Is the Institution of Governor subverting federal structure

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Is the Institution of Governor subverting federal structure

  • Tamil Nadu Governor returned the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) Bill passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly and friction between West Bengal Governor and Chief Minister had once again highlighted the problematic role that governors play in Indian politics.

Constitutional Provisions Related to Governor:

  • Article 153: there shall be a Governor for each State.
  • One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
  • Appointed by: President and is a nominee of Central Government.
  • He has a dual role: He is the Constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his council of ministers (CoM).
  • He serves as a vital link between Union and State Government.

Governor-State Relations

  • Acting on aid and advice: He is an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers
  • Discretion: He can give or withhold assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
  • Apparatus of interaction: No provisions on how to engage when there is a difference of opinion.
  • Various friction points:
  • Abuse of Power by the Centre: Governor’s position is sometimes abused, usually by ruling party at Centre.
  • The process of appointment is questioned.
  • Biased Ideology: In several cases, politicians and former bureaucrats have been appointed as Governors
  • It goes against the constitutionally mandated neutral seat and has resulted in bias
  • Puppet Rulers: Sometimes, support of the central ruling party is against the spirit of non-partisanship
  • Due to such incidents, negative terms like an agent of the Centre, Puppet and rubber stamps are used to describe a governor of the state.
  • Favouring a Particular Political Party: 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.
  • Misuse of Power: A Governor's recommendation for President's Rule (Article 356) in a state has not always been based on 'objective material', but on political whim or fancy.

Why does this happen?

  • Political appointment: This is because Governors have become political appointees.
  • Nature of appointment: In Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • Defying constituent assembly: The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical.
  • Nature of appointment: The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre.
  • Security of Tenure: There is no provision for impeaching the Governor
  • Powers in legislation: There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.

Way Forward

  • Governor’s Discretion Should Be Only Her Discretion: It is essential that Governor must act judiciously, impartially and efficiently while exercising his discretion and personal judgment.
  • Strengthening of Federalism: Inter-State council and role of Rajya Sabha as chamber of federalism must be strengthened.
  • Reform the Method of Appointment of Governor: appointment can be made from a panel prepared by state legislature and actual appointing authority should be the Inter-state Council, not central government.
  • Code of Conduct for Governor: It should lay down certain 'norms and principles' to guide the exercise of the governor's 'discretion' and his powers.