What's the article about?
- It talks about the new episode of tussle between the Governor and State Legislative Assembly over the Governor's veto power.
- GS2: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these;
- Recently, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a resolution urging the President of India to fix a timeline for the Governor to give his assent to Bills passed by the Assembly.
- This is a new kind of constitutional development in India and thus Article 355 of the Constitution needs to be interpreted by the judiciary to resolve this new development.
- Article 355:
- Article 355 of the Constitution says that it shall be the duty of the Union to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
- Its general meaning and purpose is to provide justification for the “invasion of the provincial field” which the Union government may have to do.
- But the Constitution is a dynamic document whose concepts and doctrines have been interpreted and reinterpreted and also expanded by courts from time to time to meet the changing needs of society.
- Although this Article was meant to provide justification for central intervention in the States, its scope and range needs to be widened.
- Article 200 and the responsibilities of the Governor:
- Article 200 provides options to the Governor when a Bill is presented to him after being passed by the legislature.
- These options are:
- to give assent;
- to withhold assent;
- to send it back to the Assembly to reconsider it; or
- to send the Bill to the President for his consideration.
- In case the Assembly reconsiders the Bill as per the request of the Governor under the third option, he has to give assent even if the Assembly passes it again without accepting any of the suggestions of the Governor.
- It is only logical to think that when the Constitution gives certain options to the Governor he is required to exercise one of them. Since sitting on a Bill passed by the Assembly is not an option given by the Constitution, the Governor, by doing so, is only acting against constitutional direction.
- The Constitution requires the Governor to act when a Bill is passed by the Assembly and present it to him as per the options given in Article 200.
- If he does not act in accordance with the Constitution and sits on the Bills indefinitely, he is creating a situation where governance of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with constitutional provisions.
- In such a situation, the government of the State has a constitutional duty to invoke Article 355 and inform the President about it, and request her to give suitable instructions to the Governor to ensure that the government is carried on in accordance with the Constitution.
- In that view of the matter, a resolution by the Assembly should be considered legitimate action.
- Practice followed in the United Kingdom:
- In the UK, earlier Royal Monarchs (ie Queen or King) had power to do nothing on the bill. At present, theoretically, they possess this power too, but in real life it is not exercised anymore. They can only withhold assent if their ministers advise them to do so.
- So, in India we need to address the same question: whether under Article 200, the Governor can withhold his assent to a Bill in exercise of his discretionary powers. Or, whether he can do so only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- Under Article 154 of the Constitution, the Governor can exercise his executive powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers. So, there is a view that the Governor can withhold assent to a Bill only on ministerial advice.
- Withholding assent means the death of that Bill. Thus, the Governor can with one stroke of the pen completely negate the will of the legislature, and thereby negate the will of the people. The Constitution cannot be assumed to be permitting the Governor to do that.
- The framers of the Constitution would never have imagined that Governors would sit on Bills indefinitely without exercising any of the options given in Article 200.
- This is a new development which needs new solutions within the framework of the Constitution. So, it falls to the Supreme Court to fix a reasonable time frame for Governors to take a decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly in the larger interest of federalism in the country.