Does the governor have the right to delete portions of his address to the legislative assembly?

Source: The post is based on an article “Does the governor have the right to delete portions of his address to the legislative assembly?” published in The Indian Express on 12th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: issue associated with the Governor

News: The Tami Nadu Governor has sparked controversies after speaking outside the customary government-prepared address.

What are various constitutional provisions and judgements related to the role of the governor in addressing the assembly?

Constitutional provisions: Under Article 176(2(b)), the governor has the right to address the first session of the House. This address is an integral part of constitutional symbolism.

However, the Constitution has not given discretion to governors in the matter of convening the session of the assembly and Governors have no right to question the purpose of convening the sessions of the House.

Judgements: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Nabam Rebia (2016) had observed that the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh who advanced the session of the assembly without the advice of the chief minister had exceeded his jurisdiction.

The Calcutta High Court in Andul Gafoor Habibullah v. Speaker, West Bengal Assembly (1966) held that the governor cannot decline to deliver his address and refuse to fulfil his constitutional duty. Thus, the address under Article 176 is mandatory.

However, the HC also held that when the governor fails to deliver his address under Article 176 and walks out of the House after laying down the address on the table of the House, will be considered as irregularity not illegality.

Therefore, the validity of the House proceedings cannot be challenged on the ground of irregularity under Article 212.

The Calcutta HC in another case held that the governor has the right to delete or not read irrelevant portions which do not deal with the policy of the government.

It observed that the Governor can exercise his discretion in leaving out of his address the irrelevant matter.

Moreover, as per the British convention since 1829, the governor must read the full speech as it is basically the government’s statement about which the governor like that of the British monarch has no responsibility.

What can be the implications of the governors editing/deleting the government prepared speech?

Governors editing/deleting the speech may create a constitutional crisis.

For example, the governor’s address is defeated when the chief minister refuses to defend the address of the governor leading the House to reject the resolution on the governor’s speech.

This defeat is considered as a no-confidence motion and the chief minister needs to resign.

Therefore, such a resignation for something that the government did not include in the ceremonial address but the governor had said on its own is undemocratic. Hence, the governor has no discretion in editing the address.

 

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