DC Edit | Guidelines for governors vital

Update: 2023-11-30 18:40 GMT

By allowing the government of Kerala to amend its petition against the governor holding back bills passed by the Assembly, the Supreme Court has opened the question as to whether it must consider framing guidelines for a governor to reserve bills for the consideration of the President of India. The court’s decision comes in the wake of the Kerala governor forwarding to the President seven of the eight bills which have been pending with him for durations which vary from two years to three months.   

Article 200 of the Constitution mandates that the governor “shall reserve for the consideration of the President, any bill which in the opinion of the governor would, if it became law, so derogate from the powers of the high court as to endanger the position which that court is by this Constitution designed to fill”. In practice, state governments would recommend to the governor to seek the opinion of the President if the bills are related to topics referred to in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. Both these appear to be have sound constitutional backing but the governors taking the Rashtrapati Bhavan as an alibi to delay signing the bills is beyond the scope of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has recently put paid to the attempts by some governors to denigrate the spirit of the Constitution by holding back bills for a period of their choosing. The court has categorically ruled that the powers vested with the governor of a state “cannot be used to thwart the normal course of lawmaking by the state legislatures" and reiterated that “in a parliamentary form of democracy, real power vests in the elected representatives of the people”. It is time the Supreme Court removed the very scope for covert and overt attempts to diminish the importance of the state legislatures and restored their paramountcy with respect to lawmaking. Framing guidelines for the governors to act on the bills passed by legislatures will be a step in that direction. 


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