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Governor's Office: Essential Check or Unnecessary Burden?

Governor's Office: Essential Check or Unnecessary Burden?

GS2 - Polity

The Governor, much like the President, holds a significant position in India's governance. While the President is the executive head at the national level, the Governor assumes a similar role at the state level. Their duties and responsibilities align with those outlined in the Indian Constitution.

In their dual role, the Governor acts as the constitutional head of the state and operates in accordance with the advice provided by the council of ministers. This ensures a harmonious relationship between the Governor and the state government.

Furthermore, the Governor serves as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government, fostering effective communication and coordination. This facilitates the smooth functioning of governance and promotes collaboration between the different levels of administration.

 

Appointment and Eligibility 

The appointment and powers of the Governor are found in Part VI of the Indian constitution. According to Article 153, each state shall have a Governor, and one person may be appointed as Governor for multiple states. Article 157 and Article 158 outline the eligibility criteria for the position of Governor.

The appointment of governors is carried out by the President through an official appointment. The Supreme Court, in 1979, ruled that the office of the governor is not considered as employment under the central government. It is an independent constitutional office and operates autonomously, not being under the control or subordination of the central government.

 

Conventionally,

  • The governor should hail from a state different from the one they are appointed to.
  • During the governor's appointment, it is mandatory for the president to engage in consultations with the Chief Minister of the respective state

 

Qualifications of a Governor:

1. Indian Citizenship: The person must be a citizen of India.

2. Age Requirement: The person should be at least 35 years old.

3. No Legislative Membership: The person cannot be a member of either house of Parliament or the state legislature.

4. No Office of Profit: The person should not hold any office of profit.

 

Powers granted to the Governor

  • Dissolving the Legislative Assembly: The Governor can dissolve the legislative assembly if the Chief Minister advises it following a vote of no confidence. The Governor has the discretion to decide the course of action in such a scenario.
  • Recommending President's Intervention: The Governor can recommend to the President about the failure of the constitutional machinery in the state, indicating a breakdown of governance or law and order.
  • Reserving a Bill for President's Assent: The Governor has the power to reserve a bill passed by the state legislature for the President's assent, withholding the bill from becoming law without the President's approval.
  • Appointing Chief Minister in a Hung Assembly: If no political party holds a clear majority in the assembly, the Governor can exercise the discretion to appoint anyone as the Chief Minister.Determining Royalty Payments: The Governor determines the amount payable by the governments of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram to an autonomous Tribal District Council as royalty accrued from licenses for mineral exploration.
  • Seeking Information from the Chief Minister: The Governor has the authority to seek information from the Chief Minister regarding administrative and legislative matters of the state.
  • Refusing to Sign an Ordinary Bill: The Governor can refuse to sign an ordinary bill passed by the state legislature, exercising discretion in deciding whether or not to give assent to the bill.

 

Issues related to Governor’s office

  • Power Abuse by the Centre: Governors have been accused of misusing their position, often under the influence of the ruling party at the national level. The appointment process itself has been a contributing factor to such instances.
  • Biased Ideology: Political appointees with specific affiliations have been chosen as Governors, contradicting the impartiality expected from this constitutional role. Instances in Karnataka and Goa have raised concerns about bias.
  • Puppet Rulers: The Governor of Rajasthan has faced allegations of violating the model code of conduct and exhibiting partisan support. This contradicts the expectation of non-partisanship from someone in a constitutional position.
  • Partisan Favoritism: Discretionary powers of Governors to invite the leader of the largest party/alliance to form the government have been misused to favor specific political parties.
  • Power Misuse: Governors recommending President's Rule (Article 356) in a state have sometimes acted on political whims rather than objective material, raising questions about the fair exercise of power.

 

Some other important areas of concern are:

Lack of Constitutional Provisions in Case of Disagreement:

The Constitution does not provide specific guidelines on how the Governor and the state should publicly engage when there is a difference of opinion. This absence of clear provisions can lead to ambiguity and challenges in resolving conflicts between the Governor and the state government.

Security of Tenure and Pleasure of the President:

As the Governor holds office "at the pleasure of the President," concerns have been raised regarding the security of the Governor's tenure. It is unclear whether the Governor enjoys a fixed term or can be recalled by the President at any time without providing reasons.

