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THE RISING CONFLICT BETWEEN GOVERNORS AND STATE GOVERNMENT

Author: Apurv Krishna, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Amity Law School, Noida.

Co-author: Shekhar Tripathi, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Amity Law School, Noida.

Co-author: Suruchi Shalini, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Amity Law School, Noida.


The tussle between the governors and the state government is nothing new. Ever since independence time and time again the problem has resurfaced. The governor is an important link between Centre and state. The appointment of the governor is solely in the hands of the Centre and no consultation from the state is required. The Centre also determines the tenure of the governor.


India follows the Quasi-Federal [i]structure of government, and this principle is engrained in our constitution. The Quasi-Federal structure of government in India refers to the system of government in which powers are divided between the central government and the state governments, but the central government has the power to make laws on certain subjects listed in the Constitution. The Constitution of India divides powers between the central government and the state governments in three lists: the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List. The Union List includes subjects on which only the central government can make laws, such as defense and foreign affairs. The State List includes subjects on which only the state governments can make laws, such as police and education. The Concurrent List includes subjects on which both the central and state governments can make laws, such as criminal law and economic planning. The central government also has the power to make laws on subjects not listed in any of the three lists in the national interest.


But this federal structure of the government is becoming more complicated, and centre focused due to the increasing involvement of governors in the functioning of state government especially in those states where the ruling party and centre is different. Governors are being used and changed not to further constitutional goals but to further political agenda. To deal with this inconsistency in the federal structure three primary experts commissions have been formed namely Sarkaria Commission(1983) , the National Commision to Review the working of the Constitution(2000), and the Punchhi Commission(2007). These commissions dealt with many issues and suggested many changes in the structure.


Appointment of Governor

Article 153 of our constitution(PartVI) contains provisions for appointment of governor. It states that there shall be a governor for each state and one person can be appointed as governor of more than one state. It also talks about the “dual” nature of governor as the constitutional head of the state and as a representative. Article 174 of the constitution gives summoning power to the governor. It states that the governor shall from time to time summon the house or each house of the legislature of the state. Initially it was proposed that governors should be appointed on the recommendation of a sub-committee, but this was never adopted. At a later stage it was suggested that the appointment should be made from a panel but was given similar treatment.


The mode of appointment of governor was subjected to very intense debate. Leaders such as Nehru believed that someone who is not politically involved should be appointed. People who are renowned in other walks of life like education, sports, science, people from outside should be appointed.


Criticism of Governor

The role of the Governor in India has come under criticism in recent years due to the perceived degradation of the relationship between the Governor and the state government. Some of the main criticisms include:

  1. Political bias: The Governors are appointed by the Central government, leading to allegations of political bias and partisanship. Some Governors are perceived to be working against the interests of the state government, causing tension and mistrust.

  2. Overstepping of powers: There have been instances where Governors have overstepped their powers and taken decisions that are perceived to be beyond their purview. This has led to accusations of violation of the federal structure and infringement of the powers of the state government.

In some recent cases governors have refrained from signing the bills passed in the state assembly. Bills are sent to governors of respective states for their assent. If the governors want any changes to the bill, they can send it back with some recommendations “as soon as possible”. But since this time is not defined governors are taking a long time to send it back hence withholding the bill from becoming a law. In Tamil Nadu, Governor R.N. Ravi has refrained from signing more than 20 bills in just over a year. DMK( Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) the ruling party of the state on various occasions has accused him of acting as if he were an alternative Centre of power.

  1. Interference in administration: Some Governors have been accused of interfering in the day-to-day administration of the state, causing resentment among the state government and the bureaucracy.

In another conflict between the governor and state government in Kerala. In a recent judgement apex court invalidated the appointment of M.S. Rajashree as Vice Chancellor of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University and declared it void ab initio as here hers was the only name suggested to the previous governor by the selection committee in spite of the rule that three names should be suggested. Grabbing this opportunity the governor of the state Arif Mohammed Khan ordered vice chancellor of nine other universities to hand over their resignation. Although when the ruling party put forth their concerns about the same the order was then changed to notice asking the VC to show why their appointment should not be considered void ab initio.

  1. Lack of accountability: The Governors are not answerable to the state legislature, and this lack of accountability has led to criticism of their role and the perceived erosion of their independence.

  2. Political appointments: The Governors are often appointed as political favours, rather than on the basis of merit. This has led to a situation where Governors are seen as political appointees, rather than impartial constitutional authorities.

