DC Edit | Court Finds a Way to Rein in Wayward Governors
The Supreme Court of India designating a bill returned by a state governor and readopted by the state Assembly as money bill is one of the most important outcomes of the litigation some state governments have initiated against the arbitrary acts of their governors. This order of the apex court would bind the governors to sign the bills into law, denying them a discretionary power which never existed in the first place.
The court has done nothing except interpreting the spirit of Article 200 of the Constitution which has clearly stated that the “governor shall not withhold assent therefrom” when a bill is presented to him again after its re-adoption by the state legislature. A clarification was called for, and the apex court has just delivered that.
It is heartening that the decision of some state governments ruled by non-NDA parties to move the Supreme Court of India seeking its intervention against their respective governors sitting on bills that have been passed by their respective legislatures for long has started producing important results even before the court has heard the petitioners out and come to a conclusion.
One of the other outcomes was the apex court’s dismay at the governors undermining the constitutional mandate of the state legislatures that had come out in the form of critical comments. The court dealt a body blow to the governors who had the gall to declare they have the power to condemn a bill to death by holding them forever when it declared that such actions are a very serious matter and that the governors were playing with fire. The court refused to acknowledge the alibis the governors offered, which included a reference to the pendency of the bills that predated their assumption of office. By asking the Tamil Nadu governor what he was doing after assuming office with respect to performing his constitutional obligations, the court has destroyed that excuse, too.
The governors who had arrogated to themselves the power to veto the bills by picking and choosing from those presented to them have started acting on them after the court’s terse comments. This is another of the fruits of the litigation. The return of the 10 bills by the Tamil Nadu governor to the Assembly last week has enabled the House to pass them again, fulfilling the constitutional requirements. The governor has also cleared files seeking permission to prosecute politicians for alleged corruption, which puts into focus the key question of the apex court why the governor should wait till the state government moved it.
Two issues are still pending before the court. One, as put across by the attorney- general, is on the powers of the governor to examine the bills which involve many “intricate issues”. There is also the question the Chief Justice of India asked whether it is mandatory for the governor to return a bill to the House once he chose to withhold the assent. Finding answers to these questions is not difficult if and when examined in the light of the true spirit of the Constitution of a democratic republic. It’s the will of the people who stand in the queue and send their representatives to govern them that must prevail.