Honour of office: On new Governors of States appointed by the Centre

Source: The post is based on the article

“Honour of office: On new Governors of States appointed by the Centre” published in The Hindu on 14th February 2023.

“The Express View on the governors’ reshuffle: Raj Bhavan Dharma” published in the Indian Express on 14th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary.

Relevance: About the Office of Governor.

News: Recently, Government appointed 6 new governors, and reshuffles 7 others. A retired Supreme Court judge and two Army officers were also appointed as Governors.

What are the questions surrounding the office of Governor?

Over the decades the appointments of Governors have come under scrutiny because a) Governors in most Opposition-ruled states are seen to be locked in conflict with the respective state governments, b) Governors have sought to play a political role in States. For instance, Governor’s recent political involvement in States such as Jharkhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, c) The overreach of Governors has become a serious question in Centre-State relations and democracy in general.

Must read: Issues Related to the Office of Governor – Explained, pointwise

About the Office of Governor

The institution of the Governor is a legacy of the British imperial governance structure. The legitimacy of a nominated Governor in a democracy was highly debated in the Constituent Assembly, but it was carried on into the new republic nevertheless.

The Governor must act as a dynamic link between the Centre and the State. The Constitution makers were very clear that the posts must remain ornamental, except in narrowly defined situations in which governors were allowed discretion in decision-making.

In short, the governor is the representative of the Union in the state. But that does not mean that the Governor’s office is a parallel power and can usurp the authority of the elected government in the State.

What should be done to ensure the constitutional functioning of the Office of Governor?

a) The balance of powers between the Raj Bhavan and the elected government in the state should be respected, b) The Centre must allow enough room for the Raj Bhavan to function: The independence and autonomy of the office should not be compromised, c) The new governor’s should refuse to lure local politics, maintain the dignity of their office and uphold the federal spirit in the Constitution, and d) The Centre should refrain from making Governor’s office as a post-retirement possibility for those who are required to stay aloof from partisan politics in their current roles. As it lowers the dignity of the offices that they leave behind and what they go on to occupy.

Overall, the courts have in the past drawn the line on the powers of governors and raised the bar on the misuse of Article 356 to dismiss state governments. Hence, it is best for governors to follow the rule book and continue as custodians of Constitutional values rather than seek a political profile.

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