- In Arunachal Pradesh, events took an unseemly turn when the Governor, J.P. Rajkhowa, intervened in an apparently partisan manner by advancing a session of the State Assembly by nearly a month and asking the House to take up a motion to remove the Speaker as the first item on the agenda.
- This led to a shutdown of the legislature at the behest of the Chief Minister and the Speaker, and the dissidents holding a parallel session at a makeshift venue, where the Speaker was ‘removed’ and a ‘no-confidence’ motion against the government adopted
- The subsequent imposition of President’s Rule and the installation of the Pul regime raised several constitutional questions.
Judicial verdicts on Governor’s role and centre-state relations.
SR Bommai vs UOI case
- Art 356 should be used very sparingly
- The Supreme Court held that the proclamation under Article 356(1) is not immune from judicial review
- The strength of the Government should be tested on the floor of the house and not as per the whims of the Governor.
- Burden of proof of the basis on imposition of emergency lies with the Council of Ministers.
- The government must not do anything of permanent nature until emergency is approved by both house. The assembly must be in suspended animation not dissolved.
- Even in case the proclamation is approved by the Parliament it would be open to the court to restore the State government to its office in case it strikes down the proclamation as unconstitutional.
Buta Singh Case
- Governor’s report could not be taken at face value and must be verified by the council of ministers before being used as the basis for imposing President’s rule.
Recent SC verdict on Arunachal Pradesh incidents.
- A Constitution Bench unanimously quashed Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa's decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a move which triggered political unrest in the sensitive border State and culminated in the declaration of President's rule on January 26
- Directed the immediate imposition of status quo ante as on December 15, 2015; paving way for return of Nabam Tuki Government.
- The Governor's decision to override the authority of Assembly Speaker and advance the Assembly session may prove “deadly” to the rule of law in the country and federal structure of the Constitution
On position and role of Governor
- Legally, the main significance of the Arunachal Pradesh verdict lies in the clarity it provides on the Governor’s role.
- The Governor has no authority to resolve disputes within a political party; nor is he the conscience-keeper of the legislature.
- He has no discretionary power to advance an Assembly session without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers; nor can he fix its agenda.
- Governor is not an “all-pervading super constitutional authority.”
- The court said that a Governor is not an elected representative, but only an executive nominee whose powers flow from the aid and advice of the Cabinet. His tenure depends on the pleasure of the President.
- Using discretionary powers to summon or dissolve Assembly sessions without the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet is plainly unconstitutional.
- “The Governor is not an ombudsman for the Legislature nor the Speaker’s mentor. The Governor cannot require the Speaker to discharge his functions in the manner he considers constitutionally appropriate
- The court held that what happens within the four walls of a political party is none of the Governor’s concern. The Governor must remain aloof from any disagreement, discontent or dissension, within political parties
- On Mr. Rajkhowa’s defence that he was acting to prevent constitutional improprieties such as a Speaker, for whose removal a motion was pending, adjudicating on the disqualification of some MLAs, the Court has made three points about the Governor’s intervention:
- he had no role in the removal of the Speaker
- he had no authority to interfere in the Speaker’s powers under the anti-defection law
- he had no basis to act on the views of a group of 21 breakaway Congress MLAs, who clearly did not constitute a two-third fraction of the 47-member Congress Legislature Party to be lawfully recognisable.
- A Governor cannot use his discretionary powers to run a parallel administration or a ‘diarchy’ challenging the existence of an elected State government.
- In case a “remarkable situation” arises in the political spectrum of the State, the Governor’s duty is only to report to the President and wait for a decision
- Situation in Arunachal Pradesh- Mr. Tuki may now struggle to demonstrate his majority as 14 MLAs disqualified under his regime have been reinstated by a recent judgment of the Gauhati High Court.
- The Supreme Court has drawn a strong legal precedent on the role of the Governor and the extent of discretion enjoyed by him. It would be suitable for constitutional functionaries to function within the confines of the Constitution and according to the principles enshrined in it.