Gubernatorial procrastination is unreasonable

Source– The post is based on the article “Gubernatorial procrastination is unreasonable” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Indian Polity

Relevance– Legislative processes

News- The article explains the Governor role in case of Bills passed by the state legislature.

What are the examples of the Governor withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature?

In Tamil Nadu, the Governor forwarded the Bill for exemption from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) to the President after considerable delay.

The Kerala Governor publicly announced that he would not give assent to the Lokayukta Amendment Bill and the Kerala University Amendment Bill.

What are the constitutional provisions in this regard?

A Bill passed by the State Assembly becomes law only after the Governor gives assent.

Article 200 of the Indian constitution contains provisions related to the Governor giving assent to state bills.

He may give assent or he can send it back to the Assembly requesting it to reconsider. In this case, if the Assembly passes the Bill without making any change and sends it back to the Governor, he will have to give assent to it.

He may reserve the Bill for reconsideration by the President. Bill can be reserved for the consideration of the President only if it would endanger the position of the High Court.

He may withhold the assent. But it is not normally done by any Governor because it would be an extremely unpopular action. The legislature reflects the will of the people. It would be against the spirit of the constitution.

These provisions affirm the primacy of the legislature in the legislative exercise.

The Constitution does not fix any timeline for the Governor to give clearance to the Bill passed by the state legislature. It does not mean that the Governor can withhold assent for indefinite time. There is no such provision in Article 200. It is against the constitutional scheme.

What is international practice?

In Britain, assent by the monarch is necessary for a Bill to be passed by Parliament to become law. It has also the power to withhold the Bill. But it is a dead letter and not followed in Practice.

In the United States, the President is empowered to return a Bill to the House. But if the Houses again pass it with two third majority, the Bill becomes law.

Can Governor take action to withhold the Bill challenged before the judiciary?

Article 361 of the Constitution prohibits the court from initiating proceedings against the Governor or the President for any act done in exercise of their powers.

Governor while withholding assent, will have to disclose the reason. The Governor cannot act in an arbitrary manner. If the grounds for refusal have malafide intentions, it could be struck down as unconstitutional.

Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad and Ors. vs Union Of India held that immunity granted by Article 361 does not take away the power of the Court to examine the validity of the action including on the ground of malafides.

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