Office of Governor: Issues and Suggestions_00.1
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Office of Governor: Issues and Suggestions

Relevance

 

  • GS Paper 2:
    • Indian Constitution- Historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure.
    • Federalism- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

 

Context

 

  • Questionable conduct by many governors of states has again raised the question about the constitutional propriety of their actions.
  • S/he often has been criticized for being a puppet at the hands of the central government, instead of performing his/her constitutional role.

Office of Governor: Issues and Suggestions_50.1

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Important Constitutional provisions about the governor

  • Background: The office of the governor has been borrowed from the Government of India Act 1935. He is to be appointed by the president of India.
    • Unlike the British Indian government, the governor is a nominal head of a state. Like president at the centre, s/he is expected to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers (COM) state, barring few constitutional and situational discretions.
  • Article 163: It is the source of all discretionary powers of the governor, resulting in conflict with elected state executives and legislature.
  • Article 153: Governor for each State or two or more States.
  • Article 256: The executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.
  • Emergency powers (Art 356): Governor can recommend imposition of emergency in the state on grounds of failure of constitutional machinery in the state and issues the proclamation, after obtaining the consent of the President of India.
  • Act as a bridge between states and union government: Constitution makers imagined governor to be a common link between center and states, ensuring the smooth functioning of the democratic government in the state.

 

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Issues with the office of Governor

  • Appointment/removal process: Governors hold office till the pleasure of the president as no grounds for removal is mentioned in the constitution.
    • This leads to favoritism in the appointment process and well-suited candidates are ignored in favor of the less competent individuals.
  • Acting as an agent of a political party at the centre: Due to favoritism in the appointment and lack of any security of tenure in the constitution, the office of governor often works as a puppet/agent of the union government instead of acting as a bridge between state and centre government.
  • Discretionary powers:
    • Partisan role in Hung assemblies: It is a situational discretion where s/he is free to invite a party/alliance to form the government in case no single party/pre-poll alliance has won the majority of the seats in the state assembly elections.
      • Ex: Karnataka where the governor invited the single largest party to form the government instead of inviting the leader of a post-poll alliance that had won the majority seats in the elections.
    • Misuse of power of reserving a bill for the president’s consideration: It is his constitutional discretion to reserve certain state bills for the consideration of the president.
      • Misusing this power, governors often interfere in the law-making process of the state assembly, especially for the bills which are uncomfortable to the central government.
  • Misuse of the emergency powers: Governors have often found to be recommending imposition of the president’s rule in the state on frivolous grounds, especially when the ruling party at centre is different from that of the concerned state.
  • Bypassing the elected government: There have been instances when governors found to give orders to state officials directly or visit public offices without informing the state governments. This is against his/her constitutional mandate as he is only a nominal head and expected to act on the advice of the COM in the state.

Exports from India

Suggestions:

  • Implementing the S.R Bommai judgment in the letter and spirit: which allows the Supreme Court to investigate the imposition of emergency in the state on the grounds of being mala-fide and unreasonable.
  • Develop a sound procedure for appointment and removal of the governors: as suggested by Puchhi and Sarkaria Commissions, governors should be selected based on impeccable character and quality and should be provided with a fixed tenure.
  • Develop a code of conduct for the office of the governor: with prior consultation and agreement of the union and state governments along with Supreme Court, high courts, and other constitutional experts in the field.
  • Upholding the constitutional principles: Governor should uphold constitutional morality by upholding the spirit of the constitution, instead of acting in the narrow political interests of the ruling party at the centre.

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