• The Tamil Nadu Assembly witnessed dramatic scenes on January 9. When the Governor skipped portions of the address that was prepared and approved by the State Cabinet, including references to political stalwarts from the State and the Dravidian model of governance, Chief Minister M. K. Stalin moved a resolution to expunge all deviations made by Mr. Ravi and only take the prepared speech for the records. Subsequently, Mr. Ravi walked out of the Assembly.

Is the Governor bound to follow the directions of the State government?

  • Article 154 of the Constitution says “the executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution”.
  • However, Article 163 states that the Governor shall exercise his functions with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers except for functions which require his discretion.
  • Further, Art 163 (2) states,”If any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is by or under this Constitution required to act in his discretion, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final”.
  • The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, had made ministerial advice binding on the President but no such provision has been made for the Governor. The Supreme Court of India, however, has in several landmark judgements defined limits of the discretionary powers.
  • In the 2016 NabamRebia judgement, a five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India, J. S. Khehar, said that Article 163 of the Constitution does not give the Governor a “general discretionary power to act against or without the advice of his council of ministers”.
  • In the Shamsher Singh &Anr versus State Of Punjab (1974), a seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court said that the President and the Governor shall exercise their formal powers in accordance with the advice of their Ministers other than in some exceptional situations.
  • In October, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, as Chancellor of State universities, asked 11 Vice-Chancellors to resign citing irregularities in their appointments. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government hit back by passing a Bill that removed the Governor as the Chancellor of the State universities.
  • In Telangana, Governor TamilisaiSoundarajan and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao have often engaged in public sparring.
  • When Maharashtra was ruled by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), a coalition formed by Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party, the MVA government clashed with Governor B. S. Koshiyari over their choice of the Assembly Speaker.

What is the way out?

  • Several experts panels were set up to suggest to improve Centre-State relations. Most of these reports have advocated for appointing non-political Governors through independent mechanisms after consultations with the concerned Chief Ministers. The Sarkaria Commission had pointed out that the role of the Governor “is to see that a government is formed and not to try to form a government”. However, the recommendations of these reports have not been taken up by any government so far.


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