The Role of Governors is Under Scanner, and Rightly So!

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  • The gubernatorial position is a British-Raj vestige that unfortunately continues to essay a role quite contrary to the Constitutionally defined mandate of extending support to the elected government. It is being observed with great concern that several governors appointed largely represent the ruling dispensation at the Centre and are mostly at loggerheads stalling the smooth functioning of the state machinery. Most often than not, governors act at the discretion of the Centre, carry out the Centre’s bidding and pose problems for the ruling dispensation opposed to the Central government. ust to name a few, the country has witnessed flashpoints in states like West Bengal, Kerala Tamil Nadu, and Telangana involving the governor and state administration.

PC: P.D.T. ACHARY

  • Hardly few states could lay claim to having a cordial relationship between the Constitutional heads enabling smooth administration. Oneupmanship between the warring heads is unwelcome that directly affects the common man in many ways. As reported, Telangana this year will witness an odd Republic Day as the KCR government has asked governor Tamilisai Soundarajan to hold a separate function. That Telangana will have two separate official R-Day events is thanks to the very public acrimony between the political executive and the governor. It has also resulted in the stalling of at least eight bills, which are yet to receive the governor’s assent. The ongoing bitterness between the governor and the state government is well known by now.
  • Note that friction between the state government and the governor over withholding assent to bills cleared by the legislative assembly is also common in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Chhattisgarh. Mind you, Republic Day’s significance stems from the adoption of the Constitution. It replaced the British Raj legislation where the governor functioned as an agent of the colonial power vested with greater authority than the elected council of ministers. The Constitution, however, gave primacy to the legislative assembly and the political executive. Indeed, that did not prevent misuse of the office till a Supreme Court constitutional bench in 1994 reiterated the primacy of the legislature and narrowed the ground for dismissal of a government.

PC: Saeed Muhammad

  • Notably, the grey areas still allow a governor to make controversial calls on the appointment of chief ministers. Look at how Maharashtra’s governor BS Koshyari swore in a short-lived government in 2019. The current phase of conflicts between governors and the political executive stems largely from stalling of bills. Article 200 of the Constitution details the options of a governor when a bill is cleared by the assembly. However, it does not unambiguously lay down a deadline. Given that the Constitution is clear that the legislature has primacy, it’s a bad form for governors to use this loophole to stall. Putting a deadline on how long governors can stall a bill and making them accountable to not just the central executive via the President but also the Rajya Sabha and the state government would go a long way in ensuring smooth administration.