This lack of clarity raises questions about the independence and impartiality of the Governor's role. It may lead to perceptions of undue influence from the central government and undermine the principles of federalism and separation of powers.

In the absence of explicit provisions, there is a need for greater clarity and transparency in defining the terms of office and the process of recalling Governors. This would ensure a more accountable and objective approach to the functioning of the Governor's office, upholding the principles of democratic governance and constitutional integrity.

 

Recommendations to Improve Governor's Office 

  • Appointment of CM in a Hung Assembly: A recent Karnataka case highlighted that the Governor's discretion should not be arbitrary or fanciful. The Supreme Court emphasized that the majority of the government should be determined on the floor of the Assembly, not by the Governor's subjective opinion.
  • Limits on Governor's Powers: The SR Bommai case clarified the limits to the Governor's powers in dismissing a state government under Article 356. The court emphasized that the majority of the government should be tested in the Assembly, not based on the Governor's subjective assessments.
  • Validity of Proclamation of President's Rule: In the Rameshwar Prasad case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Governor cannot make decisions based on subjective assessments. The court highlighted the importance of objective considerations in the proclamation of the President's Rule and the dissolution of the Assembly.
  • Removal of Governor: The BP Singhal case emphasized that the President's power to dismiss a Governor should not be exercised in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner.
  • Sarkaria Commission Recommendations: The commission recommended that Governors should be detached figures without intense political links. They should serve their five-year tenure, except in rare and compelling circumstances.
  • Venkatachaliah Commission Recommendations: The commission suggested that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and Chief Minister of the concerned state should be responsible for appointing Governors. If removal is necessary before completion of the term, the central government should consult with the Chief Minister.
  • Punchhi Commission Recommendations: The commission proposed deleting the phrase "during the pleasure of the President" from the Constitution, and suggested that Governors should be removed only by a resolution of the state legislature.


Relevance of the Office of the Governor

The Office of the Governor in India holds significant importance in the country's governance and federal structure. Some key aspects of the Governor's importance are:

  1. Constitutional Head: The Governor acts as the constitutional head of the state and represents the President of India at the state level. This ensures a seamless connection between the Union Government and the state governments.
  1. Executive Powers: The Governor exercises executive powers in the state and performs functions such as appointing the Chief Minister, approving state government policies, and granting assent to bills passed by the state legislature.
  1. Law and Order: The Governor plays a crucial role in maintaining law and order in the state. They can take necessary actions, including the imposition of President's Rule, in case of breakdown of constitutional machinery or a threat to the peace and stability of the state.
  1. Protecting State Interests: The Governor safeguards the interests of the state by ensuring that the state's powers and resources are utilized appropriately and in line with the Constitution. They act as a check and balance against any actions that may be detrimental to the state.
  1. Mediation and Coordination: The Governor acts as a mediator and facilitates coordination between the state government and the central government. They play a vital role in resolving conflicts and promoting harmonious relations between the two entities.
  1. Symbolic Representation: The Governor represents the state in ceremonial and symbolic capacities. They perform duties such as addressing the state legislature, attending state functions, and representing the state on various occasions.

 

Overall, the Office of the Governor plays a significant role in ensuring the smooth functioning of the federal structure in India, upholding constitutional principles, and safeguarding the interests of the state and its people.

Conclusion
In conclusion, the role of the Governor in India's federal polity deserves careful consideration and amendments to meet the evolving needs of the nation. The recommendations put forth by the Sarkaria Commission and the Punchhi Commission should be thoroughly examined to improve the functions of the Governor's post. The Supreme Court's decision in the BP Singhal case, which limits the Centre's power to dismiss state governments arbitrarily, is a commendable step. Impeachment proceedings in the state assembly should be the established process for removing a Governor from office. 

The appointment of Governors should be a non-political process, involving a panel representing different stakeholders. Discretionary powers should be limited, and clear guidelines should be in place for the appointment of Chief Ministers. The Governor's office should prioritize internal security, communal harmony, and the welfare of marginalized communities, rising above partisan politics to fulfill constitutional obligations. By implementing these reforms, the Office of the Governor can truly serve as a neutral and effective institution in India's governance system.

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