Kerala seeks norms for Governors on reserving Bills


Kerala has approached the Supreme Court seeking guidance on the conditions under which the Governor can reserve Bills for the consideration of the President, withhold approval, or return them to the Assembly.


GS-02 (Parliament)

Article 200: Assent, Withholding, or Reservation

  • Article 200 of the Indian Constitution delineates the process for a State Legislative Assembly’s passed Bill to be presented to the Governor for assent, who may assent, withhold assent, or reserve it for the President’s consideration.
  • Governor’s Options: The Governor can also return the Bill with a message for reconsideration by the House or Houses.

Article 201: President’s Role in Reserved Bills

  • Article 201 states that when a Bill is reserved for the President’s consideration, the President may either assent or withhold assent,
  • The President might even direct the Governor to return the Bill for reconsideration.

Governor’s Decision-Making Options

  • The Governor can give assent or send the Bill back to the Assembly for reconsideration of specific provisions or the entire Bill.
  • Reservation is mandatory when the Bill endangers the state high court’s position or falls under specific constitutional criteria.
  • Though rarely exercised due to its unpopularity, the Governor has the option to withhold assent.

Supreme Court’s Directive: Prompt Action

  • The Supreme Court emphasizes that Governors should promptly decide on Bills sent for assent to avoid delays and uphold constitutional intent.

Legal Arguments Against Delaying Assent

  • Governor’s inaction hampers the state government’s constitutional functioning, obliging the state to invoke Article 355 and notify the President for intervention.
  • Article 361 grants Governors immunity, but if the refusal of assent discloses malafide or ultra vires grounds, the Supreme Court can intervene the validity of the action through Judicial review.

International Practices on Assent

  • United Kingdom: While the UK requires royal assent, the crown’s veto power is considered unconstitutional if exercised on controversial grounds.
  • United States: The President can refuse assent, but if both Houses pass the Bill with a two-thirds majority, it becomes law.
  • Refusal of assent is uncommon in democracies, and many constitutions provide remedies for Bills to become law despite such refusal.