Why is it in the news?
- The Tamil Nadu Government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court recently against Governor R N Ravi over the alleged delay in clearing bills.
About the petition
- It was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
- Aims to address the inaction, omission, delay, and non-compliance by the Governor.
- Seeks a directive for the Governor to clear Bills, files, and Government orders within a specific timeframe.
- Article 200: Allows the Governor to grant assent, withhold it, return a bill for legislature’s reconsideration, or reserve it for the President’s consideration. There is no constitutional time frame fixed to perform these functions.
- Governor may, as soon as possible return the Bill if it is not a Money Bill and, when a Bill is so returned, the House shall reconsider the Bill accordingly, and if the Bill is passed again by the House with or without amendment the Governor shall not withhold assent therefrom.
- Bills affecting High Court functions must be reserved for the President. Such bills require the President’s assent to become law.
Critical Analysis of the Role and Discretion of the Governor in the Indian Constitution
- Section 75 of the Government of India Act, 1935 explicitly mentioned the phrase ‘in his discretion’ regarding the Governor’s assent to Bills. This highlights that the Governor had a certain level of discretion during the pre-constitutional era.
- Notably, this specific phrase was not included when the Constitution was framed. This omission suggests a conscious choice by the framers to limit the discretionary powers of the Governor.
State Sovereignty and the Governor’s Role:
- The framers of the Constitution believed in the sovereignty of states within their spheres. They posited that, apart from explicit situations defined in the Constitution, the Governor doesn’t have the authority to overrule decisions of the state government. This establishes a foundational principle of federalism and state autonomy.
Public Interest and Constitutional Responsibility:
- The introduction of a bill by the government usually arises from a pressing need.
- The Governor’s inaction or delay in giving assent, especially when it’s against constitutional provisions, directly jeopardizes the public welfare. This scenario puts the very essence of democracy and public interest at risk.
Governor’s Actions and Constitutional Spirit:
- The Constitution doesn’t provide for the Governor to indefinitely delay decisions on Bills. Any such action contravenes the constitutional spirit and ethos.
- It portrays the Governor as acting ultra vires, beyond the scope of their constitutionally defined powers.
- The Supreme Court Verdict in Shamsher Singh v State of Punjab (1974) clarified the constitutional position of the Governor.
- The apex court confirmed that the Governor’s role is largely ceremonial. They don’t possess independent executive powers and must primarily act based on the advice of the council of ministers.
- This judgment reinforces the idea that real executive powers are vested in the democratically elected government.
· Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a key architect of the Indian Constitution, was categorical during the Constituent Assembly debates.
· He emphasized that the Governor’s role is not to wield power but to act according to the advice of the state’s council of ministers.
- The Indian Constitution, in its wisdom, has vested the Governor with the ‘discretionary power’ to reserve a bill for the President’s consideration, underscoring the delicate balance of federalism in India.
- This mechanism serves as a constitutional safeguard, ensuring that state laws align with the broader framework of the nation’s constitution.
- However, this power should not be misconstrued as an endorsement for the Governor to operate autonomously or create a parallel administrative structure, sidelining the elected council of ministers. Such actions would defy the spirit of cooperative federalism and democratic principles.
- To prevent potential misuse of this gubernatorial discretion, it’s imperative to refine the constitutional provisions, either through legislative amendments or through judicial pronouncements. This would further strengthen the democratic ethos of India and ensure harmony between the state and central powers.