Kerala govt. moves Supreme Court against Governor over pending Bills
The Kerala government has asked the Supreme Court to declare that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has “failed to exercise his Constitutional powers and duties” by keeping the bills passed by the State Assembly for an indeterminate period.
What are the powers of the governors over the state bills?
- Article 200: The procedure for presenting a bill enacted by a state’s legislative assembly to the governor for ratification is outlined in Article 200 of the Indian Constitution. The Governor can choose from the following:
- Grant Assent: The Governor may sign the Bill into law by approving it.
- Return for Reconsideration: The Assembly may receive a request from the Governor to review certain sections of the bill or the entire bill.
- Reserve for the president: The Governor may set the Bill aside for the President’s consideration. This is required under certain circumstances, such as when the Bill violates the Constitution or the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), or when it jeopardizes the authority of the state high court.
- Withhold Assent: Even so, an option, this is not commonly exercised by the governors as it can seen as showing favouritism
What is the recent incident where the governor was causing Gubernatorial Procrastination?
- Delay in Handling Bills: The Kerala administration has brought attention to the fact that out of the eight bills that were approved by the State Assembly, three have been sitting with the Governor for over two years, and the other three for over a year. Concerns have been raised by the Governor’s protracted failure to consider the Bills.
- Threat to Constitutional Foundations: According to the government, the Governor’s actions, in which he allows bills to languish for long periods, pose a threat to the fundamental principles that form the basis of the Constitution. This covers the fundamentals of democratic good governance and the rule of law.
- Declaration from the Supreme Court: The State government has asked the Supreme Court to rule that the Governor must act quickly to consider any bill that is brought before him. The administration also wants the governor to sign an order directing him to expeditiously settle the outstanding bills.
What is the observation made by the Supreme Court in the previous similar cases?
- Timely Bill Disposition: The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed how crucial it is for governors to dispose of bills promptly. It has been emphasized once more that governors shouldn’t unnecessarily postpone giving their assent, sending bills back for review, or holding them until the president gets a chance to review them.
- Governor Accountability: As a constitutional authority, governors are expected to behave per the Constitution, as emphasized by the Court. They must use their authority sensibly and in compliance with the law, and they are responsible for the judgments they make.
- Constitutional Principles: The Supreme Court has emphasized that when it comes to handling bills approved by state legislatures, governors must act following constitutional principles and not arbitrarily or capriciously.
What are the legal defenses Against Withholding bills?
- Invocation of Article 355: The State administration is required by the Indian Constitution to invoke Article 355 if the Governor’s inaction is perceived to be a breach of fundamental principles. Article 355 addresses the Union’s obligation to defend States from both internal unrest and external invasion.
- Request for Presidential Intervention: The State administration may notify the President of India by using Article 355 and ask that the Governor be given the necessary orders. Making sure the state government can run its operations per the Constitution is the goal.
- Governor’s Immunity: Governors are exempt from legal action for any actions they do while exercising their official authority under Article 361 of the Indian Constitution. As a constitutional protection, this immunity lets governors carry out their responsibilities without worrying about legal action.
- Governor’s Disclosure: Nevertheless, this immunity does not release the governor from the need to explain why they are refusing to sign a law. The Governor, as a senior official under the constitution, is required to behave in a way that upholds the legal and fairness standards.
- Challenging the Governor’s Action: The Governor’s action may be contested as unconstitutional if it can be shown that their refusal to sign a law was made in bad faith, for irrelevant reasons, or beyond their constitutional power.
- Supreme Court precedent: In the case of Rameshwar Prasad and Ors. vs. Union of India and Anr., a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court determined that the immunity granted by Article 361(1) does not prevent the court from examining the validity of the Governor’s action, including on the grounds of malafides.
What is the way forward?
- Set Reasonable Deadlines: To avoid unjustified delays in the governors’ consideration of state bills, reasonable deadlines should be set for the governors to act on bills, such as giving their assent, sending them back for reconsideration, or reserving them for the president. These deadlines could be established by the Supreme Court.
- Increased Transparency: When a governor decides to withhold consent, for example, they should be compelled to give a transparent explanation for their decision. Ensuring that choices are made in compliance with the law and the Constitution will be facilitated by this.
- Respect for Constitutional Principles: Governors must uphold the democratic, federalist, and legal principles outlined in the Constitution. It is imperative to guarantee that governors refrain from acting in an arbitrary or politically motivated manner.
- Legal Recourse: It would be beneficial to enhance the accessibility and effectiveness of the legal recourse options for contesting the actions of the governor. This will guarantee that governors follow the law and enable speedier dispute settlement.
- Political Communication: Concerns and differences regarding bills can be resolved more cooperatively and constructively when state governments and governors engage in political communication. In the interest of the governance of the state, cooperation between the two parties is crucial.