This is an ‘address’ of great constitutional importance

Source– The post is based on the article “This is an ‘address’ of great constitutional importance” published in The Hindu on 17th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues and challenges pertaining to federal structure

Relevance– Position of Governor

News– The article explains the issues related to the Governor of Tamil Nadu in skipping an important and politically significant paragraph in a customary Governor’s address to Members of Assembly. It also explains the different viewpoints about the position of Governor.

The skipped paragraph referred to the Dravidian model of governance which has great political and cultural significance especially in Tamil Nadu.

What is the importance of address by the Governor under Article 176 of the constitution?

Article 176 of the Constitution requires the Governor to mandatorily address the Members of legislature at the commencement of the first session of each year and to inform them of the causes of its summons.

It says that the legislature will discuss the matters referred to in such an address. The “address” here means the complete address and not a truncated version.

Here, the Constitution gives a specific direction to the House to find time to discuss the contents of the Governor’s address. This underscores the importance the Constitution attaches to such an address by the Governor.

It will become more clear when we consider Article 175. It says that the Governor may address the legislature, but the Governor’s address under Article 175 is not a mandatory address unlike under Article 176. Article 175 does not speak about any discussion of the content of such an address.

The reason behind the Constitution making such a distinction in two addresses by Governor is that the address under Article 176 contains the policies and programmes of the elected government of the State. Executive accountability to the elected representatives of the people is the essence of parliamentary democracy.

Can the Governorskip certain paragraphs of the address?

Skipping paragraphs of the address would simply mean that the Governor does not approve or agree with those ideas. The address by the Governor under Article 176 is the address prepared by the government. It does not contain any of the personal views of the Governor.

The Governor cannot change a word on his own. So, by wilfully not reading certain portions of the address the Governor has gone against the mandate of Article 176.

What are the other issues related to the office of Governor in current times?

The actions by Governors in some of the Opposition-ruled States have often come under critical scrutiny. They are sitting on the Bill passed by the Assembly without exercising any of the options given by the Constitution. It is clearly against the mandate of the Constitution.

Article 200 requires the Governor to either give assent or withhold assent or send the Bill back to the Assembly for reconsideration. In case, if the Assembly passes it again in the same form without any change the Governor has to give assent to it. He can also send the Bill for the consideration of the President in some rare cases.

Governors have suddenly become proactive. They have begun to openly challenge and criticise Chief Ministers and State governments. Some Governors are even holding press conferences to attack Chief Ministers.

What are different viewpoints about the position of Governor?

From Shamsher Singh (1974) to Nabam Rebia (2016), the Supreme Court has consistently held that Governors can act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. He cannot exercise any executive powers independently ignoring the elected government.

The Supreme Court had in Shamsher Singh said, “The Constitution does not aim at providing a parallel administration within the State by allowing the Governor to go against the advice of the Council of Ministers.

B.R. Ambedkar said in the Constituent Assembly: “If the Constitution remains in principle the same, then the Governor should be a purely constitutional Governor. It should not have power of interference in the administration of the province.”

 

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