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Tamil Nadu to disempower Governor? What are roles and responsibilities of a Chancellor?

Tamil Nadu to disempower Governor? What are roles and responsibilities of a Chancellor?

Relevance:

  • GS 2 || Polity || State Government || Governor

Why in the news?

Following Maharashtra and West Bengal’s efforts to give the government more power over the selection of Vice-Chancellors to state universities, the Tamil Nadu government is looking into ways to make the appointment directly rather than relying on the Governor.

Governor:

Appointment:

  • The Governor’s appointment, his powers and every power he holds is related to the office of Governor and has been discussed under Article 153 to Article 162 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The role of the Governor is more or less the same to that of the President of India. The Governor performs the same duties as the President, but for the State. The Governor stands as executive head of a State and the working remains the same as that of the office of President of India.

Constitutional Provision:

  • The Constitution’s Articles 163 and 174 are relevant in the context of the governor’s powers to convene the state assembly.
  • Article 163 says there shall be a CM-led council of ministers to aid and advise the governor except when he is required, under the Constitution, to exercise functions in his/her discretion.
  • Article 174 originates from Article 153 of the draft Constitution.
  • The third clause of Article 153 said the governor’s power to summon the House should be exercised with discretion.
  • Draft Article 153 eventually became Article 174. Thus, the intention of the Constitution makers was not to vest the governor with discretion when it comes to convening assembly.

Importance of post of Governor:

  • Under the constitutional scheme, the Governor’s mandate is substantial such as –
    • Overseeing government formation
    • Reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in a State
    • Maintaining the chain of command as well as effective communication between the Centre and the State
    • Reserving his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature or promulgating ordinances if the need arises.
  • As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community.

Issues with the appointment of the Governor:

  • There are numerous examples of the Governor’s position being abused, usually in the hand of the ruling party at the Centre. The process of appointment has generally been the cause behind it.
  • In several cases, politicians and former bureaucrats identifying with a particular political ideology have been appointed as the Governors by the Governments. This goes against the constitutionally mandated neutral seat and has resulted in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka and Goa.
  • Governor’s discretionary powers to invite the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government has often been misused to favour a particular political party.
  • The Governors Committee (1971) laid down the responsibility on the governor to see that the administration of the State does not breakdown due to political instability and he must send a regular report about the political situation of the State.

Role of governor:

  • The role of the Governor is the same as to that of the President of India. The Governor performs the same duties as the President, but the power of the governor is limited to the State.
  • The Governor stands as executive head of a State and the working remains the same as that of the office of President of India. Under the Constitution of India, the governing machinery is the same as that of the Central Government.
  • Usually, the moment an election is won or lost, the CM resigns and is then asked by the Governor to continue as ‘caretaker’ until a new government is in place.
  • The Governor would be expected to go as per an order of preference set out in the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which have also been ratified by the Supreme Court.
  • By the order of preference, the Governor can invite-
    • A pre-poll alliance of parties;
    • Invite the single largest party which stakes a claim to form the government;
    • Invite a post-poll alliance of parties, with all the partner in the coalition joining the government or
    • Invite post-poll alliances of parties, with some becoming part of the government and some supporting from outside.

Concerns related to office of governor:

  • Governor Appointment: According to Article 155, the governor should be appointed (not elected) from among persons of great standing and public eminence. When it comes to appointing governors, the state’s elected government is not even consulted. In addition to passive bureaucrats, successive governments have degraded this crucial constitutional post to a sinecure and a resting place for loyal and retiring / about to retire / ready to retire politicians.
  • The Governor appoints Chief Minister, other ministers, Advocate General, Chairmen, and members of the State Public Service Commission in the state. Following the state’s elections, a convention is held to invite the largest party to establish the state’s administration. At the whim of the governor, this convention has been broken numerous times. Take, for example, the recent occurrence in Karnataka following the 2018 hung assembly elections.
  • Laws Reserved for President’s Review: Under Article 200 of the Constitution, the governor has the authority to reserve certain types of bills passed by the State Legislature for consideration by the President. The President can either sign it or ask the governor to send it back to the state assembly with his remarks for reconsideration. The main goal of this provision is for the centre to maintain a close eye on legislation in the national interest. However, the central government has abused this option to pursue party objectives through the governor’s office.
  • Misuse of Article 356: Article 356 of the Constitution is the most contentious. It establishes a State of Emergency or President’s Rule in State if the President determines, after receiving a report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, that a situation has arisen in which the State’s government cannot be carried out in line with the Constitution’s provisions. The period of such an emergency is six months, with the option to extend it. Ambedkar had made it plain in the Constituent Assembly that Article 356 would only be used as a last option. He also hoped that “such items would never be put into service and would remain a dead letter.””
  • Governor removal: According to Article 156, the governor will serve for five years at the pleasure of the President. Under Article 74, the President works with the Council of Ministers on assistance and advice. In practise, the Governors are appointed and removed by the central government. The governor does not have a definite term of office or a secure tenure. For example, whenever a new government takes power at the federal level, the governors of state are routinely replaced.

Tussle in recent time:

Rajasthan Political crisis not the first case of conflict between governor and the state government. Generally the opposition demands a floor test whenever there is a hint of insufficient numbers in the ruling party. On the other hand, the ruling party attempts to stall the process to buy time and keep its flock together. In Rajasthan’s case, despite requests from the chief minister, the Governor has returned requests to call for a session.

Recommendations over the time:

  • The S. R. The Bommai case (1994) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues.
  • One must consider the Supreme Court’s verdict in B. P. Singhal v. Union of India on the interpretation of Article 156 of the Constitution and the arbitrary removal of Governors before the expiration of their tenure.
  • The Supreme Court in the Nabam Rebia judgment (2016) ruled that the exercise of Governor’s discretion Article 163 is limited and his choice of action should not be arbitrary or fanciful.
  • SR Bommai vs. Union of India, 1994: The issue concerned the Governor’s authority under Article 356 of the Constitution to remove a state government.
  • Rameshwar Prasad Case, 2006: The Supreme Court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of the President’s Rule proclamation and the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly in 2005.
  • On removal of governor: BP Singhal versus Union of India: The Supreme Court found that while the President might dismiss a Governor without providing grounds, he could not do so in a “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable way.”
  • Sarkaria Commission Report (1988): Important recommendations: Governors should be a distant figure with no strong political ties or who have not been involved in politics in the recent past; Governors should not be removed before the end of their five-year term, except in exceptional and compelling circumstances.
  • Venkatachaliah Commission (2002): Important recommendations: Governors should be appointed by a committee consisting of the prime minister, the home minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, and the chief minister of the concerned state; if the governor is to be removed before the end of his term, the central government should do so only after consulting with the Chief Minister.
  • Punchhi Commission (2010): The phrase “at the pleasure of the President” should be removed from the Constitution, and the governorship should only be abolished by a state assembly resolution.

Conclusion:

People may believe that the position of governor is pointless and a financial burden on state governments, however the governor’s duty is critical. He acts as a link between the federal and state governments. The governor must ensure that a stable administration is established in the state, as well as investigate the legal legitimacy of laws issued by the state legislature and recommend president rule in the event that the constitutional machinery fails.

As a result, the governorship is necessary for the good functioning of democracy, even if it has been reduced to a retirement package for politicians.

Mains oriented question:

In recent times, a disagreement has arisen between the state administration and the governor of the state; why is this so, and what role does the governor play in terms of constitutional power? (250 words)