This article deals with ‘Governor .’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Articles related to Governor

  • Article 153 to 167 (They deal with State Executive  (not only Governor))
  • Under Article 159 of Indian Constitution, Governor takes oath on following things
    1. To discharge the functions of Governor
    2. Conserve , Protect and Preserve the Constitution of India
    3. Devote  to the service and well being of the people of the State

Appointment of Governor

  • Governor  is appointed and not elected (unlike President) (In US , Governor is elected directly by people because they have concept of complete federation)
  • Although Draft constitution provided election of Governor by Universal Adult Franchise but Constitutional Assembly opted for present system

Governor of India is Modeled on

  • Office of Governor in India is modeled on Canadian Model (and not American).
  • Governor is Agent of Center at State

Qualifications to become Governor

  • He should be Citizen of India
  • He should have completed age of 35 years

Only these two and no other condition.

Term of Governor

  • Hold office for 5 years but works subject to Pleasure of President
  • Supreme Court Ruling :Pleasure of President in this regard is not justiciable under court of law . Governor has no fix term.
  • His office can’t fall vacant and there cant be interregnum
  • His emoluments & allowances can’t be reduced to his disadvantage throughout his term . These emoluments are decided by Parliament (not Charged on Consolidated Fund of India/State)
  • Same Governor can act as Governor of more than one state (after 7th Constitutional Amendment)
  • Order of Precedence –  4th within State & 8th outside State

Powers and Functions of Governor

1 . Executive Powers

  • All Executive actions taken in his name formally
  • He can make rules specifying manner in which orders and other instruments made and executed in his name should be authenticated
  • Can make rules for convenient transaction of the Business of State Government
  • Appoints Chief Minister & Council of Ministers, Advocate General, State Election Commissioner , Chairman and Members of SPSC and so on
  • Should appoint Tribal Welfare Ministers in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP & Odisha
  • He can require Chief Minister to submit for consideration of Council , any matter on which decision has been taken but matter not considered by Council
  • He can recommend imposition of Constitutional Emergency in State and during that period enjoys extensive powers and act as agent of President
  • He acts as Chancellor of Universities in State and also appoints Vice-Chancellors of  Universities

2. Legislative Powers

  • Can Summon or Prorogue State  Legislature and dissolve Legislative Assembly
  • Can address Legislative Assembly at commencement of session of each year and new house
  • When office of Speaker & Deputy Speaker are vacant, can appoint member to Preside
  • Nominate 1/6 members to Legislative Council ( Science, Arts, Literature , Social Science & Cooperative Movement)  (first 4 same for President but Cooperative Movement is addition)
  • Can nominate 1 member to Legislative Assembly  from Anglo Indian Community  if not adequately represented.
  • Decide on disqualification of any MLA with Election Commission
  • Certain type of bills require his permission to be introduced
  • Can promulgate Ordinances when house(s) are not in session
  • When Bill is passed by both Houses ,it require his assent to become Act. He can do four things –
    1. Give assent
    2. Withhold assent
    3. Send back for Reconsideration.  But if Assembly  send it back with or without amendments he has to give assent
    4. Can reserve bill for consideration of President
  • Governor can reserve bill for consideration with President when
Endangers position of High Court  (must) Opposed to Directive Principle of State Policy
Ultra vires Against larger interest of country
Of grave National Importance Dealing with compulsory acquisition of property under Article 31A
  • Lays report of State Finance Commission ,SPSC and Auditor General before State Legislature

3. Financial Powers

  • Ensure that Annual Financial Statement is laid before State Legislature
  • Money Bill can be introduced only after taking his recommendation
  • Can make advances out of Contingency Fund of State  to deal with unforeseen condition
  • Constitute State Finance Commission after  5 years to review Financial Condition of Municipal Corporations and Panchayats & suggest measures to improve it

4. Judicial Powers

  • Consulted by President while appointing judges of concerned State High Court
  • Can grant Pardon, Reprieve, Respite , Remission or Commute when punishment is  for offence against  law to which executive power of state extend
  • Makes appointments ,postings and promotions of District Judges in consultation with High Court
  • Can appoint persons to  Judicial Services of State (other than District Judge ) in consultation with State High Court & SPSC

5. Diplomatic Functions

  • Governor has no Diplomatic powers .

