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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightWhen the governors...

When the governors become road blocks

Arif Muhammad Khan

The title of state governor mandated by the Indian Constitution's Article 153 is a title whose functions, responsibilities and powers are defined in various other articles. However, there has been a long-standing view that the title is only ornamental and does not serve any real purpose. Some also point out that it leads to a huge bill on the exchequer and serves only to interfere with smooth governing of the state. Therefore the demand for its abolition has been enjoying wide support too. It is the governor's duty to decide the majority of parties in the legislatures and to sign off on the Bills passed by the assembly. In practice, this position is almost reserved for those who are retired from politics, people who the Centre would like to be kept out of active politics and ex-bureaucrats whose experience will benefit the country and who are sure to toe the Centre's political line in times of need.

Also read: Kerala approaches SC against inaction of Governor to approve bills

In recent history, political affiliations are the cause of friction between the governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and their governors. A similar situation was evolving in West Bengal but these two states have gone to the Supreme Court with complaints against their governors. Both administrations are upset that the governor is delaying to sign on the Bills passed by the state assemblies elected by the people. The intensity of the situation in Kerala was highlighted by the incident on Sunday when the state governor, Arif Mohammad Khan chose to criticise the government in front of the media. According to the Constitution. It perhaps doesn't occur to him that he is sharply criticising a government that he is leading. Khan was talking more about the State government's way of administration rather than the matters within the purview of the Governor. The tone of much of it fell far below the dignity expected of the title of Governor too, sounded like voice of the Opposition, and are sure to be read as subservience to the political stances of the Centre.

Also read: Madras HC advocates write to President to recall TN Guv

In the subjects now before the Supreme Court, the Governor of Kerala has refuted the claims of the state government. Currently, eight bills passed by the Legislature are pending before the Governor for his signature. The governor objected to two of them presumably as a matter of prestige. One of them is about replacing the governor as ex-officio chancellor of universities and giving the position to eminent academicians with relevant experience. The background for this move was that governors were interfering in the administration of universities and preventing their independent operation. Another bill is to amend the structure and functions of the Lokayukta in which there is no provision for appeals and to introduce a provision for an appellate authority. The governor alleges that once this Bill becomes law the situation will reverse and, being government nominees, the party on the side of accused will become the judge. The critical point is that the governor is sitting on the bill without taking further action. The core of the issue is the BJP-ruled centre using governors to control states led by non-BJP governments. Once the governor stops being the chancellor of universities, the role of the Centre in appointing vice chancellors will cease to exist. It is obvious that the central government has a vested interest in the matter at a time when they are introducing Hindutva-based reforms in the education sector. The expected course of action from the governor is to either sign off on the Bills passed by the assembly as quickly as possible or send it back. They also have the option to refer it to the President. Khan is not ready to do either and is delaying the progress of the matter itself. The technical loophole in the process is that there is no fixed timeline within which the governor is bound to to sign a Bill or send it back. This is being used by the governors in their favour.

Also read: Tamil Nadu governor dismisses jailed minister Senthil Balaji in an unprecedented move, state government to challenge

In Tamil Nadu, some of the steps that got stuck due to Governor R.N. Ravi's inaction include the release of prisoners, appointment of PSC members, and permission for prosecution of the ministers of the former government. The only possible reason for delaying the process is to appease the central government. If the Bills seem not suitable according to the Constitution, the governor should take further steps as instructed by the same Constitution. The Raj Bhavan is not a seat of power supposed to dance to the tunes of the Centre. If such course of action is not forthcoming, it is time to think about a neutral authority replacing the institution of governor to carry out its essential functions and to ensure smooth administration of state governments.

Also read: Tussle between Governor and state leaves lakhs of students in trouble in TN: report

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TAGS:Kerala GovernorEditorialArif Muhammad KhanTamil Nadu GovernorR.N. Ravi
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