Pending Bills, the issue of gubernatorial inaction
- April 25, 2023
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Indian Polity
- The recent resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly urging the President of India to fix a timeline for assent to be given to bills passed by the Assembly has once again brought to the forefront the role of the Governor in state politics. This analysis will examine the constitutional issues raised by the resolution and discuss the relevant articles of the Constitution.
Article 355 of the Constitution
- Article 355 of the Constitution provides that it is the duty of the Union to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. While this article was meant to provide justification for central intervention in the States, its scope and range needs to be widened.
Role of the Governor
- Under Article 200, the Governor has options when a Bill is presented to him after being passed by the legislature. These options include giving assent, withholding assent, sending the Bill back to the Assembly for reconsideration, or sending the Bill to the President for his consideration.
- If the Governor does not act in accordance with the Constitution and sits on 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.
Resolution by the Assembly
- Passing a resolution by the Assembly, requesting the President of India to issue directions to the Governor to ensure that he functions in accordance with the Constitution is a new constitutional development. However, in the absence of any action on the part of the Governor, it should be considered legitimate action.
Withholding Assent by the Governor
- A plain reading of Article 200 suggests that theoretically, the Governor can withhold assent. However, the position of the Governor in this respect is that of the sovereign in England. In theory, the sovereign can refuse to give his assent, but this right has not been exercised since the reign of Queen Anne. The veto could now only be exercised on ministerial advice and no government would veto Bills for which it was responsible. Refusal of royal assent on the ground that the monarch strongly disapproved of a Bill or that it was intensely controversial would be unconstitutional.
- 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. However, the larger question is why a Governor should be allowed to withhold assent when the Bill is passed by the Assembly. A Bill is brought before the Assembly when there is some urgency about legislation, and it may be a part of the policy of the elected government, which is responsible to the people. When such a Bill is passed, it is pertinent to look at the authority of a Governor who is an appointee of the Union government to reject it.
It is important to uphold the principles of the Constitution in order to ensure that the government is carried out in accordance with its provisions. The actions of the Tamil Nadu Governor in delaying the assent to bills passed by the Assembly and his recent statement regarding constitutional limits highlight the need for a clear understanding and interpretation of Articles 200 and 355. While the Governor may have discretionary powers, it is crucial that they are exercised in accordance with the Constitution and not against it. Ultimately, the goal should be to strengthen the democratic process and ensure that the voices of the people are heard through their elected representatives.