6. Military powers

  • Governor has no Military Powers
  • Protecting the State is duty of Center

7. Pardoning power

  • He can pardon, reprieve, respite, remit , suspend or commute any person convicted of any offence against state law
  • But He cant Pardon death sentence even if it is given by State Law , although he can   commute death sentence . Governor cant look into cases related to Court Martial

Except these two all other Pardoning Powers of Governor & President are same

8. Special powers of Governor

Certain Special Responsibilities to discharge according to directions issued by President. In these cases, although he has to consult with Council of Ministers but acts finally on his discretion

Maharashtra Development Board for Vidarbha & Marathwada
Gujarat Development Board for Saurashtra & Rann of Kutch
Nagaland Wrt Law & Order in State for so long as internal disturbance in Naga Hills – Tuensang Area continues
Assam Wrt Administration of Tribal Areas
Manipur Regarding Administration of Hill Areas in state
Sikkim For peace & for ensuring social & economic advancement of different sections of Population
Arunachal Pradesh Wrt Law & Order in State
Karnataka Establishment of  separate Development aboard for Hyderabad-Karnataka region

9. Other powers

  • Constitution contains provision that Ministerial advice is binding on President  but no such Constitutional Provision has been made wrt Governor. Although this is settled matter now dealt by Shamsher Singh vs State of Punjab (but again whether this Judgement extends to Delhi as well is Subjudice)
  • Governor too enjoys Veto Powers like President of India
  • Ordinance making power of Governor is same like President but only with one difference that if same bill would have been reserved by Governor for consultation with   President then that Ordinance too would require Presidential assent before coming to force

Discretionary Powers of Governor

Discretionary powers of Governor are wider than President

Constitutional Discretion

  • Reservation of a Bill for Consideration of the President;
  • Recommendation for imposition of President’s Rule in State;
  • Special functions in certain states (as mentioned above)
  • Sending Bill to Legislative Assembly to reconsider bill once
  • Sending advise given by Council of Ministers to reconsider it once

Situational Discretion

  • Appointing Chief Minister when no party has acquired clear cut majority in the State Legislative Assembly or when a Chief Minister dies  in office;
  • Dissolution of Legislative Assembly in case Council of Minister lose majority

Importance of Governor

Governor has very important role to play in Indian Constitutional Scheme

  • Overseeing government formation
  • Reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in State 
  • Maintaining effective communication between  Center and  State
  • Reserving his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature or Sending it to President for consent.
  • Promulgating ordinances if the need arises.
  • As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises,
  • Conscience keeper of the community

Issues with working of Governor 

Issue 1

  • Governor’s post has not remained centre of controversy from the beginning. It was only post 1967 when Non-Congress Governments were first formed in states that change in role of Governor’s was observed. He stopped being Constitutional Head of State and became  agent of the Centre in State . It can be seen in following instances
    • In 1967, under the leadership of Maharaval Lakshman Singh , Samyukta Morcha performed well in Rajasthan State elections. But when he claimed to form government , Governor Sardar Hukum Singh took shelter under Article 159 arguing that he has took oath to work for welfare of the people of state and this cant happen until Congress Party’s support is present . Hence, he gave first opportunity to form Government to Shri Mohan Lal Sukhadia.
    • In 1970 , in UP Chaudari Charan Singh formed government with Congress support. But due to some conflict, Congress took back support. Charan Singh asked for some time from Governor YV Reddy to prove his majority. But YV Reddy refused to give time to Charan Singh
    • In 1982, in Haryana Lokdal – BJP- Samyukta Dal performed well and when Chaudari Devi Lal claimed to form Government , Governor GD Tapase asked Devi Lal  to parade  all his MLAs. But appointed Congress leader Bhajan Lal as CM one day before this.

In this way, Governors have performed the role of Agent of Centre .

Issue 2

  • Post of Governor given as parking spot for burnt out politicians 
  • Spoil System in appointing person as Governor.

Issue 3

  • Way in which Governors are removed on change of Government is also questioned by many scholars.
    • Governors face arbitrary removal before the expiration of their tenure . Even after Supreme Court Judgement in B.P. Singhal v. Union of India calling for a fixed tenure for Governors to encourage neutrality and fairness in the discharge of their duties, it is not being implemented on ground

