the Governor under the Constitution has no
functions which he can discharge by himself which was cited by the Supreme Court
in the Nabam Rebia case
(2016). In the Shamsher Singh case
Supreme Court held that President and Governor shall exercise their formal
constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their
ministers save in a few well-known exceptional situations.
There have been attempts to address the alleged partisan role played by the
Governors. National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution in 2000
suggested that the Governor of a state should be appointed by the President
after consultation with the Chief minister of that state. Sarkaria Commission
set up in 1983 proposed that the Vice President of India and Speaker of Lok
Sabha should be consulted by the Prime Minister in selection of Governors.
Withholding assent is clearly an undemocratic process and is no where mentioned
in Article 200 of the Constitution. Scholars have also contended that giving
assent to the bill passed by the legislature is a part of the legislative
process and in no way encroaches the executive powers of the Governor.
Accordingly, it is against federalism and undermines the democratic process as
it neutralises entire legislative exercise by an elected legislature enjoying
support of the people.
Option of withholding assent is against federalism which is the undertone of the
resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu's assembly proposals put forth by the Chief
Minister MK Stalin. Though the bill in contention was given assent in the
subsequent week by the Governor, the time for high pressing reforms have come.
One can hope that the positive changes mainly in the form of amendments
concerning gubernatorial role, powers, duties and responsibilities would be able
to see the light of the day.
Please Drop Your Comments