Governor : Challenges to Federal Structure – UPSC GS2

Why Governor Office is seen as against Federal Structure?
  • Misuse of discretionary powers by Governor in
    • Choosing a Chief Minister
    • Determining the timing for proving legislative majority
    • Dismissing a Chief Minister
    • Dissolving the legislature
    • Recommending President’s Rule
    • Taking apparently a long time in giving assent to bills or reserving bills for the President
  • Governor’s interference in day to day functioning of state government by:
    • Demanding information about day-to-day administration
    • Commenting adversely on specific policies of the state government
    • Exercising powers of the governor as the chancellor of state universities.
Constituent Assembly deliberations:
  • The original draft of the Constitution provided for a directly elected Governor or a Governor appointed by the President from a panel of four candidates elected by the Legislative Assembly.
  • However, finally, the Constituent Assembly chose to have the Governor appointed by the President, given that having an elective governor along with a parliamentary system of democracy could lead to confrontation and conflict apart from being a waste of energy and money.
  • Finally, a process by which the Governor is nominated by the President on the advice of the Council of Ministers was adopted and it became Article 155 of the Constitution.
  • In the words of the Drafting Committee chairman, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, instead of a powerful Governor, what the Constitution conceived was a duty-bound Governor.
Related Commission recommendations:
  • Administrative Reforms Commission:
    • The first Administrative Reforms Commission (1966) in its report on “Centre-State Relationships” had recommended that once the Governor completes his/her term of five years, he/she shall not be made eligible for further appointment as Governor.
    • This was to address the challenge of possible politicisation of the office of the Governor.
  • Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations:
    • The Sarkaria Commission was set up in 1983 by the Union government to examine the central-state relationship on various portfolios and suggest changes within the framework of the Constitution of India. Given the pivotal role played by the office of the Governor in the Centre-State relationship, the commission made several related recommendations.
    • The Sarkaria Commission recommended that the Governor appointee should be an eminent person in some walk of life and that he/she should be from outside the respective State. The person should be a detached figure without political links or should not have taken part in politics in the recent past. It condemned the practice of Governors venturing into active politics as well as ascending to other offices after the completion of the term.
    • Suggesting measures to safeguard the neutrality of the Governors, the commission argued for a secure term for the Governor.
    • Regarding the Governor’s role as the Chancellor of State universities, the Sarkaria Commission suggested that it was desirable to consult the Chief Minister or the minister concerned, though it shall be left to the Governor to act on the same or not.
  • National Commission to review the working of the Constitution:
    • The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution (NCRWC) also known as Justice Venkatachaliah Commission was set up in 2000 for suggesting possible amendments to the Constitution of India.
    • The National Commission also reiterated the view of the Sarkaria Commission regarding the appointment of the Governor.
    • Additionally, it argued for stipulating time limits for the Governors to give assent to pending bills and also for the Bills pending Presidential assent under Article 201 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Punchhi Commission:
    • The Government of India constituted the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations in 2007 to look into the new issues of Centre-State relations keeping in view the changes that had taken place in the polity and economy of India since the Sarkaria Commission.
    • Punchhi Commission reaffirmed most of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.
    • The Commission expressed concerns over the practice of Governors being called back with a change in governments at the Centre. This, it felt did not align with the salutary position assigned to the Governor.
    • Taking one step ahead of the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendation that the Governor’s tenure of five years shall only be sparingly cut short, Punchhi Commission recommended that the Governor shall have fixed tenure to protect the Governor from any pressure from the Central Government. It proposed an amendment to Article 156 to incorporate a well laid out procedure to remove the Governor from office.
Related Supreme Court judgments:
  • S.R. Bommai case:
    • The 1994, nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the S. R. Bommai case, put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions.
    • The President’s Rule was imposed in States over a hundred times prior to 1994.
    • The Supreme Court declared that the imposition of the President’s Rule shall be confined only to the breakdown of constitutional machinery.
B.P. Singhal Case:
  • The constitution bench of the Supreme Court in the B. P. Singhal Case (2010) had declared that a change in government at the Centre cannot be grounds to recall the governor and any such actions would be judicially reviewable.
  • The office of the Governor, envisaged by the makers of the Constitution of India to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law”, has unfortunately become a controversial constitutional office.
  • Notably, none of the numerous reports and recommendations by the committees and commissions and even Supreme Court judgements mentioned above has been taken for implementation.
  • Complying with the norms and conventions advocated by the Sarkaria commission coupled with the functional safeguards recommended by the Punchhi Commision will go a long way in rediscovering the constitutional equilibrium between the states and centre.
Related Questions:
  1. Critically comment on the issue of appointment and removal of Governors of States in India, and the opinion of the Supreme Court and various committees on the same. (200 Words)
  2. Looking at the way the governors of states have functioned since independence, do you think is there a need to amend the constitution to give states power to impeach their governors? Critically comment. (200 Words)
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