Issue 4

  • Governors work in Partisan ways (helping Center to impose President’s Rule and destabilise the State Governments)
    • Article 200 and 201 : The Governor has the power to withhold the assent to a bill along with reserving the bill for consideration of President. States allege that this provision has often been misused by the governor who acts on behest of the union government.
    • Article 356 : To recommend the imposition of constitutional emergency in a state. For political gains, this power has been abused by central governments . Supreme Court in the case of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India acknowledged this.
    • Examples are as follows
JP Rajkhowa (Arunachal) Destabilizing the polity of the state through instigating factionalism  
West Bengal Stifling governance by acting as parallel centers of powers (as accused by TMC government in West Bengal)  
Karnataka  (2018) Governor gave first opportunity to BJP to form government despite the fact that it was not possible for BJP to form government without indulging into Horse Trading and Defections.  
Goa Goa Governor Mridula Sinha ignored the established principle of inviting the single largest party in the wake of a fractured mandate, and appointed BJP leader Manohar Parrikar as chief minister .   
Buta Singh Role of Governor Buta Singh in imposing President’s Rule in Bihar in 2005 by not electing any leader as CM and not trying all possibilities to form Government. He reported to Union Government that stable government couldn’t be formed and Union imposed President’s Rule in Bihar. In the Judgement, SC nullified the actions of Governor & also ordered that facts represented by Governor shouldn’t be taken by Union Government on face value.

Sarkaria commission on Governor

  • Recommendations wrt  Governor
    • Governor is lynchpin of Constitutional Apparatus +  Governor assures continuity of Government + it shouldn’t be dispensed with
    • Discretionary powers of Governor should be left untouched
  • Person to be appointed as Governor
    • Should be Eminent Person
    • Must be person from outside the state
    • Must not have participated in active politics atleast for some time
  • Tenure must be guaranteed & if any action is to be taken against him , he must be given reasonable opportunity

Punchi Commission on Governor

  • Given the status & importance conferred by Constitution on office of Governor + no election for seat of governor , it is important that Constitution lays down explicitly the qualifications for being considered for appointment .
  • Presently only condition for appointment of Governor is  he should be Citizen of India and above 35 years
  • Recommendations of Sarkaria Commission should be adopted strictly
  • Governors should be given fixed tenure of 5 years & their removal should not be at will of the Government of India . Necessary to provide for impeachment of Governor on same lines as provided for impeachment of President

Debate on method to remove Governor

Governor has no security of tenure and he works under the  Pleasure of the President (Article 156)

In Constituent Assembly Debates

  • Prof KT Shah said in Constituent Assembly debates that we must not leave the Governor to be entirely at the mercy of President . So long as he acts in accordance with advice of Constitutional Advisors of Province, he shouldn’t be removed .
  • Ambedkar answered criticisms with this statement : It is quite unnecessary to burden Constitution with all these limitations stated in express terms  . Power of removal although apparently absolute is subject to implied limitations

But norms of appointment & credibility of office of Governor deteriorated fast  .

Different developments after Independence

1 . ARC Report,1967

  • Opined that the post of Governor came to be treated as consolation prize to burnt out politicians

2. Hargovind Pant Case, 1979

  • Governor cant be regarded as an employee of Government of India  .  His is an independent constitutional office which is not subject to control of Government of India 

3. BP Singhal Case, 2010

  • 5 Judge Constitutional Bench – objected to removal of 4 NDA appointed Governors immediately after UPA came to power
  • Reason given by Government was , ‘they were not in sync with their policies & ideologies.’
  • Court held that –  Governor cant be removed on ground that he is out of sync with the policies & ideologies of Union Government nor can he be removed on ground that Union Government has lost confidence in him

4. Punchhi Commission

  • Governors should be given fixed tenure of 5 years & their removal should not be at will of the Government of India .
  • Necessary to provide for impeachment of Governor on same lines as provided for impeachment of President

Debate : What to do in case no party gets clear majority ?

Constitution of India doesn’t deal with this situation directly . But, there are various cases which have dealt with this issue and given procedure to resolve this issue .

1 . Sarkaria Commission(reaffirmed by Rameshwar Prasad vs Union of India & reiterated by Punchhi Commission) 

  • In case there is no single party having absolute majority , order of preference the Governor should follow in selecting a Chief Minister is as follows
    • If there is a pre-poll alliance or coalition, it should be treated as one political party and if such coalition obtains a majority, the leader of such coalition shall be called by the Governor to form the Government.
    • In case no party or pre-poll coalition has a clear majority, the Governor should select the Chief Minister in the order of preference indicated below: 
      • Group  of parties which had pre-poll alliance commanding the largest number.
      • Largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others.
      • A post-electoral coalition with all partners joining the government 
      • A post-electoral alliance with some parties joining the government and the remaining supporting the government from outside.

2. Jagdambika Pal Case / Composite Test

  • In Allahabad High Court Judgement of 1998 => go for Composite Floor Test between two contending claimants to Chief Ministership

3. SR Bommai Case

  • Majority can be proved only on the floor of house and nowhere else
  • Hence, Parties cant parade MLAs in Raj Bhavan to show their majority or support.

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