SC wonders why Kerala Guv is sitting on bills for 2 yearstext_fields
New Delhi: After the Punjab governor who had withheld several bills passed bys the state assembly, on Wednesday, it was the turn of Kerala governor to hear the Supreme Court criticising him for sitting on bills.
The apex court pulled up Governor Arif Mohammad Khan for holding the bills passed by the Kerala State Legislative Assembly for two years. The state government approached the Supreme Court for getting due process on the bills passed by the assembly.
"No reason has been given by the Governor to keep the bills pending", observed the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud in the order. "The power of the Governor cannot be utilised to pause the law making exercise of the legislature," the bench added referring to the recent judgment passed in the case relating to the Punjab Governor.
The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was hearing a writ petition filed by the State of Kerala against the Governor's inaction on eight bills. Right at the beginning of the hearing, the highest court had asked the Governor's office to read up the court's order on the Punjba government's case of a similar nature.
Senior Advocate and former Attorney General for India, KK Venugopal appearing for Kerala government, informed the bench that after notice was issued on the writ petition, the Governor cleared one bill and referred the remaining seven to the President. He highlighted that some of these bills were passed way back in 2021 itself.
"For two years a welfare bill is not allowed to be law. The governance of the state is suffering. This is adversarial. Unless your lordships step in very strongly, it will affect citizens," Venugopal urged.
"Mr AG, there is some merit in the argument. Why is governor sitting on bills for 2 years?", CJI asked Attorney General for India R Venkataramani.
"I don't want to get into a political...", replied the AG. "We will get into it. It's about accountability," CJI stated.
Venugopal pointed out one of the eight bills is a money and its non-passage will affect the governance of the state.
The AG assured the bench that the Governor will act on the money bill. "He will act accordingly. I don't think he will sit on money bill," AG said. The bench recorded the AG's assurance in the order.
"As regards the bills pending before the Governor, bills have been passed recently in August and September. The learned AG states that the Governor will take necessary actions," the bench recorded.
In addition to getting the bills in question cleared, Venugopal also sought the court's intervention to get some guidelines to decide the procedure of referring bills to the President.
He argued that a Governor cannot simply refer a bill for the President's consideration and urged the Court to issue guidelines for the exercise of that option by the Governor. He pointed out that of the seven bills, three were earlier issued as Ordinances, for which the Governor had granted assent. If the Governor had no objection to the bills at the stage of Ordinance, how can he now refer them to the President, asked the former Attorney General.
However, the bench pointed that a prayer for guidelines would amount to broadening the scope of the petition before the court The CJI also remarked that now that the Governor has taken some action, the initial grievance has been addressed.
On this basis, Venugopal then sought liberty to amend the petition to seek reliefs regarding guidelines.
The bills held by the Kerala governor, and now sent to the President included three on university laws' amendments that divest the Governor of the powers to make appointments in universities and have been on hold for 23 months. Five other bills are pending for 5 to 14 months.
On November 28, the Governor cleared the Public Health Bill and referred the rest to the President.
(Inputs from Livelaw.in)