Constitutional silences, unconstitutional inaction
- Article 200 deals with the powers of the Governor with regard to assent given to bills passed by the State legislature.
- It also talks about other powers of the Governor such as reserving the bill for the President’s consideration.
According to Article 200, when a Bill, passed by the Legislature of a State, is presented to the Governor, he can:
- give assent to the Bill
- withhold assent to the Bill
- reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President
- return the Bill to the Legislature for reconsideration.
However, the article does not prescribe a timeline for the Governor to give assent to Bills sent by the State legislature.
- Article 201 relates to ‘Bills Reserved for the Consideration of President’.
- Like in Article 200, Article 201 also fails to provide a time limit for the consideration of President.
- However, there is a limit of six months applicable to the State Legislature to reconsider the Bill if the President decides to refer it back to the House.
Purushothaman Nambudiri vs State of Kerala (1962):
- Supreme Court declared that the Constitution does not impose any time limit within which the Governor should provide assent to Bills.
- However, the Court has reiterated that the Governor must honour the will of the Legislature and that the President or a Governor should act in harmony with their Council of Ministers.
- The obfuscation in Article 200 has historically been taken advantage of by the Governors of various Opposition-ruled States to restrict the elected governments.
- Presently in Tamil Nadu alone, almost 20 Bills are waiting to be given assent by the Governor.
- Unreasonable delay in granting administrative sanction is considered violative of the rule of law.
- ‘Institution of Governor under the Constitution’ by Justice P. Jeevan Reddy-led Committee said if the Governor withholds assent to a Bill indefinitely, “such a course will not be conducive with the decorous regard a Governor is expected to the rules of the Constitutional game….”
- ‘National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution’ recommended that “there should be a time-limit — say a period of six months — within which the Governor should take a decision whether to grant assent or to reserve a Bill for consideration of the President.”
- Sarkaria Commission recommended that in order to streamline the existing procedures, there needs to be consultation with the Governor during the drafting of the bill