Why is it in the news?
- The Supreme Court recently ruled that a Governor cannot delay or hold back key Bills passed by a State Legislature, especially when these Bills have been passed with an overwhelming majority by elected representatives.
- Punjab Government’s Petition: The case was brought to the Supreme Court by the Punjab government, which complained that Governor Banwarilal Purohit had not given assent to crucial Bills related to Sikh gurdwaras, the police, and higher education, which were passed during a special sitting of the Vidhan Sabha in June 2023.
- Governor’s Disputes: Governor Purohit had questioned the validity of the Assembly session in which the Bills were passed, claiming that it was illegal and in breach of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules because the Speaker had adjourned the House sine die in March without proroguing it.
What Supreme Court Says
- The Supreme Court emphasized that real power in a parliamentary form of democracy resides with the elected representatives of the people. The Governor is considered a titular head of the state and is expected to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
- The Court affirmed that the Speaker, as the guardian of the privilege of the House, had the authority to adjourn the House sine die. It stated that the Speaker’s decisions regarding the conduct of the House were within his jurisdiction.
- The Court also found that the special Assembly sitting in June, during which the Bills were passed, was within the ambit of Rule 16 of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules, and any attempt to cast doubts on the session’s legitimacy could pose a threat to democracy.
- The Court clarified that the Governor’s role in dealing with Bills is limited. The Governor can either assent to the Bills, withhold assent and send them back with a message to reconsider, or refer them to the President. The Governor cannot sit in judgment on whether a session was prorogued.
- While acknowledging the Speaker’s jurisdiction to adjourn sine die, the Court cautioned against using it to keep the House in a perpetual session without proroguing it.
|Constitutional Deadlock |
· In a separate move, the Supreme Court expressed serious concern over the “constitutional deadlock” created by Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi due to his inexplicable delay or failure to consider and assent to 12 important Bills passed by the Legislature.
· This was in response to the State government of Tamil Nadu urging the Supreme Court to declare the Governor’s inaction as illegal and arbitrary. It seeks the Court to set an “outer time limit” for the Governor to consider Bills and government orders pending with his office.
· The Court highlighted that Article 200 of the Constitution mandates the Governor to act “as soon as possible” when Bills passed by the State Legislature are presented to him for assent. The Governor has the options to give assent, withhold assent with suggestions for modifications, or refer the Bills to the President, but he cannot indefinitely sit on them.
· This delay according to SC, negatively affects day-to-day governance and the welfare of the people of the State.