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Article 361: Immunity shield until Governor in office

Why is it in the news?

  • Even as a complaint alleging sexual harassment has been filed in Kolkata against West Bengal Governor, Constitutional immunity bars the police from naming the Governor as an accused or even investigating the case.

More about the news

  • Article 361 of the Constitution provides immunity to the President and Governors from being answerable to any court for the exercise of their powers and duties during their term in office. It prohibits the initiation or continuation of criminal proceedings against them and bars the issuance of any process for their arrest or imprisonment during their term.
  • Further, the Constitution imposes a complete bar against prosecuting Governors. They cannot be named as accused in criminal proceedings.
  • Police action against a Governor can only occur after they cease to hold office, either by resignation or loss of confidence.
  • In the 2006 Rameshwar Prasad v Union of India case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the immunity enjoyed by Governors, even in cases of personal malfeasance. The Court held that Governors are not answerable to any court for their actions and duties.
  • Several criminal actions against individuals holding gubernatorial positions have been halted until they completed their terms. For instance, in the case of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who was serving as the Governor of Rajasthan, trial proceedings were postponed until he ceased to hold office.
  • Further, instances of Governors resigning due to allegations, such as sexual harassment, have occurred in the past, including the resignation of Meghalaya Governor V Shanmuganathan in 2017 and Andhra Pradesh Governor N D Tiwari in 2009.

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