After the Union government’s attempt to topple the elected governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand came to the limelight, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called for an abolition of the post of governor. The move led to a national outrage, putting the BJP government in a tough spot. The decision of the Supreme Court to reinstate the Arunchal Pradesh government further gave confidence to the opposition that the governor was exercising the powers beyond his constitutional brief.
This is not the first time that the role of the governor has come under the scanner. The fact that Article 365 has been imposed more than 120 times in different states as per the orders of the central government comes as no surprise. Be it the NDA, Congress or the Janata Party- Third Front, they have misused their status when at the Centre to remove opposition state governments to increase their political powers. The role of governors as constitutional watchdogs has often been camouflaged as they have been found working as agents of the Central government. It has often been noticed that the post of governors as a rule goes to the party loyalists, paying less importance to suitability or merit. Hence, it becomes rather necessary to discuss whether or not there is a need for the abolition of post of Governor in India?
According to the Indian constitution, the primary role of a governor is to act as a link between the Centre and the State w.r.t making the federation strong. With India adopting a diverse multi- religious socio- model, the constitutional makers decided to continue with the post to allow Union government to keep a check on the state governments from pursuing policies that may not be on the same page with national needs. More recently, with the increasing spate of issues arising from naxalism and religious radicalization having been witnessed in the country, the policy makers have stressed on the importance of strong central supervision for which the governor is required. Although the foundation of the institution continues to be sacrosanct, the quality of the incumbents has once again successfully lowered its prestige.
The powers and responsibilities of the governor is set out in Part VI of the Constitution and Article 163 gives them wide discretionary powers, as well as the power to reserve bills under Articles 200 & 201. During times of faulty verdicts, there have been no prescribed norms set for governors on how to formulate government making, and possibility of them getting influenced by central government officials can’t be ignored. He/she has the right to reserve bills sanctioned by the state administrative for the consent of the President or even stall passage of bills that abridge the force of High Court, meddle with the essential structure of the Constitution, influence relations with a remote nation and harm government highlights. The choice of the governor is absolute and can’t be denied in spite of request from the state cabinet once the President has imparted his refusal to the Governor. The governor seeks reports from the state government on the status of bills, sends reports regarding law and order of constitutional machinery, informs the Centre of all the activities in the state and helps maintain an effective central control over states.
Recently, the post of senator has turned into a matter of conflict. The contention is that they are obliged to their political masters and constantly ready to interfere in state legislative issues in order to topple duly chosen governments. However, governors are not the only culprits. The behaviour of the speakers has additionally been a long way from fair and they have not acted according to parliamentary popular government standards. The anti-defection law has been more abused than used rightfully. There has been an overall decline in the values of the democratic system. Getting rid of the governor’s post will be akin to discarding the baby with the bathwater. The Supreme Court decision in the SR Bommai case was notable as in it reduced the force of the Centre to reject state governments discretionarily. In any case, the issue persists. Certain changes should be made to streamline the position of representative, enhance the nature of occupants and give respect to this august office.
The self- assertive dismissals of governors should be stopped at all costs by legislating for a fixed tenure. There should be efforts made for the governor to not work on President’s behalf and his removal from office must entail reprimand procedures in the state assembly. There should be a gap for a governor between acquiring political positions and relinquishing the post to enhance the independence of his office and give him more teeth in functioning. The Punchhi Commission’s recommendation which states that President’s rule should be imposed in those parts of the state where there is law and order breakdown of machinery rather than the whole state can also be given a thought. It might go a long way in preventing the dismissal of state governments on grounds of lawlessness.
Given the development of regional parties, some of which do not have a national viewpoint and stay inserted in parochialism and character governmental issues, presents the defence for holding the organization of governor all the all the more convincing.