Tussle in Kerala: Can Governor Khan dismiss a state minister?

Source: The post is based on the article “Tussle in Kerala: Can Governor Khan dismiss a state minister?” published in Indian Express on 19th October 2022.

What is the News?

Kerala Governor who is locked in a standoff with the elected government on a range of issues including appointments to the state-run Kerala University has threatened to sack ministers who “lowered the dignity” of his office.

What role does the Governor play in the parliamentary system?

The position, role, powers and conditions of office of the Governor are described in Articles 153-161 of the Constitution. 

The position of Governor is similar to that of the President at the Union. He is appointed by the President (on the advice of the central government) and, therefore acts as the vital link between the Union and the state governments.

Can a Governor dismiss a Minister?

Article 164(1) deals with the appointment of the Chief Minister and other ministers. 

According to it, the Governor does not have to seek anyone’s advice while appointing the Chief Minister, but he can appoint a minister only on the recommendation of the Chief Minister. 

The Governor has no power to pick anyone he chooses to make a minister. He can appoint a minister only on the advice of the Chief Minister.

Supreme Court on Governor’s powers

In Shamsher Singh versus State of Punjab & Anr. (1974), a seven-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court affirmed that all functions discharged by the Governor would have to be based on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers except in a few well-known exceptional situations. These situations could arise if the Prime Minister or Chief Minister cease to command the majority in the House, the government loses the majority but refuses to quit office among others.

In Nabam Rebia And Etc. vs Deputy Speaker And Ors (2016), the Supreme Court cited the observations of B R Ambedkar: “The Governor under the Constitution has no function which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all. While he has no functions, he has certain duties to perform, and I think the House will do well to bear in mind this distinction.”

What does the “pleasure” of the Governor mean?

The pleasure of the Governor does not mean the Governor has the right to dismiss the Chief Minister or ministers at will. 

The Governor can have his pleasure as long as the government enjoys a majority in the House. The Governor can withdraw his pleasure only when the government loses the majority but refuses to quit. Then he withdraws the pleasure and dismisses it.

What are the various recommendations about the functioning of Governor?

National Commission To Review the Working of the Constitution (2000): It recommended significant changes in the selection of Governors. It suggested that the Governor of a State should be appointed by the President, after consultation with the Chief Minister of that State.

– Normally the five-year term should be adhered to and removal or transfer of the Governor should be by following a similar procedure as for appointment i.e., after consultation with the Chief Minister of the concerned State.

Sarkaria Commission(1983): It looked into Center-State relations and proposed that the Vice President of India and the Speaker of Lok Sabha should be consulted by the Prime Minister in the selection of Governors.

Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi Committee: It was constituted in 2007 on Centre-state relations. It proposed that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Vice President, Speaker, and the concerned Chief Minister should choose the Governor.

– It recommended deleting the “Doctrine of Pleasure” from the Constitution but backed the right of the Governor to sanction the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government. It also argued for a provision for the impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature.

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