Governors in recent times have become more vocal with their political views. Their support for the centre government and constant criticism of the state government is making the opposition question their neutrality. Plus the constant shift and change of governors also puts a serious question on their effectiveness and reason of appointment. In conclusion, the criticisms of the Governor in India stem from the perceived degradation of the relationship between the Governor and the state government. This has raised questions about the impartiality and independence of the Governors, and the need for reforms to enhance the role of the Governor in the Indian federal system.


Recommendations of The Punchhi Commission (2007)

The Punchhi Commission of 2007 was established to examine the functioning of the Indian Constitution and recommend changes. One of its key recommendations pertained to the role and powers of the Governor in the Indian federal system. The Commission suggested that the Governor should be seen as a representative of the President, rather than as a representative of the Centre. This would help to ensure that the Governor acts in a more impartial manner, without being influenced by the Central government.


The Commission also recommended that the Governor should be given more powers to deal with situations of constitutional crisis in the state. This would help to ensure that the Governor can take appropriate action, when necessary, without having to wait for instructions from the Centre. The Commission also recommended that the Governor should have the power to dismiss the state government in cases of constitutional breakdown or when the government is acting in a manner that is harmful to the interests of the state.


The Punchhi Commission also recommended that the Governor should have the power to appoint the Chief Minister in case of a hung assembly, where no party has a clear majority. This would help to ensure that the Governor can play a more active role in the formation of a government, and that a stable government is formed in a timely manner.


In conclusion, the Punchhi Commission's recommendations regarding the role of the Governor in the Indian federal system are aimed at enhancing the Governor's role as an impartial constitutional authority, while giving them more powers to deal with situations of constitutional crisis in the state. These recommendations are aimed at strengthening the Indian federal system and ensuring that the interests of the state are protected.


CASES

In India, the Supreme Court has issued several judgements regarding conflicts between the Governor and the state government. These judgements have established the powers and responsibilities of the Governor, as well as the limits of those powers.


Now, even the Supreme Court has dealt with this issue many times. In its judgment in Shamsher Singh vs State of Punjab (1974), [ii]one of the most influential decision relating to this matter Supreme Court held that the president and the governor in terms of power are nothing more than a constitutional head in a cabinet type of government. Although there are few exceptions to this rule. Now these exceptions are more evident in the case of the governor hence the conflict arises from time to time.


In the case of S. R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994), [iii]the Supreme Court held that the Governor's power to dismiss a state government is subject to judicial review. The Court also established that the President's power to impose President's rule (Article 356) in a state can only be invoked in certain exceptional circumstances, such as a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.


In the case of B. P. Singhal v. Union of India [iv](2010), the Supreme Court held that the Governor must act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, except in certain exceptional circumstances, such as when there is a constitutional crisis.


In the case of Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2006)[v], the Supreme Court held that the President's power to dissolve a state assembly and call for fresh elections is subject to judicial review.


In the case of R. K. Garg v. Union of India (1981)[vi], the Supreme Court held that the Governor's power to reserve a bill for the President's assent is not absolute and can be challenged in court.


In conclusion, the Supreme Court of India has established that the Governor's powers are not absolute and are subject to judicial review and that the Governor must act on the advice of the Council of Ministers in most circumstances.


Conclusion

The role of governor is very important in maintaining a healthy relation between state and centre. But the same cannot be achieved when he is being used as a tool to further political objectives. Some changes need to be made to the appointment process and who can be appointed. Deriving from the idea of Nehru[vii], a governor should be someone who is an eminent personality in some field. It is also very important that he should not be politically connected or active. He should be from outside the state to maintain a fair relation. In addition to all this the appointment should be after consultation with the state government. Individuals who occupy higher posts in judiciary like judges should not be allowed to be appointed as governors after retirement.The discretionary power of the governor also needs to be defined for further clarification. Constitutional amendments regarding all these needs to be made for proper and effective implementation.



References

· Web References

· Book References

1. Volume 39, Frontline (December 03-16,2022)

[i]Shreyaa, Quasi-Federal Nature of Indian Constitution, Legal Services India, https://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2245/Quasi-Federal-Nature-of-Indian-Constitution.html [ii] Shamsher Singh vs State of Punjab (1974), AIR 2192 [iii]S. R. Bommai v. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 1918: (1994)3 SCC1) [iv] B. P. Singhal v. Union of India, AIR 2010 [v] Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India (2006), AIR (2006) 2 SCC 1 [vi] R. K. Garg v. Union of India (1981), AIR 1981 4 SCC 675 [vii]T.M.Thomas Issac , Weaponising the Governor, Volume 39, FRONTLINE, 7, 2022

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